Wednesday, November 26, 2014

One man's journey to escape the Bolshevik revolution leads him to wisdom and experience he could never have imagined.



Beasts, Men and Gods – Antoni Ferdynand Ossendowski (1922)

            This is another book that I had read mention of in many other texts and decided to go ahead and hunt it down.  It is the account of one Antoni Ferdynand Ossendowski, and his escape from the Bolshevik revolution in Russia through the remote areas of Siberia, Mongolia, Tibet and China.  Like with most revolutions throughout history, the Bolshevik revolution was a purge, where countless families died because a member was once a Czar supporter, or an intellectual, or someone the communists labeled as an “enemy of the state.”  If they did not get executed outright, they were kidnapped and sent to Siberian work camps, or just taken into the empty wilderness never to be seen again.
            Mr. Ossendowski was an intellectual, a professor in Universities, and found himself out in a remote Russian country town when the 1917 revolution began and word spread that people were being rounded up.  With only a rifle, and a few supplies, he headed for the woods.  Nearly a year passed between this time and the time that Mr. Ossendowski was able to escape to the USA.  During that time, and with the help of many people, he managed to travel through parts of the world that at the time were so remote as to be nearly unknown to the rest of the world.  Interspersed between his stories of survival, near capture and gun battles, are amazing descriptions of the country he traveled through, the many people he met, the lamas, and the Buddhist temples and the Mongolian shepherds and the Tibetan chieftains and medicine men.  He was able to see things because of the friendships he made with high ranking Lamas that no westerners had ever glimpsed.  He wrote this account of his experiences 5 years later and the resulting book was the first time that real, eye-witness accounts from Mongolia and Tibet and upper China were available for everyone to read about. 
            Mr. Ossendowski’s escape took many months, and in the meantime the learned man changed into a rugged outdoors man, a fearless gunfighter, a skilled negotiator, and a Tibetan wise man.  It is amazing how quickly one can change and grow when the situation forces it.  The man that started this trip is not the man that ended it, and I am grateful he did, not only for the amazing information on Tibet and Mongolia and its proud peoples, but because he included all the horrors that came along with that revolution.  Traitors, informers, double agents, murderers, hired assassins, mysterious troops, wholesale warfare, massacres, and more are discussed.  It is too easy for the ugliest parts of history to be washed over by the details, but that is something Mr. Ossendowski does not allow.  He includes it all, and it all seems like more than one man could possibly undertake, but it is all true.  Some of the mystical experiences he experienced are described in a very matter-of-fact manner, but they nevertheless inspired many seekers to look for wisdom and knowledge in the high desert mountains of the far East.

This is what Mr. Ossendowski's mind looked like when he met the King Of The World

            Books like this are very important to me, as they allow a relatively unfiltered look at historical events that would otherwise be unavailable, or willfully obscured.  It is an engrossing read.  As the story goes along Mr. Ossendowski gains an inner strength, an ability to absorb the horror he experiences, and a deeper sense of wonder at the magic in the world.  Not only that, but he becomes a straight killer, ready to fight for his life at a moment’s notice.  This duality is mirrored in what he experiences in Mongolia and Tibet.  The people there live everyday understanding that the inner peace and wisdom of a monk can reside in the same body as the killer spirit of a warrior, and nature itself calls for this.  It is very interesting to see, especially as we live in a society that pretends to be all good, or that pain and hurt and war have no place, yet we kill each other, our cops murder children, and people live in fear.  Perhaps it is our unwillingness to accept or understand the darker side of human nature that keeps us enslaved and in fear of those that seek to hurt us. 


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