Talbot Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” Men of Ashoka and the Maurya Clan

Talbot Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” Secret Society of King Asoka

In 1923, Talbot Mundy, of the British police wrote a fiction novel called The Nine Unknown, about a secret society founded by Mauryan Emperor Asoka (c. 268 to 232 BCE), after his conversion to Buddhism. The secret society preserved the ancient science of India. Koot Hoomi and Morya repeatedly stated in The Mahatma Letters, that the initiates are the protectorates of a seventh hidden Science underlying the Shaddarshanas, or the Six (exoteric) Schools, that would be dangerous, if it fell into the hands of the masses.

Talbot Mundy’s The Nine Unknowns (1923), is eerily similar to the clandestine chiefs involved in the early history of the Theosophical Society in the 18th-19th century literature. A certain J.N. Maskelyne wrote a title, Fraud of Modern Theosophy (1912), dubbing Helena P. Blavatsky, the “greatest fraud in history.” J.N. Maskelyne concludes, there is no evidences of the existence of H.P.B.’s “mahatmas.”

This as we know has been challenged.

These are a few intriguing passages to observe:

Do you think that we have broken the silence of centuries for the profit of a handful of dreamers only?” (K.H., written 1884, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, C. Jinarajadasa, comp., TPH, 1973/77, Vol. 1, pg. 20)

“Our cause is the cause of humanity, of true religion, of education, of enlightenment and spiritual elevation (…)” (Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, C. Jinarajadasa (comp.), TPH, 1973/77, Vol. 2, pp. 97-98)

“The exact extent, depth, breadth, and length of the mysteries of nature are to be found only in Eastern esoteric sciences. So vast and so profound are these that hardly a few, a very few of the highest initiates – those whose very existence is known but to a small number of adepts – are capable of assimilating the knowledge. Yet it is all there, and one by one facts and processes in nature’s workshops are permitted to find their way into the exact sciences, while mysterious help is given to rare individuals in unravelling its arcana.” (Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, pg. 611-12)

“Eastern initiates maintain that they have preserved records of the racial development and of events of universal import ever since the beginning of the fourth race – that which preceded being traditional.” (Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 1, pg. 646)

There is more of this movement than you have yet had an inkling of, and the work of the T.S. is linked in with similar work that is secretly going on in all parts of the world.’ (Morya, The Mahatma Letters, Letter 47, Allahabad March 3, 1882)

In one letter, K.H. criticised H.P.B. for trying to lull people in early on, by the use of magic tricks. Her close colleagues say, that she could not ever have been guilty of such a deliberate, and complex fraud as the whole of Theosophy, remarking her childish and playful nature.

Certainly, this complex-personality drew her much criticism.

Helena Blavatsky said according to notes transcribed by Laura C. Holloway in The Mahatmas and Their Instruments (The Word, New York, May 1912, pp. 69-76):

“Western people are in their first phase of spiritual awakening, and want phenomena at every step.”

She stated to Laura C. Holoway:

“People expect too much from others in psychic matters. They demand to know about the Mahatmas and, when answered according to their understandings, they demand that I do just what they tell me by way of proof. When I refuse, they go away and abuse me. You know enough about the law of Karma to realize that I cannot interfere with it.”

“I tell every one that it is possible for them to learn occult things; and how little or how big the results obtained will depend upon themselves, and what they have been in other lives. Because I know the Mahatmas and try to serve them, it does not follow that I can make others acquainted with them. It depends entirely upon thinking.”

Then, H.P.B. quoting a paragraph from her teacher’s letter, repeats:

Everyone should try to break through that great Maya against which occult students, the world over, have always been warned by their teachers – the hankering after phenomena. Like the thirst for drink and opium, it grows with gratification. The spiritualists are drunk with it, they are thaumaturgic sots. If you cannot be happy without phenomena you will never learn our philosophy.”

The pendulum has swung from the extreme of blind faith towards the extreme of materialistic skepticism, and nothing can stop it save Theosophy. Is not this a thing worth working for, to save those nations from the doom their ignorance is preparing for them?” (K.H., written 1884, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom, C. Jinarajadasa comp., TPH, 1973/77, Vol. 1, pg. 20)

That there exists, “mahātmās” (i.e., saints), “unknown superiors,” in India was no theosophical fancy. In 1851, H.P.B. met a man by the name of Morya, a Rajput by birth, and a claimed initiate. He lived with the man we quote under the name, Koot Hoomi, who claimed, that Morya lived with him in Little Tibet (Jammu and Kashmir).

The Moryas, H.P.B. explains, is that of the Maurya clan, who ruled from 322-185 B.C.E. Chandragupta Maurya, founder of the Maurya Dynasty and Empire, united the Indian subcontinent; and his grandson Aśoka adopted Buddhism, and sent out missionaries throughout parts of Asia and the Mediterranean world. Helena P. Blavatsky claims, long after the fall of the Maurya Dynasty, the Mauryas continued to have deep connections with Buddhism.

On the Mauryas—in “436 CE an Arhat (Buddhist saint) named Kasyapa, who belonged to the Morya clan, left an Indian convent in Panch-Kukkutarama with the fifth of seven golden statues of the Buddha, which he carried to a lake in Bod-yul (Tibet), thereby fulfilling an ancient prophecy. Seven years later the first Buddhist monastery was established on that spot, although the conversion of the country did not begin in earnest till the 7th century. Most of the abbots of that monastery “were the descendants of the dynasty of the Moryas, there being up to this day three of the members of this once royal family living in India.” (Shakyamuni’s Place in History, Collected Writings, Vol. V. 245-246).

The Maurya clan is connected to Sakyamuni’s clan, the Sakyas. Both Morya and Koot Hoomi claim, their esoteric school that was in the Trans-Himalayan region. Helena P. Blavatsky said in her time, that “none of the genunine Yogâchârya books have ever been made public or marketable.” She asserts, there were two distinct Aryasangas, separated by long centuries. The first she says, “founded the first Yogacharya school.” It was neither a northern or southern school, or teaching, but an esoteric school of early Buddhist teachings; and later popularised in an ‘exoteric’ form by the ‘second Aryasanga.’

This ‘second Aryasanga’ is the historically known Asanga, who was a saint, according to The Life of Vasu-Bandhu, and the eldest of three brothers. Paramartha narrates, that he went through the Sarvāstivāda school of Buddhism, and later after learning the doctrine of nothingness of the Hinayāna, ascended to the Tuṣita heaven. Whereby, he was taught by Maitreya himself, who instructed him in “the doctrine of nothingness belonging to the Mahā-yāna.” Upon enlightenment, he called himself Asanga, which means “without attachment.”

Core ideas of the Yogācāra system are in the nineteenth-century Theosophical system. Indications point to this high system of thought, to have been systematised by one or several great teachers, and Emil Schlagintweit, in 1863, remarked that the approximate origin of the Mahāyāna religious books, were difficult, because they were written before Asanga.



  1. Mundy lived at the Pt Loma Theosophical Society for a time. His most famous book OM was inspired by the teachings and presence of the Leader of the TS at that time, Katherine Tingley. Here is his 1924 note expressing gratitude for her help:

    Liked by 1 person

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