Desperately Seeking Shambhalla
Article published on 26 August 2022

by Abacus

An Elusive British Explorer in search of a Mysterious Realm

Fans of intrepid adventurer Dominique Jongbloed will have eagerly followed references to his career that have appeared on this site over past years, in articles by Irna, and – most recently – by Ms. Audrey Tiramisu.

For the benefit of Jongbloed readers whose memories of their hero’s career might have grown hazy with the passing of time, Ms. Tiramisu obligingly provides details of some of his more striking achievements. Chief amongst these must be M. Jongbloed’s attempts to find Shambhala, [1] a legendary lost city rumoured to lie somewhere in Asia:

A secret informant apparently sent him an email telling him to go to an auction in England, with the purpose of obtaining the secret notebooks of Major Andrew Weasley, an early 20th century explorer … [2]

Auction in London - Source

According to this intriguing opening, Dominique Jongbloed then went on to translate the notebooks from "Old English" [sic: l’anglais ancien] into French with a view to extracting information of interest. [3]

There was then mention of:

… a major expedition to the depths of the Himalayas, in order to find the mythical city of Shambala … [4]

But where precisely was Shambala? And what information was there in Major Weasley’s notebooks that made M. Jongbloed think he could ever succeed in finding anything, if so many had failed before … including, presumably, Major Weasley himself?

As explained in one of M. Jongbloed’s earlier accounts of Major Weasley’s life:

The complete story is based on the expedition logs of Major Andrew Weasley (1888-1930), an historical character, who, with a party of 40 men, went in search of the legendary city SHAMBALA, deep in the Himalayas. He was the only survivor of this adventure, but had as a witness and friend, in the hospital of Providence, in the USA, HP LOVECRAFT, the great writer who inherited the notebooks and was inspired by them for his novel "At the Mountains of Madness." [5] The latter are romances ... but the background of the story is perfectly authentic ... and of his studies a fantastic secret ... Obsessed by this hidden truth, he will never stop to achieve his only goal: reach the valley of Agartha and its extraordinary capital... Shambala! [6]

Cover of Astounding Stories, February 1936, promoting Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness;” Artist: H.V. Brown - Source

M. Jongbloed appears to have begun work on the Shambala series in 2008 and 2009 (publication in 2014). In it, he provides further information [7] on Weasley’s life:

Leaving his native England in the early years of the 20th century, the discovery of India and its culture filled him with enthusiasm. He also discovered the mysteries of power, promotion and honours, intrigues, conspiracies... war and its glories, its sorrows too, and love ... in a palace of princes. But his thirst for understanding was to lead him much further than a life of adventures: to an extraordinary destiny. On his arrival, he discovered Indian and Tibetan sacred texts, and, over time, his studies uncovered a fantastic secret which immediately called into question the origin of Man and his deepest faith in science and rationalism.

Initial material from Shambala V adds more detail: namely, that Major Weasley [8] was a former non-commissioned officer (“sous-officier”) in the British Indian Army, and that his expedition to Shambala took place in 1921: although, strangely, a few pages later, Weasley is described as arriving at Mumbai [9] on 11th January 1923. [10]

But did Weasley succeed in discovering the city or not?

When he returned, his physical and mental exhaustion were such as to cast some doubt on his notes. He was hospitalised in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, where, in August 1930, he died in complete anonymity after giving his notes to the author, H.P. Lovecraft, [11] who visited him during his last illness (and, as described in Shambala IV, wrote down Weasley’s adventures). After his death, Weasley’s body was mysteriously whisked away to some unknown resting-place by people calling themselves his relatives.

Nawab of Rampur by Vandyk; 4 April 1927; Source

Who were these relatives? According to Shambala IV, Weasley had a brother, James. Their father, George, an alcoholic gambler, worked on an estate in Hampshire belonging to one Baron Winchester, [12] who was not above making advances to George’s beautiful wife, Nancy. Andrew Weasley himself, meanwhile, was married to Indira, [13] daughter of the Nawab of Rampur (Hamid Ali Khan). Early in 1924, [14] Andrew and Indira had a son, Andrew.

It appears that, when Andrew undertook the expedition on to Shambala, Indira, evidenly pregnant, was obliged to stay behind at her father’s palace in Rampur. Although bitterly disappointed at having to leave his wife, Andrew himself had been only too glad originally to get away from Bombay/Mumbai, as word of what he was planning had somehow come to the ears of British officialdom. The authorities were concerned that discovery of the legendary city might coincide with the return of the twenty-fifth king of Shambala, which might bring all sorts of upheaval and mayhem in its wake. Consequently, they reacted with hostility when Weasley and his companions reached Bombay/Mumbai. Still, things were not all doom and gloom; the expedition had brought with them some state-of-the-art equipment, including five Carden-Lloyd tankettes, the original invention of Giffard Le Quesne Martel, who, having worked on them in his garage, had then sold some to Weasley, presumably in late 1922. What makes this all the more astonishing is that that Le Quesne Martel is reported as not having built any tankette until 1925 …

Carden-Loyd Two-Man Tankette, 1926; Source (KID 235; IWM)

However, on reaching Druk Yul (Bhutan) on their journey to Tibet, the expedition had to leave the tankettes, and carry on with yaks. As Book VI opens, Weasley explains to the reader that it has taken them sixteen months to reach a point “somewhere in the Himalayas”; regrettably, the sacred texts have remained irritatingly vague on the question of precisely what path they should take through the snow and ice of the mountains. Still, Weasley has somehow found some kind of secret way that leads to Agartha. Then, suddenly, they come upon a valley, and a plain full of verdant vegetation … Carrying on, they find a jungle and an emaciated human corpse, who turns out to be a Dutch history professor who has been dead for twenty years, leaving a notebook in his pocket.

They then come across a pool, out of which Indira’s friend, Mary, who has accompanied them thus far, suddenly emerges completely nude, like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. The reader can only wonder about the wisdom of such a display by the sole woman of an expedition of forty men lasting over a year …

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus (c. 1484–1486); Uffizi, Florence; Source

The expedition carries on through a landscape of wonders, encountering a bear, a tiger and what might be some prehistoric mammoths. Meanwhile, Weasley begins to worry about what might happen if Agartha and Shambala were overrun by unscrupulous conquerors. [15]

And, there, unfortunately, this summary must end. Are the whereabouts of the mysterious underground realm and its city to remain forever unknown … ?

Before going any farther, perhaps we could look more closely at what is known about these legendary sites.

Shambhalla

As explained here, this mysterious location [16] was mentioned in the ancient Hindu text known as the Vishnu Purana, and a Buddhist text, the Kalachakra; [17] these texts might (or might not) date to somewhere in the 1st millennium AD. As far as early 19th century European references are concerned, an 1838 commentary by a Hungarian scholar and ascetic, Sándor Kőrösi Csoma, mentions:

sham-bha-lahi rnam bshat dang
p’hak-yul-gyi-rtokzhod
” — Description of Shambhala (a fabulous country and city in the north of Asia). [18]

Kőrösi Csoma Sándor - Source

Agartha

Agartha [19] is supposedly the underground realm of which Shambala is the capital. Although it has been claimed by some alternative sources to date back a 60,000 years [20] (M. Jongbloed claims 100,000 years), the mystical subterranean kingdom did not come to wider attention in Europe until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, in the writings of such authors as Louis Jacolliot (L’olympe brahmanique: La mythologie de Manou [The Brahmanic Olympus: The mythology of Manu]),1881); Saint-Yves d’Alveydre (Mission de l’Inde en Europe, mission de l’Europe en Asie, 1910, translated recently as The Kingdom of Agarttha); and Ferdynand Ossendowski, (Beasts, Men and Gods, 1921).

Saint-Yves d’Alveydre; Source
Ossendowski in 1933; Source

Indomitable Explorers

Inspired by these and other writings, undeterred by past failures, numerous other explorers have also tried to find Shambala and Agartha, which, like Major Weasley, they believe to be located in Tibet.

In 1999, for example, Russian ophthalmologist Ernst Muldashev, inspired by Russian researchers and explorers of the 1920s, organised an expedition to one of its most impressive mountains, Kailash, in the belief that Shambala, or perhaps the entrance to it, might lie somewhere nearby. The expedition’s findings were described in a subsequent video.

Ernst Rifgatovich Muldashev - Source

Meanwhile, as described here, M. Jongbloed was evidently considering whether he himself could follow in Weasley’s footsteps. Between 2001 and 2008, he claimed to have organised two expeditions; other announcements followed in 2011, as mentioned in this blog post describing the arrival at Mount Kailash in 2007 by another Russian explorer: Yuri Zakharov, of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences. [21]

The Many Faces of Zakharov

Some years later, in 2014, Irna looked more closely at the question of the identity of this Yuri Zakharov, whom M. Jongbloed implied that he had at least met, and in one of whose expeditions he had perhaps even taken part.

According to M. Jongbloed, Zakharov was a President of the Russian Academy of Science, and had died in 2010. But some questions have been raised about his precise date of birth; whether he was really a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (among other organizations); and even whether - like Mr. Jongbloed - he has ever been on an expedition at all.…

A more detailed look at Russian members of the scientific community named Zakharov reveals the following: [22]

1. Yury Aleksandrovich Zakharov, b. 1938; chemist; Kemerovo;

2. Yuri Zakharov; physicist/spectromotist; Kazan;

3. Yuri Dimitrievich Zakharov, [23] b. 1935, Vladivostok; geologist; Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Corresponding Member or [sic] Russian Academy of Natural Sciences;

4. Yuriy Zakharov, York, UK; Engineering; Comms. Tech.;

5. Yuri Zakharov, Lecturer at Harvard University (pancreatic cancer);

6. Yuri Alexandrovich Zakharov, author and anti-ageing specialist.

Obviously, it is important to distinguish between nos. 1 and 6, as, despite the similarities of name, they are clearly different people. However, as Irna explains in detail in her 2014 article, the Zakharov who had organised a 2004 expedition to the Himalayas was indeed no. 6 on the above list; as shown below, he is shown addressing a news conference about a research expedition to Tibet in September 2004. A video [24] was subsequently made about that 2004 expedition to Mount Kailash; it explains here how the expedition was turned back by bad weather. A further video, dated 2008 [25], portrays Zakharov’s later expedition (no mention being made of any participation by M. Jongbloed). Subsequent books and videos on anti-ageing produced with Zakharov’s participation show that, whatever the validity of his work, he is still a relatively young man, and certainly demonstrates few signs of having died in 2010.

Yuriy Zakharov - Source

Zakharov’s Tibetan expeditions (apparently, there was also one in 2001) were, as previously explained here, [26] undertaken with the purpose of finding Shambala. No mention appears to be made of any previous expedition, whether by Muldashev or anyone else. But amongst the best known of earlier expeditions were two led by the Russian Nicholas Roerich and his wife in 1925-1928 and 1934-1935 to the Himalayas, Tibet, Mongolia, Central Asia, and Manchuria. The first chapter of Roerich’s 1930 book, Shambhala, mentions Mount Kailasa, and discussess the nature of his spiritual quest [27] and its connection with the ancient teachings concerning the mysterious Shambhala.

Nicholas Roerich - Source

But, before the Roerichs’ journeys to that part of the world, there had come another visitor: a certain Austrian-born Baron serving in the Russian army who was deeply interested in the occult and metaphysics, and especially Shambhalla and Agartha.

A Baron with a Cloak of Many Colours

Baron Roman von Ungern-Sternberg (1886-1921) [28] was a monarchist - on that account sometimes known as “The White Baron” – and also an admirer of Genghis Khan, who fought in Mongolia against the Chinese; von Ungern-Sternberg’s brutal and violent behaviour earned him the description of “The Bloody Baron.” He was joined in Mongolia by Ferdynand Ossendowski, a Polish writer and former intelligence offer with a chequered past. In 1920, Ossendowski was sent by von Ungern-Sternberg to Japan and the US, and never returned to Mongolia.

In 1921, the year of the Baron’s execution by the Red Army, Ossendowski published the previously mentioned Beasts, Men and Gods, which described some of his encounters with von Ungern, and how the Baron had twice sent a young Mongol prince, Pounzig [sic], [29] to find “the King of the World” [at Agarthi]; but with no success. [30]

Baron Ungern-Sternberg - Source

But did von Ungern-Sternberg or Ossendowski have any idea about where Agarthi was to be found?

Ossendowski claims that he himself did his best to make enquiries of people whom he chanced to meet:

The old people on the shore of the River Amyl related to me an ancient legend to the effect that a certain Mongolian tribe in their escape from the demands of Jenghiz Khan hid themselves in a subterranean country. Afterwards a Soyot from near the Lake of Nogan Kul showed me the smoking gate that serves as the entrance to the “Kingdom of Agharti.” Through this gate a hunter formerly entered into the Kingdom and, after his return, began to relate what he had seen there. The Lamas cut out his tongue in order to prevent him from telling about the Mystery of Mysteries. When he arrived at old age, he came back to the entrance of this cave and disappeared into the subterranean kingdom, the memory of which had ornamented and lightened his nomad heart (301).

The problem with this text is that it is not clear whether the phrase “from near the Lake of Nogan Kul” indicates that Agharti was somewhere in the vicinity of the Lake of Nogan Kul; or whether it was just a description of where the Soyot came from.

The Soyot [31] people apparently live in the Oka region in the Okinsky District in the Republic of Buryatia. But where is this in relation to the Lake of Nogan Kul?

The Lake of Nogan Kul is most likely Ozero Noyan-Khol’, [32] in the present day Tuva Republic, Russia; perhaps about 115 miles from the Oka region.

Lake Noyan-Khöl’- Source: Wikimapia

Clearly, therefore, it seems doubtful that this passage from Ossendowski can really shed much light on the geographical whereabouts of the kingdom of Agharti or Agartha: always supposing that this mythical realm actually exists in geographical reality.

But this brings us to another aspect of the matter: namely, that questions have arisen concerning the reliability of Beasts, Men and Gods. In an article in a 1925 edition of the Geographical Journal, “The Ossendowski Controversy,” [33] the author was heavily criticised. The article included a description of a confrontation in Paris between various scholars and Ossendowski; and the publication of a letter (dated 21st November 1924) from the author, confirming that his book was:

… not a scientific work but only the romantic story of my travel across Central Asia for the large public. [34]

Readers might be forgiven for wondering if Ossendowski’s letter could be compared with the statements M. Jongbloed has made about the books – or “novels” – he has written based on Major Weasley’s notebooks … As Irna has shown in several articles here, the claims about Weasley, his notebooks, his family and his expedition all appear to be completely fictional.

Andrew Weasley
Major 18ème Lanciers
Explorateur
1888-1930
Décoré de la Victoria Cross
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., [35]
Actor and Naval Officer
1909-2000
OBE, DSC

The Mysterious Stronghold

One interesting aspect that does emerge from Ossendowski’s work, however, is the role supposedly played in the legends of Shambhalla and Agarthi by the land of Tuva. Tuvan shamans maintain that the northern entrance to Shambhala is to be found within the Tuva Republic itself.

What is more, a mysterious fortress is said to lie nearby: the ancient lake ruins of Por-Bazhin. [36]

Could Por-Bazhin have any connection with Ossendowski’s vague references to the Lake of Nogan Kul?

The lake in which the ruins are located is not Ozero Noyan Khul’, although it has a similar name: Ozero Tere-Khol’. The two lakes are about 150 miles apart.

Por-Bazhin - Source

In 2007, at about the same time that Zakharov was arranging an expedition to Mount Kailash, and Chudinov was setting up an expedition to the Kola Peninsula, Sergei Shoigu, a native of the Tuvan Republic and President of the Russian Geographic Society, organised an archaeological expedition to investigate Por-Bazhin. This 2010 article, and another from 2011, provide a detailed account of the dig and its findings. Although the number of objects unearthed was very few, the archaeologists found evidence pointing to a construction date in the late 8th century AD. Perhaps disappointingly, however, the archaeological team did not discover any actual portal at Por-Bazhin.

Or ... did they?

The lead archaeologist, Irina Arzhantseva, states that:

The lay-out and building techniques of Por-Bajin are closely reminiscent of palaces in the Buddhist Paradise as depicted in T’ang paintings ... [37]

Por-Bazhin was constructed in approximately the same era as the ancient Buddhist (and Hindu) texts mentioning Shambhalla.

Was it Por-Bazhin’s resemblance to the palaces of the Buddhist Paradise tradition that, over past centuries, had given rise to the ancient belief that Por-Bazhin was actually an entrance to Shambhalla?

The Buddhist Paradise of Amitabha, a painted mural from Cave 172 of Dunhuang, Gansu province, China, Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD) - Source

However, the absence of a real-life portal to the mysterious realm does not appear to have prevented Sergei Shoigu from telling no less a personage than President Putin about the legend, and persuading him that it had a basis in fact. This might have seemed surprising, from several points of view: however, Sergei Shoigu was not only President of the Russian Geographic Society, but also the Russian Minister of Defence, in charge of the armed forces, and a close ally of President Putin.

So it seems that Mr. Putin has Aleksandr Dugin, the political philosopher, on one side, lobbying for Hyperborea as mythological justification for, and validation of, irredentist territorial demands; and Sergei Shoigu, a member of the Security Council, on the other, lobbying for mythological Shambhalla and Agarthya; and even, in 2021, as claimed on some sites, suggesting a novel way of augmenting the Russian forces by cloning 3,000 Scythian warriors.

Perhaps, however, the last word in this search for the gateway to a lost ancient Paradise should belong to the following observer, who, after a gruelling journey, at a point some two hundred miles or so from the lake in Murmansk where Barchenko had sought Hyperborea some sixty years previously, finally glimpsed a northern Paradise in the real world:

Now in mid-summer we sped north … twisting and turning round huge lakes through a world of amazing greenness, on which darkness never fell. As we crossed the Arctic Circle into Lapland the forest gradually died out and gave way to meadows full of wild flowers. [38]

Summer flowers in Lapland - Source

The observer was former KGB agent Col. Oleg Gordievsky. The date was July 1985. Gordievsky was making his final escape from the Soviet Union to the West, [39] fleeing the wrath of KGB colleagues whose number included a young Vladimir Putin.

Oleg Gordievsky - Source