Theodore Illion

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Theodore Illion or Theodor Illion (1898 in Canada (?) – September 4, 1984 in Hallein in the state of Salzburg),[1][2] is a writer of travel books who claimed to have visited Tibet in the 1930s and discovered an underground city there. He published his Tibetan adventures under that name[3] but later resorted to the pseudonyms Theodore Burang or Theodor Burang[4] and more rarely Theodor Nolling to write various books and articles on Tibetan medicine.[5]

His life and work[edit]

According to Professor Herbert Novak, a longtime friend of Theodore Illion, the latter was born in Canada in a wealthy family descended from a branch of the British royalty, the Plantagenets. He is supposed to have left home at a very young age.[6]

In the 1930s Theodore Illion published two travelogues :

  • Rätselhaftes Tibet (1936) and its English translation In Secret Tibet (1937),
  • Darkness over Tibet (1938), published directly in English,[7] in which he claimed to have been able to stay in Tibet from 1934 till 1936 thanks to a disguise and his knowledge of Tibetan. In the first book, he recounts his first meetings and in the second book his alleged discovery of an underground city which sheltered a community of highly initiated beings governed by a sorcerer and indulging in black magic and cannibalism.[8][9]

The Hulton Archive at Gettyimages contains photos of the writer, taken in London in April 1934, before his planned departure for Tibet:

  • The first one shows Illion, dubbed an "explorer and philosopher", "flanked by his two companions on the eve of his departure."[10]
  • In the second one, taken on the same day, he is shown wearing the headgear that he believes will afford the best protection during his expedition – a napkin… .[11]
  • The third one, taken on April 14, 1934, shows Illion "paddling a tiny rubber dinghy" that he will take on his expedition.[12]

After World War II, the author wrote various articles and books on Tibetan medicine under the pseudonym of Theodor Burang or Theodor Nolling, notably :

  • (Theodor Burang), Tibetische Heilkunde (1957) (to be later translated into English and published under the title The Tibetan art of healing in 1974) ;
  • (Theodor Burang), Die Kunst des Heilens im Fernen Osten. Heilverfahren und Heilmittel (1975).

The first book was criticized for containing vague and superficial assertions that were not supported by genuine references or quotations.[13] Similar criticism was levelled at the second book for containing unverifiable claims.[14]

According to Herbert Novak, Illion was a member of the Club of Rome in the 1980s and 1990s. He was in touch with Italian tibetologist Giuseppe Tucci. Illion was an astute, friendly, helpful, and quite humorous character. He never married and was survived by no offspring. He is buried in the village of Kuchi, 20 km south of Salzburg. The local newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten published his obituary.[15]

Reviews[edit]

Laura Knight-Jadczyk, author of The Secret History of the world, observes that Illion’s first two books were published during the period when Alexandra David-Néel, back in France from Tibet, wrote and lectured widely (i.e. from 1925 till 1937). She suggests that under the pseudonym of Illion may lie someone who studied the stories of the famous explorer.[16] The same author finds the story of Darkness Over Tibet somewhat "artificial" despite the presence of some elements that strike her as being factual rather than made-up.[17] In his book Lost Cities of China, Central Asia, and India (1998), David Hatcher Childress raises the possibility that Darkness Over Tibet is an alarmist novel under the guise of a travelogue.[18]

Physician and bibliographer Jürgen C. Aschoff highly doubts that Theodore Illion ever went to Tibet or even approached the borders of Tibet. His books are, in his eyes, "truly science fiction, a figment of the imagination." He finds it incredible that Illion’s publications should still be read and cited in so many scientific articles and books on Tibetan medicine although the author never mentioned a single line of published reference or renowned Tibetan doctor in support of his more than vague assertions.[19][20]

His published work[edit]

  • (Theodor Illion), Rätselhaftes Tibet: in Verkleidung unter Lamas, Räubern und wahrhaft Weisen, Uranus Verlag, Hamburg, 1936, 145 p.
  • (Theodore Illion), In Secret Tibet: In Disguise Amongst Lamas, Robbers, and Wisemen. A Key to the Mysteries of Tibet (translated from English), Rider & Co., 1937, 178 p. (reprinted in March 1983)
  • (Theodore Illion), Darkness over Tibet, Rider & Co., London, 1937 (reprinted by Adventures Unlimited Press in 1991)
  • (Theodor Burang), Tibeter über das Abendland: Stimmen aus dem geheimnisvollen Tibet, Igonta Verlag, Salzburg, 1947, 215 p.
  • (Theodore Illion), Beherrschung seelischer Kräfte durch den Tibetanischen Menschen, in Schweizer Rundschau (Solothurn), 48 (1948/49), pp. 779–784
  • (Theodor Burang), Tibetische Heilkunde, Origo-Verlag, in Zürich, 1957, 170 p. (to be later translated into English and published under the title The Tibetan art of healing)
  • (Theodore Burang), The Tibetan art of healing, London, Watkins, 1974, ix + 117 p. (translated from Tibetische Heilkunde by S. Macintosh )
  • (Theodor Burang), Der Arzt in der tibetischen Kultur, Origo Verlag, Zürich, 1975, 112 p.
  • (Theodor Burang) Die Kunst des Heilens im Fernen Osten. Heilverfahren und Heilmittel, Origo-Verlag, Zürich, 1975
  • (Theodor Burang), Tibetan Medicine on Cancer, in Dawa Norbu, An Introduction to Tibetan Medicine, pp. 52–61, Tibetan Review Publishing House, Delhi, 1976
  • (Theodore Burang), L'arte di guarire nella Medicina Tibetana, Astrolabio Ubaldini Edizioni, Roma, 1976, 93 p., (translated into Italian by Serena Cavallo)
  • (Theodor Burang), Cancer Therapy of Tibetan Healers, in American Journal of Chinese Medicine (Garden City, N.Y.), 7 (1979), pp. 294–296
  • (Theodor Nolling), Grundlagen und Heilverfahren der tibetischen Medizin, Berlin

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilhelm Alexander Unkrig, Hans Findeisen, A. Unkrig (1883-1956), volume 17 of Asien- und Afrika-Studien der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Hartmut Walravens, Hans Findeisen eds.), Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 2004, 204 p., in particular p. 165, note 24: "Illion wurde angeblich un Kanada geboren und stammte aus vermögender Familie. Er starb in Salzburg."
  2. ^ Tibet, Nepal und der Kulturraum des Himalaya - Fabri Antiquariat: "Illion, Theodor: Siehe auch "Theodor Burang", unter welchem Pseudonym Prof. Illion mehrere Bücher veröffentlichte. Unter dem Pseudonym 'Theodor Nolling' schrieb er mehrere Artikel zur tibetischen Medizin in deutschen Tageszeitungen. Er starb am 4. 9. 1984 in Hallein (Illion, Theodor. See also "Theodor Burang", pseudonym under which professor Illion published several books. Under the pseudonym of "Theodor Nolling", he contributed several articles on Tibetan medicine to German newspapers. He died on 4-9-1984 at Hallein)."
  3. ^ Ilion with a single "l" is another name for the ancient city of Troy.
  4. ^ Burang being a town in the Ngari prefecture in Eastern Tibet.
  5. ^ Wilhelm Alexander Unkrig, Hans Findeisen, op. cit., p. 165, note 24: "Theodor Illion, 1898-1984, veröffentlichte auch unter den Namen Theodor Burang und Th. Nolling."
  6. ^ Annotated Bibliography of Tibetan Medicine, on the website of Ulm’s Albert Einstein university: [article 758] Illion, Theodor (1898-1984): For more publications/weitere Veröffentlichungen: vide Theodor Burang (Pseudonym), sowie Th. Nolling (weiteres Pseudonym). Prof. Herbert Novak (pers. Mitteilung vom 8. 7. 1994) schreibt: "Eine biographische Arbeit ist mir nicht bekannt, ein Nachruf ist einige Wochen nach seinem Tod in den Salzburger Nachrichten erschienen. Ich war 38 Jahre mit Prof. Burang-Illion befreundet, Gespräche über sein Herkommen gab es kaum, der Name Nolling wurde nie erwähnt. Geboren in Kanada, stammte er aus der großen Familie der Plantagenets, einem Zweig des Englischen Königshauses, war Kind vermögender Eltern, hat sein Elternhaus jedoch in sehr jungen Jahren verlassen. Seine Tibet-Reisen fanden vor dem 2. Weltkrieg statt. In den Jahren zwischen 1970 und 1980 war er Mitglied des "Club of Rome". Positiven Kontakt hatte er, wenn ich mich recht erinnere, mit dem italienischen Tibetologen G. Tucci. Bestattet ist er in Kuchl, einem Dorf 20 km südlich von Salzburg (unweit des Hintereinganges des Friedhofes, der Felsblock mit seinem Namen ist nicht zu übersehen). Er war ein weiser, gütiger, hilfsbereiter und auch sehr humorvoller Mann, wir, die ihn kannten, vermissen ihn heute noch schmerzlich! Den Nachruf in den "Salzburger Nachrichten" kann ich Ihnen nicht senden: ich habe ihn nicht! Lebende Nachkommen gibt es keine; er war nie verheiratet. Der Nachlaß bestand aus einem Karton mit persönlichen Aufzeichnungen, überwiegend in tibetischer und chinesischer Schrift geschrieben."
  7. ^ Wilhelm Alexander Unkrig, Hans Findeisen, op. cit., p. 165, note 24: Verfasser der Bücher: Rätselhaftes Tibet. Hamburg: Uranus-Verlag (1936). 143 S.; Tibeter über das Abendland. Salzburg:Ignota-Verlag 1947.215 S. sowie Darkness over Tibet. London: Rider & Co. 1933. 192 S.
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-08-28. Retrieved 2014-06-04., Sygartyr.com: "One of the most strangest books I own is a little-known travelogue by a German mystical writer Theodore Illion (most likely a pseudonym), called "Darkness over Tibet" (1938). The book is advertised as a non-fiction travel book, but in reality, seems a largely fictional spiritual allegory. In his travels in secretive Tibet (back when it was illegal for Western foreigners to visit there), he hears tales of a hidden underground city, a world of highly initiated beings led by the "Prince of Light". Illion finds a guide to take him there, and in the city he meets a fraternity of monks and their mysterious leader. Although he initially feels that he is in a place of great spiritual power, it slowly dawns on him that these people are really sorcerers that practice black magic, and had become soulless over time as the darkness spiritually consumed them. Illion makes his escape so that he can warn the world of the powers of darkness that lie within the secretive mountains of the Himalayas."
  9. ^ David Hatcher Childress, Lost cities of China, Central Asia, & India, Lost cities series, 3rd edition, Adventures Unlimited Press, 1998, 408 p., p. 355: "After discovering he is being fed a gruel of human flesh, Illion escapes the city with an assassination squad after him. He wanders Tibet for several weeks being pursued, and eventually escapes, to warn the world."
  10. ^ Image éditoriale n° 3290853: "16th April 1934: Portrait of explorer and philosopher Theodore Illion, in London with his two companions prior to leaving for a journey to Central Asia. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)."
  11. ^ Image éditoriale n° 3290852: "16th April 1934: German explorer and philosopher Theodore Illion, in London wearing the headgear that he considers will best protect him during his expedition to Central Asia. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)."
  12. ^ Image éditoriale n° 3096721: "12th April 1934: German traveller, philosopher and lecturer Theodore Illion paddling a tiny rubber dinghy during a demonstration in London of the equipment he will take on a planned expedition to uncharted regions of Central Asia. In the early 1930s, Illion became the first westerner to visit the underground city in Tibet. (Photo by E. Dean/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)."
  13. ^ Tibet, Nepal und der Kulturraum des Himalaya - Fabri Antiquariat: "Burang, Theodor (d. i. Theodor Illion): Tibetische Heilkunde. 170 S. Origo, Zürich 1957. Dritte revidierte Auflage 1974; 4. revidierte Auflage o. J. — In mehreren Kapiteln über 'Die kosmischen Essenzen', 'Der Doppelkörper', 'Tibetische Medizinwerke', 'Tibetische Heilmethoden' und ähnliches beschreibt der Autor sich selbst als einen des Tibetischen kundigen Gelehrten, doch bleiben alle seine Ausführungen vage, oberflächlich, ohne exakte Angaben zum Woher und Wieso. Bedenklich stimmt auch das Fehlen jeglicher Zitate und bibliographischer Hinweise bzw. Nachweise. Eher ein perfektes journalistisches Meisterstück, das man auch aus vielfachen Quellen westlicher Bücher so hätte zusammenschreiben können. "
  14. ^ Tibet, Nepal und der Kulturraum des Himalaya - Fabri Antiquariat, op. cit.: "Burang, Theodor: Die Kunst des Heilens im Fernen Osten. Heilverfahren und Heilmittel. 168 S. Origo, Zürich 1975. Mehrere Auflagen, so etwa 1981. Kapitelweise Beschreibung der altchinesischen, der tibetischen und der altislamischen Heilsysteme und ihrer Heilmöglichkeiten. Der Autor glaubt, daß das zukünftige medizinische Weltbild diese Heilsysteme berücksichtigen muß. Wie stets bei seinen Veröffentlichungen sind die 'Fakten' nicht belegt, es finden sich zu seinen Behauptungen keine überprüfbaren Texte, sondern wenn, dann nur Hinweise auf ebenfalls nicht exakt zitierte Sekundärliteratur."
  15. ^ Annotated Bibliography of Tibetan Medicine, op. cit., article 758: "In den Jahren zwischen 1970 und 1980 war er Mitglied des "Club of Rome". Positiven Kontakt hatte er, wenn ich mich recht erinnere, mit dem italienischen Tibetologen G. Tucci. Bestattet ist er in Kuchl, einem Dorf 20 km südlich von Salzburg (unweit des Hintereinganges des Friedhofes, der Felsblock mit seinem Namen ist nicht zu übersehen). Er war ein weiser, gütiger, hilfsbereiter und auch sehr humorvoller Mann, wir, die ihn kannten, vermissen ihn heute noch schmerzlich! Den Nachruf in den "Salzburger Nachrichten" kann ich Ihnen nicht senden: ich habe ihn nicht! Lebende Nachkommen gibt es keine; er war nie verheiratet. Der Nachlaß bestand aus einem Karton mit persönlichen Aufzeichnungen, überwiegend in tibetischer und chinesischer Schrift geschrieben."
  16. ^ Laura Knight-Jadczyk, Darkness Over Tibet, The cassiopaea: "I next checked the chronology of events in terms of David-Neel's travels, and realized that the Illion book was written precisely during the period when Alexandra was ensconced in France, writing and lecturing widely. In fact, this book came out immediately after she had returned from her long treks in Tibet and had settled down for a period. That struck me as an interesting item. I thought that it was possible that this T. Illion was a student of hers, or even a nom de plume of either herself or her sidekick, Lama Yongden. However, the fact that the book was written in German argues against it being either David-Neel herself, or her companion. So, if there is any connection, it would probably be a student or colleague. In any event, there are several reasons for suspecting some sort of connection between Illion and David-Neel."
  17. ^ Laura Knight-Jadczyk, op. cit.: "Yet, I had to agree that the story seemed to be somewhat "artificial," even if certain elements of it struck me as being factual in that, if they had been made up, a different and more satisfying resolution would have been given them."
  18. ^ David Hatcher Childress, op. cit., p. 355: "[...] his book may be alarmist fiction disguised as a travelogue [..]."
  19. ^ Wilhelm Alexander Unkrig, Hans Findeisen, op. cit., p. 166: "Der Arzt und Bibliograph Jürgen Aschoff hält Illions Bücher und seine Tibetreisen für « Science Fiction » (vgl. seine Kommentierte Bibliographie zur tibetischen Medizin Ulm, Dietikon 1996, 195)."
  20. ^ Annotated Bibliography of Tibetan Medicine, op. cit., article 759: "Illion, Theodor: Darkness over Tibet. 192 p., Rider & Co., London (1933). Reprinted by Adventures Unlimited, USA, 1991. – One has to read this book by Theodor Illion (Theodor Burang) in order to understand and to judge critically what he has written on Tibetan Medicine. This book "Darkness over Tibet" has nothing to do with Tibetan Medicine, but is one of his two reports on his claimed journey into Tibet in 1933/34 (the other book "Rätselhaftes Tibet", Hamburg 1936, English translation "In secret Tibet", London 1937, is just the same fantasy). I doubt seriously that he has ever been in Tibet or even near the Tibetan border. His book is absolutely "science fiction", and in my opinion a 100 % fantasy. In this respect it is unbelievable in how many scientifically oriented papers and books Burang's (Illion's) publications on Tibetan Medicine are introduced and seriously quoted, in spite of the fact that he has never given a single line of published reference or renowned Tibetan doctor for his more than vague statements (Jürgen C. Aschoff)."

See also[edit]