14.06.20 Revisioning History: Did Indiana Jones Really Exist ?

The possibly true story of the first dialogue of a Dalai Lama with an Westerner from the outer world on 26 February 1923, one hour after sundown

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While millions of people believe Indiana Jones was one of the most important figures in archeology, many others reject the idea that he even existed at all.

Now the next question becomes, if he really existed, Who was he ? Many people are said to be the real-life inspiration for the Indiana Jones character.

McGovern in disguise, ready to try to access to Lhasa, February 1923

William Montgomery McGovern (1897-1964) was an American adventurer, political scientist, anthropologist, journalist, Museum assistant and University professor in London, Chicago or Harvard. McGovern’s life may be more incredible than the fictional character he spawned. By age 30, he had already explored the Amazon and braved uncharted regions of the Himalayas, survived revolution in Mexico, become a Buddhist priest in a Japanese monastery and studied at Oxford, Berlin and the Sorbonne. He became a beloved lecturer, war correspondent and military strategist. (Wikipedia)

“When McGovern accessed to Lhassa, Tibet in 1923, with a few Tibetan servants, he climbed through the wild, snowy passes of the Himalayas. There, in the bitter cold, he stood naked while a companion covered his body with brown stain, squirted lemon juice into his blue eyes to darken them. Thus disguised as a coolie, he arrived in the Forbidden City without being detected, but disclosed himself to the civilian officials. A fanatical mob led by Buddhist monks stoned his house. Bill McGovern slipped out through a back door and joined the mob in throwing stones. The civil government took him into protective custody, finally sent him back to India with an escort.” (Time magazine, Monday, Feb. 28, 1938)

It is interesting to note that in fact this photographic portrait doesn’t match completely with validated McGovern’s portraits when submitted to Face Recognition softwares like Betaface. This portrait is taken before he dyed his skin with walnut juice and iodine and poured lemon juice in his blue eyes to darken their color, according to his famous 1924 book To Lhasa in Disguise. Anyway the Petit Parisien picture editor retouched it to match the story.

Gustave Le Gray,
British Mission to Tibet had to return in Darjeeling, winter 1922-1923

The British Mission to Tibet: [Left to Right] William Harcourt (photographer and cinematographer), Dr. William Montgomery Mc Govern (stting), Major Frederic Fletcher, Dr. George Knight (leader of the expedition, sitting before Tibetan guide and secretary), had left Liverpool Street Station in London on July 14, 1922. “Engaged on scientific research, the group of European penetrated one hundred and fifty miles inside the Tibetan frontier… before they were stopped at Gyangtsé and turned back by the order of Tibetan authorities” in November 1922. They were all back in Darjeeling on 9 December. McGovern went on active preparations to return to Tibet in disguise, as now he could speak Tibetan fluently.

“It took exactly a month to get everything in order. This included the purchase of transport animals and the hire of servants. A visit in secret to the city of Kalimpong enabled him to secure three mules and three ponies. In Darjeeling itself McGovern engaged four servants… These were, first a native secretary, who was later to play the part of his master on his arrival on Tibet. Owing to certain delinquencies in character, he received the soubriquet of Satan…” (To Lhasa in disguise, page 58)

McGovern with his secretary Trashi-Gigen, or “Satan”, who was later to play the part of his master, February 1923

… three days later, on February 26, I was finally able to get an interview with the Dalai Lama. He was too afraid of stirring up popular discontent to grant me a public audience, but his curiosity had been so aroused that a secret interview was arranged. Satan and my servants were not even aware of the talks which were taking place. In the evening a messenger came to accompany me, supposedly to the Kashak, but at the first turn of the street we made our way to the city gate and the Potala. We entered under a back door of the sacred enclosure, and after climbing up several Tibetan stairs, which resembled ladders, I was taken into a small room where a lone man was waiting for me. This man was none other than His Holiness, Thubten Gyatso, 13th Dalai Lama.

In the shadows that filled the room, I could make out a man who was smaller, frailer and with a longer, oval physiognomy than most Tibetans. His face still bore the marks that smallpox had left in his youth; his head was shaved, according to the custom of the priests, but he wore long, waxed moustaches in points, in the Indian style. He gave the appearance of a man who was accustomed to being seen in the light of a god, and who, moreover, had an unshakeable faith in his own divinity, but, in spite of this, a great calm and an air of modesty seemed to surround him… his appearance was that of a man of the world, a keen observer of human nature and a perceptive mind which gave itself over to the study of final causes. His clothing was extremely simple and almost monk-like.

It would be interesting to recall how the Dalai Lama was elected. The high office of the Dalai Lama, as we know, is not hereditary, but the Almighty Ruler of Tibet is not elected by his people. He is chosen by means of a system which is unique in the world. Theoretically, the Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of the Chenresi deity, and is also an immediate reincarnation of his person. A few months to two years after the death of the pontiff, the supreme council of monks announces to the people the discovery of the new Dalai Lama. This new Dalai Lama may be a child of a few months or even two years of age, but in all these cases his birth must have taken place after the death of the last Dalai Lama whose soul is supposed to have transmigrated into the child’s body. Sometimes, before his death, the old Dalai Lama lets his advisers know that he will be reborn in such and such a region or in such and such a family. This indication makes it much easier to search – when the time of designation has come. The heads of the important monasteries of Tibet and Mongolia reincarnate in the same way, and in general the reincarnation of these less important lamas extends into old age. It is not the same with the Dalai Lamas…”

“The first four incarnations, who were only religious leaders, reached a fairly advanced old age. It was only the fifth incarnation which, with the help of the Tartars, seized political power. Political intrigues began to influence the destiny of each reincarnation. From that time until the thirteenth of the lineage no Dalai Lama lived beyond the age of eighteen, his majority. Thus the young Dalai Lama minors were, for a very long time, mere toys in the hands of the religious oligarchy which dominated the country. These all-powerful priests, fearing that an adult Dalai Lama was not sufficiently malleable, arranged for the Dalai Lama to be reincarnated as soon as he reached his majority. The present Datai Lama is the only one who has escaped this fate in a century.

He possesses an enormous strength of character, and he has shown it in the most striking manner by escaping death, which has never ceased to threaten him. He is the son of peasants. At the time of its advent, Tibet was under the influence of China, and since China did not want power to fall into the hands of powerful Tibetan families, the choice of a peasant’s child was the right one. This man, now forty-nine years of age, managed to seize the power which for so long had belonged to religious factions. He learned, no doubt very early on, of the tragic destiny of his predecessors, and long before reaching his majority, he avoided all food that had not been tasted, in his presence, by those around him. In this and many other ways he was able to escape the dangers that threatened him…”

At eighteen when he came of age, he insisted on being given the powers which nominally belonged to him, and it was not without difficulty that they were handed over to him. Emboldened by this success and by the will to power as well as the “will to live”, the Dalai Lama embarked on a rather risky foreign policy, which was the main cause of the British expedition of 1904 and the Chinese incursion of 1909.

Our talk with the Dalai Lama was of a general nature only, and I had to promise to keep our conversation absolutely secret. I then took my leave of this remarkable man and returned to my home in Lhasa by the same circuitous route. The next day, February 27th, the storm, which I had expected, broke out. My presence in Lhasa had at last been brought to the attention of the monks and the more turbulent people of the city….

(retranslated from French newspaper Le Petit Parisien, AU PAYS DU MYSTÈRE. COMMENT JE PARVINS A LHASSA, LA VILLE SACRÉE DU THIBET. Par le docteur MAC GOVERN, de l’Université de Londres, 29 octobre 1923.

Alternative historical models for Indiana Jones as listed by Wikipedia

Also, Sir Leonard Woolley (from another source)

The identification of “Copyright by BBMT” as a photographic agency stamp resisted to first investigations, and the explanation could be more a British Buddhist Mahayana Tradition ? The Buddhist Society, London (originally known as the Buddhist Lodge) was founded in 1924 by Christmas Humphreys, a Theosophist who converted to Buddhism.

Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama offers you “Compassion” six minute and 41 seconds of meditation opening his first album “Inner World”. The release to come features eleven teachings and mantras by the Tibetan spiritual leader set to music. 6th July 2020 will happily coincide with his 85th birthday.

Click HERE or on one of the nearest images to listen to the mantra.

Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ is the six-syllabled Sanskrit mantra particularly associated with Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.

The first word Om is a sacred syllable, Mani means “jewel”, Padme the “lotus flower“, and Hum represents the spirit of enlightenment. This text is a condensed form of all the Buddhist teachings, the most ubiquitous mantra of Tibetan Buddhism.

The mantra also entered Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Taoism.

Incantation to the Blue Throated Avalokitesvara, 8th-century manuscript written in both Siddhaṃ and Sogdian scripts, found in Buddhist caves near the frontier city of Dunhuang (now in the British Library).

This transmission in dedicated to Peter B. Howard, owner of Serendipity Books in Berkeley, who, looking through the shop’s window on one cold winter day, observed a young Tibetan women. She was lost and starving, he gave her some hot tea, welcomed her in his family and trained her as a rare bookdealer in the language of Shakespeare.

Om maṇi padme hūṃ

Om maṇi padme hūṃ

Om maṇi padme hūṃ

Om maṇi padme hūṃ

Om maṇi padme hūṃ

Om maṇi padme hūṃ

Om maṇi padme hūṃ

Serge Plantureux
Photographic Studies – Visual Anthropology
Analysis & Investigation
Via Marchetti 2
60019 Senigallia (AN) Italie


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