Elizabeth Caspari’s Testimony of the Himis Texts
Parchment in hands
Many epochal, greatest historical and scientific discoveries were made by people who investigated something completely different. Columbus discovered the Bahamas when he was looking for India, Roentgen discovered X-rays when he experimented with cathode rays, and Fleming accidentally stumbled upon penicillin while studying bacteria.
You rarely know what is there, around the bend or beyond the next pass. It seems that all that is needed is an inquiring mind, perseverance and determination to follow the intuition – the intuitive ability of the heart – and rely entirely on the promise of “seek and find”, which in no way guarantees what will be found, but only that which is a reward for a noble effort, – if you are devoted to this to the end, something will appear.
Take the case of Elisabeth Zhetaz. Her plans did not include climbing the high mountain roads to Ladakh and rediscovering the manuscripts allegedly found by Nikolai Notovich, Swami Abhedananda and, possibly, Nicholas Roerich. One circumstance is that a bone disease affecting her leg prevented her from walking for most of her childhood. The primary goal was to get out of bed as soon as possible, rather than travel up and down mountain passes to a remote Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. But, however, the predestination of fate can be overwhelming; one step can turn a whole life. And for Elizabeth, the first step was just to take … one step.
The situation did not promise much. A number of surgeons unsuccessfully tried to operate on her leg, and her confessor concluded that it was not pleasing to God to restore the girl’s health so that she could run and play like other children. But, despite all the troubles, she did not want to give up.
Her family eventually found a doctor who believed he could help her. His treatment seemed like a novelty. But under the circumstances, when all other methods did not help, only it left a glimmer of hope. The doctor prescribed sunbathing and it worked! After four years, she was able to walk.
On the road to recovery, Elizabeth began to learn to play the piano. It was an instrument that she could play while supporting her leg on a support. She fell in love with this occupation and became an excellent pianist; her services as a music teacher began to be in great demand around her native village of Château d’E in Switzerland.
There was nothing unexpected in the fact that Mademoiselle Zhetaz decided that her vocation was to teach children music. She studied hard and earned her honors degree from the Institut Ribopierra in Montreux, Switzerland. Then she continued her studies in Lausanne, at the Music Pedagogical Institute, and there she received two higher degrees in music pedagogy. After graduation, Elizabeth founded a music school in Château d’E and developed a unique teaching method that eliminated tedious work and immediately brought her success. From all over Europe, both aspiring pianists and aspiring music teachers flocked to her alpine school in droves. In 1929, Charles Caspari came to Château d’Eux to recharge his health with the fresh mountain air and sun. He not only restored his health there, but met Mademoiselle Gettaz and won her favor. After the wedding, he took over many administrative duties at the school, allowing his wife to devote more time to her beloved vocation – music. They worked together at the Château d’E for eight years.
But fate did not want to leave Madame Caspari in the Alps. In the spring of 1937, an accidentally thrown phrase set in motion a chain of events, as a result of which Elizabeth traveled throughout India and, eventually, ended up on the roof of the Himis monastery in the Himalayas. “A great teacher came to France to give lectures on science and religion,” her friend once said. “You should definitely go.”
“Why not?” – thought Caspari. They crossed Lake Geneva, arriving in Evian, where lectures were given by Swedish members of mazdazna-na, * / Mazdaznan: in Avestan (ancient Iranian yaezhe), “divine thought” or “knowledge of God in man.” Mazda – “wisdom”, also God, or Light; means – “worship” or “to be worshiped” / of the Western Zoroastrian movement. Elizabeth Caspari was passionate about learning and soon joined the organization. At the lecture, she happened to meet with the leaders of the mazdaznan. When they learned that she was about to leave for London, they made a seemingly unsubstantiated request: “Would you be so kind to convey from us our greetings to our beloved Mother Superior?” Fortunately, she agreed.
The meeting brought much more than she expected. When Elizabeth rode in a cab through the streets of London to the address indicated, she imagined that the head of the movement would be a prim English matron. Much to her surprise, the cabman pulled up to a building as imposing as Buckingham Palace. Madame Caspari was ushered into the Louis XIV-style drawing room, where she appeared before an imposing lady, who turned out to be an American, whom the followers of the Mazdaznan called Mother Gloria – the regal Mrs. Clarence Gasky.
In the ensuing conversation, Madame Caspari learned that Mrs. Gasky was also the leader of the World Brotherhood of the Faith, organized to unite and cooperate people passionate about spiritual search. Mrs. Gasky enthusiastically accepted the news that Madame Caspari was a pianist and explained that she was planning a lecture tour of the cities of Northern England. In her straightforward and charming manner, she said, “I need a pianist. You must come with me.”
“But I have a husband and a music school,” Madame Caspari replied. “I can’t just run away, I have to go home.”
Mrs. Gasky gave her the phone: “Talk to your husband.”
Charles told her to follow her heart and she accepted the invitation. Thus began a long friendship between Madame Caspari and Mrs. Gasky.
At the end of the tour, Madame Caspari returned to her music school. But not for long.
One Monday morning, in December 1937, she received a letter from Mrs. Gasky informing her that she was planning a trek through Tibet with stops in Ceylon, India and Kashmir. During the trip, she planned to study Buddhism and make a pilgrimage to the sacred Tibetan mountain Kailash. She finished with the words: “You and your husband are going with me …”
The offer was too tempting. Both husband and wife, also interested in the religions of the East, could not reject the offer of their dear friend. They had only three weeks to finish their business, pack their things, and sail on the steamer Orontes to Ceylon.
In every country, the religious leaders received Mrs. Gasky and the nine accompanying her with the deepest respect and even with ceremony. One day, their train arrived in Madras at 6:00 am. Elizabeth Caspari woke up and looked out the window. Maharaja Pithapura-ma, head of the Indian branch of the Universal Brotherhood of Faith, came with his retinue, who spread the red carpet. He insisted that Mother Gloria and Elizabeth Caspari stay at his Rose Palace.
Here travelers lived in an elegant guest house, surrounded by the fabulous splendor of the East. Such exquisite hospitality became common throughout their journey.
After passing Madras, Bombay and New Delhi, they headed north to Kashmir. In the spring of 1938, Mrs. Gasky rented a bungalow in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir, where they could prepare gear for the Tibetan journey. Here they spent the best part of the year. I had to think about everything: food, equipment, servants, not to mention medicines, batteries and a special cream to protect against bad weather conditions. The Himalayas are not so easy to deal with.
They hit the road on a spring day in 1939. While it was possible, we went by bus. Further in the fortress of the Himalayas, you will not find any wheels, except for prayer. * The caravan has increased by twelve servants, one translator and 112 ponies, as well as guides and walla-hos, or mule drivers.
The beauty of the Himalayas is due to their contrasts. Elizabeth and Charles Caspari managed to capture the combination of green trees and icy peaks during their Tibetan journey to Mount Kailas in 1939. The outbreak of World War II cut short this journey, forcing them to return, but they still managed to visit the great monastery of Himis.
Their goals were varied, but quite achievable. They intended to stop at several monasteries on the way to Mount Kailash to observe the Buddhist practices, customs and daily life of the people for whom this teaching was the driving force. The pilgrims had high hopes of reaching Himis in time for the “devil’s dance”, famous for its magnificent costumes of rich brocade. They had no idea that they would return with riches beyond all expectations, with experiences very different from those of the ordinary pilgrimage. After spending their first night under the stars, the travelers woke up at sunrise and rode early in the morning, hurrying to set up camp.
Thanks to the experience of the servants – the finest one could find in Kashmir – and the foresight in packing, the journey was less arduous than for Nikolai Notovich some fifty-two years ago. While the Europeans were settling into the saddles, the servants galloped ahead to prepare the first camp in the meadow near Sonamarga. They pitched tents, which became their daily activity, and began preparing hot food for the hungry travelers. Wizards of mountain cuisine, they made ovens and baked fresh bread in a short time. And soon the pilgrims settled down for a cozy meal.
Climbing all the time up to the first high-mountain pass Zoji La at an altitude of 11,580 feet, they found on arrival that snow covered the ground, although it was July. The guides made them move one at a time in complete silence. “Don’t talk,” they warned, “or you’ll cause an avalanche.”
As they descended, the snow ended as suddenly as it began, and the sweet scent of wild roses that grew along their path wafted through. Down, along treacherous gorges, along the edge of precipices, through arid deserts that freeze at sunset, when the winds blow from the glaciers, the travelers bravely overcame the gaps blocked by impossibly narrow bridges, the travelers moved forward.
Despite the fact that the caravan was large enough, wild animals habitually roamed around the tents of Mrs. Gasky and the Caspari couple. The two ladies spent several pleasant nights in roadside hotels built for official purposes.
On the way to Lech, they met the inhabitants of this seemingly inhospitable land. Friendly, open-minded and simple-minded Ladakhs were always ready to smile broadly, to shout “julay, julay” (“hello, hello”) and give a solemn welcome to Mrs. Gasky.
At each camp, when they met with the abbot lama or village headman, they were treated to Tibetan tea with great ceremonies. A soup-like drink was flavored with rancid yak oil – the more important the guest, the more rancid the butter. Therefore, the most rancid piece was always reserved for Mrs. Gasky!
Slowly moving along the ancient caravan route, they visited Mulbek, Lamayura and other monasteries. Most striking were the constant contrasts inherent in the area. The icy winds give way to a light breeze after a few hundred steps. Smiling lamas live in charming palaces that adjoin the desert lands. Seemingly endless, high barren plateaus are interrupted by abundant green oases surrounded by thickets of trees.
Traveling among the all-pervading spirit of Buddha, they talked to monks and visited monasteries. The faces of the lamas, most of them young, expressed childish curiosity and gaiety. It seemed to the pilgrims that while the customs persisted, much of the true wisdom was buried in aging manuscripts. Parchments and tanks (tapestries with images of the lives of saints and buddhas), sculptures and statues that they saw along the way, were carefully preserved, although in some monasteries the frescoes that once shimmered with colors have already faded with age.
The people worshiped Gautam Buddha, but it seemed that this religion, now just a ritual, was communicated to people to a greater extent by the majestic mountains and even their collective unconscious memory than by ancient texts. But the ceremonies were carefully performed. Prayer flags fluttered in almost every accessible place. Prayer wheels – cylinders with prayers inscribed or embedded in them – could be found built into the walls, especially in monasteries, in the hands of pilgrims, or, equipped with blades, they were installed in streams in order to support never-ending prayers.
The Tibetans believed that turning a wheel or fluttering a flag was tantamount to a recited prayer. Perhaps in this way they were fulfilling the admonition: “Pray without ceasing!”
Myriads of such impressions, like many hands painting frescoes, made up the Ladakh epic of Elizabeth Caspari. When the first and, as it was determined by fate, the only stage of their Tibetan journey came to an end, the caravan reached Nimu, the last village before Leh. Here they stopped to wash their clothes and bathe the ponies in the river. Camping under the warm sun on the banks of the Indus, travelers could admire the snow-covered peaks, glaciers shining in the sun, and the gentle river splashing at their feet.
The next day they reached Leh, located at 11,500 feet, * / Wenchuan in China is the highest at 16,732 feet. The grave or tomb of a saint or righteous man / – one of the highest mountainous cities in the world. At the entrance to the city, they met a chorten standing like a silent guard. A quarter-mile-long wall of stones engraved with the symbol of centuries of zealous worship – OM MANI PADME HUM – greeted them on the way. / Buddhist mantra: “Oh, Treasure in the Lotus” (sacred fire pulsating in the chakra) /.
Narrow streets were the hallmark of a city that never knew cars. Its crowded bazaar was a meeting place for Chinese, Hindus, Kashmiris, Arabs and Tibetans. The Royal Palace, where Roerich stayed, towered over the entire city. The travelers visited the ancient monastery and soon rushed to Himis for a carnival performance.
Leaving the city, they headed across the vast desert plain that separated Leh from Himis. All long day we walked through this “desert of pink stones”, as their travel companion, Cyrano, called it. Dusk approached, then night, and the caravan had not yet reached Himis. A cool, fragrant oasis right at the bottom of a steep gorge opened suddenly, high above the invisible monastery clung to the rock.
The next morning they were given the usual welcome when a delegation of welcomers arrived. The abbot himself and two chief deputies went downstairs to escort Mrs. Gasky to Himis. The monks have prepared a lovely guesthouse for Mrs. Gasky and Madame Caspari. The rest of the group camped in tents near the stream. But, alas, the pilgrims learned that due to difficulties and delays along the way, they missed the sacred holiday.
Fortunately, before they could get upset, the abbot said that the costumes had not yet been removed and offered Mrs. Gasky a show for three whole days. It started the next morning. Lama-actors in magnificent costumes unfolded a dramatic image of Armageddon in front of them. The power of God was embodied by Buddha in the guise of a lion, which was a symbol of the strength and fearlessness necessary to expel the Force of Evil from the world. He was surrounded by demons, skeletons and animals, which were superbly played by younger lamas in grotesque masks. They all whirled and spun to the sound of an oriental orchestra — ten-foot trumpets, cymbals, and drums of all sizes — louder and louder toward the culmination of the expulsion of evil spirits and the triumph of the Buddha.
After the celebration, the guests stayed for several days at the lamaseria, inspecting the temple and the library *, talking with the monks and enjoying the views from the high roof of Himis. / When asked about the differences between Roerich’s impressions of Himis and her own (Madame Caspari recalls the library of Himis as clean, in good condition, small, while Roerich says that the manuscripts were kept in “dusty corners”), Madame Caspari replied that perhaps Himis was cleaned for the holiday when she was there. Moreover, fourteen years passed between their visits. Another explanation for this discrepancy can be found in the records of Marco Pollis, a Greek who visited Himis in 1936. He noted that there are two “libraries” in Himis: a small one with a well-kept collection of manuscripts, and a larger, less comfortable room. where stacks of books are piled up in disarray (Marko Pallis, Peaks and Lamas, London: Cassel and K, 1942, p. 304). It is also possible that some new, more accurate librarian has accepted the post since Roerich’s visit /.
On the third day, Mrs. Gasky and Elizabeth Caspari sat on the roof, watching the wandering tank painter at work. Nearby, at a small table, with his legs crossed, sat a scribe monk and inscribed beautiful Tibetan letters with thin tassels.
During this scene, a librarian and two other monks approached the ladies, carrying three objects wrapped in brocade embroidered with gold – green, red and blue. Elizabeth Caspari recognized them as Buddhist books made from sheets of parchment nested between two wooden planks.
With great respect, the librarian unfolded one of the books and handed the parchments to Mrs. Gasky, saying, “These books say your Jesus was here!”
Shortly before the pilgrims left, the librarian, carrying the ancient manuscripts, approached Mrs. Gasky and Madame Caspari, sitting on the roof, with the words: “These books say that your Jesus was here!”
Elizabeth Caspari stared at the manuscripts in awe. For a few seconds that had stopped, the last lines of the book of John swept through her mind in an endless stream. As a child in a Sunday school in Château d’E, she listened with amazement: “Jesus did many things, too: but if I wrote about them in detail, then, I think, the world itself would not contain the books written.”
Did the apostle of Christ’s love know that his Jesus was here? Did the Teacher tell his beloved student about his important journey, with whom he shared the secrets of the universe? If so, did someone deliberately hide this historical information, so significant, so precious to Christians? Didn’t Jesus himself want us to know how he lived the most important seventeen years of his life – preparing for his universal, victorious mission? “Your Jesus was here.”
It is inconceivable that such a tremendous event should be kept secret from the entire Christian world during all these centuries. Why didn’t the whole world know about Jesus’ journey to Ladakh?
Elizabeth Caspari and Mother Gloria looked at each other with joy and amazement. Together, they took a closer look at the manuscripts covered in exquisite Tibetan letters.
Digging through her memories, Elizabeth Caspari recalled that she had heard the legend about Jesus’ stay in India and Alexandria, but never, in her wildest fantasies, did it occur to her that “her Jesus” could have gone so far and so high – here in the Himalayas … At the time, she was completely unaware of the fifty-year-old discovery made by Nikolai Notovich, about the ongoing debate, and could not imagine how important her testimony would be.
She noticed that the librarian spoke with the conviction born of the ancient monastery tradition. Behind his words was the authority of reliable knowledge, transmitted with manuscripts from one lama abbot to another. These were not rumors and not even just an oral tradition, since manuscripts are an accessible thing – at that moment they were available to her. This was a testimony preserved intact by the established orders of the religious order. It was parchment. It was a manuscript. It contained precious records of Jesus coming on a mission to India. And there were Buddhist monks who venerated “her Jesus” as one of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time.
Mrs. Gasky looked in amazement at the unexpected messengers of the secret of all secrets: Christ in Tibet two thousand years ago! She saw the great reverence with which the lamas showed the parchments. It was obvious that in revealing this secret to two women, the lamas were guided only by love and a sense of kinship of souls with those who climbed so far from home to know the path of their Buddha. The librarian took great pleasure in communicating – undoubtedly with the permission of the Abbot Himis – the good news, which brought joy to those who learned in the teachings of the Buddha the laws of the Universal One, who spoke through the mouth of Issa, the great herald of Truth.
“My Jesus was here! In Himis!” thought Elizabeth Caspari. Perhaps he even sat here on this very roof – or in Leh – or worked in one of the ancient libraries. She weighed the value of the find. Her thoughts swirled as she thought that Jesus had traveled, possibly around the world. Elizabeth Caspari realized that until this hour he had been for her, as for most Christians, a work of Palestine. He was born there, lived there and died. All the religious education he received was part of the Jewish tradition. If Jesus visited Tibet or India, this meant that he studied their customs, their languages, their religion.
Why did Jesus feel he must take this journey — as she did — prior to his Palestinian mission? For what varied purposes did our Father send him? Indeed, this chance meeting at the top of the world had a deep theological meaning. Perhaps the teachings given by Jesus to John, in turn, confirmed the teachings of Gautama or the Vedas?
And we, reflecting on these questions, may also wonder why the monks chose Mother Gloria and Elizabeth Caspari. Many Europeans visited Himis, some skeptical, others sincere, but only a small handful of people – as it turned out during our search – were told about the documents. Why were Mrs. Gasky and Madame Caspari chosen as two more witnesses to add their votes to the little known evidence of the Issus documents in Himis?
Perhaps the monks saw that these pilgrims were different from others, that they were people devoted to the study of their religion, respectfully accepting the heritage of their spiritual knowledge, not considering the Buddha as a pagan idol or a work of oriental art. Apparently the lamas knew that these two devout women did not pose any threat, would not try to confiscate documents and leave with “souvenirs” from their library. Be that as it may, at that important moment in the summer of 1939, Mrs. Gasky and Madame Caspari joined a small group of pilgrims chosen by Providence to confirm one of the most intimate mysteries in the life of Jesus Christ.
Each of the members of this select group traveled to Himis in a different state of consciousness, with different kinds of expectations, and each discovered the same narrative. Nikolai Notovich heard rumors about him and set out to search for documents. Swami Abhedananda came specially to see the manuscripts with his own eyes and to confirm the story of Notovi-cha. Nicholas Roerich, who throughout Ladakh heard the legend about Issus, repeated again and again, and thought to find at least some confirmation of this. And finally, Mrs. Clarence Gasky and Madame Elizabeth Caspari, to whom they brought ancient books on a silver tray, although they did not lift a finger for this and were definitely unaware of either this legend or the findings of Notovich, Abhedananda and Roerich.
Elizabeth Caspari descended from the mountains to the plain with the rest of the party. After settling in the oasis for the night, he and Charles listened to the radio. The Second World War was declared. They decided not to continue their journey to Mount Kailash as planned, but to return to Switzerland as soon as possible.
Although the return journey was completed as quickly as possible, the Casparis arrived in Srinagar too late to catch the last civilian transport. They ended up locked up in India. For nine long years! Worried about what became of their home, their world.
Elizabeth Caspari kept her precious treasure in the depths of her memory, revealing it – on her own initiative – to the world only many years later in a lecture at the University Summit Forum, after hearing the beautiful words about Jesus copied by Nikolai Notovich from ancient Tibetan manuscripts at Himis Monastery.
From Srinagar the Kaspari went to visit a friend in New Delhi. There, Elizabeth Caspari decided to return to Madras to attend the course of the renowned teacher Maria Montessori, whom she had met in India before the trip. It was a good way to use your time and creative resources during the war. Dr. Montessori was pleased with Elizabeth Caspari’s musical techniques. “You were a Montessorian before you met me,” she announced. Madame Caspari stayed with her newfound teacher and they became lifelong friends.
After the war, the Caspari left for the United States, planning to stay there for a short time. At that time, Richert and Lowell Fillmore, sons of Charles Fillmore, founder of the Commonwealth, became interested in the Montessori method. Richert supported Elizabeth Caspari’s efforts and in 1949 helped her found her own Montessori School in Lee Summit, Missouri, called the Garden of Wisdom. It was the first of its kind in the United States since the departure of Dr. Montessori in 1900. Soon Elizabeth Caspari had three schools and about ninety students. Working together, the Caspari couple devoted the rest of their lives to spreading the Montessori Method in America, lecturing throughout the country.
Elizabeth Caspari founded Montessori schools in California, Missouri, Kansas, Florida, South Carolina, and Mexico City. Several hundred elementary schools that taught this method were founded with the help of the All-American Montessori Society, which she organized with Dr. Pheland-dom Meadows. Over the past five years, Elizabeth Caspari, now eighty-five years old * / The book was published in 1993 /, has provided training courses for teachers, interested professionals and parents in Denver, Savannah and Los Angeles. Actively promoting Montessori’s revolutionary teachings in education, she recently received an invitation to teach her courses in India, Australia, the Philippines, Switzerland and Senegal.
Elizabeth Caspari is currently an Assistant on the Board of Montessori International and teaches teachers the Montessori Method at the beautiful Royal Teton Ranch located in Park County, Montana. In this private school, pupils (from preschool to twelve years old) and teachers from all over the world benefit from the wonderful Montessori method. Here Elizabeth Caspari found unity in the teachings of Christ and Buddha that form the foundations of the life of this community – in a search that led her and many others studying the unknown life of Christ around the world, and finally brought Home.