In occult lore, the Nine Unknown Men are a millennia-old secret society founded by the Indian Emperor Asoka c. 270 BCE. According to the legend, upon his conversion to Buddhism after a massacre during one of his wars, the Emperor founded the society of the Nine to preserve and develop knowledge that would be dangerous to humanity if it fell into the wrong hands. The Nine were also charged by Asoka with manipulating the culture of India to present an image of a backwards and mystically-oriented people to the outside world in order to conceal the advanced scientific knowledge that was being accumulated within. Some versions of the story include an additional motivation for the Emperor to conceal scientific knowledge: remnants of the Rama Empire, an Indian version of Atlantis, which according to Hindu scripture was destroyed by advanced weaponry 15000 years ago. Theories have also begun to surface claiming that Rama and Atlantis might have had war using Nuclear technology, and destroyed each other.
Numerous figures who straddled the line between occultism and science fiction writing, most prominently (and apparently first) Louis Jacolliot, Talbot Mundy, and later Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier in their Morning of the Magicians, propagated the story of the Nine claiming that the society occasionally revealed itself to wise outsiders such as Pope Sylvester II who was said to have received, among other things, training in supernatural powers and a robotic talking head from the group. In more recent times, according to this circle, the Nine assisted humanity by revealing the secret of the Cholera vaccine.
Among conspiracy theorists the Nine Unknown is often cited as one of the oldest and most powerful secret societies in the world. Unusually for the conspiracy subculture, the image of the group is largely though not entirely benign. Theosophists also believe the Nine to be a real organization that is working for the good of the world.
Some modern Indian scientists such as Jagdish Chandra Bose were said to believe in or even to be members of the Nine although documentation on this issue is predictably scant.
Each of the Nine is supposedly responsible for guarding and improving a single book. These books each deal with a different branch of potentially hazardous knowledge. Traditionally, the books are said to cover the following subjects:
THE NINE UNKNOWN MEN
From The Morning Of The Magicians
By Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier
Published by Avon Books. 1968. pp 67 - 71.
This [legend] goes back to the time of the Emperor Asoka, who reigned in India from 273 B.C. He was the grandson of Chandragupta who was the first to unify India. Ambitious like his ancestor whose achievements he was anxious to complete, he conquered the region of Kalinga which lay between what is now Calcutta and Madras. The Kalingans resisted and lost 100,000 men in the battle.
At the sight of this massacre Asoka was overcome. Forever after he experienced a horror of war. He renounced the idea of trying to integrate the rebellious people, declaring that the only true conquest was to win men's hearts by observance of the laws of duty and piety, because the Sacred Majesty desired that all living creatures should enjoy security, peace and happiness and be free to live as they pleased.
A convert to Buddhism, Asoka, by his own virtuous example, spread this religion throughout India and his entire empire which included Malaya, Ceylon and Indonesia. Later Buddhism penetrated to Nepal, Tibet, China and Mongolia. Asoka nevertheless respected all religious sects. He preached vegetarianism, abolished alcohol and the slaughter of animals. H.G. Wells, in his abridged version of his _Outline Of World History_ wrote: "Among the tens of thousands of names of monarchs accumulated in the files of history, the name of Asoka shines almost alone, like a star."
It is said that the Emperor Asoka, aware of the horrors of war, wished to forbid men ever to put their intelligence to evil uses. During his reign natural science, past and present, was vowed to secrecy. Henceforward, and for the next 2,000 years, all researches, ranging from the structure of matter to the techniques employed in collective psychology, were to be hidden behind the mystical mask of a people commonly believed to be exclusively concerned with ectasy and supernatural phenomena. Asoka founded the most powerful secret society on earth: that of the Nine Unknown Men.
It is still thought that the great men responsible fro the destiny of modern India, and scientists like Bose and Ram believe in the existence of the Nine, and even receive advice and messages from them.
One can imagine the extraordinary importance of secret knowledge in the hands of nine men benefiting directly from experiments, studies and documents accumulated over a period of more than 2,000 years. What can have been the aim of these men? Not to allow methods of destruction to fall into the hands of unqualified persons and to pursue knowledge which would benefit mankind. Their numbers would be renewed by co-option, so as to preserve the secrecy of techniques handed down from ancient times.
Examples of the Nine Unknown Men making contact with the outer world are rare. There was, however, the extraordinary case of one of the most mysterious figures in Western history: the Pope Sylvester II, known also by the name of Gerbert d'Aurillac. Born in the Auvergne in 920 (d. 1003) Gerbert was a Benedictine monk, professor at the University of Rheims, Archbishop of Ravenna and Pope by the grace of Ortho III. He is supposed to have spent some time in Spain, after which a mysterious voyage brought him to India where he is reputed to have aquired various kinds of skills which stupified his entourage. For example, he possessed in his palace a bronze head which answered YES or NO to questions put to it on politics or the general position of Christianity. According to Sylvester II this was a perfectly simple operation corresponding to a two-figure calculation, and was performed by an automaton similar to our modern binary machines. This "magic" head was destroyed when Sylvester died, and all the information it imparted carefully concealed. No doubt an authorized research worker would come across some interesting things in the Vatican Library.
In the cybernetics journal, _Computers and Automation_ of October 1954, the following comment appeared: "We must suppose that he (Sylvester) was possessed of extraordinary knowledge and the most remarkable mechanical skill and inventiveness. This speaking head must have been fashioned 'under a certain conjunction of stars occring at the exact moment when all the planets were starting on their courses.' Neither the past, nor the present nor the future entered into it, since this invention apparently far exceeded in its scope its rival, the perverse 'mirror on the wall' of the Queen, the precursor of our modern electronic brain. Naturally it was widely asserted that Gerbert was only able to produce such a machine head because he was in league with the Devil and had sworn eternal allegiance to him."
Had other Europeans any contact with the society of the Nine Unknown Men? It was not until the nineteenth century that this mystery was referred to again in the works of the French writer Jacolliot.
Jacolliot was French Consul at Calcutta under the Second Empire. He wrote some quite important prophetic works, comparable, if not superior to those of Jules Verne. He also left several books dealing with the great secrets of the human race. A great many occult writers, prophets and miracle-workers have borrowed from his writings which, completely neglected in France, are well known in Russia.
Jacolliot states catagorically that the Soceity of Nine did actually exist. And, to make it all the more intriguing, he refers in the this connection to certain techniques, unimaginable in 1860, such as, for example, the liberation of energy, sterilization by radiation and psychological warfare.
Yersin, one of Pasteur and de Roux's closest collaborators, was entrusted, it seems, with certain biological secrets when he visited Madras in 1890, and following the instructions he received was able to prepare a serum against cholera and the plague.
The story of the Nine Unknown Men was popularized for the first time in 1927 in a book by Talbot Mundy who for twenty-five years was a member of the British police force in India. His book is half-fiction, half scientific inquiry. The Nine apparently employed a synthetic language, and each of them was in possession of a book that was constantly being rewritten and containing a detailed account of some science.
The first of these books is said to have been devoted to the technique of propaganda and psychological warfare. "The most dangerous of all sciences," wrote Mundy, "is that of moulding mass opinion, because it would enable anyone to govern the whole world."
It must be remembered that Korjybski's _General Semantics_ did not appear until 1937 and that it was not until the West had the experience of the last World War that the techniques of psychology of language, i.e., propaganda, could be formulated. The first American college of semantics only came into being in 1950. In France almost the only book that at all well known is Serge Tchocotine's _Le Viol des Foules_ which has had a considerable influence in intellectual polical circles, although it deals only superficially with the subject.
The second book was on physiology. It explained, among other things, how it is possible to kill a man by touching him, death being caused by a reversal of the nerve-impulse. It is said that Judo is a result of "leakages" from this book.
The third volume was a study on microbiology, and dealt especially with protective colloids.
The fourth was concerned with the transmutation of metals. There is a legend that in times of drought temples and religious relief organizations received large quanities of fine gold from a secret source.
The fifth volume contains a study of all means of communication, terrestial and extra-terrestial.
The sixth expounds the secrets of gravitation.
The seventh contains the most exhaustive cosmogony known to humanity.
The eighth deals with light.
The ninth volume, on sociology, gives the rules for the evolution of societies, and means of foretelling their decline.
Connected with the Nine Unknown Men is the mystery of the waters of the Ganges. Multitudes of pilgrims, suffering from the most appalling diseases, bathe in them without harming the healthy ones. The sacred waters purify everything. Their strange properties have been attributed to the fact that they contain bacteriophages. But why should these not be formed in the Bramaputra, the Amazon or the Seine? Jacolliot in his book advances the theory of sterilization by radiation, a hundred years before such a thing was thought to be possible. These radiations, he says, probably come from a secret temple hollowed out in the bed of the Ganges.
Avoiding all forms of religious, social or political agitations, deliberately and perfectly concealed from the public eye, the Nine were the incarnation of the ideal man of science, serenely aloof, but conscious of his moral obligations. Having the power to mold the destiny of the human race, but refraining from its exercise, this secret society is the finest tribute imaginable to freedom of the most exalted kind. Looking down from the watch-tower of their hidden glory, these Nine Unknown Men watched civilizations being born, destroyed and re-born again, tolerant rather than indifferent, and ready to come to the rescue -- but always observing that rule of silence that is the mark of human greatness.
Myth or reality? A magnificent myth, in any case, and one
that has issued from the depths of time -- a harbinger, maybe,
of the future?