Guide to the Lewis Thompson Papers 1933-1984
Cage 569

Summary Information

Repository
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Creator
Thompson, Lewis
Title
Lewis Thompson Papers
ID
Cage 569
Date [inclusive]
1933-1984
Extent
7.0 containers.
General Physical Description note
4 linear feet of shelf space.
Language
English
Abstract
Contains aphorisms, correspondence, photographs, pictorials, journals, writings and translations by and about Lewis Thompson.

Preferred Citation note

[Item Description]. Cage 569, Lewis Thompson Papers. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

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Biographical/Historical note

Lewis Levien Thompson was born on January 13, 1909 in Fulham, England. He spent his childhood in north London with two younger sisters. He received a good conventional education in private schools, and though he did not excel in academic areas, he was a good singer and accomplished pianist. His happiest memories of childhood were the times the family spent on long summer holidays in West Molesey, Surrey at The Priory, their quiet summer home. In early adolesence, Lewis became friends with a Buddhist and began to read the scriptures of the East. This new interest began to distance him from his family so much so that in his teens he lived on his own in London with a small legacy from a relative. He did not go to the university but educated himself in the classics, including the translations of Chinese, Japanese, and Indian classics. He also read extensively in anthropology and psychoanalysis. In his adolescence, Lewis underwent the first severe crisis of his life, the turning point on which his whole future life revolved. He discovered Rimbaud at the age of 21, and finally he, like Rimbaud, rejected literature. He realized the truth in Rimbaud's remarks of a wish to possess the truth in one soul and body and the impossiblity of this wish. Rimbaud saw the only solution for the poet of integrity was to abandon all attempts as a poet. Thompson too experienced the anguish of a young artist who is certain that "the truth cannot be told" and that in his writing he wrote only half of the truth which is an untruth. On recognizing this, Thompson destroyed the manuscript he had worked on for five years. In the future, he would write only as a form of spiritual excercise.

Thompson believed that in the West all was distorted and fragmentary, while in the East he could find what was clear, classical, and complete. He wished to travel to the East and was given money for the fare to Ceylon by Sir Arnold Wilson, a Persian explorer, who took pity on Thompson. He departed from England on July 26, 1932 and lived in India for the remaining seventeen years of his life. While in India, he wandered the country living off of what others would give him in the form of food and lodging. During this time, he carried all his possessions with him in one trunk, including all his papers. (This explains why some of the paper is in such a deteriorated state.) Thompson was not interested in finding a guru in the beginning, but in 1936 he developed a relationship of affection, intensity, and frankness with a man Thompson called Jnani, or Man of Knowledge. Their relationship ended in 1943 when Jnani withdrew from the unconventional and untraditional relationship which he and Thompson had established. In 1943, Thompson found employment in the Rajghat School in Benares as the writer-in-residence and librarian. He remained there for four years. When the job at Rajghat ended, Thompson drew a small stipend from G. D. Birla, the industrialist and a friend of Gandhi.

In his last years, Thompson wrestled with declining health, a problem he had throughout his adult life. His end came when he returned to Benares in the lethal heat. He was found wandering by the river in a daze with the effects of sunstroke. He went to bed with a high fever and died alone in his room on June 23, 1949. He was cremated and his ashes spread over the Ganges River. After his death, Thompson's poetry was sent to Edith Sitwell by Deben Bhattacharya. Sitwell saw the poetry as the work of a genius and published some of it in an anthology she compiled.

Biography taken in part from Mirror to the Light by Richard Lannoy.

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Arrangement note

The papers were arranged in alphabetical order under the type of material: Anthology, Aphorisms, Correspondence, Journals, Photographs, Pictorials, Poems, Prose, Talks with Gurus, Translations, and Miscellaneous Materials. Within each folder, the materials were placed in chronological order. The main headings were taken from the work done on the papers by Richard Lannoy when he used the Thompson archives for the book Mirror to the Light. The Anthology section of the Thompson papers contains either hand-written or typed pages of passages from books that Thompson considered important enough to keep. This collection functioned as his library as he had no money to buy books. The Aphorisms are comprised mostly of 3"x5" slips of paper on which Thompson wrote his thoughts on topics ranging from the body to eating to yoga. The small slips are in Boxes 4, 5, and 6. Care was taken to maintain the order of the aphorisms, so all were numbered in the upper right hand corner. The alphabet section cards have been added to help the user in finding aphorisms on particular subjects. The topic heading slips were copied from the slips that Thompson had used. The paper on which the topic headings were written was highly acidic and was discarded. Thompson wrote some of his aphorisms on larger slips of paper. These were removed from the small file boxes, unfolded, and placed in folders. A slip of paper was put in its place in the small file box on which was written the folder number where that page had been placed. The Correspondence is mostly from Thompson to his relatives and a few close friends. The final folder of correspondence contains a folder of letters kept by Blanca Schlamm after Thompson's death. These condolence letters are from relatives and friends. The Journals section gives a glimpse into Thompson's life in India. Some parts of the journals were written on 3"x5" slips and are in Box 7. As with the aphorisms, the larger sheets that were pulled from this small file box have been noted with slips of paper telling where that numbered page may be found.

There is only one folder of Photographs. It contains the only known photographs of Thompson to exist as well as photographs of Thompson's friends in India. The Pictorial section consists of pictures by children which tell a well-known story with pictures, as well as pencil sketches of children by Thompson. The Poems are all original works by Thompson. Some are hand-written and some are typed out in preparation to send to publishers. The Prose section includes essays and articles by Thompson to be submitted for publication. This section includes Thompson's Autobiography, as well as Such Stuff: Book of Dreams. The Talks With Gurus are notes taken by Thompson during talks with his teachers and other spiritual leaders. The Translation section shows that Thompson spent much of his time translating the works of those authors he deemed important. He seemed especially interested in translating poetry. The Miscellaneous material includes manuscript items and notes that had no logical section in which to be placed or were loose when the collection was received.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries © 1989

http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/masc
Terrell Library
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, WA, 99164-5610
509-335-6691
mascref@wsu.edu

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open for research use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

The Lewis Thompson papers were acquired by Washington State University Libraries in two purchases from George Minkoff in 1988 (accessions MS 88-34, MS 88-51).

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Related Materials

Related Archival Materials note

Aphorisms published in Mirror to the Light: Reflections on Consciousness and Experience / edited by Richard Lannoy. London: Coventure Limited, 1984.

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Controlled Access Headings

Occupation(s)

  • Authors, English--20th century

Personal Name(s)

  • Thompson, Lewis Levien, 1909-1949--Archives
  • Thompson, Lewis Levien, 1909-1949

Subject(s)

  • International Relations
  • Literature
  • Religion

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General note

Lewis Thompson 1942

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Collection Inventory

Box Folder

Mirror to the Light By Lewis Thompson, edited by Richard Lannoy. 

1 1

Anthology - Copied passages from books, most in Thompson's hand. 

1 2-11

Aphorisms 

Box Folder

Aphorisms on Art and Aesthetics. 

1 12
Box

Aphorisms - Art and Expression, Aphorisms - Second Choice, Aphorisms on Aphorisms - Second Choice, Aphorisms on Journals, Aphorisms on Sex, Aphorisms for Mirror to the Light. 

4
Box Folder

Aphorisms on Art and Expression. (Slips too large for File Box 4.) 

1 13

Aphorisms-Second Choice. (Slips too large for File Box 4.) 

1 14

Aphorisms on Sex-Second Choice. (Slips too large for File Box 4.) 

1 15

Aphorisms for Mirror to the Light(Slips too large for File Box 4.) 

1 16
Box

Aphorisms - Action-Now After 1931 

5
Box Folder

Aphorisms in alphabetical order by Thompson. (Slips too large for File Box 5.) 

1 17
Box

Aphorisms - Objects-Yoga. Includes the notes Thompson wrote during his last days. After 1931 

6
Box Folder

Aphorisms in alphabetical order by Thompson. (Slips too large for File Box 6.) 

1 18

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Correspondence 

Box Folder

Correspondence from Lewis Thompson to family members in England 1936-1949 

1 19

Correspondence between Lewis Thompson and David MacIver 1942-1946 

1 20

Correspondence between Lewis Thompson and Ella Maillart 1941-1943 undated 

1 21

Correspondence between Lewis Thompson and Ella Maillart 1943-1948 undated 

1 22

Correspondence between Lewis Thompson and Ella Maillart 1948-1949 undated 

1 23

Correnpondence from Lewis Thompson to Ethel Merston (Letters from Thompson are addressed to Juliette.) 1944-1946 undated 

1 24

Correspondence between Lewis Thompson and Blanca Schlamm 1944-1949 undated 

1 25

Correspondence to and from relatives and friends after Thompson's death (File kept by Blanca Schlamm.) 1948-1959 undated 

1 26

Correspondence to and from Sufi disciples of Rene Guenon 1940-1942 undated 

1 27

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Journals 

Box

Journals 1937-1943 

7
Box Folder

Journal and autobiographical notes and fragments 1933-1936 

2 28

Journal (Slips too large for File Box 7.) 1937 

2 29

Journal (Slips too large for File Box 7.) 1938 

2 30

Journal (Slips too large for File Box 7.) 1939 

2 31

Journal (Slips too large for File Box 7.) 1940 

2 32

Journal (Slips too large for File Box 7.) 1941 

2 33

Journal (Slips too large for File Box 7.) 1942 

2 34-35

Journal (Slips too large for File Box 7.) 1943 

2 36

Journal 8 December 1943-10 January 1945 

2 37

Journal, miscellaneous pages 1944-1948 

2 38

Journal 13 January 1945-31 August 1945 

2 39

Journal 4 September 1945-24 January 1946 

2 40

Journal 24 January 1946-31 December 1946 

2 41

Journal 4 February 1946-21 March 1946 

2 42

Journal 13 February 1946-19 March 1946 

2 43

Journal 30 March 1946-7 April 1946 

2 44

Journal 5 April 1946-6 July 1946 

2 45

Journal 1 January 1946-9 March 1947 

2 46

Journal 9 March 1947-19 March 1947 

2 47

Journal 22 March 1947-5 April 1947 

2 48

Journal 6 April 1947-4 May 1947 

2 49

Journal 4 July 1947-21 July 1947 

2 50

Journal 21 July 1947-27 August 1947 

2 51

Journal 2 August 1947-7 October 1947 

2 52

Journal 7 October 1947-12 May 1948 

2 53

Journal 13 May 1948-18 June 1948 

2 54

Journal 3 July 1948-8 July 1948 

2 55

Journal 9 July 1948-29 July 1948(?) 

2 56

Journal 1 August 1948-13 October 1948 

2 57

Journal 14 October 1948-28 February 1949 

2 58

Journal 1 March 1949-22 June 1949 

2 59

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Box Folder

Photographs of Lewis Thompson and friends. Includes photographs of: Sri Krishna Menon, Deben Bhattacharya, Jamini, Ella Shobridge (Thompson's mother), and a portrait of Thompson by Earl Brewster. [1920]-1949 undated 

3 60

Pictorials 

Box Folder

Pictorial - Children's art work collected by Thompson. 

3 61

Pictorial - The Legend of Rakshasa. In three versions by M.R. Chandrasekaran 1940 

3 62

Pictorial - Six drawings by Lewis Thompson. 

3 63

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Poems 

Box Folder

Collected poems, by Lewis Thompson. Typescript prepared to submit to publishers. 

3 64

Original manuscript poems by Thompson. 

3 65

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Prose 

Box Folder

Prose - Account of Journey in the Rajapalaiyam Hills. By Lewis Thompson 1937 

3 66

Prose - Miscellaneous, original works by Thompson. 

3 67

Prose - Such Stuff: Book of Dreams. By Lewis Thompson. 

3 68

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Talks with Guru 

Box Folder

Talks with Guru, notes on talks with Sri Krishna Menon by Lewis Thompson 20 January 1942-7 March 1942 

3 69

Talks with Guru, notes on talks with Sri Krishna Menon by Lewis Thompson 11 March 1943-1 May 1943 

3 70

Talks with Guru, notes on talks with Sri Krishna Menon by Lewis Thompson 4 May 1943-20 June 1943 

3 71

Talks with Guru, notes on talks with Sri Anandamayi by Lewis Thompson 1946 1948 

3 72

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Translations 

Box Folder

Translation--poems by Jean Cocteau; translated by Lewis Thompson. 

3 73

Translation--poems by Mallarme, Rimbaud, Rilke, Max Jacob, Cocteau, Eluard; translated by Lewis Thompson. 

3 74

Translation--Bengali poets; translated by Lewis Thompson and Debendsanath Bhattacharya 1946-1949 

3 75

Translation--Bengali poets; translated by Lewis Thompson and Debendsanath Bhattacharya. (Loose pages extracted from the notebook in Folder 75.) 

3 76

Translation--selections from Illuminations. By Arthur Rimbaud; translated by Lewis Thompson. 

3 77

Translation--selections from Litterature; translated by Lewis Thompson. 

3 78

Translation--Songs from Chandidas; translated by Lewis Thompson and Deben Bhattacharya. (Reprint and typescript of the published article.) 

3 79

Translation--The Treatise on Singleness. By Hohyiddin Ibn Arabi, from the French translation by Abdul-Hadi, translated by Lewis Thompson 1940 1942-1943 

3 80

Translation--Umasahasram. By Karyakanta Ganapati Muni; translated by Lewis Thompson 1940 

3 81

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Miscellaneous 

Box Folder

Miscellaneous, manuscript items. 

3 82

Miscellaneous notes by Lewis Thompson. 

3 83

Miscellaneous notes by Lewis Thompson which were current at the time of his death. 

3 84

Miscellaneous plans for future projects. 

3 85

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