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The Student Reveals a Few Key Mentors

by Bob Hieronimus, Ph.D.

I’ve been thinking a lot about 1969 these days. It’s on my mind because the mural I completed that year, the 2,700 square foot “Apocalypse” at Johns Hopkins University’s Levering Hall, is the longest-lived of my murals, and one of three that are currently under committee discussion as we plan for their simultaneous refurbishments in the near future.

Main room, main wall of “The Apocalypse” mural, extended

For most of my adult life I have been a conscientious journaler, and fortunately, this time period of the creation of “The Apocalypse” is well-documented in three volumes of diaries, sketch pads and interpretations of my artistic process. It is pretty easy to track the source of my ideas and my intentions for the symbolism in the intricate layouts of this and other murals I did during this time.

Or at least I thought I did these murals. Here’s what I mean by that.

U Maung Maung Ji

Receiving a Letter of Introduction from the Former Secretary General of the United Nations

In April of 1972 I was contacted by the former Secretary General of the United Nations U Thant, who was providing a letter of introduction to me for Buddhist mystic and diplomat U Maung Maung Ji. This led to several momentous encounters for me with my most important mentors, who told me I had been overshadowed by a higher force to execute “The Apocalypse.”

I believe the time has now come for me to reveal this story and introduce you to the guides who have been with me since at least 1968 when I realized why I incarnated in this earthly body known as Robert R. Hieronimus.

Here is the letter I received from U Thant introducing Maung:

“I am glad to take this opportunity of introducing U Maung Maung Ji, M.A. (Cantab), Barrister-at-Law, who is visiting the United States on a lecture-tour for four months starting from June 1972. Born in Rangoon (Burma) in 1900, he was educated and trained by Mrs. Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, Occultists, in India. He played a useful role in Burma’s Independence Movement and was associated with Gandhiji and Prime Minister Nehru in the All India Congress Committee. He also worked with Earl Attlee, Lord Petick-Lawrence and Hugh Gaitskell in Socialist movement. U Maung Maung Ji is a lifelong Occultist and Mystic, a Buddhist Scholar, and studied Eastern Philosophies. I believe that U Maung Maung Ji’s proposed visit to the United States will help to promote International understanding, especially in the spiritual sphere. I have no doubt that all possible cooperation and assistance will be accorded to him during his visit to the United States.”

We immediately wrote back to U Maung Maung Ji, and on June 26, 1972 he accepted our invitation to visit our spiritual commune, Savitria. On August 3 and 4, 1972 he presented his first of many talks at our esoteric study center, AUM. We also arranged for him to appear on our local TV and radio stations WJZ and WCBM. The following night he discussed the Master KH at Savitria’s house meeting. On August the 9th we took him to visit “The Apocalypse” mural at Johns Hopkins.

Main room, main wall of “The Apocalypse” mural, abbreviated

“The Apocalypse” is truly something that has to be seen in person to be believed. It is not only a huge mural, but it also covers all four walls of a large room, plus the ceiling and all the way up the stairwell leading to it. Esoteric symbolism from dozens of systems is crammed cheek by jowl into every square inch, relating the rise and fall of civilizations across the vistas of time.

Stairwell and entrance to main room of “The Apocalypse” mural

I can still remember taking Maung to see this mural-room. He sat quietly, taking it all in, gazing about at every wall. Every now and then he would look at me mysteriously and smile. I had no idea what he was thinking, so I just chattered on, telling him of the many unusual and strange experiences I’d felt over the course of six months while painting this mural. During that labor, I was literally living on the floor right there at Levering Hall, and painting around the clock. I was nearly penniless and surviving mostly on coffee and tuna fish sandwiches made for me by a few, very kind, young women. I don’t remember Maung giving me much feedback on the mural at that time, but I do remember him telling us that the Masters were comfortable at Savitria. I made note of that in my journal. Baltimore was the first stop on his American tour and after he left I honestly didn’t expect to hear from him again.

You can imagine my surprise a few months later when I received the following letter from him. It is dated on the same day we visited “The Apocalypse,” so he must have written it when the impressions were fresh. What he said about it so shocked me that for years I never told anyone except my closest friends.

Who is U Maung Maung Ji, really?

First, here is a longer version of Maung’s biography that was included in the introductory letter written on his behalf by his friend, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, U Thant. When I first read about this advanced being, I thought maybe they had sent me this invitation to meet him by mistake!

U MAUNG MAUNG JI, M.A. (Cantab), BARRISTER-AT-LAW (Short Occult, Diplomatic and Political Background)

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations U Thant with his mentor U Maung Maung Ji

Retired Statesman and Diplomat. Lifelong Occultist and Mystic. Buddhist Scholar, Founder-President, London Buddhist Vihara Society. International Lecturer on Eastern Philosophies, Buddhism, Yoga, Buddhist Meditation, Occultism, Mysticism and Spiritual Healing. He is an International Psychic and Cosmic Healer. Born in Rangoon (Burma) in 1900, he was chosen to be educated and trained under the guidance of Mrs. Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater, Occultist and Clairvoyant, in India.

He is a disciple of the MASTER KOOT HOOMI, highly evolved Spiritual Being, an ARAHAT in Buddhist terminology, living in the Himalayas, (Master Koot Hoomi Lal Singh, of Kashmiri origin. Studied at Oxford in 1850. Pythagoras is one of his previous incarnations. Resides at Shigatse).

In politics, he worked for Burma’s Independence, and was associated with Gandhi and Nehru in the All India Congress Committee. He has worked with Earl Attlee, Lord Petick-Lawrence and Hugh Gaitskell for Socialist Fellowship between Great Britain and Asian Nations. Prime Minister U. Nu, U. Thant, Retired Secretary-General of the United Nations, and U Maung Maung Ji were associated in promoting Parliamentary democracy in Burma.

The intensive occult training of U Maung Maung Ji, the only chosen Burmese disciple of the MASTER KOOT HOOMI, has unfolded in him a psychic awareness of life after death and the spiritual forces for helping those in suffering by spiritual healing. In occult communications the MASTER KOOT HOOMI has referred to U Maung Maung Ji as an Apostle of Peace.

He has attained his Initiation into the OCCULT BROTHERHOOD in the present incarnation for his devotion and service to the MASTER KOOT HOOMI in past incarnations.

U Maung Maung Ji is the only living disciple of and link with the MASTER KOOT HOOMI AND MASTER MORYA (Master Morya, a Rajput Prince, Occupied Akbar’s body in a previous incarnation. Resides in Shigatse.)

Needless to say, it was quite an honor to receive this diplomat at Savitria. To think that the only living disciple of the Master Koot Hoomi had visited us at Savitria and toured “The Apocalypse” on August 9, 1972 was thrilling enough. But the biggest shock was yet to come, when I received the following letter from him several months later.


Written by U Maung Maung Ji, August 9, 1972

To day I went to see the paintings of the young man who is running the “AUM” Centre and I was very moved by them. How did he do them? I felt the task was beyond him and how did he achieve the immense expression of the spiritual ideas painted in that hall? I know for certain that the young man was made use of as it were by the spiritual Master K.H. as his brother. That is why when we see a painting such as I have seen to day he could not have done it because I do not think he has any ambition to do it, but we are called upon from time to time for the manifestation for the spiritual idealism handed down to us from the Ancients. As I gazed at some of them my mind went back thousands of years when the great race of the Atlanteans ruled (which now lies buried under the sea). The ideas are there of that race expressed on the wall and as I sat quiet I suddenly realized the driving force beautifully depicted. The driving force was blowing out like fire but NOT an ordinary fire. The fire was the spiritual fire to protect the earth from evil forces.

Main room of “The Apocalypse” mural, view from entrance

There is a belief in the East the world is surrounded by a dragon and he has swallowed his tail in order to make a big circle, which is the beginning of a new life. To day we are facing a new life and new young people and the man at the helm which is my young friend Bob who runs the “AUM” Centre has achieved some of the principles which might have taken another man many, many lives. Please go and see the paintings he has done, sit down quietly, go into the spiritual region, try and imagine yourself how deep, how affectionate, how embracing, and how wholesome are those paintings depicted on the wall. My young friend told me that those paintings took him over six months to complete and during that time he hardly had any food and very little sleep, therefore he was fed by the will of his own, but he has produced something which will ever be remembered by many people in the future. Those paintings are not of the past nor of the present, they are of the future.

A symbolic artist like myself could not ask for higher praise. To have confirmation from such a high source that I was used as a vessel through which higher truths and messages from the past and future could pour forth and arrange themselves as messages for the present through these artworks was both mind-blowing and ego-nullifying. Experiences like that are rare indeed, and one can strive one’s entire life to make such a breakthrough, and yet never know for certain what transpired without a mentor coming along to validate it.

U Maung Maung Ji asked me to introduce him to Dr. Joel Elkes Chairman of the Department and Behavioral Sciences of Johns Hopkins University and Psychiatrist-in-Chief of the Hospital. Dr. Elkes received us in his Hospital Study, and it was an important event in both their lives.

Bob Hieronimus and his friend Dr. Joel Elkes. Another happy moment caught on film by U Maung Maung Ji.

Maung was not my only mentor, however. “The Apocalypse” is one of two murals I completed for the students and graduates of Johns Hopkins University that year, the other being “The Lord’s Prayer” at the Graduate Club completed on May 25, 1969. In 1971 Maryland Public Television produced a half hour documentary on my work called “The Artist of Savitria” where both murals can be seen in pristine condition. (See it on Youtube here

Dr. Mary Carman Rose, Philosopher

In the “The Artist of Savitria” film, the Chairman of Goucher College’s Department of Philosophy, Dr. Mary Carman Rose, gave her commentary on “The Apocalypse” mural. Dr. Rose was president of the Society for the Philosophy of Religion, the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research, and the editor of the Journal of Religion and Psychical Research. While she may not have been a living disciple of Master KH, she still had some topnotch credentials! She said:

“Development in medieval thought is that the artist does have a unique message because of his spiritual development. His development isn’t scientific development because there is a more profound development of the soul that comes through what I call a metaphysical religious commitment and discipline. Now Bob is in the 20th Century a superb example of that ancient truth.”

Main room of “The Apocalypse” mural, view from rear

Mary Rose was a good friend as well as an advocate of my artwork that most people struggled to understand. As a perpetual student, I continue to add mentors in other fields, and in recent years, David Ovason has stepped up to guide me. We share a love of America’s symbols and founders and have helped each other over various stages of our respective research projects. Ovason is a multi-lingual scholar and mystic, and some of his books include: The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capitol: The Masons and the Building of Washington, DC (2000), The Secrets of Nostradamus: A Radical New Interpretation of the Master’s Prophecies (2001); Nostradamus Prophecies for America (2001); The Secret Symbols of the Dollar Bill: A Closer Look at the Hidden Magic and Meaning of the Money You Use Every Day (2004); The History of the Horoscope (2005); and Shakespeare’s Secret Booke: Deciphering Magical and Rosicrucian Codes (2010). He is also an accomplished astrologer, and after studying my astrological birth chart for September 16, 1943 he wrote me another one of those letters that just knocked me off my feet. He had discovered in my chart what he considered a clear connection to my lifelong interest in America’s symbols. He said:

“You truly are driven by an almost overwhelming sense of destiny – far more than most human beings, whose charts I have examined, and it would not surprise me if these years are not somehow reflected in your work on the Seal and related imagery. Your Sun (in 22.35 Virgo) is exactly on the Neptune (22.25 Virgo) of the national chart – that is, the chart cast for the Declaration of 1776. You need not look any further for an explanation of your deep passion for the symbols that feed America, and for the high ideals (so lately in sad eclipse) of the founding fathers. This is not the only contact between your chart and that for the Declaration, but it is by far the most powerful.

Portrait of the artist, Bob Hieronimus. Photo credit: Richard W. Littlefield.

“The degree in question is sometimes said to be a military degree (the astrologer Weymss claims that it is a degree of intensified imagination, or a marker of the ability to bring down images from the higher world). There is a curious parallel in this degree reading as that proposed in the Sabian Symbols for the 22 Virgo reading is A man bringing down the new law from Sinai.

“Your natal Sun is on the Jupiter of the federal city foundation chart. [n.SU 22VG34 conj. ex. JU 22VG38R]. The same natal Sun is on the Dragon’s Head and the conjunct Moon in the chart of the foundation of the White House [n. SU 22VG34 conj. ex. DH 22VG48 MO23VG56]. There are other contacts with federal charts, of course, but the ones above are sufficient for me to make observations. When all is said and done, the American dream, linked with the mystery of the 23rd degree, is still an experiment. No mortal I know can tell me whether it will be successful, and crowned by the gods, or whether the whole show may be tipped into some cosmic dustbin. Freedom is a dangerous experiment, if only because the majority of men and women are not yet ready for it. This feeling of alienation seems to be connected with the 23rd degree of Virgo.

“I mentioned earlier that one of your other contacts with the Independence chart was the fact that Sun in your chart is precisely on the Neptune of the Independence chart. It is astonishing – especially when I learn that you paint (Neptune is the liquid media, which binds together the Saturnine pigmentation) the Independence symbols.”

All I know is my entire adult life I have been driven to express the transformative destiny of the American experiment in every artistic medium I can. It was astounding to have that explained to me in such astrological precision from such an adept.

Ceiling of the stairwell to “The Apocalypse” mural

Stairwell and ceiling view of “The Apocalypse” mural from main room

New Mentors Arriving All the Time

And finally, I’d like to tell you about two of my most recent mentors who have come to me in just the last few years. One is anthropology professor Jack Weatherford, Ph.D., who is commonly called a Renaissance man for writing about such disparate subjects. He is the author of Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World (2005); The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire (2011); Indian Givers: How Native Americans Transformed the World (2010); The History of Money (1998); Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America (1992); Tribes on the Hill: The United States Congress Rituals and Realities (1985); Savages and Civilization: Who Will Survive? (1995). This Renaissance man had this most astounding comment to make about my work:

“If I look around and ask who’s the Renaissance person of today, you’re the Renaissance scholar of the Baby Boom generation, covering everything. I cover a narrow set of things just in books, but you cover everything from art, spoken language, written language, symbolism, history. You got it on me!”

Well, I don’t know about that, but it sure was a nice compliment. The other new friend is scholar Mitch Horowitz, vice president and editor in chief at Tarcher/Penguin, the division of Penguin dedicated to metaphysical literature. His book Occult America (Bantam, 2010) received the 2010 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award for literary excellence. He also wrote One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life (Crown, 2014). Horowitz has recently written on alternative spirituality for the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, the Huffington Post, and CNN.Com. He has appeared on CBS Sunday Morning, Dateline NBC, the History Channel, and NPR’s All Things Considered, among other national media. Here’s what Mitch wrote after viewing my artwork:

“In the same way that the artists of the Hudson River School captured the cathedrals of America’s natural beauty, so does Robert Hieronimus capture the inner sanctions of our nation’s greatness. His artwork is the silence between the notes of the national anthem. – the esoteric symbolism and ideals that undergird our country. Hieronimus is the artist of our inner life as a nation.”

As humbled as I am by these words and as grateful as I am for the guidance of my many mentors, still none of them compares to those words received from U Maung Maung Ji back in 1972. I salute all the students and teachers in my life, as everyone we meet in life has a lesson for us. I just pray that the trust and support shown to me as detailed above will work to our advantage as we embark on this new journey of saving this mural from deterioration and ultimately from destruction. Amen.

Rear wall of stairwell of “The Apocalypse” mural

Entrance to main room and ceiling of “The Apocalypse” mural