An Interview with Tamas Revbiro
by Dale Mann
In 1986, on the 30th anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution, the Washington Post ran a 3-page article about contemporary Hungary. The reporter selected a typical yuppie, a computer software designer from Budapest to represent the post-revolution generation of Hungary, then labeled "the merriest barrack of the Soviet camp." That young man, Tamas Revbiro has come a long way since then.
While working with various publishing firms over the years, Tamas, who now lives near Budapest, has translated many important books from English into the Hungarian language. Because of his efforts many wonderful works have been made available to areas of the world long overdue for spiritual enlightenment.
Dale: Was it difficult translating such works as The Seth Material, Seth Speaks and The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran from English into Hungarian while attempting to maintain the underlying meanings found within various passages?
Tamas: I would not say it was difficult. It felt like walking in an enchanted forest with someone holding my hand and guiding me along. I did not feel I was working at all. It is possible, maybe even probable that I could not grab all the hidden meanings in The Prophet. We shall never know, there is no way to check it. However, there must be something of the essence -- both the message and the poetry -- that has come through, because people of Hungary love this book. Since it was published in 1992, it is never out of print, very many people carry the miniature edition everywhere they go. It has found its niche in Hungarian culture.
The story is, that I used to have the English original of The Prophet on my shelf for years before it called out at me, saying "Translate me." I started translating it at a rate of one paragraph per day. I did it on my own, with no prospective publisher in sight. It happened around the demise of Communism in this country; no one in Hungary knew what this book was about. By the time I finished, the publisher was there, eager to release the first edition, followed by about six or seven other editions.
On the other hand, my translation of The Seth Material and Seth Speaks has an almost mysterious quality. First, consider my name. My name in Hungarian is Revbiro Tamas--in our usage last name comes first. The letters R-B-R-T in it are in the same order as in the name of Jane RoBeRTs or RoBeRT Butts, or in the name RuBuRT for that matter. I wish I knew what this is supposed to mean, still it is a fact.
Dale: You've said there were some unusual physical phenomena while you were working on the Seth books.
Tamas: The summer of 1992, when I translated The Seth Material, was the hottest summer in many years -- and yet, when I sat down in front of my computer, I felt freezing cold. Asphalt melted on the streets, but I had to wear gloves with the tips of the fingers clipped off so that I could type. It was a little eerie, I shall never forget that feeling.
Theosophical literature says there is a substance called "od" which is half-way between matter and energy, and serves as a bridge or vehicle between our world and others. When an entity like Seth comes closer to our dimension, od is produced using the energy of the physical universe. We feel the energy loss as a drop in temperature. Just think of the first scene in Hamlet, right before the king's ghost appears, Francisco complains about the 'bitter cold'. Old Will Shakespeare knew many things we are just trying to grasp.
I was prepared for this phenomenon when I sat down to translate Page 1 of The Seth Material, and yet it felt weird. It is OK to read about it as a theory, but when you actually have the experience, you can't help shivering.
Anyone who is interested may try and get the book of a German Catholic priest, Johannes Greber (1874-1944). The title of the book translates into English like Contact with the Spirit World, its Laws and Purpose. This is the book which speaks of "od" the most clearly. I have recently learned that Greber moved to America in 1927 and died in NYC in 1944. It is very probable that an American version of the book exists.
Dale: What made you leave Budapest, the throbbing heart of a rapidly developing country, and settle down in a small town -- far from the madding crowd, so to say?
Tamas: In 1993, I moved out from Budapest because I felt I had to put out one end of my candle. Before that date, I was a magazine editor for about 15 years, a computer game designer for 4 years, an A&R manager for the state-owned record company, a film dubbing director and a librarian for one year each, just to mention the most important coordinates of my trajectory. At the end of the sixties, I played bass and sang in a rock'n'roll band, in the early seventies, I drew cartoons and caricatures for newspapers, in the late seventies I took up photography. This may sound like a whirlwind, a maelstrom of activity, but seen through my eyes, it looked merely an interesting period. It must be my Gemini ascendent that drives me in all directions of the compass.
And all through those years I translated book after book after book. I specialized in humorous classics like P. G. Wodehouse, Mark Twain. Lewis Carroll, Stephen Leacock, Rudyard Kipling etc. Then, all of a sudden, I turned a corner and took a new direction. Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, two Seth books, parts of Illusions by Richard Bach, Edgar Cayce on Reincarnation written by Noel Langley, parts of A Course in Miracles (yet unpublished), three books of James Redfield--The Celestine Prophecy and its two sequels, Teach Only Love by G. G. Jampolsky... So much of spiritual literature has come my way and filtered through my mind into the minds of my compatriots...It feels like I am hand picked by an unseen power for some unknown (?) mission.
Dale: Is there a story as to how you came to learn English?
Tamas: I am convinced I must have been English in some or many of my previous lives. I learnt English as if it was coming back to me. This time I was born to be a man of letters: in my birth horoscope, 5 planets are in air signs, and none of them are in any of the earth signs. I'm all air--hot air, some say. Otherwise there is no story to how I started learning English in this life. In high school, learning Russian and another foreign language was compulsory. I was first advised to learn French, but somehow felt English closer to my mentality. I studied English literature at the University of Budapest (officially called Eotvos Lorand Tudomanyegyetem.)
Even before graduation, I started translation work. As a student, I was the translator for many American jazz musicians who gave concerts in Budapest. This is how I met Duke Ellington, Stan Kenton, Dizzy Gillespie, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, Jimmy Smith and many others. I also had the chance to meet and chat with the heroes of my adolescence, Johnny Cash, Chuck Berry and Donovan while they spent time in my country. I hope Johnny Cash still has the Rubik's Cube I gave him.
Dale: By translating the Seth books you have helped many people, and the effects of your efforts will extend far into the next century and beyond. Do you agree with this?
Tamas: It would not be fair if I answered a question like this. I feel rather lucky than proud. I define myself as a taxi driver who takes Mick Jagger or Pavarotti into town from the airport. The real action happens when the artist and the audience eventually meet at the concert. The time was ripe, the souls in this country were open and expectant. Someone just had to turn up to do this job. It is sheer good luck that the person for the job happened to be me.
I really do feel that someone is holding my hand and showing me the way on a path many people are walking on these days. Consider this: in January 1992, I was in New York City, I went into some bookshops trying to buy some Edgar Cayce literature, and believe it or not, couldn't find any. In March, same year, I went to Jerusalem (of all places), and in the window of the first bookshop I saw there was a large volume of four books on Cayce bound in one. I bought it of course, and when I came to the chapter about the Essenes, I was traveling on a coach that took me to Qumran where the Essenes used to live. That is the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in January 1947 -- coincidentally exactly nine months before I was born. (In Jerusalem, I collected some cypress seeds on the Mount of Olives, to be planted in the garden of our summer cottage.)
I brought the book back home, and in a matter of months, I found myself signing a contract for the translation of one of those four books -- Edgar Cayce on Reincarnation. The translation of that book had already started, a young woman, a close friend of mine had been working on the book, but she died of cancer before she could finish it, and I had to jump in. Now, this young woman had been the other typical Hungarian yuppie whom that Washiungton Post report concentrated on.
Dale: This really is a remarkable series of events.
Tamas: Wait, there is more to it. My next job was The Seth Material, and the one after that, Seth Speaks. Before I started the second book, I wrote a letter to Robert F. Butts, husband of the late Jane Roberts -- just to let him know about my existence. I took that letter to the post office, and queued up for the counter. In front of me in the line a lovely American girl was holding some postcards she wanted to put on the mail. With a glance I checked the address she was sending them to Virginia Beach, Edgar Cayce's home town!
Dale: Amazing! And what was Rob Butts reply?
Tamas: I never received an answer from him. I can understand it. The fact that Seth's books are published in Hungary may be a big leap for mankind, but it must be a small step for him. Just one more edition after God knows how many. From various sources I know he is a reclusive man anyway. I admire and respect him for what he has done.
I recently turned 50, and though happy with what has happened so far, I still feel the best is yet to come. Coincidences, synchronicities indicate that my life is heading towards new stages of fulfillment. I feel a little embarrassed to receive so much blessing. After all, I hardly did anything more than learning how to read and write.
Tamas Revbiro with his wife, pediatrician Dr. Anna Dobos, and their cats, Tom and Jenny
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