In These New Times

A new paradigm for a post-imperial world

A New Religion: Eugenics, Occultism, and Vedic India in the Third Reich

Posted by seumasach on December 17, 2009

“at some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world”– Charles Darwin

Morgan Rose

Road out of Babylon

13th December, 2009

“Eugenics,” wrote Sir Julian Huxley, at the outbreak of the Second World War, “is capable of becoming the most sacred ideal of the human race, as a race; one of the supreme religious duties….eugenics will inevitably become part of the religion of the future”.[1] Huxley’s remarks merely reflected a scientific and philosophical consensus among British, American, and German elites on the outset of one of the bloodiest tragedies in human history. Yet, eugenics was, from the beginning, intended to be, “introduced into the national consciousness as a new religion”.[2] In Germany, this phenomenon was well underway, as German academics sought to construct a civilization rooted in the mythology of the Aryanism, which preached a philosophy of elitism, racial hierarchy, and violent Darwinian struggle. A Manichean dialectic between “Aryan” and “Semitic” traditions emerged as a driving force in the budding Nazi cosmology.  Underpinning the facade of scientific racism was deeper occult philosophy which drew from the esoteric doctrines of pre-Christian paganism and popularized mythos of Vedic India.  In this context, it becomes imperative that we identify the origins of this pervasive Weltanshauung, while demonstrating its many flaws and its relevance to the modern world.

At the dawn of the Enlightenment, Western philosophers sought to free themselves from the Judeo-Christian tradition and biblical accounts of the origins of mankind. Many philosophes looked to the East, beyond the familiar grounds of the Ancient Greeks. Voltaire, perhaps the archetypal figure of the Enlightenment, is quoted as saying: “I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges”.[3] Immanuel Kant also tinkered with these ideas claiming that, “mankind, together will all science must have originated on the roof of the world in Tibet. The culture of the Indians, he asserted, came from Tibet, just as all European arts came from India”.[4] Romantic philosopher Johann-Gottfried Hereder was perhaps the most influential in this sphere, in that it was he who, “introduced the passion for India into the Germanic lands and who prompted the imagination of the Romantics to seek affiliation with Mother India”.[5] Friedrich Shelling deemed the mythology of Vedic India to be the “oldest idealism”, while G.F. W. Hegel sought to establish the “historic ties between the German and Indian peoples”.[6] In this way we see that ”Germany striving to extricate herself from Judaeo-Christian fetters, soon responded to this aspiration: with Schopenhauer she longed to be the child of India…; with Nietzsche, the child of Persia and a follower of Zarathustra”.[7] These philosophers would lend credibility to the mythology of the ‘Aryan Man’ in explaining the rise of the Nazi cosmology.

However, the earliest philosophical demonstration of the kind of elitism, racial hierarchy and totalitarian statism which characterized the Nazi Reich, are found, not in the idealized mysticism of the East, but rather with core foundations of Western thought. These foundations are clearly understood by a critical reading of Plato’sRepublic, which in many ways has stood as a model for the kind of utopian social engineering which would come to fruition in the twentieth century. Plato’s mindset is best characterized by the following quote:

“The greatest principle of all is that nobody, whether male or female, should be without a leader. Nor should the mind of anybody be habituated to letting him do anything at all on his own initiative…to his leader he shall direct his eye and follow him faithfully. And even in the smallest matter he should stand under leadership. For example, he should get up, or move, or wash, or take his meals…only if he has been told to do so. In a word, he should teach his soul, by long habit, never to dream of acting independently, and to become utterly incapable of it”.[8]

And while Francis Galton is credited with having founded the Eugenics Movement in the late nineteenth century,  we see the roots of his thinking embedded in Plato’s thought:

“‘The race of the guardians must be kept pure’, says Plato (in defense of infanticide), when developing the racialist argument that we breed animals with great care while neglecting our own race, an argument which has been repeated ever since. (Infanticide was not an Athenian institution; Plato, seeing that it was practiced in Sparta for eugenic reasons, concluded that it must be ancient and therefore good). He demands that the same principles be applied to the breeding of the master as are applied, by an experienced breeder, to dogs, horses, or birds. ‘If you did not breed them in this way, don’t you think that the race of your birds or dogs would quickly degenerate?’ Plato argues; and he draws the conclusion that ‘ the same principles apply to the race of men’.[9]

In fact, Plato’s argument would be repeated in Hitler’s Mein Kampf . Fearing racial ‘degeneration’, Hitler would call for Germans to, “occupy themselves not merely with the breeding of dogs, horses and cats but also with care for the purity of their own blood”.[10] Hitler’s invocation of Plato may be merely coincidental, but it certainly demonstrates the pervasiveness of Platonic influence in Western philosophy.

While Plato may be credited with having expressed some of the first eugenic ideals, it was Charles Darwin in his The Descent of Man, that lent scientific credibility to the notion of superior and inferior races. Also in The Descent of Man, Darwin promotes a vision of racial extermination, stating, “at some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world”.[11] Not long after it’s publication, Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton would publish Hereditary Genius, founding his science of Eugenics.  The German public reacted with enthusiasm to the scientific developments and almost immediately adopted political programs to implement the goals of racial hygiene. Yet as was expressed above, Eugenics came to take on a constellation of social, cultural , and spiritual relevance, which directly accounted for  the Nazi ideology.

In fact, the totality of Nazi science can be said to have drawn upon sources other than rational inquiry in facilitating its aims. Scientists were praised in Nazi Germany for “making science relevant to the political struggle”.[12] It was imperative that scientific inquiry be braced for the “absorption of science into the [Nazi] world view”.[13] And while Nazis like Martin Bormann can claim that, “National Socialism is based on scientific foundations,”[14] we know that the basis of these foundations were “born of a deep religious feeling,”[15] where the concept of nature would be redefined to suit the Nazi agenda. Indeed, as George L. Mosse, points out, “the Nazi world view is equated with organic nature: Volk and race are part of an interconnected totality of which nature is one facet–all held together by spiritual principles which were expressed in Nazi culture”.[16] A change in the conceptual understanding of nature is ultimately what prompted the ideological predecessors of National Socialism.

The “deep religious feeling[s]” that prompted the quest for a “new religion”, in Eugenics, was spurred on by obscure pseudo-intellectual figures who looked for answers to the question of ‘nature’ in the esoteric traditions of pre-Christian pagan runes and the mythos of Vedic India. Guido von List, who Leon Poliakov called “the secret inspirer of Hitler”, and Lanz von Liebenfels, who is referred to in standard biographies of the Führer as “one of Hitler’s pre-war mentors”[17], can be charged with having a profound influence on the spiritual sentiment of the Nazi ideology. Yet, it was really the ideas of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s Theosophy, which attracted List and Lanz, and ultimately Hitler, Himmler, and the German Worker’s Party. By the 1880’s, Theosophy had been openly received in elite circles in England, the United States, and Germany.

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke has summarized the allure of Theosophy as having, “offered an appealing mixture of ancient religious ideas and new concepts borrowed from the Darwinian theory of evolution and modern science. This syncretic faith thus possessed the power to comfort certain individuals whose traditional outlook had been upset by the discrediting of orthodox religion”[18]. Writing from India, Blavatsky drew from “contemporary works on Hinduism and modern science”, which “display[ed] a marked similarity to the religious tenets of Hinduism”.[19] The core of the work centered on “human evolution through seven root races, the fifth and current one being the Aryan Race”[20]. Together with its racial pretensions, Theosophy, “also stressed the principle of elitism and the value of hierarchy”; as well as, taking on  a “belief in reincarnation and karma,…taken from Hinduism”[21]. Blavatsky even incorporated the swastika into the seal of the Theosophical Society.[22] For List, Lanz, and their supporters in the Nazi Movement, the attraction of theosophy lay, “in its eclecticism with respect to exotic religion, mythology, and esoteric lore, which provided a universal and non-Christian perspective upon the cosmos and the origins of mankind, against which the sources of Teutonic belief, customs and identity, which were germane to völkisch speculation, could be located”.[23]

Guido von List’s interest in the occult revival of pre-Christian Germany and the weight of Blavatsky’s Theosophy was merged with völkisch ideology, which centered around the Aryan origins and supremacy of the German people.[24] List’s Armanism, as it came to be called, was “principally concerned with racial purity”, where “eugenics was essential to Aryan superiority”, but he also emphasized the importance of the individual’s accordance with the ‘primal laws of nature’.[25] The synthesis of Theosophy and German occultism proved extremely popular in the period leading up to the First World War. Quasi-Masonic secret societies, like the Germanorden and its successor the Thule Society, began to spring up, pronouncing the doctrines of List’s Armanism, which later had a profound influence in crafting the German Workers Party (DAP). In fact, it is clear that, “the lineage of the early Nazi Party…has been traced to the Thule Society, the Germanorden, and thus to the ideas of Guido von List”.[26] Nazi leaders, including Ludendorff, Hess, and Eckart, were supposed to have read List,  while ,the List-inspired Thule Society, counted such members as Gottfired Feder, Alfred Rosenberg, along with Dietrich Eckart, and Rudolf Hess.[27] According to eyewitness accounts, “Hitler frequently mentioned his reading List and quoted the old master’s book with enthusiasm”.[28]

In 1932, on the eve of the Nazi’s rise to power, Lanz von Liebenfels wrote, “Hitler is one of our pupils”[29], outlining the extraordinary reverence for his philosophy within the Nazi Party.  Whereas List’s Armanism relied on a glorification of the völkisch aura and mystique, Lanz  offered a “Manichaean dualist outlook,” where, “the world is divided into the light blue-blond Aryan heroes, and the dark non-Aryan demons, working respectively for good and evil, order and chaos, salvation and destruction, in the universe. The Aryan is regarded…as the source and instrument of all that is fine, noble, and constructive, while non-Aryan is bent upon confusion, subversion, and corruption”.[30] Although Shopenhauer is credited with having popularized “the Manichean distinction between “Aryanism” and “Semitism” in Germany,”[31], Lanz can be said to have popularized it among wide swaths of German society. In Lanz’s widely circulated periodical, Ostara,  touched on themes of “racial somatology, anti-feminism,… the spirtual differences between the bolnd and dark races in the field of sexual behavior, art, philosophy, commerce, politics, and warfare, and caste law derived from the Hindu codes of Manu”.[32] In all estimation it is likely that “Hitler did visit Lanz and that he was a regular Ostara reader”.[33]

As Leon Poliakov points out, “in Germany the search for a new religion became an endemic phenomenon and it is no exaggeration to describe it as a philosophical psychosis”.[34] The somewhat haphazard association with Vedic India can be attributed to, “the literary and political expression of a subconscious desire to abolish the social yoke of law and culture by making an appeal to the rights, duties and laws of ‘Nature’ with all its wide semantic connotations”.[35] Drawing strongly on the mythology of Germany’s racial origins, Nazi’ s like Maximiani Portas sought out India as a “undisturbed pre-Christian pagan culture”, a “immemorial stronghold of natural order and hierarchy”, where “Hinduism was custodian of the Aryan and Vedic heritage down through the centuries”[36].  The following quote from the poet Leconte de Lisle should account for some of the allure which attracted Nazi ideologues to India: “‘Rama, son of Dasharatha, whom the Brahmins honor, Thou whose blood is pure, thou whose body is white…hail, O resplendent subduer of all the profane races!’”[37] Yet, it was with the archetypal symbolism of swastika, that the Nazi’s Vedic inspiration became most apparent.

The Swastika came to symbolize the Nazi world view along with its genocidal criminality. Yet, its origins seem to pervade the totality of what German’s saw in the pre-Christian pagan world. In Greece, the foundations of Western Civilization, excavations had lead some scholars to contend the Aryan origins of the Trojans by their use of the swastika in for their symbology.[38] In fact, scholars like Heinrich Schliemann wished to ascribe the symbol to the “bond between the Homeric and Vedic mythologies”[39].  As author Malcolm Quinn illustrates, “Aryanism both colonized the Oriental swastika and reconstructed it as an emblem which was later used to colonize Occidental space, threatening an invasion of the West under the sign of the East”.[40]As the symbol came it represent Aryanism, it took on different meaning than its ancient forms of ‘sun worship’. Aryanism came to represent in the mind of many Germans, “the emphasis on biology, the deserved triumph of the strongest, the pre-eminence of youth, [and] the superiority of the Whites”.[41] In many ways, Blavatsky’s adoption of the swastika is symbolic of the “colonization” of Vedic themes in her Theosophy. Yet, the swastika took on the symbolism of völkischassociations and organizations.  It was through Guido von List’s “Germanorden and the Thule Society…that this device came to be adopted by the National Socialists”.[42]Ultimately, it was Thulean and member of the Germanorden, Friedrich Krohn, that proposed that the DAP take on the swastika because of its “Buddhistical interpretation as a talisman of fortune and health”.[43]

Quinn’s observation on the “colonization” of Eastern thought, clearly demonstrates the pervasive zeitgeist in European academia to embrace anything anti-Semitic. The scientific and religious fervor of Aryanism was held as the highest ideal in Nazi cultural understanding, yet it built itself largely on mistaken mythology and academic quackery.  This movement prompted an outpouring of Indic traditions in the West, but also a rise in Ayranism in the East.  Occult followers resurrected Indic practices, with their own ‘Aryan’ bent. “Rune-gymnastics”, “vocal incantation or mantra”, as well as, “astrology, graphology, palmistry, yoga, dream-interpretation, and many forms of regimen conducive to health and personal happiness,”[44] gained striking popularity in post-war and Nazi Germany. In India, a budding nationalism, prompted displays of adulation for German nationalism. Hindu nationalist leaders would proclaim,

“ Germany’s solemn idea of the revival of Aryan culture, the glorification of the swastika, her patronage of Vedic learning and the ardent championship of the tradition of Indo-Germanic civilization are welcomed by the religious and sensible Hindus of India with jubilant hope…Germany’s crusade against the enemies of Aryan culture will bring all the Aryan nations of the world to their senses and awaken the Indian Hindus for the restoration of their lost glory”[45]

The above quote demonstrates the “colonization” of Indic ideas, promoted and reconstructed in the West, which would soon gain significant influence in the East.

However, with the defeat of the Nazi Reich, the fervor behind Ayranism in all its pseudo-religious and pseudo-scientific permutations, quickly faded away from the academic prominence it had once achieved. The occult roots which shaped and crafted the Nazi Weltanshauung, would soon become an obscure area of research in the period. And the consensus fashioned around the “religion of the future”, would leave a red mark on some of the leading figures of the period. However, the goals expressed in Huxley’s The Uniqueness of Man, would not be abdicated, as he rose to influence on the world stage with his founding of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Wildlife Fund.  Having witnessed the downfall of the world’s preeminent eugenic society, Huxley lamented, “it is quite true that any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible,” adding, “…it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that now is unthinkable may at least become thinkable.”[46] Many “unthinkable” ideas from this period have resurfaced with another academic “consensus” centered around environmentalism, and its “new age” permutations. Mikhail Gorbachev, channeling some of Huxley’s ideas, stated in a 1997 interview, “My hope is that [The UN’s Earth Charter] will be a kind of Ten Commandments, a ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ that provides a guide for human behavior toward the environment in the next (21st) century and beyond”[47]. As developing countries like India and China come to grips with the realities of globalization, the kind of hesitancy that characterized an Indian negotiator’s “pull out” of this week’s Copenhagen Climate Summit[48], demonstrates the historical imperative to be weary of an academic “consensus” which has been “introduced into the public consciousness as religion”.

One Response to “A New Religion: Eugenics, Occultism, and Vedic India in the Third Reich”

  1. Pamela said

    Excelent article. I found here bunch of connections with other dots. Even with many missed points. Manu was man of Vedic flood. We know date and place:Saraswati river at the end of the Ice age. Manu made law and send his 10 sons lead the nations. In Egypt as Menes, on Crete as Minos. Those guys went to Saraswati basin most likely from Aratta, Ukraine during Ice age. See Kamyana mohyla. Abraham as Ibrahim Zeradust come from Saraswati basin. Aratta is full of Swastikas. R1b DNA are not Aryans, better not Vedic, as they are all Basques. So they just adopted IE language as Vulgar Latin. Original Germans live somewhere northern Germany,Denmark,southern Sweden. Core of Today’s Germans in Germany are Teutons, with very mixed DNA. Sufism,kabala and gnosticism are Vedic origins. Hebrew is dialect of Akkadian same as Aramaic. Founder of judaism is Cyrus the great. Biblical Pharisee are Pharsi-Parsi=Persian. Because Cyrus built 2nd temple romans counted them as arch enemies-persians. Phariseism became rabinism and this became judaism. As Panini’s sanskrit it is questionable if people ever spoke hebrew language and just was not Sacred liturgical language. Hebrew was dead from 2nd till 19th century for sure. As latin comes from vedas the hebrew was most likely just language of priests and became Vulgar akkadian most likely.
    This just some hints as payback for this great article

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