On Indica and Edward Butler

There were a few topics relating to the Pagan community that I thought of talking about here, and it seems that the most pressing concerns a controversy relating to an organization known as Indica, an umbrella of apparent polytheist organizations including the Indic Academy, of which Edward Butler, a polytheist academic and the proprietor of a website about Neoplatonic polytheism called Henadology, is a director. Indica bills themselves as “an institute for global study of indigenous knowledge, seeking to bring about a renaissance of indigenous wisdom”. We might infer from this that they are, at least in theory, advocates for indigenous religious belief systems, and thereby for polytheism, though they actually seem to focus particularly on Hinduism, so I’m theory at least you might think of them as a Hindu advocacy group. In any case, Indica recently hosted a conference entitled Conference on Polytheism Today & Tomorrow: Dialogues on Pluralism and Polytheist Art, hosted by Edward Butler and consisting of a series of discussions from different polytheist voices coming from a variety of traditional backgrounds. It was honestly a very good opportunity to hear perspectives from the world of modern polytheism. That’s why it’s such a shame to report that, some time after that conference, a problem emerged when apparent connections between Indica and the Hindutva movement were brought to everyone’s attention.

I’ve written a fair bit about the Hindutva movement within the last two years, but for the purpose of this article it bears defining Hindutva again. Hindutva is the name given to a broad right-wing nationalist movement in India that seeks to consolidate Indian society on the basis of a theocratic nation state defined by a kind of ethno-centric version of Hinduism. The Hindutva vision is inherently exclusionary: only Hindus and adherents of other dharmic faiths are meant to exist in the Hindutva vision of society, while Christians, Jews, and Muslims are to be cast out, according to the Hindutva ideologues themselves. Unsurprisingly, Hindutva ideology was originally inspired by National Socialism and Italian Fascism, as the founding fathers of the Hindutva movement, Vinayak D. Savarkar and M. S. Golwalkar, openly praised Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini for their fascist and xenophobic policies. Thus, Hindutva belongs to the family of ideologies broadly referred to as fascism. In addition, as part of the Hindutva agenda, advocates of Hindutva tend to promote the idea of India as an exceptional civilization through historical revisionism, fundamentalism, and pseudo-science, not unlike the far-right in countries such as the USA, France, Israel, and Japan. Hindutva is represented in mainstream Indian politics by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which in turn emerged from a Hindutva volunteer organization called Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), itself notorious to this day for being involved in sectarian violence aginst non-Hindus and especially Muslims (who the RSS are known to have lynched).

So, how does this come back to Indica? Well, apparently it had emerged that Edward Butler, the man organizing the conference, might have some sympathies to the Hindutva movement. This seems to connect with an article that appeared on Indica Today, titled “Hindutva In The 21st Century“, which was originally published there on September 15th, but recently promoted on their Twitter account a few days ago. The article is a glowingly positive assessment of Hindutva, Indica Today promotes it on its Twitter with the tag “Spiritual Nationalism”, and Edward Butler promoted it with the caption “reclaim Hindutva”. This of course is not too long after Butler was apparently forced to defend his association with the Indic Academy over its relationship to Hindutva ideology, which he did by casting the term Hindutva as an “elastic term” used by anti-Hindus to attack any celebration of Hinduism. This, if we’re being very honest, sounds like the line taken by supporters of Hindutva, who identify their ideology with Hinduism as a whole, even whereas a lot of Hindus don’t.

This apparently is not an isolated incident. Back in 2018, he seems to have promoted an article from The Economic Times, an Indian news website generally understood to be conservative-leaning, which appears to praise the Chinese state media outlet The Global Times over its own claims that Hinduism in India is responsible for the suppression of “radical Islam” and thus India’s wider standing in the international community. In 2019 he lionized India as a kind of bastion against the “frontal assault of Islam and then Christianity”, while telling an apparent Hindutva supporter who spoke of an “ongoing battle” that “all of us who worship the shining ones owe you our aid and support in that battle”. Yes, Butler has openly stated that he believes that all polytheists are obliged to support the Hindutva movement. Hindutvas are not even the only folkists that he’s supported in the past. Butler’s previous colleagues include Galina Krasskova, a Heathen priestess who happens to openly support the white supremacist Asatru Folk Assembly and, despite claiming to oppose folkism, complained that the AFA was constantly being “dogpiled” by other Pagans, and Sannion (real name: H. Jeremiah Lewis), a fascist Hellenic polytheist who worships Dionysus and claims that Dionysus told him to wear the Nazi Sonnenrad (a.k.a. the so-called “Black Sun”, which is actually not the Black Sun as I’ve discussed previously) in order to justify constantly wearing it. Butler, of course, has periodically denied that these people advocate for folkism or fascism, but their record is not too hard to come by and speaks for itself.

Sticking to the subject of Hindutva, let’s focus on the article Butler shared recently, and more particularly its author. The Indica Today article “Hindutva In The 21st Century” is written by a man named Navaratna S. Rajaram, and seems to have been posthumous considering that Rajaram died in December 11th 2019. Rajaram is, let’s say, a colourful character. He at one point claimed that the Vedic Indians taught the Pharaohs of Egypt how to build the Pyramids, thus seemingly making India the progenitor of those same Pyramids. He also claimed that ancient India was a secular state, while also denouncing secularism as irrelevant to pluralism, as well as claiming to have deciphered the Indus script. He tends to frequently denounce much of Western Indology as Eurocentric, claiming many scholars don’t even understand the basics of Indian language, and often blanketly refers to them as liberals and Marxists. In the Indica Today article, Rajaram attacks secularism as something that can never “define a nation” and conflates Hindutva with Hinduism (or Sanatana Dharma) as a whole in order to present Hindutva as an extension of religious Hinduism and a broadly tolerant and pluralistic ideology rather than the exclusionary and fascist ethno-nationalism that it actually is. Meanwhile, Rajaram is also known widely in India as something of a “pioneer” in Hindutva scholarship, and is praised by the Indian right-wing because of it.

Rajaram is not the only link between the Indica family and the Hindutva movement. Just three weeks ago, Indica hosted what they called a “Hindutva Paradigm Book Tour”, which promoted a book called “The Hindutva Paradigm: Integral Humanism and Quest for a Non-Western Worldview” by Ram Madhav, which purports to examine the economic philosophy of Deen Dayal Upadhyay as a “human-centric” worldview capable of managing “the new world order”. Ram Madhav was also the national general secretary of the BJP and a national executive of the RSS, and has another book, “Because India Comes First”, which is also promoted by Indica and seems to advocate for right-wing nationalism while attacking “liberal fascists”. Incidentally, Deen Dayal Upadhyay was himself a Hindutva ideologue who seems to have adapted his concept of “Integral Humanism” from the organicist philosophy of M. S. Golwalkar, and in fact Upadhyay was the leader of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), an RSS branch that preceded the modern BJP, until his death in 1968. And there are several other Hindutva books promoted by Indica, such as the “Savarkar” series by Vikram Sampath. More strikingly, last year Indica Today also promoted Vinayak D. Savarkar, the same man who openly praised Adolf Hitler and Nazism against Jawaharlal Nehru, as “a hero who stands tall in our History”, and continues to promote their article doing so. Indica still repeatedly praises and offers tribute to Savarkar, and just five days ago called upon authors and intellectuals to pay homage to Savarkar by reviewing his books. All of this by itself should be a clear refutation of Edward Butler’s apparent claims that Indica is a “non-political” organisation.

But these are still not the only links to Hindutva movement to be discovered. As Devo from The Twisted Rope has pointed out on their post on the subject, there are several members of the Indica team that have verifiable links to the Hindutva movement. Indic Academy seems to have been founded by a man named Hari Kiran Vadlamani. Although Vadlamani calls himself an “Indic Liberal”, he certainly has no issues with having the likes of Koenraad Elst, a Belgian right-wing activist who is, believe it or not, an RSS sympathizer, going on his platform to discuss his work. Karanam Aravinda Rao, one of Indica’s leaders and trustees, was the Director General of the Police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, who retired in order to pursue his religious interests and now claims that international commentary on the Indian farmer protests is evidence of a vast international left-wing conspiracy to destabilise and take over India. Keep in mind that Indica bills him as an “anti-Naxal expert”. Vishal Agarwal, another trustee and author at Indica Today, takes money from the Hindu American Foundation and appears to promote the “Out of India” theory, a Hindutva narrative which holds that the Indo-Aryans were actually indigenous to India rather than having migrated from Iran, alongside other revisionists such as Michael Danino. Yet another trustee, Avatans Kumar, is a vocal supporter of Vinayak D. Savarkar and current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and also likes to engage in all kinds of Covid-19-related crankery. In their Academic Council you’ll find Michael Danino, who I mentioned already as a historical revisionist, Meenakshi Jain, a Hindutva ideologue who promotes several books by other Hindutva ideologues, Subhash Kak, a right-wing computer scientist who not only supports the “Out of India” theory but also claims that the Rig Veda contained evidence of advanced computer science and astronomy, and M. D. Srinivas, a professor theoretical physics who is also a founding trustee of the Centre for Policy Studies, which is a think tank dedicated to “the essential civilizational genius of India” and the creation of “a polity that would allow the Indian genius to flourish and assert itself in the present day world”, and also seems to be associated with RSS. In fact, one of its Chapter Convenors is an actual BJP member named Jigar Champaklal Inamdar. All told, Hindutva is not only promoted by Indica, it’s also represented right at the top of its organisation and its internal hierarchy.

It has been said that Butler finds himself willing to defend these people on the grounds that polytheists of all stripes need to band together, possiblty in solidarity as a positive community or against a common enemy, in this case monotheism. But this is ever the problem with “unity” isn’t it? The same problem manifests way too often within the political left, where every so often you deal with expectations for the entire left to band together in unity, despite the obvious irreconcilable ideological differences contained within it and which, throughout history, have for the most part been reconciled principally through violence: with Bolsheviks suppressing anarchists, socdems, and left-communists, social-democrats ratting out communists to the state, anarchists occasionally attacking Marxist-Leninists, and so on, and so forth. Or, alternatively, it can be certain figures within the left, such as Caleb Maupin and Jimmy Dore, who argue that left-wing activists should unite with anyone else who opposes the capitalist system, even if they happen to be in the far-right or are outright fascists. This is a long-standing phenomenon within progressive/leftist circles that frequently has to be combatted, because it damages left-wing causes by allowing fascist infiltration to take place. Chip Berlet’s 1999 essay, titled “Right Woos Left“, is exhaustive but essential reading on the subject from a historical perspective.

The problem is thus: “unity” is not too valuable as an object in itself. As Ocean Keltoi once said, should we be expected to “unite” with bigots like the Asatru Folk Assembly while they openly advocate white supremacist politics, or for that matter with anyone who will not take the most basic stance you can take on condemning white supremacy? I would extend the question further. Would the whole of mankind unite with its oppressors, simply because it would mean that we all “get along”? Or should the problem of tyranny be resolved with the violent removal of tyrants, as it has often been done? Must the abused unite with their abusers, and victims with their victimizers, and the murdered with their murderers, because of some abstract and frankly fanciful belief in the goodness of coming together in itself? If your answer to this question is yes then, I’m sorry to tell you this, but you are functionally insane and your moral compass is fundamentally unreliable. I know it sounds harsh and you may even think that my questions are ridiculous, but I do believe that it is logical to conclude that if unity with everyone is an inherent good then unity with those who want to destroy or oppress you would be entailed, and that is just morally untenable.

And as to Butler’s apparent object of unity, perhaps we can address this too. I would agree wholeheartedly that monotheism and its secular cousin represents a force of spiritual hegemony that must be tirelessly opposed and deconstructed in order to realise the true depths of spiritual freedom for the world. I don’t think many Pagans would oppose that, at least in a vacuum. But while I would hardly hestiate to point out that the Quran contains some clearly violent denunciations of polytheism and also explicitly commands Muslims to not marry polytheists, and would criticise anyone trying to skirt that, I think we’re doing the discourse about Islamophobia a bit of a disservice if we fail to mention that a lot of attacks on Muslims are racially coded. I mean think about it. A lot of the same people who point out some of the violent and authoritarian content of the Quran don’t seem to have the same problem with the same type of content in the Bible. Admittedly, certain New Atheists and Satanists would be more consistent about that, but even then, are they? If they were, they’d have to conclude, starting from the premise that there is a clearly defined “Christian/Western Civilization” as opposed to “Islamic Civilization”, that both are based on violent and authoritarian creeds. Except, of course, that they don’t. The caveat might be that the West went through secularization and reform whereas the Islamic world didn’t. But the Islamic world too was subject to a phase in which rationalism, often an actually fairly rigid variety, took hold only to be replaced, and contrary to what Sam Harris and others who insist that there was no “Golden Age”, the philosophy of antiquity travelled through the Islamic World and influenced many sophistications in Islamic philosophy. Yet while classical philosophy is put on a pedestal by Christians, if only so they could claim it was secretly monotheist, the Islamic philosophy that was influenced by classical philosophy is simply ignored.

Hindutvas similiarly ignore any contributions that Muslims may have made tro philosophy, culture, art, or anything in India. Hindutvas also tend expand their concept of “Hinduness” as a political identity to include not only Hindus but also Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs – all groups that practice religions that originated in India and are part of the family of dharmic religions – while excluding all other religious groups within India, such as Muslims and Parsis. Such is the mark of a worldview whose core political identity is based on ethnicity or race, which must then exclude all groups that do not define it or, from their perspective, somehow intrude upon it.

That is one reason why people like Edward Butler should not take the claims of the Hindutva movement seriously. Another reason, of course, is that the whole claim that Hindutva somehow represents the traditional continuation and preservation of Hindu polytheism is simply a lie. Vinayak D. Savarkar, one of the founding fathers of Hindutva, the man that Indica hails as a hero of indigenous Hindu polytheism, was actually an atheist who opposed many aspects of Hindu tradition. He described himself as a rationalist, opposed vegetarianism, which although not mandatory is promoted in Hindu scriptures and is often considered a matter of tradition, he opposed the Hindu tradition of considering the cow as a holy animal, and from there argued against cow protection, since he considered the cow to be a “pitiable” animal that was only the mother of the bullock and whose worship supposedly made the Indians docile, he rejected the concept of sacred land or geography, he apparently refused to allow the observance any traditional Hindu rites for his wife when she died, and even refused to allow her body to be brought home on the grounds that it was “no use lamenting her dead body”. This man is supposed to be a “defender of traditional Hinduism”? Ironically enough for modern Hindutvas, such as Navaratna S. Rajaram, who believe that the Hindu religion is what defines the Indian nation, the founder of Hindutva insisted that “Hinduness” was not defined by religion at all, but rather was simply defined by shared country, race, and civilization, and it is this secular ethno-nationalist outlook, not religious Hindu tradition, that is the origin of the base concept of Hindutva. The only reason Sarvarkar invoked Hinduism or any concept of Hindu identity was in a nationalistic sense, under the auspices of reclaiming territory from Muslims and British colonialists.

In a bizarre way, Savarkar actually seems to be an interesting 20th century example of the way modern volkisch Pagans, such as Marcus Follin (a.k.a. “The Golden One”) and Varg Vikernes, seem to reject any belief in gods or anything expressly divine while adopting the pre-Christian religions and myths of old as something of a cultural expression, an identity to be consolidated. The volkisch movement that swept Germany and gave rise to Nazism was less a sincere revival of any indigenous Germanic polytheism and more a kind of secular cultural ethno-nationalism which adopted romantic adaptions of Germany’s pre-Christian past, which were frequently syncretized with Chrisitian mysticism and/or other latent aspects of German Christianity, in order to create a modern unified conception of “German religion”, as part of a mobilized racial body politic to be directed by a nationalist state. Of course, the Nazis who later took power were not so secular, and supported a mystical and revisionist from of Christianity known as “Positive Christianity” as the religious basis for National Socialist ideology, while opposing and criminalizing secularism, paganism, and most forms of occultism.

The way that Hindutva ideologues talk about indigenous sovereignty and liberation is also a lie, and exists solely to recuperate the rhetoric of geniune indigenous national liberation as practiced by the oppressed. The thing to remember about Hindutva nationalism is that, beyond its more general ethnocentric quality, it is also fundamentally a kind of colonizer or oppressor nationalism. M. S. Golwalkar spelled it out himself when, in Bunch of Thoughts, he wrote that the most important step to realizing Hindutva ideology would be to “bury for good all talk of a federal structure” and “sweep away the existence of all autonomous and semi-autonomous states within Bharat”. Essentially, Golwalkar advocated for India to be consolidated as one single unitary government, organized as a highly centralised state, with no regional autonomy and there by no “fragmentational, regional, sectarian, linguistic, or other types of pride” that might be “playing havoc with our regional harmony”. This, particularly when paired with their proposals for an irredentist Akhand Bharat (“Undivided India”), together create the picture of a nationalism based not on anti-colonial freedom but on the oppression of autonomous and indigenous peoples, whose identity and liberty would be smothered by a single unitary nationalist identity, as dictated by imperialists and oppressors, as opposed to any kind of a liberationist concept of nationalism.

On top of that, the RSS never actually participated in any anti-imperialist/anti-colonial struggles in India. If there was any enthusiasm on the part of RSS membership to participate in events such as the Dandi March, that enthusiasm was emphatically discouraged by RSS leadership. And sometimes the RSS actively opposed expressions of nationalism or pro-independence politics. M. S. Golwalkar criticized RSS members who wanted to participate in independence struggles, the RSS apparently abstained from participating in the Quit India movement, which demanded the end of British rule in India, and even after India gained independence from the British, the RSS opposed the then-new tricolor flag, claiming that no Hindu would ever own it because it was based on an “evil” number (the RSS superstitiously believed that the word “three” was evil), and frequently denounced the newly independent government of India for its secular constitution, which they deemed inferior to the laws of the Manusmriti, which the RSS campaigned to replace the constitution.

Not even the self-sacrificial defiance and anti-colonial bravado attributed to Savarkar is credible. Whereas other anti-colonial revolutionaries, such as the Marxist anarcho-communist revolutionary Bhagat Singh, led a hunger strike while in prison, accused of murder, and faced execution for his cause, Savarkar repeatedly pled for mercy from the British after his arrest in 1911. In fact, Savarkar actually pledged allegiance to the British colonialists following his release from prison, and actively recruited Indians to join the British armed forces. This is after he was previously going off with the Free India Society to organize Indian students to fight for Indian independence. Sarvarkar was a “freedom fighter”, but only until the authorities caught him, and then he begged them to let him join their side instead. He was a coward. And while in prison, begging to be released, Savarkar glorified the British Empire and called for patriotic Indians to cooperate with the British government against the “fanatic hordes of Asia”. All this, taken together, is the reality of the Hindutva that Edward Butler ignorantly celebrates to the point of adovcating to “reclaim Hindutva”.

And let’s address the elephant in the room that is Hinduism, since Butler is prepared to conflate Hindutva with Hinduism as a whole while praising Hinduism as a bastion of surviving indigenous polytheism and pluralism against the tyranny of monotheism. I would insist that the reality is more complicated than this narrative might suggest. For starters, Hinduism is not solely to be understood as a polytheistic religion. In fact, there are certain implications to the concept that can be interpreted in a monotheistic way. There were also Hindu theologians and sects who argued for one deity as the supreme being, personality and agency behind everything, not unlike the monotheism observed in the West. This typically comprised of Vaishnavites, who worshipped Vishnu or Krishna as Bhagavan (or Svayan Bhagavan, meaning “God Himself”), though there were also Shaivites who worshipped Shiva in a similar fashion. It is true, though, that Hindu texts tend to affirm a plurality of perspectives through the idea of multiple deities as different expressions of the same divine principle, though I don’t know if that can adequately be described as “polytheism” per se, since polytheism at base would entail the existence of multiple divine agents or intelligences and not necessarily just different manifestations of the same agency or presence. It could be argued, however, that the practice of worshipping multiple deities, even under the belief that they all represent the same divine power, could constitute at least a functional polytheism, with certain sects practicing a form of monolatry within that.

It must also be said, though, that the pluralism attributed to Hinduism, while genuine, is not always reflected in the history of Hinduism in practice. Hinduism is certainly a broad family of religious doctrines and theologies, rather than a single monolithic creed, and you will certainly find a great diversity of teachings and sects, to say nothing of its grand and beautiful diversity of deities. But even the history of Hinduism is not without sectarian conflict or attempts to establish orthodoxy. We see some philosophical sects, such as Carvaka, seemingly translated as demonic enemies of dharma and the divine, and as Wendy Doniger has documented there has been bitter conflict between some sects, particularly between Vaishnavites and Shaivites, which has even seen them demonize each other’s gods. Hindu “reformists” were also in the habit of denouncing certain practices they didn’t like under the umbrella of “the left hand path”, as part of a campaign to consolidate conservative moral order which blamed those practices for the colonization of India by the British Empire.

With that out of the way, I think I should finally turn towards the real controversy surrounding all this. Indica’s Conference on Polytheism Today & Tomorrow brought together a wide diversity of polytheistic voices. Aliakai, Stephanos Chelydoreus, Ptahmassu Nofra-Uaa, Theanos Thrax, P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Justin Shaffner and many more to discuss the different perspectives of their traditions in the context of modern polytheism. After everyone got wind of Indica’s connections to Hindutva, all of those people came under fire for having associated with Indica, and were questioned over their alleged affiliation with Indica. Several of the guests, at least as far as I’ve seen, have no affiliation with Indica. Only Edward Butler would have that distinction. Many had no idea what Hindutva even was. While that’s not a particularly good thing, it’s not entirely fair to have a go at these people for lacking knowledge on the subject or the Indica, especially when, once it became clear to them that Indica was bad news, they publicly denounced Indica.

I think it must have seemed difficult, given that many of them had previously had positive relationships with Edward Butler. In fact Butler seems to have played a role in inspiring the work of other polytheists to release books. Might we say that Butler was a positive influence despite his odious connections and positions? Might we say retroactively that he was nothing but bad news know that we know about his infatuation with Hindutva? These are questions I don’t quite have easy answers for. I for one can believe that it’s much harder for people who’ve met and worked with him, not realizing his motives, to deal with all this, than it is for self-styled internet watchdogs who quasi-professionally compile dossiers for both real and merely accused fascists. But however valuable Butler’s work might have been, it is my suspicion that his interest in Hindutva colours apsects of his thought and analysis, which might prove to be a danger to the Pagan community, and since Hindutva is a form of fascism, that can’t be tolerated. As such, Butler cannot continue to provide a nexus between the Pagan community and the forces of Hindutva. The scrutiny should thus be reserved for Edward Butler and Indica, not for the people who merely appeared at the Indica conference.

Edward Butler, via Indica Soft Power

Edit Notice, 28/01/2022: In light of the findings presented in a later post, “Nazism is not, and never was, Pagan”, a section of this post has been edited to reflect the fact Hitler and the Nazis were in fact a Christian and not secular.

Shiva versus Vishnu: A Left Hand Path narrative

In the process of researching for an essay I plan to write for this blog about how to conceive the Left Hand Path in a Pagan way, which I assure you is forthcoming, I felt it necessary to just double-check on Hindu Tantra, particularly its Vamachara side. In that process I looked into one of the sects often associated with the Vamachara family, the Kapalikas. Very little is known about them, and with no first-person Kapalika texts available we only have various third party texts (probably biased against them) to go off of, but the information available about them tells us that the Kapalikas were an order (some say sect) of Tantric Hindu ascetics who mainly venerated Shiva, particularly in the form of the wrathful deity Bhairava, who was believed to have revealed their teaching, and believed in attaining spiritual unity with Shiva Bhairava through various transgressive practices. These transgressive practices purportedly included ritualistic sex, occultism, eating and drinking from human skulls, wandering naked or wearing bones and covered with ashes, ceremonial rituals involving corpses, supposed sacrifices of brahmins (to re-enact Shiva’s beheading of Brahma), severe physical and mental austerities, and, of course, drinking heavily for both ritual and pleasure. Although they stressed self-sufficiency and transgression of social norms, they would not fit the narrow, modern definition of the Left Hand Path as defined by the solitary edification of individual ego and self-interest, and they sought unity with a Godhead much like the rest of Hinduism did, but they are nonetheless to be considered Left Hand Path by all historical metrics, and possibly in a somewhat extreme manner at that.

The rammifications of that are something to discussed more in the post I have planned, which I mentioned earlier, but for now, what interests me more, and which I am presently more interested in writing about here, is a mythological narrative attributed to the Kapalikas which depicts a violent and brutal conflict between the avatars of Shiva and Vishnu.

In David Lorenzen’s The Kāpālikas and Kālāmukhas: Two Lost Śaivite Sects (1972), we find a recounting of a narrative from a text known as the Goraksa-siddhanta-samgraha, which is attributed to the Kanphata Yogis, the followers of the medieval Hindu yogi Gorakhnath. The book features stories of the deity Bhairava, appearing as Ugra-Bhairava, dressed as a Kapalika, challenging the beliefs of other sects such as Advaita Vedanta as represented by Samkara. But the narrative we’re focusing on is the myth that serves as the origin story of the Kapalikas. In this myth, the twenty-four avatars of Vishnu at some point become arrogant, intoxicated with mada (“pride”, clearly in the sense that resembles hubris), and as a result they begin wreaking havoc and wicked destruction across the world. Varaha and Narasimha, along with other avatars, split the earth in two, frighten wild animals, oppress towns and villages, and make mischeif wherever they go, Krishna becomes lustful and given to adultery, and Parashurama kills off the kshatriya caste in droves in order to punish just one of them. All of this angers Natha (Shiva) and causes him to assume the form of twenty-four Kapalikas, skull-bearers. These Kapalikas fight the avatars of Vishnu, cut their heads off, and carry their skulls in their hands, thus earning their namesake. Being decapitated caused the avatars of Vishnu to lose their mada, and Natha thus replaced their skulls and heads and restored their life.

The myth is interesting in that Vishnu, within what is still a Hindu context, is through entailment the major antagonist, his avatars becoming hubristic and bringing destruction, oppression, cruelty, and wickedness to the world and causing people and animals to suffer. Lorenzen posits that the battle between the Kapalikas of Shiva/Natha and the avatars of Vishnu reflects an extension of the conflict between Jains and Kapalikas, the former having been supplanted by Vaishnavas in terms of popularity, who in turn shared Jain hostility towards what it perceived as the “excesses” of Tantric Shaivism. It’s worth noting that the Vaishnavas and Shaivas have been in conflict with each other within the scope of Indian history. Vaishnavas described Shavias as heretics, denouncing them for hating Vishnu, refusing to perform Vedic rituals, rejecting the caste system and covering their bodies with ash. Shaivas, in turn, also considered the Vaishnavas to be heretics. There are also some Puranas which state that Shiva killed Varaha, at Vishnu’s request of course, which apparently illustrates conflict between the Shaivas and Vaishnavas. The Kapalika narrative is certainly more blasphemous, at least in relation to Hindu orthodoxy and certainly Vaishnavism, than many narratives of the conflict. Usually we find nothing but reverence reserved for Vishnu and his avatars, especially Krishna, within the broad movement of Hinduism, but in this apparent Kapalika narrative, they’re shown as either monsters or wicked beings who cause destruction through their hubris and need to be killed and then revived in order to be redeemed.

What we see here is a remarkable example of Left Hand Path mythology in an ancient setting. Shiva, as Natha, as the patron god of an order of Vamachara Tantric Hindus, manifests as skull-bearing rebels against Vishnu and his avatars, who oppress the world with their hubris and misdeeds, thus the Vaishnavas (incidentally the largest group within Hinduism) are confronted and Hindu orthodoxy is blasphemed on behalf of the left hand path of Tantra. Because the transgressive orders and sects within Tantric Hinduism venerated Shiva and his consort, it is no coincidence that Shiva and Kali frequently recur within modern Left Hand Path circles. They do, after all, represent the “dark side” of the Sacred in their various guises, and even as they fulfill the function of the myths set out in orthodox Hindu myths they represent transgressive or antinomian pathways to enlightenment, and their followers within Tantra rejected society in order to become one with God. The Kapalika is also probably also one of the rare places where Krishna is punished for his hypocrisies instead of worshipped as the supreme being, so that alone makes it worthwhile. Feel free to also take this as a burn on those foolish esoteric Nazis who may try to operate in the Left Hand Path while taking Vishnu as their patron god.

Shiva as Bhairava with a dog (19th century, unknown artist)

Mythological Spotlight #18 – Shiva

Shiva alongside his wife Parvati and his son Ganesha


This is the last of five Mythological Spotlights that was originally a Deific Masks page.

Shiva is a very complex deity. He is usually the destroyer of the universe, though also sometimes considered a creator in some sects, and he is also a deity of the powers of liberation. He holds the trident of divine power, the drum of cosmic vibration, and the flame of destruction. He also wears the beautiful goddess of the Ganges river in his locks of hair. Despite his nature as a destroyer and a generally wild deity, he is known for being respectful, friendly, kind, loyal, and protective to his devotees, which probably explains a lot of his popularity as a deity. He also upholds cosmic balance and has the power to bring opposites together. As Mahadeva he is associated with the powers of the heavens and cosmos, one of the most powerful, if not the highest, of the Hindu pantheon of deities. Shiva is also represented as a Lord of Music (Vinadhara), and a Lord of the Dance. As Pashupati he is the lord of animals. In his capacity as the destroyer, Shiva destroys clutter to make way for space, harmony, and serenity.


It has been speculated that a seal found in Mohenjo-daro, an ancient settlement located in what is now Pakistan, depicts an early version of the Vedic deity Rudra, who went on to become the modern Hindu deity Shiva. The deity in question and its seal was named Pashupati, after one of Shiva’s epithets (which means “Lord of Animals”), and shown with the horns of a water buffalo, sitting in a yogic pose, and surrounded by animals. However, for many, Shiva originated as the Vedic deity Rudra. Funny enough, it is said that in Vedic times, an epithet given to Rudra and other deities was Siva (which means “The Auspicious One”), which would become the name of the modern Shiva.

Rudra himself was a lord of storms, wind, and the hunt, and was considered a dangerous and frightening deity, the embodiment of unpredictable and wild nature (which might have made his Siva epithet bitterly ironic). The Rigveda praises Rudra as one of the mightiest deities, if not the mightiest. His sons were a group of storm deities known as the Maruts, who were violent young warriors that attended to the weather deity Indra. Rudra was also feared to cause diseases to people and cattle with his arrows, but it was also believed he was capable of healing people as well. He was mainly appeased and worshiped out of fear rather than devotion, due to his mostly malevolent and unpredictable nature, and was often associated desolate and distant places.

Rudra’s depiction started to change when he became identified as Shiva, the destroyer of the universe and liberator of souls, which likely began with a body of Indian texts known as the Upanishads. One of these texts, the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, is notable for is focus on Rudra and Shiva. In fact, it’s the first text where Shiva is definitely used as an epithet for Rudra; the wild, fierce, destructive, and borderline-malevolent deity Rudra started also being considered a kind and benign deity. Over time, Rudra and Shiva became viewed as one and the same deity, and in the time of another body of texts known as the Puranas, the notion of a trinity of deities (that of Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer) emerged and Shiva’s role within it was: he was the destroyer and regeneration of the universe, the deity of transformation, and a liberator of souls. However, it was and still is often the case that one or two members of the trinity were favored more than the other. Vishnu and Shiva were always more popular and were treated as the Supreme Being by different sects of Hinduism. There are some who believe Shiva is the supreme being, and Vishnu and Brahma (among other deities) are merely aspects of him, while others believe Vishnu is the supreme being and Shiva is just his supreme guru and the ruler of the material world. Two sects represent each position respectively, and have often taken to vilifying each other and even demonizing their patron gods as liars. Even to this day most people prefer one of them over the other or both, but the deity Brahma never attained same kind of prominence. This may be partly to do with a myth in which Shiva cursed Brahma to never be worshiped. Some say it was because Brahma mated with a goddess named Shatarupa, which was considered incestuous because Brahma had created her and so she was considered to be his daughter. Today, Shiva is one of the most widely worshiped deities in Hinduism and is considered to be benevolent and just as well as destructive, and he is also worshiped in many forms and under many names. Many myths show him to be more powerful than almost all other deities, if not all other deities, and the devas tend to call on either him or Vishnu for aid. The only deity shown to be possibly more powerful than Shiva is his wife, Parvati, whenever she is angered or takes on terrfyingly wrathful forms such as Kali (whose dance of bloodlust almost destroyed the universe before Shiva lay himself beneath her feat as a mattress).

In Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, Shiva is manifested as the deity Mahakala, a wrathful protective deity (particularly one classed as Dharmapala or “protector of Dharma”) charged with defending practitioners, schools, and teachings of the Buddhist faith. In Buddhist lore, Mahakala is considered a wrathful manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Mahakala arrived to Japan from China (where he was also considered a protective deity) and become a household deity of fortune and farmers, associated with prosperity, and was named Daikokuten. Despite his happy and benign personality, Daikokuten could also assume a wrathful form with six arms and three heads, referred to as Sanmen Daikokuten. Shiva himself also made his way to Japan as one of twelve devas who guard the eight directions, the sun, the moon, up, and down. He is known in Japanese esoteric Buddhism as Ishanaten or Daijizaiten, and he was believed to protect the northeast direction and live in the sixth heaven (the heaven of the world of desire). He is also believed to have been subjugated by Gozanze Myo-O, one of the Five Wisdom Kings, before becoming a Buddhist deity. There is also a myth from medieval times which stated that Japan itself was the domicile of Daijizaiten, who was thought to be its cosmic ruler and the inventor of the Chinese writing script. In the same myth, Vishnu (Bichuten) was the cosmic ruler of China and the creator of the Kharosthi script, while Brahma (Bonten) was the cosmic ruler of India and the creator of its script.


Shiva’s complexity has made him a hugely successful deity in the Hindu mythos. He has been able to capture multiple mythological connotations that render him a particularly universal deity within Hinduism. His association with asceticism has also led him to be taken as a totem of Hindu orthopraxy in that he represents the state to which the yogis aspire to, that which they seek to become through the attainment of God-realization. His dark side through Mahakala lends itself nicely to the Tantric framework and the resultant transmutation into Japan seems to have made him something of a chthonic god. As such, the universality of Shiva is a strength that allows him to travel throughout the East.

Mythological Spotlight #15 – Varuna

A depiction of Varuna as the Vedic god


This is one of five Mythological Spotlights that were originally Deific Mask pages. In fact, this one could be thought of as a merger of two, as it includes content from the former “Ashura” page.

Varuna is the Vedic Indian deity of water, which ties him to the sea, rivers, rain, and the creatures that live and swim in the water, along with the planet Neptune. And yet Varuna is more than just a water deity. He is the builder of order, but he is also linked with the primeval chaos that has, for generations, been associated with the sea and represented by the water creatures Varuna is associated with, such as the dragon, the crocodile, and the fantastical sea creature known as Makara. Varuna is also a nocturnal deity, being very much linked with the night. He was once the supreme god of the Vedic pantheon, but over time was supplanted by the more brash thunder god Indra and as of now he is not an especially popular deity.


In the early part of the Vedic age of Indian religion, Varuna was exalted as the supreme deity and ruler of the pantheon of deities. He was the builder and keeper of cosmic order and law, which was traditionally referred to as Rta.  In the ancient Vedic religion, Rta was an abstract concept that referred to the order by the sun and moon move, and the seasons proceed, but it also referred to moral or religious law and the order of ritual sacrifice. Even the deities were subject to Rta, and no one, not even Varuna, had direct command over Rta, but Varuna was the chief deity charged with its perseverance. He was also seen the ruler of the primeval, undifferentiated chaos. He was the chief of a group of solar deities known as the Adityas, so named because they were the offspring of the Aditi, the mother of deities. While many of the deities where associated with natural forces, Varuna was more concerned with moral/social affairs, ethics, laws, and the way the cosmos is governed, though this is not to say Varuna didn’t have his own attachments to nature. His brother Mitra was associated daylight, particularly the morning sun, while Varuna was more associated with the night (which is ironic considering he was the leader of a group of solar deities). Mitra was also the keeper of social order in some way in his capacity as the deity of oaths and contracts, and he and Varuna were paired together as Mitra-Varuna. Varuna was also twinned with Indra during the new year, when they worked together to re-establish order. Varuna was also described as omniscient, as catching liars in his snares, and as watching the world and the movements of humans through the stars in the sky. He was even said to grant his devotees wisdom, particularly insight into the natural order of the cosmos, such wisdom was referred to as “medhira”. He was even the subject of rituals in which he is invoked for the forgiveness of transgressions. Varuna was also referred to as “Father Asura” in the Rig Veda, and as an omniscient and all-enveloping deity he seems to have been originally treated as a sky deity.

Despite Varuna’s role in the Vedic religion and his status as the ruler of the heavens, Indra, the brash deity of weather, storms, and war, sometimes had more prominence in the Rig Veda and was even seen as more powerful than Varuna. Varuna also seemed to be more important when the laws of the physical and moral world were contemplated, but was not a strongly popular deity. Later in the Vedic period, Varuna was ousted from his original position, and Indra replaced him as the ruler of the heavens and the pantheon of deities.  In later mythology, Indra even stole Varuna’s role as the governor of the cosmos after defeating Vritra for stealing the world’s water. Varuna became a water deity and took on a new role as the deity of oceans and rivers and the lord of the cosmic waters. He was also a deity of the night, the keeper of the souls of the drowned, and a lord of the underworld and the dead (a position shared by Yama, the lord of the departed). This Varuna was said to grant immortality, was attended by the nagas (serpents), and was seen as a guardian of the west direction. He was identified by some as the ruler of the nagas. He was even said to punish mortals who didn’t keep their word by capturing them with his noose and hanging them. His mount, or vahana (vehicle), was Makara, a kind of sea creature that had the attributes of many animals. Makara represented a chaotic state that order arises from, which may have implied that Varuna still had associations with cosmic order.

Towards the end of the Vedic period, Varuna’s reputation began to change in another way. In the early part of the Vedic period, the term Asura simply referred to might and strength, specifically that of a deity or person. But eventually, Asura began to refer to a class of deities separate from the devas, and eventually the devas were seen as good, while the asuras were seen as evil. Varuna was one of the Vedic deities who fell under the category of Asura, so were the likes of Agni, Mitra, and Soma, but these deities also joined the ranks of the devas. Despite joining the devas, however, Varuna was still seen as a sinister deity, probably due to his association with death and being feared as a severe punisher of mortals. Eventually, Varuna would be forgotten almost entirely in India, as he and many of the other Vedic deities became eclipsed by the rise of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and the Devi, and he became even less popular if he was even worshiped at all. Despite his lack of popularity, however, Varuna is currently worshiped by the Sindhi people, who identify him as Jhulelal. Varuna also appears in Indian astrology where he is associated with the planet Neptune, Varuna and Neptune both being sea deities after all, though this would be a modern connection since the planet Neptune was not recognized by the ancients.

Unlike some Hindu deities who get incarnated in Buddhist lore, Varuna does not have a lot of presence in Buddhism and is hardly mentioned. He certainly wasn’t very popular in China. I have read that in Tibet, Varuna appears as the ruler of nagas in the form of Apalala Nagarajah, and is treated as a lord of weather, but I can’t find a lot of information about Apalala Nagarajah, and whoever this deity is he seems to be an obscure deity and may have been considered a minor deity. Varuna himself may have been depicted as his own deity in Tibet, but from what I have read he was likely treated as a minor deity. Varuna does appear in Japanese Buddhism as Suiten, a deva of water much like the late Vedic incarnation of Varuna. Suiten is one of 12 devas who protect the eight directions, up and down, and the sun and moon, and he is specificially the guardian of west direction. However, Suiten does not enjoy a lot of popularity in Japanese Buddhism, though in Japan this might be due to the presence of more popular water deities such as Suijin (aka Mizu no Kamisama), who is known as a benevolent water goddess, and Benzaiten, who is actually the Japanese Buddhist incarnation of the Hindu goddess Saraswati. I’d also like to mention that Varuna’s mount Makara is also incarnated in Japan as a creature known as the Shachihoko, a creature depicted as a fish with the head of a tiger or a dragon. Fun fact: the name Shachihoko literally means “killer whale”. The Shachihoko was frequently utilized as a roof ornament found on castles, tower gates, and the homes of samurai during the Edo period, and the creature was thought to bestow protection against fire and have the power to control rain. In Japanese art, the Shachihoko also sometimes substitutes the dragon in paintings of Ryuzu Kannon, a form of the hugely popular bodhisattva and goddess of mercy Kannon (the Japanese form of Guanyin, another name of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara) who usually rides on the back of a dragon or sea turtle. The theme behind Ryuzu Kannon paintings that feature Shachihoko are usually inspired by the Chinese legend of carp swimming towards the Dragon Gate and becoming dragons. Here’s an interesting fact: in Japan, the dragon (there called Ryu) is closely associated with water, and though it directly originates from the Chinese dragon, they are related to the Indian serpent beings known as Nagas, whom Varuna was sometimes identified as ruling.

During the Meiji Restoration, when the emperor Meiji issued a decree ordering the separation of Buddhist and Shinto practices, Varuna (as Suiten) became identified with the god Amenominakanushi, the primeval kami that preceded creation and all other kami/gods. Consequently, Varuna is worshipped as Amenominakanushi at Suitengu, a temple located in the Chuo ward of Tokyo. Interestingly enough, Amenominakanushi is thought to embody a duality based on gender, male and female.

Varuna and Ahura Mazda

You may remember that in India, Asura became bad and demonic while Deva became good and heavenly. In Iran, Asura became Ahura, and referred to godly entities and to the supreme deity of Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda, while Deva became Daeva and were seen as evil spirits. In fact, in Iran, Indra became a demon who opposed the concept of truth, though not the leader of evil spirits (that role goes to Angra Mainyu). Varuna, on the other hand, got a very big break and became identified with Ahura Mazda, the deity associated with order, justice, light, and truth. The original Varuna was Father Asura, the Asura par excellence and chief of the Asuras, and he was the wise one, who bestowed medhira, wisdom (particularly of the order of the cosmos) The word “medhira” became “mazda”, and asura became ahura, and Varuna, as Asura Medhira, became Ahura Mazda. It should be noted that the Ahura Mazda of Zoroastrianism shares important characteristics with the original Varuna; he is the deity charged with upholding order and justice, like Varuna, he is the deity associated with the cosmic principle of order, like Varuna (though in Zoroastrianism it is Ahura Mazda who creates this principle), he is exalted as the wise one, like Varuna, and he is exalted as the supreme deity and the ruler of the heavens and cosmos, which Varuna originally was. Ahura Mazda was also identified with Mitra and the composite deity Mitra-Varuna, although Mitra became his own divinity in Iran known as Mithra, and he was a divinity of contracts and oaths, judicial protector of truth, and guardian of cattle.

It is worth establishing that, in the earliest period of the Vedic religion, Asura was an adjective meaning “mighty” and “powerful”. Many deities were given this adjective and variants such as “asurya” (meaning strength) and “asuratva” (meaning mightiness), some deities more so than others. Indra, the weather deity, was described as “asura” nine times, as granting or possessing asurya five times, and as possessing asuratva once. At one time, Indra’s actions are described as “asuryani” (meaning powerful), which add up to sixteen descriptions in total. Agni, the fire deity, is described as asura twelve times, as son of an asura once, and as possessing asurya twice, which also totals fifteen descriptions. Varuna, the deity of the waters and cosmic order, is described as asura ten times, and as possessing asurya four times, which totals fourteen descriptions. Mitra, the deity of friendship and contracts, is described as asura four times, and as possessing asurya four times, totaling eight descriptions. Rudra, the feared storm deity, is described as asura six times, as bestowing asurya once, and possessing asurya once. Dyaus, the sky deity, is described as asura six times. Soma, the lunar deity, is described as asura three times, as bestowing asurya once, and as possessing asurya once. Savitr, a deity of the sun before sunrise, is described as asura four times, and is particularly described as a kind leader. Surya, the solar deity, is described as asura three times. Parjanya, a rain deity, receives the same amount of honors as Surya. Vayu, the wind deity, is described as asura once, and once as possessing asurya. Apam Napat, a creation deity, is described once as possessing asurya.  Sarasvati, a river goddess, was described as asura once. Ushas, the dawn goddess, is described once as possessing asuratva. The more times a deity was described as asura, or as possessing or bestowing asurya or asuratva, the mightier and more powerful a deity was believed to be. Indra, for instance, was likely the most powerful deity of the Vedic religion. And it wasn’t just deities that got called asura, as sometimes humans were called asura in the Rig Veda. Two generous kings are described as asura, as are some priests, and there is a hymn for requesting a son who is asura.

Varuna and Vairocana?

A fascinating potential link between Varuna and the buddha Vairocana has been explored in The Symbolism of the Stupa by Adrian Snodgrass and Craig J. Reynolds. A key connection seems to be lie in Varuna’s noose or rope, his binding the cosmos with his power of maya, his casting a net over the surface of the waters. This serves as a hypostasis for the concept of the creation of the cosmos through the spreading out of a pneumatic net. Varuna with his noose binds those who violate Rta, the universal Law, and his role in relation to his rope is typically seen in the lens of punishment. This is shared by other gods such as Yama, the ruler of the underworld who is called the noose-bearer and the binder of all men in his capacity as the king of death, Nirrti, a dark goddess who binds those intended for destruction, and even Ganesha, whose noose restrains the incalcitrant and leads the worthy. In the case of Vairocana, Vairocana embodies the concept of a net of cosmic order in his aspect as the Body of Principle. Vairocana abides at the hub of the World Wheel, receptacle of all cosmic order, which mirrors Varuna’s status in some hymns as the “Great Yaksa” at the center of the world.

In addition, as Suiten, Varuna became identifiable with Suijin, a kami found in Shinto tradition. Worth noting is how Suijin is not simply a name for a deity but also a generic term for a number of water deities as well as spirits and creatures, typically those associated with lakes, ponds, springs or well. These spirits are associated with mythological creatures such as dragons and kappa, as well as real animals such as fish, eels, turtles and snakes – and it’s no coincidence that both dragons and turtles are associated with Varuna. The name Suijin is even given to Fudo Myo-O, one of the mighty Five Wisdom Kings (or Vidyaraja), because of the way he is associated with waterfalls. Fudo Myo-O also, like Varuna, holds a rope or noose in his left hand, which he uses to capture demons, evil spirits and even gods who stand in the way of the Buddhist practitioner and his path towards enlightenment. It is here too that we come back to Vairocana, known in Japan as Dainichi Nyorai. Fudo Myo-O is the wrathful manifestation of Dainichi Nyorai, representative of his anger against injustice, ignorance and evil.

Varuna of the serpents

In The Symbolism of the Stupa we see Varuna related to the serpent Asura Vritra through both names sharing the same root “vr”, which means “to surround”, “to cover”, “to restrain” or “to check”. Both Varuna and Vritra have the seven rivers flow from their mouths, and so the two share a motif in different contexts connected to serpents and water. We can also note that Varuna’s connection to the serpent is actually quite old. Varuna has often been seen as the king of the nagas, a race of serpentine beings found in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, and this may in part have been drawn from his domain over the oceans, which were the dwelling place of the nagas. As a consequence of this association, Varuna himself is sometimes referred to as a naga, which may explain why some claim that he was worshipped as a snake. In the Atharva Veda Varuna is apparently referred to as a viper, and some believe that he was assimilated into the myth of Vritra. In Buddhist myth, Varuna is treated as a nagaraja, a king of the nagas. Varuna also becomes associated with snakes in Japan through Suijin, which is not simply a name for a deity but also a generic term for a number of water deities as well as spirits and creatures, typically those associated with lakes, ponds, springs or well. These spirits are associated with mythological creatures such as dragons and kappa, as well as real animals such as fish, eels, turtles and snakes – and it’s no coincidence that both dragons and turtles are associated with Varuna.


Varuna is a manifestly more complex mythological character than most treatises regarding his role in Vedic religion make him out to be. Most Hindus no doubt know him as simply a water god who is treated as inferior not only to Indra but also to Rama, avatar of Vishnu, yet Varuna, the ancient lawgiver of celestial and chthonic oceans, may yet be seen where most do not know him in world culture. In Iran, it seems, he has become the supreme lawgiver of the Zoroastrian faith. In Japan, it seems, he may yet be echoed as the most important Buddha of the Shingon sect. Few gods are like Varuna in their multiplicity of characteristics, and it is rare for us to find an archetype of a supreme being that seems dark and set against the anointed heavenly gods, even if it could be said he was once one himself one of them, and indeed that he becomes the supreme being of light. Certainly quite a transformation.

The reactionary, authoritarian spirituality of Julius Evola

There are few intellectuals who could be said to have had such a broad influence on not only esoteric fascism but, unfortunately, a lot of occult philosophy than Julius Evola. He is often recommended within Left Hand Path circles, and you find one or two of his books in the reading list featured in Stephen Flowers’ Lords of the Left Hand Path. This, I think, is a problem, because in many ways Evola’s spiritual worldview is deeply authoritarian in character, and not to mention rests on a frankly ridiculous understanding of some of the religions he’s talking about. Although not a self-defined fascist, indeed he was often opposed by the Italian fascists and in turn despised them in kind as not being sufficiently reactionary for his liking, he is nonetheless at the foundation of so much of esoteric fascist thought today.

A major dichotomy in Evola’s thought is between the divine masculine and the divine feminine, which conceptualized through the “Solar” and “Lunar” spiritual races, which for him also represent superior and inferior civilizations respectively. The “Solar” race is the “superior” race that represents the Hyperborean civilization that supposedly preceded all other civilizations, as well as Aryan civilization and the Northern Atlantic or Germanic races, and a cult of the sun god or divine father that represented the values of heroism, dominion, traditional hierarchy, and transcendental divinity/spirituality. Evola associated this solar principle with the Greek god Apollo, the Greco-Egyptian god Ammon (or Zeus-Ammon), the Mithraic Mysteries, the Germanic cult of Odin, the old Vedic religion of the Aryans, the Zoroastrian worship of Ahura Mazda, Buddhism (which he considered to be the inheritor of the lost Aryan tradition of India; which is utterly laughable given the Buddhist contempt for Vedic tradition, but more on that later), and the Roman Empire. The “Lunar” race by contrast is the “inferior” race that for Evola represents the influence of southern races, such as the Southern Europeans (or Mediterraneans) and the Southern Indians, and for him represents a cult of the mother goddess that embodies submissiveness, “materialism” (meaning things like consumerism or greed as opposed to ontological materialism), social degeneration, and the undifferentiated masses, as well as collectivist societies that emphasize equality, brotherhood, and sharing. Evola associates this not only with mother goddess cults like those of Demeter and Isis, but with Greek mystery religions (whose Asiatic influences he deemed feminine or “Demetrian”), the Dravidian religion, and even Christianity. He despised Christianity because of its emphasis on salvation, faith, brotherhood, and love along with most crucially its premise that anyone regardless of caste, race or tradition can join in the Kingdom of God, all of which was an affront to the traditional hierarchy that Evola praised in the Roman Empire and therefore he considered to be too feminine for him. He also despised the Brahmanist schools of Hinduism because he felt that it identified God with nature and for him this was a corruption of Aryan religion generated by the influence of Southern Indian beliefs.

“Apollo and Diana” by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo (1757)

Naturally, this view of the history of religion and civilization likely stems from deep-seated sexist attitudes about men and women, as can be suggested through his chief inspiration, Otto Weininger, who basically believed that women were mindless sex objects. He conceived an ontological dualism between the sexes in which the male sex represented the aspirations towards some kind of “higher” reason, conceived through the lens of Platonic and Kantian idealism, and the immortality of the soul while the female sex represented matter, nature, and the sense, all of which Weininger considered to be “fallen” in character. This for him meant that men posess a “higher” spirit, not bound to the material world, and that they have the capacity to decide whether or not death means either oblivion or the restoration of the soul to some kind of “pure” state, while women not only do not possess this “higher” spirit but they also lack ego, individuality and the capacity for logic and morality, and exist only to have sex with men, be desired by men, have children and therefore reproduce the material world. And if that sounds sexist to you, that might be because it absolutely is. Evola, naturally, was influenced by this view when he espoused the “masculine” solar race as concerned with transcendental logic and spirituality and the “feminine” lunar race as materialistic. So it should come as no surprise that Evola was a proponent of social inequality between men and women, which he believed was natural. He also believed that the true purpose of women was merely to do whatever men tell them and apparently his contempt for women was such that he merely considered them to be things, or at least that’s the impression I get from the fact that he wrote an article titled “Woman As Thing”. He also seemed to believe that both rape and regular sexual coitus shared an element of sadism at their root, which leads some to conclude, possibly correctly, that Evola supported and justified the rape of women and considered all forms of sex to be rape.

Evola’s solar cult, it should be noted, takes on a distinctly authoritarian connotation when you make note of how he praises the Roman Empire for banning the Bacchanalia, which he viewed as a civilizational rejection of Dionysian and Aphroditistic elements, which we can surmise were supposed to be related to the “Lunar” cult. That is an important detail because we should remember a few things about the cult of Dionysus in the Greco-Roman world. In Rome, Dionysus was not only known as Bacchus but also as Liber, or Liber Pater (or “Father Liber”, meaning “Father Freedom”). In addition to wine and fertility, which were the typical domains of Dionysus/Bacchus, Liber was also a god of freedom (as his name suggests) and was the patron saint of the plebeians, which was basically the Roman name for commoner, as in the common man. Dionysus, as Liber, was the divine champion of the common man, and his cult therefore was quite the populist one. In addition to this, his festival, Liberalia, was a coming-of-age festival in which the opportunity for uncensored speech was allowed for just one day. Normally, in ancient Roman society, you couldn’t always say what you want and in fact you could find yourself detained for saying the wrong thing about the powerful (an example of this being the satirist Gnaeus Naevius, who was arrested twice by the Romans and ultimately exiled to Tunisia). Related to the Roman Bacchic cult was the Phrygian satyr Marsyas, who alongside Liber was something of an emblem for freedom of speech, and by himself was something of a symbol of resistance to imperial power in that the Roman Empire considered him an emblem of subversion against Augustus, who in turn became a symbol of Apollo, the god who flayed him alive. In general, Bacchanalia and the Dionysian cult in Rome, as in Greece, represented the freedom to transcend the rigid hierarchy of the society.

Whereas nowadays the dichotomy between the Apollonian and the Dionysian has been reduced to some Nietzschean pablum about the dichotomy between reason and creativity, in the actual Roman religion we find that the dichotomy was defined noticeably by class. There were two triads of gods in ancient Rome, each associated with two of the seven hills of Rome. The Capitoline Triad, the gods worshipped at the temple of Capitoline Hill, consisted of Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, while the Aventine Triad, representing a cult established by the Aventine Hill, consisted of Liber, Ceres, and Libera. The Capitoline Triad represented the patricians, meaning the Roman aristocracy, and the temple at the Capitoline Hill (which, ironically enough, was originally dedicated to Saturn) was situated within the Pomerium, the legal boundary separating the city itself from the rest of Rome (everything outside of this boundary was just the property of Rome). The Aventine Triad, by contrast, represented the plebeians, the common people, and the Aventine Temple lay outside the Pomerium, outside the legal boundary of Rome. The Aventine cult is also deeply republican in nature, having been established just after the overthrow of the Roman monarchy. Take note of the gods of each of these triads. The Capitoline Triad – Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, the Roman forms of Zeus, Hera and Athena respectively – are the jealous gods arrayed against humans. Jupiter, the usurper king of the gods, jealous of mankind, enmitous of the thought that man might equal the divine; Juno, constantly motivated to jealousy by Jupiter’s many adulteries, torments the sons of Zeus; and Athena, who cursed Arachne for defeating her fair and square in a weaving contest. All, of course, the triad of Olympus, the heavenly mountain. As for the Aventine Triad, you have Liber, a god of freedom and a Roman form of Dionysus, a god whose original connotations were deeply chthonic in their connection to death and rebirth, Ceres, the Roman form of the Greek Demeter who was a goddess of agriculture and the earth, and Libera, an Italic goddess of wine who evolved into the goddess Proserpina, the Roman form of the Greek Persephone, the wife of Hades and goddess of the underworld. The gods of the earth and underworld take center stage in the populist Aventine cult, while in the Capitoline cult the holy family of heaven do. Thus, in Rome, chthonic spirituality interwines with populism, working class republicanism and Bacchic freedom, while the authority of Zeus and the light of Apollo is totemic of ruling class authority. The Apollonian vs the Dionysian is not, then, a dialectic of reason and passion, but instead a cultic conflict between elitism and populism, the Apollonian being elitism and the Dionysian being populism.

“Bacchanal” by Frans Wouters (1612-1659)

This chthonic association also seems to mirror the popularity of chthonic cults, which often involved Dionysus or Persephone, in the more rural areas of ancient Greece, where in local cults you would have versions of a triad featuring Zeus, Hera and Athena wherein Persephone takes Athena’s place. And while we’re on the subject of Greece, it is here also that Dionysus is associated with populism of a certain type. The Dionsyia of Athens, the city version of the original rural festival, was introduced by Peisistratus. Peisistratus was considered by the ancients to be a tyrant, and while he does probably fit at least one qualification of what we would understand to be a tyrant, in that he overturned that government of Athens by force as opposed to democratic means, it’s not like he abolished the constitution of Athens (in fact he maintained much of the constitutional governance), and he actively and openly confronted the Athenian aristocracy. He removed many of the privileges of the aristocrats and generally reduced their control over the city, indeed distributing power and wealth throughout Athens rather than hoarding it for himself, remitted taxes to farmers who were receiving low wages for their labour, as well as more generally cutting taxes for working class citizens, he gave both land and loans to people who needed them, he protected foreigners who emigrated to become citizens of Athens, he built the aquaduct to distribute water to the masses, and ultimately was responsible for turning Athens from a collection of villages or polities into a grand unified city-state. As far as “tyrants” go, he did a lot of good for Athens and he seems to have been a genuinely populist ruler, and so it makes sense that he would introduce a festival devoted to the most ancient god with deep archetypal ties to populism.

In this light, Evola’s cult of the solar race presents an example of what I would consider to be a kind of authoritarian spirituality – that is, a spirituality that bases itself obsequious worship of power, authority and hierarchy for its own sake, for whom the freedom of the masses is an evil that must be suppressed under the authority of the gods of heaven and popular will and expression is to be crushed by a militant elite. And that’s just the start.

Rigid, insurmountable hierarchy, characterized by the inequality of its subjects, is an essential component of Evola’s notion of an ideal society, which is governed by a unchangeable metaphysical tradition, which exists outside of nature and is alien and “superior” to Man, and to which all subjects orient their actions. Evola’s favorite analogy for this was the Indian caste system, associated with Hinduism, in which the priestly representatives of Brahman rule at the top, followed by a warrior aristocracy, then the merchants, and then finally the undifferentiated masses that comprise the workers and the “untouchables”. Opposed to this sort of governance is a society where all individuals share dignity equally and everyone shares the same right of self-being, to be oneselves. In this sense, you are expected to submit yourself to an authority that has no basis in the world, no basis in reason, no basis in nature, and is completely alien to you. If that doesn’t sound like the most abominable and not to mention superstitious form of tyranny to you, then I don’t know what does. Now, let’s take note of the fact that Evola favored the caste system, because he also identified Buddhism as an inheritor of Vedic Aryan tradition. We should note this because of the fact that this is based on an erroneous understanding of Buddhism. The caste system is not endorsed by Buddhist social philosophy, Siddhartha Gautama, while not necessarily opposing the caste system, is known to have repudiated caste distinctions, and several Buddhist philosophers wrote against the authority and social system of the Vedas. Dharmakirti, for example, rejected caste as an entirely arbitrary construct that isn’t based in reality, as well as generally ridiculing the theism and the spiritual doctrine of the Vedas as foolish. Indeed, Buddhism has proven so amenable to the elevation or liberation of the lower classes that many dalits (“untouchables”) in India converted to Buddhism en masse as recently as 2018. Not to mention, one of the core doctrines of Buddhism is Anatman, literally the rejection of Atman, which is to say the rejection of a transcendental divine self identical to God; this represents such a fundamental departure from Vedic/Hindu religious philosophy that it’s baffling how Evola could have thought Buddhism was the inheritor of his beloved Aryanism.

Brahma Sahampati visiting the Buddha

A key element of Evola’s philosophy is the theme of regression, which is to say the idea that mankind as it exists is a regression from its original state, which is to say the original Hyperborean race that lived on the North Pole. He refers to this doctrine as involution, in opposition to evolution. Taken in the context of Evola’s doctrine of the solar versus lunar races, it represents an inversion of the ideas of Johann Jakob Bachofen, an anthropologist who believed that human civilization begins in a kind of primitive goddess worship or some kind of chthonic matriarchal religion before eventually progressing into a more patriarchal religion and culture. In Evola’s framework, it’s actually the patriarchal civilization that came first, then the matriarchal one. More broadly, this doctrine of involution holds that it is not humans that evolved upwards from apes, but rather apes that devolved from an original “superior” race. This, of course, represents a total repudiation of the Darwinian theory of evolution, which is of course so backed by mountains of evidence at this point that you wonder how anyone can deny it. You might be tempted to say that, in Evola’s time, this wasn’t so well-established, but in fact Evola was very much aware that evolution was consistent with scientific thinking, which is why Evola rejected science altogether, not least on the grounds that he thought modern science was unreliable on the grounds that it was based on “profane” materialistic premises. Instead of science, then, he bases his doctrine of involution on “tradition”, which invariably means his own ideas about tradition, which may or may not align with ancient pre-Christian beliefs to varying degrees. And yes, pre-Christian is operative here, since Evola rejects both Christianity and science in favour of Roman paganism, or more or less his own revival thereof, based on an esoteric interpretation of Roman paganism influenced by a combination of mystery religion, Hinduism and especially Tantra, all interpreted of course through the ideas of people like Rene Guenon, who he considered to be the master of his epoch. Although Evola is adored by modern fascists, and many of his ideas do dovetail nicely with a lot of fascism, this attachment to paganism actually set him against the Italian fascist movement of his day, as Mussolini and the other Italian fascists rejected Evola’s calls for pagan revival and so did the Catholic Church. Ironically, however, Catholicism was the one sect of Christianity that Evola didn’t despise, and indeed he considered conversion to Catholicism as a form of spiritual advancement. But to return to the main point, Evola’s mysticism is divorced from any scientific understanding, cannot be verified and apprehended through reason, and therefore is to be accepted simply because it is declared by “tradition” to be so. The term we normally use for this is blind faith, and blind faith has always been a way to psychological slavery, and as such is a favored tool for authoritarian spirituality and politics.

To be honest, the theme of regression is the most striking thing about Evola’s thought in relation to the way Evola has been received in the Left Hand Path circles, because to me it creates a profound archetypal dissonance in relation to the Left Hand Path. Evola rejects the premise that human beings evolved from apes and in turn from a chain of prehistoric creatures that emerged from the sea, preferring instead to believe that we came from some fantastical race of polar sun men. I think about that and think of the gulf between this and the way people like Michael W. Ford interpret creation myths like the Enuma Elish as a kind of archetypal metaphor for the evolution from reptile to mammal to Man, the emergence of form from darkness and so on, with in a sense the dark archetypes of mythology serving as reminders of our point of origin as a place to draw wisdom and power from. In fact, many world mythologies begin with a premise of primordial darkness, sometimes embodied or inhabited by serpents, out from which creation, form, light emerges, so in a sense you find many mythological understandings in which the soul and form of man emerge not from a race of light but from a place of darkness. I don’t know if such dissonance has ever been considered or accounted for.

Lastly, I believe there is a point where Evola’s thought, and the esoteric fascist thought that derives from it, converges with, of all things, transhumanism, which also demonstrates that the transhumanist impetus is a deeply reactionary and ascetic one. Because Evola held mankind as we know it to be a degeneration from some original Hyperborean race, and because his ideal society predicates itself on an principle that is supposed to exist outside of nature, Evola held that the ideal society must cultivate values that remove human existence from the natural order so that it can ascend to “a superior dimension of life” not found in the material cosmos. Such a worldview calls for the state to rear its subjects away from material existence through service to the state and the military – essentially, the idea is that by becoming a servant of authority you transcend human existence. As nonsensical a premise as it is, it also belies a fairly basic background ethos of transhumanism: the desire to become more than human. It is for this reason that Evola apparently admired the Waffen SS of Nazi Germany. Indeed, while transhumanism itself is not wedded to Nazism by any means, it’s no coincidence that people like Jeffrey Epstein embraced eugenics for the purpose of creating a superior race while also wanting to preserve his head and penis through cryonics. And, while transhumanism is certainly broader than just the practice of eugenics, there are many transhumanists who advocate a kind of “new eugenics” – that is, eugenics but somehow sublimated to liberal values – just that they often don’t like to call it eugenics. And of course, eugenics was a central part of Nazi ideology as their means to create their new master race, which is why any talk of “new egalitarian eugenics” is compelled to take place. But whereas modern transhumanists, and to some extent the Nazis as well, embraced “scientific” (to the extent that their methodology can be called scientific) ways of acheiving their goals, mainly through technology, Evola rejected science and modern technology and instead believed that people would transcend their humanity through spiritual means by way of his esoteric doctrine.

So in summary, this is the philosophy of Julius Evola. A practically insane reactionary who opposed science because it repudiated his moonbatty racialist theories, a man who despises mankind because he thinks it devolved, somehow, from an imaginary Hyperborean race, a man whose ideal society amounts to a restoration of the Indian caste system or the Roman Empire at its worst, in the name of a tradition that cannot be justified through conscious reason or apprehended in this world, and whose spiritual and political philosophy entails the total rejection of liberty, freedom and the species-being of humanity. Evola is a profoundly negative spiritual influence, with barely any elements that can be considered positive. And the only reason we can’t consider him to be a fascist is because he thought fascism wasn’t radical enough in its rejection of modernity.

A picture of Julius Evola at quite an old age

How jealous are the gods of paganism?

One major conceit of modern neopaganism that I never quite took too seriously is the idea that it is only the Abrahamic God who is a jealous God, while the gods of the pre-Christian religions were never jealous of others for worshipping the wrong god. A recent Patheos post had me thinking about this theme to the point that I decided to write about the subject. Whilst it is true that in polytheism the general point is that you don’t have to worship just one god, and indeed you’re expected to worship multiple gods for different purposes, but that is not to say that the gods within polytheism were capable of jealousy for different reasons, and the idea that these gods simply live and let live is an anachronism that is imposed upon a religion from a time where that kind of libertarianism wasn’t exactly widespread.

The very framework that feeds into Old Testament monotheism, that of the jealous God Yahweh, is itself a product of henotheism, which was originally just another subset of pre-Christian polytheistic beliefs. Henotheism is the premise that there exist multiple gods in the cosmos, but you are to worship only one of them as part of your religion. In many ways this is the original essence of the Old Testament creed, given the presence of numerous other gods in the Bible as well as mention of a divine council of gods (or godlike beings) that is reprimanded by Yahweh for their apparent corruption. It was also not particularly uncommon in the ancient, pre-Christian world.

Ancient Egypt ultimately metastasized a certain version of henotheism following the the expulsion of the Hyksos dynasty. The Hyksos were a collection of Semitic peoples who worshipped the Canaanite god Ba’al (who they identified with the Egyptian god Set) and, after a successful invasion of Egypt, formed their own dynasty of pharaohs in Egypt. After they were driven out of Egypt by Ahmose I, Set, who also happened to be a god of foreigners, became demonized as the patron of foreign powers who conquered Egypt, and who the Egyptians believed to be their oppressors. Thus, Set was one of the gods that was considered unworthy of worship in the Egyptian pantheon. In Japan, similarly, with the establishment of the Shinto of the emperor Jimmu, gods who were worshipped by his enemies became evil gods whose worship was proscribed – the pre-Shinto god Mishaguji (or the Mishaguji gods) became taboo after the Yamato took over the Suwa region of Japan. In Greek religion, Hades was a recognized god in the Hellenic mythos but his worship was taboo because he was the god of death, and when he was worshipped by the Greeks it was typically through either various incarnations of Zeus (such as Zeus Katachthonios) or syncretic deities that in some ways resembled or shared characteristics with Hades (such as Serapis). Zoroastrianism, although ostensibly a monotheistic faith, actually has a number of deities within it, or at least divine beings that in some ways approximate deities, but only one deity, Ahura Mazda, is the subject of worship. Indeed, the original Judaic religion was probably not too distant from Canaanite polytheism other than the God of Israel was the exclusive recipient of sacrifices. In some early forms of this religion there may have been both Yahweh and Asherah at the center of worship, and angels might be prayed to, but only those two gods were to be worshipped. So in other words, the very birth waters of the jealous God archetype is a pre-Christian, semi-polytheistic religion. It was later on in the life of Judaism, possibly after the exile from Babylon, that Judaism became truly monotheistic.

Greek mythology in particular is filled with gods who become jealous of mortals for differing reasons, and in general you get messages in the myths that tend to amount to “mankind should always be humble before the gods and never try to surpass them or make use of their secrets”. One example is in the myth of Arachne, the woman who was turned into a spider. Arachne was a highly skilled weaver who challenged the goddess Athena to a contest, in which Arachne handily defeated Athena, but because Arachne not only bested Athena but also depicted the cruelty and iniquity of the gods of Olmypus, Athena tore up her work and beat her up, causing her to commit suicide by hanging herself. After this, Athena curses Arachne’s descendants to be punished similarly to her before sprinkling her body with a potion that causes her to transform into a spider. The same Athena is recounted in the poetry of Ovid (as Minerva) as having punished Medua by turning her into a gorgon for the high crime of being raped by Poseidon in one of her temples. Then of course there was Zeus, who punished Prometheus for the high crime of giving mankind the fire of the gods and generally outwitting him. It is also possible to think of some Greek myths representing the subjugation of other cultures by the Hellenistic world, such as the punishment of Marsyas (who according to some represented the religion of the Pelasgians, and was in the myths a devotee of the Phrygian goddess Cybele) by Apollo (the champion of Hellenistic civilization).

The mythology of Hinduism, which although not properly a polytheistic religion (it is in practice a semi-monotheistic religion wherein all of the gods are actually avatars of Brahman, the true God) does contain the trappings of a polytheistic religion, is rife with demonizations of other of religions. Buddhism is frequently demonized in Hindu myths as a device by which to deceive and weaken the enemies of the devas, with Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) posited as an avatar of the god Vishnu sent to spread a false religion for the purposes of fooling the Asuras into not giving them sacrifices in order to justify slaughtering them. Vishnu also in a similar myth spreads Jainism to the Asuras for the exact same purpose through a man named Mayamoha. In a similar vein, the Tripurasura earn mansions in the sky through penances for Brahma, and because the devas complain about this, Vishnu tricks the Tripurasura into becoming atheists in order to justify Shiva destroying them (he initially refuses to take action against them on the grounds that they weren’t doing anything wrong or at least they weren’t violating the Vedic faith). Another myth has the god Brihaspati, the guru of the devas, create the Carvaka doctrine for the purpose of deceiving the Asuras, while disguised as Shukracharya, the guru of the Asuras. Rudra also has a man named Jaimimi spread the doctrine of Purva Mimamsa (which holds the universe to be endless) to the Asuras. There’s also the possibility that the Asuras themselves were demonizations of the Carvaka school of Hinduism, which is an atheistic materialist philosophy, and the presence of a demon named Charvaka would appear to suggest this. Hell, the Dasas (a class of demon in Hindu myth) may well have been demonizations of a people who were conquered by the Vedic Aryans, and the Dravidians also may have had a goddess that was turned into a type of demon called a Yakshini. The overall message is clear enough: Vedic Brahmanism is the supreme doctrine and should be followed, while non-Vedic/non-Brahmanic faiths are evil and foolish.

Sometimes in Hindu myth even gods within the mainline of Hinduism can be deemed unworthy of worship within the myth. Take note of the god Brahma, the god of creation. Although he is part of the Trimurti, the trinity of Hindu gods representing the cyclic process of the universe (Brahma for creation, Vishnu for preservation, Shiva for destruction), Brahma does not seem to be worshipped as much as Vishnu and Shiva and indeed receives very little mainstream worship. This is perhaps because of a myth wherein Shiva curses Brahma so that he would not be worshipped. There are many versions of this myth: one myth holds that Shiva cursed Brahma after he attempted to reach the top point of his fiery pillar form through deception, another holds that he was cursed because he lusted after a goddess named Shatarupa, which he created and thus his lust constituted an incestuous relationship. In any case, Brahma, although still situated within the Trimurti, became somewhat “unholy”.

Pre-Christian pagan religions even evolved towards monotheism in some stages. In Egypt, for example, there was a period where the cult of the sun god Aten had replaced the traditional Egyptian polytheistic religion, with Aten as the only remaining god available for worship with the other gods barred from worship. In Canaan, as I already mentioned, Semitic polytheism gradually evolved from henotheism to monotheism which gave rise to Judaism as we know it today. In India, the Vedic polytheism eventually evolved into a complicated belief system characterized by a belief in One God (Brahman), with the other deities being emanations thereof. In Greece, many schools of pagan philosophy, as they developed, began critiquing anthropomorphic polytheism and traditional mythology (though never railing against traditional sacrifices) and began to develop concepts akin to the monotheistic conception of God. For the Stoics, God was no less than the whole universe in corporeal form. For Plato, God was an immutable and perfect principle of reason from which the universe emanated. For Aristotle, God might be the Prime Mover, first or causeless cause, a perfect and unmoved intellect that is the basis of all motion and change in the universe. All of this was still situated in the pre-Christian era and the pagan tradition. In fact, in many instances, the principle of the supreme being or reality was directly identified with Zeus, the chief god of the Hellenic pantheon. Some Stoics, for example, identified the God that is otherwise the corporeal universe with Zeus.

The idea that there was no jealous God in the pre-Christian world sort of rests on a broader assumption that the pre-Christian paganism had nothing in common with Abrahamic monotheism, which, while in some ways true, is broadly speaking an anachronism. The foundation of the jealous God, the soil as it were, is in those pre-Christian traditions, whether it be in Yahweh’s rejection of his fellow gods or in Zeus’ jealousy towards mankind.

Zeus at Olympia

The New Delhi riots and fascism

In New Delhi this week, as US President Donald Trump visits India, violent unrest has been erupting for a few days now as Hindus clash with Muslims over a policy implemented by Narendra Modi, the current prime minister, known as the Citizenship Amendment Act. As of now 21 people have been killed and up to 200 people have been injured. What is noteworthy about these riots is that Muslim settlements in particular have been scorched while apparently Hindu settlements have not been scorched, suggesting that a significant portion of the violence and destruction would have been instigated by Hindutva extremists. The riots also see Hindutva mobs chanting “Jai Shri Ram”, meaning “Hail Lord Ram” (or Rama, an avatar of Vishnu), which is a major rallying cry for Hindutvas, and it is here that we can establish the major context as relates to Hindutva of these riots, and from there why we should not be surprised about these riots (other than in relation to the scale of the violence, of course).

We can begin with the Citizenship Amendment Act. Many commentators highlight that it is a law designed to make it easier for non-Muslims to gain Indian citizenship. It’s true purpose, however, is to directly exclude Muslims from Indian citizenship so that they could be deported. As part of this legislative program the Indian government introduced a National Register of Citizens, which requires all Indians to provide documentation proving that they are Indian citizens, while the Citizenship Amendment Act would grant citizenship documents to any illegal immigrants who are not Muslims. Furthermore the government is also building detention camps for the purpose of holding people who fail to attain citizenship, using the labour of the very Muslims that the government will later detain there upon its completion. While some would deny that this is intended to unjustly discriminate against Muslims, Amit Shah, Modi’s Minister of Home Affairs and close ally, has openly stated that the party intends to implement the CAA for the purpose of granting non-Muslims citizenship and then implementing the NRC in order to deny citizenship to Muslims (or “the infiltrators” as he calls them). This suggests that the Bharatiya Janata Party knows exactly what they’re doing by implementing this legislation – they want to create a country where Muslims are denied the basic rights of citizenship on the grounds of their faith. What’s more, what is happening in India has striking parallels to what happened in Nazi Germany. The Nazis similarly drafted legislation designed to exclude Jews from German citizenship through what was known as the Nuremberg Laws. And of course, we all know what happened to the Jews after that. Not to mention, Amit Shah has very publicly referred to Muslims not only as “infiltrators”, but also refers to them as “sucking the blood of this country like parasites”, which is in many ways an echo of kind of blood libel that was once reserved for Jews in anti-semitic tirades, such as the kind that were promulgated by the Nazis. We can safely conclude, then, that this legislation is the means by which India will transform into a fascist state, and so what Modi and his government are doing is fascism, plain and simple.

So it should come as no surprise then thhere have been multiple protests over this law for months. It is worth noting that said protests had not initially descended into mob violence, it was only relatively recently (as of Sunday) that clashes began to break out. Given that the Hindutvas have a habit of instigating and causing violence towards political opponents without provocation, we are left to assume that it is the Hindutvas, perhaps seeking to browbeat popular dissent, that are the primary cause of the violence.

Then there’s the “Jai Shri Ram” rallying cry. Last year, a Muslim man named Tabrez Ansari was murdered by a mob of Hindutva men in Jharkhand. They tied him to a pole, beat him, and forced him to chant “Jai Shri Ram” while he pleaded for his force, before ultimately handing him over to the police, who imprisoned him and left him to die from his injuries. The month before had seen a steep rise in violent attacks carried out against innocent Muslims by Hindutva thugs, who just like in this instance forced their victims to chant “Jai Shri Ram”, along with other nationalist slogans such as “Bharat Mata ki Jai” (“Long Live Mother India”) and “Pakistan Murdabad” (“Death to Pakistan”). The slogan “Jai Shri Ram” likely originated as a simple religious greeting, comparable to “Namaste” and the like. However, since the 1980s, the Bharatiya Janata Party and various Hindutva movements used it as a political slogan as part of their campaign to build a temple to Rama in a part of Ayodhya that they believe was controlled by Hindus and wrongfully usurped by Muslims. In 1992, the Babri Masjid mosque that once sat there was destroyed by BJP-aligned mobs, who chanted “Jai Shri Ram” in the midst of their destruction. Ever since, that chant has frequently accompanied various acts of Hindutva violence and rape, such as the Gargi College molestations that occurred earlier this month, and the BJP has adopted that slogan for their own purposes. As such, the chanting of “Jai Shri Ram” can be seen as the Hindutva equivalent of an Islamist terrorist shouting “Allahu Akbar” while carrying out his crimes.

Finally, as I learned about the riots one question struck me: what was Modi doing about these riots? After all, the last time I recall Modi presiding over a major religious riot was when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002, when riots Hindus began attacking and killing Muslims. Despite a Supreme Court ruling exonerating him, clearing him of complicity, there is still a sense that he did nothing to disperse the riots, or indeed may have instigated them himself, and it’s rather telling that, every time the subject comes up, he has a habit of dodging the subject and once even walked out of an interview wherein he was asked if he regretted that the killings happened. No one would assume that this was the action of a man of clear conscience, free of culpability or complicity, capable of defending his actions, other than a complete and total rube. Now that he is again residing over a major riot, this time as Prime Minister, it becomes pertinent to ask what his actions over the riots have been so far. Not much, I imagine, considering he’s rather busy doing trade talks with Trump, other than a tepid appeal to peace and brotherhood – tepid, I say, because his entire political project has been built atop anything but. And so far, I have been hearing reports about how police in New Dehli have done very little to intervene in the situation, with some police forces claiming they are helpless to act, and telling journalists that they cannot protect them. Needless to say this doesn’t sound like a situation that has been put under control.

In my opinion, the bloodshed in New Dehli is the culmination of a growing and strengthening fascist movement in India, and what we are seeing can be treated as a repeat of the atrocities that happened in Gujarat about 18 years ago. We’re seeing signs of a grim future for India, as the stage is set for what amounts to the rebirth of the Third Reich.

The burning of a settlement in New Delhi


Miscellaneous musings on Hindutva and volkisch paganism

This weekend I stumbled across a video about Hindutva on YouTube, consisting of an interview with a man named Shashi Tharoor. Tharoor is an Indian politician, an MP serving under the Indian National Congress (which appears to be a liberal social-democratic party), and the author of a book entitled Why I Am A Hindu, in which he apparently discusses his relationship with the Hindu religion so as to repudiate the Hindutva ideology that has become prevalent in his country. I will leave the video at the end of this post for your interest, but for the purpose of this post, I’d like to cite a part of what Tharoor says in the video that I find pertinent.

Tharoor makes an important point about the character of Hindutva, namely that it is not actually a religious ideology in the sense that it serves as a representation of the Hindu religion, but instead a purely political ideology that distorts Hinduism for its own ends.

Hindutva is a political ideology. It’s not really a religious interpretation. It’s a political ideology that has hung itself on a hook that is embedded on the wall of religion. But it is not actually a religious ideology. What they’ve done is they have created a political project around the idea that the people who follow the religion are a distinct people. Some have even used the word Hindu race. They have their own culture, their own history, their own heroes. And this collectivity has somehow been humiliated, conquered, subjugated. 200 years of British rule, 1,000 years of Muslim invasions. Now the time has come for them to reassert themselves. And Hindutva is a project to advance the political agenda of those who believe this by trying to create a consciousness of separation amongst these self-defined Hindus.

Another insightful portion of the interview is the manner in which he describes the popular schism between Hindus in Indian society through his explanation of the argument he wanted to present in his book:

I wanted this to be an argument within the Hindu faith between people who consider themselves to be good Hindus, or decent Hindus, or believing Hindus, or seeking Hindus whichever phrase you want, but who don’t subscribe to this kind of notion of Hindutva, and those who have reduced Hinduism, far from the soaring metaphysics and philosophy inquiry and spiritual yearnings of the ancient texts, into something more akin to the team loyalty of the British football hooligan.

Now, while I think that it is impossible to truly separate Hindutva from the context of the Hindu religion, he makes a fairly astute observation of Hindutva as a general phenomenon. Indeed, the Hindutva ideology, being a nationalist ideology, expertly embodies the fixation on tribal identity and the belief that a nation is unique on the basis of its in-group. It is not even a matter of speculation to suggest that Hindutva basis its concept of Indian civilizational uniqueness on race, because as I have established before the earliest thinkers of Hindutva were quite explicit in their views about “the Race” and the need to preserve it. Indeed, such a rationale underpins the tendency of many Hindutvas, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to support Israel. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the same man who praise the regimes of Hitler and Mussolini, said it “will gladden us almost as much as our Jewish friends” if Israel were to be created as an ethnic state for the Jews. In fact, he apparently opposed the UN on the proposal to partition Palestine into a bi-national Arab-Jewish state in 1947. If this doesn’t underscore the racialist basis for their support of Israel enough, Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar spelled it out quite plainly in We, or Our Nationhood Defined:

The Jews had maintained their race, religion, culture and language, and all they wanted was their natural territory to complete their nationality. The reconstruction of the Hebrew Nation in Palestine is just an affirmation of the fact that Country, Race, Religion, Culture and Language must exist together to form a full nation idea.

In other words, the Hindutvas have always held ethnocentrism to be a central component of the nation state, and Hindutva has always been an ethnocentric ideology, as evidence by its tendency to support other movements that promote ethnonationalism during the 20th century.

Now, this racialist outlook and the way by which the belief system it wants to attach itself to is bastardized that it may be repurposed to serve the goals of racial politics to the point of effectively being detached from the broader religion, it reminds me of something else I’ve seen. In fact, I’m beginning to suspect that Hindutva is essentially the Indian equivalent of the Western phenomenon known as Volkisch Paganism (also known as Neo-Volkisch movements). The term Volkisch Paganism, in a modern context at least, refers to a belief system that seeks to blend paganism or pre-Christian polytheism with racially identitarian ideology – in particular, white nationalist or white supremacist ideology, often including neo-Nazism. In many cases, it is simply a kind of opportunism on the part of white nationalists to appropriate paganism for their own ideology, and it often seems unconnected to paganism, both historical and modern. While it is not universally true that pagan belief systems explicitly condemn racism, there is an example from the Greek poet Pindar which explicitly affirms that the “races” stem from the same source.

One race there is of men and one of gods, but from one mother draw we both our breath, yet is the strength of us diverse altogether, for the race of man is as nought, but the brazen heaven abideth, a habitation steadfast unto everlasting.

Thus we can determine with some confidence that the volkisch character of volkisch paganism is a modern construct, rather than a reconstruction of ancient philosophy.

In addition to this, I sometimes hear of Volkisch pagans opportunistically support Christianity in service of their racial ideology. A good example of this is how, some time after the Christchurch shooting, I encountered a volkisch pagan on the internet who praised Brenton Tarrant, the man responsible for the shooting, as a hero of the white race.

An idiotic volkisch pagan praising Brenton Tarrant

The supreme irony of this statement is that Tarrant cannot accurately be described as a pagan. The thing about his manifesto that you can point to in order to pin him as a pagan is the part where he says “I will see you in Valhalla”, which is of course the hall of Odin that serves as the resting place of Vikings who died in battle. However, even this follows directly from “god bless you all”, rather than any praise of Odin. However that is not all. While Tarrant claimed to be an agnostic on the subject of Christianity, saying “That is complicated. When I know, I will tell you.”, he nonetheless made a number of appeals to Christianity in his manifesto. For example, this is the part of his manifesto that was addressed to Christians.

“The people worthy of glory, the people blessed by God Our Lord, moan and fall under the weight of these outrages and most shameful humiliations. The race of the elect suffers outrageous persecutions, and the impious race of the Saracens respects neither the virgins of the Lord nor the colleges of priests. They run over the weak and the elderly, they seize the children from their mothers so that they might forget, among the barbarians, the name of God.

That perverse nation profanes the hospices … The temple of the Lord is treated like a criminal and the ornaments of the sanctuary are robbed. “What more shall I say to you? “We are disgraced, sons and brothers, who live in these days of calamities! Can we look at the world in this century reproved by Heaven to witness the desolation of the Holy City and remain in peace while it is so
oppressed? Is it not preferable to die in war rather than suffer any longer so horrible a spectacle? Let us all weep for our faults that raise the divine ire, yes, let us weep… But let not our tears be like the seed thrown into the sand. Let the fire of our repentance raise up the Holy War and the love of our brethren lead us into combat. Let our lives be stronger than
death to fight against the enemies of the Christian people.” ASK YOURSELF, WHAT WOULD POPE URBAN II DO?

And here is the part that he addressed to the Turks:

You can live in peace in your own lands, and may no harm come to you. On the east side of the Bosphorus. But if you attempt to live in European lands, anywhere west of the Bosphorus. We will kill you and drive you roaches from our lands. We are coming for Constantinople and we will destroy every mosque and minaret in the city. The Hagia Sophia will be free of minarets and Constantinople will be rightfully christian owned once more. FLEE TO YOUR OWN LANDS, WHILE YOU STILL HAVE THE CHANCE

And here is a section of the part talking about the radicalization of young men, wherein he basically makes the same argument as people like Jordan Peterson when they talk about secularism.

These men and women are not being being brain-washed, corrupted or misled. They are finally removing their blindfolds and seeing the reality of the the world and their peoples future. The truth that the West killed the notion of god, and proceeded to replace it with nothing. Brought forth two competing ideologies (communism and fascism)to replace this loss of god, then proceeded to allow both sides to slaughter each other to a standstill and then let corporate backed capitalists tear the survivor to pieces. Resulting in a society with no core beliefs, no purpose and no vision for the future.

All of these sections place a very strong attachment to Christianity as a cultural force for Europe. Even if we can assume that the shooter was not formally Christian, he could still be counted as pro-Christian in the sense that he considered Christianity, or more or less Christian culture, a positive civilizational force that needs to be defended from Islamic aggression – one could, in this sense, draw parallels to the way Hindutva prioritizes the desire to find Islamic aggression towards Hinduism as a civilizational-political force.

I hope these miscellaneous thoughts go anywhere in explaining why I have such hatred of things like Hindutva and Volkisch Paganism. They are opportunistic bastardizations of the creeds they claim to represent, and in practice serve as spiritual bulwarks for fascism. They must be opposed not only by secular individuals who believe in secular society, but also most vociferously by people of the very creeds that these ideologies defile.

A Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh march

The BJP’s holy war

So, we’re here it would seem. This past week we’ve seen a historic escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan that will probably, though some would say not assuredly, lead to war between the two countries – a decidedly grim prospect for the region and perhaps beyond considering both countries possess an arsenal of nuclear weapons. Before we get into the main angle I had in mind for this post it’s worth going over just what happened, and it’s worth keeping in mind several developments had been occurring on Tuesday alone.

Ever since the partition of India from the British Empire in 1947, there has been conflict between India and Pakistan at the borders of the two countries, with particular attention paid to the Kashmir territory, but the last few weeks have seen major conflagration on the India-Pakistan border. In February 14th when a Deobandi Islamist terror group named Jaish-e-Mohammed attacked Indian convoys in Pulwama. The Pakistani government denies being involved in the attack, and the group is not obviously connected to the Pakistani government (although the Indian media frequently claims the opposite), in fact the group is officially banned in Pakistan. However, that didn’t stop India from sending its jets over the border in order to strike Pakistani territory, claiming that they were attacking a terrorist camp. In response, Pakistan began firing shells at India, and is even beginning to hint about the use of nuclear weapons.

This, I think, should be a concise enough summation of the surrounding events. Now, then, we can get to the angle I want to postulate – that India is the primary aggressor in the recent standoffs, and that the intent behind this is to wage holy war with Pakistan.

For starters, while the Indian government claims it was striking Jaish-e-Mohammed in Balatok, Pakistani locals tend to say that no damage was done to Jaish within the area. This raises the question of just what India attacked if not a Jaish base. That they attacked Pakistan in response to Jaish-e-Mohammed’s attack suggests that they consider Jaish-e-Mohammed to be an ally of Pakistan or a proxy of Pakistan. Although there is no real evidence that Jaish-e-Mohammed is backed by Pakistan, some scholars and the Indian media like to claim that Pakistan funds them. It is possible that the Indian government assumes this as well, and that this was the rationale to strike at Pakistan in response to being attacked by Jaish forces.

Oh, and speaking of the Indian media, One key thing to remember is that Indian media on the subject of Pakistan, especially right now, is about as untrustworthy as American media is on countries they either don’t like or think should be invaded by the US. In fact, the Indian media is in full spin generating falsehoods about Pakistan’s role in the recent standoff in order to cultivate manufactured consent for war in the Indian population. One Indian Express article for example claims that Pakistan used F-16 aircraft to attack Indian bases, without actually presenting any evidence (despite having “here’s the proof” in the headline). It is entirely possible in my view India is seeing the same type of disinformation campaign that presaged the American invasion of Iraq in 2002.

But why I do I suspect a big religious angle to the coming conflict? Why holy war? Well, the first thing that stuck out for me is how, hours after the airstrikes launched at Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a metro journey in Dehli from Khan Market to East of Kailash in order to visit the ISKCON Temple (also known as the Glory Of India & Vedic Cultural Centre), as well as apparently unveiling a giant Bhagavad Gita at an event held there. More starkly, in that same event he gave a speech following the air strikes wherein he said this:

“The power of God is always with us to save the Earth from the enemies of humanity. We are attempting to spread this message with complete authenticity to the evil spirits and asuras. Today is very significant.”

Judging from the context of this speech, it’s very clear that Modi is referring to the nation of Pakistan and its people as demons, as Asuras (the enemies of the Devas) and as enemies of humanity, from whom the Earth is to be saved. This is very explicitly not only a prelude to conflict within the region and a sign of India’s intent to fight Pakistan but also a clear invocation of the Hindu religion in support of the coming war.

It is also worth noting that a major goal of Hindutva ideology is the creation of the Akhand Bharata (or “Undivided India”), an irredentist project aimed at bringing together the whole Indian subcontinent under the rule of India. This of course would require the subjugation of Pakistan by India so that it may come under its rule.

But what is the angle on the part of the BJP for such holy war? In my view, the answer may lie in good old-fashioned political maneuvering. There is to be a general election in India this year, expected to be held between April and May, and from what I understand Narendra Modi has been declining in popularity. In August 2018 his popularity slipped below 50% for the first time, and by the end of the year many Indians began to consider that their lives have worsened under his tenure as Prime Minister. However, the recent strikes against Pakistan have been a source of hope for the BJP, as Indians have been taking to the streets to celebrate India’s attack on Pakistan – which has been interpreted as a sign that Modi’s popularity may be set to grow again just a few months ahead of his potential re-election.

So, while I have no doubt Pakistan is pretty dangerous in this situation as well, I suspect India is acting as the primary aggressor in this mess, seeking to engender a holy war in the region in order to crush Pakistan so that Modi can stay in power for a little longer in order to flex on Islam. Kind of a petty way to send millions of people to their deaths if you ask me.

The rise of Hindu nationalism in India and beyond

This month, the Indian Science Congress Association held its 106th annual summit, as it traditionally does on the first week of January. In this summit, a number of Indian scientists have come out against the theories of Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton, who form part of the axis upon which modern scientific observation and understanding of the universe are based, while claiming that ancient Hindu religious texts are the actual basis of modern science. In one case, the head of a university based in south India actually claimed that stem cell research was already practiced in India thousands of years ago and was described in ancient texts. Another academic, G Nageshwar Rao, claimed that the Kauravas, the descendants of a king named Kuru according to the Mahabharata, were created via stem cell research as test tube babies. He also claimed that the astra and shastra, mythical weapons used by the gods in Indian mythology, were actually pre-modern guided missiles that had been used in India thousands of years before guided missiles were actually developed, and that the demon king Ravana was not only real but also possessed 24 types of aircraft and a network of landing strips in Sri Lanka. One scientist, Kannan Jegathala Krishnan, claimed that Einstein’s theories were “misleading” and that Newton “failed to understand gravitational repulsive forces”. A supposed paleontologist named Ashu Khosla claimed that dinosaurs were created by the deity Brahma, who he also claimed documented such creations in Indian religious scriptures. Essentially, the conference became a platform for Hindu creationism and attempts by religious ideologues to claim the history of modern science as the ancient history of India. There was also a naked appeal to base nationalism, as Krishnan even went so far as to suggest that gravitational waves should be renamed “Narendra Modi Waves”, after the current Prime Minister of India, and that the gravitational lensing effect should be renamed the “Harsh Vardhan effect”, presumably after the Indian politician of the same name.

As absurd as this must seem, and rightfully so, such developments are unfortunately not new to the Indian scientific community or to Indian society at large. In 2017, the junior education minister Satyapal Singh, who also happens to be in the BJP, claimed that planes were first mentioned in the Ramayana and that the plane was first invented in India eight years before the Wright Brothers by Shivakar Babuji Talpade. Such claims, however, remain unverified. The same man also claimed that there existed trees in the kingdom of Ravana (presumably referring to Sri Lanka, I guess) that didn’t need to be watered because they contained a mythical elixir named Chandramani, and that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection was incorrect. Of course two years before that a man named Anand Bodas claimed in that year’s Indian Science Congress that a Vedic sage named Bharadwaja invented the world’s first plane and that ancient planes had 40 engines. The home minister Rajnath Singh (another BJP politician) claimed that the principle of quantum uncertainity, which was theorized by Werner Heisenburg in 1927, is actually based on Vedic scripture. Rajashtan education minister Vasudev Devnani (yet another BJP politician) claimed that cows are the only animals that inhale and exhale oxygen in order to add “scientific significance” to the belief that the cow is a sacred animal. A BJP lawmaker named Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank at one point claimed that astrology is superior to science, literally calling science “a dwarf before astrology”, that a sage named Kanad conducted the first nuclear test one lakh year (that’s about 100,000 years) ago, and that ancient Indians had the knowledge of performing transplants. Another BJP MP named Shankarbhai Vegad, in his push for a ban on cattle slaughter, claimed that the urine and feces of cows are capable of curing cancer and other ailments. Even Narendra Modi himself once claimed that the Hindu deity Ganesha was the result of the literal attachment of an elephant’s head onto the body of a human boy, supposedly an ancient form of plastic surgery.

Narendra Modi depicted in “‘Chai Pe Charcha” with Ganesha

It’s tempting for me to look at this and be reminded of a sort of popular cult around Hinduism that’s been around for decades now, even among supposedly skeptical, scientifically-minded atheists. In fact, Carl Sagan himself described Hinduism as “the only religion in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology” and in one of his books he said that the Nataraja, the famous icon of the deity Shiva dancing the universe into destruction, represents an ancient understanding of what we now refer to as the Big Bang. He also talked about Hindu cosmology in one episode of his TV series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. In my day I have seen the idea of Hinduism as an especially scientific religion is often spread by New Agers, as well as Hindus seeking to big up their religion, and I definitely see there being a sort of popular exotic fascination with Hinduism among spiritualists, occult circles, people who don’t believe in Christianity but look for other beliefs, pagans, some agnostics, a few atheists and almost certainly fellow travelers of the Left Hand Path. Indeed, historically I have not been above such exotic fascination myself, and I still see myself reading about Hinduism to this day even though I don’t ascribe myself to the religion, and I certainly don’t endorse any of the creationism and pseudoscience coming from Hindu circles.

However, the phenomenon we are seeing in India is not like the kind of exoticist obsession of Hinduism found in the West. Instead, it’s very likely that the kind of pseudoscience, creationism and revisionism we’re seeing is the product of the influence of Hindu nationalism, which is currently a very powerful movement in India represented by the ruling party.

You may have noticed it already, but there’s a pretty strong link between this broad trend of religious historical revisionism and the Bharatiya Janata Party, all the way up to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who leads the party in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of parliament) and serves as its chairperson in parliament. As many people in India have noticed, this is far from a coincidence. The BJP is a conservative nationalist party, and one of their main flanks appears to be an ideology known as Hindutva. The term Hindutva refers to a particular form of Indian nationalism and Hindu conservatism that stresses the singular importance of the Hindu religion in Indian politics and public life. Like pretty much all nationalist movements they tend to think of the cultural body as the defining body of the nation (a la Andrew Breitbart’s axiom “politics is downstream from culture”), and they believe that Hindu culture and Indian culture represent the same entity. Consequently they frequently pressure the Indian government to push for policies intended to “protect” Hindu culture from perceived threats. This would explain why BJP is so hellbent on introducing a version of scientific truth that aligns with Hindu myth and religious tradition.

It also lends to a particular hostility towards Christians and Muslims, whether they are born, raised and integrated into Indian society or not, because Christianity and Islam represent foreign religions in India, which according to Hindutva ideology represent a threat to the Indian nation. Judaism and Zoroastrianism are also excluded from the Hindutva milieu as foreign religions, while Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism are welcomed because they see them as extensions of the Indian Dharma or religion – the fact that those three religions contradict Hinduism in various areas doesn’t seem to be a problem with them, due to the fact that they all originate in India. This characteristic lends itself to a sense of ethnocentrism on the part the Hindutva movement, with religious identity being an extension of ethnic identity and opposing foreign peoples through their religious identity. Because of this, many commentators have compared Hindutva to the alt-right, and right-wing online movements sometimes embrace Hindutva.

The religious fundamentalism and nationalist agenda of Hindutva has already had a major effect on Indian society for some time now, and the BJP have already set about perverting the Indian education system in order to condition the public to their agenda. In 2001, a BJP MP named Murli Manohar Joshi managed to get astrology taught as a course in Indian universities as part of the national curriculum. But if that wasn’t enough, the BJP managed to get history textbooks altered to suit their political agenda. In 2016, public schools in Rajasthan released new social studies textbooks that removed all information about India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and which renamed the Indus Valley Civilization to the Sindhu-Saraswati Culture, presumably named after the Hindu goddess Saraswati, despite the fact that Hindu culture as we know it did not emerge until some time after the Indus Valley Civilzation. Many Rajasthan textbooks even outright glorify the Modi government. In Maharashtra, new textbooks altered the preamble of the Indian Constitution, replacing the words “dharma nirpeksh” (meaning “religion neutral”, thus implying secularism) with “panth nirpeksh” (meaning “sect neutral”) in order to paint the country as based on a national unity of Hindu sects rather than a secular democratic nation, and the state education board has even gone so far as to remove references to the Mughals from their history textbooks.

The fact that the world famous Taj Mahal was built by a Mughal emperor doesn’t seem to bother Hindutvas for some reason.

It’s here that we see in Hindutva some striking parallels with two other right-wing movements in different parts of the world. First, there is the state sponsorship of psuedoscience and religious fundamentalism, which has strong parallels with the American religious right and their tendency to side with creationism (the current Vice President Mike Pence is on record with his belief that evolution is “just a theory”) and evangelical fundamentalists, not to mention climate science denialists. Second, we have rampant historical revisionism, which is comparable to similar textbook controversies in neighbouring Pakistan based on Islamic nationalism (often to the point of removing references to minority religions), but also more pertinently to the Japanese conservative/reactionary organization known as Nippon Kaigi, which produces and distributes history textbooks written to reflect Japanese national pride at the expense of historical accuracy, particularly when it comes to World War 2 and the Nanking massacre.

But there’s another twist to the Hindutva movement. Historically, the Hindutva movement has also been sympathetic to 20th century fascism, as suggested by the appraisal of German and Italian fascism by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the progenitor of the Hindutva idea:

“Surely Hitler knows better than Pandit Nehru [the first prime minister of India] does what suits Germany best. The very fact that Germany or Italy has so wonderfully recovered and grown so powerful as never before at the touch of Nazi or Fascist magical wand is enough to prove that those political ‘isms’ were the most congenial tonics their health demanded.”

In fact, the BJP as a party is said to have emerged from another organization named Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (or RSS), a right-wing paramilitary volunteer organization also based in Hindutva ideology widely viewed as the ideological inspiration for the BJP. Their main goal is to establish India as a Hindu nation, rather than a secular one. This group is probably famous for encouraging the drinking of cow urine, claiming that it has the ability to cure diabetes and about 80 other diseases – another pseudoscientific claim likely meant to be tied to Hindu religious beliefs. However, this group seems to have been enamored with fascism. An example of fascistic sentiment within the group can be found in the writings of Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, the second leader of RSS, who espoused many beliefs that could be characterized as fascistic. For example, in his book We, or Our Nationhood Defined he stressed the supposed importance of preserving the racial-cultural purity of the Indian nation, citing Nazi Germany as an example of racial pride to draw lessons on racial and cultural unity from:

“To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by. Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.”

In Bunch of Thoughts, he described democracy as “to a very large extent only a myth in practice” and he believed individual freedom was merely a high-minded concept that for him “only meant the freedom of those talented few to exploit the rest”. That last point is worth noting as it could easily be interpreted as a critique of capitalism in a sense, however this was decidedly not from a socialist perspective considering both the rejection of democracy and his antipathy towards communism, which along with Christianity and Islam were the main targets of his condemnation who he believed had sinister designs for the Indian nation. Stated rejection of both capitalism and communism is very much a position found in many fascistic movements, with fascism often representing the “third position”.

The movement even had some ties with Savitri Devi (born Maximiani Portas), the infamous French fascist occultist who combined Hinduism and New Age spiritualism with Hitlerian ideology and who remains a powerful inspiration to modern esoteric fascist movements. During the 1930’s, Devi coordinated with RSS along with several other radical nationalist and fascist movements in India in order to promote her ideas about Aryanism to an audience she believed would be adopt them with open arms. At the time, those groups were heavily invested in resisting the influence of Islam in the country, considering Islam to be a threat to the nation. Devi believed the Indian Hindus were the only people on Earth who still worshiped the gods of the Aryan race (which of course would mean that the Nazi master race were devout Hindus) and could end the influence of the Jewish race in the world, and it was after meeting with Srimat Swami Satyananda (then president of the Hindu Mission in what was known as Calcutta) that she came to believe that Adolf Hitler was a mortal incarnation of the deity Vishnu. Indeed, this idea seems to have been surprisingly widespread among wealthy Indian Hindus in Kolkata, as well as in Nagpur where he apparently remains an idol to some Hindu nationalists.

In fact perhaps it’s worth mentioning at this point that Adolf Hitler and his writings, for some reason, don’t have the same stigma in India that they rightly do here in the West. For example, Hitler’s writings and Nazi memorabilia have attracted the attention of young Indians in the not too distant past, with Mein Kampf at one point being a bestseller in the country. In fact just the name Hitler is so uncontroversial there compared to the West that it even appears as the name of various businesses, such as the infamous Hitler’s Den in Nagpur and a clothing store named Hitler in Ahmedabad. It’s even becoming something of a comic trope in Indian politics, as last year an Indian MP named Naramalli Sivaprasad dressed up as Hitler and impersonated him in parliament while demanding more economic assistance to the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Naramalli Sivaprasad, dressed as Hitler for some reason

The RSS movement remains active and powerful within Indian politics, working to promote the BJP in order to get their political interests fulfilled in the halls of Indian power. In fact Narendra Modi himself got his start as an RSS activist before eventually moving on to working as an MP for the BJP. The RSS has also boasted about being involved in the Gujarat riots of 2002, in which up to 2,000 people were killed, most of them apparently Muslims. In 2017 one of their leaders, Kundan Chandrawat, claimed in a public tirade that “Hindu society” killed 2,000 Muslims in Gujarat as vengeance for the Hindu pilgrims who died in a train burning near a railway station of Godhra, and also stated that he would reward whoever brought him the head of Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala, a payment of one crore rupees (that’s approximately $140,000 or about £107,000). He also claimed that communists and Kerala’s Left Front government were responsible for murdering their comrades in Kerala, and he went so far as to say the following in his speech:

“You have killed 300 pracharaks and activists, we will present Bharat Mata with a garland of 300,000 skulls in return.

Leftists, beware.”

What may be the most surprising thing you’ll learn about Hindutva is that Hindutva movements are not only active in India, and in fact they have an extensive network of organizations active in the United States. According to a 2014 report entitled Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Nonprofit Groups, there are several groups spawned from the RSS and many other Hindutva groups active within the United States of America spreading their nationalist ideology. RSS has a subsidiary group named Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (or HSS), which is active in the US and many other countries. There’s also VHP of America, VHP meaning Vishwa Hindu Parishad – another Hindutva organization, which is also accused of being involved in the Gujarat riots of 2002. The parent organization, VHP, is also considered a religious militant organization by the CIA and is also active in Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. VHPA claims to have established their first chapter in New York, following the relaxation of the laws concerning Asian immigration to the US during the 1960’s. Both of them are associated with RSS and serve the purpose of mobilizing young Hindus living outside of India, presumably with the intent of having them become loyal acolytes of Hindutva ideology. VHP is also the cultural wing of Sangh Parivar, serving the function of supplying “the pure spirit of the Hindu way of life”. Sangh Parivar in the US promotes textbooks that stress strict emphasis on the Vedas and upper-caste values, contain stories and quotations from their own leaders, lionized stories of the life of Chhatrapati Shivaji Bhonsle (a 17th century Indian monarch who promoted Indian tradition) and his supposed conquest of Islam, and claims that the increasing mistreatment of women in India can be blamed on “Muslim rule” in India. As of 2014, 140 HSS chapters have been identified in the United States. VHPA also runs several family camps in the US, with 16 chapters established nationwide.

Related to VHP is a group named Bajrang Dal, a radical Hindutva group responsible for carrying out attacks on Christian churches because of the alleged defaming of Hindu gods, getting involved in the 2002 Gujarat riots in which many Muslims were killed, and even attacks on ordinary people for celebrating Western holidays such as Valentine’s Day. There is apparently no tax-exempt equivalent to this group in the US, and they are recognized as extremists by the US State Department. They run a website named Hinduunity.org, which is registered to a New York address and apparently hosts a black list of people judged to have committed “crimes against the Hindu people” ranging from Osama bin Laden to the Pope, as well as various journalists, academics and human rights activists, including Angana Chatterji (an anthropologist and feminist activist who has spoken out against Hindutva groups) and Biju Matthew (an Indian-American Marxist activist who co-founded the Forum for Indian Leftists). The website was banned by the Indian government in 2006.

Bajrang Dal members seen burning a cross-shaped effigy, possibly being used as a symbol for Valentine’s Day

Like what the BJP have been doing in India, Hindutva affiliated movements have attempted to alter school textbooks to suit their agenda, thus placing them at the center of academic controversy. In 2005 two Hindu advocacy groups known as the Hindu Education Foundation and the Vedic Foundation, both of them backed by the Hindu American Foundation, attempted to push for changes in California’s sixth grade history textbooks, arguing that they maligned the Hindu religion by misrepresenting Hindu attitudes towards women’s rights, class (or in this case the caste society), the Aryan conquest of northern India and other subjects. They sought to sanitize or even rewrite history in various ways. The Hindu Education Foundation wanted to sanitize the history of the caste system by removing as many references to class antagonism as possible, especially concerning the Dalits (or untouchables), whitewash the history of women’s rights by replacing “men had more rights than women” with “men had different duties and rights from women”, homogenize Hindu belief by trying to conflate modern Brahmanism with the older Vedic religion, rewrite the history of the Aryan conquests in order to downplay the invasion, and even tried to claim that chariots were invented in India (when in fact they weren’t). The Vedic Foundation meanwhile sought to outright remove any references to Hinduism as a heterogeneous religion containing differing schools of philosophy and the religions affect on the status and labour of people in Indian society, replace any references to polytheism with monotheism, replace “Brahman” with “God” and “unity with Brahman” with “God realization” and also whitewash the caste system. At first, many changes they requested were accepted by the Curriculum Commission in a classic fit of capitulation to religious sensibilities, opposed only by a handful of indologists. However, in 2006, the special committee of the California State Board of Education voted to overturn most of the changes that were submitted.

So what do these groups have to do with Hindutva exactly? Well, the Hindu Education Foundation is a project of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA, the American branch of HSS, which is itself a subsidiary of RSS as was already established. The Vedic Foundation is linked to VHP, which as we’ve also established is another pro-Hindutva group. The Hindu American Foundation, which backed both groups, is also tied to a number of Indian nationalist groups. The group’s founder, Mihir Meghani, was a member of RSS and on the governing council of VHPA. HAF leaders have also served as board members of the Vivek Welfare and Educational Foundation, which donated $10,000 to VHP and $4.2 million to the Hindu University of America, a subsidiary of VHPA. One of HAF’s directors, Sheetal Shah, attended a rally organized by the Forum for Hindu Awakening and a nationalist group named Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. HAF co-founder Aseem Shakula has also written a piece defending Narendra Modi over his visa denial and the group itself lobbied in opposition to said visa denial. Basically, the 2005-6 textbook controversy in California was Hindu fundamentalists who were allies or proxies of Indian nationalist groups looking to spread their ideology in the United States. This is a salient example within living memory of Hindutva groups attempting to spread their ideology outside of India, through dark money as is the tradition of the United States.

But Hindutva is not without approbators within the United States. David Frawley, an American Hindu teacher and writer of several books on yoga and Vedic scripture, recently claimed that people who oppose Hindutva but not Hinduism itself are dishonest because they “have rarely defended Hinduism from Marxist, Missionary or Islamist criticisms or projected any positive image of Hinduism in India or the world”. Of course, this is not such a strange statement on his part when you consider that he often endorses pro-Modi sentiment on his Twitter, and he himself has praised Narendra Modi’s election in 2014 and supports his re-election this year. Frawley also considers groups like Sangh Parivar to be comparable to Native American and Aboriginal interest groups, which given their own post-colonialist ontology does not actually do wonders for them in my view at least – post-colonialism, after all, is essentially just reactionary politics but for minority groups and because of that it’s dressed up in the veneer of progressivism. In September last year, Democratic lawmaker Raja Krishnamoorthi attended the World Hindu Congress, alongside RSS leaders and the Vice President of India, in order to preach the philosophy of Vivekananda, who was himself an ardent Hindu nationalist.

This of course brings us rather nicely to a blue elephant in the room known as Tulsi Gabbard, who this month announced her bid to run for President of the United States in 2020. Gabbard has garnered a mixed reputation in the US: one the one hand seen as one of the few authentically progressive politicians in the country, and on the other seen as a paleoconservative in disguise for her anti-Islamic stance and anti-interventionism (the latter of which is mostly treated as a positive thing). She does have some progressive credentials to her name, it must be said. She supported Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency in 2016, is a supporter of universal healthcare and marijuana legalization, opposes the TPP, supports a $15 minimum wage and is in favor of renewing the Glass-Steagall Act. She also opposed the war in Iraq and US intervention in Libya, wants the US to pull out of Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria, and is opposed to the US providing foreign aid to Saudi Arabia. But she also has numerous problematic positions, such as her support for Israel, her soft stance on torture (in fact, at one point she said that when pressed she would likely approve torture), has an inconsistent position on the Iran deal, her anti-interventionist stance ultimately being contradicted by her hawkish stance on the war on terror (including her willingness to use drones in Middle Eastern countries where she deems necessary), the fact that she opposed same-sex marriage and worked with her father’s anti-homosexual campaigns until 2012, her coordinations with right-wing nationalists like Steven Bannon and, most importantly for this post, her support for Narendra Modi. Gabbard supports establishing close ties between the US and India, and has praised Modi as an inspiration to elected officials. She criticized the US government for denying Modi’s visa to the US over his apparent oversight or involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots, which she has tried to downplay saying “there was a lot of misinformation that surrounded the event in 2002”. She congratulated Modi’s election in 2014, and she along with the Overseas Friends of the BJP organized his first trip to the US.

Tulsi Gabbard seen presenting Narendra Modi with a copy of the Bhagavad Gita as a gift

But her support for Modi is not her only connection to Hindutva. Although she is styled as one of the few candidates who doesn’t take corporate money, Gabbard has actually received thousands of dollars from a group called the Hindu American Foundation, which as was already established earlier is pro-Modi and has numerous ties to Hindutva-related groups. She also planned to attend last year’s World Hindu Congress with the likes of Mohan Bhagwat, current chief of RSS, but was forced to withdraw on the grounds that it would be a “partisan political event” after significant protest and threats of boycott by progressive South Asian activists. She also has close ties to Sangh Parivar, apparently through sympathetic donors. As such, Tulsi Gabbard can be seen as something of a proxy for Hindutva interests, most likely tied to her geopolitical interests concerning US alliance with India, as well as mutual hatred of Islam. Also, as something of a side-note, it’s worth mentioning that many Hindu nationalists share support for Israel in common with Tulsi Gabbard, and Narendra Modi himself considers Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to be a close friend. Thus, in a broad sense, we may consider that the unlikely event that the 2020 election were to come down to Trump versus Gabbard would amount to nothing more and nothing less than a contest between the interests of Christian and Hindu nationalisms.

Hindutva’s foreign acolytes and allies are not limited to the US, either. The French journalist Francois Gautier has also openly expressed his admiration for Narendra Modi, claiming that he was a great ecologist who “wanted to make Gujarat the greenest, most investor-friendly state of India”, and is generally a strong supporter of Hindutva movements. He has also claimed that India has been weakened by Buddhism as well as foreign religions, and has attacked the pacifism and liberalism of both Gandhi and Nehru. Gautier even likes to spread the dubious claim that the Kaaba stone in Mecca is actually a Shivalingam. Canadian conservative pundit Tarek Fatah participated in a number of summits hosted by BJP-linked organizations, is beloved by the Indian right-wing for his strident attitude towards Islam and Indian Muslims, and sometimes echoes talking points similar to Hindutva ideology through his Indian ancestry. He even goes so far as to claim himself to be of Indian identity, while attacking his opponents as being affiliated with Pakistan despite being born in Pakistan himself. The Belgian indologist Koenraad Elst is also a noteworthy supporter of Hindutva, and has received praise from the BJP for his book Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid, where he apparently attempts to make a case for Ram Janmabhoomi being the actual birthplace of the mythical Rama, thus strengthening ideas of an authochthonous Hindu tradition and of Hindu revivalism.

Furthermore it’s possible that some Hindutva ideas may even have spread to Norway, inspiring the terrorist Anders Breivik. In Breivik’s manifesto, 2080: A European Declaration of Independence, India is referenced in 102 pages – that’s out of a total of 1,518 pages, but you could argue it’s still more than you might have expected. He accused the Indian government, at the time ruled by a liberal coalition referred to as the United Progressive Alliance, of relying on appeasing Muslims, Christian missionaries and communists, praised Hindu nationalist movements who rioted and attacked Muslims (while reflexively deeming such behaviour counter-productive), said that the goals of the Hindutva movements are “more or less identical” with his own, and cited India was one of a number of countries where he hoped his successors would carry on his mission – the others being Russia, the Philippines, China and Thailand. He also listed a number of websites for numerous Hindu nationalist groups. The groups listed are Bharatiya Janata Party (the current ruling party), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the National Volunteers’ Organisation, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Breivik also cites the works of authors like Shrinandan Vyas, who claims that Muslims killed millions of Hindus in religious genocide, and Kishori Saran Lal, who is often accused of being a spokesperson for RSS (to which he responds, rather conspicuously, by accusing his critics of having a left-wing bias), in order to advance his narrative of Muslims being a genocidal threat to India and the West. Breivik even ordered a badge of his own design (a crusader’s sword piercing a skull marked with the symbols of Islam, communism and Nazism) from India.

The badge that Anders Breivik ordered from India

So what does all of this mean? Well, broadly speaking, it means that Hindutva is nowhere near the insular force that, to the average Westerner, it may seem. Ironically for a nationalist movement, one centered around India no less, Hindutva is not simply an idea confined to India. In fact, it can arguably be said to be a global movement at this point in time, albeit one centered around the interests specific to the Indian nationalist movement, one that has its eyes set on Hindu diaspora across the world and will come out against anyone who dares criticize the Modi government. The foot soldiers of Hindutva are present in the United States in the thousands, and there’s the very real prospect that one of their proxies could become President of the United States. Given Tulsi’s harsh stance towards Pakistan, this could have major implications for India-Pakistan relations, and may even affect the possibility of confrontation going forward. But in a broader sense, it represents a current of radical conservative nationalism with a global presence, or even fascism – the latter being rather hard to deny considering both the RSS’ Hitlerian inspirations and in turn their influence on Anders Breivik.

Hinduism is being used as a vehicle by religious fundamentalists, the Indian bourgeoisie, various petty-bourgeois forces, and reactionaries (and their network of think tanks) for their political purposes, possibly as just another effort to stop any kind of socialist or even social-democratic movement from gaining power in a time characterized by widespread economic instability in the world, but also India’s possible transformation into a new global superpower. It would be wise to keep tracks of the Hindutva movement as India undergoes this transformation, not least due to its infiltration of American society.