No, Rhyd Wildermuth, pluralism is not when you defend fascism

You probably already know about the controversy surrounding Edward Butler, his association with Indica, and Indica’s deep ties to the fascist Hindutva movement. It’s been some time, and the controversy within the Pagan community has definitely not gone away yet. In fact, Edward Butler has not gone without approbators, and one of the people stepping up to defend him is none other than Rhyd Wildermuth, the embattled editor at Gods and Radicals Press known for his increasingly contrarian and reactionary opinions that nonetheless somehow maintains within the scope of Marxism.

Yes, the same man who plays defence for transphobia, denies that people who call themselves fascists are fascists, and tried to claim that the openly fascist Jack Donovan and his Wolves of Vinland organization aren’t fascists, is now defending Edward Butler for his assocation with Indica. What are the odds!

His most recent article, “Polytheistic Pluralism and Sacred Cows”, begins with a meandering and largely irrelevant discourse about the difference between polytheism and monotheism interlaced with the usual cryptic transphobia followed by a sort of biographical account of his transition from somebody who may have had some principles in the past to a guy who calls himself a leftist and yet does nothing attack other leftists, so we’re going to skip all of that and go straight to the point and address the part of the article where he actually starts talking about Edward Butler and Indica.

After puffing up Edward Butler as a friend and wellwisher who was merely attacked by “the woke crowds”, he gets to establishing Indica as “an academic and cultural organization promoting “global study of indigenous knowledge, seeking to bring about a renaissance of indigenous wisdom””, and then we get to his response to the criticisms of Indica:

To get into all the nuances of this problem would take another full essay, but a few things can be cleared up quickly. Firstly, Indica isn’t part of the BJP nor the nationalist youth movement, the RSS. Secondly, their usage of the term hinduvta is much broader and less political than the way the BJP uses it, approximating the way “blackness” is used in the United States as a cultural identity formation. And third, their general focus on “dialogue across civilizations” and focus on Indic religions (including Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism) rather than just Hinduism easily make false the accusations that Indica is really a Hindu-superiority outfit.

Bit by bit let’s attempt to respond to this “point”. First, at least some Indica members are or were demonstrably affiliated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its offshoots, as I have discussed in my previous post on the subject. One of its Chapter Convenors is a man named Jigar Champaklal Inamdar, who Indica themselves note is a member of the BJP. Its Academic Council includes a man named M. D. Srinivas, who seems to have some ties to the RSS. Outside of membership, Indica frequently has featured Ram Madhav, a BJP member, as a guest while promoting his books, which include a treatise on the economic philosophy of Deen Dayal Upadhyay and another book in which he promotes Indian nationalism while condemning political opponents. This should already go some ways into refuting the second point regarding the supposed “apolitical” nature of their concept of Hindutva. But as to the idea that Hindutva could possibly be interpreted as “apolitical”, even if we took Rhyd’s claim seriously that the Indica people do see their project as non-political, it would be a mistake to see Hindutva this way, since the project of Hindutva is inseparable from politics. The founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, explicitly stated that his own concept of Hinduness was not even predicated on religion, and was instead predicated on the racial category of being “Hindu”, which more practically means an Indo-Aryan, autochthonous subject of the Indian state, and a member of any of the religions within India. This is inherently politically defined, and supercedes the traditional boundaries of all the main dharmic faiths, and it also segues nicely into the third point: for Hindutvas to engage in dialogue with Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, is not a refutation of Indica being Hindutvas, because it actually makes perfect sense for Hindutvas to want dialogue with Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs. Hindutvas consider Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, to be part of the umbrella of the identity of “Hinduness”, since in their view, “Hinduness” simply means being Indian, in a national and racial sense, and sense all of the dharmic faiths originated in India, then Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs, would be considered Hindu by Hindutva adherents, despite actually diverging from Hindu tradition in any number of ways.

After this Rhyd attempts to consider the problem of Hindutva, accurately noting the violent attacks on Muslims by Hindutvas, only to then equivocate in relation to apparent attacks on Hindus by Islamic extremists and Naxalites. In attempting to establish the colonial context of the BJP, he seems to transplant the same centrist/quasi-Marxist analysis of America’s election of Donald Trump to the social conditions of India, the efficacy of which I can’t really speak to. His assessment of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be that he is similar but not the same as other politicians like Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, but for him the difference is in the fact of India’s history as a nation that was colonized by the British.

Narendra Modi was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Hindutva militia that preceded the BJP and worked to plant members inside the BJP, since he was only eight years old, and had risen through the ranks of the RSS over the course of decades. Therefore, if we’re really going to be discussing the context of colonialism so as to distinguish the Hindutva movement from Western fascism, we would do well to note the role of the RSS within that same context. I already discussed this in my previous post on the subject, but the RSS did not partake in the struggle against British colonialism. They discouraged their own membership from participating in civil disobedience against the British colonial government, such as the Dandi March, and when the Quit India movement was launched to demand an end to colonial rule, RSS leaders promised the British to encourage members to join the civic guards, a sort of special security force set up by the imperial government. Furthermore the founding father of Hindutva, Vinayak D. Savarkar, during his imprisonment, repeatedly pled for mercy from the British colonial government while encouraging Hindus to cooperate with the British and join the colonial armed forces. In a context of colonial domination, the RSS and the broader Hindutva movement were not only not part of the anti-colonial/anti-imperialist struggle, they were if anything allies of the British colonial domination, and offered support and cooperation to the British government.

Rhyd seems to explicitly reject any comparison between the Hindutva movement and white nationalism on the grounds that Hindutva was formed under colonial rule whereas white nationalism in the US context isn’t. This is something that sounds nuanced until you actually read what the founding fathers of the Hindutva movement had to say about race and its role in the nation state. Madhav Sadhashiv Golwalkar was explicit in his belief that a nation ought to be defined by race, alongside land, culture, religion, and language, all at once, supported Nazi German notions of race pride, and advocated for the existence of a centralized state that suppressed all forms of pride and autonomy that conflicted with the Hindutva identity and its manifestation as the order of the state. Vinayak D. Savarkar expressly defined his notion of “Hinduness” as a racial category, not a religious one, which means that the Hindu nation he advocated was explicitly defined on an ethnic basis. Hindutvas, like Western white nationalists, also support the state of Israel for largely ethno-nationalist reasons, and Savarkar advocated for creation of a Jewish ethnostate while also praising Nazi Germany.

Moving along we arrive at his discourse on “Sacred Cows”, and here is where his attempt to defend Edward Butler by elucidating the nuances of ethno-nationalist fascism gets a tad stranger. He has shifted the subject towards the issue of cattle slaughter in India, supposed left-wing attitudes towards its continuation, and how supposedly the BJP are the only mainstream party to campaign on a platform featuring a ban on cattle slaughter, while critics supposedly denounce bans on cattle slaughter as fascist, and seems to bring up Vandana Shiva as someone on the left who is smeared as a fascist seemingly for supporting Indian traditional knowledge. This is not true. She’s been criticized for many other things, most particularly the scientific basis of her claims about genetically modified foods, as well being a plagiarist, prone to extravagantly incindiary rhetoric about her critics, and for apparently charging thousands of dollars for lectures, but as far as I can see not very many people accuse her of being a fascist or a supporter of Hindutva. That said, she did appear in an interview for Rajiv Malhotra, a fanatical Hindutva-aligned academic who likes to insist that everyone who criticizes him is simply being Hinduphobic. Not that it proves much, though.

And by the way, it might be well and good that the BJP pushes for a ban on cattle slaughter, but this is not proof that they are sincere defenders of Hindu tradition against neoliberal capitalism. In fact, the BJP government under Narendra Modi has overseen the destruction of several Hindu temples in Varanasi in order to make way for the Kashi-Vishwanath Ganga corridor, ostensibly an express motorway between the Ganges and the Kashi-Vishwanath Temple, which has also had the effect of destroying local neighborhoods in the process. Furthermore, in 2008, back when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi oversaw the demolition of several temples in Gandhinagar to make way for roads. That is until, ironically enough, the Hindutva group Vishwa Hindu Parishad got him to back down and halt the demolitions. All of this is to say nothing of the fact that Modi, far from offering resistance to neoliberalism, is actually a stalwart of neoliberalism within India.

What does all this have to do with Edward Butler and his role within Indica? Well, for Rhyd, the same thing that he claims happens to Vandana Shiva is happening in the United States of America, where he claims that even people with “clearly professed” leftist and anti-fascist beliefs are judged as fascist when their ideas are seen to intersect with “the bad people”, by which we can infer he means reactionary ideologues. Just so there’s no misunderstanding: when Rhyd talks about leftists who are called fascist, he is very obviously referring to himself, presumably along with any fellow travelers of being a reactionary contrarian under the banner of “leftism”. That may include Edward Butler, who Rhyd complains is being perceived as a threat to the Pagan community or an outright fascist for his work with a pro-Hindutva organisation – or, in his words, “an organization that stands for things which overlap with right wing iterations of hinduvta and iterates a de-politicized hinduvta” (we may return to that claim later).

Incidentally, I recognize the critics that Rhyd is indirectly referring to. In one paragraph he seems to be referring to Devo, who likened Butler’s arguments in defence of Hindutva to arguments made in defence of Donald Trump supporters. The paragraph before that, however, is him quoting yours truly! I’m almost flattered to report that Rhyd seems to have stumbled upon my blog, and quoted me when I said that Butler “might prove to be a danger to the Pagan community, and since Hindutva is a form of fascism, that can’t be tolerated.”. Now this is a little unexpected! But of course, I suspect Rhyd is misrepresenting my arguments. He takes both myself and Devo as representatives of “woke” or “social justice” ideology (hey, Sargon of Akkad called, he wants his GamerGate-era right-wing clichés back), which he defines only as a left-wing continuation of the George W. Bush maxim, “You are either with us, or against us”. I am honestly quite baffled by how he manages to draw that comparison towards me, when if anything I would advance that my own response to the controversy could be interpreted as far more benign and charitable than perhaps some other responses were. If I truly was as fanatical as Rhyd implies I am, I would have condemned not only Edward Butler but also everyone who happened to enter his orbit and did not know about Hindutva at the time, I would not have bothered to discuss the dilemma presented by his contributions to the polytheist community, and I would have condemned Chelydoreus for his statement on why he couldn’t just snub the Indica grant he was given before all of this started, whereas in reality I think Chelydoreus’ statement was thoughtful and considered in light of his own situation and that people willing to attack him for it after hearing him out don’t actually give a damn about marginalized people living in financial precarity. But Rhyd simply paves over this nuance, despite being perfectly content to insist on the nuances of Hindutva fascism, because at the end of the day this isn’t about fanaticism or ideological puritanism. This is about people being challenged for their clear endorsement of fascism, along with their pathetic attempts to justify it, and evidently Rhyd has a problem with people he likes, not to mention himself, being challenged by the wider community. I’m fact I’m at least half-convinced that this is the real reason why he decided to fuck off from basically all social media this year. Good for him, I guess.

The basic problem Rhyd has with people like me is that we draw clear lines in the sand when it comes to fascism. His problem is that we don’t take the people who peddle fascist ideologies at face value when they try to soften it up, and in fact we have fearsome contempt for such efforts. Rhyd on the other hand takes the politically correct presentation of Hindutva as a sincere and apolitical enterprise entirely at face value, failing to consider that its very history and content is inescapably political. He seems to genuinely despise it when other leftists take a stand rather than treat all political conflicts as though they’re tea parties in which idle chatter conducted around abstractions is the sole business of things. He sounds like a god-damned centrist who insists on calling himself a Marxist, when any thoroughgoing Marxism should have informed him that ideas are not solely mental abstractions that have no material effect on the external world.

Rhyd then claims the following:

Edward Butler is no fascist, and Indica is not a fascist project. I personally suspect hinduvta will lead to the same ideological dead-end that every other identity politics (blackness, whiteness, etc) leads to, but there is nothing inherently fascistic about it. In the hands of right wing political parties, it can do an immense amount of damage, but if enough people attempt to steer it away from an imposed monotheist framework (“who is Hindu and who is not”) into a pluralistic framework (which appears to have been the mission of Indica, especially in their focus on Indic religions, rather than just Hinduism) than it has the potential to be quite liberating.

Contrary to Rhyd’s assertions, Hindutva is in fact an inherently fascist movement, not an innocent and purely religious concept that merely fell into the hands of the right. I have already shown that Golwalkar, one of its ideological founders, explicitly called for India to adopt a model inspired by Nazi Germany and a centralised state built on an authoritarian unitary cultural fabric and monocultural/racial identity, to the exclusion of all others, and that Vinayak D. Savarkar similarly endorsed fascist Germany and Italy as congenial systems to contrast with liberal democracy. His problem with Hindutva is merely that it is a form of “identity politics”, just that he thinks that this “identity politics” has the potential to be liberating. It’s very strange and fundamentally Orwellian how he thinks Western “identity politics” movements aimed at liberating and emancipating marginalized people are dumb, liberal, “woke”, and should be laughed at and scorned, while an Indian “identity politics” movement that was created from birth to enact a fascist agenda to produce an ethno-nationalist society and whose adherents collaborated with British imperialism are to be given the benefit of the doubt or recognised as actually liberationist. You’d think this reminds you of the sort of thing that certain “woke” leftists would be condemned over but hey Rhyd won’t let that bother him. And more to the point, you might as well argue that National Socialism was not inherently fascist and that it could have been emancipatory had it not fallen into right-wing hands. This, incidentally, is exactly the same argument made by Otto Strasser and his faction of the NSDAP, along with modern adherents of what is called Strasserism. I’m not saying Rhyd is a Strasserist here, but the logical consequence of what he’s saying is consistent with the Strasserist argument. You are free to make of that what you will.

I must mention that, beyond this point, Rhyd barely actually defends Edward Butler directly, though he does continue to defend the legitimacy of Hindutva in some fashion, but a lot of time is spent focused on a broad concept of “leftist ideological abandonment”. Translated from dollar store critical theorist lingo, this means “leftists rejecting positions that I hold and embracing positions that I disagree with”. It would be a waste of time to go through the whole thing point by point, but I will cover what he has to say about Hindutva, as well as some other things I consider relevant to his overall thought process and its attendant problems.

He again attempts to establish a dichotomy between secular neoliberalism and Hindutva as its religious opposition by stressing that Hindu religiosity is an obstacle to the expansion of capitalist markets, while claiming that neoliberals manipulate the Muslim and Christian minorities in India against the Hindu majority. This is just nonsense. Putting aside Modi’s own role as a neoliberal strongman, Indian capitalism has expanded tremendously and I have not seen any religious force in India prove to be an obstacle to it. But again, here he seems to take at face value the Hindutva line and especially its conspiratorial thinking. Equally baffling is the reference to apparent efforts in European countries to ban kosher and halal slaughter, non-descript opponents that, we’re told without any reference, are smeared as religious extremists, and the absurd claim that “woke” leftists actually advocate for the banning of kosher and halal slaughter, never mind that it’s the far-right that actually pushes for the ban of halal slaughter in particular; or at least, I’ve only ever seen far-right activists do so.

All of this is then extrapolated onto a broader point about how leftists should stop “abandoning ideological territory” to the populist right. What does that mean? Apparently stagnant wages, massive job losses, and increasing debt, but the left had already been talking about that and much, much more, in the context of an analysis that cannot be limited to the vagueries of populism. Unless it’s the analysis itself that’s bugging him, which as a self-proclaimed Marxist it shouldn’t. Actually he’s still talking about the trope about how dismissing working class people as racist ensured the victory of Donald Trump in 2016. Putting aside the obvious issue of Trump’s actual base being more middle class than working class and ignoring the mechanisms of US democracy and its relationship to the actual popular vote of that election, I would point out that Joe Biden won four years later, and in that context much of liberalism hasn’t changed drastically, and if anything the Biden campaign had made vague references to social-democratic policy so as to crib the defeated Bernie Sanders campaign, while Trump actually did little other than appeal to the fear of socialism and “cancel culture” while otherwise glorifying the neoliberal status quo. So in this sense it actually seems out of touch to continue beating the same drum that mainstream pundits like Salena Zito have been since the 2016 election ended just to gaslight the left into doing whatever you want.

You can argue that the only way to stop right-wing populism is to stop “abandoning ideological territory to them”, but you’d be wrong. Jean Luc Melenchon tried pandering to the populist/far-right in France throughout his career, and yet his party La France Insoumise has received barely any migration of voters from far-right parties to their side, while if anything far-right parties have been siphoning voters from La France Insoumise. The Communist Party of France also tried appealing to French nationalism in the 1980s, and it did not result in any substantial gains for the party, certainly not enough to restore what electoral success it once had decades before. In Australia, the notoriously racist social-democrat Arthur Calwell lost every federal election that he ran in as leader of the Australian Labour Party, and it was after he stepped down that the party’s fortunes were reversed. Here in the UK the Labour Party tried to do a course correction over perceived “wokeness” and “lack of patriotism” under the outgoing Corbyn leadership, and it hasn’t really rewarded them electorally or in polls. Only a massive Christmas scandal seems to be turning Labour’s fortunes around. My point is that what Rhyd and others like him suggest simply doesn’t work for the left, never has done, and never will do. Frankly, all signs point to the observation that if people want to vote for reactionaries they’ll just vote for right-wing parties rather than any opportunist trying to outflank them on the left, and that’s partly because right-wing conservatives and nationalists generally actually believe what they believe in whereas leftists who try to copy them have only ever cared about either winning votes or pissing off other leftists in order to feel superior to them; I personally bet that Rhyd is of the latter category.

By the way, I can’t but notice that Rhyd thought to quote The Communist Manifesto to demonstrate that the result of capitalist expansion is the destabilization of religious traditions and communities, which is all well and good until you take note of the last part of the quotation: “All that is solid melts into air, all that is sacred is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.“. While Rhyd was likely intending to connect Marx’s analysis of capitalism to religious decline in order to emphasize capitalism as a threat to spiritual life, in the context of the quote Marx probably saw this as kind of a good thing. Here religion and sacredness are illusions, and the wresting of these away from human consciousness would have been interpreted as one of the positive and radically emancipatory effects of capitalist expansion. Too many people forget that although Marx did think that capitalism ultimately needed to be abolished, he did not consider capitalism to be entirely bad, and thinking in terms of historical progress of material conditions, Marx saw capitalism as consisting partially of historically progressive effects both material and social, some of which he and Friedrich Engels thought were necessary precursors to the development of socialism. Now, you don’t have to agree with Marx that religion was inherently bad and delusional in order to maintain a political worldview and analysis consistent with Marxism, everyone knows Marx isn’t infallible and it would be improper to treat him as though he were a prophet or a Pope, but I think it’s worthwhile to at least mention that Marx had meant the destruction of traditional community to be an enlightening if radical disillusionment rather than a benighting disenchantment.

All of this is still getting away from the base subject of Hindutva, but thankfully Rhyd takes us back there again with more whining:

Again, though I think hinduvta is probably a dead-end, what Indica has been attempting to do with it has potential beyond India. Dr. Edward Butler’s work with them to expand dialogue about polytheism across the world likewise has great potential, or did before he was accused of being fascist for that work.

Well don’t you worry, Rhyd. Edward Butler probably isn’t going anywhere, at least not for the time being. We can all disassociate from him and condemn him as we please, and he is free to stand alone in accordance with his own will, but that doesn’t mean his work is going to cease. He is probably still going to be involved with Indica, and he will continue to produce commentary in support of Hindutva, regardless of what we think of him. And you know what, that’s his business for as long as none of us have to be any part of it, but it will not go unchallenged, we will call it exactly as we see it, and we shall treat what we see accordingly. This is just how it is, and you’re just going to have to accept it, because we will be damned if we ever allow fascism to gain a foothold anywhere.

This seems to be the extent of his defence of Edward Butler and Hindutva, and if you look past the density of his article, it’s honestly a very weak one. But there’s something else to his overall argument that needs to be addressed, and it concerns his overall understanding of monotheism versus polytheism.

Towards the end of his article he says this:

Years ago, I made the very same mistake as his accusers. I failed to notice I was trapped in a monotheist framework, forced myself to answer a question whose only answers were binary. I was an idiot back then. I caused some harm and derailed something that is only now getting back on its tracks. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s pretty eager to go off the rails again, and I’m not very hopeful they won’t make the same mistakes I did.

We need to stop doing this. We need to stop giving ground to right wing movements and abandoning sites of potential transformation. The world cannot be neatly divided between “fascist” and “antifascist” or even “right” and “left” anymore than it can be neatly divided between “Western” and “Eastern,” “Christian” and “Hindu,” and “white” and “black.” These are all rigid and fragile categories that we’ve created through a monotheist framework of thinking, forcing universals where they cannot be applied.

The alternative to this is pluralism. I call this polytheistic, but it isn’t exclusive to polytheist religions. And I deeply believe it’s our default state, the organic and natural way we tend to relate to each other without external ideologies setting the co-ordinates of meaning for us.

From this we are to infer that monotheism is when you establish a set of questions predicated on binary choices. In essence, Rhyd’s conception of monotheism is nothing more than the concept of a closed question. Monotheism for Rhyd is when you make any divisions between two things, between left and right, between fascism and anti-fascism, Christianity and Hinduism, West and East, white and black, all divisions that Rhyd treats as fully equivalent to each other, and polytheism thus stands as an alternative to this framework, with plurality framed as a way to validate difference of opinion by bypassing all of those divisions. In other words, Rhyd is a typical centrist idiot, one who merely happens to call himself a Marxist, and he thinks that polytheism is a way to justify being a centrist idiot by defining the presence of division and conflict between two sides as monotheistic artifice.

To explore this point further, it is necessary to return to a section of the article that we previously skipped. But I’ll be honest, you won’t be missing much judging from the fact that he says stuff like this:

I was on the “good” side, meaning Antifa. That’s not how I look at it now, but at the time I was pretty damn certain one side was completely right and one side was completely wrong and I wasn’t going to be on the wrong side. That’s where I fucked up really badly. Looking back, I realise there wasn’t actually a right side and a wrong side at all, just two opposing ideological positions rising out of the same monotheistic universalism I’d been arguing against at conferences and in speeches.

Yeah. “I used to be anti-fascist. That’s not what I am now. Now I think drawing a line in the sand when it comes to fascism is just monotheistic universalism” is the stance Rhyd intends to take, on an outlet that I think still presents itself as avowedly anti-fascist. But we’ll get to that. For now suffice it to say “I used to oppose fascism but now I don’t” is probably not something you should own with any pride, and certainly not my idea of what anti-fascism looks like. But apparently it is, and not only that but the insistence that you should not have any solidarity with fascism is to be treated as the same kind of tyrannical absolutism that George W. Bush brought the world. Antifa then are basically neoconservatives to this guy? Honestly, given this guy’s reputation for defending fascists, I don’t like the implications of this sentiment, along with the implications of rejecting the division between left and right in contemporary politics, because when paired with the knowledge that he’s defended fascists, including now the Hindutva movement, it actually kind of seems like there’s something about Rhyd that he’s not letting on. Or perhaps not. Maybe he could just be a giant idiot and not much else. Now that’s pluralism if I’ve ever seen it.

Rhyd reduces polytheism to a vague belief in the lack of universals, which is fine on its own, but then he warps this so as to represent a belief that you can accept what other people say about themselves, and yet not accept it within yourself at the same time – in his words, this is to “accept the “truths” of others without necessarily their universals”. Remember earlier when I mentioned a “meandering and largely irrelevant discourse about the difference between polytheism and monotheism interlaced with the usual cryptic transphobia”? You’re about to see what I’m referring to:

Consider the most common reaction I’ve heard from people in person regarding the matter of trans identity. Most are happy to accept that someone considers themselves a different gender from their biological sex, and are even willing to make efforts to use the pronouns a person requests.

In this kind of pluralism, what doesn’t necessarily follow from such interactions is a simultaneous change in the personal beliefs about what is a man or what is a woman—because it doesn’t need to. It doesn’t need to for the exact same reason that we don’t need to change our own cosmology just because someone we know says they saw a ghost. We can accept their account of things and also our own without conflict, and then go about the business of actually living life alongside each other.

At first, it can seem perfectly reasonable in that a pluralistic outlook is generally going to be more accepting of someone who professes a trans or non-binary identity. On that point alone, a lot of Pagans would have no issues. The problem emerges when Rhyd starts talking about how this doesn’t lend itself to any effects on how you view gender or identity, let alone any political commitments attendant to accepting trans or non-binary people as they are, and especially when he actually compares accepting trans or non-binary identity to what is essentially the act of humoring a friend who tells you he’s seen a ghost. It’s utterly condescending and serves only as a mask to hide your true beliefs from others. When you say “we don’t need to change our own cosmology just because someone we know says they saw a ghost”, you are first of all saying that you reject the person’s belief in a ghost, and when you say “We can accept their account of things and also our own without conflict”, you are saying that you do not accept the person’s belief in ghosts, but will merely tolerate a person for having it, separate your beliefs about that person and their positions from your attitude to their personhood, and treat the matter as “live and let live”, but deep down you mock that person in some way, necessarily so, because you still think the person’s beliefs are wrong, perhaps even stupid and worthy of mockery, you just aren’t going to say anything about it.

Applied to the subject of trans identity, you are saying that you do not accept that a trans woman is a woman, or that a trans man is a man, and you reject what they say about their gender identity because you think biological sex, or rather your own particular essentialist understanding of it, trumps their subjective identity, but you accept the trans person’s account anyway, or so you claim to, and seemingly live your life and interact with others as “normal” in any case. But what that means is that you believe that you’re accepting the accounts of trans people, but without any examination of any beliefs you hold that would prevent you from meaningfully doing so, so you may live your life as though you assume yourself to be tolerant and accepting of trans people, when really, beneath it all, you don’t take what they say about themselves seriously, probably mock them in private, or in public you openly argue against accepting that trans people are the gender they identify as. In this sense, that “tolerance” is actually a false peace, unity for the sake of unity not borne of any actual acceptance, one that I think many trans and non-binary people will easily see for the cowardice that it is.

And besides which, it’s not actually the polytheistic perspective, or at least not as can be implied by its myths. The mythos of the various polytheistic and animistic religions of the world contains fascinating accounts of transformation across gender. As Kadmus Herschel has shown in True to the Earth, a book that I see Rhyd is borrowing terminology from without understanding the rest of what Kadmus is saying, the bardic poetry of the Celts depicts figures who undergo several transformations that cut across gender, species, and several other boundaries. Ceridwen transforms into several different animals, Gwion tries to hide in the form of a grain of wheat, but Ceridwen turns into a hen and eats him, only to become pregnant with Gwion, who is then reborn as Taliesin. They are transformations of body rather than soul, they cut against notions of essence or purity, and identity then is builty atop an ongoing event of conscious essencing. Several of the gods of polytheism, whether that’s Odin or Loki from Norse polytheism or Dionysus and Athena from Greek polytheism, exhibit either the capacity to transform their own gender identity or inhabit a set of gender characteristics not limited by the traditional gender binary; Athena, for instance, was meant to be born as a man, but instead was born a woman with male characteristics. You can also go to India and find deities that transform across gender lines as well as species lines, with Vishnu appearing as the female Mohini and Shiva manifesting as the dual-gendered Ardhanarishvara. The Hijras also represent within Indian society since ancient times a trans community that has existed in the context of non-monotheistic culture. If the gods can be seen as defined by more than the traditional gender binary, if the gods can be queer as can be and be accepted for it by their followers, if a person can be trans within pre-Christian cultures and meet some acceptance in a religious context, then it stands that the Pagan worldview on gender identity is that it is not defined by a binary that is fixed into human being through essentialist biology, but instead one of many places in which essencing takes place, and in which essencing can take place on individual as well as social terms.

Contrary to what Rhyd insists about how you don’t have to change your mind about trans people to accept them for what they are – although then again why should you even need to consider changing your mind unless you’re presently a transphobe – internalizing much of the polytheist worldview entails not merely accepting the accounts of trans people for performative and diplomatic reasons but on an existential basis, on the grounds that their identities are as natural as yours, as is the transformation that trans people rightfully undertake to fulfill themselves, and these exist as part of the multiplicity of life as much as you do. It is not about accepting “universals”. If you truly adhere to a multiplicitous and pluralistic cosmos, and reject a cosmos consisting of the inscribed designs of one supreme being, then you really do have to accept internally the validity of trans identity, instead of just formally validating it for the purpose of being polite and getting along while internally denying it; in that scenario, your outward stance is merely performance while your inward stance is your real position on the subject. At least a transphobic Christian or Muslim would prefer to brook no such deceptions since they believe what they believe to be the inalterable word of God. Rhyd on the other hand is a transphobe who wants to be considered valid for being a transphobe as long as it means just being polite about it. Well I’m sorry but being polite about your position doesn’t actually mean your position is any less dogshit. If it did, then Holocaust denial could be validated off the back of the affability of some of its proponents. Trust me: fascists are more than capable of presenting a respectable and polite face, and may even try to appear very tolerant of disagreement, even though this is a ruse in light of how they would actually govern you. Just because a fascist can get you thinking that leftists are intolerant and totalitarian because you got banned from their Discord server or whatever doesn’t mean a fascist society won’t be violently totalitarian, or for that matter that the left is necessarily as totalitarian in practice as you might have been told.

His idea of pluralism is based less on the philosophical ramifications of the polytheistic cosmos and its attendant mythos and more on a personal desire for unity, and political unity at that. I would say to him that the polytheistic world, and cosmos, was never always united. Cults could sometimes rival each other, a few were driven out in societies that considered them to be dangerous and foreign. Whole schools of philosophy rivalled each other, and some schools were sometimes mocked, scorned, vilified, and even demonized in some cases by whoever asserted themselves as the dominant school of thought. The gods themselves would fight amongst each other, sometimes just between individual deities each pursuing the same object (the mythological story of Troy features multiple goddesses fighting over Paris’ judgement on who was the most beautiful), sometimes out of desires for revenge (such as Hera), sometimes there is a conflict of values among the gods (as present in the trial of Orestes in which Apollo contests the ancient goddesses called the Eumenides), sometimes whole clans of deities fight and struggle against each other, with some compromise and intermingling in between (the Devas versus the Asuras, the Aesir versus the Vanir or Jotun, the Tuatha De Dannan versus the Fomorians, or the Amatsukami versus the Kunitsukami). Sometimes humans can rebel and challenge the gods, to varying degrees of success. As Kadmus has shown brilliantly, rebellion is a feature of a polytheistic cosmos, not a bug, and as Peter Grey has shown, rebellion is a part of the divine heritage given to humans from the gods. Insofar as a polytheistic cosmos consists of rebellion, and rebellion is a core part of that cosmos, the presumption of polytheistic pluralism entailing intrinsic cosmic unity seems entirely fanciful, and unbecoming of a cosmos of many divines, truths, and values.

More to the point, why exactly do you want unity with fascists? Why is it desirable? Contemporary polytheism has already understood the dangers of allowing itself to become a home for fascists and in allowing secular nationalism to appropriate the pre-Christian past so as to launder hateful authoritarianism. That is the reason for Declaration 127, The Xenia Declaration, and similar initiatives to exist, to deny solidarity with fascists since they do not deserve it, and to declare that you will not stand with white supremacy, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, or any form of bigotry. Rhyd should know well enough about these initiatives, and it would be interesting to see what his opinion of them is now, or for that matter his opinion on how we should deal with folkist groups like the Asatru Folk Assembly, in light of the dribble he’s putting forth.

Unity with the fascist means consignment to your own enslavement. It is permission for the fascist, it is the knowledge that they will not be challenged for being fascists, which therefore leads to the normalisation of fascism, and finally to the triumph of fascism. The unity Rhyd seeks is almost the definition of unjust peace. By subtracting the presence of division, conflict, and rebellion from a pluralistic cosmos that necessarily entails these things, Rhyd’s “pluralism” insists that solidarity in the abstract ought to be universal, at least so long as he can claim the people he wants solidarity with to share a common enemy (which they don’t!), and denies the ability to freely deny solidarity with the undeserving and contest that which should be contested. His “pluralism” is not a pluralistic cosmos, but a drum circle held between hippies and swastika-beddecked skinheads.

But for all the talk of pluralism, there’s another reason I’m not buying it. I know Rhyd’s kind of leftist well enough. I have been in circles where his sort of thinking operates as the order of the day. I have had a friend who regularly complained about the left because they “hate” him, and that same friend went on to be one of those socialists who, while calling himself a socialist, a Marxist at that, embraced all manner of far-right social positions and even advocated for a form of white nationalism even if not by name. What I learned is that these people become resentful of the left because the left does not respond positively to their insistence on the objectively correct politics, often even despite that politics being anything but correct, and the opposition from the rest of the left impedes their ability to mold the left as they see fit. Rhyd, I suspect, is one more of those leftists, so embittered from facing constant challenge from the left, who in his eyes are doomed because they have failed to sufficiently agree with and conform to his brand of leftism, that he fled all social media so that he dare not deal with the rest of the left any further. These people do not assume a pluralistic world, let alone the way Rhyd himself defines it. Instead, if anything, it’s closer to the monotheistic worldview, where there is one supreme principle, one vision, one ultimate truth, and everyone is to be cajoled or convinced to accept it or face doom and failure forever, and even his ideas of pluralistic unity smack of a more benign version of this where it doesn’t matter what we all think because we are all One. Meanwhile even polytheistic cultures had lines to be drawn on what their communities could and could not accept, and their cosmoses consisted not of unity but of diversity, and sometimes conflict.

In summary, this was truly a laughably weak defence on behalf of Edward Butler and Indica, one that served only to show Rhyd’s own ignorance of the subject he strives to represent, rather than the supposed ignorance of Edward Butler’s critics. It’s such a shame too, since he puts a black eye on Gods and Radicals Press as a whole in the eyes of many. This is a shame because it does still feature some good work from Christopher Scott Thompson, Mirna Wabi-Sabi, and a recent contributor promoting Gaulish reconstructionist polytheism as an anti-fascist force, and its store still features the brilliant work of Kadmus Herschel, True to the Earth. Hell, Rhyd himself used to be pretty cool back in the day until at least 2018 from what I understand. I suppose though it’s mostly Rhyd that I have a serious problem with, and until maybe he gets over his reactionary contrarianism I don’t see much hope that he won’t, as he put it, go off the rails. After all, it’s not the left derailing him, it’s him that’s derailing Gods and Radicals. He needs to see that, and I don’t hold out any hope that he will.

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 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


India is becoming a totalitarian state

There was another news story that came my way, and I felt I had to talk about it because it has rather grave implications for liberty. It has been less than three months since the Bharatiya Janata Party was re-elected as the dominant party in the Lok Sabha in the Indian general election, with Narendra Modi securing his position of Prime Minister by an even larger margin than he did in 2014. Since then, there have been signs that India is moving in a direction that can only be described as George W. Bush’s America on crack.

In July of 2018, Shashi Tharoor, a liberal Congress MP, stated that a BJP victory in this year’s election would result in the creation of what he called a Hindu Pakistan. He predicted that the BJP will replace the current constitution of India with a new constitution, one that will affirm their desired state of India as a Hindu Rashtra, meaning a Hindu state (which is not only theocratic in the sense of being built on the rule of the Hindu faith, but also ethnocratic in that it is based on the idea of the “Hindu race”), and that when this Hindu Rashtra is erected it will bring an end to any semblance, or even pretence, of social equality. Now, just a few days ago, a court in Kolkata issued a warrant for Tharoor’s arrest over the remarks he made last year after a man named Sumeet Chowdary filed a case against him. One wonders why Chowdary did not see fit to do so when the remarks were originally made. For their part, the BJP appears to be supporting this decision. BJP spokesperson Sreenath Sheshdari stated that he believes Tharoor’s remarks were “anti-Indian” (which should immediately be your first red flag), claiming that the BJP has nothing to do with the goal of the Hindu Rashtra, saying “We have talked about the culture, not about Hinduism as a religion”.

Now, putting aside the obvious lies that the BJP marshalls in defence of Tharoor’s arrest warrant, just take stock into the fact that a man, let alone a sitting MP, is being arrested for criticizing the government. This is normally the kind of thing we would consider unthinkable in Western countries. We rightly call this out as the sign of prevailing authoritarainism or even totalitarianism. But that’s what’s happening in India right now. A man is being arrested for criticizing the ambitions of the government and its ruling ideology. And given recent events concerning India-Pakistan relations (namely the revocation of Kashmir and Jammu’s autonomy and the blackouts being imposed by the government), it seems safe to assume that this repression is directly tied to the government’s ambitions for Pakistan. They want to invade Pakistan in order to realize the Hindu Rashtra, and lock up those who criticize them.

And the BJP can try all they like with their meager arguments to obfuscate the reality of the situation, but it is not possible to truly hide it. Violence against religious minorities is more of a prevalent phenomenon in Indian society than it was before, with pro-Hindutva thugs attacking Christians, Muslims, and Dalit Buddhists seemingly every other few weeks or so. And as for their claims that they don’t want a Hindu Rashtra? They are the direct product of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who in fact are notable for their ambitions of a Hindu Rashtra. They’re just not willing to obfuscate their ambitions in the way that the BJP does nowadays. So, functionally speaking, the BJP are lying to you. But then they also lied about there being terrorists in Balatok after they struck the area, so what else can we expect from them but to lie about their ambitions.

In any case, if Tharoor is arrested over his remarks, and I don’t trust the BJP government to not prosecute him, then India will be in the process of transforming into, let’s not beat around the bush here, a totalitarian or just plain dictatorial state. If you thought Bush’s America was bad, what with the Patriot Act and all, just wait because Modi’s India is going to be much worse, with the government issuing arrest warrants to more critics and Hindutva street violence against people who oppose their politics, which I can assure you the BJP will not be interested in cracking down on. And all a prelude to the invasion of Pakistan.

And, by the way, let me just stress this for my American readership: this is the country Tulsi Gabbard thinks the US should maintain good relations with. This is what she’s covering for when she defends Modi and the Hindutva movement from criticism with her pallid cries of bigotry or “Hinduphobia”. And if you want Tulsi Gabbard to win the nomination and become President, that’s what you’re prepared to countenance as well.

George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 is often misunderstood by all corners as a generic cry against either censorship or just state regulation. One detail that its conservative admirers often miss out on is that the whole point of 1984 is that there is seemingly perpetual war between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, and Oceania’s totalitarian dictatorship is ultimately centered on controlling the masses so that they will not resist the cycle of perpetual war that Oceania subjects its people to. Through constant misinformation the masses are condition into supporting a war machine that fights for the purpose of extending authority and power and undercutting social and economic equality and freedom. What we see in India may well be the beginning of this process.

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, 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.

The phenomenon and ideology of devil worship in India

It appears that that India is seeing more cases of alleged devil worship and black magick within the last few years, leading to reports of “Satanic cults” springing up within the country. Because of this it is of some value to take a look at what exactly these cults believe. Do they actually represent a form of Satanism as is being reported, or is it simply a form of edgy spiritism that utilizes Satan for its own ends? Are we dealing with a serious philosophical or spiritual tradition here, or just something that a few deranged individuals do for fun?

To start with, let’s take a look at the extent of the phenomenon in question. It’s not clear, but there has been increasing coverage of stories of devil worship since at least 2013, centering around the regions of Kerala and Nagaland. At one point the Vatican news outlet Agenzia Fides claimed that Nagaland was host to around 3,000 teenage devil worshipers in the summer of 2013. In 2014, in the Christian majority region of Meghalaya, the local government has started carrying out night patrols in an attempt to police so-called Satanic activities, with particular attention being paid to graveyards based on the belief that devil worshipers gather in graveyards in order to conduct their rituals at night. Particular concern is often paid to Kerala, where apparently a number of bizarre ritualistic crimes have taken place over the years, sparking concern of a rise of so-called Satanism in the region. Notable activities reported within Kerala include theft and/or desecration of communion bread for the purposes of performing a Black Mass, desecrations of churches, and even murders. What is interesting to note about Kerala is that it is considered the most literate and progressive state in India, which suggests that the rise of black magick and devil worship isn’t confined to the poor and religiously and socially backwards parts of the country.

But just what does this phenomenon represent as a broad system? Media reports on the subject will often talk of it in the context of “Satan worship” or “Satanic cults”, but having scoured said reports, I am unsure what this is based on. VICE actually did an article on the subject a few days ago in which Zeyad Masroor Khan investigates one group of people engaged in some sort of black magick in the city of Aligarh, located in the state of Uttar Pradesh. For Khan, the supposed “Satanism” described in India . In fact, here is what Khan makes of the overall philosophy of the group:

“The philosophy of the “blood brothers” is based on a combination of ideas derived from Satanic literature, religious texts, paganism, the popular art and fortuities—the sign that they say universe keeps throwing to them about the existence of forces that created it.”

In other words, it’s a hodge-podge of what appear to unrelated concepts, brought together by either the vague sense of a search for esoteric knowledge and power, affinity with darkness (not to mention dark music such as black metal), and possibly a proclivity towards superstition. It also seems to be more decadent than the Satanism you find here in the West, with members of the black magick group frequently taking illicit drugs whilst studying their philosophy.

Some members of the group have a different interpretation than others. Here is what is described of the conception of Satanism held by one of the members of the Aligarh black magick group, who goes by BlackLeg.

“For him, Satanism is not “a religion”. “In its essence, it’s about worshipping yourself,” he said. He said there’s no conflict between his beliefs and those of his religious girlfriend.

BlackLeg’s philosophical view of Satanism contrasts with some of the things V said his group participated in. “We did everything,” V told me, “from desecrating holy books to asking people to stand on the Quran, to test their devotion. Some of us did that, while the weaker ones refused.””

Apparently some members of the group are more inclined to the LaVeyan, philosophical angle of Satanism, while others (possibly the majority) are into actual black magick coinciding with a vague of theistic worship of the infernal pantheon – I say vague because I know most theistic Satanists I know actually have a guiding spiritual philosophy or ideology underpinning their belief system, and because of the lack of information surrounding their actual beliefs.

This, of course, is just one group, in what might be the only article I’ve seen that actually attempts to go into detail as to what the Indian devil worshipers believe. The rest of the articles I’ve come across make no real attempt to articulate the kind of “Satanic” belief system they think they’re dealing with.

For instance, in the case of a 2013 UACN article titled “Satan worshippers suspected in theft in Kerala church“, the main source of suspicion of Satanism on the part of by local church authorities is the disappearance of communion bread, which is suspected to be proof of Satanists using it to perform a Black Mass. To be fair, it does sound like something the Church of Ahriman would do (though they ultimately returned the communion wafer they stole in order to avoid a lawsuit by the Oklahoma City Archdiocese), but on its own this is not much evidence of Satanism, and we have only a plausible guess to the motives of the incident. Another UACN article, dated to 2012, claims that Satanists attacked a church in Mizoram. What does this attack have to do with Satanism you might ask? Apparently because police found a stack of burned Bibles and, I shit you not, a large A sign signifying anarchy. Yep. It’s that lame. Any Satanist worth their salt will tell that this does not necessarily equate to an actual Satanic ritual. Ironically, the article points out the advice of experts who implicitly hint that the activities of these youths are not influenced by a coherent Satanic philosophy, but largely by Western pop culture, particularly horror moves. Unfortunately, this is also interpreted from the Christian lens as being the influence of celebrities who, allegedly pray to Satan in order to gain fame, wealth and power – which, let’s face it, is about as sensible as Paul Joseph Watson’s claims about Pizzagate and the Illuminati.

In a 2017 article from Firstpost, the main subject is a man murdering his family members so as to “detach” their souls from their bodies, supposedly to free them. The man was also said to be involved with astral projection, which police suspect to be tied to Satan worship. In no way is it actually established what connection there is to Satanism or even Satan worship at all. The only thing vaguely related is the discussion of the communion bread theft incident from earlier. Also discussed is the selling of consecrated hosts stolen from churches. The fact that it seems that it is Christians who are selling the hosts suggests that the connection to Satan worship is not quite so clear cut. The article brings up the concept of “Satan worship” several times but does not seem capable of attaching to the various crimes to any coherent phenomenon of Satanism. In fact, within the same article you can find similar black magick practices within Hindu cults which suggest that what Indian media refers to as “Satan worship” is actually just a kind of Hindu black magick that has been around for centuries, just that I guess some people decided to dress it up in some vague diabolism lifted from horror movies. Perhaps the only thing actually connecting these things to Satanism or Satan worship is either the general loose conception of black magick, long held to be part of the doctrine of Satan, or the blasphemy associated with some of the actions, such as the stealing and selling of consecrations, which surely are the sign of Satanic activity according to India’s Christian population.

Sometimes even the police in India have trouble believing the whole angle of “Satan worship”. In the case of a murder committed by Cadell Jeansen Raja, police doubted his claim that he was a Satan worshiper and had him referred to a psychiatrist, who noted his interest in paranormal beliefs and concepts and suspects him to be living in his own reality, but otherwise the interrogation was said to be ongoing. Police also suspect that his murder was actually motivated not by supernatural belief, but instead by revenge. They say that Raja’s stories about his beliefs regarding astral projection, Satan worship and the paranormal were fabrications, and that his real motivation was his desire to avenge a long period of neglect by his family and a personal suspicion that his father was cheating on his spouse with other women. Raja is currently admitted to a mental hospital in Oolampara.

In an ironic twist, there is something that, in a loose sense, you could interpret as “demon worship” that occurs in India that is also entirely part of the expansive Hindu religion! In the small village of Peringottukara, located within the Thrissur district of Kerala, locals worship a deity named Kuttichathan through special and costly pujas and sacrifices overseen by holy men in order to gain prosperity and dispel black magic. The name Kuttichathan means “little ghost”, sometimes interpreted as “little demon” or “little imp”, and he does sometimes get interpreted as a demon. However, Kuttichathan also seems to be the name of a deity named Vishnumaya, a deity of wealth, magic and illusions. Vishnumaya is held to be a son of the deity Shiva, born of carnal union between Shiva and a human woman named Kulivaka, and he acquired his name because he took the form of the deity Vishnu using his magic. The closest thing to “devil worship” in India is Hindu worship centered around a demigod born from one of the supreme deities, though it is suspected by some that the pujas devoted to him are part of a money-scheming by religious ideologues preying on the gullible.

So, there you have it. The phenomenon of “Satan worship” in India is not a coherent movement of Satanism, but the appropriation of folk black magick for either rebellious or criminal ends, and in at least one case it’s just a convenient pretext to hide someone’s real motives for committing horrible crimes. In one case it’s a strange intersection of gothic and extreme metal subculture, occult philosophy, Indian black magick, drugs and general teenage rebellion. Many cases are mysterious acts of blasphemy that have less to do with authentic Satanism and more to do with youthful rebellion. There is no guiding ideology behind this phenomenon. I suspect the charge of “Satan worship” is an invention of both Indian media and Christians.

A man dressed up as Kuttichathan as part of a theyyam (a kind of ritual performance)