Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

Postby admin » Fri Feb 05, 2021 5:22 am

Aryans, Jews, Brahmins: Theorizing Authority through Myths of Identity
by Dorothy M. Figueira
© 2002 State University of New York




I dedicate this volume to my daughter, Lila, and in loving memory of my mother, Marion Gentile Figueira


• Acknowledgments
• Introduction
o Shared Myths
o The Aryan Canon
o Methodology and Plan
• Part I. The Authority of an Absent Text
o Chapter 1: The Enlightenment and Orientalist Discourse on the Aryan
 The Enlightenment Background
 Voltaire and the Search for Authority
 Locus of Poetic Inspiration or Site of Cultural Decay?
 Conclusion
o Chapter 2: The Romantic Aryans
 Romantic Myth Theory
 Friedrich Schlegel and the Foundations of Romantic Linguistics
 Romantic Mythographers and the Upnekhata
 Romantic Indology: The Case of Max Muller
 Conclusion
o Chapter 3: Nietzsche's Aryan Ubermensch
 Introduction
 Reading Nietzsche Reading India
 Manu as a "Semitized" Aryan Sourcebook
 The Aryan as Ubermensch
 Christianity, an Anti-Aryan Outcaste Religion
 The Jew and the Aryan
 Conclusion
o Chapter 4: Loose Can[n]ons
 Racial Theory: An Overview
 Gobineau and the Aryan Aristocrat
 Houston Stewart Chamberlain: Aryan Publicist
 Alfred Rosenberg and the Nordic Aryan
 Conclusion
• Part II. Who Speaks for the Subaltern?
o Chapter 5: Rammohan Roy
 Reading Reform
 The Complexity of the Colonial Subject
 Scriptural Authority and the Hermeneutics of Sati
 Misreading Monotheism: Idolatry and Brahmin Perfidy
 Rammohan Roy's Syncretism and Its Challenge to Postcolonial Theory
o Chapter 6: Text-based Identity: Dayanand Saraswati's
 Reconstruction of the Aryan Self
 Introduction
 Dayanand's Canon and Hermeneutical Strategies for Reading the Aryan World
 Aryan Masculinity and the Teleology of Decay
 Conclusion
o Chapter 7: Aryan Identity and National Self-Esteem
 Introduction
 Justice Ranade and Lokamanya Tilak
 Swami Vivekananda
 Conclusion
o Chapter 8: The Anti-Myth
 Introduction
 The Aryan and Its Other
 Mahatma Phule
 Dr. Ambedkar
 Conclusion
o Afterword
o Notes
o Bibliography
o Index
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

Postby admin » Fri Feb 05, 2021 5:27 am


I am grateful to several organizations without whose funding this volume would not have been possible. I thank the American Institute for Indian Studies for a Senior Research grant to Poona in 1992-1993. I am also grateful to the Fulbright Foundation as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities. I also thank the Center for Advanced Studies of the University of Illinois for their support. Material adapted from "Aryan Aristocrats and Ubermenschen: Nietzsche's Reading of the Laws of Manu," which appeared in The Comparatist 23 (May 1999): 5-20, is reprinted by permission of John Burt Foster, editor.
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

Postby admin » Fri Feb 05, 2021 5:40 am

The Westerner who returns to India no longer recognizes his cradle. I am well aware that these Hindus are Aryans of our stock, our brothers; but we are brothers who refuse to reach out in one another's direction. We are too different. Too many millennia divide us. We said farewell to one another too long ago.

-- G. Gozzano, Journey to the Cradle of Mankind

Anything can be believed if one cites the authority of the Veda, if one takes some passage from the Veda, juggles it, gives it the most impossible meaning and murders everything reasonable in it. If one presents one's own ideas as ideas meant in the Vedas, "all fools will follow me in a crowd."

-- Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda



The present is fractured; it consists of competing pasts. By positing the past as a special case of the present, one not only remakes the present, but creates a new past and redefines identity (as kin, race, family) through an act of memory. The past thus possesses sociopolitical instrumentality when perceptions of "history" are made relevant to the present. Conflicts concerning the past are, in fact, struggles suggesting the proper shape the present should take. In such instances, history may be elevated to myth, when the needs of the present are read into the past and an image of the past is imposed on the present. History, once transformed into myth, becomes an instrument to construct social forms. It shapes the present through an evocation of the past and specific groups that inhabit it.

In this volume, I will examine how the Aryan past can be studied as a myth or a form of discourse that can be employed in the construction or the deconstruction of society. In particular, this examination focuses on the discourse concerning the Aryan race as a "shared myth" (Thapar 1992: 71) in nineteenth-century India and in Germany and as a reification of ancient textual sources in service of social practice. The Aryan myth has given historical value to ancient Indian history and has contributed to Indian nationalism during the colonial period and after the departure of the British. Myths concerning the Aryan race also served the ideological interests of Europe. The history of India could be appropriated as a means of expressing nineteenth-century European concerns with origins.


Since the Aryan arrival in India is associated with the compilation of the Rig Veda, we will focus on how the construction of Aryan racial identity developed through a continued rearticulation of the authority vested in "Vedic" texts. For Indians and Westerners alike, the Veda functioned as the touchstone for Hindu orthodoxy as well as for their understanding of the Aryan. It served as a point of reference to be regarded as absolutely authoritative. Yet it provided a rather peculiar canon: open yet unerring, complete yet subject to reinterpretation. It posed multiple problems from a hermeneutical point of view.

In India, while the Vedas are revered and recognized as omniscient, the texts themselves were weakened, altered, or even lost (Renou 1965: 1). Although traditional Hinduism accedes to the infallibility and authority of the Vedas, their importance in practice was textually and historically limited (Llewellyn 1993: 95). Before the nineteenth century, they were not used beyond their ritual status as a practical guide.1 The Vedas were invoked, rather than laboriously analyzed as communicative texts. In Europe, different hermeneutic issues presented themselves, since the Veda engendered critical discussion in the form of spurious fragments, misattributions, and forgery (Figueira 1994: 201). When we speak of the reception of the Veda in pre-nineteenth-century Europe and India, we are referring to either an absent or a falsely present text. In critical terms, the Veda functioned as an aporia [lit. 'impasse, difficulty in passage, lack of resources, puzzlement') is a puzzle or state of puzzlement.]. It also served as a metaphor since the Vedic tradition was often culled from texts that were not strictly "Vedic," but "Vedantic"2 or even later.3 Various Sanskrit texts function therefore as mediators of knowledge between the Aryan and its Other. On the level of history, they recount truth. On the level of the text's own production, the reader mediates this truth through idiosyncratic readings and authoritative definitions of what was considered "Vedic."

As the textual reference in the formation of an ideology regarding the Aryan, the Veda also posed problems on the level of canonicity. In what manner was the Veda used to legitimize assertions of faith or law? What were accepted procedures for interpreting the Veda as a canonical text? How did it change over time and place? Was there ever an accepted interpreter whose exegesis was seen as binding (even before it was read)? To what extent did the Veda's reception characterize the situation where "the Devil can quote Scripture to his need?" A canonical literature arises through the consensus of a group elite and normally serves to stabilize that group. It lends value to the interests and products of that group. A fictive Veda or the fiction of the Veda was used to this effect in both the East and the West. In this manner, the Vedic canon could change to meet one challenge after another.


This study has a twofold aim, as a contribution to the theory and methodology of literary analysis and as an illustration of the historical reconstruction of myth. It attempts to retrieve fictions of the Aryan past through a consideration of rhetorical conventions and an awareness of the interaction between literary texts and other nonliterary and subliterary discourses. Because the Aryan myths described in this study originated in the literary reception of surviving "Vedic" texts, particular significance is attached to textual exegesis. The modern reader's task consists of restoring both the linguistic and the extralinguistic context.4 It is necessary to understand the cultural milieu and genre of the work itself as well as those conventions being echoed, since both European and Indian authors attempted to subvert tradition.

This study does not focus on the linguistic, ethnographic, archaeological, and physical anthropological literature dealing with the identity and migrations of the Aryan. Rather, I examine various European and Indian thinkers who built an ideology of the Aryan out of readings of "Aryan" texts. Adopting the general systems thinking of comparative literature,5 rather than the expertise of the area specialist,6 I focus on how myths of identity can be tied to textualities. This cross-cultural comparison involves critical choices.7

The foundations of my methodology have their roots in anthropology. For my interpretation of myth, I draw from the Mauss/Durkheim legacy wherein society is viewed as constituted from sentiments of affinity (affection, solidarity, mutual attachment) and estrangement (alienation and detachment). I am indebted to Cassirer's analysis of myth as a political tool constructed to confront or abet the overriding influences of the occult or irrationalism. I am also influenced by Malinowski's view of myth as a form of social charter, Eliade's understanding of myth as a true narrative, and Barthes' sense of myth as a second order semiotic system, a metalanguage of preexisting signs that can be appropriated, stripped of their original context, and infused with a new content. Finally, I borrow from Bruce Lincoln, who, drawing upon Geertz, interprets myth as discourse functioning either to preserve social stability or to deconstruct order and reconstruct society according to a novel pattern (Lincoln 1989).

My working definition of myth, therefore, is a composite of several approaches: Myth functions as a narrative which possesses credibility and authority and whose charters are manipulated to elicit sentiments which, in turn, construct social formations or legitimize changed social and political conditions. A myth can be restructured to activate "latent" symbolic meanings that play upon the sentiments of affinity to effect political reform. As Romila Thapar maintains, myth functions as the self-image of a given culture, the medium through which its social assumptions are expressed (Thapar 1992: 140). Following Thapar, I view the Aryan myth as a myth of descent, a narrative that can both serve to integrate diverse groups by providing common origins as well as be used for the reverse process of distinguishing one group from the other (Thapar 1992: 142). By positing an authoritative beginning, a myth of descent uses the past to explain the present.

Inasmuch as this study examines myths of identity, it also deals with the writing of history. History as opposed to myth is shaped by the system in which it is developed. As a combination of a social place, "scientific" practices, and writing, the historical operation takes limited evidence and seeks to unity it into coherence. I am indebted to Michel de Certeau's understanding of history as a staging of the past (Certeau 1988: 9): Historians translate ("carry over") elements of the past embedded in present-day consciousness and repackage them to figure in their own interpretative system. The historian thus creates a heterology or a discourse of the Other, wherein strategies are employed to convert alterity into something assimilable to the prevailing configuration of knowledge.

In any selection of materials, shards or remainders are created. What disappears from the product appears in the production, not so much the personal intentions, but the sociocultural localizations that inspire the foci of research. Historiography then becomes the treatment of absence. Certeau's concept of the heterology structures this investigation. The various myths of the Aryan that we will encounter all address concerns central to the heterological process: assimilation, authorial control, and absence. The Aryan as a mythic construct only exists in relation to its non-Aryan Other. We will see how in each seductive representation of the Aryan an unassimilable residue escapes interpretive control in order to return and upset organizations of meaning. The Aryan and its Other appear as phantasmal projections, rather than as effectively "real" populations. This volume examines the manner in which the past, or competing pasts, were constructed, changed status, and claimed historical value.

Part I begins with an examination of the Aryan myth's formation and activation in Western Orientalist scholarship through the construction of the Vedic Golden Age. I then juxtapose this initial Western depiction of the Aryan that was grounded in the reception of the Veda with that of the Enlightenment nonspecialist. I next examine the Western myth of the Aryan race and the Vedic Golden Age in the work of European Romantic mythographers. As an extension of the Romantic emplotment, I turn to the work of Friedrich Max Muller, the first Western "reader" for whom the Veda was a present document and the Aryans actual literary subjects. The remaining chapters in part I focus on the myth of the Aryan in European nineteenth-century race theory. The work of Gobineau and Nietzsche and their theories of social evolution provided an important link to the later nationalist emplotment of the Aryan in Chamberlain and Rosenberg.

Part II examines the Indian myths of the Aryan, beginning with Rarnmohan Roy's rejection of the exclusivity of Sanskrit and his reliance on the vernacular in his interpretation of the Upanishads. Dayanand Saraswati worked from the authority of the Veda as a present text. In chapter 6, I examine his iconoclastic interpretation of the Rig Veda and the fiction of the Aryan that was formulated in his readings, commentaries, and debates. The time frame of part II encompasses the period during the solidification of British colonial rule, when Indian elites became concerned with the threat from above as well as from below. The desire for change, whether along lines of modernization or tradition, was motivated by the desire not to lose one's position in the hierarchy. Thus, the Aryan myth enabled privileged segments of society to revitalize Hindu traditions by positing them as canonically centered and appropriating them in the name of modernization, whether liberal or not. Finally, I examine how low-caste social reformers such as Jotirao Phule and B.D. Ambedkar subverted the nationalist script by overturning the hierarchic relations encoded within Indian society. Through counter-hegemonic/taxonomic inversion, they sought alternative models wherein subordinates and marginals under the present order agitated for the deconstruction of that order and the reconstruction of a novel pattern. Such reform relied upon this disruptive discourse gaining a wide audience and propagation. It also relied upon the domination of sentiments of estrangement over those of affinity. In the contest for political power between caste and non-caste groups, emphasis was thus placed on cultural separateness of the Aryan and the non-Aryan. Such reformers sought to sharpen separation, with each group searching for divergent roots.8

Initially, I limit my analysis to the myth of the Aryan as it was constructed from readings of a "Veda." Presented consistently as the central sacred book, the various "Vedas" offer the reader a literary rather than historical construct of a single Hindu community that implies multiple imagined communities based on various identities (Thapar 1992: 84-85). I must stress, again, that this analysis differs from earlier examinations of the Aryan myth in that it is uniquely tied to the textual construction of race. Chapters 1 and 2 deal with the Western discourse on the Aryan predating the appearance of the Rig Veda in edited form, when an ideology regarding the Aryan was imposed upon absent or falsely present texts. Of necessity, this reception was not text-specific. Chapters 5 and 6, dealing primarily with the Indian strategies of reading reconstructed "Vedas," are exegetical and address issues of textuality. The remaining chapters examine a curious situation in which the Vedic text, although present and available, recedes from its reader's grasp. These readings are more evocations than models of reception. The "Vedic" text all but disappears or surfaces as an optical illusion. Beyond the mirage of the text, all that remains are the aspirations of readers who feel themselves marginalized under existing social structures. Their evocation of an Aryan canon, their call to the authority of an "Aryan" text, becomes the means whereby they confront their sense of estrangement and assert a reified Self. Whether the text is present, absent, or symbolic, these readings are no less "textual." Each use of a "Veda" to construct an Aryan identity is concerned with key literary issues of reading, canonicity, textual accessibility, hermeneutic strategies of reading, and ideal readers. The reception of the Veda in India and Europe is ultimately grounded in a discourse of readership and, as such, suggests the broader theoretical concerns of textually-bound identities and hegemonic textualities.
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

Postby admin » Fri Feb 05, 2021 5:41 am

Part 1 of 2

PART 1: The Authority of an Absent Text

CHAPTER 1: The Enlightenment and Orientalist Discourse on the Aryan


Orientalist and postcolonialist criticism has positioned the origin of much that it seeks to critique within the Enlightenment project. Edward Said identified the Enlightenment as a unified trajectory and master sign of both Orientalism and colonialism (Said 1978). Ashis Nandy traced the roots of colonialism’s mandate to absolutize the relative differences between cultures to the cultural arrogance of Enlightenment Europe. Partha Chatterjee problematized Enlightenment historiography (Chatterjee 1986). Peter van der Veer has blamed Enlightenment discourse for the erroneous politicization of Hinduism (Van der Veer 1998). Curiously, none of their arguments dwells on specifics—a common methodological flaw of critical schools which measure past texts against contemporary claims of emancipation or fantasies of dissent (Fluck 1996: 228). In these instances, critics assess the Enlightenment in light of the subsequent colonial experience. Their critical canon virtually ignores the fundamental texts of the period. Indeed, the Enlightenment has suffered much at the hands of poststructuralism’s vague and atextual treatment. There is clearly a need for a reappraisal of the Enlightenment with reference to its literature.

In satirical works of the eighteenth century, there appeared a general theme, barely hidden under the fiction and in the satire itself: Asia can and should offer lessons. The pittoresque Oriental tale provided an ideal medium through which authors could expose the vices of their own corrupt civil and religious institutions. The satirist’s task had been made that much easier, since travel accounts minutely described the religious and secular institutions of Asia and marked analogies to European systems of rule. Somewhat bemused, the voyagers drew comparisons between Christian and Asian mores. They noted in detail the various resemblances and their far-seeing readers were spurred on to draw further comparisons. In Diderot, Raynal, and Helvétius, for example, the strategy consisted of distancing readers from their normal surroundings in order to make them understand dangerous truths. Incessantly, Helvétius protested that his critique was aimed at the Orient and not at France, but the context of his discussion clearly pointed to misery found in a France stifling under the yoke of oppression.

In contradistinction to the voyagers’ descriptions, the Jesuits had formulated a portrait of an Asia noteworthy for its enlightened customs and institutions. They represented the Chinese as philosophers of subtle wisdom, a marvelously civilized people who were ruled by a paternal government. They obeyed pious and tolerant magistrates who governed with admirably just laws. These Jesuitical observations were, in turn, appropriated by the philosophes, who were not adverse to borrowing their teachers’ arguments to attack the Church. The Jesuitical emplotment of an enlightened Asia allowed the philosophes to question the principle of revealed religion.

For philosophers lost in the century of Louis XV, where visions of utopia collided daily with the contradictions of reality, the fiction of exotic “pure” religions proved captivating. Hindu or Confucian tolerance could be contrasted to the relentlessness of a Church suppressing liberty and to the sad spectacle of European religious disputes. One discovers, therefore, in the Enlightenment emplotment of the Orient, a subtle rhetorical strategy: Asia is portrayed as the victim of prejudice and superstition as well as the domain of reason and virtue. In its former role, it engendered political discussions and emphasized secularized history. In its latter use, the Enlightenment depiction of Asia helped define the disciplinary parameters of the history of religions. The comparisons of religious dogmas resulted in paradigms for practical analyses, most notably a form of biblical exegesis and a criticism of religious superstitions.

In this manner, Montesquieu’s Esprit des lois (1748) presented, for the first time in European literature, an examination of India with the purpose of illuminating universal history. Asia offered Montesquieu a vision of diversity which was unavailable in the classics or in European cultural attitudes. In an important respect, Montesquieu’s understanding of Asia contributed to the work’s originality. He showed that although nature was the same all over, climates differed and affected human behavior. Data culled from Asia enabled Montesquieu to develop this theory in book 17 of the Esprit des lois. Montesquieu’s provocative conclusions directly inspired Voltaire’s Essai sur les moeurs (1756–78). Voltaire adopted Montesquieu’s theory of climates, which in turn legitimized the objective comparison of different social institutions. Although Montesquieu and Voltaire herald the beginning of the scientific or philosophical reception of Asia, the didactic model still informed their work.


The Aryan Rewrites History

For Voltaire, Asia was the ideal. In fact, in the eighteenth century, Voltaire was a principle panegyrist and official defender of Asia’s moral rectitude. It held the key to understanding the European present as well as its future. At first, Voltaire directed his enthusiasm toward China. But its radical foreignness and the indecipherability of its literature stymied his efforts. He then turned his attention toward India, consoling himself with the belief that Indian religion was “very possibly” the same as that of the Chinese government, that is, a pure cult of a Supreme Being disengaged from all superstition and fanaticism (Voltaire 1885: 11.190). He maintained that the brahmin religion was even more ancient than that of China (Voltaire 1885: 28.136). The Indians were, perhaps, the most ancient assembled body of people. It appeared that other nations, such as China and Egypt, went to India for instruction (Voltaire 1885: 11.49). The brahmins were the first theologians in the world (Voltaire 1885: 29.488), and Indian religion formed the basis of all other religions (Voltaire 1885: 45.448). Voltaire believed that Indian philosophers had discovered a new universe “en morale et en physique” [moral and physical] (Voltaire 1963: 2.318).

With time and with a more complete documentation, Voltaire became better informed and refined his characterization of ancient India. As inventors of art, the Aryans were chaste, temperate, and law-abiding (Voltaire 1963: 1.65). They lived in a state of paradise—naked and without luxury. They subsisted on fruit rather than cadavers. Paragons of morality and specimens of physical perfection, the Aryans embodied prelapsarian innocence and sobriety. Their gentleness, respect for animal life, and deep religiosity incarnated the virtues of “Christianity” far more than anything found in the civilized West. Unlike the Saracens, Tartars, Arabs, and the Jews, who lived by piracy, the Aryans found nourishment in a religion (Voltaire 1963: 1.229, 231; 1.60; 1.234) that was based upon universal reason (Voltaire 1963: 1.237).

While Voltaire had initially based his information on the travel accounts of Chardin, Tavernier, and Bernier (Voltaire 1953–65: D 2698), he later came to rely heavily on the Lettres édifiantes et curieuses . . . par quelques missions de la compagnie de Jésus (Paris: 1706–76), especially the letters from Père Bouchet to Huet. As elsewhere in his oeuvre, even in his most virulent critiques of the Church, Voltaire was never truly distant from his Jesuit teachers. Jesuitical documentation on India supplied him with a theme he was to exploit with verve. Although the reverend fathers expressed horror for idolatrous superstition, they were not totally negative in their assessment of Indian religious potential. Jesuit missionaries judged the Indians eminently capable and worthy of conversion. After all, one could find in their “ridiculous” religion belief in a single God (Voltaire 1953-65: 11.190; 11.54), suggesting a kind of proto-Christianity. Bouchet’s mention of parallels between Aryan religious thought and Christianity prompted Voltaire to develop the idea that the West had derived its theology from India.

In short, Voltaire appropriated from the Jesuits data to suit a specific polemic—that Vedism comprised the oldest religion known to man and represented a pure form of worship whose loftly metaphysics formed the basis of Christianity. Voltaire found no difficulty in reconciling the sublimity of Indian religion with its modern superstitions: the Vedic Indian had simply been made soft by the climate (Voltaire 1963: 1.235–37). The climate’s effect was so pernicious that India’s conquerors even became weak under its influence (Voltaire 1885: 13.158). Thus, human frailty (Voltaire 1963: 2.325) and nature (Voltaire 1963: 1.61) conspired to render man idolatrous.

By disengaging a fictive Urform of Hinduism from all superstition and fanaticism, Voltaire effectively set up an ideal against which all other religions could be measured to their disadvantage. What religion could compete with that of the initial brahmins, who had established a government and religion based upon universal reason? When you have peaceful prelates, ruling an innately spiritual people, religion is simple and reasonable. More importantly, India was to supply Voltaire with information to combat the Church and its role in society. As a culture ignored by the Bible, India allowed Voltaire to question the accepted biblical chronology. Most significantly, however, Voltaire’s discussion of India enabled him to vent his spleen against the Jews. In other words, Voltaire’s emplotment of India concentrated on four problems: it allowed him to call into question the chronology of the sacred book, the chosen status of the Jews, the origin of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the diffusion of our mythology, all of which challenged the historical importance of the Jewish people (Hawley 1974: 139–40).

Voltaire’s [H]anskrit Canon

One can almost forgive Voltaire his subjective portrayal of India, given the quality of the information culled from travel accounts, missionary letters, “scholarly” works, and “translations.” Although he sought out European accounts that he felt were exempt from sectarian prejudice, he was inexorably drawn to texts glaringly slanted by Protestant anti-Catholic rhetoric, as in the case of La Croze and Niecamp. He studied those Europeans who purported to know Sanskrit, yet knew none. He studied authors who, although they had spent sufficient time in India, were nevertheless woefully ignorant of the culture. Having literally read everything available concerning India, edited and unedited, Voltaire realized only too well the necessity of basing any future discussion of India upon an authentic Sanskrit text. He, therefore, set out to discover one. After having depended so long on secondary sources, he tended to ascribe authenticity to any Sanskrit text that fell into his hands. Time and again, he was deceived by his sources.

As the oldest theologians, Indians were the first people to possess books (Voltaire 1885: 26.325–6). One such book was the Shaster Bedang, a supposedly four-thousand-year-old exposition of the doctrine of the “Bedas” written by the philosopher Beass Muni. It was found in Alexander Dow’s History of Hindostan translated from the Persian to which are prefixed two dissertations concerning the Hindoos (1768, French translation in 1769).1 Voltaire believed that the Bedang taught Vedic monotheism. Voltaire was also familiar with another purportedly ancient and sacred book, the Shasta or Shastabad of Brahma. Voltaire maintained that the Shasta was five thousand years old, probably the oldest book in the world (Voltaire 1885: 15.326) and the source for subsequent law books (Voltaire 1885: 28.138).2 It possessed real wisdom and the pure original expression of Indian religion. The Shasta was actually a small “theological” treatise of recent date that had been transmitted to John Zephaniah Holwell, who included it in his Interesting historical events relative to the Provinces of Bengal and the Empire of Indostan (1765–71). However, Voltaire read its existence to prove that the brahmins had preceeded by several centuries the Chinese, whom Voltaire initially thought had preceeded the whole world in wisdom. The Shasta’s importance for Voltaire, therefore, was not so much that it was the oldest book but that its style prefigured, in his estimation, all wisdom, including that of Greece.3 The Shasta proved to Voltaire that the Indians were monotheists (Voltaire 1885: 29.167). More importantly, however, it showed that the Chinese and the West borrowed from India both their vision of God (Voltaire 1885: 29.210–11) and their myth of the Fall of Man (Voltaire 1885: 26.326; 28.138; 29.472–73).

Voltaire also discovered a manuscript, entitled the Cormo Vedam, that he described as a résumé of opinions and rites contained in the Veda (Voltaire 1885: 11.52). Voltaire did not believe the Cormo Vedam to be a text worthy of the modern brahmins. He judged it a ludicrous ritual “pile” of superstitions (Voltaire 1963: 1.242–43). Voltaire cited the Cormo Vedam primarily to show how the Veda and brahmins had degenerated. Traces of such decay were particularly prevalent in Voltaire’s primary document of Aryan religion, the Ezour Vedam. In Voltaire’s estimation, the Ezour Vedam was the most important Hanskrit [sic] text that he possessed.4 He claimed that its composition predated Alexander’s expedition to India (Voltaire 1885: 41.12, 367, 464; 45.448). Voltaire received the manuscript of the Ezour Vedam from the Comte de Maudave (1725–77) who had brought it to France. The count was purportedly a close friend of a francophone brahmin (Voltaire 1885: 45.170; 46.117) who had tried to translate the manuscript from Sanskrit into French (Voltaire 1885: 47.72). Voltaire alternately defined the Ezour Vedam as the beginning of the Veda (Voltaire 1885: 26.325–26) or “a copy of the four vedams” (Voltaire 1885: 26.392). In La Défense de mon oncle, he characterized it as “the true vedam, the vedam explained, the pure vedam.” By 1761, however, he described it as merely a commentary of the Veda.

In reality, it did not matter to Voltaire that this text was not really the Veda; what mattered was that it satisfied the idea of a Veda which, for Voltaire, represented an exemplum of sublimity and the scripture of the world’s oldest religion. The Ezour Vedam became such a text: it was the authentic text par excellance (Voltaire 1885: 41.464), the real Urtext, anterior to Pythagorus and anterior to the Shasta (Voltaire 1885: 19.58).5 Not only did Voltaire value it but, at the Bibliothèque du Roi where he had deposited a copy (Voltaire 1885: 47.72), he claimed that it was regarded as the most precious acquisition of the collection (Voltaire 1885: 45.464). This “Veda” announced a pure cult, disengaged from all superstition and all fanaticism (Voltaire 1963: 1.236). Written by the first brahmins, who also served as kings and pontiffs, it established a religion based upon universal reason.

More importantly, the Ezour Vedam provided Voltaire with the ideal text with which to challenge the historical perspective of Judeo-Christianity. Voltaire read the Ezour Vedam to show how the vaunted aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition existed in India centuries before the Old Testament. The general thrust of this argument was to displace the Jews from a favored position in the Christian tradition. Vedic India represented a more distant antiquity than that of the Jews (Voltaire 1885: 17.55–56). Or, as Voltaire allowed his Indian narrator to articulate his message:

We are a great people who settled around the Indus and the Ganges several centuries before the Hebraic horde transported itself to the banks of the Jordan. The Egyptians, Persians and Arabs came to our country in search of wisdom and spices, when the Jews were unknown to the rest of mankind. We could not have taken our Adimo from their Adam. (Voltaire 1885: 17.55)6

The Ezour Vedam harkens back to a time before brahmins and their cult had degenerated. The religion existing in modern India had obscured sage Vedic theology, marketed superstition, and profited modern brahmins (Voltaire 1963: 2.405–6). The Ezour Vedam, however, combated the growth of idolatry and the very superstitions that eventually destroyed Aryan religion (Voltaire 1885: 26.392). For his part, Voltaire hoped to prove how all the principles of Christian theology that had been lost with the Veda could still be found in the Ezour Vedam (Voltaire 1963: 1.240–42), thanks to its retrieval and circulation by a French philosophe.

The Ezour Vedam

Max Müller characterized the Ezour Vedam as a “very coarse forgery” (Müller 1978: 5).7It consisted of a poor compilation of Hindu and Christian doctrines mixed up together in the most childish way. While Müller believed that it was probably the work of a “half educated native convert at Pondicherry” (Müller, 1891: 39) and the silliest book that could be read by a student of religion, he did not believe that the original author intended it for the purpose for which it was used by Voltaire (Müller, 1872: 20).

In La Renaissance orientale, Raymond Schwab characterized the Ezour Vedam as an insidious piece of propaganda consisting of certain “Vedic” materials translated by Jesuits with the intention of isolating elements most in harmony with Christianity (Schwab 1950: 166–68). With this fraud, Schwab maintained, the Jesuits sought to refute idolatry and polytheism in the name of the purer doctrine of the Vedas, and, ultimately, to convert Indians. As the Indologist Willem Caland noted, the fraud was clever: The Ezour Vedam did not reject all Hinduism, but granted those tenets not in contradiction with Christiam dogma. Its author tried to make readers think that the Vedam differed entirely from what they might have believed it to be (Rocher 1983: 24).

The editor of the Ezour Vedam, the Baron de Sainte Croix, did not present it as one of the four Vedas (Ezour Vedam 1778: 116),8 but offered it as the first original Sanskrit text published on religious and philosophical dogma. He did believe, however, that the Ezour Vedam’s scriptural citations were authentic.9 This point was important, since the editor also maintained that the four Vedas were lost (Ezour Vedam 1778:130). Sainte Croix felt that, given the mendacity of the brahmins and the large fees offered by the West for the Veda’s retrieval, the texts would have long since fallen into missionary hands had they still existed (Ezour Vedam 1778: 109–10).

It was upon its arrival in Europe that the confusion concerning the Ezour Vedam’s identity occurred. Ludo Rocher has suggested that error arose due to the work’s title. The Ezour Vedam’s reference to itself as a “veda” should have been understood in a generic sense, as the term “veda” is used in India by both missionaries and Indians alike. In fact, Rocher suggests that the Ezour Vedam did not pretend to be one of the four Vedas, but rather a “veda” in the general sense of the term, a holy book or, as the text defined itself, a “corps de science” (Ezour Vedam 1778: 203). It made no attempt to rank itself among the Vedas. In fact, the text clearly presents itself as a commentary. 10 By resolving the samdhi11 of the Ezour Vedam’s original title (Zozur Bedo), Rocher translated the title as the “Gospel of Jesus.” It seems likely that the Ezour Vedam was, indeed, a syncretistic pastiche compiled in the hopes of converting Hindus to an amenable Christianity. What the Ezour Vedam actually was is less significant than the use to which it and the mythic Aryan society it described were put during the Enlightenment. The Veda (in the form of the Ezour Vedam) allowed Voltaire and Sainte Croix to draw a distinction between what was Vedic and post-Vedic, the latter being a degenerated form of the former. Just as scripture had degenerated, so too had its interpreters.

A considerable portion of this early discourse surrounding the “Veda” consisted in mourning the loss of a rational religion that had suffered corruption (Voltaire 1963: 1.238) and blaming the brahmin elite, who neither instructed their people properly nor desired knowledge themselves (Voltaire 1963: 1.243–44). In this diatribe, Voltaire always presented the brahmin clergy as mendacious and generally corrupt (Voltaire 1963: 1.61).12 Voltaire blamed the brahmin priests for having led the Aryans astray, just as he blamed the Jesuits for the state of French Catholicism. In both instances, priestly machinations had entrapped the faithful in the snares of superstition and intolerance. Aryan India mirrored the Human (that is, French) Condition: Rational religion had degenerated into superstitions and abominable cultic practices. The prime actors in both instances were the priests. Brahmins offered Voltaire a most pregnant symbol: Where in the world could he have directed his anticlerical polemics so successfully? The brahmin priests allowed him to “écraser l’infâme” and, for once, the objects of his critique were not Catholic, Jesuits, or French.

The polemic directed against the brahmin clergy was seen inscribed within the narrative structure of the Ezour Vedam itself rather than as an intentional product of it. Biache, the caricature of a degenerate brahmin, preaches superstition in the form of popular theology to the philosopher Chumontou. By challenging Biache with refutations culled from the “Veda,” Chumontou imparts “pure” Aryan wisdom concerning the unity of God, creation, the nature of the soul, and the doctrines of suffering and reward. By enumerating the proper forms of worship (Ezour Vedam 1778: 150), the text itself is seen to exhibit the extent to which original Aryan theism had degenerated into Hindu polytheism (Ezour Vedam 1778: 13). With a brahmin priest spouting foolish superstition ably refuted by a philosopher championing reason, the Ezour Vedam was tailor-made to voice Voltaire’s critique of organized religion and faith in rationalism. But, Voltaire’s exoticism did not limit itself to a simple Deist idealization of the Aryan past. India was to provide Voltaire with a forceful weapon for a more significant battle in historical revisionism.

India, What Can It Teach Us?

This question, adopted by Max Müller as the title of a collection of essays, addresses a fundamental concern of this study, namely, that a fictive India and fictional Aryan ancestors were constructed in the West to provide answers for questions regarding European identity. India enabled Europe to discover its “true” past. Nowhere is this more true than in Voltaire’s attempt to rewrite the history of religions. It was in his efforts to compare world mythologies, especially the myth of the Fall of Man, that Voltaire’s true need to construct an Indian alibi (Latin: elsewhere) surfaced.

Voltaire compared the “Indian” version of the Fall with the classical myth relating the revolt of the Titans and the apocryphal account of Lucifer’s rebellion found in the Book of Enoch (Voltaire 1885: 18.34). The common use of this myth in three traditions suggested to Voltaire that the Greeks and the Jews had knowledge of brahmin mysteries. Voltaire placed additional significance on this myth, attributing all subsequent religious thought to it. It provided the foundation for the entire Christian religion (Voltaire 1885: 11.184), since it set the stage for Original Sin, which in turn set the stage for everything that followed. Voltaire also claimed that the Aryans originated the concept of the Devil, who, as the agent of sin, animated all Judeo- Christian theology (Voltaire 1885: 29.482). If this was indeed true, why, Voltaire asked, did Christianity bother to use a source as tenuous as a Jewish apocryphal book to explain the existence of evil (Voltaire 1885: 29.172–73)? Why did Christianity seek to base itself solely on a myth that did not even appear in the Old Testament (Voltaire 1885: 28.139)?

Voltaire posed these questions with a clear response in mind. By inserting this fundamental myth into an apocryphal book, the Jews contrived to claim authorship and displace the true founders of our faith. It was the Aryans, the Vedic brahmins, who had first developed these truths. The Jews subsequently repeated this mythology, after stealing it from its ancient Indian source. Just as the Jews stole the source of religions, so too did they steal the idea of Adam as the progenitor.

Did they get this from the Jews? Did the Jews copy the Indians, were both original? The Jews are not allowed to think that their writers took (ont puisé) anything from the brahmins, of whom they have never heard. It is not permitted to think about Adam in another way than do the Jews. I will be quiet and I will not think. (Voltaire 1885: 19.59)

Such is Voltaire’s polemic: The Jews stole what was of worth in their religion from the Aryans, people whom they called Gog and Magog (Voltaire 1885: 29.471). They then conspired to keep their fraud a secret. We, as Christians, have not dared to reveal this fraud, as our own beliefs are implicated (Voltaire 1885: 29.481). We have to believe the Jews, although we detest them, because they are regarded as our precursors and masters (Voltaire 1885: 11.47).

Ironically, Voltaire’s strategy to reveal this fraud involved those very individuals who, had the Jews not been his scapegoats, would have been his natural enemies—the Jesuits. Voltaire felt that the Jesuits alone were capable of proving whether “the vast Indies or a part of Palestine” comprises the most ancient society. They alone possessed the scholarly means to determine whether brahmins had plagarized the Pentateuch or the Jews had appropriated the wisdom of the Aryans (Voltaire 1885: 29.184).

The Veda was never more than a symbolic text for Voltaire. Nevertheless, it supplied him with an effective tool to launch a considerable attack: it combated idolatry, introduced Adam to the world, and provided an alternative scenario for the Fall of Man. In short, the Veda provided “all the principles of theology” (Voltaire 1885: 11.192) that Voltaire needed or desired: baptism, the immortality of the soul, metempsychosis, the identification of Abraham with Brahm (sic), and of Adam and Eve with Adimo and Procriti. The description of the revolt of the angels found in Holwell’s Shasta prefigured the biblical account of Lucifer’s fall.

The political repercussions of this reconstruction of Aryan religion were signficant. We have seen how the Ezour Vedam’s creation myth enabled Voltaire to attack the originality of the Hebrews and their religion. It allowed him to claim the anteriority of the Indians and, in doing so, effectively challenge the authority of the Bible. India provided another basis for religion unencumbered by the Judaic tradition. Indian “scripture” also allowed Voltaire to make the argument that the Jews were the great plagiarists of history:

Some very intelligent thinkers say that the brahmin sect is incontestably older that that of the Jews . . . they say that the Indians were always inventors and the Jews always imitators, the Indians always clever and the Jews always coarse. (Cited in Hawley 1974: 151)

In sections appended at a later date (1769) to the Essai sur les moeurs, Voltaire accuses the Jews of stealing from the Indians both the myths of Creation and the Fall. The Jews did not set the stage for Christianity; rather it was the Aryans who bequethed to us a religion based on universal reason that the Jews subsequently distorted. In a late letter to Frederick the Great (December 1775), Voltaire reiterated that Christianity was founded solely on the ancient religion of “Brama” [sic].

Voltaire’s reading of the “Veda” is, indeed, as ironic as it is inventive. He was able to imbue a clever piece of propaganda (or a clumsy attempt at ecumenicism) with characteristics that suited his polemical needs. Vedic India became a privileged site of Deist rationalism. He enlisted the Aryans in an attack on the pretensions of the Catholic Church and invoked their originality in order to displace the Jews from their privileged position in history. Less spectacular yet not less noteworthy is the simple fact that hidden behind Voltaire’s polemic lie the seeds of modern historiography, the study of comparative mythology, and the history of religions. It was with such faulty source material and prejudice that Voltaire initiated the comparative study of religion by comparing our myths to those of the Aryans.
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

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Part 2 of 2


Herder: Poetry versus Metaphysics

Kant proclaimed that the modern state resulted from man’s progressive development. How was one to reconcile this theory with the perception that many “primitive” peoples were happier and better off than inhabitants of the civilized world? In accordance with popular Enlightenment propaganda, one could render these “primitives” more sophisticated than the modern Western man. Thus, Kant could declare that Indian religious thought was free of dogmatism and intolerance: “It is a principle of the Indians (i.e. the Hindus), that every nation has its own religion. For this reason, they do not force anyone to accept theirs” (cited in Halbfass 1988:61).

We have seen how in the French Enlightenment discourse, India provided an alibi: by satisfying, through spacial displacement, the need for a new social and religious geography. Moreover, Indian religion also illustrated how “natural light” had been eclipsed through superstition, fanaticism, and idolatry. As Wilhelm Halbfass has noted, this theme of the suppression of natural light through superstition enjoyed great popularity among thinkers of the Enlightenment. Finally, the discourse on India also gives expression to the motif of religious decay (Halbfass 1988: 60–61). It was in the writings of Johann Gottfried von Herder that this strategy, linking self-reflection to anexotic, was first used to indulge politically charged fantasies of structural collapse and decay.

The philosophes and their followers believed in the unity of mankind and held that all men subsisted under the same natural law of right and reason. They supposed that all would participate alike in progress and that the outcome of history would be one of uniform civilization in which all peoples and races would share equally. As Herder maintained in the Ideen, man has the potential of ascending to the ideal of infinite perfection even without the benefits of Western culture. The study of peoples such as Indians (Herder 1877–1913: 4.357, 425; 5.214; 8.208; 11.247; 16.13) contributed to the development of Humanität, defined by Herder as the sum of the virtue and talents peculiar to human beings or the divine in man (Herder 1877–1913: 13.350; 14.230). However, the Enlightenment’s belief in the potential similarity of all human beings and in freedom from intolerance and ignorance would not be so easily realized. Herder’s discussions of India brings to the foreground this very dilemma.

Contrary to the account found in Genesis, Voltaire had placed the origin of mankind in the East on the banks of the Ganges. Herder followed Voltaire in that he too discovered the cradle of humanity in India (Herder 1877–1913: 13.38, 399, 403, 406).13 Since all men were descended from the same race (Herder 1877-1913: 5.447; 13.252, 405), Herder attributed the development of different cultures and languages to environmental forces (Herder 1877–1913: 5.539). Language, the purest expression of the spiritual character of a national group (Herder 1877–1913: 17.58–59), like man himself, descended from a unique source (Herder 1877–1913: 30.8). By positioning the childhood of humanity in India, Herder referred not only to the ancestors of Europeans, but also to progenitors of all humankind.

In the Ideen, Herder described India as the birthplace of all languages, sciences, and art (Herder 1877–1913: 13.411). He characterized the Hindus as the gentlest race of man (Herder 1877–1913: 13.222, 225–26). The Indian has respect for all sentient beings. His nourishment is sound and his demeanor as graceful as his spirit (Herder 1877-1913: 13.222). Indians are endowed with supernatural physical and spiritual qualities (Herder 1877–1913: 14.32, 73–74). No people exceeds the Indian in calmness and gentle obedience. Herder attributed the Indians’ tranquility to the climate as well as their innate character (Herder 1877–1913: 14.28). Their gestures and speech are unconstrainedly charming, their intercourse free, their bodies pure, and their mode of life simple and harmless. Children are brought up with indulgence and are not lacking in sensitivity, knowledge, or diligence. Even the lowest strata of society learn to read, write, and add (Herder 1877–1913: 14.28–29). Their vision of God is great and beautiful.

However, Herder did not give India the least importance in the comparative history of primitive revelation. It was as though Indian religion, since the supposed loss of the Rig Veda, had been cut off from primitive revelation and reduced to human speculation. Indian religion was interesting in and of itself, but inappropriate to illuminate the authenticity of pure Christianity or Judaism, which, after all, were the objects of legitimate exegesis. Herder found much to respect about India. Like his friend Goethe, he admired the graceful simplicity of Kalidasa’s Sakuntala. He even felt that it must be more valuable than all “the Vedas, Upavedas and Upangas” put together. Its poetry, undistorted by tendentious religious speculation, provided greater beauty and truth than was thought possible in Sanskrit literature. Herder judged the Vedas, “Upavedas” and “Upangas,” although absent to his gaze, as interminable, less useful, and far less agreeable than the poetry of Kalidasa. He even surmised that it was the Veda that had blunted the spirit and character of the Indian people. Compared to the poetry, all those “Upnekats” and “Bagavedams” must have presented faint notions of the Indian mentality (Herder 1786–92: 91).

In Herder’s mind, India and the primitive world, the primitive world and nature, nature and poetry become synonymous and interchangeable. He joined the eighteenth-century belief in the anteriority of poetry to his own variation of the bon sauvage theme and posited an equivalence of India and poetry (Herder 1877–1913: 5.50; 1.32). The compiler of the Stimmen der Völker in Liedern also encouraged Germans to seek new inspirational models and question the absolute value of Greek classical norms. The philosophes and their German disciples believed that reality and, by extension, the arts were ordered in terms of universal, timeless, objective, and unalterable laws which rational investigation could discover. Their detractors believed that logic was incompatible with the force of inspiration necessary for poetic creation. Herder sought a middle ground between these diametrically opposed alternatives. He rejected the particular concept of reason propounded by Enlightenment rationalism and endeavored, rather, to interpret rationality in such a way that it was not inimical to spontaneity and vitality.

The Fragmente, Über die neuere deutsche Literatur, and Abhandlung über den Ursprung der Sprache reveal Herder’s struggle with the possibility of discovering a native German literature. The movement of German authors to found a German national literature developed along two distinct lines: the first consisting of a need to establish a clear criterion for assessing a work’s national characteristics, the second, to create a literature unique in itself. As a corollary, this movement stimulated speculation on the nature of artistic inspiration in general. To proclaim the poetic origin of language, to situate the land of poetry in India, to present popular songs against the classics, to underline the sacred character of inspiration—in other words, to found a Weltliteratur—already entailed the assertion of the artistic equivalence between the Nibelungenlied and the Vedas (Gérard 1963: 65).

With man’s origin in India, it followed that Sanskrit poetry should provide the source from which all poetry descended. Sanskrit poetry thus played a pivotal role in Herder’s thought. Its beauty and sublimity provided an excellent argument in favor of Herder’s humanistic aesthetic. The study of songs, fables, and myths of nationalities such as that of India (Herder 1877–1913: 16.13; 4.357; 5.214; 8.208; 11.247) contributed to the development of one’s national culture, which, in turn, contributed to the development of humanity (Herder 1877–1913: 13.356; 14.230).

Due to the West’s necessarily incomplete knowledge of Sanskrit literature, Herder could cut it to measure out of the poetic presuppositions of an unpoetic age. As a result of Herder’s theories and instigations, Sanskrit poetry became required reading for anyone who desired to experience “real” poetry. In Herder’s thought, the ´´ Sakuntala possessed everything the absent Veda lacked. In fact, for Herder, Kalidasa’s nataka assumed a significance which subsequent writers attributed to the Veda in their depiction of an Aryan humanity. Herder chose to emphasize the Sakuntalafor two reasons. Kalidasa’s play existed and could be read in support of Romantic claims which found their germ in Herder’s writings. The Veda did not exist. But, even as an absent text, it was never absent as a counterpoint to Sanskrit poetry and was a negative authority in his discourse to be rejected because of its degeneracy and superstitious beliefs.

According to Herder, Aryan religion was destroyed long ago by Vaisnavite and Shivaite sectarians. Its legends came down to us only in the form of more recent interpretations. While some residue of the initial purity of primitive Aryan religion remains in these legends, they have been grossly distorted by myth. While quasi-biblical and quasi-Christian, Indian religion suffered from a particular evil, metempsychosis, that destroyed Aryan spirituality and morality, leaving Hindu quietism, indifference, and social disaster in its wake. Herder suspected what modern Indologists can prove from the Rig Veda—that the Aryans did not believe in metempsychosis. Herder believed that metempsychosis betokened the regression of Aryan spirituality from contact with aboriginal tribes given to totemism (Herder 1877–1913: 16.78). For Herder, metempsychosis signified the illusion of sensual men who envied the fate of animals. Populations that are more evolved and happier invent a locus where their terrestrial life can be prolonged in idealized form. The Aryans had done this. But the later Indians had degenerated. Their belief in metempsychosis encouraged compassion for plants and animals, rather than for people (Herder 1877–1913: 14.31).

In actuality, Herder distinguished three Indias: the primitive kingdom of poetry and natural religion provided by the presence of the Sakuntala, the mystico-metaphysical worldview represented by the Aryans of the absent Veda, and the degenerate present. For Herder’s subjective reasoning, the first alone was of interest, the second inaccessable, and the third a monstrous product of the human spirit. All three Indias—the locus of true poetry, the lost Aryan hierophany, and the degenerate present—would, however, reappear in subsequent discussions. It would be the task of the Romantic mythographers to incorporate these fictive Indias within an interpretation of the Semitic-Christian religious cycle. India was still too distant, however, in Herder’s time.

Nevertheless, many of the Romantic theses regarding India begin to coalesce in Herder. Already, in Voltaire, we saw the Aryans inhabiting a golden age and their religion offering a tradition older than the Bible. Aryan India saw primitive revelation degenerate under the influence of a corrupt priesthood and monotheism reduced to polytheism. Upon this script, Herder and the Romantics projected their own aesthetic need: the desire to discover a true national poetry. Once the Veda appeared on the literary scene, Herder’s notions concerning the poetic origin of language and poetry as a spontaneous expression of the folk spirit and Sanskrit poetry as natural national poetry would be applied to it. Herder’s depiction of India as an ancient poetic utopia and modern site of cultural decay would also reappear in subsequent discussions.

Jones and Colebrooke: Myth versus Text

Sir William Jones was Europe’s foremost Orientalist scholar. He mastered twenty-eight languages, translated the Sakuntala and the Manava Dharmashastra (Laws of Manu), and served in India as a judge. Nevertheless, he depicted the ancient Aryan in terms not dissimilar to those of the nonspecialists of his time. The Aryans were a superior people. All that was considered valuable in the Ancients found an initial expression among the Aryans. They possessed a highly evolved moral wisdom and a fertile imaginative genius (Jones 1788: 728-29). They originated the study of astronomy (Jones 1788: 430) and developed metaphysical theories that the Greeks later appropriated (Jones 1788: 425). The Aryans also supplied the Ancients with their gods (Jones 1788: 724). They were somewhat related to the great cultures of mankind, including our own. Aryan society was so magnificent that, even after so many revolutions and conquests, they still surpassed the world in wealth. However, Aryan culture degenerated and only vestiges of its former glory appear in modern India.

Today they appear degenerate and abased . . . in some early age, they were splendid in arts and arms, happy in government, wise in legislation, and eminent in various knowledges. (Jones 1788: 421) Before the Aryans disappeared, however, they left a textual trace of their genius behind in the Veda and its “compendium, the Upanishads.” According to Jones, these texts provided source material for information regarding the Aryans and their noble metaphysics (Jones 1788: 429). To this script, Jones added several key points that would provide valuable information for an ideological portrait of ancient India that subsequent thinkers in India and the West would exploit.

Jones is credited with the discovery of the affinity between Sanskrit and the Classical, Persian, Celtic, and Gothic languages. His speculation regarding the importance of Sanskrit not only initiated the scientific study of India, but proved revolutionary to the then barely nascent study of linguistics. For, in addition to noting the similarity between Sanskrit and the classical languages, Jones informed his readers that Sanskrit was “more perfect” than Greek, more copious than Latin and, more exquisitely refined than either (Jones 1788: 422). If Sanskrit so far surpassed those languages previously held as the highest forms of expression, then the Indians who spoke it were truly a race to be admired. We have seen how others had made similar assertions. Jones, however, was the first to be able to back his claim with “scientific” data. The belief in a linguistic affinity of the Aryans with Persians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Tuscans, Goths, Celts, Chinese, Japanese, and Peruvians implied that these peoples all proceeded from some central site of origin (Jones 1788: 431). That they all possessed languages structurally similar to our own became politically significant. Scholarship could now be enlisted in the service of empire. By rediscovering India’s Aryan past, England could subsequently presume that it was helping India help itself. This motive, explicit in Jones’s translation efforts (Figueira 1991: 25), also informed the portrayal of the Aryan in the scholarship of Henry Thomas Colebrooke (Müller 1837: 1.2). Colebrooke’s assessment of the Vedic materials was, however, more directly instrumental in defining the British colonial mission.

Jones, along with other scholars (Halhed, Marine, and Chambers) had collected numerous Vedic fragments and deposited them in the library of the College of Fort William in Calcutta (Kopf 1969:40). In 1800, Colebrooke was assigned by Governor-General Wellesley to teach Sanskrit at Fort William. During his tenure there, he found an ideal opportunity to collate the Vedic fragments residing in the college library. In the Asiatick Researches of 1805, Colebrooke offered an approximate idea of the contents of the Veda (Colebrooke 1805: 377–497). His readings of this material offered Westerners for the first time the textual evidence to chart the decline of Indian civilization from Vedic to modern times (Müller 1837: 1.3).

Colebrooke had initially doubted whether the Vedas were extant or whether their obsolete dialect could be read by anyone.14 He had thought that even if brahmins possessed the Veda, they would not have shared them. Although the Upanishads had already been translated into Persian, the brahmins still jealously guarded their scripture (Colebrooke 1805: 377). Colonel Polier’s discovery of a purportedly complete copy dispelled Colebrooke’s doubts. The Veda did, in fact, exist and it became Colebrooke’s task to introduce it in general terms to the West.15

The bulk of Colebrooke’s article, however, dealt with proving the authenticity of his manuscripts. Although the Veda’s date and authorship could not be determined “with accuracy and confidence” (Colebrooke 1805: 489), Colebrooke confirmed its authenticity by cross-referencing it to other works. He also compared fragments of numerous commentaries whose authenticity had been secured by interpretations of their annotations in other works.16 He further verified Vedic quotations with the testimony of grammars, collections of aphorisms, law digests, astronomy, medical texts, profane poetry, and even the writings of heretical sects (Colebrooke 1805: 481–84). This corroboration offered sufficient grounds to prove that no forger’s skill was equal to the task of fabricating large works in all branches of Sanskrit literature to agree with the numerous citations pervading thousands of volumes in every branch of that literature (Colebrooke 1805: 484). The “superstitious” manner in which the Veda was read, its explanatory table of contents, and indices as well as glosses of every passage and every word made interpolations impracticable (Colebrooke 1805: 480). Colebrooke assured his readers that the Veda, as he presented it, not only was genuine but had survived in an unadulterated form. After authenticating the texts in question, however, Colebrooke showed little interest in analyzing their message or the civilization out of which they arose.

He did, however, corroborate Jones’s more significant assertions. Colebrooke read the Veda as a negative authority. It did not so much relate what the Aryans were like as what they were not like: modern Hindus. All the abuses of modern Hinduism were absent from Vedic religion. There were no blood sacrifices (Colebrooke 1805: 437–78). The numerous gods of modern cultic practice could be reduced to the three major Vedic deities and these were ultimately manifestations of one supreme god (Colebrooke 1805: 395). Just as Aryan religious rituals differed dramatically from those of modern India, so did its social practices (Colebrooke 1795: 209–19; Colebrooke 1798: 33-67).

Colebrooke’s thesis, while evidently more informed and expert than that of the nonspecialist commentary, was remarkably similar to the Enlightenment discourse on the Aryans. It emphasized an ideal Vedic age whose religion had degenerated through superstition and clerical abuse. The monotheistic religion that Colebrooke discovered in the Vedas was no longer in use and had been superseded by polytheism and decadent ceremonies, founded on the Puranas or, even worse, the Tantras. Bloody sacrifices to Kalı had taken the place of the less sanguinary yajña, just as adoration of Krishna and Rama had succeeded the worship of elements and plants (Colebrooke 1805: 495-96). As Colebrooke would note in his essay “On the Religious Ceremonies of the Hindus,” modern Hinduism functioned as a misunderstanding of ancient texts (Colebrooke 1802: 229–31). Rituals such as satı were not part of the authentic scriptural tradition (Colebrooke 1785: 109–19). Colebrooke also found discrepancies between the ancient texts and contemporary practice with reference to caste exclusionary practices. David Kopf has characterized the Jones-Colebrooke depiction of the Aryans in the following terms: they “were thought to have been outgoing and non-mystical. They were pictured as a robust, beef-eating, socially egalitarian society” (Kopf 1969: 41). These Aryans believed in one God, did not practice satı or idolatry, and did not adhere to caste regulations. They were in no way similar to modern Hindus.

Despite the length of Colebrooke’s article, his specific conclusions were scant and uninspiring. He limited his discussion to providing a soupçon of the Vedas, citing passages to show the “seeming absurdity” of the text under analysis (Colebrooke 1805: 434). They were too voluminous for a complete translation, their language was obscure, and they presented too little reward to the reader and the translator.17 Colebrooke concluded that the Vedas deserved to be consulted occasionally by the Oriental scholar for those few remarkable and important things found in them, however difficult it was to extract such pearls. On this negative note, Colebrooke concluded his 120- page analysis introducing the Veda to Europe. His article had the effect of dampening interest in the Vedas and discouraging scholars from delving deeper into them for profitable information. However, Colebrooke’s analysis had a significant political effect upon the colonial administration’s assessment of the worth of Sanskrit literature and modern Hindu religion, as Thomas B. Macauley’s oft-cited Minute will attest. It took another half-century to amend Colebrooke’s dismissive judgment and shift the focus of scholarly interest away from the classical period of Sanskrit literature back to the Urtext.18


The discourse on the Aryan during this period, culled from fraudulent or largely absent textual material, expressed concerns that were crucial to the Enlightenment vision of historical progress and knowing subjects acting within history. The Veda’s discovery, “scientific” analysis, and presence in the West as a text would not significantly alter the nonspecialist portrait of the Aryan. In fact, Orientalist scholarship is seen to have provided the documentation necessary to support the Enlightenment conceptual apparatus. Such validation may, indeed, explain critical interpretations of the Enlightenment’s influence on Orientalism and colonialism. As we have noted, postcolonial critiques of the Enlightenment tend to avoid actually engaging Enlightenment texts. This failure should not be attributed to critical laziness, the theorists’ restrictive canon, or the fact that Foucault has exhausted the possibilities of interpreting the Enlightenment. By evoking the Enlightenment without allowing its literature to inform any analysis and projecting onto Enlightenment anthropology the discursive source of colonialism without engaging texts, critics can neatly avoid having to confront what the literature reveals: the Enlightenment’s ambiguous [open to more than one interpretation; having a double meaning; unclear or inexact because a choice between alternatives has not been made.] representation of the Other.

The modern enterprise of anthropology, with all of its important implications for cross-cultural perceptions, perspectives, and self-consciousness emerged from the eighteenth-century intellectual context of the Enlightenment. If the Renaissance discovered perspective in art, it was the Enlightenment that articulated and explored the problem of perspective in viewing history, culture, and society. If the Renaissance was the age of oceanic discovery—most dramatically the discovery of the New World of America—the critical reflections of the Enlightenment brought about an intellectual rediscovery of the New World and thus laid the foundations for modern anthropology. The contributions that constitute this book present the multiple anthropological facets of the Enlightenment, and suggest that the character of its intellectual engagements—acknowledging global diversity, interpreting human societies, and bridging cultural difference—must be understood as a whole to be fundamentally anthropological.

-- The Anthropology of the Enlightenment, edited by Larry Wolff and Marco Cipolloni

Poststructuralism’s limited canon normally protects certain ideological presuppositions, the first and foremost of which is Deconstruction’s critique of Western rationalism. Actual engagement with Enlightenment texts might very well call such presuppositions into question. Therefore, postcolonial theory, spawned as it is from Deconstruction’s confrontation with logocentrism, must present the Enlightenment as a unified trajectory. It must be seen as a period that uniformly absolutized differences. The Enlightenment must be made to fit the master narrative of Orientalism and colonial discourse analysis.

Postcolonial theory is a body of thought primarily concerned with accounting for the political, aesthetic, economic, historical, and social impact of European colonial rule around the world in the 18th through the 20th century. Postcolonial theory takes many different shapes and interventions, but all share a fundamental claim: that the world we inhabit is impossible to understand except in relationship to the history of imperialism and colonial rule. This means that it is impossible to conceive of “European philosophy,” “European literature,” or “European history” as existing in the absence of Europe’s colonial encounters and oppression around the world. It also suggests that colonized world stands at the forgotten center of global modernity. The prefix “post” of “postcolonial theory” has been rigorously debated, but it has never implied that colonialism has ended; indeed, much of postcolonial theory is concerned with the lingering forms of colonial authority after the formal end of Empire. Other forms of postcolonial theory are openly endeavoring to imagine a world after colonialism, but one which has yet to come into existence. Postcolonial theory emerged in the US and UK academies in the 1980s as part of a larger wave of new and politicized fields of humanistic inquiry, most notably feminism and critical race theory. As it is generally constituted, postcolonial theory emerges from and is deeply indebted to anticolonial thought from South Asia and Africa in the first half of the 20th century. In the US and UK academies, this has historically meant that its focus has been these regions, often at the expense of theory emerging from Latin and South America. Over the course of the past thirty years, it has remained simultaneously tethered to the fact of colonial rule in the first half of the 20th century and committed to politics and justice in the contemporary moment. This has meant that it has taken multiple forms: it has been concerned with forms of political and aesthetic representation; it has been committed to accounting for globalization and global modernity; it has been invested in reimagining politics and ethics from underneath imperial power, an effort that remains committed to those who continue to suffer its effects; and it has been interested in perpetually discovering and theorizing new forms of human injustice, from environmentalism to human rights. Postcolonial theory has influenced the way we read texts, the way we understand national and transnational histories, and the way we understand the political implications of our own knowledge as scholars. Despite frequent critiques from outside the field (as well as from within it), postcolonial theory remains one of the key forms of critical humanistic interrogation in both academia and in the world.

-- Postcolonial Theory, by J Daniel Elam

Moreover, any actual confrontation with Enlightenment literature would highlight the extent to which poststructural criticism embraces its presentism [uncritical adherence to present-day attitudes, especially the tendency to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts], equates politics with oppositionalism and power with rationalism. If poststructuralist theory’s universalization of power defines itself as a systemic limitation to individual choice (Fluck 1996: 227), then postcolonial criticism has a vested interest in dismissing the Enlightenment. If a key concern of this criticism involves the rejection of ideals that were fundamental to the Enlightenment project, then the Enlightenment as the perpetrator of rationalism, empiricism, and historicism must be suspect. The Enlightenment belief in the idea of historical agents and/or knowing subjects must also be ignored, since the edifice of poststructuralist criticism has been erected upon the impossibility of self-reflection and intersubjective validation (Fluck 1990: 17). Thus, criticism’s own agenda must be projected onto texts from the past.

As part of the tradition of modernism and the Enlightenment, matters of Western philosophy and literary criticism have generally been framed within a particular standard of formality, transparency, earnestness, rationality, and high-mindedness. As a critique of modernism, however, deconstruction is usually rational at least to an extent; but deconstruction is also critical of Western rationality. Deconstruction tends also to be comparatively opaque, eccentric, playful, imitative, and often crass. As a result, deconstruction takes place on the margins of modernist discourse, which invites criticism by modernists...

[M]ost deconstructive writings are relatively opaque and dense, and are full of not only the terminology of the text being critiqued, but additional neologisms that many find hard to follow. This opacity in texts of the broader movements of postmodernism and post-structuralism has led to criticism of those movements, and implicitly of deconstruction, by many modernists such as Noam Chomsky, himself a noted linguist, who stated:...

As for the "deconstruction" that is carried out (also mentioned in the debate), I can't comment, because most of it seems to me gibberish. But if this is just another sign of my incapacity to recognize profundities, the course to follow is clear: just restate the results to me in plain words that I can understand, and show why they are different from, or better than, what others had been doing long before and and have continued to do since without three-syllable words, incoherent sentences, inflated rhetoric that (to me, at least) is largely meaningless, etc. That will cure my deficiencies --- of course, if they are curable; maybe they aren't, a possibility to which I'll return.

These are very easy requests to fulfill, if there is any basis to the claims put forth with such fervor and indignation. But instead of trying to provide an answer to this simple requests, the response is cries of anger: to raise these questions shows "elitism," "anti-intellectualism," and other crimes --- though apparently it is not "elitist" to stay within the self- and mutual-admiration societies of intellectuals who talk only to one another and (to my knowledge) don't enter into the kind of world in which I'd prefer to live. As for that world, I can reel off my speaking and writing schedule to illustrate what I mean, though I presume that most people in this discussion know, or can easily find out; and somehow I never find the "theoreticians" there, nor do I go to their conferences and parties. In short, we seem to inhabit quite different worlds, and I find it hard to see why mine is "elitist," not theirs. The opposite seems to be transparently the case, though I won't amplify...

It's entirely possible that I'm simply missing something, or that I just lack the intellectual capacity to understand the profundities that have been unearthed in the past 20 years or so by Paris intellectuals and their followers. I'm perfectly open-minded about it, and have been for years, when similar charges have been made -- but without any answer to my questions. Again, they are simple and should be easy to answer, if there is an answer: if I'm missing something, then show me what it is, in terms I can understand. Of course, if it's all beyond my comprehension, which is possible, then I'm just a lost cause, and will be compelled to keep to things I do seem to be able to understand, and keep to association with the kinds of people who also seem to be interested in them and seem to understand them (which I'm perfectly happy to do, having no interest, now or ever, in the sectors of the intellectual culture that engage in these things, but apparently little else).

Since no one has succeeded in showing me what I'm missing, we're left with the second option: I'm just incapable of understanding. I'm certainly willing to grant that it may be true, though I'm afraid I'll have to remain suspicious, for what seem good reasons. There are lots of things I don't understand -- say, the latest debates over whether neutrinos have mass or the way that Fermat's last theorem was (apparently) proven recently. But from 50 years in this game, I have learned two things: (1) I can ask friends who work in these areas to explain it to me at a level that I can understand, and they can do so, without particular difficulty; (2) if I'm interested, I can proceed to learn more so that I will come to understand it. Now Derrida, Lacan, Lyotard, Kristeva, etc. --- even Foucault, whom I knew and liked, and who was somewhat different from the rest --- write things that I also don't understand, but (1) and (2) don't hold: no one who says they do understand can explain it to me and I haven't a clue as to how to proceed to overcome my failures. That leaves one of two possibilities: (a) some new advance in intellectual life has been made, perhaps some sudden genetic mutation, which has created a form of "theory" that is beyond quantum theory, topology, etc., in depth and profundity; or (b) ... I won't spell it out.

-- Noam Chomsky Discusses Post-Modern "Theory" and "Philosophy" on LBBS, Z-Magazine's BB

-- Deconstruction, by No Subject -- Encyclopedia of Psychoanalysis

A valuable lesson can be learned from this critical reading of the Enlightenment. As readers, we should look beyond critical gestures of empowerment and assess the larger politics of identity that not only informed historical and literary analysis, but continue to be played out with Indian props.

White identity politics concerns the manifestation of the ethnocultural identity of white people in various national political settings...

-- Identity politics, by Wikipedia
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

Postby admin » Sat Feb 06, 2021 1:06 am

Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 2: The Romantic Aryans


The development of myth theory in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries primarily contributed two factors to general intellectual and scientific history. It initiated a gradual change in understanding aesthetics from objective and rational imitation to a more subjective and emotional principle of expression. Secondly, it contributed to the development of historiographical, philological, and theological hermeneutics, in other words, to the beginning of historical biblical criticism. During the Enlightenment, the source of myth was believed to reside in humanity's subjective inwardness, imagination, and fantasy. Myths were seen as intentionally and arbitrarily invented by the individual. Created out of an arbitrary freedom of consciousness, myths were viewed as trans-empirical.

The Romantics (beginning with Schelling and culminating with Bachofen) shifted the origin of myth from the individual sphere into the collective, from the conscious into the unconscious. Under the influence of the historical school and its founder and leader Karl von Savigny, myth was thought to emanate from unconscious necessity and the regulation of natural instinct, out of a general human need or within specific national Volksgeister (Grimm and Bachofen). Historically real and concrete myth traditions mediated the unconscious nature of humanity. Through myth, the greatest nations put their stamp upon all history.

Although situated in geographical and time-specific points of empirical history, myth expressed itself as renewing repetitions of divine revelation. Just as Romantic Naturphilosophie valued nature as the emanation and objectification of the Divine, so too did Romantic myth theory represent myth as Naturpoesie, developing out of nature and returning to the Divine. By placing the source of myth in the collective unconscious, Romantic myth theorists such as Gorres, Kanne, Grimm, and Bachofen presupposed a unified mythical Weltanschauung among all peoples, epochs, and generations that evidenced objectively knowable and legitimate Truth. This mythological sensus communis developed unmistakably from the Enlightenment construction of natural religion and vision of common beliefs in a common humanity.

For the Romantics, therefore, myth was viewed in the ethical sense as an internal embodiment of the summum bonum: uncontrived, original, and natural. This idealized conception of myth owed much to Rousseau and Sturm und Drang. It read myth as an index of internal and external life, a medium whereby modern society and culture could be analyzed. The childlike, pure, and innocent virtues found in myth appeared as a positive Gegenbild to the rotten and degenerative affectedness of modern civilization. The past was better than the present; the mythical past functioned as a model for an ideal form of present and future society. Romantic mythography presented a flight before worldly, artistic, and political difficulties and duties of the modern world into a sentimental romanticized and idealized past. Grounded as it was in historical traditions, the valorization of myth necessarily entailed the valorization (and mythologization) of national cultures as a favored worldly site of the Divine. In nineteenth- and twentieth-century Germany, myth theorists, especially proponents of the LebensgefUhl ideology and their rationalist opponents, set the stage for the German myth of the Volk. This myth of the Volk, that contributed so significantly to the growth of nineteenth- and twentieth-century nationalism, can thus be traced to Romantic mythography.


In offering a vision of India in which myth triumphed over reason, chaos stood in place of Olympian calm, and the primitive impulse left system and structure scattered in its wake, Herder (at least in his Sturm und Drang period) instigated the cult of the primitive and the symbolic and, as such, was a precursor of Romantic mythographers. Since Herder's time, however, the source material on India had changed. Many more Sanskrit texts had been translated, and the Asiatic Society of Bengal had published a number of groundbreaking articles. Friedrich Schlegel, a pioneer in the study of the Sanskrit language and author of the first direct translation from Sanskrit into German, maintained that mythology had been revitalized (Schlegel 1906: 1.136) and was now generally recognized as a largely untapped reservoir of poetic inspiration (Schlegel 1846: 4.174). Since the modern Occident had no mythology of its own, he noted that "one would have to be invented" (Schlegel 1846: 4.197). The inspiration for this new mythology and hence the new Romantic poetry was to be found in the Orient (Schlegel 1906: 2.362). By Orient, Schlegel meant India (Schlegel 1906: 2.357ff).

What the West recognized as religion, mythology, and poetry originated in the Orient. Classical Indian culture exhibited in a pure, undiluted form what, in the West, was a mere vestige of the union of philosophy and poetry. Just as one would go to Italy to learn about art, one should now go to India to learn about beginnings (Schlegel 1966: 7.261,263), God, and poetry (Schlegel 1966: 7.74). Schlegel clearly saw himself as the guide for this aesthetic and religious pilgrimage. The unique fruit of his metaphorical journey, Uber die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier (1808), comprised, as it were, the Romantic manifesto on India. However, Uber die Sprache also disclosed the difficulties that made Schlegel's dream of a philosophical and aesthetic revolution via India (Schlegel 1846: 7.39-40) an impossibility.

Uber die Sprache charts the degeneration of the land of primitive revelation into the atomistic and materialistic India that Schlegel came to discover. Although traces of divine truth could still be found in Indian philosophical systems, Schlegel came to the conclusion that they had been inextricably mixed with error. Schlegel's devaluation of Indian speculative thought in the initial chapter of the book allowed him, in the remaining chapters, to focus on the divine nature of the Sanskrit language. In fact, Schlegel maintained that the only valid inquiry into the past consisted in the science of language. Traditional methods sought to demonstrate the superiority of one language over another, that is, to distinguish languages from each other by superficial differences and to view such differences as manifestations of the diverse national genius of individual populations. Not relying upon noting the superficial similarities among Greek, Latin, German, Persian, and Sanskrit roots as the standard methodology would have dictated, Schlegel sought, by analyzing grammatical structures, conjugations, and declensions, a critique for the relationship between languages in morphological comparison.

However, Schlegel met with problems when he tried to resolve the question of the origin of language by basing his arguments on historical research. His insistence on linguistic polygenesis led him to group languages either as inflected or agglutinative. The former possessed divine origin; the latter, animal. Using the then popular analogy of botany, Schlegel saw inflected languages as linguistic vegetation. Just as a stem, branches, and leaves develop from a plant's root, so nominal and verbal forms come from the linguistic root (Schlegel 1977: 41-59, 65-70). Schlegel postulated that German and other languages developed from Sanskrit because they possessed inflection (Schlegel 1977: 3.35-36, 71, 62, 66). He believed that other languages, such as Chinese and Hebrew, lacked this inflection and were agglutinative by means of affixes joined to the roots (Schlegel 1977: 33, 44ff, 48, 50ff). Because of inflection, Sanskrit and its derivative languages were seen as living organisms, capable of penetrating intelligence (Schlegel 1977: 68-69).

Agglutinative languages were labeled mere agglomerations of atoms (Schlegel 1977: 51).

This erroneous linguistic theorizing served Schlegel as a metaphorical edifice constructed to isolate Sanskrit from other languages and support his belief in its perfection and divine origin. The larger plan was to salvage palatable aspects of the Divine from his abortive Indic studies. He projected onto Sanskrit what he could not find in Indian philosophy and religion. Unfortunately, the divine status he accorded to inflected Sanskrit necessitated a less than divine origin for what he perceived as the agglutinative languages. This was clearly a negative by-product, rather than a motivating factor. Although Schlegel presented India as a problematic locus of the Divine in the philosophical, religious, and translation sections of Uber die Sprache, in the linguistic chapters India emerges as the cradle of humanity and Sanskrit appears as the mother tongue of Indo-European languages.

Language itself provides source material for the comprehension of history (Schlegel 1966: 257). Through the study of the language of the ancient Indians, the most talented and wisest Volk of antiquity, we find the "traces of divine Truth" (Schlegel 1966: 209). It had been Schlegel's intention to show that just as in language, so too with mythology, there exists an inner structure and a fundamental texture whose similarity signifies a related origin. However, the absence of the Veda prevented Schlegel from completing the comparative analysis of mythology (Schlegel 1966: 172-73, 199, 235). Moreover, had the Veda been available, Schlegel judged that its value would have been minimal. Of necessity, the Veda would have long since been falsified (Schlegel 1966: 251). Original revelation, long lost to the Indians with the loss of the Veda, had completely degenerated (Schlegel 1966: 207).

What resulted from its distortion and loss? Detoured from the path of truth, Indians fell prey to wild fiction and coarse error ("System der Seelenwanderung und Emanation"). The Veda, in its imagined pure form, represented lost truth and thus had authority as an irretrievable artifact. With the absence of this source of revelation, myth, and poetry, Schlegel made the argument that a comparison of languages provided the only alternative to historical research ("Von den altesten Wanderung der Volker"). In the final book of the volume, he connected the seemingly disparate strands of his argument to conclude that history, religion, and mythology can best be understood by their relationship to speech. Thus, Schlegel offered to use philological research, rather than the mythology lost with the Veda, or the religion he found distasteful, to argue his thesis that India and Europe formed an indivisible whole.

In Uber die Sprache, Schlegel placed language in the foreground and developed a "scientific" method to be able to promote comparative linguistics and Urgeschichte. Having approached India in search of unity and revelation, Schlegel came away only with faulty linguistic theories that allowed him to transform Herder's depiction of India as the cradle of humanity into the Urheimat of his own language and Volk family. Although the Veda functioned for both thinkers as an absent text, Herder and Schlegel developed a hermeneutic structure for viewing India and its scriptural canon that would resonate in subsequent discussions.


Up to this point, European knowledge of the Veda has centered upon its significance as an essential aporia in the emplotment of the Aryan. Voltaire, Herder, and Schlegel established this interpretive model, and it was the task of Romantic mythographers to incorporate a "Veda" into the previously established ideological edifice. With the Romantic mythographers, we are still talking about an absent text. They differed from their predecessors only in the increased availability of possible "Vedas." The message of the Veda and the Aryan worldview depicted therein had been sufficiently delineated that it was merely an issue of grafting them onto texts as they appeared.

The Heidelberg philologist Friedrich Creuzer identified the essence of the Veda with Anquetil Duperron's Latin translation from a Persian rendition of the Upanishads, the Oupnek 'hat or Upnekhata (Creuzer 1819-23: 1.551, 554). In his autobiography, Creuzer remarked that one of the reasons he delved into the history of religions was Anquetil's seeming proof of the thesis that polytheism developed from primitive monotheism (Creuzer 1840: 65). In his magisterial opus, Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Volker, besonders der Griechen, Creuzer sought arguments in favor of Anquetil's thesis and, toward this end, India proved more fruitful than the yet undeciphered Egypt. India revealed a marvelous humanity, different in all respects from other nations (Creuzer 1819-23: 1.539). Anquetil's "translation" of the "Veda" taught the most ancient religious system of the world as well as an instance of authentic monotheism (Creuzer 1819-23: 1.546-47).

At several reprises, Creuzer emphasized that primitive monotheism existed in India (Creuzer 1819-23: 1.569, 586, 642). The "Veda" posited Brahma as God the Father. Its religion was older than those of Greece and Egypt. Indeed, it presented the oldest religion known to man, and its language was the most organic and alive (Creuzer 1819-23: 1.569, 544, 548, 570). Creuzer held that this religion had degenerated into polytheism under the influence of orgiastic cults to Shiva that had themselves been reformed by Vaisnavism (Creuzer 1819-23: 1.576). The belief that initial Vedic wisdom had degenerated would become a common theme among Romantic mythographers.

The real innovation that Creuzer effected upon previous emplotments of the Veda in the West consisted in the role he ascribed to Aryan religion. While others touted the sublimity, purity, and antiquity of Indian speculative thought relative to the Judeo-Christian perspective, Creuzer specifically assigned it an equal position to that of the Hebrews. Creuzer claimed that "Brahmaism," the primitive worship of Brahma as articulated in the "Veda," might well have formed the basis of the Hebrews' religion. The purest cult of Jehovah, as practiced by Abraham, would then represent nothing more than an isolated branch of old "Brahmaism" (Creuzer 1819-23: 1.570). With such assertions, Creuzer went further than other polemicists in deemphasizing the role of Judaism in the history of religions. The Jews were not the only recipients of the true doctrine (Creuzer 1819-23: 2.375-76). This logic called into question the authority, even for someone like Schlegel, of the Old Testament. For Creuzer, Israel became an equal partner with Aryan India (Creuzer 1819-23: 1.575).

A decade earlier, Joseph Gorres had also sought primitive religion beyond Judea. Christianity constituted the penultimate stage in religious evolution, with the final stage consisting in a return to primitive monism (Gorres 1810: 1.13-14). Gorres believed that the oldest prophet, law, and cult on earth were to be found in India, the cradle of humanity (Gorres 1810: 1.37-40). Gorres ranked other religions as mere imitations of this lost Urreligion (Gorres 1810: 2.611). The closer a religion was to India, the more it retained a rich, pure, and living form (Gorres 1810: 1.54). As others of his generation, Gorres identified the Veda with the Oupnek' hat, which he took to be the oldest document known to humanity (Gorres 1810: 1.117-19) and its religion, Brahmaismus, the oldest religion (Gorres 1810: 1.569). Gorres identified this "Veda" as the source from which all other myths derived (Gorres 1810: Lxiii). The hermetic books of Egypt, a land once colonized by the Hindus, derived from it as did all vestige of what was positive in Greek thought. Gorres also reduced the religion of Judea to primitive "Brahmaism" imparted by Brahma-Abraham (Gorres 1810: 2.329, 435-36, 556). The Jews owe their entire religion to the Vedic Indians, and Christians worship the Aryan Brahma as Christ (Gorres 1810: 571). According to Gorres's schema, the center of gravity has once again shifted from Judea to India (Gorres 1810: Lxxxiv-xxxvi), and the Hebrews have become a subgroup of the elected people. Gorres characterized Aryan religion by its innocence. This golden age lasted but a short time manifested primarily in its custom of bloodless sacrifices of fruit offerings. Its adherents suffered persecution. This pure and simple faith was eventually replaced by wild orgiastic phallic worship (Gorres 1810: 1.570-71, 576). On the textual level, Aryan religion became extinct, when the naive nature myths of the "Veda" degenerated into their present lamentable form (Gorres 1810: 1.590,593).

While Herder tried to incorporate India within his exegesis of the Old Testament and Creuzer posited the equivalence of India and Judea, Gorres elevated Indian religion above Judaism. He associated other prophets (Toth, Zoroaster, Fohi, Theut, and Othin) with Brahma (Abraham) only to the degree that their doctrines reflected those of the Oupnek 'hat. Creuzer and Gorres (as well as other Romantic mythographers such as Majer and Kanne) attributed the universality of myth to divine revelation. They all situated this revelation in India. But, the idea of the existence of a purely Indo- European religious community did not enter their formulations. It was Karl Ritter who developed the first features ofIndo- European primitive religion.

Ritter characterized India as the vestibule (Vorhalle) of Western history. It represented the world's stage (Volkerbuhne); since the oldest and most important documents of humanity came to us from India, Ritter derived a religious and cultural community from the linguistic community of European peoples grouped around ancient India (Ritter 1820: i-xix). Within this community, Ritter made important distinctions. The ancient Indians represented a breed apart from their successors. The European stands certainly far closer to the ancient Aryan than the modern Oriental. Most important, however, Germans are closer to the ancient Indians than to their modern neighbors (Ritter 1820: 23). Germans have far more affinity with Indians than with Greece (Ritter 1820: 33-34). In fact, there existed a direct lineage between the Aryans and the Teutons.

Ritter grounded the religious, linguistic, and racial community of Indo- Europeans in a vision of monotheistic religion originating in India. He identified the Buddhakult (his term for Vedic religion) with the cults to Apollo, Odin, Woden, and the like. Priestly teachings concerning metempsychosis and salvation had eroded the primitive belief in a single god, resulting in polytheism. Religion originated in India with the Veda (Ritter 1820: 24-25, 27,30-33) and, as it moved into new areas, became individualized and localized. Ritter discovered in ancient India exactly what Schlegel had found: emanatist monotheism and metempsychosis. Whereas this discovery led Schlegel to reject Indian philosophical thought, these dogmas formed for Ritter the bridge between Sanskrit and Old German (Ritter 1820: 23-24, 26). In other words, Ritter revealed a civilization, religion, and language irreducible to that of the Hebrews. Judeo-Christianity became the intruder in his as well as other Romantic mythographers' schema. Indeed, it appeared to have turned Europe from its historic path and subverted its true mission.

The historical school emphasized the national aspect of myth as popular phenomenon. This conception of myth developed throughout the nineteenth century. When the Veda finally permitted the mythographer to compare Indo-European national mythologies, the Romantic thesis, especially that of Ritter, received renewed prominence (Gerard 1963: 196). India proved the existence of primitive monotheism and laid to rest any illusions regarding the primacy of the Jews. Speculations regarding the imagined Indo-European community that these Romantics developed would resurface with the appearance of the Veda in print and, in fact, would find their substantiation in the scientific research of its editor. Friedrich Max Muller would popularize the important Romantic thesis that by the mid-nineteenth century was far from moribund-the idea of an Indo-European religious community inferred from the concept of the Indo-European linguistic community. With his edition of the Rig Veda, the West finally discovered the chronicle of its past.


Our Veda, Our Ancestors

Early European scholarship on India consisted of an internal conversation. Nowhere was this dialogue more forceful than in the Vedic scholarship of Max Muller. For Muller, as for others we have examined in these pages, the quest for the Aryan exhibited a cultural attempt to restore one's own tradition.

I wished that the Veda and its religion and philosophy should not only seem to you curious or strange, but that you should feel that there was in them something that concerns ourselves, something of our own intellectual growth, some recollections, as it were, of our own childhood, or at least of the childhood of our own race. (Muller 1892: 254)

More importantly, it offered "solutions to some of the greatest problems of life, and the needed corrective for the inner life of Europe" (Muller 1892: 6). The Aryans

were the true ancestors of our race; and the Veda is the oldest book we have in which to study the first beginnings of our language, and of all that is embodied in language. (Muller 1895: 1.4)

Muller's task, as he envisioned it, was to discover the first germs of the language, religion, and mythology of "our" Aryan forefathers (Muller 1978: 3). The Veda was the most important document of "Aryan humanity" (Muller 1891: 148-49) and the first book of the "Aryan nations" (Muller 1895: 167). It presented the "sharp edges of primitive thought, the delicate features of a young language, the fresh hue of unconscious poetry" (Muller 1849-74: 3.xliii). Until Muller's edition, "our own" history was only gleaned through guesswork and endless, baseless speculations. Now, answers could be found in the Veda (Muller 1895: 1.4,25,62). With the tools of Indology, an

ancient city has been laid bare before our eyes which, in the history of all other religions, is filled up with rubbish, and built over by new architects. Some of the earliest and most instructive scenes of our distant childhood have risen once more above the horizon of our memory which, until thirty or forty years ago, seemed to have vanished forever. (Muller 1892: 244)

Few Westerners would be capable of reading Muller's editio princeps of the Rig Veda (1849-74). Many, however, came into contact with Muller's vision of Aryan India through his numerous public lectures and books on India directed toward a general audience. Muller's edition is noteworthy for many reasons, not the least of which was his inclusion of Sayana's commentary. The inclusion of this medieval commentary generated a debate concerning the feasibility of reading the Veda and speculation regarding the Veda's ideal or target audience. Could the Veda as a "text" be read? If so, by whom? Specifically, the appearance of the Veda in print raised the issue of the European's real relation to this work. Rudolf von Roth, who in 1846 produced the first important European scholarly treatment of the Veda after Colebrooke's essay, disparaged the need for the use of native commentaries. He noted that a "conscientious European interpreter" of the Veda may understand it far better "being in a position to search out the sense which the poets themselves have put into their hymns and utterances" (quoted in Tull 1991: 30). Such a statement suggests just to what extent the use or rejection of Sayana's commentary reflected not only issues of translation technique, but, more interestingly, ideological concerns of readership. As we have seen throughout our examination of the Veda's reception in the West, even when it was not an issue of translation conventions, the Veda always engendered discussions on race and ethnicity and exhibited a European attempt both to appropriate the Aryan worldview and to dissociate it from anything Indian. The claim, championed particularly by Roth, that the conscientious European understood the Veda and its Aryan Weltanschauung better than Sayana presupposed a common cultural heritage with the Vedic people (Tull1991: 40). It was an opinion shared by the American Sanskritist W.D. Whitney, when he noted that "The conditions and manners depicted in (the Rig Veda) are ... of a character which seems almost more Indo-European than Indian" (Whitney 1987: 1.112). Whitney went on to add that European Indologists commanded the Sanskrit idiom more thoroughly than brahmins who had been trained in it since boyhood. The crux of the matter was as follows: The Aryan tradition was lost to the Indians in the post-Vedic period, but not to the European who, no matter how far removed from the tradition, was never far removed from its vision (Tull 1991: 40). The German Romantics had adequately set the stage for European readers to believe that, through the science of language, they could access an identity that was theirs alone and foreign to modern Indians.

As we have seen, the traits of the representative groups who comprised "Aryan humanity" had long captivated the European imagination. Max Muller merely continued this tradition. He identified the Aryans as "our nearest intellectual relatives" (Muller 1892: 15; see also 1895: 1.63). They were the "ancestors of the whole Aryan race, the first framers of our words, the first poets of our thoughts, the first givers of our laws, the first prophets of our gods, and of Him who is God above all gods" (Muller 1892: 117).

According to Muller, the Aryans originated in the northern regions,1 living together within the same precincts as the ancestors of the Greeks, Italians, Slavonians, Germans, Persians, Hindus, and Celts (Muller 1978: 14; see also 1895: 1.63-64, 66, 2.20). The actual site of the Aryan paradise, the "cradle of our race" (Muller 1888: 91), was not known (Muller 1888: 127). However, Muller was sure that it was in the East, since the earliest centers of civilized life are found in Asia (Muller 1888: 117).

The Aryans were men of strong individuality and great independence. Early on, they separated into two branches (Muller 1978: 12). The northern branch roamed northwestward (Muller 1895: 1.61; see also 1978; 14)2 and civilized the whole of Europe, completing the "one act allotted to them on the stage of history." As the "prominent actors in the great drama of history, they carried to their fullest growth all the elements of active life with which our nature is endowed" (Muller 1978: 14). These Aryans perfected society and morals and taught us the elements of science, the laws of art, and the principles of philosophy; they embodied man's historic character (Muller 1895: 1.63-64). In this respect, they fundamentally differed from the southern branch of the Aryan race, who represented the flip side of the human character, the passive and meditative who were "absorbed in struggles of thought" (Muller 1895: 1.65-66). This persona reached its fullest growth in India (Muller 1892: 95).

Whitney, not one to ignore Muller's flights of poetic fancy, mocked Muller when he seemed to depict the Aryans as "perched for a couple of thousand years upon some exalted post of observation, watching thence the successive departure from their ancient home of the various European tribes" (Whitney 19871.95-96):

... the fathers of the Aryan race, the fathers of our own race, gathered together in the great temple of nature, like brothers of the same house, and looking up in adoration to the sky as the emblem of what they yearned for, a father and a god. (Muller 1895: 4.210)

Whitney then questioned whether Muller wrote such descriptions under the influence of paintings such as the Kaulbach murals in Berlin, depicting people at the foot of the ruined tower of Babel. While not a kind assessment, Whitney touched upon our very argument: Muller's entire discussion of the Veda elaborated Romantic rhetorical and ideological concerns.
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

Postby admin » Sat Feb 06, 2021 1:09 am

Part 2 of 2

The Aryan World: A Romantic Utopia

It is to be remembered that the Romantics held that the simplicity of religious dogmas defined the original state of man and its corollaries that monotheism was anterior to polytheism and primitive revelation had progressively degenerated. Once a people has unfolded its spirit to its fullest expression-from the Romantic point of view-it has fulfilled its role in history and only "repetition" (revivals), stagnation, and decay could follow. Muller's conclusions concerning the Veda recapitulated this central Romantic thesis.

What we see growing in the Veda, we have only encountered full grown or fast decaying in Persia, Greece, and Rome (Muller 1895: 1.26), where mythology had become a "disease" because "its poetical intention has been forgotten" (Muller 1895: 2.12; 5.90), "washed away by the successive waves of what we call tradition, whether we look upon it as a principle of growth or decay" (Muller 1849-74: 3.xliii). Homer showed but a view of outward life, not the inward thoughts regarding gods and men that one finds in the Veda (Muller 1891: 20). Hesiod presents a distorted caricature of the original image whereas, in the Veda, we find a real theogony (Muller 1895: 2.76). As the source of all other religions, the Veda could show us how the Persians came to worship Ormuzd and the Buddhists came to protest against temples and sacrifices. It explains how Zeus and the Olympian gods came to be what they were in the mind of Homer and how Jupiter and Mars came to be worshipped by Italian peasants (Muller 1895: 1.25). "What to the Greek scholar seems wild and fanciful is simply a matter of fact before the eyes of the student of Vedic hymns" (Muller 1897: 429).

Muller confirmed the Romantics' idealization of the Veda (Muller 1978: 12-15). The Veda was so important, it "impressed itself on all branches of literature, all religious and moral ideas, every public act" (Muller 1978: 9). It formed the background for the whole Indian world. No matter how fragmented (Muller 1978: 10) or corrupted, the Rig Veda was still a monument without equal (Muller 1909: 287); its point of origin a utopia and its Aryan authors the best and the brightest.

If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power, and beauty that nature can bestow-in some parts a very paradise on earth-I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of its choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and has found solutions to some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant-I should point to India. And if I were to ask myself from what literature we, here in Europe, who have been nurtured almost exclusively on the thoughts of Greeks and Romans, and one Semitic race, the Jewish, may draw that corrective which is most wanted in order to make our inner life more perfect, more comprehensive, more universal, in fact, more truly human, a life not for this life only, but a transfigured and eternal life-again I should point to India ... I am thinking chiefly of India, such as it was a thousand, two thousand, it may be three thousand years ago-not of towns today but village communities. (Muller 1892: 6-7)

The hymns of the ancient Aryan seers were spontaneous expressions of a pure race (Muller 1978: 526); the Veda, spontaneous poetry (Muller 1895: 1.16) created by simple hearts (Muller 1895: 1.71).

There exists no literary relic that carries us back to a more primitive time than the Veda (Muller 1895: 1.34). However, its poetry was "neither beautiful, in our sense of the word, nor very profound" (Muller 1892: 163). Many of the hymns sound "childish and absurd" (Muller 1909: 282), "vulgar and obscure" (Muller 1849-74: 3.x1iii), or "utterly unmeaning and insipid" (Muller 1895: 1.37). Its "simplicity and naturalness" (Muller 1909: 188; 1892: 118) is what transports us back to our origins in religious thought and language (Muller 1909: 212). It was precisely what was "childish" (Muller 1895: 1.34, 37, 101),3 what harkened back to the childhood of humanity, that made the Veda particularly instructive (Muller 1892: 87). This was a period when childish thoughts presumably stood side by side with modern ideas. The fatal divorce between religion and philosophy had not yet occurred (Muller 1919: 33). The Veda gives us the very words of a generation of men, of whom otherwise we could form but the vaguest estimate by means of conjectures and inferences (Muller 1978: 63). It offers one of the few relics of humanity's childhood that had been preserved (Muller 1895: 1.3). In it, ancient thought is expressed in ancient language (Muller 1895: 1.67).

There is more real antiquity in the Veda than in all the inscriptions of Egypt or Ninevah ... old thoughts, old hopes, old faith, and old errors, the old Man altogether. (Muller 1895: 1.75-76)

Muller was careful to distinguish the Rig Veda from the other Vedas, which he viewed as solely liturgical (Muller 1895: 1.72)4 and dating from a period of complete brahmin ascendancy (Muller 1978: 461). The other Vedas, like the subsequent literature, contained exactly what Muller found absent from the Rig Veda: the unfortunate religious and cultic apparatus of Hinduism, under whose influence Aryan spontaneity and truth had become misunderstood and perverted (Muller 1909: 282). The Veda itself was not immune to the process of decay (Muller 1909: 281; 1895: 1.54; 1978: 456). In places, it too bears witness to the ruins of faded grandeur and the memories of noble aspirations (Muller 1978: 389). Signs of degeneration could be seen as early as the mantra period of the late hymns, when a spirit was at work in the literature of India that was no longer creative, free, and original but living only on the heritage of a former age: collecting, classifying, and imitative. On the whole, however, the Veda was strong, original, pure, and natural: the later creations were modern and artificial.5

The Veda chronicled a period when the Aryans had not yet become "completely enslaved by a system of mere formalities." Vedic poems were collected with great zeal and accuracy (Muller 1978: 477) at a time when the Aryans were still creative and impulsive and still had the power to uphold the tradition of a past. Muller compared this poetry to the later lyric, lamenting that Europe had first been introduced to India through the prettiness of Kalidasa. He judged Sanskrit kavya to be a mere literary curiosity, a pleasant occupation for a Jones or Colebrooke during leisure hours, not the object of life study (Muller 1879: 38). Aryan Indian differed from classical India. The natural and spontaneous (Muller 1978: 498) "half-naked Hindu" repeating under an Indian sky the sacred hymns that had been handed down for three or four thousand years by oral tradition (Muller 1879: 152) differed from the courtly lyricist. The Aryans differed from their antithesis, the modern practitioners of the "hideous" religion of Shiva and Vishnu (Muller 1879: 140).

Muller's constant concern was to distinguish between the Vedic Aryan and the degenerate Hindu who was ineffectual as an historical being (Muller 1895: 1.65).6 Toward this end, he read the Veda with a view toward rediscovering the purity of Aryan religion and promoting it as an antidote to corrupt Hindu practices. The primitive worship of ideal gods sanctioned in the Veda had degenerated into Hindu idolatry (Muller 1895: 1.37). There had been no worship of idols among the Aryans. The Aryans were actually monotheists of a sort. They believed in Kathenotheism (Henotheism, for short), the worship of single gods (Muller 1892: 147), where all deities are but different names of one and the same Godhead.7 Like the Romantics, the Aryans recognized God's presence in the bright and sunny aspects of nature. Belief in metempsychosis did not exist in Vedic times. Rather, we find the concept of immortality, the sine qua non of all "real" religions. Moreover, there were no caste distinctions among the Aryans. What is mistaken for caste in the Veda differs radically from the draconian regulations found in the Laws of Manu or in modern usage (Muller 1879: 330; 1895: 4.306). In short, the Aryan faith was a "real" religion and Hinduism appears as its distortion (Muller 1895: 2.76). The Aryans did not practice any of the "abuses" prevalent in Hinduism:

[t]here is no trace in the Veda of the atrocities of Shiva and Kali, nor the licentiousness of Krishna, nor of most of the miraculous adventures of Vishnu. We find in it no law to sanction the blasphemous pretentions of a priesthood to divine honors, or the degradations of any human being to a state below the animal. There is no text to countenance laws which allow the marriage of children and prohibit the remarriage of child-widows, and the unhallowed rite of burning the widow with the corpse of her husband is both against the spirit and the letter of the Veda. (Muller 1895: 4.307)

The Aryans' religion not only differed radically from Hinduism, it resembled our own beliefs in several respects (Muller 1895: 4.307). We even share their word for God.

The same word, Deva, in Sanskrit, Deus in Latin, remained unchanged in all their prayers, their rites, their superstitions, their philosophies, and even today it rises up to heaven from thousands of churches and cathedrals-a word which, before there were Brahmans or Germans, had been framed in the dark workshop of the Aryan world. (Muller 1895: 4.221)

As the above quote makes perfectly clear, it was to be through the medium of language that Muller was able to identify with the Aryan. The study of language (comparative philology) would provide him with the only true data (Muller 1897: 1.3-12, 18-19).

Language in the Service of Myth

In a manner similar to that of Friedrich Schlegel, Muller applied linguistic systems of classification to interpret Aryan mythology and religion (Muller 1978: 1.178-80). Whitney was particularly critical of this methodology, noting that Muller did not employ a very good form of science (Whitney 1987: 1.258) and that comparative mythology could not be viewed as a branch of linguistics (Whitney 1987: 1.261). Muller, however, was not to be dissuaded.

From recognition of the connectedness of English, German, Greek, Latin, Slavonic, and Celtic with the languages of Armenia, Persia, and India, Muller set out to discover the roots these languages held in common. It is through an analysis of these common roots that Muller reconstructed the original Aryan home through a mosaic picture of their fauna, flora, agriculture, food, drink, family life, political organizations, arts, morality, and mythology (Muller 1888: 126-27). Since there had been no exchange between the Aryans who went toward Persia and India and those who went to Europe, all the common words, especially those of mythology and religion, could be claimed as common property of the whole Aryan race before the initial dispersion (Muller 1889: 295).

First, we can see that the Aryans of India separated from the Iranians before they reached the mouth of the Indus, because the names for sea in Sanskrit and Persian are totally different (Muller 1888: 152). The testimony of language also shows that before the separation, the Aryans led an agricultural and nomadic life, similar to that described by Tacitus for the ancient Germans (Muller 1899: 356). Muller concludes that the Aryans were agricultural from the existence of the root "ar" ("to stir"). Although Muller admitted that this root was not used in Sanskrit in the sense "to plough," it nevertheless bears witness to the Aryans' agrarian nature, since very old derivatives with this meaning can be found in other languages (Muller 1888: 134, see also 1895: 1.161). Following the same baroque logic and analyzing the Sanskrit term for daughter (duhitr) back to its "Vedic" significance as "little milkmaid," Muller proved that the Aryans were nomadic (Muller 1895: 2.24). Similar linguistic legerdemain allowed Muller to claim that the Aryans also knew the arts of making roads, building ships, weaving, sewing, and erecting houses. The science of language also suggests that they had domesticated the most important animals (cow, horse, sheep), were acquainted with the most useful metals, carried arms, recognized the bonds of blood and laws of marriage, and distinguished between right and wrong by law (Muller 1899: 356). All this data was "written in the archive of language, stretching back to times far beyond the reach of any documentary history" (Muller 1899: 357).

Since all Aryan languages have peaceful words in common and "differ so strangely in warlike expressions" (Muller 1895: 2.41), Muller concluded that all the Aryan nations led a long life of peace before they separated. Only as each colony searched for new homes and new generations formed new words reflecting their new warlike and adventurous lives, did their language acquire individuality and nationality. Aryan language preserved no traces of brutality, savagery or barbarism and "there is no evidence ... more ancient and more trustworthy than language" (Muller 1888: xvii). It enables us to describe the Aryan utopia and acknowledge our relationship to it or the place that it holds in our study of our true selves (Muller 1892: 14).

We are all essentially Aryans. Since Sanskrit is the most ancient type of English of the present day, being but varieties of one and the same language ... its thoughts and feelings contain in reality the first roots and germs of that intellectual growth which by an unbroken chain connects our own generation with the ancestors of the Aryan race. (Muller 1895: 1.4)

Sanskrit, the ancient language of the Veda, is no more distinct from the Greek of Homer, from the Gothic of Ulfilas, or from the Anglo-Saxon of Alfred than French is from Italian. All these languages together form one family, one whole, in which every member shares certain features in common with all the rest (Muller 1895: 1.21). We are, quite simply, "the descendants of those Vedic poets, their language is essentially our language, their thoughts are essentially our thoughts, the world we live in is much the same as their Aryan home" (Muller 1889: 240), and we can read the annals of our own race, the Aryan race, among dark-skinned people (Muller 1891: 17).

The language of the Sepoy and that of the English soldier are, in one sense, one and the same language. Both are built up of materials which were definitely shaped before the Teutonic and Indic branches separated (Muller 1899: 385).

In the Veda, we are going to our "old home, full of memories, if only we can read them" (Muller 1892: 31). Now, with the advantages of "special Oriental training ... a liberal truly historical education," we can read these memories (Muller 1892: 31).

Whatever the blood may be that runs through our veins, the blood that runs through our thoughts, I mean our language, is the same as that of the Aryas of India, and that language has more to do with ourselves than the blood that feeds our body and keeps us alive for a time" (Muller 1903: 71).

Within the fold of the Aryan race, Muller included the Hindus, the Persians, the Greeks and Romans, the Slavs, the Celts, and "last, not least, the Teutons" (Muller 1892: 116; see also 1891: 21). Certain groups, however, did not belong to his schema. For example, Muller excluded from the Aryan family the "really barbarian races" such as Africans and American Indians (Muller 1978: 558) as well as the Turanian and Semitic races, over all of whom the Aryans historically ruled (Muller 1978: 15). Even before the initial dispersion, the Aryans lived separately from the Semites and Turanians (Muller 1978: 14, also 1895: 1.63-66). Therefore, Europeans need claim no parenty with these races.

We are by nature Aryan, Indo-European, not Semitic: our spiritual kith and kin are to be found in India, Persia, Greece, Italy, Germany; not in Mesopotamia, Egypt, or Palestine. (Muller 1895: 1.4)

Until the deciphering of the Veda, there had been "but one oasis in that vast desert of ancient Asiatic history, the history of the Jews." The Veda now offers another such oasis (Muller 1895: 1.5-6) as well as another instance of revelation (Muller 1895: 1.17), "the wisdom of Him who is not the God of the Jews alone" (Muller 1978: 3). Our knowledge of universal history is imperfect if we narrow our horizon to history of Greeks and Romans, Saxons and Celts, with a dim background of Palestine, Egypt, and Babylon, and leave out of sight our nearest intellectual relatives, the Aryas of India, the framers of the most wonderful language, Sanskrit, the fellow-workers in the construction of our fundamental concepts, the fathers of the most transparent of mythologies, the inventors of the most subtle philosophy, and the givers of the most elaborate laws (Muller 1892: 15).8

In the contest between Sanskrit and Hebrew, it was necessary for Sanskrit to prevail. To do so, Muller first demoted Hebrew from its position as the Ursprache (Muller 1879: 246-67).9 Next, he sought to isolate Sanskrit from any filiation with Hebrew. The linguistic similarities between Sanskrit and Semitic, he noted, were coincidences, as were any parallelisms between Aryan and Semitic religions (Muller 1891: 274). They were just too dissimilar; it was simply impossible to imagine that a Semitic language could ever have sprung from an Aryan or an Aryan language from a Semitic tongue (Muller 1899: 324).

Similarly, in the contest between the Rig Veda and the Old Testament, it was clear which text Muller preferred. Since he could not fix the date of individual books of the Old Testament, Muller just dismissed them as the basis of our ideas on ancient history or religion (Muller 1891: 214). The Old Testament merely revealed the extent to which decay was prevalent in the religion of the Jews. Although Old Testament writers had tried to hide the traces of degeneration, by placing the religion of the Jews before us as readymade from the beginning, perfect, revealed, and incapable of improvement, they only succeeded in highlighting its pervasive decay (Muller 1879: 125).

Muller judged the Jews also to be deficient in poetry, scientific inquiry, political thought, and philosophical originality. The Jews were mired in their own subjectivity.

We look in vain among their poets for excellence in epic and dramatic composition. Painting and plastic arts never more than at the decorative stage. Politics patriarchal and despotic, and their inability to organize on a large scale has deprived them of the means of military success. Perhaps the most general feature of their character is a negative one,-their inability to perceive the general and abstract whether in thought, language, poetry or politics; and, on the other hand, a strong attraction towards the individual and personal, which makes them monotheistic in religion, lyrical in poetry, monarchical in politics, abrupt in style and useless for speculation. (Muller 1895: 1.339)

Muller thus sought to dismantle any Jewish pretensions of superiority. As we have seen elsewhere, the displacement of the Jews served as a prerequisite to the valorization of the Aryan.

Race was truly a metaphor for Muller. He spoke of the Aryan as a means of describing the ideal Self. To create a Self entailed distinguishing an Other, lacking those qualities one attributed to the Self. The Jew, of course, became that Other. In this manner, the mythologization of the Aryan completed the process of mythologizing the Jew. But we are still in the realm of the imagination. Muller might say anything he wanted about Jews and Aryans, but he resisted the appropriation of his catagorizations in the realm of the real.

On several occasions, he sought to distance himself from the misuse of his formulations by contemporary racial theorists (Muller 1869-76: 4.103-27), by distinguishing between linguistic and racial classification.

I have declared again and again that if I say Aryas, I mean neither blood nor bones, nor hair nor skull; I mean simply those who speak an Aryan language. The same applies to Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Celts and Slaves [sic]. When I speak of them I commit myself to no anatomical characteristics. The blue-eyed and fair-haired Scandinavians may have been conquerors or conquered, they may have adopted the language of their darker lords or their subjects, or vice versa. I assert nothing beyond their language when I call them Hindus, Greeks, Romans, Germans, Celts and Slaves [sic]; and in that sense and in that sense only, do I say that even the blackest Hindus represent an earlier stage of Aryan speech and thought than the fairest Scandinavians. This may seem strong language, but in matters of such importance, we cannot be too decided in our language. To me an ethnologist who speaks of Aryan race, Aryan blood, Aryan eyes and hair, is as great a sinner as a linguist who speaks of a dolichocephalic dictionary or a brachycephalic grammar. (Muller 1888: 120)

Blood has nothing to do with language (Muller 1888: 108). Aryanness becomes the sign of culture.

There is no Aryan race in blood, but who ever, through the imposition of hands, whether of his parents or his foreign masters, has received the Aryan blessing, belongs to that unbroken spiritual succession which began with the first apostles of that noble speech, and continues to the present day in every part of the globe. Aryan, in scientific language, is utterly inapplicable to race. It means language and nothing but language; and if we speak of Aryan race at all, we should know that it means no more than X + Aryan speech. (Muller 1888: 89-90)

In other words, he firmly stated that you cannot base ethnological classification on linguistic and anthropological terms (Muller 1872: 17).

The science of language and the science of ethnology should not be mixed up. Races can change languages. Different languages can be spoken by our race and the same language by different races (Muller 1899: 450). Of course, Muller spoke too little and too late. Myths take on lives of their own, when they support the political interests of those in power or those seeking power.

In a long letter to Risley commenting on his Ethnological Survey of India, Muller tried to exonerate himself from the mischief produced by employing the terminology of comparative philology in an ethnological sense.

My warnings have been of little effect; and such is the influence of evil communications, that I myself cannot help pleading guilty of having occasionally used linguistic terms in an ethnological sense. Still it is an evil that ought to be resisted with all our might. Ethnologists persist in writing of Aryas, Shemites and Turanians, Ugrians, Dravidians, Kolarians, Bantu races and c., forgetting that these terms have nothing to do with blood, or bones, or hair, or facial angles, but simply and solely with language. Aryas are those who speak Aryan languages, whatever their color, whatever their blood. In calling them Aryas we predicate nothing of them except that the grammar of their language is Aryan. The classification of Aryas and Shemites is based on linguistic grounds and on nothing else; and it is only because languages must be spoken by somebody that we may allow ourselves to speak of language as synonymous with peoples. (Muller 1888: 244-45).10

Muller's most public statement of position appeared in his Antrittsrede at the University of Strassburg in 1872, when he reiterated that there existed only Aryan and Semitic linguistic families, but no Aryan race, blood, or skulls. In later instances, Muller was clearly defensive. Eventually he did not speak of races and Volkern, rather "the Aryan family," "Aryan humanity," and "the civilization of the Aryan race, that race to which we and all the greatest nations of the world ... belong" (Muller 1892: 116).

However, Muller's myth of the Aryan throughout the thirty-odd years of editing the Rig Veda entailed the very type of categorical mixing that he condemned in the Strassburg lecture. How do we explain this paradox? I have tried to show how it was far less an issue of Muller's blindness toward his methodology (though that too was at issue) than his adherance to a Romantic emplotment of India. His need to construct the Vedic Aryan from the text and identity with this Aryan stemmed from religious and aesthetic concerns far more akin to the aims of Romanticism than nineteenth-century race theory.

Muller would be shocked at an assessment of his work in light of Romanticism. He maintained that his Aryans were merely an earlier stage of our own race (Muller 1891: 385-86), not a "race of savages, of mere nomads and hunters" (Muller 1895: 2.40) as he felt they had been presented by his academic rivals. It was, he disclaimed, scholars like Pischel and Geldner, who were under the influence of Rousseau regarding the simplicity and innocence of primitive man versus the "modern" Aryans who had reached the summit of civilization. Muller did not recognize his penchant for lyricism, even when he speaks of Aryan "home-grown poetry" (Muller 1892: 140) as "natural growth" (Muller 1892: 97) that has been "carried down the stream of time, and washed up on the shores of so many nations" (Muller 1895: 2.40), or their "home-grown religion" that history has preserved for us "in order to teach us what the human mind can achieve if left to itself, surrounded by a scenery and by conditions of life that might have made man's life on earth a paradise if man did not possess the strange art of turning even a paradise into a place of misery" (Muller 1892: 140). But a Romantic he was and not just in a rhetorical sense.

One can see a pattern in Muller's classifications of language, gods, and mythology. His analyses move from the material to the immaterial, the concrete to the abstract, the simple to the complex, and the single to the general. Just as language began as monosyllabic and developed agglutination and inflection, so then did Muller conclude that monotheism preceded polytheism (Mukker 1978: 510-12, 528, 559; see also 1892: 1.91-92; 2.132). By placing mythology and polytheism at the door of language, he continued a tradition begun by Friedrich Schlegel. He retooled the methodology of Romantic linguistics into his science of language. Muller's reading of the Veda verified the Romantic claim that India was the original seat of true poetry and primitive revelation, and the site of its degeneration. Max Muller was a worthy heir to his father, the German Romantic poet Wilhelm Muller.

This Indologist, a final avatar of Romanticism in service of linguistics, popularized an ideal vision of the Aryan that would bear fruit. Although he himself tried to resist the "patriotic" impulses, Muller had to admit that he would be as proud as anyone to look upon "Germany as the cradle of all Aryan life" (Muller 1888: 127) and "Teutonic speech as the fountain of all Aryan thought" (Muller 1888: 154). So, indeed, did the nonspecialists who expanded upon his theories.


The Western quest for origins received an initial formulation in the recognition of philological relationships among Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, and other languages of Europe. Already, in the Enlightenment, there was much speculation regarding India, its culture, language, and peoples. Many of the uninformed assessments of this time would resurface in subsequent Orientalist scholarship, Romantic mythography, nineteenth-century linguistic science, and race theory. Excited by the linguistic affinity between Sanskrit and other languages, Orientalist scholars fostered the comparative science of religion and mythology that developed a vision of an Aryan race as the originator of Indian and European culture. The belief in the Indo-European origins of Europe and India further spurred European interest in Vedic Aryan sources. Enlightenment thinkers idealized the Vedic past in an attempt to find a utopia outside Europe and as an alternative to the biblical tradition. Romantic mythographers not only accepted Aryan genius, but prioritized it. Speculation regarding the Aryan provided a means whereby Indian history could be used to create a "fresh historical tradition" that expressed specifically European political and ideological interests (Thapar 1992: 2). While Evangelicals, Utilitarians, and colonial administrators could only envision India's salvation through a rejection of its irrational culture, conversion to Christianity, and embrace of British rule, scholars sympathetic to Indian culture, epitomized by the figure of F. Max Muller, effectively promulgated an idealized portrait of the Aryan in order to counter those who championed this backward view of the Indian past. By focusing on the common descent and the legitimate relationship between the Hindu and the Anglo-Saxon, however, Muller adopted a strategy that would have serious repercussions.

Let us remember the dates of Muller's Veda (1849-74). Rather than have it begin our examination of the reception of the Veda in the West, we have allowed it to mark the turning point of our inquiry. The Veda as a "real" text was either unknown or little known to Western authors before Muller. Nevertheless, we have shown how the Veda played a significant role in Enlightenment, pre-Romantic, and Romantic literary and philosophical speculation. As an absent text, it wielded great authority. Although neither discovered nor fully translated, the Veda served as an important tool in formulating European discourse concerning poetry, race, and religion. The possibility of the existence of the Veda effected a renewed interest in the Romantic theses of a revealed and primitive monotheism and the degeneration of Greek culture. What Europeans sought in India was not Indo- European religion, but a reassessment of Judeo-Christianity. The development of the concept of an Aryan religion proved to be a consequence, rather than the goal of these metaphorical journeys to the East.

The Romantics, whose origins can be traced to pre-Romanticism and Herder, sought in the Veda a religious and national poetry. By "national," they meant indigenous and popular. The Veda, in particular, permitted comparison with an ultimately diverse national mythology. As the publication of the Veda marks the birth of Indology (the philological, historical, and religious studies of ancient India), its appearance in print should have announced the death of Romantic Indomania. However, one is surprised by the similarity between Max Muller's exegesis and the critical discussion that preceded his work. When juxtaposed to the Enlightenment, Storm and Stress, and Romantic emplotment of the Aryan, Muller's commentary on the Rig Veda and its medieval native gloss revivified (with the aid of "science") those very Romantic yearnings believed dormant. The Romantic concepts of the degeneration of primitive monotheism into polytheism and the view of history as a development of the unique character of a people would reach complete articulation in time. Once the pinnacle was reached, the subsequent history was an inevitable falling off, punctuated by attempts and revitalization. Stagnation comes to define India in Western consciousness, appearing ultimately in the philosophy of Hegel, Marx, and Spengler.

History was in a state of motion, a living organism. Universal history was structured organically and could be reduced to certain recurring elementary phenomena with the birth, development, and death of the individual or group organism as eternal. Decadent cultures distinguished themselves from cultured populations. Decadent peoples consisted of those cut off from the soil, hovering between peace and war, the national and international. The cultured were those bound by a common destiny. Culture was Faustian, constantly in progress. The Rig Veda's "appearance" in Max Muller's abundant commentary merely confirmed these Romantic hypotheses.

The discovery that there existed in India a tradition older or at least as old as the biblical tradition was regarded as an event of the first magnitude, only to be compared in its consequences to the rediscovery of classical antiquity in the Renaissance. Through the study of India's past, it was hoped that scholars could reconstruct the history of mankind's origin and past, the development of religions and philosophies. By giving Vedic Aryans a place in universal history, a crucial displacement of the Jews was effected. Much of the discourse concerning the Veda effectively resulted in assigning the Jews a subaltern role in history. In Voltaire's case, we saw how the valorization of the Aryans, who had been ignored by the Bible and universal histories, necessarily entailed a devaluation of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Voltaire was always motivated by his need to challenge the primacy of the Church. For others, the motivations for this displacement were less clear.

Testimony from Vedic India also allowed Europe to refute and/or denounce the Greek miracle. In India, one could discover an old civilization whose cultural riches had been passed down to Greece. However, India could also be cited to prove that ancient Greece represented a real catastrophe, a mutilation that had detoured humanity from its true mission by replacing the cult of god with the cult of man. Finally, the Veda provided essential information concerning the European past. Thought to be the oldest available text of an "Indo-Germanic" language, the Rig Veda promised to reveal the state of civilization that was closest to the supposed common ancestors of all Indo-Germanic peoples.

One can distinguish, therefore, two motives for the beginnings of Vedic scholarship in the West. First, there entailed the search for the oldest forms of religion and language. Second, it set the stage for the inquiry into the origin and past of the European people through information drawn from old Indian sources. With the twentieth-century legacy of Aryanism fresh in our memory, it is difficult not to overstate the argument. We can acknowledge, however, that the European discourse on the absent Veda created a portrait of pure and cultivated Aryan ancestors which wielded such authority that the subsequent discovery of the text could not alter the welter of assumptions and fantasies that formed its initial interpretation. This ideology of the Aryan participated in the formation of a new mythology of the past. This mythology was fueled by irrational impulses growing out of anxiety regarding questions of national identity and mission. Themes which resonate in the works of the authors we investigated found their way into the new mythology: the displacement of the Jews from a central position on the stage of history; theories regarding the degeneration of peoples and religions from unity and purity to multiplicity and polytheism; and the idealization of imaginary ancestors and their fictitious descendants. Thus, the myth of the Aryan was employed not only to construct the origins of society, but also to foster nationalism. In its latter configuration, it could eventually be used to disarticulate existing society and rearticulate an alternative noteworthy for its identification of a mythic scapegoat.
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

Postby admin » Sat Feb 06, 2021 1:15 am

CHAPTER 3: Nietzsche's Aryan Ubermensch

Mastery over nature, the Idee fIxe of the 20th century, is Brahmanism, Indo-German.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche, Nachgelassene Fragmente


Much has been written on Nietzsche's reconstruction of Indian thought.1 Indologists and historians of religion have placed great importance on Nietzsche's appropriation of Indian themes; and, indeed, the philosopher's evocation of India is varied and often tantalizing. These evocations range from use of terminology and concepts to Nietzsche's penchant for "quoting" Sanskrit sources.2 One critic has, however, recently discounted the role that Indian thought played for Nietzsche, viewing such references as late and insignificant. This position views Nietzsche's evocation of India as specious and accuses him of the very trivialization that he accused Schopenhauer of committing (Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations iii, 7).3 To my mind, this is a harsh judgment. While the traces of India's influence in Nietzsche's work are elusive, and the philosopher did not view India with the "trans-European eye" that he claimed (cited in Sprung 1991: 83), India did, in fact, play a significant role in Nietzsche's final work.

Any discussion of Nietzsche's reception of India must begin with the Genealogy of Morals (1.5), where he develops his myth of the Aryan. In the first part to this section in the Genealogy, Nietzsche claims that the term arya denotes "the wealthy" or the "owners" rather than its conventional meaning of "honorable" or "noble" (Monier Williams 1990: 152).4 According to Nietzsche, this connotation of the term arya points to the Aryans' true nature as masters. However, the Aryans must have undergone some tremendous psychological and physical defeat, if their descendants offer any valid testimony. The blond Aryan, a conqueror and master, was eclipsed by the dark-skinned common man. Races that the Aryans once subjugated, such as the pre-Aryan inhabitants of Italian soil, clearly prevailed in modern times. Their color, size of skull, and perhaps even intellectual and social instincts have neutralized Aryan traits, and a miscegenated population now predominates in Europe.

Aryan blood has thus racially and morally degenerated. Although Nietzsche believed that the Western Aryan had all but disappeared, he felt that the Indian Aryan had largely avoided his distant cousins' fate. The Indian Aryan escaped moral and physical degradation due to his adherance to dictates promulgated in the Laws of Manu.

In a letter to Peter Gast (May 31, 1888), Nietzsche describes Manu as the primeval (uralte) "absolute Aryan product," that presented a code of morality based on the Veda (Nietzsche 1984: 3.324ff.). As "a summary of the Veda" (Nietzsche 1986: 6.426), Manu was the text of Aryan religion (Nietzsche 1986: 13.380-81), the racially purest Aryan law book (Will to Power 143) and the only source from which one should develop an understanding of the Aryan worldview. In the following discussion, we will discuss how and why Nietzsche chose Manu as source material for his reconstruction of Indian thought. Before we tackle this issue, however, a short digression into Manu's place in Nietzsche reception may prove fruitful.

Although Nietzsche makes numerous references to Manu throughout his work, and his editor Giorgio Colli referred to its excessive influence on him (Nietzsche 1986: 13.667), traditional Nietzsche scholars have tended to ignore the philosopher's references to the Hindu law book. Walter Kaufmann's post-World War II rehabilitation of Nietzsche began this trend. Kaufmann underplayed the philosopher's comments on the Indian lawgiver (Kaufmann 1974: 304-15) for the simple reason that they dealt primarily with breeding, a topic that would ill-serve Kaufmann's desire to distance Nietzsche from the Nazis. In fact, Kaufmann even denied that Nietzsche ever dealt at length with the topic of breeding. Though here is not the place to categorize or assess the Nietzsche-Nazi relationship, I might note, in passing, that beginning in the 1940s, Kaufmann (along with other champions of Nietzsche such as the Mann brothers, Camus, and Bataille) sought to exonerate the philosopher from any inspirational role he may have played for the Nazis.5 Their position ran counter to that of Lukacs and the historian Crane Brinton, who claimed that Nietzsche served the Nazi cause. In the last fifty years of Nietzsche reception, a middle ground has prevailed, wherein Nietzsche is seen to have provided elements in his philosophy that were attractive to the Nazis (Santaniello 1994: 149).6

Another logic of a less political nature might also account for the critics' refusal to question Nietzsche's references to Manu. While literary-minded scholars approach Nietzsche with a view to honoring the philosopher's resistance to systematization,7 the same care cannot be said of theoretically or philosophically oriented scholars. Nietzsche's evocation of as exotic a reference as Manu could, indeed, trouble a conceptual reading, prompting a desire to ignore anything that does not fit a systematic approach. As respected a Nietzsche scholar as Richard Schacht, for example, encourages readers to look beyond the ephemeral noise that clutters Nietzsche's prose and filter out the static. One must pass over those frequent "rhetorical excesses" that obscure the philosopher's message.8 If this critical approach is accepted in the field of Nietzsche scholarship, it is no wonder that traditional Nietzsche scholars generally ignore the philosopher's references to the Hindu law treatise.

Readers faced with Nietzsche's fragmentary Nachlass might sympathize with the critic who simply ignores Nietzsche's arcane discussions of Manu. Those same readers, however, might also pause at the implications of such an approach. In broad historical terms, we know that Nietzsche has suffered far too much from the impositions and selectivity of his readers, whether they be sinister (like his sister and the Nazis) or systematic (like academic analyses that have come to dominate the institutional reception of Nietzsche). In theoretical terms, if poststructuralism and deconstruction have taught us anything, we must be leery of any "filtering" process. Nietzsche's indebtedness to Indian thought is an excellent case in point. His references to India can be read in two ways. Either Nietzsche constructed his works so that nothing was superfluous and everything rendered as content, or Nietzsche's numerous yet incohesive references to India should be viewed as rhetorical excesses that distract us from his larger message. I tend to believe that Nietzsche's literary economy exhibits a propensity to develop a wide variety of themes. Among those themes we should include the breeding mechanism of caste. It is my belief that caste, or as Nietzsche termed it, "order of rank," played a far more important role in the philosopher's thought than many critics would allow. In fact, it is my contention that Nietzsche constructed a myth of the Aryan from the discussion of caste found in Manu that would playa significant role in his philosophy of the Ubermensch. In this chapter, we will investigate how he used the Hindu law treatise to develop an ideology of the Aryan. We will begin, however, by explaining how Manu came to represent for Nietzsche the Aryan text par excellence, equal in authority to Hindu scripture. Nietzsche's assessment of Manu's authority was only partially correct and, as we shall see, his Manu had little in common with the Sanskrit original.


An examination of Nietzsche's references to the Hindu lawgiver points out a rather significant issue-the quotations from Manu do not correspond to the Sanskrit text itself or to any translations that were available in Nietzsche's time.9 Annemarie Etter has shown the extent to which Nietzsche based his discussion on material not found in Manu (Etter 1987: 342-45). The question then becomes, where did Nietzsche cull his citations? In his own footnotes, Nietzsche identified Louis Jacolliot's Les legislateurs religieux: Manou-Moise-Mahomet as a source reference for his understanding of Manu.10 Jacolliot claimed to offer excerpts from a southern recension that he identified as the basis for the manuscripts found throughout India and, as a consequence, the recension used in the European language translations.

Jacolliot had been stationed as a French colonial official near Calcutta. His publications were of a nonspecialist nature. He was a populizer of the "fantastic" school who believed that all intellectual and spiritual thought could be traced back to India (Etter 1987: 345-46). Jacolliot's Manu is a product of the India that had been codified in the Enlightenment. Jacolliot's anti-Semitism and anti-Christianity (directed primarily against Rome) have their precedent in Voltaire's fulminations, as does his notion that Christianity is a pale copy of brahminism. That Jacolliot continued a tradition of idealizing ancient India as the source of all subsequent culture is less significant than the new fantasies he brought to this script and transmitted to Nietzsche. Jacolliot supplied Nietzsche with the significant and erroneous notion that Manu was the oldest sourcebook of the Aryan world, dating its compilation at 13,000 B.C. It was, therefore, thanks to Jacolliot that Nietzsche's entire understanding of Manu was flawed. Although Nietzsche possessed a fraudulent Manu and a false chronology, his understanding of Manu's significance was not entirely misplaced.

Manu is indeed a standing authority in the orthodox Hindu tradition (Manu 1992: xviii).11 As a compendium of religious law, custom, and politics, Manu makes ample references to Vedic literature and refers extensively to earlier law codes. Its eponymous author, a mythological figure believed to be the original man and the son of the god Brahma, gives the text authority. As a fundamental text in the literature of dharma,12 Manu deals with the customs governing the development of the individual and proper relations of different groups in society. It codifies belief in the fourfold caste system as a means of social cooperation for the common good, even though the system does not promote social coherence (Radhakrishnan and Moore 1957: 172). Manu stresses that individuals must perform the function for which they are suited as well as that for which they are born.

In theory, Indians place a tremendous emphasis on Manu.13 It serves as an absolute authority of both Hindu knowledge and practice, competing with the Veda itself. As a text, Manu is cited more frequently than any other dharmashtistra. It has always been brokered by the priestly class who borrowed from the prestige of its "Aryan" origin (Manu 1992: xli-xlii). Manu, however, could neither claim the authority or the antiquity of the Vedas or the Upanishads, which are thought by Hindus to be a continuation of the Vedas (vedanta, that is, "end of the Veda"). Although the Vedas and the Upanishads were available in Nietzsche's time in translation and commentary, Nietzsche chose Manu as a "synthesis of the Veda" and ignored all other Sanskrit canonical texts. In order to accept the Hindu law book as an alternative to scripture, Nietzsche first established the priority of human law in relation to God's word.

In the Antichrist, written shortly before his breakdown in early 1889, Nietzsche claimed that a population at some point in its evolution declares that the values by which it lives are fixed and are no longer subject to experimentation. The stabilization of core values is achieved either by declaring them revealed or sanctioned by tradition. As revelation, these values appear as laws created not from human experimentation but from divine intervention. As such, they are perfect and outside history, a gift from God. Tradition claims its own authority. It too exists from the beginning. Since it was created by our ancestors, it would be impious to call it into question. Thus, for Nietzsche, both scripture and tradition lay claim to equal textual authority (Antichrist 57). Either God has given us our values or our ancestors have lived them and codified them as law. Nietzsche maintained that the Aryan philosophers of the Vedanta took this notion one step further when they usurped all power, authority, and credibility. By judging the whole course of nature as conditioned by their laws, the Aryans equated truth with the teaching of priests and reduced reason to a mechanism of conformity with law itself as the highest end. According to Nietzsche, law became their highest reference. The exemplum of Aryan lawbooks, Manu, thus became for Nietzsche the authoritative Aryan reference. The priority that others assigned to the Veda, Nietzsche gave to Manu.

Nietzsche made human law supersede divine revelation for the very reason that Manu complemented his ideas on religion in a noteworthy manner and provided him with a revolutionary system of human morality.14 Indeed, Nietzsche came to believe that all the moral teachings of nations such as Egypt or Greece were only caricatures of Aryan moral laws first articulated in Manu (Will to Power 143). An examination of Nietzsche's references to Manu quickly reveals what he found so captivating. Nietzsche's reading of Manu focused exclusively on caste and its relationship to breeding (Zuchtung). In fact, the breeding of caste was the only thing that Nietzsche found appealing in India at all (Twilight of the Idols 7.3).


According to Nietzsche, Manu was founded upon a "holy lie" consisting of the priests' belief that they represented the supreme expression of the type "man." Priests derive their concept of "improvement from themselves." Believing in their own superiority, they will themselves to be superior. The origin of their holy lie (or new concept of truth) resides in this will to power.

In order to establish their rule, they needed to place power in the priesthood. This was a radically new concept, since priests did not physically or militarily possess power. In fact, they were powerless (Genealogy 1.7),15 the direct antithesis of the knightly aristocrat and, as such, the most evil creatures. There was even something unhealthy about them. Priests turned away from action and combined brooding with emotional volatility, as seen in the antisensual and enervating metaphysics of the brahmins.

With priests, everything becomes more dangerous: not only cures and therapies, but also arrogance, revenge, perspicacity, extravagance, love, desire to dominate, virtue, illness. (Genealogy 1.6)

Priestly claims to power did not stem from naivete or self-deception. "Fanatics" do not invent such carefully thought-out systems of oppression. The most cold-blooded reflection was at work. Manu provides the classic model in a specifically Aryan form of priestly ambition. It presents the most fundamental lie ever formulated, a lie that, copied almost everywhere, has corrupted the whole world (Will to Power 142).

In particular, this Aryan spirit of the priest corrupted the Jews and Christians. The ideal of a state run by priests ("Semitism") consists of reviving the Aryan order of caste (Will to Power 143). Nietzsche felt that caste should be reinstated, since modern society had been overrun by scum, criminals, and the mentally ill. Because of Christianity, modern society is no longer a society at all, but a "sick conglomerate of candalas"16 without the strength to excrete (Will to Power 50).17 The establishment of equal rights had created a social hodge-podge, where the canaille of all the castes had mingled their blood. After two or three generations of mixing, race was no longer recognizable and everything had become a mob (Will to Power 864).

The brahmin priest and the candala outcaste became pregnant symbols for Nietzsche.18 He equated the candala with all that was wrong with society. 19However, Nietzsche also identified the candala with the figure of the philosopher (Antichrist 13) and, by extension, with himself. Finally, he established the candala as the antithesis to the Ubermensch and identified the brahmin with the Aryan. Thus, the philosopher's fascination with caste regulations had wide-ranging significance for his moral system.


In a late fragment, Nietzsche wrote: "What is noble? Thoughts on the order of rank" (Nietzsche 1986: 12.45). He viewed the order of rank as an order of power (Will to Power 856). When Nietzsche called for a "new aristocracy" or a "new ruling caste" he advocated, in actuality, an order of rank between classes modeled on the caste regulations he found in Manu. Nietzsche felt impelled to reestablish an order of rank, since universal suffrage had eroded the "pathos of distance" necessary for the aristocratic values upon which society depended.20 A doctrine was needed that was powerful enough to work as a breeding agent that would strengthen the strong and paralyze or destroy the world-weary (Will to Power 862). Since no social grouping had the courage to claim master rights and society continued to suffer (Antichrist, 43), Nietzsche demanded a return to an order that would sanction master privilege and engender a pathos of distance between classes. He found this order in the Indian caste system, but also, it should be noted, in medieval Europe and ancient Rome.

The pathos of distance grew out of the ingrained difference between strata. Nietzsche believed that when a ruling caste can look down upon its subjects, it easily suppresses them. In doing so, "that other, more mysterious pathos" can grow up, that

craving for an ever new widening of distances with the soul itself, the development of ever higher, rarer, more remote, further-stretching, more comprehensive states-in brief simply the enhancement of the type "man," the continual "self-overcoming of man" to use a moral formula in a supra-moral sense. (Beyond Good and Evil, sec. 257)

Thus, the pathos of distance that engendered caste separation also served as the origin of higher aspiration.

Moreover, order of rank was essential to any genuine culture (Will to Power 184) and a precondition for every elevation in culture (Antichrist 43). It provided the catalyst and an arrangement for breeding (Beyond Good and Evil 262) human beings who would carry the seeds of the future (The Gay Science 23).21 The reestablishment of an order of rank would make possible the creation of the Ubermensch, whom Nietzsche envisioned as the goal of human striving (Will to Power 1001), upon whose arrival the destiny of humanity depended (Will to Power 987). It was this very order of rank that was lacking in European culture and lacking in Christianity (Will to Power 195).22 Europe needed a new order lest Christian values of mercy and compassion destroy it.23 Without an order of rank, the sick and the weak flourish, and culture becomes "the sum of zeroes, with every zero having equal rights" (Will to Power 53). Nietzsche found a propitious model for such a highly stratified social and political system in the aristocratic" Aryan" society that he discovered in Manu.

Nietzsche clearly equated morality with the improvement of man as a species. He viewed such improvement taking two possible forms: through taming (as in the case of an animal in a zoo or a human in the Church) or through breeding of a definite race.24 Judging the latter option preferable, he viewed its most grandiose example revealed in Manu. Nietzsche understood Manu as a text primarily dealing with the task of breeding four races.25 He found the Aryans who developed Manu's "breeding" morality a hundred times more gentle and rational than the Christians who had devised a taming morality (Twilight of the Idols 7.3). To enter the Aryan utopia described in Manu was akin to escaping the fetid air of the Christian sick house and dungeon (Kranken-und Kerkerluft). Quite literally, the New Testament "stinks" when compared to Manu. Juxtaposed to the law book of the ruling class of Aryan India, it represented a paltry (armselig) tradition.


In Nietzsche's view, Aryan religion deified the feeling of power (Will to Power 145), while Christianity represented a rejection of the Aryan moral imperative of breeding race and privilege.

The problem I thus pose is not what shall succeed mankind in the sequence of living beings (man is an end), but what type of man shall be bred, shall be willed, for being higher in value ... Even in the past this higher type has appeared often-but as a fortunate accident, as an exception, never as something willed ... From dread the opposite type was willed, bred and attained: the domestic animal, the herd animal, the sick human animal-the Christian. (Antichrist 3.4)

In Christianity, the individual had become so important that he could no longer be sacrificed. According to Nietzsche, nothing was more dangerous than when all types became equal before God (Will to Power 246). Christianity, as a counterprinciple to selection, represented the anti-Aryan religion par excellence: a total subversion (Umwerthung) of Aryan values and a victory of candala values (Twilight of the Idols 7, 4). With Christianity, the masters had been defeated by common men. Their victory entailed blood poisoning (Genealogy 1.9). As the religion for the poor and downtrodden, the wretched, ill-constituted and underprivileged, plebeian Jewish Christianity defeated race (Genealogy 1.9). Although it passed itself off as a religion of love, Christianity represents nothing but the revenge of the candala (Twilight of the Idols 7.4). It denies the enslavement necessary to bring about the emergence of a higher type (Will to Power 259).

In order for Christianity to function as a car;4dLa religion, it had to have originated among a candala people. And indeed, Nietzsche speculated that the Jews were once candalas under the servitude of Hindus.26 It was during this time that "their type" as an enslaved and despised group took root. As a candala race, the Jews gradually ennobled themselves by taking control of lands and creating gods (Nietzsche 1986: 13.377-78). They learned from their Indian rulers how to make a priesthood their master and how to organize a people (Will to Power 143).21 In fact, it was in the figure of the Jew that candala hatred first became flesh (Antichrist 58). In other words, the Jews recognized their candala status, embraced it, and turned it to their advantage. They incorporated animosity against the aristocratic, noble, and proud into their religion.28 They institutionalized their hatred against power and the ruling classes (Will to Power 184). Their revolt ultimately resulted in the creation of the true candala religion, Christianity (Will to Power 145), when the Jewish priestly caste itself became a privileged aristocracy and was overthrown. Christ was the ultimate candala, a figure who rejected the Jewish priests in order to be redeemed (Nietzsche 1986: 13.396). Nietzsche's argument, however novel its contours, points to the familiar strategy that has informed much of the discussion regarding the Aryan in European thought. Its message dates from the Enlightenment; the displacement of the Jewish faith from its position of religious prominence.


While Nietzsche's Aryan brahmins functioned both literally and symbolically, it is important to note that he did not identify them with Germans or contrast them to the Jews. In fact, his future master race was to be reared from international racial unions (Will to Power 960).29 Nietzsche had long since repudiated the anti-Semitism he flirted with in his Wagner days (Kaufmann 1974: 42-47); the argument is primarily theological and secondarily racial. He reviled German anti-Semites and felt they should be expelled (Beyond Good and Evil 251). Closer to home, he mocked the anti- Semitic colonial venture of his sister and brother-in-law in Paraguay and their attempt to form a racially pure new Germany. Indeed, contrary to anti- Semitic and Germanophile groups, Nietzsche viewed the Jews racially as the strongest and purest race in Europe.3o He maintained that when Semitic stock bred with Aryans, a particularly fruitful mixture arose (Nietzsche 1986: 12:45). He claimed, in fact, that the much vaunted purity of the German soul was a blend of Slav, Celt, and Jew (Nietzsche 1986: 11.702). Nietzsche felt that, had it been their predeliction, the Jews could have conquered Europe. Their priority lay elsewhere-in finding a homeland-and Nietzsche called upon Europe to accommodate the Jew in this legitimate quest (Beyond Good and Evil 261). He feared the increasing violence directed against Jews (Human, All Too Human 1.475). In other words, Nietzsche admired both the contemporary Jew and the prophets of the Old Testament. It was the priestly, prophetic strand of Judaism that he despised.31

In other words, Nietzsche's sympathy with the modern Jew as a self-sufficient and incorruptible threatened minority did not influence his negative judgment of Judaism in its priestly manifestation and the Christianity that it had spawned. It was this line of descent that posed the problem. Prophetic Judaism was condemned for its role in producing Christianity (Duffy and Mittleman 1988: 301-17). The important point of this reasoning was to expose the Jews as imitators of the Aryans. They should not appear as the true authors of Europe's origins.

We have seen how Nietzsche was not unique in this line of thinking. Just as Voltaire tried to show with his discovery of the lost Veda, so Nietzsche attempted to prove with his reading of Manu: the Jews are only agents, intermediaries, and mediators (Vermittler): they "discover" nothing (Will to Power 143). Unlike the Aryans, Jews were not creative.32 The philosophes, the Romantics, and Nietzsche all called upon the authority of "Aryan" texts to support their polemics. Voltaire et al. had called upon "Vedic" revelation to debunk Hebrew revelation. Nietzsche, however, called upon the authority of Aryan law, since his philosophy had rendered any kerygmatic authority meaningless. It is only logical that, with the death of God, tradition should carry more weight than scripture.

Nietzsche found it significant that the Aryans had sought to regulate morality through human law rather than through divine scripture. He felt that by creating a law book like Manu and imbuing it with superordinate authority, the Aryans were willing to concede for themselves the right to become masterful and perfect. Nietzsche, in fact, viewed them as a master race (Will to Power 145). Through experimentation, they had perfected their way of life. The caste system, the supreme dominating Aryan law, was made to appear as a natural law sanctioning a natural order, exempt from arbitrary caprice and "modern ideas" (Antichrist 57). The highest caste represented this nobility.

The most spiritual human men, as the strongest, find their happiness where others would find destruction: in the labyrinth, in hardness against themselves and others, experiments; their joy is self-conquest; asceticism becomes in them nature, need, and instinct. Difficult tasks are a privilege to them; to play with burdens which crush others, a recreation. Knowledge-a form of asceticism. They are the most venerable kind of man; this does not preclude their being the most cheerful and kindliest. They rule not because they want to but because they are; they are not free to be second. . . . The order of castes, order of rank, merely formulates the highest law of life; the separation of the three types is necessary for the preservation of society, to make possible higher and highest types. The inequality of rights is the condition for the existence of any rights at all.... As one climbs higher life becomes even harder: the coldness increases, responsibility increases. A high culture is a pyramid; it can stand only on a broad base, its first presupposition is a strong and soundly consolidated mediocrity. (Antichrist 57)

Compared with this Aryan order of rank, the modern moral order was bankrupt. The mixture of classes and races had leveled out and mediocritized all humanity. Man was on his own and needed a new nobility with a will for the future (Zarathustra 3.11). Manu provided Nietzsche with the "conscious breeding process" that he envisioned as the foundation for the development of the master race (Will to Power 954; Beyond Good and Evil 251).33

Although in the above quote Nietzsche specifically described the highest among three castes, he clearly envisioned the brahmin as a partial model for his man of the future, shaped through breeding (Gay Science 577). He considered the brahmin as the highest type of man, the complete antithesis of the candala (Will to Power 139). Brahmins incarnated for Nietzsche the abstract Aryan virtues of strength, duty, power, and order (Nietzsche 1986: 13.381). Their asceticism consisted of moderation in diet and sexual activity. Their disdain for wealth and worldly power enabled them to rule over others.34 Nietzsche even endowed his ideal brahmins with a will to power.35 Nietzsche claimed that the brahmins were emancipated from the senses and dignified, as opposed to the savage, who was an unclean and incalculable beast (Will to Power 237). The brahmin was a terror-inspiring animal-tamer toward his beasts.36

Nietzsche thus accepted the reality that the breeding organization of Manu had to be fearsome (furchtbar) in order to work. It necessitated confronting the non-bred candala.37 Simple hygienic measures had not been sufficient, necessitating more draconian sanctions in order to better separate the "virtuous" and the "people of race" from the candala breed (Twilight of the Idols 7.3). It was precisely Manu's variation of the jus talionis that allowed the Aryan to "atone" and become religiously free again (Nietzsche 1986: 13.380). Nietzsche claimed that by reinstating the breeding regulations of caste, Aryan humanity could exist again for modern man in its pure and primordial form. He willingly acknowledged that the consequences of this eugenic ideal were severe. Manu, in fact, exemplified just how the notion of pure blood was not a harmless concept, but rather, the immortalization of hatred as a religion and as a form of genius.

Nietzsche not only incorporated Manu in his work, but even embraced the harshness with which Manu ordered the Aryan world. Given the attention and praise Nietzsche extended to the Hindu lawgiver, it is difficult to accept Kaufmann's assertion that Nietzsche denounced the way in which Manu dealt with outcastes.38 I believe that this assessment reflects Kaufmann's rehabilitating mission far more than any confusion or misreading of Nietzsche's intent. It seems evident that Nietzsche embraced the brutality of the concept of breeding as an integral attribute of the Ubermensch and an historical necessity for his development. Kaufmann was clearly distancing his subject from the recent past when he stated that Nietzsche was "against the concept of pure blood that could be invoked again someday to justify the oppression of non-Aryans" (Kaufmann 1974: 225-27). Historically, Kaufmann had to deny Nietzsche's ideology of breeding. He first minimized the philosopher's treatment of the theme. He then overemphasized Elisabeth F6rster-Nietzsche's heavy-handed emendation. Finally, after initially discounting any thematic of breeding in Nietzsche, Kaufmann claimed that the philosopher's "strong concern with breeding derived from Plato" (Kaufmann 1974: 305).39

Two strategies appear to be at work here. First, Nietzsche must not be held in any way accountable for Nazi eugenics. Second, and more obscurely, Kaufmann had to reject the possibility of any non-Western influence upon Nietzsche in order to elevate him to the first rank of continental philosophers. As Wilhelm Halbfass has shown, an historical refusal to engage Indian philosophy has contributed to the Eurocentrism of the institutional discourse of philosophy. India was excluded both from the genetic context of the European history of philosophy and from the domain to which the concept of philosophy is applicable (Halbfass 1988: 155). Traditionally, and thanks to the added impetus of Hegel, "caretakers of a specialized scholarly discipline" were unwilling to concede to India a real philosophy (Halbfass 1988: 146). The traditional view of doxography and the history of philosophy have obscured a significant aspect of Nietzsche's thought, namely, how India, or more precisely, Manu informed his idea of the Ubermensch.


Until the mid-nineteenth century, the Aryans' presence in the West was limited to the scholarly domain of philosophy and the "scientific" fields of ethnography, botany, craniology, and so forth. Max Muller's enthusiastic public relations work on behalf of the Vedic Aryans effected their entree into the public domain, where a new generation of "philosophers" working outside an institutional framework developed popular theories regarding the Aryans. The discourse regarding the Aryan based itself on loose attribution of Vedic sources, Indological scholarship, and translations of other canonical Sanskrit materials, regardless of their status or antiquity. Nietzsche's reception of Indian thought must be viewed in this context.

Nietzsche's commentary on Manu is found primarily in his late works. Nevertheless, his interest in India was lifelong. Like Goethe, who wrote his two Indian poems after a lifetime of reflection on Indian lyric (Figueira 1994: 40), and Wagner, who on his deathbed lamented the unwritten Buddhist opera that had occupied him for forty years (Figueira 1994: 106-9), Nietzsche's thoughts on India also matured before he tried to articulate them. Like Wagner, there was not sufficient time. In passing, we might note that a large part of exoticism's lure is to be found precisely in its indigestibility. Either Nietzsche suffered his breakdown before he fully developed his thoughts on India, or what we have is really the only aspect of India that mattered to him. The interesting point is that Nietzsche chose to emphasize Manu as the sourcebook for his fiction of the Aryan race. Rather than Muller's voluminous commentary on the Rig Veda or other Sanskrit canonical sources that were available to him, Nietzsche prioritized Manu. It alone offered him the necessary corrective to cultural degeneration.40 In establishing Manu as the sourcebook for the Aryan Weltanschauung, Nietzsche identified the "Vedic" canon that would be adopted by subsequent German racial theorists. How ironic that his sourcebook was not what he envisioned it to be.

Nietzsche posited a lost Aryan Golden Age and attributed its loss to the deleterious effects of religious compassion. Christianity destroys race by making populations soft. Nietzsche's metaphors were complex: The Jews appear as anti-Aryans or candala outcastes; Jesus is the ultimate candala. The Ubermensch possesses values that Nietzsche attributed to the virtual Aryan. In each instance, Jews have been managed: either displaced from their primary position in religious history or bracketed in a role of existential insignificance.

Nietzsche's discourse on the Aryan fixated on the issue of caste and its role in maintaining blood purity. He focused on the manner in which Aryan blood was diluted in various populations. Nietzsche held Aryan brahmins to be a group that, thanks to Manu, had largely escaped blood degeneration. For Nietzsche, the brahmin assumed the characteristics of this idealized Aryan. In fact, Nietzsche's portrait of the Aryan is ineluctably bound to an ideological assessment of modern brahmin behavior. In Nietzsche, the Aryan coalesces with the brahmin (Hulin 1991: 70).

The critical reception of Nietzsche's exoticism is particularly instructive. We have seen to what degree Kaufmann was disingenuous in his assessment of Nietzsche's use of Manu. The only cross-cultural link acknowledged is Nietzsche's indebtedness to Greek thought. I have noted some of the factors that might have contributed to the dismissal of the philosopher's debt to Indian thought: the need to distance Nietzsche from Nazi eugenics and the unwillingness to take Indian philosophy seriously. Elisabeth Forster- Nietzsche, in her desire to make the Will to Power her brother's ultimate statement, initially confused the issue by arbitrarily raising the theme of breeding to a structural principle in the edition she compiled. As I hope this discussion has shown, beyond his sister's kind ministrations, Nietzsche himself had presented a coherent vision of caste and breeding at various junctures in his final versions of his work. 41

The time has long passed for protecting Nietzsche from any Nazi association or legitimizing his place in the pantheon of philosophers. The time has also past for denying Indian thought its rightful place in the development of Western philosophical thought. Critically speaking, the need to manage Nietzsche cannot be completed by the construction of an expurgated Nietzsche, but only by a willingness to look squarely at and accept all aspects of his work, however exotic and distasteful they may be. A crucial lesson to be learned is how politics direct our (mis)readings. There are great dangers in reading literature in the service of ideological rewritings of history. Literary works should not be dissected and mined for what they can offer by way of a specific thesis, nor should they be made to fit dogmatic institutional scripts. When this occurs, criticism becomes brahmanical: it hierarchizes a caste of readers wielding priestly power in the temples of academe.
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

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Part 1 of 2

CHAPTER 4: Loose Can[n]ons


Beginning with the Enlightenment, racial myths of origin sought their justification in science. There was widespread speculation in the research of Cuvier, Linnaeus, and Buffon regarding the fixity of the species and the role of environment in causing human difference. There was but one variety of mankind, with humans differing from each other only by degrees. Writers such as Montesquieu (L'Esprit des lois, 1748) and Blumenbach (De Generis humani varitate, 1775) attributed the differences among nations to climatic variations. Populations were rooted in the land and soil. European barbarians, it appeared, had not wandered the earth aimlessly. The ordinary people of history were seen to function as rational beings.

With the development of comparative linguistics, the European quest for origins found a new scientific basis. The thought that there might be two distinct linguistic families, the Semitic and the Indo-European, and that there was an affinity between Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Persian, and Germanic languages, contributed to the growing significance of India for Europe. Theories regarding the nature of language and the origin of man contributed to the belief that the Aryan Indians had initially migrated westward and were the direct ancestors of modern Europeans. Such speculation encouraged an even greater interest in India. An equally significant factor was the desire on the part of Europeans to escape their Judeo-Christian roots. The European quest for origins and desire to minimize their indebtedness to the Hebrews motivated the initial modern theories of race.

A second wave of racial ideas found expression in Herder, who focused on the collective personality of a people stemming from a common language. Ordinary types comprised the ethnic culture of a Volk. The various Volker could be differentiated by their temperament, character and inward sensations as expressed in cultural products. The relation of the individual to the Volk was viewed not so much in political terms as spiritually-through literature, religion, folk songs, and ritual. In the Fragmente uber die neuere deutsche Literatur (1767), Herder drew the analogy between human history and organic growth. Like all living bodies, states, languages, literatures, and institutions experience a youth, prime, and decline. History was thus envisioned in terms of evolution and degeneration. Each Volk embodied a self-contained entity with a character of its own, growing and developing in time and space and under specific geographical circumstances. Although Herder himself rejected racial classifications, the mystical notion of the Volk that he initiated influenced subsequent racial theories.

The idea that a people's character was inexorably tied to blood found particular resonance in the work of Kant and Fichte. While Kant reasoned that there existed a national physiognomy that characterized entire societies, Fichte relied on a state's ability to compel people toward civilization. Fichte's Reden an die deutsche Nation (1807-8), delivered just after the defeat at Jena, inaugurated a major development in racial thinking. The disinterested cosmopolitanism of Herder or Goethe in the name of Weltliteratur was replaced by ardent nationalism. Geography and climate still played a role. But now they were credited with having given Germans their incomparable superiority. The German race was a nation in the making, realizing itself in its language and in the purity of its blood. Culture expressed itself as a form of moral order stemming from race, language, and nation. For Fichte (and Schopenhauer), the Volk possessed a will. In fact, Germany was the only nation possessing such a will. As opposed to the decadence of the Jews and the Latins, Fichte's Germans alone had the spirit of regeneration. Enlightenment cosmopolitanism, born in an era of political fragmentation, had thus degenerated into national egocentricity. The German Romantic vision of nature and living forms providing the key to the secrets of the universe discouraged moral equality and universality. Fichte's belief in Germany's unprecedented greatness (that so misrepresented political reality) epitomized this shift toward parochialism.

The theoretical debates of nineteenth-century anthropology contributed significantly to the growth of racial speculation. From the 1860s onward, one believed either in monogenesis or polygenesis. Monogenesists accepted the biblical unity of mankind. However, this theory did not prevent its proponents from maintaining the significance of race and its irreversibility, nor did it inhibit belief that Negroes were degenerate. Polygenesists viewed the action of environment as insufficient cause for human diversity. They postulated separate acts of creation as responsible for the human races. Although belief in polygenesis had existed since the seventeenth century, it gained popularity as biologists and anthropologists accumulated more data on human diversity. By the time Darwin arrived on the scene, polygenesis was the predominant theory. Darwin's work was adopted by racial anthropologists to corroborate the inequality existing between diverse groups and as proof of racial upgrading. To determine the physical and moral qualities of races, there now existed the possibility of placing races on firm "scientific" grounds, by measuring human anatomy with calipers, craniometers, and spirometers and by classifying differences. With the development of this pseudoscience of race, scientists had the illusion of a broader base of material upon which to construct their theories and substantiate their prejudices. After Darwin, race was understood to be in flux. Human society had become the site of a tremendous biological struggle.

The new historiography also contributed to racial speculation. Through the writing of history, positive conclusions could be drawn from the past upon which faith could be established. For example, Fichte's fiction that Germany knew the secret of greatness and that it was her mission to synthesize the experiences of other nations found expression among historians. Once again, it was through the will that hope was restored to the Germans. In Deutsche Geschichte (1879 onward), Treitschke presented the nation as a person prevailing against foreign will. Under the aegis of the state, individuals of Kantian character were lifted toward higher civilization. In accordance with the Romantic belief in the organic interrelatedness of all things, Taine (Histoire de la litterature anglaise, 1863) proposed that character was transmitted by blood. In order to change racial character, it was necessary to change blood, whether by migration or invasion. According to Max Muller, the racial will was determined by the imposition of hands, whether they be one's parents or foreign masters (Biographies of Words, 1888). Race, milieu, and moment persist in the blood and "will out," whatever the environment.

The perception that national identity was bound to an organic will found its most forceful expression in Renan's "Qu'est-ce qu'une nation?" (1882). In this seminal essay, Renan defined the nation as a living soul, possessing a unified will or a collective desire as a group to live together and continue living together. By reducing nationhood to will, Renan rejected the criteria of race, language, geography, religion, and community of interest. Other key themes found validation in Renan's work. In the Histoire generale et systeme compare des langues semitiques (1855), Renan set forth the linguistic rationale for the opposition between Semite and Aryan. Reminiscent of F. Schlegel, Renan designated Semitic languages as ossified, sterile, and incapable of self-regeneration and thus devalued the Hebrew tradition considerably. In the Vie de Jesus (1863), Renan went further when he purged Jesus of his Jewishness. The Semite was set in direct opposition (in terms of language and race) to the Aryan. The Jew embodied all that was lacking in the idealized Aryan.

Two predominant attitudes with respect to race and nationality fueled nineteenth-century racial theory. One attitude, epitomized by Herder and resonating in scholarship for another fifty years,1 viewed race as a variety of different anthropological qualities under a common rational humanity. It repudiated the assumption of superior and inferior races with the corollary that no human had the right to enslave another. The other attitude, first articulated by Kant, grounded nationality in the inner constitution of a race, regardless of environment and government. Evolutionary theories, of which Darwin's work was the capstone, introduced the notion of biological degeneration into the discussion of race.

Theories regarding the Aryans' language, physical characteristics, and site of origin were noteworthy for their lack of ethical neutrality.2 Before 1850, many placed the original home of the Aryan in India. However, when racial anthropologists applied their various sciences to the problem of origins, they found linguistic, archaeological, and anatomical reasons for situating the Aryan homeland in their own backyards, whether that be north or central Germany, Scandinavia, or the Baltic region. They also invariably claimed pure descent. The myth of the Aryan was fundamentally Manichaean. Borrowing from the social Darwinists the vision of humanity in a constant struggle for survival, the Aryan myth explained the world in terms of a relentless combat between the forces of good and evil. The Aryan was solidly identified with everything good.3 Goodness was defined in terms of its necessary correlative, evil, which increasingly became identified with the Jew. What was needed to complete this vicious equation were theorists who would amalgamate the myths of Aryan superiority and cultural decay with anti-Semitism.

The theme of racial degeneration became important in the works of Gobineau, Chamberlain, and Rosenberg. Their discussion of the Aryan is particularly important in that it opened to a much broader audience what had previously resided in the domain of the specialist. Their racial arguments, couched in the jargon of "serious" scholarship, popularized the Aryan. Their work superficially resembled earlier scholarship by also presuming to ground theories of origin and identity in textual exegesis. These cultural critics favored readings from Manu, since the dharmashastra ideally suited a racialist script. The issue, as always, was one of canonicity, as Nietzsche was prescient enough to note (Antichrist 57), or rather, the manipulation of canonical authority. Whatever the textual basis for constructing an ideology of the Aryan, the sources evoked became increasingly elusive, disappearing under the weight of a myth that had taken a life of its own, eclipsing those very authorities that were called upon to justify its existence.


Arthur de Gobineau wrote the four-volume Essai sur l'inegalite des races humaines (1853-55) as an explication of the superiority of his own ancestry and that of the white race over all others. Among whites, a group he called the Ariens represented the summit of civilization. These Aryans colonized ancient India, Egypt, and Greece. Civilization originated with them and declined when Aryan blood became diluted. Gobineau held that the Germans represented the purest type of Aryan, an assessment that contributed significantly to his early and warm reception in Germany.4

Through an analysis of a society's organic growth, death, and effect on the lives of other nations, Gobineau developed the theme of Aryan supremacy. Unlike other philosophers who spoke of degeneration, Gobineau did not attribute the cause of decadence to climate, luxury, or weakness. In fact, he viewed race as basically static. Since they were created by God, the races were pure. Over centuries of interbreeding, however, they all became contaminated. By relying on documentation supplied by histology, anatomy, and physiology, he charted the course of a nation's decay. A society degenerates when its veins are no longer filled with the same blood as that of its ancestors (Gobineau 1983: 162-63). When a society's essence or primordial ethnic element is drowned out, race becomes irretrievably lost. Aryan history offered a prime example of a once-great civilization's inexorable decay, and such degeneration could even be witnessed in the disaster of the European present. With glaring pessimism, Gobineau refuted any theory of human progress.

Gobineau broke nations down according to male and female tendencies,5 under three rubrics: the yellow, white, and black, each with their own physical and psychical traits. The yellow race tends towards mediocrity, love of the practical, and respect for custom. Whites comprise the superior race, holding honor as the fundamental rule for conduct (Gobineau 1983: 342). The white race causes the heavens and stars to rejoice (Gobineau 1983: 485). It functions as the race civilisatrice. Whites possess powerful intelligence, a sense of order, strength, majesty, and a desire for freedom (Gobineau 1983: 347). Gobineau characterized Blacks by their blind appetites, the predominance of the senses, and the instability of their desires. Blacks are apathetic and unable to rise above the lowest level. In thrall of their sensual and passionate nature, they possess no intellectual aptitudes and are inarticulate. Although dance and music exert an irresistible force over them, Blacks are incapable of giving these faculties any value. However, by disarming reason and diminishing the intensity of the practical faculties (Gobineau 1983: 507), black blood can gradually develop intelligence, imagination, and artistic temperament. By mixing with other races, Blacks can channel their passions into creative form (Gobineau 1983: 474-76). In fact, culture as a whole can only develop from the mixing of blood. Although the white race is the sole culture-creating race, high culture can only exist where Whites have mixed with Blacks. In short, black blood mixed with white blood engenders art. White blood, the source of ponderation and equilibrium, raises the violent passions of black blood, carries it to the summits of the ideal, ennobles it, and creates art. However, too much mixing dilutes blood and leads to racial degeneration.

Gobineau followed the biblical division of the races. He called upon the history of the Aryans as told in the Rig Veda to verify the chronology in Genesis, where the three distinct peoples are created from the sons of Ham, Shem, and Japheth (Gobineau 1983: 490).6 It is to be remembered that biblical genaeology relates how, of Noah's sons, Ham alone gazed upon his drunken father's nakedness and was dispatched to Africa. By relegating Ham to Africa, the Old Testament associated sin with racial difference. Noah's curse of perpetual servitude on the offspring of Canaan, the son of Ham (Genesis ix, 25), condemned the Africans who were supposedly his descendants. Sin was thus embodied racially. Gobineau accepted this geneaology and its consequences. He described how the sons of Ham disappeared early, absorbed by the black nations of Africa in "an ethnic shipwreck." The sons of Shem, who were also originally white, gradually became decadent through the intermixture of blood. Like the sons of Ham, they were overwhelmed by blackness, becoming a negroid race.

Due to racial absorption, the Chamite and the Semites ceased forever to be ranked among the first of nations. They were replaced in their exemplary role by the Japhets, or as Gobineau calls them, the Aryans. Gobineau specifically ranked the Aryans as the chosen race, displacing the Jews from their position of prominence. One branch of the Aryans settled in Iran7 and another branch settled in southeast Europe as the Greeks and the Romans. There, they intermarried with decadent Mediterranean Semites and were corrupted by the yellow races through Alexander's exploits. Mixed with black blood from the West and South and yellow blood from the East and North, they too degenerated. Their corruption signaled the death of Greek and Roman civilization.

The other Aryan branch, those who had migrated to India, lives on in the Germanic peoples. Among these Aryans, decadence through racial mixing was negligible. With this point, Gobineau solidified his reputation among German imperialists and ensured their cooptation of his "historical" Aryanism (Seilliere 1903: xli). It should be noted, in passing, that Gobineau was capricious. He shifted the designation of the purest Aryan to suit his needs. At times, he found its purest strain in English blood. On other occasions, he discovered it in Scandinavia. In other words, when Gobineau spoke of purity, he did not mean it in any absolute sense. The deadly germ of race mixture, "le fond corrompteur," pursued all peoples. The Germanic Aryans, like all other peoples, would also eventually succumb. This key principle of Gobineau's thought was curiously ignored by his German nationalist disciples.

For Gobineau, the Aryans were Gottersohne; they incarnated all that was great, noble, and fruitful (Gobineau 1983: 479). They originated on the great plateau of Central Asia, appearing on the stage of history around 4,000 B.C. Although various peoples descended from the Indian and Iranian branches of the Aryan race (such as the Ethiopians, Egyptians, Jews, Carthaginians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Italics, Germanics, Mexicans, and Peruvians) (Gobineau 1983: 347), Gobineau focused mainly on the Indian Aryans, the Iranians, Homeric Greeks, and Sarmates (the fathers of the Germans). His vision of the Aryans was "Indo-Germanic," rather than Indo-European. Instead of welcoming and embracing all the non-Semitic West into the Aryan fold, Gobineau wished to reserve for the Germans alone the precious heritage of the Veda and sought to exclude neighbors (such as Romans and Slavs) from its philosophical and moral sphere (Seilliere 1903: xxxv). Gobineau maintained that these groups, although nominally "Aryans," had nothing in common with their Indian or Iranian confreres who had long since "detached" themselves from the moral values of those nations who would eventually become Celts or Slavs (Gobineau 1983: 481).

Basing his analysis largely upon interpretations of Sanskrit source material found in Christian Lassen's Indische Alterthumskunde (1844), Gobineau held that the Hindus, Greeks, Iranians, and Sarmates were distinct from all other branches (Gobineau 1983: 484). Gobineau, however, elaborated considerably upon this portrait of the Aryan prepared by the Indologist. While Lassen wrote that the Aryans possessed primordial beauty as is found today among the Kashmiri brahmins (Lassen 1847-61: 1.404), it was Gobineau who, comparing their physicality to the sculpture of the Pythian Apollo and the Venus de Milo, claimed that they possessed the most noble traits, vigor, majesty, tall stature, and muscular force (Gobineau 1983: 407, 854). Similarly, it was Gobineau who held that the Aryans were white, even pink-complected, blond, and blue-eyed (Gobineau 1983: 485).8 Gobineau also maintained that the Aryans possessed supreme corporal beauty and superior souls (Gobineau 1983: 486). Gobineau, not Lassen, claimed that the Aryans were the most noble, most intelligent, and most energetic of the species because of their racial purity (Gobineau 1983: 552).

Through the institution of caste regulations, these Aryans distinguished themselves from their Egyptian and Iranian brethern. In fact, it was on the point of caste restrictions that the Indian Aryans broke with the future Zoroastrians who, not fearing the Blacks, rejected caste, split with their brethern, and migrated to Iran. The Egyptians, it appeared, had taken to caste too late and were not strict enough in its enforcement. Indian caste isolation, however, had maintained the relative purity of Indian Aryan blood. Nevertheless, even with prophylactic measures in place, the Indian Aryans also degenerated.

Gobineau attributed several factors to the destruction of the Indian Aryan race. The onslaught of aboriginal blacks on the relatively pure Aryan strain through Aryan migrations into areas inhabited by a preponderance of blacks diluted their racial integrity (Gobineau 1983: 554). After long contact with the aborigines, the Aryans even lost their purity, physical beauty, and moral essence (Gobineau 1983: 495). To this somatology, Gobineau cited the literary evidence. The Sanskrit epics taught Gobineau how the "race metissee" and "le teint fonce des mulatres" overwhelmed the sovereign families. The Mahabharata bore witness to the manner in which Indian society had been invaded by foreign elements.9 Savage vices, absent from the Ramayana, appear full-blown in the history of the Pandavas, who had been raised to divine status in order to veil the blood sins of their mothers. In other words, Gobineau read the epics as chronicles of non-Aryan promiscuity and Aryan battles to avoid the dilution of their blood lines.

In addition to racial miscegenation, metaphysics sapped Aryan strength. As a people, the Aryans had fully developed their high philosophical faculties, heightened sense of morality, and the gentleness of their institutions (Gobineau 1983: 552-53). In doing so, they depleted their ancient energy, their rectitude of judgment, and coldness of reason (Gobineau 1983: 506). Religious superstition further enervated the Aryan soul (Gobineau 1983: 555).10 Although racial miscegenation and rampant philosophizing had gradually worn away at Indian Aryan purity, it was religious excess that ultimately caused its destruction. Here Gobineau based his argument on Christian Lassen's portrait of the disadvantages of Hindu social organization (Lassen 1847-61: 1.795) and religious structures (Lassen 1847-61: 1.807). Gobineau refashioned Lassen's descriptions of ceremonial minutia into exaggerated descriptions of religious degradation in the form of revolting mortifications of the flesh (Gobineau 1983: 496-97). Lassen's etymological analyses of Vedic Sanskrit terms for secular and priestly power (Lassen 1847-61: 1.812) served as a basis for Gobineau's diatribe against clerical abuse.

It is important to note that Gobineau appropriated Lassen's analysis of Indian religious and social practices (Lassen 1847-61: 1.771), distorted them, and ultimately explicated them in terms of race. In fact, Gobineau made an impassioned plea for us not to view ancient Indian society (or for that matter, any non-White population) solely in terms of metaphysical abstraction (Gobineau 1983: 494). Rather, the Aryan defeat by Indian religion was ultimately reducible to a destruction brought on by Black sensual tastes (Gobineau 1983: 532-34). Lassen's portrait of the Aryan, however faulty it may appear to modern scholars in terms of presentation of material or analysis, approximates in no way the racial fiction contrived by Gobineau.

Gobineau also extensively cited Manu, a text he viewed as the most ancient Aryan law source and narrative of their "purest chivalric spirit" (Gobineau 1983: 500-1). From Manu, Gobineau confirmed that black blood had slowly eaten away at the Aryan fiber despite all precautions (Gobineau 1983: 507). Blacks were simply too sensual and too inferior not to overwhelm the Aryan. While the brahmins sought to maintain their purity (and succeeded for a time), they eventually became a mere echo of their former glory (Gobineau 1983: 508). Gobineau's use of this "ancient Aryan" source resembled his selective reading of the Veda (via Lassen). Although Gobineau acknowledged Manu in footnotes, he developed a racial argument that was in no way supported by his citations. The point of Gobineau's exegesis of Manu was to show how, despite all injunctions,11 the high castes nevertheless fell prey to bastardization (Gobineau 1983: 512) and the outcaste candalas exploited this racial disintegration and thrived (Gobineau 1983: 529). For Gobineau, Manu represents Aryan social theory at its harshest. Manu's severity notwithstanding, Hindu (post-Aryan) tolerance negated any salutary effects it might have provided. Nothing could stem the degeneration of blood. In the post-Aryan era, the candalas prospered, while destroying all that was Aryan (Gobineau 1983: 528-29).12

Gobineau blamed the final degeneration of the Indian Aryan on Buddhism, which turned the white race away from its correct path by religiously sanctioning racial mixing. The destructive influence of Buddhism's "rationalism" was long-lasting, dating from the fifth to the fourteenth centuries. By the time Buddhism had taken its toll, foreign elements (the Moslems, Turks, Mongols, Tartars, Afghans, Arabs, Portuguese, English, and French) stepped in to finish the job. Brahmin Aryanism had degenerated completely. The great men had disappeared. Absurd superstition had taken over. Theological idiocies originating in black segments of society wiped out antique philosophy. One could no longer distinguish the Aryan from low-caste Negro and yellow types. Confronted with the superior force of white nations coming from Western Europe, this degenerated race did not stand a chance (Gobineau 1983: 551). Gobineau presented India's racial situation as a tremendous object lesson. Its devotion to religious, social, and political ideals, even after being beaten by pillage, massacre, and misery, elicited his praise. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that its total racial debasement was inevitable and should serve as a warning to all nations (Gobineau 1983: 557).

Gobineau's Aryan ideology, while ostensibly based on Vedic scripture and "Aryan" law, used such source material more as a point of departure for creating a racial fiction regarding the European present. This fiction corresponded to Gobineau's notions of monarchy and aristocracy, a world wherein there existed two social strata: the nobles (fes fils de roi) and the dreck of society (la boue).13 Aryan India thus offered Gobineau a propitious model: a philosophy of the good old times, when the social classes were sharply divided. The nobles played the role of the creators, the bearers of the sacred fire of spiritual progress that separated Amadis from Caliban. They opposed the defilers of culture, the quintessential forces of decadence. Lassen's Aryans who tussled among themselves (Lassen 1847-61: 617) became Gobineau's valiant and audacious Aryans who withstood the assault upon their way of life that was waged by the indigenous tribes they encountered. Their virtue was the heroism of the combatant, a bravoure that Gobineau only recognized in his day among the French aristocracy (Gobineau 1983: 488).

The poison of racial mixing, however, degraded the Indian Aryan, just as it will eventually kill humanity as a whole. Gobineau related his version of the Aryan saga as a warning to the Germans, whom he viewed as the last Whites, those who had most evolved and whose duty it had become to save humanity. If the Germans fail, no other nation would be available. They provided the last possibility for culture. When the Germans fell, so would the world. Gobineau concluded his essay with the warning that destiny's greedy hands were already upon us in the form of Asian, Mongolian, and Slavic hordes. By charting the Arierdammerung, Gobineau heralded not only the end of the world (Gobineau 1983: 1161-66), but also the twilight of the gods.


Chamberlains "Scientific" Portrait of the Aryan

We have seen how racial history was a well-established genre, especially in Germany, where the race tradition was rooted in the eighteenth century and gained popularity in the early decades of the nineteenth century. We have also examined how racial theorizing was integrated within legitimate scholarship, 14 alongside the work of academic historians, who focused on traditional historical concerns such as diplomatic or military history. Race history found its audience among general readers. It was accessible and appeared profound, especially since it seemed to participate in the broad theoretical debates rampant in the fields of philology, anthropology, and history. In the tradition of anti-traditional scholarship, a trend initiated by Nietzsche in his attack on David Strauss, popular synthesizers and cultural critics sought to fill the gap between dry scholarship and lived experience, trading on the popular belief that the universities had not sufficiently fostered the dominant values of society. Gobineau had set the standard for the popular historical genre subsequently adopted by cultural critics to prognosticate the decline of civilization. Masked by a veneer of scholarly respectibility, a literature of degeneration fed on society's fears of cultural decay. The first generation of racial prophets were not particularly crude nor did they exhibit the occult tendencies of their successor Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the Germanophile son of a British admiral, son-in-law of Richard Wagner, co-founder of the Revue wagnerienne (1885), and influential member of the Gobineau Society. In Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (1899), Chamberlain sought to offer a physical anthropological basis for racial theorizing. His biological theories on race made him so famous in his adopted country that he was popularly known as the Kaiser's anthropologist.

In Chamberlain's masterpiece, humanity was divided into two distinct races of differing physical structure and mental or moral capacities, the Aryans and the Semites. Chamberlain viewed the struggle between these two races as the driving force of history. Their growth and disintegration in each epoch defined a dominant human type. The larger theme of the Grundlagen was to show how the Germanic people functioned as the main architects of civilization. Chamberlain began his analysis by identifying Greek art and philosophy, Roman law, and the personality of Christ as the triple heritage of antiquity. He then proceeded to chart their development up to the nineteenth century. The heritage of antiquity, while operant in the modern period, did not come down to us in pristine form. It had been fundamentally distorted by the singularly most important event in Western history: the fall of Rome. Like Gobineau, Chamberlain was fascinated by the saga of Rome's demise. It represented the pivotal moment in history when the Aryan race and its creative mission began to unravel. Racial miscegenation and the destructive powers of the Jews ultimately brought about Aryan destruction.

Since the heritage of antiquity was transmitted by a decadent and racially mixed body, our vision of Hellenic art, philosophy, and Roman law is, of necessity, distorted. Since the Catholic Church has consistently catered to the papacy and the needs of a degenerate population under the sway of Semitic influences, true Christianity does not even exist. Modern Europeans carry in them the results of cultural decay as well as the seeds of their mongrel origins in the form of present-day Volkerchaos. In Chamberlain's estimation, it was the Teutonic mission to undo this chaos by rescuing Christianity, expunging it of Semitic elements, and sifting out the original revelation of Christ.

Chamberlain, whose interest in India was whetted by the study of Sanskrit and contact with Schopenhauer's thought, recognized the important philosophical and religious influence of the Vedas and the Upanishads on world civilization. In and of itself, India provided an important model of a civilized society. As a point of comparison, Vedic mythology supplied German philology with evidence that the ancient Teutons (the Aryans) possessed holy books that were finer and nobler than the Old Testament (Chamberlain 1968: 1.32, see also It was merely a question of recognizing the divine understanding of the Aryans and acknowledging Germany's racial and spiritual affinity with them. Chamberlain felt that recognition of this parenty should be achieved without resorting to the "pseudo-Buddhistical sport of half-educated idlers" (Chamberlain 1968: l.liv).15 Similarly, he felt that Gobineau's analysis was inadequate in drawing the connection between the Germans and their Aryan ancestors. Chamberlain believed that he personally could bring greater scientific precision to the investigation. His analysis, moreover, was necessary since the very existence of the Aryans had been recently called into question (Chamberlain 1968: 1.94).16

Chamberlain sought to "construct" a notion of the Aryan based on fact,17 but acknowledged that this process could entail creating an Aryan endowed with whatever gifts suited its interpreter. In his own analysis, he sought to avoid the errors he ascribed to Gobineau's analysis. IS Chamberlain faulted Gobineau for basing his work on the dogmatic suppositions of biblical chronology. Gobineau's reliance on the notion that the world was actually peopled by Ham, Shem, and Japhet transformed his otherwise fully documented work into a "scientific phantasmagoria." Gobineau's other mistake, in Chamberlain's estimation, was the fantastic idea that noble races had become irrevocably less pure. Chamberlain held that Gobineau's error rested on his total ignorance of the physiological importance of race. Races, he noted, did not simply fall from the sky. They developed, rather like fruit trees, gradually becoming more majestic and possessing the capacity to renew themselves. Although Chamberlain rejected Gobineau's pessimism (Chamberlain 1968: 1.263), he fully accepted the Frenchman's attribution of cultural decline to racial miscegenation.19 He supplemented Gobineau's analysis by placing blame for racial decline on the Jew.
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Re: Aryans, Jews, Brahmins, by Dorothy M. Figueira

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Part 2 of 2

The Virtual Aryan

Trusting in science more than the "official simplifiers and levellers and the professional anti-Aryan confusion makers" (Chamberlain 1968: 1.266), Chamberlain rejected the chaotic results of philological research. Speaking German and living in Germany did not the Aryan make. Rather the data provided by physical characteristics determined race. Chamberlain discovered that Aryans did, indeed, possess certain physical traits of skin color, musculature, skull shape (Chamberlain 1968: 1.580), color of hair (Chamberlain 1968: 1.437,577) and eye color (Chamberlain 1968: 1.575). However, they also significantly differed physically from each other according to these physical criteria, due to breeding with unrelated types. Chamberlain surmised, therefore, that anatomical and somatic anthropology were as problematic as tools in judging Aryanhood as was language. Both the linguistic argument and the community of blood theory offered no conclusive proof of Aryan identity. He concluded, therefore, that the term Aryan could never apply to a whole people, but only to single individuals (Chamberlain 1968: 1.264-65).

Chamberlain was less interested in establishing the location of the cradle of civilization (as were the ethnologists and racial anthropologists) than in revealing the spiritual characteristics of this superior race. Physical indicators had to be complemented by spiritual traits. Inner depth, loyalty to a master that one has freely chosen, and intellectual freedom were characteristics he discovered in the Teuton/Aryan. What was unverifiable by measuring skulls or analyzing philological subtleties could be proved by moral indicators (Chamberlain 1968: 1.592), such as religion, ideology, popular poetry, and legal usage (Chamberlain 1968: 1.320).20 Other moral criteria that Chamberlain used to determine Aryanhood included the "depth of the soul as defined by a sense of freedom," and idealism combined with practical sense (Chamberlain 1968: 1.604-5). No matter how varied the elements of populations, Chamberlain recognized the existence of a moral Aryanism and moral non-Aryanism. The latter, in particular, was exemplified by Semitic law (Chamberlain 1968: 1.94). Curiously, he did not specifically identify those who historically embodied the former. Their reality in the past and present did not interest Chamberlain as much as their function as a prototype for the future.

Though it were proved that there never was an Aryan race in the past, yet we desire that in the future there may be one. That is the decisive standpoint for men of action. (Chamberlain 1968: 1.206)

In other words, Chamberlain shifted the criteria for Aryanhood from the linguistic and physical to the moral plane. For all his touted scientism, he ultimately relied on that old Romantic staple, intuition. When a putative Aryan did not conform to type, his identity could always be confirmed by spiritual divination. It was precisely this desire to define Aryans so that they might be (re)created that distinguishes Chamberlain from other theorists we have examined in this study. Chamberlain was willing to acknowledge that the Aryans revealed in his readings of the Vedas and the Upanishads might be a myth. But he was also willing to accept and embrace their mythic value for ideological purposes.

Mythic or not, the Aryans represented values that could be found in modern times among the Germans (Chamberlain 1968: 1.866). The Germans possessed the Aryans' ability to balance between individual and public freedom (Chamberlain 1968: 1.543). Germans combined the Aryan capacity of free creative power with the peculiar Teutonic trait of loyalty (Chamberlain 1968: 1.544). They created all the great minds of Europe. Just as Paul and Jesus were Aryans, so too was the Italian Renaissance a Teutonic Aryan event. Aryan superiority gave Germans the right to be masters of the world. The future salvation of the world, in fact, rested on the Germanic Aryans (Chamberlain 1928: 2.138).

In his portrait of the Germans, Chamberlain was influenced by Tacitus (Germania 4). However, unlike the Germans of Tacitus, tribes that are basically unpolluted by marriages with alien peoples, Chamberlain's Germans were polluted. They had been infiltrated by alien elements. The heritage of German Aryans had been destroyed by mongrel races and Jews (Chamberlain 1968: 1.494). Germanic Aryan religion had also been ruined by the Roman Church that itself had succumbed to Semitic materialism and its preoccupation with sin and punishment. In its distorted form, Christianity imposed a literal interpretation upon Aryan myths and symbolism. The Teutons had tried to protect Aryan faith by establishing "Germanic Christianity" through the Reformation. They had also tried to rid themselves of Jewish and Latinizing elements. In fact, from the sixth century onward, Teutonic Aryans had waged a continuous battle against the forces of Rome and Judentum. They had, however, not been sufficiently successful. Their innate moderation had brought about Volkerchaos, "robbing areas of influence of pure blood and unbroken vigor and depriving them of the rule of those with the highest talents" (Chamberlain 1968: 1.494).

Aryans versus Jews

As elsewhere among the Western authors we have read, Chamberlain's discourse on the Aryan exists primarily as a foil to vilify the Jewish people (Chamberlain 1968: 1.243-44, 264, 402-5, 434-40). Chamberlain read the Veda to construct an idealized portrait of the Aryan world that stood in sharp contrast to that of the Jew. Where exactly in the Sanskrit text Chamberlain culled his information is left vague. We only learn that the Veda shows the Aryan Gods to be bright, true, and friendly. They were without malice, cruelty, or perfidy (Chamberlain 1968: 1.436). They treated others as their children and not their slaves. Unlike the Jew, the Aryan did not fear his gods, since they showed no capricious autocracy. Theirs was not a religion of superstition, but an introspective state of mind. Because the Aryan was in direct contact with the world beyond reason, he was primarily a thinker and a poet-in short, a creator. Aryan religion did not consist of a hard and fast chronological cosmogony and theogony. The Aryans' lively feeling for the infinite rendered their religious conceptions flexible, replacing, as need arose, old gods with new gods (Chamberlain 1968: 1.243). Creativity in secular and religious matters stemmed from the great Rig Vedic truth that Aryans sought the core of nature in their hearts (Chamberlain 1968: 1.215-16). Recognizing the relationship between the inner self, nature, and God within the Self, the Aryans were moved by the desire to unravel the mysteries of the world. Religion, for the Aryan, was an expression of self-esteem and self-respect (Chamberlain 1968: 1.259-60), a belief that one lived and died not for oneself, but rather for the whole world. The Aryan had a feeling of all-embracing duty and responsibility. Action thus took on an everlasting importance; it became a religion (Chamberlain 1968: 1.438). The Vedas afforded the Aryans the freedom to think as they pleased (Chamberlain 1968: 1.429). It provided an inclusive yet flexible scripture in which all gods could be viewed as orthodox (Chamberlain 1968: 1.431). Its flexibility highlighted the freedom of thought in Aryan religion. In this respect, it differed from the rigid chronology of the Old Testament. As the Rig Veda instructed (6.9), the Aryan mind was infinite, freedom was its element, and creative powers its joy (Chamberlain 1968: 1.243). In contrast, the Hebrew God meted out punishment (Chamberlain 1968: 1.438). The Jewish faith consisted of commandments, customs, and ordinances; it lacked any creative element (Chamberlain 1968: 1.216). It differed radically from Aryan religion, whose goal consisted of bringing to perfection the highest act of creation in the reformation of man's soul and its merging in the All (Chamberlain 1968: 1.438).

Compared to the Indo-Teuton's dedication to God, the Jews manifested violence and fanaticism. The Aryans were freely metaphysical (Chamberlain 1968: 1.243), while the Jews were historical and mechanical. Aryan freedom of thought resulted in the Indo-Teutons being a more tolerant people than the Jews (Chamberlain 1968: 1.404). What the Aryan created as art, appeared in the hands of the Jew as mere expression; science for the Aryan became mere industry for the Jew (Chamberlain 1968: 405).21 Aryan religious literature, by far the greatest that the world has created (Chamberlain 1968: 1.402), differed from Hebrew scripture in the intensity of its religious feeling (Chamberlain 1968: 1.402) and individualism. Hebrew religious poetry was subjective (lyrical) and egotistical. The Jew's need to pour out his soul prevented him from creating epic or drama that would have demanded less subjectivity. The Jews stole their philosophy from the Indo- Teutons (Chamberlain 1968: 1.403), just as they pilfered their other great achievements from foreigners (Chamberlain 1968: 1.401). While the Aryan incorporated religion into all aspects of life, the Jew banished it from art, science, and literature. Whereas Indian literature was rooted in faith, Jewish thought, as exemplified by that "anti-Aryan" Spinoza, was based on obediance (Chamberlain 1968: 1.431).

Compared to the tender, sympathetic, and pious Aryan (Chamberlain 1968: 1.434), the Jew was hard-hearted and stunted in his spiritual development (Chamberlain 1968: 1.213). Chamberlain claimed that the Rig Veda portrays the Aryans as joyous, spirited, and ambitious people. They drank, hunted, and robbed. Yet they also questioned the great riddle of existence, seeking to discover the Self in all phenomena, and all phenomena in the Self (Chamberlain 1968: 1.214). He contrasted Aryan religion, viewed as cosmic in scope, to a rigidly national faith of the Jews (Chamberlain 1968: 1.434). Chamberlain read in the Rig Veda (x.129. 7) how the Aryans questioned the origin of the world and continually aspired toward uplifting their soul to God (Chamberlain 1968: 1.229-30). From this hymn, Chamberlain concluded that Aryan moral speculation did not narrow itself to questions of good and evil, as did that of the Jews (Chamberlain 1968: 2.109). Rather, the Aryan was motivated in all matters by the will.

According to Chamberlain, the Aryan striving of the will was akin to the Faustian ideal expressed by Goethe (Chamberlain 1968: 1.230). It was this will that created supermen (Chamberlain 1968: 1.215). Because of their direct contact with the world beyond reason, Aryans could be thinkers, poets, and creators. They had discovered the great truth expressed in the Rig Veda-that one must seek the core of nature within the heart. This truth never dawned on the Jews (Chamberlain 1968: 1.216) because their will had a retarding effect. Although the Jew was capable, the Jewish will stood in the way of loftier activity; it hindered a profound knowledge of the universe, artistic work, and a noble thirst for knowledge. The Jew's faith was superstitious. The Aryan faith impelled its believers onward and upward. The Aryan's will obeyed; it did not command as did the abnormally developed will of the Jew (Chamberlain 1968: 1.242).

Moreover, the Aryans invented monotheism in the Rig Veda (i.164.46) and provided its most sublime form. The Jews stole monotheism from the Aryans. In fact, all Christian dogma found its source in Aryan religion. The Rig Veda supplied Christianity with the concept of God becoming man. The Aryan doctrine of the Atman became a tenet of the religion of Jesus and later found expression in that essentially Aryan author Meister Eckhart (Chamberlain 1968: 2.412-13).22 The notion of the Virgin birth also derived from Vedic nature symbols, as did the altar and sacraments originate in Vedic nature cults rather than in Jewish peace offerings to an angry god (Chamberlain 1968: 2.26).

As a figure overflowing with life (that is, attending banquets, forgiving sins of the flesh, proud, and combative), Jesus was specifically Aryan (Chamberlain 1968: 1.259). In no way could he be considered a Jew (Chamberlain 1968: 1.256). In the first place, Jews had no aptitude for religious thought. Moreover, the history of Galilee discredited any delusion of Christ's Jewishness. In looks and speech, Galileens were racially distinct from the Jews; their area was populated by Greeks and Indo-Europeans. More significantly, however, Christ had the character of an Aryan. The most important teaching of Christ was linked to the idealist religion of the Aryans and not the legalistic and materialistic faith of the Jews. In his attitude and religious thinking, Jesus was the "God of the young Indo- European peoples" (Chamberlain 1968: 1.245). As such, Jesus was God's representative of the Teuton soul (Chamberlain 1968: 1.893). The religion that he created and its mysticism find their models among the Aryans. Unfortunately, the Jews, "men of chaos," disfigured these Aryan elements and bequethed them to Christianity in their present distorted form (Chamberlain 1968: 2.23-27; 109-10),23 making Christianity a mere annex of Judaism (Chamberlain 1968: 1.417).

From a creative and unsubstantiated reading of the Veda, Chamberlain constructed the history of the Aryan people that allowed him to argue that the Jew was the purveyor of materialism, intolerance, and social dissolution as well as the destroyer of civilization. Furthermore, his "reading" of the Veda enabled him to show that the Teutons in their antimaterialism, idealism, mysticism, loyalty, and freedom must be Aryans and, as such, the antithesis to the Jew. Through miscegenation with Jews, Teutonic Aryans had broken all the laws of racial breeding and brought on their own destruction. Chamberlain, therefore, implored Germans to undertake a valiant fight and recapture their heritage from the alien grasp of the Jew, Volkerchaos, and the Semitized Church.


The Fall of the Indian Aryan

At Nuremberg, twenty men were tried and eleven were executed for their active involvement in the brutal mechanism of the Third Reich. The defendants were indicted for conspiracy to commit crimes alleged in other counts, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.24 Alfred Rosenberg, an early Nazi and editor of the party organ, the Volkischer Beobachter, was tried in his capacity as Reich Minister for the Eastern Occupied Territories. Responsible for the Germanization of Eastern populations, he supervised slave labor and facilitated the extermination of Jews. His office was specifically responsible for rounding up quotas of workers assigned to labor under inhuman conditions. Although his defense tried to make the case that he did not playas active a role as Sauckel, who oversaw slave labor, or Speer, who directed armaments, Rosenberg was found guilty on all four counts and was executed on October 16, 1946. Rosenberg was condemned in large part for his role as party "philosopher" and chief ideologue of National Socialism. His depiction of the Aryan aptly concludes part I of this study Rosenberg's racial theories were influenced by the tradition of German political Romanticism as well as by the cultural criticism of Gobineau and Chamberlain.25 The title of his "masterpiece," Der Mythus des Zwangzigsten Jahrhunderts (1930),26 clearly pays homage to Chamberlain's Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Rosenberg's writings also exhibit the manner in which National Socialism distorted and developed upon key themes found in Nietzsche's work. Finally, as in the case of all those we have studied in these pages, Rosenberg appropriated "Aryan" scripture to analyze European cultural decay and develop a plan for the future.

Rosenberg's chief work and Hitler's Mein Kampf provided the "philosophical" bases of the National Socialist movement. In the My thus, Rosenberg explicated how world history consisted of nothing but an unending struggle between the Nordic spirit and the corrupting influence of inferior races. This superior and creative Aryan race originated in a lost semi-Arctic continent. Rosenberg traced the historical development of the Aryan race in its numerous branches among the Amorites of the Middle East, the Aryans of India, the early Greeks, and the Romans. Although the Aryans once peopled the entire earth, they survive in modern times only as Germans. The My thus sets out to explain this historic phenomenon and to chart a course for the German Aryans' future prosperity. Rosenberg begins his work by describing the fate of the Indian Aryan.

Upon entering India, the Aryans segregated themselves from the dark indigenous populations.27 As a natural consequence of this separation, they formed the caste system. Caste gave meaning to blood, as it pertained to color (garbigblutvollen Sinn). Although the caste system soon lost its initial meaning, becoming technically tied to the organization of professions (Rosenberg 1937: 30), it nevertheless promoted racial segregation and a worldview that has never been surpassed by any other philosophy (Rosenberg 1937: 28). In places like Goa, where Indian Aryans took on the Portuguese, we can see how they must once have been a people of stern mettle. But, just as Goa was overrun by the jungle and snakes, so too was the Aryan race overrun by half a million mixed breeds (Mischlingsbevolkerung). Humanity degenerated in the swamps and fever of India. White blood intertwined with the dark, thick, and unfruitful native racial strength (Rosenberg 1937: 664). Except for a small group of survivors, the racial soul that had created Aryan thought and civilization disappeared. Where there had once been an embodied nation of Feldherrn, there remained Gandhi and his pacificism (Rosenberg 1937: 663). India's near total racial degeneration explained her need of a Herrenhand to rule over her.

Rosenberg traced the golden age of the Aryan to the Vedic period, when the ksatriyas waged a spiritually brave and resistant battle against degeneration (Rosenberg 1937: 488). Theirs was a life of action. Rosenberg contrasted the heroics described in the Veda to the later decadent Hindu reliance on magic, ecstatic cults, and blood sacrifices. Whereas the Aryans had held lofty belief in Brahman, their degenerated descendants worshipped magic and demons. Although the Aryan spirit tried at times to reassert itself, it could not rise above the non-Aryan superstitious mire under which it was submerged. The aristocratic, kingly, and warrior ethos of the Aryan, vainly maintained by brahmins, ultimately succumbed to racial decay (Rosenberg 1937: 29).

In Rosenberg, as in other authors we have examined, racial decay was tied to textual decay. The Indian Aryans disappeared just like the heroic songs recorded in the Vedas. The once profound Vedic philosophy became wild (dschungelartig), establishing a system of racial chaos (Rosenberg 1937: 662). Brahmin custodians of Aryan spiritual achievement falsified Vedic texts. The distortion of Vedic teachings destroyed the racial preconditions for Aryanhood. The post-Vedic philosophy of Brahman/Atman that denied race and fostered breeding with indigenous groups introduced dark mixed breeds (Mischlinge) into the highest positions (Rosenberg 1937: 488). Indians thus irretrievably lost the meaning of blood and the Aryan life of action (Rosenberg 1937: 30).

Rosenberg claimed that the philosophical recognition of equality between Atman and Brahman was a falsehood nowhere present in Vedic Aryan thought and only a later Upanishadic invention (Rosenberg 1937: 448). This falsehood, however, had struck the deathblow to the Aryan personality, leading to its eventual racial destruction. Rosenberg characterized modern India, absorbed in the All, wallowing in brotherly love and cherishing pity, as irremediably weak. The real Aryans had never sought personal happiness or an escape from suffering as an aim of existence. 28 Rosenberg saw them as dedicated to the fulfilment of duty and the maintenance of honor (Rosenberg 1937: 147-48). Those Aryans, who were born masters, felt their individual soul expand into the universe and their hatred for the world internalized. They waged a grandiose battle against those obsessed with the spiritual. However, once their aristocratic quest lost touch with any living racial reality, they could not prevail. The monists' abhorrance for nature had destroyed the racial instinct. The belief in the identity of Brahman with Atman obliterated any notion of personality (Rosenberg 1937: 30) and sense of blood (Rosenberg 1937: 661).

With the destruction of personality, the Indian Aryan ceased being creative. The foreign dark blood of the shudras, now seen as the equal bearers of the Atman, annihilated the Vedic vision of race. It destroyed the original concept of caste, and bastardization began. Indigenous snake and phallic cults proliferated, as did the grotesque symbolic representations of the gods. Bastard art grew like the growth in a primeval forest. Glimpses of the Aryan worldview could still be found in places: the heroic sagas sung in the princely states and the lyrics of Kalidasa and lesser-known poets. Shankara too had attempted to reinvent Aryan philosophy. However, such flowerings failed completely. The arteries of the racial body had been severed and Aryan blood was allowed to flow forth and fertilize the dark thirsty earth of India. All that remained were dead technical rules of breeding cut off from their original philosophical meaning, whose insane distortion dominated contemporary Hinduism (Rosenberg 1937: 31). Aryan culture thus died in India. Racial disgrace alone remained in the form of those pathetic bastards who seek a cure for their crippled existence on the banks of the Ganges (Rosenberg 1937: 30).

The Scripture of Aryan Christianity

Just as in India, so too had Western Aryanhood in its Greek, Latin, and Germanic forms been destroyed. The cause of its demise was decadent Christianity, which consisted of nothing but lies perpetrated by bastardized Jews. Had Christianity retained its Aryan basis (that is, the true teaching of the Aryan Jesus), then all would have been well. However, Christ's message, dominated very early on by Paul's teachings, repudiated any Aryan heritage. Christianity became nothing but a Semitized version of Aryan ideals and a dumping ground for abusive Jewish concepts. It was Rosenberg's task not only to condemn the distortion of Christianity (primarily in its Roman Catholic configuration), but also to set the record straight. The most important error that needed to be rectified pertained to Jesus' true identity.

The figure of Christ had been falsified by Jewish fanatics like Matthew, materialistic rabbis like Paul, Africans like Tertullian, and mongrel half-breeds like Augustine. The real Christ was an aggressive and courageous revolutionary who defied Jewish and Roman systems and paid for his bravery with his life. Christ, in fact, was an authentic Aryan rather than a Jew. He was not of Jewish stock because the inhabitants of Galilee were descendants of Amorites, Aryans who had come to the region around 700 B.C. By 100 B.C., the Jews had established hegemony over the Aryan city of Jerusalem, forcing the non-Jews into the Gentile district of Galilee. When Joseph returned to Bethlelem, he was returning not as a son of the tribe of David, but as the son of Aryan exiles who had been driven out by Jews.

Another important point that needed clarification concerned Jesus' teaching. What we moderns understand as the word of God is actually a gross distortion of His actual message. The Jew Paul totally subverted Christ's teachings by Judaizing them. Paul replaced the true, Aryan, and heroic Christ with a weakling seeking to mediate human salvation through love, humility, and brotherhood. Proud Nordic man should not prostrate himself before the Creator, as the Jew does before Yahweh. Not only did the Jews distort Christ's message, the popes and, finally, the Jesuits utterly destroyed the original Aryan Christianity. Even the heroic efforts of Luther and Calvin could not reverse the damage. Rosenberg's primary complaint with Roman Catholicism was its fundamental error that anyone, regardless of racial origin, could enter its fold. This tenet destroyed any ideal of racial purity. Doctrines of love and pity subverted Aryan virtues of heroism, honor, and blood.

Despite the present decay of the Church, Rosenberg felt it was possible to purify Christianity and return to its Aryan Urform. In fact, the time was ripe for the creation of a new, positive, and Germanic Christianity by restoring lost Aryan virtues, vitality, and racial consciousness. First, it was necessary to reject ideas of human universality and substitute race consciousness for the notion of the common nature of humanity. True Christianity had been Aryan in its contours: natural, brutally self-assertive, egotistical, powerful, and decisive. Rosenberg viewed Christianity in its present form as a moral code of weaklings (Rosenberg 1937: 147), in much the same manner as Nietzsche did. It had assumed its degenerate form when the Jew, who represented the polar opposite of the ancient Indian Aryan, took over Christianity (Rosenberg 1937: 265-66). The new Nordic Christian Church that the Nazis sought to establish aimed at leading men back to a heroic superhumanity. To return to the original Aryan faith, it was also necessary to restore the feeling of individuality that had previously existed.29 Aryan individuality had first been destroyed by the hazy monism of the post-Aryan Indians (Rosenberg 1937: 389). It reasserted itself in Christ, only to be destroyed again by the Roman Church (Rosenberg 1937: 390).30 The new Aryan religion of National Socialism sought to reinstate the individual will and commitment to action that Germans had lost during the post-Vedic era.31

Rosenberg identified several models of Aryan religious vision. He read into the Chandogya Upanishad a vision of man as formed by the will and discovered in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad lessons on the use of power (Rosenberg 1937: 240-41). Rosenberg also recognized an Aryan Christ of will and freedom in the mysticism of Meister Eckhart. By equating the "message" of the Upanishads with that of Meister Eckhart, Rosenberg textually tied the themes of will and power to the world of both the ancient Aryan and the medieval German. Rosenberg also admired Justin Martyr as a figure who had sought to free Christianity from its Ebionitic taint by returning to the teaching of Christ as it existed before the corrupting influence of Paul. Finally, Rosenberg sought inspiration from Zoroaster and his reformer Mani. Like Christianity, Zoroastrianism had been corrupted by the Jews and transformed into a ritualistic cult. It also had not been able to remain in Aryan hands. The Babylonian captivity and Persian rule over Israel had led to its Jewish corruption. Mani had tried to reinstate Zoroastrianism's absolute dichotomy between good and evil that had been destroyed by the Jews. But his attempt to revive the true teaching of Zoroaster was totally suppressed. We only learn of Mani's existence through Augustine's bitter attacks on him and his religious ideal.

Rosenberg identified the Manichaean worldview as the common thread to all Aryan religious thought. It was precisely the dichotomy between good and evil that had been intact in Vedic times but had disappeared in the Vedantic union of Brahman with Atman. It was at this point that the Aryan virtues of duty, honor, faithfulness, and bravery had been destroyed. In their place, the weak India of the post-Aryan period substituted love, pity, and the desire to escape from suffering (Rosenberg 1937: 147-50). Rosenberg extended the Manichaean dichotomy to the texts themselves: The Veda recorded the saga of the children of light and the Talmud was a document registering the history of the children of darkness. It was only through a wide-ranging Jewish conspiracy extending throughout history that Jews contrived to switch roles with the Aryans. First, they took over Jesus through Paul. Next, they suppressed Mani and Persian Aryan values. Finally, Augustine, the Jesuits, and various popes brought to fulfilment the Jewish conspiracy.

Rosenberg viewed human history as a repetitive reenactment of the destruction of Aryan values. India had destroyed its Vedic Aryanness with the adoption of Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism. Subsequent Aryan nations too had been corrupted and destroyed. First Greece, then Rome, and finally Germany was the third Aryan empire to be immersed by hither-Asiatics and Jews. Rosenberg felt that it was still possible to save Germany's Aryan identity. The first task was to stem the tide of migration and eject the human flotsam. Judaism should then be studied so that it might be more efficiently combated. If one could scientifically uncover Judaism's core values, ferret out where they had been imposed on Christianity, and expunge them from the New Testament, one could then renew the true teaching of Jesus as it appears in the mysticism of Eckhart and Justin Martyr. Of course, the Old Testament had to be rejected as cattle herders' renditions of Jewish history. Remaining Aryan texts were to be added to the new Christian canon. They were to be supplied by inferring what a true Aryan/Nordic soul would place in an Aryan religion.

In other words, Rosenberg called for the establishment of a purely synthetic Aryan Christian canon: Dreams of honor and freedom would be culled from Nordic and German fairy tales and sagas. Only expressions of the Aryan world view and eternal soul of the Germanic people would comprise this canon. For the more sophisticated, religious representations from Aryan Persia and India would be collected (Rosenberg 1937: 614-15). These texts need not necessarily be authentic. The modern Aryan was not interested in literal formalities, but in the philosophical and conceptual message of Nordic Aryan times. Rosenberg contrived an incredible circular logic. Since Jesus was God, he had to tell the truth; therefore, he must have spoken of Aryan nobility and race consciousness. The texts deemed authentic for inclusion in the National Socialist canon were those that dealt with these themes.


We have seen how the Enlightenment viewed man as subject to forces that shaped natural law. Humanity was depicted as endowed with the potential for living in conformity with nature. Although governments might vary according to geographical position, their success was believed to be tied to an ability to provide a framework for their population to fulfil its potential. States and constitutions were created according to the dictates of reason, with God as the impersonal clockmaker overlooking the process. Romanticism, and particularly the politicized Romanticism of Germany, appeared as a reaction to eighteenth-century rationalism. Herder had developed the concept of the unique nature of the Volk with its Geist reflected in its language, poetry, and myth. Herder himself had shied away from hierarchizing the various Volker. They all proceeded at their own pace toward humanity. Fichte, however, tied the notion of a people's fulfillment to the idea of nation. Fichte also brought anti-Semitism into the equation. The "philosophical" synthesis or, rather, the symbolic cluster of nationalism and anti-Semitism was subsequently popularized in the poetry and spectacle of Arndt and Vater Jahn.32

Until the mid-nineteenth century, Western discourse on the Aryans was largely limited to the scholarly domain of philosophy, linguistics, and the "scientific" fields of ethnography, botany, craniology, and so forth. Until the efforts of Max Muller, Western discourse on the Aryan based itself on the authority of absent texts and falsely present texts. We have seen how, even with the appearance of the Veda in the West, assumptions regarding the Aryans did not change significantly from a time-honored script. Once the Veda became a tangible source of reference, however, it virtually dropped out of the Western discourse on the Aryan. Once it became real, the Veda's use as an Aryan sourcebook greatly diminished. Max Muller's enthusiastic public relations work on behalf of the Vedic Aryans effected their entree into the public domain. A new generation of "philosophers" working outside of the institutional framework developed popular theories regarding the Aryans. Here, as in earlier discussions, the discourse regarding the Aryan based itself on loose attribution of Vedic sources, Indological scholarship, and translations of other canonical Sanskrit materials, regardless of their status or antiquity.

Gobineau popularized Manu because it was a significant point of reference for his source, Christian Lassen. From Manu's discussion of caste and its role in maintaining blood purity, Gobineau focused on the concept of racial decline. Since even Manu could not alter the Indian's fate, Gobineau concluded that blood poisoning was the eventual fate of all peoples. Nothing could prevent the inevitable destruction of race. The Germans, whom he identified as modern Aryans, would themselves eventually fall. Rosenberg rejected this dire prognosis. Through the force of a racial will (a concept found also in Renan, Gobineau, and, most significantly, Nietzsche), the German Aryans could maintain their purity. Rosenberg also revived the Romantic cult of the organic and sacred community. From Fichte and Pan- Germanists such as Paul de Lagarde and Constantin Frantz, he developed a German national religion in the form of Aryanism. Although many aspects of Nietzsche's thought would not sit well with the Nazis,33 Rosenberg laid claim to and developed one significant echt Nietzschean element-the glorification of breeding. Rosenberg was also influenced by the "scientific" racism of Gobineau and Chamberlain. From Gobineau, he borrowed the concept of history as racial history, his identification of the Aryan with the German, and his emphasis on Aryan bastardization.34 Similarly, it was Gobineau who had proposed that a nation's survival was tied to the purity of its racial composition.35

Chamberlain can be credited with supplying Rosenberg with the concept that German Aryan blood was superior to all others and that any mixing of blood led to racial extinction. Chamberlain viewed the German as embodying inner purity. Terms that would reappear in Rosenberg's writings, such as "German soul," "German religion," and "race-chaos," were first popularized by Chamberlain. Moreover, it was Chamberlain who proposed the idea that psychic conditions were reflected in physical forms with the corollary that blood (here, synonymous with Geist) could be judged by physical criteria.36 Rosenberg developed this thesis, concluding that blood comprised that portion of the unconscious that determined race. The conscious rational life separated us from this obscure source of existence and alienated us from our national community. As in the case of Gobineau and Nietzsche, Rosenberg also focused on caste and its role (or failure) in maintaining Aryan blood purity.

Although the My thus owed much to the racial doctrines of Gobineau and Chamberlain, it differed from them in its angry condemnation of Christianity. Gobineau had attributed Aryan decline to Buddhism's debilitating influence. Chamberlain had placed the destruction of the Aryans in the hands of the Jews. Neither Gobineau nor Chamberlain ceased believing in Christianity. Rosenberg, however, waged a relentless battle against Christianity and, in particular, Catholicism. In this respect, he was indebted to Nietzsche's and Chamberlain's vision of Christianity as a form of Semitized Aryanism. Nietzsche blamed Christian doctrines of compassion and love for destroying Aryan virtues. In his attack on Catholicism, Rosenberg owed much to Nietzsche's anticlerical fulminations. Finally, Rosenberg shared with Nietzsche and Chamberlain three important themes. They all emphasized the belief that Jesus was not a Jew. They all saw the possibility of reversing racial degeneration through breeding, and they all sought a return to their respective myths of an Aryan ideal.

In all instances, this return to the Aryan ideal was to be effected through an interpretation of "Aryan" texts. This documentation was "Aryan" in the loosest sense of the term, consisting of Indological scholarship and translations of Vedic and post-Vedic texts of different genres. Gobineau's Vedic sources were secondhand via Lassen. Nietzsche's point of Aryan reference was a distorted translation of the Hindu (read: post-Aryan) lawgiver Manu. Chamberlain cites the Rig Veda as a source for his speculation, but acknowledges the expedient need for myth-making. Rosenberg takes this interpretive creativity further still. Although he claims to base his vision of the Aryan on the authenticity of the Veda, rather than on the monistic distortions of Vedanta, he cites from the Brhadaranyaka and the Chandogya Upanishads at length to complete his vision of Aryan masculinity. Other sources, such as Meister Eckhart and Justin Martyr, are included in the Aryan canon. In fact, with Rosenberg, the canon expands to include anything that articulated Aryan values as understood by the interpreter. We have come full circle from the Enlightenment and Romantic authority of an absent text to the authority vested in a virtual text. The myth of the Aryan gained authority in the West as a text-centered construct even before "Vedic" texts were discovered and deciphered. Later, when these texts became present, their authority remained on the level of the imaginary, unmediated by any bonds of textuality. The Aryan was initially and remained an object of pure fantasy. We are all aware of the dire consequences that resulted. All that was needed was an historical grudge and a demagogue to activate this phantasm.
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