COLUMN: PRIESTESS OF THE ALT-RIGHT – DAWN.com

I am a big fan of Hindu [sic]. Donald J. Trump, Oct 15, 2016.

Nobody wanted peace more than Adolf Hitler. Savitri Devi, The Lightning and the Sun (1958).

The name Savitri Devi pseudonym for Maximiani Julia Portas, a Greek-French polemicist who lived from 1905 to 1982 wont necessarily ring a bell for readers. Not unless youre immersed in occult Nazism, of which Devis late biographer, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (died 2012), was a foremost scholar.

I have been researching and writing a lot about white supremacy these last six months in fact, Im currently putting together a book defining the modern Alt-right. An interesting question has been the extent to which the Alt-right (the harmless-sounding moniker under which neo-Nazi forces have assimilated and rebranded themselves in the United States) retains traditional white supremacist influences, including the occult strain, of which Devi along with the Chilean Miguel Serrano, satanists such as Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey and proponents of racially redefined Nordic religions such as Asatru and Odinism is but one manifestation.

Devi was a lifelong peripatetic traveller with several long stays in India, particularly during the Third Reich when she was stuck in Calcutta and couldnt experience the thrill of the Nazi regime first-hand. When she was banned from one country (such as Britain or Germany after the passage of post-war laws prohibiting the dissemination of Nazi propaganda), she simply travelled under different identities.

In the early 1960s, there was a famous gathering of the Western worlds unregenerate Nazis in Britain, leading to the formation of the World Union of National Socialists, at which Devi was an eager luminary. This event was a major influence on important American white supremacists (such as George Lincoln Rockwell and William L. Pierce) of the second half of the 20th century, who in turn are direct forerunners of the modern Alt-right and, of course, the most prominent and monstrous Alt-right troll of all, Donald Trump.

But before Devi reached that position of influence, there was a lot of travelling and searching to do. At first in India she advocated Hindu-Muslim unity. But soon she became interested in Hindutva and was an admirer of the early proponents of that ideology, specifically Tilak, Savarkar, Hedgewar, and Golwalkar. From being a proponent of communal unity, Devi became a convert to Hindus preserving their racial stock at any cost.

There is a persistent belief in Nazi esotericism that the original Aryans came from the far north of the planet and settled in India in prehistoric times. (Some esoteric Nazis believe that Hitler bides his time underneath the North Pole.) This original Aryan stock, which colonised India, is said to be the source of northern European peoples. German scholarship was much interested in this theory.

Aryan supremacists are obsessed with the tragic outcome of miscegenation in India; they want to avoid a similar degeneracy by way of genetic dilution (the darkening of whiteness) at any cost in the West hence their recent demands for a separate white homeland in North America.

Devi married a Bengali Brahmin propagandist named Asit Krishna Mukherji, a sympathiser of the Third Reich and publisher of the fascist journal The New Mercury from Calcutta. Despite her global peripateticism in ensuing decades, Mukherji remained Devis avid supporter, funding the publication of her books The Lightning and the Sun and The Impeachment of Man. During the Second World War, Devi and Mukherji may have facilitated Subhas Chandra Boses efforts to seek liaison with the Japanese empire (after Boses repeated failures to elicit Hitlers direct sympathies for Indian independence).

An intertwined dance between great optimism and pessimism seems to mark fascist movements everywhere. National regeneration, after all, presupposes national degeneration, from which a group of people led by a saviour (Hitler as the racial avatar, as Devi had it) will show the way out. Just as in Germany Oswald Spengler with his overwrought theory of Western decline held sway in the interwar years, Hindutva presupposed a perversion of racial hierarchy that had to be urgently addressed.

For Devi, the transition from German to Hindu pessimism was seamless; the present Kali Yuga [dark age] was familiar enough to her from the European tradition. (The extent to which canonical Hindu texts authorise, or do not authorise, hierarchical or racist thinking is something I intend to research because I simply dont know enough; Hindutva, of course, is a different matter.) In Indias colour-conscious society Devi found a natural habitat to write books theorising a universal Aryan race whose destiny it was to rule the world. (The swastika originates in the Sanskrit term svastika and is a sacred Hindu symbol.)

In order to pursue the Aryan dream of following the sun westward (Manifest Destiny) one must first impeach man; one must be a misanthrope in order to postulate mankinds divinity. Devi was attracted to Hinduisms deep ecological emphasis that remains an element of neo-Nazism to this day. We think of deep ecology as a tendency of the left, but the extreme right continues to advance Malthusian propositions in order to save humanity from its own proclivity to multiply.

The contemporary Alt-right has decided to mute the esoteric side and fire up passions along more elemental bread-and-butter lines, such as immigration. I dont see the esoteric character as foundational, but it is inseparable, as Devis writings demonstrate, from the broader racial ideology. Devi, like her fellow conspirator Mukherji, held a very long view and would have been ecstatic at the turn things have taken in America.

The dream of racial segregation seems to be self-fulfilling; it only needs adept propagandists able to estimate the eventual impact of their dark visions. Devi was such a visionary, whose every dark thought remains a challenge to our common humanity.

The columnist is the author of Karachi Raj and Soraya: Sonnets. His book on literary criticism, Literary Writing in the 21st Century: Conversations, was published recently

Published in Dawn, Books & Authors, July 9th, 2017

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