The Anti-Corruption Crusade in India
by MITU SENGUPTA
For the past two weeks, the world has been captivated by the bitter confrontation between the Indian government and a short, bespectacled, seventy-four-year old man called Anna Hazare, a self-styled anti-corruption crusader.
http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/08/29/anna-hazare-and-the-idea-of-gandhi/ Read the rest of this entry »
We should note that J. G. Bennett, while he did not endorse astrology, did revive the confusion over the cycles of the equinox in his delineation of age periods. That has given astrology a venue in the Gurdjieff sphere. Unfortunate.
Note that the study of the eonic effect can dispense with all of that once and for all.
We can see the catch here already: secularization creates a medium for spiritual con-men like Gurdjieff and occult sharks to enter the public sphere for exploitative purposes.
We can discuss this interesting article later. It has many interior links, go to link source.
Secularization is best thing that ever happened to religion
By Douglas Todd 6 Aug 2011 COMMENTS(18) The Search
Filed under: Secularism, Richard Dawkins, William James, Charles Taylor, Cascadia: The Elusive Utopia, John Cobb Jr., Phil Zuckerman
Secularization is the best thing that’s ever happened to religion.
Read the rest of this entry »
Secular humanists on the real planet of the apes
By Michael Lind
See original for interior links
By delicious coincidence, the new movie “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was showing in theaters nationwide, even as two contenders for the Republican presidential nomination debated whether it is a fact or a theory that humans, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons descend from a common ancestor. On Thursday, Aug. 18, Jon Huntsman tweeted: “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” On the same day, campaigning in New Hampshire, Texas Gov. Rick Perry described evolution as “a theory that’s out there” and one that’s “got some gaps in it.”
How times have changed. During his successful campaign for the presidency in 1912, Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D., the former president of Princeton University, was asked whether he believed in evolution. He replied, “that of course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.” Theodore Roosevelt, his predecessor in the White House, wrote in “My Life as a Naturalist” about his childhood reading: “Thank Heaven, I sat at the feet of Darwin and Huxley.”
The rise of creationist Protestant fundamentalism in America has been paralleled by the decay of liberal Protestantism, which supplied much of the moral energy for the progressive movement, the New Deal and the civil rights movement. For the most part, the liberal Protestant churches are losing members, not to more conservative denominations, but to a growing minority of the unchurched. Some are self-described atheists or agnostics while others profess a vague belief in God.
The religious vacuum to the left of center in the U.S. and Britain, where liberal Protestantism has undergone a similar collapse, has been filled with three new creeds. The first is radical environmentalism, which is best understood as a kind of nature-worshipping pantheism. The second is the “new atheism,” with champions like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. The militantly anticlerical tone of the new atheism is not particularly new; it differs little from that espoused from the 1960s to ’80s by the late Madalyn Murray O’Hare of the American Atheists Association.
The third and perhaps hardiest creed, now nearly a half-century old, is “secular humanism.” With less fanfare and more tact than the new atheists, “secular humanists” have attempted to provide an all-encompassing public philosophy based on science, as an alternative to moralities and political programs justified by supernatural religion. While the scientific naturalism that inspires it is true, American “secular humanism” is a naive and sentimental creed that, ironically, is too unworldly to serve as a practical guide to ethics and politics on this, the real planet of the apes.
The equivalent of the Nicene Creed for secular humanists is the “Humanist Manifesto,” published in 1933. Signed by the philosopher John Dewey and a number of now-forgotten professors and clerics, it called for a “religious humanism.”
In 1973, Paul Kurtz, a professor of philosophy who has taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo, co-authored second humanist manifesto. In 2003 the American Humanist Association, of which Kurtz is a member, published a third update, titled “Humanism and Its Aspirations.”
Kurtz also published a book with the title “Humanist Manifesto 2000: A Call for a New Planetary Humanism.”
Since then, he has published yet another manifesto, titled “Neo-Humanist statement of secular principles and values: Personal, Progressive, and Planetary.”
If the secular humanist creed lasts a millennium, it may well generate more manifestos than the pope has encyclicals.
Kurtz’s call for planetary humanism in 2000 is representative of this ramifying literature. Notwithstanding conservatives who claim that secular humanists are relativists, humanists of the Kurtz school are defenders of the Enlightenment and hostile to postmodern intellectual and moral relativism. The call for planetary humanism begins with a strong and, to my mind, entirely persuasive defense of science (“a coherent world view disentangled from metaphysics or theology”) and technology (which can “advance happiness and freedom, and enhance human life for all people”). Philosophers from Francis Bacon to John Dewey, the manifesto notes, “have emphasized the increased power over nature that scientific knowledge affords and how it can contribute immeasurably to human advancement and happiness.”
Hear, hear! I am not particularly fond of Dewey, but any friend of Francis Bacon is a friend of mine.
Unfortunately, in the next section Kurtz’s secular humanist manifesto addresses “ethics and reason” and goes horribly wrong, never to recover:
The realization of the highest ethical values is essential to the humanist outlook. We believe that growth of scientific knowledge will enable humans to make wiser choices. In this way there is no impenetrable wall between fact and value, is and ought. Using reason and cognition will better enable us to appraise our values in the light of evidence and by their consequences.
Here Kurtz implicitly takes on another atheist, the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume. Hume famously wrote that you cannot derive a moral “ought” from a factual “is.” He also insited that, “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions.” By this Hume meant that reason by itself cannot supply motivation. Reason is like the GPS device in a car. Emotion can tell reason where to go, and reason can tell emotion how best to get there. But reason itself is a neutral instrument, which can aid sociopathic murderers and genocidal tyrants as well as saints and heroes. If Hume’s version of atheism is correct, then the entire secular humanist liberal project in its current form is fundamentally misguided.
Unlike Hume, Kurtz dismisses any barrier between “fact and value, is and ought.” According to Kurtz, “The realization of the highest ethical values is essential to the humanist outlook.” How do we distinguish among higher and lower values, he asks? “Using reason and cognition will better enable us to appraise our values in the light of evidence and by their consequences.” In other words, we will ask the car’s GPS computer to tell us not only how to get there but also where we should go.
Our moral GPS, it seems, has software written by the 19th century utilitarian philosopher Jeremy Bentham. That, at least, is implied by Kurtz’s allusion to “the consequences” of our “values.” Consequentialism is another name for utilitarianism, the goal of which is to promote “the greatest good of the greatest number.” Utilitarianism tends to be cosmopolitan in its scope. After all, if what is good for a nation is more important than what is good for a family, surely the greatest good, the secular summum bonum, is the good of the human race.
Sure enough, in the next sections of his manifesto Kurtz proceeds from suggesting an ethic of utilitarianism to calling for cosmopolitan ethics and politics, including “a Universal Commitment to Humanity as a Whole,” “a Planetary Bill of Rights and Responsibilities,” and a “New Global Agenda.” The conspiracy theorists of the far right are wrong when they accuse secular humanists of moral relativism — but at least some secular humanists like Kurtz really do believe in world government.
He asserts “The Need for New Planetary Institutions,” including
A bicameral legislature in the United Nations, with a World Parliament elected by the people, an income tax to help the underdeveloped countries, the end of the veto in the Security Council, an environmental agency, and a world court with powers of enforcement.
In calling for a World Parliament and a global income tax, Kurtz has forgotten or neglected the warning found in the 11th clause of the original 1933 Humanist Manifesto:
We assume that humanism will take the path of social and mental hygiene and discourage sentimental and unreal hopes and wishful thinking.
Paul Kurtz doesn’t speak for all secular humanists, of course. And the themes of secular humanism have varied somewhat in the last century, reflecting the intellectual fashions of the left-liberal intelligentsia. In the 1930s, liberals tended to favor economic planning and democratic socialism, so the first Humanist Manifesto claimed that scientific naturalism required the socialization of the economy, because
existing acquisitive and profit-motivated society has shown itself to be inadequate and that a radical change in methods, controls, and motives must be instituted. A socialized and cooperative economic order must be established to the end that the equitable distribution of the means of life be possible.
A vague environmentalism has replaced equally vague visions of democratic socialism as the leading source of moral fervor on the center-left. In the recent humanist manifestos we hear about duties to nature rather than the need for socialism. In Kurtz’s words we have “a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.”
For all the variations, the common theory of human nature underlying contemporary secular humanism seems to be cosmopolitan utilitarianism, the conviction that human beings, if liberated from superstition by science, would behave less like selfish, scheming social apes and more like self-sacrificing social insects, giving their all for the good of the 7 billion members of the global human hive. “Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of human ideals…” says Humanist Manifesto III. “Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness.”
The secular humanist movement avoids the difficult question of the coexistence of in-group altruism and inter-group rivalries by imagining, with John Lennon, that conflicts would vanish if only people stopped being religious and patriotic.
Imagine there’s [sic] no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
Unfortunately for Humanist Lennonism, evolutionary biology does not provide much hope for the sort of altruistic personal commitment to planetary solidarity that secular humanists want to encourage. Humanist Manifesto III claims that the joy in Stakhanovite that enlightened human beings liberated from religion are expected to feel — an “ought” — can be derived from an “is” — biological fact. “Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships.”
But social animals are not altruists. Nor are they strict individualists. They are nepotists. As a rule social animals, like wolves, deer, humans and chimps, show favoritism to their relatives and friends and allies, with little or no concern for members of their own species with whom they have no close connection. Abrahamic monotheism insists on the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God. Darwinism insists at best on the distant cousinhood of humanity.
Among humans, nepotistic solidarity can be transferred, with difficulty, to political units larger than the extended family. But national patriotism is much harder to promote than city-state patriotism, and global patriotism may be a bridge too far.
The illogical leap from the acceptance of evolutionary science to the call for world government and world taxation is typical of the intellectual legerdemain practiced by secular humanists. They assert scientific naturalism leads to the currently fashionable attitudes of North Atlantic left-liberals, but they never provide any convincing arguments for the thesis that if you believe in Darwin, you must follow Dewey.
Let it be stipulated that, because they rested on economic or racial pseudoscience, Marxism-Leninism and National Socialism need not be taken seriously as variants of secularism. But what about the right-wing secularism of Ayn Rand? What do militant atheists who favor socialized medicine and world government have to say to other militant atheists who follow Rand in wanting to substitute the dollar sign for the cross and celebrate unregulated capitalism? For that matter, what would conventional secular humanist liberals have to say to an intelligent, thoughtful, scientifically literate, secular authoritarian — say, the late German jurist Carl Schmitt or Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor?
Given the fact that there are secular conservatives, secular libertarians and secular authoritarians, as well as secular liberals, what conclusions, if any, for politics and economics follow from the scientific account of nature? I don’t pretend to know. I suspect that scientific naturalism, properly understood, provides more warnings than answers.
To the extent that natural science can inform the way we think about politics and economics, it undermines the view that human beings are, or could be, rational actors devoted to the common good, rather than emotion-driven, semi-rational cousins of chimps and gorillas. On this point the secular philosophers Hume and Hobbes are more convincing than Bentham, Dewey and Kurtz.
Our simian psychology has obvious implications for naive models of democracy, in which a neutral, rational public listens dispassionately to all sides before making up its hyperlogical collective mind. And it has implications as well for naive models of economics, in which consumers and producers perceive, think and act with computer-like accuracy.
The skepticism about human rationality that science inspires should not be taken as support for authoritarianism or paternalism (sorry, Professor Schmitt and Your Eminence). On the contrary, it should render questionable all claims to wise and disinterested leadership, including those of America’s own altruistic progressive technocrats who propose policies to “nudge” the unenlightened masses into doing the right thing. It makes more sense to think of our leaders and intellectuals as half-crazed hooting howler monkeys — just like the rest of us.
Science can tell monkeys where they came from, and technology, informed by science, can build a cleaner and safer monkey house. But a knowledge of science cannot turn monkeys into something that we are not.
Michael Lind is Policy Director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and is the author of “The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution.” More: Michael Lind
Globe and Mail
Aug. 19, 2011
India’s culture of black money
India has turned Mahatma Gandhi’s ideal of honesty in public life on its
head, and the maelstrom ignited by anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare is
symptomatic of this malaise.
The country’s political leadership, whom the great man once inspired to
higher purpose, has fallen into the hands of crooks and self-promoters, and
they have spawned a culture of rampant corruption and self-aggrandizement.
Why is India so corrupt? Because the country’s politics have become a
passage to quick riches and influence-peddling. Those who are good at
nothing float regional caste-based parties just as entrepreneurs float
ventures in the West to gain positions of power.
Not surprisingly, nearly 30 per cent of the MPs in India’s Parliament have a
criminal record or charges pending against them – from murder to kidnapping
to forgery to theft. There’s no way to throw them out because the
overburdened legal system – where more than 30 million cases are pending –
takes decades to produce verdicts.
So why do Indians vote for these people? Well, the culture is characterized
by collectivism – not individualism – where the head of a family, clan,
caste or group decides on the candidate. They will vote for someone of their
own caste or group even if he’s a criminal.
Consequently, many regional political parties have sprung up around corrupt
caste/clan leaders. Having entrenched themselves in their positions, these
leaders run their parties as family fiefdoms, appointing only family members
to senior positions. In fact, all political leaders – including the
Italian-born Sonia Gandhi, who heads the ruling Congress Party – groom their
sons and daughters to take over from them to keep power in the family.
Shockingly in a poor country such as India, many of these political elites
flaunt a lifestyle so rich and luxurious that it could be the envy of any
Hollywood star. Only in India do political leaders live free in
multimillion-dollar government-owned palatial bungalows spread over two to
eight acres in New Delhi.
The corrupt political elites have also made the Indian bureaucracy their
partners in crime. And the politician-bureaucrat nexus has been extended to
the business world. If corporate efficiency has propelled India to become
one of the world’s fastest growing economies, then inefficient governance
thanks to the politician-bureaucrat-business nexus has turned it into one of
the world’s most corrupt nations.
Were India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, who promised to “hang
the corrupt from the nearest lamppost,” to return today, he would commit
suicide after seeing that “black money” (income from illegal activities)
accounts for almost half of the country’s GDP. Another $1.7-trillion is
hidden abroad. Only 32 million out of more than a billion Indians pay taxes,
and most transactions are carried out in cash.
Those who suffer the most in this booming black money industry are the
masses of Indians forced to pay bribes to get a job or a driver’s licence or
a passport or their kids admitted to school. So it’s no surprise that, in
anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, the frustrated masses have found a
new-age Gandhi – and they’ve taken to the streets seeking justice.
*Gurmukh Singh is the Canada correspondent for India’s Indo-Asian News
Andrew Cohen is at it again, with a new book on evolution and enlightenment (I thought he wrote this book two decades ago), more of his flawed analysis that he can’t let go, and which is confusing the question of evolution and enlightenment, both.
And now he has a foreword from that other idiot, Deepak Chopra, who should be departed to India to lead the life of a temple fakir, or a forest yogi.
We have critiqued his thinking many times, both here and at Darwiniana. The worst thing here is that Cohen is too chicken to critique Darwinism (or else doesn’t know better) and risks a kind of social-darwinist double entendre, as indeed was the case with Gurdjieff who tried to appropriate the evolution idea for some very violent and genocideal thinking.
To put the issue in a nutshell: evolution is about becoming in a ‘material’ realm, while the path to enlightenment leads beyond it.
It is possible that man could ‘evolve’ to a state that is more amenable to spiritual practice and realization, but that won’t happen through gurus or spiritual practice. Is is cosmic secret never shown to man, who rapidly and mysteriously became the being we know him to be, homo sapiens, with a complex instrument of consciousness. That ‘evolution’ was complete millennia ago. The real issue is to realize that potential.
Two posts on the issue of the ‘new age’ here: http://darwiniana.com/2011/08/14/the-illusions-of-age-periods-and-the-eonic-effect/
I think that this question is a monkey wrench in the works that is going to destroy the ‘New Age’ movement.
Over and over again, I have tried to clarify the issue, to no avail. Idiot after idiot, including so-called ‘gurus’ like Andrew Cohen, are obsessed with a kind of postmodern attack on modernity, and the attempt to ‘reschedule’ the ‘new age’ to some new scheme that will be the ‘spiritual’ age they want (but which never existed in the form they assume).
These people are actually interlopers, and if we clock back to the period before Gurdjieff and Blavatsky we can see the bare seeds of more intelligent ‘new age’ movement appearing. A good example is the unwitting Schopenhauer who was one of the first to study/update the Indian legacy.
What is anyone to do with Blavatsky and Gurdjieff: they really represent fronts for the occult exploitation of ultra-reactionaries who want to destroy a real ‘new age’ movement and replace that with something they can control.
Here is a part of the article by Elst in Paul’s link
The religion of the Nazis
Dr Koenraad Elst
Contemporary historians, along with novelists and filmmakers, just can’t get enough of Nazi Germany. Scholars of religion too are now frequently zooming in on this subject, though often with more polemical than scholarly purposes. The stakes are high, so competing ideologies invest heavily in showing their own dissociation from and their opponents’ association with Nazism. Therefore, when anthropologist Prof. Em. Karla Poewe of Calgary University in Canada comes out with a book titled New Religions and the Nazis (Routledge, Oxon & New York 2006), critics are on the alert for signs of bias.
But let us first of all appreciate the new factual data presented by the author. Prof. Poewe does a real historian’s job. Instead of synthesizing existing books by older colleagues into yet another “interpretation” of history, she has spent months and months in several German archives reading a lot of hitherto unexplored primary source material. This consists mainly of unpublished letters, speech transcripts and testimonies by or about the leading religious ideologues of the 1920s and 30s in Germany. Somebody had to do this job, and now it has been done.
1. An underground religion comes to the surface
The book’s main focus is on new religious movements of the German interbellum and their leaders, such as Mathilde Ludendorff (née von Kemnitz, wife of WW1 general Erich Ludendorff) and her Deutsche Gotterkenntnis (German God-knowledge) movement; and especially Jakob Wilhelm Hauer and his associates in his Deutsche Glaubensbewegung (DGB, German Faith Movement). Hauer was originally a Christian missionary planning to spend a lifetime in India converting Hindus. His studies led him to a favourable interest in Hinduism, then in hypothetically reconstructed Indo-European religion, and finally in “West-Indo-Germanic” religion, i.e. minus the “Indo-“. According to Poewe, “the new religions founded in the pre-Nazi and Nazi years, especially Jakob Hauer’s German Faith Movement, would be a model for how German fascism distilled aspects of religious doctrine into political extremism”. (back cover text).
When trying to establish himself in the ascendant Nazi movement, and after violent criticism of his Oriental exoticism by the Ludendorff couple (who saw the Asian cultural influx, from Christianity down to Theosophy and neo-Vedanta, as the result of Jewish conspiracies), Hauer found he had to drop the Indian part and highlight an “Indo-Germanic minus Indian” religion, i.e. European religion rooted in the ethnic soul of the Germans and more broadly the Europeans. The emphasis during the Nazi period was more on the narrowly Germanic element (Nazism was “Aryan” only in slogans, its focus was German and at best Germanic, with steep contempt for fellow “Aryans” such as the Slavs, the Armenians and Indians and of course the Gypsies), but his post-war followers such as Sigrid Hunke broadened it to all Europeans.
Of this supposed “truly European” religion, few pure formulations exist, but it is said to be visible through the writings of Christian heretics who dressed it in Christian language, though the Church often saw through their un-Christian inspiration. Poewe lists mystics, philosophers and poets like Pelagius, the early heretic who disbelieved in Original Sin; Johannes Scotus Eriugena, the 9th-century philosopher; Francis of Assisi, the nature-loving saint who conversed with animals; a high tide with the late-medieval German monistic mystics Nikolaus Krebs von Kues (Cusanus), Meister Eckhart von Hochheim, Heinrich Seuse (Suso) and Johannes Tauler; the natural philosopher and medic Paracelsus; the angel visionary Jakob Boehme; the twilight-Christian poets Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Friedrich Hölderlin, Rainer Maria Rilke; and the Christian evolutionist Teilhard de Chardin. (p.170)
To be sure, this supposed non-Christian thread was sometimes badly blurred by conjunction with Christian positions, e.g. Francis of Assisi was also a great popularizer of Original Sin, till then a minority belief among Christian commoners; Eriugena was accused of heresy but was an active opponent of heresy himself, in particular against Gotteschalk, the preacher of predestination, who also figures on Hunke’s list of true European religionists; while Gotteschalk himself was a leading light to later militant Christian dissenters like Calvinists and Jansenists; and Suso was such a heretic that the Church canonized him as a saint. But by and large, the contributions of these religious explorers purportedly show a common thread of what Hunke called “an underground religion” (p.170). Intertwined with Christianity for centuries, it decisively seceded from the latter with the anti-Christian philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. And now, Providence had made the 20th century into the age of its long-awaited blossoming.
So, this is a strange thing to note: whereas the stated focus of the book is the “new religions” of some Nazi-related thinkers, and while the term “neo-Paganism” is frequently used, the inspiration of these ideologues (as amply and faithfully documented by Poewe) is a line of thinkers of whom most have always been booked as Christian. It is not uncommon to pretend that Nazism was a “Pagan” movement, e.g. Pope Benedict XVI called Nazism “an insane racist ideology born of neopaganism” (“Pope warns of rising anti-Semitism”, 20 August 2005, The Hindu). Such claims are typically illustrated with some old drawing of the Germanic god Wotan/Odin (e.g. Robert L. Bartley: “Christians, Jews and Wotan: What we still need to learn from Nazism”, 25 March 2002, Wall Street Journal online) but the one-eyed god didn’t figure in Nazi iconography at all. The true picture is far more complex and far more interesting.
2. The way out of Christianity
Before embarking on her historical excursus, the author clearly lays out her views, i.e. her interpretation of these data. She argues that Nazism had an outspoken religious dimension, which she describes as neo-Pagan. But it soon transpires that “Pagan” in this case does not have its simple dictionary meaning of “non-Christian”. The term is actually used here in three senses: historical pre-Christian religions (but not Judaism), post-Christian “new religions”, and certain unorthodox tendencies within Christianity itself. Hence expressions that may sound contradictory at first, like “neo-Pagans both within and outside the Church” (p.14). Being a Church member and a declared Christian is apparently not enough to be a real Christian.
In the Muslim world, we are rather familiar with the phenomenon of takfir, or excommunicating a fellow Muslim by declaring him to be an unbeliever (kafir) at heart, but in Christianity, we had developed the impression that this was a thing of the past, now only extant among so-called fundamentalists. Then again, in a vaguer sense this excommunication of fellow Christians as crypto-Pagans is now more common than ever: not only Popes and preachers of fire and brimstone do it, but also glib liberal vicars smiling into the camera as they tell you that opponents of the latest political fad (from socialism to lesbigay liberation) are “un-Christian”. And come to think of it, in principle they all may have a point. After all, Christianity is a demanding religion and the fullness of being Christian requires more than just being baptized and paying Church dues. It only remains to be determined who are the real ones and who the crypto-Pagans. Who are these un-Christian Christians in Poewe’s view? German history has had many “heretics” who provided inspiration to religious ideologues in the Nazi orbit, like to many others earlier and later. Meister Eckhart, the famous Neoplatonist mystic, was one such “heretic” (p.6): though never disowning Christianity, he was recognized as a peddler of un-Christian mystical practices by Christian critics who correctly argued that Christian salvation is only through Christ, not through some funny mental experiences resulting from introspection. From Church doctors of yore criticizing the mystics down to modern New-Agers celebrating them, there is wide agreement that the Christian mystics were heterodox, arguably in tune with some putative “original teachings of Jesus” (a free-for-all, ever more prolific as lost early Christian writings keep on getting discovered) but not with historical Church teachings.
And like those premodern mystics, the self-described Deutsche Christen (“German Christians”), i.e. the majority of German Protestants supporting the Nazi regime, are classified as “not Christians but Pagans” (p.8). This is a bit of a jump, from the premodern mystics seeking direct experience of God to the modern Churchmen making deals with the Nazi state. Moreover, it was not these bourgeois Church spokesmen but its errant ex-members who were cultivating the memory of those heretics of yore.
Since it would be ludicrous to pretend that 20th-century German Protestants were somehow adherents of Pagan religion, worshipping Wotan and Donar and Freia, and since they were not even particularly concerned with crypto-Pagan mystics from the Christian Middle Ages either, the term “Paganism” clearly refers to something else, something modern. The culprit is an aspect of modern secularism, viz. relativism, possibly not excluding epistemological relativism (the disbelief in the existence of final truth), but mostly meaning moral relativism. In fact, the two go hand in hand and can be deduced from the rejection of monotheism: “To neopagans, human beings are the measure of all things. There is no single God, anymore than there is one truth, nor one humanity”. (p.173)
Liberals on the American campus scene are the ones who oppose the “imposition” of “Western” science as universal: “Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture’s got to go!” They think that “the Black experience”, “the gay experience” etc. can found equally valid worldviews which heterosexual White males have so far suppressed with their pretence of universalism. White science is not only not better, it is worse than the rest, for it has caused environmental degradation and the nuclear threat. This diversity of worldviews was also accepted in Nazi Germany, at least by Nazis. Thus, there was good Aryan science, such as quantum physics, and there was evil Jewish science, such as relativity theory. For a different kind of relativistic downplaying of reason’s universal claims, one of the ideologues discussed in this book, Ludwig Klages, valued image-consciousness (as in dreams or shamanic trances) and myths over reason; and this preference for “biocentrism” over “logocentrism”, we “find also in Hauer and in numerous street philosophers” in interbellum Germany. (p.86)
Those are rather extreme examples, but relativism is all around us in less obtrusive forms. Particularly, in religion, liberals undermined the old certainties of the Bible (to Protestants) or Church tradition (to Catholics) by an appeal to reason and free interpretation of these sources of authority. This led to widely divergent schools of exegesis, and once those floodgates had been opened, other types of pluralization followed suit. One of these is along ethnic lines: nowadays, liberal Church leaders accept that Africans should have their own cultural emphases and give expression to these in an African liturgy, Indians should bring Hindu elements into their liturgy etc. This is not all that different from the Nazi-era idea that there should be a distinctive German Christianity.
The core of Poewe’s thesis is that “liberal Christianity” was the gate through which millions of Christians removed themselves from the Christian spirit to embrace National-Socialism. This was true in the case of apostates like Hauer, through his liberal revaluation of Christian non-conformists frowned upon by the traditional Church, but also of Church-loyal “German Christians”. Some kept on calling themselves Christians while others openly turned against Christ, but their ideological estrangement from true Christianity was fundamentally the same. The end result of relativism was this: “There is no dogma, word or scripture. German morality is not rigidly chained to words but changes as reality changes and as the original nature adapts to new conditions. It is a convenient moral relativism that Hauer and his cohorts developed. In the final analysis, it is (*) a fighter ethic that negates all moral ties except those with respect to the interests of one’s own Volk.” (p.15)
On one occasion, the author acknowledges the Christian elements in the Nazi blend: “the variant core elements of Goebbels’ religiosity consisted of Christological symbols and Vitalism” (p.24), but this was not a deeply-held Christian faith anymore, for “Goebbels followed the stations of political ideologization from Catholicism toward freer forms of a Christian view of the world and self (as in liberal theology) and then National-Socialism”. (p.7) The case of Goebbels is taken to illustrate very well how the modernist leftward drift inherent in liberal theology was an exit from or at least a “thinner” of true Christian convictions. Likewise, “it was precisely Hauer’s and other Nazis’ radical liberalism that led them to National Socialism”. (p.20) And so: “Liberalism broke the ground enabling the emergence of radicalism.” (p.21)
3. From völkisch to New Age ?
What I like about Prof. Poewe’s approach of tracing certain developments to the corrosive impact of liberalism, is that it is unabashedly Christian. In recent decades, Christian scholars writing about politics have typically behaved like sheep obeying their Leftist sheepdogs, sincerely doing their best to toe the latest Leftist party-line. Here at last is a pro-Christian author defending the record of the Christian side and not afraid to denounce the Left and the liberal attitudes along with their Nazi (alleged) counterparts. Indeed, the terms “left” and “right”, though certainly not obsolete or meaningless, happen to be unfit for a description of the political spectrum in interbellum Germany: “Hitler could as easily be ordered into the extreme left as the opposite. In fact, the traditional conservative opposition saw Hitler as standing left”. (p.20)
This Christian vantage point beyond the animosities of Left vs. Right ought to shield the author from the excesses of denunciatory rhetoric so common in Leftist writing about the Nazi period. Leftists always love to cast the net of Nazi suspicions as widely as possible, dirtying as many people and organizations as possible with the Nazi brush. This satisfies their lust for power, for every accused becomes a helpless pleader for mercy (an appetizing sight, like that of a desperate mouse to a cat), and it restores legitimacy to their Marxism whenever people bring up its dark record: Hitler remains the best excuse for Stalin. In this book, my eye has been caught by only one lapse into this pattern of calumny, and it is precisely where she uses Marxist author Peter Kratz as her reference: “Kratz argues that not only the gods of neopaganism, but also those of the (European) New Age are Nazi brown. The spiritual movement centred on godliness in harmony with nature and the cosmos, working in and through all things human, is today called New Age. In the twenties it was called the völkisch movement.” (p.173)
This attempt to extend the denunciation of a few interbellum movements as Nazi-inspired to the totally unrelated New Age phenomenon is contemptible. The authors concerned are perfectly aware that the allegation of Nazi connections is the single gravest allegation that can be uttered in today’s opinion climate, and throwing that kind of allegation around lightly (as here by claiming in passing that “völkisch” and “New Age” are synonyms) is simply vicious. To set the record straight: the New Age current is individualistic, xenophilic, mixophilic, futuristic, cosmopolitan, anti-authoritarian and eager to enlist the findings of science into its worldview. The völkisch movement, i.e. the neo-Romantic ethno-nationalistic movement, by total contrast (and incidentally also at variance on some points with more modernistic tributaries to the Nazi movement), was collectivistic, xenophobic, puristic, past-oriented, centred on national identity, welcoming of the Leader principle, and hostile to science.
Yes, they may have some ideas about enjoying outdoors life or experiencing the divine in common, but this says nothing about all the other things on which they are poles apart. It only proves that not too much should be deduced from the religious pastimes of people who otherwise also have political opinions, and widely divergent ones at that. Could this calumny be a Christian polemical attempt to discredit the most popular challenger to established religion among contemporary Westerners? Well, let’s rather put it down as an instance of careless copying from a false authority.
4. Secularist modernism
Karla Poewe doesn’t give any fodder to the consumers of the myth of Nazi occultism. We already knew that Nazi secularists like Adolf Hitler, Josef Goebbels and Martin Bormann held anything occultist and obscurantist in contempt and ordered a number of successive crackdowns on it, and that Heinrich Himmler and Rudolf Hess were forced to practise their occultish hobbies discreetly. Not the Nazi era but the Weimar Republic, so despised by the Nazis, was the high tide of occultism in Germany. Here Poewe shows that even the new quasi-religions which did have certain genuine links with the Nazi movement defined themselves within the framework of secular modernity.
Thus, she quotes Mathilde Ludendorff as writing in 1935 that her Weltanschauung is not concerned with relieving pain and promising an afterlife, but only with truth: “If you want sham consolation, it is better that you turn to a Christian or some other sort of non-Christian religion, or to any of the occult teachings*” (p.163) I would add that this corresponded to one of the crucial axes in the imagined Aryan/Semitic or European/Asian opposition: truth, along with wakefulness and freedom, is Aryan; while delusions and dreams, along with despotism and surrender, are Asian or Semitic.
Poewe frequently provides evidence that many of these ideologues (like, incidentally, Adolf Hitler himself) first of all broke with Christianity simply because modern scholarship has discredited it. Which, as a secular and scientific position, provides a perfectly respectable reason for apostasy, one that also applies to millions of other modern people unrelated to Nazism. Thus, summarizing then quoting Mathilde Ludendorff: “Christianity does not convince. ‘Natural science has replaced it.'” (p.163) This is something on which all educated modern people should be able to agree, even if some Nazis also happen to agree with them: there may be room for religion, or rather for spirituality, in a modern or postmodern or hypermodern culture; this may even borrow or continue some contributions of Christianity to ethics or the arts; but even so, the irrational beliefs that make up the defining core of Christianity cannot be salvaged.
Instead of speaking of “new religions” in the Nazi age, it would be more appropriate to describe these fledgling doctrines as philosophies or worldviews (Weltanschauung). Thus, summarizing a speech by Nazi pedagogue Ernst Krieck, an associate of Hauer’s, Poewe relates: “The Third Reich represented yearning for salvation from despair through the fount of power that had its source in the German people (Volkskraft), not in an otherworldly God. Krieck ended his midsummer night’s talk with a hail to the German Youth, German Volk and Third Reich.” (p.151) Not a hail to Wotan, nor to Krishna or Buddha for that matter, and indeed not to Christ either, but to the secular gods of nation and state.
So, the finality of the “new religion” was a secular one: “Development of the new faith: not Christ but the Third Reich”. (p.148) Indeed: “The whole thrust of core Nazi radicals was to overcome what they regarded as an already secularized Christianity and replace it with a faith in the ‘Third Reich’.” (p.149)
It is worth noting that Gurdjieff’s legacy (like a great deal of monotheistic theology) has a complex legacy of its own on the issue of free will. (See previous post today).
His insights (mostly implicit in yoga) into the mechanization of behavior and habit are both a negation and affirmation of the issue of will. The question of will is not so simple, of course.
Between Schopenhauer, Kant, and Bennett/Samkhya, we have a set of ideas that might help to refound the question.
John Dominic Crossan
Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies, DePaul University
GET UPDATES FROM John Dominic Crossan
The Search for the Historical Paul: What Paul Thought About Women
Picking up on Paul’s links from yesterday: http://inpursuitofhappiness.wordpress.com/2006/12/31/tibetian-dalai-lama-not-what-you-think/
I have been critical of Chogyam Trungpa myself, but his critics might ask themselves how someone in his condition accomplished what he did. His state of mind is a bit of a puzzle. I think it is terminal ‘boddhissatwa’ syndrome: too much buddhism, not enough enlightenment. Trungpa is another one of these permanent ghosts of the Tibetan scene. They should be booted out of samsara once and for all.
His life is juicy scandal, and his views (e.g. antidemocracy) are often reprehensible, but the real problem we are after is something deeper.
A closer look into the history and traditions surrounding the Dalai Lama reveals a cautionary tale
More research material may be seen at: http://www.trimondi.de/EN/front.html
by Michael Nenonen
A few years ago I had the chance to hear members of a Shambhala Centre talk about Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the Tibetan lama who started their movement. Like other Tibetan Buddhist figures, Trungpa was described in ways befitting a spiritual superman. His legacy is indeed formidable. Besides establishing the first Buddhist University in the United States, he founded over 100 meditation centres around the world, wrote two dozen books on Buddhist themes, and attracted thousands of students. He’s spoken highly of by the 14 th Dalai Lama, and revered by countless people in both the East and West. Many social activists, seeking spiritual guidance in a world full of discredited religious organizations, continue to find direction through his “Shambhala path.”
Imagine my surprise, then, when I read in Katy Butler’s essay Encountering the Shadow in Buddhist America (Common Boundary, May/June 1990) that “When Trungpa Rinphoche lay dying in 1986 at the age of 47, only an inner circle knew the symptoms of his final illness. Few could bear to acknowledge that their beloved and brilliant teacher was dying of terminal alcoholism, even when he lay incontinent in his bedroom, belly distended and skin discolored, hallucinating and suffering from varicose veins, gastritis and esophageal varices, a swelling of veins in the esophagus caused almost exclusively by cirrhosis of the liver.” In addition to being an alcoholic, ChogyamTrungpa had sexual relationships with his followers, encouraged the use of mind-altering drugs, and was rather abusive. In one of his seminars, for instance, he ordered two students to be stripped of all their clothing against their will.
His successor, Osel Tendzin, was even less savoury. Before he died in 1990, this saint admitted to having sex with over a hundred men and women even though he knew that he had AIDs. A number of these partners contracted the disease themselves.
Many still believe that Chogyam Trungpa and Osel Tendzin were spiritual masters, and use all sorts of mystical rationalizations to defend their adoration. Their blind faith demonstrates one of the dangers of religion: the dissolution of the ego can, if accompanied by the dissolution of the critical intellect, result in abject subjugation to another person’s ego, an ego that may have a hidden and unpalatable agenda.
When confronted by such scandals, some argue that, without the checks and balances of the monastic system, Tibetan masters can easily succumb to what Chogyam Trungpa himself called “Spiritual Materialism.” The problem, according to these accounts, lies with the individual masters and the Western milieu, rather than with anything more fundamental to Tibetan Buddhism. I’ve made this argument myself, but lately I’ve had my doubts.
Why, I’ve wondered, hasn’t the 14 th Dalai Lama, the God-King of Tibetan Buddhism, explicitly condemned the US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq? Mahatma Gandhi, with whom the Dalai Lama has often been compared, was an outspoken anti-imperialist. Other spiritual leaders like Martin Luther King Jr and Desmond Tutu have been equally vocal about the evils of American imperialism. If the Dalai Lama is to be counted among these ethical paragons, then why does he seem to modify his message depending on the audience he’s addressing? Would Ghandi, King, or Tutu ever hug Senator Jesse Helms like the Dalai Lama did in September 1995? After reading Victor and Victoria Trimondi’s The Shadow of the Dalai Lama, my doubts have deepened.
Victor and Victoria Trimondi are pen names used by Mariana and Herbert Röttgen. Their book was published to wide acclaim in Germany in 1999 by the respected Patmos Group. The Shadow of the Dalai Lama hasn’t been published in English, but a translation can be found at the author’s website, trimondi.de. This scholarly work is highly critical of the Dalai Lama and the religious system he presides over.
The authors were themselves once followers of the Dalai Lama. Herbert Röttgen was a personal friend of the Dalai Lama, he published a number of the Dalai Lama’s books, and he organized several symposia and major events for him. When the authors sat down to research Tibetan Buddhism, they expected to find a world consistent with the Dalai Lama’s expressed philosophies of pacifism and compassion. What they found was the exact opposite.
As the authors write, “Lamaism was caught up in bloody struggles between the various monastic factions from the outset. There was a terrible ‘civil war’ in which the country’s two main orders faced one another as opponents. Political murder has always been par for the course and even the Dalai Lamas have not been spared. Even in the brief history of the exiled Tibetans it is a constant occurrence. The concept of the enemy was deeply anchored in ancient Tibetan culture, and persists to this day. Thus the destruction of ‘enemies of the teaching’ is one of the standard requirements of all tantric ritual texts. The sexual magic practices which lie at the center of this religion . . . are based upon a fundamental misogyny. The social misery of the masses in old Tibet was shocking and repulsive, the authority of the priestly state was absolute and extended over life and death.”
The legal system was especially cruel: “Bizarre mutilations like blindings, the cutting off of limbs or tearing out of tongues, deliberately allowing people to freeze to death, the pillory, shackling, yoking, lifelong imprisonment in damp pits all count as common punishments up until the 20th century, even after the 13 th Dalai Lama had introduced a number of moderations.” The authors mention that every major monastery had a dungeon where tortures comparable to those used in Europe’s Middle Ages persisted until very recently, and that these monasteries were often decorated by human body parts.
It goes without saying that this picture is at odds with our popular understanding of Tibetan Buddhism. The authors contend that the lama community, under the Dalai Lama’s leadership, has misrepresented Tibet’s history, its religious doctrines, and their own ethical beliefs in order to cater to Western sensitivities.
The Dalai Lama rarely speaks to Western audiences about the higher levels of the Kalachakra Tantra, for example, the most important religious text in Tibetan Buddhism. The authors write that “In the eight secret higher initiations of the Kalachakra Tantra, extreme mental and physical exercises are used to push the initiand into a state beyond good and evil. The original text thus requires the following misdeeds and crimes of him: killing, lying, stealing, infidelity, the consumption of alcohol, sexual intercourse with lower-class girls. As in all the other tantras, here too these requirements can be understood both symbolically and literally.” This last point is important. While Tibetan Buddhists in the West argue that the violent passages in their religious texts are meant to be read as metaphors for psychological processes, there’s a great deal of evidence that in Tibet they were taken quite literally, and that the Lama community continues to take them literally today.
In his Western appearances the Dalai Lama also downplays the Shambhala myth, which is a cornerstone of Tibetan Buddhism. This myth foretells the rise of a despotic Buddhist world-ruler and an apocalyptic war in 2327 between Buddhists and the followers of Islam, a war in which all those of other faiths will be exterminated.
The Shambhala myth may illuminate what the authors argue is the current Dalai Lama’s long-standing association with prominent fascists. The Lama community welcomed Nazi research expeditions into Tibet during the 1930s. The Dalai Lama’s European tutor, Heinrich Harrer, was a member of the SS and, despite his portrayal in the film version of Seven Years in Tibet, Harrer remained true to his Nazi beliefs throughout his life. The authors write that the Dalai Lama met at least three times over the years with his “friend” Miguel Serrano, a leader of the National Socialist Party of Chile and the chief proponent of “esoteric Hitlerism,” and five times with Shoko Asahara, the leader of the AUM cult responsible for the sarin gas attack on a Japanese subway in 1995. SS occultism, Serrano’s writings, and Shoko Asahara’s doctrines are all clearly influenced by the legend of Shambhala.
The authors’ most provocative contention is that the global spread of Tibetan Buddhism may be laying the seeds for a new, highly aggressive, and virulently anti- Islamic form of fundamentalism. They suggest that Tibetan Buddhism’s user-friendly facade is simultaneously a lure and an anesthetic: it draws people to the religion while numbing their religious skepticism. As they get deeper into the movement, as their egos dissipate and their consciousness is populated by the images of Tibetan deities and demons, students may mistake indoctrination for enlightenment. This is a danger in the West, but is perhaps even more threatening in the East, where the Tibetan faith is rapidly growing at the expense of other forms of Buddhism.
The Shadow of the Dalai Lama is an extremely controversial book, but one thing is clear: Tibet was never the Shangri-La we so often yearn for. It was instead a pre-modern, totalitarian theocracy—or, to be more precise, Buddhocracy. State structures like this can only be maintained through the most vicious means; the official religions in such states necessarily reflect and legitimize the violence and exploitation required by the social order. Tibet isn’t unique; this kind of society used to be quite common. Tibet’s unusual only insofar as it retained this system well into the Twentieth Century.
Spiritual enlightenment is a worthy quest, but the journey is inevitably beset by cul-de-sacs and perils. The greatest danger lies in our own hopes and the blindness they can produce. Fairy tales about magical father-figures and enchanted kingdoms are delightfully soothing, but we mustn’t let them cloud our vision. If The Shadow of the Dalai Lama is correct, then instead of delivering psychological liberation, the inner mysteries of Tibetan Buddhism may offer only the shackles of Buddhocratic folly.