"racism" has been much discussed. And the doctrine of the "chosen people"
is often regarded as an expression of this "racism." Yet in reality the
Jews of Antiquity (I mean, of course, orthodox Jews) believed that membership
in their race, that is, in the "family of Abraham," had value only
if it were combined with exclusive service to the "jealous God" Jehovah,
Israel's exclusive protector. According to the Bible, Moabites and Ammonites,
though enemies of Israel, were closely connected racially to the Jews.
Did not the former descend from Moab, son of Lot and his eldest daughter,
and the latter from Ben-Ammi, son of Lot and his youngest daughter? (Genesis
19.36-38) Now, Lot, son of Haran, was the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 11.27).
Evidently genealogical kinship did not facilitate relations between these
peoples and the children of Israel. If blood joined them together, their
respective cults nevertheless separated them. Chemosh, god of Moabites,
and Milcom, god of the Ammonites, were in the eyes of the Jews "abominations"
-- as were all the gods of the earth, save their own God -- and their worshippers,
enemies to be exterminated. [Image: Savitri in India, ca. 1935.]
Jewish racism, independent of religion -- the attitude which consists in accepting as a Jew and treating accordingly anyone born Jewish, whatever his religious beliefs might be -- is apparently a much more recent phenomenon, dating at the earliest from the eighteenth or the seventeenth century, that is, from the time when masonic lodges of Israelite inspiration began to play a role in determining the politics of Western nations. It was perhaps a product of the influence of Western rationalism on the Jews -- in spite of themselves. It found its most striking expression at the end of the nineteenth century and during the twentieth in Zionism, which could be called an innovative, avant-garde Jewish nationalism. The Zionist movement does respect, certainly, the religious tradition of the Talmud and the Bible, but without in any way being identified with it. Its political faith is "national," but could not be compared with that of modern Greece, since the latter is so inseparable from the official state religion. But I shall call Zionism a nationalism rather than a "racism," because it implies the exaltation of the Jewish people as such, without any enthusiastic consciousness of a blood solidarity uniting all the various desert peoples customarily called "Semitic."
Although modern in its expression,
this Jewish nationalism is not in its essence different from the solidarity
which, after the introduction of the Mosaic law, existed among all the
children of Israel from the thirteenth century before the Christian era.
The religion of Jehovah played a paramount role then. But its role consisted
precisely in forming a feeling in all Jews, from the most powerful to the
most humble, that they were the chosen people, the privileged
people, different from other people, including those closest to them in
blood, and exalted above them all. The Jews have felt that more and more
in modern times, without the aid of a national religion; hence the
decreasing importance of this religion among them, except in a few permanent
centers of Jewish orthodoxy.
In other words, the Jews, who for centuries had been an unimportant Middle Eastern tribe among so many others, a tribe quite close to others in language and religion before Abraham and especially before the Mosaic reform, gradually became, under the influence of Moses and his successors, Joshua and Caleb, and then under the influence of the prophets, a people completely filled with the self-image they had manufactured; having nothing but contempt for men of the same race who surrounded them and, with greater reason, for people of other races; seeing only "abominations" in all their gods; even repudiating, as the prophet Ezra commanded after they returned from their long Babylonian captivity, those of their kinsmen who, having remained in Palestine, had married Canaanite women, under the pretext that the latter would loosen the link that bound them and their families to Jehovah and thus weaken their consciousness that they were a "chosen people," a people unlike others.
They could have remained so indefinitely, isolated from the rest of the world by a national pride as incommensurable as it was unjustified, for even in Antiquity they were already rather mixed-race hybrids, if only because of their prolonged sojourn in Egypt. Had the Jews remained in their self-imposed isolation, the world would certainly have suffered no great loss -- quite the contrary. But they did not, because the idea of a "single, living God" -- the "true" God, in contrast to "false" gods, to local gods whose power was limited to other peoples -- could only imply, sooner or later, the idea of universal truth and human community. A God who alone "lives," while all others are merely insensate matter, at most inhabited by impure forces, can only be, logically, the true God of all possible worshippers, that is, of all men. To refuse to admit it would have required that they ascribe life, truth and benevolence to other peoples' gods as well, in other words, that they cease seeing them only as "abominations." And that the Jews refused to accept, after the sermons and threats of their prophets. The One God could indeed prefer a single people. But it was necessary that he be, by necessity, the God of all peoples -- the one whom they, in their insane folly, were unaware of, whereas the "chosen people" alone paid him homage.
The first attitude of the Jews, as conquerors of Palestine, toward peoples who worshipped gods other than Jehovah was to hate and exterminate them. Their second attitude -- after Canaanite resistance in Palestine had long ended, and especially after the Jews had lost most of what little international significance they had ever possessed, being reduced to mere subjects of Greek kings, Alexander's successors, and later of Roman emperors -- was to throw into the spiritual pasture of a declining world not only the idea of the futile emptiness of all gods (except their own), but also the false concept of "man," independent of and distinct from peoples; of "man," a nationless citizen of the world (and "created in the image of God") whom Israel, the chosen people, the people of Revelation, had the mission of instructing and guiding to true "happiness." This was the attitude of those Jews, more or less conspicuously daubed with Hellenism, who from the fourth century AD until the Arab conquest in the seventh century formed an increasingly influential proportion of the population in Alexandria, as well as in all capitals of the Hellenistic world, which would later become the Roman world. It is also the attitude of the Jews of our own era -- an attitude which, precisely, makes them a people unlike others, a dangerous people: the "ferment of decomposition" of other peoples.
It is worth tracing the history of this attitude.
Its seeds, as I have suggested, already existed in the fanaticism of the servants and prophets of the "sole" and "living God," from Samuel to the redactors of the Cabala. An important fact that should not be forgotten, if one wants to try to understand it, is that the "sole God" of the Jews is a transcendent god, but not immanent. He is outside of Nature, which he created from nothingness by an act of will, and in his essence is different from it, different not only from its sensible manifestations, but also from everything that could, in a permanent way, underlie them. He is not that Soul of the Universe in which the Greeks and all other Indo-European peoples believed, and in which Brahmanism still sees the supreme Reality. He made the world as an artisan manufactures a marvelous machine: from the outside. And he imposed upon it whatever laws he wanted, laws that could have been different, if he had wanted them different. He gave man dominion over all other creatures. And he "chose" the Jewish people from among other men not for their intrinsic value -- that is clearly specified in the Bible -- but arbitrarily, because of a promise made once and for all to Abraham.
From this metaphysical perspective, it was impossible to consider the gods of other peoples as "aspects" or "expressions" of the sole God, and all the less so since these gods represented, for the most part, natural forces or celestial bodies. It was also impossible to emphasize less the indeterminate variety of men and the irrefutable inequality that has always existed among the various human races and even among people more or less of the same race. "Man," whatever that might be, had to possess, alone of created beings, an immense intrinsic value, since the Creator had formed him "in his own image" and had placed him, for that very reason, above all other living creatures. The Cabala states the matter clearly: "There exists the uncreated Being, who creates: God; the created being, who creates: man; and ... the remainder: the entirety of created beings -- animals, plants, minerals -- which do not create." This is the most absolute anthropocentrism, and a false philosophy from the outset, since it is obvious that "all men" are not creators (far from it!) and that some animals can in fact be creators.
But that is not all. From this new humanist perspective, not only did Jewry maintain its position as the "chosen people" -- the "holy nation," as the Bible says -- destined to bear unique Revelation to the world, but everything that other peoples had produced or thought had value only insofar as it was consistent with this Revelation, or insofar as it could be interpreted in that sense. Unable to deny the enormous Greek contributions to science and philosophy, the Jews of Alexandria, Greek in culture (and sometimes with Greek names, like Aristobulus in the third century BC), did not hesitate to write that all of the most substantial products of Greek thought -- the works of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Aristotle -- were only due, in the final analysis, to the influence of Jewish thought, having their source in Moses and the prophets! Others, such as the famous Philo of Alexandria, whose influence on Christian apologetics was considerable, did not dare deny the obvious originality of Hellenic genius, but only retained, of the ideas they elaborated, those which they could, by altering or even by deforming them completely, bring into "concord" with the Mosaic conception of "God" and the world. Their work is that hybrid product which in the history of ideas bears the name "Judeo-Alexandrian philosophy" -- an ingenious collection of interrelated concepts drawn more or less directly from Plato, though not always in the spirit of Plato, mixed together with old Jewish ideas like the transcendence of the sole God and the creation of man "in his image." All of this was undoubtedly a superfluous scaffolding in the eyes of orthodox Jews, for whom the Mosaic Law was sufficient, but it was a marvelous instrument for seizing spiritual control over the Gentiles, in the service of Jews (orthodox or not) eager to wrest from other peoples the direction of Western (and later, global) thought.
Judeo-Alexandrian philosophy and religion, increasingly permeated with the symbolism of Egypt, Syria, Anatolia and so forth, and professed by the ever more racially debased people of the Hellenistic world, constitute the backdrop against which Christian orthodoxy gradually emerged in the writings of Paul of Tarsus and the first Christian apologists, eventually taking shape during a succession of Church Councils. As Gilbert Murray remarks of the latter: "it is a strange experience ... to study these obscure assemblies, whose members, proletarians of the Levant, superstitious, dominated by charlatans and desperately ignorant, still believed that God can procreate children in the womb of mortal mothers, misunderstood 'Word,' 'Spirit' and 'divine Wisdom' as persons bearing those names, and transformed the notion of the soul's immortality into the 'resurrection of the dead,' and then to think that it was these men who followed the main road, leading to the greatest religion of the Western world."
In this Christianity of the first centuries, preached in Greek (the international language of the Near East) by Jewish and later by Greek missionaries to raceless urban masses -- so inferior, from any point of view, to the free men of the ancient Hellenic polis -- there were undoubtedly more non-Jewish elements than Jewish. What dominated was a common religious subject I dare not call "Greek" but rather "Aegean" or "Mediterranean pre-Hellenic" -- or even Near Eastern pre-Hellenic, for the people of Asia Minor, Syria and Mesopotamia all more or less exemplified it in their primeval cults. It was the myth of the young god cruelly put to death -- Osiris, Adonis, Tammuz, Attis, Dionysus -- whose flesh (wheat) and blood (grape juice) became food and drink for men, and who came back to life in glory every year in Spring. This subject had never ceased to be present in the mysteries of Greece, as much in the classical era as before. Transfigured and "spiritualized" by the allegorical meanings attached to the most primitive rites, it manifested itself in the international "salvation" religions, namely in the cults of Mithra and of Cybele and Attis, Christianity's rivals in the Roman Empire. As Nietzsche saw so clearly, the genius of Paul of Tarsus consisted in "giving a new meaning to the ancient mysteries," taking hold of the old prehistoric myth, revivifying it, interpreting it in such way that, in perpetuity, all those who accepted his interpretation would also accept Jewry's prophetic role and its status as "chosen people," bearer of unique revelation.
Historically next to nothing is known about the person of Jesus of Nazareth, so little about his origins and the first thirty years of his life that some serious authors have even doubted his existence. According to the canonical gospels, he was raised in the Jewish religion. But was he Jewish by blood? Several scriptural passages tend to make one believe that he was not. It has been said, moreover, that the Galileans formed a small island of Indo-European population within Palestine. At any rate, what is important, as the source of the historical turning point that Christianity represents, is that, Jewish or not, Jesus was presented as such, and what is more, was presented as the Jewish people's expected Messiah, by Paul of Tarsus, the true founder of Christianity, and by all the Christian apologists who followed over the centuries. What is important is that he was, thanks to them, integrated into the Jewish tradition, forming the link between it and the old Mediterranean myth of the young vegetation god who died and rose again, a myth the Jews had never accepted. He became the Messiah, acquiring the essential attributes of Osiris, Tammuz, Adonis, Dionysus and all the other dead gods who triumphed over Death, pushing them all into the shade for his own profit, and that of his people, with an intransigence that none of them knew, the typically Jewish intransigence of Paul of Tarsus, his teacher Gamaliel, and all the servants of the "jealous God," Jehovah. Not only was "new meaning" given to the ancient mysteries, but this meaning was proclaimed the sole good and the sole truth, the rites and the myths of pagan antiquity, from the most remote times, having only "prepared" and "prefigured" it, just as ancient philosophy had only sensitized souls to receive the supreme revelation. And this revelation was, for Paul as for the Jews of the Judeo-Alexandrian school before him, and for all the Christian apologists that followed -- Justin, Clement of Alexandria, Ireneus, Origen -- given to the Jews by the God "of all mankind."
Jewish intolerance, until then confined to a single people (and to a despised people, whom no one dreamed of imitating) extended itself, with Christianity and later with Islam -- that reaction against the Hellenisation of Christian theology -- to half the globe. And, moreover, it is that very intolerance that accounts for the success of the religions linked with the tradition of Israel.
I have mentioned the salvation religions, in particular the cults of Mithra and of Cybele and her lover Attis, which flourished in the Roman Empire when Christianity was still young. At first sight, each of them had as much chance of attracting to itself the restless masses for whom Roman order was not sufficient, or was no longer sufficient, and who, increasingly bastardized, felt alienated from any national cult, whatever it might be. Each of them offered to the average individual all that the religion of crucified Jesus promised, and with rites all the more able to assure his adhesion, since they were more barbarous.
In the third century AD, the worship of Mithra -- the old Indo-European solar god, contemplated through the thousand deforming mirrors that the races and traditions of his new worshippers represented -- seemed destined to become dominant ... provided that no decisive factor should intervene in favor of one of his rivals. The god was popular among Roman legionaries and their officers. Emperors had believed it worthwhile to receive initiation into his mysteries, under a shower of the Bull's hot, redemptive blood. A growing number of common people followed the movement. One can say with complete confidence that the world dominated by Rome just barely failed to become Mithraic, instead of Christian, for some twenty centuries. One can say with no less certainty that, though it did not become Mithraic, this failure was due neither to any "superiority" of the Christian doctrine of salvation over the teachings of the priests of Mithra, nor to the absence of sanguinary rites among Christians, but rather to the protection granted to the religion of the Crucified by the emperor Constantine, and not to any other factor. Indeed it was Christianity's very intolerance -- especially, perhaps even exclusively -- that procured the preference of the master of the Roman world. [Image: Mithras Tauroctonos ("Mithra the Bull-Slayer").]
What the emperor wanted above all was to give to this immense world, populated by people of diverse traditions and ethnicities, the most solid unity possible, without which it would be difficult to resist for long the external pressures of the so-called barbarians. Unity of worship was certainly the only kind of unity that he could hope to impose on his empire, on condition that it could be achieved quickly. Among the popular religions of salvation, Mithraism undoubtedly counted the greatest number of faithful. But it did not seem capable of being spread rapidly enough, first and foremost because it did not claim to be the only Way and the only Truth. It risked allowing its rivals to survive, and the unity that Constantine so much desired would therefore not be accomplished -- or would take centuries -- whereas the interest of the empire demanded that it be done within a few decades.
One could say as much of the old cult of Cybele and Attis: its priests did not proclaim, following the example of the Jews, that they alone possessed the truth; on the contrary, they believed, as did all men of Antiquity (except the Jews), that truth has innumerable facets, and that each cult helps its faithful grasp an aspect of it. They, too, would have allowed rival religions to flourish in complete liberty.
Fourth-century Christianity, although penetrated with ideas and symbols borrowed from neo-Platonism, or from the old Aegean mystical substrate, or from still more remote forms of the eternal Tradition, had itself inherited the spirit of intolerance from Judaism. Even its most enlightened apologists, the most richly nurtured in traditional Greek culture -- such as a St. Clement of Alexandria or an Origen who, far from rejecting ancient wisdom, regarded it as a preparation for that of the gospels -- did not put the two wisdoms on the same plane. There was, they believed, "progress" from the former to the latter, and the Jewish "revelation" retained its priority over the distant echo of the sole God's voice which one could detect in the pagan philosophers. As for the great mass of Christians, they dismissed as "abominations" -- or "demons" -- all the gods of the earth, except that One who had been revealed to men of all races through the Old Testament prophets -- Jewish prophets -- and through Jesus and his posthumous disciple, Paul of Tarsus, the latter entirely Jewish, the former regarded by the Church as a Jew, a "son of David," though in fact his true origins are unknown and even his historicity could be questioned.
The profound link that attaches Christianity (and in particular the "Holy Sacrifice of the Mass") to the ancient mysteries ensured its survival down to our own era. And it was, for Paul of Tarsus, a stroke of (political) genius to have given to the oldest myths of the Mediterranean world an interpretation that ensured to his own people an indefinite spiritual domination over that world and over all the peoples it was destined to influence during the centuries that followed. It was, for the emperor Constantine, a stroke of genius (also political), to have chosen to encourage a religion which would, by its rapid diffusion, give to the ethnic chaos that the Roman world then represented the only unity to which it could still aspire. And it was, for the German tribal chief Clodwig, known in French history as Clovis, again a stroke of genius (political, in his case also) to have felt that nothing would better ensure him permanent domination over his rivals, other German leaders, than his own adhesion (and that of his warriors) to Christianity, in a world then already three-quarters Christian, where bishops represented a power to be sought out as allies. Political genius, not religious -- and still less philosophical -- because in each case it aimed at power, personal or national, at material stability, at success, but not at truth in the full sense of the word, that is, accord with the Eternal. It involved mundane human ambitions, not a thirst for knowledge of the Laws of Being, nor a thirst for union with the Essence of all things -- the Soul, at once transcendent and immanent, of the Cosmos.
For if it had been different, there would have been no reason for the religion of the Nazarene to have triumphed for so many centuries: its rivals were its equals. Christianity had only one practical "advantage" over them: its fanaticism, its infantile intolerance inherited from the Jews -- a fanaticism, an intolerance, which, during the early days of the Church, cultivated Romans or Greeks could only find laughable, and which Germans, nurtured in their own beautiful religion, simultaneously cosmic and warlike, could rightly find absurd, but which would give to Christianity a militant character, which it alone possessed, since orthodox Judaism remained -- and would remain -- the faith of a single people.
Christianity could henceforth be combated only by another religion with equally universal pretensions, just as intolerant as it. And it is a fact that, until now, it has lost ground on a significant scale only when confronted by Islam and, in our era, by the false religion which is Communism.
The preceding text is from Chapter III of Savitri Devi's Souvenirs et réflexions d'une Aryenne (Calcutta: Savitri Devi Mukherji, 1976). Trans. Irmin Vinson. Savitri's footnotes have been omitted; the title is editorial. The original French text is also available.