There is sad news from the world of fringe archaeology. Tour guide John Anthony West, who appeared in the 1993 Mysteries of the Sphinx documentary and inspired Graham Hancock, announced that he is suffering from Stage 4 cancer, and he is asking his friends and followers to give him $115,000 to pay for “alternative” cancer treatments. West chose to forgo mainstream treatments in favor of what Skeptical Inquirer had deemed the “unproven” cancer cure of Stanislaw Burzynski, who faced legal proceeding last year for “medical malfeasance.” “The Rogue Oncologist meets the Rogue Egyptologist, soon with your help,” states West’s crowdfunding page. West is asking for money because insurance will not pay for unproven treatments. I wish West the best and hope he will go into remission, but I fear that choosing a path in line with his belief that mainstream science is flawed will not produce his desired outcome.
Meanwhile, a humorous satire of fringe history from coffee website Sprudge claims looks into whether the Freemasons and space aliens are secretly controlling the world through the coffee industry. The Starbucks mermaid looks a lot like Oannes, the space-fish from Sirius, after all!
Last night I finished reading Jason Reza Jorjani’s Prometheus and Atlas, a philosophical treatise allegedly about the role of the supernatural in culture, and it was … different. I must concede that I have never before read a fringe author who openly advocated for an “Aryan world order” based on returning to the primitive Indo-European (i.e., Aryan) “world religion.” If the phrase “Aryan world order” sounds odd, it’s because it has a disreputable history. Although Jorjani falsely implies that it comes from the Kyoto School of Japanese philosophy, the phrase is best known from its use in white nationalist William L. Pierce’s works. He is the infamous author of The Turner Diaries, the novel that inspired the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The phrase was also the name of a Welsh pro-Nazi group, and it can be found in Hitler’s early letters.
As the book moved toward its end point, Jorjani became more insistent that Aryans were the chosen people of the world. When he posted parts of this same chapter online, he selectively edited out his most blatant white nationalist statements. I want to compare the online version to the printed version of his passage describing the Buddha as a white Aryan superman:
Did you catch the difference?
In the printed version, Jorjani makes plain that his interest in Kitaro Nishida, who died in 1945, and the Kyoto School is essentially because Nishida was a Germanophile whose school of philosophy helped to justify Japan’s alliance with Germany and entry into World War II. In the online version, the subhead, added for the adaptation, falsely attributes to him an advocacy for “an Indo-European planetary hegemony based on a future pan-Aryan religion.” To that end, Jorjani praises the Japanese for moving “beyond” what he calls “Asian values” by becoming Western and therefore more “Aryan.” As honorary Aryans, the Japanese have a special, if secondary, place in his proposed pan-Aryan world Reich.
You will remember this praise because it is the same praise Hitler gave to the Japanese in making them official “honorary Aryans” in 1936. I would be remiss if I did not note that the claim was widespread in the West. Theodore Roosevelt, for example, praised the Japanese for their Westernization, though the Nazis took the claims much farther.
Nishida, for what it’s worth, wasn’t as pro-Aryan or pro-war as Jorjani made him seem, but there was a disturbing pattern throughout the book. Every philosopher whose name I wasn’t familiar with, upon researching, turned out to be an influence on Nazis, an actual Nazi party member, a onetime member of the Nazi armed forces, or an apologist for Nazism. In a book devoted to philosophy, I would estimate than at least 75% of the philosophers discussed were German, and in total all but a handful like William James and Jacques Vallée (who isn’t actually a philosopher) fell into one of those National Socialist-adjacent categories.
I had never heard the claim that the Buddha was a white guy before. It turns out that there is a tradition that the Buddha (Siddhārtha Gautama) had blue eyes. Blue eyes can be found in parts of the subcontinent. They are one of the 32 signs of a Great Man in Buddhism. (Flat feet are another!) I am less able to source claims that the Buddha had red hair and white skin. The claim of red hair does appear in literature, but usually in describing certain artistic depictions of the Buddha, in which he has red hair to contrast with his black skin. I find that the Theosophists tried to racialize Buddhism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by trying to make it into an Indo-European faith. Here is what Anagārika Dharmapāla, Sri Lankan colleague of Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott, the founders of the Theosophical Society, said of it: Buddhism is “an Aryan religion founded upon the Aryan Dharma, promulgated by an Aryan, preached by the Aryans to the Aryans.”
This Theosophical idea, the final form of old colonialist narratives that sought to propose that all good things on the subcontinent came from the Aryan invasion, seems to have flowed directly into Jorjani’s work, possibly through Nazi apologetics. You will recall that Heinrich Himmler sent an expedition to Tibet in the 1930s tin the hope of finding remnant Aryan populations among Tibetan Buddhists. According to biographers of Himmler, the SS leader was influenced by Theosophy and explicitly sought connections between primitive German Aryanism and Indian and Tibetan religious traditions. Himmler’s Ahnenerbe explicitly studied Buddhism in order to justify its “Aryan” origins and attempted to constructed from it an Aryan religion that would replace “Jewish” Abrahamic faith.
Does it surprise you that Jorjani also advocates using Buddhism as a model for an Aryan world religion that can serve as a bulwark against Abrahamic faiths?
Every part of his book is white nationalist apologetics, barely disguised. Even the most innocent-seeming claims, and even the occasional praise of non-German cultures, is really just warmed over Nazism, stripped of its one-time political utility and parroted back as an article of faith.
At least the Nazis were more original in faking Aryan scholarship.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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