Bhagavan Das on the Evils Of Nationalism
Liberals used to be nationalists too, but these nationalists were also cosmopolitans, internationalists, patriotic, lovers of antiquity, who romanticized the Golden Ages of ancient civilizations. In our day, liberals have conceded to give these qualities alone to their adversaries, who exploit by perpetually putting into question their love for their country. Articles read Nationalism, or Internationalism, and the American left and liberals of present-day scorn all things of old as contaminated by the legacy of racism. Therefore, like the simplistic sharp divide of nationalism or internationalism, there are either traditionalists (and conservatives) or progressives, past or future, etc.
Many today that say “borders divide,” like to quote Thomas Paine, when he called himself a “citizen of the world,” forgetting, that in that same work just lines after, Thomas Paine explained his belief in the concept of national sovereignty, and the belief in the history of peoples sharing a spiritual destiny.
Bhagavan Das, witness to some historical changes in his time, is seeing that nationalism has degenerated, and this is the context of his critique. Bhagavan Das states in the section EVILS OF NATIONALISM:
“There can be no more worse hell than war. In accordance with the realization of this fact, which is indeed obvious to eyes not blinded by those same evil motives, youth movements have been afoot for sometime in many western countries. They are intended to bring up the new generation in the purer moral and spiritual atmosphere of internationalist and humanist feeling, in place of nationalism. This ‘nationalism,’ useful while simply defensive and self-helping, and while duly subordinated to humanism, has now degenerated into something very offensive and aggressive and other-harming. Indeed it is now nothing else than vulgar bullyism on a large scale, inherently barbarous and unregenerate, and provocative of more and more murderous conflicts.” (Das 29)
Unfortunately for Bhagavan Das, he does not live into the 1960s, or better yet the 1990s. As of today, the same negative things he says about nationalism has happened in turn to internationalism. Internationalism has lost its face of humanism, and merely represents universal planetary Western-style identity dominating and forcing itself on the world in the name of democracy.
In addition to this issue, modern spirituality is largely seen as a Leftist agenda in the 20th century by the political Right, and people of this thinking were very active and dogmatic in their internationalist and globalist agendas. I will explain the irony and realities of this.
Dr. Bhagavan Das is not only interested in the social and political upliftment of India, he was mainly interested in showing the essential unity of the principles of ancient religion.
“Such Universal Religion has been provided for us, by the Scriptures of the Nations; and such a Scheme of Socio-Individual Organisation, by the Vedic Scriptures in particular, as fundamental part of Religion; because Religion, to justify itself, must be of help and service everywhere, must secure, for the human being, the maximum possible, of Happiness Here as well as Hereafter.” (BHAGAVAN DAS, THE ESSENTIAL UNITY OF ALL RELIGIONS, P. XXIII.)
In our attempts to retreat to mystical subjectivism, some of us have forgotten, or deliberately closed their eyes to the fact how politically-minded and motivated these people were; and how much different spiritual groups were dedicated to beliefs they each believed could better society. So, each of them thought differently. Blavatsky was intimately with Italian nationalism and Garibaldi and Mazzini (called by some scholars pre-fascist and a political terrorist of guerilla tactic) of the Risorgimento. One of H.P. Blavatsky teachers and associate, the Polish Jewish Kabbalist, under the pseudonym of Max Théon was a political idealist, his wife, Alma Théon (born Mary Ware and later known as The Mother) tells us in her writings. He desired to mould society on the basis of Plato’s republic.
This desire to model society after these ideas is in so many of both ancient and modern Platonist writers. Hence, they carry a political, moral and spiritual vision of The Good, and organizing civilization upon the “Platonic Ideal.” So, here also in the very book of Bhagavan Das, The Essential Unity of All Religions, where he is directly writing about what constitutes Good Government and what should the role and functions of government be. So, I could not be told he is not political. He is living in the age of Indian nationalism, and spiritual movements were definitely not apolitical.
Annie Besant was political from the beginning before Theosophy. This did not stop once she was a Theosophist. Alice Bailey, a former Theosophist, was political. Her books contain plenty of political ideas and proposals.
As American writer Rebecca Solnit wrote, “politics is pervasive. Everything is political and the choice to be “apolitical” is usually just an endorsement of the status quo and the unexamined life.” Perhaps, not everything is political, surely, but that was Besant’s outlook. I simply know, that we cannot say the ideas were not political, since Besant and Leadbeater sought to construct the idea of a “World Government” headed by their bogus “World Teacher.” This was not the original theosophical mission, but to explain how that got there, we must mention the political dimension of these ideas. Some Theosophists have expressed to me, that they do not like the political dimension of my writings. However, I cannot avoid facts for their comfort, because explaining these things actually educate and dispel conspiratorial pseudo-history and slander.
Alice Bailey formulates the entire internationalist idea of the “New World Order” in the 1920s in her books long before George H.W. Bush’s 1991 Speech. However, because people have not studied the history, and carry a dangerous misconception that Alice Bailey and Annie Besant are continuations of the ideas of the woman (H.P.B.) they claim gave them authority, though she did not and it can be proven she did not, any person is able to fill in the gaps with conspiracy. Therefore, I cannot run and say ‘there is no politics there.’ This would be a lie.
Das’s writings were great and highly detailed, but the thinking of Bhagavan Das is to my mind natural given the long history, peoples, cultures that lived side-by-side in India. I believe though, that this thinking however did not translate well in Western European and American culture, because this history mostly deals with the contention between Christian denominations and sects (e.g., the history and development of religious pluralism in the U.S.), rather than in India with Jainism, Sikhism, Islam, Hinduism, etc.
This attempt in the modern Western economy produced a superficial popular demand for a general spirituality that became commercialized through the 60s and a target of Christian Evangelicals. Then, it is said of Theosophy, that it is merely a petri-dish of religions. The mistakes made by later Theosophists did nothing to help against this perception. Irish-American Theosophist, W.Q. Judge warned this would happen, and did not welcome the prospect of such a future and the exploitation of the West in the form of Eastern spirituality, which unfortunately to the waste of his eloquent speech came true. We cannot leave it as unfortunate as it has developed thus far, which means we must continue developing Western notions of religion and spirituality. But we cannot do this halfway deluding ourselves, that we’re above what happens in the world, and the effects our ideas may have upon them.