The Agni and The Ecstasy by Steven J. Rosen
I have read The Agni and The Ecstasy by Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa). The book consists of a collection of essays discussing Hinduism – to be more precise topics related to Vaishnava and the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) – more commonly known as the Hare Krishna movement.
As I mentioned in Podcast Episode 16. Dauntless, I have begun my quest to gain as many esoteric and spiritual insights as possible. I noticed that Arktos, great procurers of this kind of material, had published this work. The book caught my eye and I am happy it did. It contains some valuable insights. If you are interested in Indian spiritual tradition, I can definitely recommend it. Below are some aspects that I thought were interesting.
God, Hinduism, Polytheism
The most interesting and illuminating essays in the book are those discussing God. It is often said that Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, but one could also argue that it is a monist religion, since God is in everything, and the many gods are but reflections of God. In my Podcast Episode 16. Dauntless, I briefly discuss the topic and refer to the Neoplatonist teaching of The One. This is a discussing beyond the scope of this article, but definitely a topic I will return to.
I decided to ask my friend John B. Morgan about the polytheist nature of Hinduism. John is the editor of the book and has edited many interesting books besides this one. I can also add that John has done a tremendous work with the books (many of Evola’s works for example) he has edited – the footnotes greatly helps the reader understand the context of older literature. It is as if John’s spirit guides you through the texts!
John: The first thing is that there really isn’t any religion of “Hinduism,” which is really a misnomer created first by the Muslims and then the British when they in turn ruled the country, since they needed to come up with a label for all these people for bureaucratic convenience.
What “Hinduism” really is, is hundreds if not thousands of different traditions and forms of practice that are only connected by virtue of the fact that they involve the same deities, and in some way trace themselves back to the four Vedas. Apart from that, however, the traditions are more characterized by diversity than similarity.
More traditional Hindus today in India tend to reject the “Hindu” label and use the term “Sanatana Dharma” to describe their religion, which roughly means “eternal duty.”
Alain Danielou is one of the best writers on Hinduism, by the way. He was a friend of Guenon’s, although not quite a Traditionalist.
Now as for your specific question, it depends on the specific sampradaya that is being described, but generally, Hindus tend to see one of the deities as the “main God” whereas the other deities are more like his assistants, and in some way derive from him. So for example Gaudiya Vaishnavas like Steven Rosen see Krishna as God, and the other deities (Shiva, Brahma, Durga, etc.) are demigods who assist him. Shaivites, for their part, see Shiva as God and the others as demigods. And so on and so forth. There is a strand of Sanatana Dharma where the adherents try to worship all the gods equally, but it’s a very small sect.
The passage below is taken from the essay Of Idols and Deities: Coming to Grips with a Misunderstood Form of Worship, and explains, in my humble opinion, quite well what some people refer to as ‘idol worship‘
‘… the Lord in His archa-murti, or form made of material elements, is not material, for those elements, although separated from the Lord, are also part of the Lord’s energy, as stated in Bhagavad Gita. Because the elements are the Lord’s own energy and because there is no difference between the energy and the energetic, the Lord can appear through any element. Just as the sun can act through the sunshine and thus distribute its heat and light, so Krishna, in His inconceivable power, can appear in His original spiritual form in any material element, including stone, wood, paint, gold, silver, and jewels…’His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The main prayer of the Hare Krishna movement – the great mantra – may be familiar: ‘Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.’ This translates as ‘O Lord! O energy of the Lord! Please engage me in your divine service.’
As I have mentioned, I have meditated quite a bit as of late. Chants are a good way to enter a different state of mind. This is a topic I will return to when I have come further upon my path of enlightenment. Moreover, since we are on the topic of chants, I must say that I have always had a penchant for Gregorian Chants. I mention this to emphasise the fact that many Eastern spiritual aspects can be found – albeit in a different form – in the West. In mentioning this, we move closer to a discussion of Philosophia perennis (Perennial philosophy), which will be discussed in coming videos and Podcast episodes. Here is a meditative and harmonious version of the mantra: MAHA MANTRAS :- HARE KRISHNA HARE RAMA.
‘The (Bhagavad) Gita specifies exactly what should be offered: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, I will accept it.” (9.26) Other references in the Vaishnava literature confirm that fruits, vegetables, grain, nuts, and dairy products are fit for human consumption. Followers of the Gita thus refrain from meat, fish, poultry, and eggs, since these are not sanctioned by either the scriptures or the sages. A vegan diet also fits nicely with Vaishnava dietary prerequisites.’
The author, in accord with Vedic teaching, promotes a vegetarian diet. This is similar to how the Cathar Pure Ones only ate fruit. I wrote about the Cathar Pure Ones in my book review of Otto Rahn’s Crusade Against the Grail. Only eating fruit, Cathar-style, is a bit harder than just being a vegetarian. Vegetarians are still allowed to eat dairy and usually eggs (but not in this case).
In my own physical ascent, I have relied heavily on both dairy (milk, whey, cottage cheese etc.) and eggs. Purely in terms of putting on muscle-mass you can go a long way even as a vegetarian. However, for optimal health it is recommended to eat meat – meat is the true superfood (in addition to animal products such as bone-broth and liver). Moreover, foregoing eggs (another true superfood) is not a sound approach to nutrition.
My perspective on diet is the following: we are currently involved in a titanic struggle to save our very civilisation from destruction. In order for me, as an agent of European restoration, to perform as well as possible, I must optimise everything. One’s diet influences everything else. Thus, in order for me optimise my cognitive performance, I must eat meat.
Dairy, eggs, meat, and fruit = the good stuff!
Aryan Invasion Theory
The author, in the essay Deconstructing Hari: The Creation of the Universe and the Origins of Disciplic Succession, incorrectly states that the Aryan Invasion Theory is ‘seriously questionable’. In fact, the theory has been proven to be correct. For an in-depth video on the subject, I can highly recommend the following video by respected video-maker and historian Thomas Rowsell:
Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Portuguese, Mughals
In the essay Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: The Father of Modern Kirtan the author introduces Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who was a spiritual teacher active in India during the late 1400s. Kirtan is a style of chant, set to music. Here is a modern example of a Hare Krishna kirtan: Hare Krishna kirtan by Kishori Yatra at Boston Ratha Yatra 2019.
The author notes that the late 1400s was the time when European explorers came to India in search of treasure. He points out that they did indeed find much wealth: silks, spices, artwork, and magnificent jewels, but missed India’s real treasure; its spiritual teachings. To read more about this time period from a non-spiritual perspective, you can read my review of Roger Crowley’s excellent book Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire. Great as the spiritual wealth of India was, it could not compare to the prestige and fame its material wealth brought to the Europeans who came to the subcontinent.
Something else that happened during that time, namely the Mughal invasion. Babur – a descendant of Timur the Great – invaded India and established the Mughal empire in 1526. I have read the truly epic Empire of the Moghul series, which consists of six books and starts with Babur. I can highly recommend the books.
The third book in the series, Ruler of the World, follows the life of the greatest Moghul emperor, Akbar. He is renowned for his religious tolerance. In a letter to his son Humayun, Akbar writes the following:
‘Oh my son! The realm of Hindustan is full of diverse creeds. Praise be to God … that He has granted unto thee the empire of it. It is but proper that you, with heart cleansed of all religious bigotry, should dispense justice according to the tenets of each community. And in particular refrain from the sacrifice of cow, for that way lies the conquest of the hearts of the people of Hindustan; and the subjects of the realm will, through royal favour, be devoted to thee. And the temples and abodes of worship of every community under the imperial sway, you should not damage. Dispense justice so that the sovereign may be happy with the subjects and likewise the subjects with their sovereign. The progress of Islam is better by the sword of kindness, not by the sword of oppression.’
Taj Mahal was commissioned by the Moghul emperor Shah Jahan (Akbar’s grandson) to entomb his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal.
On a similar note, I recently watched the Indian film Jodhaa Akbar, which is about Akbar and one of his wives, Jodhaa. Related to the aforementioned Aryan Invasion Theory, the actor who plays Akbar, Hrithik Roshan, does indeed look very Indo-European. The following music scene is seen after Akbar announces the abolishment of the pilgrim tax (which Hindus had to pay).
In addition to being a great song, the choreography is spectacular. Moreover, even though this is from a film, it is not unreasonable to believe that a similar love as shown in this scene was felt by the people to their emperor during Akbar’s reign.
Many people in the modern world may have a hard time understanding the love a people can feel for a just ruler – this is hardly strange, considering the fact that the majority of leaders today (especially in the West) are degenerates. A ruler who does well for his people will, most likely, be loved by his people. Akbar is an inspiration in this regard! I talk more about the archetype of the Philosopher Prince and the Enlightened Despot in Podcast Episode 13. Archetypes.
To end on a light-hearted note, I thought it would be fun to introduce MC Yogi, a hip-hop artist from San Fransisco who incorporates Hindu teachings in his songs. I never thought I would write about such a concept as Hip-Hop Hinduism – but here we are! The reason for mentioning this is because an interview with him is included in the book, where the author interviews MC Yogi. The music style is not my cup of tea, but it is fun to see different expressions of art. Now you too are aware of MC Yogi!
Again, I can recommend the book if you are interested in the spiritual treasures of India. It definitely gave me a some new insights as well as further motivation to continue on the esoteric path!