Almost a thousand years of cultural onslaught have left Hindus apologetic about their beliefs. They are keen to mould them into the framework dominated by a monotheistic mindset which holds sway even when it is mutated into terms such as rational, scientific and even atheist. Such is the power of monotheism that it infects even ideologies which purport to be antagonistic to any form of religious belief and it does so without most of us even realising.
Not widely known but John Gray is one of the western world’s most profound philosophers , and with his 2007 publication ‘Black Mass’ which is perhaps the most underrated book of the century thus so far. For those who thought that any attack on aggressive atheism would come from evangelical style preaching were sorely mistaken. Derided as being too negative even for nihilists, Gray uses calm and cogent methodology to unravel the Christian worldview which we take for granted in spheres which we would never have imagined. For instance the seemingly innocuous subject of economics has its theoretical springboard in Christianity, in both Marxist statism and free market libertarianism.
The common denominator is the utopia which they promise their disciples. One only needs to observe how dogmatic people of various political persuasions cling to the amorphous ‘theory’ in the wake of its failure in the real world. In all cases the ‘theory’ must be right and it is humans that are flawed having polluted the perfect ‘theory’. If this sounds disturbingly like religious fundamentalism then that is because to all intents and purposes it is.
If Richard Dawkins acts like an aggressive evangelist that is because in his own way he is one because bizarrely his atheism needs religion to exist in order to deny it. The ‘theory’ is the god in whatever form it is manifest. It is the only true being worthy of worship and commands blind obedience. Gray warns us that denial and especially suppression of religious belief will lead to its resurrection in grotesque formats. Hence the ‘self-improvement’ groups which are in fact very successful cults using the format bequeathed to them by monotheism to force down their unbending message without compromise.
Essential to all these is the sense of crisis which has its origins in Christianity’s idea of the End-Time. Earlier cultures did not believe this. Instead they held to a cyclical view of world history. That which exists must necessarily be destroyed. Out of ashes it is then recreated. While the millenarianism of Christianity has been secularised into the rarely questioned assumption that that future will always entail progress, this has not always brought benefits. In fact it has induced a false sense of flattered egotism via an assumed reality centred on the state of ‘present’ which refuses to examine that the entire human mindset has been put through a state of historical disconnect. It is therefore not surprising that Hindus are keen to be seen as gravitating towards this norm when even cultures that unambiguously spoke to cyclical views of history have been remoulded by monotheistic imperialism to assume a millenarian attire. For example the Mayan prophecies are said to speak of a cataclysmic destruction and a literal apocalypse in December 2012. But the records and calculations actually refer to the end of an era and the dawn of a new age. That is in keeping with how other ancient cultures viewed history.
If John Gray is little known even in western countries then we can expect little justice to be accorded to the pioneering work of Hindu scholars Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel. Towards the end of the twentieth century they laboured almost unknown even in their native India towards giving Hindus back their own history and cultural awareness. In doing so they attacked the very assumption that monotheism was superior, which as I have explained, is something which even today we take for granted. Even many people in the west who regard themselves as multicultural and having respect for other cultures would nevertheless assume that those deemed of lesser quality on the hierarchy remain in their place and at a safe distance. But this is like admiring nature solely through taxidermy.
However both Swarup and Goel had the one major advantage that unlike most other cultures, the Indian tradition had never been completely obliterated by the monotheist onslaught and thereby had kept ties to its ancient roots. Many times they wrote how as western pagans began to rediscover their long suppressed past it was India ’s surviving spirituality which would help them overcome the mental rust of monotheism. India not only survived but it fought back when physically threatened. Under the inspiration of the Mother goddess Bhavani the great Hindu pagan warrior Shivaji was one of many such figures fought to save this ancient culture from the attack of aggressive monotheism which brought slavery, genocide and devastation in its wake, all in the service to that one true jealous god. In the modern age the pen is mightier than the sword and the keyboard can be more influential than the Kalashnikov.
As western countries shake off the crushing weight of dogmatic religion they find that the monotheist curse remains in the secular ideologies which have replaced a once omnipotent church. Confused by generations of despiritualisation which pushed blind rituals over meaningful insight and outward aggression over the sense of an inward journey of self-awareness, they are easy prey to the secular cults which retain a sense of purpose.
Those that wish to find their pagan roots unintentionally give it the same structure of the backward monotheistic toxin which they left behind. It is for this reason that Swarup and Goel felt that India was essential to help Europe ’s pagans and indeed other long suppressed indigenous cultures. As India ’s rise leads to renewed interests in the ancient culture of that country it will also allow Hindus to not only shake off the monotheistic straightjacket but by doing so help the rest of humanity to do the same.
By Ranbir Singh