The Way of Absolute Detachment

Savitri Devi

Editor's Note

On 20 February 1949, Savitri Devi was arrested in Cologne for distributing National Socialist propaganda. She was tried on 5 April 1949 before a military tribunal in Düsseldorf and sentenced to three years imprisonment in Werl prison. (She was released on 18 August 1949 by the British, in response to a request from Indian Prime Minister Nehru.) On 31 May 1949, her cell was searched and the manuscripts of her unfinished books Gold in the Furnace (the "lost manuscript" to which she refers) and The Lightning and the Sun, as well as the finished manuscript of Impeachment of Man, were seized. She was told that if they contained anything objectionable to the authorities, they would be destroyed.

-- RGF

On the next day, Sunday, the 5th June, I remained in bed.

I was wide-awake -- I had hardly slept. And I was not tired. But having nothing to do, nothing to read, I did not feel urged to get up. So there I lay thinking, as always, about my lost manuscript; hoping, for a while that they would not destroy it, and then, refusing to hope; not daring to hope; and dreaming of the days when all these and worse memories of the long persecution would appear to me, and to us all, as a nightmare forever ended.

As every Sunday, in the corridor of the D wing, at the corner of the A wing, the church services were taking place: first the Catholic, then the Evangelical. From, my cell, I could hear the other prisoners singing hymns. And again I was shocked, as I always had been from the beginning -- I who, consistently, had never attended those services -- at the thought of my true comrades of the D wing singing Christian hymns and listening to sermons about the adventures of some Jews two thousand years ago or more, in illustration of so-called virtues, most of which [are] utterly foreign to our ideals. The explanation that H.E. [Hertha Ehlert] had once given me, namely that the few real National Socialists of the D wing like herself attended the church services out of sheer boredom, did not satisfy me. I could understand how one of us could put up a show in the interest of the cause, but not just out of "boredom." Or did these women want to give the authorities the impression that they were "reformed" or at least reformable, so as to be released, if possible, a little sooner? That was perhaps the reason why they went through the church farce with such stupendous regularity. And H.E. had not wished to tell me, lest I might, within my heart, censure such opportunism. Yet, I would have preferred to see a woman like her attend church services for a definite practical reason of that nature, rather than out of boredom ...

I heard a noise in the key-hole, and turned my head towards the door. To my delight, it was Frau S.

"In bed still, our vanguard fighter?" (Unsere Vorkämpferin) said she, considering me with a kind, although somewhat ironical smile.

I made a move to get up. "No, no; stay in," insisted Frau S, "I was only teasing you. I know you need rest. I have brought you ... a cup of real coffee ..."

I gazed at her intently. I was moved, happy. Tears filled my eyes. "Even if they do send me back to India, as they say, I shall not stay there for ever," said I. "One day, when I come back, when everything is in order, I shall meet you again. It will then be sweet to remember the times of persecution." I spoke with enthusiasm, as though I could visualise the staggering future of our dreams through the mist of the depressing present.

"In the meantime, drink your coffee," said Frau S., "or it will get cold." I sat up and sipped the hot, strong, sweet, lovely coffee, while Frau S., after pulling the door behind her, seated herself upon the stool, near my bed.

"What did the Governor tell you, the day before yesterday?" she asked me, after a silence. "And what did you tell him?"

"He promised me he would not have my manuscript destroyed before seeing me and giving me it chance to defend it." replied I; "and I begged him to let me keep, it merely as a remembrance of my life in jail. I told him that I do not intend ever to publish it ..."

A mischievous smile brightened Frau S's stern, energetic face. I looked at her enquiringly. And she answered the question which I had not explicitly put to her, but that she had guessed. "No need to ask me why I am smiling," said she:

"You know it well enough."

"I don't; I really don't," replied I. I loved Frau S. But somehow, I was not willing to disclose my secret thoughts, even to her. I was so afraid that the slightest indiscretion of mine would destroy, in the invisible, the effect of my studied lies, that I kept on lying, to her also. I even tried myself to believe what I had told the Governor, knowing that, in the invisible, belief as such has a potency, even if it be the belief in a lie. I wanted Frau S's belief -- and my own, if that were possible -- to strengthen that of the Governor, in some mysterious way, and thus to influence his decision in favour of my book. I was afraid that the truth, once I expressed it, even once I admitted it to myself, would, somehow, in the invisible, destroy that belief. So I added: "I meant it when I told the Governor that I did not wish to publish my book about Germany." But Frau S. saw through me. She smiled more mischievously than ever.

"I don't know whether the Governor will believe you," said she; "but I certainly don't. Assuming he gives you back your manuscript, you might not publish it at once, for that would be downright impossible. But you will publish it as soon as you can -- as soon as you know it is possible to do so without endangering any of us. I know you will, because I know you."

"Do you think you know me enough to be able to tell when I lie and when I speak the truth?" asked I.

"I can guess your natural reluctance to lies," replied Frau S. "But I know, also, that you are a genuine Nazi. That is, enough. In the interest of the cause, you are capable of anything. You have proved it, now, once more."

She had analyzed me well. I felt a gush of pride and joy swell my breast. Had I, during the great days, in front of everybody, been given a decoration für treue Dienst ["for loyal service"], I could not have been happier. "Frau S.," exclaimed I, "you have explicitly conferred unto me the highest title of glory to which a twentieth century Aryan can aspire. May I never cease to deserve it!"

I paused for a minute to think, to feel all that her words meant to me. "Whether they destroy my writings or not," reflected I, "may my life remain, in true, unrecorded history, the first living tribute of allegiance of the outer Aryan world to the Führer, the Savior of the Race, and to his predestined Nation! Oh, I am happy! Whether I lie remembered or forgotten, I want these words: echte Nationalsozialistin ["genuine (female) national socialist"], to remain true of me, for ever and ever ..." Frau S. smiled at me once more. "I have not paid you a false compliment," said she. "I simply told you what I know. You might deceive these people. You cannot deceive me."

"I don't really want to," said I, smiling in my turn. And I added, handing back to her the cup that I had just emptied: "I thank you for the coffee. It was lovely!"

"I'll bring you some more this afternoon."

"There is one thing I would like you to bring me -- if you can," said I; "that is to say, if they, have given it back to you ..."

"What?" "That book, Menschen Schönheit ["Human Beauty"], that you lent me before they searched my cell. I have nothing to do, nothing to read: and I love that book."

"They have given it back to me," replied Frau S. "You shall have it." And in fact, she went and fetched it for me before taking leave of me.

Thus, after washing and dressing, I once more admired those pictures of German youths and maidens, mothers and children, of the days of pride and prosperity, as perfect as the masterpieces in stone or color of which the editor had placed the photographs on the opposite pages. And once more I felt, in contemplating them: "That is what I have been longing for, all my life; that, the beauty of the perfect Aryan"'

There was not a word of "politics" in the whole book. There was no need to be. The pictures alone proclaimed, more forcefully than all possible comments, the eternal glory of the National Socialist regime. For what justifies a regime, if not the quality of the human élite of which it forwards the growth and the domination?

Bronze Age WarriorI looked at the photograph of a blond adolescent, with regular, thoughtful, manly features, and an athletic body, leaning against a stone parapet. On the same page, was the picture of a young German warrior, taken from a Roman bas-relief: the same face as that of the modern Hitler-youth -- glaring proof of the sacred continuity of blood, from the soldiers of Hermann whom the Romans dreaded, to the companions of Horst Wessel. On another page were two beautiful young men of the purest North German type, wielding the bow; opposite, an ancient Greek bowman exactly like them -- glaring proof of the unity of the Aryan race in its original purity. I recalled in my mind a sentence of my lost book -- the explanation of my whole admiring attitude to the Hitler regime; the expression of the fact that I found in it the perfect answer to my life-long quest of all-round beauty in living mankind: "I know nothing, in the modern world, as beautiful as the Nazi youth." Beautiful, not only physically, but in character, also; the embodiment of those great Aryan virtues which alone can lift the natural élite of men to super-manhood. And for the millionth time, I thought: "Glory to the Man, glory to the regime who, out of the enslaved Germany of the early 'nineteen twenties,' has brought forth that!" [Image: "Bronze Age Warrior" -- NS Art.]

I also thought -- and that, too, for the millionth time: "For the establishment, the maintenance, the defense of such a regime, anything is permissible, nay, anything is commendable, contrarily to that which the believers in the 'equal rights of man' preach from morning to night in the interest of the human parasites who thrive on the corruption and degeneracy of their betters." How I had always hated that type of preaching! How I had, from my childhood, always opposed my morality to that of the upholders of I know not what mysterious "dignity of the human person" of which I failed to see any evidence in real life, and which I refused to admit as a dogma!

I remembered how, when I was twelve the teacher in the French school where I used to go had once made me stand for a whole hour in the corner, my face to the wall, as a punishment for having declared openly that the so-called 'ideals' of the French Revolution disgusted me. And how, another time in the same school, I had been punished for pulling out my tongue at the plaster bust of the French Republic that stood in the corridor -- the symbol of all I hated -- and how I had cared little for the punishment, so glad I was to feel that I had insulted and defied the detested symbol. And how I reacted to the poems of Victor Hugo, whom I was told I 'must' admire -- but whose idiotic equalitarian sentimentalism and belief in 'progress' through learning alone, merely succeeded in irritating me beyond bearing, and in setting me fanatically, and definitely, against all silly morality centered around 'man' as such -- that morality which all expected me to accept as a matter of course.

I did not know, then, that this thoroughly Pagan, thoroughly Aryan scale of values which [had] already rendered me so unpopular would become, in a few years' time, thanks to the makers of the Nazi regime, the scale of values of a new civilization. Now, I knew that the new civilization would impose itself in the long run and that, along with my German comrades and a few other non-German Aryans like myself. I was already a part and parcel of it.

It was, no doubt, in a way, "new," thought I. But it was also not new. It was, as the Führer had himself said, "in harmony with the original meaning of things" (Mein Kampf, II, Chap. II, p. 440) -- eternal. It aimed at stemming the physical and moral decay of modern, technically "advanced" humanity by forcing it -- by forcing its racial élite, at least -- to live in accordance with the ultimate purpose of Nature, which is not to make individuals "happy," nor even to make nations "happy," but to evolve supermankind -- living godhead -- out of the existing master races, first of all, out of the Pure Aryan. Happiness is a bourgeois conception, definitely. It is not our concern. We want animals to be happy -- and inferior men, also, to the extent their happiness does not disturb the New Order. We believe higher mankind has better things to do. The Aryan world, remolded by us after our final triumph, will no longer think in terms of happiness like the decadent world of today. It will think in terms of duty -- like the early Vedic world, the early Christian world, the early Islamic world; like the world at the time of any great new beginning. But it will, in spirit, resemble the early Vedic world far more than either the Christian or the Islamic. For the duty it will live for will not be the duty to love all men as one's self, nor to consider them all as potential brothers in faith; it will be the duty to love the integral beauty of one's race above one's self and above all things, and to contribute to its fullest expression, at any cost, by any means, because such is the divine purpose of Nature.

A former SS man had once told me: "The first duty of a National Socialist is to be beautiful," (physically, and on all planes) -- words worthy of an ancient Greek; words of an Aryan of all times. And my comrade Herr A -- who without having served in the Waffen SS is just as devoted a follower of Adolf Hitler as any of those who have -- had once told me: "A National Socialist should have no weaknesses" -- words that I had remembered so many times since my manuscript, into which I bad put so much love, had been in danger of being destroyed. And I reflected that, indeed, unless one had "no weaknesses," one could not be perfectly beautiful; that every weakness is a flaw in the steel of one's character; a tendency to sacrifice beauty to happiness, duty to individual ties, the future to the present, the eternal to the illusory; that it is a definite possibility of decay. Only out of flawless elements can living gods emerge. The man whose life is a thing of integral beauty, the man with no weaknesses is the man with no ties, who performs duty with ruthless thoroughness and with serenity.

And I asked myself: "Am I really without ties? Am I serene?' If I were, I would not worry over the possible destruction of my manuscripts, after having done all I could to save them.

Godafoss Falls, Northern IcelandI recalled my visit to Godafoss, in northern Iceland, in June, 1947.

I had been told that, some time after the year 1000, a man named Thorgeir, who was a "godi" -- a priest of the Nordic Gods -- in the region of Ljosvatn, in North Iceland, became a Christian. And, that as a spectacular demonstration of his allegiance to the new foreign faith -- and perhaps, in his mind, as "an example" -- he had taken the images of the old Gods and thrown them publicly into the waterfall of the river Skjalvantaflyot, known ever since as Godafoss: the Waterfall of the Gods.

Deeply moved, I had gone myself to the spot, and stood by the Waterfall and thought of those Gods -- Odin, and Thor, and Baldur the Fair and the others, whom my own Viking ancestors once worshipped -- lying, for more than nine hundred years at the bottom of the icy waters of the Skjalvantaflyot, waiting for the dawn of the new times, for the great Heathen Renaissance; waiting for us -- for me. I had brought with me a paper on which I had copied the words that the French poet Leconte de Lisle puts in the mouth of a Norse god addressing the meek Child Jesus, come to overthrow his power:

"... Thou shalt die in thy turn!
Nine times, I swear it, by the immortal Runes,
Thou shalt die like I, god of the new souls!
For man will survive. Twenty centuries of suffering
Will make his flesh bleed and his tears flow,
Until the day when thy yoke, tolerated two, thousand years,
Will weigh heavily upon the necks of rebellious races;
When thy temples, standing in their midst
Will become an object of mockery to the people;
Then, thy time will be up ..."

("... Tu mourras à ton tour:
J'atteste par neuf fois les Runas immortelles.
Tu mourras comme moi, Dieu des âmes nouvelles,
Car l'homme survivra! Vingt siècles de douleurs
Feront saigner sa chair et misseler ses pleurs
Jusqu'au jour où ton joug, subi deux mille années
Fatiguera le cou des races mutinées;
Où tes temples, dressés parmi les nations,
Deviendront en risée aux générations;
Et ce sera ton heure."

--Leconte de Lisle, Poèmes Barbares, "Le Runoïa.")

My right arm outstretched towards the East, I had recited those verses, and then, thrown the paper into the roaring cataract. And then -- although I had not yet recovered hope; although disaster had, in my eyes, postponed, perhaps for years and years, the great Heathen renaissance of my dream -- I had spoken to the old Gods. "Gods of the North, brothers of the Vedic Gods that India still reveres," had I said, "Aryan Gods, Gods of my race, you know that I have all my life upheld the values that you once embodied in the hearts of your worshippers. Oh, whatever be the destiny to which you call me, you whom my mother's ancestors invoked in the midst of lightning and thunder, upon the furious waves of the North Sea, help me never to cease fighting for our great ideals; never to cease fighting for the cult of youth, of health, of strength, for the cult of the Sun -- for Your truth, our truth -- wherever it be in the world, until I die!"
Thorgeir Casts Old Gods Into Falls
Woodcut: Thorgeir Thorkelsson, the heathen priest of Ljosawater, throws carved images of the ancestral Norse gods into the falls.

And having said that, I had felt a cold thrill run along my spine, and I had been overwhelmed by a consciousness of infinite solemnity, as though I had just become the instrument of a long-prepared and long-expected rite; as though the Norse Gods, discarded by their priest Thorgeir, had really been waiting for my symbolical gesture. It was 10:30 p.m. but broad day-light, as it is natural in June, at that latitude. And I had suddenly remembered that it was the 9th of June, the seventh anniversary of the day on which, also at 10:30 p.m., a Brahmin, representative of easternmost Aryandom, had held my hand in his over the sacred fire and given me his name and protection. And I had felt that my visit to the Waterfall of the Gods, and my symbolical gesture on such a day had a meaning in the invisible; that there was there more than a mere coincidence. Now, I remembered that episode, which took, in the, light of in history during these two Years, a greater symbolical value than ever. "Gods of the North. Gods of the strong," thought I, "Aryan Gods, teach me that detachment without which there is no real strength, no, lasting efficiency! Make me a worthy witness of your truth -- of our truth. Rid me of all weaknesses!"