The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds: An Up-Close Portrait of White Nationalist William Pierce
By Robert S. Griffin
1st Books Library, 2001, 434 pp., $23.35
Reading this book, one is reminded of the scene in a Marx Brothers movie when a flirtatious woman beckons to Groucho, “Come closer, come closer.” Tapping his cigar, Groucho replies, “If I got any closer, I’d be behind you.”
That pretty much sums up the relationship between white nationalist William Pierce, who died unexpectedly July 23, and his fawning admirer Robert S. Griffin, who has written an “up-close portrait” of America’s most prominent neo-Nazi.
In the acknowledgements to The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds, the author asserts that “Pierce cooperated fully and never once asked me to delete or change a thing.” This is not surprising as there is very little, if anything, that Pierce would object to in the text. Much of Griffin’s tome consists of tedious regurgitations of Pierce’s own words. The book often reads like an autobiography.
Evidently, the two men got along quite well when Griffin, a University of Vermont professor, spent a month at Pierce’s secluded white supremacist compound near Hillsboro, W. Va. Griffin also tagged along when Pierce traveled to Munich, Germany, in the fall of 1999 to attend a neo-Nazi political convention.
“I found him the most fascinating human being I’ve ever been around my life,” Griffin told Legal Times in a recent interview. “He is a very honorable man of the highest character.”
After his manuscript was turned down by mainstream publishers, Griffin peddled his labor of love as an E-book via the Internet. It quickly zoomed to No. 1 on the MightyWords bestseller list and a self-published print version came next.
William Luther Pierce, a former college physics professor, is best known for writing The Turner Diaries, the apocalyptic race-war novel that inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and several other antigovernment extremists who emerged from the bowels of America’s far-right, terrorist underground.
Griffin’s book includes lengthy summaries of The Turner Diaries and another rabidly anti-Semitic novel, Hunter, in which Pierce glorifies the terrorist exploits of a white vigilante who murders interracial couples.
Griffin plows through familiar territory while tracing Pierce’s career as a militant white supremacist. After a brief fling with the staunchly anti-communist John Birch Society in the 1950s and an apprenticeship with American Nazi Party chief George Lincoln Rockwell in the 1960s, Pierce launched what became the National Alliance, now the leading neo-Nazi group in the United States.
The National Alliance “is not a hate organization,” Pierce declares, “but instead a group dedicated to the welfare and progress of our people.”
Variations of the refrain that Pierce and his ilk are pro-white rather than anti-everybody else are repeated throughout the book. Griffin never challenges this canard or any other claims from Pierce. When Pierce asserts, for example, that “ethnic cleansing can be done without atrocities,” Griffin doesn’t see fit to ask how.
He ignores the fact that Pierce has written that his organization “will not be deterred” by what he euphemistically calls the “temporary unpleasantness involved” in creating a “white living space.”
According to Pierce, acceptable measures include herding his opponents into “10,000 railroad cattle cars” and sending them into an “abandoned coal mine.”
None of this prevents Griffin from casting Pierce as a deep thinker who grapples with profound philosophical issues. Pierce rejects Christianity as an alien religion, calling it “one of the major spiritual illnesses of our people.”
But Jews remain the main target of his wrath. After reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Pierce concludes that Jews are the scourge of mankind.
“If so truly a remarkable man as Hitler could be an anti-Semite, so too could William L. Pierce,” says Griffin, who tries “to explain what Pierce and others find appealing in Hitler’s pronouncements.”
We are told that America’s top neo-Nazi was fond of cats, not dogs, and that he frequently padded around his house in the nude. He watched James Bond movies. (“Sex and violence, that’s what I like,” Pierce chortled.) He always slept with a loaded gun by his bedside.
We also learn that Pierce married five times. He preferred immigrant women from Eastern Europe. He was sharp and condescending toward his last wife, who is identified with the pseudonym Irena, when he was not ignoring her. Irena was miserable living with the savior of the white race.
The author provides a few interesting details about Pierce’s family history. His mother’s ancestors were members of the aristocracy of the old South. His great-grandfather was governor of Alabama and attorney general of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
Pierce’s bigoted attitudes toward people of color were inculcated at an early age. He grew up in a Southern household with older relatives who treated a black servant like a virtual slave.
Pierce “cares a great deal about education,” says Griffin, who buttresses Pierce’s comments on political correctness in academia by assembling comments from several mainstream conservatives who apparently feel the same way.
At times it is difficult to discern whose ideas are being expressed in The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds — those of Pierce or Griffin.
Without attributing this statement to Pierce, the author writes: “If white children are in a school with large numbers of black children, it is safe to bet that the curriculum, academic standards, and assessment mechanisms will have been adjusted to ensure that white performance will be brought back to the level of the black students.”
One can almost feel the tears rolling down Griffin’s cheeks as he describes his departure from Pierce’s West Virginia redoubt at the end of the book: “Seventy or eighty feet down the dirt road, I stopped the car, paused a second, and then looked back up the hill, I guess to wave good-bye one last time — but Pierce had started back inside and was out of view.”
The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds is hardly a penetrating or critical study of William Pierce, but it does provide many details that will interest students of American neo-Nazism.
It also is a dangerous work, in the sense that Griffin’s repeated self-identification as a college professor, along with his completely uncritical presentation of his subject, help to lend an air of legitimacy to the ideas of the late William Luther Pierce.
The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds is an uncommon book about a contemporary American racialist. Rather than merely scan the dossiers of the Anti-Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center before interviewing his subject, author Robert Griffin took the trouble to immerse himself in the literature by and about the late William Pierce, one of the most radical voices on the racial right in the three and a half decades before his death last July. Thus Griffin knew the right questions to ask about Pierce’s
ideas and his singular career path from physics professor to colleague of American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell, and finally leader, spokesman, and chief propagandist of the National Alliance.
While troubled by his subject’s fixation on violence, Griffin, a professor of education at the University of Vermont, is clearly sympathetic to many of Pierce’s concerns about the direction of white America and the West, and his long sessions with Pierce, at the National Alliance headquarters in a remote area of West Virginia, were amicable as well as productive. Nonetheless The
Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds ably and objectively describes Pierce’s strengths as a thinker and his shortcomings as a leader.
Through the marathon interviews that make up the greater part of his book, Griffin has allowed Pierce his own voice. And what a voice! William Pierce’s impressive ability to speak conversationally in fully thoughtout, well organized paragraphs for hours (here, pages) on end, which this reviewer observed first hand as a member of the National Alliance in the late 1970s, was still very much intact when Griffin interviewed him in 1998. The result is several hundred pages of informed, intelligent, and thoughtful (if freewheeling) commentary on the most taboo topics of our time: race, racial differences, the Jewish question, and the imperative (in Pierce’s view) not merely of racial survival, but of evolution to something higher.
The book’s interviews are structured so that they yield Pierce’s oral autobiography, centered largely on his intellectual and spiritual awakening to the importance of the race issue (including chapters on such influences as Adolf Hitler, George Bernard Shaw, Revilo Oliver, and Savitri Devi) and on his subsequent efforts to act on his convictions. Under Griffin’s questioning, Pierce
describes his growth from a bright, curious, and not consciously ideological Southern youth (many of the details of his early education and upbringing parallel those described by sociobiologist E.O. Wilson in his autobiography Naturalist) to an academic and scientist increasingly concerned, in the early 1960s, at the implications of the movement for black integration.
One merit of The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds is the recognition it conveys that Pierce’s radicalism grew out of the American right’s timidity and confusion in the face of the threats to white America that erupted in the 1960s. While there were plenty of groups willing to countenance private remonstrations about the racial and Jewish problems, Pierce would settle for nothing less than addressing these matters publicly. That, and his admiring
reading of Mein Kampf, led to his leap, after a brief membership in the John Birch Society, to the editorship, under the aegis of Rockwell, of National Socialist World, a journal more than a cut above other neo-Nazi publications.
After Rockwell’s assassination by a disgruntled follower, Pierce struck out on his own as the chief of the radical National Alliance, which he directed from 1970 until his death. As Griffin recognizes, Pierce’s influence came through his ability to formulate ideology and to write propaganda rather than from his
skills at personal motivation or organizing. He was a pioneer among American racialist commentators in writing about race and related issues on a level informed by contemporary scientific findings (Pierce was quick to grasp the implications of sociobiology when it emerged in the 1970s). His knack for penetrating to the heart of racial issues impacting whites and the uncompromising rigor of his analysis have been unmatched by his contemporaries. His Who Rules America?, documenting the Jewish preponderance in the mass media, and his serialized racial history of the European whites (Who We Are) are classics of informed and intelligent advocacy; like all Pierce’s writings, they are free of the religious and reactionary
impedimenta that have hobbled numerous other racialist spokesmen.
On the other hand, much of William Pierce’s writing over the years was vitiated by his compulsion to threaten, promise, justify, and seemingly advocate violence against perceived racial enemies. His periodical Attack! and its successor, National Vanguard, as well as his two novels, The Turner Diaries and Hunter, fairly roil with threats and general exhortations to mayhem and massacre. That tone is somewhat muted in the interviews in this book: Pierce discusses the method and motives of his writings rather superficially, and the Griffin prefers not to press him directly over his violent prose.
There have been several consequences for the National Alliance of Pierce’s purple prose. Many prospects stayed away, or once recruited, soon defected. Pierce’s penchant for explosive language also made the Alliance that much more attractive to infiltrators from different sectors of our government’s spy and police apparatus. Pierce speaks of visits from the Secret Service, and it
would appear that the Alliance was watched by the FBI and by U.S. army intelligence as well. Finally, a few drawn to the Alliance by Pierce’s writings, in particular the Grand Guignols conjured up in The Turner Diaries and Hunter, acted on them in ways that have done nothing to advance white prospects in America. The fantasies of white guerrilla terror in The Turner Diaries served the late Robert Mathews and his followers as a model in the early 1980s, and
Timothy McVeigh found inspiration in the Diaries before blowing up the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995. Perhaps the best thing that can be said of Hunter is that the recent serial sniper killings were evidently not inspired by its plot, in which the protagonist busies himself with shooting down interracial
couples from ambush in the Washington area.
To be sure, Pierce’s bark was infinitely worse than his bite (luckily for Jews, blacks, white race traitors, and other targets of his ire), but his tone had the effect of reducing the National Alliance’s membership to a handful of the violence-prone and a rather larger faction willing to take Pierce’s bluster as a
mark of earnestness, but not seriousness. As Griffin notes, the National Alliance “hard core” (some fifty organizers from around the country gathered at headquarters for a conference) does not seem about to rise up in arms, something just as true of the great majority of members since the Alliance’s inception some thirty-three years ago—and, of course, of William Pierce.
Griffin portrays Pierce as a rather lonely man, and sees the National Alliance as little more than a rostrum for Pierce as analyst and commentator. Whether the National Alliance and Pierce’s Cosmotheist Community (despite its unfortunate name, an effort to implement a philosophy of evolutionary pantheism) survive their leader and founder is uncertain, in Griffin’s accounting, although he has praise for the evidently able and dedicated staff
that runs the Alliance’s flourishing bookselling and music operations.
Is William Pierce worthy of the Norse inscription which lends this valuable and informative book its title? Author Griffin seems to think so, and one suspects that most fair-minded readers of The Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds will regard with some generosity of spirit William Pierce’s mistakes in a long and lonely career defending and championing our kind.
William Pierce did not come to racial nationalist politics by way of being a nobody or a loser. By the time he was thirty he was well on the way to a successful and well-paid career as a professor of physics, having graduated as such from Rice University, Texas, in 1955. He was married and had begun to build a family. He had much more to lose by giving his life to an unconventional cause than do the majority who take that path.
The chapters of the book throw the spotlight on the various individuals from whom Pierce drew inspiration. One of the earlier ones was George Bernard Shaw, who in Man and Superman got him thinking about the necessity of a quest for human improvement and of courage in facing unpopular truths. A little later Pierce was profoundly affected by the atmosphere in the United States accompanying the Vietnam War. Seeing the baying mobs demonstrating in support of the regime that was then, rightly or wrongly, the country’s enemy, he wondered how America could tolerate this treason. Would such things have been tolerated at the height of World War II? This provided much to ponder on.
In the following chapter the book focuses on Pierce’s newly awakened interest in Hitler. In declaring this to the author of a book intended for mass-circulation in a country like the United States, Pierce was of course breaking familiar taboos; but he was never a man to give a damn what the ordinary herd of people thought. In reading Mein Kampf Pierce found an echo of the opinions he had been forming on race, the Jewish question, democracy and much else.
However, at that time he decided to satisfy his inclination towards political action by joining something much more conventional and “respectable.” In 1962 he enlisted in the John Birch Society, a conservative body founded by a candy tycoon, Robert Welch. It soon became clear that the Birchers, as they were known, wanted to skate around the issues that Pierce regarded as crucially important, and like many others he suffered disillusionment.
All or Nothing
Pierce was up to this time still career-orientated and regarded politics as just a spare-time pursuit. All this was to change when he met and, for a time, joined forces with George Lincoln Rockwell, head of what became known as the American Nazi Party. Pierce came to like and respect Rockwell personally, but to regard his organization as over-theatrical and not geared to the practicalities of American politics of the period. However, the short experience of involvement in this group changed his life. He decided that the cause he had found demanded an all-or-nothing approach from him, and he abandoned his physics career to become a full-time revolutionary activist—a sacrifice which many around the western world pursuing lucrative occupations know in their hearts they should make, but which very few are prepared to make. Hence the landscape littered with the wreckage of well-meant political enterprises undertaken by others much less able and qualified but who have assumed leadership by the default of their social and intellectual “superiors.” If a fraction of the really talented men of the West took the plunge that William Pierce took, we would today be a long way nearer political success and power.
The Rockwell organization virtually folded with the assassination of its founder by a deranged follower in 1967. Pierce, learning all the time, looked for a new avenue and found it in a group called the National Youth Alliance, which he soon took over and changed into the National Alliance. This was to be the organization to which the remainder of his life was consecrated.
Building an Elite
Having become contemptuous of mass politics, Pierce set out to make the Alliance an elite type of movement, seeking only the best material for recruitment. Progress was slow and, at times, almost in reverse. He found an office close to Washington DC and spent enormously long hours there, performing himself chores that it should have taken several people to do. He got into the habit of sleeping in the building during the week and only returning home at weekends to his home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It was there that I visited and stayed with him when touring the United States in 1979. The lifestyle took its inevitable toll on his marriage—an area where he was doomed never to enjoy contentment for long. Five wives attempted to adjust to his life as a political heretic and none really succeeded. Griffin gives an account of this in his book, more in the manner of regret than of condemnation.
Later, Pierce left the Washington area and moved to the rural wilderness where he was to spend the remainder of his days.
The book proceeds with reference to other individuals and episodes forming part of the fascinating Pierce story. There was his acquaintance with Professor Revilo Oliver, the famed classical scholar and perhaps the leading racial nationalist intellectual in the English-speaking world of his time; his interest in the works of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who impressed him as a model of courage and determination but with whom he parted company on a number of issues, particularly religion; not least, his close relationship with William Gayley Simpson, the author of Which Way Western Man?, an update on the doctrines of Friedrich Nietzsche, to whose teachings he (Simpson) graduated from being a Franciscan missionary.
Venture Into Fiction
The book recounts Pierce’s venture into the writing of fiction with two novels, The Turner Diaries and Hunter, each of which pictures people resorting to extra-legal methods, including assassination, in doomsday scenarios in a future America. These books, particularly the former, have enjoyed huge sales; but it is my opinion that they were the products of moments when personal frustration got the better of the writer’s pre-eminent virtue as ideologist and political strategist.
Perhaps the most interesting of all are the final chapters, which explore in fair detail Dr. Pierce’s views on the major issues of his time. Race and the Jewish question are, predictably, foremost. However, Pierce had a lot to say that is worth hearing on education and the relationship between the sexes. The evil of “feminism” (a word that I tend to use in inverted commas because the concept is the polar opposite of femininity) was always a big issue with William Pierce—and with good reason: so much of the pathology of white surrender that is endemic in 20th and 21st century liberalism stems from the loss in the European and Euro-American elite of the masculine virtues. The masculine-feminine balance in society and racial culture is important in areas far beyond mere questions of individual “rights” and arguments about job-selection and the like. Pierce fully recognized this, and what he wrote on the subject should be diligently studied.
In essence, Pierce understood that white nations have been in decline because they have become feminized. That is to say that feminine responses to issues, instead of existing in healthy balance with male ones, have come to predominate over everything and have reduced white society to one gigantic nursery in which care, nurture, and safety have become the dominating priorities as opposed to hardness, boldness, risk, and the super-personal judgments essential in statesmanship.
Andrew Hamilton writes: Had I discovered his novels first, I doubt that I would ever have explored the main body of his work.
Still, the novels are instructive.
First, they constitute an important element of Pierce’s overall production and are perhaps more widely known, possibly even more widely read, than the bulk of his work.
I do believe that the most important people who have been intellectually influenced by Pierce were primarily drawn to his other writings. The novels, however, were especially influential among radical activists.
Second, I was greatly surprised to discover soon after I read them how popular the books were. I would never have guessed that. Whites are psychologically very heterogeneous compared to Jews, who have been likened to a hive or, more flatteringly, a “herd of independent minds”—emphasis on herd.
Third, and most importantly, the novels provide a window into Pierce’s true psychology and values that cannot be obtained from his nonfiction, no matter how angry or violent the rhetoric sometimes is.
My initial reaction to the novels was puzzlement as to why the Jews and government wanted to censor them, or even close normal channels of marketing and distribution to them.
To me, the books were self-refuting. I naively assumed other readers would feel the same way. I thought the author had shot himself, and his cause, in the foot, so to speak.
Professor Robert S. Griffin writes in his book Fame of a Dead Man’s Deeds :
Apparently The Turner Diaries altered the course of Tim McVeigh’s
life as well as the lives of thousands of people in Oklahoma City. And to the extent that the Oklahoma City bombing is a memorable event–and even, in ways that are not clear to us now, a significant event–William Pierce’s self-published novel has become part of the history of America.
On September 24th, 1998, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith
released a report entitled Explosion of Hate: The Growing Danger of the National Alliance.18 ADL’s stated purpose is to combat anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice, and bigotry. The Explosion of Hate report began:
“A new ADL investigation reveals that the neo-Nazi National Alliance (NA) is the single most dangerous organized hate group in the United States today. The NA sprang to national attention several years ago, when it was discovered that a fictitious incident in The Turner Diaries, a violent and racist novel written by the NA’s leader, might have been used as a model for the Oklahoma City bombing. Convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh was a devoted reader of The Turner Diaries, which features a bombing scenario that is eerily reminiscent of the April 19, 1995 blast. The book was also the blueprint for The Order, a revolutionary terrorist group that robbed and murdered its way to fame in the early 1980s. The ringleader of The Order [Robert Jay Mathews] was an organizer for the NA.
Now, the National Alliance has leaped to prominence again. In the last several years, dozens of violent crimes, including murders, bombings and robberies, have been traced to NA members or appear to have been inspired by the group’s propaganda. At the same time, the National Alliance’s membership base has experienced dramatic growth, with its numbers more than doubling since 1992. The group,
headquartered near Hillsboro, West Virginia, is led by former
University of Oregon physics professor and veteran anti-Semite
William L. Pierce.
With 16 active cells from coast to coast, an estimated membership of 1,000 and several thousand additional Americans listening to its radio broadcasts and browsing its Internet site, the National Alliance is the largest and most active neo-Nazi organization in the nation. The group has also developed significant political connections abroad. In the past three years there has been evidence of NA activity in no fewer than 26 states across the country. The organization has been most active in Ohio, Florida, Michigan, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Mexico.”
Explosion of Hate goes on to say that while other extremist groups
appeal to a narrow range of followers, National Alliance members vary widely in social class and age, from young skinheads to middle-aged professionals. Alliance members are organized into local units headed by coordinators named by Pierce, and in most cases meet regularly. Twice each year, Pierce invites fifty Alliance members to the West Virginia headquarters for a weekend leadership conference.
The ADL report says that the National Alliance owes much of its strength to Pierce–whom it describes as well-educated, focused, and organized–and to his autocratic leadership style. Among Pierce’s activities is American Dissident Voices, a half-hour weekly radio program. The report notes that Pierce uses topics in the news as a springboard into hate – filled anti-Jewish, anti-black, and anti-government diatribes. American Dissident Voices broadcasts can be picked up in most of North America and Europe on short-wave as well as on local AM radio stations in parts of Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, New England, Florida and California. They can also be downloaded in written and audio form from the National Alliance’s web site, and they are sent by e-mail to selected individuals, reprinted in a monthly subscription publication called Free Speech, and sold in audio cassette form through the Alliance’s publishing arm, National Vanguard Books. Audio cassettes of Pierce’s ADV programs are among an array of radical right-wing books and audio- and videotapes National Vanguard Books sells through a catalog it distributes widely.
In addition to the weekly broadcasts and book-selling activities,
Pierce writes the copy for a members-only monthly National Alliance
newsletter. There is also the irregularly published glossy magazine, National Vanguard, which the ADL report says attempts to intellectualize the Alliance’s racist and anti-Semitic agenda. The highbrow tone of National Vanguard contrasts sharply with the cruder, poorly-edited propaganda materials of other extremist groups and heightens the appeal the National Alliance has among those whom the report refers to as “better-educated bigots.”
Explosion of Hate notes that other murderers and terrorists besides
Timothy McVeigh appear to have been inspired by Pierce’s violence-filled writings and pronouncements. In the 1980s a gang calling itself the “Order,” after the elite paramilitary unit in The Turner Diaries, went on a crime spree which included bombing a synagogue, murdering a Jewish talk show host, counterfeiting, and robbing over four million dollars in an armored car heist. The Order’s leader, Robert Mathews, was a member of the National Alliance and recruiter for the Alliance who once spoke at one of the organization’s national conventions. Reportedly, Mathews told people that he was intent on being the catalyst for an uprising against the System like the one described in Pierce’s book.
Mathews, who was killed by FBI agents in a shoot-out, has become a
martyr and cult hero among right wing fringe elements and a model for others who would follow his lead. The ADL report cites the statement of then-publisher George Burdi in the skinhead-oriented magazine Resistance invoking Mathews’ memory in the course of singing the praises of the National Alliance. Said Burdi: “The National Alliance is clearly the most forward-looking and progressive racialist organization in the world today, and it is no wonder that Robert Mathews endorsed them so wholeheartedly.”
Another example, authorities say a white supremacist group
calling itself the Aryan Republican Army and led by a man named Peter Langan committed twenty-two bank robberies and bombings across the Midwest between 1992 and 1996. Langan praised Robert Mathews and instructed his viewers to “learn from Bob.” Not surprisingly The Turner Diaries was required reading in the Aryan Republican Army.
The ADL report lists a number of recent crimes that can be linked in some way to Pierce and the National Alliance. Among them:
• In March of 1998, Dennis McGiffin and two others were charged
with conspiracy to possess and make machine guns. FBI agents testified that McGiffin and the others were influenced by The Turner Diaries. They planned to form a “New Order’’ and talked of, among other things, bombing state capitols and post offices and poisoning public water supplies with cyanide.
• In 1997, Todd Vanbiber, a National Alliance adherent in Winter
Park, Florida, pleaded guilty to illegally constructing and possessing explosives and was sentenced to six-and-one-half years in prison. At a sentencing hearing in October 1997, a cellmate testified that Vanbiber admitted he planned to use the bombs against African Americans attending Fourth of July celebrations. A Federal complaint against Vanbiber alleged that he had met with William Pierce at his West Virginia compound for two hours and while there donated one thousand dollars to the National Alliance and purchased seven hundred dollars worth of its literature.
• In December 1995, a black couple was gunned down near Fort
Bragg in North Carolina in what prosecutors called a racially motivated killing. James Burmeister and Malcolm Wright, members of the 82nd Airborne Division, were convicted of the murders and sentenced to life in prison. Burmeister and Wright reportedly read National Alliance propaganda…
“I also read a book called The Lightning and the Sun by Savitri Devi, who had a very worshipful view of Hitler,” Pierce told me. After Pierce mentioned that he had read The Lightning and the Sun, I made it a point to look into the book and its author. I found Devi to be a most interesting character. The Lighting and the Sun was published in Calcutta, India in 1958. Devi was born Maximiani Portas in 1905 in Lyons, France. Her mother was English, and her father was of Greek and Italian background and a citizen of France. She took the Hindu name Savitri Devi when in 1932 she emigrated to India, which she considered the cradle of the Aryan race. Devi’s many writings, published with the help of her Brahman husband, synthesized Hindu thought and Nordic racial ideology. She idolized Adolf Hitler and gave both him and the ideology of National Socialism a mystique that elevated them beyond the narrow realities of German history to a kind of cult status. After World War II, Devi was arrested in Cologne, Germany and imprisoned by the British occupational forces for Nazi propaganda activities. From the 1960s until her death in 1982, she was a leading figure in the internationalist neo-Nazi underground.
Devi began The Lightning and the Sun in 1948 and finished it in
1956 while in prison. It is a long volume–it could have used some blue penciling–and in places dense and esoteric, with lengthy discourses on the elements of Hinduism she considered to be the legacy of the Aryan tradition. The book deals with a number of Devi’s convictions, including vegetarianism and the protection of the natural environment, but it was her enthusiasm for National Socialism and adoration for Hitler which most came through to Pierce.
Devi used a “man against time” doctrine she formulated to portray
Hitler as a mythic, god-like being.11 In Devi’s thinking, men against time are earthly embodiments of the Hindu deity Vishnu. Vishnu is not conceived as a knowing, separate being in the way that the Judeo-Christian religions conceive of God. Rather, it is a force or aspect of all existence. Vishnu is the world sustainer, the tendency of every being to maintain itself and to procreate in its own likeness. It is the power that opposes disintegration and death. Men against time, says Devi, are “saviors of the world: forces of life, directed against the downward current of [seemingly] irresistible change; [they are] forces of life tending to bring the world back to original, timeless perfection.”12 These men against time combine the highest enlightenment and ideals (“sun”) with the often destructive power of a force of nature (“lightning”)–thus the title of the book, The Lightning
and the Sun. In Devi’s conceptualization, men against time tend to be martial heroes who, in the words of her biographer, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, “work to redeem the world from the thrall of the dark age.”13 They combine wisdom with practicality–including ruthlessness and violence–to save and regenerate the world. They are the real heroes of history.
Devi revered Hitler as the greatest man against time in all of
recorded history. She viewed him as the champion of the old European tribal principles against degenerate cosmopolitanism, capitalism, and democracy. She admired in Hitler the very things others find abhorrent–his racist ideas and his anti-Semitism. She applauded the laws he propagated forbidding Aryans and Jews to marry, considering these laws instrumental in reviving the Aryan separatism she saw manifested in the Indian caste system. Goodrick-Clarke writes:
“His [Hitler’s] domestic modesty, vegetarianism, and abstention
from alcohol she saw as the typical traits of the kindly ascetic.
His ruthless use of military violence against his enemies in a
resistant fallen world, no less his uncompromising plan to exterminate the Jews, an age-old adversary and counterimage
of the heroic Aryans, identified him as the essential “Man
Devi describes Hitler as “the true friend of his people,” and “inspired by the inner vision of a healthy, beautiful, and peaceful world, a real earthly paradise reflecting cosmic perfection.”1 5
And then there was Hitler’s own book, Mein Kampf. “When I was at Oregon State,” Pierce told me, “I read Mein Kampf for a second time. I had read it the first time as an undergraduate, but it didn’t really turn on a light at that time. It did when I read it again at Oregon State, though. This man, Hitler, understood things pretty much the same way I did, and he was a gifted man in the way he went about things in politics. Although I knew I couldn’t do what he did: I don’t relate well to other people, and I’m not a speaker. I was still left with the question of exactly what it was that I could do with my life.”
…First, there is Hitler’s biocentric world view. Hitler’s perspective on life was referenced in Nature. Hitler contended in Mein Kampf that before anything else we must attend to Nature, the world of living things and their environments. Man, Hitler underscored, is not separate from or above Nature but rather a part of Nature. We need to come to grips with how Nature actually operates. We must align our lives with Nature. We must obey Nature’s laws. That is how we will best prosper and fulfill our destiny as beings. We should not be so presumptuous as to imagine that we can ignore or overcome Nature’s realities and Nature’s imperatives. We need to learn to live Nature’s way. Hitler’s basic message was “get out of your head.” Get out of the realm of fanciful intellectualization. Get out of what you think is true or ought to be true. Instead, quite literally come down to earth.
Within this biocentric frame of reference, Hitler focused on what he considered the fundamental human reality: the life-and-death struggle for survival and a higher quality of existence among the races of man. As Hitler saw it, aggression and violence are inherent in this struggle; they are an integral part of Nature’s way. To Hitler, at the most fundamental level human thought and action have an impact on the outcome of this racial struggle. He believed that what is responsible and right in human affairs is that which contributes to the continued existence and upward development of one’s race. According to Hitler, this is what it means to live by Nature’s rules and by Nature’s morality.
Hitler held to a biological/cultural concept of race. As he viewed it, race has to do with biology, physiology, blood–there is that. But that is only part of it. Race also has to do with culture: values and morals, philosophies, traditions, modes of artistic expression, religious orientations, ways of working, forms of government, national and ethnic identifications, family arrangements, conceptions of masculinity and femininity,
approaches to raising children, and connections to the earth. For Hitler, race is about more than genetics. He used the term “folk” (volk in German) to get at the idea that he was referring to a people who share a biological inheritance and a way of being. They have an approach to life in common as well as a gene pool.
Hitler’s concept of race was a dynamic one in that he emphasized
the interplay between the two aspects of biology and culture. Each of the two affects the other: biological realities or impulses shape the culture of a people and, concurrently, the culture of a people has a impact on their biological or physical nature. Biological urgings–call them instincts– predispose people to conduct their lives in a particular manner, wrote Hitler in Mein Kampf. This is not to say that individuals and races can’t
choose to act in a fashion contrary to these urgings, or that they can’t be distracted from them by external forces in their world–ideas, people, and situations. It is rather to assert the existence of a more fundamental, more powerful force than choice and social conditioning. There is a calling from deep within human beings, a genetically-rooted predilection to be a certain way, to proceed in a certain direction, and that calling, Hitler contends, wins out in the end. In terms of race, what this comes down to is Hitler’s
belief that the differences among the races go beyond skin color and his conviction that you have to go beyond an analysis of circumstance and culture to explain the conduct and accomplishments of the various races.
You have to take into account what Hitler holds is the most powerful influence of all on what human beings are like: biological inheritance.