29 September 2014

The Meaning of the Swastika

Nazi Criminals Distorted Ancient
Ideas and Symbols of Eastern Philosophies

Joaquim Duarte Soares

Sincere students of theosophy must fight prejudice and falsehood, especially when they involve the theosophical movement itself and its teachings.

In his text “Theosophy and the Second World War”, Carlos Cardoso Aveline wrote:

“In a world still partly dominated by bigotry and by ritualistic religions, it is only natural that the theosophical movement  - being rather a non-violent extinguisher of illusions - should be attacked in various ways, from within and from without. As an instance of such attacks we have a variety of baseless texts which accuse the theosophical movement of having had sympathy for Nazism or Fascism. There are various sources of disinformation around the subject of Theosophy and Hitlerism, and it seems proper to bring some evidence about the actual relationship between the two, including the period during the Second World War.” [1]

Students of theosophy are aware of the misappropriation and criminal use of Hindu sacred symbols by Nazism. As Aveline writes:

“Nazi leaders practiced some kind of anti-humanistic sorcery, and they had much in common with the disguised ‘mysticism of hatred and violence’ which was carefully developed by the
Jesuits and used by the Vatican since the 16th century.” [2]

One of the best known examples of the use of a sacred symbol for criminal purposes and anti-evolutionary magic is that of the “Jain cross”, or Swastika.

This ancient and mystical symbol is widely commented in the work “The Secret Doctrine”, by Helena P. Blavatsky. It was used in antiquity by many nations around the world. It is one of the most popular divine symbols in Asia, as it belongs to both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

H. P. Blavatsky says:

“Few world-symbols are more pregnant with real occult meaning than the Swastika.  It is symbolized by the figure 6; for, like that figure, it points in its concrete imagery, as the ideograph of the number does, to the Zenith and the Nadir, to North, South, West, and East; one finds the unit everywhere, and that unit reflected in all and every unit.  It is the emblem of the activity of Fohat, of the continual revolution of the ‘wheels’, and of the Four Elements, the ‘Sacred Four’, in their mystical, and not alone in their cosmic meaning; further, its four arms, bent at right angles, are intimately related, as shown elsewhere, to the Pythagorean and Hermetic scales.  One initiated into the mysteries of the meaning of the Swastika, say the Commentaries, ‘can trace on it, with mathematical precision, the evolution of Kosmos and the whole period of Sandhya’.” [3]

The swastika is, par excellence, the symbol of cosmic evolution. It is an image represented in many temples in India, Tibet, China and other countries with Hindu and Buddhist influence (and indeed the very symbol of esoteric Buddhism). Moreover, it is present in the traditions of the Nordic peoples and in pre-colonial Americas.

Being a universal symbol, the swastika cross is also present in the symbol of the theosophical movement.

The representations of Buddha with the Swastika cross on his chest, being called the ‘Seal of the Heart’, are well-known. The swastika is also present in many ancient Christian relics. About its universality, HPB states:

“[The] ansated Egyptian cross, or tau, the Jaina cross, or Swastika, and the Christian cross have all the same meaning”. [4]

Despite these facts, or maybe because of them, Christian missionaries tried to classify the swastika as “diabolical”, thus trying to destroy one of the oldest sacred symbols, which is also at the origin of “their” own Christian cross. Yet to honestly recognize the evolution of the cross as a symbol would be like accepting that Christianity illegitimately adopted religious images belonging to much earlier traditions.

The crimes committed since the 3rd  and 4th  century by Christian fanatics, and later by the Jesuits from the 16th century, were, in a sense, intensified in the first decades of the twentieth century by Nazi and fascist regimes.

“Christian” authoritarianism has submitted and persecuted Christian nations and tried to suppress the mystical and authentic Christianity while also making war on other religions. The same disrespect for life was adopted by the Nazis.

The betrayal and denial of the Master and his teachings are symbolized in the New Testament episodes involving Peter and Judas. They have been materialized and confirmed by the conduct of the Church of Rome for almost two thousand years. They are one more example of the denigration of the most sacred symbols of Esoteric Wisdom. Accordingly, the Vatican gave implicit political support to Nazism and Fascism. As noted by Carlos Aveline:

“Of course, the Vatican has always been against Theosophy, for Theosophy proposes universal brotherhood and denounces and fights every form of religious dogmatism.” [5]

The theosophical movement opposes any totalitarian ideology, and shows sympathy for the democratic processes.  Theosophy is an occult source and inspiration of movements that contribute to peace and unity among nations, such as the United Nations Organization. The U.N. Charter promulgates in its text the same theosophical ideal of universal brotherhood. [6]

The term “Aryan”

Nazism distorted the term “Aryan”. The word means “noble”, and it is used in “The Secret Doctrine” by Helena Blavatsky to designate the fifth stage of the evolutionary process, extending over a period of many millions of years. The concept of “Aryan race” refers to the fifth race and covers seven sub-races with a vast number of nations whose individuals have different physical appearances.

From the point of view of esoteric philosophy, the same immortal soul, the Divine aspect of each human being, goes through (or incarnates into) each of the divisions of the evolutionary cycles, including races, globes, rounds and manvantaras.  Thus it makes no sense to relate the term “Aryan” or “Arya” with any specific hereditary or ethnological characteristic, or colour skin.

The word is also used in the spiritual sense, and in the “Theosophical Glossary” we find the following definition:

Arya (Sk.). Lit., ‘the holy’; originally the title of Rishis,  those who had mastered the ‘Aryasatyani’ and entered the Aryanimarga path to Nirvana or Moksha, the great ‘four-fold’ path. But now the name has become the epithet of a race, and our Orientalists, depriving the Hindu Brahmans of their birth-right, have made Aryans of all Europeans. In esotericism, as the four paths, or stages, can be entered only owing to great spiritual development and ‘growth in holiness’, they are called the ‘four fruits’. The degrees of Arhatship, called respectively Srotapatti, Sakridagamin, Anagamin, and Arhat, or the four classes of Aryas, correspond to these four paths and truths.” [7]

Let’s see now what the Glossary says about “Aryasatyani”:

“Aryasatyani (Sk.). The four truths or the four dogmas, which are (1) Dukha, or that misery and pain are the unavoidable concomitants of sentient (esoterically, physical) existence; (2) Samudaya, the truism that suffering is intensified by human passions; (3) Nirodha, that the crushing out and extinction of all such feelings are possible for a man ‘on the path’; (4) Marga, the narrow way, or that path which leads to such a blessed result.” [8]

It is evident that “Aryan” was the title of that Sage who, having travelled the path of the highest morality and selfless service to mankind, reached the sublime heights of Divine Wisdom and Compassion.

Something similar happened to the word “Brahamana”, which is conventionally used as corresponding to a social caste in India. The title of “Brahamana” was, originally, given to those who by their own merit and purity had reached the status of initiate or “twice born”, who conquered “every inclination to evil”. The Buddha himself is called Brahamana. This ideal of “virtue and knowledge” is beautifully described in the last chapter of the Buddhist classic “Dhammapada”. There we see the Enlightened One proclaiming, with no reference to caste or any form of social position:

“Him I call a Brahamana who is meditative, stainless, settled; whose duty is done and depravities gone; who has attained the highest end.” [9]

There is another interesting word with the prefix “Arya”:

“Aryavarta (Sk.). The ‘land of the Aryas’, or India. The ancient name for Northern India, where the Brahmanical invaders first settled.” [10]

The Nazis corrupted and then adopted the terms “Aryan” and “Arya”, thus depriving them of their real meaning. Christian authorities have done the same to many other terms, to sacred symbols and relics of ancient traditions, including the Jewish one.  Theosophy, on the other hand, has a deep affinity with the fraternal, peaceful and nonviolent action of mystics and philosophers of every nation, religion and cultural tradition.


[1] The text is available at our associated websites.

[2] In the text mentioned above.

[3] “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, Vol. II, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, p. 587.

[4] “The Secret Doctrine”, H. P. Blavatsky, Vol. I, Theosophy Company, Los Angeles, p. 657. 

[5] See the text “Theosophy and the Second World War”, which is mentioned at note [1] above.  

[6] Read the text “Blavatsky, United Nations and Democracy”, by Carlos Cardoso Aveline, in our associated websites.  

[7] “Theosophical Glossary”, H. P. Blavatsky, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 1990, see “Arya”, p. 32.

[8] “Theosophical Glossary”, H. P. Blavatsky, see p. 33.

[9] “The Dhammapada”, Theosophy Co., Los Angeles, 139 pp., see Chapter 26, verse 386, p. 89.  

[10] “Theosophical Glossary”, H. P. Blavatsky, see “Aryavarta”, at p. 33.


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