Aryan WorldviewHouston Stewart Chamberlain
In Aryan Worldview Houston Chamberlain discusses the importance of Indology in the effort to gain deeper insight into the essence of Indo-European thought. Relying on Sanskrit being part of the Indo-Aryan, and thereby part of the Indo-European, family of languages, from which he supposes a common ancestry, he deems Europeans can benefit greatly from a study of the Vedic texts, the latter expressing another facet of the Indo-European ancestral soul; this facet he sets in contradistinction, and as complementary, to the Hellenic: while the Hellenes were concerned with form, the Aryans were concerned with substance.
Chamberlain rejects Buddhism as un-Aryan and, most importantly and for the same reason, he rejects the teachings of the Christian Church, which he deems to have had a distorting effect on European thought through its foundations in the Hebraic tradition. This is not to say that Chamberlain was anti-Christian, or anti-Christ; along with Émile Burnouf and Paul de Lagarde, the Biblical scholar, he was rather a forerunner of Positive Christianity, a ’purified’ form of the religion that was wholly in harmony with the ancient German tradition, right into its pagan past. As with Positive Christianity, Chamberlain’s text falls within the tradition of 19th-century Higher Criticism: it is call to understand the world behind the ancient texts.
Needless to say, Chamberlain’s ideas are unfashionable today: firstly, in death he was heavily promoted by the National Socialists, and, secondly, they belong to an intellectual tradition and approach to the humanities that has since fallen into obscurity, having given way to egalitarian or universalist discourses of emancipation. However, his influence was significant and essential to understanding the history of ideas in Germany during the 19th and 20th centuries: his magnum opus, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, published a few years earlier, enjoyed curricular status in German education and numerous reprints until the end of Word War II; and Aryan Worldview, though brief and introductory, is, in a way, an addendum to some of the themes explored in that work.
Author: Houston Stewart Chamberlain
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