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Book Review:

The Lightning and the Sun

by, Savitri Devi

Review by, Jason Kesselring

Originally published in India in 1958, Savitri Devi's magnum opus The Lightning and the Sun has lost none of its controversy since its initial inception. An exposition of the dynamic and cyclical aspects of history, The Lightning and the Sun posits that each cycle begins with a heroic age or “Golden Age” which then cycles through a process of degeneration until the eventual destruction of civilization. To Devi history is a perpetual battle between light and darkness, champions of life vs. champions of death. Devi was one of the few in the modern age who looked at history in the context of mythic archetypes. Drawing on the cosmic principles of Hinduism (Devi was born in Greece but later moved to India after converting to Hinduism) she saw history being moved along time to time by god-like figures, who within themselves contained aspects of the gods for the Indian pantheon. The Lightning and the Sun illustrates this by addressing three major figures from history that personify the mystical Hindu concept of the Trimurti (the three fold aspect of Brahma, the Hindu godhead). These were: Ahknaton, the famed monotheistic pharaoh; Ghengis Khan; and Adolf Hitler, who correspond to the Trimurti as Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma, respectively. Devi attributes a primal force to each aspect of the godhead; Vishnu the Sun, Shiva as lightning, and Brahma as both the lightning and the Sun. Devi subsequently breaks the book down into dealing with each of these historical figures. Starting with Ghengis Khan, whom Devi saw as a man that was “all lightning and no sun.” Ghengis Khan essentially is the proverbial “man of action,” his conquest being one based on self-interest and laws based not on eternal truths but rather selfish practicality. Subsequently his empire rotted from within shortly after his death. Next Devi addresses the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaton, the pacifistic sun worshipper who during his reign did away with Egypt's traditional polytheistic religion and replaced it with a monotheistic cult of the Sun god Aton. Akhnaton was what Devi calls a “man above time” a leader who is of pure spirit but does not act within the realm of time. A pacifist in the face of aggressors, his empire is easily corrupted. Ahknaton was “all sun and no lightning.” Then there is Adolf Hitler, who Devi saw as both the lightning and the sun. A leader “above time and against time,” one who Devi saw as being in touch with eternal truth and a man of decisive action. To Devi Hitler was heralding the way for the apocalyptic deity Kalki, who will appear at the end of the current age of Kali Yuga (the end time) riding upon a white horse, carrying a giant sword with which he cleanses the earth, and initiates the new cycle of time, a new “Golden Age” if you will. On the whole, The Lightning and the Sun is eloquently written and at times is both witty and scathing (Devi has tendency to proselytize vegetarianism.) It is a fascinating glimpse into the spiritual love that Hitler seemed to inspire in his followers. The real strength though is for those interested in how religion, spirituality, and even the occult have played a part within world events.

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