Beyond the Himalayas lies Tibet, a mysterious country. In times of tourist frenzy, with nations eager for tourist money, what a strange nation it is which shuns visitors. As Detective Charlie Chan of the Honolulu Police has stated, “Closed avenue like pretty girl: very enticing.” So too thought Heinrich Himmler who, in 1938, sent Nazi explorers to Tibet.
The fascinating tale of the Schafer Expedition is told in Christopher Hale’s book, Himmler’s Crusade: The Nazi Expedition To Find The Origins Of The Aryan Race. Hale is from a so-called “reality based community” and so is dismissive of what others might deem credible. For example, he calls nineteenth-century author Ignatius Donnelly, who broke new ground on theories of comet/earth collision and the lost continent of Atlantis, a “fraudster.” Although Hale shows bias against conspiracy-type thought, nonetheless he has done significant research and his book is worthwhile.
There are a slew of books dealing with the unusual beliefs prevalent amongst the Nazi elite. Many such books are nonsense. Two exceptions which cut through the outlandish speculations are The Occult Roots Of Nazism by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke and Arktos: The Polar Myth In Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival by Joscelyn Godwin. There is a middle ground in delving into bizarre Nazi thought, neither closed-minded (“reality based”) nor credulous (e.g. see “Puzzling Evidence” segment in David Byrne’s fine film, “True Stories.”)
Elite members of Himmler’s SS were lawyers, doctors, and aristocrats — high society types. “Simple disgust fails to come to grips with why intellectuals and scientists flocked to serve the Reich,” writes Hale (op. cit.) The explanation, according to Hale, seems to be that those wanting to advance their careers in Adolph Hitler’s New Order “made little compromises” with their consciences. They looked the other way and went along to get along.
In the 19th century there had been a typical scientific preoccupation with measurement. In the realm of anthropology this manifested in caliper measurements of skulls. Especially “American and German anthropologists relied so completely on anthropometric data. Both nations were preoccupied with race and with theories about race difference…” (Hale, op. cit.)
Today, were you to take an anthropology class at a university, you would likely be told that “race is too vague.” The thinking now seems to be that no clear dividing line exists between “races.” On the other hand, the U.S. government, for example, is constantly collecting data on what “race” you are. (e.g., Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) So which is it? Is there “race” or is there not “race”?
Disparaged by Hale is Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, ruled by Hale to be, like Donnelly, a fraudster. Nazi intellectuals had become fascinated by Blavatsky’s ideas about “root races.” In the dim past, might not Brahmin survivors of Atlantean destruction have escaped to the Himalayas? Could these be the Hindu “Vidyadhara, a race of supermen”? (Hale, op. cit.) Blavatsky had written that the Himalayas form the “veil of Isis.” In Tibet, speculated Himmler’s elite, could be found traces of Shambhala. So a scientific expedition headed by Ernst Schafer was organized to penetrate Tibet and look for remnants of the “Aryan” ancestors.
In Germany, racial ideas became tied to expansionism. The German people, the Volk, needed Lebensraum (“living space”). The “scientific” cult of racialism and Aryan “superiority” was used to justify imperialism. In Mexico, among many, a somewhat similar racial expansionist theme exists today: “La Raza” (“The Race”). African-American racialism is also subtly pushed by the exclusionary Nation Of Islam. So divisive racist identifications tied to political power grabs have not gone away in these enlightened times. Resolution of such resilient schemes now unfolds right before our eyes: intermingling of the “races” gradually brings about a new “race,” a hybrid of all the races. “Race” increasingly blurry and therefore less and less of an issue.
The “science” in Germany served the policy of the state. Are things so different now? Who pays the “scientists” today? “Many of the ideas that would become excuses for murder,” writes Hale, “had been laid down, layer after layer, at the highest levels of German academia, in universities, laboratories and museums.” Hale himself refers to a “measuring mania” extant amongst the German scientists. A fetish for measurements amongst the anthropologists caused a vulture-like anticipation at whiffs of war. “War meant bodies; bodies meant bigger collections; collections led to knowledge, academic papers and prestige.” (Hale, op. cit.) Yes, upright scholars — those who would not sell their souls — suffered in Nazi Germany. But that situation was not unilateral.
“To a remarkable degree, Himmler’s ideas had been formed not by politicians but by anthropologists and biologists.” (Hale, op. cit.) He also believed in a weird cosmogony, Hanns Horbiger’s World Ice Theory. Melding various theories, Himmler arrived at such whoppers as “the supernatural ancestors of the Aryans had once been sheathed in ice and had been released from their frozen bondage by divine thunderbolts.” (Ibid.) This was the top-ranking bureaucrat of Nazi Germany! The official policy was Gleichschaltung — Unity — as it is (or was) consequent to “9/11” when we “stood united.” The “scientists” were “team players” absorbed into the State. It must be proved that Asia, not Africa, was the cradle of humanity. Measurements of Tibetan skulls might prove Aryan ancestry. This would prop up Volk imperialism, since after all, the Volk had a right to “their” territory.
So Ernst Schafer and his team journeyed to the “roof of the world” accompanied by yaks (Bos grunniens “grumbling oxes”) bearing gifts. In Tibet, the birds “had no sense of humans as predators.” (Hale, op. cit.) Everywhere was the yungdrung, the swastika representing the wind turning aside the rays of the sun. They reached the Potala Palace, Vatican of Tibetan Buddhism. “Ejaculated sperm was the physical form of enlightened thought.” “Everyone walked clockwise.” Gold cannot be mined because it might disturb “the demons of the earth.” This was Tibet before it had been converted into a spiritual Disneyland cluttered with billboards. Hale’s account contains extensive photos supplementing his portrait of a vanished world.
(A version of the above first appeared at my old Conspiracy Nation web site on July 24, 2005.)