Abir Taha’s The Epic of AryaAmanda Bradley
French translation here
THE EPIC OF ARYA: In Search of the Sacred Light
Milton Keynes: AuthorHouse, 2009
In Abir Taha’s philosophical novel, Arya is a goddess in human form. Born in the Kali Yuga, the darkest age of the world, she is a symbol of the divine spark (Atman) that resides in every human. As she struggles to overcome her humanity, especially her womanness, the reader also is given insight into the inner alchemical process that can make men into gods.
Arya meets several guides throughout her journey, and visits a number of cities that exemplify the greed, superficiality, and degeneracy that define the Kali Yuga. One village contains people who worship the moon—often considered an indication of a non-Traditional society that exalts the feminine principle over the masculine, and of people who follow the path of the ancestors rather than the solar path of the gods. Arya does find a kindred spirit—an old man who is a Sun worshiper. Through their conversation, she starts to feel that there is a secret group of beings who are awake, evoking similarities to the secret chiefs described in Karl von Eckartshausen’s The Cloud Upon the Sanctuary, legends of the Great White Brotherhood, or Madame Blavatsky’s Ascended Masters.
Arya finds no receptive ears to her message of freedom, truth, and responsibility, and the rest of the Epic recounts Arya’s quest to find Hyperborea, where the Master Race was born.
She receives guidance from a prophet, who tries to convince her that the great Northern race no longer exists. Against his pleadings, she continues her quest, only to find he was correct. She comes across “a gloomy, overcrowded, noisy city teeming with people scurrying here and there in a chaotic manner, countless lonely atoms going their separate ways, impervious to the grey hell in which they were living” (p. 241). The city is called the pride and envy of the world, yet to Arya’s refined senses it contains only “the deafening sound of the chaos of the senses and the unbearable noise of greed” (p. 241).
After meeting several more characters, including a Chandala (an untouchable in the Hindu caste system) and a knight, she meets the King of the World, the ruler of the sacred land of Shambhala. He gives her the keys to overcome herself and find the long-lost kingdom: “Shambhala is only real to those who live the glorious Unity of Being, and it is only visible to those who see beyond what the blind human eyes see” (p. 342), echoing the words of Pindar in his Tenth Pythian Ode: ”neither by ship nor on foot would you find / the marvellous road to the assembly of the Hyperboreans.”
The ideas in Arya are the same as those found in the writings of Traditionalists, the New Right, and Western esotericism: aristocracy, the coming race, the overman, Hyperborea, Ultima Thule, and philosopher kings. Taha has written two books on similar themes—Nietzsche’s Coming God, or the Redemption of the Divine (Paris: Éditions Connaissances et Savoirs, 2005) [reviewed by Michael O’Meara here] and Nietzsche, Prophet of Nazism: The Cult of the Superman — Unveiling the Nazi Secret Doctrine (Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2005).
In fact, the best way to approach Taha’s Epic is as another Zarathustra, with the plot serving more as a means to express her Weltanschauung rather than a literary device. Arya’s dialogues echo those of Zarathustra (Taha even uses the same “thus spoke” mantra), and of Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad-Gita. This novel of ideas is heartfelt, and it’s obvious that Taha is honest in the preface when she says the story was written with her blood and tears, as the insights this “spiritual bible” contains are profound. Those familiar with Traditionalist doctrines may find that some sections are too repetitive, with concepts repeated several times in different words. Readers new to Traditionalist thought, however, will appreciate the emphasis on uncommon ideas like anti-egalitarianism and anti-modernity.
Because The Epic of Arya is about a goddess, women may find the story especially appealing as they will identify more with sections that deal with Arya’s struggles to overcome human love for divine. A few sections mention finding the goddess within, but these can apply equally to finding the god within, and true seekers of wisdom will see beyond such nuances to pearls of wisdom.
The Kali Yuga: The Age of Vice
The Epic of Arya is set in the Kali Yuga, the last age in the Hindu cycle of ages (which roughly correspond to the ages outlined by Hesiod in Works and Days). In the Golden Age, men and gods lived on the earth together. In the Kali Yuga (or Dark Age), mankind is the furthest removed from God and the most spirituality decadent. This age is ruled by the demon Kali, a negative manifestation of the god Vishnu. The Kali Yuga is described in the Vishnu Purana as a time when Brahmanical clothing constitutes a Brahman; when agriculture is abandoned for mechanization; the Earth is honored for mineral treasures and is exploited; there is no transcendent connection to sacraments like marriage; men are fixated on money; and women are selfish. As Arya puts it, “in the Golden Age, before the hotchpotch of mob rule melted races and classes into a maelstrom from hell, there was one divine race on earth” (p. 182).
Being born in such a world is distressing to Arya—she is alone with no kindred soul. Even when she reaches a city lauded by the masses, Arya is disgusted:
“You call yourselves ‘civilised’, but yours is the civilisation of accumulation and mediocrity bearing the banner of justice and equality, a sham civilisation which buries all higher aspirations in the stagnant mud of materialism, and drowns all will to elevation in the murky waters of degeneracy.” (p. 257)
Meritocracy as the True Aristocracy
Another main theme of Arya is that of hierarchies, as opposed to the egalitarianism prevalent in the world today. The Epic of Arya does not extol an aristocracy based on blood or material possessions, but a meritocracy like that described by Plato in The Republic.
Hereditary aristocracy makes even less sense in the Kali Yuga than other times, since it brings a degeneration of form that does not allow Traditions to be passed by blood, as “True superiority is seldom inherited” (p. 209). Arya is interesting in part because of the many descriptions given for what is truly noble:
- Something that cannot be bought or sold
- Something that cannot be inherited or given, only earned
- Not related to titles, but to abilities
- Determined by how much someone gives, not owns
- Involves merit, talent, honor, duty, and honesty
- The real aristocrat is: “a complete human being, a synthetic man, an accomplished person. He combines a healthy body with a brilliant mind and a noble soul, a radiant spirit and beauty within and without. But the soul is primary, and a pure soul is more beautiful than the most perfect body” (p. 216)
- “All greatness is humble and magnanimous, all baseness is wicked and conceited” (p. 229).
Race of the Spirit
The Epic of Arya expresses a concept of race similar to that of Julius Evola, Oswald Spengler, and Francis Parker Yockey—the notion of a race of the spirit. Arya does not come by this view naturally, however: For most of the book she is obsessed with finding her true sons, others of her race who are from the North. When she eventually finds the city she longs for, however, the people there are as crude, materialistic, and greedy as those of any other place. Family and racial connections have lost their transcendent connections, and the men she finds are simply the “unworthy sons that every mother has” (p. 199).
According to the doctrine of the Yugas, in the Golden Age, race was an indication of an inner quality. A person was formed from a substance that represented his true nature. Thus, the beautiful body revealed a beautiful soul and noble character, and male and female souls formed corresponding bodies. It is the opposite of the current Dark Age, when most men no longer possess true virility and pariahs comprise the ruling class who desecrate the sacred earth.
In addition to not being applicable in the Kali Yuga, the biological doctrine of race also is a hindrance to enlightenment. Arya is told:
“Cling to no nation, no tribe, and no creed, these are but chains of enslavement to the limited and the transient. How could you call a nation your own, you whose soul dwells with the gods? How could you embrace but one creed, when Truth is the source of all creeds.” (p. 374)
Not only is the biological determinist view of race invalid in the Kali Yuga, it also is disproved by the very nature used to support it. The Epic illustrates this point when Arya is told:
“how many beautiful flowers contain the deadliest poison! How many worms dwell in the loveliest apples! Do not cling much to form, Arya, for it deceives . . . and though spirit moulds the form, yet the form is not the spirit!” (p. 108)
The discourse on race also comments on the notion of a chosen people: “Eternal Religion has no holy land or chosen people” (p. 33), and again, “There are no chosen people, save those who have chosen out themselves” (p. 116). Arya also comments on Yahweh, the God of the Hebrew Bible:
“let this god from the desert stay away from me, away from us truly chosen ones, – we who have chosen Pan over Yahweh -, for his lost tribes are doomed to aimlessly wander the earth in search of a promise that never was” … “That is the curse of the gods: those who stray from the Inner Path shall nowhere feel at home and never find peace, though they may wander the earth in search of their lost soul; the desert remains their only home.” (p. 38)
If race is not determined by blood or soil, a question naturally arises as to how a race of the spirit could be defined. The Epic of Arya has an answer for this question as well:
“A race is a spiritual brotherhood of blood and honour; it is defined by the dream that it shares, the truth that is reveres and fights for, the god that it venerates… and only he or she who shares my truth and believes in my god do I call a brother or a sister, a son or a daughter, for blood means little if it does not serve the soul.” (50)
The Herd and the Overman
Another Nietzschean concept in Arya is the Übermensch. In Zarathustra, Nietzsche wrote, “man is something which ought to be overcome.” Arya is told that there are no races anymore, only masters and slaves, godmen and undermen. Some need a god “before whom you can all be slaves – but equal slaves” (p. 67). These are the people who fulfill themselves only through their slavery (p. 67).
Nietzsche’s notion of being a bridge appears in Arya as well: “Hence the Higher Man, that god in the making, remains trapped between heaven and earth – while men are trapped between earth and hell” (p. 115). Arya eventually learns that she should focus not on bridging the gap between herself and the herb, but on bridging the gap between the human and the god.
The plight of godmen, then, is to endure the agony of humanity while remaining divine in spirit: “choosing the cold dangers of the pure and innocent wilderness to the warm comfort of the filthy and decadent human wastelands of civilization; for where herds live, there you find the wastelands and the deserts of the spirit; and where no man has set foot, there the air remains pure and undefiled, and a ray of hope shines on the horizon of a better tomorrow” (p. 139).
The Epic of Arya is such a ray of hope, a connection to the transcendent to help guide mankind through the end of the Kali Yuga to the establishment once again of the Golden Age.