Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron) during the Nazi reign. He was also an occultist. Himmler worshipped Ariosophy – the mythology of an Aryan master-race. The Nazis had just adopted the Buddhist swastika from India as their national symbol. They turned it right-wielding. [Most swastikas you see of Buddhism in temples across East-Asia are left-wielding]. Himmler believed in Germany’s unbroken brotherhood with Tibet, a Buddhist nation – and a sage culture, one of the main reasons why today’s Germany still has an intense sympathy for the Tibetans who should not be part of China, the one Eastern competitor that by its sheer size and dominance threatens Germany’s self-image as the peak of human achievement. Himmler – together with Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s Deputy in the NSDAP – approved three German expeditions to the Himalaya kingdom in 1930, 1934-35, and again in 1938-1939. The mission’s mission was to search for the mythical kingdom of the saints – Shambhala. Again, the obsession with holiness, that transcends all German thought. Sino-Tibetan mythology had sages, not saints. The word saint is unknown in Tibetan language. Besides, a saint is heavily burdened by European/Christian culture. The sages ruled in Shambhala, not saints. But Germany had no concept for sages and sagehood, and therefore searched for Tibet’s Heiligen.
Many of the German missionaries and travel writers, even if they had nothing to do with academic orientalism, nevertheless belonged to the class of sponsors in German orientalism. Germany had inherited its obsession for holiness since its beginnings as the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. Heilige were everywhere, and everything was heilig. Geek philosophy and Christianity was all they knew and think of, and the Germans projected it onto the world. The Protestant Reformation by Martin Luther and his translation of the Bible into German had a tremendous effect on the German psyche.
In his essay with the fitting headline Zur Geschichte der Religionen und Philosophie, the poet Heinrich Heine once hailed Luther as the ‘gottberauschter Prophet’ [a prophet intoxicated by God], gifted with ‘kalter scholastischer Wortklauber’ [a cold and scholastic quibbler] and equipped with the ‘Schwert der Zeit’ [the sword of time]. The possibilities of godless sages and sageness had never come to the Christian mind. Naturally, everything that an Englishman called – without thinking too much – a sage, a German thinker would correct: No, no, it’s a holy man! Logically impossible, because Christianity came to China from the West, the Germans miraculously found biblical patterns all over the China already: Confucius, Mencius, and Laozi, Chinese shengren, were all called ‘Heilige’ (Schott, 1826; Grube, 1902; Haas, 1920; Wilhelm, 1925; Biallas, 1928.). Hindu deities, buddhas, bodhisattvas and even Brahmans were called ‘Heilige’ too. The Lamas of Tibet were called Heilige and even addressed as ‘Ihre Heiligkeiten.’
Pattberg, Thorsten (2011), Shengren – Above Philosophy and Beyond Religion, LoD Press, New York