‘Caveat Cultor’ – On The (Indo-European) Deification Of Political Figures

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[Author’s note: this piece was originally written a year ago, in response to then-recent happenings. It is presented here, unaltered except for image [George Washington, in case you didn’t recognize him with his shirt off]; as it contains a few points of comparative Indo-European mytho-political interest]

 
“Over the past 24 hours, i’ve been tagged a number of times by a number of people in a number of media outlets’ somewhat breathlessly gawking feature-videos on a man in India who’s apparently taken to worshipping one Donald Trump.
 
Now, to be sure, the deification of political rulers is not entirely without precedent in India, just as it is also reasonably well-precedented in Europe and America.
 
With regard to the former, given the much ‘hazier’ line between ‘human’ and ‘divine’, I’d actually submit that the main surprising feature of the practice on the Subcontinent is that it doesn’t seem to happen much more often. Indeed, the only examples of this happening to political leaders which sprang to mind from there were a) the entirely understandable veneration of ShivaJi, the Imperator of the Marathas [which is, to be sure, not to suggest that this is an especially common approach as applies Him]; and b) the longstanding tradition of the (now deposed) Nepali ruling family presenting its reigning monarch as being an incarnation of Vishnu. Although there are, no doubt, others; even without getting into the perhaps murky functional division between ‘apotheosis’, and the conferred sainthood [in something closer to the Christian sense, rather than the ‘Sant’ designation within Hinduism itself which uh .. means something a bit different despite often being translated identically] not infrequently affixed to prominent figures from a number of areas of life.
 
And as applies the West – many people are inveterately familiar with the Imperial Cults of Rome; which conferred Godhood on various and sundry Roman Emperors. Although usually only post-mortem – with only a handful of exceptions, that almost invariably turned out “interestingly” badly, such as Elagabalus (also the reason why the Roman Senate passed edict *specifically forbidding* women from becoming Senators) … or Caligula (this particular occurrence most probably having much more in the way of ‘political’ overtones than ‘mere’ madness; and being immortalized [ahem] in the now almost equally infamous initially Gore Vidal scripted film of the same name…).
 
More recent examples in the West are harder to come by; possibly due to the ‘codifying’ [or, if you prefer, ‘stultifying’] impacts of Christianity’s ongoing prevalence therein. “God”, as they say, “is not particularly keen on ‘competition’.”
 
However quite apart from the apparent cult of Diego Maradona which sprang up some years ago in Argentina (I am not making this up – it actually exists, and is called the Iglesia Maradoniana ; although I’m not *entirely* sure how serious some of its adherents perhaps are in their enthusiastic worship of a soccer player named Maradona … despite being Argentinian); it also appears that George Washington, of US Presidential fame has attracted some veneration in this regard – both in terms of the ‘apotheosis’ offered by American civic religion [and, indeed, the literal painting entitled ‘The Apotheosis Of Washington” found in the US Capitol as a ceiling fresco and depicting the first Commander-In-Chief flanked by various and sundry members of the Roman pantheon …. because the US, apparently, has a keen sense of historical ambition if not, perhaps, irony – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi, indeed, geopolitically speaking], as well as the rather more ‘traditional’ religious incorporation apparently afforded him in some Shinto shrines located in the US (particularly in – and, again, I am not making this up, Hawaii).
 
So it would appear, perhaps surprisingly, that Donald Trump is not the first US President to be er … accorded some level of religious station. Albeit perhaps the first one *actually* capable of carrying out armageddon if necessary/bored.
 
And I’m not even going to *begin* to get into the potential analyses of Soviet or other affiliated/aligned regimes and ideological trains’ ways of regarding *their* numifold luminaries. Particularly in some of the more .. frontier areas wherein the belief-structures and ‘Great Men’ of Marxist “Historical Materialism” collided headlong with far older, more esoteric – or even downright *arcane* – approaches, and produced some seriously intriguing ‘syncretic’ developments as a result.
 
[Also, an obligatory mention at this point, from the *other* side of the Russian Civil War, for a certain Baron von Ungern Sternberg – who uh … well, we’ll just say that it takes a *certain sort of person* to become regarded as a living incarnation of a Mongol [or, in some sources, Tibetan] God(dess) of War/Vengeance]
 
In any case … as applies my own feelings in this regard, all I can say is this:
 
I have had rather up-close and personal experience with perhaps the most successful political cult of personality ever to have existed in New Zealand politics. In fact, I seem to recall putting its name as my answer to the question as to what one’s religion was in the 2013 Census. I meant it, then, too.
 
And with no disrespect intended in various (particular) directions … you know what I’ve realized in the intervening five years? In a manner perhaps not entirely dissimilar to the heft behind the old adage about how one ought not meet one’s heroes … for all the impressive sound and fury and even occasional unquestionably Good Deeds they’re capable of conjuring up; the relative imperfection for the role of a man-tier ‘messiah’ figure tends to far exceed that of a less ‘materially constrained’ and more ‘traditional’ Divinity.
 
“Caveat Cultor”, we might say.
 
Although having said all *that* … I should like to point out that our ongoing efforts at securing far broader recognition for the implicit APOTHEOSIS of NAPOLEON I CHAKRAVARTIN … are something else/different entirely.
 
‘Tat Tvam Asi’, indeed.”
 
[-C.A.R.]

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