Part II: Spiritual or Intellectual Colonialism and the Kitsch Theatre of Frithjof Schuon

BY Mark Koslow




Note: the following essays were written to concentrate on an aspects of "Traditionalist" ideology which seeks to impose itself on other cultures or to use other cultures to glorify itself.  I began calling this imposition of an ideology of diverse religions “spiritual colonialism” back in 1992.  After my first hand study of the Schuon cult, I saw how Traditionalism or as some would call it, ecumenical transcendentalism, really behaved in person. Seeing these people in person was totally different than how they represented themselves in their books and journals. Schuon himself was a strange, pretentious little man who managed to convince a whole group of people to deify him in an out of the way rich suburb in Bloomington, Indiana. I figured out how Schuon co-opted other religions in an effort to glory himself with them. The "transcendental unity of the religions" was nothing more than turning the wreckage of various fading religions into diadems in Schuon's fictional self coronation.  So when I met Joseph Epes Brown in 1992 I saw how he also had a little cult of sorts going around himself. I saw how confused he was about Black Elk and Naive Americans. But what I learned from Brown as well as form other traditionalists such as Whitall Perry and Rama Coomaraswamy, is that the traditionalist movement was questionable to the core. The men who created it were mostly far right careerists , theofascists, and myth makers, liars in some cases, charlatans and hangers on.

     An example of this attempt to rewrite history as a co-optation and exploitation of Naive culture can be found in Michael Fitzgerald's' attempt to co-opt Brown Schuon and Black Elk to his own glory. ( for more on Fitzgerald's attempt to  blow his own horn and co-opt Brown to the personality cult of Schuon see ) See also the New edition of Brown's The Sacred Pipe,
THE SPIRITUAL LEGACY OF THE AMERICAN INDIAN WITH LETTERS that has an introduction by Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald, it should be recalled, was the man who was Schuon's spokesman during the indictments proceedings against Schuon in 1991. Maude Murray has said of him that he encouraged and entire group to lie to the courts "under oath".. Fitzgerald's son was part of these nudist gatherings at age 14 so of course he had alot to protect in lying about his involvement.

So, as regards the essay before you--- the first of these essays is called “Black Elk, Joseph Epes Brown, Neihardt and the Schuon Cult” and the second is called “Spiritual Colonialism". The term "spiritual colonialism" is somewhat ambiguous. The term intellectual colonialism is more accurate, since the traditionalists basically tried to exploit the world religions as part of a colonizing intellectual procedure akin to capitalist globalization. But  the term "intellectual colonialism" does not convey the effort of the traditionalists to create a sort of "Ur- fascism" as Umberto Eco called it, or a  a "super religion" , as Evola called it. Traditionalism is a form of intellectual of "theofascism" and it sought to acquire all the religions as colonies for their intellectual Reich or Empire. In any case, both these essays are about comparative religion as a form of colonialism, and were written in 1996 for David Adams, a professor at CSU, who had himself studied with J.E. Brown. David had written a very good study of the negative effect of white education methods on Indians living on reservations called  Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience 1875-1928, so he was quite aware of the ill consequences of colonialism. Since he knew Brown, Rebecca McDonald and some of the people in the Schuon cult, he was very interested in what I had learned about them. It had not occurred to him that Brown was himself a sort of colonialist. I wrote three separate studies about the Traditionalists, as part of an independent study, with David as my advisor. This is one of them

       Joseph Epes Brown died on Sept 19th, 2000. He had Alzheimer’s. I didn’t see any signs of this disease when I saw him in 1991, and I know the disease well, since I care for mother who also who has it. Since Brown’s death there have  appeared various attempts on the part of Schuonian and traditionalists to exploit his work for their benefit. Schuon’s disciple and successor, Hossien Nasr, as well as Michael Oren Fitzgerald, have written a lot of nonsense trying to exploit Brown as has some members of the Schuon cult in Bloomington, Indiana. Brown disliked Schuon personally a great deal, as I show in these essays. But Brown had deep ambiguities about the traditionalists. Joseph told me in no uncertain terms that it was his students that he cared about, men like Peter Nabokov or David Adams. He had no like for Schuon or his followers. Brown's wife Elinita felt differently and her view has prevailed since Brown's death. But in the end Brown was too influenced by the traditionalists to entirely abandon them. But he did make clear to me that he would have rejected them entirely had he had the strength to do so. He didn’t have the strength and because of this, his work still serves as a support for the intellectual colonialism that characterizes Traditionalism.  In this sense, his work fails. But the support it offers to traditionalism is based on falsehood of and fabrications of various sorts, as I show below. But that many still will find some value in his work, I don't doubt. As Tony Ironshell, a Brule Sioux form Rosebud reservation told me in 1998, Black Elk did not have the whole story. Brown had even less of the story than Niehardt.  Black Elk, Brown told me,. was well advanced in senility when Brown spent time with him. (MK 2007)


These essays were written in 1996, but I have edited and corrected both these essays recently, but they need to be gone over again. M.K. 2008





            The recent historiography of Black Elk studies can be summed up easily. In 1984 Raymond DeMallie came out with new information that shed light on Black Elk, showing Black Elk's deep involvement in the Catholic Church and establishing how much John Neihardt had edited the Black Elk interviews to suit Neihardt's literary purposes.[1] An academic debate ensued with some writers, such as Raymond Demallie and Julian Rice, trying to maintain that Black Elk was a traditional Lakota who become a Catholic catechist for reasons of expediency. In contrast, Black Elk's own daughter was convinced he was primarily Catholic later in his life. Also, Clyde Holler, in his book, Black Elk's Religion, tries to maintain that he was equally Christian and Lakota.  The biographers of Black Elk assumed that this is the whole story whatever side in this debate might be taken. But this leaves out very important and unknown facts in the life of Black Elk. There was others besides Black Elk who tried to use Black Elk for their own motives.
            In fact, Neihardt was not the only writer to use Black Elk for ulterior purposes, however these purposes may have suited Black Elk. Joseph Epes Brown, who transcribed the second book of Black Elk's, The Sacred Pipe, also projected upon Black Elk his own purposes and intentions. For 25 years Brown was a disciple of Frithjof Schuon, a self styled, Muslim-Sufi, universalistic pretender and spiritual Master.  Brown sought to make Black Elk into an example of Schuonian universalism. The nature of this projection of intentions is entirely unmentioned in the literature on Black Elk, largely because of the clandestine behavior of Brown and the cult of Schuon, as Brown had been a member of this cult for years.. There has been a consistent and deliberate intention to keep the facts surrounding Brown's book secret. This secrecy has been perpetuated by Brown himself, as well as by others, as will become clear. Since I have some knowledge of this matter, which is otherwise unknown, I feel I owe it to the truth to tell what I know. I see no real advantage for anyone in preserving deceptions.



Brown’s Relation to  Neihardt


            I went to visit Joseph Epes Brown outside Missoula, Montana in October of 1991, after having spoken with his wife by phone on numerous occasions. I had gathered evidence about the corruption of the Schuon cult, recounted earlier. I had sent this evidence to Brown some months previously, and wanted to know his reaction to it, in the hope that Brown would publicly admit and renounce his involvement in the Schuon group. As I will explain, he admitted his involvement, and explained he had long ago renounced Schuon and thought him insane, but refused to publicly acknowledge or renounce it. I also went to see him because I wanted to meet Brown, as he was the source of my original interest in Traditionalism. I had read he Sacred Pipe, years before I knew who Schuon or Guenon were. I wanted to meet the man whose work had lead me ultimately into a labyrinth of false hopes and deceitful spiritual organizations.

            In the 1970's Brown had built a round house, inspired by the Indians living in round structures. Black Elk had said that round houses were spiritually better for people. I spent the day with him. It was hard to get used to walking around his round house, but I adjusted after awhile.  I liked Brown, who seemed a quiet and interesting man. He talked about Native art, Black Elk, Little Warrior and many other things. We walked outside and we talked while he fed his white Arabian horses . He pointed out two pine covered mountains behind his house which he called Mt. Joseph and Mt. Mary, and said he and his family climbed one of them every year. Mrs. Brown said, when I asked her how Joseph's health was, that he is a spiritual example to us all by his "silence". I must have balked at this somewhat, since I was no longer interested in having spiritual mentors. The Browns were trying to sway me to their point of view, and made it clear they wanted me to keep silent about their relation to Schuon.  I had heard all the gossip about the Browns in the Schuon group, where he has vilified as having betrayed Schuon and his wife Elenita was blamed for this. It was said  by Schuon and his entourage that Elenita was too “modernist” because she was interested in jazz and modern dance. Actually, my meeting with Brown convinced me that this was largely wrong. Elenita was an interesting person and there is nothing wrong with jazz or modern dance. Moreover it seemed that it was Elenita and not Joseph who was the one trying to hold on to some idea of Joseph as a spiritual exemplar. Brown himself struck me as  professorial, sad, quiet and kind. I liked him. Indeed, of all the traditionalists I had met over the years, Joseph seemed the least infected with the dogmatic arrogance and sneering pose of superiority that most of the traditionalists exhibit.
            Of course, during our meeting he did exhibit various some superstitious ideas.  Brown told me many of stories about miracle events he had witnessed. How Little Warrior got Indian rattles flying around the inside of a Tipi during a Yuwipi ceremony he attended with Black Elk, for instance. Or how Little Warrior got owls to gather around him, since owls were the totem animal of Little Warrior. He seemed concerned to convince me of the powers of these men and of his own importance because he knew about these supernatural events. He said that he preferred Little Warrior to Black Elk and that Black Elk was "old and tired" when he knew him. He siad tht Black Elk was suffering from some degree of forgetfulness and senility. He brought me into his study and indicated to me an Icon of the Virgin May on the wall behind where he writes. Even though he was a Moslem and a Schuonian for most of his life, it was clear to me that he was still attached to his own version of orthodox Christianity. It was also clear to me that his relation to Islam was rather weak, and I was glad of that.

              He admitted that he had been an active member of the "tariqa", or secret brotherhood, led by Frithjof Schuon, from sometime after World War II until the early seventies. I already knew this, because I had been a member of this group, which I consider to be a cult, from 1989 to 1991. I laid before Dr. Brown many of the facts and photographs that I had gathered about the corruption of the Schuon cult, and requested that he publicly admit his involvement in the cult and renounce Schuon openly as his intellectual and spiritual master. I requested this because I had been involved in a legal case against Schuon' brought by the state of Indiana on October 11, 1991, on three counts of child molestation and sexual battery brought about by "undue cult influences and cult pressures".[2] In the company of others, I had witnessed these actions and had testified against Schuon. Dr. Brown  was not surprised by the facts  but he and his wife both refused to admit publicly that they had anything to do with Schuon and requested that I not mention his involvement, nor use his name in connection with Schuon. He denied "any affiliation", by which he meant current affiliation but admitted he had been Schuon's disciple for 25 years. I felt then and still feel now that Dr. Brown's motive in seeking to cover up for his involvement with Schuon was to protect his reputation as an academic scholar as well as to insulate his pretensions to spiritual election. He said as much. He wanted  to cover up his direct involvement with the cult  because he knew it was corrupt and did not want to be associated with it.  Since Brown's books are solidly grounded in Schuon's philosophy and do not mention his deep involvement in the cult, it would be embarrassing for him to admit how thoroughly he had been influenced by Schuon personally  as well as duped by him. While this may be understandable in some respects, I still feel I must try to tell the truth about what I know, even if Brown feels no such obligation.
         Another fact worth mentioning. During our conversation Joseph brought up the fact that a book called the Unanimous Tradition was coming out in the next few years and he was going to have some writing in it. He suggested to me it would be wise to take his writing out of it and stop participating with all the other traditionalists that were in the book. I could see he felt this was the right thing to do. I suggested that he withdraw form the publication. He said he was going to think about it. I was disappointed some years later to see that his courage failed him and was overtaken by his ambition when his writing appeared in the book. The last letter I got from Elenita indicated that she was particularly keen on keeping her foot in the traditionalist door. I think Elenita talked him out of his qualms about participating in that group. I had a similar experience with other old time members of the Schuon cult such as Coomaraswamy and Maude Murray. They had been in it too long and even though they knew how deeply corrupt the center of the Schuon cult really was, they were unable to find a way out of the old boy network and habitual ways of thought, action and publication that perpetuates the movement. The atmosphere of the cult of personality, Schuon's personality pervades this people. Elenita wanted Brown to be part of the traditionalist movement as a means of promoting his work.
             Brown's interest in Schuon, Brown admitted to me, goes back to World War II. If my memory serves me, Brown was interred for a time in a detention camp for conscientious objectors located on the Nevada-California border. He was there with John Murray, later an important, high ranking functionary in the Schuon cult.  Murray told me that he shared a room with Brown in this internment camp. Murray and Brown were interested in Guenon, Schuon, and Coomaraswamy, all writers of the "traditionalist" school. Murray and apparently Brown, both entered Sufi tariqas in Wales, shortly after the war. Both subsequently joined the Schuon group. Murray was given the Islamic name, Abdul Ali, and Brown the name, Fath A Din.  In 1946 or 47 Brown was in Europe studying under Ake Hultkrantz, the Swedish Native American scholar. But he also made trips to see Schuon in Switzerland, apparently for fairly long periods of time. Brown writes in his 1988 Preface to the Sacred Pipe

 I first learned of the Lakota Sioux sage, Black Elk through John Neihardt's Black Elk  Speaks....During several trips to Europe immediately after the war, I was able to make    arrangements through close friends for French, German and Italian translations. [3]

          The "close friends" referred to here were Schuon and people around him, perhaps among others. When I was in the Schuon cult, Schuon claimed to have arranged for these translations with Brown. I asked Hilda Neihardt about these translations in 1995 and she wrote me back saying that they may have been "pirated" editions. Evidently, Hilda Neihardt felt that Brown has stolen her father’s work. She didn’t know that it was Schuon behind it.

            In any case there are many factors in the origin of the Sacred Pipe that are ambiguous and questionable. For instance, Hilda Neihardt writes that  in the late 1940's Brown wrote and requested information about Black Elk from her father, John Neihardt. She says that Neihardt wrote to Black Elk on Brown's behalf. She says in her letter to me that she remembers typing the letter for her father herself. She says in her book, Black Elk and Flaming Rainbow: Personal Memories of the Lakota Holy Man and John Neihardt  that she herself "typed my father's letter to his old friend [Black Elk]."[4] I wrote Hilda Neihardt and asked her to confirm this. She wrote back confirming that she typed a letter of introduction to Black Elk for Brown.  Brown's account of how he met Black Elk, in contrast, implicitly denies Hilda Neihardt's claim and hypes up and mystifies the meeting. Brown says that Neihardt

            "had advised me that Black Elk would not speak to me. After much traveling I found [Black Elk]  an old canvas wall tent in Nebraska....I entered the tent with great anxiety because of Neihardt's discouraging advice...When the ritual smoking had ended the old man turned to me and asked why I had taken so long getting there, for he had been expecting my coming.

            The implication of Brown’s version is that Black Elk supernaturally divined Brown's approach. That is a ridiculous supposition. Neihardt is made to look forbidding and discouraging. Hilda Neihardt writes in her book that Brown, perhaps deliberately, "omits events which may well figure in a scholarly history". Exactly. It is possible that it was Black Elk who is at fault here, for not telling Brown he heard from Neihardt of his coming.  This seems unlikely, however, since Brown had requested the Neihardt write Black Elk, he must have known that he had done so.  Saying in his book that “Neihardt advised me that Black Elk would not speak to me”, appears to be a falsehood. Perhaps a deliberate lie.
             Why Brown would seek to mystify his meeting with Black Elk? The reasons seem fairly obvious. No doubt he wished to hide his affiliation with Schuon. But also he seems to have recognized that the mystery surrounding his meeting with Black Elk implies that Black Elk had extrasensory perceptual skills. It was obvious during my visits with Brown that he had a taste for wild stories of “paranormal” phenomenon, spirits and supernatural events. Increasing the mystery of Black Elk increases Brown, who appears to have been chosen by Black Elk, according to invisible spiritual criteria, before Black Elk met him. Brown wants to imply that he was chosen supernaturally.  This gives Brown a chosen and elect status. This may be one of the reasons, perhaps the most likely reason,  that Brown sought to cover up the prosaic introduction to Black Elk that Hilda Neihardt claims she wrote for her father.
       If Brown has covered this up, and all the evidence suggest that he did, then the pattern of the cover up, closely resembles Schuon's tendency to mystify and obscure events in his own life to increase his status. Or it maybe that Brown, then a new disciple of Schuon's,  felt himself to be on a mission from a higher source, as Schuon trains his disciples to believe themselves superior, and did not wish to thank Neihardt for his help. During my meeting with him, Brown told me he thought little of Neihardt.  Suffice it to say that there appears to be a tendency to secrecy and cover-up on Brown's part from the beginning of his contact with Schuon and Black Elk. While the evidence is not certain, Brown has kept his relation with Schuon and the fact that he is a Moslem secret all these years. Mystifying his meeting with Black Elk seems to follow a pattern of deception and presumption that Brown probably learned from Schuon.

       One more thing. Hilda Neihardt complains in her letter to me that Brown and his wife had consistently refused to participate in conferences and publications celebrating Black Elk and Neihardt and that the Brown’s showed an “antipathy” toward Neihardt. This is true. As Hilda Neihardt says in her letter, one would think that Brown would be grateful to Neihardt, since he would not have known of Black Elk unless Neihardt had written his marvelous book about him. No one would have known of Black Elk if it had not been for Neihardt. Brown’s antipathy toward Neihardt appears to have been competitive. Brown and Schuon had exploited Black Elk for their own motives. They saw Neihardt as a lesser being who they could dispense with. Brown tried to make up a mythology about his meetings with Black Elk. Schuon, in a different way, did also.  But myth and fact are very different things.



Brown’s Relation to Schuon


            Schuon claimed to have advised Brown to go seek out Black Elk. I was told this many times by inner circle followers of Schuon.   I was also told by people in the Schuon cult that Schuon resented Joesph Epes Brown because Schuon claimed to have sent Dr. Brown to Black Elk in 1947 and that therefore responsibility for the book the Sacred Pipe belonged to Schuon. When I visited Dr. Brown in Nov. 1991, he denied that Schuon had anything to do with the book or that Schuon advised him to do see Black Elk. Having watched with my own eyes how Schuon must assimilate to himself all forms of greatness, greedily trying to appropriate that will feed his delusions of grandeur, I am as sure as I can be that Schuon tried to use Dr. Brown in the same way he has used Shaykh Al-alawi, Thomas Yellowtail and so many others. Schuon used Brown to fulfill an unquenchable ambition for spiritual greatness. But, as I have indicated, the facts indicate that both Brown and Schuon are involved in deceptions here.

            Dr. Brown was a member of Schuon's spiritual order from 1947 to 1970-72;[5] .  Brown told me himself that he began to suspect Schuon's sanity in the 1950's because of what he called Schuon's  pretentious " silly poses and gestures". He said he felt Schuon's mind was somehow "ruptured" even in the 1950’s. He even said to me that Schuon "may be satanic". I do not believe in satan, personally, but Brown's comment carries a very strong suggestion of his psychological divorce from Schuon. It was clear to me that he not only disliked Schuon and thought him insane but was somewhat afraid of him and his group. Brown admitted to me that he remained a member of the group until the 1970's however, so his doubts about Schuon's sanity cannot have been  serious until the 1970’s.  Indeed, my visit to Brown convinced me of his duplicity toward Schuon. Schuon has been important, even central to Brown's work, yet Brown had not just serious doubts about him, but in some way thought him insane and “satanic”. But he does not seem to have been able to cut the cord entirely. He was profoundly ambiguous about Schuon's importance to him.

            The earlier history of Brown's relations with Schuon does not indicate doubts about Schuon's sanity. For instance, Brown allowed Schuon's essay the "Sacred Pipe" to preface the 1953 edition of Brown's book, the Sacred Pipe. The Sacred Pipe was published simultaneously in French and English in 1953.[6]  Schuon's essay virtually mirrors, almost exactly, the content of Brown's interpretive footnotes in the Sacred Pipe, indicating a very close association, even a symbiosis between the two men.  Followers of Schuon claimed to me that Schuon had overseen the editing of the book. But while speaking with me Brown denied vigorously that Schuon had anything to do with the book, much less did Schuon edit it. He denied it several times.  
        Whether Schuon did have to do with the writing of The Scared Pipe or not---and I believe Brown that Schuon did not have to do with it----it's fairly certain that Schuon had some influence on it. Schuon's Preface to the French edition outlines Schuon's philosophy with special attention to applying it to Lakota rituals. The essay frames both Black Elk and Brown within a larger overview, colonizing both of them under the domination of the Schuonian effort. Brown allowed his book to be framed and subsumed within the dominating structure of Schuon's philosophy.  The fact that Brown allowed his book to be published with Schuon's interpretive essay as a preface already indicates a degree of deference. This deference reflects Brown's submission to Schuon as his 'spiritual master' during this period. Brown’s later denials that Schuon had anything to do with the book  indicate Brown was clearly ashamed of the early influence Schuon had on him and wanted to deny it.  It also probably indicates some awareness that Schuon was using him. It was my sense in talking to Brown that he knew Schuon had used him and Black Elk. He was struggling to define himself as his own man, despite this. In complete violation of Schuon’s ideology, Brown told me that most important thing he learned from the Lakota was to be an individual.

            So Brown eventually tried to establish himself as somewhat independent of Schuon and his cult. Schuon mentions Brown on numerous occasions in his Memoirs. It is clear in context that Schuon's trips to visit Indian tribes in America were accomplished with Brown's help and sometimes his accompaniment. Schuon went to visit Ben Black Elk who was Brown's translator for The Sacred Pipe and Brown accompanies Schuon to the Sun Dance in 1963. Indeed, Brown seems to have arranged or advised most of the contacts that Schuon made among Native American’s in 1959 and 1963.

            Brown mentions Schuon often in his books. Even as late as 1976 he was still speaking of Schuon as the "great contemporary theologian and metaphysician"[7] Indeed, even more recent essays are largely structured around Schuonian ideas.

         Schuon writes in his Memoirs that in 1973 a Colloquium took place in Houston, "whose Chief participants were some of my disciples, friends and representatives"  It was at this conference that Leo Shaya read a paper called the Eliatic Function, implying that Schuon was a prophet or avatara. Brown was a featured speaker at this gathering.[8]  Since Brown had said to me that he thought that many of Schuon’s ideas were crazy and that his notion of himself as a prophet or avatara was part of the ”rupture” of his mind, I was mystified by how Brown could be so duplicitous. It is clear that even though Brown claims to have left the Schuon cult in the early seventies, he still pays him some allegiance, apparently because of political motives of opportunism.  When I went to visit him I requested he publicly renounce Schuon, or allow me to say on his behalf that he had renounced him. He refused. I asked if he would write about Schuon and renounce him for the Indians sake. He said no. But it was clear that he had indeed renounced Schuon. He had little respect for him, and thought him insane.
     A few years after my visit Brown’s wife wrote to me on Jan. 8, 93. I felt she is putting words in Joseph’s mouth. She says that Schuon and other "metaphysical scholars we have known since the 30's have helped countless people who were looking for alternate spiritual paths- This we will not deny- That they helped us two also- and for this we are grateful. When we [she and Joseph], had each broken away from what we had thought was a legitimate tariqa- there were our own personal reasons".  At least she admits that she and her husband were members of Schuon's "tariqa". And she does say it is an illegitimate tariqa, by implication. But, I already knew that. I felt that her letter was an attempt to put a political spin on many of the things that Joseph had said.  So I took it as merely her opinion and not his.

            Brown denied to me that Schuon had anything to do with The Sacred Pipe. But this does not appear to be entirely true either. Having heard both Brown's and Schuon's side of the story of the writing of The Sacred Pipe, it appears to me that the split that developed between Brown and Schuon in the 1970's was largely over who was primarily responsible for the book. Schuon even went so far as to say that Brown's recent illness--he has Alzheimer's-- was partially due to Brown's refusal to admit Schuon's formative role in the occurrence and conception of The Sacred Pipe. The vindictive magical thinking involved here is typical of Schuon, who often responds to those who criticize him by attributing diabolic motives to them. Since Schuon is for god, those who are against Schuon are against god and therefore of the devil, and sickness or death is their just recompense. This sort of malicious, magical, "them vs. us" thinking is characteristic of cult leaders in general.  Schuon believed that Brown had left him because of his wife Elenita, who was too "bohemian", had led him astray. Schuon thought Brown was academically ambitious and thus not sufficiently interested in Schuon himself. For Schuon, followers were either victims or accomplices. All this was in addition to Schuon disliking Brown and because Brown refused to give Schuon credit for the book, The Sacred Pipe.
            That Schuon has deeply influenced Brown is unquestionable, and is apparent in all of Brown's writings, as well as Schuon's. The question is of the degree of this influence. There is reason to believe that this influence was considerable, especially in the late 1940's, when Brown was working on the book and living with Black Elk and making trips to see Schuon, whom he then considered his 'spiritual master', in Switzerland.

            When I was in the Schuon cult, I was shown stack of personal letters that Brown wrote to Schuon during his visit to Black Elk and afterwards. These were informal personal reports, written in a deferential style, as Brown then considered Schuon his spiritual master. These letters imply that Schuon was involved to some degree in the project of contacting and recording Black Elk's views. Unfortunately I do not have copies of these letters. One of them is recorded in Schuon's essay the "Sacred Pipe" which preface the first French edition of Brown's book in 1953. It can only be hoped that these letters will one day be published. In any case, these letters show Brown showing submissive deference to his 'spiritual master'.  Brown accepted this role playing, and in a sense Brown allowed himself to be “colonized” by Schuon. Moreover, the letters how that Schuon considered Brown a kind of spiritual emissary to Black Elk and the Native Americans in general.  This also shows Schuon attempting to use Brown as a emissary of Schuon’s colonialistic ambitions. I believe Brown that he did not consider himself Schuon's emissary entirely.  But at the same time, Brown appears ot have minimized Schuon's involvement beyond the factual record.
            No doubt Schuon exaggerated his own importance in the project of Brown, Black Elk and The Sacred Pipe. But it appears that as much as Schuon exaggerated his importance, Brown has minimized and denied Schuon's involvement contrary to the facts.. Both men seem to have used Black Elk as an occasion to magnify themselves, and were willing to obfuscate or exaggerate questions about their relation with each other. the two men were arguing over who was going to exploit Black Elk. Schuon did not know Black Elk, so his claim to priority is really rudeness.

            That Brown was visiting in Switzerland frequenting the Schuon community in Lausanne is also indicated by various romantic attachments he developed there. The later first wife of Schuon, Catherine Schuon, whom Schuon married in 1949, told me in 1990, that Brown was in Switzerland for extended periods after the war, but before he went to see Black Elk in late '47 or early '48. She told me that she had been romantically attached to Brown and was sorry that she married Schuon, whom she had "never loved". She wished she had married Brown.  She told me that Brown taught her a song from Black Elk called the "pipe song" about the bringing of the pipe. I have seen this song performed in the Primordial Gatherings where Schuon embraces numerous nude and semi-nude women. During the song Schuon's forth wife reenacts the bringing of the sacred Pipe. She gives the pipe to Schuon while displaying her nudity to him as others watch.

             Brown married another Swiss disciple of Schuon's, Elenita. I have seen photographs of Brown with Schuon and others in Switzerland from this period. In one of these photo's Brown, his future wife Elenita, Catherine Freer, later Catherine Schuon, and Schuon and others appear with a visiting Hindu. It could perhaps be surmised that some fo the antipathy of the Schuon’s toward borwn arose from Ctherine Schuon’s disappointed love interest in Josesph. But that is speculative.
             In any case, the close relationship of Schuon to Brown, and the fact that, to some degree, Schuon was directly involved with Brown's relationship to Black Elk is indica
ted in the following quote from Schuon


            "In the year before my marriage , our American friend, Sidi Fath ad-Din, [Joesph Epes             Brown], was living with the Lakota Sioux and there frequented Black Elk, the old sage of whom the book "Black Elk Speaks" gives a moving testimonial. I was in close correspondence with Sidi Fath ad-Din and received news of Black Elk regularly, so that, in a sense,  I myself frequented him from a distance. Through Sidi Fath ad-Din he learned much about me and my community---and hence about my bride Seyyidah Latifah [Catherine Schuon].and he took a keen interest in everything that concerned me; and one day it come about that he gave her the Lakota name Wambali Oyate Win, which means Eagle People Woman; the Eagle People is my community.[9]


            In other words, Brown was conveying information between Black Elk and Schuon. Schuon and his wives call themselves the "eagle people", among other names. But it must be observed that what Schuon is really saying her is that he never met Black Elk and that his relation to him was merely one of third person hearsay. Schuon is using his really very weak and second hand realtin to Black Elk to claim and derive extraordinary elect status. He jumps form a dhearsay relation to Black Elk to his people—that is his cult-- being named the “Eagle People”, with a moments notice

            In the basement of Schuon's forth wife's [10] house is a dance room in which secret rituals are enacted. It was in this room that I witnessed Schuon commit the actions against children for which he was indicted. On the center pole of this dance room is a Native American shield. Its design is about the "Eagle People". In the Center is a large Eagle, representing Schuon and around it are smaller Eagles, which represent Schuon's disciples. There are photographs of this particular shield. It is hardly ture that Black Elk would have sanctioned this sort of megalomania. Certainly Brown did not. He told me he thought Schuon’s delusions of grandeur were serious and indicated an illness.

             Schuon claims that

"it was related to me years ago, [that] "Black Elk had said, shortly before his death, that now that he knew I intended to  take care of his work, he could die in peace". [11]

 Brown is the only person who could have "related" this to Schuon. Schuon fabricated the idea that he was continuing the work of Black Elk, and that he had a special tie with Black Elk, a tie which developed because of Brown. Brown did nothing to dissuade or discourage Schuon from this belief, on the contrary, he seems to have nurtured Schuon's delusions by acting as an intermediary This is significant given that Black Elk repeatedly stressed his despair and sense of failure about "making the tree flower" before he died. Making the tree flower meant bringing redemption to his people, and was mixed with his ideas derived from Catholic beliefs in Christ as Redeemer. Brown and Schuon had successfully appealed to the strong apocalyptic strain in Black Elk's thinking- an aspect of his thought which derived from his involvement in the Ghost dance and his involvement in the Catholic Church, both of which favored a view of the "next world" as a kind of gnostic paradise, and which reduced this world, with its very concrete sufferings, to a "dream". The fact that Black Elk told Schuon that he could "die in peace" because Schuon would continue his work thus indicates that Black Elk felt that Schuon had an apocalyptic function, as a "Restorer" or Prophet.  IN any case, it is certain that Schuon interpreted Black Elk's statement in this fashion.

It is typical of Schuon’s narcissistic delusions that he would interpret Black Elk’s moving desire to "making the tree flower" for his people, as if Schuon himself and his cult followers were the flowering tree that Black Elk spoke of.

            It would also seem that Brown, in the 1940's accepted this view of Schuon as an elect spiritual personality. Brown must have seen himself, at this time, as an intermediary between two 'saints', both of whom; he thought, stood on spiritual pinnacles. The Sacred Pipe is a Schuonian text, illustrating Schuon's notion of the "transcendent unity of the religions". It does not represent Black Elk’s views so much as Black Elk as mediated by Brown and the Schuon cult. Black Elk, and the rites he describes, is brought by Brown, through this book, into service of the Schuonian apocalyptic vision of the transcendent "Intellect". The "intellect" is the mystogogic faculty of the traditionalists,-- the supra-rational faculty which, in fact, is merely the inflated and narcissistic subjectivity of Guenon and Schuon. It was impossible for me to see this until I got to know both Brown and Schuon and compared them with what I learned of Black Elk from Hilda Neihardt, Demallie and Indian friends I consulted on the matter. It is unlikely that others can see this either, without important facts being presented to them. I am presenting some of this information. But I don’t know everything.
It would be useful to have Brown’s correspondence over these years, for instance.


            Colonizing the The Sacred Pipe


            It might be useful here to consider some examples of how Brown edited Black Elk to conform to the Schuonian vision of the world. In the Sacred Pipe (pg.26, footnote 11), Brown compares Black Elk's description of the Pipe ceremony to Schuon's spiritual method, which comprises "six themes of meditation", and which Brown was then practicing. This method is quite complex and baroque and it seems likely to me that it had been explained to Black Elk to some degree. Brown refers the reader of Black Elk's description of the use of the Pipe to Schuon's book The Eye of the Heart, especially the chapter "On Meditation". This chapter is a methodological description of Schuon's method of prayer, in which Schuon elaborates the three spiritual phases of 'purification', 'expansion' and 'identity', which Brown mentions, into six themes, each one corresponding to aspects of the universe and human qualities. The six themes, which Schuon apparently lifted out of the Buddhism idea of the “paramitas”, are central to Schuon's spiritual method which he teaches to his disciples. Brown is subsuming Black Elk's description of the Pipe within the orbit of Schuon's systematic, methodological concerns.  He is colonizing Black Elk. Indeed, Brown appears to be trying to use what information he gathered from Black Elk as an illustration of the Schuonic philosophy. This is what Schuon himself does with the many religions. Here Brown is doing it with Black Elk alone.

             But this was an important development for Schuon, since Brown's work with Black Elk elevated Schuon and enabled Schuon to subsume Native American Religion into his universalistic ambitions, as he had already subsumed Islam, Christianity, Platonism and Vedanta.. Something of Schuon's need to use the Indians to elevate himself is reflected in a letter written to the Lakota Times by Catherine Schuon in 1992.[12] She writes that Schuon is the "first philosopher and world renowned writer to elevate the Plains Indian religion to the level of the other great religions of the world". Black Elk is one of many spiritual manifestations that Schuon has tried to co-opt within his increasingly grandiose dreams of universal knowledge. However he may have regretted this in 1991, Brown served Schuon's ambitions and aided him in co-opting Indian religion as a spoke in his universalistic wheel.

             The universalistic and Schuonian flavor of the Sacred Pipe is evident, for instance, in the comparison that Black Elk makes between the Sun dance and the Christian Cross and the concept of Redemption. This comparison  is also made in Schuon's writings. Black Elk probably made this comparison himself before he met Brown, but Brown gives the comparison an ecumenical slant that is more Schuonic or 'Perennial' than Lakota. The same may be said of the attempt to paint the "seven rites" or the Lakota after the pattern of the seven Christian sacraments. The imagery of the Sacred Pipe is religiously syncretistic, and this too indicates influences of Schuon and Brown on Black Elk's thought. It may also indicate that Brown edited Black Elk's words in accord with his own Schuonic vision. But until we have the actual text of Black Elk, apparently transcribed by Ben Black Elk for Brown, this cannot be demonstrated. But I suspect that many aspects of Borwn’s version of Black Elk have more to do with Brown and Schuon that with Black Elk.

            Another example of Brown's imposing a Schuonian interpretation on Black Elk occurs in another footnote. Speaking of the Vision Quest described by Black Elk, Brown notes that the "lamenting" of the vision Quest is "the same attitude as that which, in Christianity, is called the "spiritual poverty: this poverty is the faqr of the Islamic Tradition of the balya of Hinduism..." (pg.54) This is a comparative perspective that could have been written by Schuon, Guenon or Coomaraswamy.  In another footnote to Black Elk's text, Brown observes that the "Spotted Eagle corresponds exactly, in the Hindu tradition, to the Buddha, which is the Intellect, or the formless and transcendent principle of all manifestation..." The concept of the Intellect is the central Idea of Schuon's system of thought, there is nothing native American about it.  Brown is here making Black Elk's text conform to the core of Schuon's ideology. (pg. 6) He is co-opting Black Elk for Schuon. The notion of imposing a symbolism on this beautiful bird, which I have often seen out west, seems quite absurd.

            In another footnote, Brown invokes Schuon's concept of the "eye of the heart". Schuon was writing a book with this concept as its central theme, in the late 40's and early 50's. It is not out of the question that Brown and Schuon had influenced Black Elk to emphasize this concept.  Even if they did not, Brown uses Black Elk's description of the eye of the heart as an illustration of the Schuonian concept. (pg.42) In either case there may possibly be indications of an effort on the part of Brown and Schuon to convert Black Elk to the Schuonian perspective. Black Elk, as DeMallie has pointed out, was rather easily influenced by Neihardt, and its likely that a similar process of absorption, con-creation and imposition went into the writing of the Sacred Pipe.

            As I read this book, it is as much the creation of Schuon and Brown as it is of Black Elk. It would be a mistake to  think that Black Elk did not have his own motives. Indeed, at least during the period in question, the three men seemed to have shared universalistic presumptions, based on a romantic nostalgia for the lost power of religion and this generated a mythical and poetic scaffolding, upon which the three of them built a structure of literary and transcendentalist universalism. At the basis of the mytho-religious symbolism, in both Black Elk and Schuon, is an ambition to create an abstract and total "truth" that is "perennial" and on the basis of this supposed truth to gain possession of the power that knowledge or religion has always offered as its primary seduction. Brown and Schuon were not only exploiting Black Elk for their own purposes, but it appears that Black Elk had his own reasons for wanting to use Schuon and Brown to exalt himself and his particular brand of syncretistic Lakota-Christian religion. Black Elk seems to have felt an alliance with Schuon because like Schuon he sought self-exaltation through transcendent religious imagery.

Black Elk’s view of Brown and Schuon


             In a list of actions in his life which are meant to indicate his high spiritual election, writes that he had a "spiritual contact with Black Elk, followed, a few years afterward, by our meeting with the Crows in Paris and Lausanne [in 1953]"[13] The nature of this "spiritual contact" with Black Elk is more psychological than spiritual, There was no real contact and what hearsay contact there was occurred only through Brown, since Black Elk died in 1950 and Schuon did not visit America until 1959. So Schuon had no real contact with Black Elk. What he had was a hear-say relationship that he inflated into a grand delusion. The record seems to indicate that Brown convinced Black Elk of Schuon's high, elect, spiritual status. the delusion that Schuon developed about Black Elk was created by Brown. Moreover, Black Elk seems to have developed some fictional notions about who Schuon was. It is possible that  Brown got himself between two men who had an inordinate need to exalt themselves. Black Elk too, seems to have had a highr opinion of his own status, and so perhaps he recognized something of himself in Schuon’s inflated idea about himself.

              It is probably also significant that during the period  when Brown was with Black Elk, Black Elk was suffering from tuberculosis, had broken his hip and suffered a stroke. The latter especially, would certainly have affected his thinking, making him more susceptible to the suggestions of Brown and Schuon.  It appears that Schuon and Brown took advantage of sick weak old man. This would explain why Black Elk was convinced that Schuon was Wicasa Wakan, or a sacred holy man. who would "take care of his work" . Black Elk wanted to believe Schuon was a holy man, just as he had wanted to believe that the Ghost Dance would bring back the past and Catholicism would help his people. He was wrong to believe these things, but one can sympathize with the desperation of a increasingly weak minded old man, who was too fragile to resist these beliefs.

            Black Elk's proneness to spiritual fantasy and poetic hyperbole in service of his desperate hopes is illustrated by a strange story that is recorded in Black Elk's biography and in Schuon's memoirs. During Schuon's visit to Pine Ridge in 1963, Schuon's disciple, Whitall Perry[14] told Lucy Looks Twice,  Black Elk's daughter,  that Schuon is "a man like her father, who understood the things of the great Spirit".  One of Black Elk's biographers records that according to Lucy Black Elk, ( Lucy Looks Twice), Black Elk had a vision of a man come to him everyday.

            As [Black Elk] waited for death he told me "do not worry, there is a man that comes to see me        every day at three O'clock. He is from overseas and he comes to pray with me. So I pray with  him. He is a sacred man"." [15]

Lucy Looks Twice does not seem to have realized how her father had probably been duped by Brown and Schuon into believing Schuon was a holy man. Black Elk was old and nearly blind and prone to fantasy. This story would be more or less meaningless, merely the fantasy of a lonely old man who longed for spiritual meaning to relieve the depression of the Native American defeat and the subsequent enclosure on state controlled reservations. But this story is repeated almost identically in Schuon's Memoirs.(pg.219). Schuon writes     

            Mrs. Looks Twice told us [in 1963] that during the time before Black Elk's death a holy man from  the East had come to him from across the sea at three o'clock in the afternoon; this man had previously sent him a kind of necklace. It was a Moroccan Rosary." [16]

        Of course it was Schuon who sent the rosary through Brown. All of Schuon's disciples are given rosaries of this kind. I was given one too. Schuon was trying to make Black Elk into a disciple, as he would later do to Yellowtail. Brown had convinced Black Elk of Schuon's supposed sacredness, and the old man, already somewhat senile, literalized this in his mind, and imagined Schuon coming everyday across the sea.

            What these stories indicate to me is that Schuon and Brown had convinced Black Elk of Schuon's supposed elect status, and Black Elk, susceptible to tall tales of a spiritual kind, had believed it. The detail of "three o'clock" is a convincing detail that no doubt conned the old man into believing it was true. Black Elk and Schuon both had enormous pretensions to spiritual powers. They both shared a similar delusion about their universal importance. Black Elk, in this story, is ascribing to Schuon miraculous powers---- not unlike powers I have heard Schuon ascribe to himself. Schuon has claimed to have knowledge of distant events or thoughts in some of his disciples' minds; some of his paintings are believed to be miraculous Icons, glowing with preternatural light. All that is nonsense. Similarly, one of Black Elk's biographers records that Black Elk predicted an eruption of supernatural lights in the sky when he died. Brown is on record,  as confirming this miracle. Stories of this kind are legion in the hagiographies of saints and serve a legitimizing function. Black Elk claimed that he was "the sixth Grandfather, who represented the spirit of mankind".[17] Such a presumptuous claim must be backed up by supernatural proof. Both Black Elk and Schuon were masters at the shamanistic art of exploiting coincidence and symbolism to generate such proofs, which convinced the minds of their followers, Brown being one of them. When I visited Brown he told me various miraculous stories about Black Elk and Little Warrior, Black Elk's friend. Such stories are told to increase the status of the person whom they are about. Schuon and Black Elk were primarily concerned with preserving their high status far above other men. Schuon records in his memoirs, "I am not a man like other men". Black Elk's vision made him believe that he could both bring redemption to mankind or cause a Holocaust. In both cases the primary concern is power. Of course, there is a difference. Black Elk imagined himself as being given means and herbs to destroy other men. But he renounced the use of this kind of violence. Schuon also imagined himself to have ultimate powers, and once said that three quarters of the world's people should be killed, because of their insufficient spirituality.

            In other words,  I do not think that Brown was concerned with power and knowledge to the level that Black Elk and Schuon were. Nor do I think that Black Elk is as pathological as Schuon became. Black Elk's visions and religious writings and activities have a psycho-social element which derives from the poverty and suffering of the Lakota people. This gives him a pathos and human depth which is lacking in Schuon. In looking at religious people and phenomenaI I try to understand the human motivations. The symbolisms cannot be understood on their own terms, but rather can be understood only in reference to the motives or needs that are sublimated into religious, mythical political or intellectual symbolisms. I grant that the area of human motives and needs is a murky one. But I find the area of human motivations much more humanly accessible, honest and true, than the grand abstractions and delusional metaphysics of a Schuon. For example, I understand that Brown was too afraid to let his close tie with Schuon become known because he wanted to protect his reputation. Covering up the truth to protect one’s reputation is a human motivation, indicating a wearkness, perhaps, but not a fatal weakness. But that Black Elk is the Sixth Grandfather, or Schuon is the last great Prophet before the end of the world, are spiritual conceits that cannot be taken literally. This is the bravado of con-men. These are myths created by men who have an enormous need of power and adulation. I can understand that men and women may want power, but I am not obliged to respect them for it. IN Black Elk's case, I can excuse his slef inflation because he suffered for his people. In Schuon's case, the self inflation was inflated beyond me sympathy and I consider him a fraud. I can only try to tell the truth as best I can, and if I am wrong or mistaken, I hope to learn why.




            Both Black Elk and Schuon were alike in their estimation of themselves as men of profound spiritual significance. Black Elk thought of himself as the "Sixth Grandfather", who is, in the symbolism of Black Elk 's vision, the representative of both mankind and the earth. This is not a small role to fill, and it is not surprising that Black Elk was never able to fulfill it. Schuon, in a document in my possession, wrote that he is the "manifestation of the Logos at the end of time".  Both men saw themselves as having a Christ-like function.( Schuon's Islamic name means. "Jesus, light of the tradition, the glorified") Both men were deeply involved in creating myths about themselves, and Neihardt and Brown had the function of assisting in this myth creation. But Black Elk failed in achieving the absurdly grandiose ambition of being the Sixth Grandfather and savior of his people. His failure makes him human. One sympathizes with Black Elk because of his failure and the struggle that his people had to endure. I have no similar sympathy with Schuon, who seems to me a charlatan with delusions of grandeur.

            Brown's role in all this is ambiguous. Brown was involved in helping to create both the myth of Black Elk and the myth of Schuon, though he would eventually equivocate about the latter. His later doubts about his role as a promoter of Schuon have not proven to be very strong however, since he has tried to cover up his involvement with Schuon, rather than face the deep Schuonian bias of both the Sacred Pipe and his other writings. He had doubts that he should continue to associate himself with what he knew had become a dangerous cult. But for whatever reasons his misgivings did not prevail against his doubts. This that it is likely that Brown’s work will continue to be associated with the traditionalists to some degree.


            To summarize: the interaction of Black Elk, Schuon and Brown provide for us a unique chance to look at the psycho-social dynamics of religion and myth creation and the function that myth and religion serve in generating knowledge systems and orchestrating power relations and ambitions. At a certain point, in the he 1940's Brown Black Elk and Schuon came together to produce a book. Black Elk died shortly thereafter. Brown began to cover up the Schuonian editorial bias of the book. Schuon claimed credit for the book and the long deterioration of Brown's and Schuon's relationship began. Schuon became increasingly grandiose and exploitive in his use of Indian religion, and Brown sought to dissimulate his involvement with Schuon in an attempt to shore up his academic reputation.


             Whatever the differences between Black Elk, Brown and Schuon, all three of them illustrate in various ways how mythological and religious claims help orchestrate bids for power through knowledge. It might be objected  that Black Elk, many Lakota have said, does describe accurately the Lakota rites. But Black Elk’s motive was not merely description. On some level, he too was an ambitious man who wanted to leave a legacy. Schuon was able to exploit this. Religious rites orchestrate behavior and thus confer a species of power. Exploiting this was Schuon's strategy. He uses traditions to glorify himself. He leaves the tradition intact, more or less, and sucks from it the power of its symbolism and mythology. Elsewhere, I have called this process intellectual colonialism. But building an intellectual system to facilitate gaining social power is hardly unique to Schuon. Plato wrote his Republic in the hope of creating a totalistic civilization. Black Elk, too, had his own motives. His motives substantially corresponded to Schuon's motives. Both men spent their lives in pursuit of traditional ideals of spiritual knowledge and the power that it gives. The will to power through knowledge motivated both of them.

             There is no question in my mind but that Schuon suffered from very serious delusions of grandeur, in the clinical sense of this term. I have been able to understand, because of him, aspects of the will to power through knowledge which I would have had difficulty grasping otherwise. Once I understood his delusions of grandeur, I could understand a Napoleon, Hitler,  or many other less notable examples of men who want power or knowledge.


 Black Elk is a different story, despite the similarities and affinities. He elicits my sympathy, in general, though his need to exalt himself and secure a warriors reputation seems questionable to me. Brown was essentially a careerist, whose ambitions were not as total as either Schuon or Black Elk. Brown told me that his main concern, in 1991, was with his students and the continuation of his ideas through his students. But however much Brown indicates in some of his books that Schuon is the main influence on his ideas, he nowhere specifies that he was Schuon's disciple for 25 years and that his legacy is largely, if not entirely, a Schuonian legacy.  The fact that Brown was a disciple of Schuon and Schuon had influence of the Sacred Pipe and Black Elk, to some degree, are facts that should be more widely known.




1. DeMallie, Raymond J. The Sixth Grandfather Univ. of Nebraska

Press. 1984.



2. State of Indiana vs. Frithjof Schuon, Monroe County Circuit

Court. Cause # 53 CO1 0110 CF 00601 The charges were dropped

under very suspicious circumstances. The Grand Jury that indicted

took the very unusal move of reconvening itself to try to

prosecute further, but this too was stopped. The D.A. in the

case was mysteriously fired and a two million dollar law suit

hung over the head of the investigating officer. The cult was

accused by the D.A. of buying off the Prosecutor, Robert

Miller.Even when new evidence surfaced about Schuon's corruption,

further action was blocked. It is estimated the cult spent over

a million dollars to cover up Schuon's crime.

3.Brown. Joesph Epes. The Sacred Pipe Univesity of Oklahoma

Press. 1989 pg.xi

4. This quote is from Schuon's Memoirs, pg.148. This document

in only given to members of the cult, and ceratin chapters,

such as that on "Sacred Nudity", are only given to inner circle

people. I'M told that the Memoirs are published in German and

that therefore it may be legal to quote from the translation.

But I may be wrong. The Schuon cult has threatened me and at

least four or five others with copyright infringement. They

successfully prosecuted one man, Aldo Vidali, for trying to

use some of this material in his effort to expose the Schuon

cult and some of its corrupt activities. I use this quote

tenatively, not knowing for sure if it is illegal or not. If

it is I would take it out of the paper. Schuon wishes to hide

this material because it is compromising to his reputation.


5. Schuon has four "wives". The first is Catherine Schuon. The

second is Barbara Perry; the third is Maude Murray and the forth

is Sharlyn Romaine. ThiS is documented in various court documents

as well as papers issued by the cult to its members. The clearest

admission is from a recent letter from the Third wife, who

announces that she is the successor to Schuon. Feb 21, 1995.

She writes: "I am a disciple of Frithjof schuonwho is a

present day Sufi-Master. He is a Moslem and has four wives,

of whom I am the third".(pg.3)

6.Ibid. pg. 262

7. Brown, J.E. Les Rites Secrets des Indiens Sioux. Paris,

Payot 1953 and 1975

8. Brown, Joesph Epes. The Spiritual Legacy of the American



Indian. Crossroad. 1982, 1992 pg.109

9. Skeltenkamp, Michael. Black Elk. Univ. of Oklahoma Pres


10. Ibid. pg.134

Memoirs. the "secret" chapter on "Sacred Nudity",




Spiritual or Intellectual Colonialism and the Kitsch Theater of Frithjof Schuon


            1.Schuon and Native American Kitsch

No doubt it is in many ways good that there is greater sympathy and desire to understand the Native Americans than ever before, but this phenomena is-a double-edged sword. The Indian artifact collectors are certainly happy, as are the sellers of crystals; Carlos Castenada~ and Lynn Andrews have made fortunes writing spiritualistic and pseudo-anthropological novels about Native religion and not a few movie makers have made movies of varying quality. Schuon might be considered the grandfather of the new-age neo-Indians. In any case, while these other manifestations are relatively superficial, the abuse of Native religion by Schuon is rather more serious because of the depth and authenticity of the cultural and anthropological information Schuon exploits and the enormity of the ambition that distorts native religion to Schuon's purposes.

            Schuon and his followers have collected an impressive array of headdresses, coup-sticks, pipes and pipe bags and other Indian art. Some of their members have even employed themselves in making porcupine quill work for clothes that Schuon wears in the gatherings. Schuon presumes to be an authority on Native American spiritual and ceremonial songs and some of the most sacred and secret of the songs are employed by Schuon in his nudist Primordial Gatherings. While in the cult I was employed to paint teepees for a number of people in the cult to put outside their houses. I also painted sun designs on rawhides for wall hangings for some of the cult members. Now that I look back on it I can see that I was producing Kitsch Indian art, or however “high” a quality. One of Schuon’s favorite places was the Epcott Ceneter at Disney Land in Florida, where his wives took him for a visit. He liked the exhibits that imitated cultures. Schuon’s notion of Indians was just this sort of kitsch. He played at being an Indian is sexual role-plays with himself is the big Chief and all his groupies as his helpless Indian maidens.
            However authentic all the Schuonian props may be, the context in which they were employed in fact has little or nothing to do with native Americans but everything to do with Schuon's ego. For instance, I was told by Barbara Perry, Schuon's second wife that Schuon is a “Being descended from heaven who has come to restore to the Indians their religion”, and that not only this but that it is his mission to restore all the religions. A modest ambition. On another occasion I was told by Schuon's first wife, Catherine, that he is greater than Black Elk, Crazy Horse and all the Indian Holy men of the past and that one of the reasons Schuon moved to America was to cast his great radiance upon these dispossessed people. Schuon styles himself as the great White Father who will continue the work of Black Elk and restore the Indian to their lost way. I was further told that the Indians have become decadent and this is why they do not yet recognize Schuon's greatness. In other words the Indians have become too stupid to realize who their great prophet is.


2.Appropriating the Other: Stealing the Red Cloud Name


Anyone who has occasion to read Schuon's Memoirs will see that he came to visit the Sioux and Crow in the 1950's and 60's not so much as to let the Indians teach him, but rather to teach them how to be Indians. This arrogant presumption to have a God given "mandate" to restore to the Indians their religion when the Indians themselves have not asked for this is typical of Schuon.

            Schuon does not treat the Indian as if they were "noble savages" but he does something that is perhaps even more patronizing. He is not concerned to understand reality as the Native people see it; rather he seeks to subsume and assimilate the Indians such that they become merely a serviceable spoke in the wheel of his universalist and totalistic philosophy. The Indians are subsumed under Schuon's pen not as a conquered race but as a conquered religion whose existence is justified by Schuon's having recognized them. In a letter written by Mrs. Schuon to the Lakota Times, the Sioux newspaper, Schuon's first wife writes that Schuon is "the first philosopher and world renown writer to elevate the Plains Indian religion to the level of the other great religions of the world." Besides the pompous and self-inflating vainglory of this statement it does not even correspond to the facts. The Plains Indians do not need Schuon or anyone else to "elevate" them; in fact, it is Schuon who uses the Plains Indians to "elevate" himself.

            Schuon's cult is unique in many respects. He has said many times in the press that he does not proselytize; but Schuon has written "our tariqa(group or brotherhood) cannot be a tariqa like all the others." And indeed, Schuon's cult is unique in that he does not proselytize on street corners like the Moonies or Hari Krishnas once did, he writes books whose function is to create an intellectual dynasty of a like-minded elite. His followers write other books that are intended to further promote his “message”. In other words he does proselytize but only among the " select few" who can understand his difficult books. The reward to those who join is an increase in their imaginary self worth; such that they all see themselves, as Schuon does, as if they were the transcendentally chosen elite. They can then sit in judgment on all of humanity as Schuon does. They hope for the day coming soon when the world will be destroyed and the chosen few will be saved and all the rest damned. Or so they imagine in the arrogance of their pride and hatred of the world. This is pure fiction of course, but the illusion is real to those who believe it. The result of all this is that Schuon has created a dynasty of devoted academic, religious and cult followers who are spread around the world and who proselytize and extend Schuon's influence. Huston Smith and Hossein Nasr are the most well known of his disciples, for instance.

            Schuon appropriates what is useful to him. He did the same thing with the Islamic world, where he made himself, illegitimately, a Sufi master and successor to Shaykh Al Alawi without the latters permission.  I have already recounted how  Schuon used Joesph Epes Brown and Black Elk to exalt himself. But there are other aspects to Schuon’s abuse of Native culture I have not mentioned. During Schuon's visits to Native tribes in the 1950's and 60's, Schuon was "adopted" by the Red Cloud family. He describes this adoption and the naming ceremony that accompanied it in his Memoirs. After I left the Schuon cult I wanted to know what these "adoptions” actually meant.  I contacted a number of people of the Lakota and Brule Sioux tribes as well as Joesph Epes Brown, Raymond DeMallie, Peter Nabokov and William Powers; all men who have studied Indian religion and culture most of their lives. I learned from talking to all these men that Schuon's claims to authority in Native American religion are largely bogus. The Native American scholar Raymond DeMallie said that the Sioux adoptions of whites during the 50's and 60's were merely "ersatz ceremonies" which are only meant to honor and not to confer rights upon an individual in respect of Lakota religion. On the basis of his having been adopted into the Lakota tribe Schuon has arrogated to himself the right to adopt two of his wives into the tribe. Joesph Epes Brown told me that Schuon's own adoption into the Sioux does not give him the right to adopt anyone.  After the Native American Newspaper, now Indian country Today, published an article about the adoption of Schuon by the Red Cloud family, the Red Cloud family renounced Schuon as having anything to do with them. The Lakota Times reported on July 29, 1992 that

Lyman Red Cloud, grandson of James Red Cloud, said his family
was considering a lawsuit    against Mr. Schuon because his family
had been shamed by [Schuon's] carrying on. He does not want
the Red Cloud Family associated with the group that portrays
the White Buffalo Cow Woman as a naked white woman wearing a war bonnet.

Red Cloud called me in 1992 and wanted confirmation of the corruption of the Schuon group, which I supplied to him. He said he wanted to sue Schuon for abuse of his family name.

            Red Cloud is of course a famous name in Indian history, and Schuon had wanted the glitter of this name to be attached to himself, as he had tried to appropriate Black Elk for similar purposes and reasons.

3.Buying Yellowtail 

        Schuon attempt to appropriate Black Elk to his universalistic ambitions by  using Joesph Epes Brown as an intermediary established a pattern that Schuon tried to repeat with others. I have already mentioned his attempt to appropriate Sheik Al Alawi and red Cloud. Perhaps his most successful appropriation was that of Thomas Yellowtail, Crow leader of the Sundance. Schuon met Yellowtail in Paris in 1953, were Yellowtail was traveling with Reginald Laubin during a dance tour. After Schuon's move to America in 1980 Yellowtail come to visit Schuon in Bloomington every year. Michael Fitzgerald, a former student of Brown's usually put the Yellowtails up during his visit and Fitzgerald became Yellowtail's biographer. The first version of Fitzgerald's book about Yellowtail, a copy of which I have, contained 35 pages of footnotes and commentary written by Schuon who lives a few doors from Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald is the financial engine behind the cult. As far as I know no one has told the Crow people that their Sun dance leader is virtually a disciple of Schuon. In any case, Schuon is a spiritual colonialist, and he does whatever he finds opportune to try to create his spiritual empire.

             I met yellowtail in the house of Fitzgerald in 1990. During the time I was a member of the Schuon cult I was told that I was automatically an adopted member of the Crow tribe as were all the other members of the Schuon cult. During one of the visits of Thomas Yellowtail, the Sun dance leader of the Crow tribe, I was told by Mr. Yellowtail himself that I was an adopted member of this tribe. At first I was very honored, but as time went on and I saw how decadent Schuon's cult really is, and how the group deliberately deceives and uses Mr.Yellowtail to give themselves credibility, I no longer believed myself an adopted Crow. I do not wish to be given honor under false pretenses.

           The Schuon Cult has built a house for Mr. Yellowtail on the Crow Reservation, near Wyola, Montana. Yellowtail was largely supported by the cult, especially by Michael Fitzgerald. [18] I do not believe that Mr. Yellowtail realizes that he has been bought by the Schuon cult so that they can use his name to give credibility to Schuon. Mr. Yellowtail struck me as a simple and honest man who would not willingly think ill of anyone. This fact made it very easy for the cult to deceive him.  I witnessed, on more than a few occasions, efforts made by other cult members to hide the real nature of the secret activities and rituals of the Schuon group from Mr. Yellowtail. I watched, for instance,  Michael Fitzgerald, take down the nude paintings of Schuon's virgins and the Buffalo Cow Woman that were hanging in Fitzgerald's house before Yellowtail was coming for a visit. Members of the group are told that they cannot tell either Mr. Yellowtail or John Pretty on -Top,Yellowtail's successor as Sun dance leader, anything about the nudist rites that are called "Primordial Gatherings". Schuon wrote a text, distributed to members of the cult, that restricted what they could say to Yellowtail and Pretty on Top. When I left the cult tried to inform Mr. Pretty on Top concerning what really goes on in Schuon's cult, but he would not believe me. His main concern was that Yellowtail received a house and money from the Schuon group, and he said he didn't want to see Yellowtail lose this money and property,  For me, this is a measure of how successful the Schuon cult can be at deliberate deception and corruption. The cult had essentially bought the endorsement of Yellowtail.

      Moreover, shortly after 20 or so members of the cult lied to the Grand Jury about Schuon's molestation of minors during the secret primordial gatherings, - the cult employed Mr.Yellowtail and Mr. Pretty on Top to hold a public meeting in Bloomington, Indiana to advertise the "civic mindedness" of the Schuon group. This was Fitzgerald's idea. Fitzgerald wanted to dissimulate the Islamic basis of the Schuon group, and invited Yellowtail in an effort to promote a view of the cult as a group of mild-mannered  "dilettante" anthropologists, in Maude Murray's phrase,  interested in Indian religion.   The Schuon group then made a public relations film in which Mr. Yellowtail endorses Schuon's activities.[19] Yellowtail was made to specifically endorse Schuon's ritual of the Sacred Pipe, specifically the part where Sharlyn Romaine enacts the bringing of the Pipe. Yellowtail never saw this enactment done as Schuon prefers it, where Romaine gives him the pipe naked and sits spread legged in front of him as the other members of the group watch as Schuon imbibes the spiritual perfume of her sacred nudity. When I saw this film I thought of the "token" Indians of the last century who were paraded around Europe with the Wild West Shows. But Schuon's use of the Yellowtail was worse than that. The Indians of a century ago were used as curiosities, which is bad enough, but to use a religious leader as a kind of spiritual monkey for public relations; this is cynical and sinister.
           When I spoke with him in 1992, Peter Nabokov, a scholar of native American culture, told me the Crow do not have the White Buffalo Calf Woman as part of their religion and therefore Mr. Yellowtail  is a Crow who was asked to endorse a dance that is based on a Lakota story. Yellowtail was used by the cult once again in a way that is embarrassing and disgraceful. I have sometimes thought that perhaps it is just as well that Mr. Yellowtail does not know the extent to which he has been used and duped, as he is very old now, but I hope that the younger ones among the Crow may one day realize how their elders have been used. I am writing this down here that there might be a record of it for them.

            Another unique feature of Schuon's cult is that though the cult does solicit money from their followers they also give money to promising followers in order to create indebtedness. They consider these gifts as investments in the cults future. Thus Gustavo Polit was given a house and an estimated $500,000, Catherine Schuon told me one day. Sharlyn Romaine was given an equal or greater sum as well as a house.  Maude Murray was given 250,000. I was also given money, most of which I eventually gave back. Mr. Yellowtail was given a house and sums of money besides; there are many other examples of this but my intention is only to indicate a tendency. In any case, it is often said that a true Holy man does not accept money for his services rendered to his own people. Because of this I wonder if `the Crow people should not eventually be told that the Schuon group has secretly bought the loyalty of their Sun dance leaders Mr. Yellowtail and John Pretty on Top? The Schuon cult has been financed by a string of wealthy patrons since the 1930's, the most recent of which is Michael Fitzgerald.  Schuon has not only lived in considerable luxury for many years, paid for by others, but he also feels he has the right to other men's wives, quite apart from the four wives he already possesses. Therefore Schuon's behavior is the opposite of the self-denying generosity of Indian Holy men and therefore the allegation made by Fitzgerald in the Lakota Times that Schuon does not accept money is false. In fact only in fairy tales have I come across stories of child kings as worshipped and coddled as Schuon. Schuon's cult is unique in that it gives people gifts of things and money and when these people act contrary to the wishes of the cult' the cult accuses them of theft and ungratefulness. This two-faced and selfish generosity I discuss at some length because the cult has given money to the Sioux and it should be observed that this is not charity but a corrupt effort to buy loyalty. It is a corrupt form of colonialism

            Whatever the origin of the phrase "Indian giver" may been among the giving practices of certain tribes, the phrase almost certainly enshrines a white prejudice against the Indians which is the result of white hatred and hypocrisy practiced against the Indians during the last century. The real " Indian giver's were the Wasichus, which is the Lakota word for whites and one of the meanings of thar word is "the greedy ones". The American government is in fact the Indian giver since its regular practice has been to give the Indians promises and gifts of trifling substance in return for vast tracks of land and the attempt to subvert Indian culture. The Schuon cult is an Indian giver in this sense in that they have seduced some Indian leaders into believing that Schuon serves the interests of Native Americans pirituality, -when in fact Schuon uses the Indian to extend his fame and influence upon world thought and philosophy. -


Exploiting the White Buffalo Calf Woman

            The Schuon cult is financially corrupt, has destroyed individuals and families, obstructed justice and committed other crimes; but there are worse cults than Schuon's concerning all these matters. Where the Schuon cult excels is not an the level of legal or social crimes, but rather on the level of intellectual con-manship. Schuon's  cult is the result of profound intellectual will to power, perhaps a form of paranoid megalomania, which causes him and his followers to believe he an Avatara, which is the Hindu word for a direct descent from heaven. Evidence for this may be found especially in Sharlyn Romaine's text The Veneration of the Shaykh and in Schuon's Memoirs. In these documents it is made clear that Schuon considers himself the summation of all the religions and all the prophets. As a result of this he believes he has the right to the bodies of the Goddesses that appear in the world's religions.

            Thus, in Schuon's Memoirs, in the essay called " Sacred Nudity" he speaks of his vision of the Virgin Mary, in which she appeared to him naked, and in which she consoled him with her naked body. Schuon's response to this vision was to acquire the "irresistible certitude that I am not a man like other men" and moreover, this vision resulted in his wanting "to be naked as much as possible".  As a result of this vision Schuon came to the belief that he is not only an exceptional human being, but that he is the exception; the Universal Man who is himself the incarnation of all the religions of the world. This is plain and simple madness.

              In any case, Schuon has had visions of some-kind of sexual union with all of the Goddesses of the worlds religions, including the Hindu goddess-Kali and the Buddhist Goddess Tara, as I have discussed in early chapters. Thus it follows an already established pattern that Schuon should have himself painted receiving the Sacred Pipe from the White Buffalo Cow Woman of the Sioux.All the other goddesses of various religions gave themselves to him so of course, The Indian Goddess must give herself to the greet man too.
             I have spoken with various Indian and non-Indian authorities on Plains Indian Religion and every one of them has denied that the Buffalo Cow Woman came naked. Every one of these authorities has expressed the same sentiment as Dr. Bea Medicine, who said in the Lakota Times that Schuon's portrayal of the White Buffalo Cow Woman is "a perversion of our beliefs".  When I asked what Joseph Epes Brown what Black Elk would have thought of the travesty which Schuon has made of the image of the White Buffalo Calf Woman, he said that "it would not have registered" to Black Elk, that it would have never have occurred to him to think of such crazy ideas and that Black Elk was only concerned with passing down the tradition intact. Dr. Brown said it is possible that Schuon is inspired by “satanic influences”. I don't believe in "satanic" influences, but it is clear that Schuon's need to conceive of the mythological goddesses of the various religions as giving him special views of their nude bodies is a bizarre form of spiritual/sexual exploitation that is closely connected to cultural exploitation.

            In the past when European mercenaries and colonialists conquered another country they raped or took the most beautiful women of these countries for themselves. Analogously, when Schuon assimilates a religion into his universal system he takes its principle Goddess for himself. Since the goddesses are symbolic creatures Schuon can claim his visions of them without anyone being able to question the authenticity of the vision, since they occur only in Schuon's mind. Schuon has had many of these visions, too many to record here. But all of his visions share various characteristics. They adapt a given mythological symbolism to Schuon's elaborate system of thought, and they are always convenient, giving Schuon an increasingly higher status with each vision. He claims of course that they visions are imposed on him from higher powers, and takes them quite literally. But they always serve a convenient purpose in his life, usually to underline a claim he wishes to advance of his own eminence and importance.[20]

There is of course a creative element in these visions, especially reflected in Schuon's paintings, But at the basis of this creativity is the imagination of a man who must exalt himself by expropriating the most sublime mythological figures he can find and reinterpreting them in terms of his own ego. Schuon becomes the beloved of the virgin Mary, the receptor of the sacred Pipe, a manifestation of the god Shiva.

            Schuon’s paintings are essentially spiritualized pin-up girls. Or perhaps Iconic Pin-ups would be more accurate. Pin-ups, of course, were those pictures of scantily dressed or nude women that appeared in calendars and poster form the 1890’s to the 1970’s. They were not very disguised pornography. Schuon’s paintings are spiritual pornography. Schuon grew up under the influence of French and German symbolism and the orientalist literature and painting that was popular in 19th century Salon art. Schuon's paintings are really glorified versions of nineteenth century colonial sexual fantasies of Hindu temple prostitutes, Arab harem girls and the "squaws" and Indian maidens that white conquerors fantasized about in their dreams of "Manifest Destiny".. Schuon has merely elevated the doctrine of Manifest Destiny to a pseudo-spiritual level. In his artwork Schuon elevates his ideas of a universal religion into a new form of spiritual kitsch, a transcendentalist pornography, as it were. In some of his paintings and also in photographs Schuon represents himself as a nude Indian Chief with a flowing eagle feather war bonnet on his head. These paintings represent his fantasies of himself as the embodiment of pure "esoterism", here picturing himself as the naked truth of the Indian religions.

             A number of the paintings designed and painted by Schuon and his forth wife, Sharlyn Romaine, picture Schuon as the man who receives the Sacred Pipe from the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who is pictured naked descending to Schuon out of the sky. The man who receives the Pipe in Lakota versions of this story represents all the Sioux people, and thus implicitly Schuon is saying that he represents all the Sioux. Since the White Buffalo Calf Woman represents the Lakota people, Schuon, in his desire to possess her, presumes to represent the Lakota. Schuon does not want the land of the Lakota, he has a much more ambitious aim; he wishes to have dominion over their heart and their religion. Of course, since he hardly knows the Lakota, except for few brief visits to the Plains in 1959 and 1963, all this is mere personal fantasy, delusional fiction. But Schuon imposes these fantasies on his cult, and disparages Lakota culture by his appropriation of some of its narrative symbols.

            It is doubtful that either Schuon of Fitzgerald, Schuon's spokesman, have understood the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman.  In the story two men who are approached by the Sacred Woman have different responses. The good one recognizes her as helping the tribe and is respectful. The second one wants to possess her and is reduced by her to a pile of smoking bones.  The myth is a morality tale that is meant to stigmatize selfish behavior on the one hand and encourage behavior that is respectful of nature and helpful to the tribe on the other. The Buffalo Cow Woman  tells the good man that he will one day have a wife. The reason that the bad man is killed is not because he desires but because he treats with selfish inadvertence things that should be treated with respect.. This means not that desire is bad but that the desire to posses and degrade the earth and the things of the earth, which the Buffalo Cow Woman symbolically represents is bad. The bad man is killed because of his spiritual arrogance and presumption which lead him to neglect to show respect for the earth. Schuon has not understood the story of the White Buffalo Calf Woman because he shares in this same arrogance; the same presumption to possess the sacred as his own and this is why his nude paintings of the White Buffalo Cow Woman and the Virgin Mary are "perversions of our beliefs.". The other moral that could be read in this story is that one should not make a god or goddess of ones own desires as the Schuon cult has made a god of Schuon and Schuon has made a god of himself by trying to make all the world's religions over in his own image.

            In any case, Mr. Fitzgerald was 'misstating the truth' in the Lakota Times of July 29, 1992, when he said that Sharlyn Romaine does her re-enactment of the bringing of the Sacred Pipe only "bare-breasted", in fact, she often does it completely naked and this can be proven by reference to certain photographs that are part of the Grand Jury evidence -in the case against Schuon; there is also a partial film of this dance, as well as other evidence.

        In this dance Romaine pantomimes the White Buffalo Calf Woman, whom she is supposed to incarnate,-despite the fact that, as Joseph Epes Brown pointed

out to me, the Indians have no theory of re-incarnation, and so she could not incarnate her. Schuon is mixing Hindu and Lakota ideas in an unlikely combination. Schuon made of Romaine a living embodiment of his kitsch spirituality.

             In any case, in her Pipe dance Romaine poses nude in every possible pose, faces the four directions; exposes herself to Schuon both back and front and

sitting down with legs apart, and since this dance is done in honor of Schuon, it concludes by her giving the Sacred Pipe to Schuon. It should be added that Romaine's dance is performed while another completely naked  woman, Deborah Willsey, sings one of the most sacred of the Lakota ceremonial songs, given to Schuon by Joesph Epes Brown, who learned in from Black Elk, if I remember correctly.

            Schuon states in his Memoirs that, at a Sun dance, an Indian had a vision "of me in the Sun dance tree". In Sharlyn Romaine's ,”The Veneration of the Shaykh” Schuon writes that he is "the Center, as such". In an essay in his  book, The Play of Masks, Schuon says that the Sun dance tree like the "deified Man" (i.e-Schuon himself), "represents the axis Heaven-Earth; the movement then is alternatively centripetal and centrifugal, like the phases of respiration, which brings us back to the dance of the Gopis with its two modes, circumambulation and union."

             What all this describes in Schuon's obscure but suggestive style is Schuon's Primordial Gatherings which I described in detail elsewhere.  But it might be useful here to consider these gatherings in relation to Schuon's abuse of Native American religion. Schuon mixes Hindu and Native American Indian religions together in a ritual where Schuon represents both the Sun dance Tree and the Hindu God Krishna and like Krishna, Schuon is circled around by naked and seminude women, and the naked women come into "union" with Schuon, as he presses his chest and penis against them, in the same way that Krishna came into union with the naked gopis and also the way that the Sun dancers come into union with the Sun dance Tree. As the women turn around the circle to the sound of an Indian drum, Schuon presses his naked torso against the bodies of the women, and Schuon's body, especially the penis and the chest, are supposed to exude a "grace" or a "blessing" which is received through the naked bodies of the women. This dance is a rite and not a "pow-wow" as the cult claims because Schuon claims that his body is like the Name of God, the Christian communion bread or like the grace-conferring Sun dance Tree. This rite is the great secret of Schuon's cult and it is considered a "grave sin" to talk about it to outsiders by members of the cult.. Obviously, there is nothing sacred about this ritual, as it perverts not only the Sun dance Religion of the Plains Tribes but also Hindu, Islamic and Christian ideas and rituals. No matter how hard Schuon tries to make them the same, Hinduism is not Native American religion and trying to force them into the same packages and symbols merely does them all discredit.

       Moreover, there are now three affidavits which describe the “primordial gathering” ritual, and therefore there is no legal problem preventing that this description be made public. In the rite Schuon moves in an in-and-out motion to and from the nude women as they circle around him, and thus, however Schuon may deny it, what he has done is to sexualize the Sun dance at the same time as he has set up conditions where he is literally worshipped like a God by the naked women who dance around him. Moreover, the husbands of these women must watch this old man put his hands around their hips and press against their breasts. The men are supposed to feel that Schuon is consecrating their wives, which they affect to do. The whole atmosphere of guilt, humiliation, sexual tension and supposed sacredness creates a delusion in the members of Schuon's power. My personal opinion is that it is out of fear of Schuon's power and out of fear that their guilty secret might be discovered and their delusion shattered- that out of these fears some 20 members of the Schuon cult were able to lie under oath in court and say that these rites do not occur and that young girls were not involved in them. These people are convinced that Schuon is the image of God on earth and that therefore he can do no wrong and is infallible. Schuon may identify himself with God, with the Sun dance Tree, paw their wives and daughters, paint pictures of the Virgin Mary or the White Buffalo Calf Woman with their pubic hair shaved and still they will tell "holy lies" for Schuon under oath.

                         The following quote, from Joesph Epes Brown's The Spiritual Legacy of the American Indian [21],  states :

            The problems of the outsider who would personally relate to the sacred vision and practices of the American Indian are just as critical as, or even more problematic than the attempt to relate to any of the orthodox traditions of the east of west. The problem essentially lies in the tendency for the individual not rooted in any tradition to use an alien and thus often exotic religious tradition as a screen upon winch to project all that one finds lacking in one's own world.

This is certainly true of Schuon, and perhaps true of Brown as well. Schuon has projected upon the Indian his own dream of greatness, and made of the Indian world a castle in the air in which he has installed himself as king or chief. This is not to say that Schuon has not said true things about the Indian- the Schuonic vision would not be seductive without some measure of truth. Schuon speaks the truth as much as the treaty -makers of the Indian wars spoke the truth. Indeed, some of the promises of the treaty-makers were actually kept; for the Indians would not have gone along with the swindle without some promises being kept. In Schuon's case the deceit is rather more subtle, because one is not dealing with dissimulations concerning the Black Hills or some other parcel of land, rather one is dealing with subtle manipulations of religious imagery, ideas and mythologies.

             For instance, Schuon projects upon Native mythology, ideas which come from Hindu metaphysics. It requires  knowledge in both areas to disentangle the confusion. Schuon compares the Sun dance Tree to the Hindu concept of Atma as embodied in the Avatara and then stands, as the embodiment of the Atma-Avatara-Sundance-Tree in the middle of nude females who dance around and come into union with him. But the Avatara such as the Hindu God Krishna, is not a created being but a  mythic figure from out of the Mahabarata, a Hindu text, many centuries old. Krishna has nothing to do with the Sundance Tree, much less could Schuon, either be an Avatara, since he is not a mythic but an actual human being. Nor could he embody the Sun dance Tree, since The Sun dance Tree, according to Black Elk, represents Wakan Tanka, who cannot be represented by a person. Thus Schuon's assimilations of different religious universes one into another are false. As Dr. Bea Medicine said in the Lakota Times the “Virgin Mary and the White Buffalo Cow Woman are not the same thing”. Schuon's effort to come into a direct, usually sexual, relationship with these goddesses, in fact, is an effort to place himself at the center of two cultural universes, as if he were the divine intermediary for the Lakota people or as if he were the equal of Christ. Schuon's comparative religion has its basis not in the truth of the religions, but in the all inclusive megalomania of Schuon's own subjectivity.[22]    

            It is possible that the phrase "intellectual colonialist"  to describe the traditionalist project is too weak and that 'intellectual imperialism' would be better. The reasons for this are many. Firstly, because Schuon's assimilation of the Native American tradition is only a small part of his totalitarian effort to encompass all religion, culture and history into both his system and himself. Secondly, it is not an accident that Schuon's syncretistic philosophy resembles in many ways the syncretistic and Gnostic movements of the period of the decay of the Roman Empire. Thirdly, the European empire and system builders from Napoleon to Marx, from English Imperialism to Hitler, have as their common basis a form of neo-gnosticism which itself is characterized by a lust for power and totality which aspires to absolute transcendence through world dominion. If the bizarre psycho-sexual convolutions of the Schuonian system recall the decadent self-deified emperors of the late Roman period it is because the Schuonian system, like the Hegelian or the Marxian or the scientistic systems embody the same totalistic desire for Gnostic Dominion as seized the Roman Emperors, as well as the seekers after Cathay, the circumambulators of the globe. In Schuon's case there is fortunately as yet, no imposition of his philosophy upon the field of political action, other thatn the small compass of his personal cult. Totaling at its height no more than 1000 persons.  Schuon is not Columbus, whose Catholic apocalyptic fantasies were actually translated into action on Hispanola, resulting in a death toll of perhaps 8 million Indians. As yet, Schuon's dream of world glory exists only as an impotent fantasy shared by his immediate circle. The failure of the Roman empire, like the failure and defeat of communism is finally the failure of false gods who would be men, or, in what amounts to the same thing, the failure of false men who would be gods. In the end Schuon, like Marx, must be rejected because reality is not as they describe it, and the will of men such Marx or Columbus to impose their totalitarian vision upon us is perhaps the principle cause of suffering in the modern and ancient worlds. In Schuon's case, as I said, his philosophy, composed of an archaic pastiche of remnants of the old totalitarian systems, has not been realized in action significantly; and for this one can be thankful. But the peculiar form of intellectual colonialism that his philosophy embodies affords an opportunity to reflect upon destructive totalitarian systems which seek to remake the world over in their own image. Schuon is a living example of how human madness enters history, and to understand this helps provide a key to the prevention of other men and other systems, born of a lust for self glorification, visiting the cost of their need of glory at the price of human suffering and blood. Schuon is also an example of how a politics of reaction hides behind a façade of symbolism. Schuon’s attempt to synthesize a religion out of disparate symbolisms resulted in a kitsch spirituality that expresses a new spiritual fascism dressed up as comparative religion.




[1] DeMallie, Raymond J. The Sixth Grandfather Univ. of Nebraska

Press. 1984.

[2] State of Indiana vs. Frithjof Schuon, Monroe County Circuit

Court. Cause # 53 CO1 0110 CF 00601

[3] Brown. Joesph Epes. The Sacred Pipe University of Oklahoma

Press. 1989 pg.xi

[4]  Neihardt, Hilda The Sacred Hoop, 1993.

[5] I spoke with Jacqueline Danner in 1996, who confirmed that Brown was still regularly attending Schuon's "magalis" or Sufi gatherings in Bloomington in the early 1970's. Victor Danner, under Schuon's direction, had set up the group in  Bloomington somewhat before this time. Brown was a member of the group  until his move to Montana in the early 70's. Two of Schuon's main disciples, Stanley Jones and Michael; Fitzgerald were students of Brown's. Jones lived with Brown in Montana for a period. Danner was later dethroned, in 1980, from his leadership position in the cult in an elaborate coup, masterminded by Schuon, who wanted Danner out of the way, as he was about to move to Bloomington to take over the cult himself. Brown was soured by this event as well. Though Brown told me in person that he had been  convinced of Schuon’s “ruptured mind” since the 1950’s.


7. Brown, J.E. Les Rites Secrets des Indiens Sioux. Paris,

Payot 1953 and 1975


8. Brown, Joesph Epes. The Spiritual Legacy of the American

Indian. Crossroad. 1982, 1992 pg.109

[8] Memoirs pg. 294


162 Memoirs, pg.148.  the Memoirs are published in German


 Schuon has four "wives". The first is Catherine Schuon. The

second is Barbara Perry; the third is Maude Murray and the forth

is Sharlyn Romaine. this is documented in various court documents

as well as papers issued by the cult to its members. The clearest

admission is from a recent letter from the Third wife, who

announces that she is the successor to Schuon. Feb 21, 1995.

She writes: "I am a disciple of Frithjof schuon who is a

present day Sufi-Master. He is a Moslem and has four wives,

of whom I am the third".(pg.3)


 Ibid. Memoirs pg. 262


[12][12] Lakota Times, (now: Indian Country Today) July 29, 1992

[13] Memoirs pg. 203

[14] Whitall Perry is Barbara Perry's husband. Barbara Perry is also Schuon's 2nd wife, whom he "married" in 1965, around the time of his "great vision".  The Perry's live across the street from Schuon and Perry's book, The Treasury of Wisdom is organized around  Schuon's concept of the six "themes", which are an important part of the method Schuon teaches his disciples, and which brown refers to in the Sacred Pipe.


9. Skeltenkamp, Michael. Black Elk. Univ. of Oklahoma Press



10. Ibid. Memoirs. pg.134



[17] Ibid. Demallie, pg. 141

[18]  Fitzgerald had largely paid for Yellowtail's house, as well as oversaw its construction. Maude Murray speaks of this when she says in a document that she "gave to Yellowtail partly to show Michael Fitzgerald that he should have done it. Yellowtail was $3,000 short of being able to finish his house". Murray is accusing Fitzgerald of neglecting his responsibilities within the cult, one of which was to support Yellowtail. Fitzgerald also had a Ham radio installed in Yellowtail's house so he could keep in close communication with him from Bloomington.  (quoted from Maude Murray v. Sharlyn Romaine et al. July 15th 1995. Cause # 53CO 595 07 SCO 1946

[19] Yellowtail was also quoted in the newspaper endorsing this dance.

[20] Another example of this is Schuon's "vision" of herds of running Buffalo, which he records in his Memoirs (pg.187-88) His dream is virtually identical to that of Black Elk's vision of countless Buffalo in Neihardt's Black Elk Speaks. The similarity of the vision, is supposed to prove, Schuon writes that the "the Indian tradition would be made clear to me". After having this vision Schuon has another in which were he sees smoke from an Indian pipe mingle with the Islamic name of Allah or god. In other words, Schuon's dreams are indicating his special election, the unity of the religions in his won mind. Schuon is Black Elk, but more than Black Elk. All the religions deliver themselves to Schuon's understanding through dreams.

[21] pg. 110,

[22] I am not here advocating for a "truth" in the religions. I doubt there is a unifying truth in religion. Truth seems to lie outside of religion, institutions, and myths of all kinds. I doubt there is any Truth at all, only truths. But this is a question that falls outside of my concerns in this essay.