Savitri Devi
Savitri Devi Wikicommons

The white nationalist "alt-right" movement has drawn on many sources to re-brand fascism for a new, web-savvy generation, among them economic libertarians, "identitarians", web gurus and anti-feminists.

But the writings of a French-Greek thinker who believed Hitler was the reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu might be among the strangest.

The Lightning and the Sun

In her 1958 work Devi outlines her spiritual views and cyclical philosophy of history, and presents her view that Adolf Hitler was an avatar of the god Vishnu.

Arguing that time begins with a Golden Age and gradually decays through a Silver Age and Bronze Age into a final Kali Yuga, or Dark Age. She outlines her theory of the Man Against Time, who harnesses destructive power for life-affirming purposes, using Dark Age methods to bring about a Golden Age. She identified Adolf Hitler as such a man.

It is dedicated "To the god-like Individual of our times; the Man against Time; the greatest European of all times; both Sun and Lightning: Adolf Hitler, as a tribute of unfailing love and loyalty, for ever and ever."

Born Maximiani Julia Portas in France in 1905, Savitri Devi was academically brilliant, studying philosophy and chemistry at the University of Lyon and gaining two PhDs.

It was on a visit to Greece in 1928 that her views began to change, coalescing around an obsession with race and religion after she saw swastikas carved into ancient Greek buildings.

An ancient Hindu symbol hijacked by the rising National Socialist Party, Devi saw its use in Ancient Greece as proof of the Nazi theory that all civilisation had its roots in the Aryan "master race" and ultimately India.

She travelled to India on a quest to discover the source of Aryan culture, where she converted to Hinduism and married nationalist activist Asit Krishna Mukherji. In India she devoted herself to ridding the country of the British Raj and Christianity, which she regarded as an anti-Aryan faith.

When war broke out in 1939, she spied on the British for the Axis powers, and was instrumental in forming ties between Subhas Chandra Bose, leader of the pro-Axis National Indian Army, and the Japanese imperial government.

Her support for fascism led to a rift with her mother, who fought for the French Resistance against Nazi occupiers.

After the war, she returned to Europe and continued to agitate for Nazism. She was jailed for eight months for distributing leaflets amid the ruins of the collapsed Third Reich calling on Germans to "hold fast to our glorious National Socialist faith, and resist!"

Upon her release, she divided her time between India and France, developing her increasingly outlandish views on what she regarded to be the hidden spiritual meaning of Nazism. In a series of books and pamphlets she proclaimed Adolf Hitler an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu, sent to clear the path for Kali Yuga, the final avatar, who will trigger apocalypse and renew the cosmos.

American white nationalist leader Richard Spencer of the National Policy Institute referred to white people as the 'children of the sun' in a speech invoking Savitri Devi Reuters/Spencer Selvidge

A passionate animal rights activist and ecologist, she reportedly supported the death penalty for those who didn't respect animals.

She corresponded with fascists around the world, and associated with Britons Colin Jordan, leader of the World Union of National Socialists, and John Tyndall, leader of the National Front.

After retiring in 1970, she lived at the home of her friend Francoise Dior, the Nazi underground financier and niece of fashion designer Christian Dior, but was kicked out after reportedly not washing for the duration of her stay and chewing on garlic all day. She moved back to India, living alone with her pet cats and a cobra.

In later life she came to regard the United States as a receptive place for her views. She died in 1982 at the home of a friend in Essex, England, and is buried in Wisconsin in the US, her grave next to that of US neo-Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell.

After decades spent as a writer of at best fringe interest for fascists and scholars of fascism, Devi's work has in recent years enjoyed a strange resurgence.

Greg Johnson, a leading figure in the alt-right movement, has spent years promoting Devi's work through his Counter-Currents Publishing house, describing her as "one of the most extraordinary personalities of the 20th century."

His efforts seem to be paying off.

A bizarre series of memes inspired by Devi's work has emerged. Esoteric Kekism, (the word "kek" means "lol"), partly parodies Devi's work, in a bizarre amalgam of far-right imagery, Hindu iconography and alt-right web slang, reports Blake Smith in

At an event in Washington, DC, in November held following the election of Donald Trump, alt-right ideologue Richard Spencer exhorted followers to "Hail Trump" and proclaimed white people the "children of the sun." Some believe that the phrase is a reference to Devi's 1958 work the Lightning and the Sun, in which she describes people with "sun" qualities who transcend the process of historical decay.

Their mutual opposition to Islam has also led the European far right to find common cause with Hindu nationalism. Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik praised the "Hindutva" movement before launching his killing spree on July 22, 2011.

Inside the alt-right

IBTimes UK has investigated the alt-right white nationalist movement, which has risen to prominence following the election of Donald Trump as US president.

World Editor Orlando Crowcroft and reporter Tom Porter profiled the movement's ideological inspirations, including Hindu philosopher and Nazi supporter Savitri Devi and Russian ideologue Alexander Dugin. They investigated the Swedish businessman bankrolling the movement's media empire, reported on attempts by the identitarian movement to recruit on UK campuses, and on a new alliance forged between US and European white nationalists.

Reports in the series include:

Generation Identity: How the European alt-right is planning a British invasion

Putin's Rasputin has a message for Donald Trump's White House: 'Call me'

Meet Daniel Friberg, the Swedish mining tycoon bankrolling the alt-right's global media empire

Inside the alt-right: Stockholm conference brings together US and European white nationalists