The Chamberlain brothers and Social Engineering

Historical insights & thoughts about the world we live in - and the social conditioning exerted upon us by past and current propaganda.
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The Chamberlain brothers and Social Engineering

Unread post by Macaria »

Three brothers were born in the 1850s in England to Rear Admiral William Charles Chamberlain. ... hamberlain
  • One followed his father in the Royal Navy becoming a Lieutenant Commander.
  • One taught at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy.
  • One become an influential proponent of Aryan supremacy and prominent war time propagandist for Germany.
Perhaps it was simply random circumstance that led the three to take such divergent paths. Or, maybe the paths are not as divergent as they seem. To look at it one way, they were all involved to some extent in setting the stage for two great wars.

This is the first of what will be a couple of posts presenting some bits and pieces about the Chamberlain brothers’ lives and how social engineering relates to them.

To begin, the middle son, Henry Chamberlain, joined the Navy and rose to the position of Lieutenant Commander. He was not a very prominent person apparently. At least, there is very little information about him to be easily found online.

The eldest brother, Basil Hall Chamberlain, lived in Japan from 1873 for 38 years. During this time he would have observed, and assisted to some degree, Japan’s (relatively) rapid transformation into an industrial powerhouse.
He was apparently hired by the Japanese government for “(his) specialized knowledge and skill to assist in the modernization” (Wakip).

He taught at the Imperial Japanese Naval Academy and afterwards at Tokyo Imperial University as a professor. What he actually taught requires further research.

Of his written works one title suggestive of social engineering caught my attention. The piece, (excerpts below with some commentary), does indeed discuss such engineering, and though it is focused on that of imperial Japan, some of his observations have quite universal relevance.

The full text (11 pages) can be found here: ... mages.html


By B. H. Chamberlain

[...] [A]gnostic Japan is teaching us at this very hour how religions are sometimes manufactured for a special end—to subserve practical worldly purposes.
Mikado-worship and Japan-worship—for that is the new Japanese religion—is, of course, no spontaneously generated phenomenon. [...] [T]he twentieth-century Japanese religion of loyalty and patriotism is quite new, for in it pre-existing ideas have been sifted, altered, freshly compounded, turned to new uses, and have found a new centre of gravity. Not only is it new, it is not yet completed; it is still in process of being consciously or semi-consciously put together by the official class, in order to serve the interests of that class, and, incidentally, the interests of the nation at large. The Japanese bureaucracy is a body greatly to be admired.

[...] [P]atriotic sentiment was appealed to through the throne, whose hoary antiquity had ever been a source of pride to Japanese literati, [...]. Shinto, a primitive nature cult, which had fallen into discredit, was taken out of its cupboard and dusted. The common people, it is true, continued to place their affections on Buddhism, the popular festivals were Buddhist, Buddhist also the temples where they buried their dead. The governing class determined to change all this. They insisted on the Shinto doctrine that the Mikado descends in direct succession from the native Goddess of the Sun, and that He himself is a living God on earth who justly claims the absolute fealty of his subjects. Such things as laws and constitutions are but free gifts on His part, not in any sense popular rights. Of course, the ministers and officials, high and low, who carry on His government, are to be regarded not as public servants, but rather as executants of supreme—one might say supernatural—authority. Shinto, because connected with the Imperial Family, is to be alone honoured. [...] [T]he practice was established in all schools of bowing down several times yearly before the Emperor's picture.

The latter does not seem particularly notable. “God Save the Queen” was Australia’s national anthem, sung in schools and elsewhere, right up until 1984. There was no bowing in my primary school, but the Queen’s portrait was, (maybe still is), in a prime position on the library wall.

Meanwhile Japanese polities had prospered; her warriors had gained great victories. Enormous was the prestige thus accruing to Imperialism and to the rejuvenated Shinto cult. All military successes were ascribed to the miraculous influence of the Emperor's virtue, and to the virtues of His Imperial and divine ancestors—that is, of former Emperors and of Shinto deities. [...] The new legend is enforced wherever feasible—for instance, by means of a new set of festivals celebrating Imperial official events.

But the schools are the great strongholds of the new propaganda. History is so taught to the young as to focus everything upon Imperialism , and to diminish as far as possible the contrast between ancient and modern conditions. The same is true of the instruction given to army and navy recruits.

Woe to the native professor who strays from the path of orthodoxy. His wife and children [...] will starve.
Never, it is alleged, has Japan been soiled by the disobedient and rebellious acts common in other countries; while at the same time the Japanese nation, sharing to some extent in the supernatural virtues of its rulers, has been distinguished by a high-minded chivalry called Bushido, unknown in inferior lands.

After debunking the myth of an obedient and placid populace, the author turns to Bushido which he says is...

[...] so modern a thing [...] that neither Kaempfer, Siebold, Satow, nor Rein—all men knowing their Japan by heart—ever once allude to it in their voluminous writings. The cause of their silence is not far to seek: Bushido was unknown until a decade or two ago! THE VERY WORD APPEARS IN NO DICTIONARY, NATIVE OR FOREIGN, BEFORE THE YEAR 1900. Chivalrous individuals of course existed in Japan, as in all countries at every period; but Bushido, as an institution or a code of rules, has never existed. The accounts given of it have been fabricated out of whole cloth, chiefly for foreign consumption.

Thus, within the space of a short lifetime, the new Japanese religion of loyalty and patriotism has emerged into the light of day. The feats accomplished during the late war with Russia show that the simple ideal which it offers is capable of inspiring great deeds. From a certain point of view the nation may be congratulated on its new possession.

The new Japanese religion consists, in its present early stage, of worship of the sacrosanct Imperial Person and of His Divine Ancestors, of implicit obedience to Him as head of the army (a position, by the way, opposed to all former Japanese ideas, according to which the Court was essentially civilian); furthermore, of a corresponding belief that Japan is as far superior to the common ruck of nations as the Mikado is divinely superior to the common ruck of kings and emperors. [...] For the inhabitants of "the Land of the Gods" to take any notice of such creatures by adopting a few of their trifling mechanical inventions is an act of gracious condescension.
As a matter of fact, the spread of the new ideas has been easy, because a large class derives power from their diffusion, while to oppose them is the business of no one in particular. Moreover, the disinterested love of truth for its own sake is rare; the patience to unearth it is rarer still, especially in the East. Patriotism, too, is a mighty engine working in the interests of credulity. How should men not believe in a system that produces such excellent practical results, a system which has united all the scattered elements of national feeling into one focus, and has thus created a powerful instrument for the attainment of national aims?

Likewise, how should we not believe in a system that has sent men to the moon?

Meanwhile a generation is growing up which does not so much as suspect that its cherished beliefs are inventions of yesterday.

One might have imagined that Japan's new religionists would have experienced some difficulty in persuading foreign nations of the truth of their dogmas. Things have fallen out otherwise. [...]
The foreigner cannot refuse the bolus thus artfully forced down his throat. He is not suspicious by nature. How should he imagine that people who make such positive statements about their own country are merely exploiting his credulity? HE has reached a stage of culture where such mythopoeia has become impossible. On the other hand, to control information by consulting original sources lies beyond his capacity.

The result of all this is that, whereas the Japanese know everything that it imports them to know about us, Europeans cannot know much about them, such information as they receive being always belated, necessarily meagre, and mostly adulterated to serve Japanese interests. International relations placed—and, we repeat it, inevitably placed—on this footing resemble a boxing match in which one of the contestants should have his hands tied. But the metaphor fails in an essential point, as metaphors are apt to do—the hand-tied man does not realise the disadvantage under which he labours. He thinks himself as free as his opponent.

Europe is easily accessible whereas Japan is secretive and guarded by a near impenetrable language. Kind of like how Communism and its agents were presented as grave threats to the free and open democracies of the west while an iron curtain effectively kept westerners out of the USSR.
The ideas in this last paragraph are as close as Chamberlain comes to presenting Japan as a rival. That was to come later -this was still the “build up of Japan” phase.

Thus does it come about that the neo-Japanese myths concerning dates, and Emperors, and heroes, and astonishing national virtues already begin to find their way into popular English text-books, current literature, and even grave books of reference. The Japanese governing class has willed it so, and in such matters the Japanese governing class can enforce its will abroad as well as at home. The statement may sound paradoxical. Study the question carefully, and you will find that it is simply true.

Really? The Japanese had craftily manufactured a glowing impression of Japan in people living abroad? If true, this could not have happened without the western media ignoring, if not outright supporting, this propaganda. They could have easily “corrected the record” if inclined.

What is happening in Japan to-day is evidently exceptional. Normal religious and political change does not proceed in that manner; it proceeds by imperceptible degrees.
We modern Westerners love individual liberty, and the educated among us love to let the sunlight of criticism into every nook and cranny of every subject. Freedom and scientific accuracy are our gods.* But Japanese officialdom acts quite naturally, after its kind, in not allowing the light to be let in, because the roots of the faith it has planted need darkness in which to grow and spread. No religion can live which is subjected to critical scrutiny.
Thus also are explained the rigours of the Japanese bureaucracy against the native liberals, who, in its eyes, appear, not simply as political opponents, but as traitors to the chosen people—sacrilegious heretics defying the authority of the One and Only True Church.
"But," you will say, "this indignation must be mere pretence. Not even officials can be so stupid as to believe in things which they have themselves invented." We venture to think that you are wrong here. People can always believe that which it is greatly to their interest to believe. Thousands of excellent persons in our own society cling to the doctrine of a future life on no stronger evidence. It is enormously important to the Japanese ruling class that the mental attitude sketched above should become universal among their countrymen. Accordingly, they achieve the apparently impossible. "We believe in it," said one of them to us recently—"we believe in it, although we know that it is not true."

This piece positions the author as a dispassionate, but nevertheless somewhat admiring, observer of a ruling system that is skillfully and deceitfully motivating the masses towards certain objectives - for the welfare of the nation of course.
Yet, likewise, at this very time, Britain was similarly marching their masses towards the Great War. Understanding social engineering so well, is it plausible that Basil Hall Chamberlain was blind to this parallel?
In 1912, when this piece was published, Chamberlain had just finished his long teaching stint in Japan and returned to Europe. Perhaps he was unaware of these developments at home - his time abroad kept him out of the loop and his brothers and friends did not keep him up to speed. Or, perhaps he did know, but naively did not regard British propaganda as propaganda at all.
Another possibility is that he well understood what was going on and therefore was deliberately deceiving readers into believing that social engineering / propaganda is something that only goes on in other places (I do get this impression - see * above).

In the next post, I hope to illustrate how the most well known of the brothers was, in his case, very clearly, helping to maneuver Germany, into war - notwithstanding his family’s strong British ties.
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Re: The Chamberlain brothers and Social Engineering

Unread post by Macaria »


Houston Stewart Chamberlain was the youngest of the Chamberlain brothers and by far the most notorious.
Examining the role that he played in world affairs and comparing this with his family background and against the work of his brother (cited previous post) raises some interesting questions about the nature of the Chamberlain brothers’ works and their objectives.

His legacy is summed up here: ... hamberlain
At his death in 1927 Houston Stewart Chamberlain was famous as the "renegade" Englishman who repudiated his native land and championed German nationalism. A leading race publicist, he occupied a special place in the pantheon of the Third Reich (1933–1945) as one its most important ideological forerunners.

And elsewhere it is stated:
Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the leading theorist behind the early development of the National Socialist Party

Some details follow.
His most famous book, published in 1899, was called Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, (The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century) which aimed to:
substantiate two major ideas: that racial struggle was the chief propelling force of human culture and that a superior Germanic [...] [or] Aryan race [...] was the major architect of modern European civilization. Chamberlain traced Germanic achievements from ancient Greece and Rome to the formation of nation-states [...]. The two negative forces in his historical drama were first, the Semitic races [...], and second, miscegenation between unrelated or dramatically different racial types. [...]

Endowing his book with an aura of science and scholarship, Chamberlain sustained the deepest prejudices of many of his readers: their pride in German culture and imperialism, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, and their readiness to see manifestations of decline in liberalism and socialism. The Foundations received thousands of reviews, sparked heated debate, and won many admirers. It was political ideology thinly veiled as cultural analysis. By 1915 sales exceeded 100,000 copies and a popular edition in 1906 sold over 10,000 copies in ten days; translations appeared in French and English. Its most famous enthusiast was William II, the German emperor, who gave out copies to visitors and members of his entourage. Soon Chamberlain was invited to court and the two men corresponded regularly for over twenty years.
The attentions of the emperor convinced Chamberlain—as nothing else could—of his mission as a German prophet.

During World War I Chamberlain became one of the most prolific and extreme propagandists for Germany. Hundreds of thousands of copies of his war essays were distributed to German soldiers and civilians. Attacked as a "turncoat" in Britain, he was awarded an Iron Cross and became a German citizen in 1916. The war brought him into close relations with numerous ultranationalist and anti-Semitic organizations, including the Pan German League and the Fatherland Party, founded in 1917 to mobilize opposition against peace negotiations.

Meeting Adolf Hitler in Bayreuth in October 1923, Chamberlain was captivated by the Nazi leader and publicly announced his support. [...] Chamberlain became a fixture of the regime's hagiography and much cited by its leading ideologue, Alfred Rosenberg (1893–1946). Chamberlain's funeral[was] attended by Hitler and a Hohenzollern prince representing the deposed emperor. [...]

The story we are given is of a boy who spent his few years in England at Cheltenham College “a boarding school that produced many Army and Navy officers”. Not feeling at home there, he soon left to continue his education with a private tutor traveling, mostly about central Europe. He gradually became more and more enamored with all things German while despising more and more his own country.
As we saw above, this eventually led this outsider to become buddies with the Kaiser, no less, and more pro-aryan / pro-German than any Germans.

This is the first of the apparent incongruities - that a man rooted in English heritage, his father, some of his uncles and brother Henry high ranking naval officers, could become a German nationalist. But that is the least of the incongruities.

We saw in the first post that brother Basil understood how the Japanese ruling class were deliberately establishing a fervent nationalism in their populace by the fabrication of history and the invention of a racially based mythology. They were enforcing a story as Yuval Harari would say.

Isn’t it ironic then that while Basil was learning all of this, that his blood brother Houston was writing his own version of history complete with a racial mythology?
Even given this apparent irony, this would merely be a curiosity - he could have been just another crackpot, an unknown charlatan- except that he was mixing with the elite of Germany and his ideology was widely promoted -even by Kaiser Wilhelm II himself!!

<<Note that Wilhelm II also had English heritage - the last German Emperor was the son of the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria. >>>

So, the story that Houston contributed to was no idle curiosity. It was taken up by the ruling class, (no doubt because he was part of the ruling class), and used with great effect to engineer the people of Germany to desired action - not least to facilitate a popular antisemitism which would assist long term plans to establish the nation of Israel.

We can take this history at face value, this is just happenstance, the natural unfurling of history.
Or we can try to connect the dots and speculate as to what part the Chamberlain actors had in the grand stage show.

Beginning with Basil who had demonstrated his considerable understanding of social engineering - was this understanding formed by casual observation? Or was he part of an operation to coach Japanese elites on how to manage a modern state, (for example teach how to develop and enforce a suitable story for the masses to achieve desired ends)? And if this was the case, why were he and others building up a foreign rival- unless this was to be of profit for the rulers, home and abroad, mutually?

Then, the paths of the brothers do not seem so incongruent. If Basil was involved with social engineering, his brother’s very definite involvement is not a strange twist of fate at all.

If the given history, the wakipedia version still looks pretty solid, try to imagine a conversation between the brothers - the three of them....(cue the harp strumming)


Henry: Basil, old boy, I do admire your keen eye. Why don’t you furnish another one of your observations about old Japan for Houston and I?

Basil: Very well...Let me know if you’ve heard this one before...Here goes! The ruling chaps in Japan. Have I told you what they are up to? Well, those are some clever devils, I say they are! They are busy.... rewriting their history! That’s right! Fabricating it! And wouldn’t you know? They are using this to instill a nationalist spirit!

Houston: ...

Henry: You don’t say. Bravo to them! Of course, that would never fly here in jolly England. We only use factual information, as you well know, when informing our public. “Rule Brittania, Brittania rules the waves"...and such.

Basil: And! and! Those blighters have also developed a mythology! You know what they say about themselves? They are saying that they are a superior race! A race above all others! And it’s all deliberate my dear fellows - All for imperialistic ends!

Houston: ...

Henry: What’s the matter Houston old boy? You look frightfully agitated. Chew your cucumber sandwiches properly won’t you?

Basil: They are serving up these fabrications at all their schools and have even created new festive events to instill this new nationalist ethos.
They are drumming their people into a veritable war frenzy!

Henry: Well, my dear brother, now that you mention it, perhaps such methods could be applied at home one day, it could be useful for... getting our folk to be all enthusiastic about war.... and rationing and upending the economy and such. Sometimes, I do believe, the commoners just don’t know what’s good for them.

Basil: Well, yes. In Japan’s case, this does seem to be serving them very splendidly indeed, the Japanese people have certainly become very spirited and motivated to serve their flag.
Now! You did hear about that decisive naval victory they had over the Russian empire didn’t you?

Henry: You know something interesting about that old boy? All six battleships and seven of the nine cruisers involved at Port Arthur were built right here in the United Kingdom!

Basil: Jolly good show! Someone made a few pounds there! How fortunate that this upstart imperial power trades with us! Here’s to more of the same!

Henry: And now we are on about the navy, I was out frolicking with the sailors the other day, pretending we were at war and such larking, and by Jove, we do have some mighty spiffy boats!

Basil: But, what! Aren’t those menacing Germans trying to build some mighty spiffy boats of their own? That is very unsporting of them. But you know those Jerries, naturally warlike folk, they have this inclination to think they are superior to all others, I just wonder where these ideas come from? Built into their race perhaps...

Houston: ...

Henry: Yes, Houston, I know what you are thinking and you are quite right. It will be tough, but it looks like we will have to dust off some of our good old fashioned factual information in order to rev up the troops! We will show those Huns some British stiff upper lips and have them scuttling back into the safety of their sauerkraut before you can say toodlepip!

Houston: Oh,my! Is that the time? You’ve both been most pleasant, I’m so glad to have seen you, but I must go.
I have a most important engagement. I’m going to be discussing my book, you see. You know I have a book outlining the history of the superior German race.... (cough) racing team!... Yes German horse racing! Splendid... Hhhmmhm!
(clears throat).....
Yep, I have a meeting with my dear friend Wilhe...Wil...iam, yes William..(whew!)..I have a meeting with William, we are not and I say most decidedly not going to talk about the German master race, nope.
(backing away and opening the door)
Cheerio then!
(thinks: shit, I nearly blew it)
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Re: The Chamberlain brothers and Social Engineering

Unread post by simonshack »

Absolutely fascinating stuff, dear Macaria - and what a way you have with words, you had me chuckling all along... ^_^

As time permits, I will certainly look deeper into this Chamberlain 'saga' - but please keep on sharing your own research about this most interesting affair...
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Re: The Chamberlain brothers and Social Engineering

Unread post by Macaria »

simonshack wrote: Thu Aug 31, 2023 9:38 am Absolutely fascinating stuff, dear Macaria - and what a way you have with words, you had me chuckling all along... ^_^
Thanks Simon.
The imaginary Chamberlain scenario was kind of fun to write. I hope it demonstrates that by laying the three brothers' stories side-by-side, the conventional history looks silly.

My research path moved on from Houston Chamberlain and onto his buddyboy Wilhelm II.
  • Wilhelm II was caught up in a homosexual scandal involving many of his best buds. One Magnus Hirschfeld, "The Einstein of sex" (very red flag!!), makes an appearance in the associated trials
  • This Einstein was, (loose connection here), very interested in Oscar Wilde homosexual scandal (Wilde's prison number happened to be C33)
  • Wilde's own father had his own sex scandal many years before.
The three scandals all had associated libel trials and were all highly publicised.
Some deeper connections here perhaps?
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Re: The Chamberlain brothers and Social Engineering

Unread post by Macaria »

Some notes and quotes based on the 'Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics' (2nd Ed) 2006 pgs 290-291 entry on Basil Hall Chamberlain.
Chamberlain was the first Westerner to publish serious scholarly studies of Japanese language and history
Basil studied the Japanese language, linguistics and Japanese language variants and researched and translated classical literature and historical texts. He also
wrote a series of popular books introducing Westerners to Japanese language and culture.
He was clearly a serious scholar and in a position to know something about Japanese history, eg. the re-invigoration of the Shinto religion discussed above.

But did the brothers have had a chance to discuss their common/diverging experiences as I imagined above?

The Encyclopedia indicates that Basil and Houston had ample opportunity to compare German vs Japanese supremacist ideology over some cucumber sandwiches.
[A]fter almost 40 years in Japan, [Basil] spent the remaining two dozen years of his life in Switzerland. He continued to research and write about Japan and revise his earlier works for definitive publication. He spent time visiting his younger brother, the controversial author Houston Stewart Chamberlain (1855–1927), a prominent ultranationalist and activist in Germany who later became a German citizen. Unlike Houston, Basil spent his life immersed in studying the culture of another country without losing a scholarly perspective.
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