The Occult Roots of Nazism/2009/11/02/the-occult-roots-of-nazism/

The Occult Roots of Nazism

The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology (Paperback)
~ Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

I have been looking at this book on the occult background to nazism, a relatively sober analysis, and good on ariosophy.
The comiing of theosophy, the occult revival at the end of the nineteenth century, in German, and elsewhere, is important background for understanding Gurdjieff.

THIS is an unusual history. Although it presents an account of past
events relating to the origins and ideology of National Socialism in
Germany, its proper subject is not the parties, policies and organizations
through which men rationally express their interests in a social and
political context. Rather, it is an underground history, concerned with
the myths, symbols and fantasies that bear on the development of
reactionary, authoritarian, and Nazi styles of thinking. It is also a
marginal history, since its principal characters were mystics, seers and
sectarians who had little to do with the outer realities of politics and
administration. But such men had the imagination and opportunity to
describe a dream-world that often underlay the sentiments and
actions of more worldly men in positions of power and responsibility.
Indeed, their abstruse ideas and weird cults anticipated the political
doctrines and institutions of the Third Reich.
For historians trained exclusively in the evaluation of concrete
events, causes, and rational purposes, this netherworld offantasymay
seem delusive. They would argue that politics and historical change
are driven only by real material interests. However, fantasies can
achieve a causal status once they have been institutionalized in beliefs,
values, and social groups. Fantasies are also an important symptom of
impending cultural changes and political action. The particular
fantasies discussed in this book were generated within an extreme
right-wing movement concerned with the creation of a superman
dite, the extermination of lesser beings, and the establishment of a
new world-order. The nature of this movement has set it quite apart
from the mainstream of rational politics in the twentieth century and
demands answers relating to its deeper inspiration. An analysis of the
fantasies underlying such a movement can provide new answers to old
The following study traces these fantasies by presenting an historical
account of the lives, doctrines and cult activities of the Ariosophists, I
namely Guido von List (1848-1919) and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels
(1874-1954) and their followers in Austria and Germany. The
Ariosophists, initially active in Vienna before the First World War,
combined German volkisch nationalism and racism with occult notions
borrowed from the theosophy of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, in order
to prophesy and vindicate a coming era of German world rule. Their
writings described a prehistoric golden age, when wise gnostiC
priesthoods had expounded occult-racist doctrines and ruled over a
superior and racially pure society. They claimed that an evil conspiracy
of anti-German interests (variously identified as the non-Aryan races,
the Jews, or even the early Church) had sought to ruin this ideal
Germanic world by emancipating the non-German inferiors in the
name of a spurious egalitarianism. The resulting racial confusion was
said to have heralded the historical world with its wars, economic
hardship, political uncertainty and the frustration of German world
power. In order to counter this modern world, the Ariosophists
founded secret religious orders dedicated to the revival of the lost
esoteric knowledge and racial virtue of the ancient Germans, and the
corresponding creation of a new pan-German empire.
The Ariosophists were cultural pessimists. An obvious link exists

between their fantasies and the grievances of German nationalists in
the Habsburg empire of Austria-Hungary towards the end of the
nineteenth century. Such factors as Catholicism, the rapid urban and
industrial changes in society, the conflict of Slav and German interests
in a multi-national state, the rise of the Austrian Pan-German
movement under Georg von Schonerer, and the vogue of social
Darwinism and its racist precepts were also crucial influences upon
their thinking. The role and importance of occultism in their doctrines
is principally explicable as a sacred form of legitimation for their
profound reaction to the present and their extreme political attitudes.
The fantasies of the Ariosophists concerned elitism and purity, a sense
of mission in the face of conspiracies, and millenarian visions of a
felicitous national future.
This introduction is intended to set the scene for a detailed

examination of Ariosophy. The background against which Ariosophy
arose was that of the contemporary nineteenth-century ideas of
nationalism, anti-liberalism, cultural pessimism, and racism. Our
point of departure will be the volkisch movement which combined
these concepts into a coherent ideological system. In his study of the
oolkisd: ideology, George L. Mosse has commented on the spiritual
connotations of the word ‘Yolk’. During the nineteenth century this
term signified much more than its straightforward translation ‘people’
to contemporary Germans: it denoted rather the national collectivity
inspired by a common creative energy, feelings and sense of indivi-
duality. These metaphysical qualities were supposed to define the
unique cultural essence of the German people. An ideological
preoccupation with the Yolk arose for two reasons: firstly, this cultural
orientation was the result of the delayed political unification of
Germany; secondly, it was closely related to a widespread romantic
reaction to modernity.”

The disunity of Germany had been graphically illustrated by the
mosaic of small particularist kingdoms, principalities and duchies
which, together with the larger states of Prussia and Austria, constituted
the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation until its formal
dissolution in 1806. After the defeat of Napoleon this state of affairs
was barely changed by the creation of a loose German Confederation
that left the member states free to pursue their separate paths. If the
results of the Congress of Vienna had disappointed German nationalists
in 1815, their hopes were again frustrated after the revolutions of
1848. As a result of this slow progress towards political unification,
Germans increasingly came to conceive of national unity in cultural
terms. This tendency had begun in the late eighteenth century, when
writers of the pre-romantic Sturm und Drang movement had expressed
the common identity of all Germans in folk-songs, customs, and
literature. An idealized image of medieval Germany was invoked to
prove her claim to spiritual unity, even if there had never been
political unity. This emphasis on the past and traditions conferred a
strongly mythological character upon the cause of unification.!

When Bismarck proclaimed the Prussian king the German Kaiser of
a new Second Reich in 1871, national unity seemed won at last. But the
new State proved a disappointment to many Germans. The idealistic
anticipation of unity had nurtured utopian and messianic expectations,
which could not be fulfilled by the prosaic realities of public
administration. Quasi-religious sentiments could find no outlet in the
ordinary business of government and diplomacy. It was widely felt
that political unification under Prussia had not brought with it that
exalted sense of national self-awareness implicit in its expectation.
~oreover, the new Reich was feverishly occupied in building up
mdustry and the cities, a process which seemed merely materialistic’
and which was destroying the old rural Germany, an essential idyll in
the romantic celebration of German identity. The mock-medieval
Kaiser, his modern battleships and the contemporary Griiriderstil
architecture, have all been cited as symbols of this tension between the
old and new in the Second Reich. B~hind the extravagance of royal
pageantry and pompous street fac;ades lay the secular realities of a
rapid industrial revolution.
The exclusion of Austria from the new prussian-dominated Reich

had left disappointed nationalists in both countries. Hopes for a
Greater Germany had been dashed in 1866, when Bismarck consoli-
dated the ascendancy of Prussia through the military defeat of Austria,
forcing her withdrawal from German affairs. The position of German
nationalists in Au stria- Hungary was henceforth problematic. In 1867
the Hungarians were granted political independence within a dual
state. The growth of the Pan-German movement in Austria in the
following decades reflected the dilemma of Austrian Germans within
a state of mixed German and Slav nationalities. Their programme
proposed the secession of the German-settled provinces of Austria
from the polyglot Habsburg empire and their incorporation in the
new Second Reich across the border. Such an arrangement was
ultimately realized by the Anschluss of Austria into the Third Reich in
The viilkisch ideology also embraced a general reaction to modernity.

Both Germany and Austria-Hungary had been late developers in
comparison with the western economies. The survival of pre-capitalist
attitudes and institutions in these countries meant that modernization
imposed a particular strain upon individuals who still identified with a
traditional, rural social order. Many people despised modernization
because the growing towns and mushrooming industries uprooted
established communities and disturbed their sense of security and
status. Liberalism and rationalism were also rejected because they
tended to demystify time-honoured institutions and to discredit
accepted beliefs and authorities. This anti-modernist discontent has
been analysed in the writings of three important German nationalist
prophets: Paul de Lagarde, Julius Langbehn, and Moeller van den
Racism and elitism also had their place in the viilkisch ideology. The

fact of racial differences was exploited to lend validity to claims of
national distinction and superiority. Once anthropology and linguistics
had offered empirical standards for the classification of races, these
became a staple in viilkisch eulogies of the German race. A set of inner
moral qualities was related to the external characteristics of racial
types: while the Aryans (and thus the Germans) were blue-eyed, blond-
haired, tall and well-proportioned, they were also noble, honest, and
courageous. The Darwinist idea of evolution through struggle was also
taken up in order to prove that the superior pure races would prevail
over the mixed inferior ones. Racial thinking facilitated the rise of
political anti-Semitism, itself so closely linked to the strains of
modernization. Feelings of conservative anger at the disruptive
consequences of economic change could find release in the vilification
oftheJews, who were blamed for the collapse of traditional values and
institutions. Racism indicated that the Jews were not just a religious
community but biologically different from other races.’

The Ariosophists had their political roots in the late nineteenth-
century uolkisdi ideology and the Pan-German movement in Austria.
Their reactionary response to the nationality problem and modernity
led to a vision of a pan-German empire, in which the non-German
nationalities and the lower classes would be denied all claims to
emancipation or representation. Theories of Aryan-Cerman racial
excellence, anti-liberalism, and anxiety about social and economic
changes typify their oolkisdi concerns, but their occultism was an
original contribution. Occultism was invoked to endorse the end uring
validity of an obsolescent and precarious social order. The ideas and
symbols of ancient theocracies, secret societies, and the mystical
gnosis of Rosicrucianism, Cabbalism, and Freemasonry were woven
into the oolkisdi ideology, in order to prove that the modern world was
based on false and evil principles and to describe the values and
institutions of the ideal world. This reliance on semi-religious
materials for their legitimation demonstrated the need of the Ario-
sophists for absolute beliefs about the proper arrangement of human
society: it was also an index of their profound disenchantment with
the contemporary world.

As romantic reactionaries and millenarians, the Ariosophists stood
on the margin of practical politics, but their ideas and symbols filtered
through to several anti-Semitic and nationalist groups in late Wilhelmian
Germany, from which the early Nazi Party emerged in Munich after
the First World War. This study traces that survival of Ariosophy
through personal contacts and .literary influences. The possibility that
List and Lanz von Liebenfels may have already had an influence on
Adolf Hitler in his pre-war Vienna days is also investigated. Ariosophy
continued to be fostered in the 1920s by small coteries that propagated
racist mystery-religions during the Weimar Republic in the hope of a
national revival. At least two Ariosophists were closely involved with
Reichsfiihrer-SS Heinrich Himmler in the 1930s, contributing to his
projects in prehistory, SS order ceremonial, and even to his visionary
plans for the Greater Germanic Reich in the third millennium. In this
account of their succession, it is shown how the fantasies of Ariosophy,
besides being symptoms of anxiety and cultural nostalgia, illuminate
the ultimate dream-world of the Third Reich.

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