Occult roots of Nazi Germany


The rise of German nationalism, which accelerated in response to the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles, was directly linked to the activities of various cultural and secret occult societies. Interestingly, the re-birth of Pan-German movement first occurred in the Austrian Empire in the late nineteen century and was prompted by the high influx of Slavs and Jews from Eastern Europe. By 1885, a considerable number of völkisch-cultural educational and defence leagues, so called Vereine, operated in the provinces of Vienna, expressing a desire to cultivate traditional customs and Teutonic cult through sporting clubs and festivals. In 1886, Anton Langgassner formed a federation of these Vereine, the Germanenbund, at Salzburg.221 In 1900 more then 160 Vereine of this kind belonged to the federation influencing between 100,000 and 150,000 people.222 Pan-German movement was also growing popular among student fraternities of Vienna, Graz and Prague, who expressed interest in mystical and occult philosophies that were popularised at the time through the writings of a Russian-German spiritualist, Helena Blavasky. Blavatsky was born as Helena Petrovna von Hahn in the Ukrainian town of Yekaterinoslav, then part of the Russian Empire. Her mother Helena was the daughter of Princess Yelena Pavlovna Dolgorukova, whilst her father, Pyotr Alexeyevich von Hahn, was the descendant of the German aristocratic family who served the Russian Tsar.223 One day Helena discovered personal library of her maternal greatgrandfather, Prince Pavel Vasilevich Dolgorukov, a Freemason of whom rumours said he had met Alessandro Cagliostro and Count St. Germain.224 She began to study the books she found in the library, which mostly dealt with esoteric subjects. A year after marrying Nikifor Blavatsky, Vice-Governor of Erivan Province, she abandoned her husband starting a nine-year journey around the world in search for the truth about the eternal laws of the universe. She claimed she had spent many years in India and Tibet where she studied ancient texts, developed psychic powers and discovered the truth that underlaid all spiritual faiths in the world: that the essential nature of the world was not matter but energy. She went with this knowledge to America, where she became a celebrity and in 1875 she founded, together with Henry Olcott, a journalist and Buddhist convert, a Theosophical Society named after combination of two Greek words: theos ("god(s)") and sophia ("wisdom"), meaning "GOD-WISDOM" or "divine wisdom".225

In 1877, Helena Blavatsky produced her first famous book Isis Unveiled, where she discussed the hidden and unknown forces of nature and emphasized similarity of Christian scripture to Eastern religions. In an introduction to the book she wrote "a plea for the recognition of the Hermetic philosophy, the anciently universal Wisdom-Religion, as the only possible key to the Absolute in science and theology”.226 Blavatsky drew inspiration from various occult works and was under strong influence of a British occult novelist and Freemason, Edward Bulwer-Lytton. In one of his books The Coming Race published in 1871, he told a story of a subterranean race which developed the use of an energy form called vril which enabled them to be equal to god themselves, and which one day would come to the surface and reclaim the Earth. The Coming Race influenced Blavatsky to write her most famous book, The Secret Doctrine. Published in London in 1888, the book claimed to describe the activities of God from the beginning of one period of universal creation until its end, a cyclical process which continues indefinitely over and over again. Blavatsky illustrated the stages of cosmic cycle with variety of esoteric symbols, including triangles, triskelions and swastikas. Swastika, which Blavatsky chose as design for the seal of the Theosophical society, resembled cross with arms bent, which was was a graphic depiction of a whirling motion of a spiral Milky Way galaxy and symbolised the powerful forces of the universe. This icon appeared to be a leftover of the ancient civilization that possessed advanced astrological knowledge and was found in the Indian subcontinent and East Asian cultures such as Japan, but also in Norse, Basque, Baltic, Celtic and Greco-Roman cultures. In her Secret Doctrine, Blavatsky presented her racial theory of human evolution. According to her writings, there will be seven root races (epochs of civilisation) assembled for our Earth in total, and each root race is divided into seven subraces. Only five root races have appeared so far: the first root race (Polarian); the second root race (Hyperborean); the third root-race (the Lemurians) and the fourth root-race (the Atlanteans) which wielded psychic abilities and which migrated to Egypt, Americas and Asia. Humanity constituted the fifth root-race, the so called Aryan-root race, called the Aryan because the beginnings of its civilisation were in the ancient land once known as Aryavarta but today known as India. The exception were the Orientals, Africans, and some aboriginals such as the native Australians, who were considered by Blavatsky to be the surviving descendants of older races. The coming sixth race was to be superior to their own and would usher humanity in a New Age of Peace and spiritual enlightenment.227

Helena Blavatsky's theosophy appealed to many Germans who quickly picked up those parts of her work that emphasized racial hierarchy and elitism. In 1884, Wilhelm Hübe-Schleiden, a senior civil servant at the Colonial Office in Hamburg who wrote in favour of German colonisation, founded the first German Branch of the Theosophical Society and published a monthly periodical, Die Sphinx, writing about the paranormal phenomena from scientific viewpoint. German medical doctor, Franz Hartmann, one time a co-worker of Helena Blavatsky and Henry Olcott, who contributed to Die Sphinx, became in 1893 the editor of the first German publication to picture the theosophical swastika on its cover called Lotusblüthen. Esoteric magazines soon began to proliferate in Germany. In 1896, Paul Zillmann founded the Metaphysische Rundschau, a monthly periodical which dealt with many aspects of the esoteric tradition, and 1902, Rudolf Steiner, a young scholar who studied in Vienna published a periodical Luzifer at Berlin from 1903 to 1908 before he found his own Anthroposophical Society in 1912.

The German occultists often drew inspiration from the racial theories of the British and the French who needed to scientifically justify their colonial policies. In 1853, French diplomat Arthur de Gobineau published his famous Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races where he asserted the distinctions between the three races, "black", "white", and "yellow", arguing the superiority of the white race. He divided further the white race into the Aryans, whom he associated with the Germanic people, and the non-Aryans.228 In Germans, he saw the last reserve of the Aryan force, the superior white race destined to rule. Gobineau's theories became an inspiration for Huston Chamberlain, British-born philosopher who detested the materialistic culture imposed by the Jewish elites in Britain and saw salvation for Europe in the Teutonic race. In 1899, the leading völkisch activists and publisher in Munich, Hugo Bruckmann, published Chamberlain's best known book, The Foundations of the Nineteen Century, which claimed that all of the "foundations" of the Western civilization were the work of the "Aryan race”, the Slavo-Celto-Germanic, or Teuton for short.229 And that there were two threats to the Teuton culture: the Jews on one hand, who were the source of "all the wars" in history, "so peculiarly connected with Jewish financial operations",230 and the Roman Catholic Church on the other, which only preached a "Judaized" Christianity that had nothing to do with the Christianity created by the Jesus Christ. Chamberlain's work sell well and became widely read in the völkisch Pan-Germanic movement. German Kaiser Wilhelm II supplied 10,000 marks for the publication of the Foundations, and arranged its distribution in the army and public libraries.231 The book's emphasize on the Jews as source of all evils, increased the levels of anti-Semitism in the German society, prompting others to consider various solutions to the so called “Jewish Question”. Inspired by The Foundations, one völkisch writer Josef Remier published Ein Pangermanisches Deutschland in 1905, which used The Foundations to advocate Germany's conquest of the Russian Empire, after which special commissions of doctors, anthropologists and "breeding experts" were to divide the population into three categories; ethnic Germans, those capable of being "Germanized" and those incapable of "improvement" with all Slavs and Jews being included in the last category.232 The Germans became also inspired by the concepts of Social Darwinism and eugenics that were produced by the elites of the City of London. In 1895, German physician Alfred Ploetz, coined the term “racial hygiene” and in 1905 he founded German Society for Racial Hygiene, together with Swiss-born German psychiatrist Ernst Rüdin. The Society had been affiliated with British Eugenics Education Society and aimed to achieve racial purity through measures such as sterilization.

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221 Julie Thorpe, Pan-Germanism and the Austro-fascist State 1933-1938 (Manchester, New York: Manchester University Press, 2011), p. 25 »

222 Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism (London, New York: Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2004), p. 9 »

223 Bruce F. Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived: A History of the Theosophical Movement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), p. 2-2 »

224 Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots..., pp. 2-3 »

225 Gary Lachman, Madame Blavatsky: The Mother of Modern Spirituality (New York: Jeremy T. Tarcher/Penguin, 2012), p. 134 »

226 Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled: A Master-key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology (Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1999), vol. I, p. vii »

227 H. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Vol. 2, pp 195–6 »

228 G. Blue, “Gobineau on China: Race Theory, the “Yellow Peril”, and the critique of Modernity”, p. 100 from Journal of World History Volume 10, Issue 1, (1999) »

229 G. Field, The Evangelist of Race: the Germanic Vision of Huston Chamberlain (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981), p. 180 »

230 G. Field, The Evangelist of Race, p. 190 »

231 E. Seillière, J. M. Hone, The German Doctrine of Conquest: A French view (Dublin and London: Maunsel & Co Ltd., 1914), p. 52 »

232 G. Field, The Evangelist of Race, p. 230 »