Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Sun That Never Sets: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Landig Group Part II

Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the infamous Landig Group, some times referred to as the Vienna Circle. While largely unknown in the English speaking world, the Landig Group would have a very overlooked influence on mainland European and South American esotericism by the end of the twentieth century. Most notably, the Group is often credited with introducing UFOlogy and the Black Sun mythos to Esoteric Nazism in the post-World War II era. While the ideology of Landig and company was largely unknown to the general public for many years, their mythos have more recently been spread to a wider audience thanks to the efforts of individuals such as Jan Van Helsing.

The Group has largely been ignored by New Agers and the conspiratorial right in equal measures, and when they have been addressed (i.e. by Joseph Farrell) it is typically in the most literal and sensational manner imaginable. This series is an attempt to address this state of affairs, but unfortunately there are many aspects of the Group that do not seem to have been investigated as thoroughly as it surely warrants. However, there are certainly some interesting connections to be made with the data that is available.

With the first installment of this series I largely focused on the backgrounds of two of the three men, Erich Halik and Randolf J. Mund, who co-founded the Group along with its namesake, Wilhelm Landig, in 1950. I began to address Landig in brief at the end of that installment as well.

Before picking with Landig again, however, it behooves me to address his novels and their influence in brief. So here's a synopsis of Landig's "Thule trilogy" to get the ball rolling:
"However, it was Wilhelm Landig's own novels that ensured the revival of occult-nationalist themes among a younger generation of neo-Nazis in the 1990s. The ideas and interest discussed by the Landig group in the 1950s found permanent expression in Landig's trilogy of Thule novels. The first of these, Gotzen gegen Thule (1971), was begun in the late 1950s and incorporated the thought of Julius Evola and Herman Wirth. Theories of Aryan polar origins and Atlantis are mixed with powerful new nationalist myths of 'the last battalion,' secret German UFO bases in the Arctic, alchemy, Grail myths and Cathar heresies, and a Nazi-Tibetan connection involving Himalayan masters and an underground kingdom in Mongolia. In this novel and especially in its successor, Wolfszeit um Thule (1980), a global Jewish conspiracy always lurks in the shadows, seeking to foil the revival of Nordic German rule, but its Judeo-Christian idols are powerless against the resurgence of the Black Sun. The last novel of the series, Rebellen fur Thule (1991), is a wishful fantasy of right-wing radicalism among German youth. A former SS officer, the hero of the second novel, is invited to lecture on the Atlantean heritage of the Aryans at a German secondary school. The pupils reject the liberal views of their despised left-wing history teacher and hungrily embrace the new nationalist myths of Thule."
(Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pg. 137)
the first of Landig's "Thule" novels
While the influence of Landig's work has been relatively broad (in certain regions of the world at least), it was his conception of Nazi UFOs, 'the last battalion', and the Black Sun that have had the most long lasting impact. Of these concepts, its worth addressing the Black Sun and the UFO interest in brief here. Let's start with the legendary Black Sun.

In recent times the claim has frequently been put forth by conspiracy theorists and neo-Nazis alike that the Black Sun is an ancient symbol dating back to humanity's earliest civilizations. But in his exhaustive study of the symbol, The Black Sun Unveiled, researcher James Pontolillo found little evidence of this. While Pontolillo notes that several black suns have been noted in antiquity, they were almost exclusively references to eclipses (i.e. the now infamous reference in the Edda) which have a meaning somewhat different than the modern concept of the Black Sun. Pontolillo's account does not seem to be entirely complete, however, as he makes few reference to the appearance of the Black Sun in Mesoamerican culture prior to European contact. In such circles the Black Sun references seem to be quite striking.
"The Mesoamerican myths are shared, among others by the Aztecs, the Mayas, the Mexicans and the Toltecs. One prominent god common to these people is Quetzalcoatl, literally 'feathered serpent', who incarnates one of the many mystical beliefs of the Black Sun in Central America. After his shinning passage through the sky during the day, he would dive into the Underworld with a Blackened aura.
"The Aztecs compared the passage of the sun into the Underworld with a butterfly, which is an archetype for transformation and reincarnation. The only event when the Black Sun would appear during the day would be a solar eclipse. He would then be identified with the earth goddess Itzpapalotl, also called the 'Obsidian Butterfly' (obsidian is a very dark volcanic stone), who would eat men during that exceptional cosmic event."
(Nazi Secrets, Frank Lost, pgs. 86-87)
Thus, it would seem that the Mesoamerican traditions were also primarily concerned with eclipses as well. This is in contrast to the later cosmic interpretations of the Black Sun, some of which would place it at the center of the universe and credit it with life giving properties. According to Pontolillo, the modern concept of the Black Sun does not seem to have emerged until the Middle Ages. Its earliest manifestation was likely in Sufism.
"Corbin (1971) and others have presented a strong case supporting the idea that the Black Sun and the Green Ray of European alchemical tradition... ultimately derive from Sufi mystical texts which were brought to the West during and after the Crusades (1095 -- 1291 CE). The Sufis theorized that there was a threefold structure to the human soul... On the lower plane [nafs ammara] was the ego or the imperative psyche appearing as a black disk, figure, sun or cloud. On the upper plane [nafs motma'yanna] was the pacified soul appearing as a splendid emerald surrounded by orbs of light. In between the two lay the intellect or soul-consciousness [nafs eawwama] appearing as a great red sun. As early as the writings of the Persian polymath Avicenna (980 -- 1037), the Sufi tradition spoke of an experience variously called the Black Light, the Night of Light, the dark Noontide, the midnight sun, or the 'Darkness at the approaches to the Pole' which was considered to be both the highest spiritual state and the most perilous of initatic steps... This Black Light, which permeates the entire universe, is only revealed to accomplished masters who have vanished themselves in the process known as fana, or annihilation of the ego. With the appearance of the divine Black Light in the mystic's superconsciousness, all things disappear instead of remaining visible. The screen or barrier of matter is overcome. The Black Light is not an Ahrimanic/Satanic darkness in the sense of the negation of or an absence of light, but the invisibility of 'the preorigin of all that is visible... [an] invisibility due to an excess of brilliance, to being too close to the light... ' In mystical terms 'it is the first Intelligence... rising as a revelation over the Darkness of the Deus absconditus... the human soul itself as the light of consciousness rising over the Darkness of the subconscious...'"
(The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pgs. 87-88) 
It is from these roots that the celebrated Black Sun of the alchemists likely emerged. While there can be little dispute that the Black Sun of alchemy is the first true manifestation of the modern symbol, it did not appear in any European alchemical works prior to the Ripley Scroll of the mid-fifteenth century. From there it would appear in the works of several notable alchemists (many of whom being German) including Albrecht Durer, Georgette de Montenay, Johann Mylius, Robert Fludd and possibly Sir Edward Kelley (yes, the same Kelley who was English magician and spy John Dee's assistant on several of his major workings; interestingly Dee used an obsidian stone, which as noted above was linked to the Black Sun in Mesoamerican culture, as a seerer stone).

Edward Kelley
Naturally it was at this point that the modern conception of the Black Sun began to emerge. It went something along these lines:
"Alchemists saw the Black Sun as unworked, primal matter, still to be set on the path of development. To the psychoanalyst, the Black Sun stands for the unconscious, again in its most elemental form."
(Dictionary of Symbols, Jean Chevalier & Alain Gheerbrant, pg. 950)
Pontolillo confirms the alchemical association of the Black Sun with primal matter, at least during the early stages. But he notes that later alchemists took it down psychological routes later embraced by the legendary Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.
"In several later alchemical treatises it is obvious that the Magnum Opus is increasingly to be understood in mystical terms (or in modern parlance, psychological terms). The alchemists point toward the need to enter into the darkest abyss (the depths of the Black Sun) in order to experience the invisible sun hidden within matter. It is hardly surprising that modern writers on alchemy have tried to forge a link with Sri Aurobindo's ideas on Martanda... The most influential modern description of the Black Sun comes from the alchemical writings of Swiss psychotherapist Carl Gustav Jung, who drew his inspiration from the images in Mylius' Philosophia reformata (1622), when he noted that the Black Sun represents 'a provisional extinction of the conscious standpoint owing to an invasion from the unconscious...' The conscious position is acknowledged to be dead and renewal ('greening') can only be accomplished through the addition of new material from a deeper layer. Some people will experience this as a depression, while others will experience it as elation. Like any mind-altering substance, the effects of the Black Sun's dark fire are user-mediated to a degree."
(The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pg. 103)
an alchemical depiction of the Black Sun
The concept of the Black Sun as a kind of invisible energy hidden within matter would appear indirectly in the writings of various Ariosophists in the early twentieth century. But I'm getting ahead of the game a bit.

After the Black Sun's appearance in European alchemy it began to spread across the continent and appeared in the works of William Blake, Mary Shelley, Victor Hugo, William Hope Hodgson and many others. Its transference to Ariosophy, and by default Esoteric Nazism, almost surely traces back to H.P. Blavatsky's concept of the "Central Sun", however. Blavatsky, as I'm sure many of my readers are aware, was the founder of Theosophy and one of the most important metaphysical figures of the modern era by a wide margin. Her work was widely read in Germany prior to the First World War, laying the foundation for Ariosophy and the notion of a metaphysical "Central Sun."
"In her major opus The Secret Doctrine (1888), Helena Blavatsky occasionally mentioned a 'central sun' in the Milky Ways, 'a point unseen and mysterious, the ever-hidden center of attraction of our Sun and system.' As the energetic center of the galaxy or even the universe, this dark central sun represents the mass of potential energy prior to the Big Bang of modern cosmology. While the Jewish Cabala described its 'black light,' Eastern initiates of Aryan tradition regarded it as the source of 'creative light' and the 'center of Universal life --Electricity.' Blavatsky thus emphasized a distinction between the Semitic and Aryan cosmology: the former materializes and humanizes the mysteries of nature; the latter spiritualizes matter. Blavatsky's ideas were first taken up by volkisch-theosophical authors in Germany before the First World War and after. Guido von List wrote of an invisible 'primal fire' as the ancient Ario-German's notion of the highest divinity. Peryt Shou (1873-1953), a German occult writer, had described humanity's heightened receptivity to the ultraviolet spiritual light of the 'central sun' in the Age of Aquarius and related this to Germany's future in the troubled postwar era."
 (Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pg. 136)
H.P. Blavatsky
As was noted in part one, the Landig Group was based out of Vienna and its three founding figures all had long time ties to the city. Also noted there was the fact that Vienna produced the two guiding lights of Ariosophy, Guido von List and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, who also remained close to the city throughout their respective lives. Thus, the Vienna was a major outpost (some may even say heart) of the Ariosophy movement. Its likely that Landig and company first discovered Ariosophy prior to the Second World War while living in and around Vienna. Landig was in several youth wings of the German Freikorps, some of whom were influenced by Ariosophy (as I noted before here), to boot.

While the Landig Group would play a major role in the crafting of the modern conception of the Black Sun, they were of course not the only influence. This strand, tracing back to H.P. Blavatsky, can be traced up through the early twentieth century via Peryt Shou, Karl Maria Wiligut, early "Ancient Astronaut" proponent Robert Charroux, Andre Brissaud, Kenneth Grant and Miguel Serrano. Of these Grant, a close associate of Aleister Crowley, is the most compelling. The system Grant outlined in his 1972 classic The Magical Revival touches on many of the same topics of interest to these proto-fascist and neo-Nazi ideologues and yet reaches very different conclusions in many instances. This shall make for some interesting speculation in a future installment.

As for the Nazi regime itself, evidence of the Black Sun is relatively scarce. There are some intriguing appearances of a black round disk on various German aircraft during the Nazi era, however. They first appeared during the Spanish Civil War and were later seen on German aircraft in the polar region at the close of the Second World War.
"Aircraft of the Spanish Nationalist Air Force and the German Legion Condor had previously employed a black fuselage roundel during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)... There is a prosaic explanation for the presence of a black roundel on German aircraft during the Second World War. Each Luftwaffe air wing (Jagdgeschwader 5 [JG5] in the case of Norway) was subdivided into several consecutively numbered groups (Gruppe I through IV for JG5). The standard Luftwaffe convention (though not always followed) was that all IV. Gruppe aircraft should be marked with a black roundel immediately aft of their fuselage cross."
(The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pg. 357 n. 29)
some of the German aircraft used during the Spanish Civil War that displayed the Black Sun
There is no evidence that there was any esoteric significance to these markings, however. It should also be noted that Erich Halik, a co-founder of the Landig Group, was the first individual to link the black roundels that sometimes appeared on German aircraft with the Black Sun in the magazine Mensch und Schicksal in 1952. But moving along.

A Black Sun also made a curious appearance on the cover of Junges Volk, a youth magazine put out by the German American Bund around 1940. This particular Black Sun is quite unique and does not have a clear precursor. It is unlikely that this symbol had much influence on the Black Sun mythos of the postwar years due to the short lifespan of the Bund as well the relatively limited and largely juvenile subscribers of Junges Volk.

And then there's the sunwheel of the North Tower of Wewelsburg castle. This topic is vastly beyond the scope of this blog, but a few points should be made: For one, there is no evidence whatever that Himmler conceived of the notorious sunwheel as a representation of the Black Sun. In point of fact, its not entirely certain that the SS was responsible for the sunwheel in the first place (though the likelihood is at about 95%) and there are certainly no official surviving documentation concerning its purpose.

Outside of Wewelsburg, there is only one other possible known appearance of this particular sunwheel in conjunction with a Nazi site. One very similar to it appears at a military bunker memorial to Bismark in Hamburg. However, the origins of this sunwheel are even murkier than the one in Wewelsburg and it is not certain who was behind its creation.

the sunwheel at Hamburg
The Wewelsburg sunwheel was not associated with the Black Sun until the postwar years. It is commonly claimed that the first linkage of the Wewelsburg sunwheel with the Black Sun was made by Russell McCloud in his 1991 novel Die Schwarze Sonne von Tashi Lhunpo but this is incorrect. French historian Andre Brissaud was the first to link Wewelsburg with the Black Sun in his 1969 work Hitler et l'ordre noir. Brissaud did not implicitly link the Wewelsburg sunwheel with the Black Sun, however, and gave a rather inaccurate description of it and the castle's North Tower on the whole.

the first public linkage of the Black Sun with Wewelsburg
In 1990 two publications emerged that directly linked the Wewelsburg sunwheel to the Black Sun. The first was produced by the highly controversial British cult known as the Order of Nine Angels (ONA) and was entitled The Black Sun. The second came from an obscure group known as the Freuddeskreis Wulf Sorensen (FWS) via a publication they had influence over known as Wolfszeit. In 1990 several issues of this magazine published articles linking the Wewelsburg sunwheel with the Black Sun.

a 2011 ebook edition of the ONA's 1990 Black Sun publication
And with that, let us move along to the concept of Nazi UFOs. The Internet is of course awash in accounts of these crafts thanks in no small part to works of Henry Stevens and Joseph P. Farrell. While Nazi Germany certainly made some phenomenon technological advances, evidence of Nazi UFOs is pretty slim.
"... In internet Sci-Fi underground lore and, in the thriving world of conspiracy theories, there circulate unsubstantiated claims that the Third Reich somehow managed to produce futuristic flying devices, far ahead of the scientific capabilities of their times. These so-called Nazi UFOs have even names: Rundflugzeug, Feuerball, Diskus, Haunebu, Hauneburg-Gerate, V7, VRIL, Kugelblitz, Andromeda-Gerate, Flugkreisel, Kugelwaffen, and Reichsflugscheiben. Many blueprints of these devices can be found on the internet, all of them grossly concocted in German with 'original Nazi fonts' and precise measurements to add a realistic touch.
"These Nazi UFO fantasies proceed mainly from 3 origins:
"1 - The alleged wider scopes and achievements of the real 1938-1939 German expedition to Antarctica in Neuschwabenland; Colin Summerhayes of the Scott Polar Institute scientifically debunked all claims that there were German bases in Antarctica...
"2 - The great advances that the Germans possessed in rocketry, and the purported findings of Doctor Viktor Schauberger, in the field of breaking new means of propulsion (His famous 'Repulsine' engine). Some scientists proved however that his Repulsine was no more than a water turbine, on which he was working to cool aircraft engines at the Messerschmitt plants.
"3 - The Allied sightings of so-called 'Foo Fighters', allegedly German secret weapons, designed to harass an aircraft through electromagnetic disruption. Though real, the German pilots saw the same phenomenon, and asked themselves what they could be, and where they possibly came from...
"The first links made between UFOs and Nazis are the work of the Italian Professor Giuseppe Belluzzo, a scientist and former Minister of National Economy under the Mussolini regime. He claimed in 1950 that 'types of flying disks were designed and studied in Germany and Italy as early as 1942.
"There have also been subsequent claims that underground FIAT factories, mainly located in vast tunnels around the Lake of Garda in Italy, were used to produce Nazi UFOs. These stories were propagated by the Italian Renato Vesco who claimed, among others, to have studied at a German Aeronautical Institute during the war, but was later discredited because of discrepancies concerning his very young age at the time.
"In 1950 the famous German magazine Der Spiegel tackled the subject of possible Nazi UFO's for the first time, and reported the dubious stories of former engineer Rudolf Schriever and his round flying device. Schriever did indeed show discrepancies in later versions of the same story, notably in 1952 during another interview.
"True enough, some prototypes that never achieved mass production status, like the Sack AS-6, had a shape very close to those of the after war UFO sightings..."
 (Nazi Secrets, Frank Lost, pgs. 72-76)

While this researcher would not totally discount some physical Nazi UFOs thanks to research such as that displayed by Jacques Vallee in Messengers of Deception, the prospect of Nazi UFOs on the whole is on rather flimsy footing. Wilhelm Landig himself claimed to have been involved in secret weapons research toward the end of World War II which he would have us believe is the source of his knowledge of Nazi UFOs. But evidence of his involvement in such projects is scarce, as we shall see in the next installment. In point of fact, his later period work for the SS was likely of an intelligence nature.

Erich Halik, a co-founder of the Landig Group, was an engineer in the field of aeronautical propulsion systems but did not work in such a capacity for the Third Reich during the war. He went on to work for a Austrian defense contractor known as Hirtenberger AG. He claimed to have worked on UFO propulsion system for the defense contractor but there is no evidence for this. He did, however, participate in some of the earliest developmental work for drone aircraft. But unfortunately, not enough information is available in these regards to determine the legitimacy of Halik's claims.

Many would of course dismiss the later interest these ideologues of Esoteric Nazism had in UFOs as a PR stunt at best or a disinformation campaign at worst. Certainly the former is true in the case of individuals such as Ernst Zundel while there are strong indications of the latter in Landig's background. But this researcher does not believe that things are that simple.

Early Ariosophists such as Jorg Lanz von Liebenefels, Peryt Shou and Karl Maria Wiligut all speak of the ancestors of the ancient Aryans as god men and make illusions to them descending from the heavens or the clouds throughout their writings. Shou, in some of his writings from the 1910s, even makes allusions to the Sirius tradition.

Its likely the first modern conception of "Ancient Astronaut" theory (AAT) as it is currently understood derived from Alice Bailey, a Theosophist and the legendary founder of Lucis Trust. Her cosmology was almost surely adopted by Silver Shirts founder William Dudley Pelley, who articulated what was likely the first fascist-tinged take on Ancient Astronaut theory, as I noted before here. Its likely that Bailey also inspired (at least in part) the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, who is also increasingly sited as an early inspiration for AAT.

Pelley was also aware of Theosophy from his time spent living in New York City during the 1920s (and may even have possibly known Bailey). Its also highly likely that Lovecraft was familiar with Theosophy at least from his time in NYC as well. And then, on the other side of the Atlantic, you have various Ariosophists, which derived from Theosophy, such as Liebenfels, Shou and Wiligut making allusions to Aryan supermen from the heavens and clouds.

Needless to say, there's seem to have been something very strange happening within Theosophy (which also played a key role in developing the modern conception of the Black Sun, as noted above) around this time frame. Such a topic is far beyond the scope of this series, but clearly the interests neo-Nazi occultists have displayed concerning UFOs should not be quickly dismissed.

And with that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment I will begin examining the curious life of Wilhelm Landig in depth. Stay tuned.