Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bavaria, the Thule Society, the SOSJ and the Making of a Revolutionary Faith Part I


The Thule Society has fascinated conspiracy theorists for decades and the German state of Bavaria for even longer. Thule has of course been put forth as the smoking gun for the occult roots of Nazism by a host of different sources since 1960 while Bavaria is linked to one of the true institutions of conspiracy culture: the Illuminati. It was this region, after all, that spawned Adam Weishaupt's Illuminati order on May Day 1776 and in the centuries that have followed the infamy associated with both this secret society and Bavaria itself have only been compounded by a host of wild speculations. But even more interesting is the virtual silence of the conspiratorial right concerning many of the curious and highly secretive organizations that developed there in the 1918-1923 period that shall soon be examined.

Adam Weishaupt
Naturally mainstream historians have largely chosen to ignore the Thule Society all together as well as the host of strange organizations that appeared in Bavaria in the wake of World War I despite compelling evidence linking these things to the rise of Nazism. This has created a vacuum that the conspiratorial right was all to happy to fill. As a result, there are a lot of ridiculous claims concerning both Thule and Bavaria floating around conspiracy literature and the Internet. As such, I feel compelled to begin this series by breaking down what the Thule Society was not before getting into its real historic significance.

The same should arguably be done for the region of Bavaria itself as well, but such a topic is beyond the scope of this present series. I do hope, however, that this series will make it clear that Bavaria wasn't exactly the fertile soil for some type of radical communistic revolution as it is commonly depicted. In point of fact, post-WWI Bavaria spawned a reactionary (counter)revolutionary faith that is still being felt nearly a century later. Possibly its most lasting impact on the United States was the potential influence the political climate of the region had on a bizarre secret society known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John (of which I've examined in depth before here, here and here). But more on that later.


So, with introductory obligations out of the way, let us get on with the show. The Thule Society first began to come to the attention of the masses in 1960 with the publication of one of the most influential metaphysical tomes on what would become the 1960s counterculture.
"The construction of a body of doubtful lore surrounding the Thule Society began in 1960 with Le Matin des Magiciens, published in Great Britain as The Dawn of the Magicians and the United States as The Morning of the Magicians. In its embrace of esotericism of all sorts, the book resonated loudly within the 1960s counterculture. The Morning of the Magicians was an imaginative series of associations, linking alchemy and quantum physics, Jung and Gurdjieff, and like the science fiction stories of the previous generation, it became an unlikely stimulant for the dreams of many artists and intellectuals. It was a best seller in the 1960s and early 1970s, appearing in paperback editions with psychedelic covers. 'Few books that followed in the sixties occult revival weren't indebted to it in some way,' wrote a chronicler of the counterculture's intellectual concepts. It was also careless with facts, sloppy with evidence.
"The authors of The Morning of the Magicians, Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, were members of the French intelligentsia who wrote their magnum opus of 'fantastic realism' in the spirit of the Surrealist manifestos of earlier decades. Pauwels had edited Albert Camus's influential newspaper Combat; Bergier, a physicist, had worked for Allied intelligence. 
"The idea of the occult as a backdrop to Hitler had already been introduced to English-speakers through Hermann Rauschning's Hitler Speaks (1939), which raised the specter of black magic and contained quotes from Hitler echoing Ariosophical premises without mentioning Thule or any specific source. At the time Rauschning's implications were too outre to be considered anything but metaphor. The sections of The Morning of the Magicians having to do with Nazism and its links to rejected cosmologies, pseudo-sciences, and and the occult illustrated the authors' position on the relativity of human experience, the ways in which even outrageous worldviews can frame the vast and unruly material of reality. The Morning of the Magicians popularized the theory of the Third Reich as the project of black occultists, a 'magic socialism' warring against Western science, the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the rule of reason. Although Pauwels and Bergier proposed Thule as only one node in the plurality of 'subterranean Germany,' they brought the group to the attention of millions of readers and into the demonology of pop culture. In The Morning of the Magicians, Eckart is Thule's leading personality, espousing a cosmology as redolent of H.P. Lovecraft as H.P. Blavatsky. According to the authors, Eckart and his compatriots believed that 'Beings intermediate between man and other intelligent beings from Beyond, would place at the disposal of the Initiates a reservoir of force,' enabling Germany to conquer the world and become the cradle for the coming race of supermen, 'guided by the Great Ones of the Ancient World.'"
 (Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 203-204)

This is only scratching the surface of Pauwels and Bergier's fantastical account of the Thule Society. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, one of the few researchers to put forth a scholarly account of Nazi occultism, notes of The Morning of the Magicians:
"This legendary account of Nazi inspiration and ambition was underpinned by a fanciful account of the Thule Society and certain of its members. Pauwels and Bergier singled out two particular individuals as Hitler's occult mentors at Munich during the early 1920s. Dietrich Eckart (1868-1923) was a volkisch playwright and journalist of violently anti-Semitic prejudice, and a prominent figure among the nationalist circles of Munich. He is also known to have attended meetings of the Thule Society. It is accepted by scholars that Eckart not only gave force and focus to Hitler's burgeoning anti-semitism after the war, but that he also introduced the young party leader to moneyed and influential social circles. The second individual was Karl Haushofer (1869-1946), who had served as a military attache in Japan and became a lifelong admirer of oriental culture. After the First World War Haushofer embarked upon an academic career in the field of political geography, subsequently gaining the Chair of Geopolitics at the University of Munich, where Rudolf Hess was his student assistant. Hitler was supposedly impressed by Haushofer's theories, taken from Sir Halford Mackinder, that the 'heartland' of Eastern Europe and Russia ensured its rulers a wider dominance of the world.
"According to Pauwels and Bergier, the influence of these two men upon Hitler chiefly related to the communications of arcane knowledge which was derived from unknown powers, with which contact had been established through the Thule Society and other cults. Eckart's role as an occult counsellor was related explicitly to invisible hierarchies...
"This spurious account also maintained that Haushofer was a member of the Luminous Lodge, a secret Buddhist society in Japan, and the Thule Society. As an initiate of the Eastern mysteries, rather than as a geopolitician, Haushofer is supposed to have proclaimed the necessity of 'a return to the source' of the human race in Central Asia. He advocated the Nazi colonization of this area, in order that Germany could have access to the hidden centres of power in the East. The consequence of this link with 'unknown superiors' was that the Thule Society was thus revealed to be the secret directing agent of the Third Reich. This assertion and the other details are entirely fallacious. The Thule Society was dissolved around 1925 when support had dwindled. While Eckart and Rosenberg were never more than guests of the Thule during its heyday, there is no evidence at all to link Haushofer with the group.
"This fictitious image of the Thule Society was developed further by Dietrich Bronder in his book Bevor Hitler kam (1964). Bronder claimed that Haushofer met George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, the Caucasian thaumaturge, at least three times between 1903 and 1908 in Tibet. Gurdjieff was supposed to have initiated Haushofer into the Tibetan mysteries. The Thule Society was alleged to have renewed German contact with the secret monastic orders of Tibet through a small colony of Tibetan Buddhists, which was established at Berlin in 1928; an SS expedition was said to have gone to Tibet with the express purpose of setting up an apparently vital radio link between the Third Reich and the lamas in 1939. The 'Stanzas of Dzyan' were allegedly used as a code for all messages between Berlin and Lhasa during the war. Bronder completed his account with a spurious membership role of the Thule Society which included: Sebottendorff, Guido von List, Lanz von Liebenfels, Mussolini, Hitler, Hess, Goering, Himmler, Frank, and Haushofer. This mythical account posited that the existence of a sinister link of diabolical influence between Nazi Germany and a theosophically imagined Tibet. It may also be noted that Bronder's work was the first crypto-history to introduce the Ariosophists..."
(The Occult Roots of Nazism, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pgs. 219-221)
the legendary Karl Haushofer
Ariosophy was in fact a kind of hidden doctrine amongst some early supporters of Nazism and other extreme brands of nationalism in Germany and Austria both before and after the First World War. It does indeed seem to have been one of the chief ideological influences upon the historic Thule Society as well as various occultists who would have dealings with the Third Reich at various points. Ariosophy shall be examined in more depth in a future installment of this series.

A point should also be made about the membership list of Thule: Goodrick-Clarke, for years the only truly serious scholar of such arcane topics, has long disputed the presence of many future prominent Nazis within Thule's ranks. David Luhrssen, the first researcher to pen a scholarly full length account of the Thule Society, seems to believe that ties between individuals such as Dietrich Eckart and Alfred Rosenberg to the group were far more extensive than Goodrick-Clarke has been willing to acknowledge. But more on that later.

The Morning of the Magicians would also link Thule to another secret society that would become the center of much speculation amongst conspiracy theorists: the Vril Society. Magicians only touched upon Vril briefly. Later researchers would add extensively to the society's legend and closely link it to the Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorff, the historic founder of the Thule Society.
"Prominent among the pro-Nazi fantasies of Thule are a pair of Austrian writers. Norbert Jurgen-Ratthofer and Ralf Ettl emerged from a neo-Nazi subculture obsessed with the notion that UFOs were German V-weapons, developed before the close of World War II and shipped to bases hidden in the Arctic, South America, and Antarctica. In Das Vril-Projekt (1992), they set forth the idea that the Thule Society and its confederates established contact with extraterrestrials and channeled alien technology to the German military.
"The book's title refers to the Vril Society, an obscure Berlin occult lodge whose existence was first publicized after World War II by refugee German rocket scientist Willy Ley and later popularized by The Morning of the Magicians. In another example of fiction embraced as reality, Vril, a supposed natural force of enormous potential when harnessed by adepts, originated in Bulwer-Lytton's novel The Coming Race (1871) and passed from there into Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled (1877). It has only recently been established that the long-disputed Vril Society actually existed.
"In Das Vril-Projekt, members of the Thule and Vril groups met near Berchtesgaden in December 1919 with the Croatian medium Maria Orsic. They listened as Orsic delivered telepathic messages in Sumerian from the planet Sumi-Er, orbiting Aldebaran in the constellation of Taurus. Among the revelations was a new theory on the origins of the Aryan race. Orsic's message called them descendants of ancient colonists from Sumi-Er. Jurgen-Ratthofer and Ettl were probably indebted to the psuedo-history of Germany's Erich von Dankin, who sold many books and kindled great popular speculations in the wake of his international best seller Chariots of the Gods? (1968), which attributed much of ancient history to the intervention of colonists from other worlds.
"Das Vril-Projekt asserts that Sebotendorff had already immersed himself in Babylonian and Sumerian lore before the session near Berchtesgaden and had published his findings on Mesopotamian evidence for a Manichean struggle between light and darkness, represented by the Aryans and the Jews, in Der interkosmische Weltenkampf (1919), a book whose existence is doubtful. The Babylonian aspect was probably suggested by the writings of Lanz, who based many of his Ariosophical speculations on bizarre interpretations of ancient texts from Mesopotamia.
"Haushofer figures in Das Vril-Projekt's account. He was cited as a participant in an August 1917 discussion of Sumerian lore at a Vienna cafe with Sebottendorff, Orsic, the pilot Lothar Waiz, and a man called Gernot, prelate of a secret Templar order called the Herren vom Schwarzen Stein (Lords of the Black Stone). The Black Stone lodge sought to harness the power of the 'Black Sun,' an energy accessible by initiates that has become part of the legendry of esoteric neo-Nazis since the 1950s.
"Through Osric, the alliance of occultists led by Sebottendorff began to receive instructions for the construction of flying machines operating with electromagnetic fields and antigravity. In 1934 Waiz flew the first of these machines; afterward, the Thule Society helped establish SS Development Department E-IV to test saucer-shaped aircraft powered by a Thule-Tachyonator engine. By the end pf the war E-IV had flown a variety of craft. Among the arsenal of experimental aircraft were the Vril-1 and -2 fighters; the larger Haunebau I, Haunebau II, and Haunebau III, the last of which carried a crew of thirty-two and reached speeds of 40,000 kilometers per hour; and the Andromeda, a mother ship with room for several of the smaller crafts in its hanger. Worried by the faltering German war effort at the end of 1943, Thule and Vril leaders decided to develop the Vril-Odin, a faster-than-light starship. Its mission was to reach Aldebaran by 1967, with an urgent request for help in the war against the Allies. Why the occultists were unable to send an SOS telepathically is not explained. Aldebaran supposedly responded by dispatching a star fleet, which should arrive on earth between 1992 and 2005, to restore Aryan dominance.
"Das Vril-Projekt and similarly themed video 'documentaries' by Jurgen-Ratthofer have circulated beyond the neo-Nazi milieu, attracting interest among New Age and UFO circles. Its core ideas have found their way into the work of other authors, among them, German anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Jan van Helsing, who also brought Lanz's psuedo-history into the space age, positing that in primordial times Aldebaran colonists had bred Tschandala as slaves. After the Tschandala revolted, the submen mixed with other races and commenced an age-old struggle with the Aryans, the children of Aldebaran, for mastership of the earth."
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 206-208)
the novel which inspired the Vril Society

Needless to say, the actual history of the Vril Society (what little of it there is) is not remotely as extravagant as conspiracy theorists have long depicted it as being.
"Professor Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke... tells a different and more probable account based on the findings of Dr. Peter Bahn in his 1996 essay, Das Geheimnis der Vril-Energie (The Secret of the Vril energy): 'The reality of the Vril Society was a good deal less impressive. Its formal name was Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft "Das Kommende Deutschland" (Reich Working Group "The Coming Germany"): one of hundreds of little occult societies in Weimer Germany, it was sponsored by the astrological publisher Wilhelm Becker. The group pit out a magazine, which apparently folded after one issue.
"'In 1930 it also published two pamphlets, Vril: Die kosmische Urkraft (Vril: The Primal Cosmic Power) and Weltdynamismus (World Dynamism), claiming to reveal secrets of Atlantean free energy technology. A section of the latter pamphlet shows a bisected apple as a symbol of the free energy field surrounding the earth. While this confirms Ley's account, it does nothing to back up the extravagant claims made for the Vril Society's activities and influence by later writers.'"
(Nazi Secrets, Frank Lost, pgs. 103-104)

Before wrapping up this installment, let us consider another one of the fictitious claims associated with the Thule Society: its ties to the Spear of Longinus.
"The Morning of the Magicians opened the way for hysterical fantasy presented as fact in Trevor Ravenscroft's The Spear of Destiny (1973). The British author claimed that the Spear of Longinus, one of several lances said to have pierced the side of Christ on the cross and preserved as religious relics in various locations, was an instrument of power influencing the course of European history. Hitler, identified once again as a medium for occult forces, was convinced of victory so long as he held possession of the relic. The spear in question had been kept among the Hapsburg crown jewels since the Napoleonic era and was on display in Vienna at the time of Hitler's sojourn. Ravenscroft's thesis rests on one slender reed of truth. The Ariosophists advocated returning the Hapsburg dynasty regalia, including the Spear of Longinus, to its pre-Napoleonic home in the medieval imperial city of Nuremberg, a transfer accomplished by the Nazis after the Anschluss. Ravenscroft may also have been correct in speculating that the Thule Society included a core of dedicated occultists inside a wider outer circle whose interests were political, cultural, or exclusively anti-Semitic.
"In all other respects The Spear of Destiny was pulp fiction in the guise of history read through an extrasensory lens. Borrowing liberally from The Morning of the Magicians along with occult novels such as Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Zanoni and Aleister Crowley's Moonchild, Ravenscroft proposed Hitler as an initiate of the List Society while in Vienna, where he accessed higher consciousness through the psychedelic effects of peyote. The fuhrer was depicted as the reincarnation of Landulf II of Capua, a ninth-century sorcerer. Haushofer stands accused of being the guiding hand of the Thule Society, which Ravenscroft pictured as being absorbed wholesale into the SS during the Third Reich.
"The Spear of Destiny was the bestseller among a gaggle of psuedo-histories of Nazi Germany involving the Thule Society, which followed in the wake of The Morning of the Magicians. In Jean-Michel Angebert's The Occult and the Third Reich (1974), Nazism was interpreted as a Gnostic conspiracy and Eckart anointed as 'high priest' of Thule. Spurious accounts of the Nazi-Thule axis were prominent in Werner Gerson's Le Nazisme, societe secrete (1969), Elisabeth Antebi's Ave Lucifer (1970), J.H. Brennan's Occult Reich (1974), and Jean Claude Frere's Nazisme et societes secrete (1974). The story continues to be retold and developed like an ancient legend that collects new details with every generation. Although major publishers have proven less interested in the 'Occult Reich' since the 1970s, some indefatigable authors have turned to small presses and self-publishing, as well as the Internet. Rock musician and conspiracy theorist George Picard and his collaborator Jerry E. Smith have added their own bloodcurdling elaboration on Ravenscroft with their Secrets of the Holy Lance (2005). Alec Maclellan is only one conspiracy writer who continues to link the Spear of Longinus with Vril, the Thule Society, and the theories of advanced cultures hidden inside a hollow earth in books such as The Hollow Earth Enigma (1999) and The Secret of the Spear (2004). Many of these books professed horror at the dark doings of Nazi occultists while offering titillating glimpses into their secrets. Building on those fantasies, a new generation of neo-Nazis wrote their own approving psuedo-histories of the Thule Society."
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 205-206)


And it is here that I shall wrap things up for now. In the next installment I shall begin examining the historic Thule Society in earnest. Stay tuned.