Welcome to the third installment in my examination of the notorious Thule Society, a secret society with occult trappings that was founded in Germany toward the end of the First World War I. The legacy of Thule is a mixed bag, with mainstream historians largely dismissing it as insignificant while conspiracy theorists have long cited the Society as being the smoking gun for the occult roots of Nazism. As with many things, the truth is far more complex than either of these two positions.
Thus, with the first installment in this series I tried to chronicle some of the common misconceptions surrounding Thule, especially in regards to popular conspiracy culture staples such as the Vril Society and the Lance of Longinus. In part two I began to breakdown some of the ideologies, groups and individuals that laid the ground work for the emergence of Thule, most notably the Germanenorden. The Germanenorden was itself a secret society with rituals derived largely from the Volkisch movement, Ariosophy and Freemasonry. It was from a breakaway group of Germanenorden lodges that Thule emerged from.
But before I begin addressing Thule in earnest I must give some background details concerning one specific individual: Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorff, the founder of the Thule Society, for it is impossible to fully appreciate the significance of Thule without some understanding of the man who founded it.
Von Sebottendorff was not born into nobility and in fact came from somewhat modest origins. His name had originally been Adam Alfred Rudolf Glauer ad he was born to a locomotive engineer in Hoyerswerda towards the tail end of 1875. The day of von Sebottendorff's birth, November 9, is most curious. This date has gained something of an ominous reputation in German culture and for good reason. Consider:
- on 11/9/1848 liberal leader Robert Blum was executed, an event seen by many as playing a key role in the failure of the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states (apparently von Sebottendorff's paternal grandfather was killed during the street fighting in Berlin during the Revolution, but I have been able to determine when or under what circumstances).
- 11/9/1918 would mark the end of monarchy in the German state and the beginning of the doomed Weimer Republic; this date also marked the beginning of the reactionary counterrevolution that would ultimately lead to the rise of the Nazi party. Von Sebottendorff reportedly gave a rousing speech to Thule on his forty-third birthday that helped spur the counterrevolution in Bavaria, as we shall see.
- 11/9/1923 witnessed the conclusion of Hitler's failed Beer Hall Putsch, an event that would become heavily mythologized by the Nazi party in latter years and would even produce the so-called Blutfahne (blood flag), a lone Nazi flag that became a kind of holy relic to the party.
- the night of 11/9/1938 witnessed the beginning of the Kristallnacht (also known as "crystal night" or "the night of broken glass") in which Jewish property and synagogues were burned and destroyed and which led to the arrest and incarceration of over 30,000 Jews in concentration camps
- and finally, 11/9/1989 witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, an event that led to the reunification of Germany.
Benito Mussolini founded the Partito Nazionale Fascista (PNF), the fascist political party that would go on to rule Italy from 1922 till 1943, on November 9, 1921 as well. Thus, this day is quite significant in the history of fascism in general. And here we have Von Sebottendorff's birthday falling on the so-called "11/9 days" to boot. While this is likely a mere coincidence, it surely is an ominous one considering the influence von Sebottendorff would have on Germany's destiny. But moving along.
The first twenty-five years of Von Sebottendorff's life are rather unremarkable. While born to common origins, von Sebottendorff's father was able to bequeath his son a modest inheritance upon his death in 1893. Von Sebottendorff studied engineering for a time, but his adventurer's spirit eventually got the best of him. By 1898 von Sebottendorff had departed Germany and had begun to see the world while working as a sailor. But it was not until 1900, when von Sebottendorff arrived in the Near East, that the future baron's interest in occult doctrines began to take root.
"... in June 1900, Glauer journeyed to Egypt, armed with a letter of introduction to a wealthy, influential pasha given him Coolgardie by a Parsee, a follower of Zoroaster. Perhaps it was at this crossroads where the young adventurer turned towards a lifelong exploration of hidden doctrines. Glauer disembark at Alexandria in July 1900 after a sea voyage via Colombo, Aden, and the Suez Canal and traveled straightway to Cairo. There he met the secretary of Hussein Pasha, a Turkish landowner who was summering near Constantinople. By Sebottendorff's account, a telegram from Hussein Pasha summoned him to Turkey. Glauer met the pasha at his mansion on the Bosporus, two hours' journey from the old imperial capital in a narrow-hulled caique. Possibly the Hussein of Sebottendorff's account was actually Abraham Pasha, a landowner near Beikos. A more prosaic version from the pen of a colleague, however, places him in Egypt from 1897 to 1900, working for the Egyptian government as a technician. While it is almost certainly incorrect that Glauer was in Egypt before 1900, those dates may reflect the truth of a slightly longer, less whirlwind stay in Egypt than Sebottendorff allowed in his writings. While in Egypt, Glauer visited the Mevlevi, an ecstatic Sufi order, and Cheops, where an Egyptian companion called Ibrahim informed him of the great pyramid's numerological significance. Sebottendorff would remain fascinated by the mystical Islam of the Sufis, whose practices derived from shamanism and Eastern Christianity as well as Koranic sources, and later claimed initiation into one of their orders.
"Glauer enjoyed the friendly concern of the pasha after his arrival in Turkey and was offered a position as surveyor of his estate in the vilayet of Hudawengiar (Khudarinddighair). Glauer apparently learn Turkish at this time, studying Arabic calligraphy under the imam of the mosque at Beikos. By 1901 he was employed on the pasha's Anatolian estates near Bandirma and Bursa, on the slopes of Uluda, known to the ancients as Mount Olympus...
"Glauer's interest in the occult increased during long conversations on the inner life with the pasha, who was devoted to Sufism. He was also befriended by Kabbalist an alchemist called Termudi, a descendant of Sephardic Jews who had emigrated in the sixteenth century to Salonica, a crossroads city where Eastern Orthodox Christians and Sunni Muslims mingled with Jews and Sufis. A banker and traitor in silk as well as an occultist, Termudi initiated Glauer into a Freemason lodge in Bursa, and eventually bequeathed him a library of texts on alchemy, Kabbalism, Rosicrucianism, and Sufism. Glauer's fascination with Sufism was sharpened by the discovery of a note by the pasha in one of Termudi's books, describing alchemical exercises practiced by the Bektashi, the Sufi order to which Sebottendorff would claim initiation. The Parsee from Coolgardie and the Turk and the Jew from Bursa were links in an occult network stretching across the globe, crossing lines of ethnicity and the outer forms of religion. The image Sebottendorff presented in his autobiographical writings as an adventurer traveling in those circles is at odds with the militant racism and anti-Semitism he expounded in the Thule Society.
"In later years Sebottendorff would explain that the magical exercises of 'Oriental freemasonry' contain the secrets of the Rosicrucians and the alchemists, and preserve those esoteric teachings that modern Freemasonry had forgotten. According to him, the ancient Freemasons were concerned with ennobling individuals in the hope of eventually reforming society, while modern Freemasonry is concerned with reforming society in the hope of ennobling its members.
"Termudi's lodge was probably affiliated with the Rite of Memphis, which had spread into many lands after its foundation in Paris in 1838. Freemasonry was often considered a liberalizing, even subversive force, the engine of political reform. This was true in the Ottoman Empire, where 'masonry led a harassed existence.' The Rite of Memphis, however, was an anomaly in Freemasonry because supreme power was invested in its grandmaster, giving it an autocratic character. The Memphis order was steeped in Kabbalism and Rosicrucianism, the latter esoteric doctrine providing Sebottendorff with a link to those German Masons who could be termed right wing and would survive the persecution of the Masonry under the Nazis."
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 46-48)
The Rite of Memphis, which by the early twentieth century had merged with the similarly Egyptian-themed Misraim rite to form the Rite of Memphis-Misraim in irregular masonic lodges, has faced much speculation from conspiracy theorists over the years. These arcane rites originated from the legendary Enlightenment-era occultist known popularly as Cagliostro who pioneered an "Egyptian" from of Freemasonry in the late eighteenth century.
"Cagliostro had established the system of 'Egyptian' Freemasonry (the mother lodge was set up in Lyons in 1782), which consisted of both male and female lodges, the latter being headed by his wife Serafina. Levi described this as an attempt 'to resuscitate the mysterious worship of Isis.'
"The fruits of Cagliostro's researches into the occult societies of Europe were a body of knowledge known as the Arcana Arcanorum (Secret of Secrets), or A. A. He took this term from the original Rosicrucianism of the seventeenth century, but his corpus consisted of descriptions of magical practices that especially stressed 'internal alchemy...'
"It was under Cagliostro's authority that the Rite of Misraim (Hebrew for 'Egyptians') was created in Venice in 1788. Around 1810 the three Bedarride brothers brought the system to France, where it was incorporated into the Rectified Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
"The Rite of Misraim was the direct antecedent of the Rite of Memphis – which had... been founded by Jacques-Etienne Marconis de Negre... (The two systems unified as the rite of Memphis-Misraim in 1899 under the Grand Mastership of Papus, who remained at the helm until his death in 1918.) The Rite of Memphis was also closely associated with a secret society called the Philadelphians that have been founded by the Marquis de Chefdebien in 1780 – another offshoot of von Hund's Strict Templar Observance, although it was specifically formed to acquire occult knowledge. Marconis de Negre stressed the close ties with the Philadelphians and named one of the grades of his movement 'The Philadelphes.'
"Neither rite – of Memphis or Misraim – was in itself particularly influential. But taken together, as Memphis-Misraim, they were a power to be reckoned with, and their influence spread like title wades through the occult underground of Europe. Among their members were such dark stars as the British occultist Aleister Crowley and mystic luminaries like Rudolf Steiner. And there was also Karl Kellner, who was eventually, with Theodore Reuss, to found the Order of the Templars of the Orient, better known simply as the OTO.
"This organization was – and is – explicitly about sex magic. And although it is widely thought to represent the Westernizing of Tantrism, it was also very much the logical development of secrets taught in Memphis-Misrim – which themselves derived from the knowledge acquired by Cagliostro from the alchemical Rosicrucian groups of Germany and the Strict Templar Observance lodges...
"Another offspring of the Memphis/Misraim movement took shape in England in the late nineteenth century. This was the hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, whose members included Bram Stoker the theater manager most famous for being the author of Dracula; Aleister Crowley, the Irish poet, patriot and mystic, W. B. Yeats, and sociable Constance Wilde, wife of the doomed Oscar. Founded in 1888 by Mcgregor Mathers and W. Wynn Westcott, it's direct line of descent went back to the Gold and Rosy Cross, the Strict Templar Observance order from Germany... as did many of its actual grade names and rituals. The Golden Dawn also used rites taken from Memphis/Misraim..."
(The Templar Revelations, Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, pgs. 177)
There has long been speculation by conspiracy theorists as to whether there were any ties between Crowley and/or the OTO to the Thule Society. As far as this researcher has been able to discern there does not seem to have been any direct links. But according to David Luhrssen in Hammer of the Gods Franz Hartmann, a Bavarian born member of the Theosophical Society, may provide an indirect link to the OTO and Ariosophy.
Hartmann was a co-founder of German Theosophy in 1884 and helped spread Blavatsky's system through out the nation vigorously. At some point he became acquainted with Guido von List (effectively Ariosophy's founder who, along with the List Society, was discussed briefly in part two of this series) and joined the List Society in 1908 upon its founding. Hartmann, according to Luhrssen, was also an associate of the above-mentioned Theodor Reuss. In some accounts Hartmann is even said to have co-founded the OTO as early as 1902. But beyond Hartmann this researcher is unaware of any other links between the OTO and Ariosophy, and none concerning the Thule Society.
"The origins of the Rosicrucians (or 'Great White Brotherhood,' as devotees called it) is obscure, enlightened neither by its own claims of an ancient pedigree in Pharaonic Egypt nor the best efforts of recent scholarship. Secret societies, if they are truly covert and have reason to fear repression, did not always leave paper trails. Occult lodges calling themselves Rosicrucian surfaced in the seventeenth century with the anonymous publication in Germany of manifestos calling for the reformation of the entire world. Cited as the movements father was the legendary German knight Christian Rosenkreutz, said to be a traveler in the East during the sixteenth century. Tales of Rosenkreutz may well have lit the imagination of Glauer, a traveler in the East during the twentieth century. Organized in Masonic fashion with an initiatory, hierarchical structure around the belief that human potential remainded a largely untapped reservoir, the Rosicrucians began to dabble in clandestine politics as early as the seventeenth century, when initiates backed plots to restore the Stuarts to the British throne. Especially in Germany, Rosicrucianism became 'right-wing, aristocratic and restorationist.' By the 1780s Prussian king Frederick Wilhelm III was himself a member of the Berlin Lodge. Rosicrucians became an influence on the occult underground that emerged in Europe. By the close of the nineteenth century, inspiring secretive organization such as the Order of the Golden Dawn, and esteemed cultural figure such as Swedish writer August Strindberg, a correspondent of Ariosophist Jorg Lanz. Zanoni, a widely read novel by English author and occultist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, was steeped in Rosicrucianism.
"Like the Theosophists who sensed the dawning of another epoch, the Rosicrucians believe that history was giving way to a new age in which the original planetary harmony would be restored. Little wonder that Guido von List was eager to paint Ariosophy in Rosicrucian colors, claiming that their lodges had preserved knowledge of pre-Christian, Germanic Europe..."
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 48-49)
|a depiction of Christian Rosenkreutz, the mythological founder of Rosicrucianism|
Glauer's rebirth as Baron von Sebottendorff officially began in 1911. It was during this year that von Sebottendorff claimed that he was naturalized as a Turkish citizen and subsequently adopted by an expatriate Baron Heinrich von Sebottendorff under Turkish law. As this act was not recognized by German law, von Sebottendorff had the adoption repeated by another von Sebottendorff, Siegmund, in Wiesbaden in 1914. Eventually Siegmund's widow also repeated the adoption for good measure.
Von Sebottendorff also claimed to have been naturalized and adopted by an American member of the noble family in Constantinople in 1908 as well, but this claim is more sketchy. Regardless, the Sebottendorff family would vigorously endorse Rudolf's claim and his title of nobility was ultimately acknowledged by German authorities.
|Rudolf von Sebottendorff|
For much of von Sebottendorff's early life the adventurer comes off as a rather cosmopolitan figure, a kind of cross between the legendary Baron Munchhausen and T.E. Lawrence. By all accounts the man enjoyed close relations with both Jews and Turks alike during his sojourns in the Near East and on the whole there is little evidence of the flagrant racist tendencies that would come to dominate von Sebottendorff's thinking during his time with the Germanenorden and Thule in latter years. Von Sebottendorff's dramatic shift in attitude has long puzzled serious scholars. One compelling possibility for this ideological shift is the potential association von Sebottendorff had with the Young Turks movement during his second extended stay in the nation before the outbreak of World War I.
"Sebottendorff implied that his return to Turkey was motivated by the economic opportunities created by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the loose-knit group that became the leading force in the even more loosely knit revolutionary movement known as the Young Turks. The conspiratorial CUP seized power in a bloodless revolution in 1908 and forced Sultan Abdulhamid II to appoint its members to key positions in government. Ostensibly CUP pursued a policy of Westernization and economic development. Unable, however, to find work with the German-financed Anatolian Railroad Company or the many other construction projects underway in Turkey, Sebottendorff accepted a teaching post in a Jewish community on the slopes of Alemdag near Scutari (Uskuedar), the town on the Asiatic shore of the Bosporus where Florence Nightingale had treated British wounded during the Crimean War.
"Interestingly, the lodge he had been admitted to by the Jewish occultist Termudi was, before the Young Turks seized power, the secret Bursa cadre of CUP. Even before the formation of CUP, Turkish Freemasons had been involved in murky conspiracies against the Sublime Porte. That Masons became active with the Young Turks was in step with their centuries-old tradition of dissidence. Jewish Freemasons, especially prominent members of the Salonica community, joined CUP, 'making their lodges available for secret meetings and for the storage of secret correspondence and records.' Ironically, given Sebottendorff's future associations, Ottoman opponents of CUP and Allied propagandists during World War I maintained that the committee was little more than a front for a cabal of Salonican Jews.
"There were several tendencies at work among the Turkish nationalists in whose circles Sebottendorff traveled. The regime founded after World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire by Kemal Ataturk, who had been a relatively pragmatic member of CUP, represented a more moderate vision of Turkish nationalism. Based on his pursuits upon returning to Germany, one can speculate that Sebottendorff may have been infected by the more radical strains that went by the names of Pan-Turkism and Pan-Turanism, the latter referring to a projected nation-state of all Turkic peoples to be called Turan, whose boundaries would stretch north from the Tibetan plateau to the Arctic Ocean and east from Asia Minor to the Pacific Ocean to encompass the Caucasian and Central Asian Turkic domains of the Russian Empire and China...
"Analogous with the search for pre-Christian values by their volkisch counterparts in German-speaking Europe, and contradicting the Western, positivist materialism of many CUP intellectuals, the Pan-Turkists and Pan-Turanians were fascinated with traces of pre-Islamic shamanism found among rural Turks. 'The Turkish peasant of Anatolia, previously the object of contempt by the elite, began to be romanticized as the embodiment of national values.' As with the volkisch movement, Pan-Turkism and Pan-Turanism originated in the obscure researches of mainly European scholars, notably Mustafa Celaleddin Pasha, a Polish exile whose Les Turcs Anciens et Modernes (1869) emphasized the ethnic unity of all Turkic peoples and their contributions to civilization, and French historian David Leon Cahun, whose Introduction to the History of Asia (1896) linked the Turks to such pre-Islamic conquerors as Genghis Khan, who became a hero to some radical Turkish nationalist. Such beliefs 'spread rapidly among the intellectual classes of the empire, particularly in Istanbul and Salonica,' the milieu inhabited by Sebottendorff during his second Turkish sojourn. Certain factions of the Young Turks showed 'a remarkable affinity with "proto fascist" currents in Europe.' Unlike the Westernizers represented by Ataturk's circle, the militant Pan-Turanians often despised Western values; interestingly, their favorite European authors were Nietzsche and Gobineau. The contradictory and incomplete evidence shows that some Pan-Tuanians were fascinated by biological, Social Darwinist theories of race and nationality, while others assumed that nationality is culturally constructed and could be imposed or encouraged by assimilation, the strategy favored by Ataturk and his successors in the present struggle between Turkey and its Kurdish rebels.
"Historian Arnold Toynbee, in a report written for British naval intelligence in 1917, noted the 'anti-Islamic tendencies' in the Pan-Turanian movement, including the employment as a symbol of CUP's youth movement of the Grey Wolf (the mythical beast who led the ancient Turks on their westward migration), and a Turkish army order directing troops to include the Grey Wolf in their prayers. Toynbee quotes from a circular produced by Turkish Hearth, a Pan-Turkist group that exists even today despite periods of suppression by the Turkish Republic. The brochure condemns the 'monstrous figment of the imagination, which is known as the community of Islam, and which has for long past stood in the way of present progress generally, and of the realization of the principles of Turanian unity in particular.' The language closely parallels Ariosophical attacks on Christianity, which they despised as an alien intrusion, an impediment to the recovery of Aryan culture and values.
"The Grey Wolf was appropriated as a symbol under Ataturk, who tolerated and repressed the Pan-Turanian movement according to his own shifting political calculations. The Pan-Turanians and their symbols represented the birth of the fascist tendency in modern Turkish politics. An extreme right-wing terrorist gang, accused of enjoying links with organized crime and factions of the Turkish security forces, continues to call itself the Grey Wolves.
"Sebottendorff alludes only casually in his writings to the Young Turks. But his membership in a Young Turk front organization, and his return to the Ottoman Empire once they seized power, opens an intriguing avenue of speculation. Parallels between volkisch Pan-Germanism and the most radical Pan-Turanism advocated by elements of CUP are striking. Some authors have gone so far as to suspect links between the Young Turks and Nazism."
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 50-53)
|the Young Turks' leadership circa 1907|
Operation Gladio is far to complex a topic to address at length here but in brief: It began during the early years of the Cold War and was in theory supposed to serve as a stay-behind network of guerrilla fighters in the event Western Europe was overrun and occupied by the Soviet Union. In actuality Gladio was a vast international terror and assassination network that recruited heavily from Nazi and fascist supporters in the post-war years and would go on to include branches in virtually every U.S. client-state (though Operation Gladio is generally thought to have only included Europe and Turkey, it was actually an international network directed by a private organization known as the World Anti-Communist League [which this blog has addressed at length before], but more on that later) the world over. Frequently these paramilitary-style terror networks were controlled by a series of bizarre secret societies. Easily the most famous of these organizations was the notorious Italian Propaganda Due (P2) masonic lodge. The equally notorious Opus Dei as well as the rarely addressed Sovereign Military Order of Malta have also been frequently linked to this network.
|the emblem of the Italian "stay-behind" network|
"The Grey Wolves, far from being a youth organization, were a brutal network of trained and armed men ready to use violence to further the cause of Pan-Turkism. 'The creed of the Grey Wolves' an article in Bozkurt, the official magazine of the organization, specified the ideology and the strategy of the movement in the following way: 'Who are we? We are the members of the Grey Wolf (Bozkurtcu). What is our ideology? The Turkism of the Grey Wolf (Bozkurt). What is the creed of the Bozkurtcu? They believe that the Turkish race and the Turkish nation are superior. What is the source of this superiority? The Turkish blood.' With roots going back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the division of the Turks into several countries the article stressed the Pan-Turkish struggle: 'Are the Bozkurtcu Pan Turks? Yes! It is the holy aim of the Bozkurt Turks to see that the Turkish state grows to become a nation of 65 millions. What justification do you have for this? The Bozkurtcu have a long time ago declared their principles on this issue. You do not receive right, you get it yourself.' In order to attain its aims the Grey Wolves specifically trained to use violence: 'War? Yes, war, if necessary. War is a great and holy principle of nature. We are the sons of warriors. The Bozkurtcu believe that war, militarism and heroism should receive the highest possible esteem and praise.'
"It was this national fascist movement which the CIA exploited and supported while running it secret army in Turkey. After the discovery of NATO's secret stay-behind armies across Western Europe in 1990, it was revealed in Turkey that CIA liaison officer Turks had recruited heavily among the Grey Wolves to staff the secret stay-behind army, which in Turkey operated under the name Counter-Guerrilla. Yet due to the broad public support which the Grey Wolves enjoyed, and due to their known brutality even in the 1990s, few in Turkey and beyond had the courage to address the issue in frank terms. Among those who spoke out was General Talat Turhan. In 1960 Turhan together with other officers had taken part in the coup d'etat, four years later he was dismissed from the Turkish army in the rank of General. After the coup of 1971, the military tried to do away with him and the Counter-Guerrilla tortured him as he kept to be most outspoken about the darkest secrets of the Turkish security system. Already then he declared: 'This is the secret unit of the NATO countries,' but within the Cold War context of the 1970s nobody was eager to listen."
(NATO's Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Daniele Ganser, pgs. 228-229)
|the flag of the Turkish MHP political party that is frequently used by the Grey Wolves|
"... Although the circumstances remain unclear, the Nazis apparently released Sebottendorff, who returned to his beloved Turkey. Germany's intelligence chief in Istanbul from the middle of World War II, Herbert Rittlinger, claimed that the aging Ariosophist, by then a man of seventy, was one of his operatives, an inheritance from his predecessor's list of spies. In Rittlinger's memory, Sebottendorff was a kindly, penurious gentlemen, and amiable companion ('I did not find his humorous bonhomie unsympathetic'), who spoke more of Tibet and Rosicrucianism then Nazi Germany, but not a good spy. 'As an agent, he was a zero.' Unfamiliar with Sebottendorff's past, Rittlinger later wondered whether highly placed friends arranged his release from imprisonment. He was also concerned that Sebottendorff may also have been working for the Allies, committing years after the war, 'Our counterintelligence man thought it was certain, but could never prove it, and I myself thought it was quite possible...'"
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 199-200)
|a bust of von Sebottendorff|
And with that I shall wrap things up for now. Keep Gladio in mind dear readers as the similarities between the organizations used in this network and the Freecorps are quite striking, as we shall see. In the next installment I shall began to addressing the Freecorps as well as finally getting around to the Thule Society. Stay tuned.