Saturday, September 13, 2014

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

The Landig Group, which first emerged in Vienna during the early 1950s, never gained much of a following (at least in terms of sheer numbers) during its run and has largely been forgotten outside of certain circles since its membership began to die off in mass during the 1990s. But it none the less managed an enormous influence upon neo-fascist circles in Europe and South America. What's more, its ideology is one of the modern cornerstones of Esoteric Nazism and has even made striking inroads amongst mainstream metaphysical circles.

Despite this, the Landig Group has generated very little coverage from either New Agers or conspiracy theorists. This is not especially surprising as far as the former are concerned (as the presence of so many fascists in 20th century metaphysical circles, especially those concerning "Ancient Astronauts," is rather embarrassing to such individuals) but the silence of the latter is rather striking given the ample indications that there was an intelligence purpose behind the Landig Group's activities.

Even when the Landig Group has been addressed, such as in the case of several of Joseph P. Farrell's ridiculous accounts of post-WWII Nazi survival, they have been presented in the most literal and outlandish light as possible. But then again, given that the Landig Group potentially had ties to some of the "guiding lights" of American conspirology, it may not be that surprising after all that Landig and his merry band have been so widely dismissed or reduced to caricatures by "serious" researchers.

Dealin' with the hogwash, as you know...
Over the course of this series I shall attempt to rectify these lapses. This is not an easy task as very little in the way of scholarly research has been done on the Landig Group, and what is available has largely focused on the esoteric aspects of the Group rather than their potential political agendas. While I am primarily interested in the political aspects of the Landig Group, I shall try to address certain aspects of their esoteric interests (especially in regards to Nazi UFOs and the Black Sun) as there is a lot of nonsense floating around the Internet on such subjects.

With that being said, let us move along to the origins of the Group. It sprung up in Austria's capital at roughly the same time The Third Man was presenting an unforgettable depiction of bombed-out, war-torn Vienna to America audiences. The classic film was true to Austria's capital at the time and it was among these nightmarish surroundings that the Landig Group first emerged.

Vienna as seen in The Third Man
If this did not make the location fitting enough, there's also the fact that Vienna had spawned the two founding pillars of Ariosophy, Guido von List and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels. Prior to the First World War, Vienna had been at the heart of the broader Volkisch movement in addition to providing fertile ground for its most esoteric and sinister branch. List, Liebnefels, and their followers had operated extensively out of Vienna both prior to and after the First World War. While it is uncertain as to whether any members of the Landig Group encountered Ariosophy and its architects at this point, the latter organization and its members' ties to Vienna makes the earlier residency of the two pillars of Ariosophy even more curious.

List (top) and Liebenfels (bottom)
But I digress --let us move on to a broad over view of the group:
"... [Wilhelm] Landig was also deeply involved in the post-war, underground world of esoteric National Socialism. In 1950 Landig founded the occult, volkisch Landig Group, sometimes called the Vienna Lodge, along with former Austrian SS officer Rudolf J. Mudd... and Austrian engineer Erich Halik... The Landig Group was heavily influenced by the writings of the aforementioned Dutch historian Herman Wirth and Italian esotericist and traditionalist philosopher Baron Julius Evola. From the latter, they adopted the concept of the Blue Island, a secret center in the Arctic which could serve as the wellspring for a renaissance of traditional life... Their activities help to revive interest in the Aryo-Germanic mythology of Thule (the polar homeland of the ancient Aryans) and promoted the idea of the Black Sun as a substitute swastika, an alchemical symbol, and as a mystical source of energy capable of regenerating the Aryan race. They also popularized esoteric ideas current in the pre-war volkisch movement relating to Atlantis, Hans Horbiger's Welteislehre (World Ice Theory), pre-historic floods, Grail legends, beliefs of the medieval Cathars, and secret racial doctrines of Tibet... Along with National Socialist esotericists such as Ernst Zundel (author of UFOs: Hitler's Secret Weapon! and Hitler at the South Pole?), the Landig Group claimed that there were secret post-war National Socialist installations beneath the polar ice caps where flying saucers and advanced weaponry were being developed for use in an eventual bid to conquer the world..."
 (The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pgs. 466-467)
the Baron Julius Evola, a true man of mystery who likely had ties to the Landig Group that went beyond a mere ideological influence; but more on that in a future installment
Its interesting to note that the above-mentioned Ernst Zundel, one of the figures chiefly responsible for spreading the Nazi UFO mythos, is a long time associate of famed "revisionist" historian (and likely fascist sympathizer) Michael A. Hoffman II. While this researcher has been unable to to uncover any evidence that there was direct contact between Zundel and the Landig Group, the latter clearly had an enormous influence on Zundel's esoteric works.

Zundel later alleged that he had incorporated UFOs and other esoteric topics into his work solely to appeal to the emerging New Age movement. Naturally, Hoffman rarely addresses this aspect of Zundel's career when praising one of his favorite "gas chamber skeptics." But moving along.

I shall finish off this installment by giving a brief rundown of the three men chiefly responsible for the ideology of the Landig Group: Wilhelm Landig himself, Rudolf J. Mund and Erich Halik. Let us start then with Halik, a figure whose seems to have had a very underrated influence on modern UFOlogy. Of the three men behind the founding of the Landig Group, Halik was the only one not to have served in the SS during WWII.
"Erich Halik (November 21, 1926 -- May 27, 1995) was born in Vienna, Austria and lived there his entire life. Although numerous print and Internet sources state that he was Swiss, this erroneous claim... probably resulted from the fact that Halik used the pseudonym 'Claude Schweikhart of Basel, Switzerland' as a by-line for a few of his early magazine articles. Halik was married twice and had one son, Claudius, by his second marriage. Once again, contrary to the claims of many Internet sites, he was never a member of the SS... but served as a Wehrmacht infantryman at the end of the Second World War. This erroneous claim of SS membership is probably a direct result of his post-war involvement with the Landig Group... in which several former SS-men held prominent positions. In his post-war professional life, Halik was a graduate in Mechanical Engineering and a licensed Engineer working in the field of aeronautical propulsion systems for which he held several patents... He was also involved in some of the earliest developmental work concerning drone aircraft. In his private life, Halik had a deep abiding interest in esotericism and was one of the leading public figures in Austrian ufology during the 1960s. He played a pivotal role in the development of both the Black Sun mythos and the theory that UFOs were advanced aircraft developed by the Third Reich..."
(The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pgs. 352-353)

Up through the 1960s Halik would remain prominent in the Austrian UFO field while also working as a defense contractor.
"... In March 1959, the Gesellschaft fur Interplanetarik [The Interplanetary Society] was founded with Viennese attorney Dr. Hermann Weyb as President and Erich Halik as Vice-President. One of Halik's responsibilities was to collect all of the UFO reports submitted to the organization... The Vienna-based UFO research group still exists today under the slightly different name, Interplanetarik Austria...
"Throughout the 1960s, Halik made a living as a UFO researcher and defense industry consultant... He performed engineering design work for Hirtenberger AG, a well-known Austrian small arms manufacturer that diversified its business into a variety of technological fields after the Second World War including aeronautical engineering... From 1964-1967, Halik and his German co-patentee, Hans Werner von Engel, applied for and received several Austrian and British patents on behalf of Hirtenberger AG related to electromagnetic controls, aerodynamic shapes, and propulsion systems for flying bodies... There are noticeable similarities between the flying disks illustrated in one of Halik's Mensch und Schicksal articles and his patent work more than a decade later...
"In November 1967, Halik presented his work on UFO propulsion systems at the 7th International World Congress of UFO Researchers in Mainz, Germany... He reviewed the relevant scientific advances from the 1700s forward, especially with regard to electrostatic propulsion systems. Halik stated that his electromagnetic drive design was already proven in principle, but that funds were lacking for a large-scale practical test system... He finished his presentation by observing that we are close to understanding UFO propulsion systems and by stressing the importance of developing and patenting working versions of them. During this time, Halik also held discussions with American  UFO expert Dr. J. Allen Hynek regarding the need to build saucer-like craft and work toward solving the aerodynamic and propulsion problems involved in their use...
"In the 1970s Halik suffered a series of undeserved professional setbacks and was ultimately forced to spend the last 20 years of his life working as a hotel night porter in Vienna... He was buried in the graveyard of Grobjedlersdorf in the 21st District of Vienna... Although many of Halik's esoteric ideas are now largely forgotten, research continues into his use of quartz and silica gel based catalysts in 'repulsine'..."
(The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pgs. 361-363)
Unfortunately, Pontolillo gives no indication as to what the "professional setbacks" were that Halik experienced and how they contributed to him spending the remaining decades of his life working as a hotel porter despite ample evidence pointing to his talents as an engineer. The fact that he was involved early in the development of drone aircraft is especially interesting in the twenty-first century, but there are few details available concerning this aspect of his career. Naturally there is equally little available concerning his development UFO propulsion systems and what became of the research he did along these lines for Hirtenberger AG.

the logo of Hirtenberger AG, the defense contractor Halik was employed by for a time
 Halik's interpretation of the UFO phenomenon was rather novel for his time as well.
"Halik was especially excited about the contemporary postwar UFO sightings. In a series of articles published in the Austrian esoteric magazine Mensch und Schicksal between 1951 and 1954, Halik related the flying saucers to the Black Sun myth. He identified the saucers as manifestations of the Grail, 'a cultic vessel used by the supreme hierarchy of Christian Gnostics.' He analyzed the etheric constitution of flying saucers on the basis of their glowing concentric rings. At the same time, Halik seemed to believe that the Germans had indeed established 'polar empires' in both the Arctic and the Antarctic, under the signs of the 'Golden Sun' and the 'Black Sun.' While the former represented a Luciferic, solar quest (linked with Otto Rahn and the SS Cathars), the latter was driven by Saturnine, satanic lodges of the SS. Halik understood the UFOs not so much as a technical invention as the application of a metaphysical and alchemical principle. The alchemical metaphor of sol niger (Black Sun) was said to represent occultation, blackening, a sinking into the mystery of self-discovery. This was supposedly the idealistic message of SS 'heretics' operating from the Blue Island, harbingers of a millenarian world transformation."
(Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pg. 131)
the magazine in which Halik's UFO-centric articles first began to appear in during the early 1950s
James Pontolillo provided some even more compelling details on Halik's perception of the UFO phenomenon:
"In 'Isles of the Dead over Us', Halik (1952b) began by reviewing the latest attempts of officialdom to dismiss UFOs as misinterpreted natural phenomenon. Halik reiterated that explanations of the UFO mystery generally fell into one of two camps: they are either craft of otherwordly origins or misinterpretations of natural atmospheric phenomena. Since all of his research indicated that UFOs were physical objects which behaved according to esoteric patterns, Halik claimed that a satisfactory explanation of this mystery would only be found in the realm of metaphysics, magic and alchemy. He stressed the importance of the observation that these objects are predominately discoidal, round or heart-shaped; based on this Halik interprets UFOs as symbolic representations of the Grail Table around which the Cathar 'Feast of the Manisola' took place. To him this table is a stylized representation of the generative process (interpenetration of yin and yang) and the Great Mother. It is the primitive Paradise where phallus and yoni (carbuncle...) unite to create the Tree of Life from which all knowledge arises. It is also symbolic of the 'Isle of the Dead' which Paradise has evolved into over time... The Cathar feast is a celebration of the 'Mani-Isola' or 'Isle of Mani' (the carbuncle, or model of Paradise). Thus, the UFOs themselves are models of Paradise and important archetypal vehicles because of their inspirational state which they arouse in humans. Despite their powerfully creative value though, UFOs are also dangerous (a 'Mantrika Vimana'... in the Hindu sense) because they emanate all four levels of the Akasha Tattva... and carry within themselves a strong chaotic element whose power must be mitigated by its partial transformation into other tattvas. 'First' and 'Last' matter meet in an intimate embrace..; this is the secret of the metaphysical Manisola and explains why UFOs are indestructible and not subject to known physical laws. According to Halik, these 'vehicles of the Word' (Mantrika Vimana) are perfectly capable of changing the face of our world and are the 'enemy out of the air' spoken of by mystic Jakob Lorber... Their first appearance coincided with humanity's expulsion from Paradise at the end of the Golden Age and served as a reminder of what had been lost (and might eventually be regained). He also explored the idea that bells in religious tradition represent a parallel to the Manisola and raised the ultimate question: Where is the terrestrial 'Isle of Mani' today?"
(The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pgs. 357-358) 
the heartlands of the Cathars, who have so obsessed various Nazi esotericists over the years
Clearly there is some overlap between Halik's metaphysical take on the UFO phenomenon and ideas later popularized by John Keel and Jacques Vallee that placed the UFO sightings in the context of various esoteric, magical and mythological traditions recorded throughout the ages. Its even possible that Vallee, a long time associate of the above-mentioned J. Allen Hynek, was aware of Halik's research and theories.

Halik was not the only far right ideologue to apply a metaphysical interpretation to the UFO phenomenon during this era either. A year prior to Halik's UFO reports first appearing, former Silver Shirt leader William Dudley Pelley published a work entitled Star Guests that also placed UFO sightings within a metaphysical context. Pelley's book would have an enormous influence of George Hunt Williamson, who would take the UFO phenomenon in an even further metaphysical direction in a series of books published in the 1950s and early 1960s. Williamson would later go on to work for Pelley and would incorporate many of his racist tenants into his cosmology. Much more information on Pelley and Williamson can be found in my examination of Pelley's career.

Pelley (top) and Williamson (bottom)
But let us move along now to Rudolf J. Mund, another of the co-founders of the Landig group. Like Landig himself, Mund had been a member of the SS.
"Rudolf J. Mund (April 4, 1920 -- January 5, 1985) began his political life as a teenage SA member in Vienna during the period when the German NSDAP was outlawed in Austria. In 1939, he joined the elite Waffen-SS and saw his first combat later that year during the Polish Campaign. During the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, Mund was wounded and spent time in a Warsaw military hospital after which he returned to service on the Eastern Front. From February 1 -- September 1, 1943, mund underwent officer training at the SS-Junkershule Tolz followed by the Zugfuhrer (platoon leader) course at Beneschau. He was wounded in Holland in 1944 and while recuperating at a hospital in Breslau, Silesia attained his highest rank of SS-Obersturmfuhrer (1st Lieutenant). Mund returned to action and was captured by American forces on January 10, 1945 during the latter stages of the Ardennes Offensive. While in the American POW camp at Saint-Avold (Lorraine, France), he first made contact with Edmund Kiss, a writer of esoteric novels that he had long admired... They would subsequently also be interned together at camps in Augsburg and Gross Zelten. Mund was finally released from captivity in 1947."
 (The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pg. 367)
Edmund Kiss was himself a curious figure. He was a major proponent of the World Ice Theory and had written a series of popular fantasy novels involving Atlantis and the ancient Nordics that incorporated it during the 1930s. When the Nazis came to power Kiss was brought into the SS Ahnenerbe by Heinrich Himmler himself. There he would become one of the leading "authorities" on the World Ice Theory. Later Kiss went into the Waffen-SS (the combat arm of the SS) and achieved the rank of Oberstrumbannfuhrer (Lt. Colonel). Toward war's end he served as commandant of the guard at Hitler's headquarters. But I digress.

By all accounts these encounters with Edmund Kiss in various American POW camps in the post-war years would have an enormous influence on Mund.
"... Mund was deeply impressed by these encounters, which somehow held the promise of far horizons beyond the present calamity of German defeat. Mund remained ever attracted to the esoteric Aryan mystique which he believed had lain behind the SS. As a young Waffen-SS soldier he had no direct contact with mystical SS circles during the Third Reich. However, the comradeship, heroism and sacrifice of his frontline experience in the Waffen-SS were the formative experiences of his life. He had believed the myths of this 'first volunteer European army' in which the bravest young men of Germany and other Western nations had fought a crusade against Soviet communism. Defeat, capture, the shocking discovery of Nazi atrocities and the disgrace of his SS uniform drove him in search of a noble SS that had championed the utopian Aryan world against all that was dark, chaotic and inferior. Throughout the postwar years, Mund pursued occult-volkisch investigations in an attempt to make sense of his former ideals."
(Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pg. 134)
Waffen-SS troops
Mund's studies of esoteric topics would be quite extensive.
"Mund was entranced by Kib's complex tales of an ancient world-spanning Aryan empire that had foundered but would one day rise again. His increasingly serious esoteric studies eventually led him to deceased SS-Unterscharfuhrer Otto Rahn's books on the Holy Grail and the medieval Cather heresy. In 1950 Mund helped to found the occult, volkisch Landig Group in Vienna. Along with his fellow members Wilhlem Landig... and Erich Halik..., he revived the ariosophical Germanic mythology of Thule (the polar homeland of the ancient Aryans) and promoted the idea of the Black Sun as a substitute swastika, an alchemical symbol, and as a mystical energy source capable of regenerating the Aryan race. In 1958 Mund joined the Order of the New Templars (ONT), a chivalrous sect which promoted an eclectic fusion of Aryan racism, Gnostic Christainity and Ariosophy. He went on to become the Order's prior in 1979 and later published the first biography of the Order's founder, Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels. Mund also took a great interest in the esoteric writings of Karl Maria Wiligut... and ultimately went on to become his first biographer also. During the postwar years, Mund maintained contacts with various occult organizations including the German branches of the Ordo Templi Orientis."
(The Black Sun Unveiled, James Pontolillo, pg. 367)
Mund's biography of Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels
The Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO) of course famously became involved with Aleister Crowley in 1910s. Crowley eventually took over the OTO but no before incorporating his Thelemic system into it. There have long been speculations that some branch or another of the OTO had some type of involvement with the Order of the New Templars (ONT), but Mund's links are the first concrete ones this researcher has uncovered (though according to Peter Levenda in his classic Unholy Alliance the Swiss branch of the OTO published a memorial notice for ONT founder Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels that described him as a "shining example of unswerving faith and the very highest virtue") between the two Orders.

In 1954 Mund allegedly put together a rough draft of what would become a tome called Vom Mythos der schwarzen Sonne [The Mystery of the Black Sun] that outlined many of the core ideas of the Landig Group. This tract was not published until 1981 and there is little evidence that it was circulated widely before then. It was later reprinted in 2004 with a preface by the current head of ONT and thus reintroducing Mund to a new generation.

the 2004 edition of Mund's The Mystery of the Black Sun
And that brings us to the man whose name the Vienna Lodge adopted, namely Wilhelm Landig. Like Mund, Landig also served in the SS. But his experiences were far more curious than those of his affiliate.
"... Born in Vienna in December 1909, Wilhelm Landig was a staunch pan-German nationalist. As a schoolboy he had joined the youth section of the Freikorps Rossbach and later fought in the Freikorps 'Deutsche Wehr' in Vienna, two of the many private armies formed after the First World War to defend Germany's borders and suppress left-wing revolts. He served in the Third Reich first in 1937-1938 at the Labour Science Institute in Berlin, then until 1941 in a government department in Vienna. From 1942 to 1944 he fought with the Waffen-SS in the Balkans, receiving German and Croatian decorations in fierce anti-guerrilla campaigns against partisans. In 1944 he was directed from Belgrade back to Vienna for 'special tasks' involving new military technology. In autumn 1945 he was subject to automatic arrest as a former SS man and interned in a British POW camp until 1947. Upon his release he entered the world of inter-Allied espionage, hawking low- and medium-grade Soviet intelligence to Western security services..."
(Black Sun, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pg. 129)
As I noted before here, there is evidence of esoteric and metaphysical interests amongst various Freikorps. Its possible that Landig was first exposed to such subjects during his time with the Freikorps. Then there are of course those long standing allegations that more than a few Freikorps commanders had rather unwholesome interests in underage boys, a prospect that Landig may have possibly faced. I hesitate in making such an allusion, but it may been relevant when we consider some of Landig's later associates in a future installment.

We will also see that passing low and medium grade Soviet intelligence to the NATO powers was hardly the end of Landig's intelligence work, not by a long shot. Nor did his interactions with NATO security services mark his introduction to the world of espionage --he had already entered said world during his time with the SS. His time spent with the fascist Croats is especially interesting in this regard, as we shall see.

But before I can address more of Landig's curious life I must first digress to consider his fictional works and their influence, as they may well be Landig's most lasting impact. I shall pick up with this topic in the next installment of this series. Stay tuned.


  1. There are very few comments on your blog, ever, Recluse. One gets the feeling that there are many, many readers, almost all of them lurkers.

    Anyway, someone needs to say it: you really bring together some amazing stuff, consistently high quality, well-sourced. Is this your day job or what? How do you make time to do all this!

  2. Anon-

    Thanks very much for your encouraging comments.

    No, this isn't exactly my day job per se but I have the ability to dedicate more time to these types of topics than the bulk of the general public for several reasons. Honestly, the writing aspect of the blog isn't t0o time consuming (especially since i started using Dragon software) --it only takes so many hours typing these things up per week.

    Its the actual research that can be both very time consuming and expensive. So I'm very pleased that you and my other regulars seem to appreciate my source material a great deal.


  3. great blog! //\\ \\//

  4. Bullshit is conspicuous by its absence in your writing. Valuable research, eminently readable. Thank you.

  5. Ron-

    Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed the series.:)


  6. I have just discovered your wonderful blog. There are some great, similar places around the web, but I get the feeling they are using this as their source! Really well written with a nice absence of bullshit as mentioned above. Most enlightening and beautifully arranged to boot. The Antipodean !

  7. Anon-

    Sorry for taking so long to respond and thanks so much for your inspiring comment. I hope the blog has continued to please you.