Peter Levenda and the Magickal Roots of Nazism part 1
PL: Secret knowledge; the illusion of secret power; the man or woman who walks among us, ordinary and unremarkable or even of low and unattractive appearance, who is in reality a Magister Templi or a Colonel in the KGB… It’s the same attraction that Batman, Superman, Spiderman, etc have for generations of pre-adolescents. Spies and magicians are a lot like Batman, except that spies really exist and reallydo exert some hidden influence over mundane events; and magicians thoroughly believe that they do, too, and have the benefit — sometimes –of a cult of like-minded people who prop up their belief system by means of what Robert Anton Wilson used to call “consensus reality”. On a deeper level, I think that many people — intelligent people — resent having to obey authority. Openly resisting authority is usually cause for arrest and torture, if not execution, in many countries. Secretly resisting authority, however, has its charms. One stays alive, and one resists. One has one’s cake and eats it. In the case of spiritual authority, an intelligent person cannot stomach that a black-robed eunuch with a wine-red nose would have some kind of direct connection with God unobtainable by ordinary folk. The intelligent person wants to talk to God directly, and not have to take direction from a tired old priest or minister or whatever. That person — through the act of contacting higher powers or forces on his or her own — becomes a kind of “anti-priest” and thus a cult is born. Conspiracies are a fact of life: they grow like mushrooms around office water coolers. They remain secret from the managers and supervisors; they attempt to cause change, indirectly and discretely. Add God or occult powers into the mix — or politics, espionage, coups d’etat — and you have an irresistible mix for a certain type of person. We all feel there is a mystery at the heart of reality: vide the popularity of crime and detection novels, spy novels … and occult novels. The spy and the occultist live at the periphery of this elemental, Ur-mystery. It has to do with Authority, the King, and Reality. The very word “reality” comes from the same root as “royal”: reality was whatever the King said it was. Real estate was the kingdom; outside the kingdom, there was no King and, hence, no reality. To challenge the King, one had to be from beyond the border of the kingdom: one had to be in communion with non-real forces; one had to represent the anti-King. Spies and occultists live among us, but have loyalties elsewhere. There is a certain attraction to that, and a certain danger. But it is also ultimately a lonely existence, and that is where the spy and the occultist sometimes fail: in their attempt to salve their loneliness by opening up to others they reveal their secret natures to their sworn enemy: reality or the King. I am thinking just now — perhaps in a stream of consciousness — about the Philby affair. A group of old queens (already on the outs with general society by their very natures)spying against society for the enemy, since Russia valued their contribution and ignored their homosexuality. What fun! But in the end it was this very relationship they had with each other — Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt — that doomed them all. For an interesting sidelight, see the BBC production, “Blunt: the Fourth Man” in which Ian Richardson — who plays Anthony Blunt — is lecturing to a group of art students on nothing less than Poussin’s shepherds and “Et in Arcadia ego” …. He is interrupted by an urgent phone call from Burgess. An art student runs after him, asking “But … did Arcadia actually …” And Blunt –panicked and in a hurry — replies, “Not now!”. A double entendre?
DR: Are politics and magic inseparably linked? Would you say that throughout history politicians and political movements have always used subliminal occult messages archetypes to manipulate public consciousness for or against the prevailing power structure? Are political struggles basically magic wars, and power structures kept intact by magical means?
PL: In other words — to paraphrase Clausewitz — is magic a continuation of politics by other means? It depends on your definition of magic. Is it, as Crowley would have it, the “science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will”? Then, yes. But … under those guidelines, so is selling used cars. We need a sharper definition of what we mean by magic. It depends on whether or not you suscribe to the conspiracy theory of the day, I guess. If real power is in the hands of a few, secret people behind the scenes who pull strings … then, obviously, politics as we know it does not exist. I mean, the will of the people … the voting booth… the ad campaigns and the mud-slinging, etc. in the end come to naught because the boys in the back room will decide who gets elected. But if political power is the ability to move and mold masses of people, then you have a chance at proving the thesis that political wars are magic wars. The key to this thesis would be, in my point of view, propaganda. Propaganda is the use and manipulation of symbols. Whoever does it best is the better magician, and will probably win the “war”. But the symbols of the political arena — especially in the United States — are not as sublime as we find in the occult symbol system. The political symbols are taken from the environment, from the times; the zeitgeist, if you will. No one actually goes around waving the tattvic symbols or the Tarot deck around during a political campaign; the manipulation goes in different channels. We have Dukakis in the tank, for instance. What should have been a winning symbol was turned on its head and possibly helped Dukakis lose an election. I think political wars are analogous to magic wars, but I don’t think they are necessarily one and the same. A magician does not need a crowd to effect his or her will. A magician operates — like our spies — secretly, and manipulates forces of nature (or supernature) rather than directly massage the psyches of people. We are also in danger of considering all subliminal messages as occult messages; there may be some justification in this, in that any subliminal message probably has its occult analogue, but when you compare a run-off election in Iowa with what Hitler was doing at Nuremberg, you are comparing apples and oranges, I think. Hitler was upfront about what he was doing; the symbolism was deliberately occult, pagan, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic. In fact, he was openly using ritual. Most of our popular politicians today would be unable and unwilling to do this, since virtually any public use of ritual for political ends would be considered crypto-fascist, I think. I am not trying to beg the question; I just think it is more complex than comparing politics to magic on that level. Arthur had Merlin for that; it was a separate department in his government, if you see what I mean. I believe that CIA — specifically the boys at MK-ULTRA — came close to becoming our very own, homegrown version of Merlin but I don’t think Harry Truman was a black magician himself.
DR: On P. 73 you suggest that the Friekorps assassination of Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau (in June 1922) on the eve of the summer solstice was a human sacrifice to the sun god Wotan. (Note: It was believed that Rathenau was one of the actual Elders of Zion.) Do you think that in a larger sense the elimination of 6 million Jews could be considered one giant pagan sacrifice?
PL: We can consider the Holocaust a kind of pagan sacrifice, but more importantly I think it was something far more sinister than that. You don’t sacrifice what you despise; you sacrifice something of value. Rathenau — although Jewish — was considered an exemplary human being even by his executioners, and thus a fitting sacrifice. After all, he was an important element of Germany’s war machine during the First War and had a lot to offer post-War Germany. His was a true sacrifice. But the Holocaust? The slaughter of the Jews — and Gypsies, and homosexuals, communists, etc — was designed to purify the planet of diseased blood and diseased spirit in the eyes of the Nazis. That is why it was kept going until the very end, regardless of the cost and regardless of the fact that the resources being used to keep the camps running could have been better utililized defending Berlin. It was not so much a sacrifice as a purification of the soil. The Nazis believed that the Jews and their fellow travelers were actual representatives of an evil force on earth and had to be destroyed, at any cost. If their race disappeared, the Nazis felt that they had done the planet — and its surviving human members — a favor and would be remembered forever for their contribution.
DR: On page 80 you said that one of Hitler’s astrologers, Erik van Hannussen, had taught Hitler “what body language and hand gestures to use in public speaking.” Is this perhaps why so many of his speeches were so effective – because there were subliminal occult messages embedded in Hitler’s carefully-crafted mannerisms?
PL: Less subliminal occult messages and more an artful carving of space around him. Body language has only comparatively recently become understood as a means of subliminal communication; I believe Hannussen was ahead of his time in understanding that posture, and gesture, communicate as effectively — and subliminally — as the actual words one uses. I also believe that in 1930s Berlin this would be considered an occult art and not something from a psychology textbook.
DR: You mentioned in the book that Hitler himself did not perform any magickal rituals but had others do so on his behalf. But what about all of the rumors to the contrary? In the notes to your book you dismiss Trevor Ravenscroft’s “wild tales of Hitler attending séances with Dietrich Eckart.” But what makes you so sure? An acquaintance of mine, Fred Berger of Propaganda magazine, published an article several years ago claiming that Hitler had gone to see the opera Parzival in 1909 while on peyote, and had “fallen to a transcendental state in which he perceived that he was the reincarnation of the evil black magician Klingsor”, the bad guy in Wagner’s opera. Then, according to Berger’s article, he went to the Hobfurg museum to check out the Spear of Destiny. Berger quotes some unidentified text supposedly written by Hitler which states, “The air became so stifling that I could barely breathe. The noisy scene of the Treasure House seemed to melt away before my eyes. I stood alone and trembling before the hovering form of the Superman… In holy awe, I offered my soul as a vessel of his Will.” Any comment as to the veracity of this claim?
PL: I dispute this because there is simply no evidence for it. I feel that Hitler was more or less as I portrayed him in my book: not a joiner, not someone who could sit still for long waiting for the table to tip or a ghost to materialize. Hitler makes more sense as an unconscious medium, one being used by other magicians, than as a practicing occultist himself. The stories of his taking peyote, attending seances, etc are all without documentary substantiation so far. One of the things I tried to make sure I did in my book was to document everything thoroughly, based as much as possible on primary sources (the Captured German Records section at the National Archives; the Rehse Collection at the Library of Congress; etc) so that I would be immune from charges that I was “channeling” the information. In fact, using the primary sources, I came up with far more craziness than I could fit in Unholy Alliance. Avon cut my Appendices, for instance (yes, it was as painful as it sounds!) which would have contained more reference material. They wanted to cut the Bibliography and Index, as well, but I fought it.
DR: Why do you think Hitler and the Nazis spent so much effort persecuting pagans and occult orders? Was it part of placating the Catholic Church or were they just eliminating competition? Were they afraid of the magickal powers of these other occult orders?
PL: They were eliminating competition. Also, remember that the occult groups were a potential fifth column inside Germany. They had their own means of communication and contacts all over Europe. They had roots going back many years in many countries. They were indeed a threat. I believe that the US felt the same way, which would help explain the Jack Parsons situation.
DR: Why do you think the swastika specifically was chosen as the Nazi insignia? I know that their ideology was heavily influenced by Theosophy, and the swastika was one of Blavatsky’s favorite symbols. The Hindus of course, refer to it as the whirling disc with which God (Vishnu?) spun the universe into existence. But what exactly was its significance to the Nazis? It seems to give one the impression of aggression and power. Crowley, in his book Gematria describes the swastika as containing 17 squares, and in a later chapter says of the number 17, “Here is a magic disc for me to hurl, and to win heaven by violence.”
PL: I pretty much cover this in my book. It was a popular symbol in Germany before the Nazis appropriated it. In fact, it was used by troops during World War One as a kind of talisman. The Germans clearly felt it had racial connections, and was more representative of their people than the Christian cross. Remember, too, that the Nazis idolized Tibet and the cults of Northern India. The so-called “Aryan” race would have had its origins there, and India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet are replete with swastika motifs. I live in Asia, and the swastika is everywhere out here: on Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu temples alike. It represents — specifically — “auspiciousness” but is taken to symbolize a kind of polar energy in the universe, a spinning sun disk (yes) but also a deeper, more mysterious analogue since the sun does not spin in two directions but the swastika does.
DR: On page 95 you write about how Guido von List borrowed the Golden Dawn’s system of degrees, based on the Tree of Life, for use in his own völkish, anti-semetic pagan order the Armanenschaft, and that he might have gotten the information from a Golden Dawn initiate named D.R. Felkein, or from OTO initiate Rudolf Steiner. You write “That List would have based his hierarchy on the patently Jewish Tree of Life and borrowed the concept from the Golden Dawn – by way of the OTO – would seem merely ironic to a lay person but positively frightening to an occultist, for what it implies about the relationship between the anti-Semitic List organizations and the ostensibly apolitical Golden Dawn and OTO lodges.” So what is that implication, exactly?
PL: The implication is that the Blavatskian notion of a racial hierarchy — root races, and all that — would have found a sinister manifestation in a proto-Nazi occult movement, and that the Golden Dawn and OTO themselves might have been fellow travelers; that a spiritual hierarchy might imply a racial one; that a magical war might develop into genocide.
DR: I’ve heard a number of rumors stating that Crowley had a personal meeting with Winston Churchhill once in which he suggested the use of the “V for Victory” sign as a subliminal occult symbol to combat the swastika. Can you confirm or deny this rumor? It seems plausible to me, especially after reading the part in your book about how Crowley suggested dropping occult pamphlets onto the German countryside with anti-Nazi propaganda embedded in them – an idea that was eventually implemented with no success.
PL: I cannot confirm that Crowley ever met Churchill. I rather think Crowley would have made a great deal of it in one of his books if he had.
DR: From my understanding the Nazi idea of the Overman entailed much more that just increased physical strength and intellectual prowess. It involved a creature whose ajna faculties – psychic powers associated with the Third Eye – had been fully developed. It entailed a creature more in touch with his higher self, a creature more advanced spiritually as well. What else do you think this entailed? What do you think men like Sebetondorf , Liebenfels, List and Eckart imagined when they talked about the Overman? Did they imagine the Aryan race evolving into something with an entirely different physical appearance?
PL: Yes, the Overman was not merely a “superman” as it is often erroneously translated. It was the next level of human evolution. As Hitler himself says, anyone who thinks that National Socialism is merely apolitical party had better think again: the goal is to create the New Man. I believe he meant that literally. Else: why the Holocaust? why the Lebensborn organization? why the documented racial purity of prospective SS members? etc etc. Germany was a laboratory where Hitler would create his homonculus. To the Nazis, this meant a human being that was above compassion; above sentiment; passionate in his ideals and self-image, but conscience-less by comparison to the rest of us. A sociopath, probably. Intelligent, strong, perfectly proportioned. And a remorseless killer. Not exactly ET.
DR: You’ve mentioned that many of these Nazi occultists believed in the Theosophical concept of Ascended Masters and Secret Chiefs. I know that Blavatsky believed them to reside in the Himalayas, while the Thulists deposited them underground, in a subterranean vault accessible by a tunnel which opens up in the North Pole. But is it possible that some of these people believed that the Ascended Masters were extraterrestrials or transdimensional beings? The know that the Nazis were suspected of conducting experiments with flying saucers, time travel and multiple dimensions, so it made me wonder.
PL: I think that recent neo-Nazi authors are toying with this idea, most notably Miguel Serrano in Chile. Crowley and his followers certainly hold these views (see the works by Kenneth Grant, for instance). The Nazis themselves? Well, going through their Canon is a bit tedious but I am sure the resourceful researcher could uncover the odd reference to an extraterrestrial abode for their Secret Chiefs. At that time, space opera was not nearly the advanced art form it is today and flying saucers were not yet the vogue although the foo fighters had already made an appearance, as did the mysterious flying ships of the turn of the century. I think the Nazis still understood the Masters to be a kind of god-force, like Odin or Thor; Horbiger was coming close to an extraterrestrial theory as he developed his World Ice concept, but it had little to do with the Secret Chiefs. I guess what I am trying to say is that I have not found documentation to show that the Nazis had a developed theory about the nature of the Chiefs, and that I have found very little support for an extraterrestrial theory of any kind among the Nazis so far. I am aware of the idea that they were working on a saucer or some kind of space ship, but that does not imply that they held significant alien life theories beyond those of a purely speculative nature.
DR: Please explain the “World Ice Theory”, if you would. This makes no sense to me.
PL: Makes no sense to me, either. The idea is that the basic building blocks of the universe are ice crystals, and that temperature and humidity are the determining factors for the various stages of life, evolution, etc. The Nazis perceived themselves as “ice men” and their Eden was a frozen wasteland; they looked down on the tropical Edens of Biblical lore as being the abodes of subhumans, much as tropical countries are the domain of non-Aryans. The Theory is convoluted and self-referential, and gave rise to scientists running all over the world taking its temperature, so to speak.
DR: In your book you recount stories of Himmler having his inner circle of 12 S.S. officers try to telepathically influence a German Army Commander in Chief who was being interrogated in the next room to tell the truth. You also recount stories of psychics being hired by Himmler to pinpoint the locations of British battleships and to find Mussolini when he had been imprisoned on an island off of Naples after a coup – feats which they performed with amazing accuracy. Then you tell stories of Nazi mind control experiments involving psychedelic drugs, and torture techniques. You quote Rudolf Hess’s statement at the Nuremberg Trials about how he himself was a made a victim of such mind control techniques, and how he believed that the prosecution witnesses at the trial had been hypnotized because of their “glassy and dreamy eyes”. You seem to think that there may have been some truth to this. You seem to think that the Nazis had become rather adept at mind control, and that our own intelligence organizations have copied them. Do you have any more to add to this? What aspects of mind control do you think the CIA and others have copied from the Nazis?
PL: I don’t think that Hess was implying the Nazis had mind control, but that the Allies had it. The man who interviewed Hess for Dulles was Dr Ewen Cameron, who went on to run the official CIA mind control operation in Montreal. The Nazis were experimenting with hallucinogens and narcotics during the war; their documentation on this was seized by American intelligence and has never seen the light of day. That much is known. The idea that CIA was running a vast mind control experiment in the 1940s-1970s which involved all sorts of people and organizations forms the central thesis of my next book (which has not been finished yet), so I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Suffice it to say that when the Nazis were being imported by the hundreds to the US and other American countries after the War, it wasn’t only an “outer” space program that was being contemplated.
DR: You wrote that Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels created the Order of New Templars as “a secret society bent on reviving the chivalric brotherhood of knights, but in an aggressively Teutonic – and anti-Semitic – format.” Since the original Templar order had so much to do with Judaism – Jerusalem, holy relics like the Ark of the Covenant, Jewish mysticism and of course that Jewish priest king known as Jesus Christ – how did he reconcile the concept of the Templars with his own anti-Semitic beliefs?
PL: We enlightened types realize that Christianity has its roots in Judaism. I mean, the Old Testament should be proof enough of that, right? But just try telling the wrong people that Christ was a Jew and see what happens. If occult scholarship on the Templars is correct, however, these knights were less Christian than would appear at first blush. The Templars — albeit an order of Catholic knighthood — went on an expedition to the Temple of Solomon, found something there that probably challenged their belief structure and caused them to deny the crucifixion and — in doing so — possibly the entire Judeao-Christian edifice they had sworn to uphold and defend. Remember that the Nazis were fond of the Cathars whom they considered — via Otto Rahn, at any rate — to be the “true” Christians rather than the persecuting Catholics. Remember that generations of scholars have posited some sort of Cathar/Templar connection. Remember that the Templars became enemies of the Church and were ruthlessly exterminated (as were the Cathars). When someone like Lanz von Liebenfels decides to resurrect the Templars, it is not as the pious Catholic monk/knights but as heroic enemies of Catholicism and, by extension, Judaism as well. The Grail was no longer a Christian symbol to Lanz, but something more ancient, more “pagan”. The bloodline of Jesus? Not to Lanz, unless that bloodline was purely Teutonic. One can no longer speak of Templarism without the implicit challenge to papal authority. To the Church in the fourteenth century, Templarism was synonymous with Satanism and idol-worship and all sorts of heresy. There has been no attempt by the modern Church to rehabilitate the reputation of the Templars. Von Liebenfels and other “new Templars” such as Crowley and Reuss bore no love for Catholicism. They used esoteric Judaica purely as a key to other mysteries, as a tool and not as an element of their “faith”. Crowley may have been a qabalist, for instance, but by no stretch of the imagination was he a worshipper of the Jewish god. No tallis, tefillim or yarmulka for that boy. Same for von Liebenfels. The Christ that Christians worship — according to the Nazis, both then and now — is a Jewish impersonator. That Christ was Jewish is a lie perpetrated by the Jews to maintain some degree of control over the Gentiles. So, the “new Templars” were able to identify with a Christian knightly order while simultaneously reviling Christianity, since the “revealed” Christianity was a hoax. They were at least half right; what we know of Christianity today is a hodge-podge of other myths, other religions, and some political agendas. Strip away Mithraism, Gnosticism and paganism from Christianity — especially Roman Catholicism — and what’s left? A messianic cult of Essenes with a narrow focus on regaining Jerusalem in its lifetime? The end of the nineteenth century saw a flurry of books and articles attacking the Church and demonstrating how it obtained all the non-Christian trappings over the centuries. Cults like the new Templar orders were created as repositories of the “true Faith”, the secret knowledge behind the Masons and the Jews and the Christians, the pre-Jehovah, pre-Garden of Eden consciousness of the Aryan people. As in the old saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”: the Knights Templar were obviously the enemy of the Church, thus it followed …
DR: One of the chapters in your book that interested me most was (of course) Chapter 7, entitled “Lucifer’s Quest for the Holy Grail.” In it, you describe how a mystical Grail scholar named Otto Rahn was enlisted into the SS and hired by Himmler to a write a book proving (A) that Lucifer was the God of the Aryan race (B) that Jehovah was Satan and (C) that Christ was a Teutonic sun god and Christianity the corrupted result of Jews trying to co-opt the German Messiah. All this lead to the conclusion that the Holy Grail was actually a Luciferian relic that the Jews had also tried to co-opt. Rahn was even given a deadline of October 31st, 1936 to finish his book, entitled Lucifer’s Servants. But a few years later, in February 1939, Rahn resigned from the SS for reasons unknown, and died a mysterious death one month later while hiking in the mountains. You intimate that he may have been assassinated because of something he may have discovered during his Grail researches, something he’d “confessed” to another Nazi occultist named Karl Wiligut, with whom he was good friends. Is it possible that he’s discovered evidence that the Grail was actually the Bloodline of Christ, the Judaic bloodline of David? This would of course have been thoroughly unacceptable to Himmler and devastating to his whole cosmology if such facts had gotten out.