[Emphases my own.]
“This is an unusual history. Although it presents an account of past events relating to the origins and ideology of National Socialism in Germany, its proper subject is not the parties, policies and organizations through which men rationally express their interests in a social and political context. Rather, it is an underground history, concerned with the myths, symbols and fantasies that bear on the development of reactionary, authoritarian, and Nazi styles of thinking. It is also a marginal history, since its principle characters were mystics, seers and sectarians who had little to do with the outer realities of politics and administration. But such men had the imagination and opportunity to describe a dream-world that often underlay the sentiments and actions of more worldly men in positions of power and responsibility. Indeed, their abstruse ideas and weird cults anticipated the political doctrines and institutions of the Third Reich.Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke: *The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology,* New York University Press (1985) [Pgs. 1-3]
For historians trained exclusively in the evaluation of concrete events, causes, and rational purposes, this netherworld may seem delusive. They would argue that politics and historical change are driven only by real material interests. However, fantasies can achieve a causal status once they have been institutionalized in beliefs, values, and social groups. Fantasies are also an important symptom of impending cultural changes and political action. The particular fantasies discussed in this book were generated within an extreme right-wing movement concerned with the creation of a superman elite, the extermination of lesser beings, and the establishment of a new world-order. The nature of this movement has set it quite apart from the mainstream of rational politics in the twentieth century and demands answers relating to its deeper inspiration. An analysis of the fantasies underlying such a movement can provide new answers to old questions.
The following study traces these fantasies by presenting an historical account of the lives, doctrines and cult activities of the Ariosophists, namely Guido von List (1848-1919) and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels (1874-1954) and their followers in Austria and Germany. The Ariosophists, initially active in Vienna before the first World War, combined German völkisch nationalism and racism with occult notions borrowed from the theosophy of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, in order to prophesy and vindicate a coming era of German world rule. Their writings described a pre-historic golden age, when wise gnostic priesthoods had expounded occult-racist doctrines and ruled over a superior and racially pure society. They claimed that an evil conspiracy of anti-German interests (variously identified as the non-Aryan races, the Jews, or even the early Church) had sought to ruin this ideal Germanic world by emancipating the non-German inferiors in the name of a spurious egalitarianism. The resulting racial confusion was said to have heralded the historical world with its wars, economic hardship, political uncertainty and the frustration of German world power. In order to counter this modern world, the Ariosophists founded secret religious orders dedicated to the revival of the lost esoteric knowledge and racial virtue of the ancient Germans, and the corresponding creation of a new Pan-German empire.
The Ariosophists were cultural pessimists. An obvious link exists between their fantasies and the grievances of German Nationalists in the Habsburg Empire of Austria-Hungary towards the end of the nineteenth century. Such factors as Catholicism, the rapid urban and industrial changes in society, the conflict of Slav and German interests in a multi-national state, the rise of the Austrian Pan-German movement under Georg Ritter von Schönerer, and the vogue of social Darwinism and its racist precepts were also crucial influences upon their thinking. The role and importance of occultism in their doctrines is principally explicable as a sacred form of legitimation for their profound reaction to the present and their extreme political attitudes. The fantasies of the Ariosophists concerned elitism and purity, a sense of mission in the face of conspiracies, and millenarian visions of a felicitous national future.
This introduction is intended to set the scene for a detailed examination of Ariosophy. The background against which Ariosophy arose was that of the contemporary nineteenth-century ideas of nationalism, anti-liberalism, cultural pessimism, and racism. Our point of departure will be the völkisch movement which combined these concepts into a coherent ideological system. In his study of the völkisch ideology, George L. Mosse has commented on the spiritual connotations of the word ‘Völk.’ During the nineteenth century this term signified much more than its straightforward translation ‘people’ to contemporary Germans: it denoted rather the national collectivity inspired by a common creative energy, feelings and a sense of individuality. These metaphysical qualities were supposed to define the unique cultural essence of the German people. An ideological preoccupation with the Völk arose for two reasons: firstly, this cultural orientation was a direct result of the delayed political unification of Germany; secondly, it was closely related to widespread romantic reaction to modernity.”