(Continued from last week)
Only one feature was consistent throughout, Heiden claimed. Nazism rejected objectivity and causality; it rejected “a world in which causal links work themselves out independently of transcendent forces.” That very essence of Nazism can be seen in this quote from Hitler. “We do not judge by … purely scientific standards … We judge by the spiritual energy which a people is capable of putting forth … I intend to set up a thousand year Reich and anyone who supports me in battle is a fellow fighter for a unique spiritual – I would almost say divine – creation. At the decisive moment the decisive factor is not the ratio of strength but the spiritual force employed.” Nazism, in the words of author Peter S. Fisher, “erased the boundary between fantasy and reality.” Nazis wanted to replace Darwinian evolution, Einstein’s theories and Genesis with World Ice theory, that described Aryans as “gods come directly from Heaven to Earth.”
Rudolf Olden was an anti-Nazi journalist. In 1932, he published Prophets in the German Crisis: The Miraculous or the Enchanted. Olden insisted that Nazism’s rise was linked to “a German preoccupation with the supernatural, exacerbated by war, defeat, and depression,” as Kurlander summarizes Olden’s work. Politics, according to Olden, is “‘an eternal struggle between rationality and the miraculous … when rationality comes under pressure” it becomes “mute, it is eaten by doubt, it emigrates or is restricted … the predominance of miraculous forces’ had marginalized ‘everyone that wants to think rationally.'”
Hitler read kinky author Ernst Schertel’s 1923 book, Magic: History, Theory, Practice. It is one of the most underlined books in Hitler’s personal library. Kurlander quotes Schertel as expressing ideas very similar to the record-breaking, international New Age bestseller, The Secret, published by Rhonda Byrne in 2006. Both Schertel and Byrne insist that thoughts can alter physical reality. In his 1913 book Totem and Taboo, Sigmund Freud called this notion “omnipotence of thought.” Freud described it as foundational to animism. Animism is the religious belief system that all primitive humans probably believed in at one time, before the advent of the Big Five, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Animism posits that each thing has its own spirit, and that humans can change material reality through relationships with those spirits.
Schertel mocks the concept of objective reality, and insists that invisible realities supersede visible ones. Kurlander quotes Schertel: “It would be ‘senseless to counterpoise the empirical perceptions as real opposite the fictive conceptions of the demonic’ Schertel explained, ‘for the empirical world is also fictive, resting on an imaginative synthetic foundation.’ What materialists deemed ’empirical reality’ Schertel suggested, was ‘in its roots demonic – or magic in nature.'” Schertel called objective reality a “jugglery of fantasy.” After escaping the bonds of reality, the adept could “intervene in this structure, that is to say change the world according to our will … to create reality where no reality exists.”
To claim the power that awaits the adept, he must reject objective reality and invest in the omnipotence of thought, what Schertel called “an “accumulation of potential and kinetic world energies … the first stardust” aided by Satan himself. Hitler underlined passages about Satan in Schertel’s book. “Satan is the fertilizing, destroying-constructing warrior … He who does not carry demonic seeds within him will never give birth to a new world.” Another underlined passage: “Horror always lurks at the bottom of the magic world and everything holy is always mixed with horror.” Schertel described objective reality as a prison that makes it harder for practitioners to access their special powers. This formula, again, one highlighted by the reader Adolf Hitler, constitutes a rejection of the Enlightenment, for which objective reality was supreme, and Judeo-Christian morality. As described by Freud, this rejection of objective reality and insistence on the primacy of omnipotence of thought constitutes a return, as the Nazis themselves hoped for, to a pre-Christian, pre-Enlightenment, pagan worldview.
Contemporary New Agers, and Christophobic polemicists, purposely misrepresent the history of the European Witch Craze. As New Agers tell it, “During the Middle Ages, the misogynist Catholic Inquisition murdered nine million women because they still practiced a pre-Christian, pagan religion. The witch craze only ended when enlightened atheists were able to convince Catholic clergy that it was irrational.” One can find variations of this so-called history in respected media. These include Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s classic feminist manifesto, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, Michael Shermer’s The Moral Arc, and the Canadian documentary The Burning Times. Problem: not a word of this formula is accurate. Modern scholars point out that the witch craze did not take place in the Middle Ages, but rather in the Early Modern Period, perhaps 40,000 died, and the witch craze was a neighbor-on-neighbor atrocity. Women often accused other women. At least two Catholic priests, Friedrich Spee and Alonso Salazar de Frias, played roles in ending the witch craze. And Salazar, a.k.a. “The Witches Advocate,” worked for – wait for it – The Spanish Inquisition.
Where did the false narrative emerge? One avid disseminator of the false witch craze narrative was SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. Himmler founded a “Special Task Force on Witches” whose job it was to collect, through purchase or theft, archival material about witches. The SS Witch Division accumulated nearly thirty thousand documents. Himmler wanted to research how the “dominant Aryan-Germanic religion of Nature” could “be defeated by the decadent Jewish-Christian religion.” Witches were the “guardians of the German faith” and “natural healers” of German sagas. For New Agers, and for Nazis, “Witches became earth mothers, practitioners of an ancient Indo-Germanic religion that the Catholic Church … the true monster … sought to eradicate.” “My ancestors were witches and I am a heretic,” declared SS Obersturmfuhrer Otto Rahn. Himmler commissioned “‘witch novels in the form of a trilogy.'” Himmler, just like pagans today, cultivated a sense of victimization around the witch craze. “The ‘martyred and torn apart bodies of our mothers and girls burned to ashes in the witch trials'” were called upon to justify the mass murder of Jews. Because, of course, Jews controlled the Catholic Church, and Christianity sprang from Judaism.
Vampires, spoken of as if real, were associated, in propaganda, with “Polish danger.” Czechs, Serbs, and Jews were also demonized using vampire imagery. “Slavic vampirism became a metaphor for racial degeneration and political disintegration. Racially degenerate Slavic and Jewish vampires met their match in the heroic Aryan.” One group victimized by the Nazis that is rarely mentioned are Serbs, and yet the USHMM statistics indicate that Nazis murdered more Serbs than handicapped people, Gypsies, aka Roma, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, other victim groups more frequently mentioned. The mass murder of Serbs and other Slavs, like the mass murder of Jews, was facilitated by propaganda depicting Slavs as vampires. In contrast to Slavic vampires, Nazis encouraged each other to regard themselves as werewolves. Over Goebbels’ Radio Werwolf (sic), listeners could sing along to lyrics encouraging them to bite and eat their enemies. Some lyrics: “I bite. I eat. I am not tame.”
All aspects of Nazism, including the most evil, were somehow interwoven with some aspects of New Age thinking. “The Third Reich embraced a range of pagan, esoteric, and Indo-Aryan religious doctrines that buttressed its racial, political and ideological goals.” Leading parapsychologist Hans Bender, whose work involved researching poltergeists, joined the Nazi Party to advance his own career and “knowingly countenanced” evil medical experimentation “to preserve the funding and independence” of his own research. He continued his career as a famous parapsychologist after the war and died peacefully in 1991 at age 84.
Auschwitz, Ravensbruck, and Dachau concentration camps all had biodynamic gardens. These were based “‘on a holistic view of the farm or garden as an integrated organism comprising soil, plants, animals, and various cosmic forces, with sowing and harvesting conducted according to astrological principles.'” The gardeners rejected fertilizer and pesticides, relying instead on “‘homeopathic preparations meant to channel the etheric and astral energies of the Earth and other celestial bodies.'” “Berlin’s athletic fields for the Summer Olympics were treated biodynamically.”
New Age ideas were consulted in the most pressing military decisions. “Even during the most desperate moments of the war, Nazi science was as preoccupied with faith-based fantasies of ‘absolute conceptional boundlessness’ as it was with practical military technologies… one can only speculate as to how much more effective German armaments production might have been without this Nazi proclivity for miraculous thinking.” The Berlin Pendulum Institute attempted to locate enemy battleships by suspending a pendulum over toy battleships located on a large map of the Atlantic. This methodology returns to primitive magic as described by Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough. Frazer described homeopathic magic, the primitive belief that something that looks like something else has magical power over that something else. This same idea is behind voodoo dolls. Fantastic hopes for, and promises of miracle weapons encouraged Germans to continue fighting long after the war was lost.
Kurlander writes, “The Holocaust was only possible in its scope and severity because of the elision of biopolitical and circumstantial factors with volkisch-esoteric, fantastical, even magical conceptions of Jewish monstrosity.” “Pagan and occultist” images were used to demonize Jews. “This conception of the Jews as simultaneously a biological threat to the racial body politic and vampiric monsters operating outside the bounds of humanity, invited, in turn, all the more radical and totalizing solutions to the Jewish question.”
In the final days, Himmler was inseparable from his astrologer, consulting him on all aspects of the war. Goebbels looked to Nostradamus to find reassuring prophecies. Hitler owned an original copy of the prelude to Wagner’s Gotterdammerung, or the Twilight of the Gods, and its nihilistic mythology helped to inform the Nazis’ behavior. On March 19, 1945, a bit over a month before his suicide, Hitler issued his so-called Nero Decree, urging the destruction of Germany’s infrastructure. Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Bormann, and many other top Nazis and thousands of ordinary Germans committed suicide. Nazis embraced their coming end as a reenactment of Wagnerian and other nihilistic, mythological themes.
We cannot turn back the clock and rescue the Nazis’ millions of victims. We owe it to those innocent victims to diagnose the pathology that murdered them. We say, “Never again.” The question becomes, “Never again what?” What exactly is the perfect storm that gave birth to Nazism? How to recognize it on the horizon? How to defuse it?
Many attribute Nazism’s death toll to Christianity. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a highly influential institution. It reports that anti-Semitism has plagued the world for two thousand years. This inaccurate two-thousand-year limit identifies anti-Semitism, and, by extension, Nazism, with Christianity. Dabru Emet is a September 10, 2000 statement signed by over 220 Jewish rabbis and scholars. Dabru Emet states, “Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out.” Many more such statements could be cited.
Books linking Christianity and Nazism have produced great success for authors like Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, James Carroll, and John Cornwell. A database search shows that, just in the two-year period after its publication, Hitler’s Pope was the subject of over six hundred articles in mainstream and scholarly presses. These articles weren’t just reviews, but calls for thorough self-examination among Christians. A similar database search turns up merely thirty articles about Hitler’s Monsters in the year and a half since its publication. Hitler’s Pope became a New York Times bestseller. Today’s Amazon rating for Hitler’s Monsters is 78,231—nowhere near bestseller status. After the publication of Cornwell’s book in 1999, James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword in 2001, and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair in 2002, Christians worldwide engaged in protracted and profound efforts at self-examination, apologies, and amends.
I am unaware of any such exercise among New Age followers. New Agers shamelessly promote some of the very same falsehoods disseminated by Nazis. There has been no ethical or intellectual housecleaning around the fake witch craze narrative, the rejection of objective reality and that rejection’s impact on ethics, or the New Age premise that conventional morality is oppressive and only for little people. Further, white supremacy is alive and well among Neo-Pagans. “Racists Are Threatening to Take Over Paganism,” Vice reported on April 2, 2018. “Faith, Family, and Folk,” the motto of modern Odinists, would meet with Himmler’s approval.
Not only hardcore Neo-Pagans espouse ideas that would be comfortable in the Nazi intellectual toolkit. One of the fastest growing groups in the West identifies as “spiritual but not religious.” Just as Nazism did, New Age theology cherry picks from a religious cafeteria menu. Again, so what? Why does this matter? It matters because this approach is often accompanied by the elimination of any ethical or intellectual standards. Truth, and right and wrong, are what the individual says they are. Personal responsibility is erased. The spiritual-but-not-religious person feels empowered not only to select religious trinkets from the display case, but also to choose which history “feels” best. History is rewritten.
If the spiritual-but-not-religious consumer wants to use the word “karma” and practice yoga and never acknowledge the horrors of the caste system, that’s fine. New Agers might practice dervish spinning without acknowledging the cost of jihad and gender apartheid. They can attend witch doctor weekend workshops while ignoring how the very same magical beliefs they’ve chosen selectively to adopt and apply endanger albinos in East Africa, living human beings who are threatened with dismemberment so that their body parts can be harvested for magic rituals. At the same time, the spiritual-but-not-religious person is certain that Christianity was responsible for Nazism, and the Crusades were Catholic war crimes committed against unoffending Muslims. New Agers pick and choose self-serving moralities and rewrite history no less than did Heinrich Himmler.
Modern, conscious Christians are denied this kind of tunnel vision. Christians must incorporate crimes committed in the name of the church into their ethical worldview. New Ages get to float above the blood spilled in the name of their beliefs. That denial is not a good thing. We say “never again.” To honor this motto, we must confront what really happened the first time. That confrontation has to include the crimes of the New Age.
Yes, Christians have stereotyped Jews negatively. Yes, Christians have committed crimes against Jews. Yes, it is a good thing that Christians have engaged in self-examination and making of amends for these crimes. But seeking the cause of Nazism in Christianity is a dead end; I argue as much in Against Identifying Nazism with Christianity. Rather, the thought processes that lead to Nazism are getting off scot-free. If you want to find the criminals who leave the largest mass graves, look to those who say, “Let’s wipe the slate clean. Let’s be pure. Let’s invent a whole new hodgepodge system cherry picked from random exotica. Let’s decide that neither the old rules nor objective reality apply to us. We are not responsible for the sins committed by those who believe what we believe. We can rewrite history however we want.” These are the attitudes that give birth to the biggest mass graves.
They are alive and well in the New Age movement.
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