Nazis and the Occult: Fraternities of the Twisted Cross
© 2017 John F. Rychlicki III Leilah Publications
All rights reserved.

I uprooted many archaic and esoteric secret societies in my previous research, many of my peers refer to as “illuminati.”  I can safely say there exists a contiguous historical relationship between Nineteenth and Twentieth century occult societies.   We begin briefly in the Eighteenth century to bridge secret societies past to modern occult organizations.  There are a few significant societies in this period who synchronous histories I will consult.

The Rite of Strict Observance, a series of progressive degrees of Freemasonry, was conferred by the Order of Strict Observance, a Masonic body founded by Baron Karl Gotthelf von Hund in 1764.  The Rite appealed to German ethnic pride, attracted the nobility, and was purportedly directed by “Unknown Superiors,” an early allusion to the “Secret Chiefs” commonly found in the shadowy beginnings of the Golden Dawn organizations.

With Rosicrucian groups capturing Observance Neophytes, after the death of von Hund in 1776, a Convent was held at Wilhelmsbad from 6 July 1782 – 1 September 1783 “resolved and declared that the Freemasons were not the successors of the Templars, and that the playing at Knights Templars was to be discontinued.  A general reworking of the ritual resulted and, in effect, the Strict Observance ceased to exist.” (Robert Freke Gould, History of Freemasonry, vol. V, p.141.  Also, see Claude Antoine Thory [1759/05/26 – 1827/10/?], Acta Latomorum, ou Chronologie de l’Histoire de la Franche-Maçonnerie française et étrangère … ouvrage orné de figures.  Paris, 1815 vol. I, p.52.)

The Gold und Rosenkreuzer (German: Golden and Rosy Cross) was founded by alchemist Samuel Richter who published in 1710 Die warhhaffte und volkommene Bereitung des Philosophischen Steins der Brüderschaft aus dem Orden des Gülden-und Rosen-Creutzes (“The True and Complete Preparation of the Philosopher’s Stone by the Brother from the Order of the Golden and Rosy Cross”) under his fraternal motto, Sincerus Renatus in Prague as a hierarchical secret society.  Like many societies of its era, Gold und Rosenkreuzer was a secret society composed of esoteric ciphers, degrees of initiation, and alchemical treatises.

Under Frater Hermann Fictuld, the Golden and Rosy Cross reconstituted extensively in 1757 and again in 1777 due to the stress of the War of the Austrian Succession.  Gold and Rosy Cross initiates, coming under the direction of Fratres Johann Christoph von Wöllner and General Johann Rudolph von Bischoffwerder, infiltrated the Grand Lodge Zu den drei Weltkugeln (Three Globes).  Because of the shift from Operate to Speculative Free-Masonry, many Freemasons became Rosicrucians and Rosicrucianism was established in many lodges.

The dangers of secret societies’ influence in political institutions and movements are evident in German mystic fraternities entwined with nationalist fervor amid stressful economic conditions.  Teutonic fraternities and the Gold und Rosenkreuzer influenced German mysticism and romantic nationalism.  The occult revivals of the Nineteenth and Twentieth centuries were liberally inspired by Germanic paganism and Romanticism, evident in cultural fascination with Runic alphabets.

Ariosophy is an esoteric philosophy embedded with German nationalist ideology.  The philosophy was pioneered by laudable Austrian authors; Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels between 1890 and 1930 respectively.  To understand the fraternities of the twisted cross, I defer to historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke whose 1985 tract, “The Occult Roots of Nazism: The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany 1890-1935” (Wellingborough, England: The Aquarian Press 1985) is the most authoritative source on the subject.  Per Goodrick-Clarke, List and Lanz use the terms Wotanism, Theozoology, and Ario-Christianity, descriptive of Germanic occult movements.  List and Lanz inspired a collection of mystic societies in Austria and Germania during the publishing of their treatises.

Lanz lists Germanic nationalism, Aryan ethno-centrism, and runic magic as important influences in Ariosophy.  Völkisch authors Ellegaard Ellerbek, Phillip Stauff, and Günther Kirchoff, fostered the runic occultism of List (Goodricke-Clarke 1985:155) while Friedrich Bernhard Marby and Siegfried Adolf Kummer (Goodricke-Clarke 1985:160-162) organized a runic system of initiation.  Researching runic systems from 1891 onwards, Guido von List held that ethnic heraldry derived from a cipher of encoded runes, because heraldic ciphers conveyed a secret heritage in occult form.  List was familiar with the cyclical phenomena of space-time, which he studied in Norse mythology and the theosophical adaption of the Hindu Yugas, or epochs.  In 1908, the Wannieck family (Friedrich Wannieck and son Friedrich Oskar Wannieck) chartered the Guido von List Society (Guido-von-list-Gesellschaft) as an occult völkisch organization, designed to finance and publish List’s research (Goodricke-Clarke 1985:42).

The Guido von List Society was financed by prominent personalities in Austrian and German politics, publishing, and occultism.  The Hoher Armanen Orden (High Armanen Order) was the inner college of the Guido von List Society.  Chartered 1911, its design was a magical order to proliferate List’s deeper runic-based initiations.  List called his philosophy Armanism after the Armanen, supposedly an occult priesthood in the ancient Ario-Germanic nation.  List claimed that “Armanen” had been Latinized into the tribal name Herminones, mentioned in Tacitus and it translates as “the heirs of the sun-king;” an estate of priests who were organized into a society called the Armanenschaft.  List’s theory of the originating religion of the Germanic tribes was a form of solar worship (similar to ancient Egyptian Atenism), with its priest-kings (similar to the Icelandic goði) as mythic rulers of ancient Germania.  He cited the linguistic distinction between the Indo-Aryan and derivative Germanic protolanguages.

The Theosophical doctrines of Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky strongly influenced List, which he conjoined with his own system of German Runic Occultism and nationalism.  Goodricke-Clarke scrutinizes connections for Ariosophic influences on Hitler and on the Nazi hierarchy, but he concludes, “Ariosophy is a symptom rather than an influence in the way that it anticipated Nazism.” (1985:192-202).

On Christmas December 25, 1907, a Viennese ex-Cistercian monk, and theologian Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels chartered the Ordo Novi Templi (Order of the New Templars, ONT), an occult order headquartered at Burg Werfenstein, a castle in Upper Austria overlooking the Danube.  The professed aim of the Ordo Novi Templi was to synchronize science, art, and religion on a basis of Teutonic consciousness.  Lanz and his initiated produced Occult runic rituals to beautify life in accordance with Aryan aesthetics, and to disseminate to the world the Order’s occult teachings that Lanz called Ario-Christianity.

Ordo Novi Templi was the first to use the swastika publicly, displaying on its flat the device of a red swastika facing right, on a yellow-orange field, surrounded by four blue fleurs-de-lys above, below, to the right, and to the left.  During the rise of the Nazi establishment, the Order declined from the late 1930s, later suppressed by the Gestapo in 1942.  After suspending activities in the Greater German Reich, the ONT survived in Hungary until the end of World War II.  The Order went underground in Vienna after 1945.  In 1958 a former Waffen0SS lieutenant, Rudolf Mund, contacted the remnant initiates and became Prior of the Order in 1979.  Rudolf Mund also authored biographies of Lanz and Wiligut (Goodricke-Clarke 1981, pp.119,122).

The Germanenorden (Germanic or Teutonic Order, not to be confused with the medieval German Order of the Teutonic Knights) was a völkisch secret society inspired by List.  Theodor Fritsch and German occultists Phillip Stauff (who held office in the List Society and High Armanen Order as well as Hermann Pohl, who became the Germanenordern’s first leader) chartered the Order in Berlin in 1912.  Germanenorden was a clandestine organization attracted the hierarchical establishment of German high society, operating as a sister organization to the mainstream Reichshammerbund.

The Teutonic Order also used as its crest a swastika and operated under a degree structure similar to the Masonic Rites.  The Germanenorden politically fractured into two groups in 1916 during World War I.  Eberhard von Brockhusen became the Grand Master of the traditional Germanenorden.  Hermann Pohl, who had held Office as the order’s Chancellor, chartered a schismatic offshoot:  the Germanenorden Walvater of the Holy Grail.

Rudolf von Sebottendorff was an affluent socialite and occultist who joined the Germanenorden under the Germanenorden Walvater of the Holy Grail.  Sebottendorff was a Freemason and a practitioner of Sufism and astrology; he was also an enthusiast of List and Lanz von Liebenfels’ writings.  Convinced that Sufi and Germanic mystical systems shared an Aryan racial root, the Order’s runic lore mesmerized Sebottendorff who became Master of the Walvater Order’s Bavarian province in 1917.  In Bavaria, Sebottendorff increased membership from an estimated hundred in 1917 to 1500 initiates by the autumn of the following year.

Ahnenerbe was a Nazi German organization that propagandized itself as a “study society for Intellectual Ancient History.”  (Kater, Michael; Das “Ahnenerbe” der SS 1935-1945.  Ein Beitrag zur Kultur-politik des Dritten Reiches, Munich 1997.)  Heinrich Himmler, Herman Wirth, and Richard Walther Darré chartered the society on July 1, 1935.  The function of Ahnenerbe was to validate the anthropological and cultural history of the Aryan race, later to conduct experiments and research into eugenics, and conduct archaeological expositions proving that prehistoric and mythic Teutonic races once ruled the world.

Himmler was appointed as the superintendent of the Ahnenerbe and Wirth the president.  Wolfram Sievers was installed as Reichsgeschäftsführer, or General Secretary, of the Ahnenerbe, by Himmler.  Wirth resigned from the society at the beginning of 1937.  On 1 February 1937, Dr. Walther Wüst was appointed the new president of Ahnenerbe.  The organization was assimilated into the greater Nazi Schutzstaffel, the SS, in January of 1939.  The Institut für Wehrwissenschaftliche Zweckforschung (The Institute for Military Scientific Research), conducted extensive medical experiments using human subjects most of them interned in concentration camps, became attached to the Ahnenerbe during the Third Reich.  It was managed by Wolfram Sieverson the orders of Himmler, who appointed him director.

The Thule Society (German: Thule-Gesellschaft) originally the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum (“Study Group for Germanic Antiquity”), was a German occult völkisch group founded in Munich, named after a mythical Teutonic country from Greek legends.  The Thule Society originated as a Germanic study group established by Walter Neuhaus, a wounded World War I veteran and art student from Berlin who became a caretaker of pedigrees for the Germanenorden.  In 1917, Neuhaus relocated to Munich; and the Thule-Gesellschaft was designed to be a cover-name for the Munich faction of the Germanenorden, but this design transpired differently due to the schism.

In 1918, Sebottendorff contacted Neuhaus and the two became acquaintances in a recruitment campaign.  Sebottendorff eventually adopted Neuhaus’s Thule Society as a cover-name for his Munich lodge of the Germanenordern Walvater at its formal dedication on 18 August 1918.  The occult focus of Thule-Gesellschaft concerned the mythic origins of the Aryan race.  ‘Thule’ (Greek: Θούλη) was a land located by Greco-Roman geographers in the furthest northern provinces.  “Ultima Thule” (Latin: “most distant Thule”) is cited by the Roman poet Virgil in his pastoral poems called the Georgics.  The Society was dedicated to the triune god Walvater, identified with Wotan in triune form.

They identified “Ultimate Thule,” believed by Nazi mystics in the hierarchy, to be the capital of ancient Hyperborea, as a lost ancient landmass in the farthest reaches of the north; near Greenland or Iceland.  Such ideology derived from speculation by Ignatius L. Donnelly that al lost landmass had once existed in the Atlantic, and that it was the home of the Aryan race, a theory he supported by reference to the distribution of swastika motifs.  This theory correlates with Plato’s Atlantis, a theory further developed by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society.

In April 1919, during the Bavarian Soviet Republic, Thule Society members were accused of trying to infiltrate and overthrow the Communist government.  On 26 April, the Soviet government in Munich raided the Society’s premises and took seven of its members into custody, executing them 30 April.  Amongst members executed were Walter Neuhaus and four social aristocrats including; Countess Heila von Westarp, a young woman who functioned as the groups secretary, and Prince Gustav of Thurn Taxis (Goodricke-Clarke 1985, p.147).

On 5 January 1919, Anton Drexler, who had developed connections in the Thule Society and socialist labor movements in Munich, established the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP), or German Workers’ Party with the Thule Society’s Karl Harrer.  Adolf Hitler joined the party in the same year.  By the end of February 1920, the DAP had been reconstituted as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), or National Socialist German Workers’ Party, generally known as the Nazi Party.

Dietrich Bronder (Bevor Hitler kam, 1964) alleged that other members of the Thule became prominent in Nazi Germany; his roll call includes: Dietrich Eckhart (who coached Hitler on his oratory skills and had Hitler dedicate Mein Kampf to him), Gottfried Feder, Hans Frank, Hermann Göring, Karl Haushofer, Rudolf Hess, Heinrich Himmler, and Alfred Rosenberg.  Goodricke-Clarke describes Bonder’s membership roster “spurious,” noting that Feder, Eckhart, and Rosenberg were never more than guests to whom the Thule Society extended hospitality.

It has been claimed by fanciful conspiracy producers that Adolf Hitler himself was a member of the Thule Society.  Evidence on the contrary shows that he never attended a meeting, as attested to by Johannes Hering’s diary of Society meetings (Johannes Hering, “Beiträge zur Geschichte der Thule-Gesellschaft,” typescript dated 21 June 1939, Bundesarchiv Koblenz, NS26/865, cited in Goodricke-Clarke {1985:201}, who concludes: {“There is no evidence that Hitler ever attended the Thule Society.”}).  It is clear from German historical archives that Hitler himself had little interest in, and made little time for ‘esoteric’ matters.  For evidence of this, observe Hitler’s Nuremberg speech of 6 September 1938 on his disapproval of occultism.

Persecution of occultists developed from the Nazi policy of systematically closing down esoteric organizations including Masonic lodges.  The main instigator of occult backlash was Himmler’s personal occultist, Karl Maria Wiligut.  Wiligut identified Nazism with the monotheistic religion of Irminsim as the true Teutonic ancestral belief, condemning Guido von List’s Wotanism as a schismatic false faith.  There are also unverifiable rumors that the occultist Aleister Crowley sought to contact Hitler during World War II.

Crowley’s associations with Nazi mysticism spurn primarily from his cult-followers, Thelemites, who engage the fantasy as a matter of crypto-history sans historical fact.  Despite several fanatical allegations and speculations to the contrary (e.g. Giorgio Galli), there is no evidence of such an encounter.  (Hakl, Hans Thomas “Der verbogene Geist von Eranos’ – Sinzheim: Scientia Nova, Verl. Neue Wiss., 2001).

John Symonds, who is one of Crowley’s literary executors, published The Medusa’s Head or Conversations between Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler in 1991, which is speculation and fiction; pandering to a very small cultic faction of Crowley’s followers.  The limited print run of the book to 350 copies doubtlessly contributed to the mystery surrounding Crowley and Hitler.  Mention of any connection between Crowley and Hitler, without any citations or evidence, is also made in a letter from René Guénon to Julius Evola dated 29 October 1949 which excited a much wider audience after Crowley’s death.