Hitlerian Esotericism and the Tradition

Savitri Devi

"The fools scorn Me when I take on human form;
My essence, supreme source of beings, escapes them."

--Bhagavad Gita, IX, verse ii

There were, naturally, levels among the elect. (Curiously, the name of this élite of physical health and beauty, warlike courage and, more or less, secret knowledge, which the broad public knows only by its initials [SS], means, as I mentioned above, "protection levels"). I have, I believe, also mentioned that fact in alluding to the Ordensburgen [Order Castles], in which took place the military training, the political and, to a certain extent, metaphysical education, of the SS, and especially of their cadres -- because the Hitlerian Weltanschauung is inseparable from the metaphysics that underlies it. That is so true that a critic of National Socialism and the work of René Guénon could say that the latter was "Hitlerism minus the armored divisions" (Louis Powels and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians [Paris: Gallimard, 1960], 326), without the initiate of Cairo ever writing one single word on "politics."

All the candidates -- I should say "the novices" -- of the SS, were not trained and educated in the same Ordensburg. And all those of the same Ordensburg did not receive -- especially at the higher levels -- the same teaching. That depended on the tasks for which they were judged apt, even within the élite. Because it comprised several organizations, from the most visible, the Waffen [Armed] SS -- the most famous also, because of the superhuman heroism of which it gave proof so many times during the Second World War -- up to the most secret, the Ahnenerbe (Ancestral Heritage), founded in 1935, and all the more difficult to know since many documents which referred to it (also secret, which goes without saying) were destroyed, "before the arrival of the Allies in Germany," and which "the members of this organization who survived the collapse of Third Reich ... concealed with a strange resolution" (André Brissaud, Hitler and the Black Order, 283).

It is at least logical to think that it was probably the Ahnenerbe which, in "the Black Order" of Adolf Hitler, was the agent of the Tradition -- and more specifically, certain sections of the Ahnenerbe, because it comprised many of them, including "fifty-two scientific [sections]" (Brissaud, 285), i.e., dealing with objective research, though not necessarily in the spirit and employing the methods used in the applied sciences. According to the declarations of Wolfram Sievers before the tribunal of the victors in Nuremberg, to whom one owes this detail, the same Institute "carried out or tried to carry out more than one hundred missions of research of great extent" (Brissaud, 285). The nature of some of this research reveals a very clear interest in esoteric questions. Thus they studied the symbolism of the harp in Ireland; also, the question of the survival of the true Rosicrucian brotherhood -- in other words, of initiatory groups still having the complete tradition of the Templars (of which the first Rosicrucian brotherhood would have received the heritage). Thus they reconsidered the Bible and the Kabbalah, while trying to draw the hidden meaning from them -- wondering, in particular what role the symbolism of numbers plays in one and the other. Thus they further studied the physical and mental structure of human specimens of various races -- that of the Nordic with the very special care that one can guess -- in order to prove the value of the concept of heredity and race, so fundamental in Hitlerism. Thus they devoted systematic and sustained efforts to all research aimed at revealing to the Germans the glory of their own Antiquity, historic or prehistoric -- and of their Middle Ages -- and to highlight the importance of the corresponding sites.

Without denying that there is, in Christianity as in Judaism itself, and all the associated religions or philosophies close to or even far from the Tradition, a share of esoteric truth, they put the emphasis on the traditional form specific to the Germanic people. The traces of this one are found in the symbols, engraved on rock, of most remote prehistory, and, after the bloody eradication of the worship of Wotan by Charlemagne and his immediate successors, in certain rites practiced in the Middle Ages in the Chivalric Orders or the Holy Vehm. It would be interesting to know if the latter, which did not cease to exist as a secret organization, has, or had at a given time, some relationship with the Thule Society.

ExternsteineHeinrich Himmler -- the Head of the SS, and the man whose career, so much decried outside Hitlerian circles, is (besides that of the Führer himself) stamped more than any other with the detached violence that signifies a higher quality of being -- insists on the above, albeit in "a veiled expression," "intentionally vague" in his speech of January 1937 (Brissaud, 283), which contains the sole public or semi-public reference to the Ahnenerbe. There is high ideological importance to archaeological discoveries made by the Institute of this name in Altchristenburg, in East Prussia: as of this day, several layers of Germanic fortifications, increasingly old, refute the opinion that East Prussia was a Slavic land. But there is more: the "reorganization" and "maintenance" of cultural centers consecrated "to the greatness of Germany and the German past ... in each area where an SS company is found" is recommended (Brissaud, 284). And he gives examples of such centers. One is Sachsenhain, close to Verden, where 4,500 rough blocks, each transported from a Saxon village, had been set up one after another on both sides of a road in the middle of a forest, in memory of 4,500 Saxons decapitated there, on the banks of the Aller, in 782, by order of Charlemagne, because they persisted in refusing a foreign God whom he wanted to impose to them. The other is the site of the Externsteine, impressive vertical rocks marking, close to Horn, one of the great spiritual centers of the world of all time, and the sacrosanct place of worship of the ancient Germans. At the top of the highest of the rocks, in the place of the ancient Irminsul of gold torn off in 772 by the soldiers of the same Christian conqueror, floated henceforth -- the victorious, liberating symbol of the reconciliation of all the opposite aspects of German history in the knowledge of its deep unity -- the red, white, and black flag with the Swastika of the Third Reich. [Image: Die Externsteine.]

And the examples show sufficiently that it was not only about "culture," but about secret knowledge, or, about the national culture of the Germans in general, and, for the initiates of Order of the SS and in particular of Ahnenerbe, of secret knowledge of the great cosmic truths, apprehended through traditional symbolism such as the Germanic people knew it, and such as a quiet minority preserved it.

For -- and it is here a point to be noted -- in spite of the very strong "pagan" current that underlies Hitlerism, and which appears especially in the unreserved rejection of any anthropocentrism, such as the whole personal God, it was never a question of rejecting or even under appreciating anything which in the German -- and European -- ancestral heritage gives honor to the Aryan genius.

The Führer had, says André Brissaud, "the feeling" -- I myself would say the certainty -- that "all that which in recent Western history had taken the form of a religion, and the Christian religion particularly ... pertains to the 'too human'," and therefore did not have a great deal to do with really transcendent values, and, moreover, "offers a general climate or an inner order scarcely compatible with its own provisions and its vocation, set alongside the truths and the dogmas of the faith suggested to the ordinary man" (Brissaud, 111). However, it is the whole of Western civilization which is at the same time "recent" and "Christian." It never should be forgotten.

That did not, however, prevent Adolf Hitler, who was impartial, as is necessary for any sage (and even more so for any human expression of the Divine), from admiring Charlemagne -- the Sachsenschlächter or "exterminator of the Saxons," as he was called by Alfred Rosenberg, Johannes von Leers, Heinrich Himmler, and a good number of other high-ranking dignitaries, thinkers, and men of action of the Third Reich. He saw in him a conqueror with an immense will to power, and above all the first unifier of the Germans; he who, alone in his time, had had the idea of the Reich, even if it had been useful to impose on it the artificial unity of "faith," and if this "faith" was the Christian faith, i.e. a foreign faith. One remembers that Adolf Hitler insisted on the corrosive action of Christianity on the Greco-Roman world, and that he described it as "pre-Bolshevism." But it does not matter what this faith was (and still is), if it were the cement of a conquering Germanic Empire and, later, the occasion for all the flowering of art that one knows. Insofar as this art is beautiful, it presupposes, in any event, a certain knowledge of that which is eternal. The Führer thus accepted with respect, as a German heirloom, a replica of the sword of the Emperor of West.

He also admired the great Hohenstaufen Emperors -- especially Frederic Barbarossa, he-who-must-return -- and who had returned, in him (for only a little while, alas!); and Frederic II, Stupor Mundi [Wonder of the World], in whom so many of his contemporaries believed they saw the Antichrist -- as men nowadays, deceived by propaganda, were to see in him, the Founder of Third Reich, the incarnation of Evil. He admired Frederic II of Prussia, Bismarck, all those in whom the conquering force of the German people had been expressed, of whose cultural -- and much more than cultural -- mission he did not have the slightest doubt.

And Heinrich Himmler himself, while paying a brilliant homage to the Saxon warriors, martyrs of the ancient national faith in Verden, in the year 782 of the foreign God, professed a veritable adoration of the Emperor Henry I and exalted the Knights of the Teutonic Order -- certainly not because the latter had, with great reinforcement of brutality, forced the Slavs (and finally the Prussians*) to accept Christianity, but because they had, by the sword, "prepared the way for the German plow": made possible the German colonization of vast territories in the east.

[*The Prussians were still "pagans," that is to say, faithful to their German gods, in the fourteenth century.]

Irminsul, Germanic World-TreeWhat there was, moreover, of the eternal in the warlike religion of Wotan and Thor -- and, before that in the immemorial Nordic religion of the Sky, the Earth, and "Son" of the one and the other, which Dr. Hermann Wirth studied -- was to survive in Christian esotericism, and in esotericism as such. This has, parallel to the teaching of the Churches, continued throughout history to have its initiates, less and less numerous, undoubtedly, but always present, and sometimes very active. (One counts among them such immortal creators as the great Dürer and, later, Goethe, Wagner, and to a certain extent, Nietzsche.) And it is known that Frederic II, "the Great," King of Prussia -- the hero par excellence of the Führer -- was Grand Master of the Old Prussian Lodges). The deep significance of the ancient Irminsul, Axis of the world, is not, at the bottom, different from that of the Cross, detached of all Christian mythology, i.e., of the story of the execution of Jesus considered as a fact in time. The point of the venerable Germanic symbol indeed aims at the Pole star, which appears as the "One" or supreme Principle; and its curved branches are supposed to support the circle of the Zodiac, symbol of the Cycle of manifestation, being driven around its motionless center. There are in certain very old churches of Germany today "crucifixions" in which the cross itself has the curved branches of the "pagan" Irminsul -- the ensemble suggesting the fusion of the two religions in their most elevated and most universal symbolism. In addition -- according to Professor von Moth, of Detmold -- the Fleur de Lys, connected, as everyone knows, with the idea of royal or imperial power, is, in its form, a somewhat stylized Irminsul, or "Pillar of All," having like it a polar and axial significance. Any legitimate power comes indeed from On-high. And the Swastika, also "essentially the sign of the Pole" thus of the "rotational movement which is achieved around a center of an immutable axis" and -- the movement representing life -- of "the vivifying role of the Principle in relation to the cosmic order" is connected thereby to the Irminsul and the cross (René Guénon, Fundamental Symbols of Sacred Science, 89, 90). [Image: Irminsul, sacred pillar ("world-tree") of the Saxons.]

What, therefore, was important, what was exalted, was all that had contributed, or could contribute, to reinforce the Germanic will to power -- condition of the universal "rectification," which only regenerated Germany could begin. It was, in addition, to keep alive the deposit of traditional truth, i.e., of more than human -- cosmic -- truth transmitted down through the ages. The expression of this heritage, the form in which it was presented, could certainly vary from one time to another thanks to the political fluctuations of the visible world, but at bottom remained one, and is explicated as well in the supreme beauty of the old Scandinavian sagas as in the music, eminently Christian in inspiration, of Johann-Sebastian Bach, and, this goes without saying, in the "complete artwork" [Gesamtkunstwerk] (musical and literary), also initiatory, of Richard Wagner.

This deposit, more invaluable than anything, came from mysterious Hyperborea, original homeland of the "transparent men," sons of the "Intelligences of Beyond"; of the Hyperborea whose center -- the "capital" -- was Thule.

It is undoubtedly unnecessary to point out that the "transparency" in question here is not anything material and consequently visible. It seems to be a state of being more subtle than that which we know, more open to direct contact with the intangible and even the formless. In other words, the Hyperboreans, guardians of the primordial Tradition, would have been capable of intellectual intuition to a degree that we cannot conceive.

Who were they? And -- if they really existed -- where did their territory extend? The more or less evocative allusions made by the ancients -- by Seneca in his Medea; by Pliny the Elder, Virgil, Diodorus of Sicily, Herodotus, Homer (in the Odyssey) and the author or the authors of Genesis, and especially the enigmatic Book of Enoch -- are rather vague, though all refer to the "Far North." And the evocation of the extreme "whiteness" of the Hyperboreans, of the inexpressible beauty of their wives and the "extraordinary gifts of perspicacity" of some of them (Brissaud, 59), would make one think of an Aryan race immensely higher than the average Nordic of today, which is not astonishing since they belong to a past which is lost in the mists of time. But there is more: the scholar Bal Gangadhar Tilak,* better known under the name of Lokomanya Tilak, a learned and wise Hindu, has, in his work The Arctic Home in the Vedas, very clearly connected the oldest tradition of India to an area located in the high latitudes, an area of the long polar night and Midnight Sun and ... the aurora borealis; an area where the stars do not rise nor set, but move, or seem to move, circularly along the horizon.

[*Born on 3 July 1856, died 1 August 1920. He was a Brahman of Maharashtra, of the sub-caste of Chitpavan.]

The Rig-Veda, which he studied in particular and from which he draws the majority of the quotations in support of his thesis, would have been, as well as the whole of the Vedas -- or knowledge "seen," i.e., direct -- revealed to these "Aryas," i.e., "Lords" of the extreme North, and preciously preserved by them during the migrations which have, over centuries, brought them little by little into India.

Tilak places the abandonment of the Arctic fatherland at the time when it lost its moderate climate and its green vegetation to become "icy," i.e., at the time when the axis of the Earth shifted more than twenty-three degrees some eight thousand years ago. He does not specify if the island or the portion of the continent thus struck with sudden barrenness was swallowed up, as in the Legend of Thule, or continues to exist somewhere in the vicinity of or inside the Arctic Circle. He does not mention, either, the stages that the trustees of the eternal Vedas -- Wisdom hidden in the sacred texts of this name -- had to traverse between their Arctic fatherland and the first colonies they founded in the Northwest of India. And, his work not being addressed to initiates -- who would have no need for it anyway -- but only to oriental scholars of good faith, whom he knew are insensitive to any argument not supported by proof, he does not evidently say anything of the "underground" initiatory centers, Agartha and Shambhala, which are so often an issue in the secret teaching that the "Thule Society" gave its members -- a teaching that was thus received by, inter alia, Alfred Rosenberg, Rudolf Hess, Dietrich Eckart and, probably via the latter, Adolf Hitler himself. (Agartha, or Agarthi, is the center placed "under the wheel of the Golden Sun," that is to say, that to which are attached the contemplatives who refuse in advance to take part in the businesses of this world: that of sages whom I called "men above Time." Shambhala is, by contrast, the spiritual center of the men "against Time": initiates who, while living in the eternal, agree to act in this world "in the interest of the Universe" according to immutable values, or, to employ the equivalent words of the Führer, according to the "original sense of things." It was, naturally, to this second center of the Masters of Action that Adolf Hitler was attached.)

It is remarkable that the names of Agartha and Shambhala "appear several times on the lips of more than one head of the SS during the Nuremberg tribunals, and, more particularly, of the SS who were among the persons in charge of the Ahnenerbe" (Brissaud, 56-60). This organization, inter alia, sent to Tibet "an expedition directed by the ethnologist Standartenführer SS Doctor Scheffer" (Brissaud, ibid). The fragments of his reports, which exist on microfilms in the "National Archives in Washington, D.C.," appeared "extraordinary" to André Brissaud, who read them. Why such an expedition? Admittedly not to try to find in Central Asia, "the origins of the Nordic race," as Brissaud seems to believe. Under the Third Reich, even school children knew from reading it in their textbooks -- some of which, such as that of Klagges/Blume, So ward das Reich, were remarkable -- that this race had migrated from the North towards the South and the East, and not conversely (Klagges/Blume, 15.) No. What was wanted, undoubtedly, by Doctor Scheffer and his collaborators, was rather to try to penetrate the mystery of Agartha and Shambhala, perhaps to test, with the assistance of the heads of a spiritual center where it appears, to come into contact with the principle (because it is a principle, not a character) that René Guénon calls the "King of the World" (Guénon, The King of the World, 13). That seems all the more plausible as, among the sections of the Ahnenerbe whose work was classified "secret business of Reich" and "of which one was entirely unaware," "one included, in addition to the study of old languages, of cosmology and archaeology, that of 'Yoga and Zen'," and another was interested "in esoteric doctrines and magic influences on human behavior" (Brissaud, 285).

Moreover, it is not only with the initiates of the Forbidden City of Lhasa (and perhaps with the Dalai-Lama himself) which the spiritual élite of the Order of the SS -- which was that of a new Traditional civilization in potentiality, if not currently in gestation -- sought to make contact. In my humble knowledge, there were also similar encounters in India -- meetings that people hardly suspect in the West -- and completely apart from the political conversations that took place with certain Hindu leaders, such as Subhas Chandra Bose, in India and in Germany, before and during the Second World War.

Swastika-odorned bowlThere appeared in Calcutta, beginning in 1935, a "cultural" review, The New Mercury, very skillfully published by Sri Asit Krishna Mukherji in collaboration with Sri Vinaya Datta and some others. The speeches of the Führer, of which the official press in English as well as in Bengali reported only extracts, were printed there in extenso, especially if they presented, as was often the case, an interest beyond "politics." One of them, which had then particularly drawn my attention, related to the subject of "Architecture and Nation." But the aforementioned review also published studies on anything that could illuminate a profound non-political connection, going back very far and very deep, between traditional Hindu civilization, which had never ceased to exist, and traditional Germanic civilization, as it had existed long before Christianity, and aspired to rebirth in what was essential. These studies revealed in their authors, beyond indispensable archaeological scholarship, a serious knowledge of cosmic symbolism. Several were, it goes without saying, centered on the Swastika. They seemed to want to show -- indirectly -- the exceptional character of a great modern State that recognized for "its own" a Sign of such a universal range, which engraved it on all its public monuments, stamped it on all its standards. It suggested at the same time the aspiration of this great State to renew contact with the primordial Tradition -- from which Europe had been detached for centuries, but which India had kept as a priceless deposit. [Image: Swastika-adorned bowl from Athens, c. 800 BC.]

I do not have any evidence that the services of the Ahnenerbe played any role whatsoever in the publication of The New Mercury. That appears to me, in fact, as very improbable since this special section of the SS was itself founded only in 1935 -- the same year as the review. But I know that the latter was at least partly supported financially by the government of the Third Reich. Germans, and the representatives -- German or not -- of German firms in India, were supposed to subscribe to it. And one of them at least, to my knowledge, was recalled to Germany, having been dismissed from the direction of the branch which he governed for years, for having refused to do so and declaring that "this propaganda in a new style" (sic) did not interest him.

The founder and editor of the periodical, Sri A.K. Mukherji, remained in close contact with Herr von Selzam, Consul General of Germany in Calcutta, as long as he remained in this station. And this official representative of Adolf Hitler, the day before his departure, gave to Mukherji a document addressed to the German authorities in which it was specified in all letters that, "no person in Asia has rendered services comparable to his." I saw this document. I read it and read it again, with joy, with pride -- as Aryan and as Hitlerian, and as wife of Sri A.K. Mukherji. I already mentioned this in these discussions.

It is not possible for me to say if the "services" in question had or had not gone beyond the rather narrow limits of the activities of Sri A.K. Mukherji as an editor of a semi-monthly review that was Traditionalist and at the same time Hindu and pro-German. It would indeed seem that they went beyond them -- because the review lasted only two years, the English authorities having prohibited it towards the end of 1937, shortly after the definitive "turning" in the evolution of the British policy vis-à-vis the Reich. In any event, I did not yet personally know Sri A.K. Mukherji at that time: his name evoked for me only the existence of the sole review of clearly Hitlerian tendencies that I knew in India. But something leads me to believe that the knowledge that he had subsequently, and even before, of esoteric Hitlerism, i.e., of the profound connection of the secret doctrines of the Führer to the eternal Tradition, did not have any common measure with the vague impressions that I myself could have had on the same subject. During the very first conversation that I had with him, after having had the honor of being introduced -- on 9 January 1938 -- to him who, less than two years later, was destined to give me his name and his protection, asked me incidentally what I thought of ... Dietrich Eckart.

I knew that he was the author of the famous poem "Deutschland Erwache," a combatant of the very first days of the Kampfzeit, dead a few weeks after the failed "Putsch" of 9 November 1923 at the age of fifty-five years, the comrade to whom Adolf Hitler had dedicated the second part of Mein Kampf. I was still unaware of the existence of the Thulegesellschaft and was consequently far from suspecting the role that the poet of the national revolution had been able to play for the Führer.

I displayed with enthusiasm my pitifully small scholarship. My interlocutor who had rendered -- and was soon going to render -- to the Third Reich (and later to its Japanese allies) "services comparable to those of no one other," smiled and passed on to another subject.