- File Size: 3300 KB
- Print Length: 461 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (June 6, 2017)
- Publication Date: June 1, 2017
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B071PBGSS5
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- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,597 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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This book follows the same path as David Luhrssen’s excellent Hammer of the Gods: The Thule Society and the Birth of Nazism. Both books are academic examinations of a topic that will tend to drive anyone with intellectual self-respect away, namely the putative “occult” background of National Socialism. Both books are solid academic exercises, and both solidly document their thesis that Nazis (and a lot of Germans) took occult nonsense very, very seriously.
Luhrssen’s book is probably better at tracing the Ur-history of the Thule society and the role it played in pre-Weimar politics. This book by Eric Kurland is better at tracing the German fascination with “border science” (as Kurland calls it.) Border science included things like “dousing” – more properly known as “geomancy” – which was often practiced with a pendulum and a map. The fascination with Geomancy extended to a German Navy project to track allied convoys and battleships in a large room with a representation of the Atlantic on the floor. Kurlander describes this exercise:
“The activities and location of the Pendulum Institute in Berlin were supposed to be secret. Within weeks of the department opening, however, it became widely known that the regime had enlisted the help of occultists in the war effort.256 The primary method employed at the headquarters was radiesthesia, meaning that a ‘large map of the Atlantic was spread out horizontally, with a one-inch toy battleship as test object’. Then a ‘pendulum, consisting of a cube of metal about one cubic centimetre and a short string, was swung above the battleship. If the pendulum reacted, it proved the presence of a true battleship at that location.’257”
According to Kurlander:
“Among the German Navy officials who were puzzled about this sudden shift in the battle of the Atlantic was the U-boat captain Hans Roeder, a science expert in the Navy Patent Office. An amateur pendulum dowser himself, Roeder was convinced the British were employing such means to locate German ships. As a countermeasure, Roeder suggested that the navy begin employing border scientific methods.246 Were Roeder operating in the Royal Navy, his suggestion to set up an officially sponsored Pendulum Institute would likely have been dismissed as outrageous. And yet Roeder was operating in the Third Reich, where many ranking party officials and military men were open to border scientific doctrines.247”
Of course, what did they have to lose? Suppose it worked? On the other hand, Kurlander documents how German susceptibility to magical thinking did create systemic problems throughout the war effort.
Nazi leaders, however, accepted occult border science. Hitler was fascinated with magic, which he understood as the manipulation of forces to control the masses. Kurlander observes:
“Indeed, with respect to perhaps the core element of occultism – magic – Hitler’s fascination was clear. Only recently has it come to light that he probably read a book on practising ‘magic’, the parapsychologist Ernst Schertel’s 1923 occult masterpiece, Magic: History, Theory, Practice.216 In this book Hitler appears to have underlined many passages that give us unique insight into his views about border science, occultism, and ‘magical thinking’ more generally. In the first section Hitler underscored the line: ‘All men of genius’ possessed the ability to harness ‘para-cosmical (demonic) forces’, which ‘can be combined with a lot of misery and misfortune but always leads to a consequence with the deepest meaning’.”
After highlighting passages related to the manipulation of cosmic forces, of one’s ‘god’ or ‘demon’, Hitler picked up on Schertel’s assertion that ‘Every demonic-magical world is centred towards the great individuals, from whom basic creative conceptions spring. Every magician is surrounded by a force field of para-cosmic energies.’ Individuals ‘infected’ by the magician would henceforth form a ‘community’ or his ‘people’ (Volk) and ‘create a complex of life of a certain imaginative framework which is called “culture”’.223 To harness these ‘para-cosmic energies’, Hitler observed, the ‘great individual’ needed to make a sacrifice to the völkisch community.224 As we shall see in Chapter Three, Hitler seemed particularly interested in Schertel’s passages on ‘Practice’ – on wielding one’s para-cosmic energies, one’s ‘magic’, to manipulate others.225
I do not mean to suggest that Hitler had the same unqualified investment in occult and border scientific thinking as Himmler, Hess, or Darré. Hitler’s interest in the supernatural was both less doctrinaire and more utilitarian, embedded in ‘his conviction that man exists in some kind of magic association with the universe’. Hitler studied occult doctrines because they provided material for his political propaganda and manipulation of the public.226”
Goebbels exploited astrology, but he and Himmler kept astrologers on staff. “World Ice Theory” was insane, but it may have influenced military operations:
“Finally, we cannot ignore the possibility that World Ice Theory influenced major military decisions and operations.336 Hitler seemingly believed that Operation Barbarossa had a better chance of success because World Ice Theorists in Himmler’s meteorological institute had predicted a mild winter. Based on Welteislehre, Hitler and Himmler also conjectured that Nordic soldiers were better prepared than Slavs for fighting in cold weather and consequently did not equip them properly for war on the Eastern Front, resulting, for example, in the terrible loss of life at Stalingrad.337”
I have tended to think that the supernatural and occult aspects of Nazism are a matter of movies and bad fiction. Kurlander explains a lot of Nazism as part of the Nazi “supernatural imaginary,” derived from Charles Taylor’s “social imaginary.” Kurlander writes:
Based on this evidence, I argue that no mass political movement drew as consciously or consistently as the Nazis on what I call the ‘supernatural imaginary’ – occultism and ‘border science’, pagan, New Age, and Eastern religions, folklore, mythology, and many other supernatural doctrines – in order to attract a generation of German men and women seeking new forms of spirituality and novel explanations of the world that stood somewhere between scientific verifiability and the shopworn truths of traditional religion.7 Certainly no mass party made a similar effort, once in power, to police or parse, much less appropriate and institutionalize such doctrines, whether in the realm of science and religion, culture and social policy, or the drive toward war, empire, and ethnic cleansing. Without understanding this relationship between Nazism and the supernatural, one cannot fully understand the history of the Third Reich.
This is an interesting book that looks into the details of a society that has been taken over by a fetish. Obviously, there were sane and sensible people in Nazi Germany, but the people with power actually bought into dowsing and World Ice Theory and racism. This is a well-written scholarly work that sheds a powerful light on Nazi Germany.
That's why the spadework done by author Eric Kurlander here is both most welcome and long-overdue. It treats the subject of the occult milieu in Europe prior to, during, and after the years of the NS terror in a way that's factual, accurate, responsible, and (most important for the layman) accessible and entertaining.
Herr Kutlander does a good job of showing how the hotbed of "border science" in which Nazi mysticism was born was a much more heterogeneous and complicated breeding ground for ideas than has heretofore been acknowledged. Antisemites and other assorted haters were always mingling in such circles, but so were all manner of harmless lunatics, homeopaths, ariosophists, proponents of nudism, alternative medicine, and basically anything else your aunt with eight cats who smokes a quarter-ounce of weed per day has tried at least once.
The Nazi obsession with the occult and the supposed Indo-Aryan roots of their forebears (which, ironically, has been born out by the genetic research treated by the likes of David Reich) did not just inform the Nazi weltanschaaung or form the Procrustean bed of some belief system. The Führer and his retinue very much believed their own b.s., and wasted lots of time and money and effort in vainglorious quests to do everything from locate the Holy Grail to create Wunderwaffen ("Miracle Weapons") that could be used both to attack the Allies and to read the future. It's made all the more crazy when one considers how the Germans, due to their geographical burdens as a tellurocratic, landlocked nation, could least afford to indulge such fantasies when materiel and access to the waters and skies were so critical.
And for those already familiar with the subject there are still some excellent chapters on less well-examined themes which might be new to you, like the efforts by the Nazis to locate their roots among the werewolves of Medieval superstition, contrasting the lycanthropes against the Slavic and Semitic bloodsuckers (regarded as literal vampires) who loomed from the East.
It all shows the depths of insanity and evil to which humans can sink, but, to paraphrase Carl Jung, Any people capable of sinking so low contain great depths. I suppose that's why, all this time later, we're still interested. Though it does make one wish for more books like this one, and fewer documentaries like the ones playing on TV right now (when the History Channel isn't running a marathon of "Ice Road Ancient Aliens" or whatever).
Recommended, in any event. Photos are included in their own separate section.
The author is apparently channeling the spirit of the defunct piano player Theodore Adorno
under the tutelege of Peter Staudenmaier, the world's leading Anti-Anthroposophist....
Two and half stars...right down the middle...guaranteed Laugh-A-Page.....
The author claims to have discovered something he calls "THE SUPERNATURAL IMAGINARY"...
If you have to ask IMAGINARY what ? You'll never graduate from the Frankfurt School....
Those interested in exploring the real secret occult practices of Nazism might want to ask
why The NAZI SS wore the emblem of the Yale University SKULL AND BONES secret society
on its caps and lapels.....
and how after World War II Nazi rocket scientists ended up teaching at Yale University....
Top international reviews
This book provides the evidence that there was a widespread the embrace of lucifer and the demonic in Austria and Germany. I see this as the real driver of the evil of the third Reich - much more than the economic woes of the Weimar republic.