The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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The Occult Establishment
by James Webb
© James Webb 1976

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Table of Contents:

• Preface
• Introduction: The Struggle for the Irrational
• Chapter 1: Ginungagapp
• Chapter 2: Eden's Folk
• Chapter 3: Wise Men from the East
• Chapter 4: The Conspiracy against the World
• Chapter 5: The Magi of the North
• Chapter 6: The Hermetic Academy
• Chapter 7: The Great Liberation
• Chapter 8: A Grammar of Unreason
• Index
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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Preface

I HAD already begun to write this book when I discovered that I had first to come to terms with another completely neglected historical development. My starting point had been an attempt to verify or disprove some of the claims made about a relationship between Nazism and the occult. My puzzlement grew with every advance in knowledge. Some relationship obviously existed, but it was not that of popular superstition. An acquaintanceship with occult habits of thought began to reveal esoteric lore in the most unlikely places. What did this mean? I soon discovered that despite the immense amount of material on the subject, no one had bothered to discover what "the occult" in fact is. So my first step toward understanding the problems discussed in this book was a preliminary quest for the meaning of the "occult" and its extraordinary revival at the end of the last century.

The result of this first investigation was The Occult Underground.  [*] The Occult Establishment is less a sequel than a companion volume, and it is not necessary to have read The Occult Underground in order to follow the argument of the present book; the introduction and the first chapter contain all the information needed to show the role of the occult in the developments with which it is concerned. Neither will those who have read The Occult Underground find more than a few pages of inevitable repetition. The author believes that the arguments of either book will be greatly illuminated by those of the other.

The Occult Underground was concerned with a general crisis of 19th-century thought, of which the most important aspect was the specifically occult revival. The Occult Establishment is also concerned with the occult -- but the occult in politics and society, and in supposedly "scientific" or "rationalist" theories of man and the universe which appear to have nothing to do with the irrational at all. In one sense, the influence of the "occult" or mystical is only one part of a process that has many other aspects; it might be argued, for example, that Albert Einstein was as much the father of the Yippies as the grand old men of the Occult Revival. In this there would be some truth -- as indeed there is in the statement that Metternich or Messaens or Mickey Mouse has a direct relationship to Adolf Hitler. But for the purpose of coherent narrative, it is necessary to use a tangible key to unlock the door of huge and intangible changes; and the understanding of the occult Underground has proved such a tangible key.

The book itself will show the relevance of this Underground to mainstream history. But apart from numerous specific examples, the occult has as a category one great advantage over other "keys" to broad historical developments. It is more comprehensive. That is, the obsessive quality of occult beliefs results almost invariably in their domination of their possessor's mind. Even the most circumspect analyses of homo economicus or man the political animal must often ignore the fact that all human beings have other sides to their natures than that specifically under discussion. Economic man may also be a lay preacher, a collector of sculpture, or a Ping-Pong champion; and just conceivably these other aspects of his life may one day be treated in histories of religion, art, or table tennis. The whole man escapes. While it is obvious that to write the history of "the whole man" is impossible -- particularly in the fragmented modern world -- the occultist considered as occultist has considerable advantages over other such partial constructs of the historical imagination. He is no less likely to be involved in activities that have little to do with his occultism. But in aspects of his life that concern any philosophical or ideological alignment, his occult ideas are liable to play a leading part. If influential people are discovered to harbor occult ideas, it is quite reasonable to take these ideas as an index of a wider attitude to the broader questions of life and thus to arrive at an approximate "history of some men seen whole." For, fundamentally, occult beliefs often imply an all-embracing world-view of the sort that was once associated with religious faith and is today demanded by totalitarian politics.

It may be difficult to believe that ideas of the sort discussed in this book ever take active form. This is the result of modern orthodoxy, by which metaphysics is rigorously separated from the affairs of everyday life, and also of the sort of "history of ideas" that considers ideas in some limbo divorced from the human possessors of the minds that conceive them. I have attempted to avoid this brand of "intellectual history" and to show that unorthodox ideas are powerful forces to move men: indeed particularly powerful the more unorthodox they are, because of the increased effort that is demanded to present them favorably to others.

In no sense can The Occult Establishment claim to be anything more than a partial study of the developments with which it is concerned. A complete examination of what I have called "illuminated politics" would occupy more space than this book itself, while the chronological limits of the study are frequently overstepped in order to relate developments to the earlier occult revival. The reader may, of course, read as he chooses, but a large part of the argument is cumulative -- for example, it will be difficult to appreciate the relationship of psychoanalysis and the occult, if the pervasiveness of occult theory in the backyards of the European mind has not been fully appreciated. The author would be grateful for readers whose judgment is passed on the argument as a whole.

It should hardly be necessary to add this last caution, but in self-defense I must do so. Nowhere do I maintain that secret societies or hidden hands direct the course of history. That is a pastime I leave to those often delightful, sometimes terrifying, always dedicated men, the High Irrationalists.

I owe thanks to the librarians and staffs of the University Library, Cambridge; the British Museum; the London Library; the Institute of Contemporary History, Wiener Library; the Welcome Library for the History of Medicine; the Bundesarchiv, Koblenz; the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Munich; the Warburg Institute, University of London; and to Mr. Wesencraft of the Harry Price Library, the Senate House, University of London.

I am particularly indebted to Dr. Michael Weaver and the American Documentation Centre of the University of Exeter.

So many people may find their ideas in the distorting mirror of these pages, that I shall content myself with generally expressing my gratitude to all those who have answered my queries with remarkable patience. Of firsthand informants, several have asked to remain anonymous. But I am very grateful to John Hargrave for answering a barrage of questions on the little-known developments outlined in Chapter III and to Liz Cowgill who provided me with an invaluable translation of the document known as "The Secret of the Jews."

Two particular debts remain to be acknowledged. Largely in response to the suggestion of Francis King, I began to consider the developments of English illuminated politics discussed in Chapter III; and his generous handing over of his discovery of the pamphlet The Hebrew Talisman enabled me to complete my argument about the nature of The Protocols of Zion.

Ellie Howe not only encouraged the enterprise from beginning to end but allowed me to trample over the fields he has so expertly tilled. He has helped me with the names of informants and with the loan of books, information, and unique documentary material. The passages in this book dealing with Germany could not have been written without the help of material laboriously gathered for his forthcoming Lunatic Fringe in Germany 1890-1925. The fact that we differed on the interpretation of evidence has nowhere hampered his generosity.

For all eccentricities and downright mistakes I alone am responsible.

J.W.
London
June 1973

_______________

Notes:

 *First published in the U.K. as The Flight From Reason (Macdonald, 1971) and in the  U.S.A. as The Occult Underground (Library Press/Open Court, 1974).
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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Introduction: The Struggle for the Irrational

The Flight from Reason-The Occult as Rejected Knowledge -Secular Religions-The First World War and the Failure of Rationalism-The Occult and "Illuminated Politics"- The Consistency of the Irrational

THE present century has both physical and intellectual conflicts that rival those of past ages in terms of blood shed or ink spilled. Historians of the future will have to decide whether the more obvious eruptions are significant in themselves or whether they represent aspects of a greater process that relates them all. This book attempts to anticipate the verdict of history by suggesting that one of the greatest battles fought in the 20th century has been that between the forces of rationalism and those of unreason. The battlefield is undefined, the weapons unhandy, and the outcome uncertain.

The struggle toward an irrational interpretation of life can be noticed at certain points in history. It remains largely unremarked by many of those who engage in it. This is because the human function of which it is the result -- the attempt to impose meaning on the self and its environment -- most often remains unconscious, much as vital bodily processes like the heartbeat or the cleansing of the bloodstream by the liver remain unnoticed until they start to go wrong. Man's efforts to put himself in some sort of secure relationship with the universe seem to be as indispensable to him as the action of the liver or the circulation of the blood. When large numbers of people together are afflicted with doubt, angst, ennui, loss of purpose, or whatever term is to be applied to a condition of mental insecurity, their attempts to provide satisfactory explanations of the human condition take on a frantic aspect. It is in such a situation of crisis that the struggle for the irrational begins. The more support that can be obtained for any point of view, the more the chance of convincing others that it is "true" or "real." [1] And so the struggle is carried on with a peculiar desperation. The visions of reality that the irrationalists would have us accept can be wildly divergent -- and there are several which should not be rejected out of hand -- but they share a common fear or mistrust of what they see as the prevailing wisdom. Their ideas of exactly what constitutes the prevailing wisdom are often completely out of date, for the struggle for the irrational in this century has its roots in the crisis of consciousness of the last.

Our present predicament is partly the outcome of a historical development that I have called "the flight from reason" and which manifested itself during the 19th century as a reaction to patterns of thought and society that were emerging as a product of 18th-century rationalism. Social and economic change engendered fear both in classes that were liable to profit and those that were liable to lose by far-reaching alterations in society. Scientific and philosophical developments deprived man of his divine image and replaced it with that of an ape. Security of political ordering or religious faith became increasingly tenuous, and the burden of responsibility on the individual grew more difficult to bear with every access of personal freedom. [2] The resulting crisis of human consciousness produced a revulsion from the methods of thought and action that were responsible for the insecurity of Western man. Because these were seen as rationalism and materialism, the reaction from what was unpalatable and new took the form of a rejection of Reason, a resurrection of faith and the spontaneous generation of causes of an exalted or mystical nature, whose concepts might be no less religious for being clothed in the vocabulary of politics.

The flight from reason cannot be accurately dated. But it is possible to say that from the time of Napoleon's defeat until the vast eruption of 1848, the new irrationalism achieved its first successes, and that the latter half of the last century saw the progressive advance of the irrational to a position which, by the 1890s, was one of perceptible hysteria. It is certain that the process had occurred before and that it is still going on. What psychologists have referred to simply as "anxiety" is now known as "future shock," a condition defined by its discoverer as "the dizzying sensation brought on by the premature arrival of the future." This expression of contemporary anxiety might stand as well for the 19th-century crisis of consciousness as for that of today.

By changing our relationship to the resources that surround us, by violently expanding the scope of change, and, most crucially, by accelerating its pace, we have broken irretrievably with the past. We have cut ourselves off from the old ways of thinking, of feeling, of adapting. We have set the stage for a completely new society and we are now racing towards it. [3]


Although it might well be argued that the dangers of a hypothetical future carry less weight with the mass of humanity than the perceptible discomforts of the present, it is important that this condition has received contemporary expression. It remains impossible to understand this modern dilemma fully without realizing that it is only one symptom of a disease that was contracted over a hundred years ago.

The rejection of Reason as a category of thought involved the rejection of the society whose weapon Reason was. The Establishment culture of late 19th-century Europe -- based on capitalism, individualism, and the pursuit of profit -- was confronted with a selection of idealisms whose kingdoms were not of this world, whose categories of thought were apocalyptic, were based on visions of absolute values and drew sustenance from traditions of thinking that have, through historical accident, remained rejected throughout the course of European history. This Underground of rejected knowledge, comprising heretical religious positions, defeated social schemes, abandoned sciences, and neglected modes of speculation, has as its core the varied collection of doctrines that can be combined in a bewildering variety of ways and that is known as the occult. The occult is diametrically opposed to the type of society and the ways of thought that were represented by the Establishment culture of the late European industrial revolution. It was only natural that those who revolted against the direction in which that society appeared to be heading would turn for support and philosophical justification to a perennial Underground of rejected knowledge, which had traditionally furnished an armory for thinkers of an idealistic stamp. It was natural, too, for those elements of society that found themselves excluded by the Established social order to make alliances with the protagonists of anti-Establishment methods of thought. It therefore came about -- of course this scheme, like all such schemes, is not rigid -- that the Establishment, whose collapse produced such a widespread feeling of anxiety, was challenged ever more strongly by the emergent Underground of Europe. [4]

The importance of this Underground of rejected knowledge can scarcely be overestimated. Its inmates, and their philosophies, can tell us more about ourselves and our Established civilizations than many direct studies of such societies themselves. Often the analysis may amount to no more than a combing of the trash cans of society -- but it is well-known that garbage men are often connoisseurs of human nature. Not infrequently, however, an examination of the Underground may leave the inquirer thoughtful as to the precise reasons why a particular power of the occult conflation has found no place in the society that rejected it. He may come to the conclusion that sometimes such products of human endeavor are branded anathema because they have offended against our most jealously guarded inheritance -- those implicit assumptions of our living, which are not criticized simply because they are not perceived. The occult is the mirror image of society: an inevitable mirror image.

In the 19th century, the crisis of consciousness presented itself to many people chiefly in a religious form. For this there were two reasons. The first was the inherited tendency -- which can still be easily perceived -- for mankind to think in religious terms. The second was the historical fact that the certainties most obviously threatened by the new methods of thought were those of the Christian religion, which had itself been for centuries the established interpretation of life in Europe. During the period that saw the emergence of the rationalist-materialist-industrialist society against which the 19th-century irrationalists reacted, the Christian religion had continued to be used by the European Establishment as a convenient means of maintaining the social ordering. But with the defacto appearance of a new sort of society in which power came to depend more and more upon negotiable capital, the social sanctions of the Christian religion were nullified at the same time as the literal truth of Holy Writ was subjected to scientific scrutiny. It was, therefore, often to the more obviously religious aspects of the Underground of rejected knowledge that the 19th-century rebels turned, to reinforce a solid edifice turned unexpectedly to flux. Not only were the early irrationalists preeminently concerned with saving their souls, but their attempts to repair or reform the tottering social fabric bear the stamp of the religious approach. In the non-Christian religious attitudes which form the nucleus of occult tradition, they discovered philosophical approaches that could be turned to good use against the monster of materialist society. As the concern of opponents of the Established order turned increasingly away from individual salvation and sought the conditions of collective security, the fundamentally religious approach did not alter, although inevitably it became transformed.

One turn-of-the-century observer who noticed this tendency was Gustave Le Bon, whose book The Crowd furnished several Fascist leaders with a remarkably effective source of inspiration. Although not impressive to modern sociologists or valid for all periods of history, the principles of Le Bon proved themselves capable of an appallingly direct application, which says much for the acuteness of his observation of his own time. "Many people," wrote Le Bon in the middle of the First World War, "used to consider our period as a positivist age which obeyed only reason. Experience came to show that the world had remained governed by the most chimerical Utopias." Mystical power was the force to move men. "The most certain truths of reason only acquire popular prestige after having disguised themselves in a mystical form." [5] As early as 1896, he had proclaimed: "A person is not religious solely when he worships a divinity but when he puts all the resources of his mind, the complete submission of his will, and the whole-souled ardor of fanaticism at the service of a cause or an individual who becomes the goal and guide of his thoughts and actions." [6] Nihilists, Freemasons, socialists, and other "adepts of political sects" he characterized as "religious beings having lost old beliefs, but unable to do without a creed to orient their thoughts." [7] The chief disadvantage of socialism was that its gods were abstract: "If it possessed some precise divinity to worship, its success would be very much more rapid." It requires only the most rudimentary knowledge of subsequent history to see how his opinions might be regarded as amply confirmed.

Among the various attempts to provide a coherent and comforting interpretation of the human situation during the 19th century, there were thus several varieties of secular religion, whose devotees were implacably opposed to the Establishment version of reality, and who, from the point of view of the proverbial man in the street were idealistic, impractical, and frequently more religious than political. Often the actions of the socially rejected, identifying themselves with the sustaining Underground of rejected knowledge, provide evidence for the theories of Le Bon about mass manipulation. The struggle between rationalist and irrationalist interpretations of the universe may be hottest where it is unperceived.

The crisis that had slowly been developing during the 19th century was precipitated by the carnage of 1914-18. The pragmatic method was seen by many observers to be irreparably damaged: the war was the culmination of Realpolitik, the mutual destruction of the ironclads of rationalism and materialism. Toward the end of the war occurred a shattering event: the revolution in Russia, which presented to Europe a new form of society, which had previously only existed briefly in France. This was theocracy -- the God-orientated state -- but with the People made divine. In the escape from an unpalatable social ordering, as in the escape from the order of the Christian God, freedom was too dangerous a commodity to play with.

Disillusionment provoked by the war combined with the political situation provoked by the Treaty of Versailles to augment the crisis of consciousness of prewar days. Uncertainty as to man's position in the universe was made more palpable by specific uncertainty as to his political and social future. What modus vivendi might be reached, what structure placed on the human components of state or nation? The justification of political procedures had been called into question by the war, and demands for a new society from "Left" and "Right" -- such labels have little meaning in our present context -- implied more often than not the vision of a new philosophical basis for that society: new morals, new values, new men. Laissez-faire and ad hoc measures were no longer effective in creating the necessary illusion of stability. Events demanded ideological programs to support the political. To the providing of bread and circuses, governments had once more to join the ancient responsibility of providing a belief.

Because the method that was seen as having failed was pragmatic, materialist, and rational, the systems projected to repair its record of failure were often of a preconceived, idealistic, and irrational character. That such systems had earlier attracted to themselves the Underground of rejected knowledge, I have already shown. That they did so again after the First World War is the contention of this book. As in the 19th century the revival of occult beliefs and practices formed a major part of the flight from reason, so the occult plays a leading part in our consideration of the later period. But, whereas in the earlier period the occult seemed to provide solutions to a crisis of consciousness that was fundamentally religious in character, after the First World War the problems with which rejected knowledge became entangled were the more imminent concerns of ethics and social order. It is important that the use made of the occult in this book should be clear at the outset. When occult ideas are found tangled up with political and social projects, they indicate a sort of thinking which it is convenient to call "illuminated," a definition of reality that transcends the materialist point of view, and the emergence of the rejected -- both in terms of ideas and of men -- into unaccustomed positions of prominence. In the period under discussion, the sort of elements that had in the 19th century formed an Underground of opposition to a materialist Establishment penetrated dominant positions in society with astonishing success.

The justification for paying so much attention to the occult is not only that it crops up again and again demanding to be assessed. Of its nature it frequently entails matters that come under the headings of faith and religion. The occult, therefore, embodies basic attitudes toward both universal questions and historical conditions. In the "occult" response to historical stimuli is found a factor common to many more sharply defined responses articulated in fields as diverse as the writing of history, theories of aesthetics, political manifestos, or the healing of the mind. A "religious" position may represent a primary and relatively undefined impulse, which can either become codified into theology or allow its drive to become transformed into specific areas of human activity -- politics, society, the realms of material possibilities. In the historical conditions of the past hundred years, the prominent place occupied by specifically "occult" forms of religious response is a basic indicator to the nature of other attitudes with which the occult has become entwined. Because the fundamentally "occult" is so often found tangled up with what will be called "illuminated" politics, scholarship, or social theory, such positions can best be understood by a preliminary understanding of their common occult denominator.

For Gustave Le Bon, mystical logic formed a state of mental functioning inferior to rational thought. The advance of science he considered as having slowly but surely driven back the frontiers of the mystical, which had been forced to take refuge in areas outside scientific jurisdiction. But he never tired of reiterating the dangers of human susceptibility to the mysterious. One of his examples was the "unlimited credulity of certain savants" in occult matters generally and Spiritualism in particular. Le Bon himself had helped on one occasion to expose the medium Eusapia Palladino, and he had a poor opinion of Spiritualism. But in order to explain the credulity of other distinguished academics, he was forced to admit that their gullibility was a mental state to which anyone might fall prey. They must not forget, he warned his readers, that the rational and the mystical temperaments often coexist, operating within their separate forms of logic. The academics who became converted to Spiritualism made the mental change of gear involuntarily; but once entered into the "cycle of belief" there they became anchored. [8] This description of the conversion experience can apply equally well to adepts of the less religious forms of rejected knowledge. The universe they inhabit obeys a logic that is unlike that of the rationalist universe of mutually agreed discourse and cannot be understood as logical in its terms. It is, nevertheless, crucial to realize that its own laws are as consistent as those more commonly accepted as "logical"; for to call an Irrationalist "mad" is to prevent any possibility of understanding his universe.

The crisis that gave power to the Irrationalists was intimately connected with the occult revival of the 19th century. In the battle to define reality, to impose an often transcendental vision on the immanently real, the viewpoints of what were once tiny minorities have played an extraordinary part. Because the weapons and the state of mind of the combatants are unfamiliar, it is necessary first to introduce some specific examples and general considerations, which apply to the world of the irrational in the period after the First World War. This will necessarily appear impressionistic; but there is no other way of making sure that the reader is equipped with the background necessary to understand -- to take a few examples -- the components of early Nazism, some directions of psychoanalysis, the rebellion of the hippies, or the urgencies of flying saucers. "The occult" has been defined as "rejected knowledge." This means that knowledge of a potentially valuable kind may be classified as "occult" just as easily as knowledge once accepted but now discarded as primitive, facile, or simply mistaken. The term is so loose and all-embracing that it can be made to cover Spiritualism, Theosophy, countless Eastern (and not so Eastern) cults; varieties of Christian sectarianism and the esoteric pursuits of magic, alchemy and astrology; also the pseudo-sciences such as Baron Reichenbach's Odic Force or the screens invented by Dr. Walter Kilner for seeing the human aura. All these subdivisions of the occult will recur in the following pages. In the battle to define reality, to impose an often transcendental vision on the immanently real, the viewpoints of what were once tiny minorities have played an extraordinary part.

Although such bodies of opinion are frequently in direct conflict with one another, very often they share one common belief: the idea of "spiritual development." This concept has assumed great significance in the ideological struggles of this century; for in the crisis of consciousness from which this argument takes its starting-point the governing factor is anxiety induced by change. This means that people thinking about -- or even unconsciously, reacting against -- what seemed intolerable social conditions were faced by a confrontation with time.

Put in the abstract this may seem a concern of little relevance to any but philosophers. But in concrete terms it means that a man has to decide at the simplest level whether things are going to get better or not, and what he can do about his life's situation. Presented with a society of which he disapproves, he must decide in what manner this may in its turn be altered to produce a better life. Does the best hope lie in creating new institutions to regulate society? or in the gradual inculcation of a new sort of ethics? or in a struggle to improve the nature of man itself -- a suppression of the old Adam by the new superman? Of course, this problem is always faced by those dissatisfied with their present conditions. But because the crisis of consciousness was occasioned so greatly by the conscious or unconscious perception of change, the ultimate possible change began to appear to many reformers the only fruitful method of attack. This was the changing of man himself -- the perfection of the human being, so palpably imperfect and self-destructive.

This possibility presented itself forcefully because the 19th-century crisis had as one of its catalysts the Darwinian theory of evolution. If man had evolved from the ape he might be improved progressively until homo superior was as far removed from the puny creature of the present day as homo sapiens from his ignoble ancestor. Most commonly this idea was expressed in one or another form of "Social Darwinianism" which visualized a selective improvement of the "best" strains in humanity by a breeding program or by encouraging the "survival of the fittest." What is almost always ignored is that at the same time as theorists began to seek for ways to improve the human animal, others began to apply Darwin to traditional notions of the human being -- a creature with an immortal soul or a divine destiny.

It is commonly held that the idea of "progress" was born in the 16th century, when Europeans were proud to think that they were recovering some of the lost knowledge of antiquity and were rapidly improving civilization from the static position it had maintained during the Middle Ages. [9] This may be true as far as man's view of society as a whole is concerned. But the idea of individual progress is considerably older. It is found as the cardinal point in all mystical texts of the Middle Ages and relates to the successive stages of the mystical ascent toward God. [10] The doctrine of "spiritual progress" was resurrected by the prophets of the 19th-century occult revival. Theosophists, magicians, and mystics of all sorts eagerly affirmed that in following their various systems they were emulating the saints of all religions and cultures in approaching Divinity. One influential writer on occult subjects was Baron Carl Du Prel, and he was merely codifying a widespread body of opinion when he decided that:

As a further development of physical organisation beyond the human is highly improbable, it is to psychical indications in man that we have to look for the field of future evolution. Darwinism has thus dealt with but one half of the task prescribed by the doctrine of evolution; to solve the other the abnormal functions of the human psyche must be drawn into consideration. [11]


On one level the immense popularity of Spiritualism was hailed as heralding a new age in which man would concentrate on the neglected "spiritual" aspects of existence -- although most supporters of this theory declined to state how sitting around in dimly lit rooms listening to the travels of uncles and grandmothers in the realms beyond would greatly assist the dawn of the new era. On another level entirely were the vitalists of various descriptions, most of whom followed the theories of Henri Bergson. His L'Evolution creatrice appeared in 1907, but his ideas had begun to influence French intellectuals as early as 1897. [12] Like Bergson himself, his most notable followers were interested in psychical research. Hans Driesch presided over international conferences on the subject, while William McDougall followed the originator of vitalism in becoming president of the London Society for Psychical Research. From a specifically religious viewpoint Bergson's doctrine of evolution (perpetuated by a mysterious elan vital) gave strength to the Catholic revival while at the same time acting as the point of departure for the unorthodox speculations of Teilhard de Chardin. [13] The appeal of Bergson to those shaken by the loss of their status as the privileged of God was immense. Evolution did not stop with man as he was then known, and such a continuing process might even grant the qualified immortality of Bergson's assurance that "the whole of humanity, the space and time, is one immense army galloping beside and before and behind each of us in an overwhelming charge able to beat down every resistance and clear the most formidable obstacles, perhaps even death." [14]

This element of hope was shared by the occultists. They often made great use of Bergson to support their extension of the idea of "spiritual progress" to cover more than the traditional ascent of the soul toward God. Magicians, mystics, and alchemists needed to do no more than apply their traditional terminology to the body of mankind. Theosophists elaborated a complex doctrine of man's spiritual evolution through successive races. There were countless personal syntheses of occult doctrine and Darwinian science. One such was that of W. E. Evans-Wentz, who in his travels in search of fairy lore constructed his "Celtic esoteric theory of evolution" which embodied the belief that "the gods are beings which once were men, and the actual race of men will in time become gods." [15] The importance of the various concepts of supernatural evolution which circulated at the same time as more materialist applications of Darwin's theory, is that the area in which they were current was that of the Progressive Underground where occultists and idealistic social reformers met and mingled. The esoteric idea of the "spiritual development" of the individual man could be extended by social theorists to all humanity -- or, as often happened, to a particular race. As will be seen, such notions of altering the very stuff of man -- performing, as it were, an alchemical transmutation upon whole peoples -- could quite easily accompany the most rationalist ideas of eugenicists concerned to "breed a better human animal."

This solution was an optimistic answer to the problem of time. It combined the appeal of the idea that "all things will be made new" with the conception of "world without end." From this root sprang many ideas of the advent of a new age -- or, if one preferred, like Yeats, to adopt an alternative occult view of cyclic time, the beginning of a new cycle. [16]


One of the most notable of such apocalyptic ideas was that of the Thousand Year Reich. With similar optimistic assertions men strove to counter the sort of pessimism of which the most famous philosopher was Oswald Spengler. Spengler saw the war of 1914-18 as "the type of a historical change of phase occurring within a great historical organism of definable compass at the point preordained for it hundreds of years ago." [17] The death of the old world had been inevitable. But so, even Spengler conceded, was an eventual resurrection.

For those who fled in horror from both the failures and the successes of rationalism, the irrational Underground provided not only a welcome personal relief but a hopeful theory of history. Perhaps nothing is more important in an era of constant change than to demonstrate an inevitable continuity.

_______________

Notes:

1. Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckman, The Social Construction of Reality (London, 1967).

2. See my introduction to The Occult Underground. The concept of "the fear of freedom" is, of course, that of Erich Fromm.

3. Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (London, 1970), pp. 13, 19.

4. Cf. Friedrich Heer, The Intellectual History of Europe (London, 1966).

5. Gustave Le Bon, Enseignements psychologiques de la guerre europeene (Paris, 19(6), pp. 7, 15, 78.

6. Le Bon, The Crowd (London, 1896), p. 64.

7. Le Bon, Enseignements, p. 164.

8. Le Bon, Les opinions et les croyances (Paris, 1911), pp. 276, 92 fr., 326-27.

9. E.g., J. B. Bury, The Idea of Progress (London, 1920).

10. See Joseph E. Milosh, The Scale of Perfection and the English Mystical Tradition (London, 1966), pp. 51 fr.; Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism (12th ed., London, 1930), pp. 168-69.

11. Carl Du Prel, The Philosophy of Mysticism (tr. C. C. Massey, London, (899), vol. II, p. 119.

12. On the influence of Bergson, see Richard Griffiths, The Reactionary Revolution (London, 1966), pp. 35-37; Julien Benda, Sur le succes du bergsonisme (Paris, 1924); G. Turgnet-Milnes, Some Modern French Writers (London, 1921).

13. Of the vast vitalist literature, see for some idea of the possible applications, Hans Driesch, History of Vitalism (London, 1914); William McDougall, Modern Materialism and Emergent Evolution (London, 1929); Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man (London, 1964).

14. Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution (London, tr. A. Mitchell, 1911), p. 286.

15. W. E. Evans-Wentz, The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries. (London, 1911), p. 514. For other syntheses, see the theories of Rudolf Steiner, Owen Barfield, P. D. Ouspensky, and those unattached to any school, like L. E. Eeman, Self and Superman (London, 1929); Charles Walston, Harmonism and Conscious Evolution (London, 1922); Lancelot Law Whyte, The Next Development in Man (London, 1944).

16. On cyclic theories generally, see Grace Cairns, Philosophies of History (London, 1963), and for Yeats, Giorgio Melchiori, The Whole Mystery of Art (London, 1960), pp. /40-43, 158-61.

17. Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, vol. I (London, 1926), pp. 47-48.
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

Postby admin » Thu May 03, 2018 5:17 am

Part 1 of 3

Chapter 1: Ginungagapp

A Neurasthenic Society-Occultism in the Twenties-Irrationalist Currents in Central Europe-The Progressive Underground and Occultism-The Occultism of Prague and Vienna-The Munich Cosmics-Communes and Colonies-Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy

IN Norse mythology Ginungagapp is the void before the creation of the world. It is the unformed chaos in which the necessary elements are present, but not yet fashioned into recognizable patterns or infused with the breath of life. Such a chaos, or vacancy, existed politically and ideologically through much of Western Europe after 1918. The war had merely presented in a drastic form problems that had been obvious to those of a reforming temper during the previous century. The quest for political solutions, which led many into the Communist party or one of the various forms of Fascism, is linked indissolubly to the seeking for a new spiritual standpoint that had been so prominent a feature of European society in the period immediately preceding the great catastrophe.

In that time a strange illness had struck the educated classes of society, and the epidemic continued after the war. Its effects can be seen in the novels of Thomas Mann or Aldous Huxley. It was called "neurasthenia" or "nerves." Frequently it manifested itself in "an appalling boredom, a lassitude of soul and body." [1] This fashionable disability had been epitomized by Kierkegaard some half a century before.

If a melancholy man is asked what ground he has for it, what it is that weighs upon him, he will reply, "I know not, I cannot explain it!" Herein lies the infinity of melancholy. This reply is perfectly correct, for as soon as a man knows the cause, the melancholy is done away with, whereas, on the contrary in the case of the sorrowful, the sorrow is not done away with when a man knows why he sorrows. But melancholy is a sin, really it is a sin instar omnium, for not to will deeply and sincerely is a sin, and this is the mother of sins. This sickness, or rather this sin, is very common in our age, and so it is under this all young Germany and France now sighs. [2]


So spoke an agonized sufferer from the early days of the epidemic. A modern medical historian has diagnosed the later stages as proceeding partly from boredom, and he adds a catalogue of circumstances that furthered the spread of the condition.

The fact that at about 1900 an illness became fashionable has however other reasons. Although at this time civilization guarantees a pleasant and ordered life, its promised security is really only a facade behind which doubts conceal themselves ill enough. The churches have lost a great part of their power over mankind. Freedom of belief rules; it is permissible to believe in nothing. Humanistic ideals no more possess the same significance that they did a century before. Society is constricted in its inherited structures. Even these have declined into an arid observance of custom, behind which all corruptions can conceal themselves. A new art is to replace religion and animate the human mind. But it grows rigid in its dead ornamentation. Man feels himself without an anchorage. His natural inclination to venerate a higher, directing Power, can no longer be fulfilled. He has materialized his soul. No more is it for him the arcane power of the Romantics, penetrating all bodies, but merely a complicated reflex mechanism of organic matter. He supposes he will achieve his well-being and his happiness through civilization, through science, but not through an invisible God.

This expectation science amply fulfills: it discovers an illness which justifies melancholy, spiritual and bodily exhaustion, irritation, all the small cares of humanity. [3]


The neurasthenic is the extreme example of someone trapped by an inability to overcome the historical pressures operating on him. The sense of insecurity has its active as well as its passive results, and a feverish searching for a creed is as characteristic of the rootless as the vegetable agonies of the neurasthenic. The years just before the First World War witnessed just such a searching, and the impact of the war itself reinforced the determination of the seekers to discover a solution. On the one hand, consciousness of change merely augmented the crop of those who took refuge in disorders of the nerves and a cozy impotence; [4] on the other, the void was troubled by the birth pangs of a new Creation.

On the most basic level, for example: in 1914 there were 320 Spiritualist Societies in Britain, of which fewer than half were affiliated to the National Union of Spiritualists. By 1919, 309 societies had become affiliated, and there were many more unattached groups. The Depression of the Thirties saw a further increase in the numbers of Spiritualist devotees. By one estimate there were over 2,000 British churches in existence with a total of 250,000 members. [5]

The Great War reintroduced to Western Europe the entire repertoire of the supernatural. If the British particularly favored Spiritualism, the French retired upon their native tradition of High Catholic prophecy: and during the fighting, omens and apparitions confirmed the various armies in the belief that the hosts of heaven fought with them. The British reported the intervention of St. George and the Angel of Mons, the French went into battle under the standard of Joan of Arc, and the Russian armies were encouraged by visions of the Madonna and a fiery cross. And the years of stress bequeathed a legacy of neo-Spiritualist philosophizing. It was remarkable how often the speculations of those who had lost friends or family in the conflict ended by establishing personal religious syntheses. Sir Oliver Lodge, whose book, Raymond, or Life and Death, ran through twelve editions between its first appearance in 1916 and the revised version of 1922, took his argument on to a galactic plane, reasoning that the war was part of a divine evolutionary plan, which would eventually justify all the sorrow and the wastage of human life. [6] Another example is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who was also converted to Spiritualism during the war. Instead of following his fellow-knight's lead into metaphysics, he became involved with an investigation carried out by certain members of the Theosophical Society who were convinced that fairies had been photographed in the Yorkshire dale of Cottingley. It was not until 1935 that the Cottingley fairies were conclusively exposed, but the photographs met with severe criticism from the day they were published. Despite this, Doyle's books attracted a widespread public, and his readers from different parts of the world sent their own "supernormal" photographs to be inspected by the creator of Sherlock Holmes. [7]

Few incidents demonstrate better than the extravagant affair of Doyle and the fairies the crucial points for understanding the place of the occult in the inter-war period. It was related to the 19th-century revival -- Doyle's conversion to Spiritualism and his association with Theosophists have both demanded mention. It was related to the shock of World War I -- for it is difficult to believe that such unbridled fantasy would have attracted the support which it did attract had there not been pressing reasons for belief. It is accordingly very significant that the more traditional occult "teachers" who had been so prominent during the thirty years immediately preceding the war, were afterwards somewhat in eclipse.

Gurus in plenty, there were of course -- a few extremely successful. Some like the Sufi Inayat Khan and the "perfect master" Sri Meher Baba, were in the traditional mold of wise men from the East. Scholarly Theosophists -- following the lead of those mystical pioneers H. P. Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott -- still made their way to the Orient and returned with mysterious wares. One of the most prominent was Evans-Wentz, who had started his spiritual quest where Conan Doyle left off -- with the fairies -- but graduated to become the respected interpreter of Buddhist texts such as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. It was after the war that Aleister Crowley attained his greatest notoriety -- although it should never be forgotten that he emerged from the very fin de siecle atmosphere of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and that he was a supreme example of the type of Symbolist magus who had flourished in Paris during the 1890s. The Theosophical Society itself -- the very pillar of the late 19th-century revival -- had entered a new and potentially very successful phase. Under the leadership of Annie Besant, it sought to combine social reform with its more occult principles. Around the shrines dedicated to the Himalayan Masters clustered many smaller tabernacles dedicated to anti-vivisection, vegetarianism, and a new social order. The Society was an accepted part of that body of progressive thought which formed the mainstream of opposition to the materialism and rationalism of the powers which were: a circumstance which did not prevent its giving birth to a Messiah. In 1911 the Society founded the Order of the Star in the East to propagate the cult of Jiddu Krishnamurti, a young Hindu born about 1897 in South India, whom Mrs. Besant and her colleague, Bishop C. W. Leadbeater, had decided was to be the vehicle for the coming of a new World-Teacher.

In 1929 Krishnamurti dissolved all the organizations which had been established to support him, and the Theosophical Society dwindled in numbers through defections, disillusionment, and secession. [8] It was sheer coincidence that this event coincided with the beginnings of the economic depression; but it is true that during the Thirties people's minds were turned to other things. The gurus who had been so successful during the Twenties -- even the most prominent, such as Gurdjieff -- vanished from sight, at least temporarily. Politics and economics absorbed men's conscious minds and animated the anxieties of their unconscious. It is significant that the most influential religious movement in the Protestant countries during the period between the wars altered its complexion to suit the times. This was Moral Re-armament (MRA) founded by the Swiss-American pastor Frank Buchman about 1921-22. Buchman's initial recruits were almost all British ex-officer undergraduates, who had been disoriented by the experience of the war and jumped eagerly at the fundamentalist approach of the new movement. By the late Thirties the movement was being accused of pro-Fascist sympathies, and the texts of Buchman's speeches confirm that such charges were not wholly without foundation. [9]

It is important to note that even in the nebulous form of MRA, the impulse of ill-defined idealism which originated in the trenches found itself turned from an exclusively religious orientation to an implicitly political point of view. The needs and aspirations which during the Twenties had driven men to religion or the occult were transmuted during the decade which followed. As objects of devotion the gurus gave way to the political masters. But the vocabulary and the modes of thought employed by some of the idealistic politicians were profoundly influenced by their previous experience of the occult underground. In certain cases, whole ideological positions were taken over from occultism, and the underground became an underground no longer.

The political movements which resulted were of a peculiar nature, and can only be understood if it is realized that their roots were in the progressive movements of pre-war years: the very movements where occultism and social reform rubbed shoulders. By 1920 the world was presented with a solid revolutionary achievement, an indication that an alternative to the despised Establishment system was at least possible. However, the Communist example had drawbacks for many would-be reformers. Before 1914 progressive opinion had been virtually unanimous about the primary evil afflicting society. This was rampant materialism; and the solutions proposed for remedying social abuses were idealistic in the extreme, ranging from the establishment of small Utopian colonies through the education of a ruling elite to the wholesale application of economic panaceas which savored more than a little of Holy Writ. To this predominantly idealistic opposition the Marxists were the exception, proclaiming at least in theory a materialism of their own completely opposed to the kingdom of the ideal.

In Germany the publication of books officially classified as "occult" rose to peak in the middle of the 1920s, when a slight decline began in the fortunes of occult publishing, but the steady flow of occult and mystical works continued through the next decade, and was not entirely stifled by strong official discouragement, and ultimately by the persecution of the later Nazi era. If victorious England had been affected by the irrationalism resulting from the Great War, how much more so were the defeated countries! It is scarcely surprising that their political solutions smacked also of the religious. For the moment it is with the more specifically religious aspects that we are concerned: the opting for the knowledge of other realities which reveals at its lowest common denominator the response underlying the illuminated approach.

Into this category come the symbolic and allegorical journeys described by Hermann Hesse to exotic territories of the spirit. These he collectively characterized under the heading of The Journey to the East, a mysterious pilgrimage undertaken by the members of a secret League whose veiled objectives are founded in the quests of 19th-century occultism: the knowledge of the Tao, or the True Way of Chinese philosophy, the awakening of Kundalini, or the Serpent Power of Yoga. This "Journey to the East" might easily be confused with other voyages of the same period.

At the time that I had the good fortune to join the League -- that is immediately after the end of the World War -- our country was full of saviors, prophets and disciples, of presentiments about the end of the world or hopes of the dawn of a Third Empire. Shattered by the War, in despair as a result of deprivation and hunger, greatly disillusioned by the seeming futility of all the sacrifices in blood and goods, our people at that time were lured by many phantoms, but there were also many real spiritual advances. There were Bacchanalian dance societies and Anabaptist groups, there was one thing after another that seemed to point to what was wonderful and beyond the veil. There was also at that time a widespread leaning towards Indian, ancient Persian and other Eastern mysteries and religions, and all this gave most people the impression that our ancient League was one of the newly-blossomed cults. [10]


Thus, although the most obvious effect of the Bolshevik revolution was to send large numbers of European seekers for security into the arms of the Communist parties, for many, who were equally sincere in the search for a creed, the Communist alternative was merely old Mammon in a different guise. These were the rebels with their roots in the idealistic opposition of pre-war days. They saw the war as the final confirmation of their thesis that not just a change in the social order, but transformation of the very nature of man was necessary to cure the evils of Established society. The condition of anxiety or boredom which had turned the attention of Europeans in the direction of the magi and prophets of an earlier period, was transformed into a more altruistic idealism, and the post-war magi were as likely to speak of the necessary constitution of the social order as they had earlier been to indicate the route to eternal life.

The term "magus" is no figure of speech -- it refers to occultists proper. Because the idealistic Underground of prewar years had included both proselytes of new religions and seekers of social creeds, the various groups intermingled and used one another's terms. The often-repeated calling for a "New Age," heard both before and after the war, can refer either to a practically conceived plan for social betterment, or to a religious revelation like that preached by the Swedenborgian New Church. After the war the mystics of the occult revival did not vanish -- far from it. In some cases they remained religious prophets, but in others they changed their spots, responding to the pressure of a social gospel by emphasizing the parts of their teachings which seemed relevant to their country and their time. This phenomenon was particularly remarkable in Germany where they multiplied extraordinarily, and with remarkable results.

An exalted mood, arising out of a sense of deep despair, a knowledge that the old realities of physical well-being or military might had been annihilated, the pressure of economic hardship and political uncertainty, turned the minds of men to things of another world.

It was shortly after the World War [Hermann Hesse wrote] and the beliefs of the conquered nations were in an extraordinary state of unreality. There was a readiness to believe in things beyond reality even though only a few barriers were actually overcome and few advances made into the realm of a future psychiatry. Our journey at that time across the Moon Ocean to Famagusta under the leadership of Albert the Great, or say, the discovery of the Butterfly Island, twelve leagues beyond Zipangu, or the inspiring League ceremony at Rudiger's grave -- those were deeds and experiences which were allotted once only to people of our time and zone. [11]


Like the rest of Europe, Germany had been affected by the prewar crisis of consciousness, but the occult revival and the penetration of the country by exotic sects took place in general later than in France and England. Although the more eccentric groups on the fringes of Freemasonry kept alive the occult teachings of 18th-century Masons, it was from the Paris of the Symbolists and the Theosophical centers at London and Adyar that the German-speaking irrationalists derived the greater part of their inspiration. There was also a certain revival of native pietism; and the growth of interest in mysticism and the occult naturally stimulated a search in German traditions for Teutonic prophets and seers.

All the familiar components of the occult melange were present at the turn of the century, and when Eberhard Buchner walked round Berlin in 1904 investigating outlandish sects he found a fair variety. [12]

There were the "Apostolic Congregation," which stemmed from the movement begun by the Scottish evangelist Edward Irving; the "Dissident Christians," led by a former blacksmith called Brother Kammerling; and a branch of the American John Alexander Dowie's Catholic Apostolic Church in Zion. [13] There were also the eccentrics, the more "occult" groups. Buchner discovered a remarkable commune of mystics calling themselves the Lodge of "Oschm-Rahmah-Johjihjah," which derived from the Swedenborgian New Church. Buchner also sought out a meeting of Christian Theosophists in a vegetarian restaurant where he was most put out by having to abandon beer for barley-water. The lecturer extolled the virtues of Jacob Lorber, prophet of the new age.


Now I want at once to make it clear that Jacob Lorber has had the bad luck not to have found a place in any encyclopaedia .... I suppose that no one has taken notice of his career except this tiny roomful of Christian Theosophists which has dispersed through the land, held together throughout the decades, and now sets foot in Berlin. With horror, I see that Jacob Lorber has a quite colossal quantity of literature on his conscience, including works which extend to 1600 pages. [14]


The influence of Lorber was in fact considerably more widespread that Eberhard Buchner suspected; his words had a significant circulation in mystical circles, and were promoted by an organization called the New Salem Church which had its headquarters in Wurttemberg. In the search for German prophets of the ideal, Lorber's name figures beside those of more celebrated mystics like Meister Eckhart and Angelus Silesius.

Spiritualists abounded, as they did throughout Europe. Another investigator, who was a keen protagonist of scientifically-conducted psychical research, registered his disgust with both the small spiritualist circles and the larger organizations.

Whether you visit spiritualist organizations in Berlin, or pursue investigations in the Dresden societies, whether you go to meetings in the South German capital or take part in seances of the Budapest or Zurich associations, it's always the same story: an inferior mass, thrust into Spiritualism for one reason or another, who stick to this point of view through their own stubborn laziness, avid for "phenomena," unscrupulous in creating mediums and in experimentation and fanatically investigating everything that doesn't chime with their tune; and standing apart from this crowd some few brighter intellects who -- if they don't push off rapidly -- either support an undiscriminating idealism or combine Spiritualism with other interests. [15]


The Theosophical Society had established itself in Germany in 1884. The branch was founded in the "Occult Room" of the house in Eberfeld belonging to the husband of Marie Gebhard, a friend of H. P. Blavatsky and a former pupil of the french magician Eliphas Levi. The president was Dr. Wilhelm Hubbe-Schleiden, who had held diplomatic and civil service posts. After lengthy journeys in Equatorial Africa he had produced a series of works on foreign policy and the need for German colonial expansion; now he turned his energies to editing a Theosophical magazine. The next year saw the return to Europe (with the ailing Madame Blavatsky) of Franz Hartmann, a Theosophist of unsavory reputation. Hartmann had been born in 1838, served as a volunteer in the Bavarian artillery, then emigrated on impulse to America, where he qualified medically and took out American citizenship. Until 1883 he remained in the United States, becoming a coroner in Georgetown, Colorado, and a Spiritualist in New Orleans, where one of his patients developed mediumistic gifts which Hartmann was later to claim she had passed on to him. That year he sailed for India and joined the Theosophical Society at Adyar, where he was left alone to face the investigator of the Society for Psychical Research. His return to Europe was at first intended to be temporary, but on what was intended as a brief visit home he met Dr. Karl Kellner, the discoverer of a manufacturing process for cellulose. Hartmann adapted Kellner's idea to compound a drug to be inhaled against tuberculosis; and he established himself as director of an Inhalation Center in Hallein, near Salzburg. His prolific writing won his brand of Theosophy a substantial public, and he too began to publish a periodical. [16]

By the turn of the century, most of the elements of the Occult Underground which were known outside Germany had secured some sort of foothold inside the country. Masters of all sorts found a ready following. In the period between the two World Wars, when the occult and the mystical emerged from their residence below ground, the choice of cults was large. Eastern and dubiously Eastern religions rubbed shoulders with movements for Christian revival. Prophets illuminated by God Himself contended with creeds constructed from every religious dogma known at any period in history.

There were Pentecostalists, Jehovah's Witnesses, offshoots of the Plymouth Brethren, Adventists -- in 1930 Germany boasted 10 percent of the world Adventist membership -- and various Christian sects of native derivation. One such was that called "Sheep and Shepherd," founded by the Saxon handloom weaver Friedrich Hain (1847-1927) who about 1885 gathered round him a group which eventually left the Church in 1921. To a pantheistic creed they coupled beer-swilling, belief in the miraculous family of "Vater Hain" -- who was himself the word made flesh, boasted the Christchild as one of his own and whose first wife had been a devil -- and a conviction that it was evil to bury the dead, whom they deposited in the street. Further up the social level came the Bund der Kampfer fur Glaube and Wahrheit which also had its seat in Saxony, appealing chiefly to the lower strata of the intelligentsia in the larger Saxon towns. It had been founded about 1900 in response to Spiritualistic prompting by Max Dlibritz and Emil Bergmann, the directors of a factory they called the Bombastus Works. They manufactured cosmetics and herbal medicines according to Paracelsian prescriptions, and employed some two hundred people. From advertising Medicines -- mouthwashes -- toothpaste. prepared according to the recipes of Paracelsus Bombastus von Hohenheim" the two entrepreneurs graduated to the status of occult chiefs. Their organization was arranged in a sequence of seven grades of which women members were allowed only to penetrate the third. The names of their degrees were derived from the spirits, who had revealed the original language of mankind through the mediumship of one of the directors of the Bombastus Works. During the 1920s this previously secretive cult underwent a period of expansion. Another intriguing growth of the decade after the First World War was the Gottesbund Tanatra. This was founded in 1923 in Gorlitz -- the home of the 17th-century mystic Jacob Bohme -- by Feder Mihle, a businessman who became involved in Spiritualism after the war and promptly discovered mediumistic gifts. It was prophesied that by 1927 the altar of the Tanatra Lodge would be set up in the Peterskirche at Gorlitz; but while in 1929 this had still not come to pass, there were 37 congregations in various places with 1500 members in Gorlitz alone. Members wore the God's Eye badge and cultivated the writings of Jacob Lorber. They maintained a curious doctrine that homosexuals were vocationally mediums and that heterosexual intercourse impaired the mediumistic talent. A report of a meeting which took place in 1929 describes 1800 people as present. There were songs and trance sermons. On view were the symbols of the Lodge; the God's Eye, the seven veils of wisdom, a naked boy, and two towers. [17]

These are a few examples out of many. There were more sophisticated prophets at large, such as Bo Yin Ra -- alias the painter Joseph Schneiderfranken (1876-1943) -- whose saccharine spirituality apparently satisfied a large number of readers [18] -- or the eccentric Ottoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish, whose cult of Mazdaznan established a "university" at Herrliberg, ten miles from Zurich, and exercised a powerful influence over mystically inclined German intellectuals. Its founder's real name was Otto Hanisch, and he was born in 1854, the son of a music teacher in Posen. Mazdaznan was a peculiar religion, claiming to be derived from the Zoroastrian faith but combining insistence on a vegetarian diet with Theosophical doctrine and an obsession with the appalling spiritual results of constipation. [19] The university was known as Aryana, and only the fair-skinned "Aryan" races were permitted to become bearers of the new ideal. [20]


Doctrines: The Mazdaznan movement emphasises the monotheistic faith in Mazda, the good creator. It originated in the United States of America and is an eclectic movement which has incorporated elements of Hinduism and Christianity in its doctrines. The divinity is expressed in trinitarian terms as the Holy Family of Father (male creative principle) and Mother (procreative female principle) and Child (destiny/salvation). Man's purpose on earth is to reclaim it and make it a place suitable for God to dwell. Mazdaznans believe that the means to perfect the material world is the power of breath and therefore the movement teaches a discipline of breath control, rhythmic praying and chanting. These exercises are supplemented by a recommended vegetarian diet.

History: The Mazdaznan movement was the first Zoroastrian group in the United States of America. It was founded by Rev. Dr. Otoman Zar-Adhusht Hanish who claimed visionary enlightenment and died in 1936. He claimed that he had been sent by the Inner Temple Community of El-Khaman to bring Mazdaznan to the world. He began teaching at the turn of this century and the movement was inaugerated in 1902 in New York; spreading to other American cities in its first ten years. Establishing their headquarters in Chicago, the group began publishing a periodical, The Mazdaznan. In 1916 the headquarters were transferred to Los Angeles, California and then in the mid 1980s to Encinitas, California. In the 1930s, a wealthy follower of the movement known as 'Mother Gloria' went to Bombay with the intention of restoring the 'true' message of Zoroaster to the Parsis. Although she met with a hostile reception in India, she remained there for a number of years before returning to the United States. During the 1970s centres were established in England, Mexico, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Holland and Switzerland.

Symbols: The Mazdaznan movement emphasises the use of fire as a cult symbol.

Adherents: Not known, as no formal membership.
Headquarters/Main Centre: Encinitas, California, United States of America.

-- Mazdaznan Movement, by philtar.ac.uk


Mazdazdan shares this insistence on "Aryanism" with other occult groups, whose influence on racialist theories has been (as we shall see) extremely important. For the moment it is necessary only to notice that theories which were later to achieve notoriety might easily form part of the fundamental move toward the irrational. And if within the fringe groups of the German irrationalists are discovered what can subsequently be seen as tenets of political significance, these should not be ignored. The interpretation must wait for the accumulation of more evidence.

Expectations of political apocalypse are never very far from hopes of the Coming of God's Kingdom, and it is interesting that several of the miscellaneous sects born of Germany's time of trouble display preoccupations which the hindsight of history can immediately detect as significant.

The Gottesbund Tanatra expected the advent of the Thousand Year Reich. Another Saxon sect, the Laurentians, shared this belief and made preparation for its imminent arrival. The world was to last 6,000 years, of which the last two thousand -- from the coming of Christ to the establishment of the Thousand Year Reich -- had almost elapsed. The elect (in Saxony some 5,000 of the Biblical total of 144,000) were to take the necessary clothes and food into the Erzgebirge, from which vantage-point they would contemplate Armageddon. Hermann Lorenz, the prophet who led the sect from 1914, involved himself and his followers in nationalist politics which the Laurentians found not at all incompatible with spiritualism, mystical speculation, and an admixture of peasant superstition. Most intriguing of all is the sect of the Weissenberger, which by the 1930s numbered over 100,000. The founder, Joseph Weissenberg (1855-1941) left his Silesian home sometime after the turn of the century in response to a vision of Christ and traveled to Berlin where he began practicing magnetic cures. In 1908 he left his wife, in whom he saw the embodiment of the Serpent, to live with a spirit medium called Gretchen Muller who was discovered to be the reincarnation of the Virgin Mary. (Frieda Muller -- perhaps a daughter? -- reestablished the cult in 1946.)

It is not so much such familiar trappings of the Weissenberger that are significant as the unequivocally political character of their tenets. They venerated Bismarck as the appointed savior of the state, and saw his fall as engineered by Freemasons and Jesuits. In the spiritualist sessions which confirmed Weissenberg's authority, prominent apparitions included Martin Luther, the Geistfreund Bismarck and the famous air ace Baron von Richthofen. [21] The prophecies of Weissenberg referred specifically to things of this world and particularly to the fate of those who had opposed Germany in the Great War.

England, of course, was doomed to utter perdition. On the 29th of May, 1929, at 11 P.M. it was destined to be obliterated from the face of the earth. When this did not happen Weissenberg decided that the truth of his prophecy remained unaffected. The divine chastisement was to come "like a thief in the night" and it was dangerous to predict exactly when. Nor was Italy to be spared. Italy had betrayed Germany in the Great War and was to be punished through a Bismarckian intervention. In the spring of 1929 the great struggle to free Germany would take place with little loss to the German side. The combat would be chiefly fought on the spiritual plane, with "Prince Michael, the Holy Spirit in Joseph Weissenberg" leading on the German forces, enlisted on the side of God under the holy banner of black, white and red. The introduction of the colors of fallen imperial Germany carries emotional overtones quite other than those of religious apocalypse and takes the inquirer directly into the territory of the illuminated predecessors of Nazism known as the volkisch movement. Paul Scheurlen, the indefatigable historian of German cults between the wars, noticed the tenor of the Weissenberger, and he made a more explicit connection. The weekly paper of the sect, he recorded -- it went by the name of Der Weisse Berg -- was printed on the presses of the Deutsche Zeitung, the organ of the ultranationalist Pan-German Association; and it was probable that members of the former Potsdam headquarters of that society were followers of the Weissenberger. [22] It becomes evident that something more is at work than the antics of eccentric sectaries.


Precisely what, it is our intention to uncover. It has already been indicated that the elements which had formed part of the flight from reason before 1914 were present generally in European society after the Great War; that the seeking for realities of another world was to be found outside the boundaries of defeated Germany, but that the effects of the War were naturally most severe within the territory of the former Hohenzollern Empire. It is, however, important to make a distinction between two groups of irrationalist movements. One group is formed by ill-defined or traditionally orientated sects, generated by anxiety and change. Such were the numerous Christian sects -- whether imported, like the Adventists and the Apostles, or of native origin, such as Sheep and Shepherd of Vater Hain and the Laurentians. These represent the most basic responses to anxiety. The challenge of a forbidding future was countered by a compendium of Christian tradition, millennarian expectation, and the adoption of spiritual comforts temporarily in vogue. Of these, the most easily adaptable was spiritualism, which itself forms part of the first group of fundamentalist answers to the crisis. The second group is composed of those cults which took the trouble to present a more original theology and had their roots in the occultism of the pre-1914 Progressive Underground. The Gottesbund Tanatra, with its grade structure reminiscent of a magical temple, comes under this classification, as do the teaching about self-realization put about by Bo Yin Ra and the emphasis upon restoring the Aryan race to its pristine condition through nuts and colonic irrigation purveyed by Mazdaznan. This latter group naturally appealed to higher social levels and rather more educated classes than the more fundamentalist movements.

If the religious response is taken as a "basic response" to the crisis in human affairs, it should not surprise us to find similar transcendental, or "illuminated" approaches to politics, art, or society, attaching themselves to one or other of the essentially religious groups. It is a perfectly natural situation to find the Weissenberger attached to the Pan-Germans, or Mazdaznan advocating theories of Aryan supremacy. The illuminated approach to the basic problem of man's relationship with the universe does not necessarily entail an illuminated approach to politics; but such an approach is very likely indeed. In the historical period under review material reality represented for many people hardship, injustice, and lack of hope. They turned naturally to immaterial realities in all fields of human action. Put another way, they abandoned the present, induced by a rationalist, capitalist Establishment, in favor of possible futures entertained by the Irrationalist Underground. The "religious" response was the most basic -- but it did not have to be. In Germany, the "Establishment" represented not only the Weimar government, but also the occupying powers and the whole Western commercial system which had reduced the Empire to defeat. We shall see how the Irrationalist Underground came to the surface in Nazi Germany in a political form: this is a symptom not of a particular, but a general crisis, involving all areas of human activity.

The irrational then, was abroad in 20th-century Germany. But so far we have examined only the secondary figures. The most influential occultists were a different caliber altogether. They can be divided into four main groups: (1) the Theosophy and Rosicrucianism of Prague and Vienna; (2) the Cosmic Circle of Munich; (3) the various colonies set up by the Progressive Underground to prepare for the coming new age; and (4) the Anthroposophy of Rudolph Steiner.

Central Europe had been affected by the 19th-century crisis of consciousness as much as areas on the periphery of the Continent. The difference was that the circles in which mystical viewpoints could be successfully maintained were smaller, the sources of occult lore in Paris, Adyar, or London dauntingly inaccessible, and the means of expressing such convictions more limited than in France or England. Within such groups as did exist, and for these very reasons, the dedicated attitude of the members made up for their lack of numbers.

In 1891, for example, the Theosophical Lodge of the Blue Star was established in Prague and it consisted of only ten members, meeting at the flat of the novelist Gustav Meyrink and presided over by Karel Weinfurter. This small group of persons imposed on themselves considerable austerities. For two-and-a half years they became vegetarians, gave up alcohol, and resigned all worldly pleasures in the hopes of attaining to some higher state of consciousness; but all these sacrifices produced no effects, and were abandoned. Their first hero in matters occult was the Freemason J. B. Kerning -- in fact Johann Baptist Krebs (l774-1851) -- whose writings they perused assiduously.

At the beginning of the 1890s Kerning had suddenly come back into fashion, rather like the weighty Jacob Lorber. In 1893, Dr. Hubbe-Schleiden of the Theosophical Society decided to republish his works with Franz Hartmann as editor. But the Prague occultists found ultimately as little to satisfy them in the murky symbolism of Kerning as in their regime of austerity. [23]

They tried breathing exercises and other occult disciplines. They wrote enthusiastically to any publisher of occult literature in the hopes that he might have something to offer them. They made contact with a magician who lived in the north of England, was over eighty years old, and published a journal called The Magic Mirror. "From the contents of the journal it was manifest that he had attained certain results in ceremonial Magic. In particular he was able to evoke the different forces dwelling in old trees." Some of the members of the Lodge of the Blue Star began to practice the old Englishman's concentration exercises, one of which seemed to produce results: it concerned the evocation of "a certain spiritual Brotherhood, of which the Pole Star was both the symbol and the force-giving center." Those who carried out the instructions obtained identical visions, but the distant and ever-watchful Theosophical Society of Vienna warned them to proceed no further. The Lodge of the Blue Star turned sadly back to the Tantric exercises contained in Rama Prasad's Nature's Finer Forces, a Theosophical publication which did little or nothing for the Prague Theosophists although it probably assured those of Vienna that the Blue Star was not liable to slip from their control. [24]

The translator of Nature's Finer Forces -- and of other Theosophical books [25] was Gustav Meyrink, whose celebrity as a novelist during and after the First World War is matched only by his rapid eclipse thereafter. Gustav Meyrink was born Gustav Meyer in Vienna in 1886. His father was Karl von Varnbuler von und zu Hemmingen, minister of state for Wurttemberg; his mother the Bavarian actress Maria Meyer. After a cheerless upbringing, Meyrink entered a bank belonging to his mother's family and settled in Prague, where he led a life to all appearances extravagant, snobbish, and shocking. He made an unsuccessful first marriage, and his second was nearly prevented by his future brother-in-law, whose brother-officers fought a long succession of duels with the unfortunate Meyrink. In the middle of a scandal, surrounded by allegations that he ran his bank with aid of spiritualist prognostications, Meyrink was thrown into jail, and underwent a physical crisis -- he was thought to have broken his spine, and he temporarily lost the use of both of his legs. While in a sanatorium recovering from these and other ailments, Meyrink met the writer Oskar A. H. Schmitz, who encouraged him to write. Immediately Meyrink wrote a short story, which he had accepted by Simplicissimus. In 1903 he had his first collection published; and in 1905 he married for a second time in Dover. [26]

From the inception of the Lodge of the Blue Star, Meyrink played host to its members. His own interest in the occult began in the year of the lodge's foundation. Meyrink had been contemplating suicide as the result of an unhappy love affair, when his gloomy deliberations were interrupted by a magazine pushed under his door. It turned out to be an occult magazine, and the young man "put to sea," as he expressed it, into a boundless ocean of occult books. He then set out to look for a Master, in company with the other seekers of the Lodge of the Blue Star. Meyrink tried Orientals, clairvoyants, prophets, and ecstatics of all sorts; but to no avail. In the laboratory of the Munich psychical researcher Baron Schrenk-Notzing he snipped a fragment of "ectoplasm" for chemical analysis off the baron's famous medium "Eva C" and thus began the exposure of poor Eva. Through the Blue Star and the Theosophists of Vienna, he came into contact with Annie Besant, and he began a correspondence with a pupil of Ramakrishna who lived in the Himalayas. He read much Theosophical literature, and through taking up Yoga he claimed to have achieved a telepathic contact with an Indian Maharishi who also became the guru of Paul Brunton. According to an unidentified friend of Meyrink writing to his biographer, Meyrink had undergone unpleasant experiences with exercises recommended by Kerning and with others advocated by "Sebottendorff" (presumably the Rudolf Freiherr von Sebottendorff of whom there will be more to say). Meyrink apparently succeeded in provoking certain paranormal experiences. One attempt to transport himself psychically to the home of a painter friend resulted in his producing a perceptible effect on a table, and he seems to have managed to appear visibly to his first wife. During the period of his strictest regimen -- which probably coincided with his contact with the headquarters of the Theosophists -- he took only three hours sleep a night, observed a strict vegetarian diet, performed arduous exercises, and drank gum-arabic twice a day to induce clairvoyance. At the end of these privations he had a vision like that of the Emperor Constantine (in hoc signo vinces") and of abstract geometrical designs. [27]

Meyrink was sadly disillusioned by many of his occult investigations. In 1921 he was writing that, although there were indeed occult orders, it was an error to imagine that their members had any special powers. He had tried everything -- even the most practical alchemy. All the necessary conditions for the alchemical "first matter," as he thought, were fulfilled by an element called "Struvit" or "Ulex" which had only been discovered in Germany (in Hamburg, Dresden, and Braunschweig) and always in ancient sewers. It therefore arose, argued Meyrink, in human excrement; and this substance fulfilled all the conditions laid down in alchemical texts. It was yellow in color, conductive, and crystallized. So from a "primaeval cess-pit" in Prague, he took a lump of excrement about the size of a nut and followed the instructions of his textbooks. The necessary color-changes took place, but at a crucial point of the process his retort burst and the half-transformed prima materia hit the aspiring alchemist in the face. It should not be thought from this that Meyrink's credulity was unbounded. The story is told of a visit paid to the novelist's house on the Starnbergersee by a wandering prophet known as the Wunderapostel Hauser, who hammered on the door in the middle of the night and announced portentously, "I AM." Meyrink asked him to complete the sentence: "I am Christ," decided Hauser. The novelist led him down to the shores of the lake and commanded, "Walk!" The Wunderapostel considered his declaration again and rephrased the sentence: "I am hungry." Whereupon Meyrink led him back to the house for a meal. [28]

The outcome of Meyrink's occult experiments was a series of remarkable novels and short stories, almost all dealing with some aspect of the occult quest for perfection. His most popular novel, The Golem, was published during the Great War, and sold over 200,000 copies. It concerns mysterious doings in the ghetto of Prague and -- as in The Greater Trumps of Charles Williams -- a leading role is played by the symbolism of the Tarot pack. In Meyrink's novels the quest is perpetually in the foreground; the object of the hero is to be, as one of his characters phrases it, "both on this side and on that side of the veil a living being." This is perhaps most easily seen in a short tale, Master Leonhard. The hero is involved in a gruesome tragedy, is disillusioned with the world, but finds no consolation in the Church. In response to an obscure inner prompting, Master Leonhard sets off in search of the long-dead master of the Order of the Templars, Jacob de Vitriaco. On the way he falls in with a quack doctor, Dr. Schrepfer, a worker of miracles. Everything Schrepfer does is two-edged -- "he lies and his speech contains the highest truth: he speaks the truth and lies smirk out from it." [29] Eventually Master Leonhard sees through the magician and pursues his quest to a vision of the one, eternal "I," learning the lesson that all his fantastic adventures are merely "the wandering of the soul in circles through mists of existence towards death." This story even in bald outline bears interesting hints of a psychology like that of C. G. Jung, himself an admirer of Meyrink. It is important to notice that its author sprang from occultist groups of the 1890s to literary celebrity, and that the final message was a refusal to accept the problems of the present as insurmountable. The tortured soul of Master Leonhard "comes home at last": and this insistence on the "return home," the Heimkehr, is by no means confined to Meyrink in German literature of the period. In some cases it sprang from an occult basis and referred to the return of the weary human soul into the bosom of Deity; in others, it took root merely in the general condition of anxiety and represented a despairing hope that the anguish would one day be over. The myth of the "Return Home" was pervasive and significant.

By the time that Meyrink himself returned to whatever awaited him, in December 1932 in the "House of the Last Lamp" on the Starnbergersee, his friends of the Blue Star had themselves advanced from their frantic searchings of the 1890s. Several had committed themselves to a particular school, a particular vision of reality. This commitment was reached only after searchings as devious as those of Meyrink himself. Their asceticism had little result, although their friends of the Theosophical Society in Vienna contrived to prevent the Prague circle from coming to much physical harm. But they themselves were in an equally barren state, despite the fact that one of their number "had been fasting for fourteen years, being emaciated to the bones. At the same time he was sleeping on a ladder, carrying out different ascetic practices." Three members of the Prague group went to London and joined the Esoteric Section of Annie Besant's Theosophical Society; but they decided that the practices carried out in that organization were as ineffectual as any they had previously tried. Eventually, one of the most dedicated of the Blue Star occultists achieved some spectacular results with magical experiments in concentration. These are described as "an imagination practice"; and the imagination of an unnamed "Mr. R." was so powerful as to enable him to cut his hand on an imaginary knife and to burn his finger in the flame of a visualized candle. Full of his success, Mr. R. left for Vienna to tell the Theosophists there of what he had achieved: they only poured cold water on his aspirations. A few days after his disconsolate return to Prague, he received a cable from Vienna: "Come at once, the way is open." The Prague occultists hastened to Vienna to sit at the feet of the Master whom the Viennese had found after so much searching. [30]

It was a severe comedown after their exotic experiments to find that the new leader taught a doctrine that was almost entirely Christian. He was evidently a weaver by trade and quite elderly when they made contact with him. He claimed to have been initiated by a "true Rosicrucian" and was definite about forbidding all practical magic. Among his disciples was Franz Hartmann, the Theosophist, and obviously some adherents of great wealth, as the weaver was presented with a country house by an admirer the day after he resigned from the factory where he had worked. In his circle great stress was laid on Kerning; on Bo Yin Ra (whose writings were thought to be the continuation of Kerning's work); and on other German mystics like von Eckartshausen and Angelus Silesius, together with texts of the occult revival like the Oupnek'hat and the American mystic Prentice Mulford. It seems also that the group around the weaver was either connected through him or afterward became aligned with the Anthroposophy and "Rosicrucianism" preached by the influential Rudolf Steiner. The Second Coming of Christ was confidently expected: "His word will penetrate the world like fire." [31]
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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Part 2 of 3

Of the Lodge of the Blue Star and the group around the enigmatic weaver, nothing further can be said. But the Viennese Theosophists who kept such vigilant watch over their younger brothers in mysticism and who directed them to their chosen guru merit closer attention. Their leading spirit was Friedrich Eckstein, a gray eminence of Viennese cultural life, who published almost none of his occult work but whose private lectures seem to have exercised considerable influence on those -- like Gustav Meyrink -- who heard them. [32]

Friedrich Eckstein was born about 1860, the son of a paper manufacturer near Vienna. His interest in mysticism and the occult began almost as early as was possible for Central Europe. At the age of twenty he met Dr. Oscar Simony, a Dozent at Vienna University, whose speciality was number theory.


Simony was concerned with the possibility of further mathematical dimensions and, accordingly, followed with interest the experiments of Professor Zollner of Leipzig, who postulated a fourth dimension of space. Zollner became ensnared by spiritualism through his keenness to prove the existence of his fourth dimension and interpreted the feats performed by the Spiritualist medium Henry Slade on the basis of spirits operating in this hypothetical area. In 1879 Zollner published the third part of his Scientific Essays embodying his experiments with Slade. The consequent furor naturally concerned Simony, who persuaded his old friend Lazar, Baron Hellenbach (a speculative metaphysician and the leading Austrian spiritualist) to bring Slade to Vienna so that he could test Professor Zollner's conclusions for himself. Hellenbach's proteges were notoriously unsuccessful: the baron had once had to undergo the ignominy of seeing the Archduke Johann unmask the medium Harry Bastian. [33] Simony had no luck with Bastian and little with Slade, who broke control during the seance, although apparently he succeeded temporarily in making a table vanish.

The mathematician -- who was chiefly interested in refuting Zollner's theory of the fourth dimension -- concocted a theory that mediums possessed abnormal muscular development and that the electrical energy in their peculiar muscular contractions could produce the phenomena attributed to the spirits. [34] According to their original project, Slade was to have stayed with Friedrich Eckstein during the period of Simony's experiments, but he refused to come unaccompanied, and as the object of the plan had been to prevent any possibility of confederacy, the scheme was dropped. Eckstein's first encounter with the miraculous was unfortunate. Shortly afterwards he and Simony visited the distinguished British scientist Lord Rayleigh, who was at that time living in Vienna, and recounted their experiences. Rayleigh claimed to have seen Indian ascetics move objects from a distance, and Simony asked how he explained this. Rayleigh answered that it was obviously the work of the spirits, and to the astonished query of his visitors he replied that he believed in spirits because he saw them. [35]

Eckstein determined that he would discover whether there were grounds for such belief and decided to join the newly founded Theosophical Society.
He corresponded with Theosophists everywhere and traveled to England, where he met H. P. Blavatsky, Colonel Olcott, A. P. Sinnett, and the retinue of Indian members who accompanied the leading Theosophists to Europe on their visit of 1884. He brought back with him a whole library of occult works. Meanwhile, it became clear to him and Simony that in order to test mediums satisfactorily they would have to become experts in sleight-of-hand rather than in esoteric philosophy. The mathematician's interest in the spirits waned after a substantial rebuff dealt his career when he had rashly expressed his misgivings about mediums at the dinner table of an influential Excellenz. Eckstein, on the other hand, although always circumspect in his occult dealings, progressed from primitive spiritualist phenomena to an abiding interest in occult philosophy. He visited H. P. Blavatsky at Ostend not long before her death, and in the early 1890s he went to live for a few months in London to carry out some business in connection with his profession as a chemist. He had a laboratory in the Victoria Docks, was appalled by the British habit of commuting -- he lived in South Kensington -- and was disgusted by bank holidays. At the same time he was closely in contact with Annie Besant and the "esoteric Christian" Edward Maitland; he became particularly friendly with Herbert Burrows and was able to soothe his disturbed nerves with a Theosophical vegetarian picnic near Maidenhead, at which Mohini M. Chaterji gave a talk on the Bhagavad Gita. It was largely through Eckstein's agency that the Vienna Theosophical Society came into existence and it was probably his directing hand that hovered over the Prague Lodge of the Blue Star. [36]

It is of great importance to understand the sort of circles in which Eckstein moved and in which his Theosophy found a ready welcome. With the alteration of time and place, these were very like the artistic coteries of Symbolist Paris, or the similar groups on the fringes of the English Decadence in which the occult revival found its earliest supporters. Instead of Baudelaire, however, the Grand Master of the idealistic Underground in the German-speaking countries was quite naturally Richard Wagner. The composer-playwright's handling of myth coincided with "esoteric" interpretations favored by the occultists. [37] His early setting of the occultist Bulwer Lytton's novel Rienzi gave an obvious clue to budding mystics. In 1880, just at the time when Eckstein became interested in spiritualism and belonged to the central clique of the Viennese idealists, the Bayreuth Master wrote an essay entitled Religion and Art which had the profoundest effect on the Progressive youth which sat at his feet, and particularly on Eckstein's immediate circle. [38]

Religion and Art is in many ways the synthesis of all the goals of the Progressive Underground in the period before the First World War. Wagner called for Art's return to its high vocation of symbolically expressing divine truth, and he announced his program to redeem the world from materialism by the practice of symbolically conceived music. He also praised the ecstatic rites of the American Shakers and gave expression to the underlying anxiety which afflicted many of his readers. "The deepest basis of every true religion we see now in the knowledge of the transitoriness of the world, and arising from this, the positive instruction to free oneself from it." The composer's vegetarianism and his opposition to vivisection place him directly in the category of the Progressive Underground, and his vision of the coming regeneration of man matched the apocalypses of the greatest enthusiasts. He castigated the hypocrisy rampant among his fellow vegetarians. There were those who "set the basic precondition of the problem of regenerating the human race firmly in view." But "from a few superior members is heard the complaint that their comrades have taken up abstaining from flesh merely from personal consideration of diet, and in no way coupled with it the great ideals of regeneration which they must approach if the organization wants to win power." [39] There was to be a league of noble spirits pledged to redeem mankind from its fall through the achievement of individual salvation. Of such spirits, Friedrich Eckstein was among the most possessed. For the first performance of Parsifal he made the journey to Bayreuth on foot; and there was a legend -- which was not in fact true -- that he had gone in sandals, like Tannhauser. [40]

At the end of the 1870s a favorite rendezvous of Eckstein's group of young Viennese idealists was a vegetarian restaurant on the corner of Wallnerstrasse and Fahnengasse. Here they met in a gas-lit cellar to talk of Pythagoras, the Essenes, the Neo-Platonists, therapeutics, and the evils of flesh eating. "Ever and again there swam before us the vision of Empedocles of a golden age in which the greatest sacrilege for men would be 'To take life and stuff onesself with noble elements.'" The group consisted of a typical collection of Bohemians. Eckstein's description of the scene gives substance to the rumors of his Wagnerian pilgrimage. "It was mostly young people who met there and took part in the collective exchange of views: students, teachers, artists and followers of the most diverse professions. While I myself, like several of my closest friends went summer and winter almost completely clad in linen, according to the theories of Pythagoras, others appeared clothed in hairy garments of natural coloring. And if you add to this that most of us had shoulder-length hair and full beards, our lunch-table might have reminded an unselfconscious spectator not a little of Leonardo's Last Supper." The spiritual descendants of this lunch-table are everywhere. To this circle belonged two later Staatsprasidenten as well as the young Hermann Bahr and the Polish poet Siegfried Lipiner, who was in correspondence with Nietzsche. Victor Adler, the founder of the Social Democratic Party, occasionally came. Gustav Mahler turned up, and Eckstein's future roommate, the composer Hugo Wolf, met the Pythagorean Theosophist at his vegetarian Stammtisch. For the first performance of Parsifal in the summer of 1882, the group met at Bayreuth. In Vienna, another rendezvous was the Cafe Griensteidl on the Michaelerplatz, known locally because of its clientele as Megalomania Cafe. The crowning success of these young irrationalists was their summer colony of the year 1888, when they took the Schloss Bellevue at Grinzing and filled it even fuller with eccentricity than the Cafe Griensteidl. [41]

To the Schloss came the feminist Marie Lang and her husband Edmund (both at the center of Theosophical gatherings and the protectors of Hugo Wolf). Friedrick Eckstein's friend from student days, Rosa Mayreder, who was to become another leading protagonist of women's rights, developed during the summer a friendship with Hugo Wolf that led to their collaboration on the opera Der Corregidor. Other visitors were Carl, Graf zu Leiningen-Billigheim, a young diplomat who had attached himself to Eckstein because of his acquaintance with H. P. Blavatsky, and the dubious Theosophist Franz Hartmann, who received unusual visitors from all parts of the world and had already presumed on Eckstein's hospitality for a whole year immediately after his return from India. Marie Lang cooked vegetarian meals. Wolf composed Lieder. Theosophy was the main topic of conversation. [42]

In Vienna, as in the rest of the world, the more occult aspects of Theosophy -- the elaborate cosmology, the miracles, the letters from Mahatmas -- went hand in hand with the "progressive" in social thought. Indeed, there was a necessary association between all idealistic forms of opposition to that which existed. As Leiningen-Billigheim saw it: "In the middle of the chaotic pattern of pleasure-seeking and covetousness, error, arrogance, self-deception, and cowardice, the idealistic point of view once more arises as a helpful and ultimately victorious force." [43] It is symptomatic of the climate in which he spoke that the title of the essay from which these general observations are taken is "What is Mysticism?" and that it was published in a Theosophical series. Against the common enemy all idealists united; and, some of those bent on restructuring the world would adopt some portion of Theosophy as a concession to their religious impulses. Theosophy was Progressively respectable; often Christianity was not.

It is worth examining some of these associates of Eckstein. Hugo Wolf was a composer of the Wagnerian school; Eckstein, who had private means and musical interests -- he was the continual companion and unofficial private secretary to the aging Bruckner -- offered to finance the publication of Wolf's Lieder. This proved not to be necessary; but the Theosophist and the composer lived together for a period. Wolf's biographer has described their friendship: "Eckstein's knowledge was encyclopaedic: his rooms were lined from floor to ceiling with books and scores. They discussed Parsifal together in relation to German and Spanish mysticism, Palestrina's masses, freemasonry, vegetarianism, and various oriental subjects." After the summer colony at Grinzing, Wolf and Eckstein left once more for Parsifal at Bayreuth on the Wagner-Verein's special train. Together they hunted all the way through Swedenborg's Arcana Coelestia for the sources of Berlioz's Hellish language in the Damnation of Faust.

With Hermann Bahr, the leading critical exponent of Expressionist theories, Eckstein maintained a relationship through discussions on metaphysics -- often in a three-handed commerce with Hugo von Hoffmansthal. Bahr had arrived in Vienna in 1887 direct from a Paris in which the mystical was rampant and Rosicrucian Orders revived. As he wrote, "every student made himself out a Paracelsus in front of his grisette; seriously or half in fun there was everywhere an anxious yearning vers les au-dela-mystiques." He found a home from home in the Cafe Griensteidl. Bahr gave thanks that he had gone to Paris when he did; for there, he thought, the spirit of the 18th century was finally being overturned. In the Socialist Victor Adler, whom he had known from Berlin, he saw something of the same process of "spiritualization" -- the Marxist was becoming an idealist. [44] Even the feminist Rosa Mayreder displayed what has seemed to at least one commentator her own sort of mysticism in which theories of the respective roles of the sexes can be compared to the alchemical fusion of opposites. [45]

This milieu will become of crucial importance when we come to consider the origins of psychoanalysis and the early work of Freud.

If in Prague and Vienna there were hints that the philosophical substrata of everyday were crumbling, Munich at the turn of the century might have displayed, to those with eyes to see it, a similar instability. It must be emphasized that this condition was not specifically a German condition, but European; and it is a wrong use of historical hindsight which discovers in German culture alone the necessary ingredients for political irrationalism. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries it was not at all certain -- unless one believed in the gloomy prophecies of a Marxist determinism -- what was to emerge from the rubble when the materialist bastion had fallen. A restructured logic? a pre-Adamite humanity? At any rate a new world, imagined in its variegated and terrifying colors in the artists' quarters and Bohemian resorts of the great cities. In Munich, this meant Schwabing.

Schwabing! -- the suburb not only of Munich, oh no: "the suburb of a new world!" ... I have contrived simply to exist there as a mere man: a simple man of his time amidst all these abnormalities and enormities, an insignificant creature amongst all these strident supermen, undermen, new men and nonmen. Whole crowds of these prodigies surrounded me: partly intellects of exceptional talent, partly only unusually foolish poseurs and confidence tricksters! [46]


There were the "Cosmics" who assembled "in incense-laden, hieratically-gloomy studios high up in the attics of working-class suburban houses"; protagonists of all forms of nationality; and occultists:

The occult fashion of the time after the first world war had its origin here in Schwabing! Theosophists, of course feuding among themselves to the extent of the most fanatical hatred, and splintered into different schools of thought; mystics, Gnostics, Taoists, Mazdaists, Buddhists, Neo-Buddhists, Zionists crowded together with Nihilists, Collectivists, Syndicalists, Bolshevists, Pacifists (these mostly women, here known as "Peace-furies") and other world-reforming fanatics of all races. Here everything impossible to man was jumbled together with all human possibilities. All types of humanity came together, from the tragic inner circle around the Most High, from those who were never tired of themselves, from those bitten by heroism to sacrifice themselves for an idea, for a great matter, for a divine Leader, for a woman. [47]


This was the atmosphere of the age which even then the astrologers were heralding as the Age of Aquarius. The most original contribution that Munich made to the new irrationalism came from a group which formed, at first, part of the charmed "George Circle" around Stefan George and his magazine, Blatter fur die Kunst; it subsequently broke off, becoming known in Schwabing as the "Cosmic Circle." Apart from George himself, the most influential figures were Alfred Schuler, Ludwig Klages, Karl Wolfskehl, and Ludwig Derleth. There also presided over the posturings and proclamations the spirit of the romantic Swiss anthropologist J. J. Bachofen (1815-87), whose ideas were enthusiastically adopted by the Munich Cosmics.

In 1890 Michael Georg Conrad founded in Schwabing the Society for Modern Life, around which had gathered George, Wolfskehl, Schuler, and Countess Fanny von Reventlow. Two years later the first issue of Blatter fur die Kunst appeared, with its proclamation of a new "spiritual art" and the obvious overtones of French Symbolism which its perpetrators at once denied. It would get no one anywhere, they maintained, to call them "symbolists," "decadents," or "occultists." Yet in 1895 Wolfskehl is found announcing that "A new priesthood has arisen to found a new Empire of the spirit," and it was for his "spiritual" qualities that Stefan George was prized by subsequent generations of German youth. George remained resolutely attached to his poetry and could not be dislodged from his isolated and aesthetic stance to take part with the others in attempts to hammer out a plan for a new society. As Alfred Schuler said: "George has the power! But what does he create with it? -- Art!" On the other hand, Klages, Schuler, and to some extent Wolfskehl tried to envisage a real future from their initially aesthetic positions. Their visions were symbolic, transcendental, and "illuminated," possessing little coherence outside the context of the self-contained world which engendered them. [48]

In 1899 Schuler, Klages, and Wolfskehl first came together. All three were influenced by Nietzsche and the spirit of Blatter fur die Kunst, but the presiding influence on the group was Bachofen. The appeal of the Swiss anthropologist rested on his romantic approach to evidence, supported by a cult of ancient Rome (which became widespread around the turn of the century, not only among the Cosmics) and, most importantly, by his theory of human evolution. This postulated five stages from the most primitive society till that of the present day. The original condition of man, however, was expressed by the term "Mother-Right," for Bachofen considered that the state of nature had been a condition of complete sexual promiscuity in which the mother's name was the only recognized basis of establishing kinship and hence of social relations. He argued this through the interpretation of color-symbolism and funeral ornaments, as well as from well-known facts such as that in some primitive tribes no connection is yet made between copulation and conception. To the appeal of his symbolic method, therefore, Bachofen added the vision of a Golden Age, free from repression, in which all might discover their ideal. [49]

It was a vision peculiarly adapted to the times, and it harmonized well with the irrationalist opposition to the society which was. Wolfskehl was intrigued by hermaphroditic Oriental gods and so found food for thought in Bachofen; Klages saw in his symbols the designs of a sinless humanity. Schuler took over the cult of the Great Mother and combined it with his personal mysticism and reverence for ancient Rome. [50]

Ludwig Klages (1872-1956) began his unorthodox inquiries into the nature of humanity in the field of graphology. He had become interested in the scientific study of handwriting at the age of sixteen. In 1896 he and the criminologist Hans Heinrich Busse founded the German Graphological Society and began to issue a journal for their rapidly expanding membership. One of Klages's graphological colleagues introduced him to Schuler as "an interesting paranoid." Alfred Schuler (1865-1923) lived with his mother until she died in 1912, and cultivated mystical theories and a reverence for Rome; for some time he had studied archaeology in the seminar of the Munich archaeologist Furtwangler. At the time he met Klages, Schuler was contemplating an exposition of his theories in the form of a novel dealing with life in the Rome of the Emperor Nero. Schuler impressed the graphologist by deducing from one of his poems a sexual experience which Klages had had at the age of eight or nine and had kept firmly secret.

The two circumspectly approached Wolfskehl -- who, as a Jew, was immediately suspect to Schuler, a great part of whose theories turned on the importance of "pure" blood. [51] The climax of this association, which led to the beginning of the breach between the Cosmics and their earlier hero, Stefan George, came in April 1899, when Schuler gave a "Roman feast" to which George and the Cosmic Circle were invited. As Schuler took the floor and began to declaim, George increasingly showed signs of impatience while the others lapsed more and more under the speaker's spell. Eventually George succeeded in persuading Klages to leave with him and demanded to be taken from the house of madmen to the nearest and most ordinary beer house where good, solid, ordinary citizens swilled beer and smoked cigars. [52] The prophet of spiritual art balked at the prophet of an irrationalist civilization. The breach was smoothed over until 1904, when the combination of Schuler's and Klages's anti-Semitism and Wolfskehl's divided loyalties caused the secession of the latter from the Cosmics and their final rupture with George. After the quarrel with George, Schuler went about claiming that George had bewitched him into impotence, and Klages took some twenty years to recover. [53]

George's opinion of Schuler seems to have fluctuated. In 1901 he dedicated a poem to "the genius of Alfred Schuler"; and Wolfskehl's wife reported a remark made by George to a mutual friend: "When I saw Schuler for the first time, I had the feeling that I stood before a Potency." But George could not stomach the events of the years 1900-04 in which the Cosmics attempted to make Munich the center of a new, "Cosmic" consciousness. They were to overturn the established order and return to the Urheimat of the soul, the primeval realm of freedom displayed by Bachofen; or, as it has also been put, to liberate the forces of the unconscious. Thus Schuler, reproached by Stefan George for his disregard for Art, replied that he preferred to live -- he might almost say, to be lived. [54]

The liberation of the new consciousness involved some recourse to the old magic. Schuler at one point projected a resurrection of an ancient Greek dance of healing to cure the sick Nietzsche, in which the dancers would wear copper armor. Klages met in the Cosmic Circle a "Jewish Egyptologist, a member of a secret order" who told him that he had an astral body, but had not yet traveled in it. Even in the less extravagant society of Stefan George, the occult had always had some place, for all the coy disclaimers; and it is entirely appropriate that George's circle after the breach with Klages and Schuler should include the writer on occultism Maz Dessoir, as well as the young English musician Cyril Scott, who was later to become a devoted Theosophist. [55]

For Klages and Schuler, the return to primeval consciousness signified different, and almost equally indefinite, ideals. Klages set Bachofen on his head. Whereas the anthropologist had seen in the overthrow of Mother-Right the triumph of Apollo over the demonic forces of the old world, Klages saw this as a sin against the spirit and yearned for a return to the times of antiquity. He came to preach the triumph of "Eros" -- which signified for him cosmic ecstasy.

Eros means elemental or cosmic, inasmuch as the individual possessed by it, experiences himself as penetrated and flowed through by an instantaneous electrical current.


Originally, however, Eros had signified blood-brotherhood, and this "racial self-consciousness" would lead all its bearers back into the secret of the sinless world. [56] Schuler's theories, even more than those of Klages, emphasized the racial doctrine. He found his reverence for Rome supported in Bachofen, seeing the Roman Empire as the stalwart defense of the West against the debilitating influences of the Orient. Jews and Christians together contrived the fall of the Empire; but the Aryan race alone had preserved a pure bloodline. Along both Rhine and Danube Klages discovered what he called the "illumination of the blood." [57]

It is becoming clearer that certain notorious theories which became bound up with Nazism are part and parcel of the search for "immaterial reality"; but this is not at the moment the important point. We have not moved far away from occultism pure and simple. We are still in the sociological territory of the Underground, and the undifferentiated yearning for an ideal state of human nature is to be found in many hearts during the decade 1890-1910. The insistence of Schuler that Judeo-Christian civilization suppressed the true German virtues is naturally seen in the context of later political history. But his theme, that the true religion -- or culture, or science -- has been concealed by an Establishment conspiracy is a staple of occult literature. We have seen it already in the works of the Freemason Kerning, and it finds a notable expression in Madame Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled. The precise definition of Underground and Establishment is always up to the definer. Time and place always worked upon the basic impulse, and ideas like Schuler's were resurrected after the Great War in very specific form.

Ludwig Derleth was another prophet who lived in Schwabing, that suburb of the new world, at the time of the Cosmic Circle's crusade to alter the consciousness of their contemporaries. He was peripherally a "Cosmic" himself, but of a different stamp. Ludwig Derleth (1870-1948) forms an important link between the illuminates of Munich and the major figures of the occult revival. In 1889-92 he was at Munich University studying a wide range of subjects. After a wretched period of schoolmastering and some small success with his poetry, Derleth left his job and entered a monastery near Munich in 1896. Next year he journeyed to Rome, with the intent of studying for the priesthood and founding a new religious order. The German College refused to admit him, and he was enrolled in the Polish Community of the Resurrectionists. Three months after his admittance he was dismissed for lack of vocation, and he made for Paris, threatening to make himself the leader of "such a movement as has not yet been seen in the history of the world."

He lived for a while on the Isle Saint-Louis but failed to find any candidates for the projected Order. Four years earlier, Derleth had visited the Catholic magus Josephin Peladan, and it seems that on this second visit to Paris he renewed his occult friendships which included Papus (Gerard Encausse) and his disciple, Paul Sedir. The inspiration behind Derleth's scheme for a new order was George Oppenheimer, whom Derleth had met in the Munich monastery. Oppenheimer dubbed the group of friends a "Company" and ordered Derleth to call him "His Majesty." Derleth announced that he would resign from the Company when he had converted three worthy men. By 1899 he had lost hope in his artistic and esoteric connections and again began to teach in Munich. His inspirer Oppenheimer dropped out completely: he appeared briefly in Munich as a musician in 1900, in 1913 he left Montmartre for Tibet to return as a Buddhist lama, and he was later noticed by the Paris literati in the Cafe du Dome. In 1924 he surfaced once more in Munich as an irrecoverable degenerate. [58]


Ludwig Derleth was a deeply committed member of the idealistic and occultist Underground, and the fate of Oppenheimer might well have been his. He had met Alfred Schuler in the middle of the 1890s, and remained respectful although cool toward him. Derleth saw the seances, in which Schwabing believed Schuler to indulge, as black magic. When the Cosmic circle broke up in 1904, he issued invitations to three readings of his Proclamations which held forth the promise of a new world as irrationalist as that of Schuler but based on principles entirely his own. To one of these readings came the novelist Thomas Mann.

There were sermons, comparisons, theses, laws, visions, prophecies and exhortations like Orders of the Day, which followed each other in gaudy and unpredictable series in a mixture of styles drawn from the tones of the Psalms or Revelations together with technical terms from military strategy as well as philosophical criticism. A feverish and terribly waspish Ego elevated itself in lonely megalomania, and threatened the world with a flood of powerful words. Christus Imperator Maximus was his name, and he was recruiting death-hardened troops for the conquest of the globe; he appointed embassies, stipulated his pitiless conditions; he demanded poverty and chastity, and repeated again and again in unbounded tumult with a sort of unnatural sensuality the order for implicit obedience. Buddha, Alexander, Napoleon and Jesus were named as his humble predecessors, unworthy to clean the shoes of the spiritual emperor ....

Calumnies and Hosannahs -- incense and the reek of blood mingled. In thunderous battles the world was conquered and set free. [59]


The Proclamations were a nine-day wonder and remained in the minds of their hearers for very much longer. The concluding sentence became notorious: "Soldiers, I deliver unto you for plundering -- the world!" The second Schwabinger Beobachter, the newspaper of the Bohemians, which was edited by Countess Reventlow and Oskar Schmitz, appeared after the readings with a motto describing the advent in Schwabing of "Jesus Bonaparte." [60] With Schuler and Klages, Derleth shared an admiration for Napoleon; but the coming Reich of Christ the King was his alone. He had not given up all hopes of founding an Order. The flat he shared with his devoted sister in Munich remained until 1924 a place of pilgrimage for the idealistic intelligentsia, and Derleth became occupied with the thought of translating his concepts into practice.

Under the stress of the Great War, and in mounting distaste for the civilization which had produced it, many of the denizens of Schwabing were moving to the country to found colonies where the true life could be lived away from the collective mistakes of humanity. In 1916 Derleth's friend Christine Ulrich moved to Kassel to look for the good life on the land. The Schwabing prophet wrote a new version of the Proclamations and dreamed of the establishment of his ideal city, the Rosenburg.

In the Rosenburg, the inmates would have the freedom to work under the direction of the master of the order toward the alchemical transmutation. Their task would also be to train the younger generation as an elite.


Through fasting, prayer and ascetic exercises, through the washing of the body and the purification of the soul, through the natural music of the sacred trees, when there is a storm and the metallic beeches crash their branches together, prepare yourselves ... and grow in the temple-garden of the Order; young eagles, who when you are fledged, may fly over the walls of Paradise.


Derleth's biographer compares the project of the Order to other attempted Utopias founded at this time, and specifically to the Order of the New Templars of Lanz von Liebenfels and the mythical Castalian Order of Hermann Hesse. Hesse's creation -- a secluded order where elite spirits take part in the "Glass Bead Game," the supreme synthesis of human achievement, somewhere between mysticism, mathematics, and music -- is a sort of distillation of all the Utopian plans in the air between the wars. (We shall take up later the specifically political and German aspects of Lanz's orders.)

Derleth's Rosenburg, although itself never realized, did bear tangible fruit. Utopian conceptions were all of a piece with the temper of the times, and it will be useful to survey here some of the more nebulous of such achievements, which embodied the idealistic impulse without more specific goals than the establishment of a small enclave in the city of Mammon. For, as Derleth put it: "Over the whole world asylums of inner freedom are multiplying themselves," and the search for another reality to be found within a closed circle was in Germany before and after the First World War a part -- as it always had been -- of the search to realize the good on earth.

If Derleth's vision of a healthy soul in a purified body seems reminiscent of the less poetic Utopia of Mazdaznan, the similarity of some of his aims to those of the followers of Otto Hanisch should not be glossed over. The retreat from material reality took place with a few basic ideas -- the evilness of society as at the time constituted, the evilness of sacrificing animal life to live oneself, the necessity for "spiritual" development, and the training of the better men who were to follow. But the precise combination of social theory, vegetarianism, mysticism, and sense of mission varied from colony to colony. Once more, the unspecifically mystical and the definitely occult can furnish the inquirer with a useful index of the illuminated pattern of thought.

Leaving out for a moment the more political colonies, the spectrum ranged from the alchemical conception of Derleth through the eccentricities of Mazdaznan to the colony called Friedenstadt established by Joseph Weissenberg and his followers in 1926 at Trebbin in der Mark. Undoubtedly the chief motive for almost all -- even the political colonies -- was the urge to escape the pressure of life in the industrial towns. To one observer most of the colonies seemed at first to have been founded "as rendezvous for vegetarians hungry for light and air." [62]

The same observer described several Utopias. There was "Jungborn" in the Harz mountains, which was really a sanatorium run on Theosophical principles. There was the "Graalhohe" near Schmiedeberg, based on the precepts of the German-American occultist Dr. Philipp Braun, who was concerned with developing "the individuality" of his pupils. [63] There were the relatively famous colonies directed by Johannes Muller, first at Schloss Mainberg and latterly at Schloss Elmau in Bavaria. Muller (born 1864) had left the University of Leipzig in 1892, convinced that Christianity had become a fraud. He felt that a fresh spontaneity was necessary and could be found in a reinterpretation of the commandment "become as little children." Muller became secretary of the Mission to the Jews and traveled in the Balkans and South Russia, where he met his future colleague, Heinrich Lhotzky. In 1903 Schloss Mainberg was opened as a "center for organic life"; but the venture almost foundered, first because Muller had differences with Lhotzky, to whom he had entrusted the administration of Schloss Mainberg. Muller's vision was of the coming reign of God -- whereas Lhotzky's interpretation of the universe was distinctly magical. Indeed, some time later Lhotzky resigned his office as a Lutheran pastor and finally decided that Christianity was a great misinterpretation of Jesus. [64]

After the departure of the Lhotzkys, Muller developed his personal plans but refused constantly to define what he was trying to do. [65] It could be that this very indefiniteness resulted in success. In 1911 he had to leave Mainberg for Elmau, where in the middle of the Great War his establishment became a place of refuge for the Munich intelligentsia. Muller asserted the primacy of the Sermon on the Mount, the importance of a sympathetic education for a child, and he attacked contemporary "intellectualism." When the National Socialists came to power in 1933, he thought that he saw in the movement the possibility of realizing his hopes of an "organic society" and gave support to the regime in his publications. Muller himself received official praise for his views. Indefinite as they were in their hostility to the intellect and insistence on developing a more "spiritual" form of society, they might easily have been seen as analogous to Nazi thought. In 1943, however, he fell afoul of the SS, and only the personal intervention of Alfred Rosenberg saved him from the concentration camp. [66]

The ease with which a harmless idealism might be converted to an illuminated approach of a very different nature is significant. [*] When Schloss Elmau was in its prime, it was described as "a hydropathic for better-off people ... at the same time a holiday haven for poor students and badly paid women -- conditions being made to suit all classes." The simple existence advocated by Muller undoubtedly appealed to the world-weary of all ages. His prescription for daily life began with getting up immediately on waking and the devotion of the morning to perceiving the "hidden motions of the soul." The day's work should be done without haste, which was the root of the anxiety blighting people's lives, and the evening was for sociable activities. The day ended with an examination of its events.

The most famous of all the colonies was Monte Verita. To this Utopia at Ascona in Switzerland came, at one time or another, most members of the Progressive Underground. It had close connections both with occultism springing from Theosophy and with the Munich of the Cosmics. The idea originated in the summer of 1899 at a nature cure at Veldes in Austria, when the twenty-four-year-old Henri Oedenkoven (the son of a rich Antwerp industrialist) met a pretty music teacher called Ida Hoffmann in whom he discovered a kindred spirit. Oedenkoven's illness and that of Ida Hoffmann were classic cases of neurasthenia. The young Belgian had discovered the swindle of civilization; and when nature therapy accomplished his cure, he determined to apply the remedy to all the ills of mankind. In October, 1900, in Ida Hoffmann's house in Munich, seven freedom seekers gathered under the leadership of Oedenkoven and Ida. They included a Theosophist and an Oberleutnant Karl Graser, whose military experiences had converted him to pacifist opinions and an idealistic anarchism. The group discovered and bought a small hill above Ascona, an area already populated with artists, philosophers, Theosophists, vegetarians, and political refugees. The hill was christened Monte Verita, and the colonists started to build.

Their troubles began early. One disturbing influence was the brother of the Oberleutnant, who arrived in a toga, reciting vegetarian poems. He was sent away and he teamed up with a clairvoyant with eight children whom he disposed of progressively by the simple procedure of leaving them "for a while" with some friendly passerby in the street and not coming back. [67]

Within the colony dissension arose as to the type of new world they were building. Oedenkoven wanted to preserve private property, Karl Graser held out for a phalanstery on the principles of Fourier; and an artisan called Fritz Rohl, whom the leaders had imported out of a sense of duty, lectured on phrenology and spiritualism while loudly demanding complete communism. Members of the Underground arrived unheralded, to "help" in the construction of the colony; most proved to be ill either physically or mentally. In the winter of 1902 the severe snow drove most of the new arrivals to warmer climates, and a party left to establish a colony on Samoa. Fritz Rohl tried to emigrate to America but died in a police cell at Naples. [69]

Henri Oedenkoven, who had the money, of course won in the end. From 1902 onward Ascona became a center for the Progressive Underground. Among the celebrated visitors to Monte Verita were Bakunin, Kropotkin, Lenin, Trotsky, Hermann Hesse, Countess Reventlow, Erich Miihsam, Karl Wolfskehl, Martin Buber, Hans Arp, Stefan George, Paul Klee, Boris Jawlensky, Isadora Duncan, Emmy Hennings, and Hugo Ball. The locals grew suspicious of the motley collection. There were arrests for such crimes as wearing shorts. Politicians like Dr. Raphael Friedenberg (publisher of the Sozialistische Monatshefte and a pioneer of the idea of the General Strike) mingled with eccentrics like the Baltic baron, known as "mad Rechenberg" because his Theosophy -- he belonged to Franz Hartmann's persuasion -- forbade him excessive physical movement and led him to consider that it was a holy act to kill a woman.

Rechenberg's creed competed with that of the leading Ascona occultist Frau Dr. Paulus (a friend of Annie Besant) who at the age of ninety-two considered herself the reincarnation of Giordano Bruno. Meanwhile, as the reputation of Ascona grew (and journalists wrote absurd articles on how the "natural men" of Monte Verita lived in holes in the ground), Oedenkoven and Ida Hoffmann kept in touch with other centers of idealistic experiment. They toured similar colonies, visited Johannes Muller, and attended Bayreuth. The "cure" offered by Monte Verita for a time prospered. It was not an ordinary cure, wrote Ida Hoffmann, "but much more a school for higher life, a place for arousing of expanded knowledge and expanded consciousness (these places will multiply) made fruitful by the sunbeams of the Universal Will."

Thus, to Oedenkoven's original project of redeeming the world by expanding centers of vegetarian socialism, there was added a substantial dose of the mystical. It had been present from the first in the Monte Veritaner and was fertilized by contact with existing Ascona occultism. Oberleutnant Graser developed the conviction that he could personally drive back the cold; and another member of the colony retired into the hills where she improved her soul by contemplating nature and earned the reverence of some of the pious. Ascona became a place of pilgrimage for small sects. Ida Hoffmann became ever more Theosophical; and in the town of Ascona the reincarnated Giordano Bruno ceded precedence to a spiritualist Frau Steindamm, whose daughter married a convinced follower of Rudolf Steiner and kept an Anthroposophical salon. In this circle there appeared one Hermann Schutz, conversing with Zarathustra, Christ, Lao-tse, and Socrates. He bought some land near Monte Verita and decided to found a male order toward which object he issued a newspaper called Hastinapura, a journal for the propagation of a more elevated viewpoint. [70]

The most significant occult organization to be associated with Monte Verita was the magical society known as the Ordens Tempel der Ostens, otherwise, the Order of the Templars of the Orient. This society originated in a charter given by an English masonic entrepreneur called John Yarker to three German occultists: Joshua Klein, Franz Hartmann, and Theodore Reuss. This charter licensed them to set up in Berlin a Grand Lodge of the masonic rite called "Mizraim and Memphis" which Yarker had concocted from two moribund organizations. (By 1904 a fourth name and a new title were being mentioned in the magazine of the Order: Karl Kellner and the O.T.O.) [71]  

Joshua Klein had been one of the earliest visitors at Monte Verita. He had arrived somewhat in the manner of the Wunderapostel Hauser at house of Meyrink, striking himself on the chest and exclaiming, "I am that I am." In 1902 Oedenkoven and Ida Hoffmann had returned the call by traveling to Klein's own colony, Erdsegen, in Upper Bavaria, which Klein had established after inheriting some half-million marks, and whose basis was that the spiritual state of the human being affected his state of physical health. [72] In occult circles Klein enjoyed an unsavory reputation. We have already met his friend, Franz Hartmann, whose own standing was equally disputed, as an associate of Madame Blavatsky and a leading figure in the circle of Viennese Theosophists around Friedrich Eckstein. Hartmann had himself lived for some time around Locarno and Ascona. [73] His colleague, Karl Kellner, was the originator of the process which Hartmann had developed into the cure he practiced at his "Inhalation Center"; he is described by one authority as "a wealthy iron-master." [74] Kellner died in 1905, and Theodore Reuss took over the organization of the O.T.O. Reuss was half-German and half-English. Francis King has discovered that his talents included singing in the music halls and spying for the Prussian political police on the Social Democratic Federation in Britain. [75] He had lived in London and Paris before moving to Basel, where he worked as a newspaper correspondent and a teacher of English at the Berlitz school. By 1919 he was announcing himself on his visiting card as an "Honorary Professor at the College for Applied Medicine (Universite de France)." [76] Two or three years earlier, Ida Hoffmann had met Reuss in Spiritualist circles, and introduced him to Oedenkoven and Monte Verita.

At first, Reuss presented himself to Oedenkoven as a disciple of his vegetarian socialism. According to Robert Ackermann (who tried to revive the colony at Monte Verita in the 1920s and afterwards became the historian of the group) Oedenkoven was doubtful of the sincerity of the new colonist. But he allowed him to stay for a year, because the fortunes of Monte Verita had run low as a result of the war and a tax on foreigners levied by the neutral Swiss. Eventually, Reuss with the support of Ida Hoffmann, introduced the O.T.O. to Monte Verita. The peculiarity of this magical society was that it used "sexual rites." Precisely what this meant in fact, is a difficult problem. In 1912 Theodore Reuss chartered Aleister Crowley to run a branch of the O.T.O., and it was from this source that Crowley developed his theories of the magical power of sex. It is said that the order owed its sexual teachings to the researches of Karl Kellner in the lore of Bengali Tantricism. [77] But the charge of using, or abusing, sex has so often been levied unjustifiably at occultists, that it is as well to be wary of all insinuations of "horrible goings-on" and to record the fact that -- whether the O.T.O. at Monte Verita attempted to produce magical effects through sexual intercourse, or whether its members tried to sublimate their sexual energy and turn it to magical purpose -- the reputation of the colony worsened. Rumors of midnight orgies persisted into the 1930s. Several children were said to have been born with "no father but God."

Oedenkoven at last threw Reuss out -- but not before the magician had called a fortnight's congress at Monte Verita from 15 to 25 August 1917. This "A-national Congress" was designed to appeal to the pacifists, anti-vivisectionalists, and the Progressive Underground generally. It was said to be organized by the "Ordo Templi Orientis, and Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, the A-national Grand Lodge and Mystic Temple, 'Verita Mystica'." To reactionary politicians and supporters everywhere of conspiracy theories, it seemed that their worst forebodings were confirmed -- the forces of subversion had joined hands under the supervision of a black magician!

A revival of interest engendered by the Congress sustained Monte Verita for three more years. But in 1920 Oedenkoven, who had become disillusioned with his Utopia, left with his wife and Ida Hoffmann for Brazil, where they established a second colony; in 1934 it was still in existence. [78] Ascona remained a town of philosophers, artists, and Theosophists, a center of the Underground. Its traditions were to be resurrected. And at Dornach, not so far away, was the headquarters of a more highly organized occult group than any Ascona had boasted: Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophical Society. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) was born in Kraljevec in what was then part of the Hungarian jurisdiction of the Dual Monarchy and is now in Yugoslavia. His father was a railway official, and Steiner spent his childhood at various villages on the Austrian Southern Region. His parents moved near Vienna so the boy could visit the Technische Hochschule in 1879.

Soon after the family's move to Vienna, Steiner met a rustic herbalist called Felix Kogutzki, whom he greatly revered as a natural mystic and repository of traditional wisdom. Theosophical followers were afterward to assert that he met a Himalayan master at the same time. [79] However, his first influential acquaintance who can be designated with any certainty was Professor Karl Julius Schroer, a teacher of German language and literature who specialized in the collection of folklore. In the circle of Schroer he met that concealed influence on so many of the mystically inclined, Friedrich Eckstein; and he soon became a regular member of the group who gathered in the "Megalomania Cafe" on the Michaelerplatz, where Steiner's old-fashioned frock coat and top hat gave his friends the impression of an "undernourished seminarian," and he distinguished himself by endless disagreements with Hermann Bahr. His approach to Eckstein was made on account of the latter's contact with H. P. Blavatsky; and Eckstein records Steiner's request for an introduction into the problems of The Secret Doctrine. Their acquaintanceship lasted for an appreciable time, and it was Eckstein who introduced Steiner to Rosa Mayreder and the Theosophical circle of Marie and Edmund Lang. Under their influence Rudolf Steiner studied Oriental thought, medieval mysticism, Neo-Platonism, and the Cabala, by much of which he later claimed to be repelled. But he was close enough to Theosophical circles to obtain a copy of A. P. Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism soon after its appearance. [80]

At the same time as Steiner was penetrating esoteric circles, he had some success with the established authorities of literature and learning. His own philosophical development was influenced by a reaction against the system of Eduard von Hartmann, whose insistence on the dominating force of the "Unconscious" he found abhorrent -- nothing, thought Steiner, should be unconscious. Through his reading of Schiller he later claimed to have attained a spiritual perception as exact as mathematics; but the chief influence on his life was Goethe. In 1883 he was invited to edit Goethe's scientific writings for the projected standard edition; and his first publications dating from 1886, are on Goethe. In 1890 Steiner left Vienna to work for six years at the Goethe Archive at Weimar, bearing with him not only the orthodox training which was to gain him a Ph.D. the next year at Rostock, but a wide-ranging body of general knowledge culled from every discipline under the sun; for he had had to support himself in Vienna by tutoring and had achieved one remarkable success in "bringing on" a hydrocephalic boy. Thus, by the time he moved to Weimar, most of the preoccupations of his later life had taken root: his interest in Theosophy, his bent for education, and a philosophical allegiance to German idealism. In Weimar, apart from his work at the Goethe Archive, he visited the ailing Nietzsche and published several philosophical books. In 1897 Steiner moved to Berlin and became editor of the Magazin fur Literatur. Always he was searching, in the manner of his contemporaries, for the universal palliative to anxiety.

Always the thought hovered before me that the turn of the century must bring a new spiritual light to humanity. It seemed to me that the exclusion of human thinking and willing from the spirit had reached a climax. A revolutionary change in the process of human evolution seemed to me a matter of necessity.

Many were talking in this way. But they did not see that a man will seek to direct his eyes towards a world of real spirit as he directs them through the senses towards nature. They only supposed that the subjective spiritual temper of the soul would undergo a revolution. That a real, new objective world could be revealed, such a thought lay beyond the range of vision of that time. [81]
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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Part 3 of 3

Despite his later assertions, it seems that he did not at the time rule out the possibility of a reformation of human nature in terms less occult, and more related to the social goals of the opponents of materialist society. He became involved in the Free Literary Society, taught at the Berlin Workers' School, and generally behaved himself as a member of the Progressive Underground -- more respectable, more established than most; but he undoubtedly belonged to this milieu. He formed a friendship with John Henry Mackay, a half-Scot, half-German anarchist of some fame who was the editor of Max Stirner and who had admired Steiner's book The Philosophy of Freedom. At Steiner's marriage to the widow Anna Eunicke (on 31 October 1899), Mackay was the witness. [82]

This first marriage of Steiner has given rise to conflicting reports, and as Steiner himself always refused categorically to discuss his private life, it is difficuit to know just where to place the emphasis. Sources favorable to Steiner note only that after a separation of several years, Anna Steiner died in March 1911 after confessing her former happiness with Rudolf Steiner to her daughter Wilhelmine. [83] On the other hand, information from another daughter, Emmy, tells a different tale. Steiner had first come to the Eunicke family as a lodger in his early days in Weimar, when Emmy Eunicke was a girl of sixteen. It is plain that she resented the intrusion of the young academic into a family consisting of her widowed mother and her sisters. Emmy considered that Steiner was excluding the Eunicke children from their rightful inheritance both in terms of affection and of material goods. Her dislike of the newcomer became increasingly acute after he became her stepfather and the family moved to Berlin. For Steiner returned to Theosophical company, and accumulated the gaggle of adoring women invariably attracted to "occult" masters. One of his new disciples -- she is not named in the published account for fear of a libel action -- became Steiner's inseparable companion. According to the jealous daughter, a door was knocked in the wall between the flat of the Steiners and the parts of the Theosophical headquarters inhabited by the lesser lights, so that Steiner could visit his paramour. One summer about the year 1904 Steiner took a furnished Schlachtensee cottage divided into two flats -- one for his wife and another for his lover. Eventually, Emmy Eunicke claimed to have found her stepfather and his disciple in bed together. At all events, Anna Steiner seems to have become tired of waiting on her husband and his disciples, and after the marriage of her daughter Emmy in 1906 she left Steiner to live near her. The sudden death of Steiner's wife in 1911 sent rumors fluttering around the occult press, that Steiner had "strangled her astrally." [84]

It must immediately be said that the source of this story is a two-headed Gorgon: a jealous daughter and a highly eccentric Nazi polemicist. It was made great play with by Steiner's opponents, who grew in geometrical progression, and the details should not be insisted upon. The charge most often brought against Steiner -- excluding those of lunatics concerned with astral strangulation -- is of opportunism, and the possibility of his having married a rich widow for her money cannot be ruled out. About the same time as his marriage to Anna Eunicke, Steiner turned from his unwontedly extroverted existence toward the Theosophical interests which had earlier concerned him and accepted an invitation from Count and Countess Brockdorff, the leaders of the Theosophical Society in Berlin, to lecture to their members. He lectured first on Nietzsche; then on the esoteric interpretation of Goethe's fairy tale, "The Green Snake and the Beautiful Lily." In the winter of 1900 he further committed himself to a mystical approach by lecturing to the Theosophists on "Christianity as Mystical Fact." In the audience was his future second wife -- who, if there is any truth in Emmy Eunicke's story, was almost certainly the woman whom Steiner introduced into the strange menage a trois at Schlachtensee. Marie von Sivers (1867-1948), a Baltic Russian and a frustrated actress, was a keen Theosophist. She married Steiner secretly in 1914. After her initial encounter with him in Berlin, she went to Bologna to organize a Theosophical group there but returned to Germany in time to travel with Steiner to the London conference of the Theosophical Society in July 1902. At this point, Steiner was induced by the Brockdorff group to apply to Colonel Olcott at Adyar for a charter inaugurating a new German section of Theosophists. [85]

This transition from liberal academic to mystical lecturer is at first sight baffling. Steiner was not as inconsistent as it might appear. Since Vienna he had carried with him a large body of Theosophical knowledge, and such a combination of interests was not unusual among the Progressive Underground. Steiner's academic speciality was Goethe; and he had to digest Goethe's own interest in matters symbolic and esoteric in order to carry out his task of editing and criticizing. His meeting with Haeckel (the popularizer of Darwinianism in Germany and the protagonist of the theory of philosophical monism) had also given direction to his thought. Haeckel's monism was very influential during the early part of this century -- and not only in Germany. The scientist proposed to abolish the conventional distinction between matter and spirit and to return to the conception of a unified organism -- a proposition which he himself defined explicitly as religious, and which gave rise to innumerable theories of political organization disguised under the term "organic state." For the propagation of this viewpoint -- which carried overtones of reassurance, the restoration of order, and the feeling of "belonging" -- were formed a number of societies. [86] At one of these, the Giordano Bruno Bund, Steiner delivered what he was later to regard as the basic lecture on his emerging "spiritual science," Anthroposophy. This lecture on "Monism and Theosophy" took place on 8 October 1902, around the time when the German section of the Theosophical Society was reorganized with Steiner as general secretary. Steiner's own explanation of why he joined the society was that, at the time, "this was the sole institution worthy of serious consideration in which there was present a real spiritual life." [87] It is obvious that from the start Steiner carried into Theosophy a rigorous academic training and a philosophical inheritance completely different from the mixture of Eastern religion and 18th-century occultism which had gone into the making of Theosophy of the Blavatsky brand. If we allow Steiner a consistency of aim and purpose he cannot be acquitted of the charge of joining the Theosophists with the intention of taking them over. Perhaps he had mentally returned to the preoccupations of his Vienna days, and merely proposed rather indefinitely to apply to these the conclusions of later years.

There was, in any case, bound to be friction between Steiner and the old guard of the German Theosophists. Of this group Steiner had later little good to say. Even Madame Blavatsky had found it difficult to stomach Franz Hartmann. "The magnetism of that man is sickening; his lying beastly; his slander of Hubbe-Schleiden, his intrigues unaccountable but on the ground that he is either a maniac -- utterly irresponsible for the most part, or allowed to be possessed by his own dugpa Spirit." Steiner claimed that Hartmann had once told a story of how William Quan Judge had complained to him that he never received any letters from the mysterious Himalayan masters. Judge refused Hartmann's suggestion that he write some to himself with the stricture that he must be able to say that his letters arrived out of the blue in the known fashion of Mahatma letters. Hartmann's solution was simple: he volunteered to climb on a chair and drop the letters on Judge's head. Hubbe-Schleiden's sincerity was never in doubt. The trouble was that he cultivated an illusion that could explain the metaphysical universe on a chemical analogy. He kept his attic crammed with models of spiritual atoms and maintained that reincarnations must be connected by a single "Permanent Atom" (according to Steiner, "an appalling thing"). [88]

An uneasy alliance persisted, however, until 1912, when two factors contributed to a split between Steiner's group and the Theosophists proper. The first was the expulsion by Steiner from the German Society of Hugo Vollrath, a disciple of Franz Hartmann and a known opportunist. The second was the growing power in Theosophical circles of Mrs. Besant's Order of the Star in the East, the vehicle of Krishnamurti and the coming World-Teacher. This Steiner could not stomach. Eventually in 1913 his followers -- most of the German Theosophists -- broke away and founded their rival Anthroposophical Society. Hubbe-Schleiden was left with orthodox Theosophists and the adherents of Krishnamurti. [89]

But between 1902 and 1913 much had happened in the development of Steiner's thought. He steadily built up a personal following, and first really established himself with a series of lectures that he was asked to give at the Theosophical conference in Paris in 1906. These attracted more attention than the official events. His search led him and Marie von Sivers into strange adventures, the most unlikely of which was Steiner's installation at the head of a lodge of the O.T.O. called the Mysteria Mystica Aeterna. The most probable date for his entry is January 1906. Steiner later maintained that his official position with regard to the O.T.O. was like that of a candidate for apostolic succession. He wanted, he said, to take over the historical authority to perform the "ancient symbolic and cultural ceremonies that embody the ancient wisdom. I never thought in the remotest degree of working in the spirit of such a society." It seems, nonetheless, that he may at one time have had the idea of creating a large international occult federation based on the structure of the O.T.O., but that, whatever use he made of the ceremonies handed over to him by Theodore Reuss, it is unlikely that he used "sex-magic" in the sense in which it was meant by his opponents. [90] What is important to notice is that Steiner could find in such diverse quarters as Theosophy, philosophical idealism, and the possibly Tantric magic of the O.T.O., material for his hoped-for revolution in consciousness.

If his sources were varied, his applications were equally so. For he intended Anthroposophy to be an all-embracing science that would provide answers both spiritually and materially satisfying in every branch of life. Agriculture, architecture, education, or politics -- all were areas in which he felt qualified to operate. By the time of his death in 1925, his society had become astonishingly influential and had attracted great hostility. The reasons for this hostility were various. One of the most obvious is that the Anthroposophical Society embodied so many different aspects of the Progressive Underground and represented in itself a collection of people who compounded the felonies of Marxists, Social Democrats, and other destroyers of the social order by deliberately advocating change. Nor was the sort of change which they advocated entirely understood.

I will try to re-state my point: I think very many anthroposophists, today as in the past, are profoundly confused about politics and routinely mix together left-wing and right-wing viewpoints, and when they get involved in progressive efforts they often end up representing the least emancipatory and most conservative elements within those milieus. I further argue that this pattern is not accidental but flows from Steiner's own reactionary political assumptions, outlined at some length in the present series of articles. Steiner himself is a classic example of the kind of left-right crossover in modern German culture that I study ...

In the words of the anthroposophist Jens Heisterkamp, “the anthroposophist movement did not produce any members of the Resistance.”

-- The Art of Avoiding History, by Peter Staudenmaier


This is unsurprising. Steiner's ideas form less a "system" than an accumulation of sometimes apparently disconnected items. Thus, from Theosophy he took the ideas of karma and reincarnation; from his mystical studies and possibly the O.T.O., a personal "Rosicrucianism." He discovered an entirely new idiosyncratic and poetic interpretation of Christianity, and somehow contrived a seeming coherence with these teachings for theories of the social and artistic life of man. The underlying unity which he and his followers found in these elements of Anthroposophy lies in their source in Steiner's "spiritual perception." This faculty of "clairvoyance" -- of insight into what might be called real reality -- Steiner claimed to have developed early in his Vienna period; but he later connected it with Goethe's technique for immersing himself in the essence of things. He thought that "a deep chasm had opened between Reason and its allied Thought Method on the one hand, and supersensual Truth on the other." [91] In accordance with Theosophical theory, he maintained that "man is not obliged to remain stationary at the point of view he occupies today and it is possible for organs -- spiritual eyes -- to develop after a similar fashion to that in which those physical sense-organs of the body, the eyes and ears have been developed; and once these new organs are developed, higher faculties will make themselves apparent." [92] As man advanced in this development, the beings of higher worlds would make themselves known to him and he would advance in knowledge. Steiner does not seem to have been above using his clairvoyant faculties gratuitously in the manner of a medium. Thus he informed the Protestant clergyman Friedrich Rittelmeyer -- who afterward became one of his firmest supporters -- that he had seen "a beautiful ether-form" after one of his sermons and that "an individuality" whom he took to be Rittelmeyer's mother attended his lectures. [93]

The chief uses Steiner made of his faculty were enunciating moral doctrine, describing the structure of the universe, and elucidating the history of man. Human history could be surveyed as far distantly as the seer might wish -- because of its impress on the "Akashic Record." This mysterious and convenient chronicle is a legacy from Madame Blavatsky; and like her, Steiner made great play with the doings of man on the lost continents of Atlantis and Lemuria. In Atlantis, for example, the inhabitants had thought in pictures, possessed extraordinary memories, and used the energy latent in plants to drive airships. The most evolved among them were gathered together by a great leader in Central Asia and subjected to a refining process with the object of making them understand the divine powers. From this group were descended the early priest-kings of the Aryans. [94]

The Original Semites were the fifth and most important of the seven Atlantean Races, because in them we find the first germ of the corrective quality of Thought. Therefore the Original Semitic Race become the "seed race" for the seven races of the present Aryan Epoch....

The Original Semites regulated their desires to some extent by the mind, and instead of mere desires, came cunning and craftiness -- the means by which those people sought to attain their selfish ends. Though they were a very turbulent people, they learned to curb their passions to a great extent and accomplish their purposes by the use of cunning, as being more subtle and potent than mere brute strength. They were the first to discover that "brain" is superior to "brawn."...

Under the guidance of a great Entity, the Original Semitic Race was led eastward from the continent of Atlantis, over Europe, to the great waste in Central Asia which is known as the Gobi Desert. There it prepared them to be the seed of the seven Races of the Aryan Epoch, imbuing them potentially with the qualities to be evolved by their descendants....now his thoughts were to be turned from the visible Leaders, the Lords from Venus, whom he worshiped as messengers from the gods -- to the idea of the true God, the invisible Creator of the System. Man was to learn to worship and obey the commands of a God he could not see.

-- The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception: An Elementary Treatise Upon Man's Past Evolution, Present Constitution and Future Development, by Max Heindel


The entire course of human development followed a scheme similar to that worked out by H. P. Blavatsky with the difference that man was seen as evolving back toward a lost divine condition. Man's effort toward a renewed perfection was impeded by two malevolent powers to which Steiner gave the names of Ahriman and Lucifer. Ahriman represents materialism and the world of matter, in which he seeks to imprison man's spirit. Lucifer is the demon of pride and self-sufficiency. This conception of the universe probably stems from Gnostic and Zoroastrian sources, on which Steiner is said to have worked around the year 1906. [95]

His Rosicrucianism seems first to have blossomed in 1907 (the year after he accepted the charter from the O.T.O). Steiner proclaimed the way of the Rosicrucians as an esoteric version of Christianity, and he decided that Christian Rosenkreuz, the great master of this concealed brotherhood, had sent his favorite pupil, Buddha, to Mars, where he had regenerated the planet as Christ had redeemed Earth. In the year before he died Steiner claimed to have been in contact with a small group of Rosicrucians in Central Europe -- but this happened in the early years of the 19th century before he had entered this current incarnation. Gradually the figure of Christ emerged as central to his vision of the cosmos. He saw the coming of Christ as equivalent on a cosmic scale to the effect produced on the individual by initiation in the mystery-religions: to return man to a consciousness of his divine origins. A strange and complex process was then envisaged in the universe which Steiner termed "the etherization of the blood." In the individual human being this affected the bloodstream around the region of the heart, turning it into "etherized blood." When a correct understanding of Christ had been obtained, the etherized blood of the individual mingled with the etherized blood of Christ, present in the cosmos. [96] Whether there is more meaning in this doctrine than a singular elaboration of the old idea of mystical participation in the body of Christ it is not the present task of this book to decide.

From Steiner's Christology sprang a subdivision of the Anthroposophical Society called the Christian Community. In 1921 several of Steiner's disciples approached him with a request that he construct for them a rite to be used in Christian worship for those who followed his teaching. Steiner produced such a service, "The Act of the Consecration of Man," and the group was placed under the leadership of Friedrich Rittelmeyer, who had come to Anthroposophy via several years of allegiance to Johannes Muller. [97]

Steiner's writings are verbose, diffuse, and difficult to decode. In part this is because so many thousands of pages represent published expansions of lecture notes. But there is frequently an absence of basic content -- by which is meant no attempt to evaluate the material, only a statement of quantitative fact. They have been taken seriously by large numbers of people, and particularly in the period just after the Great War they represented a force to be reckoned with. Not least was this so because the founder of Anthroposophy extended his spiritual perceptions to cover the most diverse areas of human activity, and in the general reaction toward the idealistic approach his theories appeared to many of those who were in search of a secure ideological crutch to provide more of a system than in fact they did.
We shall briefly return to Steiner's influence on education and the arts; and there is good reason to examine in their context his plans for political reconstruction. We can only note in passing that Anthroposophical medicine seems to be based partly on magical theories of correspondence -- for example cholera is a punishment for insufficient self-confidence and the pox for lack of affection. Today the Anthroposophists run clinics, a mental hospital, and a factory for medicines which has marketed a cancer cure. [98] Anthroposophical farming is carried out on a "Bio-Dynamic" basis which forbids exhaustion of the soil through the abuse of chemical fertilizers and advocates planting of crops in accordance with the phases of the moon. [99] Some of these agricultural methods at least seem to have borne literal fruit.

You catch a fairly young field-vole and flay it... We take the skin, when Venus stands in the sign of the scorpion, and combust the skin... Now take the ash, which you got this way, and pepper it out on the fields.

-- Rudolf Steiner (En Lantbrukskurs, Stockholm, 1966)


The campaign against Steiner and his society grew with the anxiety of the post-war years. As early as 1917 the magazine Psychische Studien had carried a series of articles denouncing Anthroposophy for causing mental and physical illness and in some cases suicide. Erich Bamler, a Munich artist, claimed that he had become dissociated through using exercises recommended by Steiner and was only prevented from suicide by his Christian convictions. A young schoolmistress became convinced that she had had an astral child. Steiner's opponents made much of such reports; and it should be firmly insisted that, whatever the effects of Steiner's exercises, they are not alone in having such accusations made against them. It is an unfortunate fact that every occult or esoteric group attracts its quota of just those people who seem to be worst affected by the practices they are supposed to carry out -- the hyper-suggestible, the sexually maladjusted, and those on the edge of desperation. The worst or oddest case connected with Anthroposophy concerned one Wilhelm Krieger, who claimed that he had been given occult exercises which involved the transferring of his ego outside his body. Krieger became convinced that he could not recover his "I," that it had been stolen from him, that he had been the victim of "occult vampirism." As his delusion progressed he began to issue a newsletter directed against the Anthroposophists, and eventually sued Steiner, his colleague Carl Unger, and another Anthroposophist for the return of his soul. The tragi-comedy did not end there. Denied legal redress, Krieger bided his time, and on 4 January 1929 murdered Dr. Unger at an Anthroposophical meeting in Stuttgart. [100]

Steiner and his followers were refused permission to build a center at Munich. After having naturally considered Ascona as a possible site, they erected their headquarters at Dornach. The building was designed by Steiner according to his architectural principles and embodied the same combination of woods as is used in the making of a violin. It consisted of two domed structures of which the larger slightly exceeded the size of the dome of St. Peter's. This remarkable building was known as the Goetheanum, and it was highly flammable. On New Year's Eve 1922/3, as the Goetheanum was nearing completion, it was set on fire. It was rumored that the pastor of the neighboring village of Reinach had watched the blaze through binoculars exclaiming his approval. An outraged Anthroposophist sent him (and two other clergymen who had directed the local opposition against Steiner) a postcard bearing the words, "Where is the arsonist?" The clerics replied that their questioner should go to Dr. Steiner, who was after all the clairvoyant. They accused the Anthroposophists of burning down their own headquarters for the insurance money. They even found sinister proof of their allegations in the humdrum fact that Steiner attended the funeral of a clockmaker called Ott whose body was found in the ashes of the building. [101]

Such hostility goes far beyond the local opposition of a band of bigots. There was extraordinary vehemence in the hate directed against Steiner, who was seen as part of the Jewish-Freemasonic conspiracy to subvert the world. It will soon be necessary to discuss the meaning of this aberration, and the specific causes which involved Steiner in the "plot." These were bound up with the peculiar character of German politics in the period after the defeat of 1918. The search for realities transcending those of the material world was not confined to those who hoped for Heaven after life on earth. Throughout this survey of the German Underground of irrationalist and occultist opinion, one thing stands out: that the illuminated approach very often entailed an application of the transcendental ethic to social problems. Steiner and the Progressive thinkers of Vienna and Ascona, in all their extravagance, are examples of this tendency.

_______________

Notes:

* A similar progress can be seen in Hermann Bahr, whose initial rebellion against rationalism and realism in art turned increasingly to Roman Catholicism and at the same time, to the Christian Socialist revival of Carl Ritter von Schonerer and Carl Luger. Bahr met Johannes Muller for a two-day conference in Berchtesgaden and Salzburg in 1911 or 1912. It was considered surprising that the meeting had not occurred before. Bahr wrote of Muller: "He opened up my heart to me." [68]

1. Andreas Steiner, "Das Nervose Zeitalter" in Zurcher Medizingeschichtlicher Abhandlungen, Neue Reihe Nr 21 (Zurich, 1964), p. 116.

2. Soren Kierkegaard, "Equilibrium," in Either/Or, vol. II (tr. Walter Lawrie, London, 1944), pp. 159-60.

3. Steiner, p. 117. Cf. the remarks made in The Occult Underground (p. 23) about the possibility of seeing the outbreak of "spirit mediumship" in the mid-19th century as a psychologically classifiable illness.

4. Toffler, Future Shock, pp. 291-93. He cites Dr. Thomas H. Holmes's "Life Change Unit Scale," which seems to have established a correlation between great changes in living patterns and severe illness. The evidence is so strong that it is becoming possible to predict levels of illness in various populations.

5. G. K. Nelson, Spiritualism and Society (London, 1969), pp. 155-61.

6. On Oliver Lodge, see his Raymond, or Life and Death (London, 1916).

7. On Doyle, see John Dickson Carr, The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (London, 1949), who does not even mention the episode of the fairies; Arthur Conan Doyle, The History of Spiritualism, vol. II (London, 1926), p. 225; Doyle, The Coming of the Fairies (2nd ed., London, 1928), pp. 22, 90, 136 ff.; E. L. Gardner, Fairies (2nd ed., London, 1951), pp. 45-46; Joseph Jastrow, Wish and Wisdom (London, 1935), pp. 52 ff.

8. See Lilly Heber, Krishnamurti: The Man and His Message (London, 1931), p. 59. According to a Reuter telegram from Krishnamurti's Dutch center at Ommen, George Lansbury congratulated Krishnamurti on abandoning organizations for the claims of the individual conscience. He was at that time a member of Ramsay MacDonald's cabinet.

9. On MRA, see Tom Driberg, The Mystery of Moral Re-armament (London, 1964); Lynden Macassey, foreword to Dr. Frank N. D. Buchman: An Eightieth Birthday Tribute (undated); A. J. Russell, For Sinners Only (London, 1932), pp. 65-69; Marjorie Harrison, Saints Run Mad (London, 1934), p. 58; Ivor Thomas, The Buchman Groups (London, 1933), p. 5; Frank Buchman, Remaking the World (London, 1947), especially Buchman's speech of March 1935: "Norway Ablaze;" W. H. Auden, "The Group Movement and the Middle Classes," in R. H. S. Crossman (ed.), Oxford and the Groups (London, 1935), pp. 89, 94.

10. Herman Hesse, The Journey to the East (tr. Hilda Rosner, New York, 1969), p. 6.

11. Hesse, Journey, p. 10.

12. Eberhard Buchner, Sekten und Sektierer in Berlin (Berlin/Leipzig, 1904), pp. 19 ff; Paul Scheurlen, Die Sekten der Gegenwart (4th ed., Stuttgart, 1930), pp. 115-21.

13. Buchner, Sekten, p. 68. John Alexander Dowie (1847-1907) was born in Edinburgh, the illegitimate son of an illiterate mother. He began his career as a Congregationalist minister in Sydney, Australia, where he developed a theory of "divine healing by the laying on of hands." In 1888 he emigrated to America and was the moving spirit in setting up the town of Zion City, where alcohol, tobacco, and conventional medicine were banned and which held 5,400 people by 1904. In 1903 the famous "visitation" of New York with meetings in the Carnegie Hall and Madison Square took place. Dowie's delusions of grandeur grew with the disillusion of his supporters, and the year before his death his chief lieutenant led the revolt that deposed him. See Rolvix Harlan, John Alexander Dowie and the Catholic Apostolic Church (Evansville, Wisconsin, 1906) and Edna Sheldrake (ed.), The Personal Letters of John Alexander Dowie (Zion City, Illinois, 1912).

14. Buchner, Sekten, pp. 78-90, 53-55; Scheurlen, Sekten, pp. 305-7. See e.g., Jacob Lorber, Haushaltung Gottes (Bietigheim, 1851).

15. Hans Freimark, Moderne Geisterbeschworer und Wahrheitssucher (Berlin/Leipzig, n.d.), p. 18.

16. Ellic Howe, Urania's Children (London, 1967), pp. 78-79; see also Franz Hartmann, Denkwurdige Errinnerungen (Leipzig, 1898), note by Hugo Goering in Werner Friedrichsort, Dr. Hubbe-Schleidens Weltanschauung (Braunschweig, 1895), and Goering, Franz Hartmann (Braunschweig, 1895).

17. Scheurlen, Die Sekten, pp. 46-47 and passim, 193-96, 281 ff., 290-94. One Georg Schon, a wandering preacher of the Lorberian New Salem Church, had a close connection with the Tanatra Lodge. See pp. 305-7.

18. Rudolf Schott, Der Maler Bo Yin Ra (2nd ed., Zurich, 1960); Bo Yin Ra, Warum ich meine Name Fuhre (Basel, 1961); Baron R. Winspeare, Esquisse somaire de l'enseignement de Bo Yin Ra (Paris, 1929), pp. 9-10. The worst example is undoubtedly the sole English translation of Bi Yin Ra, The Book of Happiness, (tr. C. C. and H. B. Wood, London, 1931).

19. Ottoman Zar-Adusht Ha'nish, Mazdaznan Health and Breath Culture (London, 1913), orig. U. S. A. 1902), pp. 3, 78, 138; See also, The British Mazdaznan Magazine (vol. I, no. 1, Jan-March, 1914); Ha'nish, Inner Studies (Chicago, 1902), pp. 23-24; Ha'nish, Mazdaznan Dietics and Cookery Book (London, 1914). This book received the Medal of Progress at an International Cookery Exhibition of 1911 at Luxembourg.

20. Howe, Urania's Children, p. 85; Scheurlen, Sekten, pp. 419 ff.; British Mazdaznan Magazine (no. 5), pp. 189, 195.

21. Scheurlen, Sekten, pp. 258-62, 266, 290, 296-302.

22. Scheurlen, Sekten, pp. 269-70 and note 2. Cf. Weissenberger's vision of spiritual combat with the fantasies of Denis Wheatley.

23. Karel Weinfurter, Man's Highest Purpose (tr. Capleton and Unger, London, 1930), p. 43. The particular works were The Key to the Spiritual World and The Way to Immortality. See Gottfried Buchner, J. B. Kerning (Lorsch/Wurttemburg, 1902) and Franz Hartmann, Lichtstrahlen vom Orient (Leipzig, n.d.); Kerning, Geschichtlicher Oberblick fiber die Freimaurerei (Lorsch, 1902); Kerning, Maurerische Mitteilungen (ed. Gottfried Buchner), in Kerning's Leben und Schriften, Band I (Lorsch, 1902), p. 39.

24. Weinfurter, Man's Highest Purpose, pp. 45-46. I have not been able to identify the old magician or discover his Magic Mirror: he was probably connected with the group that published The Lamp of Thoth from Keightley in Yorkshire.

25. See The Vahan, vol. II, no. 6, 1 January 1893 (London), p. 7.

26. Eduard Frank, Gustav Meyrink (Budingen-Gottenbach, 1957), p. 15; Herbert Fritsche, August Strindberg, Gustav Meyrink, Kurt A ram (Prague, 1935), pp. 18-20.

27. Frank, Meyrink, pp. 23-26, 40, 63 ff.

28. Gustav Meyrink, foreword to R. H. Laars (i.e., Richard Hummel), Eliphas Levi (Berlin, Vienna, Munich, 1922), pp. 12-13. Meyrink, foreword to his translation of Abhandlungen uber der Stein der Weisen. attrib. Thomas Aquinas (Leipzig, Zurich, Vienna, 1925), pp. xxvi-xxxii; Frank, Meyrink, p. 15.

29. Meyrink, The Golem (tr. Madge Pemberton, London, 1928); Meyrink, Meister Leonhard (Munich, 1925), p. 121. For the "historical" Dr. Schrepfer, see Joseph Ennemoser, History of Magic.

30. Weinfurter, Man's Highest Purpose, pp. 47-50. One Arthur Rimay de Gidofalvia, who in 1893 was elected President of the Blue Star, may have been "Mr. R" if the initial is anything to go by. See The Vahan, 1 January 1893.

31. Weinfurter, Man's Highest Purpose, pp. 53 ff., 152-54, 174,237. One of the translators of this book into English was the Anthroposophist Carl Unger, whose murder I deal with later in this chapter. There were probably connections between the Rosicrucian group and the O.T.O., with its by-this-time-attendant Gnostic Catholic Church -- for which see this chapter, below, and Chapter VII -- as there was much talk of Gnosticism, and the obscure Paul Sedir was studied. I have not been able to identify the weaver. Vater Hain of "Sheep and Shepherd" was a weaver, and according to Archduke Johann of Austria the 1880s had seen an epidemic of Spiritualism among the weavers of the district around Braunau. But this occult "Master" remains obscure.

32. Frank, Meyrink, p. 16.

33. See The Occult Underground, p. 34, and Hellenbach, Mr. Slade's Aufenhalt in Wien.

34. Oskar Simony, Uber spiritistische Manifestationen von naturwissenschaftlichen Standpunkt (Vienna, Pest, Leipzig, 1884).

35. Friedrich Eckstein, Alte unnennbare Tage (Vienna, Leipzig, Zurich, 1936), pp. 64-69.

36. Charles Blech, Contribution a l'histoire de la Societe Theosophique en France (Paris, 1933), p. 115; Eckstein, Alte unnennbare Tage, pp. 69-77, 260-61. By 1891, the Vienna branch was officially in existence. Eckstein was president, and the secretary, Carl, Graf zu Leininghen-Billigheim, for whom see this chapter below. See Lucifer (London), vol. VIII, no. 43, 15 March 1891. In 1897 the count's place was taken by a Herr Ludwig when Leininghen-Billigheim left for Munich. By then, the Vienna branch had a reading room and held weekly meetings. See The Vahan. 1 March 1897.

37. For an "esoteric" interpretation of Wagner, see Otto Julius Hartmann, Die Esoterik im Werk Richard Wagners (Freiburg, 1960).

38. Eckstein, Alte unnennbare Tage, pp. 110 ff.

39. Richard Wagner, "Religion und Kunst" in Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen. Band 10 (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1888), pp. 212, 239.

40. Frank Walker, Hugo Woif(2nd ed., London, 1968), p. 134.

41. Eckstein, Alte unnennbare Tage, pp. 105-13; Walker, Wolf, p. 129.

42. Eckstein, AIte unnennbare Tage, pp. 185-86.

43. Carl, Grafzu Leiningen-Billigheim, Was ist Mystik? (Leipzig, 1898), p. 91.

44. Walker, Wolf, pp. 134-35, 210; Eckstein, Alte unnennbare Tage. p. 133; Hermann Bahr, Selbstbildniss (Berlin, 1923), pp. 230-32.

45. See Robert Brau, "Mystik bei Rosa Mayreder," in Der Aufsteig der Frau (Jena, 1925), a Festschrift prepared by the Verlag Eugen Diederichs. The volume also contains a tribute by Eckstein.

46. Friedell, Cultural History, vol. III, pp. 273, 466.

47. Georg Fuchs, Sturm und Drang in Munchen um die Jahrhundertwende (Munich, 1936), pp. 79, 107.

48. Karl Wolfskehl, "Der Priester vom Geist" (orig. 1895) in G. P. Landmann (ed.), Der Georg Kreis (Cologne, Berlin, 1965), p. 23; Schuler, quoted in Friedrich Wolters, Stefan Georg und die Blatter fur die Kunst (Berlin, 1930), p. 268.

49. See Myth, Religion and Mother-Right: Selected Writings of J. J. Bachofen (tr. Ralph Manheim, London, 1967), and C. A. Bernouilli, Johan Jakob Bachofen und das Natursymbol (Basel, 1924).

50. Wolters, Stefan Georg, p. 243.

51. Hans Eggert Schroder, Ludwig Klages (Part I; Berlin, 1966), pp. 166-84; Wolters, Stefan Georg, pp. 246-47; Robert Boehringer, Mein Bild von Stefan Georg (Munich, 1951), p. 106.

52. Schroder, Klages, p. 360.

53. Wolters, Stefan Georg, pp. 269-70; Boehringer, Stefan Georg, p. 106. Wolfskehl was, in any case, the least flamboyant of the group, although as interested in the mystical as the others. Besides his mythological studies and translations, he was a poet. He tells in "Gustav Meyrink aus meiner Erinnerung" of how Meyrink would hold his circle spellbound with tales of the supernatural. See Wolfskehl, Briefe und Aufsatze (Hamburg, 1966), pp. 202-3.

54. Edgar Salin, Urn Stefan Georg (Munich, 2nd ed., 1954); and M. Nijlund-Verwey (ed.), Wolfskehl und Verwey (Heidelberg, 1968), quoting a letter of Hanna Wolfskehl of 4 April 1934; Wolters, Stefan Georg, p. 264.

55. Wolters, Stefan Georg, p. 249; Dominic lost, Ludwig Derleth (Stuttgart, 1965), p. 46. The copper was presumably "sympathetic" to Nietzsche's ailment; Schroder, Klages, pp. 198-99; for Dessoir, see Kurt Hildebrandt, Errinerungen an Stefan Georg und seinen Kreis (Bonn, 1965), p. 22 note 7. For Cyril Scott, his own autobiographies, My Years of Indiscretion (London, 1924) and Bone of Contention (London, 1969).

56. Ludwig Klages, Vom Kosmogonischen Eros (6th ed., Bonn, 1963), pp. 56, 183.

57. Alfred Schuler, "Vom Wesen der ewigen Stadt" in G. P. Landman, Georg Kreis, p. 51; and Wolters, Stefan Georg, pp. 247 ff.

58. Jost, Derleth, pp. 25-29, 35-36.

59. Thomas Mann, "Beim Propheten," in Novellen, Band I (Berlin, 1922), pp. 239-40.

60. Jost, Derleth, p. 54; "Warte Schwabing, Schwabing warte, Dich holt Jesus Bonaparte!"

61. Ludwig Derleth, "Das Buch vom Orden" in Ludwig Derleth Gedenkbuch (Amsterdam, 1958), p. 90; Jost, Derleth, p. 97; Derleth, Buch vom Orden, p. 74.

62. Freimark, Geisterbeschworer, p. 88.

63. Freimark, Geisterbeschworer, pp. 89-90. I have not been able to trace a copy of Braun's autobiography.

64. Bernhard Muller-Elmau, "Fuhrung und Fugung" in Marius Gerner Beule (ed.), Schopferische Leben (Munich, Basel, 1964), pp. 19-27. On Lhotsky see Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch, "Der letzte Theologe" in Ariosophie (6 Jahrgang, Heft 3, 1931), pp. 66 ff.

65. See the utterly meaningless passage quoted in Freimark, Geisterbeschworer, p. 91.

66. Muller-Elmau, "Fuhrung," pp. 30-52. For Johannes Muller's own views see his Jesus as I See Him (tf. Hilda Bell, London, 1928). Neue Wegweiser (Munich, 1920); and the study of Richard Grohrock Der Kampf der Wesenkultur gegen die Bewusstseinkultur bei Johannes Muller (thesis presented to University of Heidelberg, 1930).

67. Muller, Hidden Springs (tr. Hilda Bell, London, 1925), p. 5 and passim.

68. Robert Landmann, Monte Verita (3rd ed., Ascona, 1934). The author is in fact Robert Ackermann, who appears in the book. Pp. 32-50.

69. Robert Landmann, Monte Verita, pp. 50-108. Muhsam wrote an anthem for the colony with a chorus which begins:

Wir essen Salat, ja wir essen Salat,
Und essen Gemuse fruh und spat,
Auch Frucht gehoren zu unser Diat ....

70. Robert Landmann, Monte Verita, pp. 111-13.

71. Francis King, Sexuality, Magic and Perversion (London, 1971), pp. 96-97.

72. Robert Landmann, Monte Verita, pp. 41, 53; Freimark, Geisterbeschworer, p. 93.

73. Landmann, Monte Verita, p. 41; John Symonds, The Great Beast, and cf. Goering, Dr. Franz Hartmann.

74. Symonds, Beast, p. 99, and cf. Goering, Dr. Franz Hartmann.

75. King, Sexuality, pp. 99 ff.

76. M. Kully, Die Wahrheit uber die Theo-Anthroposophie als eine Kulturverfallserscheinungen (Basel, 1926), p. 261.

77. Symonds, Beast, pp. 99 ff.; King, Sexuality, pp. 106 ff.

78. Landmann, Monte Verita, pp. 140-49; Kully, Wahrheit, p. 38; Landmann, Monte Verita, pp. 150-53.

79. Johannes Hemleben, Rudolf Steiner (Hamburg, 1963) p. 134. The source of the "master" story is Edouard Schure, so it appears that Steiner may at one time actually have made this claim.

80. Eckstein, Alte unnennbare Tage, pp. 130-31; Eckstein, "Ein Gruss aus langst vergangenen Tagen" in Der Aufsteig der Frau, pp. 102-3; cf. Steiner, The Story of My Life (London, New York, 1928), pp. 110 ff., 281, and Steiner, The Anthroposophic Movement (London, 1933); Steiner, Occult Movements (lectures given Dornach, October 1915), Lecture 2, p. 15.

81. Steiner, The Story of My Life, pp. 48-140; Hemleben, Steiner, pp. 27-43; Steiner, The Story of My Life, p. 265.

82. Hemleben, Steiner, p. 73, and cf. Thomas A. Riley, L'Oeuvre litteraire de J. H. Mackay (Paris, 1950).

83. Hemleben, Steiner, p. 73.

84. Gregor Schwarz-Bostunitsch, Doktor Steiner, ein Schwindler wie keiner (Munich, 1930), pp. 15-16. For Bostunitch himself, see below, chapter IV.

85. Steiner, The Story of My Life, pp. 285 ff.; Marie Savitch, Marie Steiner-van Sivers (tr. J. Compton-Burnett, London, 1967), pp. 41-50. The lectures are translated into English as Mystics of the Renaissance (London, 1911).

86. See Daniel Gasman, The Scientific Origins of National Socialism (London, 1971).

87. Steiner, Story of My Life, p. 300.

88. A. T. Barker (ed.), The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky to A. P. Sinnet (London, 1925), p. 121; Steiner, The Anthroposophic Movement, pp. 136-37, 141; cf. Story of My Life, pp. 303-4.

89. Howe, Urania's Children, pp. 80 ff. for Vollrath; see W. Hubbe-Schleiden, Das Morgenrot der Zukunft (Leipzig, 1912) for the atmosphere of Star in the East propaganda.

90. Gunther Wachsmuth, The Life and Work of Rudolf Steiner (N.Y., 1955), p. 79; Kully, Wahrheit, p. 262. Crowley's Lodge was the Mysteria Mystica Maxima; Steiner, Story of My Life, p. 325; King, Ritual Magic, pp. 97 ff, 206-7.

91. Steiner, Story of My Life, p. 39; Steiner, The Gates of Knowledge (London, 1912), p. 148.

92. Steiner, "Haeckel, the Riddle of the Universe and Theosophy" in Three Essays on Haeckel and Karma (London, 1914), pp. 201-2 and cf. p. 206. Cf. Steiner's Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment (London, N. Y., 1923), and The Spiritual Beings in the Heavenly Bodies and in the Kingdoms of Nature (London, 1951), in which a procedure similar to Edgar Dacque's "nature somnambulism" is described. Cf. also the "perfective work" of James Morgan Pryse and A.E. described in The Occult Underground, pp. 323-24.

93. Karl Rittelmeyer, Rudolf Steiner Enters My Life (tr. D. S. Osmond, London, 1929), pp. 77, 102.

94. Steiner, The Submerged Continents of A tlantis and Lemuria (London, 1911).

95. See the convincing arguments of J. W. Hauer. Werden und Wesen der Anrhroposophie (Stuttgart, 1922). For Hauer himself, see chapter VI below. Steiner's debt to H. P. Blavatsky is great. He thought that she had been put in "occult captivity" by sinister Brethren who had dealings with "really illicit arts" and prevented her from disclosing all the secrets that she possessed.

96. Steiner, Theosophy of the Rosicrucians (London, 1953; orig. 1907), The Mission of Christian Rosycross (London, 1950; orig. 1911-12) and -- in same volume -- "Rosicrucianism and Modern Initiation" (orig. 1924), p. 157; Steiner, Christianity as a Mystical Fact (London, N. Y., 1914); Steiner, The Etherisation of the Blood (London, N.Y., 1935).

97. Rittelmeyer, Steiner, passim, especially 117 ff. and cf. Peter Anson, Bishops at Large (London, 1964), p. 367 note 2.

98. Hemleben, Steiner, pp. 132-33.

99. See e.g., Landau, God is my Adventure (reprint London, 1964), pp. 187-91. Steiner anticipated the modern "ecologists" by nearly half a century.

100. Kully, Wahrheit, pp. 301 ff. and cf. Karl Heyer, Wie man gegen Rudolf Steiner kampft (2nd ed., Stuttgart, 1932). pp. 45-46 for Krieger. Krieger was probably encouraged in his delusions by Steiner's opponents.

101. Kully, Wahrheit, pp. 67-71.
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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Part 1 of 5

Chapter 2: Eden's Folk

The Disease of Civilization-The English Youth Movements-Back to the Land-The Merrie England of the Guilds-Christian Utopias-The Youth Movements and Social Relevance-Social Credit-The Illuminates and Fascism-The Illuminates and Anti-Semitism

No generation since the industrial revolution has lacked dreamers and destroyers, its quota of Luddites, or those in search of a Golden Age. For humanity seems to have removed itself from its true being in direct proportion to the growing number of giant factories, the increase in restrictive legislation, and the necessary alteration of its relationship to life and labor. In one form or another, this argument has always been before the public and every passing decade has provided new discontents with which to support the thesis. After the Great War reformers of every sort imagined that their chance had come. The crisis of European society that took place between the years 1914 and 1923 produced a myriad of plans for the reform or replacement of the materialist system.

Such plans had been germinating in the Progressive Underground since the middle of the previous century, and the projects advanced immediately after 1918 display traces of this origin. Generally speaking, they shared two characteristics: a revulsion against "materialism," which had caused the war, and a longing for some more cohesive society to replace the loose, anarchic "individualism" that had contributed to the crisis.

Edward Carpenter expressed both urges in his book, Civilisation: Its Cause and Cure, which dates from 1889 and had been reprinted fifteen times by 1921. Carpenter's Utopian society included vegetarianism and a return to the rural life. He deplored the fact that men had lost touch with their "inner and undying" selves, and he described the individual's "wretched feeling of isolation, actual or prospective, which man necessarily has when he contemplates himself as a separate atom in this immense universe -- the gulf which lies below seemingly ready to swallow him, and the anxiety to find some mode of escape." The solution was for man to find that he was "absolutely indivisibly and indestructibly" a part of a great whole. Some higher cause -- in the case of Carpenter, a union with the Divine -- would unite him with his fellows and the universe. [1]



In Britain, anxiety and Progressive Underground were related as they were in Germany. Because of the chances of politics and economics, illuminated groups played considerably less part in society than they did in Germany between the two World Wars. But all the elements were present which across the North Sea were welded to a will to use unlimited force, although in Britain they were comparatively unorganized, and small in numbers. These reforming elements have been neglected, in part because they were extra-Parliamentary, and in part because they have left no interested offspring. In their time, however, they attracted substantial attention and have contributed ideas which have since been put into practice. The illuminated movements can be detected by their tendency to gather round themselves mystical, occult, and religious elements, and in the first great agitation for the reform of society such ambassadors of the heavenly kingdoms bore credentials from precisely those realms from which help was most expected.

The means which were to establish the better world were a matter of dispute. Very often differing rationales could lead to what seems identical practice. Such different aims and methods are to be found in the postwar youth movements which arose from a combination of social Darwinianism, a reaction against urban society, and new educational ideas. They shared a reliance on the works of Ernest Thompson Seton, the American educationalist G. Stanley Hall, and the fearsomely named "Biogenetic Law" of Ernst Hackel. This latter concept was filtered through the works of Hall, who expressed it thus:

The child from nine to twelve is well adjusted to his environment and proportionately developed; he represents probably an old and relatively perfected state of race-maturity .... At dawning adolescence this old unity and harmony with nature is broken up; the child is driven from his paradise and must enter upon a long viaticum of ascent, must conquer a higher kingdom of man for himself, break out a new sphere, and evolve a more modern story to his psycho-physical nature .... It is the most critical stage of life, because failure to mount almost always means retrogression, degeneracy and fall. [2]


Acceptance of the literal truth of Hackel's Law meant for educationalists becoming practicing Darwinians. Their charges must be induced to progress from one supposed stage in the evolution of past humanity to the next and higher. The founders of one of the organizations which took Hackel and Hall as their starting point made plain the methods they proposed to adopt.

A complete education means the living over again by the individual of the experiences passed through by his ancestors.

As man's progenitors inhabited fruit-producing regions along with other animals, so his children should begin life in an orchard-garden along with pet animals, whether wild or domesticated, -- the ensemble being as like as may be to the traditional Garden of Eden, and to the reconciliation with the animal world as described in Isaiah XI. When the time comes for them to break out of this garden, they will proceed to lay a solid foundation of palaeolithic culture by betaking themselves under adult guidance to some suitable cave or rock-shelter, whence issuing forth they will hunt for wild foods, get to know the ways of the wild creatures of the woods, and otherwise reproduce the life of that period. To this will succeed the more advanced and varied avocations of the neolithic cultures, marked by the domestications of animals and plants -- the pastoral and the simple agricultural stages -- together with such arts and crafts as can be carried on with the aid of metals. Lastly, with the use of metals and of books the adolescent passes into the modern world.
[3]


The framework within which all this theorizing was placed came from the artist and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton. In 1900, he wrote, he bought a tract of land near New York which he planned to turn into a nature reserve. Local boys started tearing down his fences, and Seton decided to win them over rather than indulge in a course of ineffective terrorism. He invited the boys to spend a weekend on his ground, and, to entertain them, he used his knowledge of the countryside and of the Red Indians. Soon he had organized a full-scale tribe, appealing to "the master-power of the savage, the love of glory." [4] The Indian model and the healthy life in the open air remained for Seton the cardinal points of his scheme. The Redskin "was the great prophet of the outdoor life," a "master of woodcraft," "taught the sacred duty of reverencing, beautifying and perfecting the body," "sought for the beautiful in everything," by nationalizing all natural resources put a stop to poverty and great wealth, and "he was the world's great historic protest against avarice." [5] From Seton's first experiment arose scattered tribes of "Woodcraft Indians" which their founder united in 1917 into the Woodcraft League of America. This was the source of inspiration for several European movements which owed debt to Seton's Birch Bark Roll and cultivated his principles: the outdoor life, self-government, the skills of woodcraft, a system of honors judged according to a standard rather than in competition, and the appeal of the heroic and the picturesque typified by the romance of the campfire.  [6]

In the early years of the Great War, a group of Cambridge Scout workers began to contemplate a return to the principles of Seton. The attitude of Baden-Powell's movement toward the war dissatisfied them and they saw the "broad idealism" and allegiance to woodcraft which they had earlier found attractive being eroded. In 1916 Ernest Westlake and his son, Aubrey, founded the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, with Seton as Grand Chieftain. Ernest Westlake -- who died in 1922, and was buried on a campsite of his movement -- was an anthropologist who had studied biology under T. H. Huxley and was much concerned with the Biogenetic Law.

The invention of the Wolf Cubs was of a piece with his determination to make the Movement less formal and more responsive to the needs of the boys themselves. 'If God made the boy a creature of extreme and restless energy, with an inquisitive and eager mind, a sensitive little heart, and a romantic imagination, it is up to you to make full use of these instead of crushing them,' he told prospective Cubmasters. [12] Although 'the Cub gives in to the Old Wolf,' the overall emphasis was on self-discovery rather than discipline -- with acting, drawing and modelling receiving plenty of attention. 'Model the head of a monkey, only take care you don't make it too much like yourself!' Such jokes could be made by 'boy men' and 'elder brothers,' but hardly but the authoritarian 'officer Scoutmaster' of the Movement's earlier days.

In 1920 Baden-Powell wrote to Lord Hampton, the Assistant Chief Commissioner: 'I want to urge all County Commissioners to expand their camping arrangements and get woodcraft well to the fore as our prime activity everywhere.' [13] During the war he had appointed John Hargrave, a young Quaker, as the Commissioner for Camping and Woodcraft. Hargrave advised him that the only way 'for getting ahead with nature-craft' was to 'buy up chunks of nature and form open-air training schools ...' [14] He suggested Epping Forest and it was there, six months later, than an Essex District Commissioner learned that Gilwell Park, a decaying eighteenth-century house with over 50 acres of woodland, was for sale. A Scottish rubber magnate, Mr. W.F. de Bois MacLaren, offered to buy the estate as a camping ground for East End boys and as a training school for Scouters.

From the time of his first visit to Gilwell, Baden-Powell wanted to make the place more important than Headquarters. If Buckingham Palace Road was where the 'form' of the Movement was determined by the Committee men, Gilwell Park would be where the Movement's 'boy men' would guard 'the fountain head of the Scouting spirit.' [15] At Gilwell Scouters were to 'learn boyhood as boy men.' In his diary he noted, 'the right spirit causes the Movement to run itself -- no dependence on Imperial Headquarters needed.' [16] It was a bit like the nonconformist belief in an individual's direct access to God: a Scouter possessing the true spirit would need no priestly guidance from anyone, least of all an old codger on the Committee.

Once the Scouts had acquired Gilwell -- in no small measure due to John Hargrave's urgings -- the question arose as to who should run it. When Baden-Powell made Hargrave Commissioner for Woodcraft in 1917, he was not put off by his youth (he as 23 at the time) not by the fact that he had not been to a public school. Not even the young man's pacifism had discouraged him. Hargrave had served as a stretcher-bearer at Gallipoli; and, given Baden-Powell's usual insistence on it being the patriotic duty of every citizen to fight for his country, by his own standards he was being exceptionally broadminded in promoting Hargrave to such an important position. But in 1918, the Chief Scout hesitated to hand over Gilwell to his handsome young Commissioner.

Hargrave was an utopian who craved a way of life combining Seton's tribal dreams with a revival of medieval arts and crafts. He would tolerate industrial processes only provided they were used to free whole populations for his ideal outdoor life. Impressed initially by Hargrave's charismatic personality and his artistic talent, Baden-Powell's unease about his new Commissioner's 'ultra views, and the possibility of his going off at a wrong tangent' had grown steadily. [17] In Hargrave's Wigwam Papers (a series of articles which appeared in The Scout during 1916), he introduced a new category of 'Woodcraft Scouts' who would wear a loose sweater with buckskin fringes and moccasins. In spite of his problems with Seton (which flared up again in 1917), Baden-Powell noted tolerantly in his diary: 'Saw Hargrave -- no objection to his getting names of troops doing Seton Woodcraft in Scouting, but don't make it a branch of the Movement.' [18]

It is stated by those scholars who have studied the matter that Hargrave's rebellion was caused by the continuing militarism of the Scouts. [19] Hargrave himself certainly said so during 1920 and 1921; but his rift with Baden-Powell really dates from late February 1919 when, according to his own history of his breakaway movement, he held his first meeting of 'like minded men.' [20] That same February Baden-Powell had told Hargrave that he did not mean to appoint him Camp Chief of Gilwell Park.

In 1920, under the pseudonym of 'White Fox,' Hargrave began a series of articles for the London Scout Council's official organ The Trail. Quoting the socialist newspaper Our Circle, he attacked the Scout Movement for its militarism and its church connections. [21] He declared it absurd, in view of Baden-Powell's public pronouncements on the evils of war, that the 1919 revised edition of Scouting for Boys should retain references to shooting. In private, Baden-Powell conceded that such passages ought to have been omitted. [23] But with the evidence mounting that Hargrave was planning his own movement, Baden-Powell could not afford to be conciliatory. In August 1920 Hargrave became Head Man of the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift (an archaic Kentish dialect phrase meaning 'proof of great strength'), so his expulsion from the Boy Scouts the following January was hardly abrupt. Nor is it factually correct to suggest, as one scholar has done, that Hargrave began to organize his movement only after being expelled from the Scouts. [23]

Hargrave would have been a disastrous Camp Chief for Gilwell and might have done the Scouts serious damage if appointed. He was autocratic, vain and many of his views -- such as on the 'natural' inequality of the sexes and the role of leaders in society -- were of greater interest in Germany than in his own country. [24] Although his defection made Baden-Powell look over-trusting and gullible in the eyes of the Committee, the Chief Scout accepted what had happened philosophically and wrote: 'It is such a pity that so promising a young fellow, with his undoubted talents should go off the rails. ....

-- Baden-Powell: Founder of the Boy Scouts, by Tim Jeal


His son, Aubrey, was born in 1893 and by the end of the war was house physician at Barts Hospital, London. It is important to notice that both were Quakers and, also, that Ernest Westlake was interested in psychical research. Aubrey has since become an Anthroposophist and a theoretician of water divining. [7] The idealistic and pacifist impulse of the Quaker was also deflected into other areas of rejected and anti-Establishment thought, and the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry was in its essence an "illuminated" movement. It is typical that Aubrey Westlake first developed the principles of Woodcraft Chivalry at a London meeting of members of the Baha'i Faith. He praised Seton, deplored the militaristic and civilized character of Baden-Powell's Scouts, and advocated the development of the instinct of service as the only way "to avoid a repetition of the present awful European disaster." There was naturally a strong religious element in the plan.

Religion in the past has been too unpractical, too unsocial, we are realizing that after all the only test of a faith is by its fruits. We are in need of a social religion, one which is carried into every detail of life, one which embraces every field of activity. This religion we seek is already in every child; we have got to recognize ... "that rightly influenced and rightly led, a boy or girl is never outside the kingdom of God"; and having recognized this, it is our duty to provide this religion with ways and means of expression whereby it may blossom forth in all its beauty.


To this end Westlake established as the core of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry what was "in a sense, the church of the movement." This was the Sun Lodge, toward which members progressed through the grades of Wood Cubs, Woodcraft Scouts, and Pathfinders. Its chief function was "to preserve, through contact with Nature, the spiritual ideals of the Order from becoming merely empty formulae."  [8] Seton himself had given his doctrine a pronounced Christian twist, but the founders of Woodcraft Chivalry were in search of the primitive religion of natural man. "In order to become spiritual one must first be natural," [9] they declared, and Ernest Westlake appealed for a return to the Dionysiac spirit, invoking pagan deities with the verses of a disciple of Crowley, Victor Neuberg. [10] In the ideal educational system, there would be a "Forest School" in which the recapitulation theory would be applied, and in which the pupils could "regain Paradise," a state of harmony with all creation." This program implied a revolt against all the values of the civilized world and Established society.

The young man's protest is that of eternal youth against the fallacy that the world is old. It is the protest of the soul of man, perpetually renewed, against the notion that social conditions are fixed, masters of life and not its servants. It is not primarily the young man, but civilization, which is on trial. [12]


The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry was the earliest of the youth movements arising out of the war, but not the most effective. Its chief influence was the field of education. It established its own Forest School in the New Forest, and its propaganda resulted in the foundation of other schools, both in Britain and abroad, run on the principles of woodcraft and recapitulation. The movement's initial connection with the Quakers proper was severed soon after it was founded and it maintained contact with the growing number of woodcraft organizations through an "International Folkmoot." Its leaders were also in communication -- a relationship whose nature seems to have alternated between sympathy and frustration -- with a more significant rebel against Society Established and its perversion of youth. This was John Hargrave.

John Hargrave was born in 1894 in Midhurst in Sussex, and not, as one rumor claimed, in a gypsy tent on the Essex marshes. Like the Westlakes, the Hargrave family were Quakers, and all were artists. Hargrave's artistic precocity was equaled only by his enthusiasm for the ideas of Seton-type woodcraft. He himself joined the Scouts around the year 1908 and became enthused by Seton's appearance at a meeting held by Baden-Powell in the Albert Hall. By himself he concentrated on applying Seton's instructions with great fidelity -- carving chipping-flints and a stone axe, making moccasins out of birch bark. He wrote a manual, Lonecraft, emphasizing this side of the Scout's activities, which was published in 1913; and about the same time he met Seton himself, who was brought by his publisher to visit a one-man camp set up by Hargrave according to woodcraft principles.


According to Hargrave, the origin of Seton's Woodcraft Indians did not lie solely in the moral fable which was retailed for public edification. In the whole concept Rudyard Kipling had a hand. He had summoned Seton to one of his frequently celebrated deathbeds and given him a sacred charge: the regeneration of the Anglo-Saxon race. [13] Ideas of racial betterment certainly did play some part in the thought of Seton himself. Of the open-air life, he wrote, "I should like to lead this whole nation into the way of living outdoors for at least a month each year, reviving and expanding a custom that as far back as Moses was deemed essential to the national well-being." [14] The Westlakes' Order of Woodcraft Chivalry to some extent followed the train of thought, but their program was more directed toward the education of the individual child and hence of all humanity. Hargrave was to lay emphasis on the use of woodcraft for the betterment of the whole race. During the Great War, he served as an army stretcher bearer, and was present at the Suvla Bay landings; on his return he published in 1919 a book which had been written before the war and rewritten because of it, The Great War Brings It Home. It declared: "The time has now come when we can control and use that process of natural selection known as Evolution." [15]

Just before the war had broken out eugenics had become a topic of great interest in the English-speaking world. In the United States, 1914 had seen a National Conference on Race Betterment, and by the next year a dozen states had passed sterilization laws. In 1910 the Eugenics Record Office had been established to support the work of Charles Davenport, one of whose functions was to advise "concerning the eugenical fitness of proposed marriages." [16] In England Sir Francis Galton and his successor Karl Pearson pursued similar researches, while their colleagues scanned the pages of Crockford's Directory of the Church and the Public Schools Year-Book to determine theories of the transmission of ability. The Eugenics Society promoted a campaign to ensure compulsory sterilization of stocks with "bad heredity and inferior capacity." [17] Even Baden-Powell would have accepted a vision of Scouting which emphasized the importance of training and keeping fit the nation's youth.

Hargrave was in the distinguished company of Julian Huxley when he advocated the improvement of the race. [18]

[It] is up to us to reverse the process and to plan a society which will favour the increase instead of the decrease of man's desirable genetic capacities for intelligence and imagination, empathy and co-operation, and a sense of discipline and duty.

The first step must be to frame and put into operation a policy designed to reduce the rate of human increase before the quantitative claims of mere numbers override those of quality and prevent any real improvement, social and economic as much as eugenic. I would prophesy that within a quite short time, historically speaking, we shall find ourselves aiming at an absolute reduction of the population in the world in general, and in overcrowded countries like Britain, India and China, Japan, Java and Jamaica in particular; the quantitative control of population is a necessary prerequisite for qualitative improvement, whether psychosocial or genetic....

In India, there have even been proposals to tax parents for children above a certain number, and in some provinces, men fulfilling certain conditions are paid to be vasectomized.

A powerful weapon for adequate population-control is ready to the hand of the great grant-giving and aid-providing agencies of the modern world -- international agencies such as the UN and its Technical Assistance Board representing its various Specialized Agencies like F.A.O. and Unesco, the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation Administration; national agencies like the Colombo Plan and the Inter-American Development Fund; and the great private Foundations (wittily categorized as philanthropoid by that remarkable man Frederick Keppel) like Rockefeller and Ford, Gulbenkian, Nuffield and Carnegie.

At the moment, much of the financial and technical aid provided by these admirable bodies is being wasted by being flushed down the drain of excess population instead of into the channels of positive economic and cultural development, or is even defeating its own ends by promoting excessive and over-rapid population-increase.

Bankers do not make loans unless they are satisfied of the borrower's credit-worthiness. Surely these powerful agencies, public or private, should not provide loans or grants or other aid unless they are satisfied of the recipient nation's demographic credit-worthiness. If an underdeveloped nation's birth-rate is excessive, the aid will go in providing the basic minima of food, care, shelter and education for the flood of babies, instead of the capital and the technical skills needed to achieve the breakthrough to a viable industrialization. Wherever this is so, the aid-providing institution should insist that the nation should frame an approved policy of population-control, and that some of the aid should be devoted to the implementation of that policy and to research on the subject. And the U.N. should, of course, take steps to prepare the way for a World Population Policy, should carry out or in any case encourage research on population-control, and should ensure that its Specialized Agencies like W.H.O., Unesco, F.A.O. and I.L.O., pay due attention to the problems of population in relation to their special fields of competence....

Negative eugenics has become increasingly urgent with the increase of mutations due to atomic fallout, and with the increased survival of genetically defective human beings, brought about by advances in medicine, public health, and social welfare....

In addition, the marked differential increase of lower-income groups, classes and communities during the last hundred years cannot possibly be eugenic in its effects. The extremely high fertility of the so-called problem group in the slums of many industrial cities is certainly anti-eugenic....

[W]e must reduce the reproduction rate of genetically defective individuals: that is negative eugenics....

In cases of specific genetic defect, voluntary sterilization is probably the best answer. [vi] In the defective married male, it should be coupled with artificial parenthood (A.P.) by donor insemination (A.I.D.) as the source of children. In the defective female, the fulfilments of childrearing and family life will have to be secured by adoption until such time -- which may not be very distant -- as improved technique makes possible artificial parenthood by transfer of fertilized ova, which we may call A.O.D....

In the case of the so-called social problem group, somewhat different methods will be needed. By social problem group I mean the people, all too familiar to social workers in large cities, who seem to have ceased to care, and just carry on the business of bare existence in the midst of extreme poverty and squalor. All too frequently they have to be supported out of public funds, and become a burden on the community. Unfortunately they are not deterred by the conditions of existence from carrying on with the business of reproduction: and their mean family size is very high, much higher than the average for the whole country.

Intelligence and other tests have revealed that they have a very low average I.Q.; and the indications are that they are genetically subnormal in many other qualities, such as initiative, pertinacity, general exploratory urge and interest, energy, emotional intensity, and will-power. In the main, their misery and improvidence is not their fault but their misfortune. Our social system provides the soil on which they can grow and multiply, but with no prospects save poverty and squalor.

Here again, voluntary sterilization could be useful. But our best hope, I think, must lie in the perfection of new, simple and acceptable methods of birth-control, whether by an oral contraceptive or perhaps preferably by immunological methods involving injections. Compulsory or semi-compulsory vaccination, inoculation and isolation are used in respect of many public health risks: I see no reason why similar measures should not be used in respect of this grave problem, grave both for society and for the unfortunate people whose increase has been actually encouraged by our social system.


Many social scientists and social workers in the West, as well as all orthodox Marxists, are environmentalists. They seem to believe that all or most human defects, including many that western biologists would regard as genetic, can be dealt with, cured or prevented by improving social environment and social organization. Even some biologists, like Professor Medawar, agree in general with this view, though he admits a limited role for negative eugenics, in the shape of what he calls "genetic engineering." For him, the "newer solution" of the problem, which "goes some way towards making up for the inborn inequalities of man," is simply to improve the environment. With this I cannot agree. Although certain particular problems can be dealt with in this way, for instance proneness to tuberculosis by improving living conditions and preventing-infection, such methods cannot cope with the general problem of genetic deterioration, because this, if not checked, will steadily increase through the accumulation of mutant genes which otherwise would have been eliminated....

[S]helters for sperm-banks will give better genetic results than shelters for people...

Various critics insist on the need for far more detailed knowledge of genetics and selection before we can frame a satisfactory eugenic policy or even reach an understanding of evolution. I can only say how grateful I am that neither Galton nor Darwin shared these views, and state my own firm belief that they are not valid.

-- Eugenics in Evolutionary Perspective, by Sir Julian Huxley, M.A., D.Sc., F.R.S.


Race betterment meant a return to natural man. Hargrave suggested "regeneration" in "the natural way." "It is the only way we have not yet tried. Give it a chance. How can you expect the 'nature' of a man to improve by unnatural means? Our very existence is unnatural. Why not seek to understand the natural law and make use of it?" The natural law asserted the primacy of instinct, the cultivation of savage virtues. The Scouting or Woodcraft movement, which would provide the means of regeneration, could rely on primitive ceremony, for "anything primitive has within it a vital ideal, because primitive man only grapples with Big Ideas." It would be coeducational, because 'the boy so trained must sooner or later need the girl so trained, and unless he can find her, his own training is useless, for he will be forced to marry into a 'less improved' bloodline." [19] The lesson of the war was that "something" must be done quickly. In 1919, Hargrave, then scout commissioner for Woodcraft and Camping, was telling his Scouts: "We're helping to evolve a New Race of Scout Men -- we're the beginning of a new off-shoot of evolution." [20]

But there is a hopeful future dawning for all classes of delinquents, degenerates, and deficients, however handicapped by heredity, environment, accident or disease. The science of biology and of physiology, which reveals to medical art the minute structure and function of the ultimate elements of the vital organs and thus makes it exact in practice to the great saving of human life, is penetrating further and further into the hitherto mysterious mass of apparently homogeneous matter, the brain, and astonishing the world with its wonderful revelations. Here it has found the very springs of human existence —the centers of consciousness, thought, action —the home of the soul, the Ego, the man.

In these discoveries we find the basic principles of race betterment. The adage is still true, that it is "the mind that makes the man," and all our efforts to improve the individual and through him the race must center in the normal development and physiological action of the ultimate elements of the brain, the organ of the mind. Every effort we make to improve man's physical condition should be subordinate to its effect on the brain. A recent writer says, ''Whatever elevates the physiological above the psychological, the body above the mind, is an enemy of the race and no method for its regeneration." Henceforth, all our efforts to better his condition should be based on an intimate knowledge of the brain, admittedly the organ through which that mysterious entity, the mind, finds expression....

Reduced to its simplest form and expression, the ultimate element or unit of the brain is a cell which with its nerve is now called a "neurone." This infinitesimal body is recognized by scientists as the source of all mental phenomena —thought, word, act....

The most interesting and practical feature of these cells evidently is the absolute control that we may exercise over their functions. They enlarge and become active when we stimulate them, and atrophy and become passive when we withhold stimulants. As each cell, or group of cells, has its own special function to perform, we can select the group that will accomplish the object we have in view, and stimulate it to the degree necessary to reach the desired result. Or we may reduce an active group of cells to their rudimentary state of quiescence by withholding its proper stimulant.


-- Proceedings of the first National Conference on Race Betterment, published by the Race Betterment Foundation


Our present natural dispositions make it impossible for us to attain the ideal standard of a nation of men all judging soberly for themselves, and therefore the slavishness of the mass of our countrymen, in morals and intellect, must be an admitted fact in all schemes of regenerative policy.

The hereditary taint due to the primeval barbarism of our race, and maintained by later influences, will have to be bred out of it before our descendants can rise to the position of free members of an intelligent society ...

Whenever a low race is preserved under conditions of life that exact a high level of efficiency, it must be subjected to rigorous selection. The few best specimens of that race can alone be allowed to become parents, and not many of their descendants can be allowed to live. On the other hand, if a higher race be substituted for the low one, all this terrible misery disappears. The most merciful form of what I ventured to call "eugenics" would consist in watching for the indications of superior strains or races, and in so favouring them that their progeny shall outnumber and gradually replace that of the old one....


There exists a sentiment, for the most part quite unreasonable, against the gradual extinction of an inferior race. It rests on some confusion between the race and the individual, as if the destruction of a race was equivalent to the destruction of a large number of men. It is nothing of the kind when the process of extinction works silently and slowly through the earlier marriage of members of the superior race, through their greater vitality under equal stress, through their better chances of getting a livelihood, or through their prepotency in mixed marriages. That the members of an inferior class should dislike being elbowed out of the way is another matter; but it may be somewhat brutally argued that whenever two individuals struggle for a single place, one must yield, and that there will be no more unhappiness on the whole, if the inferior yield to the superior than conversely, whereas the world will be permanently enriched by the success of the superior.

-- Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development, by Francis Galton


In biologically recent times, one primate line broke through from the mammalian to the human type of organization. With this, the evolutionary process passed a critical point, and entered on a new state or phase, the psychosocial phase, differing radically from the biological in its mechanism, its tempo, and its results. As a result, man has become the latest dominant type in the evolutionary process, has multiplied enormously, has achieved miracles of cultural evolution, has reduced or extinguished many other species, and has radically affected the ecology and indeed the whole evolutionary process of our planet. Yet he is a highly imperfect creature. He carries a heavy burden of genetic defects and imperfections. As a psychosocial organism, he has not undergone much improvement. Indeed, man is still very much an unfinished type, who clearly has actualized only a small fraction of his human potentialities. In addition, his genetic deterioration is being rendered probable by his social set-up, and definitely being promoted by atomic fallout. Furthermore, his economic, technical and cultural progress is threatened by the high rate of increase of world population....

Man, let me repeat, is not a biological but a psychosocial organism. As such, he possesses a new mechanism of transmission and transformation based on the cumulative handing on of experience, ideas and attitudes. To obtain eugenic improvement, we shall need not only an understanding of what kind of selection operates in the psychosocial process, not only new scientific knowledge and new techniques in the field of human genetics and reproduction but new ideas and attitudes about reproduction and parenthood in particular and human destiny in general. One of those new ideas will be the moral imperative of Eugenics....

Man almost certainly has the largest reservoir of genetical variance of any natural species: selection for the differential reproduction of desirable permutations and combinations of the elements of this huge variance could undoubtedly bring about radical improvement in the human organism, just as it has in pre-human types. But the agency of human transformation cannot be the blind and automatic natural selection of the pre-human sector. That, as I have already stressed, has been relegated to a subsidiary role in the human phase of evolution. Some form of psychosocial selection is needed, a selection as non-natural as are most human activities, such as wearing clothes, going to war, cooking food, or employing arbitrary systems of communication. To be effective, such "non-natural" selection must be conscious, purposeful and planned. And since the tempo of cultural evolution is many thousands of times faster than that of biological transformation, it must operate at a far higher speed than natural selection if it is to prevent disaster, let alone produce improvement.

-- Eugenics in Evolutionary Perspective, by Sir Julian Huxley, M.A., D.Sc., F.R.S.


But the Great War had also taught other lessons. Like the Westlakes, Hargrave had become disgusted with the way the Scout organization was drifting away from the principles of Baden-Powell's Scouting for Boys and the movement put at the service of the military and ecclesiastical Establishment. As he was later to write, "The boy had been taken into the woods by his Wicked Uncles, folded in the Union Jack, and smothered." [21] He had an interview with Baden-Powell and protested against the drift of Scouts away from the tamed movement as well as the domination of their activities by the authorities.

According to Hargrave, Baden-Powell admitted that there was much truth in his accusations, but protested that if the Scouts were more independent of authority they would not obtain finance. [22] Eventually Hargrave decided to secede, or was expelled from the Scout movement -- it depends which account is accepted -- with (on the Scout side) accusations of his having libeled Baden-Powell and ominous murmurings of "Socialist and Bolshevist tendencies." He took with him some 300 Scout workers, and on 18 August 1920, Hargrave founded his own organization, the Kindred of the Kibbo Kift. He had already rejected an offer made by the Westlakes to join the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, although he had become a member of their Council of Guidance.
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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Part 2 of 5

It is unlikely that Hargrave could ever have been at home in a movement not of his own making. All the same, the most diverse fairy godmothers presided over the birth of the new youth movement -- the Pethick-Laurences (Mrs. Pethick-Laurence became a member of the Kibbo Kift), the reformer Henry Nevison, and members of the New Educational Fellowship. [23] In September 1926 the Advisory Council of the Kibbo Kift included, besides Nevinson and Mrs. Pethick-Laurence: Norman Angell, H. G. Wells, Stephen Graham, Maurice Maeterlinck, Maurice Hewlett, Patrick Geddes, Rabindranath Tagore, Havelock Ellis, and Julian Huxley. [24] Under the banner of such Progressive heroes was a ragbag of the Progressive Underground. A former member of Hargrave's group has said that there were "pacifists and humanitarians of every degree; members of unorthodox sects and of strange pseudo-occult societies who took spirit photos of 'Fairies and Red Indians,' semi-Communists who sought world brotherhood by an intensive class-war, and vegetarians who deemed it inconsistent with the 'cannibalistic' eating of animals." [25]

Hargrave's reply to this was to picture his movement as a whale pestered by minnows -- "They said, 'Folk Dancing' -- and 'Rhythms'; they said 'Fabianism' (minus GBS), Gymnosophy (they meant Nakedness, but were unable to speak plainly), Anthroposophy, Theosophy, and Food Reform. All kinds of things they said: Cooperative Societies, Robert Owen; Sunlight and sun-bathing; experimental psychology; Nu Spelin, Nu Eras. Nu everything -- except a Nu Heaven and a Nu Earth. Well, we took them in little bits and ate the parts which might build our backbone stronger, and chucked the other parts away." [26]

In other words, there was a period of experiment, in which the grandiose ends of the founder came near to being overgrown by a preponderance of means. At the start there was difficulty in establishing a course of training: it was found that the earliest stages posited by the theory of recapitulation -- the so-called "Prehistoric" and the "Primitive" -- were unpopular, and the most effective work was done in schools run according to Kibbo Kift principles, [27] But the educational work and the training of youth according to Seton's principles became gradually subordinated to Hargrave's emerging vision of his group as an elite who were to be ready when the moment came to take over power. He demanded absolute obedience of his followers. They, in turn were prepared to submit to his magnetic personality. "He was the typical Scout 'hero,'" wrote one of them, "a magical, charismatic aura surrounded him." [28] The Kin, in the words of another, "made an emotional appeal to its members like that of a nation or a church." The scope of the Kibbo Kift's plans for a new heaven and a new earth was limitless.

We stood for the vision of Mankind United, for a universal tolerance, for a world brotherhood that would exclude no race or creed or social status. Difficult as it is to express, as difficult as patriotism or religious faith, the ideal of the Kindred was very real. It meant something to us when we signed the Covenant, taught out tribes the Declaration and unfurled over our camps the flag that showed no local or class or sectarian symbol, but the universal emblem of Mercator's projection, the World Banner of the Kibbo Kift. [29]


During this period of flux, some few constants remained. Hargrave's insistence on primitivism and 'pageantry was enduring. The Kibbo Kift were dressed in an elaborate uniform based on Robin Hood and went armed with a sheath knife. The members took Kin names -- Hargrave's was "White Fox." The words "Kibbo Kift" were said to mean "Proof of Great Strength" and for a while the revivers of folkdancing and Merrie England held sway. One of its critics wrote in 1934 that the Kindred "indulged in obscure ceremonial and mystic symbolism .... The chief function of its annual assembly became (and may still be) the roasting of a sheep or an ox whole." [30]

The fascination with mysticism and the occult was present at the start. In The Great War Brings it Home Hargrave had advocated a universal religion of the Great Spirit, expounded the law of karma, and written a chapter on yoga meditation with instructions for an exercise teaching that "everything is everything." In 1919 he had told his Scouts that they might never know what the Great Life Force was but they could be certain that "it is there -- that it does lie 'behind it all' -- and that we are part of it." For his closest circle he held a "Lodge of Initiation." [31] In Hargrave's novel Harbottle (1924) the hero is deserted by his wife and sets off on a pilgrimage to discover reality. Throughout the searching the questioning is a substantial dose of the occult. Harbottle is introduced to the writings of one "Edward Almroth Twite" by an artist who is a member of the "Ancient and Arcane Rosicrucian Order." The occultist is an amusing parody of a Crowley-like figure and the bogus philosopher Twite stands for Ralph Waldo Trine. Hargrave evidently rejected much of occult theory, while remaining open to the fascination of the mysteries. The next year Hargrave published another novel, Young Winkle, a parody of Kipling's Kim, in which the boy who is the subject of the book is taken in hand not by a learned lama, but by a "Great Doctor" who puts him through an idealized form of Hargrave's own educational system. This includes a catechism -- "I believe in the Nameless God ... who is Time-Space-Matter: and in myself ... as an actual organic part of the One Great Nameless God. I believe in the Holy Catholic Body of Mankind." [32] Winkle is set a night vigil as a test, and has a vision of the symbol of the Kibbo Kift. After a series of instructors have dealt with him, his final trial is to resist the sexual advances of a girl member of the Great Doctor's organization. He is then initiated as a "fully conscious member of the human race." Hargrave claimed explicitly that the philosophy of the Kibbo Kift was based on a religious foundation, and in November 1926 he announced his formulation of the Great Religious Focus of the Kibbo Kift, "a simple projection of the God-concept ... set down as a definite and understandable inspiration for all mankind." By the time of his culminating statement of the aims of the Kibbo Kift in 1927, the call was for "a new Rosicrucian Brotherhood." Hargrave belonged, he wrote, to no religious body other than the Kibbo Kift, which he hoped was "by its works ... something of the sort." [33]

At the outset the Kibbo Kift seemed on the verge of sweeping all before it; but it never mustered more than about a thousand uniformed members. The explanation of this is found in the development of the organization from an educational body into the repository of the elite itself. Dissension between the various Progressive groups which had battened on to Hargrave culminated in a large defection in 1924, when a Dr. Cullen -- who had interested the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society in starting up a youth group on Kibbo Kift lines -- took exception to the dictatorial assumptions of Hargrave. He left the Kindred with Leslie Paul, the energetic leader of the South London groups, to establish their Woodcraft Folk as the youth movement of the Co-operative Societies. Leslie Paul's estimate of the reason behind the breach was simple. "The truth was," he wrote, "that the different wings of the movement were inspired by different social philosophies." [34] At the time he resented the fact that Hargrave had resisted pressure from the Labour Party to turn the Kibbo Kift into a Labour Scout movement. But it would be totally wrong to see the Kindred as a "fascist" group. Among the components of the "Socialist conspiracy" discovered by the British Fascists and Mrs. Nesta Webster, the Kibbo Kift occupied an honored place. [35]

The truth of the matter is that the Kibbo Kift was Hargrave's movement and no one else's, and its leader resisted any attempts to link his creation with established political causes. He disliked the socialist tenets of class war, mass voting, and the nobility of work; and he called for "Creative Play" by which he meant "the doing of anything for its own sake, such as the painting of a picture, the writing of a play, or even the organization of a factory." As circumstances gradually excluded the possibility of the Kibbo Kift developing any broader appeal, there emerged a doctrine of its status as an elite. This concept was undoubtedly influenced by the "samurai" of H. G. Wells's A Modern Utopia (1905), a caste of highly qualified members of society, reminiscent of Plato's Guardians, who obey a strict rule: vegetarian, teetotal, no smoking, no gambling, and a period of reflection each year in the solitude of the wilds. Indeed some part of Wells's vision of these shepherds of society may have been with Hargrave from the start. "The Active Few," Hargrave legislated, "always influence the Multitude." Universal suffrage gave the direction of government to the least educated section of the people. Whereas it should be in the hands of "experts, coordinated by an efficiency supervisor." By the end of 1925 the Kibbo Kift had definitely assumed a political role in the mind of its founder. The movement was "an incubator for the hatching out of young men and women trained to live hard and think hard." "A woman who has married a Kinsman must recognize that she has not married an ordinary citizen. She has married a man with special obligations who is to some extent 'set apart' from other men." [36]

To this vision of an elite of fully conscious human beings the concept of the 'new Rosicrucian Brotherhood' could easily be fitted. It is evident that Hargrave was aiming at a transformation which others were attempting at the same time -- an alteration in the mode of being of men, which would itself bring about correct social thought. To his early adherence to the principles of the Biogenetic Law there was accommodated a doctrine of spiritual evolution. In 1927, just before the Kibbo Kift transformed itself into a political party proper, Hargrave issued The Confession of the Kibbo Kift, defining the status and goals of his movement. It had begun, he wrote, as "a body-impulse to get Earth contact in a mechanical age." But it had avoided, he thought, the pitfall of romanticism. Underlying the Kindred's activities was a trust in the sureness of the instinctive impulse. "Deeply-flowing in the Kindred, undefined and unanalysed, floods that dim creative chaos which the modern psychologist has termed the Unconscious. This great intuitional flow cannot be named, and cannot be brought into consciousness without creating psychophysical disharmonies." The solution to human problems was not the creation of new systems, but the recovery of a correct relationship to nature. This principle was upheld with apocalyptic exhortations: "Up Merlin! We have need of you on Din Breon the sacred mount!" The objectives to which Kin members were expected to pledge themselves were framed in a Covenant. This envisaged "reservations" for training in woodcraft, the carrying out of such training in family groups, and a consequent honing of bodily, mental, and spiritual faculties. Handicraft training, Craft Guilds, and the establishment of regional assemblies were to be encouraged. "Regional, national, and world peace" was to be fostered by economic reforms. For his own samurai, Hargrave imagined a sanctuary and headquarters which he christened "Kin Garth" to include a "monastery, lamasery, or house of self-initiation." This could be the center of a "Noah's Ark policy" if civilization were to founder. [37]

The Confession of the Kibbo Kift already contains substantial elements of the economic preoccupations which were to alter the nature of the movement entirely. To understand these, other movements must be considered. But before doing so, two developments connected with the early phases of Hargrave's odyssey merit attention.

The first is the break-away movement led by Leslie Paul which became the Woodcraft Folk. Paul himself had been an early devotee of Hargrave. His chief disagreements with his leader were because of his conviction of the need for a Labour Scout Movement and a dislike of the ritualistic tendencies of the Kibbo Kift. By way of local Labour Parties and Co-operative Societies the Woodcraft Folk soon reached a national position that Hargrave's group never attained. But Paul preserved the principles of recapitulation and race betterment. Despite his dislike of "mysticism" he also remained convinced of the importance of ceremonial as an expression of the communal spirit and "the only possible alternative to the discipline of the 'parade-and-orders type.'" "Remember," he advised, "that these youngsters have never lived as they should live: their primal earth desires have gone unsatisfied and they are hungry for the real vital things of life .... " [38] A German observer attended a camp of the Woodcraft Folk in the Wye Valley in the summer of 1933 and remarked of the Leave-Taking Ceremony he witnessed: "This evening-ceremony was in no way ridiculous but on the contrary gave each member the feeling of being a member of a great family." [39]

There is no doubt of Hargrave's illuminated approach. But even Leslie Paul's movement, with its rationalized use of ritual, betrays a preoccupation with realities other than those of rational consciousness. The disillusionment of the leader of the Woodcraft Folk became ever more acute as he witnessed the surrender of the German youth movements to the Nazi Party; but he did not discover his own transcendental ideal until the close of the Second World War. He characterized the Wandervogel as a religious movement, aiming at the same sort of transformation of the human spirit as had the George Circle. They had liberated the unconscious but could not direct its action. Paul himself came out for placing beside the scientific world-view "the parallel and equal rights of religion." Beliefs, he held, were supreme, and he dedicated himself to Christianity, which had after all provided what civilization Western Europe had to offer. [40] Thus did one leader of the idealistic opposition of the years between the wars find the kingdom for which he had been searching.

Rolf Gardiner was responsible for the second significant offshoot from the Kibbo Kift. He was attached more peripherally than Leslie Paul to Hargrave's movement, and his initiative was a much more loose-knit affair than the Woodcraft Folk. Until 1926 Rolf Gardiner was gleemaster of the Kibbo Kift. His preoccupations provide a general background to the concern of the woodcraft movements with ceremonial and ancient Englishry; and the general lines of thought to which Gardiner owes allegiance form a distinct feature of British idealistic politics at the time.

At Christmas, 1899, Cecil Sharp had heard, near Oxford, the Headington morris dancers dancing "Laudnum Bunches." The enthusiasm this awoke led to the concentrated collection of folk songs and dances by himself and Vaughan Williams. In 1911 there was founded the English Folk Dance Society which amalgamated with the English Folk Song Society in 1932; and by 1934 it had 49 branches throughout England. [41] Although similar developments were taking place in other parts of Europe and in other regions of the United Kingdom, this tiny "English nationalism" or English "folkish movement" has remained unrecognized for what it was.

Whereas the various movements for Celtic Nationalism based themselves on the parallel pursuit of folklore, [42] the rediscovery of England seems to have begun with morris dancing. Cecil Sharp himself saw little future in the morris dance; and shortly before his death Rolf Gardiner had an argument with him on this very point. He had told Sharp, he writes, "that the people he ought to convert were the farmers not the schoolteachers, the Board of Agriculture not the Board of Education. But he was incredulous and at a loss to understand me. And yet, what would have happened if in 1922-4 we had started the revival of British agriculture, then at the nadir of depression, with the resurrection of the soul of the English countryside. Would it not then, at that crucial point in time, have been just a possibility?"
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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Part 3 of 5

In 1924, the year of Sharp's death, Gardiner took a traveling team of morris dancers through the Cotswolds. The year before, he had expressed his hopes for the revival of folk tradition. "The real and vital concern of the folk dance movement is the effect it might have on the religious and psychological evolution of our humanity." [43] With much reference to Joachim of Flora and his prophecy of the coming Third Age of the Holy Spirit, Gardiner predicted a real change in consciousness, which would unite the intellect with that of the instinctive drives. In this new way of being, the folk dance would play a part.

Gardiner had been a Scout, and until his break with Hargrave he had contributed dances and songs to the Kibbo Kift. These included one called "Al Hael" and many translations from the German. It was in Germany that he found much of his inspiration, for developments among the German youth movements were hospitable to the illuminated approach and bulked much larger than any such ventures nearer home. To his family contacts, Gardiner added the fascination which was felt by many of his generation at the universities -- Gardiner was educated at Bedales and Cambridge -- with the idealistic attempts to reform the shattered society of Central Europe. He maintained contact with Ernst Buske of the Deutsche Freischarr and established a relationship with the Prussian minister of culture, Carl Heinrich Becker. The aspects of the German Bunde which particularly fascinated Gardiner were the centers that grew up to inculcate by one or another means the new society and the new sort of consciousness. Becker supported several of these -- for example, a workman's hostel and village school maintained by the experimental educationalist Albert Reichwein, and the Boberhaus in Silesia which was run as a regional center for communally training students, peasants, and workers.

Gardiner found a Danish inspiration in the Folk School at Krabbesholm in Jutland, designed to foster a peasant aristocracy. But the most important source of communication with Germany was the Musikheim established by Georg Goetsch (1895-1955) at Franfurt an der Oder. Gardiner described this as "a modern Aesculapian monastery" and "an initiation into the secrets of being alive through music." It was particularly with the Musikheim that visits were exchanged -- for example, that of October 1934 when a meeting took place at Frankfurt under the auspices of Goetsch and Gardiner, in which English and German miners met and took part in sword dancing. One of Gardiner's sympathizers, Katherine Trevelyan, married Goetsch and further cemented the links which bound the English to the Germans by their common interest in "the arts as social therapy." [44]

It was this "secret" Germany of flourishing independent centres of social experiment and artistic training which fascinated the English visitor. Between 1925-30 there was a growing belief that in Germany important creative work was being done which would fructify the hopes of European Union and restore the shattered pattern of Christendom. The apocalyptic feeling which had swept over Central Europe immediately after the war and which found expression in Spengler's Untergang des Abendlandes was in abeyance. While the politicians and economists struggled with the consequences of Versailles "Peace," the cultural vitality of youth had room for play. Those were valuable and happy years. The sad thing about them was that apart from our tiny nucleus virtually no English groups actively associated with this field of endeavour in Europe. People wondered at the profusion of events and undertakings that succeeded: music tours, festivals, work-camps, exchanges. Yet they were planned mostly by Goetsche and myself in consultation with a very few others, and carried through without any formal apparatus of organisation. [45]


After leaving Hargrave in 1926 until 1931, Gardiner and his group seem to have preserved something of the old youth movement spirit of hiking. Gradually there came about a change of emphasis. The year 1930 saw the loss of gurus. Carl Heinrich Becker was forced to resign his ministry, Ernst Buske of the Freischarr died, and soon afterward, D. H. Lawrence (from whom Gardiner had received much support for his idea of achieving a more "natural" consciousness). [46] Gardiner drifted nearer the Westlakes and their Order of Woodcraft Chivalry. In the winter of 1932 he read a paper to his sympathizers "On the Functions of a Rural University." He wanted to' reproduce in England the spirit he had found in the regional centers in Germany. He proposed to tackle what he saw as the three main problems -- that of the unemployed, the work of agricultural reconstruction, and the establishment of regional government. The unemployed needed leadership and work camps. Their leaders needed centers of assembly and renewal "just as the old religious orders required both the contemplative and the itinerant ways of life." The threatened food shortage must be avoided and the self-respect of the rural population restored. And with the general aim of training "an elite responsible for the self-government of Wessex" there was inaugurated the "Wessex Centre" at Springhead, Fontwell Magna, in Dorset. Gardiner called for "a new European chivalry" and hoped for exchanges with centers abroad. He gave vent to his romantic hopes for Springhead. "The idea of Centres or monasteries has recurred at regular intervals in the cycles of civilisation .... The heart of our civilisation is rotten. The centre, the monastery is the tiny seedling rooted in the dark earth which is the womb of all forms." [47] Of the inauguration in the autumn of 1933, a German visitor enthused. "Tell me whatever you like, but I felt like being in church and no church was ever as great as that high-skied autumn heaven over US." [48] At harvest time 1934, Gardiner consolidated his small chivalry with a work-camp at which there were almost equal proportions of unemployed, students and German visitors; and he named his circle the Springhead Ring. [49]

Gardiner and his friends have always felt themselves to be engaged in a sacramental act. And with the establishment of the center at Springhead he became involved with others who regarded the task of rural reconstruction in a similar light. The date, however, coincides too neatly with the coming to power of the Nazis in Germany and the submission or suppression of the German youth movements to avoid comment; and it is necessary to examine the precise relationship of the British and German youth movements.

Gardiner's own attitude has been much criticized and was at times equivocal. In 1927-28 he edited in collaboration with Heinz Rocholl a symposium published both in England and Germany; it was an attempt to construct a dialogue between young people in Germany and Britain. The unexceptionable tone of Gardiner's article was somewhat outweighed by the nationalistic emphasis of his coeditor and a rather wild contribution from a German incorporating almost all the myths of racist propaganda. [50] In 1930 Gardiner again contributed to a symposium, which this time was published only in Berlin. His essay on "English Tradition and the Future" is intriguing. He derived the English race from Atlantis and recalled that Britain had been known as a holy island. He was scathing about the Celts, who "never became Christian, in any blue-eyed, or at least Roman sense," and denied any racial purity to the English. Old England had died in the years 1915-20, but there was still hope of an idealistic revolution. [51] By 1933 he could endorse the Nazi coming to power as "the result of organic growth," despise liberalism and "ballot-box democracy," and excuse German ill-treatment of the Jews. [52] British publishing houses refused his book on the "German Revolution" as propaganda. In 1934 Gardiner had an interview with Rudolf Hess about the possibilities of English-German exchanges. [53] When in the same year Leslie Paul of the Woodcraft Folk lamented the decline of the German movements and their abdication to the Nazi party, Gardiner attacked him for not being able to see that the core of the Bunde had always had political aims and that their mission had been to train an elite for leadership. He found some satisfaction in the number of Hitler's adjutants who had been Wandervogel. [54]

But not too much should be made of this. Gardiner was by no means alone in having his idealistic hopes of Nazism disappointed, and his approval of the German new order is best seen as a vicarious expectation of something which his native experience did not allow him or anyone else to carry out: an idealistic revolution. The quality of idealism was what both Gardiner and Leslie Paul had admired in the Wandervogel.

It was this quality -- together with the congenial ritualism and the direct, if unorthodox, theory -- that the German movements admired in their turn in John Hargrave. Hargrave became the leading influence on the Bunde in the 1920s and his books were translated and published by the Weisse Ritter publishing house, the most influential youth movement agency of the period. [55] On his side, Hargrave predicted that the German movements would be swallowed up by the new Leviathan of National Socialism, although he and Gardiner shared with the Germans a spirit of elitism which was not found in the Socialist Leslie Paul. But even Paul had responded to the appeal of the famous Hohe Meissner manifesto, in which the representatives of the various German organizations had summoned their members to a mountain south of Cassel in October 1913 and proclaimed their new order.

Youth, up till now merely an appendage of the older generation shut out from public life and reduced to a passive role, is beginning to base itself on itself. It is trying, independent of the demands of convention, to fashion its life for itself. It is struggling for a way of life which corresponds to the essence of youth but at the same time also makes it possible to take itself and its actions seriously, and to integrate itself as a unique element in general cultural life. It wishes to introduce as a refreshing and rejuvenating current into the spiritual life of the nation the inspiriting factor of pure dedication to the highest tasks of humanity and of unsullied faith and will to achieve a heroic existence. [56]


From the rebellion of youth against the "bourgeois" and materialist world came the idealism which inspired the postwar British movements as it had the German. At first sight it might seem that the British movements were organized by older men according to a more artificial pattern than the German model, and that their numbers were insignificant. But Hargrave, Paul, and Gardiner were all approximately of university age when they began their independent careers as youth leaders, and the fact that they accumulated a following argues for a degree of spontaneous support. As to the size of that following, it should be noticed that the largest camps of the combined German youth movements like that at the Hohe Meissner itself, never numbered over 3,500, [57] and the significance of the Bunde in German history has never been doubted. And, as social pressures changed from those under which they had developed, so the youth movements altered their direction and co-operated with other idealistic projects for reform which showed more prospects for achieving a broad reformation of life and values. In Germany, the youth movements capitulated to the greater force of a prodigious will to power. In England the transformations were less spectacular and consisted in the channeling of the idealism which had once animated camping and training in woodcraft into courses already handcarved by others.

In the case of Rolf Gardiner, his tiny Springhead Ring turned its energies toward the task of "rural reconstruction," a phrase which had been formulated in the middle of the Great War in response to many of the same stimuli which had given birth to the youth movements. In October 1916, a number of societies concerned with the improvement of country life met to form a coordinating body to which the name was given of the Rural Organization Council. Besides various agricultural and housing associations, these included the Arts and Crafts Society, the Garden Cities and Town Planning Association, and the Peasant Arts Guild. The Order of Woodcraft Chivalry was also affiliated. If the task of reconstruction were properly carried out, the council felt that "the life that should result will be very great, and a calm, healthy glory that our forefathers had almost driven from these islands will come home again." [58] The feeling that Industrial Man had divorced himself from his roots in the soil had in fact found practical expression much earlier. In 1907, for example, the first land clubs -- agricultural cooperatives -- had been started. In connection with these Montague Fordham published Mother Earth. advocating the restoration to the people of "their mother, the earth," proclaiming that history knew no example of a nation which had survived separated from life on the land, and advocating "much more communal gaiety and amusement, particularly in relation to the land -- in honor of mother earth." [59] When Gardiner settled down at Springhead to try to encourage an improved sense of community with morris dancing and the celebration of festivals, he was merely following the policy which had been advocated by Fordham and other earlier theorists.

Behind the plethora of bodies which sprang up between the wars with humdrum-sounding names like the Soil Association, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and the Rural Reconstruction Association, was often an impulse which was intensely idealistic in nature. Thus Fordham, writing in 1924, appealed to "the undefined spiritual laws that lie somewhere in the background of life." Thus H. J. Massingham, one of the chief theoreticians of the return to the soil, grew lyrical and mystical in his arguments. Within the ever-widening circle of those who recognized that something must be done about the spoliation of the countryside -- of which the symposium edited by Clough Williams-Ellis called Britain and the Beast is a good representative -- the illuminated approach was prominent. [60]

An example is the still-flourishing organization of the "Men of the Trees." This has its origin in the attempts of Richard St. Barbe Baker to prevent a Bantu tribe in Kenya from destroying the forests and ruining their farming land. Baker initiated a ritual "Dance of the Trees" and a "Brotherhood of the Trees" in order to persuade the tribesmen to plant rather than destroy. [61] On his return to England he decided that the English had become almost as destructive as the Bantu and founded his Men of the Trees as a body pledged to restore the dwindling tree population of Britain. The Men of the Trees "have been inculcating a tree sense." "They regard their country as a sacred trust"; and "the unselfish care of each plantation, looking to the distant good rather than to immediate gain will teach more than actual forestry. It will develop physical, moral and spiritual qualities which are essential to the well-being of man." In 1924, John Hargrave presented Baker with a plaque and a message of friendship from the Kibbo Kift and at the Conference of "The Men of the Trees" held at Oxford in 1938 a Kibbo Kift representative was present. The conference was attended by Rolf Gardiner, who gave a lecture on dowsing, and by a certain Miss Irene Goodman who announced that she was able to contact the spirit of a tree and be in touch with it "as a living personality." [62]

In the later 1930s were published Sir George Stapledon's The Land. Now and Tomorrow and Lord Portsmouth's Famine in England. These texts were taken to the hearts of the illuminated countrymen. The latter book advocated a decentralized civilization based on small stable land units, which it supposed to be a Christian contrast to the nomadic traditions of the Asiatic or Russian hordes. This conception bore some resemblance to the ideology of Walther Darre and the Nazi peasant organization; and for a short time Rolf Gardiner saw in Darre a real prospect of reviving "yeoman, peasant values, as opposed to industrial, urban, manufacturing values." [63]

The outbreak of the Second World War was seen as a renewed opportunity for the spiritual revolution; for the old order would be swept away and the prospects of reform which the years after the First War had extended would return more definitely. Accordingly, Gardiner, Portsmouth, Massingham and others met in the rooms of Edmund Blunden in Oxford to form a "Kinship in Husbandry." They published a pamphlet called Return to Husbandry which circulated widely among servicemen and prisoners of war. H. J. Massingham -- who met Gardiner only late in life and thought of his work as "more English than the English" -- wrote in an expanded version of this pamphlet "that the term husbandry" must be related "to first principles of the natural law, which is an earthly manifestation of the eternal law." "The pattern of life worked out by preindustrial rural society was an unconscious obedience to ecological laws." His crowning statement of this creed is contained in The Tree of Life. which is dedicated to Sir Arthur Bryant, another member of the Kinship in Husbandry. In this book, Massingham referred to "Man's dangerous alienation from natural law" and "the approaching dissolution of civilisation." There was to be a recovery of the English tradition, which entailed a return to Christianity. Christ, the "Rural Redeemer," was to sanctify craftsmanship and agriculture, and man would again take his place in what Massingham called "the Doctrine of Creation," the perpetual unfolding of the organic process. "When a man stooks his sheaves at the right angle of incidence, he is not only true to the Doctrine of, but part of, the Creation itself." [64]

It was quite logical for illuminated farmers to turn to the only available source of lore on esoteric farming: the Bio-Dynamic system of Rudolf Steiner. In July 1950, Gardiner and Portsmouth held an agricultural conference in southern England which was attended by English, German, and Swiss representatives, including Richard St. Barbe Baker and the president of the Bio-Dynamic Association, Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer of Dornach. [65] Whether Gardiner's association with the Anthroposophists -- he has had a book published by the society's press -- meant anything more than approval of their farming methods is uncertain. His old colleague, Aubrey Westlake of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, retired in 1938 to manage his estate at Godshill in Hampshire as a holiday and health center, and a place of experiment for fertility research; he had also become a convert to Anthroposophy. [66]

It should by now be clear that the links between the youth movements, the conservationists, and the supporters of what their opponents call "Muck and Mysticism," have been both strong and consistent, and that the illuminated search for the organic society has taken place in England as well as abroad. The links have as yet been only half established, and some of the most important movements are not discussed. But before the topic of the return to the land is abandoned, mention should be made of the movement for town planning and new towns.

The Quaker Ebeneezer Howard was infected in the 1890s by the ideas of the agrarian reformer Henry George and he became a Utopian under the potent influence of Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward. He was impressed by the proposals being made by Thomas Davidson, the effective originator of the Fabian Society, for a cooperative settlement near London "for people of advanced ideas." In 1898, Howard published a book called Tomorrow from which grew the First Garden City Company. The company began to build Letchworth in Hertfordshire, on the basis that the citizens themselves should own the land in common. [67]

Letchworth soon became a center for the Progressive Underground. There were Theosophists, cooperative printers, the Alpha Union for Universal Brotherhood, and a pub with no beer built by the Quaker Edward Cadbury. Ebeneezer Howard himself was president of the Letchworth Esperanto Association, and in 1912 he managed to lecture in that language on Garden Cities in Cracow. The historian of Letchworth, and Howard's assistant in building his second new town at Welwyn, was Charles Purdom, who later edited Everyman. for which John Hargrave did art work. Purdom became the biographer of Meher Baba and the devotee of other gurus like F. Mathias Alexander while pursuing plans to reconstruct urban life after the Second World War. The sort of Progressive opinion represented by Purdom and the denizens of the Garden Cities was as concerned with the ideal and the maintenance of a state of nature as the agrarians. He represented the reaction of townsmen rather than countrymen. "Man," wrote Purdom in 1932, "must maintain harmony with Nature in all its forms. He should keep contact with the earth and the seasons, allow the winds and rain and sun to strengthen him, and the sun to store his body with heat. Every man shut up in the city must take care to keep in time with the rhythm of natural life by going into the country as often as he can." [68]

A secondary inspirer of town planning was Patrick Geddes, whose influence on Ebeneezer Howard seems certain. Just after the Great War he and Victor Branford, the founder of the Sociological Society -- both incidentally, supporters of the Biogenetic Law [69] -- began to issue a series of tracts on reconstruction. These are in some ways the epitome of idealistic reaction to the war, seen as the final outcome of the Industrial Revolution. The need for a spiritual revolution was recognized. "The central issue in the matter of war and peace is: How to effect and maintain the conversion of the hunter?" The source of the evil was artificiality and change. "Since the Industrial Revolution, there has gone on an organized sacrifice of men to things, a large-scale subordination of life to machinery." [70]

Broadly speaking, these were the starting points from which the whole idealistic opposition to the English Establishment began; youth movements, life reformers, and organicists all found their particular solutions to the problem. It is tempting to use the name of Geddes to start a new foray through the thickets of the illuminated social reformers, to indicate that the redoubtable Scotsman provides a link with the occultist origins of Scottish nationalism [71] and to hint how Geddes' half-realized theories were reformulated in a more acceptable fashion by Lewis Mumford, rather in the manner in which -- as we shall see -- C. G. Jung reinterpreted occult doctrine. We are here only concerned with the rediscovery of England. To this end were directed three movements with which many of the figures already encountered were also associated. These are Guild Socialism, the related Christian revival, and the final upsurge of the Underground in the face of international catastrophe with the campaign for Social Credit.

There would be some truth in representing the folk-dancing, race-improving elements of the Underground as the "pagan" idealistic movement, while the supporters of guild socialism and Social Credit might be called the "Christian" wing. But there were those like Massingham and Montague Fordham who contrived to combine both aspects of the illuminated approach. The origins of guild socialism lie in a romanticizing of the Christian Middle Ages, rather than in an ideal picture of an indefinitely located past age of "natural man." Its roots are in the teachings of William Morris and John Ruskin, and in the reaction against industrial society expressed in the Arts and Crafts movement. Shorn of their aesthetic content, the social implications of this movement were plainly put by Walter Crane:

The movement indeed represents in some sense a revolt against the hard mechanical conventional life and its insensibility to beauty .... It is a protest against that so-called industrial progress which produces shoddy wares, the cheapness of which is paid for by the lives of their producers and the degradation of their users. It is a protest against the turning of men into machines. [72]


As early as 1888 the Guild of Handicraft had been established in response to C. R. Ashbee's lectures on Ruskin at Toynbee Hall in the East End of London. The step had been taken because, Ashbee wrote, "we found those great democratic forces to which we as reformers looked for a survival of English craftsmanship, and a responsibility in its development, the Trade Union movement and the Cooperative Movement, unintelligent and indifferent in all matters relating to aesthetic training." The guild was in essence an escapist organization, and Ashbee's enthusiasm for "the old Guild system of the Middle Ages" as a means of ensuring both security and pride in achievement became directed toward the establishment of his guild in a craftsman's Utopia. Eventually, but at the cost of financial ruin, the Guild of Handicraft moved from London to Chipping Camden in the Cotswolds, where with the aid of its own songs and regulations it attempted to establish the first of several proposed "new centers of organic life." [73]

Arthur Penty, who was responsible for introducing the Guild idea to a wider public, was born in York in 1875, and was apprenticed to his father's architectural business. In 1899 he joined the Independent Labor Party and began to study politics. Two years later his father's business went bankrupt and Penty was left to fend for himself. This shock started him thinking about economics; and a second shock determined the direction in which his thoughts would lead. In July 1902, he called at the Fabian Society's office -- he had been a Fabian for some time -- and was taken to see the new building erected for the London School of Economics. His guide told him that the architect had been selected "on the statistical principle": that is, he had submitted the design with the most floor space. "I did not reply -- I was speechless. The gulf between me and the Fabian mind was apparent. It was the turning-point in my thought." [74] His architect's soul affronted, Penty ruminated on the more aesthetic principles of the guilds; and in 1906 he produced his book The Restoration of the Gild System. No one else ever followed Penty's spelling; but numerous supporters began to adopt his ideas. Penty admitted that his theories were an attempt to make John Ruskin's proposals practical, and he advised his readers to supplement his book with Edward Carpenter's Civilisation. its Cause and Cure. He took issue with the "collectivism" of most sorts of Socialist thought, which he saw as an attempt to combat the avarice of the few with the avarice of the many. Penty was after a spiritual reformation.

And so, without committing ourselves to the unlikely theory that the Middle Ages were in every respect an ideal age and while certain that in many respects that time suffers in comparison with our own, I think we must admit its superiority in some directions .... For pursuit of religion and art were then the serious things of life, while commerce and politics, which have today usurped our best energies were strictly subordinated to these attributes of perfection.

Being social, religious and political as well as industrial institutions, the Gilds postulated in their organisation the essential unity of life. And so, just as it is certain that the attainment of intellectual unity must precede the reorganisation of society on a Cooperative basis, it is equally certain that the same or similar forms of social organisation will be necessary again in the future. [75]


Before Penty had left Yorkshire he had fallen in with A. R. Orage, then a young schoolmaster suffering from intellectual starvation in Leeds. While The Restoration of the Gild System was being completed, Penty and Orage had lived together in London, and the underemployed architect discussed his scheme with the fugitive from the north, whose ambition was now to write. Both Penty and Orage tried to make some progress toward popularizing the guild theory in traditional arts-and-crafts quarters. In 1906, they induced the moribund Junior Art Workers' Guild to accept the proposals, and the next year Orage and his friend Holbrook Jackson organized an Arts Group within the Fabian Society. This soon led to friction with the Fabian establishment, and the chief agency for propagating guild theory became the magazine acquired by Orage and Jackson, The New Age. Just before and during the war, propaganda for guilds began to make its way into quarters where there existed a real chance of carrying out reforms.

Over its short career, guild socialism never lost the traces of its origins. Its founder, Penty -- typically, he worked as an architect on Hampstead Garden Suburb -- remained a romantic medievalist, and supporters from the arts-and-crafts groups (like W. R. Lethaby) were prominent. Out-and-out medievalists persisted, such as G. Stirling Taylor, who challenged modernists to prove that Manchester was "better" than Bruges, Chicago than Florence, and Winston Churchill a greater statesman than St. Anselm.

The illuminated approach was present from the start. Orage was a prominent Theosophist and was later to become an apostle of the extraordinary Georgian G. I. Gurdjieff. Penty saw symptoms of his expected spiritual revolution in the "restoration of belief in the immortality of the soul through the growing acceptance of the doctrines of reincarnation and karma, and the tendency to admit the claims of mysticism." Craft guilds had even before Penty's book been a topic of discussion in Theosophical circles, and the European Congress of the Theosophical Society in 1905 had included two papers on the role of guilds as well as one by Montague Fordham, the future author of M other Earth. [76] Very many of the circle around Orage were later to vow allegiance to one or another guru; others became pledged to the Christian revival. Yet in the ten years before 1923 the Guild theory increasingly seemed to have a real chance of penetrating the Trade Unions and becoming part of Socialist orthodoxy.

The first source of strength was the New Age propaganda. The New Age increasingly exercised an influence over the intellectuals of its day; Orage secured contributions from G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, and Bernard Shaw, published Ezra Pound and T. E. Hulme, and remained the arbiter of Progressive taste. Just before the outbreak of the Great War, S. G. Hobson (a founder member of the Independent Labour Party and yet another Quaker) had contributed articles on the Guild theory to the New Age at the same time as Orage was attacking "wage slavery" in its columns. In 1914 Orage issued as "editor" the book National Guilds which had been written chiefly by Hobson and became the first real text of practical guildsmen. Yet even here the "spiritual" aspects were considered central. "The abolition of the wage system involves not merely an economic revolution, but ex hypothesi, a spiritual revolution also. A spiritual revolution, indeed, will be necessary as a precedent condition of the economic revolution, for we are not so blind to the lessons of history as to imagine that an economic revolution for the better can be engineered by force and greed alone." [77]

S. G. Hobson's scheme did not, like Penty's, require a return to the old structure of master, journeyman, and apprentice. But it was soon given a firmer theoretical foundation by another contributor to the New Age. Ramiro de Maeztu. This basis -- which has always appeared somewhat sinister in later perspective -- was the functional principle. Of de Maeztu, Hobson wrote, "Had we met him earlier, there would have been no 'Guild Socialism'. It would have been 'Functional Socialism.''' De Maeztu (1874-1935) published his first book on corruption in Spain in 1899 and was a resolute anti-traditionalist. He had once disrupted a fashionable first night by rushing on to the stage shouting "Down with the Jesuits!" During the First World War he was a correspondent for a Buenos Aires paper, and he developed an admiration for England which he realized in his friendship with Orage and T. E. Hulme. From Hulme he imbibed a conviction that there existed absolute values and that fallen humanity must submit to discipline in order to regain these. During the years 1915-16 his New Age articles praised the Guild structure on the grounds of "limitation" and "hierarchy": the individual self must be dissolved and resurrected again as part of the whole social organism. The principle of function was "objectively" just: "it is more just, whether they like it or not." [78]

The revolt against individualism found support in academic quarters. In 1915, G. D. H. Cole, a 25-year-old fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, failed in a bid to turn the Fabian Society from its collectivist viewpoint. He resigned with Maurice Reckitt to help found the National Guilds League on the basis of the so-called "Storrington Document," a program to which A. J. Penty and S. G. Hobson adhered, although Orage withheld his full support. Despite conflict between Cole and Hobson on the authority of the state, the league declared as its policy the abolition of capital and the establishment of state ownership of the means of production. This was to be achieved through pressure exerted by trade unions, which were then to be resolved into a system of self-governing guilds, regulated by a Central Guilds Congress. [79] There is little point in detailing the various conflicts between sections of the guild movement: its intellectual support included Bertrand Russell, George Lansbury, Rowland Kenney (editor of the Daily Herald), and R. Palme Dutt, as well as the sympathy of the group around Belloc, Chesterton, and the Christian revival. Apart from corroboration derived from French syndicalism, the only addition to theory was made by R. H. Tawney, who in his famous The A cquisitive Society (1921) made a moving plea for the limitation of the competitive instincts of man by means of the functional principle. Meanwhile, the war and industrial unrest gave the idealists a real chance of carrying out their plans. One guildsman wrote:

To repeat, if this war means anything, it means a revolt against modern civilisation. If the modern commercial-capitalist-machine production is right, then why, in the name of common-sense, should we crush Germany, which bids fair to be the machine nation par excellence of the world. If modern centralised government is a 'good thing, then let us shed our last drop of blood in defence of the monarchy of Potsdam. If religion and romance are evil things, then let us raise our voices in grateful praise of a Prussia that would destroy Rheims cathedral rather than lose a battery of guns. Every symptom of the "modern" world has reached its highest point in Prussia. [80]


Despite the Munitions of War Act of 1915, which practically forbade strikes, the Great War saw the growth of the strike movement in Britain. In 1915, the Clyde shipyards struck, in 1917 the mine workers; in 1918, there were shipbuilding, textile, and coal strikes. J. M. Paton, who was active in the Glasgow strike movement, started The Guildsman, the journal of the National Guilds League; Willy Gallacher was sympathetic to their aims, and Frank Hodges (the secretary of the Miners' Federation) was on the league's Executive. In 1921, the Union of the Post Office Workers adopted a resolution to manage its affairs as a national guild, and the National Union of Teachers followed suit. S. G. Hobson induced the Manchester Building Trades Union to bid for contracts as a Guild; A. J. Penty and others organized a London Building Guild. A House Furnishing Guild was started, a Guild of Clothiers, an Engineering Guild, and an Agricultural Guild in connection with Welwyn Garden City. [81] In America and the English-speaking dominions there was interest in the guild theory; and there was a flourishing Guilds League in Japan. But very significantly, the most fertile ground for guild propaganda was in Germany, where materialism and the enrichment of the individual were also seen as leading to the war -- but of course materialism in the guise of Anglo-Saxon industry, French individualism, and American go-getting. The establishment of workers' and soldiers' councils in postwar Germany was hailed by guildsmen as presaging the establishment of German guilds.
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Re: The Occult Establishment, by James Webb

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Part 4 of 5

From February to May of 1919 the Daily News correspondent in Germany was George Young, a guilds sympathizer. His dispatches showed great enthusiasm for the German invention of Council Government. "The councils are as essential to Germany today as the Commons were to us a century ago." He rejected the old word moot as too archaic to describe the councils -- the very fact that it occurred to him is significant -- and thought that if the spontaneous eruption of the councils could be coordinated, "it may prove the salvation not only of Germany but of Europe." Looking back on his adventurous journey, he considered "that my most useful function in Germany at one time was putting German Labour leaders in possession of the conclusions of our Guild Socialists." It is uncertain precisely to whom he did in fact pass on the guild theories. However, he managed to penetrate almost anywhere he had made up his mind to reach, and his narrative of his journey by horse and carnage to Munich to interview the short-lived Eisner government is an amusing testimony to his determination. Writing in The Guildsman in November 1920, with the specter of Bolshevism peering over his shoulder, he predicted that "National Guilds, as a remedy for Bolshevism, will no doubt before long come back to us under a more popular name and with a more marketable appearance -- like Aspirin or Lysol. [82] This interesting prophecy was partly borne out; and German interest in Cole, Penty, and Stirling Taylor endured into the period of Nazi domination, fusing with other doctrines of native origin. G. D. H. Cole himself saw the interest in guilds taken in Germany, Austria, and Hungary, as a non-Bolshevik attempt to gain government by the people for the people. Like Young, Cole turned prophet.:

It is, of course, very possible that the Guild Socialism which is emerging in Germany and Austria wil1 show itself hostile not only to the old political Socialism and the orthodox Trade Unionism, but also to Communism, and even that it may become the rallying-point of the much-despised "Centrist" elements. It wil1 not be a comfortable position, or an easy one to sustain; but for all that it may be the right one. [83]


In England, however, circumstances were not propitious for the search for "the third force" which so dominated the German political conscience. The National Guilds League was handicapped by its preponderantly London membership and was racked with dissension. The working Building Guild failed because problems of liquidity and dragged down the Furnishing Guild with it. The evident success of Bolshevism provided the chief cause of theoretical differences, but a further source of trouble came from a new protege of Orage.

Major C. H. Douglas had begun to elaborate in the New Age a fresh economic theory which Orage called "Social Credit." This was to provide the idealistic Underground with yet another cause. In May 1920, the league appointed a committee to inquire into the Douglas proposals; but in December of the same year the annual conference rejected the committee's favorable conclusions. [84] Two years later, A. J. Penty was still complaining that, although Douglas had no mass support, his doctrines lingered on "as a religion" and promoted "intellectual confusion." Meanwhile, the Executive of the National Guilds League refused to support the Bolshevik Revolution, and the League published a pamphlet over their leaders' heads, thus securing the resignation of Tawney, Penty, Reckitt, and others. G. D. H. Cole summed up the situation: "Our left wing is pushing us into Russianised communism: our right wing, in a panic lest something may really be going to happen, is trekking at its best speed for the land of spiritual values, in which gross material things can be forgotten." [85] By 1923, guilds had ceased to exist as a political force.

It is all too tempting to classify guild socialism as a "right wing" movement, and analogies with the Fascist corporate state are correct so far as they go. Cole wrote later that it was "predominantly a left-wing movement" but "never revolutionary in the sense of seeking the violent overthrow of the existing social order." The main body of opinion was "of left-wing, non-Communist Socialists, who were strongly critical of reformist parliamentarian ism, and put their main hopes on Trade Union industrial action." [86] What Cole called "the right-wing" became Douglasites; the "left" joined the Communist party. In the view of an independent historian, "a quite disproportionate number of the intellectuals who joined the Communist Party at its foundation came from the ranks of the Guild Socialist movement." These included Palme Dutt, Page Arnott, William Mellor, the Ewers, Ellen Wilkinson, and Willy Gallacher. [87] It would never be possible to describe Orage or de Maeztu or Penty as "left wing" but it is equally doubtful that the right-wing label is correct. It is apparent that guild socialism could unite those of the most diverse convictions. The movement was idealistic, concerned with the functional or organic view of life, and could be justly called "reactionary" -- in the sense that it derived its inspiration from an idealized historical example, rather than an equally idealized vision of a future society.

A common characteristic of the illuminated viewpoint -- the wish to annihilate the self -- found in the guild idea a particular expression. In the ranks of the guildsmen were to be found not only Theosophists but also the advocates of the return to the land. The Rural Reconstruction Association sprang from a collaboration between Penty and Montague Fordham, who wrote several books and pamphlets on agriculture and the guilds. [88] These two last-named figures were no doubt among those of whom Cole was thinking when he talked of the trek toward spiritual values. For guild socialism had in its fundamental analogy with the medieval craft guilds an implicit connection with Christianity which several of its adherents tended to make embarrassingly explicit.

The Christian Socialist revival in late 19th-century England drew strength from French rather than English socialism: that of Lamennais, Buchez, and Louis Blanc. To the inspiration of Henry George was added the specifically Christian impulse of Bishop Charles Gore, whose Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield in Yorkshire was the matrix of the Church Socialist League. In 1906, a conference was held at Mirfield which included representatives of the Northern branches of the Social Democratic Federation and the Independent Labour Party, with the Superior of Mirfield-W. H. Frere, later bishop of Truro -- in the chair. As a result the Church Socialist League was founded at Morecambe the next month by about sixty Anglican clergymen. Of guild socialists specifically connected with Mirfield the most important were Father J. N. Figgis and Father Paul Bull. Bull (1864-1942) was a disciple of Gore, had won a medal in the Boer War, and foresaw the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the British Empire.89 Another clerical guild socialist was Conrad Noel, who resigned from the Church Socialist League in the year 1916 to found his own Catholic Crusade and edited a magazine, The Crusader, with A. J. Penty. Noel was born in 1869, the son of the poet Roden Noel, and had been converted to Socialism at Cambridge. He joined the Social Democratic Federation and the Guild of St. Matthew but remained dissatisfied with existing Christian Socialist organizations. His Catholic Crusade was based on the tenets that "the source of authority is God expressing himself more remotely through the race and more immediately through Catholic Democracy"; and that "the present industrial system being based on the mortal sin of avarice ... any attempt to make it more tolerable ... will be exposed by the Crusade as essentially vicious." [90]

Conrad Noel added a by-now-familiar element to his socialism -- morris dancing. As early as 1911 the first troupe of trained morris dancers resulting from the researches of Cecil Sharp came down to Noel's parish at Thaxted, and at the yearly festivals of the Catholic Crusade folk song and dance became part of the celebrations. Noel became notorious -- and received enthusiastic support from the guildsmen -- when complaints were made of his hanging the Irish tricolor and the red flag in Thaxted church. The real cause of the agitation seems to have been that he was known to have sympathized with the miners' strike of that year. [91]

The church as a whole was concerned with the state of society. A report, Christianity and Industrial Problems, first issued in 1918 by a committee including two members of Parliament, several bishops, and the master of Balliol, was most outspoken.

We believe that in a "day of fire" like the present, much that has been wrong and worldly in the past will be burnt away, and that in a coming time of more equal rights and better distributed power and possessions the Christian Gospel and the Christian Church may be found to be among the strongest forces making for a sound and wholesome progress.

There is no moral justification for profits which exceed the amount needed to pay for adequate salaries to the management, a fair rate of interest on the capital invested, and such reserves as are needed to ensure and maintain the highest efficiency of production and the development and growth of the industry.


The report declared industry a public function and condemned the taking of income for which no service was provided. The committee declared that "the common description of workers as 'hands' summarises aptly an aspect of their economic position which is not the less degrading because it has hitherto met with too general acquiescence. " [92]

It would scarcely be possible to be more explicit. But even earlier had been heard a resounding blast of the Christian trumpet against the evils of society. This proceeded from that strange literary animal that some called "the Chesterbelloc" and initially from Hilaire Belloc's book The Servile State (1912), of which the guildsman Maurice Reckitt wrote that he "could not overestimate the impact" on his mind and on the minds of "thousands of others." Belloc argued that there was a clear distinction between servile and nonservile conditions of labor. The original state of society had been servile, but the Middle Ages had rectified this by instinctively creating that excellent consummation of society: the "distributive state." The distributive state was the condition in which the individual owned property -- which, for Belloc, meant land -- but this happy situation had been destroyed by capitalism. The alternative ways of reforming capitalist society were the return to the distributive organization of small, land-based property owners -- or the collectivist solution of state ownership, which led directly to that "servile state" from which Christianity had rescued Europe in the Middle Ages. The application of the medieval Christian ethic naturally implied the abolition of the vice of usury. As Belloc phrased it in his economic ABC, "things will not get right again in this respect until society becomes as simple as it used to be, and we shall have to go through a pretty bad time before we get back to that." [93]

Under Belloc's inspiration, there developed the doctrine of distributism, and in 1926 the Distributist League was founded as an outgrowth of G. K. Chesterton's G. K.'s Weekly. With Maurice Reckitt as treasurer, it was directed toward the restoration of property and against the "juggling of finance." It claimed to derive a Christian sanction from Leo XIII's encyclical Rerum Novarum. The emphasis of Chesterton's propaganda was directed at "the ordinary man," whom he saw as having his sacrosanct rights gradually eroded by "the new philosophy" which "utterly distrusts a man." The distributists were from the first intimately connected with the guildsmen. Belloc had laid stress on the role of guilds in The Servile State, and both he and Chesterton were among the earliest and most regular contributors to Orage's New Age. Chesterton had met Conrad Noel of Thaxted around the turn of the century at a small heterodox religious group called the Christo-Theosophical Society in which both of them read papers, and it seems that Noel was instrumental in turning Chesterton -- who thought of him at the time as "an aesthetic ratcatcher" -- toward the Christian faith. The National Guilds League declared of Belloc and Chesterton that "we count them with us, because on most of the fundamental issues they are not against us," and the proponents of a return to organic country life on Christian principles, such as H. J. Massingham and Montague Fordham, owed the distributists a great debt. [94]

One of the speakers for the Distributist League was Eric Gill, who moved from Fabianism to the Catholic Church. With a group of friends, he retired to the country to lead a communal life under the rule of Dominican tertiaries. They eventually formed themselves into a guild -- in this Christian revival there was always a guild around the chapel corner -- dedicated to St. Dominic and St. Joseph. Gill derived inspiration from the French Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain, but also from traditional Hindu philosophy as represented by Ananda Coomaraswamy; and it is extremely suggestive that the Indian philosopher's ideas of a return to tradition could find a place in the revival of Christian social thought and the arts and crafts. Coomaraswamy recommended the social gospel expressed by the Theosophist Bhagavan Das in a treatise on the Laws of Manu. In this context it is worth remembering that the president of the Theosophical Society, Annie Besant, had been a member of an earlier Christian Socialist organization, the Guild of St. Matthew. [95]

This complicated association is important. For the presence of Theosophy within the ranks of the illuminated socialists had already been noticed, and it is necessary to understand that Gill derived support from traditions other than those of the Catholic Church to which he had pledged allegiance.

The originator of guild socialism, A. J. Penty, moved even nearer the less specific plans of Chesterton and the Distributists. He advocated a return to the medieval concept of the just price and the abolition of usury: Christian society was for him the ideal. But in the influx of Eastern occult and mystical ideas he found an encouraging rejection of materialism. He compared Theosophists, Spiritualists, and Christian Scientists to the Gnostics, Neo-Platonists, and Manichees who flourished just before the triumph of Christianity as a religious and social system.

Does it not look as if the same thing is about to happen, and that the spiritual movement on the one hand and the social movement on the other are preparing the way for the acceptance of Christianity, which, being both spiritual and material can alone give coherence and definiteness to the vague spiritual and social impulses of our time? [96]


The Christian Socialists and the non-Christian guildsmen were united in demanding a new ethic, a new alignment of man with regard to the material resources at his disposal. If European society was out of control, the safest examples were to be found in the past -- even possibly in the East. The appeal for some set of absolute and communally accepted values was heard loudly in England in the period between the Wars, and it is important to know that there was organized political groupings which sought in good faith to realize such demands. Even in the limited field of literary criticism it is necessary to know of Penty, of the guilds, and of the general movement for a "spiritual" or an "organic" socialism to understand Ezra Pound's harping on the question of abolishing interest as more than a private eccentricity best explained by an odd taste for Italian Fascism. ,Similarly, figures like Richard St. Barbe Baker explain the context of T. S. Eliot's Idea of a Christian Society, which in its demand for a "life in conformity with Nature" gives, as an example of'mankind's abuse of his environment unnecessary soil erosion.97 But many of these ideas remained in the realms of theory; and during the 1930s such hopes as the idealistic opposition still entertained of making a dent in the armor of the Establishment concentrated on the Social Credit doctrine of Major Douglas and the uniformed movement of John Hargrave.

The youth movements, which had started off after the war with ideas of reconnecting urban man with his roots, of educating deprived children in country surroundings, and of gradually evolving an improved bloodline, had always kept open a wide field of vision on general social problems. Immediately after the war, their novel ideas of education and their eugenic principles had seemed to offer some chances of utopian achievement. But as present reality weighed more and more heavily upon them the youth leaders naturally began to turn their attention to problems other than those of youth.

If Utopia were to be attained, some powerful evils of the day must be eradicated. The shadow known today as "social relevance" cast its form across the fields and woods in which the movements lingered. Leslie Paul had felt its presence before his secession from the Kibbo Kift in 1924, and the Woodcraft Folk which he led were first and foremost the youth movement of the Co -- operative Societies. Aubrey Westlake of the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry and Rolf Gardiner of the Springhead Ring were influenced in similar ways. Within the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry was founded in 1926 the Wayfarers' Circle, which approached bodies like the Quakers and the Institute of Industrial Psychology to try to work out some common policy on industrial problems. They produced a memorandum on the coal crisis and held a conference on the subject, but only Kibbo Kift promised support. Next there was formed the "Mid-Folk" or "Central Party" to formulate a political program. From this sprang the New Commerce Guild, a small group of members who attempted to put into practice an experimental banking arrangement based on credit tokens issued in exchange for services -- loans, accommodation, advice -- obtainable from other members. [98] They seem also to have dallied with the idea of guilds.

Most practical of the experiments were the Grith Fyrd Camps which took place from 1932-34 at Cleveland in the North of England and at the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry's center at Godshill. Of these enterprises, Westlake was the chairman and Rolf Gardiner the first director. They were carried out from a base at Toynbee Hall in the East End of London, which had been founded in 1885 as the outcome of the university extension movement and the Christian Socialist revival. In 1928 the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry had produced a report called "Peace and War" in accordance with the principles of the Biogenetic Law. This report declared that the militaristic urge was quite natural and proper to a certain stage of development and its repression did actual harm. The problem was to pass beyond this stage of evolution to a higher and more altruistic level at which the destructive urge could be sublimated for the purposes of civilization. Thus was developed the idea of the Grith Fyrd -- signifying in Anglo-Saxon, "Peace Army." This body of the ethically evolved was to pass through three stages of training: work "for the sheer .joy of creative activity"; "a sociological education through traveling and trekking," and civic service. Originally the scheme had nothing to do with the unemployed. But the slump in 1931 turned the thoughts of the educationalists toward improving the lot of those without work. The camps lasted for periods of six months, involved their inmates in turning barren ground into fertile allotments -- and of course, as with anything where Rolf Gardiner was concerned -- in communal morris dancing. Westlake hoped for a spiritual transformation through the Grith Fyrd method, which he described as being "to withdraw the young man for a period from the soul-destroying monster of industrialism and heart-breaking futility of our machine-created unemployment and to put him into a natural and simple environment where he can contact the four primary elements: earth, air, fire, and water." [99]

When John Hargrave turned the attention of Kibbo Kift from gazing on far horizons to looking more closely about them, it became a more ambitious affair. In the early days of the Kibbo Kift the chief difficulty was in finding finance to move the scattered "tribes" around the country for camps. Personal economic troubles turned Hargrave's thoughts to a more general consideration of economics, and he read several times C. H. Douglas's book, Economic Democracy.  [100] It took some three years for Hargrave to be converted and more time for him to transform his movement into a vehicle for Social Credit. A paragraph on the doctrine is therefore scarcely generous.

C. H. Douglas (1879-1952) was a major in the Royal Flying Corps and an engineering career had taken him to India and America. His first appearance in England as an economic theorist was in 1917 in Holbrook Jackson's The Organiser. Jackson sent him to Orage and the New Age where in a series of conferences between Orage, Douglas, and A. J. Penty, the first formulation of Social Credit was reached. [101] At first the Douglas theory embodied a great deal of guild theory as well, and it was to the National Guilds League that Douglas and Orage first submitted the scheme -- to be turned down, as we have seen, in December 1920. Douglas based his proposals on the conviction that the power of society to purchase goods must equal the cost of producing such goods. This is a way of saying that because society produces it is therefore entitled to consume the products of its labors. Douglas argued that the reason why men are prevented from enjoying the full measure of the goods to which their labor gives them title is the intricacy of cost accounting, which creates costs faster than it distributes purchasing power. If technological progress increases our ability to deliver goods where and when they are needed, the state must proportionately increase the ability to pay for such goods. This it should do simply by issuing money in the form of a "national dividend" and by applying the just, or scientific price at the retail end, so that all can benefit. One of the main targets at which early Social Credit propaganda was directed was the gold standard, which had been abolished in 1914 and might at any time be reintroduced. The artificiality of measuring value against the amount of gold held in the Bank of England was ceaselessly attacked -- and indeed the whole unquestioned concept of money. What was it? Who controlled it and in whose interest? The supporters of Douglas were apt to talk of "the international money-power," a sinister organization that was at first undefined, although there is small doubt that Douglas himself was in contact with sources which had been locating the secret agents of this money-power rather definitely for many centuries. At first, however, he contrived to give an appearance of impartiality.

No cool observer of world movements at this time can doubt that, whether as some would have us believe, there is an active, conscious conspiracy to enslave the world, or whether, as is arguable, only blind forces are at work to the same end, is a question immaterial to the patent fact that the danger of such a tyranny is real and instant. [102]


Douglas was obviously akin to the Christian and guild reformers with their insistence on the "just price" and the abolition of usury -- but he was also in the line of a number of monetary reformers who had questioned the very idea of the fiction "money." The first was John A. Hobson (1858-1940), the creator of the "underconsumption" theory of unemployment, who was publishing in the last decade of the 19th century, and to whom J. M. Keynes was later to acknowledge his debt. Hobson's Ruskin-inspired approach also recommended him to the Christian Socialists. [103] The second was Arthur Kitson (died 1937), a prolific inventor whose lamps for lighthouses were his particular pride. Kitson published in the United States in 1894 his first analysis of money, and on his return to England a revised edition of his book The Money Problem was issued while he busied himself with founding the Currency Reform League and lecturing to the Independent Labour Party. Kitson decided that "the end sought in exchange is ... the acquisition of commodities, not money" and denounced usury as "impossible." He was naturally much cultivated in guild and Christian Socialist circles, and in 1921 he announced his complete adherence to the Douglas proposals. [104] The third reformer was Frederick Soddy (1877-1956), a disciple of Kitson in economics, but in his own right a considerable physicist who worked with Rutherford on atomic energy and Sir William Ramsey on radium. He contributed to The Guildsman in 1920 and his proposals are in some ways similar to those of Douglas. [105] He too was convinced of a conspiracy to prevent investigation of the money system.

These theorists were unfortunate in that they were never taken up by movements which could provide the drive necessary to publicize their abstruse writings. Douglas had the ear of Orage of the New Age when he began his theorizing, and by the time of Orage's departure for France to study at Gurdjieff's Institute at Fontainebleau he was within an ace of obtaining that of John Hargrave. Nineteen twenty-four, the year of Leslie Paul's defection with what Hargrave described as "the socialist elements" of Kibbo Kift, was also the year of Hargrave's conversion to Douglasite economics. By the end of 1925 he was discussing the political role of his movement. Over the next three years he succeeded remarkably in imposing his vision of the new function of the Kibbo Kift as the standard bearers of Social Credit. Many of the old youth movement figures resigned. New Social Creditors came in. Hargrave, who had always insisted on "discipline," began to appear to some of the disgruntled old guard in an unpleasant light. Disillusioned with parliamentarianism and the money power, wrote one of those who resigned, Hargrave "could see only one solution to the difficulty, to emulate the exploits of Lenin and Mussolini, and to build up his Kindred until it was able to control events and assume the government of the country." [106] By the autumn of 1928, Hargrave was writing of the possibilities of a mass uprising in the New Age.

We think that a time may come when this organised Mass Pressure, to the tune of at least a quarter of a million men and women, will be able to move in body-bulk either on foot or by motor transport towards the seat of financial and political control. ... And this body of people would have to have supplies enough to last out at least six weeks.

The leaders would not go to negotiate with anyone. They would not recognise the power of either a Prime Minister or a banker or anyone else to negotiate. They would go to open an office -- The National Credit Account Office -- in the name of the British People and to have the Social Credit Decree proclaimed, printed and posted throughout the land. [107]


The previous year had seen The Confession of the Kibbo Kift embody a commitment to guilds, the just price and the national dividend, and a justification of revolutionary force in the right conditions as "a matter of biologic necessity." [108] If such expectations seem impossibly grandiose, we must note that the initiative for a link between Hargrave and the unemployed came from the unemployed themselves. In December 1931 George Hickling of Coventry wrote to Hargrave for advice on founding a "Legion of the Unemployed." Hargrave replied advising that a uniform be adopted. Because of the high cost of the Robin Hood uniforms of the Kibbo Kift, the Coventry group decided on a uniform of green shirts and berets which by the end of 1932 had been adopted by the Kibbo Kift proper. The movement changed its name to "The Green Shirt Movement for Social Credit." Hargrave found a ready hearing on Tyneside, and the Green Shirts joined the Hunger Marchers as well as putting 100 uniformed members in the Trades Union Congress May Day Demonstrations of 1932. [109] Hargrave developed what he called "unarmed military technique" which involved marches and the deployment of squads of drummers -- both to attract attention and to drown any opposition -- whom he had trained by instructors from the Brigade of Guards. In 1935, he published a novel, Summertime Ends -- which has been highly praised by Ezra Pound, Louis MacNeice, and John Steinbeck -- dramatizing the state of the country as he saw it and particularly of the unemployed. The Green Shirts put up parliamentary candidates in the elections of 1935 and achieved a particular success in the face of the Communists in London, until the Public Order Act of 1937 by banning uniformed political movements silenced their most effective propaganda device. On May Day 1938, the Social Creditors took part in a demonstration with their shirts hanging on coat hangers suspended from poles. They burned Montague Norman in effigy and shot arrows at the windows of 10 Downing Street. But their days of popularity were over. [110] At his most successful, Hargrave could never claim to put more than 2,000 uniformed supporters on parade, although there were some five times that number who had signed pledges of sympathy. [111]

In July 1938, John Hargrave finally dissociated himself from Major Douglas. Douglas had turned steadily away from the Green Shirts and their uniformed methods since 1933, and his own Social Credit Secretariat concentrated on trying to secure the signatures of parliamentary candidates on a pledge to introduce the national dividend. [112] The final breach seems to have come after Hargrave's visit to Alberta in Canada, in 1936-7. In the provincial elections of 1935, the Social Credit Party of Alberta, led by the radio evangelist William Aberhart, obtained a large majority which they held until 1971. The English Social Creditors became concerned that Aberhart had, in fact, little intention of introducing Social Credit. Douglas indicated that the time was not right for full implementation of his principles. But the impatient Green Shirts disagreed, and Hargrave traveled to Canada in an attempt to urge Aberhart to carry out the policy on which he had been elected. In this he was to some extent successful. He managed to precipitate a rebellion in the ranks of the Alberta Social Credit Party that forced Aberhart to approach Major Douglas officially. [113] But the difference in policy between Douglas and Hargrave had become plain to see, and in 1938 Douglas resigned from his Secretariat to set up another organization.

Hargrave's movement endured until 1951 -- mostly, as its leader told me, so that he could close it down in good order. During the war years his illuminated inclinations discovered another outlet in the "Spiritual Science" of Charles Boltwood. Boltwood had been born in 1889, and in the late 1930s he and his wife were "converted" by reading Mary Baker Eddy's Science and Life. They established a spiritualist group specializing in spiritual healing and radiesthesia. Then Boltwood's chief spirit guide, Charles Kingsley, directed him to set about preparing for the Second Coming of Christ, which would only be achieved when there had been established "the nucleus of Resurrection power." This conception signified the transmutation of human elements into immortal elements and was to begin with Boltwood's wife. [114] Boltwood's views on medicine were peculiar. He was not convinced that sex was essential for human reproduction, and he advised the eating of air as a cure for tuberculosis. Hargrave seems to have been most interested in Boltwood's techniques of healing by means of human radiation, and he claimed, for example, to have healed the scalded hand of the wife of a member of the Social Credit Party. Boltwood himself joined the movement for Social Credit, as did Rupert Naylor, a prominent astrologer. Hargrave's enthusiasm for Boltwood was not the uncritical admiration which his critics pretend, and in his praise of Boltwood's "spiritual science" there was undoubtedly a political element. At the same time Hargrave's messages to his following took on an increasingly apocalyptic tone, in which his old fascination with symbols and mythology was coupled to a new emphasis on the power of the sun. The supporters of Social Credit became "Solar Men." They were to pronounce a prayer to the sun for the success of their efforts. Hargrave denounced those who could not see that "the Social Credit mechanism is founded on a SPIRITUAL BASIS." [115] The Green Shirt leader has since devoted much research to the writing of a book on Paracelsus. [116]

It is all too easy to raise an eyebrow at the return of Hargrave's movement into the assembly of the illuminated Underground and to fail to see its significance. Supporters of Social Credit not only included the circle of illuminates round Orage but also T. S. Eliot's mentor, Father Demant; H. J. Massingham; and Aubrey Westlake (who became in 1943 the leader of the Health Section of the Social Credit Party). [117] The people who supported all the movements described in this chapter -- the youth movements, the Merry Englanders, the Back to the Landsmen, the Christian Socialists, the guildsmen, the Currency Reformers, and ultimately the Social Creditors -- devoted their energies to whichever of the movements seemed at the time to have the best chance of initiating an idealistic revolution. It is easy to sense that apart from their frequently interchangeable personnel, such movements had something in common, which I have called the "illuminated viewpoint." This can often be indicated by the presence of an interest in the religious, the mystical, and the occult. In England between the wars it manifested itself in a conjunction with antimaterialist, anti-individualist politics. The logic of the situation may be reinforced by a final example. It is entirely consistent that in the single case in which a movement described in this chapter achieved and retained political power -- the Social Credit government which ruled Alberta from 1935 until 1971 -- the leader of the movement should have been a fundamentalist preacher and the province which he governed extraordinarily subject to the influence of religious sects. The conditions of economic chaos and the consequent anxiety experienced in Alberta before the emergence of William Aberhart and his Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute has resulted in a marked increase in the appeal of cults such as the Jehovah's Witnesses. Aberhart had been able to harness radio to his own revival; favorable reception conditions gave him an audience estimated in 1935 at 350,000. His denunciations of moneylenders and unspecified East Coast financial interests united with his Christian basis to make Social Credit a natural corollary to hellfire. [118] It would be difficult to think of a simpler example of the coupling of an illuminated political doctrine to a basic transcendental message.

Two very important characteristics of the illuminated approach remain to be discussed. These are the relationship between the illuminates and Fascism and the strong connection between certain sorts of illuminated politics and a paranoid hatred of Jews.

The "illuminated" movements have obvious resemblances to more familiar movements labeled "Fascist" that grew up at the same time. The emphasis on blood and soil, the improvement of the race, and the revival of national tradition can be found in Nazism. The Christian reaction is in harmony with Mussolini's Italy and Franco's Spain. The demand for guilds and the assaults on international finance occur in German and Italian Fascism alike. The occult and the mystical indicators of the illuminated viewpoint are also present in Nazism. Does it follow that illuminated politics is Fascism, that I have invented in the phrase another unnecessary term to confuse the issue?

The poet Hugh McDiarmid (C. M. Grieve) is an unrepentant supporter of Social Credit and once attempted to persuade the Scottish Nationalist Party to accept the Douglas scheme. He now laments:

A friend said to me in London when I was associated with Douglas, Orage, Mairet, Symons, Reckitt, Canon Demant, John Hargrave of the Green Shirt movement, Arthur Brenton, and other Douglasites: "What are you doing among these people? Don't you realise they will all go religious-Fascist?" I did not realise anything of the kind, but they did all go religious-Fascist, and I still do not see why that should be so. It certainly has not happened in my own case. [119]


Placing the accent on the religious-Fascist may help to solve the problem. From the later political stance of MacDiarmid on the ideological left very many persons might well be called "Fascist" who were never such in any strict sense of the term. It is true that several of the illuminated politicians did become out-and-out Fascist sympathizers. Rolf Gardiner has already been noted as conditionally approving the Nazi seizure of power; but with his specifically German connections he was something of a special case. Odon Por (who translated S. G. Hobson's National Guilds) gravitated naturally into the hierarchy of the Italian corporate state. [120] Ramiro de Maeztu returned to Spain and his support for a Catholic monarchy was soon transferred to the Falange. [121] But the only prominent member of the English illuminated group who joined a Fascist party seems to have been the originator of the guild theory, A. J. Penty. As early as 1933 he recommended an exposition of Fascism as developing principles "which coincide largely with my own." In 1937, the year of his death, he gave almost unqualified praise to Mussolini and the Italian corporate state although he quarreled with the totalitarian aspect it had assumed. He welcomed the Fascist denial that social reconstruction must come from the working class. According to S. G. Hobson, Penty joined the Fascists in 1936. [122]

It might also be argued that because former Fascists became associated with illuminated groups after the failure and suppression of Oswald Moseley's movement, this betrays the essentially "Fascist" character of illuminated sentiments. Hargrave was said to have received the war-time allegiance of Sir A. V. Roe, Major General Fuller, and the novelist Henry Williamson, all former followers of Moseley. Of these only A. V. Roe in fact became a member of the Social Credit Party (a perfectly logical step because of his earlier well-established Social Credit views). The Fascists themselves had tried to adopt Social Credit as a part of their own program, and Hargrave felt it necessary to issue a pamphlet dissociating himself from Moseley. [123] Fuller (who, according to Hargrave, never officially joined his movement) had for some time been a follower of Aleister Crowley and had written a panegyric on that magician entitled The Star in the West. An undoubted Fascist, Fuller was also an undoubted illuminate, and he gravitated to illuminated circles. Henry Williamson -- who, again, never joined the Social Creditors officially-belonged rather more to the blood-and-soil movement than to the black-shirted marchers. [124] Jorian Jenks, the Fascist agricultural expert, came during the war into contact with Montague Fordham and the Rural Reconstruction Association. He became part-time secretary of the Soil Association in 1945 and published a book with a preface by H. J. Massingham. [125] But even he can be discovered in an earlier association with illuminates. During the 1930s he issued a work called Farming and Money with J. Taylor Peddie. Peddie was an interesting eccentric who attempted, with a weight of Biblical learning, to deduce a righteous economics from Scripture. "The Old Testament is the oldest economic work extant. God's economic policy concerned itself mainly with the elimination of poverty and destitution." [126]

The soundest conclusion seems to be that Fascist movements could and did contain illuminates, but that the illuminates were by no means necessarily Fascist. For example, the Green Shirts were subject to perpetual harassment by the Blackshirts. In 1927 Hargrave declared that the "difference between a Green Shirt and a black one" was that the Green Shirts were concerned with the transformation of the individual, while the Fascists wanted to set up the supreme state. The Liverpool headquarters of the Social Creditors was broken up by Blackshirts who received prison sentences as a result. [127] Nor is it really possible to call the Green Shirts "Fascist" on account of their methods. Among the other uniformed movements that fell under the strictures of the Public Order Act were the young Communists, who marched in khaki, the red-shirted Independent Labour Party, and a Jewish anti-Fascist organization called the Blue and White League who wore white shirts. Something might be made of the tendency in British Fascist circles to see themselves as the adult continuation of the Scout movement -- on the lines of the German youth movements -- and the image of the "samurai" which animated the Kibbo Kift was appropriated by a writer in Blackshirt. [128] However, the Fascist corporate state that the British Union took over from the Italian model owed little to guild theory, and the author of the unofficial Fascist program saw his predecessors in the 19th-century French syndicalists rather than in the guildsmen. [129] The truth is probably that Moseley took over an Italian Fascism, added a few German elements, and then tried to appropriate native developments like the Scouts or Social Credit to reinforce his imported policy.

Some illuminates saw in Fascist aims the possibility of achieving their hoped-for idealistic revolution. But -- with the sole obvious exception of the aging A. J. Penty -- it is difficult to find examples of that interchange of personnel which is so marked a feature of the illuminated groups. If for Hugh McDiarmid's epithet "religious-Fascist" we read "illuminated" and remember that McDiarmid has since been a member of the Communist party, his condemnation becomes more explicable. It is also true that so-called German Fascism -- Hitler's National Socialism -- did incorporate the illuminated points of view which in Britain largely escaped co-option.

There remains the question of what interpretation to place on the tendency of some illuminates to become anti-Semitic. A full discussion of the problem of illuminated anti-Semitism must be postponed until we investigate the role of the occult in the propagation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. But some characteristics can be demonstrated from the English illuminates. Of those we have discussed, Rolf Gardiner adopted an almost Nazi anti-Semitism in his accolade to the National Socialists after the Machtergreifung. The Jews in Germany were being repressed, he admitted, but those Jews were different from "our Jews." "They come with the smell of Asia fresh in their beards." Yet he would probably not have countenanced persecution of English Jewry, and it is interesting that the chief reason for his dislike of Jews was entirely religious. "How sick Europe is of the Jewish monotheistic string."[130] It may help to make clearer the type of anti-Semitism with which illuminates are concerned if it is borne in mind that these were men searching for "other realities" and "new values." If their visions tended toward the ideal, they would also have their devils.

England was probably no less guilty of the general anti-Semitic simplification than many other countries. [131] But until the activities of Oswald Moseley and the British Union there were under half-a-dozen organized groups of anti-Semites, of which two alone are important. The first is that gathered round the newspaper, The Patriot, founded by the Duke of Northumberland. It began publication in February 1922 with a circulation secured in advance "for the purpose of supplying briefly striking facts and arguments relating to movements threatening the safety and welfare of the British Empire." His Grace of Northumberland contributed an article to the first issue stating that "the Bolshevist revolution was the work mainly of Russian and German Jews," [132] and throughout its existence The Patriot betrayed its allegiance to the conspiracy theories propagated during the 1920s by emigrants from Soviet Russia. The British Fascists were founded through advertisements taken in this paper in 1923 by Miss Rotha Linton-Orman, an eccentric who was said to wear a sword to the meetings of her movement. [133] In 1924, there appeared Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, the text for all British adherents of the idea that there was a conspiracy to take over the world. The author of the book was Nesta Webster, who was convinced that there were five powers supporting a world conspiracy: "Grand Orient Masonry, Theosophy, Pan-Germanism, International Finance and Social Revolution." [134] Her conflation of French and Russian anti-Jewish propaganda was avidly seized on by The Patriot, and Nesta Webster -- whose belief in her conspiracy latterly became so strong that she would only open her front door with a loaded revolver in hand -- became a lecturer much in demand at British Fascist meetings. [135] The illuminated nature of Mrs. Webster's anti-Semitism is conspicuous. "How," she asked, "is it possible to ignore the existence of an Occult Power at work in the world? Individuals, sects or races fired with the desire for world-domination have provided the fighting-forces of destruction, but behind them are veritable powers of darkness in eternal conflict with the powers of light." [136]

The other leading group of racists was an organization called "The Britons." It was much smaller and more obscure but very diligent in inspiring anti-Semitism. The Britons were a hard-core organization and the publishers of English translations of the German Altmeister of anti-Semitism, Theodor Fritsch. The founder was Henry Hamilton Beamish, who -- together with another of the early members, Lieutenant Colonel A. H. Lane -- acquired his anti-Semitic views in South Africa during the Boer War. This South African anti-Semitism has been much neglected. It was an important source of the prejudice in England and provided material for French propagandists as well. The origins lie in the conviction formed by Sir William Butler -- who arrived in South Africa in 1898 as acting high commissioner -- that pressure for war with the Boers was being exercised by an international syndicate of Jews in league with the big gold-mining companies of Johannesburg. Butler's reports to the War Office were excised from the Blue Book by Joseph Chamberlain, but they provided the basis of much anti-Semitic mythology in military society. [137] Other members of "The Britons" form a good conspectus of the anti-Semitic portion of the Underground. They included a leading homeopathic physician and the man responsible for reviving archery in England, as well as Victor Marsden, who translated the Protocols of the Elders of Zion into English. The group was founded by Beamish in 1918 and continued to exist and publish its propaganda until recently.

Henry Hamilton Beamish himself was the brother of a member of Parliament for Lewes and lived out his days as a member of the legislature of Rhodesia. He spent most of the period between the wars traveling the world in the service of the German organization Weltdienst founded by Ulrich Fleischauer and later controlled by Alfred Rosenberg. In December 1922, he became involved in a libel action against Sir Alfred Mond, the reports of which demonstrate the complete inability of the founder of "The Britons" to maintain a coherent sequence of thought. At one point he succinctly stated his philosophy: it was that "Internationalism and Bolshevism were one, and Bolshevism was Judaism." Beamish and his codefendent were fined £ 5,000 plus legal costs. His last communication with the courts -- before the fine was paid -- was to send his prosecutors a statutory declaration alleging that on medical advice he was about to take a sea voyage for the benefit of his health. Almost immediately he resurfaced at the side of Hitler in Munich. [138]
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