By Julius Evola (from Il Conciliatore, no. 10, 1971; translated from the German edition in Deutsche Stimme, no. 8, 1998)
The first misunderstanding here is the confusion of the magical element with the mythical, whereas the two have nothing to do with one another. The role of myths in National Socialism is undeniable, for example in the idea of the Reich, the charismatic Führer, Race, Blood, etc. But rather than calling these "myths," one should apply to them Sorel's concept of "motivating energy-ideas" (which is what all the suggestive ideas used by demagogues commonly are), and not attribute to them any magical ingredient. Similarly, no rational person thinks of magic in connection with the myths of Fascism, such as the myth of Rome or that of the Duce, any more than with those of the French Revolution or Communism. The investigation would proceed differently if one went on the assumption that certain movements, without knowing it, were subject to influences that were not merely human. But this is not the case with the French authors. They are not thinking of influences of that kind, but of a concrete nature, exercised by organizations that really existed, among which were some that to various degrees were "secret." Likewise, some have spoken of "unknown superiors" who are supposed to have called forth the National Socialist movement and to have used Hitler as a medium, though it is unclear what goals they could have had in mind in so doing. If one considers the results, the catastrophic consequences to which National Socialism led, even indirectly, those goals must have been obscure and destructive. One would have to identify the "occult side" of this movement with what Guénon called the "Counter-Initiation." But the French authors have also proposed the thesis that Hitler the "medium" emancipated himself at a certain point from the "unknown superiors," almost like a Golem, and that the movement then pursued its fatal direction. But in that case one must admit that these "unknown superiors" can have had no prescience and very limited power, to have been incapable of putting a stop to their supposed medium, Hitler.
A lot of fantasy has been woven on the concrete level about the origin of National Socialism's themes and symbols. Reference has been made to certain organizations as forerunners, but ones to which it is very difficult to attribute any genuine and factual initiatic character. There is no doubt that Hitler did not invent German racial doctrine, the symbol of the swastika, or Aryan antisemitism: all of these had long existed in Germany. A book entitled "Der Mann, der Hitler die Ideen gab" [The man who gave Hitler his ideas] reports on Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels (the title of nobility was self-bestowed), who had formerly been a Cistercian monk and had founded an Order that already used the swastika; Lanz edited the periodical "Ostara" from 1905 onwards, which Hitler certainly knew, in which the Aryan and antisemitic racial theories were already clearly worked out.
But much more important for the "occult background" of National Socialism is the role of the Thule Society. Things are more complex here. This society grew out of the Germanenorden, founded in 1912, and was led by Rudolf von Sebottendorf, who had been in the East and had published a strange booklet on "Die Praxis der alten türkischen Freimaurerei" [The practice of ancient Turkish Freemasonry]. Practices were described therein that involved the repetition of syllables, gestures, and steps, whose goal was the initiatic transformation of man, such as alchemy had also aimed at. It is unclear what Turkish masonic organization Sebottendorf was in contact with, and also whether he himself practiced the things in question, or merely described them.
Moreover, it cannot be established whether these practices were employed in the Thule Society that Sebottendorf headed. It would be very important to know that, because many top-ranking National Socialist personalities, from Hitler to Rudolf Hess, frequented this society. In a way, Hitler was already introduced to the world of ideas of the Thule Society by Hess during their imprisonment together after the failed Munich Putsch.
At all events, it must be emphasized that the Thule Society was less an initiatic organization than it was a secret society, which already bore the swastika and was marked by a decided antisemitism and by Germanic racial thinking. One should be cautious about the thesis that the name Thule is a serious and conscious reference to a Nordic, Polar connection, in the effort to make a connection with the Hyperborean origins of the Indo-Germans--since Thule appears in ancient tradition as the sacred center or sacred island in the uttermost North. Thule may just be a play on the name "Thale," a location in the Harz where the Germanenorden held a conference in 1914, at which it was decided to create a secret "völkisch" band to combat the supposed Jewish International. Above all, these ideas were emphasized by Sebottendorf in his book "Bevor Hitler kam" [Before Hitler came], published in Munich in 1933, in which he indicated the myths and the "völkisch" world-view that existed before Hitler.
Thus a serious investigation into Hitler's initiatic connections with secret societies does not lead far. A few explanations are necessary in regard to Hitler as a "medium" and his attractive power. It seems to us pure fantasy that he owed this power to initiatic practices. Otherwise one would have to assume the same about the psychic power of other leaders, like Mussolini and Napoleon, which is absurd. It is much better to go on the assumption that there is a psychic vortex that arises from mass movements, and that this concentrates on the man in the center and lends him a certain radiation that is felt especially by suggestible people.
The quality of medium (which, to put it bluntly, is the antithesis of an initiatic qualification) can be attributed to Hitler with a few reservations, because in a certain respect he did appear as one possessed (which differentiates him from Mussolini, for example). When he whipped up the masses to fanaticism, one had the impression that another force was directing him as a medium, even though he was a man of a very extraordinary kind, and extremely gifted. Anyone who has heard Hitler's addresses to the enraptured masses can have no other impression. Since we have already expressed our reservations about the assumption that "unknown superiors" were involved, it is not easy to define the nature of this supra-personal force. In respect to National Socialist theosophy [Gotteserkenntnis], i.e. to its supposed mystical and metaphysical dimension, one must realize the unique juxtaposition in this movement and in the Third Reich of mythical, Enlightenment, and even scientific aspects. In Hitler, one can find many symptoms of a typically "modern" world-view that was fundamentally profane, naturalistic, and materialistic; while on the other hand he believed in Providence, whose tool he believed himself to be, especially in regard to the destiny of the German nation. (For example, he saw a sign of Providence in his survival of the assassination attempt in his East-Prussian headquarters.) Alfred Rosenberg, the ideologist of the movement, proclaimed the myth of Blood, in which he spoke of the "mystery" of Nordic blood and attributed to it a sacramental value; yet he simultaneously attacked all the rites and sacraments of Catholicism as delusions, just like a man of the Enlightenment. He railed against the "Dark men of our time," while attributing to Aryan man the merit of having created modern science. National Socialism's concern with runes, the ancient Nordic-Germanic letter-signs, must be regarded as purely symbolic, rather like the Fascist use of certain Roman symbols, and without any esoteric significance. The program of National Socialism to create a higher man has something of "biological mysticism" about it, but this again was a scientific project. At best, it might have been a question of the "superman" in Nietzsche's sense, but never of a higher man in the initiatic sense.
The plan to "create a new racial, religious, and military Order of initiates, assembled around a divinized Führer," cannot be regarded as the official policy of National Socialism, as René Alleau writes, when he presents such a relationship and even compares it, among others, to the Ishmaelites of Islam. A few elements of a higher level were visible only in the ranks of the SS.
In the first place, one can see clearly the intention of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to create an Order in which elements of Prussian ethics were to be combined with those of the old Orders of knighthood, especially the Teutonic Order. He was looking for legitimation of such an organization, but could not obtain it, since these old Orders of Catholicism were openly opposed by the radical wing of National Socialism. Himmler was also seeking, without the possibility of any traditional connection, a relationship to the Nordic-Hyperborean heritage and its symbolism (Thule), albeit without those "secret societies" discussed above having any influence over it. He took notice, as did Rosenberg, of the researches of the Netherlander Herman Wirth into the Nordic-Atlantic tradition. Later Himmler founded, with Wirth, the research and teaching organization called the "Ahnenerbe." This is not without interest, but there was no "occult background" to it.
So the net result is negative. The French authors' fantasy reaches its high point in the book "Hitler et la tradition cathare" by Jean-Michel Angebert (Paris, 1971). This deals with the Cathars, also called Albigensians, who were a heretical sect that spread especially in Southern France between the 11th and 12th centuries, and had their center in the fortress of Montségur. According to Otto Rahn, this was destroyed in a "crusade against the Grail," which is the title of one of his books. Whatever the Grail and its Grail-Knights had to do with this sect remains completely in the dark. The sect was marked by a kind of fanatical Manicheism: sometimes its own believers would die of hunger or some other cause as a demonstration of their detachment from the world and their hostility to earthly existence in flesh and matter. Now it is assumed that Rahn, with whom we corresponded during his lifetime and tried to persuade of the baselessness of his thesis, was an SS man, and that an expedition was sent on its way to retrieve the legendary Grail which was supposedly brought to safety at the moment when the Cathars' fortress in Montségur was destroyed. After the fall of Berlin, a unit is said to have reached the Zillertal and hidden this object at the foot of a glacier, to await a new age.
The truth is that there was talk of a commando unit, which however had a less mystical commission, namely the rescue and concealment of the Reich's treasures. Two further examples show what such fantasies can lead to when they are given free rein. The SS (which included not only battle units but also researchers and scholarly experts) mounted an expedition to Tibet in order to make discoveries in the fields of alpinism and ethnology, and another one to the Arctic, ostensibly for scientific research but also with a view to the possible situation of a German military base. According to these fantastic interpretations, the first expedition was seeking a link to a secret center of the Tradition, while the other was seeking contact with the lost Hyperborean Thule...