Today I’d like to talk about a subject that makes a lot of people uncomfortable but which is important for understanding the development of fringe history. That subject is esoteric Nazism. This is not a moot point or a weird sidelight to fringe history; instead, it is central to the development of many of its claims. Fringe figures such as Frank Joseph and Jacques de Mahieu have been explicitly affiliated with Nazism and have incorporated Nazi racial ideas into their work. Others, like the late fringe theorist Miguel Serrano, have adopted esoteric Nazism as a belief system and incorporate Aryan racial theories into their promotion of fringe history. Serrano even started a religion, Esoteric Hitlerism, to promote his belief that inter-dimensional beings and Nazis were the path to salvation.
Today, fringe figures claim amazing things for Hitler: that he had a special relationship with supernatural forces or aliens, that he possessed the Ark of the Covenant, that he possessed the magic spear that pierced Christ’s side (that one was sort of true—though the spear was a medieval fake), that he presided over wizardry that included space flight and time travel, and that he had found the Holy Grail or was the Antichrist. One could easily be forgiven for thinking that fringe historians see Hitler as a sort of demigod since they attribute to him the range of powers and connections more typically associated with figures like Perseus, Siegfried, or Samson.
After World War II Hitler had indeed become a mythic figure, and it is rather shocking how easily Hitler slid into the template set by Charlemagne and Frederick Barbarossa—not to mention Odin and King Arthur—of the Sleeping King, the widespread European myth of the great leader who is not dead but waiting in a mountain or a faraway island to rise again and save his nation. Within months of Hitler’s suicide, many had started to claim that like Arthur to Avalon, he had not died but had been transported by ship (submarine) to a magical island (South America or Antarctica) where he would live on, regroup, and someday return.
This primal sin of Nazism is deeply embedded in the DNA of fringe history because it was present at the creation. The modern fringe history movement takes much of its shape and form from Jacques Bergier’s and Louis Pauwels’s Morning of the Magicians (1960), which launched the ancient astronaut theory and revived interest in lost civilizations like Atlantis. It was, of course, not the first fringe history book, but as the most widely cited and the one most closely tied to the postmodern, counterculture worldview that became associated with the fringe community, it bequeathed more than its share of claims to the fringe history world.
When I have talked of the book, I usually discuss its ancient astronaut and lost civilization claims, but the authors devoted about a third of the book to exploring esoteric Nazism. The two authors did more than almost anyone to make Hitler into sort of a Faustian demigod; indeed, much of their book is very obviously a reflection of the trauma of World War II and an attempt to find a supernatural explanation for that war’s devastation. In fact, they attribute the war to an invisible struggle between unseen gods.
They begin by likening the collapse of the Third Reich to the Twilight of the Gods in Norse myth, “Whoever has … known also the Twilight of the Gods of the Third Reich, can imagine what the end of Cordoba and Granada was like, and a thousand other ends of the world since time began,” referencing also the collapse of the Inca, the Toltec, and the Maya before immediately relating all these civilizations to “white men” who came from a vanished world.
Although the two authors take pains to call Hitler “satanic” they nonetheless say that he had special access to “Superior Beings” who had announced the creation of a master race. These beings, they implied, were aliens—and Hitler had met them in person. They see the Nazis in religious terms, speaking of their powerful “sacraments of evil,” equal and opposite to religion’s sacraments of good; and they see Hitler as almost, though not quite the Antichrist, Nazism as an offshoot of Satanism:
The problem must be faced. We will never be safe from Nazism, or rather from certain manifestations of the Satanic spirit, which, through the Nazis, cast its dark shadow over the world, until we have roused ourselves to a true awareness of the most fantastic aspects of the Hitlerean adventure. (p. 133)
I can’t stress this enough: The authors propose a Manichaean worldview of equal and opposite extremes, whereby evil is as direct and powerful a path to knowledge as good.
They link the Nazis to Atlantis, to the vril of the Theosophists, to Theosophy itself, to the hollow earth and its inhabitants. They ask why only the forces of evil study such subjects and why it is that the powers of good do not also appropriate the occult and the invisible history of the world to further their ends. To readers, this is all but an invitation to see in Hitler and esoteric Nazism a path toward spiritual enlightenment. They introduce into evidence all of the claims made for Atlantis and the Watchers and the giants, and they note that official science rejects such claims while noting—though with apparent condemnation—that Hitler said that there was a different science that rejects the “Jewish-Liberal science” of the mainstream. They seem to reject this claim, but the whole of their book—its hundreds of pages—is designed to prove that this secret science really exists.
They place the homeland of the race of Aryan giants from Atlantis at Tiahuanaco, which they claim is “hundreds of thousands” of years old, had survived the Great Flood, and depicted Ice Age megafauna in its art. They cite these claims to Nazi-era German archaeologists, and these claims appear almost point for point in Graham Hancock’s Fingerprints of the Gods, although filtered through the work of Arthur Posnansky, and they present as apparently worthy of research Hans Hörbiger’s “World Ice Theory,” beloved of esoteric Nazis.
The authors accuse the Western powers of suppressing Hitler’s connection to a lost civilization and a secret science, “to save countless million souls from being corrupted.” In a difficult passage to read, the authors claim that the Second World War was a battle between “the humanist or the magical” view of the world, and they seem more than a little upset that Hitler’s magical world collapsed in the face of a materialism. Their whole book celebrates the concept of “fantastic realism,” and it is impossible not to read this as the authors’ disappointment that Hitler failed to perfectly embody the pre-scientific, pagan world of gods and monsters—the world, they said, built not for man but for “something more than Man.” They mourn that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. are indistinguishable in their secular aims.
At length, the two authors liken Hitler to Hermes Trismegistus, and the parallel is strikingly accurate, not due to mystical knowledge on Hitler’s part but due to how fringe historians relate to the figures. In 400 CE, Zosimus of Panoplis wrote in his Imouth (preserved in Syncellus, Chronicle 14) that Hermes had received instruction from the Watchers and had passed their knowledge of alchemy on in his books on the subject. For medieval alchemists, the pagan, antediluvian Hermes is nevertheless seen as a sage who can bequeath wisdom Christians can use, if only they are able to properly apply the demonic knowledge for good ends. Similarly, fringe historians seems to view Hitler as a conduit to the mystical knowledge of the universe that can be made safe for the public if filtered correctly through fringe historians’ pens.
The two authors did not really mean to support Nazism; indeed, the thrust of this section of the book is that the same foundation of historical and scientific claims could produce both the (supposedly) rational West, the communist East, and the mystical Nazis—and that ideological worldviews make it impossible to truly understand those from other points of view. But the mournful tone and the suggestion that the magical is a valid way of investigating the world leaves less critical readers with the impression that esoteric Nazism provides a unique path to ancient wisdom and communion with the alien gods.
These ideas did not stop with Pauwels and Bergier but instead have become embedded in fringe history. How many times has Ancient Aliens tried to connect Nazis to ancient aliens, Atlantis, and UFOs? But let’s be more direct. The Raëlians, who took so much from Morning of the Magicians and its ancient astronaut literary successors, are trying to rehabilitate the swastika and return it to its ancient (well, Theosophical) meaning before Hitler, when it was a symbol of the divine, a mystical connection that runs through fringe literature and esoteric Nazism alike.
Take a look at the graphic below. It’s the original logo for John R. Ward’s Sirius Project, launched in 2011 to explore ancient symbolism and promoted by Scotty Roberts, a close associate of Ward. (Ward claims an honorary Ph.D. from a British Knights Templar club and presents himself under the title Dr.) I obtained this graphic from the Internet Wayback Machine. Look at the ring around the center icon. What do you see? Those symbols are probably familiar to readers with a knowledge of esoteric Nazism.
They are the six inset symbols in the ring worn by SS officers.
That’s not me imposing a reading on Ward’s logo. The symbols are identical and do not appear all together anywhere else except in SS symbolism. Ward has since changed the logo, and today it no longer features SS symbolism. According to sources familiar with the situation, Ward claims that the graphic designer added the symbols without his knowledge.
You will of course recall that Ward's close associate Roberts advocated the “dual bloodline” theory that held that both Adam and the serpent impregnated Eve and that therefore certain races were inherently more human than others. While Roberts used this only to suggest a hidden extraterrestrial race, the dual bloodline theory has historically been connected to anti-Semitic efforts to cast the Jews as inhuman. Rudolf Steiner used the same claim to argue for whites as the superior race.
Michael Barkun noted in his Culture of Conspiracy (2006/2013) that after World War II, when Hitler’s Holocaust had rendered explicit anti-Semitism unsupportable, the tropes of Nazi-era anti-Jewish propaganda slid seamlessly into the growing UFO subculture, largely absorbed from right wing political extremism. Most famously, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion were reinterpreted as an Illuminati or extraterrestrial document. But he also points to a fascinating correlation between the postwar “good” aliens, the Nordics, and Aryans and the postwar “bad” aliens, the Greys, and the Jews. The latter were short, gnome-like, misshapen—all stereotypes associated with Jews:
Even among authors clearly hostile to Nazis and anti-Semitism, Nordics and Aryans are well-meaning and benign, while gnomelike, dwarfish Grays are a mortal threat. […] Even among writers who most unambiguously reject anti-Semitism, the alien racial types disquietingly appear to reproduce old stereotypes. The evil Grays are dwarfish with grotesque features—not unlike stereotypes of the short, swarthy, hook-nosed Jews of European anti-Semitic folklore. They are contrasted to the tall, virtuous Nordics or Aryans. Although there is little to suggest that those who employ such terms do so to make direct parallels to earthbound categories, the images seem clearly to be refracted versions of older racial anti-Semitism.
Needless to say, the Aryans are also the heroes of lost civilization narratives like those of Atlantis, Lemuria, and Mu, although they gained their white heroes from an earlier generation of racism.
However, don’t expect coherence in ufology: Hitler was supposedly in league with the evil aliens, even though the evil aliens weren’t Aryans.
In sum, it seems that fringe history wants to treat Nazis the way the Greeks treated the Titans or medieval sorcerers the demons: creatures to be called up, bound by magic words, and then employed to gain special access to esoteric wisdom and the supernatural. In so doing, the fringe historian feels he can control the evil and use it to bring about a revelation, just as Zosimus thought he could use the evil wisdom of the Fallen Angels to bring about alchemical enlightenment.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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