Was Hitler an occultist?
Just over seventy years ago, Britain declared war on Nazi Germany. It was in reality a war against Adolf Hitler and those who fought alongside him in his programme of nakedly aggressive territorial expansion.
Hitler was a rabid anti-Semite. He had made his extreme beliefs clear 15 years earlier in his infamous political autobiography, Mein Kampf [‘My struggle’]. But what is it that fired the ethnic and political hatred that pervades this work?
Ten years ago on holiday I stumbled upon some dark history while visiting a castle buried in the Austrian Alps. The castle was Schloss Mittersill.
I was told it had been used by Hitler as the headquarters of a branch of the infamous SS Gestapo - and its secret task was to research occult power for military ends. I returned home, determined to find out more.
I began digging out information on the Third Reich and its barbarities, along with facts on the ideology from which it sprung, namely Nazism.
I soon unearthed that the Nazis had a Bureau of the Occult, as part of their government under Hitler. This was known as the SS Occult Bureau and answered to Heinrich Himmler, who was intensely interested in the occult. I also discovered that members of the SS (Schutzstaffel), or protection squad, were inducted by a pagan-style initiation ceremony.
My trail led me to investigate the early life of Nazism’s central and commanding figure, Adolf Hitler. There is still disagreement among historians as to Hitler’s exact involvement with the occult, particularly as Hitler is on record as having derided esoteric religion.
But, in spite of this, there is circumstantial and other evidence to suggest the following account could possibly be true.
While still a young child, Hitler would have been told about the mysteries of the occult. He attended a Benedictine monastery school near his German home.
The abbot in charge was fascinated by the lore of the Albigensians or Cathars. The Cathars could probably be classified as early New Agers, in that they believed that man could gain the powers of a god.
The occult insights Hitler gained in this school perhaps stayed with him all his adult life and helped shape his future spiritual philosophy, even when he disclaimed any belief in them.
While in Vienna, pursuing a career as an architect and artist, Hitler spent spare time in occult bookshops and libraries, acquainting himself with the mysteries of metaphysical lore and gaining the acquaintance of practitioners of both so-called ‘white’ and ‘black’ magic. He experimented (as later became popular in the 1960s) with altered states of consciousness - or ‘higher consciousness’.
Yoga, astrology, Eastern and Western paths to this goal proved too slow for Hitler and, again, like those a few decades after him, he supplemented meditation with drugs. In particular, he experimented with the drug mescaline.
Researchers have found that mind-expanding drugs have various side effects, including causing delusions of grandeur. Delusions of grandeur obviously affected the Fuhrer too. Others have maintained that the hypnotic power he obtained enabled him to dominate and control a nation - and almost destroy a continent.
Hitler is said by some to have believed in magical power and sent investigators out all over the world in the 1930s to discover ancient rituals and bring back what were thought to be powerful religious artefacts. It is this theory that the film Raiders of the lost ark is based on - and it is for this purpose that Schloss Mittersill, the Austrian castle I visited, was said to have been used by Hitler to organise trips to the Far East.
Hitler believed that he had made direct contact with Satan and had grasped a ‘secret doctrine’. It is possibly from this and the occult books he read in Vienna that many of the beliefs and practices of Nazism and the Third Reich were developed.
Some of the esoteric books Hitler would have read were flagrantly anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic, anti-conservative Protestant - and even anti-Muslim. What is equally striking and horrific is that this early neo-Pagan movement that he was influenced by had many beliefs identical to later Nazi thinking.
Through all this reading and esoteric experience, Hitler came to believe in an ancient civilisation called Atlantis, where dwelled a master-race called Aryans. He thought that the Aryans of Europe were descended from this original, so-called super-race.
Aryans were to protect their blood-stock at all costs. What distinguished them from ‘inferior’ races were their more highly ‘evolved’ intellects.
These ‘superior’ intellects were supposedly developed by initiation into higher levels of consciousness. And it was these altered states that supposedly led to a new or super humanity. Some occult and New Age writers since that time have called this new super humanity Homo noeticus - and belief in it today is far from dead.
The evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin were taken by Hitler and given a political and spiritual twist - it is not just that we have evolved, but we are evolving. What is important is the survival of the fittest; and the Aryans were, of course, those fittest and destined to evolve the furthest.
Many Nazis thought that as Aryans they were evolving into a new and superior species by means of ‘spiritual discipline’ and ‘consciousness evolution’. Such an understanding of Aryan superiority lay at the base of Nazism.
They felt that religious and racial persecution was necessary to protect their blood-line and the spiritual superiority needed for them to reach a higher consciousness and greater intellectual ability in the coming New World Order.
This evolutionary understanding of humanity, with Aryans at the intellectual and spiritual summit, required ‘lesser’ beings to be eliminated. A ‘final solution’ was but another logical step from this. Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps; gypsies likewise. And races like the Slavs of Eastern Europe were treated abominably.
Even conservative Christians were put on Hitler’s extermination lists, due to their contrasting spiritual stance and Jewish religious roots.
In looking back at the terrors that gripped Europe 70 years ago, we should not just examine the more sensational causes, of course. In reality, the influences on Germany, Hitler, the Nazis and the rest of Europe were complex and convoluted.
Quite rightly, many have pointed to the appalling state of the German economy after the First World War as being a stimulus to, and excuse for, the extremists. Just as correctly, others have found an explanation in the over-humiliated national pride of Germany due to the severe punishments dished out by the allied powers at the end of the Great War.
But we must look further than economic and social explanations to understand Hitler and his clique. Many have argued that the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche and his concept of a ‘superman’ (a heroic figure who by exercising his will subdues all others) were influential in Nazi thinking. This was, no doubt, true as well.
However, Hitler’s possible involvement with the occult must not be left out of the analysis. This would explain only too well the satanic elements in his thinking. Thank God, that few people are as wicked as Hitler, but this is only because of the restraining grace of God.
The monstrous excesses of Hitler and his entourage remind us that we must pray for world leaders. We must pray that leaders will seek fulfilment and significance for their peoples in the only place where it is to be found, namely in embracing and living out the gospel of Jesus Christ.