Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Houston Stewart Chamberlain (September 9, 1855 – January 9, 1927) was a British-born German author of books on political philosophy, natural science and Richard Wagner.
Chamberlain married the composer’s daughter, Eva, some years after Wagner’s death.
His two-volume book, ‘Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’ (The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century), published in 1899, became one of the many references for the pan-Germanic movement of the early 20th century, and, later, of the völkisch antisemitism of Nazi racial policy.
Houston Stewart Chamberlain was born in Southsea, Hampshire, England, the son of Rear Admiral William Charles Chamberlain, RN. His mother, Eliza Jane, daughter of Captain Basil Hall, RN, died before he was a year old, and he was raised by his grandmother in France.
Chamberlain’s education began in a Lycée at Versailles and most of his education occurred on the continent, but his father had planned a military career for his son and at the age of eleven he was sent to Cheltenham College, an English boarding school which produced many army and navy officers.
He then traveled to various spas around Europe, accompanied by a Prussian tutor, Herr Otto Kuntze, who taught him German and interested him in German culture and history.
Thereafter he settled at Dresden, where “he plunged heart and soul into the mysterious depths of Wagnerian music and philosophy, themetaphysical works of the Master probably exercising as strong an influence upon him as the musical dramas.”
In 1889 he moved to Austria. During this time it is said his ideas on race began taking shape, influenced by the concept of Teutonic supremacy embodied in the works of Wagner and Arthur de Gobineau.
Chamberlain had attended Wagner’s Bayreuth Festival in 1882 and struck up a close correspondence with his wife Cosima.
In 1908 he married Eva Wagner, the composer’s daughter, and the next year he moved to Germany and became an important member of the “Bayreuth Circle” of German nationalist intellectuals.
He lived close to the Wagners, at 1 Wahnfriedstrasse in a large, imposing house (left – note the observatory dome on the roof – Chamberlain was a keen amateur astronomer)
By the time World War I broke out in 1914, Chamberlain remained an Englishman only by virtue of his name and nationality. In 1916 he also acquired German citizenship.
He had already begun propagandising on behalf of the German government and continued to do so throughout the war.
His vociferous denunciations of his land of birth, it has been posited, were the culmination of his rejection of his native England’s capitalism, in favour of a form of German Romanticism akin to that which he had cultivated in himself during his years at Cheltenham.
Chamberlain received the Iron Cross from the Kaiser, with whom he was in regular correspondence, in 1916.
After the war Chamberlain’s chronically bad health took a turn for the worse and he was left partially paralyzed; he continued living in Bayreuth until his death in 1927.
Chamberlain was an admirer of Richard Wagner, and wrote several commentaries on his works including Notes sur Lohengrin (“Notes on Lohengrin”) (1892), an analysis of Wagner’s drama (1892), and a biography (1895), emphasizing in particular the heroic Teutonic aspects in the composer’s works.
‘Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’
‘Die Grundlagen’ (1899) was the best-selling work by Houston Stewart Chamberlain. In it he advances various racist and especially völkisch antisemitic theories on how he saw the Aryan race as superior to others, and the Teutonic peoples as a positive force in European civilization and the Jews as a negative one.
Chamberlain was a germanophile who adopted German citizenship and wrote most of his works in German (on numerous subjects, from biographies to biology).
Published in German, the book focuses on the controversial notion that Western civilization is deeply marked by the influence of the Teutonic peoples.
“ Certain anthropologists would fain teach us that all races are equally gifted; we point to history and answer: that is a lie!
Chamberlain’s book focused on the claim that the Teutonic peoples were the heirs to the empires of Greece and Rome, something which Charlemagne and some of his successors also believed.
(Joseph Arthur Comte de Gobineau (14 July 1816, Ville-d’Avray, Hauts-de-Seine – 13 October 1882, Turin) was a French aristocrat, novelist and man of letters who became famous for developing the racialist theory of the Aryan master race in his book ‘An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races’ – (1853–1855).
De Gobineau is credited as being the father of modern racial demography.)
Chamberlain (who had graduate training in biology), rejected Darwinism, – (see Charles Darwin left) – evolution and social Darwinism, and instead emphasized “gestalt” which he said derived from Goethe. Chamberlain said that Darwinism was the most abominable and misguided doctrine of the day.
The Foundations sold extensively: eight editions and 60,000 copies within ten years, 100,000 copies by the outbreak of World War I and 24 editions and more than a quarter of a million copies by 1938.
The 1911 translation received positive reviews in most of the English press.
In the U.S., Theodore Roosevelt, altogether more cautious, highlighted the extreme bias of the author, a judgement that seems to have escaped other contemporary readers, but praised Chamberlain’s denunciation of social egalitarianism
.Kaiser Wilhelm II – (below) – patronized Chamberlain, maintaining a correspondence, inviting him to stay at his court, distributing copies of ‘Die Grundlagenamong’ the German army, and seeing that ‘Die Grundlagen’ was carried in German libraries and included in the school curricula.
Chamberlain’s ideas on race were greatly influential to Adolf Hitler, who readily adapted them into his Nazi ideology; Chamberlain himself joined the Nazi party, and both Hitler and Goebbels visited Chamberlain whilst on his deathbed.
Elgar wrote his Symphony No 2 in E flat, in the year 1911, one year after the death of Edward VII.
The great funereal peroration of the second movement, written ostensibly in response to the King’s death, broadens out into a vast elegy, foretelling the dissolution of an age.
The seeds of that coming dissolution were endemic, and were to be found particularly in the countries of central Europe, and particularly Germany.
Gurdjieff’s (see right) sometime rival, Crowley (see Left) was not the only Englishman to fascinate and influence the German people at this time; in fact Crowley’s influence was insignificant when compare to that of another Englishman; Houston Stewart Chamberlain.
Chamberlain ( see – below left & right) was born in 1855. He was the son of a British Admiral and also the nephew of Field Marshal Sir Neville Chamberlain.
As fate would have it, he was not educated, as one would expect, in the English public school tradition, which may well have induced him to follow in the exalted footsteps of his elders, but rather he was brought up in Paris, by relatives, who engaged, for reasons best known to themselves, a Prussian tutor to supervise his education.
As a result, he became fluent in the German language and remarkably well versed in German literature, poetry, music and philosophy.
By the age of twenty-seven, Chamberlain had become so imbued with Wagner’s music and ‘philosophy’ that he decided to take up residence in Germany, permanently, moving to Dresden in 1882.
In that same year Chamberlain met Richard Wagner (1) at Bayreuth, in Bavaria, during the Festspiel.
They were two men who were made for each other.
Chamberlain found in Wagner the father figure he craved, and Wagner found in Chamberlain the devoted disciple which he had sought, unsuccessfully in Ludwig II (2) and Nietzsche.
Whereas Nietzsche had rejected Wagner’s last, and arguably greatest work, ‘Parsifal’, to Chamberlain it was a summation of all his thoughts regarding the sacred role that Germany was to play in the ‘world historical process’.
The Spear of Longinus, which is a central element of the ‘sacred festival drama’ came to fascinate Chamberlain, as it had fascinated many before, and would fascinate many others in the future.
There is some dispute regarding his paternity and it is possible that he was the son of Ludwig Geyer, his step-father, rather than Friederich Wagner.
He was educated in Dresden and early on became director of the theatre at Magdeburg.
Being forced to flee to Paris for political reasons, in 1848, it was not until 1864 that his career as a composer became established, when he received the support of the young King Ludwig II of Bavaria. He is mainly remembered for his vast Tetralogy, ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’, which depicts the conflicts between the Gods, the dwarves and other elementals and men, as described in Teutonic mythology; along with ‘Tristan und Isolde’, a story of undying love in an Authurian setting; ‘Die Meistersingers von Nurnburg’, a good natured depiction of the value of German Art and Culture; and his final masterpiece, ‘Parsifal’, a ‘sacred festival drama’ which describes how salvation is brought to the fallen Knights of the Grail, by a pure ‘fool’ who recovers the spear of Longinus from the powers of evil. Parsifal was produced in 1882.
With Ludwig’s help Wagner built the ‘Festspielhaus’, (see – right) where his ‘music dramas’ could be properly performed, in Bayreuth.
In 1870 he married Cosima von Bülow, the daughter of Franz Liszt
(see – left)
He succeeded his father, Maximillian Joseph I as king of Bavaria in 1864.
He, unwisely, supported Austria in the Austro-Prussian war of 1886, but allied himself with Prussia in the Franco-Prussian war.
On 30th November, 1871 wrote the infamous ‘Kaiserbrief’, offering the Imperial Crown to Wilhelm I of Prussia, thus inaugurating the German Empire, whilst suffering from severe toothache, brought on by an unwise toffee binge.
He is now mainly remembered for building a succession of dream palaces, in various out of the way, & inevitably picturesque spots in his kingdom, the enormous cost of which beggared him personally.
In addition he gave extravagant financial support to Richard Wagner.
There is some documentary evidence to support the contention that he maintained a homosexual relationship with Wagner, [Wagner was married, with children, but so then was Oscar Wilde] along with Joseph Kainz, the singer, Richard Hornig and many other attractive equerries and servants. Along with his predilection for handsome young men, he maintained an obsessive desire for toffee, solitude, Wagnerian music and all aspects of the Bourbon Monarchy.
Ludwig was removed from the throne on the grounds that he was insane.
Shortly afterwards, in 1886, he drowned in suspicious circumstances in the Starnberger See, near Munich.
A cross now stands in the lake as a memorial to the King’
(for more information see ’Ludwig II of Bavaria‘)
In 1889 Chamberlain settled in Vienna, where he lived for the next twenty years, making regular visits to the Weltliche Schatzkammer (3) in the Hofburg, where the original spear, which was part of the Reichskleinodien, was displayed.
As in Wagner’s music drama, the spear in the Hofburg is claimed to be the very Spear which pierced the side of Jesus of Nazareth, as he hung upon the cross.
Whether or not this is true is a moot point; but the Spear is, undoubtedly, ancient and has long been venerated.
It has been suggested that the Spear, often somewhat dramatically referred to as the ‘Spear of Destiny’, radiates powerful occult forces.
(for Peter’s artwork – ‘The Spear of Destiny’ see ‘Great Art – Peter Crawford‘).
Having stood, myself, in the Weltliche Schatzkammer in the Hofburg, before this talisman of power, in the footsteps of so many of the great, famous and infamous, I cannot vouch for this fact personally, although something odd did happen to my camera.
Regardless of that, it is considered by some commentators that Chamberlain’s communion with the Spear may have, in some way altered his awareness.
In Chamberlain’s autobiography ‘Lebenswege’ (4) he makes the revealing statement that he was often unable to recognise his works as being the product of his own thought.
Chamberlain, it appears, was driven by dæmons just as much as Crowley.
His books were written in a state of hysterical intoxication and trance, and owed, by his own admission, little of their fundamental substance to that, admittedly, brilliant intellect.
Where, though, were the messages, which Chamberlain was relaying so elegantly and successfully, coming from ?
And, more to the point; what purpose did they serve ?
Later, Chamberlain married, but in 1905 he divorced his Prussian wife and married Richard Wagner’s daughter, Eva.
In 1909 he moved the Bayreuth where he lived until his death in 1927. (see Chamberlain’s study – Bayreuth – left)
It was in 1899 he published his greatest work, ‘Die Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’ (The foundations of the Nineteenth Century), a volume of over twelve hundred pages, in German.
Despite its length and difficulty it eventually sold over a quarter of a million copies, and, in the event, made its author a rich man.
The work was stupendous, both in its breadth of scholarship and its complexity of thought.
It was intended to present, and successfully achieved a union of disparate artistic, philosophical, historical and racial theories which had be developing in Germany for the previous fifty years.
Undoubtedly Chamberlain, at the book’s inception, viewed it personally as the new bible of the Pan-Germanic movement, but despite this, he was admittedly staggered by the remarkable response the book elicited, from all levels of society.
The final accolade came when the Kaiser invited Chamberlain to Postdam and greeted him with an affirmation that it was God who had ordained that Chamberlain’s book should be given to the German people and their Kaiser.
(3) The ‘Spear of destiny’ is kept in the Weltliche Schatzkammer, which is situated in the Hofburg Palace, which was the Residenz of the Austrian Hapsburg Emperors, in Vienna. The phrase itself means ‘Secular Treasury’, and is the area in the Hofburg where treasures which are not used in religious rituals are kept. The Weltliche Schatzkammer is open to the public on a regular basis at the present time.
(4) ’Life’s Path’ or ‘Life’s Way’.
‘Die Grundlagen des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’ is, essentially a grand synthesis of numerous ideas which had been simmering in the German intellect for many years.
Essential elements of this synthesis were Hegel’s concept of the ‘world historical process’, Nietzsche’s theory of the ‘Ubermensch’ or superman, Arthur de Gobineau’s (5) and Wagner’s notion of the superiority of the Aryan race, along with various other ideas circulating in Volkisch and Pan Germanic circles.
The fact that both Nietzsche (5) and Wagner (7) suffered from the same dæmonic creative possession as Chamberlain, combined with the fact that most of the contemporaneous Völkisch and Pan-Germanic groups had strong occult leanings is, undoubtedly, significant, particularly when one considers the cataclysm which was about to break some fifteen years later.
It was not long before Chamberlain became an unofficial adviser to the Kaiser.
A total of forty-three lengthy letters, from Chamberlain to the Kaiser, survive, in which Chamberlain attempts to fill his sovereign with glorious visions of the destiny which awaits the Aryan race, and Germany in particular.
Such encouragement was, in Chamberlain’s view necessary as, contrary to popular belief, the Kaiser was not bellicose by nature.
The son of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Vicky, speaking perfect English, he was a devoted husband, worshipping the Kaiserin, Auguste ViKtoria of Schleswig-Holstein, known to her family Donna, and doting over his large family.
He was sentimental and lazy, and painfully aware of his deformed arm.
Like Chamberlain he too was driven by a dæmon, but it was not of the supernatural order.
The demon that drove the Kaiser was the endless fear that, because of his deformity, he was not a real man, in a society which glorified militarism and the heroic virtues; a society which he led. Under the influence of Chamberlain, and members of the High Command his insecurity manifested itself in aggressive statements of foreign policy.
When war eventually came he feared its consequences as much as anyone.
When the war ended he was forced into permanent exile at Doorn in Holland.
There, strangely enough, he amassed one of the largest collections of occult literature in the world.
Perhaps his dæmons were like Chamberlain’s after all.
Chamberlain was luckier.
Unlike the Kaiser, who was punished for the war he did not start or want, Chamberlain was left unpunished for encouraging the conflagration for which he had assiduously provided the tinder. Chamberlain continued to live peacefully and comfortably in Bayreuth.
As he was of no further use, his dæmons had left him.
They would return to him, however, in his last years – summoned by another; – for while the Kaiser had been the apprentice to Chamberlain’s sorcery, now Chamberlain himself would become the ‘sorcerer’s apprentice’ – to Adolf Hitler
(7) Wagner admitted in his own autobiography ‘Mein Leben’, that his compositions came to him from some outside source, when he was in a state of trance. Such statements must be taken at their face value when one consider that, at the time that Wagner’s autobiography was published, he was a world renowned compose, well known for his inflated opinion of himself, who would have nothing to gain by disclaiming personal responsibility for his own creations.