Introduction – the Occult
As Goethe (1749–1832) (see left) wrote: ‘The Daemonic element manifests itself in all corporeal and incorporeal things, and even expresses itself most distinctly in animals, yet it is primarily in its relation to man that we observe its mysterious workings, which represent a force, if not antagonistic to the moral order, yet running counter to it, so that the one may be regarded as the warp, and the other as the woof.
‘Now a curse upon ‘Because’ and his kin !
May ‘Because’ be accursed for ever !
If the Will stops, and cries ‘Why ?’, invoking ‘Because’, then the Will stops & does nought.
If Power asks ‘Why ?’, then is Power weakness !’
When a branch of knowledge has this overall form, it can be considered “scientific” and that is the claim made for certain aspects of occultism.
His novel ‘The Last Days of Pompeii’ (1834) had been conceived of as a narrative of the impact of the Isis cult in Rome during the first century AD.
The fifth root-race was called the Aryan race and had been preceded by the fourth root-race of the Atlanteans (see left), which had largely perished in a flood that submerged their mid-Atlantic continent.
The Atlanteans had wielded psychic forces with which our race was not familiar, their gigantism enabled them to build cyclopean structures, and they possessed a superior technology based upon the successful exploitation of Fohat.
The three earlier races of the present planetary round were proto-human, consisting of the first Astral root-race which arose in an invisible, imperishable and sacred land and the second Hyperborean (Hyperborea – see Right) root-race which had dwelt on a vanished Polar continent.
This path of countless rebirths also recorded a story of cyclical redemption: the initial debasement of the ego was followed by its gradual sublimation to the point of identity with God. This belief not only provided for everyone’s participation in the fantastic worlds of remote prehistory in the root-race scheme, but also enabled one to conceive of salvation through reincarnation in the ultimate root-races which represented the supreme state of spiritual evolution: ‘we men shall in the future take our places in the skies as Lords of the planets, Regents of galaxies and wielders of fire-mist (Fohat).’ (see right)
Besides its racial emphasis, theosophy also stressed the principle of élitism and the value of hierarchy.
Blavatsky claimed she received her initiation into the doctrines from two exalted masters.
These adepts were not gods but rather advanced members of our own evolutionary group, who had decided to impart their wisdom to the rest of the Aryan mankind.
Like her masters, she also claimed an exclusive authority on the basis of her occult knowledge or gnosis.
Her account of prehistory frequently invoked the sacred authority of elite priesthoods among the root-races of the past.
When the Lemurians had fallen into iniquity and sin, only a hierarchy of the elect remained pure in spirit.
This remnant became the Lemuro-Atlantean dynasty of priest-kings who took up their abode on the fabulous island of Shamballah in the Gobi Desert.
#These leaders were linked with Blavatsky’s own masters, who were the instructors of the fifth Aryan root-race.
‘The Secret Doctrine’ may be summarized in terms of three basic principles.
Firstly, the fact of a God, who is omnipresent, eternal, boundless and immutable.
The instrument of this deity is Fohat (later known as the Vril)(see right), an electro-spiritual force which impresses the divine scheme upon the cosmic substance as the ‘laws of nature.’
Secondly, the rule of periodicity, whereby all creation is subject to an endless cycle of destruction and rebirth.
These rounds always terminate at a level spiritually superior to their starting-point.
Thirdly, there exists a fundamental unity between all individual souls and the deity, between the microcosm and the macrocosm.
But it was hardly this plain theology that guaranteed theosophy its converts.
Only the promise of occult initiation shimmering through its countless quotations from ancient beliefs, lost apocryphal writings, and the traditional Gnostic and Hermetic sources of esoteric wisdom can account for the success of her doctrine and the size of her following amongst the educated classes of several countries.
Theosophy offered an appealing mixture of ancient religious ideas and new concepts borrowed from the Darwinian theory of evolution and modern science (see left).
The syncretic faith known as Theosophy typified the wave of anti-positivism sweeping Europe at the end of the century and theories made a deeper impression in Germany than in other European countries.
Although a foreign hybrid combining romantic Egyptian revivalism, spiritualism and Indo-European beliefs, theosophy enjoyed a considerable vogue in Germany and Austria.
Its advent is best understood within a wider necromantic protest movement in Wilhelmian Germany known as Lebensreform (life reform).
This movement represented a middle-class attempt to palliate the ills of modern life, deriving from the growth of the cities and industry.
A variety of alternative life-styles – including herbal and natural medicine, vegetarianism, nudism and self-sufficient rural communes – were embraced by small groups of individuals who hoped to restore themselves to a natural existence.
The political atmosphere of the movement was apparently liberal and left-wing with its interest in land reform, but there were many overlaps with the völkisch movement.
Marxian critics have even interpreted it as mere bourgeois escapism from the consequences of capitalism.
Theosophy was appropriate to the mood of Lebensreform and provided a philosophical rationale for some of its groups.
In July 1884 the first German Theosophical Society was established under the presidency of Wilhelm Hübbe-Schleiden (1846-1916) (see right) at Elberfeld.
In 1886 Hübbe-Schleiden stimulated a more serious awareness of occultism in Germany through the publication of-a scholarly monthly periodical, ‘Die Sphinx’, which was concerned with a discussion of spiritualism, psychical research, and paranormal phenomena from a scientific point of view.
Its principal contributors were eminent psychologists, philosophers and historians.
Here Max Dessoir expounded hypnotism, while Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann (1842 – 1906) (below right) developed a philosophy of ‘individualism,’ according to which the ego survived death as a discarnate entity, against a background of Kantian thought, Christian theology, and spiritualist speculations.
Carl du Prel, the psychical researcher, and his colleague Lazar von Hellenbach, who had held seances with the famous American medium Henry Slade in Vienna, both contributed essays in a similar vein.
Another important member of the Sphinx circle was Karl Kiesewetter, whose studies in the history of the post-Renaissance esoteric tradition brought knowledge of the scholar magicians, the early modern alchemists and contemporary occultism to a wider audience.
While not itself theosophical, Hübbe-Schleiden’s periodical was a powerful element in the German occult revival until it ceased publication in 1895.
Besides this scientific current of occultism, there arose in the 1890s a broader German theosophical movement, which derived mainly from the popularizing efforts of Franz Hartmann (1838-1912).
Hartmann had been born in Donauwörth and brought up in Kempten, where his father held office as a court doctor.
After military service with a Bavarian artillery regiment in 1859, Hartmann began his medical studies at Munich University.
While on vacation in France during 1865, he took a post as ship’s doctor on a vessel bound for the United States, where he spent the next eighteen years of his life.
By the beginning of the 1870s he had also become interested in American spiritualism.
However, following his discovery of ‘Isis Unveiled’, theosophy replaced spiritualism as his principal diversion.
He resolved to visit the theosophists at Madras, travelling there by way of California, Japan and South-East Asia in late 1883.
While Blavatsky visited Europe in early 1884, Hartmann was appointed acting president of the Society during their absence.
He remained at the Society headquarters until the theosophists finally left India in April 1885.
Hartmann’s works were firstly devoted to Rosicrucian initiates, Paracelsus, Jakob Boehme and other topics in the Western esoteric tradition, and were published in America and England between 1884 and 1891.
However, once he had established himself as a director of a Lebensreform sanatorium at Hallein near Salzburg upon his return to Europe in 1885, Hartmann began to disseminate the new wisdom of the East to his own countrymen.
From 1892 translations of Indian sacred texts and Blavatsky’s writings were printed in his periodical, ‘Lotusblüten’ [Lotus Blossoms] (1892-1900), which was the first German publication to sport the theosophical swastika upon its cover
Lotusblüthen was a monthly journal containing articles and selected translations. The first edition appeared in March 1893 in Leipzig, the last in September 1900, thus there were altogether 96 editions.
In each case six editions were bound to one booklet, i.e. editions January to June were combined into a large booklet, which appeared in each case in March, likewise editions July until Decembers with publication date in September.
Franz Hartmann not only functioned as a publisher, but wrote also most of the published articles. The total number of pages of all editions during 1893 to 1900 was approx. 7300 pages, of this 6300 pages were written by Hartmann.
In the second half of this decade the first peak in German theosophical publishing occurred. Wilhelm Friedrich of Leipzig, the publishers of Hartmann’s magazine, issued a twelve-volume book series, ‘Bibliothek esoterischer Schriften’ (Library of Esoteric Writings) (1898-1900), while Hugo Göring, a theosophist in Weimar, edited a thirty-volume book series, ‘Theosophische Schriften’ [Theosophical Writings] (1894-96) (see left).
Both series consisted of German translations from Blavatsky’s successors in England, Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater, together with original studies by Hartmann and Hübbe-Schleiden.
The chief concern of these books lay with abstruse cosmology and spiritualism.
Once Hartmann’s example had provided the initial impetus, another important periodical sprang up.
In 1896 Paul Zillmann founded the ‘Metaphysische Rundschau’ (Metaphysical Review], a monthly periodical which dealt with many aspects of the esoteric tradition, while also embracing new parapsychological research as a successor to ‘Die Sphinx’.
Zillmann, who lived at Gross-Lichterfelde near Berlin, was an executive committee member of a new German Theosophical Society founded under Hartmann’s presidency at Berlin in August 1896, when the American theosophists Katherine Tingley, E. T. Hargrove and C. F. Wright were travelling through Europe to drum up overseas support for their movement.
Zillmann’s own studies and the articles in his periodical betrayed a marked eclecticism: contributions on phrenology, astrology, animal magnetism and hypnotism jostled with reprints of the medieval German mystics, a late eighteenth-century rosicrucian-alchemical treatise, and the works of the modern French occultist Gérard Encausse – also known as Papus (see left).
Hartmann supplied a fictional story about his discovery of a secret Rosicrucian monastery in the Bavarian Alps, which fed the minds of readers with romantic notions of adepts in the middle of modern Europe.
In his capacity of publisher, Paul Zilimann was an important link between the German occult subculture and the Ariosophists of Vienna, whose works he issued under his own imprint between 1906 and 1908.
The German Theosophical Society had been established in August 1896 as a national branch of the International Theosophical Brotherhood.
Theosophy remained a sectarian phenomenon in Germany, typified by small and often antagonistic local groups.
In late 1900 the editor of the ‘Neue Metaphysische Rundschau’ received annual reports from branch societies in Berlin, Cottbus, Dresden, Essen, Graz, and Leipzig and bemoaned their evident lack of mutual fraternity.” However, by 1902, the movement displayed more cohesion with two principal centres at Berlin and Leipzig, supported by a further ten local theosophical societies and about thirty small circles throughout Germany and Austria.
Paul Raatz, editor of the periodical ‘Theosophisches Leben’ (Theosophical Life, est. April 1898), opened a theosophical centre in the capital, while at Leipzig there existed another centre associated with Arthur Weber, Hermann Rudolf, and Edwin Böhme.
Weber had edited his own periodical ‘Der theosophische Wegweiser’ (The Theosophical Signpost, est. 1898) (see left), while from the newly-founded Theosophical Central Bookshop he issued a book series, ‘Geheime Wissenschaftliche Vorträge ‘ [Occult Lectures] (1902-7), for which Rudolph and Böhme contributed many titles.
While these activities remained largely under the sway of Franz Hartmann and Paul Zillmann, mention must be made of another theosophical tendency in Germany.
In 1902 Rudolf Steiner (see right), a young scholar who had studied in Vienna before writing at Weimar a study of Goethe’s scientific writings, was made general secretary of the German Theosophical Society at Berlin, founded by London theosophists.
Steiner published a periodical, ‘Luzifer’ (see left), at Berlin from 1903 to 1908.
However, his mystical Christian interests increasingly estranged him from the theosophists so that he finally broke away to found his own Anthroposophical Society in 1912.
It may have been a desire to counter Steiner’s influence in the occult subculture which led Hartmann to encourage the publication of several new periodicals.
In 1906 a Theosophical Publishing House was established at Leipzig by his young protégé Hugo Vollrath.
Under this imprint a wave of occult magazines appeared, including ‘Der Wanderer’ (1906-8), edited by Arthur Weber and ‘Theosophie’ (est. 1910), edited by Hugo Vollrath.
Astrological periodicals and a related book-series, the ‘Astrologische Rundschau’ (Astrological Review) and the ‘Astrologische Bibliothek’ (Astrological Library) (see right), were also issued here from 1910.
Hartmann’s earlier periodical was revived in 1908 under the title ‘Neue Lotusblüten’ (New Lotus Blossom) at the Jaeger press, which simultaneously started the ‘Osiris-Biicher’, a long book-series which introduced many new occultists to the German public.
The new Lotusblüten, was published after 1908.
It was now a bimonthly journal, containing original articles and selected translations.
The first edition appeared June/July 1908 in Leipzig and Berlin, the last probably in June/July 1913, thus altogether there were 36 (possibly also 42 or 48) editions.
It is unsure if the magazine was published in 1914 and 1915.
During the secured six years of existence of the magazine until 1913, the total number of pages was approximately 2400 pages.
The edition of 1913, was published, because of Hartmann’s death on 7 August 1912, by Paul Harald Grävell von Jostenoode (1856-1932).
The new Lotusblüten did not reach the same level of quality as the first Lotusblüthen.
Meanwhile, other publishers had been entering the field.
Karl Rohm, who had visited the English theosophists in London in the late 1890s, started a firm at Lorch in Württemberg after the turn of the century.
His publications included reprints of Boehme, Hamann, Jung-Stilling, and Alfred Martin Oppel (A.M.O.), translations of Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s romances and the works of contemporary occultists.
Johannes Baum’s New Thought publishing house was founded in 1912 and moved to Pfullingen in 1919.
Although initially concerned with translations of American material, this firm was to play a vital role in German esoteric publishing during the 1920s.
In competition with the theosophists at Leipzig was the firm of Max Altmann, which had commenced occult publishing in 1905.
In July 1907 Altmann began to issue the popular ‘Zentralblatt für Okkultismus’, (see left – note the swastika on the cover) edited by D. Georgiewitz-Weitzer, who wrote his own works on modern Rosicrucians, alchemy and occult medicine under the pseudonym G. W. Surya.
The Leipzig bookseller Heinrich Tränker issued an occult book-series between 1910 and 1912, which included the works of Karl Helmuth and Karl Heise.
From 1913 Antonius von der Linden began an ambitious book-series, ‘Geheime Wissenschaften’ (Secret Sciences) (1913-20) (see right), which consisted of reprints of esoteric texts from the Renaissance scholar Agrippa von Nettesheim, the Rosicrucians and eighteenth-century alchemists, together with commentaries and original texts by modern occultists.
From this brief survey it can be deduced that German occult publishing activity reached its second peak between the years 1906 and 1912 at exactly the period when Adolf Hitler was a young man in Vienna and Munich.
If the German occult subculture was well developed before the First World War, Vienna could also look back on a ripe tradition of occult interest.
The story of this tradition is closely linked with Friedrich Eckstein (1861-1939).
The personal secretary of the composer Anton Bruckner, this brilliant polymath cultivated a wide circle of acquaintance amonest the leading thinkers, writers and musicians of Vienna.
His penchant for occultism first became evident as a member of a Lebensreform group who had practised vegetarianism and discussed the doctrines of Pythagoras and the Neo-Platonists in Vienna at the end of the 1870s.
His esoteric interests later extended to German and Spanish mysticism, the legends surrounding the Templars, and the Freemasons, Wagnerian mythology, and oriental religions.
In 1880 he befriended the Viennese mathematician Oskar Simony, who was impressed by the metaphysical theories of Professor Friedrich Zöllner of Leipzig.
Zöllner had hypothesized that spiritualistic phenomena confirmed the existence of a fourth dimension. Eckstein and Simony were also associated with the Austrian Psychical researcher, Lazar von Hellenbach, who performed scientific experiments with mediums in a state of trance and contributed to Die Sphinx.
Following his cordial meeting with Blavatsky in 1886, Eckstein gathered a group of theosophists in Vienna.
During the late 1880s both Franz Hartmann and the young Rudolf Steiner were habitués of this circle.
Eckstein was also acquainted with the mystical group around the illiterate Christian pietist, Alois Mailänder (1844-1905), who was lionized at Kempten and later at Darmstadt by many theosophists, including Hartmann and Hübbe-Schleiden.
Eckstein corresponded with Gustav Meyrink, founder of the Blue Star theosophical lodge at Prague in 1891, who later achieved renown as an occult novelist before the First World War.
In 1887 a Vienna Theosophical Society was founded with Eckstein as president and Count Karl zu Leiningen-Billigheim as secretary.
New groups devoted to occultism arose in Vienna after the turn of the century.
There existed an ‘Association for Occultism’, which maintained a lending-library where its members could consult the works of Zöllner, Hellenbach and du Prel.
The Association was close to Philipp Maschlufsky, who began to edit an esoteric periodical, Die Gnosis, from 1903.
The paper was subsequently acquired by Berlin theosophists who amalgamated it with Rudolf Steiner’s Luzifer.
In December 1907 the ‘Sphinx Reading Club’, a similar occult study group, was founded by Franz Herndl, who wrote two occult novels and was an important member of the List Society. Astrology and other occult sciences were also represented in the Austrian capital.
Upon his return from the United States to his native city, Karl Brandler-Pracht had founded the First Viennese Astrological Society in 1907.
According to Josef Greiner’s account of Hitler’s youth in Vienna, meetings and lectures concerned with astrology, hypnotism and other forms of divination were commonplace in the capital before the outbreak of the war.
Given this occult subculture in Vienna, one can better appreciate the local background of the movements around Guido von List (see left) and Lanz von Liebenfels (see right), whose racist writings after 1906 owed so much to the modern occult revival in Central Europe.
Although modern occultism was represented by many varied forms, its function appears relatively uniform.
Behind the mantic systems of astrology, phrenology and palmistry, no less the doctrines of theosophy, the quasi-sciences of ‘dynamosophy,’ animal magnetism and hypnotism, and a textual antiquarianism concerning the esoteric literature of traditional cabbalists, Rosicrucians, and alchemists, there lay a strong desire to reconcile the findings of modern natural science with a religious view that could restore man to a position of centrality and dignity in the universe.
Occult science tended to stress man’s intimate and meaningful relationship with the cosmos in terms of ‘revealed’ correspondences between the microcosm and macrocosm, and strove to counter materialist science, with its emphasis upon tangible and measurable phenomena and its neglect of invisible qualities respecting the spirit and the emotions.
These new ‘metaphysical’ sciences gave individuals a holistic view of themselves and the world in which they lived.
This view conferred both a sense of participation in a total meaningful order and, through divination, a means of planning one’s affairs in accordance with this order.
Occultism had flourished coincident with the decline of the Roman Empire and once again at the waning of the Middle Ages.
It exercised a renewed appeal to those who found the world out of joint due to rapid social and ideological changes at the end of the nineteenth century.
Certain individuals, whose sentiments and education inclined them towards an idealistic and romantic perspective, were drawn to the modern occult revival in order to find that sense of order, which had been shaken by the dissolution of erstwhile conventions and beliefs.
Since Ariosophy originated in Vienna, in response to the problems of German nationality and metropolitanism, one must consider the particular kind of theosophy which the Ariosophists adapted to their völkisch ideas.
A theosophical group had been active in the city as early as 1887, but its members were initially inclined towards a Biedermeier tradition of pious ‘inwardness’ and self-cultivation under the patronage of Marie Lang.
Rudolf Steiner was a member of this group.
During the 1890s Viennese theosophy appeared to reflect the predilection of the educated classes for piety, subjectivism, and the cult of feelings, a mood which corresponds to the contemporary vogue of the feuilleton and literary impressionism in the arts.
Schorske has attempted to relate this cultivation of the self to the social plight of the Viennese bourgeoisie at the end of the century.
He suggests that this class had begun by supporting the temple of art as a surrogate form of assimilation into the aristocracy, but ended by finding in it an escape, a refuge from the collapse of liberalism and the emergence of vulgar mass-movements.
It appears plausible to locate the rise of Viennese theosophy within this cultural context.
When theosophy had become more widely publicized through the German publishing houses at the turn of the century, its ideas reached a larger audience.
By this time theosophy represented a detailed body of teachings, as set down in the newly-available translation of Blavatsky’s major work ‘Die Geheimlehre’ (The Secret Doctrine – see left) (1897-1901) and the numerous abridgements and commentaries by Franz Hartmann, Hermann Rudolph, Edwin Böhme and others.
Whereas the earlier Austrian theosophical movement had been defined by the mystical Christianity and personal gnosticism of cultivated individuals, its later manifestation in Vienna corresponded to a disenchantment with Catholicism coupled with the popularization of mythology, folklore and comparative religion.
The impetus came largely from Germany, and both Guido von List (see left) and Lanz von Liebenfels (see right) drew their knowledge of theosophy from German sources.
List was indebted to the Berlin theosophist Max Ferdinand von Sebaldt and counted Franz Hartmann (see left below), Hugo Göring, and Paul Zillmann among his supporters.
Zillmann was the first to publish both List and Lanz on esoteric subjects.
Theosophy in Vienna after 1900 appears to be a quasi-intellectual sectarian religious doctrine of German importation, current among persons wavering in their religious orthodoxy but who were inclined to a religious perspective.
The attraction of theosophy for List, Lanz, and their supporters consisted in its eclecticism with respect to exotic religion, mythology, and esoteric lore, which provided a universal and non-Christian perspective upon the cosmos and the origins of mankind, against which the sources of Teutonic belief, customs and identity, which were germane to völkisch speculation, could be located.
Given the antipathy towards Catholicism among völkisch nationalists and Pan-Germans in Austria at the turn of the century, theosophy commended itself as a scheme of religious beliefs which ignored Christianity in favour of a mélange of mythical traditions and pseudo-scientific hypotheses consonant with contemporary anthropology, etymology, and the history of ancient cultures.
Furthermore, the very structure of theosophical thought lent itself to völkisch adoption.
The implicit élitism of the hidden masters with superhuman wisdom was in tune with the longing for a hierarchical social order based on the racial mystique of the Volk.
The notion of an occult gnosis in theosophy, notably its obscuration due to the superimposition of alien (Christian) beliefs, and its revival by the chosen few, also accorded with the attempt to ascribe a long pedigree to völkisch nationalism, especially in view of its really recent origins.
In the context of the growth of German nationalism in Austria and Germany since 1866, we can see how Theosophy, otherwise only tenuously related to völkisch thought by notions of race and racial development, could lend both a religious mystique and a universal rationale to the political attitudes of a small minority.
The first group started by Fahrenkrog was the Deutscher Bund für Persönlichkeitskultur (German League for the Culture of the Personality), which also supported a publication called ‘Mehr Licht !’ (“More Light!”, the famous last words of Goethe).
He was also involved with the Deutsche Religionsgemeinschaft (German Religious Community [DRG]), which would later change its name several times, first in 1912 to Germanische-Deutsche Religionsgemeinschaft (Germanic-German Religious Community [GDRG]), then in 1915, following a split in the membership, to the Deutschgläubige Gemeinschaft (Association of the German Faithful [DGG]).
Fahrenkrog believed that the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft should evolve a new mythos incorporating but not dependent upon the Edda, Kroll apparently seeing this as disloyalty to the old Germanic myths.
When the Aolf Hitler came to power in 1933, his government outlawed almost all other occult and völkisch groups not affiliated with the party.
Interestingly, however, the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft, however, was not forced to disband.
Nevertheless, some of its activities were limited.
They could no longer hold public meetings, and after 1938 could no longer use the swastika (see left), which the Germanische Glaubens-Gemeinschaft had been using as its symbol since 1908.
In 1934, an exhibit of his paintings was prohibited by the ministry of propaganda.
For my part I believe them to be human and living on this earth; but possessing terrible superhuman powers. When such rendezvous has been in a much frequented place there has been nothing in their personal appearance or dress to make them out as differing in any way from ordinary people except the appearance and sensation of transcendent health and vigour … which was their invariable accompaniment; in other words, the physical appearance which the possession of the Elixir of Life had traditionally been supposed to confer. On the other hand when the rendezvous has been in a place free from any access by the Outer World they have usually been in symbolic robes and insignia. But my physical intercourse with them on these rare occasions has shown me how difficult it is for a Mortal, even though advanced in Occultism, to support the presence of an Adept in the physical body … the sensation was that of being in contact with so terrible a force that I can only compare it to the continued effect of that usually experienced momentarily by any person close to whom a flash of lightning passes during a violent storm; coupled with a difficulty in respiration similar to the half strangling effect produced by ether; and if such was the result produced on one as tested as I have been in Occult work, I cannot conceive a much less advanced Initiate being able to support such a strain, even for five minutes without death ensuing.’
But Mathers, remarkable as he was, and believing as he correctly did, against all odds, in the imminence of a world war, was by no means the only extraordinary figure connected with the Golden Dawn.
The man who emerged as master of the London temple was the poet and future Nobel Prize winner, William Butler Yeats (see right).
Like Mathers, Yeats had known Madame Blavatsky; like Mathers, Yeats considered himself ‘a voice of ..: a greater renaissance – the revolt of the soul against the intellect’.
His first and only identification as such is in Chapter I: “Behold! it is revealed by Aiwass the minister of Hoor-paar-kraat” (AL I:7).
Hoor-paar-kraat (Egyptian: Har-par-khered) is more commonly referred to by the Greek transliteration Harpocrates, meaning “Horus the Child” (see left), whom Crowley considered to be the central deity within the Thelemic cosmology (see: Aeon of Horus).
Crowley described the encounter in detail in ‘The Equinox of the Gods’, saying that as he sat at his desk in Cairo, the voice of Aiwass came from over his left shoulder in the furthest corner of the room.
This voice is described as passionate and hurried, and was “of deep timbre, musical and expressive, its tones solemn, voluptuous, tender, fierce or aught else as suited the moods of the message. Not bass—perhaps a rich tenor or baritone.”
Further, the voice was described as being devoid of “native [i.e. Egyptian, as the encounter occurred in Cairo] or foreign accent”.
Crowley also described a “strong impression” of the speaker’s general appearance.
He saw or pictured Aiwass with a body composed of “fine matter,” having a gauze-like transparency.
Further, the speaker “seemed to be a tall, dark man in his thirties, well-knit, active and strong, with the face of a savage king, and eyes veiled lest their gaze should destroy what they saw.
The dress was not Arab; it suggested Assyria or Persia, but very vaguely.”
In the later-written ‘Liber 418’, the voice of the 8th Aethyr says “my name is called Aiwass,” and “in The Book of the Law did I write the secrets of truth that are like unto a star and a snake and a sword.”
Crowley says this later manifestation took the form of a pyramid of light (see right).
Crowley went to great pains to argue that Aiwass was an objectively separate being from himself, possessing far more knowledge than he or any other human could possibly have.
As Crowley writes in his ‘Confessions’: “I was bound to admit that Aiwass had shown a knowledge of the Cabbala immeasurably superior to my own“, and “We are forced to conclude that the author of The Book of the Law is an intelligence both alien and superior to myself, yet acquainted with my inmost secrets; and, most important point of all, that this intelligence is discarnate.”
Finally, this excerpt (also from ‘Confessions’, ch.49):
“The existence of true religion presupposes that of some discarnate intelligence, whether we call him God or anything else.
And this is exactly what no religion had ever proved scientifically.
And this is what ‘The Book of the Law’ does prove by internal evidence, altogether independent of any statement of mine.
This proof is evidently the most important step in science that could possibly be made: for it opens up an entirely new avenue to knowledge.
The immense superiority of this particular intelligence, Aiwass, to any other with which mankind has yet been in conscious communication is shown not merely by the character of the book itself, but by the fact of his comprehending perfectly the nature of the proof necessary to demonstrate the fact of his own existence and the conditions of that existence. And, further, having provided the proof required.“
However, Crowley also spoke of Aiwass in symbolic terms.
In ‘The Law is for All’, he goes on at length in comparison to various other deities and spiritual concepts, but most especially to The Fool – (Parsifal – the pure fool ? see right).
For example, he writes of Aiwass: “In his absolute innocence and ignorance he is The Fool; he is the Saviour, being the Son who shall trample on the crocodiles and tigers, and avenge his father Osiris. Thus we see him as the Great Fool of Celtic legend, the Pure Fool of Act I of Parsifal, and, generally speaking, the insane person whose words have always been taken for oracles.”
Again from ‘Equinox of the Gods’: “I now incline to believe that Aiwass is a man as I am, insofar as He uses a human body to make His magical link with Mankind, whom He loves, and that He is thus an Ipsissimus.”
According to Crowley, Theodor Reuss called on him in 1912 to accuse him of publishing O.T.O. secrets, which Crowley dismissed on the grounds of having never attained the grade in which these secrets were given (IXth Degree).
In 1880, in Munich, Reuss participated in an attempt to revive Adam Weishaupt’s Bavarian Order of Illuminati.
While in England, he became friends with William Wynn Westcott, the Supreme Magus of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia and one of the founders of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
Westcott provided Reuss with a charter dated July 26, 1901 for the Swedenborgian Rite of Masonry and a letter of authorization dated February 24, 1902 to found a High Council in Germania of the Societas Rosicruciana in Anglia.
Gérard Encausse provided him with a charter dated June 24, 1901 designating him Special Inspector for the Martinist Order in Germany.
In 1895, he began to discuss the formation of Ordo Templi Orientis (see left) with Carl Kellner and in June 1902 the two agreed to proceed with the establishment of the Oriental Templar Order by seeking authorizations to work the various rites of high-grade Masonry.
When Carl Kellner died in 1905, the leadership of the Academia Masonica of O.T.O. fell upon Reuss’s shoulders, and he incorporated all his other organizations under its banner, developing the three degrees of the Academia Masonica, available to Masons only, into a coherent, self-contained initiatory system, open to both men and women.
He promulgated a constitution for this new, enlarged O.T.O. on June 21, 1906 in London (his place of residence since January 1906) and the next month proclaimed himself Outer Head of the Order (O.H.O.).
This sparked a long conversation which led to Crowley assuming the Xth Degree of O.T.O. and becoming Grand Master of the English-speaking section of O.T.O. called Mysteria Mystica Maxima.
Crowley placed the new degree above the Tenth Degree – not to be confused with any title in his own Order – and numbered it the Eleventh Degree.There was a protest from some members of O.T.O. in Germany and the rest of continental Europe that occasioned a persistent rift with Crowley.Reuss, however, was clearly impressed with Thelema.
Crowley’s ‘Gnostic Mass’, which Reuss translated into German and had recited at his Anational Congress at Monte Verità, is an explicitly Thelemic ritual.
In an undated letter to Crowley (received in 1917), Reuss reported exitedly that he had read ‘The Message of the Master Therion’ to a gathering at Monte Verità, and that he was translating ‘The Book of the Law’ into German.
He added, “Let this news encourage you ! – We live in your Work !”
Crowley’s influence over German occultism subsequently waned, however, and there was an inevitable secessionist movement by many German occultists, resulting in the establishment of a new group, the Fraternitas Saturni.
The Fraternitas Saturni was founded in the wake of the so-called “Weida Conference” in the year 1925.
It suceeded the “Collegium Pansophicum, Orient Berlin” (Pansophia Lodge), a Rosicrucian magical order founded by Heinrich Traenker, a notable German occultist of the time.
The Weida Conference was meant to consolidate Aleister Crowley’s claims to be the Outer Head of Ordo Templi Orientis and the expected World Teacher.
The conference consisted of Crowley’s entourage of Leah Hirsig, Dorothy Olsen, and Norman Mudd and the members of Heinrich Traenker’s “Pansophia Lodge”.
Traenker had served as a X° National Grand Master of the German O.T.O. under Theodor Reuss up until Reuss’s death.
Also attending the conference were the notable film pioneer Albin Grau and Gregor A. Gregorius.
The conference was not a smooth event and Traenker withdrew his support of Crowley.
The differences between Traenker and Crowley led to a schism in the Pansophical Lodge between the brothers who disagreed with Crowley and those who accepted Crowley’s Law of Thelema, including Gregorius and Grau.
Following these differences the Pansophical Lodge would be officially closed in 1926.
Those brothers of the Pansophia Lodge who accepted the teachings of Crowley would join Grosche in founding the Fraternitas Saturni – but without Albin Grau.
The Fraternitas Saturni (Brotherhood of Saturn) is a German magical order, founded on Easter 1928 by Eugen Grosche, (Gregor A. Gregorius) – 11th March 1888 – 5th January 1964 – (see left)
The Lodge made a formal acceptance of the ‘Book of the Law’ but they would not answer to Crowley.
The Fraternitas Saturni still thought of him as an important teacher and included the ‘Law of Thelema’ in most of its teachings, while divorcing itself from direct contact with him.
This resulted in the Fraternitas Saturni developing a different take on the idea of Thelema, which is reflected in the rituals and magical techniques of the Fraternitas Saturni.
The emphasis of the Fraternitas Saturni (see right) lies more on astrological and Luciferian teachings, rather than on Qabalah and Tarot compared to other western magical orders founded in the early 20th century. Because of its unique approach to modern occultism, the Fraternitas Saturni is considered by many modern authors to be the most influential German magical order.
Not surprisingly, in 1936, the Fraternitas Saturni was prohibited by the Nazi regime, although many of the teaching and practices, particularly the Luciferian teachings of the order, were amalgamated into the Ahnenerbe.
Gregorius as well as other leaders of the lodge emigrated in order to avoid imprisonment, but in the course of the war Grosche was arrested for a year by the Nazi government.
As an interesting sidelight, and an indication of how deeply occult matters penetrated German society between the two wars, Albin Grau (1884 – 1942) was an occultist, and member of Fraternitas Saturni.
He was also an artist, architect and the producer and production designer for F. W. Murnau’s infamous and influential film ‘Nosferatu’ (see left).
He was largely responsible for the look and spirit of the film, including the sets, costumes, storyboards and promotional materials.
A lifelong student of the occult Grau was able to imbue Nosferatu with hermetic and mystical undertones.
One example in particular was the cryptic contract that Count Orlok and Knock exchanged, which was filled in Enochian, hermetic and alchemical symbols.
Thelema draws its principal gods and goddesses from Ancient Egyptian religion.
The highest deity in the cosmology of Thelema is in fact a goddess, Nuit (see left).
She is the night sky arched over the Earth symbolized in the form of a naked woman.
She is conceived as the Great Mother, the ultimate source of all things.
The second principal deity of Thelema is the god Hadit (see right), conceived as the infinitely small point within a circle, complement and consort of Nuit.
Hadit symbolizes manifestation, motion, and time.
He is also described in ‘Liber AL vel Legis’ as “the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star.”
He identifies himself as the point in the center of the circle, the axle of the wheel, the cube in the circle, “the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star,” and the worshiper’s own inner self.
Hadit has been interpreted as the inner spirit of man, the Elixir Vitae.
When juxtaposed with Nuit in ‘The Book of the Law’, Hadit represents each unique point-experience.
These point-experiences in aggregate comprise the sum of all possible experience, Nuith.
Hadit, “the Great God, the lord of the sky,” is depicted on the Stele of Revealing in the form of the winged disk of the Sun, Horus of Behdet (also known as the Behdeti).
However, while the ancient Egyptians treated the Sun and the other stars as separate, Thelema connects the sun-god Hadit with every individual star.
Furthermore, ‘The Book of the Law’ says: “Every man and every woman is a star.“
In ‘The Book of the Law’ he says; “I am alone: there is no god where I am.“.
He is “the flame that burns in every heart of man, and in the core of every star.“.
He is identified with kundalini; in ‘The Book of the Law’ he says, “I am the Secret Serpent coiled about to spring: in my coiling there is joy. If I lift up my head, I and my Nuit are one. If I droop down mine head, and shoot forth venom, then is rapture of the earth, and I and the earth are one. There is great danger in me...“.
Hadit is the Fire of Desire at the Heart of Matter (Nuit).
The combination of the upward-pointing triangle of Hadit and the downward-pointing triangle of Nuit forms the Star of Spirit (the Hexagram). The union of the infinitely small Hadit and the infinitely great Nuit causes an explosive rapture which leads to samadhi.
The third deity in the cosmology of Thelema is Ra-Hoor-Khuit, a manifestation of Horus.
He is symbolized as a throned man with the head of a hawk who carries a wand.
He is associated with the Sun and the active energies of Thelemic magick.
Other deities within the cosmology of Thelema are Hoor-paar-kraat (or Harpocrates) (see right), god of silence and inner strength, the brother of Ra-Hoor-Khuit, Babalon, the goddess of all pleasure, known as the Virgin Whore and Therion, the beast that Babalon rides, who represents the wild animal within man, a force of nature.