This is the second article of a series of three.
There are many variations within neopaganism, deriving from the fact that it collects a large number of geographically diverse faiths with some common threads, but all neopagans agree on one crucial point: Christianity must be, if it is not already, defeated.
As showed in the first article of this series, Hitler's Neopaganism and Anti-Christianity, and in anthropologist and historian Karla Poewe's book New Religions and the Nazis (Amazon USA) (Amazon UK) , being neopagan in the 1920s and 1930s was deeply linked to opposition to the Jewish-Christian tradition.
The book reveals a major, so far neglected, element of Nazi history: the contribution of the so-called new religions, defined as non-established religions, to the emergence of Nazi ideology in the twenties and thirties in Germany.
This book is not to be overlooked or underestimated because it's the result of a 10-year ground-breaking research in the German Federal Archives in Berlin and Koblenz. It was researched from original documents, letters and unpublished papers, including the SS personnel files held in the German Federal Archives.
The fall of the Berlin Wall gave Poewe, New Religions and the Nazis' author, access to the archives of the Berlin Mission Society. In 1995, while working in these archives, she discovered a great amount of material regarding conflicts between members of the Berlin Mission, a Christian missionary society, and the Nazis.
Karla Poewe is Professor Emeritus in Anthropology at the University of Calgary, in Canada, and Adjunct Research Professor at Liverpool Hope University, in England. She was interviewed by the Calgary Herald after her book came out:
"The new religions that developed in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s ushered in National Socialism and nurtured it," Poewe said.Poewe researched the former German missionary Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, who in the 1920s founded the German Faith Movement (Deutsche Glaubensbewegung or DGB), mixing Nordic and Hindu religions with Germanic idealistic philosophy. This new religion was intended to express the essence of National Socialism and the New German Man, as found in the the SS.
"There were constant battles in the 1920s between Christians and the members of these new religions, because they identified Christianity as a kind of Jewish imperialism. They wanted nothing to do with it, so they came up with their own version. They tried to build a genuine German religion."
Because the Nazis were "on the far right," as a nationalist movement, they tend to be misinterpreted as a more extreme version of Christian conservatism. But "they weren't trying to conserve anything," Poewe said. They were rather extreme radicals, trying to overthrow completely the 1,000-year tradition of German Christianity -- replacing the cross with the swastika.
"There's a big mistake in identifying National Socialism as a Christian movement," Poewe said.
"There was a Deutsche Christen movement, but they weren't Christian at all. They rejected the Old Testament, Jesus had to be an Aryan, they were hostile to St. Paul, and they emphasized (the Gospel of) St. Mark. They remained in the church, but rejected everything Christian like the Trinity. Christ was at best a good philosopher." [Emphases added]
We have to consider the state of major turmoil into which the First World War threw Germany. The loss of the war and and the punitive, draconian conditions of the Treaty of Versailles imposed on Germany produced general discontent and resentment. Therefore Germans, and in particular intellectuals, took political, ideological and religious matters into their hands with the purpose of achieving national regeneration.
By fusing politics, religion, theology, Indo-Aryan metaphysics and Darwinian theory they intended to create a new, genuinely German, pagan-faith-based political movement: that was National Socialism.
Hauer, founder of the DGB,
is particularly interesting, Poewe said, because he sought the pagan roots of German religion in Hinduism. In pre-history, the Aryans who invaded northern India were the same race as those who later became Germans. And Hauer found the warrior universe of the Bhagavad Gita particularly inspiring -- "it fed him the kind of moral relativism he sought," Poewe said.Sounds familiar. Where have I heard this before? There are no moral absolutes, anything goes, we just want to be happy, we indeed have a right to be happy: that's all there is to ethics. It sounds very, very modern. It's today's prevailing ethos, complete with the jettisoning of Christianity.
"The rejection of Christianity was due to the fact that it is universal, and they wanted something local" -- the Volkisch (folk) phenomenon. "They rejected the universalist. They wanted something with a historical-genetic-racial link to them," Poewe said.
"They also rejected Christian morality. They couldn't stand the Ten Commandments. They were totally against any categorical or timeless morality. They wanted something opportunistic, something that changed with the human circumstances." [Emphasis added]
Add to that our own revival of eugenics, wide use of science in reproduction and epidemic of abortions, and Nazism looks more and more like a pioneering movement.
And Christian universalism, mentioned in the quotation, is indeed a profound antidote to racism, now as in Hitler's time.
Unsurprisingly, Poewe observed that former Nazis were prominent in the German New Age movement of the 1970s.
The Nazi movement "took elements from the Christian religion, but it didn't mean they were Christian. They also took things from Hinduism, from Buddhism -- Tibetan Buddhism was particularly popular among the SS. From this they concocted a mythology that gave them a picture of the world that appealed to them. They wrote about it, novels, plays, poetry. It was very political, in some ways pantheistic."
And here's another element of great modernity in Nazism:
Hauer's DGB bunde shared with National Socialism a tendency toward homoerotism. Hauer himself was permissibly heterosexual, but "homosexuality was very tolerated in these youth movements, and a high percentage of the SA and SS were homosexual or bisexual. People like to think that because Adolf Hitler murdered (SA leader) Ernst Rohm, who was homosexual, he was repressive of homosexuality. But that wasn't the case. It's a myth to think the Nazi movement was against homosexuality. Far from it; it wasn't sexually repressive at all," Poewe said. [Emphasis added]It all fits nicely.
Third part tomorrow.
About the photo: it is a visual demonstration of the links between paganism and Nazism, as described in Nicholas Clarke's book Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology (Amazon USA) (Amazon UK) . More info here: North Tower of the (in)famous, germanic location “Wewelsburg”
Photo by Karl-Ludwig G. Poggemann (Creative Commons CC BY 2.0).