Die Völkisch Bewegung und Pangermanismus – The Völkisch Movement and Pan-Germanism

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Die Völkisch Bewegung und Pangermanismus

Wappen Deutscher Bund

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Wappen von Österreich


Austria in the late 1800s was the product of three major political changes.

These changes consisted in the exclusion of Austria from the German Confederation, the administrative separation of Hungary from Austria, and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in the “Austrian” or western half of the empire.”




\Wappen Heiliges Römisches Reich
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


The German Confederation had been created by the Congress of Vienna to replace the Holy Roman Empire, and lasted from 1815 to 1866; it consisted of a union of 39 German states, with 35 monarchies and four free cities.

Its main organ was a central Diet under the presidency of Austria, however, the establishment of the confederation failed to meet the aspirations of German nationalists, who had hoped for a consolidation of these small monarchies into a politically unified Greater Germany.






Preußisch-Österreichischen Krieg
Otto Eduard Leopold,
Fürst von Bismarck,
Herzog von Lauenburg

As a step towards the ascendancy of Prussia over Austria and the unification of Germany under Prussian dominance, Otto von Bismarck provoked the Austro-Prussian War in June 1866, using the dispute over the administration of Schleswig-Holstein as a pretext.



Preußisch-Österreichischen Krieg

In this conflict, also known as the Seven Weeks’ War, Prussia was allied with Italy, and Austria with a number of German states, including Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Saxony and Hanover.
Prussia easily overcame Austria and her allies.

Austria was excluded from German affairs in the Treaty of Prague (23 August 1866).
The war notwithstanding, Bismarck considered Austria a potential future ally, and so avoided unnecessarily weakening the state, settling for the annexation of Hanover, Hesse, Nassau, Frankfurt and Schleswig-Holstein.
(These moderate peace terms were to facilitate the Austro-German alliance of 1879.)

Wappen des Norddeutschen Bundes
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The war resulted in the destruction of the German Confederation, and its replacement with the North German Confederation under the sole leadership of Prussia.

The defeat of Austria was an additional blow to German nationalism: Austrian Germans found themselves isolated within the Habsburg Empire, with its multitude of national and ethnic groups.
A look at the political divisions within the empire will give some idea of the extent of its multiculturalism.
Wappen der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

They included: Austria; the kingdoms of Bohemia, Dalmatia and Galicia-Lodomeria; the archduchies of Lower Austria and Upper Austria; the duchies of Bukovina, Carinthia, Carniola Salzburg and Styria; the margraviates of Istria and Moravia; the counties of Gorizia-Gradisca, Tyrol and Vorarlberg; the crownland of Austrian-Silesia; Bosnia-Hercegovina; Lombardy (transferred to Italy in 1859), Modena (transferred to Italy in 1860), Tuscany (transferred to Italy in 1860) and Venetia (transferred to Italy in 1866); and the town of Trieste.
Fears that the supremacy of the German language and culture within the empire would be challenged by the non-German nationalities resulted in a conflict of loyalties between German nationality and Austrian citizenship.
This in turn resulted in the emergence of two principal nationalist movements: volkisch nationalism and the Pan-German movement.
The second major change was the Ausgleich (‘Compromise’) of 1867, whereby the Habsburgs set up the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.
The intention was to curb the nationalist aspirations of Slavs in both states, inspired by Slavs in the Ottoman Empire (including Serbs, Montenegrins and Albanians) who had taken advantage of the Turkish decline to establish their own states.

König-Kaiser Franz Josef
König-Kaiser Franz Josef

The former revolutionaries (of 1848) – German and Magyar – became de facto “peoples of state”, each ruling half of a twin country united only at the top through the König-Kaiser – (King-Emperor) and the common Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of War’, however,  the Ausgleich only served to make matters worse.

There was no chance that the German-speaking elite could impose its culture throughout Austria, let alone extend it to the whole of the Dual Monarchy, after all, ‘Austria was a Slav house with a German facade’.
In practice the three ‘master races’ – the Germans, the Magyars, and the Galician Poles – were encouraged to lord it over the others.

Wappen des Königreichs Ungarn
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Wappen des Königreichs Böhmen
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The administrative structures were so tailored that the German minority in Bohemia could hold down the Czechs, the Magyars in Hungary could hold down the Slovaks, Romanians, and Croats, and the Poles in Galicia could hold down the Ruthenians (Ukrainians).

So pressures mounted as each of the excluded nationalities fell prey to the charms of nationalism.
The Ausgleich resulted in aspirations towards autonomy among a number of groups within the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the empire as a whole was home to eleven major nationalities: Magyars, Germans, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Slovaks, Serbs, Romanians, Croats, Slovenes and Italians.



Wappen von Mähren
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The largest and most restless minority consisted of about 6.5 million Czechs living in Bohemia, Mähren (Moravia) and Austrian Silesia, however, their desires for autonomy were constantly frustrated by the Hungarian determination to preserve the political structure established by the Ausgleich.
German nationalism had been frustrated on two main occasions in the first half of the nineteenth century: at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and after the revolutions of 1848.

As a result of this slow progress towards political unification, Germans increasingly came to conceive of national unity in cultural terms.
This tendency had begun in the late eighteenth century, when writers of the pre-Romantic ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement had expressed the common identity of all Germans in folk-songs, customs, and literature.

Moritz von Schwind – ‘Rose’ 1847

An idealized image of medieval Germany was invoked to prove her claim to spiritual unity, even if there had never been political unity.

This emphasis on the past and traditions conferred a strongly mythological character upon the cause of unification.
The exclusion of Austria from the new Prussian-dominated Reich had left disappointed nationalists in both countries.
Hopes for a Greater Germany had been dashed in 1866, when Bismarck consolidated the ascendancy of Prussia through the military defeat of Austria, forcing her withdrawal from German affairs.
The position of German nationalists in Austria-Hungary was henceforth problematic.
In 1867 the Hungarians were granted political independence within a dual state.
The growth of the Pan-German movement in Austria in the following decades reflected the dilemma of Austrian Germans within a state of mixed German and Slav nationalities.
Their programme proposed the secession of the German-settled provinces of Austria from the polyglot Habsburg empire and their incorporation in the new Second Reich across the border. 

Die österreichische Anschluß – Hitler betritt Wien

Such an arrangement was ultimately realized by the Anschluß of Austria into the Third Reich in 1938.

The idealised, romantic image of a rural, quasi-medieval Germany suffered under the programme of rapid modernisation and industrialisation undertaken by the Second Reich.
For many, who saw their traditional communities destroyed by the spread of towns and industries, the foundations of their mystical unity had become threatened.
In addition, these anti-modernist sentiments resulted in the rejection of both liberalism and rationalism, while paradoxically hijacking the scientific concepts of anthropology, linguistics and Darwinist evolution to ‘prove’ the superiority of the German race.

Archetypal Jew
Blue-eyed, Blond-haired and Tall 

A set of inner moral qualities was related to the external characteristics of racial types: while the Aryans (and thus the Germans) were blue-eyed, blond-haired, tall and well-proportioned, they were also noble, honest, and courageous.

The Darwinist idea of evolution through struggle was also taken up in order to prove that the superior pure races would prevail over the mixed inferior ones.
Racial thinking facilitated the rise of political anti-Semitism, itself so closely linked to the strains of modernization.
Feelings of conservative anger at the disruptive consequences of economic change could find release in the vilification of the Jews, who were blamed for the collapse of traditional values and institutions.
Racism indicated that the Jews were not just a religious community but biologically different from other races.


The Volkisch Movement and Pan-Germanism

The fears and aspirations of German nationalists led to the formation of two highly influential movements, Völkisch nationalism and Pan-Germanism.

The intention of the Völkisch movement was to raise the cultural consciousness of Germans living in Austria, particularly by playing on their fears for their identity within the provinces of mixed nationality in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The word Völkisch is not easy to translate into English, containing as it does elements of both nationalism and a profound sense of the importance of folklore.

The main principles of Völkisch thought were the importance of living naturally (including a vegetarian diet – Lebensreform); an awareness of the wisdom of one’s ancestors, expressed through the appreciation of prehistoric monuments; and an understanding of astrology and cosmic cycles.
The ideas of the Völkisch movement were propagated through educational and defence leagues called Vereine.

In 1886, Anton Langgassner founded the Germanenbund, a federation of Vereine, at Salzburg under the banner of Germanic Volkstum (nationhood).
The Vereine were particularly popular amongst young people and intellectuals; such was their popularity, in fact, that an unsettled Austrian government dissolved the Germanenbund in 1889, although it re-emerged in 1894 as the Bund der Germanen, and  by 1900, as many as 150,000 people were influenced by Völkisch propaganda.

Ancient Teutonic Gods

The followers of the Völkisch movement believed the troubles of the industrial order – the harshness, the impersonality, the sharp dealing, the ruthless speculators – would only be exorcised by a return to Ur-Germanism, to the German community, the ancient Teutonic gods, and a Germanic society unsullied by inferior, foreign intrusions.
Nations might endure such foreign elements, but a Volk was an organic unity with a common biological inheritance.
The culture-bearing Volk of the world, incomparably superior among the races, was the German; therefore, the only proper function of a German state was to administer on behalf of the Volk; everything international was inferior and to be rejected.

Zurück in den Boden
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

A sound economy would be based on agriculture rather than on industry with its international, especially Jewish influences; and in religion, a German God would have to replace the Jewish God.
Völkisch ideology was propagated through a number of publications, one of the most forthright of which was the satirical illustrated monthly Der Scherer, published in Innsbruck by Georg von Schonerer (1842-1921), a leader in the movement, whom Davidson describes as ‘antiCatholic, and anti-Semitic.
One Catholic paper, Die Tiroler Post, wrote in 1906 that the goal of the Jew was world domination, while another, the Linzer Post, defended anti-Semitism as no more than healthy self-preservation.
If the Völkisch movement attempted to raise German national and cultural consciousness, Pan-Germanism operated in a more political context, beginning with the refusal of Austrian Germans to accept their exclusion from German affairs after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. 

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn 

The movement originated among student groups in Vienna, Graz and Prague, which were inspired by earlier German student clubs (Burschenschaftern) following the teachings of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1850).
Jahn, a purveyor of Völkisch ideology, advocated German national unity, identity and romantic ritual.
These groups advocated ‘kleindeutsch’ (or ‘little German’) nationalism, which called for the incorporation of German Austria into the Bismarckian Reich.





Georg Ritter von Schönerer

Georg von Schonerer’s involvement with Pan-Germanism transformed kleindeutsch nationalism from a nebulous ‘cult of Prussophilia’ into a genuine revolutionary movement. Following his election to the Reichsrat in 1873, Schonerer followed a progressive Left agenda for about five years, before making demands for a German Austria without the Habsburgs and politically united with the German Reich.
Schonerer’s Pan-Germanism was not characterised merely by national unity, political democracy and social reform – its essential characteristic was racism, ‘that is, the idea that blood was the sole criterion of all civil rights’.
When the Austrian government decided in 1895 that Slovene should be taught in the German school at Celje in Carniola, and two years later the Austrian premier, Count Casimir Badeni, ruled that all officials in Bohemia and Moravia should speak both Czech and German (thus placing Germans at a distinct disadvantage), the flames of nationalism were once again fanned throughout the empire.
The result was that the Pan-Germans, together with the democratic German parties, followed a strategy of blocking all parliamentary business, which in turn led to violent public disorder in the summer of 1897.

Wappen von der
römisch-katholischen Kirche
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

By this time, Schonerer had identified an additional enemy in the Catholic Church, which he regarded as inimical to the interests of Austrian Germans.
The episcopate advised the emperor, the parish priests formed a network of effective propagandists in the country, and the Christian Social party had deprived him of his earlier strongholds among the rural and semi-urban populations of Lower Austria and Vienna.
The association of Catholicism with Slavdom, and the Austrian state could further be emphasised, Schonerer believed, by a movement for Protestant conversion; this was the origin of the slogan ‘Los von Rom’ (‘Away from Rome’).

Los von Rom – Lutheran Cross
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The movement claimed approximately 30,000 Protestant conversions in Bohemia, Styria, Carinthia and Vienna between 1899 and 1910, although it was not at all popular among either the Völkisch leagues or the Pan-Germans, who saw it as ‘a variation of old-time clericalism’. 
For that matter, the Protestant Church itself was rather dissatisfied with Los von Rom, and felt that its profound connection of religion with politics would make religious people uneasy.
By the same token, those who were politically motivated felt religion itself to be irrelevant.
By the turn of the century, Pan-Germanism could be divided into two groups: those who, like Schonerer, wanted political and economic union with the Reich, and those who merely wanted to defend German cultural and political interests within the Habsburg empire.
These interests were perceived as being radically undermined, not only by the Badeni language decrees, but also by the introduction in 1907 of universal male suffrage.

Ariosophy
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

This could only exacerbate the growing German-Slav conflict within the empire, and was one of the main factors in the emergence of the racist doctrine of Ariosophy.
In 1853-55, Arthur de Gobineau had written an essay on the inequality of races, in which he had made claims for the superiority of the Nordic-Aryan race, and warned of its eventual submergence by non-Aryans.
This notion, along with the ideas about biological struggle of Social Darwinism, was taken up at the turn of the twentieth century by German propagandists who claimed that Germans could defend their race and culture only by remaining racially pure.
The Völkisch nationalists and Pan-Germans found further inspiration in the work of the zoologist Ernst Haeckel who, in 1906, founded the Monist League to spread his racist interpretation of Social Darwinism.
Seven years earlier, Haeckel’s colleague, Wilhelm Bolsche, had written a book entitled Vom Bazillus zum Affenmenschen (From the Bacillus to the Apeman), in which he had described the ‘naked struggle for dominance between the zoological species “Man” ‘ and ‘the lowest form of organic life (microscopic organisms)’.
This ‘struggle for dominance’ was to have a profound effect upon the development of German anti-Semitism in the early years of the twentieth century.
Hitler would later express his own anti-Semitism in these biological terms.

German Theosophy

The revival of Germanic mythology and folklore in Austria in the last two decades of the nineteenth century was of enormous importance to the development of  Völkisch esotericism and cosmology, yet it must he viewed in the context of a much wider occult revival that had been taking place in Europe for about one hundred years.
The central concepts of what would become Western occultism, such as Gnosticism, Hermeticism and the Cabala, which originated in the eastern Mediterranean more than 1,500 years ago, had been largely banished from Western thought by the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century.

Die Geheimlehre
German Theosophy
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

This brings us to the emergence of Theosophy in the 1880s.
The prime mover behind Theosophy was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891).
Her extensive research into the spiritual traditions of the world led to the publication of what is now considered her magnum opus, ‘Die Geheimlehre’ – (The Secret Doctrine), which organizes the essence of these teachings into a comprehensive synthesis.
Blavatsky’s other works include ‘Isis Unveiled’, ‘The Key to Theosophy’ and ‘The Voice of the Silence’.



‘Isis Unveiled’

Well-known and controversial during her life, Blavatsky was no stranger to criticism. Some authors have questioned the authenticity of her writings and the validity of her claims, while others have praised them.


Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

According to Blavatsky, humanity in its present form is the fifth root race of Earth, which is itself passing through the fourth cosmic round.
The first root race were completely non-corporeal beings, the second race were the Hyperboreans, who lived on a lost polar continent. the third root race were the Lemurians, who had the misfortune to occupy the lowest point in the seven-stage cycle of humanity.
For this reason, the Lemurians, who lived on a now-sunken continent in the Indian Ocean.

Atlantis

The fourth root race were the Atlanteans, who possessed highly advanced psychic powers and mediumistic skills.
Gigantic like the Lemurians and physically powerful, the Atlanteans built huge cities on their mid-Atlantic continent.

Vril Emblem
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


Their technology was also highly advanced, and was based on the application of a universal electro-spiritual force known as ‘Fohat’ – similar, it seems, to the ‘Vril’.
Unfortunately for the Atlanteans, although they were intelligent and powerful, they were also possessed of a childlike innocence that made them vulnerable to the attentions of an evil entity that corrupted them and caused them to turn to the use of black magic.
This was to result in a catastrophic war that led to the destruction of Atlantis.
The fifth root race, from which white races today are descended, was the Aryan race.
In addition Theosophy placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of reincarnation, and the concept of hierarchy.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Through reincarnation, the movement’s followers could imagine themselves to have participated in the fabulous prehistory of humanity in a variety of magical, exotic and long-lost locations, while feeling assured that their souls were on a definite upward trajectory, heading for spiritual salvation and ultimate unity with God.
Of equal importance to the cosmic scheme were hierarchy and elitism.
As mentioned earlier, the Hidden Masters were enlightened beings who had decided to remain on Earth to guide the rest of humanity towards spiritual wisdom.
This concept, along with Blavatsky’s own claim to hidden occult knowledge, is clearly based on the value of authority and hierarchy.
Indeed, this value is illustrated by the fate of the Lemurians, whose miscegenation caused their fall from divine grace.

Evolution

The central tenets of Theosophy offered a way for people in the late nineteenth century to maintain their religious faith (or, at least, their faith in the existence of some form of spirituality in the cosmos) while simultaneously accepting the validity of new theories, such as evolution, that threatened to undermine their previously held world view, however, for many people in Europe and America, scientific rationalism, rapid industrialisation and urbanisation presented another threat to their long-established way of life.
As an antidote to the fears and uncertainties of modern life, Theosophy was particularly readily accepted in Germany and Austria.
It was also well suited to the German protest movement known as Lebensreform (life reform).

Nacktkultur

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 – (Nacktkultur) and self-sufficient rural communes – were embraced by small groups of individuals who hoped to restore themselves to a natural existence …
Theosophy was appropriate to the mood of Lebensreform and provided a philosophical rationale for some of its groups.
Interest in Theosophy increased in Germany with the founding of the German Theosophical Society on 22 July 1884 at Elberfeld.




Wilhelm Hubbe-Schleiden
Eliphas Levi
(Alphonse Louis Constant)

Blavatsky and Olcott were staying there at the home of Marie Gebhard (1832-1892), a devotee of occultism who had corresponded frequently with the famous French occultist and magician Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant) (c. 1810-1875). 
Its first president was Wilhelm Hubbe-Schleiden, then a senior civil servant at the Colonial Office in Hamburg. Hubbe-Schleiden, who had travelled extensively throughout the world and was a keen advocate of German colonial expansion abroad, was instrumental in gathering the isolated Theosophists scattered throughout Germany into a consolidated German branch of the society.

‘Die Sphinx’

Hubbe-Schleiden also did much to increase occult interest in Germany through the founding in
1886 of his periodical ‘Die Sphinx’, a scholarly blend of psychical research, the paranormal, archaeology and Christian mysticism from a scientific viewpoint.
As such it was firmly Theosophical in tone, and included contributions from scientists, historians and philosophers.
Another great populariser of scientific occultism in Germany was Franz Hartmann (1838-1912), who had also led a highly eventful life in Europe and the Americas, following a number of careers such as soldier, doctor, coroner and mining speculator.
Already interested in Spiritualism, Hartmann was converted to Theosophy after reading ‘Isis Unveiled’, and decided to travel to Adyar to meet Blavatsky and Olcott in 1883.
So impressed was Blavatsky with him that she appointed him acting president of the Theosophical Society while she and Olcott travelled to Germany to start the branch there. Hartmann remained there until 1885.
Hartmann went on to found the occult periodical ‘Lotusbluthen’ (Lotus Blossoms), which ran from 1892 to 1900 and was the first German publication to feature the Hakenkreuz – (swastika) on its cover.
(In eastern mysticism, the swastika is a symbol with many positive connotations.)

Charles Leadbeater
Annie Besant

The increased public interest generated by this periodical prompted a number of German publishers to issue long book series dealing with a wide range of occult and esoteric subjects, including the work of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater who took over the Theosophical Society on Blavatsky’s death in 1891.
The German branch of the society had been dissolved in 1885 when the Theosophists left India, but was replaced by a new society founded in Berlin in August 1896 as a branch of the International Theosophical Brotherhood in America, with Hartmann as president.

Metaphysische Rundschau
Franz Hartmann


Also on the executive committee was one Paul Zillmann, who founded the monthly ‘Metaphysische Rundschau’ (Metaphysical Review) and who would later publish the works of the Ariosophists.
By 1902, German Theosophy, which had hitherto suffered from internecine rivalry, became far better coordinated under the two main centres at Berlin and Leipzig.




Rudolf Steiner
Hugo Vollrath

In 1906, a Theosophical Publishing House was founded at Leipzig by Hugo Vollrath, a disciple of Hartmann, possibly to counter the new influence in occult circles of Theosophist Rudolf Steiner, whose mystical Christian stance did not endear him to Annie Besant whose own outlook was firmly Hindu.
(Steiner would later leave and form his own Anthroposophical Society in 1912.)
The Theosophical Publishing House produced a large number of occult magazines and book series, in competition with other publishers such as Karl Rohm, Johannes Baum and Max Altmann who had turned their attention to this potentially lucrative field.
The public interest in occultism quickly grew in Vienna, which already had its own tradition of esotericism and interest in paranormal phenomena.
New occult groups were founded, including the ‘Association for Occultism’, which had its own lending library, the ‘Sphinx Reading Club’ and the ‘First Viennese Astrological Society’.
In fact, it was in Vienna that the seeds of Germanic occult racism were most liberally sown.
The public disquiet at economic change, scientific rationalism and rapid industrialisation and the threat they appeared to pose to traditional ‘natural’ ways of life was palliated not only by occultist notions of the centrality and importance of humanity within the wider cosmos (of the essential meaningfulness of existence), but also by the volkisch ideology that assured Germans of the value and importance of their cultural identity.
This combination of culture and spirituality was expressed most forcefully through the doctrine of Ariosophy, which originated in Vienna.

Ariosophy
   

Guido von List

Ariosophy constituted a mixture of racist volkisch ideology and the Theosophical concepts of Madame Blavatsky.
The two principal personalities behind Ariosophy were Guido von List (1848-1919) and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels (1874-1954).

Guido von List was born in Vienna, to a prosperous middle-class family. 
List dreamed of the reunification of Austria with Germany, and hated both Jews and Christians for the attacks he perceived them to have made upon German culture, spirituality and territorial rights.
A journalist by trade, List also wrote novels about the ancient Teutons and the cult of Wotan, whose hierarchy he came to call the Armanenschaft, a name derived from his spurious interpretation of a Teutonic myth.



Hakenkreuz
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

List’s codification of his beliefs regarding the ancient and racially pure Teutons led to a profound interest in the symbolism of heraldry and the secrets allegedly contained in the runic alphabet, an interest that included the mystical significance of the Hakenkreuz.

By 1902, as a result of a period of enforced inactivity following a cataract operation that left him blind for eleven months, List had devoted much thought to the nature of the proto-Aryan language he believed was encoded in the ancient runes.
His occult-racist-mystical theories, including an exposition on the Aryan proto-language, did not find particular favour with the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna, which returned without comment a thesis he had sent, nevertheless, the anti-Semitic elements in German and Austrian society began to take note, and in 1907 a ‘List Society’ was formed to provide financial aid in his researches.

Carnuntum – Heidentor

For many Austrian and German occultists of the time, List’s historiography and archaeology provided a scientific basis for both racism and extreme nationalism, and enabled the German Volk to trace their ancestry back to the splendour and racial purity of the ancient Teutons.
In List’s view, the Old Norse poems of Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, the Eddas, were actually chronicles of the myths of the ancient Germans.
The Eddas were composed of songs, manuals of poetry and works of history telling the story of the ancient Teutonic pantheon of gods and the numerous secondary divinities who were their cohorts.
In the Eddas, Wotan (whose name derives from the word in all Germanic languages meaning fury, and which in modern German is wuten, to rage) was the god of war, whom dead heroes met in Valhalla.

Wotan

It was Wotan who gained an understanding of the runes after being wounded by a spear and hanging from a tree for nine nights, and who related the eighteen runic spells that held the secrets of immortality, invincibility in battle, healing abilities and control of the elements.
In Norse legend, the runes are not only a system of writing but also possess an inherent magical power.

List, therefore, was a pioneer of rune occultism, since he was the first to link the runes of a certain written series with Wotan’s runic spells.
List attributed a specific individual rune to each of Wotan’s verses, adding occult meanings and a summary motto of each spell.
The central tenet of Wotanism was the cyclical nature of the Universe, which proceeded through a series of transformations
This cyclical cosmology was a primal law and represented the presence of God in Nature. Since Man was part of the cosmos, he was bound by its laws and thus required to live in harmony with the natural world.
A close identity with one’s folk and race was reckoned a logical consequence of this closeness to Nature.

Universal Whisk
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

List also utilised Theosophical concepts in his development of Ariosophy, in particular those of Max Ferdinand Sebaldt von Werth who wrote extensively on Aryan sexuality and racial purity.
Sebaldt believed that the Universe was whisked into being by god, and that its fundamental nature was one of the interaction of opposites, such as matter and spirit, and male and female. Aryan superiority could therefore only be achieved through a union of racially pure opposites
 In September 1903, List published an article in the Viennese occult periodical ‘Die Gnosis’ that drew heavily on this idea, referring to ancient Aryan cosmology and sexuality.
The phases of this cosmology were illustrated with variations on the Hakenkreuz  the symbol of the Sun, that List used to denote the unconquerable and racially pure Germanic hero.


List was also heavily influenced by legends of lost civilisations and sunken continents, such as the fabled lands of Atlantis and Lemuria, and by the theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky.

Madame Blavatsky

Theosophical, derived from the ‘Secret Doctrine’ also formed the basis of his ‘Die Religion der ‘Ario-Germanen” (1910), in which he devoted considerable space to the cosmic cycles which had inspired Blavatsky’s concept of cosmological cycles.
List identified the four rounds of fire, air, water and earth with the mythological Teutonic realms of Muspilheim, Asgard, Wanenheim and Midgard, which were tenanted respectively by fire-dragons, air-gods, water- giants and mankind.

Triskelion
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

These realms lie at the centre of the Nordic creation myth.
Wotanist doctrine held that the natural evolutionary cycle of the Universe was from unity to multiplicity and back to unity.
The first stage of this evolution (unity to multiplicity) was represented symbolically by anticlockwise triskelions.
The second stage (multiplicity back to the unity of the godhead) was represented by clockwise and upright symbols. In this scheme, the Ario-German was seen as the highest possible form of life, since he occupied the zenith of multiplicity at the outermost limit of the cycle.





Theozoologie

Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels

Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, founded the occult magazine ‘Ostara’, and created the Order of the New Templars in 1907.
Like his mentor List, Liebenfels had a middle- class Viennese upbringing.

Burg Werfenstein

Liebenfels chose as a headquarters for the Order of the New Templars a ruined castle, Burg Werfenstein, perched on a cliff on the shores of the River Danube between Linz and Vienna.
He was concerned with the idea of the struggle between the ‘blond’ Aryan race (characterised by creativity and heroism) and the dark ‘beast-men’ (untermensch), who were consumed with lust for blonde women, and who were bent on the corruption of human culture.

‘Ostara’ – Goddess of Spring
‘Ostara’ 

Two years earlier, Liebenfels had established the periodical ‘Ostara’ (named after the pagan goddess of spring) that called repeatedly for the restoration of the ‘blond race’ as the dominant force in the world.
This could only be achieved through racial purity, and the destruction of socialism, democracy and feminism.
These racist concerns led Liebenfels to conceive of founding a chivalrous order based on the monastic and military orders of the Crusades, which naturally resulted in an intense interest in the Order of the Knights Templar.



Richard Wagner Parsifal
Richard Wagner – Lohengrin

This interest was fuelled by the medieval Grail Romances, which were at the time enjoying a widespread popularity due to their treatment by Richard Wagner in his operas (‘Lohengrin’ and ‘Parsifal‘).
To Liebenfels and many of his contemporaries, such romances were significant in their painting of the Grail Knights as searchers after sublime and eternal values: this view provided a powerful antidote to the modern world, with its rampant industrialisation and materialism
In 1913 Liebenfels published a short study, in which the grail was interpreted as an electrical symbol pertaining to the ‘pan-psychic’ powers of the pure-blooded Aryan race.

The quest of the Templeisen for the Grailwas a metaphor for the strict eugenic practices of the Templar knights designed to breed the anticipated ‘god-men’. 
The early activities of the ONT revolved around festivals and concerts, with hundreds of guests being shipped in by steamer from Vienna.
They were routinely reported in the press, thus ensuring a wider audience for Liebenfels and the racist ideas presented in Ostara. Membership of the ONT was naturally restricted to those who could prove that they were of pure Aryan blood and who would vow to protect the interests of their (racial) brothers.

‘Theozoologie – oder die Kunder
von den Sodoms-Afflingen
und dem Gotter-Elektron’
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Two years before he founded the Ordo Novi Templi  Liebenfels had published a book entitled ‘Theozoologie oder die Kunder von den Sodoms-Afflingen und dem Gotter-Elektron’ (Theo- zoology or the Lore of the Sodom-Apelings and the Electron of the Gods).
Liebenfels divided his book into two sections, the first dealing with the origin of humanity in a race of beast-men (Anthropozoa).
In his view of antiquity, Liebenfels utilised new scientific discoveries such as radiation and radio waves, which at that time had a powerful hold on the public imagination.
Liebenfels applied these discoveries in his description of the gods, which held that they were not really gods at all, but higher forms of life (Theozoa) who possessed fantastic mental faculties including telepathy (which was actually the transmission of electrical signals between the brains of the Theozoa).
Through the millennia, these god-men gradually lost these faculties through miscegenation with the beast-men, until their telepathic sense organs became atrophied as the pineal and pituitary glands of modern humanity.

Liebenfels based this work, in part, on the research of the zoologist Wilhelm Bolsche (1861-1939), who in turn was inspired by Theosophy.

Wilhelm Bölsche (2 January 1861, Cologne, Rhenish Prussia – 31 August 1939, Schreiberhau, Riesengebirge) was a German author, editor and publicist. Bölsche was born in Cologne. He studied from 1883 to 1885 philosophy, art history and archaeology in Bonn and moved 1885 to Berlin. His publishing of “Das Liebesleben in der Natur“ (The Love Life in Nature) in 1898 was the key for creating modern fact books in Germany. Boelsche also initiated with Wilhelm Schwaner (1863 – 1944) a prequel of the first German folk high school, the “Freie Hochschule Berlin” in 1902 and was an important instigator for the “Lebensreformbewegung” (Humanistic naturalism – key note: “Back to Nature”) in Germany. Boelsche wrote for ‘Freie Volksbühne’ (Drama for the People) and edited the most important cultural history review of the day, “Freie Bühne“ (Free Stage) and popularized his free-thinking theories – especially the innovating school of Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel in dozens of  books and series released by “Kosmos-Verlag“ in Stuttgart, collaborating with the Berlin artist Heinrich Harder.

Liebenfels believed that the only way for Germans to reclaim their ancient godhood was by preventing the pollution of pure Aryan blood.
The second section of Liebenfels’s book concerned the redemption of the Aryan people, who had been corrupted by the promiscuous activities of the other races of Earth.

Vien juden

This idea of the Aryan struggle against the pernicious vices of other races in effect replaced the traditional Judaeo-Christian concept of the struggle between good and evil.
List’s and Liebenfels’s ideas remained just that: ideas.
Many of their followers became more and more restless and dissatisfied with their lack of action against the perceived threat to the Aryan race from the various inferior beings with whom they were forced to share their nation, in particular the Jews, who were blamed for the perceived evils of urbanisation, industrialisation and the threat to the traditional rural way of life of the Aryan peasant-hero.
Many came to believe that the time for scholarly theorising was past, that the time for direct action had come.

The Germanenorden

Theodor Fritsch

In May 1912, a meeting was held at the Leipzig home of Theodor Fritsch.
At this meeting were approximately twenty prominent Pan-Germans.
Their purpose was to found two groups to alert Germans to the dangers to small businesses they perceived as arising from the influence of Jewish business and finance.

Germanenorden

These groups were known as the Reichshammerbund and the Germanenorden (Order of Germans).
Born on 28 October 1852, Fritsch, the son of Saxon peasants, had trained as a milling engineer, and had edited the ‘Kleine Muhlen-Journal’ (Small-Mills Journal).
In common with other activists of the time, his anti-Semitism arose principally from a fear of rapid industrialisation, technology and mass production, driven by international Jewish influence, and the threat it posed to small tradesmen and craftsmen.
In spite of his political leanings, Fritsch decided against becoming a candidate for either of the two German anti-Semitic parties, the Deutsch-Soziale Partei and the Antisemitische Volkspartei, which had been established at Bochum in 1889, since he did not believe that anti-Semitism would prove successful in the Reichstag.

Reichstag – Berlin

Fritsch’s conviction in the ineffectiveness of parliamentary anti-Semitism proved to be correct. 
When more than one party existed after the Bochum conference, their competition led to a reduction in the number of successful anti-Semitic candidates at the Reichstag elections.
In addition, the merging of the two parties in 1894 as the Deutsch-Soziale Reformpartei resulted in a significant reduction in anti-Semitism in favour of an appeal to more conservative and middle-class economic interests

Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Comte Vacher de Lapouge

At this time, in the mid-1860s, racist writers such as the French aristocrat Comte Vacher de Lapouge, and the Germanised Englishman Houston Stewart Chamberlain, were influenced by biology and zoology, and were concentrating more on scientific studies of race.
It was these writers who identified the Jews as the greatest threat to the supremacy of the Aryan race, and backed up their ideas with reference to physical characteristics such as hair and eye colouring, and the shape of the skull.
For de Lapouge, Jews were more pernicious than any other race because they had insinuated themselves so completely into European society, while Chamberlain in particular did much to popularise mystical racism in Germany. 

‘Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’

Beyond the Aryan racial stereotype (tall, blond, blue-eyed) Chamberlain affirmed the existence of a special ‘race soul’ that created a more imaginative and profound spirit in Aryans.

Tall, Blond, Blue-Eyed
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The ultimate anti-Aryan, and most bitter racial foe was the Jew.
Chamberlain combined Social Darwinism with racism, and thus emphasized an endless racial struggle on behalf of the purity of Aryanism and against Jews and lesser peoples, including Slavs and Latins.

‘Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’ – (The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, 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).

Houston Stewart Chamberlain (September 9, 1855 – January 9, 1927) was an English author of books on political philosophy, natural science and son-in-law of the German composer Richard Wagner. He later became a German citizen. In December 1908, twenty-five years after Wagner’s death, Chamberlain married Wagner’s daughter, Eva von Bülow. Chamberlain’s 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  völkisch racial policy.

In order to fulfil his ambition to create a powerful anti-Semitic movement outside the ineffectual parliament, Fritsch founded a periodical called the ‘Hammer’ in January 1902.
By 1905, its readership had reached 3,000.
These readers formed themselves into ‘Hammer-Gemeinden’ (Hammer-Groups), changing their name in 1908 to ‘Deutsche Erneuerungs-Gemeinde’ (German
Renewal Groups).

Lebensreform

Their membership was interested in anti-capitalist forms of land reform designed to invigorate the peasantry, the garden city movement, and Lebensreform.
The Reichstag elections of January 1912 saw a humiliating defeat for Conservatives and anti- Semites, who lost 41 of their 109 seats, while the Social Democratic Party increased their seats from 43 to 110. 
In the Hammer, Fritsch favourably reviewed a violently anti-Semitic book entitled ‘Wenn ich der Kaiser war !’ (If I were Kaiser!) by the chairman of the Pan-German League, Heinrich Class, and decided that the time was right to act in the formation of an anti-Semitic organisation that would not be subject to the control or influence of any party.
As already stated, at the meeting in Fritsch’s Leipzig home on 24 May 1912 two groups were established: the Reichshammerbund, which combined all existing Hammer-Groups, and the ‘Germanenorden’, whose secret nature reflected the conviction of anti-Semites that Jewish influence in public life could only be the result of a secret international conspiracy, and as such could only be combated by a secret group whose members’ names would be withheld to prevent enemy infiltration.
Germanenorden lodges were established throughout Northern and Eastern Germany that year, and called for the rebirth of a racially pure Germany from which the parasitic Jews would be deported.
By July, lodges had been established at Breslau, Dresden, Konigsberg, Berlin and Hamburg. 
By the end of 1912, the Germanenorden claimed 316 brothers.
The main purpose of these lodges was to monitor Jewish activities; in addition, lodge members aided each other in business dealings and other matters.
The Germanenorden was heavily influenced by the doctrines of Ariosophy.
Any German wishing to join the order was required to supply details of hair, eye and skin colour, and also had to prove beyond any doubt that they were of pure Aryan descent.
Anyone suffering from a physical handicap was barred from membership.
Ariosophy also inspired the emblems used by the Order.

Curved-Armed Thule Hakenkreuz,

From the middle of 1916 the official Order newsletter, the ‘Allgemeine Ordens-Nachrichten’, began to display on its front cover a curved-armed Hakenkreuz, superimposed upon a cross … Although the swastika was current among several contemporary volkisch associations in Germany, it was through the Germanenorden and the ‘Thule Society’, its successor organization in post-war Munich, that this device – the Hakenkreuz, came to be adopted by the National Socialists.

First World War – 1914-1918

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Germanenorden began to suffer problems, both with membership and finance.
Many members of the Order were killed in action, and the Orders chief, Hermann Pohl, feared that the war would ultimately result in its destruction.
At that time, Pohl’s leadership abilities were coming under attack from several high-ranking members, who were becoming tired of the emphasis he placed on ritual and ceremony.
The Germanenorden was then headed by General-major Erwin von Heimerdinger.
Following the schism of 1916, the Germanenorden became seriously weakened, with many members confused as to its status (many assumed that it had been disbanded), however, the end of the war in November 1918 saw attempts to revive its fortunes and influence.
Grand Master Eberhard von Brockhusen believed that the Order would benefit from a constitution, which he succeeded in establishing in 1921, which provided for a complex organization of grades, rings, and provincial citadels (Burgen) supposed to generate secrecy for a nationwide system of local groups having many links with militant volkisch associations.
In the post-war period, the Germanenorden’s verbal violence was transformed into violent activities against public figures.

Matthias Erzberger

The new Republic was, of course, despised as a symbol of defeat, and it was the Germanenorden that ordered the assassination of Matthias Erzberger, the former Reich Finance Minister and head of the German delegation to Compiegne (one of the November criminals) who had signed the armistice.
His killers, Heinrich Schulz and Heinrich Tillessen, had settled in Regensburg in 1920, where they met Lorenz Mesch, the local leader of the Germanenorden.
Since they had become interested in volkisch ideology after the end of the war, and were heavily influenced by its propaganda, the Order chose them to assassinate Erzberger, which they did in August 1921.
From 1921, the Germanenorden became the focus for right-wing and anti-Semitic sentiments in the hated Weimar Republic.
When Rudolf von Sebottendorff joined Hermann Pohl’s breakaway Germanenorden Walvater in 1917, the seed of the legendary Thule Society was sown.

The Thule Society

Thule

The mythology surrounding the Arctic realm of Thule has its origins in another myth, that of Atlantis.
Although the lost continent of Atlantis was held for centuries to have existed in the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Pillars of Hercules, this view was challenged in the late seventeenth century by the Swedish writer Olaus Rudbeck (1630-1702) who claimed that the lost civilisation, which had conquered North Africa and much of Europe 9,000 years before, had actually been centred in Sweden.

Jean-Sylvain Bailly

This notion was taken up in the mid-eighteenth century by a French astronomer and mystic named Jean-Sylvain Bailly (1736-1793) who came to the conclusion that the great achievements of civilisations such as Egypt and China were the result of knowledge inherited from a vastly superior antediluvian culture that had resided in the far North.
According to Bailly, when the Earth was younger, its interior heat was much greater, and consequently the North Polar regions must have enjoyed a temperate climate in remote antiquity.

Hyperborea

Combining this idea with his belief that such climates are the most conducive to science and civilisation, Bailly identified Rudbeck’s Atlanteans with the Hyperboreans of classical legend. 

Nordic Physique
(tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed)

The placing of this high civilisation in the far north resulted in the Nordic physique (tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed) being seen as the ultimate human ideal.
The origin of the Völkisch concept of Thule and the Thule Society can be traced to Guido von List, Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels and Rudolf von Sebottendorff (1875-1945).

SS Emblem
(Schutzstaffel)

As we have seen, in 1907, Liebenfels founded the ritualistic Order of the New Templars, which was undoubtedly the prototype for Heinrich Himmler’s SS (Schutzstaffel).

Madame Blavatsky

Liebenfels was an avid student of Madame Blavatsky, who developed the notion that humanity was descended from a series of ‘Root Races’ that had degenerated throughout the millennia from a pure spiritual nature to the crude and barbarous beings of the present.
According to Blavatsky, the origin of the anthropoid apes could be explained as the result of bestiality committed by the Third Root Race of humanity with non-humans
Liebenfels in effect adapted this concept, claiming that the non-Aryan races were the result of bestiality committed by the original Aryans after their departure from the paradise of their northern homeland, a lost continent he called Arktogaa (from the Greek, meaning ‘northern earth’ – Thule).

Guido von List

These ideas found favour with Guido von List, like Liebenfels a native of Vienna, who was instrumental in the development of the lkisch movement.
This movement was characterised by a love of unspoiled Nature, vegetarianism, ancient wisdom, astrology and earth energies.
List had already played a crucial role in the founding of the secret Germanenorden, whose aim was to counter what its members saw as the corruption by Jewry of German public life that was clearly the result of a secret international conspiracy.
The Germanenorden was still active during the First World War, publishing a newsletter and placing advertisements in newspapers inviting men and women ‘of pure Aryan descent’ to join its ranks.



Sebottendorff 

It was in response to one of these advertisements that Rudolph von Sebottendorff met the leader of the Germanenorden, Hermann Pohl.
Sebottendorff had originally intended to be an engineer; however, having failed to complete his studies at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Polytechnic, and thus having little chance of qualified employment in Germany, he decided to go to sea.


In 1900, after service on a number of steamships, and an abortive career as a gold prospector in Western Australia, Sebottendorff made his way first to Egypt and then to Turkey, where he immersed himself in a study of the Turkish people, and cultivated an intense interest in occult science and ancient theocracies.
By 1916, Sebottendorff had settled in Bad Aibling, a fashionable Bavarian spa.
At their meeting in Berlin in September of that year, Sebottendorff learned of Pohl’s conviction that contamination by other races (particularly Jews) had robbed the Aryan race of its knowledge of magical power, and that this knowledge could only be regained through racial purity.
On his return to Bad Aibling, Sebottendorff immediately set about organising a recruitment campaign for the Germanenorden in Bavaria.
In 1918, Sebottendorff met an art student named Walter Nauhaus who had been badly wounded on the Western Front in 1914 and had been invalided out of the war.
Nauhaus shared Sebottendorff’s intense interest in the occult, and soon became an invaluable colleague in the Bavarian recruitment campaign for the Germanenorden.

Thule Gesellschaft

It was Nauhaus who suggested that the name of the order be changed from Germanenorden to Thule Gesellschaft (Thule Society), in order to ‘spare it the unwelcome attentions of socialist and pro- Republican elements’.
The ceremonial foundation of the Thule Society took place on 17 August 1918.

Hotel Vierjahreszeiten – Munich

The society met at the fashionable Hotel Vierjahreszeiten in Munich, in rooms decorated with the Thule emblem: a long dagger, its blade surrounded by oak leaves, superimposed on a shining, curved-armed swastika.
On the eve of the Armistice that signalled German defeat in the First World War, the Thule Society, appalled at the prospect of the Kaiser abdicating, not to mention the revolution in Bavaria which had seen the seizure of authority by the Soviet Workers and Soldiers Councils, held a meeting on 9 November 1918, at which Sebottendorff made an impassioned exhortation to his fellow Thuleans.
The Thule Society continued to meet at the Hotel Vierjahreszeiten, while Sebottendorff extended its influence from the upper and middle classes to the working classes via the use of popular journalism.
He achieved this by purchasing for 5,000 marks a minor weekly newspaper, published in Munich and called the Beobachter, in 1918.
Renaming the paper the ‘Munchener Beobachter und Sportblatt’ (Munich Observer and Sports Paper), Sebottendorff added sports features to attract a more youthful, working-class readership for the anti-Semitic editorials that had been carried over from the paper’s previous proprietor, Franz Eher.
(In 1920, the Munchener Beobachter und Sportblatt became the ‘Volkischer Beobachter’ – (The Racial Observer), which would later be the official newspaper of the NSDAP.)
On 26 April 1919, seven members of the Thule Society were captured by Communists and taken to the Luitpold Gymnasium, which had served as a Red Army post for the previous two weeks.

Countess Hella von Westarp

The hostages included Walter Nauhaus, Countess Hella von Westarp (secretary of the society) and Prince Gustav von Thurn und Taxis (who had many relatives in the royal families of Europe).
Four days later, on 30 April, the hostages were shot in the cellar of the Gymnasium as a reprisal for the killing of Red prisoners at Starnberg.

White Troops Entering Munich

The killing of the Thule Society members had the effect of catalysing a violent popular uprising in Munich that, with the aid of White troops entering the city on 1 May, ensured the demise of the Communist Republic.

Karl Harrer

In 1918, Sebottendorff had succeeded in extending the journalistic influence of the Thule Society to the working classes by asking a sports reporter on a Munich evening paper, Karl Harrer, who had an intense interest in Völkisch deology, to form a workers’ ring.

Anton Drexle

This small group met every week throughout the winter of 1918, and discussed such topics as the defeat of Germany and the Jewish enemy.

At the instigation of Anton Drexler, the workers’ ring became the ‘Deutsche Arbeiterpartei’ (German Workers’ Party) (DAP) on 5 January 1919.
In February 1920, the DAP was transformed into the ‘National Socialist German Workers’ Party’ (NSDAP).
By that time, the party had already been taken over by an army ‘BIldungs Offizier’ , whose orders had been to lead and enlarge it, – and he soon became its President.
His name was Adolf Hitler.

The Edda Society

Guido von List and his followers believed that the Icelandic Eddas were chronicles of the ancient Aryans.

Rudolf John Gorsleben

List’s occult-historical system was elaborated upon by Rudolf John Gorsleben (1883-1930), a playwright and journalist, who was born in Metz and grew up in Alsace-Lorraine (annexed by the German Reich in 1871).
In this environment, in which people’s loyalties were divided between France and Germany, Gorsleben was exposed to Pan-German nationalism and succeeded in tracing his ancestry back to a fourteenth-century noble family in Thuringia.

German Troops in the Middles East – 1914-1918

At the outbreak of the First World War, Gorsleben fought first in a Bavarian regiment and then in a unit attached to the Turkish army in Arabia.
When the war ended he went to Munich, where he became involved with the Thule Society and right-wing politics.
During an eventful three years, Gorsleben became Gauleiter of the South Bavarian section of the Deutschvolkischer Schutz-und Trutzbund, an anti-Semitic group that was competing with the early NSDAP.
He formed associations with right-wing figures such as Julius Streicher, who would later edit the NSDAP newspaper ‘Der Sturmer’, and Lorenz Mesch, the Germanenorden chief who had been instrumental in the assassination of Erzberger.

Julius Streicher (12 February 1885 – 16 October 1946) was born in Fleinhausen, Bavaria, one of nine children of the teacher Friedrich Streicher and his wife Anna (née Weiss). He worked as an elementary school teacher like his father, and in 1909 he began his political career, joining the German Democratic Party. He would later claim that because his political work brought him into contact with German Jews, he “must therefore have been fated to become later on a writer and speaker on racial politics.” In 1913 Streicher married Kunigunde Roth, a baker’s daughter, in Nuremberg. They had two sons, Lothar (born 1915) and Elmar (born 1918).

Streicher joined the German Army in 1914. He won the Iron Cross and reached the rank of lieutenant by the time the Armistice was signed in November, 1918.

Through his periodical ‘Deutsche Freiheit’ (German Freedom) – later renamed ‘Arische Freiheit’ (Aryan Freedom) – Gorsleben disseminated his occult ideas, which centred upon the concept of racial purity and the reactivation of the occult powers that every Aryan possessed but which had become atrophied.
With these magical powers once more at their fullest, the Aryan would hold complete sway over the processes of nature, and would thus be in a position to dominate and rule the world.
He reiterated the völkisch notion that racial mixing was not only detrimental to the superior partner but also that a female could be tainted merely by intercourse with a racial inferior, and that all subsequent offspring, even if conceived with a racial equal, would likewise be tainted.
With regard to the Eddas, Gorsleben believed that the Scandinavian runes contained an inherent magical power that provided those who understood their significance with a spiritual conduit through which could flow the force that drives the Universe itself.
By far the most powerful was the ‘hagall rune’, since within it could be found hidden all the other runes.

Hagal Rune

In addition, Gorsleben was perhaps the first occultist to promote the magical significance of crystals, which he considered to be three-dimensional projections of the runes.
According to this theory, the spirit of every human individual can be correlated to a specific type of crystal that can be apprehended through the faculty of mediumship.
In November 1925, Gorsleben founded the ‘Edda Society’ in the medieval town of Dinkelsbuhl in Franconia.
The treasurer of the society was Friedrich Schaefer, an associate of Karl Maria Wiligut, who would come to exert a great influence upon Heinrich Himmler.

Edda Gesellschaft

When Gorsleben died from heart disease in August 1930, the Edda Gesellschaft was taken over by Werner von Bulow (1870-1947), who had designed a ‘world-rune-clock’ which illustrated the correspondences between the runes, the zodiac, numbers and gods.
Bulow also took over the running of Gorsleben’s periodical, and changed its name from ‘Arische Freiheit’ to ‘Hag All All Hag’, and then ‘Hagal’.
Although the primary intention of the Edda Society was to conduct research into the ancient Aryan religion through the interpretation, via the runes, of Norse mythology, the history of the lost Atlantean civilisation and the numerous prehistoric monuments of Europe, it nevertheless declared its allegiance to National Socialism in 1933, stating in an article in ‘Hagal’ that the rise of National Socialism was occurring in accordance with universal laws.

Karl Maria Wiligut

‘Hagal’ also included material on the ancestral clairvoyant memories of Karl Maria Wiligut, which were felt to be of extreme significance to an understanding of the ancient occult heritage of the Germanic people.

Siegfried Adolf Kummer

In 1927, Siegfried Adolf Kummer (b. 1899) founded a rune school called ‘Runa’ at Dresden. ‘Runa’ concentrated on the practice of ritual magic, including the drawing of magic circles containing the names of the Germanic gods, and the use of traditional magical tools.

Siegfried Adolf Kummer (born 1899, date of death unknown) was a German mystic and Germanic revivalist. He is also most well known for his revivalism and use of the Armanen runes row. In 1927, Kummer founded a “runic school” called ‘Runa’, associated with the summer school ‘Bielatal Bärenstein’ of Georg and Alfred Richter. The runic exercises, comparable to the “runic gymnastics” of Marby, runic dancing and runic songs were taught. Kummer held that
As a we now can receive various waves by means of a radio device, so the German by means of runic exercises and dances can regulate the influx of invisible ethereal cosmic waves. Those who dismiss this as impossible will never be able to detect thought waves, because they are in disharmony with the cosmic All, and are impeded by racially foreign blood.”

During these rituals, the names of runes were called out, and rune shapes were traced in
the air as an aid to the magical process.

Weimar Republic

The defining element in the occultism practised in Germany and Austria in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the perceived evil and corruption of the modern world, particularly that of the despised Weimar Republic with its stench of defeat, weakness and decadence.
For people like List, Liebenfels, Sebottendorff and their followers, the future of humanity lay not in industrialisation, urbanisation and international finance (which they saw as causing the destruction of traditional, rural ways of life and the brutalisation of their ancestral homelands) but in the resurgence of ancient Aryan culture and the maintenance of racial purity.
For the Aryans were heirs to a fabulous mystical legacy stretching far into prehistory, all the way back to the lost realms of Atlantis, Hyperborea and Thule.
From out of the mists of time shone this lost ‘Golden Age’ of giants and god-men endowed with fantastic, superhuman abilities but who had been subsumed through miscegenation with inferior races – and were now gone.
The volkisch occultists hoped, through their activities, to forge a magical and cultural link with these lost times, and through racial segregation re-establish the global hegemony of the Aryan Übermensch (Superman).


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Richard Wagner – Der Meister von Bayreuth

RICHARD WAGNER
Der Meister von Bayreuth

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, conductor, theatre director and essayist, primarily known for his operas (or “music dramas”, as they were later called).
Wagner Geburtshaus

Wilhelm Richard Geyer – later Wagner – was born at No. 3 (‘The House of the Red and White Lions’ – see left), the Brühl, in the Jewish quarter of Leipzig, the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner ?, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service, and his wife Johanna Rosine (née Paetz), the daughter of a baker.

Wagner’s father died of typhus six months after Richard’s birth, following which Wagner’s mother began living with the actor and playwright Ludwig Geyer, who had been a friend of Richard’s father.
In August 1814 Johanna married Geyer, and moved with her family to his residence in Dresden. Until he was fourteen, Wagner was known as Wilhelm Richard Geyer.
He almost certainly suspected that Geyer was his natural father.
Geyer’s love of the theatre was shared by his stepson, and Wagner took part in his performances.

Ludwig Geyer

The boy Wagner was hugely impressed by the Gothic elements of Weber’s Der Freischütz.

In late 1820, Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel’s school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received some piano instruction from his Latin teacher.
He could not manage a proper scale but preferred playing theatre overtures by ear.
Ludwig Geyer (see left) died in 1821, when Richard was eight.
Subsequently, Wagner was sent to the Kreuz Grammar School in Dresden, paid for by Geyer’s brother.
The young Wagner entertained ambitions as a playwright, his first creative effort (listed as ‘WWV 1’) being a tragedy, Leubald, begun at school in 1826, which was strongly influenced by Shakespeare and Goethe.
Wagner was determined to set it to music; he persuaded his family to allow him music lessons
By 1827, the family had moved back to Leipzig.
Wagner’s first lessons in harmony were taken in 1828–1831 with Christian Gottlieb Müller.
In January 1828 he first heard Beethoven’s 7th Symphony and then, in March, Beethoven’s 9th Symphony performed in the Gewandhaus.
Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven (see right) became his inspiration, and Wagner wrote a piano transcription of the 9th Symphony.

He was also greatly impressed by a performance of the Requiem of Mozart.
From this period date Wagner’s early piano sonatas and his first attempts at orchestral overtures.

Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient 
In 1829 he saw the dramatic soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (see left) on stage, and she became his ideal of the fusion of drama and music in opera.
In his autobiography, Wagner wrote, “If I look back on my life as a whole, I can find no event that produced so profound an impression upon me.”
Wagner claimed to have seen Schröder-Devrient in the title role of Fidelio; however, it seems more likely that he saw her performance as Romeo in Bellini’s ‘Capuleti e i Montecchi’.
He enrolled at the University of Leipzig in 1831 where he became a member of the Studentenverbindung Corps Saxonia Leipzig.
He also took composition lessons with the cantor of Saint Thomas Church, Christian Theodor Weinlig.

Weinlig was so impressed with Wagner’s musical ability that he refused any payment for his lessons, and arranged for Wagner’s piano sonata in B flat (which was consequently dedicated to him) to be published as the composer’s op. 1.
A year later, Wagner composed his Symphony in C major, a Beethovenesque work performed in Prague in 1832 and at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1833.
He then began to work on an opera, ‘Die Hochzeit’ (The Wedding), which he never completed.
In 1833, Wagner’s older brother Karl Albert managed to obtain Richard a position as choir master in Würzburg.
In the same year, at the age of 20, Wagner composed his first complete opera, ‘Die Feen’ (The Fairies).

Carl Maria von Weber,

This opera, which clearly imitated the style of Carl Maria von Weber, would go unproduced until half a century later, when it was premiered in Munich shortly after the composer’s death in 1883.

Meanwhile, Wagner held a brief appointment as musical director at the opera house in Magdeburg during which he wrote ‘Das Liebesverbot’ (The Ban on Love), based on Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure.
This was staged at Magdeburg in 1836, but closed before the second performance, leaving the composer (not for the last time) in serious financial difficulties.
Minna Planer

In 1834 Wagner had fallen for the actress Christine Wilhelmine “Minna” Planer (see right).

After the disaster of ‘Das Liebesverbot’ he followed her to Königsberg where she helped him to get an engagement at the theatre.
The two married in Königsberg on 24 November 1836.
In June 1837 Wagner moved to the city of Riga, then in the Russian Empire, where he became music director of the local opera.
Minna had recently left Wagner for another man but Richard took her back; this was but the first debacle of a troubled marriage that would end in misery three decades later.
 ‘Rienzi’

By 1839, the couple had amassed such large debts that they fled Riga to escape from creditors (debt would plague Wagner for most of his life).

‘Das Fliegende Hollander’
During their flight, they and their Newfoundland dog, Robber, took a stormy sea passage to London, from which Wagner drew the inspiration for ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ (see right) (The Flying Dutchman) with a story based on a sketch by Heinrich Heine.
The Wagners spent 1839 to 1842 in Paris, where Richard made a scant living writing articles and arranging operas by other composers, largely on behalf of the Schlesinger publishing house, however, he also completed his third and fourth operas ‘Rienzi’ (see left) and ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ during this stay.
Wagner had completed writing ‘Rienzi’ in 1840.
Giacomo Meyerbeer

Largely through the strong support of Giacomo Meyerbeer, it was accepted for performance by the Dresden Court Theatre (Hofoper) in the German state of Saxony.

In 1842, Wagner moved to Dresden, where Rienzi was staged to considerable acclaim on 20 October.
Wagner lived in Dresden for the next six years, eventually being appointed the Royal Saxon Court Conductor.
During this period, he staged there ‘Das Fliegende Hollander’ (2 January 1843) and Tannhäuser (19 October 1845), the first two of his three middle-period operas.
Gottfried Semper

Wagner also mixed with artistic circles in Dresden, including the composer Ferdinand Hiller and the great classical architect Gottfried Semper (see right).

The Wagners’ stay at Dresden was brought to an end by Richard’s involvement in leftist politics.
A nationalist movement was gaining force in the states of the German Confederation, calling for constitutional freedoms and the unification of Germany as one nation state.
Proudhon
Richard Wagner played an enthusiastic role in the socialist wing of this movement, regularly receiving guests who included the radical editor August Röckel, and the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin. He was also influenced by the ideas of Proudhon (see left).
Widespread discontent in Dresden came to a head in April 1849, when King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony rejected a new constitution.
The May Uprising broke out, in which Wagner played a minor supporting role.
The incipient revolution was quickly crushed by an allied force of Saxon and Prussian troops, and warrants were issued for the arrest of the revolutionaries.
Wagner had to flee, first visiting Paris and then settling in Zurich.

Wagner spent the next twelve years in exile.
He had completed Lohengrin, the last of his middle-period operas before the Dresden uprising, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have it staged in his absence.
Liszt, who proved to be a true friend, eventually conducted the premiere in Weimar in August 1850.
Nevertheless, Wagner found himself in grim personal straits, isolated from the German musical world and without any income to speak of.
Before leaving Dresden, he had drafted a scenario that would eventually become the four opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.
He initially wrote the libretto for a single opera, ‘Siegfrieds Tod’ (Siegfried’s Death) in 1848. After arriving in Zurich he expanded the story to include an opera ‘Der junge Siegfried’ (Young Siegfried) exploring the hero’s background.
He completed the text of the cycle by writing the libretti for ‘Die Walküre’ and ‘Das Rheingold’ and revising the other libretti to agree with his new concept, completing them in 1852.
Meanwhile, his wife Minna, who had disliked the operas he had written after Rienzi, was falling into a deepening depression and then Wagner himself fell victim to ill-health which made it difficult for him to continue writing.
Wagner’s primary published output during his first years in Zurich was a set of notable essays: “The Art-Work of the Future” (1849), in which he described a vision of opera as Gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art”, in which the various arts such as music, song, dance, poetry, visual arts, and stagecraft were unified; “Judaism in Music” (1850), a tract directed against Jewish composers; and “Opera and Drama” (1851), which described the aesthetics of drama which he was using to create the Ring operas.

Wagner began composing ‘Das Rheingold’ in November 1853, following it immediately with ‘Die Walküre’ in 1854.
He then began work on the third opera, now called ‘Siegfried’, in 1856 but finished only the first two acts before deciding to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: ‘Tristan und Isolde”
Wagner had two independent sources of inspiration for ‘Tristan und Isolde’.

Arthur Schopenhauer 

The first came to him in 1854, when his poet friend Georg Herwegh introduced him to the works of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).
Wagner would later call this the most important event of his life.
His personal circumstances certainly made him an easy convert to what he understood to be Schopenhauer’s philosophy, a deeply pessimistic view of the human condition.
He would remain an adherent of Schopenhauer, who was also Hitler’s favourite philosopher, for the rest of his life, even after his fortunes improved.
One of Schopenhauer’s doctrines was that music held a supreme role amongst the arts.
He claimed that music is the direct expression of the world’s essence, which is blind, impulsive Will.
Wagner quickly embraced this claim, which must have resonated strongly despite its contradiction of his previous view, expressed in Opera and Drama, that the music in opera had to be subservient to the drama.
Wagner scholars have since argued that this Schopenhauerian influence caused Wagner to assign a more commanding role to music in his later operas, including the latter half of the Ring cycle, which he had yet to compose.
Many aspects of Schopenhauerian doctrine undoubtedly found their way into Wagner’s subsequent libretti.
For example, the self-renouncing cobbler-poet Hans Sachs in ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, generally considered Wagner’s most sympathetic character, although based loosely on a historical person, is a quintessentially Schopenhauerian creation.

Mathilde Wesendonck

Wagner’s second source of inspiration was the poet-writer Mathilde Wesendonck (see right), the wife of the silk merchant Otto Wesendonck.

Wagner met the Wesendoncks in Zurich in 1852.
Otto, a fan of Wagner’s music, placed a cottage on his estate at Wagner’s disposal.
During the course of the next five years, the composer was eventually to become infatuated with his patron’s wife.
Though Mathilde seems to have returned some of his affections, she had no intention of jeopardizing her marriage.
Nevertheless, the affair inspired Wagner to put aside his work on the Ring cycle (which would not be resumed for the next twelve years) and began work on Tristan, based on the Arthurian love story Tristan and Iseult.
While planning the opera, Wagner composed the ‘Wesendonck Lieder’, five songs for voice and piano setting poems by Mathilde.
Two of these settings are explicitly subtitled by Wagner as ‘studies for Tristan und Isolde ‘.

The uneasy affair collapsed in 1858, when Minna intercepted a letter from Wagner to Mathilde.
After the resulting confrontation, Wagner left Zurich alone, bound for Venice, where he sojourned in the Palazzo Giustinian.
The following year, he once again moved to Paris to oversee production of a new revision of Tannhäuser, staged thanks to the efforts of Princess Pauline von Metternich.
The premiere of the Paris Tannhäuser in 1861 was an utter fiasco.
Further performances were cancelled, and Wagner hurriedly left the city.
The political ban which had been placed on Wagner in Germany after he had fled Dresden was lifted in 1861.
The composer settled in Biebrich in Prussia, where he began work on ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’, the idea for which had come during a visit he had made to Venice with the Wesendoncks.
Despite the failure of ‘Tannhäuser’ in Paris, the possibility that ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ would never be finished, and Wagner’s unhappy personal life at the time of writing it, this opera is his only mature comedy.
Between 1861 and 1864 Wagner tried to have ‘Tristan und Isolde’ produced in Vienna.
Despite numerous rehearsals the opera remained unperformed, and gained a reputation as being “impossible”, which further added to Wagner’s financial woes.
In 1862, Wagner finally parted with Minna, though he (or at least his creditors) continued to support her financially until her death in 1866.

LUDWIG II  

König Ludwig   von Bayern
Ludwig and Wagner

Wagner’s fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II (see left) succeeded to the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18.

The young king, an ardent admirer of Wagner’s operas since childhood, had the composer brought to Munich.
He settled Wagner’s considerable debts, and proposed to stage ‘Tristan’, ‘Die Meistersinger’, the ‘Ring’, and the other operas Wagner planned. Wagner also began to dictate his autobiography, ‘Mein Leben’, at the King’s request.

for more information about Ludwig II see

Wittlesbach Arms
König Ludwig
von Bayern

To Wagner, it seemed significant that his rescue by Ludwig coincided with his learning the news of the death of his supposed enemy Meyerbeer, noting ungratefully that “this operatic master, who had done me so much harm, should not have lived to see this day”.

After grave difficulties in rehearsal, ‘Tristan und Isolde’ premiered at the National Theatre in Munich on 10 June 1865, the first Wagner premiere in almost 15 years.

Cosima von Bülow
Hans von Bülow

The conductor of this premiere was Hans von Bülow (see left), whose wife Cosima (see right) had given birth in April that year to a daughter, named Isolde, the child not of von Bülow but of Wagner.

Cosima was 24 years younger than Wagner and was herself illegitimate, the daughter of the Countess Marie d’Agoult, who had left her husband for Franz Liszt.
Liszt disapproved of his daughter seeing Wagner, though the two men were friends.
The indiscreet affair scandalized Munich, and to make matters worse, Wagner fell into disfavour among members of the court, who were suspicious of his influence on the king.
In December 1865, Ludwig was finally forced to ask the composer to leave Munich.
He apparently also toyed with the idea of abdicating in order to follow his hero into exile, but Wagner quickly dissuaded him.

Villa Tribschen

Ludwig installed Wagner at the Villa Tribschen, beside Switzerland’s Lake Lucerne.

‘Die Meistersinger’ was completed at Tribschen in 1867, and premièred in Munich on 21 June the following year.
In October, Cosima finally convinced Hans von Bülow to grant her a divorce, but this did not materialize until after she had two more children with Wagner; another daughter, named Eva, after the heroine of ‘Meistersinger’, and a son Siegfried, named for the hero of the Ring.
Minna Wagner had died the previous year and so Richard and Cosima were now able to marry.
The wedding took place on 25 August 1870.
On Christmas Day of that year, Wagner arranged a surprise performance of the ‘Siegfried Idyll’ for Cosima’s birthday.
The marriage to Cosima lasted to the end of Wagner’s life.

Wagner, settled into his newfound domesticity, turned his energies toward completing the Ring cycle.
At Ludwig’s insistence, “special previews” of the first two works of the cycle, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, were performed at Munich in 1869 and 1870, but Wagner wanted the complete cycle to be performed in a new, specially designed opera house.
In 1871, he decided on the small town of Bayreuth as the location of his new opera house.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

The Wagners moved there the following year, and the foundation stone for the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (see right) (“Festival Theatre”) was laid.

In order to raise funds for the construction, “Wagner Societies” were formed in several cities, and Wagner himself began touring Germany conducting concerts.
However, sufficient funds were raised only after King Ludwig stepped in with another large grant in 1874.

Villa Wahnfried
Villa Wahnfried

Later that year, the Wagners moved into their permanent home at Bayreuth, a villa that Richard dubbed Wahnfried (see left) (“freedom from delusion/madness”).

The expenses of Bayreuth and of Wahnfried however meant that Wagner still sought other sources of income by conducting or taking on commissions like the Centennial March for America.
The Festspielhaus finally opened on 13 August 1876 with ‘Das Rheingold’, now taking its place as the first evening of the premiere of the complete Ring cycle, and has continued to be the site of the Bayreuth Festival ever since.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus – Plan

The Festival has been overseen since 1973 by the Richard-Wagner-Stiftung (Richard Wagner Foundation), the members of which include a number of Wagner’s descendants.

 ‘Parsifal’ – Closing Scene

Following the first Bayreuth festival Wagner began work on ‘Parsifal’ (see left), his final opera.
The composition took four years, much of which Wagner spent in Italy for health reasons.
During this period he also wrote a series of essays, including some reactionary writings on religion and art which recanted his earlier views.
Many of these—including “Religion and Art” (1880) and “Hero-dom and Christendom” (1881) —appeared in the journal ‘Bayreuther Blätter’, founded in 1880 by Wagner and Hans von Wolzogen for Wagnerite visitors to Bayreuth.
Wagner completed Parsifal in January 1882, and a second Bayreuth Festival was held for the new opera which was premiered on 26 May.
Wagner was by this time extremely ill, having suffered through a series of increasingly severe angina attacks.

Gondola
Ca’ Vendramin Calergi

During the sixteenth and final performance of Parsifal on 29 August, he secretly entered the pit during Act III, took the baton from conductor Hermann Levi, and led the performance to its conclusion.

After the Festival, the Wagner family journeyed to Venice for the winter.
Wagner died of a heart attack at the age of sixty-nine on 13 February 1883 at Ca’ Vendramin Calergi, a 16th century palazzo on the Grand Canal.
Franz Liszt’s two pieces for pianoforte solo entitled ‘La lugubre gondola’ evoke the passing of a black-shrouded funerary gondola (see right) bearing Richard Wagner’s remains over the Grand Canal. Wagner was buried in the garden of the Villa Wahnfried in Bayreuth.

Wagner’s operatic works are his primary artistic legacy. Unlike other opera composers, who generally left the task of writing the libretto (the text and lyrics) to others, Wagner wrote his own libretti, which he referred to as “poems”. Further, Wagner developed a compositional style in which the orchestra’s role is equal to that of the singers. The orchestra’s dramatic role, in the later operas, includes the use of leitmotivs, musical themes that can be interpreted as announcing specific characters, locales, and plot elements; their complex interweaving and evolution illuminates the progression of the drama. Ultimately he urged a new concept of opera often referred to as “music drama”, (although he did not use or sanction this term himself) in which all musical poetic and dramatic elements were to be fused together—the Gesamtkunstwerk.

Wagner’s compositions, particularly those of his later period, are notable for their complex texture, rich harmonies and orchestration, and the elaborate use of leitmotifs: musical themes associated with individual characters, places, ideas or plot elements.

‘Tannhäuser’ 
‘Das Fliegende Hollander’

Initially establishing his reputation as a composer of works such as ‘The Flying Dutchman’ (see left) and ‘Tannhäuser’ (see right) which were in the romantic traditions of Weber and Meyerbeer, Wagner transformed operatic thought through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”).

This would achieve the synthesis of all the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, and was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852.
Wagner realised this concept most fully in the first half of the monumental four-opera cycle ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’.

‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’

However, his thoughts on the relative importance of music and drama were to change again and he reintroduced some traditional operatic forms into his last few stage works including ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ (see left).

Wagner pioneered advances in musical language, such as extreme chromaticism and quickly shifting tonal centres, which greatly influenced the development of European classical music.

‘Tristan und Isolde’
Opening Bars
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

His ‘Tristan und Isolde’ is sometimes described as marking the start of modern music.

He had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which contained many novel design features.

It was here that the ‘Ring’ and ‘Parsifal‘ received their premieres and where his most important stage works continue to be performed today in an annual festival run by his descendants. Wagner’s views on conducting were also highly influential.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus

His extensive writings on music, drama and politics have all attracted extensive comment; in recent decades, especially where they have antisemitic content.

Wagner’s late dramas are considered his masterpieces.
Der Ring des Nibelungen, commonly referred to as the Ring cycle, is a set of four operas based loosely on figures and elements of Germanic mythology—particularly from the later Norse mythology—notably the Old Norse Poetic Edda and Volsunga Saga, and the Middle High German Nibelungenlied.
They were also influenced by Wagner’s concepts of ancient Greek drama, in which tetralogies were a component of Athenian festivals, and which he had amply discussed in his essay “Oper und Drama”.

Richard Wagner
The Ring

The first two components of the Ring cycle were ‘Das Rheingold’ (The Rhinegold) (completed 1854) and ‘Die Walküre’ (The Valkyrie) (completed 1856).

In ‘Das Rheingold’, with its “relentlessly talky “realism” [and] the absence of lyrical “numbers” “, Wagner came very close to the pure musical ideals of his 1849 – 51 essays.
‘Die Walküre’ (see left), with Siegmund’s almost full-blown aria (‘Winterstürme’) in the first act, and the quasi-choral appearance of the Valkyries themselves, shows more ‘operatic’ traits, but has been assessed as “the music drama that most satisfactorily embodies the theoretical principles of “Oper und Drama”.
A thoroughgoing synthesis of poetry and music is achieved without any notable sacrifice in musical expression”.

Siegfried – Richard Wagner

While still composing the Ring, (leaving the third Ring opera ‘Siegfried’ (see right) uncompleted for the while), Wagner paused between 1857 and 1864 to compose the tragic love story ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and his only mature comedy ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ (The Mastersingers of Nuremberg), two works which are also part of the regular operatic canon.

‘Tristan und Isolde’ uses a story line deriving from the poem ‘Tristan und Isolt’ by the 13th century poet Gottfried von Strassburg.
Wagner noted that “its all – pervading tragedy […] impressed me so deeply that I felt convinced it should stand out in bold relief, regardless of minor details.
This impact, together with his discovery of the philosophy of Schopenhauer in October 1854, led Wagner to find himself in a “serious mood created by Schopenhauer, which was trying to find ecstatic expression. It was some such mood that inspired the conception of a Tristan und Isolde.
The work was first performed in Munich on 10 June 1865, conducted by Hans von Bülow.
Tristan is often granted a special place in musical history.
It has been described as “fifty years ahead of its time” because of its chromaticism, long-held discords, unusual orchestral colouring and harmony, and use of polyphony.
Wagner himself felt that his musico-dramatical theories were most perfectly realised in this work with its use of “the art of transition” between dramatic elements and the balance achieved between vocal and orchestral lines.
‘Die Meistersinger’ was originally conceived by Wagner in 1845 as a sort of comic pendant to Tannhäuser.
It was first performed in Munich, again under the baton of Bülow, on 21 June 1868, its accessibility making it an immediate success. It is “a rich, perceptive music drama widely admired for its warm humanity“; but because of its strong German nationalist overtones, it is also held up by some as an example of Wagner’s reactionary politics and antisemitism.

Götterdämmerung 

When Wagner returned, with the added experience of composing ‘Tristan’ and ‘Die Meistersinger’, to write the music for the last act of ‘Siegfried’ and for ‘Götterdämmerung’ (Twilight of the Gods), as the final part of the Ring was eventually called, his style had changed once again to one more recognisable as ‘operatic’ (though thoroughly stamped with his own originality as a composer, and suffused with leitmotivs) than the aural world of ‘Rheingold’ and ‘Walküre’.

This was in part because the libretti of the four ‘Ring’ operas had been written in reverse order, so that the book for ‘Götterdämmerung’ was conceived more ‘traditionally’ than that of Rheingold; still, the self-imposed strictures of the Gesamtkunstwerk had become relaxed.
However, the differences are also because of Wagner’s development as a composer during the period in which he composed ‘Tristan’, ‘Meistersinger’ and also the Paris version of ‘Tannhäuser’.
From Act III of ‘Siegfried’ onwards, the Ring becomes chromatic, and both harmonically more complex and more developmental in its treatment of leitmotifs.
Having taken 26 years from the first draft of a libretto in 1848 until the completion of ‘Götterdämmerung’ in 1874, the Ring represents in all about 15 hours of performance, the only undertaking of such size to be regularly represented on the world’s stages.

Parsifal

Erlösung dem Erlöser ! 
 ‘Parsifal’ 

Wagner’s final opera, ‘Parsifal‘ (1882), which was his only work written especially for his Festspielhaus in Bayreuth and which is described in the score as a “Bühnenweihfestspiel” (festival play for the consecration of the stage), has a storyline suggested by elements of the legend of the Holy Grail.

It also however carries elements of Buddhist renunciation suggested by Wagner’s readings of Schopenhauer.

Holy Spear – Parsifal
Wagner described it to Cosima as his “last card“.
The composer’s treatment of Christianity in the opera, its eroticism, and its relationship to ideas of German nationalism and  anti-Semitism have continued to render it controversial for non-musical reasons.
However, musically it has been held to represent a continuing development of the composer’s style , with “a diaphanous score of unearthly beauty and refinement“.
It is undoubtedly Wagner’s greatest opera – his masterpiece.

click here for more information about ‘Parsifal

Writings

Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring hundreds of books, poems, and articles, as well as voluminous correspondence, throughout his life.
His writings covered a wide range of topics, including politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses of his own operas.
Essays of note include “Art and Revolution” (1849), “Opera and Drama” (1851), an essay on the theory of opera. One of his most significant writings is “Das Judenthum in der Musik” (“Jewishness in Music”, 1850), a polemic directed against Jewish composers in general, and Giacomo Meyerbeer in particular.

He also wrote various autobiographical works, including “My Life” (1880).
In his later years Wagner became a vociferous opponent of experimentation on animals and in 1879 he published an open letter, “Against Vivisection”, in support of the animal rights activist Ernst von Weber.
There have been several editions of Wagner’s writings, including a centennial edition in German edited by Dieter Borchmeyer (which however omitted the essay “Das Judenthum in der Musik”).
The English translations of Wagner’s prose in 8 volumes by W. Ashton Ellis, (1892 – 99), are still in print and commonly used, despite their deficiencies.
A complete edition of Wagner’s correspondence, (estimated to amount to between 10,000 and 12,000 surviving items), of which the first volume appeared in 1967, is still under way.
Wagner’s influence on literature and philosophy is significant.
Wagner’s protean abundance meant that he could inspire the use of literary motif in many a novel employing interior monologue.
The Symbolists saw him as a mystic hierophant; the Decadents found many a frisson in his work.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche was part of Wagner’s inner circle during the early 1870s, and his first published work ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ proposed Wagner’s music as the Dionysian rebirth of European culture in opposition to Apollonian rationalist decadence.

Nietzsche broke with Wagner following the first Bayreuth Festival, believing that Wagner’s final phase represented a pandering to Christian pieties and a surrender to the new German Reich. Nietzsche expressed his displeasure with the later Wagner in “The Case of Wagner” and “Nietzsche contra Wagner“.
Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine worshipped Wagner.
Edouard Dujardin, whose influential novel ‘Les lauriers sont coupés’ is in the form of an interior monologue inspired by Wagnerian music, founded a journal dedicated to Wagner, La Revue Wagnérienne, to which J. K. Huysmans and Téodor de Wyzewa contributed.
In the twentieth century, W. H. Auden once called Wagner “perhaps the greatest genius that ever lived”, while Thomas Mann and Marcel Proust were heavily influenced by him and discussed Wagner in their novels.
He is discussed in some of the works of James Joyce.
Wagnerian themes inhabit T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, which contains lines from ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and ‘Götterdämmerung’, and Verlaine’s poem on ‘Parsifal‘.
Many of the Wagner’s concepts, including his speculation about dreams, predated their investigation by Sigmund Freud.
Adolf Hitler and Winnifred Wagner

In a long list of other major cultural figures influenced by Wagner, Bryan Magee includes D. H. Lawrence, Aubrey Beardsley, Romain Rolland, Gérard de Nerval, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Rainer Maria Rilke and numerous others. Wagner’s operas, writings, his politics, beliefs and unorthodox lifestyle made him a controversial figure during his lifetime. Wagner was responsible for several theatrical innovations developed at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus (for the design of which he appropriated some of the ideas of his former colleague, Gottfried Semper, which he had solicited for a proposed new opera house at Munich). These innovations include darkening the auditorium during performances, and placing the orchestra in a pit out of view of the audience. Adolphe Appia’s stagings of Wagner operas at Bayreuth had far reaching consequences in theatre practice generally.

Following Wagner’s death, the debate about his ideas and their interpretation, particularly in Germany during the 20th century, continued to make him politically and socially controversial in a way that other great composers are not. Much heat is generated by Wagner’s comments on Jews, which continue to influence the way that his works are regarded, and by the essays he wrote on the nature of race from 1850 onwards, and their influence on Adolf Hitler.

Wagner and Hitler

Wagner’s operas had an almost religious effect upon Hitler; Wagner’s skill for drama and dramatic music no doubt underscored the impact of the legends already known to Hitler from youth. 

Hitler and many of his associates shared a fascination with the history and mythology of the German Volk, and the following discussion will focus on examples of “mythical influences”, and how they helped shape the personal and political activities of these men. 
Richard Wagner’s (1813-1883) most famous works are undoubtably his music dramas.

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (left ‘Das Rheingold’) and ‘Tristan und Isolde’ (right – model stage-set) and most importantly, ‘Parsifal’, (below – ‘Die große Gralsszeneare’), the works that are widely acknowledged as being of great musical significance
The development and use of the leitmotif, the parts written for the heldentenor, the manipulation of chromaticism in the tonal system, and the development of the music drama itself are all very important aspects of Wagner and his music.
The ancient sagas that Wagner used as a 
basis for these music dramas held for him revealed truths and insights into human behavior and emotions. He has not been alone in his interest and opinions.These myths have been used as an argument for, or illustration of, various beliefs and ideologies. ‘The Ring’ has been variously interpreted as a look into the human psyche; a means of promoting socialism; a prophecy of the fate of the world and humankind; and a “parable” about the industrial society that was coming of age in Wagner’s lifetime.
It was also used by the Nazi party to justify and glorify racism, and to supply a basis of fanatic loyalty in the Schutzstaffel, or SS.
The legends of German mythology are essentially the same as the old Nordic legends; many of the proper names are the same in both cultures, and most of the remaining names are very similar to the Norse versions, differing only in spelling. 

Thus the Norse Odin, the ruler of the gods, becomes Woden, (or Wotan), further south in the Germanic regions. In the same fashion, the Norse heroes known as Sigurd, Brynhild and Gudrun become Siegfried, Brünnhilde, (see right ‘Wotan &  Brünnhilde), and Günther in the German stories. 
The extremely close parallels between the two cultures makes it an absolute certainty that both the Germanic stories and the earlier Norse legends were derived from the same ancient tales.
These early legends are known to the modern world from two collections: the Elder Edda, which is written in verse, and the Younger Edda, (consisting of the sagas), which is written in prose. The dating for these collections seems to be in some dispute; in Bulfinch’s Mythology rather specific dates are assigned: 1056 for the Elder Edda and 1640 for the Younger Edda. However, in Edith Hamilton’s Mythology, she speaks of the oldest manuscript of the Elder as dating from circa 1300, some three hundred years after the arrival of Christianity in Iceland, and almost three hundred years after Bulfinch’s date.
Hamilton does state, however, that all of these legends are completely pagan in nature, (thus predating Christianity), and that almost all scholars agree the stories must be much older than the oldest manuscript.
The dates for the Younger Edda are likewise apparently uncertain; Bulfinch’s date of 1640 is hard to reconcile with Hamilton’s statement that the Younger was “written down by one Snorri Sturluson in the last part of the twelfth century.”
Regardless of date, it is agreed the most important collection is the Elder Edda.
These two very long epics furnish the material for almost all of the presently known myths and legends about the ancient gods of the North. 
Unfortunately, as Christian missionaries from the Mediterranean area journeyed further north, they systematically destroyed all the pagan artifacts they could find in a remarkably successful attempt to completely obliterate all remnants of the belief system they were replacing.
Only a few fragments of the entire northern European prehistoric collection of myths have been preserved. The legend of Beowulf in England and the Nibelungenlied in Germany are two tales that survived the zeal of the missionaries. 
The Eddas are known only from Iceland; apparently Icelandic missionaries were less influential than their counterparts on the continent of Europe — Iceland was one of the last European countries to be Christianized.
All of these surviving legends are essentially gloomy and pessimistic in nature; depressingly so to modern readers.

In Nordic and Germanic mythology the Earth, (Midgard), and Heaven, (Asgard), were destined to be utterly destroyed by the Frost Giants, (who lived in Jötunheim), in a final great battle between Good and Evil, called Ragnarok, (Ragnarok is paralleled by Götterdämmerung in Wagner’s Ring Cycle – see right).

In this final battle, Evil was predestined to win, and the entirety of creation was to be destroyed. The only bright factor in this thoroughly depressing viewpoint was the belief that, in spite of all, if one could die a courageous, heroic death, then all else faded into insignificance. 
It is of interest to realize that the Western ideal of heroism and heroic deeds in the face of certain death springs almost entirely from these Nordic myths, and not from the Greek and Roman mythology that most people are more familiar with. (The Greek gods were remarkably un-heroic in their conduct), and of course, this idea of heroism and fighting to the death against any odds would fit very well with the kind of fanatic loyalty sought by Hitler and Himmler.
When Richard Wagner embarked upon the composition of ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’, (around 1849), he chose as his framework the Teutonic epic of the Nibelungenlied, (The Norse version of this legend is called the Volsungasaga).
Wagner finished the first two segments, (‘Das Rheingold’ and ‘Die Walküre’), and part of the third, (‘Siegfried’), by 1857, but seventeen years would go by before he would finish the great work with the completion of ‘Siegfried’ and the final music drama in the cycle: ‘Götterdämmerung’.
As mentioned earlier, the Teutonic versions of these myths are very similar to the Nordic versions, differing chiefly in descriptions of climate, and social condition. The Teutonic versions were generally slightly less violent than their Viking equivalents.

In turn, it seems apparent that Wagner again tempered the German tales somewhat; in ‘Tristan und Isolde’, after the hero Tristan is mortally wounded, he is kept alive by the power of love until he is united with his lover, Isolde. After Tristan’s demise in her arms, she is overcome by waves of ecstatic love, and she dies. 

As discouraging as this ending may seem, Wagner saw it as the triumph of love in the face of all adversity; not even death could truly defeat it. 
Of course, the story steps outside of the bounds of reality somewhere along the way, but this only adds to the transcendent quality of the story and of the music drama itself.
Adolf Hitler’s attraction to Richard Wagner’s music began at an early age. At the age of twelve, I saw … the first opera of my life, Lohengrin. In one instant I was addicted. My youthful enthusiasm for the Bayreuth Master knew no bounds.”

Adolf Hitler

In 1905, at the age of sixteen, Hitler left school – ostensibly because of illness – and was able to spend his time as he wished – which he later described as the happiest time of his life.

Two of his favorite pastimes were aimlessly roaming the streets of Linz (see right), and attending the opera at night.
He had a passion for music; most especially the mystic operas of Wagner, which he would attend night after night.
His meager supply of pocket money was spent mainly on the opera, (a standing-room ticket cost only the equivalent of ten cents), and on purchasing books on German history and mythology, which he would read for hours at a time.

His fascination with Wagner’s operas seems to have had a profound effect upon him.

His only friend from this period of his life was one August Kubizek, (nicknamed “Gustl”), who gave an interesting description:

“The charged emotionality of this music seemed to have served him as a means for self-hypnosis, while he found in its lush air of bourgeois luxury the necessary ingredients for escapist fantasy”.
Kubizek goes on to relate the events of a particular evening spent in Hitler’s company.
They had attended a performance of Wagner’s ‘Rienzi’, and according to “Gustl”, Hitler had a quite powerful reaction to the opera.
The youthful Adolf was “overwhelmed by the resplendent, dramatic musicality” of the opera, as well as deeply affected by the story therein; that of Cola di Rienzi, a medieval rebel who was an outcast from his fellows and was “destroyed by their incomprehension”. After the opera …
“… Hitler began to orate. Words burst from him like a backed-up flood breaking through crumbling dams. In grandiose, compelling images, he sketched for me his future and that of his people”.
Thirty years later, the boyhood friends would meet again in Bayreuth, and Hitler would remark: “It all began at that hour !”.
More convincing evidence of Wagner’s influences can hardly be wished for after a statement such as this one, but there is more.
Between 1909 and 1913, a time which Hitler described as “the saddest period of my life”, he resided in Vienna.
It was here, by his own statement in Mein Kampf, that he became a confirmed anti-Semite.

The anti-Semitic opinions Richard Wagner had held were no secret, and the concurrence of opinion between these two men could only have served to pull Hitler closer to a greater regard for Wagner.
Indeed, Hitler claims to have heard ‘Tristan und Isolde’ thirty to forty times during his years in Vienna.
(During these years in Vienna, at the Hofoper opera house alone, at least 426 evenings featured performances of works by Wagner).

In 1923, just before the abortive “Beer-Hall Putsch”, Hitler presented himself at Wahnfried, the home of the Wagner family.

There he met Siegfried Wagner, (Richard Wagner’s only son), and Siegfried’s English born wife Winifred (*see below).
He is said to have sought out the Master’s study, and, deeply moved, stood before Wagner’s grave in the garden for a long time. 
Afterwards, he was introduced to Houston Stewart Chamberlain (**see photo below & ‘AN ENGLISHMAN AT THE COURT OF THE KAISER), (Richard Wagner’s English born son-in-law), who was of advanced age and could not speak. Chamberlain later wrote a letter to Hitler voicing his support for Hitler’s goals and ideas. 

Hitler valued this letter greatly, almost as if it were “a benediction from the Bayreuth Master himself”.

Hitler continued in his contacts with the family of Wagner, and it is rumoured that he had a relationship with Winifred after Siegfried’s death.




Hitler also became a favourite ‘uncle’ (uncle Wolf), to the Wagner’s two sons, Wieland (left) and Wolfgang (right).

His idea of the supreme expression of opera was the final scene in ‘Götterdämmerung’, and, when in Bayreuth, whenever he witnessed this finale, he would turn around in his darkened box, seek out the hand of Frau Winifred Wagner, and “breathe a deeply moved Handkuss upon it”.
By this time he had seen all of Wagner’s operas countless times, and boasted of having listened to ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and ‘Die Meistersinger’ over a hundred times each.

Other indications of Wagner’s influences are furnished by Albert Speer, who began as Hitler’s chief architect and ended as Reich Armaments Minister.
He speaks of the interior furnishings of Hitler’s country house, the Berghof at Obersalzberg.
The salon was furnished, along with normal items of furniture, with a “sideboard over ten feet high and eighteen feet long” which was used to store phonograph records. Against another wall was “a massive chest containing built-in speakers, and adorned by a large bronze bust of Richard Wagner by Arno Breker“.
The admiration Hitler had for Wagner was reciprocated by the Wagner family; when furnishing this dwelling, the Wagners donated linens and china, and sent Hitler a complete set Richard Wagner’s works, along with a page from the original score of Lohengrin.

There is yet another facet of Hitler’s dwelling at Obersalzberg that shows his sense of unity with Germany’s “heroic” past: the view.

Obersalzberg, as one might imply from the name, is a mountain; high enough to give a good view of the surrounding area.
The Berghof, which was designed by Hitler himself, featured a large picture window which offered a view of the Untersberg, Berchtesgaden, and Mozart’s hometown, Salzburg.

Legend has it that the Emperor Charlemagne still sleeps in the Untersberg, but will someday awaken and restore the German Empire to its past glories.
Hitler didn’t hesitate to apply this prophecy to himself: “You see the Untersberg over there. It is no accident that I have my residence opposite it”.
On the eve of World War II, Hitler’s forces reoccupied the Rhineland. Returning from a triumphal trip through this area, and jubilant over the Allies’ weakness, he requested that some Wagner be put on the phonograph. Listening to the vorspiel to Parsifal, he remarked:

I have built up my religion out of Parsifal. Divine worship in solemn form … without pretenses of humility … One can serve God only in the garb of the hero“.

The record continued to play. 
The next selection was the funeral march from Götterdämmerung, and brought forth the following comments from Hitler:
I first heard it in Vienna – at the Opera – and I still remember as if it were today“.
The Germanic myths and the dramatic presentation of these myths by Richard Wagner were, very obviously, a central tool of the Nazi Party.
The psychological effects of these music dramas and stories on the principal figures of the Third Reich are equally obvious, when they are looked for. 
In Joachim Fest’s biography of Hitler, there are no fewer than thirty-four references to Richard Wagner or his music.
And of course, one cannot help but wonder what Richard Wagner would have thought about Adolf Hitler, one of his all-time biggest fans ! However, it was Richard Wagner who declared in his ‘music dramas’ that the coming master race was that of the Germans.

Originally, Nietzsche had delighted in Wagner’s music, but the latter’s obsessive anti-Semitism and conversion to an Aryanised Christianity caused him to denounce the composer with every twist of biting irony at his command.
The great mass of people, however, were to respond more to Wagner’s music than to Nietzsche’s difficult writings, partly because it was great and inspired music and partly because its maker had resurrected the mythology of the German race.
It is said that myths are the truest expression of a race’s spirit and culture, and in ‘The Ring’ the Teutonic ‘Supermen’ bestrode a stage, wherein was war, treachery, courage, blood and fire, climaxed with a stupendous ‘Götterdämmerung’.
The world of Wotan and Thor, heroes and giants, great deeds, great victories, and great destruction had never been expressed with such power.

The beauty of Wagner’s music moved men to such an extent that Hitler would declare that to understand National Socialist Germany one must first know Wagner.
For Wagner believed that the virtues of the Teuton tribes had atrophied with the coming of industrial civilisation; that courage and will had been poisoned or emasculated by capitalism and race pollution; that the Jews were responsible for the enervation and enslavement of the German spirit; and that a new Siegfried must arise to lead the Germans to an awareness of their greatness and their glory.
Schopenauer (see right) destroyed the meaning of values, Nietzsche proclaimed the need for passing beyond them, and Wagner supplied a new set to replace the old.
These three men, renowned more posthumously than in their own lifetimes, challenged the world of 1889 and became, in time, the favourites of Adolf Hitler.
From them he derived what fundamental values he possessed.
It is impossible to tell whether these men expressed what they felt around them, or what they sensed would be the future; or whether they were determined to stamp their wills upon the world.
Were they prophets? Or were they magicians?
We know that Nietzsche derived much of his inspiration from mystical trances which possessed him without warning, and that his greatest work, Thus Spake Zarathustra, was inspired by one such experience in the winter of 1882-3.
We know also that Wagner claimed that the sources of his inspiration flowed from similar supra-rational experiences, and the effect of this can be seen in that extraordinary mystical opera, ‘Parsifal’.
Whatever the truth, it is at least certain that much of what they foretold, later came to pass.
Yet the world of 1889 ignored these insignificant portents of change.
People continued to live as though nothing important had happened or would happen, and no one so much as deigned to notice the birth of Adolf Hitler.
Treaties and contracts were made and broken; money was won and lost; children were educated as though all was absolutely certain.
Books were written and read which taught Christian, bourgeois, industrial capitalist, materialist, humanist European values as if no other could ever be of the slightest relevance.

And yet it was these books which lacked all relevance.
Nietzsche, (see left and NIETZSCHE – CREATOR OF THE ÜBERMENSCH ), who knew the true spirit of his age and of the age to come, wrote:
‘And what doeth the saint in the forest?’ asked Zarathustra.
The saint answered: ‘I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.
‘With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what dost thou bring us as a gift?’
When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: ‘What should I have to give thee! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from thee!’
And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.
When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: ‘Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that God is dead!”

click below for a fascinating insight into the early life and personality of Adolf Hitler

Der Bayreuther Kreis

Der Bayreuther Kreis (The Bayreuth Circle) was a name originally applied by some writers to devotees of Richard Wagner’s music who attended and supported the annual Bayreuth Festival in the later 19th and early twentieth centuries.
Many of these devotees espoused nationalistic German politics, and  were supporters of Adolf Hitler from the 1920s onwards, and therefore this group of people were directly associated with the rise of Nazism.
There was never any organisation named Der Bayreuther Kreis, or any group of people who identified themselves by that name; but the term has been used by many historians as a convenient label for Hitler supporters associated with Wagner and Bayreuth.
Examples of such association are given in the following citations:
‘Only with timely support from the Bayreuth circle, especially Houston S. Chamberlain, Winifred Wagner, and henchmen like Dietrich Eckhart in the Thule Society, could Hitler assume the public image of a Wotan/Siegfried figure, complete with telling nickname: “Wolf.” ‘
‘Thus Hitler himself admitted: `It was Cosima Wagner’s merit to have created the link between Bayreuth and National Socialism’.
‘It was the Bayreuth circle which raised Wagner’s message to the status of gospel, manoeuvring his ideas into a Germanic doctrine of salvation.’

Significant Operas

‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’

   

The cycle is a work of extraordinary scale.
Perhaps the most outstanding facet of the monumental work is its sheer length: a full performance of the cycle takes place over four nights at the opera, with a total playing time of about 15 hours, depending on the conductor’s pacing.
The first and shortest opera, ‘Das Rheingold’, typically lasts two and a half hours, while the final and longest, ‘Götterdämmerung’, takes up four and a half hours.
The cycle is modelled after ancient Greek dramas that were presented as three tragedies and one satyr play.
‘The Ring’ proper begins with ‘Die Walküre’ and ends with ‘Götterdämmerung’, with ‘Rheingold’ as a prelude.

Wagner called ‘Das Rheingold’ a Vorabend or “Preliminary Evening”, and ‘Die Walküre’, ‘Siegfried’ (see left below) and ‘Götterdämmerung’ were subtitled First Day, Second Day and Third Day, respectively, of the trilogy proper.

The scale and scope of the story is epic.

It follows the struggles of gods, heroes, and several mythical creatures over the eponymous magic Ring that grants domination over the entire world.
The drama and intrigue continue through three generations of protagonists, until the final cataclysm at the end of Götterdämmerung.
The music of the cycle is thick and richly textured, and grows in complexity as the cycle proceeds.

Wagner wrote for an orchestra of gargantuan proportions, including a greatly enlarged brass section with new instruments such as the ‘Wagner tuba’ (see left), bass trumpet and contrabass trombone.

Remarkably, he uses a chorus only relatively briefly, in acts 2 and 3 of ‘Götterdämmerung’, and then mostly of men with just a few women.
He eventually had a purpose-built theatre constructed, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, in which to perform this work.
The theatre has a special stage that blends the huge orchestra with the singers’ voices, allowing them to sing at a natural volume.
The result was that the singers do not have to strain themselves vocally during the long performances.
Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle begins when the dwarf Alberich rejects love in order to gain unlimited power over the world by forging a Ring of Power from the Rhinegold.
The rejection of love is the only possible way of seizing this gold from the Rhine Maidens who had teased and taunted Alberich’s love.

Once Alberich has seized the gold he forges it into a ring and a magical helmet (the Tarnhelm) that allows all who don it to shift shape at will and cross great distances in an instant.
When the god Wotan is himself allured by the wealth of the gold and power of the ring – stealing them from Alberich in order to pay for a great hall of the gods (Valhalla), the embittered dwarf curses the ring with a spell – ensuring that it will henceforth bring about the death and downfall of all who wear it.
Only the Earth goddess Erda, embodiment of primordial wisdom, and Loge – the luciferic fire spirit upon whom Wotan has relied – recognise the full pathos of what will befall both gods and mortals if the Ring is not returned to its source in the Rhine.
This is ultimately achieved not by the naïve and fearless hero Siegfried, nor by his loveless rival, the son of Alberich but by Siegfried’s lover Brünnhilde – (see right).
She is a female warrior, a ‘death angel’ or Valkyrie born of Erda’s violation by Wotan. 
In the symbolism of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, rejection of love in favour of power over, and the enforced submission of female gods and mortals combine to bring about a loss of inner power and knowledge.
In the end Wotan regains the wisdom lost to Erda only by willingly submitting to the fate imposed by the power of the Ring.
He does so by encouraging Brunnhilde to follow her own loving instincts for both Siegfried and himself – knowing full well that this will eventually bring about the downfall or ‘Twilight’ of the gods, but knowing at the same time that only this will save mankind and redeem the world.
The epic ends with Brünnhilde flinging the ring back into the Rhine – whose luciferic flames then rise to engulf Valhalla and cause its collapse.
The gods – hitherto embodiments of inner power and knowledge – fall prey to the allure of outer symbols of that power and knowledge (gold, heroic victory in war, and the grand fortress of Valhalla that is home to dead heroes).
Thus bringing about their own downfall, they now await their return – no longer as gods but as human beings – loving men and women of inner power and inner knowledge.

Parsifal

Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner.

It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail. Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but it was not finished until twenty-five years later.

It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.
The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” – “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”.
At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there is no applause after the first act of the opera. Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by an erroneous etymology of the name Percival deriving it from a supposedly Arabic origin, Fal Parsi meaning “pure fool”.
for more information see the post
   
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Winifred Wagner

Winifred Wagner (23 June 1897 – 5 March 1980) was an English-born Welsh woman married to Siegfried Wagner, Richard Wagner’s son
She was the effective head of the Wagner family from 1930 to 1945, and a close friend of German dictator Adolf Hitler.
Winifred Williams was born Winifred Marjorie Williams in Hastings, England, the daughter of John Williams, a writer, and his wife, the former Emily Florence Karop.
Winifred lost both her parents before the age of two and was initially raised in a series of homes. Eight years later she was adopted by a distant German relative of her mother, Henrietta Karop, and her husband Karl Klindworth, a musician and a friend of Richard Wagner.
The Bayreuth Festival was envisioned as a family business, with the leadership to be passed from Richard Wagner to his son Siegfried Wagner, but Siegfried, who was secretly homosexual, showed little interest in marriage.

It was arranged that Winifred Klindworth, as she was called at the time, aged 17, would meet Siegfried Wagner, aged 45, at the Bayreuth Festival in 1914.A year later they were married. It was hoped that the marriage would end Siegfried’s homosexual encounters and the associated costly scandals, and provide an heir to carry on the family business. Following their marriage on 22 September 1915, they had four children in rapid succession: Wieland (1917–1966), Friedelind (1918–1991), Wolfgang (1919–2010) and Verena (born 1920). After the death of Siegfried Wagner in 1930, Winifred Wagner took over the Bayreuth Festival, running it until the end of World War II.

In 1923, Winifred met Adolf Hitler who, as we have seen earlier, greatly admired Wagner’s music. 
When Hitler was jailed for his part in the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, Winifred sent him food parcels and stationery on which Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf may have been written. In the late 1930s, she served as Hitler’s personal translator during treaty negotiations with England. Although Winifred remained personally faithful to Hitler, she denied that she had ever supported the Nazi party. Her relationship with Hitler grew so close that by 1933 there were rumors of impending marriage.

‘Haus Wahnfried’, the Wagner home in Bayreuth, became Hitler’s favorite retreat, and he had his own separate accommodation in the grounds of Wahnfried, known as the Führerbau.
Hitler gave the festival government assistance and tax exempt status, and treated Winifred’s children, particularly Wieland and Wolfgang solicitously.
According to biographer Brigitte Hamann, Winifred Wagner was reported to be “disgusted” by Hitler’s persecution of the Jews. In one notable incident, in the late 1930s, a letter from her to Hitler prevented Hedwig and Alfred Pringsheim (their daughter Katia was married to Thomas Mann) from being arrested by the Gestapo.
According to Gottfried Wagner, Winifred’s grandson, she never admitted the error of her ways. After the war, her posthumous devotion to the man she cryptically referred to as “USA” – for ‘Unser Seliger Adolf’ (our blessed Adolf) – remained undimmed.
She corresponded with Hitler for nearly two decades.
Scholars have not been allowed to see the letters which are kept locked away by one of Winifred’s grandchildren, Amélie Lafferentz.


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© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


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Parsifal und die Deutsche Seele – Richard Wagner

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


(Parsifal and the German Soul)

Parsifal is an opera in three acts by Richard Wagner.
It is loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, the 13th century epic poem of the Arthurian knight Parzival (Percival) and his quest for the Holy Grail, and on Chrétien de Troyes’ Perceval, the Story of the Grail.

Bayreuth Festspielhaus
Bayreuth Festspielhaus

Wagner first conceived the work in April 1857 but it was not finished until twenty-five years later.
It was to be Wagner’s last completed opera and in composing it he took advantage of the particular acoustics of his Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

Parsifal was first produced at the second Bayreuth Festival in 1882.
The Bayreuth Festival maintained a monopoly on Parsifal productions until 1903, when the opera was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Metropolitan Opera House – New York

Wagner preferred to describe Parsifal not as an opera, but as “ein Bühnenweihfestspiel” – “A Festival Play for the Consecration of the Stage”.

At Bayreuth a tradition has arisen that there is no applause after the first act of the opera.

Wolfram von Eschenbach

Wagner’s spelling of Parsifal instead of the Parzival he had used up to 1877 is informed by the etymology of the name Percival, deriving it from an Arabic origin, ‘Fal Parsi‘ meaning “pure fool”.

Wagner first read Wolfram von Eschenbach’s poem Parzival while taking the waters at Marienbad in 1845.

Arthur Schopenhauer

After encountering Arthur Schopenhauer’s work in 1854, Wagner became interested in oriental philosophies, especially Buddhism.

He was particularly inspired by reading Eugène Burnouf’s “Introduction à l’histoire du buddhisme indien” in 1855/56.
Out of this interest came “Die Sieger” (“The Victors”, 1856) a sketch Wagner wrote for an opera based on a story from the life of Buddha.
The themes which were later explored in Parsifal of self-renouncing, reincarnation, and exclusive social groups (‘castes‘ in ‘Die Sieger’, the ‘Knights of the Grail‘ in ‘Parsifal’) were first introduced in “Die Sieger”.






Mathilde Wessendonk
Asyl

According to his own account, recorded in his autobiography ‘Mein Leben’, Wagner conceived Parsifal on Good Friday morning, April 1857, in the ‘Asyl‘ (German: “Asylum”), the small cottage on Otto von Wesendonck’s estate in the Zürich suburb of Enge, which Wesendonck – a wealthy silk merchant and generous patron of the arts – had placed at Wagner’s disposal. 

The composer and his wife Minna had moved into the cottage on 28 April:




Minna Planer

“… on Good Friday I awoke to find the sun shining brightly for the first time in this house: the little garden was radiant with green, the birds sang, and at last I could sit on the roof and enjoy the long-yearned-for peace with its message of promise.

Full of this sentiment, I suddenly remembered that the day was Good Friday, and I called to mind the significance this omen had already once assumed for me when I was reading Wolfram’s Parzival.
Since the sojourn in Marienbad [in the summer of 1845], where I had conceived ‘Die Meistersinger’ and ‘Lohengrin’, I had never occupied myself again with that poem; now its noble possibilities struck me with overwhelming force, and out of my thoughts about Good Friday I rapidly conceived a whole drama, of which I made a rough sketch with a few dashes of the pen, dividing the whole into three acts.”

Wagner did not resume work on Parsifal for eight years, during which time he completed ‘Tristan und Isolde’ and began ‘Die Meistersinger’.
Then, between 27 and 30 August 1865, he took up Parsifal again and made a prose draft of the work; this contains a fairly brief outline of the plot and a considerable amount of detailed commentary on the characters and themes of the drama, but once again the work was dropped and set aside for another eleven and a half years.
During this time most of Wagner’s creative energy was devoted to the ‘Ring’ cycle, which was finally completed in 1874 and given its first full performance at Bayreuth in August 1876.
Only when this gargantuan task had been accomplished did Wagner find the time to concentrate on ‘Parsifal’.
By 23 February 1877 he had completed a second and more extensive prose draft of the work, and by 19 April of the same year he had transformed this into a verse libretto (or “poem”, as Wagner liked to call his libretti).

In September 1877 he began the music by making two complete drafts of the score from beginning to end.
The first of these (known in German as the ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ and in English as either the ‘Preliminary Draft’ or the ‘First Complete Draft’) was made in pencil on three staves, one for the voices and two for the instruments.
The second complete draft (‘Orchesterskizze‘, ‘Orchestral Draft’, ‘Short Score’) was made in ink and on at least three, but sometimes as many as five, staves.
This draft was much more detailed than the first and contained a considerable degree of instrumental elaboration.
The second draft was begun on 25 September 1877, just a few days after the first: at this point in his career Wagner liked to work on both drafts simultaneously, switching back and forth between the two so as not to allow too much time to elapse between his initial setting of the text and the final elaboration of the music.
The ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ of Act III was completed on 16 April 1879 and the ‘Orchesterskizze’ on the 26th of the same month.
The full score (‘Partiturerstschrift‘) was the final stage in the compositional process.
It was made in ink and consisted of a fair copy of the entire opera, with all the voices and instruments properly notated according to standard practice.
Wagner composed ‘Parsifal’ one act at a time, completing the ‘Gesamtentwur‘ and ‘Orchesterskizze‘ of each act before beginning the ‘Gesamtentwurf‘ of the next act; but because the ‘Orchesterskizze‘ already embodied all the compositional details of the full score, the actual drafting of the ‘Partiturerstschrift‘ was regarded by Wagner as little more than a routine task which could be done whenever he found the time.
The ‘Vorspiel of Act I’ was scored in August 1878.
The rest of the opera was scored between August 1879 and 13 January 1882.

The Premiere

Paul von Joukowsky

On 12 November 1880 Wagner conducted a private performance of the ‘Parsifal Vorspiel’ for his patron Ludwig II of Bavaria at the Court Theatre in Munich (see left).
The premiere of the entire work was given in the Festspielhaus at Bayreuth on 26 July 1882 under the baton of the conductor Hermann Levi.
Stage designs were by Max Brückner and Paul von Joukowsky  who took their lead from Wagner himself.


The Grail hall was based on the interior of Siena Cathedral (see left) which Wagner had visited in 1880, while Klingsor’s magic garden was modelled on those at the Palazzo Rufolo in Ravello (see right).
In July and August 1882 sixteen performances of the work were given in Bayreuth conducted by Levi and Franz Fischer.
The production boasted an orchestra of 107, a chorus of 135 and 23 soloists (with the main parts being double cast).
At the last of these performances, Wagner took the baton from Levi (see right) and conducted the final scene of Act 3 from the orchestral interlude to the end.

At the first performances of ‘Parsifal’ problems with the moving scenery during the transition from Scene one to Scene two in Act 1 meant that Wagner’s existing orchestral interlude finished before Parsifal and Gurnemanz arrived at the Hall of the Grail.
Engelbert Humperdinck (see left), who was assisting the production, provided a few extra bars of music to cover this gap.
In subsequent years this problem was solved and Humperdinck’s additions were not used.

Thirty-seven years had gone by between the first idea for the work and its completion.

Concerning Wagner’s knowledge of occultism, which is crucial, we know he was acquainted with Freemasons, with whom he entered into fierce debate, and with the Rosicrucians.

In his library, now situated in Bayreuth, and open to the public, there are translations of the ‘Upanishads’ and the ‘Mahabharata’, which were just being published in his time.

The Upanishads are a collection of Sanskrit philosophical texts which form the theoretical basis for the Hindu religion.
They are also known as Vedanta, (the end of the veda).

The Upanishads

The Upanishads are considered by orthodox Hindus to contain revealed truths (Sruti) concerning the nature of ultimate reality (brahman), and describing the character and form of human salvation (moksha).
More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads.
Historians believe the chief Upanishads were composed over a wide period ranging from the Pre-Buddhist period to the early centuries BCE, however, there has been considerable debate among authorities about the exact dating of individual Upanishads.

Chariot of Krishna and Arjuna
Bhagavad Gita

Their significance has been recognized by writers and scholars such as Schopenhauer, Emerson and Thoreau, and of course Wagner, among others. Scholars also note similarity between the doctrine of Upanishads and those of Plato and Kant.
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, the other being the Ramayana.
Besides its epic narrative of the Kurukshetra War and the fates of the Kaurava and the Pandava princes, the Mahabharata contains much philosophical and devotional material, such as a discussion of the four “goals of life” or purusharthas (12.161). Among the principal works and stories that are a part of the Mahabharata is the superlative ‘Bhagavad Gita’ – ‘The Song of the Lord’, often considered as work in its own right.

Richard Wagner undoubtedly had exceptional intuitive abilities, and could see many extremely subtle realms and interrelations directly; also that he suffered deeply because all too often he simply could not find the words to express what took place so clearly before his spiritual eye.

Amfortas 

It is therefore understandable that he identified with the figure of Amfortas – (see right): Wagner believed in living life to the full; he also saw things but could not grasp them.
The basic spiritual tendency running through the opera is compassion.
Reincarnation and karma are clearly described in several places – without them the whole drama would be inexplicable.
A number of symbols and mythical elements are important for a general understanding of the work.
First, the symbol of the Grail combines elements of legends from Persia and Asia Minor with those from Celtic mythology.

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Parsifal Vorspiel – Leitmotiven

A leitmotif  is a musical term referring to a ‘short, constantly recurring musical phrase’, associated with a particular person, place, or idea.
It is closely related to the musical concepts of idée fixe or ‘motto-theme’.

Richard Wagner

The term itself is an anglicization of the German ‘Leitmotiv’, literally meaning “leading motif”, or perhaps more accurately, “guiding motif.”
A musical motif has been defined as a ‘short musical idea…melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic, or all three’, a salient recurring figure, musical fragment or succession of notes that has some special importance in or is characteristic of a composition: “the smallest structural unit possessing thematic identity.”
In particular such a motif should be ‘clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances’ whether such modification be in terms of rhythm, harmony, orchestration or accompaniment. It may also be ‘combined with other leitmotifs to suggest a new dramatic condition’ or development.
The technique is notably associated with the ‘music dramas’ of Richard Wagner.

The Vorspiel to “Parsifal” is based on three of the most profound leitmotifs in the entire work.

It opens with the Motive of the Sacrament, over which, when it is repeated, arpeggios hover, as in the religious paintings of old masters angel forms float above the figure of virgin or saint.
Through this motive we gain insight into the office of the Knights of the Grail, who from time to time strengthen themselves for their spiritual duties by partaking of the communion, on which occasions the Grail itself is uncovered.
This motive leads to the Grail Motive, effectively swelling to forte and then dying away in ethereal harmonies, like the soft light with which the Grail illumines the hall in which the knights gather to worship.
The trumpets then announce the Motive of Faith, severe but sturdy — portraying superbly the immutability of faith.
The Grail Motive is heard again and then the Motive of Faith is repeated, its severity exquisitely softened, so that it conveys a sense of peace which passeth all understanding.
The rest of the Vorspiel is agitated. That portion of the Motive of the Sacrament which appears later as the Spear Motive here assumes through a slight change a deeply sad character, and becomes typical throughout the work of the sorrow wrought by Amfortas’s crime.
I call it the Elegiac Motive.
Thus the Vorspiel depicts both the religious duties which play to prominent a part in the drama, and unhappiness which Amfortas’s sinful forgetfulness of these duties has brought upon himself and his knights.

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The Grail Legend

Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival

Every German schoolboy knew the great folk tale of the Grail by heart.

Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival was one of the greatest works of literature in the German (or any other) language.
On the surface it is a familiar tale of a pure knight’s search for perfect love and redemption.
Few pieces of heroic literature had more impact on the nation-conscious Germans than Parzival.

The Grail legend is interpreted in two ways.
Generally, it is viewed as a story of Christian love and the redemption of mankind.
The second is the mythical interpretation.
The Grail is said to contain a coded message known only to a few, and understood by a tiny number.
It is this interpretation which is accepted by Ravenscroft in ‘The Cup of Destiny’ (1981) and Angebert in ‘The Occult and the Third Reich’ (1974).

Lucifer – Prince of Heaven

Lucifer was a Prince of Heaven before his sin prompted God to cast him to Hell.

On the descent to the Underworld his crown fell to earth, and from it a huge emerald.
This was used by men of antiquity to fashion a drinking cup to be used in occult rituals.
Here we find the most ancient relic accepted by both Christians and gnostics.
The cup was ringed with the usual special signs, symbols, runes and the like, all depicting the ascent of man through various stages to a final state of blessedness.
The Grail had become the sacred vessel of Initiate Knowledge.
It contained on its exterior the great trove of primordial knowledge and tradition which linked the past to the future. 
hat primordial knowledge can bring man back into the natural and only true condition for him, the primordial state of consciousness.
Within Germany many regarded the Grail as the lost, secret book of the Aryan race.
It had been entrusted to them since eons past, and was lost and recovered on occasion.
What precisely it contained was unknown, and since it was written in symbols, the interpretation given these runes may have differed from age to age.
It was the one great treasure of all Aryans, at all times.
From age to age it had been the uniting factor, the one artifact that provided a rationale for the existence of the race.
The Grail predated Christianity.
This is an absolute whose acceptance is necessary for understanding the importance of it as an artifact to the NSDAP and its leaders, notably the SS.
In Alfred Rosenberg’s ‘Myth of the 20th Century’ the Grail may be viewed as the cause of German objection to some aspects of Christianity, notably to Roman Catholicism.
It may be viewed as having provided direction to the German people, or at least a significant portion of it, when the people were confronted by orthodox Western church teachings which were alien to them.

The Grail

The Grail, the cup which Jesus used at the Last Supper, was made from the stone which fell from Lucifer’s crown as he plunged to earth (see left).
Lucifer (the Light-bringer) brought the mental principle to evolving humanity.
The stone from Lucifer’s crown can therefore be regarded as ego-consciousness or “I am I”: without the awakening mind principle humanity would not be able to acquire knowledge, and the first step along this path is “I am I.”
That this stone was fashioned into a cup or bowl which was used to catch the blood of Christ elevates its meaning because it then stands for the divine self.
As Wagner remarked, it becomes “Grail consciousness” — purified, redeemed “I am.”
The Grail is entrusted to Titurel.
He gathers a brotherhood of knights around him, called the knights of the Grail, who devote themselves to the service of this Grail consciousness through noble deeds.


A second important symbol is the spear, derived from the spear of Longinus (see left) who, it is said, thrust it into Christ’s side during the crucifixion, shedding the Savior’s blood.
It stands for higher mind, that part of us which must decide whether the mind will aspire to spirit or succumb to material desire.
A third central symbol is the swan (see right), denoting the north.
Wagner uses the swan as a symbol of those beings who, though still devoid of individual consciousness, are located in the divine realms, but have their whole development before them; this symbol is identical with that of the angel.
In the last scene a dove appears, symbol according to Wagner of “divine spirit, which floats down idealistically onto the human soul.” It is the Holy Ghost or Spirit.

The first act of the opera, which takes place in the realm of the Grail, close to Montsalvat (see left), begins with trombones sounding the reveille.

Gurnemanz, teacher and guardian of the secret wisdom of the Grail, wakens two squires lying asleep under a tree, saying: “Do you hear the call? Give thanks to God that you are called to hear it !
That the reveille sounds from the realm of the Grail indicates that it is a spiritual call.
At this time Amfortas, King of the Grail, lies sick and wounded, the wound being an external symbol for inner events.
In his striving towards higher things, Amfortas battled in the realm of the lower mind ruled by the black magician Klingsor and lost the spear.
Klingsor wounded him in his side with the spear, a wound which will not heal.
This wound is the pivot of all further action.
It is the fissure between the higher self and the personal self, caused by the fact that the mental principle was directed into the earthly realm where it is now ruled by Klingsor, or mind linked with sexual desire.
Gurnemanz and the squires try to alleviate the pain suffered by the King of the Grail.
They wish to bathe the wound, though Gurnemanz in his wisdom knows this will be of no avail. The King’s wound, an inner wound, cannot be closed by baths or ointments.
Wrapped in thought, he sings: “There is but one thing can help him, only one man.”
When a knight asks the man’s name, he avoids answering.
Then Kundry enters the scene, appearing wild one moment, lifeless the next.
She presses on Gurnemanz a small crystal vessel containing balsam with which Amfortas might be healed.

Kundry personifies the desire nature, messenger and temptress at the same time.

On the one hand, desire binds us to earthly things, while on the other it provides the first impulses to understand what is hidden. Thus Kundry serves both the Grail and also, as temptress, Klingsor who seeks to divert people from the quest for the divine through the power of the senses.
Wagner remarks that the black magician “beclouds the divine judgment of man through the sense impressions of the material world, and thereby leads him into a world of deception.”
A dispute arises between the knights of the Grail and Gurnemanz about Kundry (desire).
The squires mistrust her, but Gurnemanz says:
Yes, she may be under a curse. She lives here now — perhaps reincarnated, to expiate some sin from an earlier life not yet forgiven there.
Now she makes atonement by such deeds as benefit our knightly order; she has done good, beyond all doubt, serving us and thereby helping herself.’
Naturally, Kundry was also involved when Klingsor seized the spear from Amfortas.
In his pain, Amfortas addresses the Grail and asks for a sign of help.
In a vision he describes how someone will come to help him: “Enlightened through understanding, the innocent fool; wait for him, the appointed one.

This announcement of the foolish innocent (“Fal parsi,” hence Parsifal) refers to the reincarnating ego, which hastens from life to life.

If the reincarnating ego gives full expression to its divine individuality in its personal life, the inner fissure – the wound — will be closed again, for the mind which has been directed to things carnal and of matter will be turned back to the divine.
Before divinity can be attained, however, human evolution has to be experienced.
At the outset, mankind is completely un-selfconscious and lives in a state of divine innocence, untouched by things of matter and without an independent mind, a state symbolized by the swan.
It has to leave this state, descend to the physical realm, and experience all the conflicts that evolution entails.
Through the associated suffering and the development of the thinking principle, humans learn from their own experience to feel compassion for other beings.
These developments find their corollary in the departure of young people from their parental home, the maternal plane.
Such a departure is often very difficult and may be accompanied by a great deal of pain and many reproaches; but this break is absolutely necessary if young people are to go through their own experiences and develop the ability to think for themselves, though this simultaneously causes the maternal principle much grief.

Parsifal und der Schwan
Parsifal und der Schwan

This “descent” or gaining of independence is represented by Wagner in the slaying of the swan by Parsifal.

Gurnemanz sternly reproaches Parsifal for killing the swan with an arrow.
Parsifal is at first filled with childlike pride at his accuracy but becomes increasingly disturbed when he looks at the dead bird, and for the first time he feels pity.
Gurnemanz inquires of Parsifal his name and origin, but Parsifal cannot remember and replies: “I had many, but I know none of them any more.”
The only name he remembers is that of his mother: Herzeleide (Heart’s Sorrow).
Kundry is able to provide more information about his origin: his father was killed in battle, and his mother “reared him up in the desert to folly, a stranger to arms.”
Parsifal nevertheless recalls that one day he saw the knights of the Grail riding along the forest’s edge: “I ran after them, but could not overtake them; through deserts I wandered, up hill and down dale.”
Parsifal yearns for more than a solitary, peaceful life.
Kundry confirms this, and informs him of his mother’s death.
Parsifal springs furiously at her, but Gurnemanz restrains him.
Thus although the Parsifal is endowed with a feeling of right and wrong, his mind is not yet fully developed.
It therefore turns, in conjunction with desire, to anger and rage.
Gurnemanz, the wise initiate, restrains him.
The rest of the opera describes what takes place during this descent of the human soul. Gurnemanz has already recognized that Parsifal is someone who can restore the divine harmony.
He offers to lead him to the feast of the Grail.

Both move into their inner, spiritual realms, represented by the temple of the Grail.
This realm lies beyond the differentiation of space and time. Hence Parsifal remarks: “I scarcely tread, yet seem already to have come far.
Gurnemanz answers, significantly: “You see, my son, time here becomes space.”
Gurnemanz warns Parsifal to pay close attention to everything he encounters and later to take it back into the realm of his personal consciousness.
Before them both a scene opens with a pillared hall where the knights of the Grail carry in Amfortas.
The covered shrine of the Grail is carried before them.
In the background can be heard the voice of Titurel, the former guardian of the Grail, who received the Cup from the aeon’s hands and learned the occult mysteries in an inner vision.

He says, “Amfortas, my son, are you in your place? Shall I again today look on the Grail and live ?

This indicates that the life forces of spiritual traditions steadily weaken if they are not renewed by intuitive, creative individuals.
Time and again attempts are made to establish a spiritual, compassionate brotherhood.
If, however, the innovators fail, the effort comes to a standstill; the teachings ossify, and what used to be the content becomes a veil, until nothing is left of the original impulse.
Titurel must therefore die.
So Titurel calls upon Amfortas to view the Grail, but Amfortas is incapable of doing so – he has lost the mental principle to Klingsor, the lower mind.
Titurel now calls for the uncovering of the Grail, the revelation of occult wisdom.
When, at his insistence, this takes place, Amfortas is racked with pain: for those imprisoned in the lower mind, the sight of divine wisdom is unbearable.
The tragedy of such a situation is clear.
On the one hand, such people are impelled by divine impulses; on the other, they are completely entangled in the world of deception and sensuality.
When the full, idealistic nature of the Grail appears to Amfortas, so great becomes his despair that he begs to die.

But the Chorus sings again: “Enlightened through knowledge, the innocent fool: – wait for him, the appointed one.

Gurnemanz, who led Parsifal to this inner vision, stands beside Parsifal throughout the scene.
At the end he asks Parsifal: “Do you know what you have seen ?
But Parsifal cannot answer, as he is overcome by the suffering he has seen.
Gurnemanz angrily dismisses him.
Parsifal is not yet able to help, as this requires more than just a vision of things occult.
He must first acquire occult knowledge on the physical plane.
This alone will enable him to internalize what he has seen and make it part of his consciousness.
Only in this way can the divine be carried over into all realms.

The second act of Parsifal takes place in the magic castle (in the realm of illusion) of the black magician Klingsor.
Here the evil principle, personified as the magician Klingsor, tests Parsifal’s will power.
Wagner regards Klingsor “as the counterweight to the god-seeking impulse, which beclouds the power of discernment, with two sources of illusion: the power of sense impressions and passionate desire.
Klingsor evokes those forces of passion which compel us into a seemingly endless cycle of re-embodiment,  ever seeking redemption.
Through self-castration Klingsor has forcibly rendered himself un-receptive to desire.
He has obtained magic power over Kundry, and the possession of the holy spear.
Now he intends, with her aid, to gain possession of the Grail: Kundry is to seduce Parsifal, as she did Amfortas before him.
Kundry suffers because of herself: she longs for satisfaction and the stilling of her eternal urges.
But a knight must be able to withstand, control, and refine the dark forces of desire – ultimately it is desire which impels us to aspire to higher things.
Kundry resists the entreaties of the magician, but when Parsifal enters the realm of Klingsor, she succumbs to the magician’s power.
The violent love which she feels, however, is the result of desire. 
Thus tragedy is preordained.

Parsifal und die Blumenmädchen

When Parsifal enters the magic castle, Klingsor conceals himself and turns the area into a beautiful tropical garden where young maidens clad in soft-colored veils dance.

When Parsifal approaches, they embrace him, and the game with the flower maidens begins.
The higher self can only play with beauty; as soon as one is entrapped by it, his powers become bound to the physical realm.
The maidens want more than just to play, and they crowd around him.
Firmly driving them off, Parsifal cries: “Have done! You shall not catch me !
The first attempt at seduction through the power of deceptive beauty has been repulsed, but when Kundry enters and calls his name – ‘Parsifal’ – he is shocked, because his mother had once addressed him in just the same way in a dream.
The flower maidens fade away and Parsifal recognizes the deceptive nature of the material world.
Now the power of ‘desire‘ is revealed to him: Kundry becomes visible.
She tells Parsifal of his origin: Parsifal left the world of illusion and went his way, following the laws of spirit.
In the world of appearances it is impossible to understand such decisions.
So great is the sorrow of his mother (his biological origin) at his decision that she finally dies.


Parsifal and his Mother
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

When Kundry tells of his mother’s grief when he ran away to seek higher things, she awakens the pity of the higher self with regard to the personal self.
Parsifal sinks down at Kundry’s feet and torments himself with severe self-reproaches.
Parsifal experiences here the possibly strongest temptation the aspiring human being can encounter.
Overpowering pity in the face of suffering has proved the undoing of many who betrayed their divine ideals for the sake of alleviating suffering.
In his state of weakness, Kundry tells Parsifal of the great love between his parents; nevertheless, he does not give in to Kundry’s fantasies, but instead sees a vision of Amfortas before him.

The Temptation of Parsifal -1894
Arthur Hacker-1858-1919

This time he does not merely see the sorrow in the realm of the Grail, as in the first act, but suffers it directly.
Parsifal suddenly starts up with a gesture of the utmost terror, his demeanor expresses some fearful change; he presses his hands hard against his heart as if to master an agonizing pain.
He cries: “Amfortas ! The wound! The wound!  It burns within my heart !
Parsifal remembers what he saw in the temple of the Grail and “falls into a complete trance.
The vision of his link with divinity awakens once again within him.
He is filled with deep understanding, which no longer relates to the personal self, nor to the suffering of the spiritual self (Amfortas), but to the innermost  heart of creation, calling us to the ultimate vision of the cosmos.
It is compassion for his own essential being – his ‘true will’ which is enchained by the fetters of desire.
This understanding activates the ‘true will’ and sets in motion the will to complete the process of attaining the divine vision.
Kundry tries to hinder Parsifal’s understanding, but he recognizes the demonic nature of her attempt.
Kundry tries to kiss Parsifal, but he forcefully repulses her.
This is the turning point of the whole drama.
The deceptive maneuver of the black magician which brought about the downfall of Amfortas and the knights of the Grail, is penetrated by Parsifal, enabling him to achieve clearness of vision.

Wagner’s Parsifal
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

He sees through the bewildering attacks of his adversary and hears the call of the divine will to redemption “in proving himself through the understanding he feels for the sorrow of humanity” (quotation from Wieland Wagner).
Only now does Klingsor begin his most powerful attack on the initiant.
Through Kundry he attempts to conjoin universal love with the personal.
Kundry reveals to Parsifal the tragedy of her existence and her own suffering, saying:
‘One for whom I yearned in deathly longing, whom I recognized though despised and rejected, let me weep upon his breast, for one hour only be united to you and, though God and the world disown me, in you be cleansed of sin and redeemed !’
Parsifal here recognizes Klingsor’s seductive attack on his will to Truth.
He discerns the way in which the human desire nature repeatedly feigns reformation, and binds us to the material world.
He again repulses Kundry, saying: “For evermore would you be damned with me if for one hour, unmindful of my mission, I yielded to your embrace.”
The seducing skills become increasingly spiritual (geistig).
Kundry begs for pity and promises Parsifal the attainment of divinity.
But the initiant understands that in no event must he allow himself to be ruled by the desire nature; only if desire is used to liberate the aspiring human ego will it be redeemed.
He says to Kundry: “Love and redemption shall be yours if you will show me the way to Amfortas.”
Kundry tries once again to win Parsifal’s act of redemption for herself: she tries to embrace him and implores him to take pity, but it is too late: Parsifal is already in a higher state of consciousness.
He vigorously pushes her aside.
The initiant has withstood the test.
Kundry flies into a fury and curses “the fool” in her selfish longing for redemption.
She tries to prevent him from reaching the Grail.

Parsifal – Klingsor
Klingsor then appears in person and hurls the Spear at Parsifal, but Parsifal catches the Spear and holds it above his head: sensuous lower mind is transformed into aspiring higher mind.
Parsifal says: “With this sign I rout your enchantment.As the spear closes the wound which you dealt him with it, may it crush your lying splendour into mourning and ruin !
In the light of the higher mind the demonic illusion fades away;
Klingsor’s magic realm is violently destroyed, as if by an earthquake.


The third act, concerning redemption, takes place in the realm of the Grail on the morning of Good Friday: flowers are in bloom all around and desire moves through the whole of nature, awakening it to new life.
Gurnemanz enters from a humble hermit’s hut, when he hears Kundry moaning.
He notices a change in her: the wildness has vanished.
She allows Gurnemanz to reawaken her from her paralysis.
Her only concern seems to be to serve the knights of the Grail, but Gurnemanz informs her of a change in the knightly order: the spring of divine wisdom has failed.
Everyone now looks after himself.
Meanwhile Parsifal enters clad in black armor, which Wagner regarded as a symbol of the True Will, – the fighting strength of the personal self.
He saw the conquest of the powers of illusion as an act requiring personal effort and struggle – the assertion of the higher will in the midst of personal, earthly life: a strong awareness of suffering can raise the intellect of the higher nature to knowledge of the meaning of the world.
Those in whom this sublime process takes place, it being announced to us by a suitable deed, are called heroes. – (Collected Writings of R. Wagner, vol. 10)

Der Speer

Gurnemanz calls upon the “stranger” to lay down his weapons at this holy spot.
Parsifal then “thrusts the spear into the ground before him, lays shield and sword beneath it, opens his helmet, takes it from his head and lays it with the other arms, then kneels before the spear in silent prayer. . . . Parsifal raises his eyes devoutly to the spearhead.”
In the realm of the Grail the weapons of the personal consciousness are sacrificed to the power of intuition: the helmet of intelligence, the shield of courage, and the sword of the active will, while the point of the spear represents the moment of maximum concentration which leads the ultimate creativity.
Gurnemanz now recognizes the spear, and also the man who had once slain the swan.
The spear is back in the realm of the Grail: the power of intuition shines again.
When asked where he comes from, Parsifal answers: “Through error and the path of suffering I came; . . . An evil curse drove me about in trackless wandering, never to find the way to healing; numberless dangers, battles, and conflicts forced me from my path even when I thought I knew it.
Gurnemanz reports that since Titurel’s death the state of the Order has worsened: intuition has been completely lost, and the Grail itself remains enclosed within the shrine.
The knights now feed only on dogmas.
Parsifal springs up in intense grief – he feels responsible for the knights’ suffering since he, the chosen “Redeemer,” had succumbed to illusion.
Amfortas is due to open the shrine in which the Grail is concealed on that very day, when his father is carried to his grave.
Gurnemanz wants to take Parsifal to him, but first, one of the most significant scenes of the opera takes place: as Kundry bathes Parsifal’s feet, the full consciousness of his task awakens in him.
Once the purification and cleansing of the personal self have been carried out, Gurnemanz proceeds to anoint his head – his spiritual judgment must likewise light up pure and spotless within the personal self – enabling the personal self to be united with the divine self of its own free will.
Parsifal is thereby made King of the Grail.
His first office is to baptize Kundry: the desire nature is incorporated into the community as an element necessary to progress, and becomes the driving force of pure divine love.
That desire no longer serves the lower, but the higher self, brings about a transformation in the whole of nature.
In Gurnemanz’s words: “Thus all creation gives thanks, all that here blooms and soon fades, now the nature, absolved from sin, today gains its day of innocence.”
Parsifal then kisses Kundry gently on the forehead.
In the distance the sound of bells is heard.
As they approach the temple of the Grail, time once more becomes space and the interior of the temple becomes visible.
It is the same scene as at the end of the first act, but more gloomy.
Two processions of knights enter the stage, one carrying Titurel’s coffin, the other with Amfortas on his deathbed.
The knights are aware that without the creative power of intuition of the Grail, they are doomed to die.
They are not strong enough to open the shrine themselves and therefore insistently press Amfortas to do so, but in his immeasurable pain he is no longer able to open the shrine.
He calls upon the knights to kill him, since no one is able to close the wound.
At this moment the higher self breaks through: Parsifal enters the hall, accompanied by Gurnemanz and Kundry and, touching the wound with the end of the spear, says: “But one weapon serves: only the spear that smote you can heal your wound.
The personal mind, gravitating to things of earth, opened up the gulf in human nature; the intuitive mind closes the fissure between the spiritual and earth-bound poles.
Parsifal continues: “Be whole, absolved and atoned! For I now will perform your task. O blessed be your suffering, that gave pity’s mighty power and purest wisdom’s might to the timorous fool !
Parsifal steps towards center stage, holding the spear aloft before him, saying: “I bring back to you the holy spear !

Parsifal Choir
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

All gaze in reverence at the uplifted spear, to whose point Parsifal raises his eyes and intones:
‘O highest  wonder ! This that could heal your wound I see pouring with holy blood yearning for that kindred fount which flows and wells within the Grail.
No more shall it be hidden: uncover the Grail, open the shrine!
Parsifal then mounts the altar steps, takes the Grail from the shrine now opened by the squires, and kneels before it in silent prayer and contemplation.

The Holy Grail
Der Speer des Schicksals

The Grail begins to glow with a soft light, increasing darkness below and growing illumination far above.
A beam of light: the Grail glows at its brightest.
From the dome a white dove descends and hovers over Parsifal’s head.
Kundry slowly sinks lifeless to the ground in front of Parsifal, her eyes uplifted to him.
Amfortas and Gurnemanz kneel in homage to Parsifal, who waves the Grail in blessing over the worshipping brotherhood of knights.
Wagner by these stage directions for the final scene epitomizes the ultimate triumph of the heroic soul.

Through Parsifal’s act the earthbound human will is directed upwards again towards the creator; the power of creative intuition flows again through all the realms.

As a result, the fossilized spiritual tradition of Titurel is reinvigorated, and he rises from his coffin.
The divine spirit, symbolized by the dove, hovers over Parsifal’s head, – the consciousness of the ‘True Will’ experiences its innate divinity.
This represents a transformation into something completely new: the attainment of transcendence.
Erlösung dem Erlöser !


Nietzsche & Parsifal

By pity guided,
The guileless fool;
Wait for him,
My chosen tool.


Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche heard the ‘Parsifal Vorspiel’ (Prelude) for the first time in Monte-Carlo in January 1887 :

‘Putting aside all irrelevant questions (to what end such music can or should serve?), and speaking from a purely aesthetic point of view, has Wagner ever written anything better?
The supreme psychological perception and precision as regards what can be said, expressed, communicated here, the extreme of concision and directness of form, every nuance of feeling conveyed epigrammatically; a clarity of musical description that reminds us of a shield of consummate workmanship; and finally an extraordinary sublimity of feeling, something experienced in the very depths of music, that does Wagner the highest honour; a synthesis of conditions which to many people – even “higher minds” – will seem incompatible, of strict coherence, of “loftiness” in the most startling sense of the word, of a cognisance and a penetration of vision that cuts through the soul as with a knife, of sympathy with what is seen and shown forth. Has anyone ever depicted so sorrowful a look of love as Wagner does in the final accents of his Prelude ?’

Letter to Peter Gast – 1887

Johann Heinrich Köselitz (10 January 1854–15 August 1918) was a German author and composer.
He is known for his long-time friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche, who gave him the pseudonym ‘Peter Gast’.


‘I cannot think of it without feeling violently shaken, so elevated was I by it, so deeply moved.
It was as if someone were speaking to me again, after many years, about the problems that disturb me.
When listening to this music one lays Protestantism aside as a misunderstanding – and also, I will not deny it, other really good music, which I have at other times heard and loved, seems, as against this, a misunderstanding !’ 

Letter to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (Nietszche’s sister) – 1887

Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846, Röcken, Prussia – November 8, 1935, Weimar, Germany), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894.
Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother. Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen. The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years. However, the siblings grew apart in 1885 when Elisabeth married Bernhard Förster, a former high school teacher.

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NATIONAL SOCIALISM AND THE HOLY GRAIL
‘I have built up my religion out of Parsifal’
Adolf Hitler
The one esoteric legend in particular which captivated the National Socialists was the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Lucifer
Philosopher’s Stone

While popular mythology presents the Grail as the cup Jesus Christ used at his last supper, occult groups dismiss this materialistic interpretation as a “blind” to preserve for initiates the Grail’s true meaning: the quest for racial purity defined in gnostic symbolic style as the “philosopher’s stone” (see right), the “third eye” or the spiritual “crown” of Lucifer (see left) which fell from his forehead when he lost his place in heaven.

In real terms, that “seeing eye” is the Knowledge of self-as-god which Lucifer exhibited, and which he offered mankind in the Garden of Eden.
Hitler saw in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ a detailed parable of the National Socialist philosophy as “a religious brotherhood of templars to guard the Holy Grail, the august vessel containing the pure blood“. (Hitler to Rauschning).
The Grail, defined here as the “vessel”, refers to the racially pure body which holds the blood that can comprehend the ‘True Will’. 
In search of this ‘holy blood‘ which contains the coveted knowledge of the ‘True Will’, every member of the SS was screened for purity of Aryan lineage, and was taught his duty to father as many racially pure children as possible.

Heinrich Himmler
Еле́на Блава́тская
Helena Blavatsky

Heinrich Himmler (see left) believed that if conception took place in an Aryan cemetery, the resulting child would receive the spirit of “all the dead heroes” buried there; accordingly, lists of Nordic cemeteries were published in the SS periodical ‘Das Schwarze Korps’.

Gnosticism had another, lesser-known influence on Völkisch religion, which also appears in ‘New Age’ thought: the Jewish God is not the ‘Most High’ and only God, but a “Demiurge” pretending to be such.
Helena Blavatsky (see right) agreed that the Gnostics “were right in regarding the Jewish God as belonging to a class of lower, material and not very holy denizens of the invisible world.”
In Blavatsky’s understanding, “only angels of a low hierarchy” could have created “those wretched races, in a spiritual and moral sense, which grace our globe.
The “moral wretchedness” referred to is Jewish obsession with the enjoyment of the material aspects everyday life, and their continual thanksgiving for every material blessing.
This attitude was condemned by the Gnostics, who considered the body and the physical world a prison which the mind must reject and transcend through meditation and magical rites, and escape to the “real” or spiritual world.

Jehovah
The Jewish God of the Old Testament

The “spiritual wretchedness” is the Jewish “Old Testament”, rejected by Gnostics as evil, which teaches that the Creator of heaven and earth is the ‘Most High God’.

Since materialism is evil, and “Jehovah” created the physical world, he must be evil as well: and merely a usurper of the title “God”.
The Jews, who persist in spreading their teachings, are the tools of Satan, and their influence in the world is deadly to human souls.
Hitler reiterated this Gnostic doctrine: 
The Jew is the anti-man, – the creature of a lesser god.
Hitler was also known for his severely simple lifestyle, voluntarily shunning material pleasures, physical appetites and a meat diet – all classic Gnostic elements of “purification from the world“.
This cosmology, by placing the Jews in alliance with cosmic Evil neatly reinforced the Völkisch pursuit of racial purity: not only was the Aryan race threatened with defilement on a genetic level, but on a spiritual level as well.

Führer und Reichskanzler
Adolf Hitler – Speaking
Wagner’s Parsifal
from the film by
Hans-Jürgen Syberberg

For Hitler (see right) the Gnostic themes of the Grail quest and the cosmic struggle between Light and Darkness were perfectly portrayed in Richard Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’.

Being an occult initiate, Hitler was aware of the Gnostic message behind “the externals of the story, with its Christian embroidery… the real message was pure, noble blood, in whose protection and glorification the brotherhood of the initiated have come together.”
Gnosticism also clarifies some otherwise unintelligible proclamations, like those by Völkisch apologist, writer and philosopher, Alfred Rosenberg: “The earth-centered Jew lacks a soul“; and “The continuing existence of the Jew would lead to a void, to the destruction not only of the illusory earthly world but also of the truly existent, the spiritual.
These statements, and also his insistence that “The denial of the world needs… to grow so that it will acquire a lasting predominance over affirmation of the world,” only makes sense to a grail seeking Gnostic. 


© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Adolf Hitler

Arno Breker
Heroic Head


Adolf Hitler’s interpretation of Parsifal –
  “I have built up my religion out of Parsifal.  Divine worship in solemn form … without pretenses of humility … One can serve God only in the garb of the hero”  


   ‘What is celebrated in Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ is not the Christian religion of compassion, but pure and noble blood, – blood whose purity the brotherhood of initiates has come together to guard.

 ‘I have built up my religion out of Parsifal.’
The king (Amfortas) then suffers an incurable sickness, caused by his tainted blood.

Then the unknowing but pure human being (Parsifal) is led into temptation, either to submit to the frenzy and to the delights of a corrupt civilisation in Klingsor’s magic garden, or to join the select band of knights who guard the secret of life, which is pure blood itself.

Der Speer des Schicksals
© Peter Crawford 2012

‘All of us suffer the sickness of miscegenated, corrupted blood.

Note how the compassion that leads to knowledge applies only to the man who is inwardly corrupt, to the man of contradictions.
And Eternal life, as vouchsafed by the Grail, is only granted to those who are truly pure and noble !
Only a new nobility can bring about the new culture.
If we discount everything to do with poetry, it is clear that elitism and renewal exist only in the continuing strain of a lasting struggle.
A divisive process is taking place in terms of world history.
The man who sees the meaning of life in conflict will gradually mount the stairs of a new aristocracy.
He who desires the dependent joys of peace and order will sink back down to the unhistorical mass, no matter what his provenance.
But the mass is prey to decay and self-disintegration.
At this turning- point in the world’s revolution the mass is the sum of declining culture and its moribund representatives.
They should be left to die, together with all kings like Amfortas.’

“The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again.
The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic.
We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”

Adolf Hitler

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