New Book, Black Sun, Looks at Fringes of National Socialism
By Martin A. Lee
George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazi Party until his violent death in 1967, gushed about having had a mystical experience when he first read Hitler's Mein Kampf. "I realized that National Socialism [was] actually a new religion," said Rockwell, who considered April 20th the holiest day of the calendar year.
That's when neo-Nazis around the world celebrate Hitler's birthday at secretive gatherings with Aryan shrines, devotional rituals, white power regalia, and other racialist kitsch.
These annual conclaves are akin to religious ceremonies where true believers worship Hitler as an infallible diety whose every utterance is gospel.
The bizarre quasi-religious and mythic elements that proliferate in sectors of the contemporary neo-Nazi milieu are explored by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke in his important, new book Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity.
Although there has always been a theocratic strain in fascist movements, several factors are contributing to a latter-day, "folkish" (or tribal) revival among white youth who are beset by an acute sense of disenfranchisement in Western societies.
In response to the challenges of globalization, multiculturalism, and large-scale Third World immigration, neo-Nazi racism in the United States, Europe and elsewhere has sometimes morphed into what the author describes as "new folkish religions of white identity."
This neo-folkish resurgence — reminiscent of some early Nazi ideas — encompasses a hodgepodge of anti-Semitic neo-Pagan sects, Christian Identity churches, skewed variants of eastern mysticism, occult influences, New Age conspiracies, and Satanists into the "black metal" music subculture.
Goodrick-Clarke, a British scholar who writes in an engaging and accessible style, has long foraged on the farther shores of right-wing extremist politics.
His first book, The Occult Roots of Nazism, is a masterful study of a much sensationalized subject — racist groups in early 20th century Austria that embraced forms of mystical nationalism and helped incubate Aryan racial ideas.
Building on his previous work, Goodrick-Clarke draws a parallel in Black Sun between folkish ferment in Hitler's Austria and the role of today's marginalized neo-Nazi sects, many of which have repackaged Aryan racism in new forms influenced by eastern religions.
A crucial difference, the author maintains, is the shift from the virulent German nationalism of the Third Reich to a broader racist ideology of global white supremacy.
"It is highly significant that the Aryan cult of white identity is now most marked in the United States," says Goodrick-Clarke, adding that American neo-Nazi groups behave like persecuted religious sects preparing for the final confrontation with a corrupt world.
Although each have their specific eccentricities — ranging from anti-Semitic Christian Identity churches to anti-Christian, racist Odinist groups — almost all of them espouse millenarian visions of a white racial utopia.
Satan Meets the Führer
Early American neo-Nazi James Madole, who rejected Christianity as a degenerate Jewish construct, became a key figure in developing bizarre forms of fascism after he founded the National Renaissance Party, the first U.S. neo-Nazi organization, in 1952.
Although he never attracted many followers, Madole became known as "the father of postwar occult fascism" by saturating his ideology with a mish-mash of science-fiction and other notions drawn from eastern traditions and theosophy, a mystical religious movement originating in late 19th century America.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Madole's party cultivated close links with a Church of Satan spin-off — an alliance that anticipated the recent emergence of a violent, international fringe network devoted to Nordic gods, black magic, occultism and devil worship.
David Myatt, chief representative of Nazi Satanism in Great Britain, defends human sacrifice and praises a new wave of satanic black metal Skinhead bands that spout demented lyrics and anti-social rants.
Myatt's "religion of National Socialism" owes much to Savitri Devi, the grand dame of postwar neo-Nazism, who had traveled from her native France to India as a young woman. An admirer of the racist caste system, Devi immersed herself in early Hindu texts.
Noting that the Nazi swastika is also an ancient, mystical Indian symbol, she romanticized the Third Reich as "the Holy Land of the West." Devi was the first Western writer to acclaim Hitler as a spiritual "avatar," a supernatural figure who pointed the way toward a future Aryan paradise.
The Jews, whom Devi blamed for all the world's suffering and alienation, were predictably pegged as the main obstacle on the path to the Golden Age.
Devi's obsession with the pre-Christian origins of Indo-European culture was shared by Julius Evola, an Italian Nazi philosopher whose racial theories were adopted and codified by Mussolini in 1938.
Calling for a "Great Holy War" to battle national and ideological enemies, Evola exerted a significant influence on a generation of militant neofascist youth in postwar Italy.
Among his protégés were leaders of right-wing terrorist organizations linked to numerous bomb attacks from the 1960s to the 1980s. Evola's mystical fascist writings include books on Zen Buddhism, yoga, alchemy, Tantrism (a kind of sexual mysticism), and European paganism.
After he died in 1974, his esoteric musings were rediscovered by New Age publications. Today, many of Evola's books are available in English translation in trendy New Age bookstores in the United States, despite his status as an avowed fascist.
UFOs, Polar Bases and the Black Sun
Another influential figure in the occult-fascist underground is Miguel Serrano, a former Chilean diplomat and Nazi die-hard who touts yoga, meditation, and hallucinogenic drugs as ways of raising consciousness in order to make contact with higher Aryan intelligence.
Serrano blends exotic oriental religious themes with dubious lore about secret religious societies. He likens the Nazi SS — which was condemned in its entirety for war crimes — to an order of initiates seeking the Holy Grail.
This notion appealed to Wilhelm Landig, an Austrian SS veteran and postwar Nazi activist who coined the idea of the "Black Sun," a mystical energy source allegedly capable of regenerating the Aryan race.
Goodrick-Clarke credits Landig with reviving the folkish — and far out — Germanic mythology of Thule, the supposed Arctic homeland of the ancient Aryans, in order to prophesy the recovery and resurrection of Nazism as an earth-conquering force.
Landig and other occult-fascist propagandists have circulated wild stories about German Nazi colonies that live and work in secret installations beneath the polar icecaps, where they developed flying saucers and miracle weapons after the demise of the Third Reich.
The abundance of UFO sightings, which began in the early 1950s, is attributed to the amazing prowess of Nazi science and technology.
The fall of the Third Reich is cast merely as a temporary setback; at any moment, a battalion of Nazi extraterrestrials could zoom forth in their magical discs to deliver Aryan folk from the ills of democracy and Judeo-Christian decadence.
A hot item among New Age conspiracy theorists and promoters of Holocaust denial, stories about Nazi UFOs may seem ludicrous to anyone with their feet firmly planted on terra firma. And, certainly, this kind of thinking does not dominate even the contemporary world of the extreme right.
But these sci-fi legends underscore, in the words of Goodrick-Clarke, how "Aryan cults and esoteric Nazism posit powerful mythologies to negate the decline of white power in the world."
Moreover, if the past is any kind of prologue, these bizarre, new religious sects "may be early symptoms of major divisive changes in our present-day Western democracies."
"The risks of race religiosity are great. ... Whenever human groups are interpreted as absolute categories of good and evil, light and darkness," Goodrick-Clarke cautions, "both the human community and humanity itself are diminished."
A timely warning, indeed.