Mechanisms of Escape: The Occult and Nazism

“The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life.”[1] Society has created the conditions that frustrate the capacity for real individuality. The alienation that one feels unless they adhere to society leaves a person feeling obliged to conform and yet as their own freedom is suppressed become impregnated with agitation that grows into a type of pathology or destructiveness toward both their own humanity by being automaton or to others. Our will is always driven by the question or problem of human existence, to try and find the solution that will enable us to feel happiness. When we do not have the answers, we become insecure at the disassociation or that separateness we feel with ourselves, our past and our future because there is no concrete relatedness or meaning available. We recognise the futility and while feeling profoundly small and insignificant also realise the responsibility we have to create meaning for ourselves. It is at that point that we come to a decision. Do we completely annihilate the self through conformity or create false significance by enlarging our sense of worth by destroying the happiness of others? Or do we embrace our freedom by taking responsibility for our own happiness and thus instead destroy our place in society?

A number of years ago now, I experienced personal afflictions that left me feeling very vulnerable and without any answers as to how I could improve my situation. I found myself desperately wanting to change my environment but did not have the answers for how that could be achieved. In order to alleviate those distressing feelings, I tried to attach myself to something concrete to help save me from realising the abyss of an unlived life. It was as though my life was a painting that initially had symmetry until splatters of paint made it messy, all the mixture of colours blurred and blackened the outcome of what was the purpose of my existence. I had a choice; cover the messy canvas with an artificial layer by forming an attachment to something that will save me from having to take responsibility for creating meaning myself, or destroy the old canvas of my life and start all over again.

But what is this artificial ‘layer’ that covers the canvas? “The frightened individual seeks for somebody or something to tie his self to; he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self.”[2] It is absorbing oneself into another, allowing something other than your own consciousness and rationality to think on your behalf whether it is people, dogma or at the pathological end occultism or new ageism. According to a paper by B. Rosenthal, the occult is a symptom of social and cultural stress. “The occult revival of late 19th and early 20th century Russia was a response to the fading credibility of the Russian Orthodox Church, the spiritual/psychological inadequacy of intelligentsia ideologies, the destabilizing effects of rapid industrialization, and continued political upheaval.”[3] There were many clandestine groups that existed in ancient Europe that were revived in the late 19th century as an answer to social stress as they contained symbols of unity and of special importance that membership enabled meaning. The esoteric or spiritual language established purpose and why the ‘secrets’ can only be revealed to special members to supplement authority and authenticity.

Madame Blavatsky started the Theosophical Society in the United States blending esoteric and the occult with Hindu mysticism and she strongly influenced the revival of occultism all across Europe, including Thule Gesselschaft that was instrumental in the development of the Nazi regime. Aryanism developed as an ideology off the backbone of Theosophy, where Blavatsky claimed that we ultimately evolved from “The Root Races” or ethereal beings from the island of Atlantis, referred to as the Chaya Race. Plato wrote of the lost city of Atlantis in Timaeus and Critias that was later taken by Ignatius Donnelly as an actual historical reality when he reignited the idea that there are descendants of a more advanced or sophisticated culture, all this furthered by Blavatsky in her book of pure nonsense The Secret Doctrine.[4] Despite the actuality of her garbage being eclipsed by the apologists that follow her teachings, the ‘universal brotherhood’ implies that we are single race of beings ‘rooted’ or attached to one another back in time.

But, not all.

The six root-races are the Astral, Hyperborean, Lemurian, Atlantean, Aryan, and the Coming Race, that complete the evolutionary tree. According to Blavatsky, there are sub-human “Semitic” people who are degenerate and ultimately responsible for miscegenation.  She claimed that these were off-shoots that were degenerating the roots of these so-called perfect beings. Despite the current denial that root-races refer to actual race as defined in contemporary intellectual circles, Blavatsky wrote: “The Aryan races, for instance, now varying from dark brown, almost black, red-brown-yellow, down to the whitest creamy colour, are yet all of one and the same stock – the Fifth Root-Race – and spring from one single progenitor.” This gave rise to the idea of purifying or evolving back to the Aryan race with blonde hair and blue eyes progenitors. This relationship between Nazism and Blavatsky is obvious with the Swastika – an ancient Hindu symbol that implies wellbeing or peacefulness – that was used counter-clockwise by the Nazi Germans who imagined a correlation or shared history with the Indian culture as per Blavatsky’ theory. “The Aryan race was born and developed in the far north, though after the sinking of the continent of Atlantis its tribes emigrated further south into Asia.”[5] The Fylfot or Thor’s Hammer is a similar example of Odinic symbolism in Norse and Germanic mythology adopted by the Thule Society, where the Nazi ideology emerged and they had close contacts with the Theosophical society that appropriated the ideas of Blavatsky.

Somotaform disorders is an example of how a person experiencing anxiety is capable of causing actual physical changes. These states communicate psychological distress as though a person understands there to be a problem but does not have the language or words to express this inner life, resulting in physical symptoms that symbolise this distress. The depths of our capacity to believe in unreal or imagined ideas are so powerful that it verifies insanity to be a preferable option over reason or rationality. Just like Somotaform disorders, Aryanism became a real concept that this collective pathology became the tool to justify the murder of so many innocent people as a way to reverse the miscegenation and racial impurity. If occultism is born following the destabilisation effects from the social and political upheaval of the time, it is clear that the social distress following World War One where Germany was pressured with exorbitant repatriation payments vis-a-vis the treaty of Versailles, combined with generations of European anti-Semitism with falsely attributed suspicions of world domination from the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and particularly with Martin Luther’s legacy of anti-Jewish literature, and a mixture of Theosophical, Rosicrucian and Roman history combined became the ingredients that enabled the Nazis to create such an ideology. By imagining the Other in the Jew, they generated the mobilisation required to envision pan-Germanic nationalism, enabling validity and ultimately meaning by enlarging the ego that – through the destruction of others – helped overcome the smallness and insignificance they felt. As said by Schopenhauer: “But every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud adopts, as a last resource, pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and glad to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.”[6]

Occultism or even fundamentalism – where people revert back to old religious traditions and practices since the past is viewed to be a time of ‘happiness’ – is fuelled during periods of social destabilisation, used to explain the problem of human existence by engaging in possibilities for a stable future. Twenty-first century capitalism has fashioned contemporary society to feel more and more alienated from one another that germinates the anxiety and thus the need to form superficial bonds where people become object-related. People attach themselves to the culture and operate en masse but this can only be achieved when everyone believes that they are independent in their decision making, that they are unique and different despite doing exactly what everyone else is doing. The pathology has changed and but still rooted in the same false or imagined idea of reality, leading people to the same destructive channels.  

It is as though destruction seems inevitable until we find the inner peace that comes with independent thinking. Everything else is simply a mechanism to escape from that ability, the fear we have to create meaning for ourselves. Some, such as the Occult, are dangerous for its highly imagined narratives that channel the insanity of this fear. For me, the castle made on sand collapsed – the mind that never thought for herself – and through morality and creativity as variables that confer meaning, I started anew.

 

[1] Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, Open Road Media (2013)
[2] Ibid
[3] Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal, The Occult in Modern Russian and Soviet Culture (1993)
[4] Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Penguin (2006)
[5] Ibid
[6] Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms (1970)

3 Comments

  1. This is extremely well done — and most interesting. This comment seems to me to explain a great deal about the violence we see all around us: “The alienation that one feels unless they adhere to society leaves a person feeling obliged to conform and yet as their own freedom is suppressed become impregnated with agitation that grows into a type of pathology or destructiveness toward both their own humanity by being automaton or to others”

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  2. People are often drawn to fantasy, to highly imagined narratives and avoid ‘reality’ through this mechanism as a way to survive that inner anxiety. Whether it is secret affairs or sometimes to something heinous and contemptible, while utilising the predictable nature of societal behaviour as a cover. They destroy their own humanity, or moral consciousness and empathy. Either that, or they become automaton and conform to a point where, again, their humanity ceases to exist. Both are destructive to moral agency.

    It would seem that sometimes the best thing to do is simply start all over again, destroying that place we have in society, and with a clean slate learn the world independently and create meaning through our own moral variables and creativity. It seems paradoxical, but this destruction leads to life because humanity is only possible with love or moral consciousness. Otherwise, we are just robots.

    I have been navigating – perhaps almost obsessively – about what compels people to conform and to behave in this way. This perhaps just scratches the surface, but the highly fantastical and imagined narratives of Occultism is a clear example of how people can believe in nonsense and project that destruction outwards.

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