Review: Goodrich-Clarke’s Black Sun

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity
Nicholas Goodrich-Clarke

An overview of Nazi inspired right wing lunatics of the post World War II era, covering the heavy hitters and some lesser known individuals. It is a very well researched account of world for which it is difficult to get information, but it is also dry, and skims too lightly over the biographies of these people for my taste. While I think it is important to seriously engage with lunatic ideas about Nazis in Antarctica, I don’t necessarily want to read fifty pages about it. I’d recommend it for the person deeply interested in the lunatic fringe of the right, but perhaps not for the average reader.

A thought on the substance of the book: Much of post WWIII Nazism is enraptured with a mystical religious understanding of Hitler and Nazism. There is much talk in this book about Hitler as a Hindu avatar, Hitler as an alien intelligence, Hitler as a blah blah blah.. What all of this does it put distance between the reality of Hitler as the mastermind of one of the greatest genocides in history and the “theoretical” Hitler of Julius Evola’s books. Goodrick-Clarke hints at this, but is too much of an even keel academic to say what needs to be said – by placing a mystical veneer on the man’s action, you can attempt to cloud the history and make the man more than a murder. This mysticalization of Hitler and Nazism is a dangerous trend in modern ultra right politics, and one that needs to be combated with the cold hard truth that Hitler was just a sociopath, nothing more.

Recommended for the enthusiast*

 

*Though it feels weird to use “enthusiast” here. Note that I loathe fascism, racism and antisemitism and actively fight it. Knowing it is part of defeating it.

Review: Black Sun by Goodrich-Clarke

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

This is the first time two people associated with Fox Hill are writing a review of the same book, and, of course, its got to be a book about esoteric Hitler cults. We really aren’t this weird people – honest.

Charm laid out the nature of this book well in his review. It is an overview of Nazi inspired right wing lunatics of the post World War II era, covering the heavy hitters and some lesser known individuals. It is a very well researched account of world for which it is difficult to get information, but it is also dry, and skims too lightly over the biographies of these people for my taste. While I think it is important to seriously engage with lunatic ideas about Nazis in Antarctica, I don’t necessarily want to read fifty pages about it. I’d recommend it for the person deeply interested in the lunatic fringe of the right, but perhaps not for the average reader.

A thought on the substance of the book: Much of post WWIII Nazism is enraptured with a mystical religious understanding of Hitler and Nazism. There is much talk in this book about Hitler as a Hindu avatar, Hitler as an alien intelligence, Hitler as a blah blah blah.. What all of this does it put distance between the reality of Hitler as the mastermind of one of the greatest genocides in history and the “theoretical” Hitler of Julius Evola’s books. Goodrick-Clarke hints at this, but is too much of an even keel academic to say what needs to be said – by placing a mystical veneer on the man’s action, you can attempt to cloud the history and make the man more than a murder. This mysticalization of Hitler and Nazism is a dangerous trend in modern ultra right politics, and one that needs to be combated with the cold hard truth that Hitler was just a sociopath, nothing more.

– Sean

Remaindered: Books that don’t belong

Another in an occasional series about books that disorient, perplex, or cause us to question our decision-making abilities. Today, we look at poorly produced literature for police on what to do when battling satanists.

At least it tells you when Imbolc is

Ritualistic Crime Scene Investigation, by Dawn Perlmutter. The Institute for the Research of Symbolic & Ritual Violence, LLC (Pennsylvania, 2007).

The professional literature intended for law enforcement audiences is a subject of enduring fascination for me. Police departments around the country contain small libraries of books on how to pass sergeants’ exams, community outreach strategies, Spanish for police officers, and field guides to gang graffiti. Like college chemistry textbooks and fetish porn, though, these books are intended for small, specialist audiences, and therefore carry hefty price tags, largely keeping them away from the general public.

The volume under consideration is intended as a guide for police officers confronting crimes committed by members of little-understood religious and cultural groups, ranging from followers of Santeria to teenage satanists. This kind of thing is actually very helpful in theory: a police officer responding to a call who finds a yard full of people in white standing around a goat whose throat is about to be cut might not understand that they are carrying out  ceremonies explicitly included under the First Amendment’s protection of religious practice. As more people emigrate to the U.S. from countries where belief in magic and witchcraft are robust, this will become a larger issue: I have Google alerts that tell me animal mutilations and spell-castings are a daily affair in much of the country.

That said, I hate to think of any police officers investigating crimes with this handbook as a guide. Little more than a pamphlet, it has context-free sections on various religious groups that are notable for being devoid of things police officers might want to know: who practices Palo Mayombe? How many of them are there? Where do they live?

This reads like a high school report grudgingly padded out with arbitrarily-selected information designed to meet a page count. Full 15 of its 54 pages are lists of symbols supposedly common in ritualistic crime, but it’s hard to imagine how often most cops will encounter “the inverted cross of Satanic justice,” let alone the “Cimaruta.”

It’s rounded out by some truly grisly crime scene photos, along with a tip sheet on how to conduct an occult-related investigation. The latter is promising in theory, until you read such tips as “Document all evidence as soon as it is received,” and “Execute search warrants as soon as needed, but not short of probable cause.” This is a little like saying your top secret strategy for winning the Super Bowl is to have some players carry the ball and others catch passes until one of them gets to the end zone.

A corrections officer of my acquaintance who’s shown me his personally-compiled book of gang tattoos has pointed me in the direction of what he says is a much better occult crime investigation guide, but it’s $75 (there’s that textbook pricing strategy for you). I’m thinking about it, but in the meantime, if I ever start a teenage death metal band, this guide at least provides a wealth of potential logos.

(V. Charm)

Review: The Secret Temple: Masons, Mysteries and the Founding of America

The Secret Temple: Masons, Mysteries and the Founding of America by Peter Levenda (Continuum Books, 2009)

A good introductory text to a subject is hard to find and with the subject of Freemasonry it is even more difficult. Freemasons take oaths to never divulge the secrets of the Society and (perhaps as a result of this silence) they are often the target of outsiders who lay everything at the feet of Masons from demonic heresy, global conspiracies and in some cases, control over natural disasters. Those who understand don’t talk, and those who don’t understand seem to talk too much.

Peter Levenda enters into this space with The Secret Temple, a relatively concise book of about 200 pages. The first section of The Secret Temple gives a generally overview and history of Freemasonry and tends to be more a social history or a history of ideas. Rather than a narrative built on personalities and individuals, Levenda delves into ideas such as sacred geometry, sacred architecture and theories of ritual. The second section primarily gives a history of the Lodge’s connection to early America and its founding, and it is also where the book gets the most interesting. Levenda delves into mysticism in early America, the relatively unknown histories of not only Masons, but Rosicrucians, alchemists and mystics in the colonies and early republic. He then explores in detail the connections between Mormonism and Masonry, both in the history of Joseph Smith and the Latter Day Saints and the practice of the Mormon faith. The book concludes with a look at Yale’s Skull & Bones society and the Propaganda Due lodge in Italy, a covert lodge that in the late 70s and early 80s was soaking in a vast amount of crime and intrigue and was referred to as a shadow government.

What critics of Levenda are quick to attackt is his tendency to wander into his own interests and research; he seems to take us by the hand and leads us to his own filing cabinets/curiosity cabinets of political conspiracies, cults and secret societies. This is why I personally love his books, and in The Secret Temple his tenancies as a researcher and writer serve the work well. We get completely unexpected answers to the questions we came to the book with. Instead of going on a fool’s errand to chase the Masons back to Solomon’s Temple, we examine the idea of a temple itself and how that has steered Masonic buildings, symbolism and thought. Instead of worn fantasies and conspiracies of a group of Masons coming together to write the Declaration of Independence, we peer into another world of that time when respectable ministers and university presidents were also alchemists and Rosicrucians. Instead of hysterical speculations about Masons controlling the world*, we gave the more frightening and real Skull & Bones and P2 Lodge to ponder.

Between the subject matter and Levenda’s writing style, The Secret Temple makes a worthwhile read for someone looking for a good, smart primer on Freemasonry or wants a deeper understanding of America’s hidden religious traditions.

*True story: While doing research last year I had a conversation with the archivist at a small Freemasonic library in eastern Iowa. He told me that the day after the Indonesian tsunami he fielded a phone call from an angry man who asked them “why the hell they did that.”

-The Filled Slip

Adolf Hitler, magic yoga spaceman

Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, New York University Press (2002).

Few things are more tedious in political discussion than accusations that some politician or party is analogous to the German National Socialist Workers Party, more commonly known as the Nazis. Intended as the ultimate discrediting putdown, it almost always does less damage to the accused than to the accuser, whose use of the term reveals both a lack of imagination and a total lack of perspective. The Republicans are not Nazis, the Democrats are not Nazis, Rupert Murdoch is not a Nazi and neither is George Soros. Case closed.

But what about people who actually claim the label for themselves? Ever since the Third Reich’s total military defeat and subsequent identification as the most evil regime in human history, anyone publicly self-identifying as a Nazi has been seen as detestable and most likely insane. As Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke reveals in this fascinating, eye-popping study, “insane” doesn’t begin to describe it.

Goodrick-Clarke’s book explores the night garden of fascist yogis, fancy dress SS officers, Wotan-loving armed robbers, and Satanist science fiction fans who came to identify with Hitler and modified his beliefs to suit new circumstances in ways that would have been baffling to many vintage 1930s fascists.

Take James Madole, crash-helmeted fuhrer of the National Renaissance Party and “the father of post-war occult fascism.” Haranguing crowds in New York City throughout the 1960s and 1970s flanked by his dimestore stormtroopers, Madole was no common bigot: an avid sci-fi aficionado, he blended Theosophy, Hinduism, and Satanism in his ideology, creating a funhouse jumble of swastika armbands, Baphomet-adorned altars, and praise for India’s caste system.

Or take David Myatt, a Briton brought up in East Africa and Indonesia, who was attracted as a teenager to the anti-immigrant British Movement, but who quickly veered off the path of straightforward racist politics to found the Order of Nine Angles, a Nazi Satanic cult constantly in conflict with other Satanists for openly endorsing the practice of human sacrifice.

Some of the names in the book, like Colin Jordan and William Butler, will be familiar to anyone who’s followed far-right racist politics in the Western world, but Goodrick-Clarke digs much deeper, finding not only sideshow freaks like Madole and Myatt, but philosophers like Julius Evola, Savitri Devi, and Miguel Serrano, whose theories continue to exert a strong influence on the far right around the world.

Publicity Nazis like George Lincoln Rockwell may have been little more than clowns, but Evola, Devi, and Serrano were something different: genuine intellectuals and original thinkers, their contribution to post-1945 Hitlerism is likely to be more baleful for the world than that of a drunken skinhead throwing a rock at a synagogue. The skinhead goes to jail and is despised by everyone, but the ideas of the philosophers can burrow into mainstream political parties in places like Italy, and into the thought of nominally apolitical artists and writers attracted to the exotic discussions of Hindu theology and the Nietzschean rejection of contemporary social mores.

“Black Sun” is an important book that performs a valuable service by collecting information not readily available elsewhere, even today, nine years after it was published (Wikipedia, the first stop for any round of Internet spelunking session, contains stubs for many of the people mentioned in the book, and lacks entries on many others). Every chapter, from Nazi Paganism to Nazi UFO cults, could have made its own book, which is the only complaint I have: what “Black Sun” gains in breadth, it loses in depth. I found myself wanting more than a few mentions of the Weathermen-inspired National Socialist Liberation Front, the Nazi-Satanist Order of the Black Ram, or the Nazi-Muslim Greenshirts, who met at a Polish-Lithuanian mosque (!) in Brooklyn in the 1960s.

That aside, this is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the bizarre appeal of National Socialism since 1945, and for anyone tempted to think it died in the bunker with Hitler.

(V.Charm)