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.