Posts tagged ‘pagan’

The Nazis leant heavily on occultism, paganism, New Age and Eastern religions

Even within Christianity, there can be an unhealthy, superstitious focus on searching for “signs.” On a train once from Edinburgh to London, I was cornered by a friendly lady who proceeded to ask me if I knew about the “blood moons” prophecy in the Bible. My heart sank; the journey from Edinburgh to London takes four hours and I could see I was in for a long harangue.

On another occasion, I was told in no uncertain terms that if I did not repeat a certain prayer to Our Lady at a certain time every day, I would be cursed. A magical ritual had replaced faith in Christ.

I mention this as I have been dipping into Hitler’s Monsters: a Supernatural History of the Third Reich by Eric Kurlander. It is extraordinary, though not surprising, that a western country as advanced in scientific understanding and progress as Germany was in the 20th century could also, between 1920-1945, have been so prey to irrational beliefs and intellectual lunacy.

A popular volume of parapsychology, Magic: History, Theory, Practice, by Ernst Schertel, was heavily underlined by Hitler himself. Significantly, his library at Berchtesgaden included almost no works on political theory or philosophy but numerous books on popular medicine, German mythology, magic symbols and the occult.

Belief in astrology was rife among the Nazis; Rudolf Hess consulted an astrologer before his ill-fated flight to Scotland in 1941 and towards the end of the war Himmler’s personal astrologer was by his side night and day.

Indeed, the Party, as Kurlander shows, leant heavily on occultism, pagan, New Age and Eastern religions. Pendulum dowsers, border science, “ariosophy” (the resurgence of a lost Aryan civilization), theosophy (begun by Helena Blavatsky), anthroposophy (started by Rudolf Steiner), World Ice Theory and a host of other pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo were the standard spiritual fare of the Nazi high command.

Kurlander quotes the German philosopher and sociologist, Theodor Adorno, who suggested that “the power of occultism was rooted, like fascism, in its appeal to ‘semi-erudite’ individuals driven by the narcissistic wish to prove superior to the plain people.”

It sounds like the ancient temptation to Gnosticism, i.e. superior and secret knowledge and also to the most fundamental temptation of all from which none of us is entirely immune: “You shall be as gods…”

If the Nazis had been a grubby little group of occultists, rather like the magician, Aleister Crowley, and his associates in the Golden Dawn, their evil influence would have been somewhat confined; but when one reads that Himmler, head of the Nazi SS and the second most important figure in the Third Reich, encouraged research regarding “Lucifer’s role as the harbinger of enlightenment and enemy of the Jewish God”, it is terrifying.

The Nazis leant heavily on occultism, paganism, New Age and Eastern religions

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Pagans and Christians

Homosexuality, abortion and infanticide, recreational sex, no-fault divorce; gladiators, priestesses; mass public entertainment; public works and conscription of all kinds – the old pagan world had many parallels to our modern, neo-pagan one. The early Christians were recognizably “counter-cultural,” or “pro-life.” But to a Roman citizen, of some sophistication, what business had Christians with the way people live? They were otherworldly, it shouldn’t concern them.

And if they were so pro-life, why so eager to get themselves martyred? Just asking for it, often as not, when their humane prosecutors were trying to give them an out. Clearly these were fanatics, crazy people. Leave them to their foibles and their cult will soon fade.
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The world we face today is not like Greece and Rome. It is much more like the ancient East: a swamp in which reason finds little purchase. In order to evangelize, we must forego leaps. We must not assume premisses shared by all men of reason and good will. We must start with the very premisses.

Where Does One Start?

See also Islam and the Decalogue:

I first noticed something unusual about Islam during the 1980s when I was doing research for my book, Ethics in Context. I devoted one section of the book to the “Golden Rule.” The Golden Rule, in its negative or positive formulations, is incorporated not only in Christianity (Matt. 7:12), where Jesus declares it is a summary of “the law and the prophets,” but also in other major religions. For example, in Judaism, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor”; in Hinduism, “Let no man do to another that which would be repugnant to himself”; in Buddhism, “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful”; in Confucianism, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others.”

I took this as evidence of the relative universality of rational ethical principles in the world. But in Islam, I could find nothing of the sort, rather just the opposite – a reverse Golden Rule, so to speak: “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. Be merciful to one another, but ruthless to the unbelievers” (Qur’an 48:29); “Never take unbelievers for friends” (3:28). Furthermore, the commands in the Qur’an to slay the unbelievers wherever they find them (2:191), not befriend them (3:28), fight them and show them harshness (9:123), and smite their heads (47:4) – accentuate distance from the Golden Rule.

So I decided at that time just to omit any reference to Islam in that chapter. As I have discovered in further researches, however, the ethical/religious problems within Islam are even more serious. Just as Islam teaches the reverse of the Golden Rule, it teaches the reverse of the last seven of the Ten Commandments, which have to do with morality:

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