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

Every so often I read a warning on the internet by a wise priest, warning of ever dabbling in the occult as it can open a portal to demonic activity. Such counsellors also say that exorcisms because of diabolical possession, though rare, are on the increase, alongside the need for prayers of deliverance to combat lesser forms of satanic activity and oppression.

This does not come as a surprise. Humans are spiritual beings and when this side of human nature is not fulfilled by belief in Christian revelation and acceptance of the authority of the Church, it will find other, darker outlets.

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.

Carl Jung, who understood a thing or two about parapsychology, remarked that “All the Nazi leaders were possessed in the truest sense of the word.”I have only dipped into this book – yet I already feel I have spent long enough in the repellent purlieus of its leading actors.