Tag Archives: Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke

Black Sun

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke.

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1953-2012) was the author of The Occult Roots of Nazism (1985), which is perhaps still the foremost scholarly monograph on its topic. In his 2002 book Black Sun, he followed up by exploring the various religious and quasi-religious strains for whom Hitler is an age-defining hero or “avatar” and Nazi Germany is illud tempus, and who aspire to perpetuate or fulfill what they see as the resulting “Aryan” spiritual legacy. Unfortunately, this 15-year-old book is a timely read for Americans today.

The first two chapters detail the presence and development of avowed neo-Nazi political leaders and organizations in the Anglophone world in the twentieth century. These capable overviews primarily serve as a backdrop for later chapters. About a third of the book consists of examinations of individual figures — mostly non-Anglophone — who have acquired a teaching mystique in latter-day fascist circles. (As Goodrick-Clarke puts it, their writings have “become hot tips” among neo-Nazis.) These include Julius Evola, Savitri Devi, Wilhelm Landig, and Miguel Serrano. Each of these chapters is substantial and supplies a useful brief on both the biography and doctrines of the mystagogue in question.

Chapter 6, on “The Nazi Mysteries,” is a study and synopsis of the sort of “alternative history” and credulous conspiracy-mongering involved with the attribution of occult powers and motives to Hitler, Nazism, and the SS, which began in literature for popular audiences in the 1960s and became a cottage industry in the 70s and 80s. I imagine that this chapter was one of the most satisfying for Goodrick-Clarke to write, given that he was already in a sort of implicit dialogue with this literature from his doctoral dissertation onward, and that his most successful book has often been shelved alongside it. Here, he gets to confront and call out directly the falsifications and errors of such writers as Hermann Rauschning (Hitler Speaks), Pauwels and Bergier (The Morning of the Magicians), Trevor Ravenscroft (The Spear of Destiny), and others. This sort of study continues in Chapter 8, where the scope of the “mysteries” expands with the addition of UFOs and exotic Nazi redoubts in South America and Antarctica and on other planets.

The chapter on “White Noise and Black Metal” is a treatment of white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideologies in youth subcultures and music. Its information on skinhead organizing and pro-racist music labels is well considered and clear. The presentation of black metal is a bit muddled, though, implicitly suggesting more uniform Nazi sympathies in the international black metal scene than a more objective account might find. In his recounting of the Columbine High School massacre, Goodrick-Clarke propagates misinformation about the “Trenchcoat Mafia” that was common to the early reporting on the topic, thus falsely transmuting the Hitler fetish of Eric Harris into the preoccupation of a clique to which he did not even belong. (For corrections on this score, see Dave Cullen’s Columbine.)

There are similar strengths and weaknesses in the chapter on “Nazi Satanism and the New Aeon.” While reasonably noting Aleister Crowley’s writings as being readable for “authoritarian and illiberal doctrine” (213), Goodrick-Clarke actually misses the extent to which they supply the locus classicus of the phrase “New Aeon” in occultist discourse. He mentions Crowley’s membership in Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), characterizing it as “a fringe Masonic organization in Germany,” but omits to observe that it (along with conventional Freemasonry) was banned by the Nazis, with OTO’s German leader of the time arrested and imprisoned in a concentration camp for his association with Crowley. Goodrick-Clarke instances the enthusiastic Nazi partisanship of Crowley disciple Martha Künzel, but overlooks Crowley’s own occult activism against Germany during World War II.

He does not in any way mention the later survival of the magical orders actually headed by Aleister Crowley (OTO and A∴A∴), which is fitting, since these are vehicles of neither neo-Nazi nor esoteric white supremacist doctrine. Crowley in fact boasted himself to be “the leader of the Extreme Left in the Council-Chamber of the City of the Pyramids” (Magick Without Tears, Ch. 13). There has however been substantial posthumous misuse of Crowley’s work by neo-Nazis and their ilk, much of which is documented here by Goodrick-Clarke. With the heightened visibility of US far-right groups in the “Age of Trump,” it has become necessary for OTO to inoculate itself against misrepresentations on this score, with a public statement by relevant authorities to affirm the Order’s basic anti-racist philosophy, already reflected in administrative policy. (There were also remarks from the US Grand Master to this effect in 2015.)

After a brief, competent treatment of the early Church of Satan in the United States to accurately appraise their “experiments in exploiting the shock value of Nazism” (215), Goodrick-Clarke offers longer studies of the Order of the Nine Angles (ONA) and Order of the Jarls of Baelder (OJB) and their organizers. (He associates the “New Aeon” especially with the ONA.) For these relatively recent instances of “pagan-satanic movement[s] on the British far right,” as well as New Zealander Kerry Bolton’s comparable Ordo Sinistra Vivendi (OSV), Goodrick-Clarke’s accounts are the most detailed and credible that I have to hand. He concludes that while constituting “the most extreme example of the cultic revival of fascism,” these groups “actively embrace their own marginalization” through emphases on elitism and transgression (231).

Goodrick-Clarke’s survey continues by examining newer American white supremacist and Aryanist groups with attention to their religious doctrines. He provides a characterization and history of Christian Identity with its genealogy in British-Israelism, as well as a discussion of the World Church of the Creator and its anti-Christian racist tenets. He identifies these groups as potential “incubators” for a more widespread “white racial movement” (255-56), seeing them as thus comparable to the pre-Nazi Ariosophists he treated in The Occult Roots of Nazism. He also finds contemporary parallels to the formative culture of Nazism in right-wing Odinist neopaganism, exemplified by the Wotansfolk of David Lane and Ron McVan. (Goodrick-Clarke does note the diversity of Nordic neopaganism, with schisms attributable to differences regarding racism.)

“Conspiracy Beliefs and the New World Order” summarizes the conspiracy paranoia of the far-right militia movement in the 1990s. It also devotes a considerable amount of attention to the ways in which traditionally anti-Semitic and anti-“Illuminati” conspiracy theories have been propagated in New Age media and milieux, with examples such as David Icke. While admitting that “As yet, the New Age has little room for Hitler worship or Nazi UFOs,” Goodrick-Clarke considers the social pessimism of much turn-of-the-millennium post-New Age “alternative” culture to be akin to the “Manichean dualism” historically implicated in anti-Semitic movements. Again, he suggests parallels with pre-Nazi German culture.

Necessarily missing from this book are significant changes in white supremacist organizing in the US since the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Such groups were arguably instrumental in the election of Donald Trump, whose most visible political activity in the 21st century had been as a mouthpiece of the racist-nativist “birther” movement disputing Obama’s eligibility for the presidency. Researchers agree that there has been a tremendous upswing in American far-right and racist groups, with greater exposure for eliminationist rhetoric. I am not familiar with any investigations that would help evaluate Goodrick-Clarke’s prognostications about the influence of the groups in this book on that growth, but the knowledge he supplies may be important in assessing more recent developments.

For three hundred pages, I understood Black Sun to be detailing the perspectives and motivations of neo-Nazi cultists without advocating or apologizing for them. Alas, that perception was significantly eroded by Goodrick-Clarke’s four-page “Conclusion.” When mentioning institutional racism, he puts “institutional” in scare quotes, as if the concept were a figment of the liberal imagination. Correctly noting the perceived tension between popular notions of individual rights and efforts to remedy legacies of racism, he accepts racist framings with such declarations as: “The comparative high performance of Asian minorities in education and employment, and their underrepresentation in prison statistics, demonstrate the untenability of attributing black failure to white racism” (304). I hope readers will appreciate the extent to which the foregoing sentence serves to indict Goodrick-Clarke’s own racism, rather than to exonerate that of the subjects of his study. Nevertheless, the book is a valuable one with a wealth of information, and the author’s final worry about the resilience of modern multi-ethnic societies is not misplaced. [via]

Omnium Gatherum: July 2nd, 2014

An irregular hodgepodge of links gathered together … Omnium Gatherum for July 2nd, 2014

Smithonian Remi Benali Corbis Chinguetti Mauritania
Endangered Site: Chinguetti, Mauritania: The rapidly expanding Sahara Desert threatens a medieval trading center that also carries importance for Sunni Muslims — Jeanne Maglaty, Smithsonian


  • Thelema and Witchcraft: was Gerald Gardner head of the O.T.O.? — Brandy Williams, Star and Snake

    “Many Witches are unaware how deeply involved Gerald Gardner was with Ordo Templi Orientis. How Gardner came to think of himself of head of the O.T.O. in Europe, however briefly, shines a light on Gardner’s wide contacts in the esoteric communities, the last days of Aleister Crowley’s life, and the chaos caused by the Second World War.”

  • Empathic people are natural targets for sociopaths — protect yourself — Jane McGregor and Tim McGregor, Addiction Today

    “Many sociopaths wreak havoc in a covert way, so that their underlying condition remains hidden for years. They can possess a superficial charm, and this diverts attention from disturbing aspects of their nature.”

    The following case history illustrates how people can be systematically targeted until they feel they can barely trust their own sense of reality – what we call ‘gaslighting’. Sociopathic abuse is targeted abuse. It can wreck lives. Victims can become survivors, but at huge cost.”

    “Let’s look at what we term the Socio-Empath-Apath Triad, or Seat. Unremitting abuse of other people is an activity of the sociopath that stands out. To win their games, sociopaths enlist the help of hangers-on: apaths.”

  • 7 things paganism can teach the modern man: As thousands prepare to celebrate the Summer Solstice this weekend, Lee Kynaston looks at the lessons we can glean from a pagan lifestyle — Lee Kynaston, The Telegraph [HT Spiral Nature]

    “If I were to ask you what the average male pagan looked like, you’d probably have him down as a bearded, middle-aged, cloak-wearing, tree-hugging, mead-swigging, part-time nudist who’s a bit paunchy around the middle and whose favourite film is The Wicker Man.

    And you’d be right.”

  • 9 Stunning Panoramas of Starry Skies, Captured With a Homemade Camera Rig — Liz Stinson, WIRED

    “Last spring Vincent Brady sold most of his belongings, moved out of his apartment and struck out on the road to document the night sky. But instead of taking your typical long-exposure shots, Brady designed himself a custom camera rig that’s allowed him to capture stunning 360 panoramic images of the stars and Milky Way moving in concert.”

    Vincent Brady Monument Valley AZ


  • Desiring Life — T Thorn Coyle

    “Include as much of life as you possibly can: Fall in love. Break your heart. Risk. Open. Seek justice. Create. Dance. Listen. Fuck. Desire. Will. Act. Live.”

  • Human Language Is Biased Towards Happiness, Say Computational Linguists — The Physics arXiv Blog [HT Slashdot]

    “Overall, [Peter Dodds, et al., of the Computational Story Lab at the University of Vermont in Burlington] collected 50 ratings per word resulting in an impressive database of around 5 million individual assessments. Finally, they plotted the distribution of perceived word happiness for each language.

    The results bring plenty of glad tidings. All of the languages show a clear bias towards positive words with Spanish topping the list, followed by Portuguese and then English. Chinese props up the rankings as the least happy. ‘Words—the atoms of human language — present an emotional spectrum with a universal positive bias,’ they say.”

  • Madness…or Mystic? Sylvia Plath and the Occult Taboo — Julia Gordon-Bramer, a presentation for ASE 2014

    “The poet Sylvia Plath’s work is full of the moon, and this is just the beginning of her nod to the occult. Her 1956 marriage to the poet Ted Hughes added astrology, tarot, Ouija boards, hypnosis, meditation, folk-magic, witchcraft, and crystal ball scrying to her repertoire of extra-curricular spiritual activities.

    The facts have been out there all along on Sylvia Plath, but until now no one had thought to view them seriously and collectively.”

  • Invoke the Highest First — Alex Sumner, Sol Ascendans

    “Often I find that, when I am facing a new challenge, perhaps one that I find daunting for some reason, the simplest solution is to apply basic principles. This is especially true in magick. In the Golden Dawn the most important rule of thumb is referred to as ‘invoke the highest first,’ which is a reference to one of the clauses of the Adeptus Minor obligation: ‘I furthermore solemnly pledge myself never to work at any important symbol without first invocating the highest Divine Names connected therewith.'”

  • Immanence by Stuart Davis

    “Every body wants to taste
    a little something carbon-based
    Sex is proof the Holy Ghost
    crawls around in stuff that’s gross

    There’s a serpent in my body
    right below my belly
    When I crave an apple
    you are redder than an orchard”

  • NASA, tweet

    NASA Puff the Magic Sun


  • The Other Magi of the New Aeon of Horus — Setem Heb, Beetle Tracks

    “In the period following Crowley’s death the state of organized Thelema largely fell to nothing. In his excellent The Unknown God Martin P. Starr provides an excellent account of Crowley’s O.T.O. heir, Karl Germer’s attempt to hold together the existing Thelemites with little effect. As a result of there being no centralized Thelemic authority quasi-Thelemic groups would form.”

  • Archaeologists recreate Elixir of Long Life recipe from unearthed bottle — April Holloway, Ancient Origins

    “The discovery included a two hundred-year-old glass bottle that once contained the ‘Elixir of Long Life’. Now the research team have tracked down the original German recipe used to create the elixir for fending off death. […] the potion contained ingredients such as aloe, which is anti-inflammatory, gentian root, which aids digestion, as well as rhubarb, zedoary, and Spanish saffron – ingredients still used by herbalists today.”

  • The end of EXESESO — Egil Asprem, Heterodoxology

    “After the untimely death of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke back in 2012 […] there has been much speculation about what would happen with the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism (EXESESO) that he ran at the University of Exeter. Since 2005, EXESESO has offered one of the three official university programs for the academic study of esotericism in Europe (the others being in Amsterdam and Paris), and produced a steady stream of MAs through its distance learning program. After an internal evaluation process at Exeter University, in dialogue with the Theosophically oriented Blavatsky Trust who funded the centre, a final decision has now been made to shut EXESESO down.”

  • Whole lotta Led, as songs don’t remain the same — Barry Egan, Sunday Independent

    “Overall, the story of Zeppelin was like something out of an X-rated version of the Bible; with Plant as the messianic, bare-chested prophet from Wolverhampton and Page as the Aleister Crowley devotee who sold his soul to the devil for magic chords to the Delta blues.”

  • The Lost Desert Libraries of Chinguetti — MessyNessy [HT Book Patrol]

    “The sands of the Sahara have all but swallowed Chinguetti, a near ghost town found at the end of a harsh desert road in Mauritania, West Africa. Its majority of abandoned houses are open to the elements, lost to the dunes of a desert aggressively expanding southward at a rate of 30 miles per year. While predictions suggest this isolated town will be buried without a trace within generations, Chinguetti is probably the last place on Earth you would look for a library of rare books.”

  • New Biogaphies of Aleister Crowley and Proto-Fascist Poet Gabriele d’Annunzio Raise Big Questions on the Nature of Evil — Jason Diamond, Flavorwire

    “While it might not seem an obvious pairing, reading [Gary] Lachman’s book as a biography of Crowley (rather than an analysis of his importance) alongside Hughes-Hallett’s Gabriele d’Annunzio provides an opportunity to both compare and contrast these two controversial figures who reportedly were acquainted with one another in their lifetimes (d’Annunzio was 12 years older than Crowley and died nine years before him). It also gives the reader an opportunity to consider what’s truly bad or evil, and think about the quest for pleasure or power. Few figures in the last century will inspire you to ponder those ideas like the figures profiled in these two books.”


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