5. Hitler’s Sodality
In our spiel Sodality we describe three basic forms of the most closely-knit type of human collective, and then move on to the fourth, the Supernal Sodality. We find that the Third Reich was a unique and comprehensive variation, in that it encompassed all three forms given in the first spiel: it was a primal sodality in that it revived the bond of racial feeling amongst the Germans, urged them to get back to their roots in the soil of the Fatherland, and by deliberate policy brought about a primal resurgence to offset the debilitating effects of industrial civilization. At the same time it was a national sodality ~ in fact it was the leading exemplar of the nationalist movement that was sweeping the world. Hitler and his inner circle also sought to revive the ways of the Männerbund and revitalize masculinity. And they certainly exalted their own nation in the most straightforward terms: Deutschland über alles!
Furthermore, though the idea may have seemed strange to many people at the time, both inside and outside Germany, the quotes in chapter 4 make clear that the Reich was indisputably a religious sodality as well. While adversaries and cynics derisively mocked “Hitler worship”, it was a literal reality. Long after the war, “denazified” survivors still spoke of the awe they felt at the person of Hitler at gatherings large and small. The most common refrain was that “it was like being in the presence of God”.
So here was a whole nation filled with a powerful spirit centered on a man they not only believed but directly perceived to be a divine intercessor, an Avatar, a Son of God made flesh. Yet still we must ask if this was truly the Holy Spirit, if the Geist of the Reich was Supernal. We’ve seen that a vital element of this is spiritual surrender, which Christian belief directs unto God, while Hinduism has a similar but more flexible practice called Bhakti. The man who may have played the greatest role after Hitler in shaping the spirit of the Reich had strong opinions about both of these religions, so we’ll do well to turn our attention to Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer SS.
6. Heroic Devotion
The SS was the spearhead of a well-documented effort to dechristianize Germany in favor of paganism, focusing mainly on the Teutonic traditions but also incorporating Greco-Roman elements. SS manuals promoted the view that the conversion of the Northern European peoples to Christianity in the Middle Ages was a great tragedy, inflicted by a campaign of slaughter and persecution. Carl Jung’s analysis of the collective unconscious of the Reich was that Wotan had risen again and reclaimed his crown as God of the Germans; the clear implication was that Hitler was not the Avatar of the Christian God but of Wotan. None of this spilled over into the popular press, and Hitler maintained a politic tone in speaking about the Catholic and Protestant Churches; but Himmler reportedly had great plans for their comeuppance after the war was won.
Himmler especially prized the Bhagavad Gita for its “great Aryan qualities”, and was personally convinced of the reality of reincarnation. He believed that the doctrine of karma implied that the fate of your soul after death and in future lives was determined by your own efforts. He opposed this to Christian doctrine, and has been quoted as saying: “The Germanic belief entails no surrender to divine grace”.
There’s little doubt that this attitude characterized the leadership of the Party as a whole, and surely Hitler himself. It would seem to set the Reich at odds with the practice of spiritual surrender, and mark it as a regression to the stage of primitive paganism. After all, the hearty worshippers of Wotan did not embrace him as their personal Savior for the remission of their sins or the atonement of their karma, but as their warrior lord. However, we’ve seen that the attitude of the German masses toward the Führer was very much like that of Christians to their Lord. Was it simply a discrepancy between the Volk and the inner circle of their leaders? No, for the gap was bridged in a striking way, as exemplified by the Eidformel der Schutzstaffel, the oath taken by every candidate upon admission to the SS:
I swear to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and Chancellor of the German Reich, loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and the superiors appointed by you obedience unto death. So help me God!
In the military, naturally, soldiers must obey their leaders, a practice that has been strictly observed and enforced in every martial contingent in history. But in the context of the Third Reich and its Godlike leader, this oath takes on another dimension. It’s unique among modern political-military pledges in that it’s addressed to the man himself, not to the state or the office. God is invoked, and a second article of the oath also affirmed belief in God, contravening a widespread materialist skepticism in Party circles. The SS Man swears obedience to the Führer unto death ~ and the intrepid bravery and heroism of the SS is legendary, as they marched undaunted into the jaws of death and fought for their lost cause to the bitter end.
We must conclude that the Oath of the SS is a historic exemplar of a very masculine form of Bhakti, a virile variation of the same catharsis by which a Christian accepts Jesus into his heart and a Hindu submits to a God or guru. Those traditional forms are yin, a fact acknowledged in Hinduism, whereas the SS practiced the yang form. A big reason Himmler liked the Gita was that its message was presented by God to a warrior on the battlefield. However, only a single line of text has anything to say about the implications of Supernal compassion for the martial qualities, and Himmler’s grasp of the deeper meaning of the teachings is open to question.
Next: The Gita to Sustain Their Souls