The process by which secret society fiction is recycled into secret society fact has rarely been so clearly shown as in the rise of neo-Nazi secret societies in the last decades of the twentieth century. Starting in 1960, when Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier published their bestselling Le Matin du Magiciens (The Morning of the Magicians), popular presses throughout the western world brought out scores of non-fiction books and hundreds of novels on Nazi occultism. A few of these drew on the actual occult connections of National Socialism, while most others invented details out of whole cloth or borrowed material from other realms of rejected knowledge, but all of them worked to create a sense in the popular imagination that the Nazi phenomenon was linked with occult mysteries and secret societies. See National Socialism; rejected knowledge.

All this was fodder for Anton Szandor LaVey (Howard Stanton Levey, 1930–97), the founder of the Church of Satan. At least as much a showman as a Satanist, LaVey produced and starred in theatrical rituals in the church’s San Francisco headquarters, and the mythology of Nazi occultism inevitably found its way into his ambit. A ritual titled Die elektrischen Vorspiele (The Electrical Prologue) duly appeared, making use of the distorted perspectives of German expressionist film of the Weimar era alongside electrical equipment of the sort used in 1930s Frankenstein movies. Predictably, although the ritual is clearly LaVey’s work, he claimed that these rituals were worked by high-ranking SS officers in Nazi Germany. See Church of Satan; SS (Schutzstaffel).

Once launched into the Satanist community, Nazi symbolism and ritual spread quickly. By the late 1970s, Temple of Set founder Michael Aquino was working with Nazi material, a process that culminated in the foundation of the Order of the Trapezoid – a group within the Temple of Set practicing Nazi-based occult rituals – and a visit by Aquino and other Temple of Set members to the former SS ritual center at Wewelsburg, where they performed rituals to contact the forces once invoked by SS head Heinrich Himmler. The late 1970s also saw the emergence in Britain of the Order of Nine Angles, a Satanist order with close ties to the British nationalist and neo-Nazi scene. See Order of Nine Angles; Temple of Set.

The emergence of neo-Nazi occultism was also spurred by the rise and collapse of the Bruders Schweigen, a racist secret society in America that attempted to launch a guerrilla war against the US government. While its efforts ended in complete failure and the death of its founder in a hail of bullets, and most of its surviving members are still serving long prison sentences, it succeeded in bringing the existence of the Christian Identity movement, a racist offshoot of Protestant Christianity, to the attention of the mass media. The wide publicity this gave to racist ideologies was tempered by the recognition by many racists that revolutionary violence was a risky business. This encouraged many people on the radical right to turn to occult practice as a safer way of expressing their beliefs. See Bruders Schweigen; Christian Identity.

In the last two decades of the twentieth century, well over a dozen occult secret societies using Nazi symbolism and teachings emerged. Most of these are small and localized, but close connections with the skinhead and industrial music scenes and the wider Satanist community, umbrella organizations such as the White Order of Thule, and a network of magazines, websites, and small publishing houses link them together. Despite their marginal role in contemporary culture, it might be unwise to dismiss them and their repellent creeds too lightly; the Nazi Party itself emerged out of a movement just as fragmented and marginal to its own society. See White Order of Thule.


The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006