One of the most influential secret societies in the proto-Nazi underworld of early twentieth-century central Europe, the Ordo Novi Templi (Order of New Templars, ONT) was founded by Austrian occultist Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels (1874–1954.) in Vienna in 1907. A defrocked Benedictine monk, Lanz (the “von Liebenfels” was an affectation) had become convinced that the mystery cults of the ancient world had all been devoted to deviant sex with subhuman dwarfs, and that the original Aryans had been godlike beings possessed of strange electrical-psychic powers, which had been lost to humanity due to inbreeding with the subhuman dwarfs. In 1905 he published his magnum opus, Theozoologie, oder die Kunde von den Sodoms-Afflingen und dem Gotter-Elektron (Theozoology, or the Lore of the Sodom-Apelings and the Electron of the Gods), which expounded this theory in vast and titillating detail.

These ideas won him a following in German and Austrian racist circles, and enabled him to launch a successful magazine, Ostara, which combined reactionary politics and antisemitic diatribes with long disquisitions about “theozoology” and the lost occult powers of the ancient Aryans. Lanz also became active in the Ariosophical scene, and was a founding member of the Guido von List Society, the parent body of the Höhere Armanen-Orden (Higher Armanen-Order, HAO), another Ariosophical secret society. See Höhere Armanen-Orden (HAO).

In 1907 Lanz had attracted enough of a following to launch a secret society of his own. The Ordo Novi Templi was headquartered at Burg Werfenstein, a medieval castle on the Danube donated by a wealthy supporter, and combined Lanz’s theories with a ritual system devoted to the new racial gnosis of “the Electron and the Holy Grail.” Daily ceremonies of Matins (dawn), Prime (noon), and Compline (night) included Aryan hymns, liturgical readings, and devotional imagery modeled on Lanz’s monastic background. The ONT liturgy expanded to fill seven large volumes by the time it was completed in the mid-1920s.

Advancement in the order depended largely on the candidate’s percentage of Aryan blood, as determined by stringent tests devised by Lanz. Those with less than 50 percent Aryan ancestry could never advance beyond the lowest degree of Server; those with 50 percent or above could become Novices and then Masters, while a minimum of 75 percent was required to reach the degree of Canon. Masters or Canons who founded a new chapter of the order received the title of Presbyter, while Presbyters whose chapters had more than five Masters or Canons were advanced to the rank of Prior.

The racial tests and ritual life of the ONT helped inspire Heinrich Himmler’s reinvention of the SS as a Deutsche Mannerbund (“Order of German Manhood”) dedicated to racial purity and service to the Nazi cause. Despite these similarities, or just possibly because of them, the ONT was banned in Germany as soon as the Nazi government took power, and abolished in Austria after the anschluss of 1938. Lanz himself had the good sense to move to Switzerland in 1933, and remained there through the war years. In 1946 he returned home to Vienna, and revived the ONT. It remains active today in Austria, Germany, and several other central European countries. See National Socialism; SS (Schutzstaffel).


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