The Quest for the Holy Grail

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

'As long as I live I will think of Sabarthes, of Montsegur, of the Grail castle, and of the Grail itself that may have been the treasure of the heretics spoken of in the Records of the Inquisition.'


Probably one of the most outlandish - yet somehow oddly grand, strangely cosmic - endeavors of the Third Reich in general, and of the SS in particular, was Himmler's search for the Holy Grail.

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
In order to understand what Himmler was up to, we will have to look at the climate surrounding the Ahnenerbe and at what many readers probably think of as being a purely Christian symbol: the Holy Grail.
As we do so, we will come across a fascinating individual whom history has treated rather shabbily, the young SS officer and historian, Otto Rahn (1904-1939).

It was, after all, Otto Rahn who helped popularize the notion that the Grail was not the special property of the Catholic Church (should it actually exist, and should it ever be found).
For Rahn, the Grail was an emblem set up in opposition to the established Church - indeed, was a Luciferian symbol - and for this the Nazis were grateful; for, if Rahn's conclusion was correct, it gave them a philosophical and historical edge over organized Christianity.


Rahn's first published work, 'Kreuzzug gegen den Graal' (Crusade Against the Grail), was devoted to a study of what is sometimes referred to as the Albigensian Crusade: a war that took place between the Roman Catholic Church and a Christian cult known alternatively as the Albigensians (after the town of Albi in southern France) or the Cathars: "the Pure."

Cathar Cross
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
The Cathars were a Gnostic Christian sect that enjoyed enormous popularity in thirteenth-century Europe, even among the nobility.
They were opposed to the materialism of the Catholic Church and what they perceived to be the corruption of Christ's teachings by the Church.
In many of their beliefs, they were closer to the Manichaeans than to Roman Catholics; indeed, there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that they might have been a Manichaean survival.
Regardless of their actual origins, however, they began attracting converts in large numbers, particularly in France.

Their beliefs included the doctrine that Christ was pure spirit and had never inhabited a human - that is, a material - form; that the dead will not be resurrected in the body, since the body was made of matter, which the Cathars viewed as Satanic; that there were two forces in the universe, one of good and the other of evil; that procreation was evil, as it increased the amount of matter in the world and trapped souls within material forms.
That death was good, and not a time for mourning; that there was no particular reason why the bodies of the dead should be revered since the bodies were the evil part of the human constitution.

Pope Innocent III
Naturally, they were branded as heretics by the Church and eventually Catholic armies were sent to destroy them under order of Pope Innocent III in 1209.
It was from a Catholic commander - a Cistercian abbot, no less - surrounding a French town composed of both Cathar and Catholic civilians (men, women, and children) that we receive the immortal line: "Kill them all. God will recognize his own."
The belief of the Cathars - and of their close relatives, the Albigensians or Albigeois of the Languedoc region of France - that matter was essentially impure and evil, and that only spirit was pure and good is a patently Gnostic doctrine.

The belief in two gods - one evil, the other good - is both Gnostic and Manichaean.
Hence, it has been argued that the Cathars were an extension of a Middle Eastern sect of Manichees or of Gnostics in possession of a "secret tradition" concerning the life and death of Christ and the origins of Christianity.
Jehovah  - the Demiurge
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
The Cathars claimed that the Bible (particularly the Old Testament) was full of references to an Evil God - Jehovah (the Demiurge) - even as they insisted that the Bible was either full of errors or had been interpreted incorrectly by generations of self-serving Roman Catholic theologians.

(One should remember that in 1209 the Gutenberg press had not been invented and that Bibles were in scarce supply. Those that existed were in the dead tongues of Latin and Greek, and in the possession of the Church. The average person knew very little of what was in the Bible, except for what he or she was told by a priest.)

Seven Sacraments of the
Catholic Church
Another Cathar peculiarity is that - perhaps late in their tragic story - they legitimized a form of ritual suicide, called the 'endura': one simply starved oneself to death, or was poisoned, or was strangled or suffocated by the brethren.
They also rejected most of the sacraments of the Church as so much superstitious nonsense.
In their anti-Papal stance they were close to the rather more Calvinist Waldensians with whom they have been frequently - and erroneously - linked.

'At dinner ... he spoke of India and Indian philosophy. This led him to speak of a subject which was a hobbyhorse of his: in a lively manner he described to me the result of researches in German witchcraft trials. He said it was monstrous that thousands of witches had been burned during the Middle Ages. So much good German blood had been stupidly destroyed. From this he began an attack on the Catholic Church, and at the same time on Calvin; before I had caught up with all this he was discussing the Spanish Inquisition and the essential nature of primitive Christianity.'

Heinrich Himmler
These words from Foreign Intelligence Chief Walter Schellenberg's memoirs concerning a meeting with Himmler in the Ukraine in the summer of 1942 indicate just how interested the Reichsfuhrer-SS was in such philosophical and metaphysical questions, including early Christianity, Calvinism, the Inquisition ... even the witch trials, on all of which Himmler considered himself something of an expert.
SS Runes
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
The Cathar ideology must have appealed to him and the other Nazis in a profound way.
After all, the very word "Cathar" means "pure," and purity - particularly of the blood as the physical embodiment of spiritual "goodness" - was an issue of prime importance to the SS.
The Cathars railed against the gross materialism of the Church; the National Socialists viewed themselves as inherently 'anti-Capitalist', even though they were forced to deal with large industrial concerns in order to obtain absolute power in Germany.

Jewish Financiers - The Rothschilds
(To Hitler and his followers, Capitalism was immoral, and they equated it with the excesses of the Jewish financiers that - they said - had brought the nation to ruin during the First World War, and the depression that followed.)

During the 19th century, when it was at its height, the Rothschild family is believed to have possessed by far the largest private fortune in the world as well as by far the largest fortune in modern world history.

The Cathars, in denying the value of the Old Testament, and in attacking Jehovah as a kind of Satan, naturally seemed to be in perfect agreement with German Occult ideology concerning the Jews.

Burning at the Stake
Further, the Cathars were fanatics, willing to die for their cause; sacrificing themselves to the Church's onslaught they enjoyed the always enviable aura of spiritual under-dogs.
There was something strangely beautiful in the way they were immolated on the stakes of the Inquisition, professing their faith, and their hatred of Rome until the very end.
The German Occultists could identify with the Cathars: with their overall fanaticism, with their contempt for the way vital spiritual matters were commercialized (polluted) by the Establishment, and with their passion for "purity."
It is perhaps inevitable that the Cathars should have made a sacrament out of suicide, for they must have known that their quest was doomed to failure from the start.
They must have wished for death as a release from a corrupt and insensitive world; and it's entirely possible that, at the root of National Socialism, lay a similar wish.
Hitler was surrounded by the suicides of his mistresses, and it is possible that the Nazis saw in suicide that consolation and release from the world of Satanic matter promised by this most cynical of Cathar sacraments.
In addition, it became popular to assume that these same Cathars were in possession of a mysterious sacred object and that, on the eve of destruction of the last major Cathar opposition at the fortress of Montsegur in southern France on March 14, 1244, some Cathars managed to escape with this object down the side of their mountain citadel (then under siege by Catholic troops).

Carl Kellner
Holy Grail
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
This sacred object has been identified by later generations as nothing less than the 'Holy Grail'.
Before the collapse of Montsegur, as some authors have proposed, the Grail was in the possession of the infamous Order of the Knights Templar, the Order after which von Liebenfels and Kellner named their respective cults; the same Order that was created by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the famous abbot of the Cistercian Order.

Jerusalem Temple
Ark of the Covenant'
Depending on whom one reads, the Templars were believed to have discovered either the 'Grail' or the 'Ark of the Covenant', or both, during their sojourn in Palestine at the site of Solomon's Temple.
Several studies have been made of the Templar cathedrals - Chartres in particular - to prove that the Templars left a coded message in stone revealing that they brought a sacred object of great value back with them from the East, an object whose tremendous, otherworldly power enabled them to finance, design, and build a series of magnificent churches all over France in an amazingly short period of time.
Indeed, the time line is suggestive for, according to an authoritative work on the subject by Henry Adams, during the space of one hundred years (from A.D. 1170 to A.D. 1270) the Church built eighty cathedrals in France, and hundreds of other "cathedral-class" churches at an estimated cost of one billion in 1905 U.S. dollars.

'Le Mystere des Cathedrales'
The pseudonymous author on alchemy and architecture, Fulcanelli, contributed to this idea of a Templar secret tradition in his 'Le Mystere des Cathedrales', first published in 1925.
It has been translated into English, and forms the core of yet another mystical tradition.
Just why the Cathars should then have found themselves in possession of the Grail remains something of a mystery.
Certainly there is a robust literature concerning the Grail - known as 'Grail Romances' to the historians - that identify it as anything from a sacred stone that fell from the sky (the lapis exilis or lapis ex coelis) to the actual cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper and which was used to catch drops of his blood during the crucifixion.
Indeed, Wolfram von Eschenbach's 'Parzival' depicts the Grail as a stone and not as a cup; the older romance by Chretien de Troyes depicts the Grail as a cup and not as a stone, and this image is perpetuated in Malory's 'Le Marte d'Arthur'.
High Priest Melchisedek
Chartres Cathedral
As if to compromise on this controversy, one of the carved figures on the north door of Chartres Cathedral - that of the Old Testament High Priest Melchisedek - is shown holding a Cup from which the Stone rises.
And from time to time various objects have been found which their owners claimed to be the Grail but none of these have stood up to even cursory scrutiny.
Recently, the writing team of Walter Birks and R. A. Gilbert have conspired to put an end to all the speculation.
Golden Dawn
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Birks served with the British Army in the Middle East during the war, with the rank of major, prior to which he had been involved in esoteric and spiritualist circles in England; Gilbert is an historian of occultism, most notably of the 'Golden Dawn'.
Together, they denigrate the writings of Rahn as "tortuous reasoning and linguistic lunacy", and the book by Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln ('Holy Blood, Holy Grail') as evidence of a "lunatic theory" supported by an "inchoate mass of irrelevancies."
For Birks and Gilbert, the treasure of Montsegur "never was": it was not the Grail, not a cache of Templar gold, not the bloodline of Jesus, but "the power to transmit the apostolic succession, the seed perhaps of a higher form of Christianity to be revealed when the world is ready to receive it."
Dead Sea Scrolls
They base this theory on Biblical exegesis, interpretations of the 'Dead Sea Scrolls', the writings of Josephus and others, and on what remains of Cathar ritual and theology.

Ancient Scrolls
Birks was present at a Cathar research site at Ussat-les-Bains in the late 1930s (although too late to have met Rahn, who also researched and lived at the site) and was friendly with one Antonin Gadal, about whom more later.
Birks himself states that it was during conversation with a member of the Nosairi sect in the Middle East that he realized the Cathar treasure was not a material Grail at all, but the "Light-filled vessel": i.e., a purely metaphorical image based on the cup of sacramental wine which the Nosairi use to drink "to the Light": an emblem of the true teaching of Christianity before it became confused and bowdlerized by the Evangelists and the various Councils.

The Alawites, also known as Alawis (ʿAlawīyyah Arabic: علوية‎) are a prominent mystical religious group centred in Syria who follow a branch of the Twelver school of Shia Islam. Alawites revere Ali ibn Abi Talib and the name means followers of Ali. The sect is believed to have been founded by Ibn Nusayr in the eighth century. For this reason, Alawites are sometimes derogatorily referred to as "Nusayris" (Nuṣayrī Arabic: نصيرية‎). Another name, "Ansari" (al-Anṣāriyyah), is believed to have been a mistransliteration of the former.

Way of the Stars
This is all involved with a Nosairi tradition of the "way of the Stars," that a human soul, after death, proceeds up a ladder of lights, of stars, to heaven.
Birks was satisfied with that, and the doctrine of Light provided him with a great illumination (no pun intended); but we have come full circle, for 'the way of the Stars' and 'the doctrine of the Light' are amply represented by the myths of the Celts, the Nordic peoples, and many others in whom Rahn discovered the scattered fragments of a lost mystical tradition, and the "Light-filled vessel" may be an entirely appropriate reference to Rahn's rediscovered doctrine of Lucifer, the Light-Bearer.


Wolfram von Eschenbach
Wolfram von Eschenbach
As mentioned, one of the most famous Grail romances is that composed by Wolfram von Eschenbach, entitled 'Parzival'.
It is this particular romance that has remained the authoritative word on the subject for many people, and which was the work that inspired Otto Rahn in his researches (and Richard Wagner in his famous opera by the same name).

Richard Wagner
Rahn was an impoverished scholar of history whose soul became inflamed by equal doses of Wagner and von Eschenbach in his youth.

Wilhelm Richard Wagner (22 May 1813 – 13 February 1883) was a German composer, theatre director, polemicist, and conductor who is primarily known for his operas (or, as some of his later works were later known, "music dramas"). 

Der Gral Szene aus Wagners Parsifal
Unlike most opera composers, Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works. Wagner revolutionised opera through his concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk ("total work of art"), by which he sought to synthesise the poetic, visual, musical and dramatic arts, with music subsidiary to drama, and which was announced in a series of essays between 1849 and 1852. Wagner is known in particular for his the four-opera cycle 'Der Ring des Nibelungen' (The Ring of the Nibelung) - and his final, and greatest work, 'Parsifal'.
From his youth Wagner was Hitler's favourite composes, strongly influencing his subsequent 'Weltanschauung'.
Of Waqgner's greates opera Hitler said, 'Out of Parsifal I will make my religion'

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The beneficiary of a classical education in both literature and philology, he spent five years traveling throughout Europe in search of myths, legends, and the records of heretical cults, all of which he believed would point to the existence of a native, crypto-pagan, Gnostic-type religion in Europe.
Finding mythological and philological links between such varied phenomena as the troubadours, the Grail legends, European paganism, and the heretical sect known as the Cathars, Rahn felt he had discovered evidence of an ancient German religious tradition that had been suppressed by the Church.

Gral Romanze - Grail Romance
Identifying the pure knight Parzival as a Cathar or Cathar manque, Rahn went on to write a history of the Cathar rebellion from the point of view of 'Grail Romance'.
Although this sounds like pure Guido von List or Lanz von Liebenfels, Rahn was a scholar who based his work on accepted primary sources (such as the records of the Inquisition, the poems and songs of the troubadours, and the medieval Grail legends) and on his own, on-the-scene research.
He arrived in the Languedoc region of France in 1931 and there met a gentleman well-known in Grail circles, Antonin Gadal.
Gadal maintained a private Cathar museum at the small town of Ussat-les-Bains, a tourist attraction and spa in the Pyrenees with an allegedly Cathar connection.
He also had an extensive library on the subject of the Cathars and the Grail, from which Rahn probably derived much benefit.
Gadal was a member of a society called 'The Friends of Montsegur and the Grail', of which the noted historian Rene Nelli was vice president (it was Nelli who would translate Rahn's work into French).
The society - as its name implies - believed that a connection existed between the Cathar movement and the Grail Romances.

Joséphin Péladan
This concept had been broached in 1906 by the popular French author Joséphin Péladan in 'Le Secret des Troubadours'.

Joséphin Péladan (28 March 1858, Lyon – 27 June 1918, Neuilly-sur-Seine) was a French novelist and Martinist. His father was a journalist who had written on prophecies, and professed a philosophic-occult Catholicism. He established the Salon de la Rose + Croix for painters, writers, and musicians sharing his artistic ideals, the Symbolists in particular.

 Arthur Edward Waite
Former 'Golden Dawn' member Arthur Edward Waite had discounted the theory that the Grail legend had anything to do with either Cathars or Albigensians in a book published three years later ('The Hidden Church of the Holy Grail'), but then Waite was in a state of apostasy from the 'Golden Dawn' as he had claimed that their occult rituals were essentially evil, and had replaced them with Christian versions, forming his own rather boring occult order in the process.
In May of 1932 Rahn decided to become an innkeeper to support his researches, and invested in a local establishment at Ussat.
By September he was bankrupt, and disappeared from France only to reappear shortly thereafter in Germany.
By then, he had accumulated quite enough information to write his own book on the subject of the Cathars and the Grail, 'Kreuzzug gegen den Graal', which was published in 1933 and translated into French the following year as 'Croisade contre le Graal' (Crusade Against the Grail).

Heinrich Himmler
Although the book did not earn Rahn a lot of money, it eventually came to the attention of no less an admirer than Heinrich Himmler.
According to one version of the story, the Reichsfuhrer-SS personally invited the author to meet him at his Prinz Albrechtstrasse headquarters in Berlin.
There, he offered Rahn a commission in the SS and virtually unlimited resources for which Himmler expected Rahn to continue his research into the Grail legends, the Cathars, and related subjects of Aryan interest.

Karl Maria Wiligut
SS-Oberfuhrer Weisthor
According to another version, Rahn was a personal friend of völkisch "channeler" Karl Maria Wiligut - also known as SS-Oberfuhrer Weisthor - a gentleman who claimed that he had perfect recall of the entire ancient history of the Teuton peoples going back over 200,000 years, a kind of ancient racial memory upon which he could call at any time.
This was, of course, a very handy ability to possess, and Himmler considered himself fortunate to have access to the services of a man who could fill in those great gaps of Teutonic history.
Wiligut's ability was, he claimed, due to the fact that his family's lineage had been kept pure at every generation down the millennia from that time in the misty past when the gods of air and water mated in humid embrace to produce the milky Wiligut bloodline.


Wiligut, another of Germany's rune scholars, clairvoyants, and Teutonic mystics, held meetings at his home on arcane Aryan topics at which Himmler and the young Otto Rahn were said to be frequent guests.
Wiligut insisted that Christianity was really a German invention; that Christ was really the ancient Teutonic god Baldur, who was crucified by a schismatic group of Wotan worshippers.

Baldur, however, managed to escape to the Middle East and his remaining followers in Germany built a cult centre sacred to their faith at the prehistoric site of Externsteine, which was to become the subject of much discussion and excavation by the Ahnenerbe.
Of course, like most other occult theory, Wiligut's thesis is based on a number of verifiable historical traditions that can be found in a careful reading of ancient texts, in this case of the Eddas and other Scandinavian and Gothic lore that pre-date the Christian conversion of these peoples by hundreds of years.
Baldur, for instance, was a slain and resurrected god like many other agricultural deities of many other lands.
The Norse Creation story is remarkably similar to that of ancient Sumeria, with the known universe created out of the corpse of another slain god.
That Christianity adopted pagan ceremonies, cult centres, holidays, and myths is by now well known; in fact, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify just what a "pure" form of Christianity would look like.
However, Wiligut's problem - and the problem of many historians in his class - is that he took the myths and legends of the ancient European peoples and blended them together with theosophical and other newly coined mystical beliefs with little or no historical basis.

Giorgio Diaz de Santillana
The commonality of motifs in these various myths from widely divergent sources may best be explained by the type of research undertaken by MIT Professor de Santillana and others who see in these stories a coded form of astronomical observations.

Giorgio Diaz de Santillana (Rome, 30 May 1902 – Beverly, Massachusetts, 1974) was an Italian-American philosopher of science and historian of science, and professor at MIT. He moved to the United States in 1936 and became a naturalized US citizen in 1945. In 1941 he commenced his academic career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), becoming an Assistant Professor the following year. He was made an Associate Professor in 1948 and a full Professor of the History of Science in the School of Humanities in 1954. In 1969, he published a book entitled: 'Hamlet's Mill, An Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time' with Dr. Hertha von Dechend. This book focused upon the understanding of the connection between the mythological stories of Pharaonic Egypt, Babylon, Greece, Christianity, etc. and the ancient observations pertaining to the stars, planets and, most notably, the 26,000 year precession of the equinoxes.

The relatively new sciences of epigraphy and paleoastronomy may answer many questions previously considered the domain of occultism.
Yet, on the basis of this and related historical theories, Wiligut was made the head of the Department of Prehistory at the Race and Settlement Office (RuSHA) of the SS, and eventually attained the exalted rank of SS-Brigadefuhrer, or Brigadier, on Himmler's Personal Staff.

SS Totenkopf
SS Ring Runes
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
It was Wiligut who designed the Schutzstaffel's special Death's Head (totenkopf) ring, a device replete with runic symbols including the inevitable swastika as well as those of Wiligut's personal armorial design.
The latter detail implied that somehow Wiligut was, himself, the last and sole physical repository of glacially pure Teutonic blood; a claim that was the cornerstone of his philosophy and which gave him that unique unbroken memory which made him so valuable to those lesser mortals who could only prove their racial purity back to the year 1750 (as required of SS recruits).
It has been said that Rahn was introduced to Himmler by Wiligut himself, and that Himmler accepted the young scholar into the SS on Wiligut's personal recommendation.
Wiligut then kept in constant touch with Rahn as the latter went about on his travels through France, Germany, and Iceland, hot on the very cold trail of the mysterious Cathar treasure he believed was the Grail.
He communicated his findings to Wiligut periodically in letters that were to be shared with no one else but Himmler, so secret and so important were their contents.
One wonders what these secrets were, for they are certainly not to be found in Rahn's second book, a work published under Nazi supervision.
However, some letters from Rahn to Wiligut have survived, marked "extremely confidential," dealing - for instance - with linguistic evidence of pagan sites concealed within modern German place names, and begging the Seer to communicate his findings with "the Reichsfuhrer-SS only."
As these letters are dated as early as 1935 we can see that Rahn was intimate with the highest circles of the SS hierarchy by this time.

Paul Ladame
Rahn's friend Paul Ladame, however, insists that when he ran into Rahn in July, 1936, on the Joachimstaler Strasse in Berlin, Rahn was resplendent in full SS uniform, bearing the flashes of the Liebstandarte Adolf Hitler and, when asked how he had come to be wearing such a thing, replied "My dear Paul, a man has to eat !"
Whether or not Rahn was any kind of real National Socialist, his two books do reveal, however, that he believed the Catholic Church had all but destroyed essential elements of a secret German religious tradition, a tradition whose persecution began with the Cathars in the thirteenth century and which ended, triumphantly, with the destruction of the Templar Order a hundred years later.
Lucifer - Der Licht-Träger
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The German tradition was not a Christian one in the generally accepted sense.
Rather, it was a pagan religion whose elements were appropriated by the Church as a means of diluting it of its power: the Grail, the knightly Orders, the sacred Quest, and the eternal struggle between Light and Darkness.
Except, for the Cathars as filtered through the meditations of Rahn, Light in this case was represented by - not Jesus or Jehovah - but by another spirit, the "Light-Bearer."
To Rahn, this Entity represented the highest good.
To Rahn (at least officially), the Third Reich in general - and the SS in particular - became the servitors of an ancient pagan cult whose god was known to the medieval Christians not as Jesus but as Lucifer.


Himmler's personal agenda was to amass enough data - archaeological, historical, cultural, religious, and occult - to prove that the 'arischen Rasse' - (Aryan race) was superior to all other races on earth, and that the Germans were the inheritors of the Aryan bloodline.
He also had to prove that, at some point in history, what are now the German peoples owned virtually all of Europe.
This would not only seem to legitimize Hitler's 'Drive to the East', but might prove useful in establishing that the Germans had an historical right to do whatever they wanted with whatever inferior, races they found there.
Proving the existence of a hitherto unknown German religious tradition that pre-dated Christianity and which was more in tune with the German Völk would go a long way toward supporting Himmler's other theories, and give substance to the twin policies of Aryan racial superiority and German claim to the land.
It would provide the necessary philosophical underpinning for an occult renaissance in Europe, and prove stronger than the various Christian sects that had arbitrarily divided the race along ideological lines.
A German spiritual tradition that transcended Christian history would provide a blood religion that could unit the racially pure peoples of Europe - Aryans in diaspora - and thus erase national boundaries and Christian sensitivities in one blow.

Emblem of Israel
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
(To those readers of today who find this mission strange, might the author be permitted to remind them that no less a modern state than Israel was founded along pretty much the same lines? Jewish claims upon the territory are based upon religious scriptures, and citizenship in the State of Israel is limited to those who can prove they are Jews.)

In this endeavour, Himmler had two distinct sets of ideological opponents.
First of all, there were the scientists who disparaged such canonical Nazi claims as Aryan racial purity and the prevalence of an Aryan cult or proto-Christian society over all of Europe and Asia in the distant past.

Das Ahnenerbe
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
For these, Himmler hoped to provide concrete evidence that Aryans (and, hence, Germans) had established communities in such remote locales as Minsk in Russia, northern India, and Tibet.
The Deutsche Akademie and later the Ahnenerbe were both heavily involved in the archaeological work necessary to buttress this argument.
His second opponent was the established Christian Church itself.
Himmler's dream was to create, out of the SS, a new religion based on the pagan elements of what he perceived to be the original, Ur-Aryan religion of ancient India and Europe.
However, many Germans were devout Christians.
Hitler himself realized this, and knew that he had to play politics with them for as long as the churches held power and as long as the people felt they owed spiritual allegiance to the churches and what they represented.
Himmler, on the other hand, wanted nothing so much as the destruction - not only of the organized Church - but of Christianity itself.
And, with the assistance of Wiligut and other like-minded individuals, Himmler drew up new ceremonies and a new liturgical calendar to thoroughly replace Christian versions.
And how better to capture the attention and imagination of the pious than to appropriate the Grail as a purely pagan and Aryan symbol, actually restoring to the Grail its original character and identity.
The Grail figured prominently in European folklore as a powerful occult symbol, and was also the basis for a Wagnerian opera that was just as powerful, just as compelling.
It was assumed that Wagner, an admitted anti-Semite, would not have wasted his time writing a Christian or Jewish propaganda tract.
Therefore, Wagner's own take on the Grail – 'Parsifal' - must be consistent with rest of the Aryan operatic canon that included, of course, the 'Ring Cycle'.
It was all Aryan myth and, therefore, part of a single, continuous epic story.

Rahn's thesis went a long way to establishing just that.
Based on research undertaken in the Languedoc region of southern France and especially at fabled Montsegur, site of the Cathars' last stand, Rahn believed he had acquired enough evidence to repudiate any Christian claim to the Grail.

The Grail of von Eschenbach and Richard Wagner was redeemed as the ultimate Aryan relic around which Himmler would build his pagan Temple.
The castle at Wewelsburg, with its Round Table for himself and the members of his Inner Circle, would be the heart of a new metropolis; the chamber containing the Round Table and the crypt below it would be the precise geographical center of the new city, the Aryan Camelot, and of the New World itself.
And what is King Arthur, a Round Table, and Camelot without a Grail?
Wewelsburg - Schwartze Sonne
Initially, Rahn did not seem to hold National Socialist ideas in the least. According to his friend, the French author Paul Ladame, Rahn thought the German Occultists faintly ridiculous.
But he could not turn down a lucrative offer of employment with Himmler, and so he eventually donned the black uniform of the SS.
He may not have had much of a choice in the matter, but it was a decision that nevertheless proved his downfall.
As Himmler encountered more and more difficulty in finding hard evidence to prove his Aryan thesis, he became increasingly disillusioned with Rahn and his ilk.
Finally, according to Ladame, he gave the frightened young scholar an ultimatum: he would finish his next book by October 31, 1936 - the pagan festival of Samhain - and provide it to the SS editors for approval. Or else.
This, Rahn managed to do.
Then, in 1939, at the age of thirty-five, he was dead.

'Luzifers Hofgesind'
Otto Rahn
The book that resulted from this relatively unknown SS project was entitled 'Luzifers Hofgesind' or 'Lucifer's Servants' (eine reise zu den guten geistern europas).
It reads quite differently from Rahn's first book, which was an effort to portray a kind of occult underdog group of purists who held the secret of the ages in their hands if only the rest of us would pay attention.
'Lucifer's Servants', on the other hand, is at least partly a genuine SS propaganda tract and several passages make a good case for the worship of Lucifer, if one follows Rahn's exegesis on several ancient sources including Parzival and the surviving texts of troubadors, Cathars, and even Persian mystics.
Seal of the Theosophical Society
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Indeed, this idea of Lucifer as a benign or divine being was familiar and congenial to the "white light" Theosophists of the 1920s who, after all, entitled one of their official German publications 'Luzifer'.
The following citations should adequately illustrate this claim :

'It was necessary, in effect, to be faithful to God until death, "and God will give to his servant the crown of eternal life," as it is written in the Bible. Having established that, for the Church of Rome - the sole repository of "Truth" in the eyes of its faithful - the troubadours were members of the servants of the Devil; having also established that they were faithful to the God of Love; and finally having established that they celebrated -- as numerous examples have proved -- the marvels of the crown of Lucifer, it is permitted to believe that they had faith in the existence of a Luciferian crown of eternal life (to speak Biblically). And if we follow this thought to its logical conclusion, we will say that, for them, the God of Love was none other than Lucifer in person.

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
This hypothesis will become certain if we allow our thought to range more widely: the god Amor is the god of Spring, as is Apollon.... Apollon brought back the light of the Sun: he is a light-bearer, or "Lucifer." According to the Apocalypse of John, Apollyo-Apollon was equated with the Devil, and according to the belief of the Roman Church ... Lucifer is Satan. Consequently, the god of Spring Apollon-Amor is, according to the doctrine of the Church, the Devil and Satan'

In a further section on the subject of Lucifer, he writes in the same chapter:

'There is much more Light than in the houses of God - cathedrals and churches - where Lucifer neither is able nor wishes to enter due to all the somber, stained glass windows wherein are painted the Jewish prophets and apostles, the Roman gods and saints. The forest, that, that was free !'

As the above two passages indicate, Rahn is using Biblical and Patristic writings to support his thesis that the Cathars and the troubadors were, in a sense, worshipers of Lucifer ... but only so far as they worshipped pagan gods whom the Church had demonised.
In an earlier chapter Rahn notes that Esclarmonde, a famous Cathar saint, "one of the noblest women of the Middle Ages" and heretic of the highest rank, believed that Jehovah - the Old Testament God of the Jews - was none other than Satan himself; that Christ never died on the cross and that, therefore, his suffering and death do not redeem the lives or souls of his followers.
(This idea that Christ did not die on the cross is one possible reason why Templar postulants were to trample a crucifix underfoot during their initiation ceremony into the Order, and may be the reason there were no crucifixes at Chartres.)
SS Ahnenerbe
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
"Cursed by the Pope, detested by the King of France, she thought -- until her dying breath -- of nothing other than the religious and political independence of her country."
Seth as the Demiurge

These ideas - Jehovah, the demiurge, the "god of the Jews" as the real Satan, inherent falsehoods in the Gospel account of Christ's life, and dying for the religious and political independence of the state - all had a receptive audience among the scholars of the Ahnenerbe and of the SS in general.
The Cathars had represented a pure form of Christianity that denied even large portions of the Bible, and they were a political threat to the established Church; certainly, Himmler could approve of this point of view married, as it was, to the idea of a pagan Grail and of the Cathars as "guardians of the Grail."

'The Jew is the creature
of a lesser God'.

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
And, of course, this enabled Himmler to say that 'The Jew is the creature of a lesser God'.
Further, and perhaps even more importantly, as the Old Testament Jews were worshippers of Satan.
Strip away the Jewish content of the New Testament and - relying on the Biblical "revisionist" scholarship of generations of genuine German academics who cast doubt on the validity of the Gospels themselves - you are well on your way to accepting Wiligut's thesis that Christ was Baldur, and a Teutonic Sun God!
The "Crusade against the Grail" - subject and title of Rahn's first book - was that undertaken by the Catholic Church during its vicious assault on Catharism, in which hundreds of thousands were brutally murdered.
To Rahn, the Church was the Enemy, both during the time of the Cathars in the thirteenth century and right up to the present day.

Parsifal and the Grail
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Worse, it was the enemy of all that was pure, and noble, and good in the world, ideals represented by the Grail: centerpiece of Parzival, of Wagner's operas, of the Morte d'Arthur, and the entire Camelot mystique.
The idea of the virgin knight, on a mystic quest throughout Europe for the Sacred Cup, must have appealed enormously to the young, virtually penniless scholar.
Himmler referred to his SS men as the knights of a new Order, and one must wonder if Rahn felt - in his heart of hearts - somehow at home in his elegant black uniform with the silver runes, a new Teutonic Knight on the same sacred quest for the Grail.
In his introduction to the French translation of 'Luzifers Hofgesind' ('La Cour de Lucifer'), Paul Ladame insists that Rahn joined the SS because there was no option: Himmler offered him a salary, perks, and the freedom to conduct his own academic research unhindered.
SS Emblem
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
To refuse would have seemed like madness.
Other scholarship on the question provides a somewhat different perspective.
Evidence from the SS depicts Rahn as an enthusiastic Grail scholar, an admirer of WiIigut, and an eager member of the SS.
At first glance this is consistent with Rahn's introduction to 'Lucifer's Servants', which ends with the proud and defiant claim "My ancestors were pagans. My forebears were heretics."
Yet, there is a mystery surrounding Rahn's sudden and unexplained resignation from the SS.
He resigned his commission in February 1939.
He died less than a month later, on March 13 of that same year, supposedly from exposure while hiking in the mountains.
This, from a seasoned traveler, and a trained survivalist (as all SS men were), at an altitude of less than 2,000 meters a week before spring !
As Ladame puts it, "to die of cold the 13th of March at less than 2,000 meters, one needs a lot of patience, a strong will ... and time ... perhaps one or two weeks."
Thus Ladame disputes the dating, insisting that his friend died in 1937, shortly after finishing 'Lucifer's Servants'.
 Dietrich Eckart Society
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
And, not surprisingly, Ladame implies that Rahn was killed; executed by his former colleagues for reason, or reasons, unknown.
Unfortunately, there is some documentary evidence that Otto Rahn was alive and well at least as late as January 1938, when he gave a lecture - based on 'Luzifers Hofgesind' - to the Dietrich Eckart Society at Dietrich Eckart House in Dortmund, in Westphalia ... a lecture that was reported upon in the local newspaper.
From the tone of the review, Rahn was in fine form that evening:

The Albigensians were exterminated. 205 leading followers of Lucifer were burnt on a huge pyre by Dominicans in the South of France after a large-scale priestly Crusade in the name of Christian clemency.
With fire and sword, the Lucifer doctrine of the Light-Bearer was persecuted along with its followers.
The Albigensians are dead, but their spirit lives on and has an effect today through new devotion and rejuvenated enthusiasm.
The Vicar of Christ could truly burn men; but he was mistaken if he believed that he burned along with them their spirit, devotion and longing.
This spirit became alive again before many men yesterday, powerfully and visibly, in Otto Rahn, a descendant of the old Troubadours.
Could someone as intelligent as Rahn's published writings indicate he was, a scholar for whom medieval legend and lore came alive only through careful research and study, have willingly taken up with a character like Wiligut, who claimed that the Teutonic tribes had a verifiable history going back to the year 228,000 B.C.... when the Earth had three suns ?
Interestingly, both Wiligut and Rahn retired from the SS at the same time - in the same month - is suggestive of some collusion between the two scholars: the one elderly, the other young.
Rahn's exploits and the mystery surrounding his resignation and subsequent death have received a great deal of attention in European circles over the years.
His unusual life story has led to considerable speculation that Rahn actually did discover something in his travels, and that since he seemed to confide in Wiligut they both had to be got out of the way to protect the secret.
That, in fact, they "knew too much."

Otto Rahn und Familie
Wiligut was kept under SS lock and key for some time until the end of the war, and died in 1946; he was eighty years old.
Rahn, on the other hand, was a bit more of a liability and - so the theory goes - he had to be killed.
There is an intriguing note in the definitive study of Wewelsburg by Prof. Dr. Karl Huser  to the effect that Rahn was dismissed from the SS because of his homosexuality.

Himmler exhibited, for public consumption, a rabid dislike of homosexuals.
One final possibility - though there is no evidence to support it - is that Rahn himself was the first of the SS men to take refuge in that sad Cathar rite, allowed only to the privileged few, the Perfect; that, in the mountain snows above Kufstein, and on the anniversary of the destruction of Montsegur, the miserable scholar exchanged the secret of the long-sought-after Grail for that other treasure of the Cathars: the consolation of a noble death.


If the Cathars and troubadors - heirs of a Gnostic tradition in Europe, possibly brought over from the Middle East from whence the Templars had brought their own mysterious rites - were crypto-pagans as Rahn believed, and if the set piece of their mythology was the Holy Grail, then it follows that the Grail is not a Christian symbol at all but a purely pagan one.

Der Gral - eine Pagan Ikon
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
And if the Grail is a pagan ikon, then the German Occultists - overt pagans as they were - saw in the Grail a sacred instrument of divine power that they could use for their own ends.
As the inheritors of the pagan traditions in Europe (at least in their own eyes) the Grail belonged to them.
Wappen des Deutschen Ordens
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

After all, were they not the spiritual descendants of the Teutonic Knights, a chivalric Order that pressed Germany on in a Drive to the East centuries before Hider's invasion of Russia ?
Were they not the people of the Runes ? The people of the Pure Blood ?

Die Kreuzritter - Teutonic Knights
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (Official names: Latin: Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum, German: Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus St. Mariens in Jerusalem), commonly the Teutonic Order (Today: German Order = Deutscher Orden, also Deutschherrenorden or Deutschritterorden), is a German medieval military order. It was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals. Its members have commonly been known as the Teutonic Knights, since they also served as a crusading military order in the Middle Ages. The military membership was always small, with volunteers and mercenaries augmenting the force as needed. 

Messrs. Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln might have been more correct than they realized when they entitled their famous book 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail'.

Supposed Arms of the
Prieuré de Sion
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
For them, the Grail was in reality the bloodline of Jesus Christ, preserved down through the millennia and safeguarded by yet another secret society, the Prieuré de Sion (Priory of Zion), which the authors link to an underground tradition of Freemasonry and Templarism spanning the centuries and which finds its modern manifestation in the Knights of Malta, Italy's P-2, and other such groups.

The Prieuré de Sion, translated from French as Priory of Sion, is a name given to multiple groups, both real and fictitious. The most controversial is a fringe fraternal organisation, founded and dissolved in France in 1956 by Pierre Plantard. In the 1960s, Plantard created a fictitious history for that organisation, describing it as a secret society founded by Godfrey of Bouillon on Mount Zion in the Kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099, conflating it with a genuine historical monastic order, the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion. In Plantard's version, the priory is devoted to installing a secret bloodline of the Merovingian dynasty on the thrones of France and the rest of Europe. This myth was expanded upon and popularised by the 1982 pseudo-historical book 'The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail'.

'Le Morte d'Arthur' - Holy Grail
The Damsel of the Sanct Grail
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Part of the problem lies in the term "holy grail," and in the word "grail" itself. Messrs. Baigent et. al. consider that the term 'sangreal' as found in 'Le Morte d'Arthur' and other Grail Romances is really composed of two words: sang and real, that is, blood and royal. (Note: the term sangreal is usually interpreted to mean san greal, "holy grail.")
It is an attractive theory, and to an extent linguistically satisfying, since no two authorities can agree on where the term "grail" comes from and what it means.
Speer des
By denying that such a word really has any meaning at all - that it is merely the result of misunderstanding the syllable break in sangreal - we have neatly solved the problem of the Holy Grail by revealing its true nature as 'Royal Blood'.
After all, the Grail makes its appearance to Parzival alongside a lance that is dripping blood onto the floor (der Speer des Schicksals ?).
This scene is presented wordlessly, without comment, as if in a dream.
Was the intention of the author to communicate the fact that sangreal really does indicate "royal blood" ?
This would have pleased the German Occultists enormously if the story had been current at the time, for they were nothing if not Blood enthusiasts after the Foucault model and - if they could have somehow linked the concept of "royal blood" with a Teutonic Christ and the Aryan race - they would have had the basis for a new religious synthesis that could have brought together all acceptable Christians and pure-blooded Aryans.

Pagan Grail
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
By claiming the Grail as their own the National Socialists rob Christianity of a huge chunk of its popular mythology.
The chalice a Catholic priest raises during the Mass becomes a pagan cup; the mystery of the Blood of Christ becomes a pagan sacrifice - a pagan Grail.
Appropriation of the Grail symbolism then becomes an assault on Christian faith itself; at least, on the popular faith of the lumpen-proletariat of Europe, from the Pyrenees to the Alps to the Caucasus.
That the Grail was originally a pagan symbol is today virtually beyond debate; that it was appropriated by romantic elements within the Christian world (as was much pagan iconography) is certain.
However, had Himmler succeeded in producing an actual "Grail" during the war, the effect on the Christian populations of Europe might have been traumatic.
Depending on the spin, it would have signalled either the divine mission of the Third Reich as true inheritors of the ultimate representation of occult power.
As it is, history records no such discovery of the Grail by the SS, or by anyone else.
Birks and Gilbert claim that there is no evidence that the SS hierarchs had any interest at all in the Cathars or in Montsegur.
Yet, Himmler had enlisted the talents of a young Grail scholar in a search for the perfect centrepiece for his secret cult headquarters at Wewelsburg, and put his favourite pre-historian, SS-Brigadier Karl Wiligut, in charge of the project.
Whether Cathar or Templar, finding the Holy Grail was certainly a dream of Himmler's; his Wewelsburg center was beyond any doubt a reverent shrine to the legend of the Round Table.
If he eventually gave up on the search, one imagines he did so only with the greatest reluctance.

Adolf Hitler - Knight of the Grail
Hubert Lanzinger
restored - ©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
For Hitler, however, it didn't matter.
He knew that the Grail was the central symbol, along with the Spear (der Speer des Schicksals) in Wagner's Parsifal.
And he knew that the Grail was the symbol of the purity of the Aryan race that was necessary to create the 'Übermensch' - an act of creation, the divine operation, the goal of a biological mutation which would result in an unprecedented exaltation of the human race, and the appearance of a new race of heroes, demi-gods and god-men' - for the Grail Cup - the Holy Grail -  symbolises the purity and perfection of the 'Aryan womb',and the Spear of Destiny symbolises the Aryan phallus.
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
The bringing together of these two elements represents the sexually creative union, which is essential to the creation of the 'pure, noble blood', which was in turn necessary for the creation of the Übermensch.
The creation of the Übermensch would allow Hitler to achieve that 'unprecedented exaltation of the human race'.
Perhaps Hitler's most perceptive and significant, yet little known statement was that the purpose of human evolution was 'to achieve a mystic vision of the Universe'.
And Hitler knew that this vision - this union with the ultimate - could only be achieved by the race of 'demi-gods and god-men' - and it was this that motivated all the concern about the purity of the Aryan race that formed and essential part of Völkisch philosophy - because only the Aryan 'god-man' could achieve the ultimate purpose of creation.

'Aus Parsifal Ich habe meine Religion gebaut.'
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

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