Völkisch Magic

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
'There is no religion without magic any more than there is magic without at least a trace of religion.
The notion of a supernature exists only for a humanity which attributes supernatural powers to itself and in return ascribes the powers of its superhumanity to nature.'

Claude Levi Strauss

Return of the Teutons

Guido von List
1902, the Austrian novelist, poet, folk-historian, and philosopher Guido von List underwent cataract surgery.
He was blind for almost a year.
Like Hitler over fifteen years later - himself blinded by mustard gas during World War I - it was during this period of darkness that he received his greatest illumination.
It was an experience that would transform his life, and that would later have an indirect effect on Hitler.
Guido von List (1848-1919) had begun his career as a nature worshiper and lover of ancient German folk myths and culture, a man who believed in the reunification of his native Austria with Germany, and who came to despise both Jews and Christians as alien forces in Europe who had robbed Germans of their spiritual and territorial birthrights.

He wrote a series of romantic novels about the ancient Teutons, and dreamed of re-establishing the ancient priesthood of Wotan, an organization he called the Armanenschaft either after the Teutonic warrior Arminius who defeated the Roman Legions under Varus at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest (A.D. 9), or after a qabalist bowdlerization of the name of one of the three Teutonic tribes mentioned by Tacitus in Germania, the Hermiones.

Madame Blavatsky

In 1875, the same year that Blavatsky founded her Theosophical Society in New York, List was invoking Baldur, the Teutonic Sun God, on a hilltop outside Vienna.

In Baldur's honor, he buried eight wine bottles there in the shape of a swastika and pledged himself to the worship of the Old Ones, Baldur and Wotan being prominent among them.

At this time, the Armanenschaft - the priesthood of the sun - was but a gleam in his Aryan eye.
He took up journalism when his family's fortunes went awry, and began daydreaming in print about the prehistoric Teutons, a hypothetically pure race free of the taint of spiritually retarded blood, however, during his convalescence after cataract surgery at the age of fifty-four - dwelling in a temporary but nonetheless unnerving state of blindness - he understood that his main preoccupations of politics and race were but two halves of a single coin.

Always interested in the past more than the present, List had developed an intense fascination with the signs and symbols of heraldry as well as those of the proto-Aryan language he believed could be found in runes and ancient inscriptions.
He was not alone in these ruminations.

MacGregor  Mathers
Like his contemporary, S. L. "MacGregor" Mathers (1854-1918) (see right) of the British secret society, the Golden Dawn, he had a desperate desire to represent himself as of noble blood (in Mathers's case, he saw himself as an heir to the old Scottish noble houses).

Lanz von Liebenfels,
List was joined in this obsession by his young colleague, Lanz von Liebenfels, who, like List, adopted the aristocratic "von" even though there was little evidence in either case that it was deserved.
And all three of these men - List, Liebenfels, and Mathers - were set upon developing (or "rediscovering") a complete, internally consistent, quasi-quabalistic system of interpreting the world, - each in his own way.
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
For Mathers, the story of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn requires a whole separate study and as this has already been done by several scholars, it will not be repeated here except as it bears upon our story.
However, List and Liebenfels soon became synonymous with the Pan-Germanic Völkisch movement that eventually gave birth to the National Socialist Party: they wanted to resurrect the genuine Teutonic orders of knighthood and priesthood, a mission that included many occult and pagan teachings; at the same time, Mathers - who had military as well as aristocratic pretensions - was desirous of restoring the House of Stuart and once claimed to have rejected "politico-military" work solely on the grounds that it would have meant severing his connections with the Golden Dawn.
In fact, much of his correspondence during the late 1890s from Paris is concerned with just such matters.
(His first published book was entitled 'Practical Campaigning Instruction in Infantry Exercise', a translation from a French original.)

Max Dauthendey
Curiously, one of his close friends in Paris was the German author Max Dauthendey (1857-1918) who wrote occult novels, among them the provocatively entitled 'Die Frau von Thule' (The Woman of Thule) (1898).

The author has been unable to find any more concrete link between Mathers and his German counterparts, however, although the occult underground is always a "small world" and it would be highly likely that Mathers was at least aware of List and Liebenfels (possibly through some mutual Theosophical or Masonic link, via Hartmann for example).
As we shall see, List adopted the Golden Dawn system of hierarchical and initiatory degrees so it is likely that he at least knew of Mathers even if Mathers did not know of List.

 'Das Geheimnis der Runen' 
By the spring of 1903, List's thesis, 'Das Geheimnis der Runen' ('The Secrfet of the Runes') (see right), on the common origins of an Aryan language, runes, heraldic emblems, epigraphic and other inscriptions as evidence of a secret store of knowledge concerning the creation of the world has been written.
Vaguely theosophical in nature - List had been quite familiar with the works of Mme. Blavatsky - his magnum opus also expounded on the occult significance of the swastika.


Nordic Swastika
List had been fascinated with the swastika since his early youth, recognizing it as the Ur-symbol of the Teutonic (Aryan) peoples.
He first pointed this out in a series of articles published about 1905-1908,  and thereafter this symbol began to take on more than just a cosmological or theosophical significance, and would soon come to represent an entire body of ideas - both occult and political - that would eventually culminate in the formation of the Thule Gesellschaft nearly two decades later.
Called the hakenkreuz (hooked cross) in German, the swastika is an ancient design, much revered in India and the Far East.
The very word swastika is Sanskrit, formed of the words su and asti meaning "it is well" or "it is fortunate."
The arms seem to spin around a central axis and, depending on the direction of the spin - clockwise or counterclockwise (deosil or widdershins) - the swastika in question is either male or female, yang or yin, positive or negative.
In many Hindu and Buddhist paintings and Tibetan tangkas -- as well as in temple architecture in China, Tibet, and India -- the swastika appears in both forms as if to emphasize the necessity of the polarization of both forces. It has been asserted by some authors that a counterclockwise-turning swastika (the type eventually adopted as the symbol of the National Socialist Party) is somehow a representation of Evil, but this would be unknown to the Eastern peoples who probably gave the world the swastika in the first place.

 Mme. Blavatsky
Rudyard Kipling - Swastika
Thus the swastika was not an invention of the National Socialists, nor was its association with occultism solely a figment of Mme. Blavatsky's imagination .
As early as 1869 the British astrologer "Zadkiel" (Richard James Morrison, 1795-1874) had already announced the formation of something called the Ancient Order of the Suastika; the swastika symbol was also a common decoration for the covers of books by Rudyard Kipling.

Bishop Hagen Swastika
Benedictine Monastery at Lambach
In 1897 the young Adolf Hitler, attending school at the Benedictine Monastery at Lambach, would pass every day beneath an archway which bears the monastery's coat of arms  cast in stone – and its most prominent feature is the swastika.

While an educated perspective on the swastika reveals the symbol as an ancient Eastern symbol of good fortune, words themselves have their own intrinsic power.
Thus, when a German calls the swastika by the term hakenkreuz he is calling it a "hooked cross."
To a German of the twentieth century (as for a German of the thirteenth century) the word cross has decidedly Christian overtones; a hooked cross therefore can impliy some deviation from, or modified form of, Christianity.

In this way, the link between the inherently amoral swastika and questionable religious beliefs is made by way of the emotionally loaded term "hooked cross."
When the various Völkisch and German cultural societies began adopting the hakenkreuz as their emblem, then, they were just as conscious of its anti-Christian potential as they were of their own anti-Semitic intent.
This was not paganism as a pure cult (such as the modern Wicca phenomenon) but paganism as a movement set up in opposition to Judeo-Christianity as well as to Communism, Capitalism, and Democracy, which could  all be seen as creatures of the 'Jewish-Masonic' conspiracy.
In the Listian mode, therefore, the swastika as hakenkreuz identifies the Völkisch movement as an ideological enemy not only of the prevailing political forces of the time, but also of the majority religions of Western Europe.
Whereas Communism set itself up in opposition to all religion, Völkisch occultism supported a pagan revival to replace the existing religions.
Political systems come and go as they are useful or not; religions (in part because their immediate utility is not easily proven or disproved) can survive for centuries after their creation.
After all, even Christianity itself survived hundreds of years of an underground existence before coming into its own.


Guido von List
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Although the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna did not take List's occult researches seriously, and rejected his thesis (as the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna would later reject Hitler's applications), many other groups and individuals took him very seriously, indeed.
A List Society was formed in 1907 to finance his work, and the roster of members and founders of this Society reads like an occultic 'Who's Who' of early twentieth-century Austria and Germany.
Clearly, the idea that there existed a "scientific" rationale for both racism and nationalism was very attractive to a certain element among the occultists of the day, for science - the new religion - could thus be relied upon to provide moral support for a position that would otherwise seem either absurd or repugnant.

Samuel MacGregor Mathers
The same motivation that prompted List, Liebenfels, and even Mathers to "prove" they had aristocratic blood also served to define the efforts of the Völkisch supporters to prove that German blood in general was superior to that of the other races.
And, in order to obtain an even greater degree of respectability, it was necessary to go deeply into the past in order to "discover" an aristocratic ancestor.
For List personally, it was his great-grandfather who, he claimed, had been of gentle, if not noble, birth.
For the Völkisch movement in general, it was the mysterious race of Teutons from the mists of ancient European history who gave the German people - the  Völk - their pedigree and excluded all other races.
It is difficult to give a perfect translation of the term Völkisch.
To an English ear, the term sounds suspiciously like "folkish" and, in a way, that is true, if we do not make the otherwise inevitable associations with "folk music," for instance, that somehow devalue the term "folk".
For Völkisch means not only "folkish" but also "national" or "popular" in the sense of "the People," similar to the Spanish concept of "La Raza," especially in the context of the Völkisch movement in Germany.
This movement was nationalist in the extreme, for it extolled a perceived common heritage that was believed to go back over many millennia and which included everything from art to science, from medicine to communal living, from religion to magic.

'Lebensreform' Nudism
The German Völkisch movement had all of these, and it was also inextricably linked to the 'Lebensreform' (or "life reform") movement which sought to purify the German people by a whole program of "clean living" practices.

Lebensreform ("life reform") was a social movement in late 19th-century and early 20th-century Germany and Switzerland that propagated a back-to-nature lifestyle, emphasizing among others health food/raw food/organic food, nudism, sexual liberation, alternative medicine, and religious reform and at the same time abstention from alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and vaccines.
Important Lebensreform proponents were Sebastian Kneipp, Louis Kuhne, Rudolf Steiner, Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, Fidus (Hugo Höppener), Gusto Graeser, and Adolf Just. 

(With the possible exception of nudism - although he was seriously attracted to paintings of nudes - Hitler incorporated all of these tenets into his own belief system.
As is generally known, he was a vegetarian who did not smoke or drink; and he identified himself as the physical and spiritual incarnation of the Völk itself.
As the virtually untranslatable Third Reich slogan would tell us:
'Ein Völk, Ein Reich, Ein Führer'.
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
According to List, the German people - the Völk - could trace their spiritual ancestry by careful reading of the 'Edda', that compilation of Old Norse lore and legend from Iceland which became particularly sacred to Hitler.
This belief was so pervasive that the SS Ahnenerbe would later devote a whole category of its research to Icelandic studies in concert with its runic investigations, evidence of which can be found among the captured Nazi documents microfilmed in the National Archives.

Otto Rahn
The enigmatic Grail scholar and SS officer Otto Rahn (see left) would even make a special pilgrimage to Iceland in search of the legendary Thule.
The ancestral links to the past through Guido von List were thus kept intact until well after List's death in Berlin in 1919.

The style and nature of List's writings would be familiar to anyone who had read Blavatsky's 'Die Geheimlehre' (The Secret Doctrine) back-to-back with de Santillana's 'Hamlet's Mill'.
In fact, the latter could be said to represent Listian neo-Aryan philosophy taken to its logical conclusion: that the Edda, the runic poems and spells, the tree Yggdrasil and all the Norse myths do represent a secret, sacred knowledge about the origins - not only of the Teutons or mythic Aryans - but of the entire human race, as these motifs are present everywhere and in many cultures from Africa to the Middle East to the Far East to the Western Hemisphere; except that, for Professor de Santillana, that origin lies not in a sunken Hyperborean continent but in the stars.


The ancient homeland of the Aryan race was believed to be the legendary Thule: the northernmost point on earth, an entryway into a subterranean landscape peopled by giants.

white-skinned, blue-eyed,
blond-haired race 
A kind of Teutonic Eden, Thule was the mythic origin of all "Aryans": an equally mythic white-skinned, blue-eyed, blond-haired race who were once the masters of the Earth, but who lost their birthright due to sexual liaisons with the irresistibly seductive members of inferior, subhuman, half-animal races.
The movement to isolate the German-speaking populations of Europe from all other "races" and to unite them into one cohesive national unit - the Pan-German movement - had begun much earlier, and there were many anti-Semitic political parties and discussion groups abroad in the land in the 1880s, a full fifty years before Hitler came to power.
Aryan Skull
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Some groups formed around academic types who claimed to have proved their racial theories based on linguistic research - such as List - and others on physical characteristics such as skull size or eye colour (factors which would later figure so prominently in the membership requirements for the Germanenorden, later in SS racial identification programs).

Aryans fighting the dark-skinned Semitics
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Magazines, pamphlets, and books were written and widely disseminated on the subject of the heroic, blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan peoples fighting the dark-skinned Semitic, Mediterranean, and African hordes.

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
At one point the Aryan homeland, Thule, was actually believed to be in Iceland, for Iceland is also the repository of the most ancient Teutonic legends extant: the Edda (see left).
Nazi apologists and racial theorists pored over the Edda endlessly, looking for clues as to their own origins, the appropriate pagan rituals to perform to appease and summon the gods, and for justification for their political and racial theories.
Prehistoric Nordic sites all over Scandinavia and Europe were investigated, and no stone was left un-turned.
There are pages and pages of documents and photographs of megaliths, dolmens, and standing stones from all over Europe, and their interpretation by Nazi academics, in the files of captured German documents in the archives of Germany and America.

A Pagan Eden
Thule was a siren song to these early German occultists.
It was a pagan Eden; not a Semitic, Judeo-Christian paradise in the sweltering deserts or marshes of Iraq, but a cool Nordic landscape of virgin snows and evergreen trees in the far north.
A place not of warm sensuality and Mediterranean seductiveness, but of a cold, uncompromising purity.
Similar to today's romantic notion that the human race somehow originated in the stars - that the stars are our "home" - Thule was "home" to the Pan-Germanists and Völkisch occultists ... and just as inaccessible.
Further, just as today's romantics believe in our extraterrestrial origins and in continuing contact with beings from other planets - our forebears ? - the Völkisch romantics of List's day believed in continuing contact with the 'Supermen'.
'Golden Dawn'
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
It was a theme that vibrated subliminally throughout a lot of anti-Semitic literature, and in more open form among their British counterparts in the 'Golden Dawn', who posited a race of superhuman beings who, they said, live secretly among us, and in the Theosophical Society, which held that 'Hidden Masters' were guiding the world's destiny.
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Among the Völkisch cults it was believed that - as soon as the Aryans had purified the planet of the pollution of the inferior races – these 'Übermensch' from Thule, would make themselves known, and the link which had been lost between Man and God would be forged anew.
This is not quite as strange as it seems at first glance, since a constant theme in much Jewish and Christian eschatology is that of the coming of a Messiah who will purify the world and destroy the "not-chosen."

New Jerusalem

This Messiah always seems to be a rather militaristic being, whether the armed Deliverer of the Zealots, and other pious Jews who await the New Jerusalem, or the Messiah of the Book of Revelation - the Apocalypse - who will lay waste with fire and sword in a global, if not galactic, conflagration.
The German version is not so far afield from these cherished beliefs of the Judeo-Christian, but is based on racial qualifications rather than on individual moral or spiritual worthiness.

The Hidden Imam
The tradition of Hidden Masters is not restricted to occult Aryanism, of course.
Some Muslims believe in the "Hidden Imam," an Ismaili concept similar to the "Secret Chief" idea of the 'Golden Dawn'.
The Strict Observance Masonic society of eighteenth-century Germany also claimed a tradition of Secret Masters, and there is the tradition of the Nine Unknown Men of India, secret Masters of the world's various sciences who invisibly guide the fortunes of the human race.
That Himmler believed in this idea is revealed by his masseur, Felix Kersten (see right), who - in his memoirs - quotes the Reichsfuhrer-SS on just this point with regard to the Freemasons.
And then, of course, we find ourselves back on familiar ground with the ancient legend of Agartha - the subterranean kingdom of an alien race buried deep within the Himalayas or somewhere in the far North (at any rate, in the appropriately Nordic frozen wastes), another Aryan "Thule."

'The Time Machine' - Eloi
'The Coming Race'
Years before H. G. Wells described a similar race of beings in his novel
'The Time Machine' (see left), and the English author and Rosicrucian Bulwer-Lytton (1802-73) was writing of a master race in his celebrated novel, 'The Coming Race'.
All of this is mentioned only to show that these concepts of secret master race and subterranean kingdoms are not peculiar to  German or even Nordic legend and myth, and certainly not to  Völkisch ideology, but form part of a global tradition that may have some basis in reality a basis that is now dimmed by the passage of too many millennia to place it clearly and authoritatively into a modern perspective.
The Völkisch theorists were merely drawing on a bank of myth and tradition familiar the world over, and sculpting from selected pieces a cosmological world-view that placed the German-speaking peoples at the top of a pyramid of power.


Templar Cross
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Guido von List 

The theories of Guido von List were developed further by his young follower, Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels (1874-1954), who created the Order of the New Templars as a secret society bent on reviving the chivalric brotherhood of knights, but in an aggressively Teutonic - and anti-Semitic – format.
While List's sympathies were clearly already pagan and anti-Christian, von Liebenfels sought to restore a non-Christian, Teutonic Grail Order to its rightful place in the world.

Lanz von Liebenfels
He used those of List's racial and linguistic theories he found most appealing; but it should be remembered that von Liebenfels was a Cistercian monk who abandoned his vows but who never, in his heart, abandoned the Church ... at least, not his idealized, medieval version of it.
While von Liebenfels had no sympathy for the Catholic Church as such - he had unbounded admiration for its pomp and ceremony, its elaborate ritual.
He managed to combine this fascination with stately ceremony with a peculiar understanding of the Templar Order (see left).

The Templar Grail
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
To von Liebenfels, the Templars were an Aryan brotherhood dedicated to the establishment of a greater Germany and to the purification of the race.
The Grail, in his estimation, was symbolic of the pure German blood.
Even modern historians of the Grail legends disagree on the meaning of the term "Grail."
To a linguist, the phrase Sangraal or Saint Graal ("Holy Grail") may simply be a pun on Sang Real or "Royal Blood."
Indeed, the British research team of Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln offer just such a theory in their book 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail'; except that for these gentlemen the Holy Blood is not that of an Aryan super race, but the very blood of Christ himself, preserved in a dynastic lineage kept secret for two thousand years and protected by a secret society with the unfortunate name of Priory of Zion, a title which, combined with mysterious purpose, has perhaps too many resonances to those 'Elders' and their famous 'Protocols'.
This hearkening back to a glorious German past was what united List and Liebenfels, although in many other ways their paths diverged.
It was von Liebenfels's notorious magazine, 'Ostara' (named after the Teutonic Goddess of the Spring) (, that so attracted Hitler in the latter's early days as an impoverished artist in Vienna, and we now know that Hitler - so inspired by the occult, racial theories he found in Ostara - actually paid an unannounced visit to the editor's offices and came face-to-face with Liebenfels himself.

This information comes from an interview with von Liebenfels after the war, when he was struggling with the de-nazification process and would have had no ulterior motive in describing this meeting since the revelation of a personal relationship with Hitler could conceivably only hurt him.
Who was Lanz von Liebenfels, and how did he manage such an emotional impact on young Hitler ?

Templar Knights
Von Liebenfels ideology was complex.
His 'Order of the New Templars' was an occult lodge that met at a ruined castle high on a cliff over the Danube - the eerie 'Burg Werfenstein' in Upper Austria, a few miles upriver from Hitler's childhood home - among other sites.
The members wore white, surplice-style robes emblazoned with the red cross of the Templars, a cross that von Liebenfels believed was formed of two, superimposed and counter-rotating, swastikas.

Ordo Tempii Orientis
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
At the same time, another such lodge was operating in Germany: the Ordo Tempii Orientis (Order of the Eastern Temple), which had nothing to do with Liebenfels's ONT but everything to do with Aleister Crowley as we shall see  later.

Von Liebenfels
Von Liebenfels - in Ostara and in other publications, such as his  'Theozoologie oder die Kunde von den Sodoms-Aefflingen und dem Gotter-Elektron' (1905), (Theozoology - or the Science of the Sodom-Apelings and the Electron of the Gods) - prescribed sterilization and castration for inferior races and, of course, denounced miscegenation owing to its pollution of the pure-blooded German Völk.
But von Liebenfels did not stop at sweeping political indictments.
He included occult biology in his repertoire, with a concentration on the pineal and pituitary glands.

Blavatsky - Third Eye
Aryan Third Eye
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

He believed - as did Blavatsky and as do many current mystics and theosophists - that a space between these glands in the hypothalamus of the brain was formerly a supercharged area that gave Aryans the twin powers of telepathy and omniscience: the third Eye; but that - because of the pollution of Aryan blood with that of members of the inferior races - these two glands had so atrophied that the Aryan people had lost their psychic abilities.

 Knights Templar to Holy Grail
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
According to von Liebenfels, however, the solution to the problem of the incipient physical and spiritual degeneration of the Aryan race was not hatha yoga or Transcendental Meditation, but the creation of a new priesthood of the Holy Grail; a new Knights Templar of the German Blood (for that was, according to von Liebenfels, what the Grail represented).
As for the inferior races? They were to be destroyed.

Aryan Male
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
All of these proposals - from Knights Templar to Holy Grail - were to be accepted, incorporated, and expanded upon by Adolf Hitler personally, and by the Third Reich as official policy.

It was also von Liebenfels who proposed that the finest specimens of Aryan males should mate indiscriminately with the finest specimens of Aryan females in order to create the super race.

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
This would, of course, be a cause taken up by Himmler's Lebensborn (see right) organization to which every SS officer was expected to belong.
Lanz von Liebenfels and his mentor Guido von List can be viewed as archetypal Social Darwinists and the Third Reich as Social Darwinism carried to its logical conclusion.
Similar to the rationale behind the race eugenics programs in the United States (which also influenced American immigration policies), it was an ideology of the survival of the fittest.
To support this program, they enlisted the aid of history, of romance, of legend, and of the occult significance of alphabets, geometry, ancient architecture, ritual magic ... and the Knights Templar.
During the early twentieth century in Europe, the romance and lure of the Knights Templar myth was strong.

Order of the Knights of the Temple
©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Execution of
Grandmaster Jacques de Molay
The original Order of the Knights of the Temple had been destroyed by an agreement between the king of France (Phillipe le Bel) and Pope Clement V in the fourteenth century.
Their leader at the time, Grandmaster Jacques de Molay, was burned at the stake in A.D. 1314 and the Order's assets seized all over Europe (primarily in France).
One reason for all this bloodshed and chaos was the fact that the Order had become notoriously wealthy by loaning money to the king ... so much money that the king now had no hope of repaying it.
The official reasons given by Church and State for the suppression of the Templars were much different, however, and it is the mystery of this Order that has given rise to so many myths and legends, and which has contributed to the creation of several occult societies in the twentieth century.
The works of Louis Charpentier in France and Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in Great Britain may be consulted for a more detailed discussion of Templar literature, but for now all we need to know is that the Templars were believed to be the heirs of a mystical tradition of which Lanz von Liebenfels considered himself the modern incarnation.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux
Created by the mystical philosopher St. Bernard of Clairvaux (see left) - and therefore corresponding to von Liebenfels's own Cistercian background - the Templars were originally nine Knights who abandoned all they owned and ventured off to the Holy Land to "protect pilgrims" who were on their way to the various Catholic shrines.

Jewish Temple
How nine recently impoverished men were expected to accomplish this mission - especially while there were already large, fully funded knightly organizations in Palestine doing just that - was never explained, however, about the year A.D. 1118 they found themselves bivouacked at the site of King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem and spent their days there in relative obscurity - nine knights in charge of the entire Temple site - until their return to France ten years later, no pilgrims having been especially protected.
The legend states that these nine men returned with something important. Something discovered in the ruins of the Temple.
Whatever it was, it made the Templars unbelievably rich and powerful virtually overnight.
Chartres Cathedral
They began building cathedrals all over France and - according to the legend - not a single Templar-built cathedral (and this includes the famous Chartres Cathedral) contained a crucifix anywhere as part of its original design.
It should be pointed out to any non-Catholics that a crucifix is, strictly speaking, a representation of Christ crucified on a cross.
The Templar buildings did contain crosses; they simply omitted depicting the crucified body of Christ on them.
This was seen as evidence that the Templars did not believe in the crucifixion and by extension did not believe in the resurrection of Christ after death; that, in fact, the Templars had somehow ceased being Christians entirely and become heretics, or worse.
What did the Templars find in Jerusalem that exerted such a profound if pernicious effect ?

Ark of the Covenant
Some say the Templars had located the Holy Grail itself.
Others, that the Templars had found the Ark of the Covenant (see right) with its famous contents: the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were inscribed, and the magical Rod of Aaron.
Whatever it was, it revealed a secret so shattering that a thousand years of Christian teachings lay helpless in the face of it.
And whatever it was, it could not protect the Templars indefinitely.
The Crusades proved to be a catastrophic series of campaigns for Church and State and eventually the Holy Land was lost to the Muslims.
At home, the Church was worried about the wealth and influence of the Templars and suspicious about their one time cosy relationship with the Saracens: Muslim warriors with whom the Templars might have exchanged initiations.

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Then there were the rumors that the Templar initiation itself included a ceremony in which the postulant would trample upon a cross; or in which obeisance was paid to an idol called Baphomet (a suspiciously Arabic-sounding name with more recent links to Crowley).

Ernst Röhm
There were even rumours that homosexuality was being practised on a wide scale among the knights - a charge that would later be brought in the twentieth century against Ernst Röhm (see right) and many other SA men as an excuse for their destruction.
These rumours were used as evidence in an Inquisition against the Templars; the Order was destroyed; and whatever members managed to escape the bonfires of the Church wound up in Germany, Portugal, and, it is theorized, in Scotland.

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Oddly enough, during the eighteenth century the Templar legend enjoyed a kind of revival during the development of speculative Freemasonry (see left).
Templar degrees were added, and a tradition grew up around them that the Freemasons had been somehow Templars in disguise, heirs to the same mystical tradition surrounding the Temple of Solomon (see right).
This is odd because the Third Reich would later persecute Freemasonry and arrest many of its members even though the NSDAP itself was heir to the Order of the New Templars created by its early theoretician and Hitler mentor, Lanz von Liebenfels, and in fact borrowed its swastika emblem.
As we shall see, Liebenfels himself and other Templar organizations were also persecuted, notable among them the Ordo Templi Orientis or OTO of Theodor Reuss, Karl Germer, Franz Hartmann, and Aleister Crowley.

©  Copyright Peter Crawford 2013