Rosaleen’s portrait of Jupiter, meanwhile, shows a proud potentate with a resplendent beam of light issuing from his forehead and a dark, majestic beard lapping down onto his chest. His legs and tail are leonine, and he carries in his right hand a mace, symbolizing spiritual authority.
In both of these pictures, Rosaleen Norton depicts her deities as an animal- human fusion. For her, animals embodied a dignity which mankind had lost. She was especially fond of cats because of their “psychic qualities,” and the lion, for her, was a supremely appropriate symbol of benevolent authority. Rosaleen felt that, in general, animals had managed to retain their integrity much more effectively than most human beings. Towards the end of her life, she felt an increasing empathy with the animal kingdom, taking great pleasure in her pets, and she began to shun human contact altogether. A believer in reincarnation, she also recalled an earlier “lifetime” that throws light on her close bond with animals…
In this existence she lived in a rickety wooden house in a field of yellow grass near Beachy Head in Sussex. There were various animals—cows, horses and so on—and she was a poltergeist. She remembered understanding the techniques by which poltergeists made objects move. When “real” people came near her house they were offended or frightened by her presence—they could not relate to her poltergeist condition—and she in turn found herself attacking them out of contempt. The animals, however, were no trouble at all. They regarded her as just another cohabitant in their shared universe, as part of the “natural order.”
Rosaleen felt that, in general, animals had managed to retain their integrity much more effectively than most human beings.
Rosaleen’s love of animals and her antipathy towards much of what the human race had come to represent, had a profound influence on her magical conceptions. And yet she acknowledged dueling elements in the animal kingdom as well, for these reflected the important opposing polarities within
the cosmos itself. Her preference for animals was not simply a retreat into the world of the non-human. On the contrary, she believed the animal kingdom encompassed a broad range of activities, functions and potentials from which humanity had much to learn.
This recognition of opposing polarities shows itself well in one of her most impressive pictures, Esoteric Study. Here an angry demon leers across from the realm of chaos, counterbalanced by a diamond-image of white radiance on the other side. A pair of scales rises up from the cosmic egg—a universal symbol of life and new birth—and the superimposition of the artist’s face upon the scales suggests that she is the vehicle through which these tides of magical energy must flow. Gavin Greenlees’ accompanying poem begins:
“Out of herself, the Earth created by her own Guardian faces
And using the rule they gave her, out of herself She made creatures to serve her—animals, poems, Forgotten beings, men, women… Out of herself
She made the grandeur aid its faith, healthy or faded…”3
Another of Rosaleen Norton’s key works is Individuation, a reference to
Jung’s concept of spiritual and psychic wholeness. The androgynous figure depicted is a fusion of animal, human and divine and stands astride the Zodiac, seemingly drawn down into an accumulation of manifested forms, yet at the same time able to rise transcendent above them. Accompanying the image are these words:
“I speak the birth
I speak the beginning of presence
I am inauguration, I am a greeting between friends…”4
Individuation is an important drawing because it embodies the different elements of the magical quest. And while Rosaleen’s drawings and paintings so often seem to point to the “night” side of consciousness, works like this show that she really understood that magical exploration was an encounter with the forces of both darkness and light. One without the other would lead to a state of psychic and spiritual imbalance.
It is fair to say that Rosaleen Norton was frequently misunderstood during her own lifetime.
Many remember her more for her exotic public persona as “the witch of Kings Cross” than for her innovative and often confronting role as a magical artist. And yet, clearly, she was no mere witch. She lived in a world populated by magical beings and astral entities whose presence pervaded her paintings and drawings in varying degrees. For her, the ancient gods were a living presence in the world, and we could fail to heed their call only at our
own cost. Rosaleen Norton was a visionary ahead of her time—an important forerunner of the contemporary occult revival.
Rosaleen Norton in later years
- For a full account of Rosaleen Norton’s trance explorations see Nevill Drury, The Witch of Kings Cross, Kingsclear Books, Sydney, Australia 2002 (www.kingsclearbooks.com.au)
- A facsimile of this edition, The Art of Rosaleen Norton, was published by
the late Walter Glover in Sydney in 1982.
- See The Art of Rosaleen Norton, op.cit., p.38
- There is also a degree of resemblance, in my opinion, to the Tarot image of Temperance, which similarly reflects a state of spiritual unity or balance. Rosaleen Norton denied a direct influence from the Tarot, though, regarding it more as an intuitive than a specific source of archetypal imagery.
Peter Levenda’s quest for the truth began in 1979 while reading Aftermath: Martin Bormann and the Fourth Reich by Ladislas Farago. This book revealed how Hitler’s former Reichsleiter had escaped to South America after the war pretending to be a priest, protected by the “underground railroad” of Nazi sympathizers that operated and still operate all over that continent, including many if not most of the police and military. Levenda came across a description of one of Bormann’s many hideouts, a Branch Davidian-like cult compound called “Colonia Dignidad” (Colony of Righteousness), which was, as Farago described, “the weirdest encampment of the postwar world, housing a sect that combines Nazism and voodooism.” Intrigued as he was by such an odd combination, Mr. Levenda decided to check the place out for himself, and actually flew down to Chile to conduct the investigation. He did manage to penetrate the compound, but only briefly, and this led to his being chased out of Chile by a series of unidentified agents, then later fired from his job at “a large, multinational corporation that did a lot of business with the Chilean military.” It also led to the research that eventually culminated in Levenda’s terrifying, spell-binding book, Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult.
It all started with the Thule Gesellschaft, a pagan, anti-Semitic, right-wing aristocratic society founded by a Freemason and Eastern mystic named Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorff. They met every Saturday in Munich’s Four Season’s Hotel to discuss things like runes, racial evolution, Nordic mythology and German nationalism. Registered under the name “Thule Gesellschaft” as a “literary-cultural society,” in order to fool the Communist Red Army now controlling Munich, this group had originally been known as the Germanenorden, or the German Order Walvater of the Holy Grail. According to Levenda, “The Germanenorden had an impressive series of
initiatory rituals, replete with knights in shining armor, wise kings, mystical bards and forest nymphs, including a Masonic-style program of secrecy, initiation and mutual cooperation.” But they were not copying the ideological aspects of Freemasonry. As Levenda writes, “What the Germanenorden became was, essentially, an anti-Masonry: a Masonic-style society dedicated to the eradication of Freemasonry itself.” Their symbol was a long dagger on top of a swastika, and their beliefs had been influenced largely by the writings of Guido von List and Lanz von Liebenfels, two men who will feature prominently in our story. Liebenfels had founded the neopagan, swastika-waving “Order of the New Templars” on Christmas Day, 1907, along similar ideological lines. In that same year, occult researcher Guido von List began The List Society, part of a then-developing “völkish” (folkish) movement extolling the virtues of Norse heritage—heritage which could be traced by reading the Edda, a compilation of Icelandic legends which Hitler would later take great interest in. The völkish movement itself was based in part on the ideas of Madam Helena Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society, famous for her books Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. She wrote that humanity was descended from a series of imperfect races which had once ruled the earth, and which all had a common Atlantean origin dating back millions of years, culminating in the Aryan race—which had at one point possessed supernatural powers but had since lost them. She also romanticized about the occult significance of the swastika, of Lucifer, “The Light-Bearer,” and of a cabal of spiritual “Hidden Masters” called the Great White Brotherhood, who guided human evolution from their abode in the Himalayas and who Blavatsky herself purported to channel during her many self-induced trances. And the philosophy of List and Liebenfels took this a bit further, to the extent that the Aryan race was the only “true” humanity, and that the Jews, along with a host of other undesirables, or “minderwertigen” (“beings of inferior value”) were sapping the race of its strength and purity through the evil machination of Christianity, Freemasonry, capitalism and Communism. They believed that the Aryan race had come from a place called Thule, located at the North Pole, where there was an entrance to a vast underground area populated by giants. “Among the völkish cults,” writes Levenda, “it was believed that—as soon as the Germans had purified the planet of the pollution of the inferior races—these Hidden Masters, these Supermen from Thule, would make themselves known, and the link which had been lost between Man and God would be forged anew.”
These were the beliefs of the members of the Thule Gesellschaft when they met on November 9, 1918 to discuss something of immediate concern: the Communist control of Munich. After a rousing speech by Sebottendorf, the Thule Society began to prepare for a counter-revolution, stockpiling weapons and forming alliances with other like-minded groups, such as the Pan- Germans, the German School Bund and the Hammerbund. The following year, on April 7, a Bavarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed in Munich, causing the Prime Minister of Bavaria to run off to Bamburg in order to prevent a total Communist take-over of the government. Six days later the Thule-organized Palm Sunday Putsch failed to overcome the Communists in Munich, and now the Thule members were on the Red Army’s “most wanted” list. Sebottendorf got busy organizing an army of Freikorps (Freecorps) to counter-attack. (One of the units of the Freikorps, the Ehrhardt Brigade, later became part of the German Army, and eventually, part of the S.S.) On April 26, the Red Army raided Thule headquarters and began making arrests, including the arrest of the well-connected Prince von Thurn und Taxis. On April 30, Walpurgisnacht [Witches Night], they were executed in the Luitpold High School courtyard. The following day, their obituaries were published in Sebottendorff’s newspaper Münchener Beobachter (which would evolve one year later in to the official Nazi publication, Völkischer Beobachter). The citizens of Munich became outraged. The Thule Society organized a citizen rebellion, which was joined by the 20,000-member Freikorps, and together they marched, “beneath a swastika flag, with swastikas painted on their helmets, singing a swastika hymn.” By May 3, after much bloodshed and destruction, the Communists in Munich were defeated. But there was much work to be done. The Soviet threat was still very real. With the help of the local police and military, the Thule Gesellschaft began organizing a more full-scale national revolt, using connections with society’s wealthy intellectuals. They also began recruiting among Germany’s working class by forming a group called the German Worker’s Party, which met regularly in beer halls to discuss the threat of Jews, Communists, and Freemasons. This group would later become the National Socialist German Workers’ Party—The Nazi Party—and in November 1923, they would make their first attempt at national takeover, the failed Beer Hall Putsch, led by a man who had originally been sent by the German Army to spy on them—Adolf Hitler.
We all know what the Nazi party went on to accomplish.
What most people do not know is the extent to which those actions were inspired by the occult beliefs of their perpetrators.
“Colonia Dignidad was the weirdest encampment of the postwar world, housing a sect that combines Nazism and voodooism.”
We all know what the Nazi party went on to accomplish. What most people do not know is the extent to which those actions were inspired by the occult beliefs of their perpetrators. As Levenda writes, “The most extreme aims of the Thule Society would all eventually become official policy of the Third Reich, while its purely metaphysical and occult characteristics were adopted wholeheartedly by the S.S.” Hitler himself was fascinated by the occult. While he was a college student he began reading Von Liebenfels’ magazine, Ostara. Later in 1909, while he was living in poverty in a men’s dormitory and selling his paintings on the street, Hitler actually met Libenfels in his office. He is said to have arrived looking “so distraught and so impoverished that the New Templar himself gave Hitler free copies of Ostara and bus fare back home.” Hitler’s friend Josef Greiner recalls in his memoirs how obsessed young Adolf was with astrology, religion, occultism, magic and yoga. Hitler loved Wagner, as we know, especially The Ring Cycle, Parsifal, Lohengrin, and Rienzi. It was from Wagner that Hitler gained his affinity for knighthood, chivalry, and the Quest for the Holy Grail—a pagan, Teutonic Grail. In 1915,
Hitler’s friend Josef Greiner recalls in his memoirs how obsessed young Adolf was with astrology, religion, occultism, magic and yoga.
Hitler was at war, and while in the trenches, wrote a poem, one which “sings the praises of Wotan, the Teutonic Father God, and of runic letters, magic spells, and magic formulas.” So there is no doubt that Hitler’s interest in occultism and paganism ran deep. There is doubt, however, as to whether or not Hitler actually performed any magical operations himself. According to Levenda, this was not in his nature, a nature inclined more towards accomplishing things here on Earth, in the 3rd dimension. He did not have the time and the patience necessary for real spiritual endeavors. “Hitler was a paranoid,” writes Levenda, “and the occult holds special attractions for the
paranoid. But Hitler as a cultist? As a black-robed, ritual-performing, invocation-chanting priest of Satan? Probably not. But Hitler as a tool of other cultists? Probably so.”
In fact, a number of people deeply involved in the occult would have great influence on him and play essential roles in the development of the Third Reich. It would do us well to examine them one by one.
Hitler, while working as the leader of the German Worker’s Party, became friends with Thulist Dietrich Eckart, who published a newspaper called Auf Gut Deutsch (In Good German), which “ranks with the Völkischer Beobachter as a racist sheet with intellectual pretensions.” Eckart had a tremendous effect on Hitler, and it was he who first introduced Hitler to all the wealthy and powerful people he needed to make his crusade possible, including Henry Ford, who would later contribute “vital financial support” to the Nazi party. From Eckart, Hitler learned a great deal about the esoteric sciences, and it is said that they occasionally attended seances together and talked to ghosts. Eckart, who died after the Beer Hall Putsch, is quoted as saying, “Hitler will dance, but it is I who plays the tune.”
Eckart’s protege, and soon Hitler’s as well, was Alfred Rosenburg, a man who would later become “one of the architects of official Nazi policies.” One of these policies was that all of the Masonic temples in all of the Nazis’ occupied territories were to be raided, and the goods shipped back to Rosenberg himself. This was done by Franz Six and Otto Ohlendorf, both occultists. Rosenberg was also friends with another occultist named Walther Darré, who became agricultural minister of the Third Reich. “Together,” writes Levenda, “they ran around the nation drumming up support for an official state religion based on the worship of the Old Gods, a religion that included purifying the Aryan race of elements that were in the process of polluting it and diluting the strength of its blood.”
Gutberlet was an astrologer, a shareholder in the Völkischer Beobachter who