Videogames

Return to Castle Wolfenstein: critique of Nazi occultism


(Nederlandse versie) The game Return to Castle Wolfenstein (2001) by id Software, Gray Matter Interactive, Nerve Software and Activision is a very violent ‘first-person shooter’. Besides being an excellent videogame in its own right, the storyline not only shows great creative imagination, but is also littered with occult and esoteric connotations. Nice work of fiction, or is there something more than meets the eye here?

Storyline

Return to Castle Wolfenstein is a remake of one of the very first FPS games, Wolfenstein 3D. The game’s setting is based on Castle Wewelsburg, a 17th century castle occupied by Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler and reportedly used for the enactment of occult rituals. Commando B.J. Blazkowicz is sent to Germany by the English military to investigate rumours surrounding Himmler’s personal pet project, the so-called SS Paranormal Division. During his excursions, the hero encounters (next to the regular German soldiers) strange reanimated corpses, sensual SS-women and (eventually) a reincarnation of the dark, Germanic warlord.

Esoteric elements

The suspense in the game is incredible: a combination between survival horror (behind every corner is an enemy trying to kill you) and an esoteric thriller. Even though the game is filled with occult-esoteric elements, for the purpose of this article I [the original author] will concentrate on a few plot elements from the game and attempt to put them in a historical perspective. It appears that much of Wolfenstein’s plot, rather than being pulled out of thin air, has a certain basis in historical fact.

Marianna Blavatsky

A female villain by the name of ‘Marianna Blavatsky’ plays a big role in the game. In the game, she has the rank of SS Oberfuhrer (a real paramilitary rank, the only liberty being taken here is that it was never offered to women). As far as the Nazis were concerned, women were supposed to take care of the family unit. (and the Nazis were hardly alone in this line of thinking) Blavatsky heads Himmler’s SS Paranormal Division. In the beginning of the game her name only appears as the designated sender or receiver of SS Command documents. At the end of the game Blavatsky successfully resurrects the Germanic warlord Heinrich I from the dead, only to die by his own hand (a fate Heinrich will soon share with Helena if our hero Blazkowicz can help it) In the game, Blavatsky’s appearance is that of a cross between a 20th-century witch, SM dominatrix and a heathen priestess.

The similarities between this fictional priestess and its historical counterpart are too numerous for it to be merely a coincidence. Helena Blavatsky (1831 – 1891) is the founder of the Theosophical Society, which exists to this day. Under her leadership, she managed to turn Theosophy into a genuine philosophical-religious system. Theosophy is a collection of ideas with the central tenet that all the major world religions are attempts to reach the divine. Theosophy went through great changes due to the efforts of Christian esoteric, Jakob Boehme (1575-1624). Theosophists trace their ideas back to the ancient civilisations, such as India and ancient Greece, of which Plato (427-347 BC) and Plotinus (204-270) were regarded as important forebears of their movement. What does Blavatsky and her Theosophical Society have to do with Adolf Hitler? They have everything to do with him and nothing at the very same time.

Electricity, racial purity and Aryanosophy

Let’s return to the game. In the second half, Blazkowicz discovers that the Nazis are creating Ubersoldiers: half human, half machine creatures brought to life by electricity. Let’s focus on the electricity part. Electricity has been used previously as an elixir of life in popular fiction (Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley is among the most popular examples), but for the purpose of this article we have to go to another book, the impossibly titled ‘Theozoology or the science of the Sodomite Apelings and the Divine Electron‘ by German author Lanz von Liebenfels (1874 – 1954).

Germany (Berlin) and Austria (Vienna) in the late 19th and early 20th century underwent many dramatic changes. From a political point of view, there was the fall of the Donau monarchy (the seperation between Austria and Hungary) and, later on, World War I [and Germany’s eventual defeat]. Societal shifts, such as urbanisation, industrialisation and pluriformity caused additional friction.

In all this social and political turmoil arose a great many individual thinkers who tried to make sense of this rapidly changing world. Most of their ideas were innocent by nature (though tragically misguided), but there were exceptions. Some authors from Vienna and Berlin circles conspired to combine theosophy with their own interpretations of Germanic mythology (such as the ‘Edda’). This hotchpotch of ideas included the return of medieval fraternities, such as the Templar Knights [and Teutonic Knights].

Lanz von Liebenfels (1874 – 1954)

Most famous of this bunch were Lanz von Liebenfels (1874 – 1954) and Guido von List (1848 – 1919). Von Liebenfels, in his book ‘Theozoology‘, postulated his theory that “Aryans” were borne out of the sexual procreation between interstellar gods and electricity, while ‘Untermenschen’ were the result of a pairing between apes and inferior human root races. Therefore, he propagated the mass-castration of these “ape-like creatures”. He would later replace the terms “Theozoology” and “Aryo-Christendom’ by ‘Aryosophy’. In addition to this, he was also the founder of the Order of New Templars/Ordo Novi Templi (1915), complete with its own liturgy and hierarchy. Heinrich Himmler would later find himself drawn to this concept.

Guido von List (1848 – 1919)

Guido von List (1848 – 1919) was the other major philosophical thinker in this field. He was the inventor of Armanism (race of Aryans) and Wotanism (named after the Nordic god ‘Wotan‘ or more commonly known as ‘Wodan’). He also mixed his own interpretation of Germanic mythology with esoteric and theosophical elements.

Wewelsburg, Wiligut and Heinrich Himmler

Some high-placed party members of the Nazi regime confessed to being part of a certain Aryosophic-like philosophy with occult-religious beliefs. Though the regime was in no way, shape or form bound to a religion (except for German protestantism, though this was used more for practical considerations), one of the most powerful men at the time was a self-admitted Nazi-occultist: SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler.

Under the influence of Aryosophic guru, Karl Wiligut, Himmler reconstructed the old castle of Wewelsburg. (this castle also serves as the backdrop to the game Wolfenstein) The castle was redesigned under Himmler as an occult-spiritual Nazi cult site. Himmler had great plans for his SS unit: as purebred Aryans they were the spiritual descendants of the pre-christian, Germanic nature religion.1 This religion had to be reinstated with Himmler as its new high priest.

Himmler personally funded several expeditions to gather evidence of Aryan supremacy and the ancient Germanic religion, which included obtaining several religious objects, such as the Holy Grail. Two of the Indiana Jones movies cover this: Raiders of the Lost Ark (Ark of the Covenant/Ark of the Contract) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (the Holy Grail).

Heinrich I (876 – 936)

Even though Himmler’s underlings (and even Hitler himself) did not think much of him, he took himself very seriously. Literally: the Totenkopfring, designed by Wiligut, was worn by SS members who were tasked with guarding the concentration camps and the execution of the Holocaust. Himmler regarded himself as a reincarnation of a German prince, Heinrich I, nicknamed ‘the Fowler’. This ‘fowler’ was successful in uniting the German tribes for the first time in history (though it didn’t last long), an idea that appealed to Himmler. He wanted all Aryan peoples to unite and form a super-race, of which his SS unit were to be the forebears.

In Wolfenstein, Heinrich I is locked up in 936 through the curse of a magician. Depicted as the reincarnation of evil in the game, he awaits patiently to be resurrected again, an event that actually occurs later on. Blavatsky resurrects Heinrich only to be killed in return. The game ends as Blazkowitz in turn defeats Heinrich.

Neo-Hitlerism

After the end of World War II, most people could not fathom how Hitler could have succeeded in decimating the whole of Europe. Many even believed that Hitler did not really die in his bunker. Several books appeared, pseudo-scientific in nature, claiming Hitler was very much alive. Here are three examples of this theory:

Savitri Devi (1905 – 1982). She connected Hitler’s Aryan ideology to the (pre-British) Hindu masters. The swastika symbolises the Aryan unity between Hindus and the Germanic peoples. Devi synthesized the Hindu philosophy of cyclical history with National Socialism. She claimed Adolf Hitler was an avatar of [the Hindu god] Vishnu.

Miguel Serrano (1917). A (retired) Chilean diplomat and author of ‘The Golden Ribbon: Esoteric Hitlerism’ and ‘Hitler: The Last Avatar’. Supposedly, Hitler is not dead at all, but alive and well in ‘Shambhala‘, deep under the North Pole, where he is in contact with Hyperborean gods (including UFO’s). Serrano describes World War II as a battle between the forces of good (Vril Society) versus the forces of darkness (Jews).

Trevor Ravenscroft. Most famous [of the three] is Trevor Ravenscroft’s bestseller, ‘The Spear of Destiny‘ (1973). The complete title reads ‘TsOD’, or ‘The Occult Power Behind the Spear Which Pierced the Side of Christ’. The legendary spear that pierced Jesus’s side and later came under the possession of Roman [soldier], Longinus, is supposed to give the owner supernatural powers. (see Spear of Destiny in popular culture) Some of the people who have claimed ownership of the spear include Alexander the Great, Charles the Great and Hitler himself.

In a sense you could say that Return to Castle Wolfenstein is also a form of neo-Hitlerism, albeit without revering Hitler and/or the Nazis.

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