CENTURY £20 £18 (P&P FREE) 08700 798 897
Pagan Resurrection, by Richard Rudgley
When Nazis went wyrd
Sunday 26 November 2006
In 1936, the psychologist C G Jung published an essay entitled "Wotan", in which he argued that the remarkable rise of National Socialism in Germany was due not to economic, political or social causes, but to the fact that the German psyche had been overwhelmed by the sudden awakening of the archetype of the ancient Norse god. Wotan, or, as Richard Rudgely prefers to call him, Odin, had slumbered for 1,000 years, put to rest by the rise of Christianity. Now, however, the northern god of frenzy and magic had returned, and would, Jung predicted, more than likely lead the German people into some cataclysmic event.
Nearly 30 years later, in 1960, in a letter to the Chilean diplomat and esotericist Miguel Serrano, Jung warned that once again, the west was poised for the god's return, and that we were "apt to undergo the risk of a further, world-wide, Wotanistic experiment". Jung died a few months later, little suspectingthat Serrano would become the prophet of a particularly odious Odinistic philosophy, "Esoteric Hitlerism".
In Pagan Resurrection, Rudgley, author of Lost Civilizations of the Stone Age and presenter of the Channel Four television series Pagans, takes Jung's warning to heart and explores the variety of ways in which our current "Wotanistic experiment" is taking shape. His scope is sometimes dizzying, ranging from the Wandervogel of pre-Hitler Germany, the Aryan militias of 21st-century America, Tolkien's Middle Earth and the 1960s, to the depraved crimes of serial killers like Henry Lee Lucas and Otis Toole. One part of the Odin myth is the belief in a mysterious land the Greeks called Hyperborea ("beyond the north wind"), a paradise that lay hidden by the arctic wastes. Rudgley's chapters dealing with this myth, which is linked to the idea of a subterranean world, in the fiction of Jules Verne and Lord Bulwer-Lytton, are fascinating.
Verne's classic Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Lytton's less well-known but equally remarkable The Coming Race can, Rudgely argues, be read not only as gripping Victorian science fiction, but also as essays in depth psychology and explorations of the Odin archetype; another novelist he cites is Hermann Hesse. Unavoidably, the Nazis loom large in his account, and Rudgley is at pains to separate the hokum surrounding such "occult Nazi" staples as the Thule Society (named after another hidden northern land) and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, from the often more disturbing facts.
Yet fanatical racists aren't the whole of the Odin experiment, and Rudgely takes the reader on an enlightening exploration of northern Europe's own home-grown mystical philosophy, centred on the practice of "casting the runes". Although popularised by New Agers and pop occultists as a means of divination, Rudgely shows that the cosmology and psychology associated with the runes are formidable and on a par with those of better-known eastern imports like the Tao and I Ching. Little known is the fact that the shapes of the runes can be used to facilitate a northern European form of meditation.
What will appeal to most contemporary readers, however, is the idea that the runes are a link with the ancient notion of the "Web of Wyrd", the belief that humans, nature and the gods are all connected through an invisible but very real mesh of subtle forces and energies. The Odinistic polarities of Fire and Frost, Rudgely tells us, parallel the eastern ideas of yin and yang, and it is between these two that the strands of Wyrd flow. Other parallels are with recent notions of chaos theory in which the flutter of a butterfly can affect the "initial conditions" of a hurricane. The electronic web of information and communication we log on to every day has accustomed us to the idea that actions on one side of the world can effect changes on the other almost instantaneously. The northern Europeans who felt the Web of Wyrd, Rudgely tells us, knew something very similar a millennium ago.
The ecological and cultural aspects of the new paganism, Rudgely hopes, will promote a "global awareness", which is different from "globalisation", which he sees as the dark side of the web, threatening to reduce the world's complexity to a bland uniformity. The jury is still out on that, but if our second Odin experiment isn't to end like the first, then books like this will certainly be a help.
Gary Lachman's latest book is 'Into the Interior: Discovering Swedenborg' (Swedenborg Society £7.95)
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
- 3 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 4 Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
- 5 Winnie the Pooh banned from Polish playground for being 'inappropriate hermaphrodite'
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Lana Del Rey rape video: Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage
Willow and Jaden Smith talk duality of apples, holographic realities and the melancholia of the ocean in incredible New York Times interview
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Muslims pre-date Columbus in discovering America,' says Turkish president Erdogan
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Former Tory PM Sir John Major says 'we would not have an NHS without migrants'