Das Internet-Magazin des Rabenclans
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Annotations on the Issue of Myth
Hans Schumacher 1997, Translation: Karan Braun
1. Instead of an introduction
"I have often been blamed for being an anti-humanist. I do not believe this to be true. However, I rebel against, and consider as detrimental, that shameless humanism derived partly from the Judaeo-Christian tradition, partly from the Renaissance and from Cartesianism, proclaiming man as sovereign and absolute ruler of creation. I believe that all the tragedies we experienced, first with colonianism, then with fascism, finally with the extermination camps, do not contradict the alleged humanism in the way we practice it since several centuries ago, but rather I would prefer to say that they are almost its natural consequence. For it leads to one and the same thing if man first claims superior rights by drawing a border line between himself and other species and then shifts this border into his own species, recognizing certain categories as the only truly human ones, distinct from other categories which are downgraded as inferior, according to the same scheme which differentiates between humans and other beings. This is the true original sin, leading humankinds into self-destruction. The respect of man towards man can not be based on a special dignity which humankind attributes to itself, because then a part of humankind could always claim to possess a higher degree of this dignity than the others. One should rather assume humility as a basic principle: If man respects all other beings, he prevents himself from the danger of not paying equal regard to all human life." (1)
2. A brief thematic overview of the Ariosophy Project
The Ariosophy Project has originally been commissioned in order to reveal and to examine fascist and racist tendencies in neopaganism. In order to do justice to its task, it has to advance towards more and more areas apart from its original topic. An isolated survey of the core problem would be of not much help to anybody: ariosophy, as it were, is a symptom, a result of a complex constellation of causes. It entails many ramifications and consequences , partly forming a net with other structures, partly getting entangled with them, however it can only be really understood and thus radically erased if it is seen as the consequence of other problematic developments which then must be examined likewise. Also, an inconsistency could emerge: an isolated treatment might cause ariosophy to be regarded as an isolated phenomenon. This would be incorrect and would also open the door for similar ideologies which simply would have to be formulated in a more canny way, because they would then not be considered as ariosophical. A political typology, i.e. a catalogue of criteria according to which ariosophy can be identified, is therefore by no means sufficient. This work wants to be done properly.
Furthermore, we have already seen (2) that, for example, interdependencies of ariosophical power structures within the pagan scene on the one hand and the destructive (especially "left-wing") criticism of paganism on the other hand have to be emphasised. In addition, the historical dimension of ariosophy and its predecessors, as well as that of the political situation (colonialism, imperialism, Nazi fascism) must be considered and made accessible. Of course, theosophy has not generated colonialism, nor has it been its official ideology. Colonialism did not necessarily have to generate theosophy. And the question how and why this has happened, can not be considered as unnecessary. The Arisophy Project therefore already has a historical field of work, in addition to the current one, which of course must not be neglected. Also, due to the public information deficits - it would be a euphemism to call what is happening in the pagan scene a "deficit" -, ariosophy must be brought to lose its ground by proving that all pseudo-historical, pseudo-cultural, pseudo-archaeological etc. ariosophical doctrines and statements with regards to ancient European cultures are null and void. There is not a single arisophical historical projection which holds out against a test. In spite of this, large parts of the public - again not to mention the pagan scene - do not seem to be able to distinguish between ariosophical pseudo-historical sceneries and scientific results, because both are mostly unknown. It will therefore be necessary to write essays which primarily give at least an outline of the historical truth on the basis of the current state of scientific research, but also contrast it with the respective arisophical projections. For reasons which do not demand any further explanation here, this holds especially true for Germanic studies. An essay on the incompatibility of Germanic culture and racism is already in progress.
But this is not enough. In this article, I want to raise several new topics of which, currently, the topic of myth seems to be pivotal to me. This text is not an individual examination of any complex of topics, but rather a collection of assumptions and observations which are meant to be the introduction to the examinations yet to follow.
3. The antagonism of ariosophy and nature religion
In "Ariosophy - Overview" (3) we have recognized the doctrine of cosmic hierarchy, which ariosophy adopted from theosophy, as the true central element of these ideologies: it is transferred upon nature and man, the latter being the basis of the specific ariosophical racism. Since every racism is an ideology of superiority and inferiority, it easily builds a network with forms of racism derived from other sources. The political dimension can not be overlooked: authoritarian and totalitarian systems are propagated on the basis of cosmic hierarchy. List (4) and Liebenfels (5) who are our chief subject of interest here, did this explicitly. The Armanenorden followed them at least insofar as it propagated a hierarchical aristocratic society where especially positions of power depend on the individual's - level of consciousness” (6) which, in ariosophy, is intrinsically linked with racist criteria (7) This order of society makes politics unnecessary, being the "primordial democracy" (8) Let us remember: The ariosophs present us an ideal society - in their opinion – which is at least a cast system, graded according to racist criteria; a theocracy (9) they call a democracy. This is indeed the conclusive consequence of the ariosophical image of cosmos, nature and mankind.
Nature religions as such, i.e. those nature religions which are still found today by contemporary ethnological research in the last "primitive" societies, never have a system of cosmic hierarchy (10) and are practiced by communities which are completely without any sovereignty or have at least no central power at all (11) . At least similar conditions can well be assumed for ancient European societies, because for tribal communities, especially for those with segmentary structure, there seem to exist globally valid criteria (12) .
Most notably the following congruence attracts attention: "primitive" societies without sovereignty have notions of the "supernatural" (this term is actually inappropriate here, because no distinction is made between visible and invisible nature) and thus of nature itself, which correspond with the order of their own communities. There is no sovereignty, even the gods are tied to the overall structure and are by no means almighty. Ariosophy is an ideology that propagates a cosmic hierarchy and, consequently, a respective system of society. Consequentially, the worst terror regime of contemporary history, German fascism, availed itself of ariosophy.
Herefrom the following thesis can be derived: An egalitarian society has a mythology in which the element of principal equality is pivotal. Nature image and mythology can not be separated here. An authoritarian racist pseudo-religion has a mythology of cosmic hierarchy, a Darwinist nature image which assumes different values, an authoritarian form of organisation which grades ranks and levels, and it strives for, or supports, an authoritarian society. In both cases there is a structural conformity, i.e. authoritarian world view - authoritarian organisation, and egalitarian world view - egalitarian organisation.
We behold the following antagonism: the principle of dominance and superiority versus the principle of fundamental equality and parity. Nature religions have the policy of neither gods having any dominance over men, nor men over animals and plants, and therefore no men have dominance over men. Ariosophy offers nothing but a horizontal layering from the "highest" to the "lowest". The dominance of men over men is an unavoidable consequence and can even be called democracy.
It is therefore clear without doubt that ariosophy can not only never be a nature religion, but that ariosophy and nature religion exclude each other. One is the opposite of the other- not the same, as the ariosophs and likewise the representatives of several anti-fascist groups want to make us believe.
In view of this fact it is extremely astonishing that so far nobody seems to have paid special attention to this fundamental contradiction.
4. On the correct handling of myths
Amongst other things, paganism is about being occupied with myths. What we consider as pagan today is mainly the theoretical and practical interpretation of ancient, mostly central and northern European myths. This means that ancient mythologies are revitalised insofar as modern people recognize them as true for themselves, interpret them according to their needs and partly align their lives with them. This should not be handled carelessly, because myths and mythologies are descriptions which organize and structure the whole universe - i.e. the personal, subjective universe - of the person who believes in them or experiences them spiritually, conveying regularities and the corresponding values, ultimately being a classification system for all perceptions and thus taking vital influence on actions.
But myths also have a context. "You can only work at the mythologies of those peoples whose technological and economical level, geographical environment, social institutions, art and all things which form the basis of their theoretical reasoning are actually known." (13) Otherwise, misinterpretation is inevitable. In research, this leads to wrong conclusions, but when dealing with myths, as it is common practice in paganism, it can, and most often does, lead to disastrous individual and collective results.
Each individual element of a myth has a concrete meaning and function in the society to which that myths belongs. A correct handling of myths requires this awareness, as well as an adequately careful work, which at first must be a scientific one. If one knows nothing about Germanic and Celtic societies, one can neither interpret their myths correctly nor even understand them. All that remains is, at best, a guess, and the results do not actually offer themselves as a basis of one's personal life. However, in the pagan scene one can see that personal vital decisions are taken on a basis that no one would even consider as sufficient for a scholarly essay which, ultimately, is nothing but a piece of paper.
The image of nature has a decisive meaning with regard to pagan nature religious mythologies. This does not mean that this is not the case with other mythologies or philosophies. It seems that the image of nature is the key to the true character of especially those teachings which consider nature as "fallen" "corrupt" "low" and/or subject to man - particularly if the notion of structural conformity is applied. If paganism is considered, this must be observed under all circumstances: the perception of nature constitutes primarily what nature religion actually is.
Here, too, we find an antagonism: the nature image of ariosophy is a mystified Darwinism, whereas ethnology discovers a principally egalitarian nature image in "primitive" cultures, i.e. respect for all life forms has a very high significance, no distinction is made according to principal "quality ratings". Of course, even in those nature religions the different life forms have different values of usage for man: other animals, especially those which are dangerous for humans, are often depicted as sinister characters in mythology, but mostly with a certain ambivalence: "good" and "evil" are categories which are incomprehensible in nature religions. For the sake of integrity it must be noted here that this is not meant as a proclamation of eco-romanticism: for a “primitive” person, nature is not an idyll, but rather all-embracing, the universe. Many myths are about the origin of culture, the contrast of nature and culture is emphasised, and it is culture which makes the difference between man and the (other) animals.
So much about the nature image of nature religions, which is briefly described here only to emphasise the contrast to Darwinism (and therefore has to be discussed further in other essays of this project). Darwinism - that kind of Darwinism which found its way into ideologies, being transformed from a long ago out-dated approach of natural science to an ideological weapon - mainly emphasises the notion of superiority. The whole of nature appears as a "fight for existence" where the "right of the strongest" is the only one that counts, regardless of how the alleged superiority has actually been gained. The right of man to subdue nature can be derived from this without difficulty. It can not be stated explicitly enough that modern scientific research has long ago turned towards a completely different image of nature which incidentally, during the course of research, resembles more and more that of nature religions (see, for example, chaos theory). The notion that all life forms are in a network with all the others and that there is a constant tradition from order to chaos and from chaos to order, is deeply rooted in nature religion.
Due to the general ignorance of this contradiction, the ariosophs have managed until now to sell their teachings as "nature religion" (14) (some ariosophs use this term, others do not), thus establishing not only a delusion with regards to the historical and cultural-historical facts but also falsifying and even reversing the actual character of nature religion. It comes as no surprise that for the Armanenorden man is primarily a spirit being that creates its material body (15). Therefore, for the Armanen, it is not nature that brings forth man, but it is man who brings forth himself physically in nature. As expected, this culminates in the notion that - the respective soul has already managed a long successful ascent - (16) when it embodies itself in the "white race".
What displays itself here in utmost clearness is a causality that needs to be changed: as long as neither the public nor the pagan scene knows what nature religion really is, ariosophs will get away with presenting a definition in their own tenor. Here again it must be marked that the predominantly "left-wing" criticism of paganism turns out to be extremely helpful for ariosophy.
Of course all this does not happen in an empty space. The problem that each person who wants to follow a nature religion here and today emerges from Christianity - or at least from a Christian society in which he or she continues to live - and that Christianity itself is, respectively owns, a mythology, can not be discussed at this point, but will become very important at a later stage during the course of this research project.
It has been pointed out several times that ariosophy can make no claim at all for an appropriate handling of the myths it actually abuses. The fact that ariosophy takes up such a large space - ideologically and institutionally - within the pagan scene, can be primarily explained by three circumstances.
First: A handling of myths and nature religion, as I have described it as appropriate, requires competence and the willingness to labour. The standard of the pagan scene, however, demonstrates that not even the names of the relevant branches of research are really known there, let alone work methods and contents. Even, and especially, "adepts" and group leaders make statements about cultural facts in such a manner that it becomes impossible to comment them without sliding into polemics. In order to establish authority, this standard requires nothing but the actual will to do so, for at the latest when this authority has taken root by means of a hierarchical group structure and the respective institutionalisation, the question of competence can not really be posed any more. The best structure to follow this course is a hierarchy of initiations organised in degrees, which, due to the "mysterious" character of these initiations, presents ideal conditions for arbitrariness, faith in authorities and systematic indoctrination and brainwashing. The ideology of the organisation makes it impossible from the first to scrutinise authority. Ariosophy itself is organised in that manner (17) .
Second: the resulting structure of the pagan scene can not tolerate the establishment of alternatives. What holds true here is all I have already said about the so-called “Armanen-block” which indeed is mostly identical with the sleaze of the pyramids of initiation that exist next to each other or on top of each other. True competence that is verifiable by everyone, especially backed up by the - deserved or undeserved - authority of science, endangers the structure and leads to a fundamental crisis. Therefore the leaders of the pagan scene guard their monopoly and nip alternatives in the bud.
Third: So far, the loudest, albeit by far not the most qualified commentary "from the outside" (seen from the viewpoint of the pagan scene) has been the equalisation of ariosophy, racism and right wing ideology with paganism. This merely leads to a cementation of the situation.
As in the above paragraph on nature religion in contrast to ariosophy, it is demonstrated here how the kind and quality of textual work depends on structural factors. If I want to write about the difficulties of handling myths, I have to repeat issues I have already mentioned with regards to ariosophy, in order to be able to do this in a manner that is appropriate for the actual situation. However, if we apply the abovementioned thesis of structural conformity to this problem, we see that a pyramid-shaped initiation hierarchy is not compatible with nature religion. A pyramid of initiation teaches the ideology of its own self-justification, and if it uses the mythology of a nature religion in order to do so, it falsifies it. An authoritarian system can not have an egalitarian religion. Nature religion, however, is egalitarian.
5. Myth and anti-myth
At the conclusion of this article I merely want to formulate a thesis which is going to be a pivotal factor for the continuing work at this project. It is based on my theoretical considerations, as well as on observations I made during the course of this work. I have often found myself in situations where it has been me who talked about religion whereas my dialog partners talked about politics and science. I now claim that this has only seemingly been the case and that, in some cases, it has been the other way round. Furthermore, based on this assumption I claim that there exists no dissent between people with a mythical religion and rationalists who are, so to say, without a mythology, but that there merely exists a dissent between followers of different religions with different mythologies.
This can be illustrated with an anecdote: In the context of the Summer School at Koblenz University, there was a debate on Germanic royalism between Sven Scholz who talked about Germanic culture, and a member of the anti-fascist movement. The anti-fascist assumed that we wanted to establish an aristocratic society, because the Germanic tribes had kings. Sven Scholz, as well as myself, explained to him the structural characteristics of tribal societies, sacral kingship and other issues relevant for this topic. According to conventional perception it would have been expected that it was the rationalist who informed the superstitious pagans on history and cultural anthropology. But it happened so that two Gothar contributed the scientific arguments, whereas it was the rationalist whose ideas proved to be superstitious. This is not an isolated case.
So far, it were the alleged rationalists who claimed to examine the pagans, writing essays on them. But I claim that a thesis on myths and their mode of functioning which stands in the context of the Ariosophy Project must not only examine myths of nature religions and their abuse by ariosophy but also the mythologies of the societies in which the conflict of followers of nature religions and followers of ariosophy is taking place, precisely because there are interactions between all of them. The myths of determined history, especially Humanism, will be of special significance here.
The latter is urgently required, mainly for three reasons, the first one being the abovementioned interactions. Furthermore, it must not happen that we are constantly blamed for convictions we do not have, and not only due to common ignorance regarding the views we hold, but also because of a continuous projection of the others' mythologies onto ours. When, for example, I said in Koblenz that nature does everything right (I point towards what I have said earlier on about the nature image of nature religions), a member of the anti-fascist movement in Darmstadt blamed me for wanting to kill handicapped people. It is disconcerting enough having to find that a politically educated person has such an image of nature. For he postulates the cruel, Darwinist nature which he, as a "good person" is obliged to fetter. He even had to be especially informed about the fact that "handicaps" are perceived quite differently - and by no means as criteria of an inferior value - by the so called "primitives".
It therefore has to be examined why the members of suchlike groups know only the Darwinist nature image (here again the abovementioned paragraph is pointed out) and accept it as true. It also must be examined whether there are possibly even more points of contact with ariosophy. This will not be possible without a detailed investigation.
Finally - the third reason - as citizens of a democracy, we are responsible for it. Should it turn out during the course of this examination that the middle-class or left-wing myths contain a destructive potential - which indeed has to be feared - it is time to find ways and means to pinpoint the mythical character of these myths so that the search for alternatives can begin.
1 Claude Lévi-Strauss, in: Le Monde, 21./22. Jan. 1979, in: Claude Lévi-Strauss, Mythos und Bedeutung, Vorträge, Frankfurt am Main 1980, p.247f.
2 s. "Ariosophie - ein Überblick" ("Ariosophy-Overview")
3 s. ibid.
4 Schnurbein, Stefanie von: Religion als Kulturkritik. Neugermanisches Heidentum im 20.Jahrhundert, Heidelberg 1992, p. 94
5 ibid., p.102
6 ibid., p.63f.
7 s. "Ariosophie - ein Überblick"
8 s. footnote.6
9 s. ibid.
10 Vivelo, Robert Frank: Handbuch der Kulturanthropologie, 2nd edition.,Stuttgart 1995, p. 265ff.
11 ibid., p. 196ff.
13 Claude Lévi-Strauss, in "Les Lettres françaises" Nr. 1405/1406, 1971, from: Mythos und Bedeutung, p.142f.
14 Schnurbein, Religion als Kulturkritik, p. 49ff.
15 s. ibid.
16 ibid., p. 50, according to Leitbrief Nr.7 of the Armanenordens
17 s. "Ariosophie - ein Überblick"