New Age and the Nazis
What Eric Kurlander's 'Hitler's Monsters' offers to the civilizational debate.
Nazis play a major role in the culture wars. Anyone arguing for the value of Western Civilization, the Judeo-Christian tradition, the Enlightenment, and the heritage of the Ancient Greeks will eventually be confronted with the Nazis. If cultural relativism is wrong, if it is wrong to say that Islam or Communism or New Age are not all equally valuable options on the cultural menu, then what about the Nazis? After all, the Nazis were Christians, weren’t they? Wasn’t the Holocaust informed by Christian theology? How dare Western Christians criticize jihad or communism’s purges? You have the worst crime in history on your team’s scorecard.
About that claim that the Nazis were the worst. The Nazis were compulsive record keepers. Hollywood directors and Soviet cameramen participated in the liberation of concentration camps. Their films have been required viewing for generations of students. We lack comparable documentation for others’ crimes. When I inform students of the cost of the establishment of communism or the advance of jihad, they indicate to me that they have never been exposed to these facts before. Historian Stephen Kotkin’s conservative estimate is that communism cost 65 million lives, while historian David Satter estimates that “the greatest catastrophe in human history,” killed 100 million. Bill Warner estimates that the death toll from jihad is 270 million.
His figure is controversial, but supported with citations. Any other honest estimate will be similarly overwhelmingly vast. Tamerlane, the fourteenth century “Sword of Islam,” is estimated to have killed five percent of the entire population of the world. There are two hundred million untouchables, or Dalits in India, and, even as India modernizes, their victimization continues. Hinduism mandates that Dalits must suffer to pay for their sins in their past lives. On November 17, 2018, The New York Times ran an account of a Dalit scalped by higher caste Hindus. Yes, worldviews besides Nazism have resulted in mass graves. We are less aware of those mass graves. So we assume that Nazism’s mass graves are the worst.
If the Nazis did not carry out their crimes as integral and predictable expressions of Western Civilization and Christian theology, what did ground them? What were their guiding beliefs and principles? The extent to which Nazism was informed by neo-paganism is made clear in Eric Kurlander’s 2017 book Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich, published by Yale University Press. Hitler’s Monsters is a dense, ambitious, scholarly tome. There are over one hundred pages of footnotes and bibliography. Kurlander acknowledges that previous authors have documented Nazism’s involvement with New Age ideas and practices, and he draws on these authors’ work. Kurlander also acknowledges that without the perfect storm of historical circumstances exploited by Hitler, including Germany’s defeat in WW I, the punitive Versailles Treaty, and the Depression, Nazism probably never would have risen to power. And Kurlander notes that New Age beliefs don’t cause a believer to become a Nazi.
But Kurlander is unafraid to state the importance of his research. “No mass political movement drew as consciously or consistently as the Nazis on … occultism and … pagan, New Age, and Eastern religions, folklore, mythology … Without understanding this relationship between Nazism and the supernatural, one cannot fully understand the history of the Third Reich … Hitler’s Monsters is the first book to address this rich, fascinating, often extraordinary relationship from the party’s origins to the end of the Second World War … the Third Reich would have been highly improbable without a widespread penchant for supernatural thinking.”
You can get a sense of what the Nazis believed by walking through any given New Age store. On such a visit, you will encounter astrology, reincarnation, hypnotism, Chinese massage, and yoga how-to books, next to homeopathic flower “cures,” vegetarian recipes, and magical gardening manuals advising you to harvest your crops in tune with the movement of celestial bodies. There will be alternative histories of the universe and planet Earth, including books about the lost city of Atlantis. For teens, there will be lurid witch, vampire and werewolf novels.
Allegedly “non-fiction” books will inform you of your secret, spiritual Tibetan or Indian ancestry or past lives. The Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu classic, will be in an honored place. There will be books by or about Madame Blavatsky and Nostradamus, as well as Zoroastrian, Zen, Shinto, and Buddhist scriptures. Friendly pamphlets will extol the virtues of Islam in contrast to degenerate, oppressive Christianity. There will be a “serious,” “scholarly” tome insisting that witches were descendants of a pagan nature religion, and that the witch trials were really the Catholic Inquisition’s efforts to wipe out paganism.
Gurus will promise that Enlightenment concepts like objective reality and the scientific method are mere dogma created and exercised by lesser minds. These gurus will insist that you are somebody special, with a special destiny, and you need not be hidebound by conventional reality, science, or religion. Only lowly people believe in objective reality. You can use the power of your will to create any reality you want. Gravity is for lesser mortals. You can levitate.
Continuing your stroll through the New Age shop, you will encounter invitations to worship Satan. Satan is misrepresented by those stuffy, Christian prudes. Why should you, as special as you are, obey a God who orders you to rein in your appetites? Satan will strengthen your wildest urges. You’ll find materials on ley lines, special magical places exuding special geographic magic known only to a privileged few. You’ll find out how to use ancient runes in divination, and how to dowse, that is, how to find water, lost objects, and magical energies using only a forked stick.
Now imagine yourself a top Nazi, a Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels or Hess. You’d buy every single one of these products. Himmler “carried around with him” the Norse Edda, the Hindu Vedas and Bhagavad Gita, and the speeches of Buddha. Nazis participated in orgies aboard a yacht named after “The Indian goddess of love” the “Aryan Schakti [Shakti].” Nazi yoga. Nazi Buddha. Yes. The Nazis were that nuts. And they were that New Age.
An eclectic mélange of New Age beliefs and practices were in the roots that vomited up Nazism’s toxic tree. These beliefs and practices were harnessed to support Nazism’s most consequential, and most evil, acts. These beliefs and practices inspired daily life in concentration camps, human medical experimentation that violated every tenet of ethics and reason, weapons research and development, and military decisions. New Age beliefs and practices influenced Nazism’s bloody demise. Any understanding of Nazism that does not include New Age’s influence on Nazism is incomplete. Any understanding of New Age that does not take into consideration its influence on Nazism is incomplete.
Not all Nazis were interested in New Age beliefs, and not all Nazis were interested in all expressions of New Age. Some might prefer astrology; others homeopathy. On May 10, 1941, Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess, known as “The Yogi from Egypt,” after consulting an astrologer and inspired by a supernatural dream, flew to Scotland in an attempt to make peace with the British. He was captured and imprisoned. Less than a month later, beginning on June 4, 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Main Security Office, launched the “Hess Action.” Heydrich wanted to purge the occult from the Nazi party as well as the general public. Heydrich’s timing of the Hess Action indicates how seriously he took the issue. Heydrich initiated the Hess Action two weeks before Germany’s ultimately disastrous invasion of the Soviet Union. As a result of Heydrich’s action, some astrologers ended up in concentration camps. Some of those same practitioners were later released and went to work for top Nazis. Curt Munch was released from Sachsenhausen in order that he could use his psychic powers to locate Mussolini.
Hitler himself, Kurlander argues, didn’t want to restrain the occult because it was meaningless; he wanted to limit and control common people’s access to the occult because of its power. Goebbels exemplified this power-centric approach to the occult. Goebbels used Nostradamus for propaganda purposes.
Decades before Hitler arrived on the historical scene, many German seekers had partially or completely rejected Judeo-Christian cosmology, morality and worldview. They also rejected Enlightenment values and the scientific method’s insistence on objective facts. Many chose to find meaning and structure in pre-Christian paganism, Eastern religions, and new gurus like Madame Blavatsky. The Brothers Grimm, Wagner’s folklore-inspired operas, Nietzsche’s philosophy, and Herder’s writing on nationalism are partial expressions of, and, in turn, inspirations for, these trends. Kurlander writes, “Folklore, mythology, and neo-paganism rushed to fill an important gap in the German spiritual landscape, helping to occupy ‘the transcendental realm of mystic life’ vacated by Judeo-Christian traditions … Folklore and mythology facilitated fascism.” “By the end of the nineteenth century, folklore, mythology, and Ario-Germanic religiosity was etched into the consciousness of millions of ordinary Germans.” In this search for new paradigms, universal values were rejected in favor of moralities based on identity, place, and race. “I am a German, therefore I should or I can …” might be the preface to any moral statement.
The senseless mass destruction and humiliating defeat of WW I, and rapid modernization and upheaval, helped the previous century’s turn to nationalism, magic, myth, and folklore take center stage. Nazis saw a ripe opportunity to jettison the past, adopt a scorched earth mentality, and impose their new paradigm. In his 1930 book The Myth of the Twentieth Century, Nazi theorist Alfred Rosenberg declared the “collapse” of all that had come before and a “new dawn” and a “new faith” a “new light” a “new mission:” “blood and blood, race and race, folk and folk.” “That is the task of our century; to create a new human type out of a new view of life.”
Social Darwinism and biological racism were interwoven with New Age spiritual beliefs. Not only would old, impure ideas be jettisoned. Human beings deemed racially unfit to participate in superior souls’ upward thrust to perfection also had to be eliminated. “‘One could insist that the race to which one belonged had primarily to do with one’s degree of spiritual maturity’ … the lost civilization of Atlantis was considered to be the prehistoric source of divine (possibly extraterrestrial) racial and spiritual perfection,” writes Kurlander, quoting another author about Theosophy, a New Age belief system that predated, and influenced, Nazism’s rise. “Cosmic eugenics” blessed the destruction of that “‘which is unworthy to take part in the ascent of humanity … Humanity has risen by throwing out the lower forms in order to purify itself … dark skin is due to demonic interference’ … Luciferian remnants’ must be elevated ‘as a wise guiding force left behind for the evolution of mankind in general’ … Nazi religious theorists would make nearly identical arguments,” Kurlander says, quoting another New Age author who also wrote decades before Nazism’s rise. Other New Age thinkers, again, decades before Nazism, advocated selective breeding, and the elimination of inferior races and the handicapped. This culling was supported by a New Age theory that humanity was the result of breeding between angels and animals. Nordic people contained a higher percentage of angel. Indeed, New Age thinkers (and Friedrich Nietzsche) adopted a Hindu caste system term, chandala, for “untouchable” to talk about “lower races.”
A weakening of the influence of Judeo-Christian morality and a return to pagan norms appeared to be foreseen by at least one concerned observer. German poet Heinrich Heine, who was born Jewish but converted to Lutheranism, wrote in 1834 that “When once the taming talisman, the Cross, breaks in two, the savagery of the old fighters, the senseless Berserker fury of which the Northern poets sing … will gush up anew … the old stone god will rise from the silent ruins and … Thor, with his giant’s hammer, will at last spring up and shatter to bits the Gothic cathedrals.“
Hermann Rauschning, a former Nazi, diagnosed Hitler’s success. “Every German has one foot in Atlantis[and one in Tibet], where he seeks a better fatherland.” Pre-Nazi New Age societies and thinkers sometimes voiced their awareness that Hitler was mining and benefitting from the paths they had paved.
The Thule Society, or Study Group for Germanic Antiquity, was founded in 1918. Its purpose was an unsavory mix of biological racism and flakey, folkloric concepts of German origins. The Thule Society symbol was a swastika, an ancient, pagan symbol often found in Hindu and Buddhist art. Thule Society member and fan of Nordic folklore and “the wisdom of India,” Dietrich Eckart, argued that the “racially superior ‘Indo-European people’ had been corrupted by the ‘Jewish desert spirit’ embedded in mainstream Christianity.” Eckhart said on his deathbed that “Hitler will dance, but it is I who will call the tune.” In other words, Eckart and other New Age Germans saw Hitler as fulfilling their goals. Germany’s occult magazines supported Hitler, even before he took power. They lent whatever legitimacy they had to his seizure of power by predicting a “‘world turning’” “‘Third Reich’” lead by “‘a single prophet who preserved the German essence against all odds.’”
Top Nazis were not only not believing Christians, they were anti-Christian and determined to extirpate Christianity from their Reich. As Hitler Youth leader Baldur von Schirach said, “the destruction of Christianity was explicitly recognized as a purpose of the National Socialist movement.” Alfred Rosenberg dreamed of a day when “Nordic sagas and fairy tales will take the place of the Old Testament stories of pimps and cattle dealers.” Nazism’s anti-Christian, pagan worldview was obvious to contemporaries. Christopher Dawson, “the greatest English-speaking Catholic historian of the twentieth century,” warned in 1935 that Nazism could “develop a mythology and ethic” that may “take the place of Christian theology and Christian ethics.” On January 13, 2002, Joe Sharkey, writing in The New York Times, reported on then-recently released documents outlining “How Hitler’s Forces Planned to Destroy German Christianity.“
In addition to rejecting, and hoping to overturn, Christianity, Nazis also rejected the Enlightenment ideal of objective reality. Konrad Heiden, a historian of Nazism, said that Nazism incorporated a hodgepodge of political theories.
Only one feature was consistent throughout, Heiden claimed. Nazism rejected objectivity and causality; it rejected “a world in which causal links work themselves out independently of transcendent forces.” That very essence of Nazism can be seen in this quote from Hitler. “We do not judge by … purely scientific standards … We judge by the spiritual energy which a people is capable of putting forth … I intend to set up a thousand year Reich and anyone who supports me in battle is a fellow fighter for a unique spiritual – I would almost say divine – creation. At the decisive moment the decisive factor is not the ratio of strength but the spiritual force employed.” Nazism, in the words of author Peter S. Fisher, “erased the boundary between fantasy and reality.” Nazis wanted to replace Darwinian evolution, Einstein’s theories and Genesis with World Ice theory, that described Aryans as “gods come directly from Heaven to Earth.”
Rudolf Olden was an anti-Nazi journalist. In 1932, he published Prophets in the German Crisis: The Miraculous or the Enchanted. Olden insisted that Nazism’s rise was linked to “a German preoccupation with the supernatural, exacerbated by war, defeat, and depression,” as Kurlander summarizes Olden’s work. Politics, according to Olden, is “‘an eternal struggle between rationality and the miraculous … when rationality comes under pressure” it becomes “mute, it is eaten by doubt, it emigrates or is restricted … the predominance of miraculous forces’ had marginalized ‘everyone that wants to think rationally.’”
Hitler read kinky author Ernst Schertel’s 1923 book, Magic: History, Theory, Practice. It is one of the most underlined books in Hitler’s personal library. Kurlander quotes Schertel as expressing ideas very similar to the record-breaking, international New Age bestseller, The Secret, published by Rhonda Byrne in 2006. Both Schertel and Byrne insist that thoughts can alter physical reality. In his 1913 book Totem and Taboo, Sigmund Freud called this notion “omnipotence of thought.” Freud described it as foundational to animism. Animism is the religious belief system that all primitive humans probably believed in at one time, before the advent of the Big Five, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Animism posits that each thing has its own spirit, and that humans can change material reality through relationships with those spirits.
Schertel mocks the concept of objective reality, and insists that invisible realities supersede visible ones. Kurlander quotes Schertel: “It would be ‘senseless to counterpoise the empirical perceptions as real opposite the fictive conceptions of the demonic’ Schertel explained, ‘for the empirical world is also fictive, resting on an imaginative synthetic foundation.’ What materialists deemed ‘empirical reality’ Schertel suggested, was ‘in its roots demonic – or magic in nature.’” Schertel called objective reality a “jugglery of fantasy.” After escaping the bonds of reality, the adept could “intervene in this structure, that is to say change the world according to our will … to create reality where no reality exists.”
To claim the power that awaits the adept, he must reject objective reality and invest in the omnipotence of thought, what Schertel called “an “accumulation of potential and kinetic world energies … the first stardust” aided by Satan himself. Hitler underlined passages about Satan in Schertel’s book. “Satan is the fertilizing, destroying-constructing warrior … He who does not carry demonic seeds within him will never give birth to a new world.” Another underlined passage: “Horror always lurks at the bottom of the magic world and everything holy is always mixed with horror.” Schertel described objective reality as a prison that makes it harder for practitioners to access their special powers. This formula, again, one highlighted by the reader Adolf Hitler, constitutes a rejection of the Enlightenment, for which objective reality was supreme, and Judeo-Christian morality. As described by Freud, this rejection of objective reality and insistence on the primacy of omnipotence of thought constitutes a return, as the Nazis themselves hoped for, to a pre-Christian, pre-Enlightenment, pagan worldview.
Contemporary New Agers, and Christophobic polemicists, purposely misrepresent the history of the European Witch Craze. As New Agers tell it, “During the Middle Ages, the misogynist Catholic Inquisition murdered nine million women because they still practiced a pre-Christian, pagan religion. The witch craze only ended when enlightened atheists were able to convince Catholic clergy that it was irrational.” One can find variations of this so-called history in respected media. These include Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s classic feminist manifesto, Witches, Midwives, and Nurses, Michael Shermer’s _The Moral Arc_, and the Canadian documentary The Burning Times. Problem: not a word of this formula is accurate. Modern scholars point out that the witch craze did not take place in the Middle Ages, but rather in the Early Modern Period, perhaps 40,000 died, and the witch craze was a neighbor-on-neighbor atrocity. Women often accused other women. At least two Catholic priests, Friedrich Spee and Alonso Salazar de Frias, played roles in ending the witch craze. And Salazar, a.k.a. “The Witches Advocate,” worked for – wait for it – The Spanish Inquisition.
Where did the false narrative emerge? One avid disseminator of the false witch craze narrative was SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. Himmler founded a “Special Task Force on Witches” whose job it was to collect, through purchase or theft, archival material about witches. The SS Witch Division accumulated nearly thirty thousand documents. Himmler wanted to research how the “dominant Aryan-Germanic religion of Nature” could “be defeated by the decadent Jewish-Christian religion.” Witches were the “guardians of the German faith” and “natural healers” of German sagas. For New Agers, and for Nazis, “Witches became earth mothers, practitioners of an ancient Indo-Germanic religion that the Catholic Church … the true monster … sought to eradicate.” “My ancestors were witches and I am a heretic,” declared SS Obersturmfuhrer Otto Rahn. Himmler commissioned “‘witch novels in the form of a trilogy.’” Himmler, just like pagans today, cultivated a sense of victimization around the witch craze. “The ‘martyred and torn apart bodies of our mothers and girls burned to ashes in the witch trials’” were called upon to justify the mass murder of Jews. Because, of course, Jews controlled the Catholic Church, and Christianity sprang from Judaism.
Vampires, spoken of as if real, were associated, in propaganda, with “Polish danger.” Czechs, Serbs, and Jews were also demonized using vampire imagery. “Slavic vampirism became a metaphor for racial degeneration and political disintegration. Racially degenerate Slavic and Jewish vampires met their match in the heroic Aryan.” One group victimized by the Nazis that is rarely mentioned are Serbs, and yet the USHMM statistics indicate that Nazis murdered more Serbs than handicapped people, Gypsies, aka Roma, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, other victim groups more frequently mentioned. The mass murder of Serbs and other Slavs, like the mass murder of Jews, was facilitated by propaganda depicting Slavs as vampires. In contrast to Slavic vampires, Nazis encouraged each other to regard themselves as werewolves. Over Goebbels’ Radio Werwolf (sic), listeners could sing along to lyrics encouraging them to bite and eat their enemies. Some lyrics: “I bite. I eat. I am not tame.”
All aspects of Nazism, including the most evil, were somehow interwoven with some aspects of New Age thinking. “The Third Reich embraced a range of pagan, esoteric, and Indo-Aryan religious doctrines that buttressed its racial, political and ideological goals.” Leading parapsychologist Hans Bender, whose work involved researching poltergeists, joined the Nazi Party to advance his own career and “knowingly countenanced” evil medical experimentation “to preserve the funding and independence” of his own research. He continued his career as a famous parapsychologist after the war and died peacefully in 1991 at age 84.
Auschwitz, Ravensbruck, and Dachau concentration camps all had biodynamic gardens. These were based “‘on a holistic view of the farm or garden as an integrated organism comprising soil, plants, animals, and various cosmic forces, with sowing and harvesting conducted according to astrological principles.’” The gardeners rejected fertilizer and pesticides, relying instead on “‘homeopathic preparations meant to channel the etheric and astral energies of the Earth and other celestial bodies.’” “Berlin’s athletic fields for the Summer Olympics were treated biodynamically.”
New Age ideas were consulted in the most pressing military decisions. “Even during the most desperate moments of the war, Nazi science was as preoccupied with faith-based fantasies of ‘absolute conceptional boundlessness’ as it was with practical military technologies… one can only speculate as to how much more effective German armaments production might have been without this Nazi proclivity for miraculous thinking.” The Berlin Pendulum Institute attempted to locate enemy battleships by suspending a pendulum over toy battleships located on a large map of the Atlantic. This methodology returns to primitive magic as described by Sir James Frazer in The Golden Bough. Frazer described homeopathic magic, the primitive belief that something that looks like something else has magical power over that something else. This same idea is behind voodoo dolls. Fantastic hopes for, and promises of miracle weapons encouraged Germans to continue fighting long after the war was lost.
Kurlander writes, “The Holocaust was only possible in its scope and severity because of the elision of biopolitical and circumstantial factors with volkisch-esoteric, fantastical, even magical conceptions of Jewish monstrosity.” “Pagan and occultist” images were used to demonize Jews. “This conception of the Jews as simultaneously a biological threat to the racial body politic and vampiric monsters operating outside the bounds of humanity, invited, in turn, all the more radical and totalizing solutions to the Jewish question.”
In the final days, Himmler was inseparable from his astrologer, consulting him on all aspects of the war. Goebbels looked to Nostradamus to find reassuring prophecies. Hitler owned an original copy of the prelude to Wagner’s Gotterdammerung, or the Twilight of the Gods, and its nihilistic mythology helped to inform the Nazis’ behavior. On March 19, 1945, a bit over a month before his suicide, Hitler issued his so-called Nero Decree, urging the destruction of Germany’s infrastructure. Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, Bormann, and many other top Nazis and thousands of ordinary Germans committed suicide. Nazis embraced their coming end as a reenactment of Wagnerian and other nihilistic, mythological themes.
We cannot turn back the clock and rescue the Nazis’ millions of victims. We owe it to those innocent victims to diagnose the pathology that murdered them. We say, “Never again.” The question becomes, “Never again what?” What exactly is the perfect storm that gave birth to Nazism? How to recognize it on the horizon? How to defuse it?
Many attribute Nazism’s death toll to Christianity. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a highly influential institution. It reports that anti-Semitism has plagued the world for two thousand years. This inaccurate two-thousand-year limit identifies anti-Semitism, and, by extension, Nazism, with Christianity. Dabru Emet is a September 10, 2000 statement signed by over 220 Jewish rabbis and scholars. Dabru Emet states, “Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out.” Many more such statements could be cited.
Books linking Christianity and Nazism have produced great success for authors like Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, James Carroll, and John Cornwell. A database search shows that, just in the two-year period after its publication, Hitler’s Pope was the subject of over six hundred articles in mainstream and scholarly presses. These articles weren’t just reviews, but calls for thorough self-examination among Christians. A similar database search turns up merely thirty articles about Hitler’s Monsters in the year and a half since its publication. Hitler’s Pope became a New York Times bestseller. Today’s Amazon rating for Hitler’s Monsters is 78,231—nowhere near bestseller status. After the publication of Cornwell’s book in 1999, James Carroll’s Constantine’s Sword in 2001, and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s A Moral Reckoning: The Role of the Catholic Church in the Holocaust and Its Unfulfilled Duty of Repair in 2002, Christians worldwide engaged in protracted and profound efforts at self-examination, apologies, and amends.
I am unaware of any such exercise among New Age followers. New Agers shamelessly promote some of the very same falsehoods disseminated by Nazis. There has been no ethical or intellectual housecleaning around the fake witch craze narrative, the rejection of objective reality and that rejection’s impact on ethics, or the New Age premise that conventional morality is oppressive and only for little people. Further, white supremacy is alive and well among Neo-Pagans. “Racists Are Threatening to Take Over Paganism,” Vice reported on April 2, 2018. “Faith, Family, and Folk,” the motto of modern Odinists, would meet with Himmler’s approval.
Not only hardcore Neo-Pagans espouse ideas that would be comfortable in the Nazi intellectual toolkit. One of the fastest growing groups in the West identifies as “spiritual but not religious.” Just as Nazism did, New Age theology cherry picks from a religious cafeteria menu. Again, so what? Why does this matter? It matters because this approach is often accompanied by the elimination of any ethical or intellectual standards. Truth, and right and wrong, are what the individual says they are. Personal responsibility is erased. The spiritual-but-not-religious person feels empowered not only to select religious trinkets from the display case, but also to choose which history “feels” best. History is rewritten. If the spiritual-but-not-religious consumer wants to use the word “karma” and practice yoga and never acknowledge the horrors of the caste system, that’s fine. New Agers might practice dervish spinning without acknowledging the cost of jihad and gender apartheid. They can attend witch doctor weekend workshops while ignoring how the very same magical beliefs they’ve chosen selectively to adopt and apply endanger albinos in East Africa, living human beings who are threatened with dismemberment so that their body parts can be harvested for magic rituals. At the same time, the spiritual-but-not-religious person is certain that Christianity was responsible for Nazism, and the Crusades were Catholic war crimes committed against unoffending Muslims. New Agers pick and choose self-serving moralities and rewrite history no less than did Heinrich Himmler.
Modern, conscious Christians are denied this kind of tunnel vision. Christians must incorporate crimes committed in the name of the church into their ethical worldview. New Ages get to float above the blood spilled in the name of their beliefs. That denial is not a good thing. We say “never again.” To honor this motto, we must confront what really happened the first time. That confrontation has to include the crimes of the New Age.
Yes, Christians have stereotyped Jews negatively. Yes, Christians have committed crimes against Jews. Yes, it is a good thing that Christians have engaged in self-examination and making of amends for these crimes. But seeking the cause of Nazism in Christianity is a dead end; I argue as much in Against Identifying Nazism with Christianity. Rather, the thought processes that lead to Nazism are getting off scot-free. If you want to find the criminals who leave the largest mass graves, look to those who say, “Let’s wipe the slate clean. Let’s be pure. Let’s invent a whole new hodgepodge system cherry picked from random exotica. Let’s decide that neither the old rules nor objective reality apply to us. We are not responsible for the sins committed by those who believe what we believe. We can rewrite history however we want.” These are the attitudes that give birth to the biggest mass graves.
They are alive and well in the New Age movement.