Magonia 92, June 2006
While attacking the `Nazi UFO’ myth a few years ago, I found that many of the sources assuring us that the Nazis went to Mars, or the Antarctic, or used their ‘foo fighters’ to shoot down 200 Allied bombers in one (oddly unidentified) raid also had much to say about the ‘Spear of Destiny’. This led me to concentrate on what is probably the greatest one-book occult hoax ever – Trevor Ravenscroft’s highly successful, highly influential, The Spear of Destiny.
You’ll probably have some idea of the story, because it’s at the heart of most of the belief in Hitler and the Nazis being involved with the occult, and possessing supernatural powers. Pauwels and Bergier, in The Morning of the Magicians, did some of the groundwork, but it is Ravenscroft who has promoted Hitler as not just fascinated by the occult from his time in Vienna onwards, but hugely knowledgeable about it, and imbued with its power through ritual and through his possession of the ultimate magical object. The object concerned is a tatty, much-repaired old spear, constructed from disparate bits, that Ravenscroft says cut short the life of Jesus on the Cross. It didn’t. The most accurate analysis of the ‘Hofburg Spear’ dates its very earliest component to the seventh century.
Ravenscroft’s Hitler fantasy is complex, lengthy, and when analysed utterly implausible. It is a total fabrication, and even the background history he provides is, as recorded in Ken Anderson’s Hitler and the Occult (Prometheus, 1995) wholly undependable.
Like many fantasists, Ravenscroft pretends that he has a source for his story, a source with a unique, personal knowledge of both Hitler and the occult who, for reasons never explained, told only Ravenscroft about what he knew. The name of the source is Walter Johannes Stein, an Austrian and a devoted follower of Dr Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Anthroposophical movement. He had a Ph.D but was not, contrary to the impression Ravenscroft gave at times, a medical doctor. His thesis appears to have been predominantly mystical, as was most of his life’s work. It is likely that Ravenscroft never met Stein, though he may have met his widow, and may also have believed that he had contacted Stein psychically himself, or through a medium.Stein died in 1957, and the first edition of Spear appeared in 1972. In it, Ravenscroft claimed that:
“In 1911 Stein had found a copy of Parsifal that had been annotated with occult insights by the young Hitler, tracked him down, and was impressed by his vast knowledge of the occult and his desire to own the Spear, which they went together to see. As Hitler rose through the ranks of the Right in Germany he was progressively initiated into magic, and the same day that the German army invaded Austria, he went to the Hofburg to take possession of the Spear, which somehow facilitated his power and his conquests Stein left Germany in 1933 because Himmler was going to force him to join the ‘SS Occult Bureau’.”Stein was a British intelligence agent who brought with him from Germany the plans for the German invasion of Britain [in 1933?], and advised Churchill on occult matters throughout the war.”
And much more besides. But Stein never was, and never did, any of those things.
The Internet is of little use – the Ravenscroft version of Stein’s life will take years to expunge – but Stein’s The Death of Merlin (Floris Books, 1990) reprints the autobiography he published in his own magazine The Present Age in 1936. It covers his time in Vienna, but makes no mention of Hitler or the Spear. In The Ninth Century and the Holy Grail (originally published in 1928 but now Temple Lodge Press, 2001) Stein refers to the ‘Holy Spear’ or ‘Lance’ in its role in the Grail Legend. No mention of it in the 20th century, or of Hitler. And in the substantial W J Stein – A Biography (Temple Lodge Press, 1990), Johannes Tautz makes no reference to any of the key elements of Ravenscroft’s account. Spear might be a biography of somebody else entirely. Actually, it pretty much is.
Spear was first commissioned and published by Neville Spearman, the British publisher responsible for so much core ‘alternative’ writing. In his ’part-autobiography’ Catching Up with the Future, Neville Armstrong describes Ravenscroft as “rather a foolish, twisted chap who had considerable esoteric knowledge wrongly used”, and notes that the only time he took drugs was when Ravenscroft gave them to him. After receiving a £2,000 advance Ravenscroft disappeared, providing nothing in return. Eventually, Armstrong tracked him down and paid him weekly until the book – clearly not yet written more than a decade after Stein’s death – was finished. Armstrong sold the American rights alone for over $50,000, a great deal of money thirty years ago. The wretched thing has been in print, and making money, ever since.
I found that the story wasn’t even Ravenscroft’s idea. It originated in an article by the well-known journalist Max Caulfield, published in the Sunday Dispatch in 1960, apparently using information from Stein’s archives provided by his widow (presumably this was Yopi, his second wife, of whom his Anthroposophist friends do not seem to have approved). That article, too, is wildly inaccurate. In it, the Spear really is the one used on Jesus Christ, an imaginary ‘SS Colonel Conrad Buch, personal adviser to Adolf Hitler on occult matters’ is heavily involved, and Streicher, Himmler and Goering perform ‘blood lodge’ rituals using Hitler’s blood.
But its headings are critical to Ravenscroft’s later claims. Its title is 'The Spear of Destiny’, and the sub-headings read, ‘How Hitler lived by the weapon thrust into Christ’, ’Revealed for the first time the incredible truth about Hitler’s worship of the Devil’, and ‘This talisman, he thought, would bring to his aid all the Powers of Darkness.’
One persistent clue to the standard occult hoax is the appearance of gratuitous, imagined cruelty. Two examples will suffice here. First, Ravenscroft pretends that Stein told him about “… the Jews or Communists … sacrificial victims who were murdered … as part of the ritual magic in which Dietrich Eckart opened the centres of Adolf Hitler to give him a vision of and a means of communication … they were incredibly sadistic and ghastly.”
Eckart never opened Hitler’s centres, and there is no evidence that any ritual sacrifice was made. Yet Ravenscroft creates an even worse, sickeningly violent fantasy. He claims that Stein discovered that Himmler, wanting to continue the Final Solution and rid Europe of Jews, copied a non-existent pseudo-homeopathic experiment he claimed was conducted by Rudolf Steiner to drive rabbits off an estate in Silesia by distributing across it the ‘potentised ashes’ of rabbit testicles in solution.
Ravenscroft’s develops his fiction, stating that Himmler ordered experiments in which the ashes of Jews were injected into other Jews. These victims were, he asserts in a cruel, fictional, aside, ”kept inside by the prison foreman Arthur Dietzsche witha cat-of-nine-tails.” The experiments were complicated, says Ravenscroft, because “the potentised ashes only achieved their maximum functional effect at particular times of year, for apparently such potencies were sensitive to extraterrestrial influences in the manner that the phases of the moon affect plant germination and growth.”Then, says Ravenscroft, the potentised ashes of concentration-camp Jews were spread “across the length and breadth of the Reich”. Of the exodus of surviving Jews from Europe he asks, “Was it the result of this diabolical form of pest control?” No, it wasn’t, but the unremitting darkness of Ravenscroft’s fantasies is underlined by this extraordinary passage.
The 1973 UK edition of Spear says of Ravenscroft, ”He was captured on a raid which attempted to assassinate Field Marshal Rommel in North Africa.” And he told the court the same. But as the respected war author Michael Asher explains in Get Rommel (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004), Ravenscroft was already a POW when the raid took place, having given himself up when an earlier reconnaissance went wrong. Recently there have been suggestions that Ravenscroft knew about the importance of Rosslyn Chapel years before the current theories became fashionable, and that his wife had for some unexplained reason had chained herself to the Apprentice Pillar. It’s easy to forget how recent the Rosslyn story is, but even Holy Blood Holy Grail gives it only a brief mention. It will be interesting to see whether Ravenscroft becomes to the Grail/Templar/Mason writers what Stein supposedly was to Ravenscroft.
For anyone who might want to believe that Ravenscroft had the least idea what he was talking about, I’d like to finish by sharing with you his prophecy of the end times, vouchsafed to us at pages 143-144 of the relatively obscure follow-up to Spear, The Cup of Destiny (1982):
“At the end of this century the Order of the Knights Templar will re-emerge to change the whole existing social order. This will take place in the period immediately following the coming world catastrophies, which will commence in 1982 and continue in three terrible waves of destruction up to the year 2001 on an apocalyptic scale. During the struggle to rebuild the civilised world, the anti-Christ and the great dictator will attempt to seize world power. Their adversaries will be the reborn Templars and the souls they shall choose to join them in rebuilding a new world order in which the freedom of the individual spirit will find its true place. Throughout this period, that mighty spirit behind the figure of Parzival will be their heroic and beloved leader.”