The basis of this book revolves around obscure texts of the little-known and enigmatic figure of Karl Maria Wiligut, a name that I had first encountered back in the early 90s from an interview with co-author Michael Moynihan. He expressed plans to publish Wiligut's writings and in 2001, Dominion press finally released The Secret King.
I acquired the limited hardbound edition upon the book's release and treated it as little more than a `curio', tucking it away as a soon-to-be rarity in my book collection. At the time, I acknowledged The Secret King as the first and only of its kind to examine the source of occult writings specifically related to the Third Reich, and left it at that.
This revised edition of The Secret King, released jointly by Feral House and Dominion, demands reappraisal as it contains an entirely expanded introduction to Wiligut's life and work. In addition, the new material is much broader in scope and examines the "bigger picture" of the post-war phenomenon of interest surrounding Nazi occultism. This aspect of the book alone makes the material more intriguing and noteworthy.
So, who would want to read about nearly century-old German mystical texts that were not widely distributed even during the historical era in which they were penned? Evidently, thousands of readers, as the authors assert judging from the sales of The Secret King's first edition that sold largely on word-of-mouth alone. More importantly, why would anyone want to peruse such material in the first place? Authors Moynihan and Flowers thoroughly address this monumental question in the book's first section, which examines the myths surrounding Nazi occultism. First, the vast majority of books on this nebulous subject trump sensationalism over scholarship in their often unscrupulous and unsubstantiated claims. One notable exception would be Nicholas Goodricke Clarke's The Occult Roots of Nazism but even its main premise that the early 20th century Ariosophists were a major influence on National Socialism is highly debatable. Secondly, the modern myth of Nazi occultism simply makes for compelling reading in the 21st century. Several factors for the promulgation of this myth initially took form when American and British citizenry alike where still taking a strong isolationist stance on the possibility of yet another war with Germany. Winston Churchill and his advisor Walter Johannes Stein played no small role in demonizing the German people, Stein espousing the creation of a World Economy - thus effectively driving a wedge between Britain and the National Socialists, who were in favor of abolishing usury. Essentially, the Allied crusade against the National Socialists was initially, largely due to this economically unacceptable idea!
Adolf Hitler is mentioned in this section of the book, and for one to assume that he was using or being used by occult forces to account for his rise to power is the same dubious logic used to propagate the notion that the Egyptians must have been in contact with extra-terrestrial forces in constructing the pyramids. Furthermore, Mein Kampf is loaded with biblical references and the major spiritual current underlying the Third Reich was Christianity. Not surprisingly, the postwar phenomenon of Christian and Roman Catholic exoneration of Nazi atrocities has only further bolstered the perceived aura of demonic or occult forces underlying the Third Reich. As for the Pagan and non-Christian spiritual currents that did exist (albeit to a small degree overall) within the Third Reich, The Secret King gives a fascinating overview of a number of individuals, many of whom were at one time or another well-received in Nationalist Socialist circles. Herman Wirth and Italian esotericist Julius Evola are mentioned (among several other prominent figures), all of whom eventually fell out of favor with the regime. In addition, postwar sympathizers Savitri Devi and Miguel Serrano are discussed at length as well, whose lives and work prove to be as interesting as they were controversial.
The reality of Nazi occultism, although far less sensational than the mythic aspect, is no less intriguing. Wiligut had an obscure and checkered past before being inducted into the SS under the nom de guerre Karl Maria Weisthor by none other than Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler - himself an enthusiast of pre-historic German nationalism. It is interesting that such a high-ranking official in National Socialist Germany would have an interest in esoteric matters and consequently, an affinity for Wiligut's meta-historical teachings. One can safely assume that had it not been for Himmler, Wiligut would have never held an official rank in the SS.
As for Wiligut's texts, they were either composed in poetic verse (often accompanied by runes or runic formulas) or appeared in the form of articles, many of which were published during the 30s under the pseudonym Jarl Widar for Hagal, the journal of the Edda Society. Other entries merely served as "memos" to be presided over by Heinrich Himmler. It is beyond the scope of this review to provide an analysis of Wiligut's work, and his non-linear continuum of ideas and concepts cannot be fully digested with a cold reading. Collin Cleary's critical appraisal of Wiligut's philosophy and in-depth coverage of the first text, "The Nine Commandments of Gôt", (listed in the newly expanded bibliography) is highly recommended.
A crucial pre-cursor to gleaning insight into Wiligut's runology can be accessed in a visual schematic of two intersecting poles (forming a cross), the horizontal pole representing matter and the vertical pole representing spirit. Consciousness, form and life thus arise at the poles' intersection. The dynamic or circulatory function along the vertical pole allows for the interaction of spirit, matter and energy in regenerative cycles. This `Runic-key' concept is the backbone of Wiligut's "Whispering of Gotos - Rune-Knowledge" and is introduced by the authors in the first section of the book. Further treatment of this essential concept to Wiligut's verbiage is provided in Gabriele Dechend's article for Hagal, "The Cosmos in the Conception of Our Ancestors". It is included in the Appendices and contains numerous diagrams elaborating upon Wiligut's circulatory runology.
As a long-time astronomy enthusiast, Wiligut's article "Zodiacal Signs and Constellations" (from Hagal 12) was particularly interesting for me personally. Wiligut, writing as Jarl Widar, speaks with much zeal and fervor regarding the astronomical phenomenon of the precession of the equinoxes, a 25,920-year cycle where twelve constellations pass through and invisible arc that stretches across the night sky. This enormous time-period, referred to by Wiligut as the "great solar year", has a significant role in Mithraic iconography and is a referential staple of John Major Jenkins's popular books on Mayan cosmology and the 2012 phenomenon.
A new addition to this book that did not appear in the first edition of The Secret King is the Gotos-Kalanda, a poem based on the yearly course of twelve months and their relationship to natural cycles that occur within them. Even in English translation, the poem reads beautifully and integrates Wiligut's unique vision of Got-mythology.
Overall, it would appear to be that The Secret King is the last word on Nazi occultism but a growing interest in Wiligut and subsequent books that have appeared since the first edition have proved otherwise. More importantly, The Secret King certainly raises the bar for any future works on the subject - and is a benchmark that will continue to separate the wheat from the chaff in this largely misunderstood topic.