In which our intrepid hero bisociates wildly, and thinks he might be onto something.

I’m getting towards the end of Rules for Radicals (sort of like Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War, but for political organisers), and it’s come time to select the next book I want to read. It’ll probably be a biography on Aleister Crowley.

A few years ago, I bought The World at War on DVD, but until now I’ve been reluctant to watch the whole thing, some 22½ hours of it. I’m coming to the end, now, and one episode on the SS reminded me of something I’ve always found fascinating about Nazism: the movement’s occult roots.

The Nazis’ eugenics policy was (I’m led to believe) firmly rooted in the teachings of one Jörg Lanz, a defrocked Jesuit theosophist from Austria, whose magazine, Ostara, was avidly read by one Adolf Hitler in his youth. More theosophical wackiness derived from the Thule Gesselschaft, and the SS apparently fancied itself as some sort of Aryan Jesuit order.

And then there are the Nazi archaeologists a la Indiana Jones, the Ahnenerbe, and Himmler’s infamous (but difficult to pin down) witch-hunting historians, Sonderkommando H.

Some months ago, however, I came across a reference to Aleister Crowley. I have to admit that I’m fascinated with the guy (and not just because he’s my superlatively not-weird, near-best friend Belinda’s favourite author): they just don’t make ’em like Crowley any more.

The story goes that in one of the falling-outs that seemed to occur prolifically in Crowley’s wake, the German arm of the AA/Thelema/Ordo Templi Orientis movement (henceforth known as the Crowley Fan Club) came apart and soon came under the spell of a charismatic young Austrian corporal, the enfant terrible of the Berlin occult scene, Adolf Hitler. I own two biographies of Crowley, so it occurred to me last night to look it up.

Sadly, no dice.

Crowley Fan, Martha Küntzel, who was first wildly infatuated with Crowley, later went on (as these types are wont to) to be wildly infatuated with Hitler. She’d apparently tried to give Hitler a copy of the Liber AL, and Crowley later on claimed that he’d been some sort of spiritual mentor or pope or Hidden Master to the Nazi regime. Oh, and that Hitler had ripped him off, twisted his teachings, gave him no credit and didn’t cut him in for a share of the Thousand-Year Reich.

Strangely enough, though, another name came up repeatedly with regard to that period of Crowley’s life. Now, I know there’s a book out there that associates a science-fiction writer named “H” with the early Californian chapter of the OTO (it’s Hubbard, by the way; if it was Heinlein, I’d’ve bought a copy), but this one spun me. Both books mentioned this guy. And he’s a Big Name.

Ian Fleming. Yes, that Ian Fleming.

It seems that Fleming, who was involved in foreign intelligence at the time, first tried to use Crowley as bait to capture Rudolf Hess, and when that didn’t work out, consulted Crowley on using the Nazis’ predilection for the occult against them. He may have even tapped Crowley in order to use the latter’s network of Fan Clubbers to gather intelligence (although many of them had been chewed up and spat out as evil, Masonic Jewish sympathisers or the like).

It probably says something about the way I think, but the first thing that comes to mind here is the possibility of Bond as occult allegory. Maybe those aren’t adolescent sex fantasies in the movies, after all. They could be alchemical marriages…

(Incidentally, Crowley’s parents were both Exclusive Brethren. Given the Brethren’s recent involvement in New Zealand and Australian politics, it’s only a matter of time, before some enterprising conspiracy nut comes up with a juicy theory…)