The revival of Germanic mythology and folklore in Austria in the last two decades of the 1800s was very important to the development of Nazi esotericism and cosmology, but it must be seen in the context of a much larger occult revival that had been going on in Europe for about a century. The main ideas of what would become Western occultism, like Gnosticism, Hermeticism, and the Cabala, came from the eastern Mediterranean more than 1,500 years ago. However, the scientific revolution of the 1600s pushed most of these ideas out of Western thought.
At this point, you should stop and think about what these ideas mean. Gnosticism, which was practiced by early Christian heretics and means “direct knowledge” (gnosis), is based on two main ideas. The first is dualism, which Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh say can be explained in this way:
As the word “dualism” suggests, it is based on the idea that there is an opposition, and often a conflict, between two different ideas, sets of values, or realities. In dualism, some parts or orders of reality are given more importance than others. Some parts of reality are rejected as not being real, bad, or both. Christianity is dualist because it makes a difference between the soul and the body and between the spirit and “unregenerate nature.”
The second tenet is about how bad matter is:
Matter was turned down because it is inherently bad. People thought that a less powerful and evil god had made the world and everything in it. So, matter and material creation had to be surpassed in order to unite with a greater and truer god whose domain was pure spirit. This was what the word “gnosis” meant: to unite with a greater and truer god.
The dualistic ideas of Persian Zoroastrianism were probably where Gnostic ideas came from.
Later, it would come up again in Persia with a teacher named Mani. This time, it would be called Manicheism.
Hermeticism comes from Hermes Trismegistus, which is the Greek name for the Egyptian god Thoth, who is the god of knowledge and literature. The Greeks thought that this “scribe of the gods” wrote all sacred texts, which they called “Hermetic.” Hermes’s ancient knowledge is said to be in 42 books. The Hermetica is the name for the parts of these books that have survived. The great library of Alexandria kept the papyrus copies of Hermes’ books. Most of this knowledge was lost when the library burned down, but some pieces were saved and, according to a legend, buried by initiates in a secret desert spot.
Hermetic works like The Divine Pymander and The Vision talk about how Hermes Trismegistus got to know God’s wisdom and also have talks about how the soul changes over time. The Tabula smaragdina, also known as the Emerald Tablet, is said to have the most complete summary of Egyptian philosophy. It was very important to alchemists, who thought it held the mysterious secrets of the Universe. Hermes Trismegistus is said to have been the best philosopher, king, and priest. He is also said to have written a lot, with 36,000 books about how nature works. Hermes Trismegistus was the personification of all wisdom. He was made up of the Egyptian god Thoth and the Greek god Hermes, both of whom were linked to the spirits of the dead. But it’s likely that the writings that are said to be by him were written by early Christians under their own names.
The Cabala, which is the mystical system of classical Judaism, was the third part of the three-part foundation of Western occultism. The Hebrew word for “Cabala” is “that which is received.” It is based on the Torah (the Jewish scriptures) and is a kind of map, given to Adam by angels and passed down through the ages, that helps our fallen species find its way back to God. Cabalism’s most important book is the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Creation), which may have been written by Rabbi Akiba, who was killed by the Romans in the third century. The Sefer Yetzirah says that God made the world using 32 secret paths: the ten sephirot (or “emanations” that make up reality) and the 22 Hebrew letters.
Moses de Leon, a Spanish cabalist, wrote the Sefer ha-Zohar (Book of Splendor) between 1280 and 1286. It is the most important document of classical cabalist thought. It is based on the Zohar, which is a set of teachings made by the wise man Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai in the second century while he was meditating in a cave near Lod, Israel. In the Zohar, God is called Ein-Sof, which means “without end.” As Ein-Sof, God can’t be represented or known by fallen people because he has no end.
Humanity’s goal is to become one with God and, since everything is connected, to help all other souls in the Universe do the same.
In the West, Cabalism became one of the most important parts of occultism, with its magical amulets and incantations, seals and demonology, and focus on the power of the Hebrew alphabet’s letters. Christian occultists focused on the Tetragrammaton YHVH, which is the name of God that can’t be spoken. Through this name, it was possible to control the whole universe.