Esotericism Studies and Far-Right Academic Networks
At least since the 1990s, academic networks linked to the New Right and neo-fascism are spreading the ideas of authors like Julius Evola, Alain de Benoist and Alexander Dugin. Their common ground is esotericism as understood by traditionalist extremists. By collaborating with leading far-right publishers and groups, they continue to make their respective ideologies acceptable in academic circles, but they are also a symptom of a wider pushback against a perceived “left mainstream” and the resurgance of far-right politics. These activities are often ignored, denied, or downplayed. It is time that academics take them more seriously.
Esotericism has always exerted a big fascination on me, especially the Kabbala. It was for this reason that a friend and I wanted to join the only large study program about esotericism, the Western Esotericism MA at the University of Amsterdam. We could not know that our attempt to gather more information about the program would turn into the discovery of far-right political tendencies that are of far greater importance than our initial interest in the program. I want to share this discovery because I am worried about the political developments in a world I would very much like to join, the world of academia. I am worried because far-right efforts are not taken seriously enough, especially when they have a long history that nobody seems to be bothered to investigate even when it erupts in current debates about new research methods. This is why I am taking action now. In this sense, my piece is also a sincere call to senior academics to take these issues much more seriously, or, maybe more accurately: To act on them.
Hier vind je een Nederlandse vertaling van deze tekst. Here’s a Dutch translation of this text.
My friend and I have tried over months to contact professors and other more experienced people to verify our evidence and to discuss what can be done with it. We either did not get any reply – or we were told that this information is correct and important, yet nothing happened – or in the most extreme case, our concerns were dismissed with unplausible excuses, as I will show below. We were also asked to get in touch with the respective right-wing persons directly. As a matter of fact, when I decided to dive more into the research about all this, the reason for that was that I wanted to confront the people in question with concrete evidence. However, this evidence became so extensive and so strong that I become convinced that this information needs to be made public. During my researches and contacts with academics I have seen too many tactics of distraction, excuses and gaslighting.
The beginning of my strange journey was very harmless. When learning about the MA program in Amsterdam, my friend and I were reading literature by the professors simply because we were curious. When we looked at Professor Marco Pasi’s publications, we saw that he published in the far-right Ares Verlag, which belongs to the far-right Leopold Stocker Verlag. Both print fascist, antisemitic, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, nationalistic and other literature of that kind. The Stocker Verlag was founded in Graz, Austria in 1917 and published völkisch, antisemitic, nationalist and pro-Nazi, pro-fascist literature. These tendencies continued after the war, when the publisher printed books like those of David Irving, the well-known Shoa denier. In 1999, Stocker publishes the “Neue Ordnung” (“New Order”) journal, which intensified the far-right and anti-semitic elements of the publisher. In the words of the Austrian “Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstandes”:
“Thus, the Neue Ordnung contains uncritical or positive statements about the ideological foundations of fascism (völkisch nationalism, elitism, the construction of an organic state – comparable to the ideology of the ‘Volksgemeinschaft’) and its opposition to democracy, individualism and liberalism, as well as nationalist to ‘revisionist’ views of history on the topics of Auschwitz and forced laborers. Individual contributions include the propagation of anti-Semitic and racist resentment as well as the disparagement of minorities.”
The “Neue Ordnung” was designated “a central organ to build bridges to far-right extremism”. Among others, it included authors such as Björn Clemens, Götz Kubitschek, Martin Lichtmesz, Alexander Markovics (“Identitarian Movement” and “Compact” author), Philip Stein, Angelika Willig and Martin Wiesberg (until 2017 chief editor at Stocker, who also writes for the far-right “Sezession” and “Junge Freiheit” and is involved in the far-right “Institut für Staatspolitik”).
After coming more and more under fire, Stocker decided to found a new daughter-publisher, the Ares Verlag that was also based in Graz. While Stocker published mainly about agriculture, folklore and other traditionalistic, conservative things, Ares’s purpose was to concentrate on far-right and extremist literature – a far more explicit and offensive program, as its naming after the god of war symbolized. Since 2004, it printed the “Neue Ordnung” and was at that time further radicalized by accepting new far-right authors, for example Alain de Benoist and publications by the “Antaios Verlag” of Kubitschek. Other titles include: Wolf Rüdiger Heß (“Ich bereue nichts” / “I regret nothing”, 1994), Walter Marinovic (“Diktatur des Hässlichen” / “Dictatorship of the Ugly”, 1995), Volkmar Weiss (“Die IQ-Falle. Intelligenz, Sozialstruktur und Politik” / “The IQ trap. Intelligence, social structure and politics”, 2000), Karlheinz Weißmann (“Alles, was recht(s) ist” / “All that is right(-wing”), 2000), John Philippe Rushton (“Rasse, Evolution und Verhalten” / “Race, evolution and behavior”, 2005 … this book categorizes people as “white”, “negroids” and “mongoloids”), Armin Mohler (“Die Konservative Revolution in Deutschland 1918-1932”, “The Conservative Revolution in Germany 1918-1932”, 2005), Caspar von Schrenck-Notzing (“Charakterschwäche. Die Re-education der Deutschen und ihre bleibenden Auswirkungen” / “Weakness of character. The re-education of the Germans and its remaining effects”, 2015), Paul Eward Gottfried (“Multikulturalismus und die Politik der Schuld” / “Multiculturalism and the politics of guilt”). Other books praise the Nazi armies and question their responsibility for starting the war, while more present-orientied books are directed against migrants, emancipated women, postmodernism and all the evils of a democratic post-war Europe. You get the idea.
Ares Verlag is one of the central far-right publishers in the German speaking countries, and its activities were in full swing when Pasi published his book there in 2006. On the authors page of Ares, Pasi poses as an Amsterdam professor and the Secretary General of the European Association for the Study of Religion (EASR). Alarmed by this connection of the EASR with such a publishing house, which I thought would alarm the EASR as well, I contacted the current Secretary General and after a meeting of the committee received the answer that they knew of connections between esoteric milieus and right-wing extremism, but that it was usual for scholars in the study of religions to “engage” with the groups they research. That would not mean that they share their views. Pasi had contributed “enormously” to EASR and they see no grounds for the accusations.
However, my concerns are not because Pasi researches on right-wing extremism and “engages” with the groups, but because he patricipated and contributed for decades to these groups and publishers, was an active member, published there. I myself have worked on antisemitism and am not an antisemite. I am aware of the difference. But I have also never seen any reason to cooperate amicably with antisemitic groups and persons over decades, to publish in antisemitic publishing houses and magazines. The following details and connections will clearly prove that this is not an accident. I find it wrong and dangerous to dismiss this because such a person has done “an enormous amount” for an association – I will return to this argument after providing details.
Pasi’s Ares book is a study of “Aleister Crowley and the temptations of politics”: An explicitly political subject written by someone who declares himself as an expert of politics. The place of publication can hardly be a mistake by someone not interested in politics (and even that would be very hard to believe). This is further evidenced by the circumstances: The book, which is a German translation of Pasi’s doctoral dissertation, has an afterword by H.T. Hakl, a well-known member of far-right networks who is based in Graz, like the Ares and Stocker houses. Hakl also published in the neonazi Grabert Verlag and writes, for example, for the far-right magazine “Sezession”: See the article by Felix Schilk, “Heroismus als Weg zur Transzendenz” about Hakl’s praise of the fascist author Julius Evola and the “New Right”. As an admirer and apologist of Evola, Hakl follows an unmistakable political line that is not simply interested in historical study, as he claims, but that is directly linked to present political action and “New Right” ideology. This is also discussed in Horst Junginger’s “The study of religion under the impact of Fascism” on pages 167-169 (Junginger was threatened by Hakl with legal action in response to these pages, the first of several instances that evidence this tactic).
Further, fhe English version of Pasi’s book was translated by the son of the esotericism expert Joscelyn Godwin who also published in Ares and other far-right locations and who wrote for the US fascistic magazine “Tyr” where he collaborated with Michael Moynihan, a former Nazi skinhead and still right-wing extremist who runs, for example, the “Blood Axis” music project. Godwin’s contribution for “Tyr” was, not surprisingly, about Evola. It is interesting that it was revised by him as recently as in 2019 for the dubious esoteric magazine “New Dawn” and reads like an Evola apology and downright worship. Again and again Godwin distances Evola from fascism and implies that he represented “the principles of the true Right”. It is undenieable that Evola’s ideas in fact include racism, nationalism, misogyny, antisemitism etc., so that can only mean that these are legitimately part of the “true Right” in Godwin’s eyes. His other contributions do not look much better, and more can certainly be discovered. For example, Godwin likes to write about Atlantis as the origin of Aryan culture (!), echoing the theses of Herman Wirth, a Nazi pseudo-scientist who stayed influential in the postwar period.
All this shows that Pasi’s involvement in Ares is not simply some unlucky or “naive” mistake, as I was told. There is a long history of far-right political tendencies with which he was very closely related. I know that people can make mistakes and that some of the events that I have discovered are decades ago. But there has never been a distancing and all this is still going on. These people are still working together and are still active in the same circles, which is the result of a longer development, back to the foundation of esotericism studies.
An informative source for this story is Hakl’s 2013 book on “Eranos” that contains his own account of the founding of the Western Esotericism program. On p. 285 he writes how the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism grew out of a “Palladian academy”, a meeting in a villa in Italy organized by Godwin. Among others there were Hakl, Antoine Faivre, Wouter Hanegraaff, Jean-Pierre Brach, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Marco Pasi and Christopher McIntosh present. A second meeting including those people was organized by Hakl in South Austria (most likely Graz).
Let us have a closer look at that network, beginning with Goodrick-Clarke. A good example is an obituary of him by John Morgan of the “white nationalist” publisher Counter-Currents, which in turn is connected with right-wing extremist publishers in Europe, for example with “Integral Tradition Publishing”. It is telling to just quote what Morgan thought was good about Goodrick-Clarke, referring to Goodrick-Clarke’s book “Black Sun”, which was published in 2002:
“Goodrick-Clarke attributes the rise of White racialism to the introduction of racial preferences in Western societies. He writes:
‘The discriminatory effects of these policies on whites, both potential and actual, has understandably caused some resentment among whites. . . . But liberal support for affirmative action has gone further in producing a climate of white guilt. The causes of black crime, drug involvement and welfare dependence are often sought in white racism. Black on white crime in terms of murder, rape and robbery with violence is many times greater than white on black crime. However, the national media typically highlight instances of white racial attacks, while many reports of black crime are ‘colorblind’ and mostly confined to the local press. The massive overrepresentation of blacks in the penal system, evident testimony of black crime, violence and underperformance are largely ignored by the liberal media, or otherwise invoked as further evidence of black disadvantage and white racism.’
Later in the same chapter, he also writes:
‘The question of whether the United States can actually assimilate such immigrants is begged by policies of bilingualism and multiculturalism in the education system. Assimilation is further undermined by the expansion of affirmative action, originally intended to benefit blacks as a result of civil rights legislation, into a government-mandated discrimination against white Americans (but also blacks in practice) in favor of Third World immigrants. The ascendancy of international human rights over notions of national sovereignty has also led to a progressive erosion of citizenship, whereby illegal aliens are granted welfare, education, government subsidies and even voting rights. These issues are a matter of deep concern to conservative groups in the United States, who see no particular reason to transform the demography of the United States, given its wholly unforeseeable consequences. The conversion of the United States into a ‘colony of the world’ or a ‘universal nation’ is without precedent in the modern world. Similar forces are at work in Europe, especially Britain, where multiculturalism is promoted by left-wing and liberal political agendas in the quest for the electoral support of the growing ethnic minorities. A recent report on the future of multi-ethnic Britain has even questioned whether the national epithet ‘British’ carries a racist taint.’
Such comments would certainly not be out-of-place at Counter-Currents or other “New Right” publications, but are surprising coming from the keyboard of an esteemed university professor. Even more shocking, in the passages quoted above, Goodrick-Clarke cites Jared Taylor (specifically, his book “Paved with Good Intentions”) and Peter Brimelow (Alien Nation) for support in his footnotes – sources which would surely mean professional death if quoted with approval in the work of less established academics.
He concludes the chapter as follows:
‘We cannot know what the future holds for Western multicultural societies, but the experiment did not fare well in Austria-Hungary, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. The multiracial challenges in liberal Western states are much greater, and it is evident that affirmative action and multiculturalism are even leading to a more diffuse hostility toward liberalism. From the retrospective viewpoint of a potential authoritarian future in 2020 or 2030, these Aryan cults and esoteric Nazism may be documented as early symptoms of major divisive changes in our present-day Western democracies.’
Goodrick-Clarke is careful to couch his prophecy of a catastrophic failure of liberal democracy only as a possibility, and not necessarily a positive one, but nevertheless, the fact that he even discusses the possibility is greatly at variance with the usual platitudes from the academy about the absolute need for ever-more diversity and multiculturalism in the Western nations.
Whether or not Goodrick-Clarke actually held more sympathy for the milieu he studied than he let on has now become irrelevant, since the Conclusion to Black Sun represents the totality of what he had to say on the matter publicly.”
A bit further down, Morgan then writes “Goodrick-Clarke’s understanding of the real issues at stake was further reinforced for me in our correspondence”. Morgan also describes reading one of Goodrick-Clarke’s books as follows: “At the time, the book hit me like a bolt of lightning. I had no idea that over in Europe (little was happening in America at that time) an entire intellectual tradition had arisen to defend and propagate the ideas of the ’true Right’!” … One remembers Godwin’s “true Right”, which these authors clearly want to defend against the same supposed postmodern-leftist degeneration that is attacked by the Ares Verlag and associated authors.
There seems to be a facination in these circles with Atlantis, Hyperborea and the “Aryan race”. Godwin wrote much about it, as did Christopher McIntosh and others involved. The significance of these myths for far-right thinking seems to have much to do with the Nazi pseudo-scientist Herman Wirth. While searching for the role of Wirth in these “Atlantean” circles, I also came across younger esoteric activists, such as Jafe Arnold, who was a student in Amsterdam and is a disciple of the Russian far-right author Alexander Dugin. Arnold is apparently quite active in far-right networks and, next to Hanegraaff, published an article about Dugin in which he also discusses Wirth and tries to do the same thing with him as the others do with Evola, namely to move him away from Nazism and fascism. Arnold, however, is less scholarly and more ideologically invested. He writes political blogs against migration, the European Union and related topics. He openly defends Dugin’s “Eurasianism” and runs the “Continental-Conscious” blog, where he praises Dugin and the Serbian fascist, anti-semitic traditionalist Dragoš Kalajić, who Arnold calls a “great intellectual”. The blog also cooperates with the “New Dawn” magazin in which Godwin published. Arnold’s blog and “New Dawn” propagate the writings of Boris Nad, who also writes about Hyperborea and Atlantis. These activities are further expanded in the “Eurasianist archive” and “PRAV Publishing”, both run by Arnold.
Another former student of Hanegraaff and Pasi is Jacob Senholt, who was the co-founder of the far-right Integral Tradition Publishing that developed into the Arktos publisher, one of the leading far-right houses today. Again, all the above links and names come together in this network of “New Right”, “Alt-Right”, traditionalist and extremist esotericists. For a detailed article on this network, see “The Rise of the European Far-Right in the Internet Age”.
Moving back to the “founding league” of Western Esotericism, an important link emerges through Massimo Introvigne, who is also discussed by Hakl as part of the first group of researchers. Introvigne is member of a hardline traditionalist, fascistic organization called Alleanza Cattolica, which has roots in a radical Brazilian fascistic movement called “Tradition, Family and Property”. Introvigne’s CESNUR, which does research on new religious movements and is closely affiliated with the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism (ESSWE), is closely allied with it. The linked website contains much background information on this. It was written by someone with a vengeance, but that the information is solid is attested by the fact that Introvigne unsuccessfully threatened the author with legal action – not because Introvigne called the information wrong but because he wanted to shut the website down for “copyright infringement”.
Pasi comes again into play because he is part of the same “New Right” network and also a Crowley follower. Both are important links to CESNUR activities and the founding history of the ESSWE. A more bizarre connection is an 1990s conference about Crowley where Introvigne, Pasi and others discussed “sexual magic” and “sperm Gnosis”.
More serious are the many links to the “Nouvelle Droite” and a spectrum of esoteric far-right extremist authors and activists since the 1980s, which are documented on this website.
For example, Introvigne was a member of a “Groupe de Thèbes”, which consisted of leaders of various “Orders” including prominent far-right extremists: Christian Bouchet for example, was also a prominent speaker at several CESNUR events. Another follower of Crowley, he was, according to the linked article, a …
“… former leader of the Comités d’Action Republicaines – a satellite organization of the RPR – this Nantes native rejoined Alain de Benoist’s GRECE at the beginning of the 1980s, then the extreme right group Troisième Voie, headed by Jean-Gilles Malliarakis. A formation which, in spite of its small number of adherents, was always distinguished by its activism and by a discourse which was both anti-American and anti-Soviet. In July 1991, the organization broke apart. Bouchet quit Troisième Voie and brought a group of militants along with him.
Several weeks later he founded Nouvelle Resistance (NR), a national-Bolshevik organization. His principal adversary: the United States, the incarnation of the capitalist system, which he accused of destroying the identity of peoples. All those who resisted American power and industrial society could thus become potential allies. A profession of faith which has led NR, in addition to its ongoing campaigns against Euro-Disney and McDonald’s, to infiltrate [groups of] young ecologists (see Les Événements du Jeudi #428) and the Committee for Lifting the Embargo Against Iraq (see ibid #463). On the international level, the organization is linked to the Russian National-Bolshevik Front – Bouchet has personally gone to Moscow several times – but also to a myriad of small European ‘red-brown’ groups who have joined together in the European Liberation Front.”
Another example is Thierry Roche, president in 1988 of the Kemit association, a satellite of Benoist’s GRECE. Or Jean-Pierre Giudicelli, the second leader of the Groupe de Thèbes, who had authority in esoteric circles and was a sympethizer of the pro-independence “Front de Liberation National Corse”. As a former member of Ordre Nouveau, he took part in the neo-fascist group Troisième Voie until the end the 1980s and was conspicuous among the assistants of the Front National in Nice after the legislative elections of 1986. Then there is Georges Magne de Cressac or the Belgian Jean-Marie D’Asembourg who was in the patronage committee of the Russian politico-esoteric journal “Milii Angel”. The editor and patron of this journal was no other than Alexander Dugin, then the number two man in the Russian National-Bolshevik Front.
The cited article also describes a conference on the “Roots and Evolution of Contemporary Paganism” in Lyons (February 3 and 4, 1996), where speakers included right-wing extremists Arnaud d’Apremont and Charles Antoni, Rémi Boyer as well as Renato del Ponte, another expert on Evola, and Introvigne. This mingling of esotericism research, CESNUR, practicing esotericists, the “Nouvelle Droite” and other far-right extremists was defended by Pasi in the neo-fascist magazin “Orion”, in an article about “Esoterismo e nuova religiosità”, March-April 1996, p. 51 ff. Pasi’s concern in that article was with the accusation that Introvigne accepted an invitation to the above-mentioned conference and so jeopardized his scholarly seriousness. Pasi quoted Introvigne’s speach at the conference, stating that it “was ‘not only a pleasure, but a duty’, since the [recent] report of the [French parliament] commission of enquiry had described neo-paganism as socially dangerous since it was widespread among racist and anti-semitic right-wing circles”. A strange tactic when one surrounds himself with racist and anti-semitic right-wing circles.
These circles become even more clear when one looks at the “Politica Hermetica” group that was founded in 1985 and is still active with conferences and a self-titled journal. Pasi became active in it in the 1990s, when this group functioned as a very important link between esoteric groups and the New Right/Nouvelle Droite. Most important, its purpose was to introduce these to academia. Of course, it promotes Evola, Benoist, Dugin and other like-minded authors. Its publisher L’Age d’Homme is another far-right platform that, for example, supported Serbian extremists. I quote a longer extract from “Politica Hermetica: analyse d’un laboratoire idéologique de la nouvelle Droite”:
“Politica Hermetica appears to be the façade of multiple approaches whose common denominators are esotericism and revolutionary and/or integral traditionalism. A constant seems to appear, it is the fascination of some and others for the idea of European empire: we find it in Paul Sérant, in traditionalist Catholics (the quest for the hidden monarch), but also in the ‘polytheists’ or among certain Gaullists. This notion of Empire is quite particular since it tries to reconcile spiritual authority and temporal power in the person of the priest-king. One finds this idea in the writings of Guénon or Evola but also in those of Raymond Abellio, also an underlying and ambivalent reference of Politica Hermetica.
The extreme right and the traditional right are thus very composite but try to unite under the imperial banner. The first issue sets the tone since it is devoted to the work of René Guénon and to Evolutionary Studies, the two counterparts of the extreme right. If these two main currents of thought are far from being identical, it shows the attempt to reconcile them in order to redefine an esotericism ‘seen from the right’ and a traditionalist politics.
Now, as far as the attempt to bring together the Evolutionsians and the Guénonians is concerned, can we really speak of success? According to Philippe Baillet, a Catholic of the New Right, translator and exegete of Evolian thought, it seems to be a failure. This point of view should rather be qualified. The failure is mainly due to the difficulty of associating ‘polytheists’ with Christians. The evolution of the interests of the Politica Hermetica association can be studied through its guests. For example, there seems to have been an attempt at rapprochement with the national-bolshevik leader Alexander Dugin, who joined the editorial board of PH as a Russian correspondent in 1992 following his communication in the volume devoted to the Conspiracy. I believe that this rapprochement was achieved thanks to the good care of the revolutionary-conservative Alain de Benoist (a contributor to the magazine). Since this aborted attempt at entry, there seems to have been an ideological tightening around a more Catholic esotericism, perhaps because the meeting with Dugin worried or disturbed some members of the association. Following this, we see the interventions federate around themes dear to Christian esotericists such as the life and work of Charbonneau-Lassay, the Hieronymus of the Golden Valley, the Jansenist mystics, anti-Masonicism and among the speakers we find the Legionary of Christ Massimo Introvigne or the Dominican Rousse-Lacordaire.
For the last three years, studies on Crowley have been appearing, perhaps due to the presence of Massimo Introvigne, author of works on contemporary Satanism, and Marco Pasi. The latter, a doctoral student at the EPHE and a Crowley specialist, is a contributor to Orion, a journal that Jean-Yves Camus and René Monzat describe as “the Italian organ of the subversive, negationist, philo-Khomeinist right, a member of the most radical current of the New European Right” (Les Droites Radicales et Nationales en France, p. 297). Pasi seems rather fascinated by the first texts of Evola then Italian fascist and partisan of an imperial and pagan Rome. “It is not necessary to insist too much on the magical atheism of Aleister Crowley” (p. 210, n°1996) he explains, moreover. [This passage has been modified at the request of Mr. Marco Pasi. See his letter].
It also seems that the misunderstanding between Christians and polytheists is aggravated by a generational conflict linked to the political interpretation of Evola’s thought. In the last issue published (1998), Philippe Baillet attacks Arnaud Guyot-Jeannin following the latter’s interview given to Résistance. Arnaud Guyot-Jeannin directed the Dossier H on Evola. It is clear that Ph. Baillet does not want to be associated with Guyot-Jeannin’s young clique. He seems not to appreciate the political turn of this fascist youth into ‘nationalist-revolutionaries’. Christophe Boutin, of Jean-François Mayer, ranks with him when he qualifies these young evoliens ‘of free electrons’, “today to the amateurs, tomorrow to the lunatic fringe and – why not? – the day after tomorrow to the neo-Nazi underground of Europe and elsewhere […] One will also observe that the practices and the style of the ‘free electrons’ (subculture, ridiculous pretensions of autodidacts, ‘sloganization’ of the ideas, taste for provocation, confusion between action and agitation, etc.) answer perfectly to the objectives of the supporters of the ‘politically and culturally correct’, too happy to be able to designate to the vindictiveness and to the sarcasm such repulsors.” (pp. 269-70). By attacking them, the first generation of evolutionists (Ph. Baillet, Chr. Boutin, Jean-François Mayer) does not wish to be assimilated to the political bias of the young neo-fascists, harmful to their image. Is it also the fear of being inserted in a militancy that is a little too plebeian? They are intellectuals who take refuge in a closed world, it is the nobility of the spirit. In PH 1998, Philippe Baillet and Christophe Boutin present a historiography of the evolutionary current in France and clearly expose the “strategy of seduction” undertaken over the last twenty years in academic circles through Politica Hermetica.
Politica Hermetica is a reflection of the new changes in the New Right, its new attempts at cohesion.
Thus, Arnaud d’Apremont is a graduate of the EPHE sciences religieuses [This passage has been modified at the request of Mr. Marco Pasi. See his letter]. An Odinist polytheist and notorious extremist, Arnaud d’Apremont studied Odinist groups under the direction of Jean-Pierre Laurant. In 1998, the Religious Sciences section invited Jean-François Mayer (former Opus Dei and then Evolian, regular guest of Moon, expert of the Central Office of Defense in Switzerland). He gave a series of lectures on the “new religious movements”. Following the success of his conferences, some teachers at the EPHE tried to impose Mayer within the school by offering him a new chair on the said new religious movements. This attempt at entryism seems to have failed. In the meantime, the EPHE is one of the outposts of CESNUR, since some of its teachers belong to this international organization (for example, Régis Dericquebourg, A. Faivre, J. Baubérot, J-P. Willaime, etc.). PH would like to see in the section of religious sciences a place of training for young theorists of the new right.
Politica Hermetica is also one of the links to understand the connections that can exist between the New Right, “university” networks and CESNUR, qualified by antisect associations as an extreme right-wing and pro-sectarian office (cf. the observation of the Roger Ikor center). Politica Hermetica is therefore not a simple laboratory of the New Right but a real nursery of reactionaries militating for a primordial Tradition which goes beyond religious or sectarian differences to fight against secularism, atheism and the “leftism” of society…”
One can see that Introvigne played a central role in “Politica Hermetica”, as did Pasi, as part of a far-right and “Nouvelle Droite” movement intentionally set on exerting and elaborating influence in academia. And then there are several other names of the French network of esotericism scholars that have those evident links. One might have noticed the above reference to a letter by Pasi, in which he threatened the authors of the article with legal action, who in turn changed some passages that are still cited in Pasi’s letter.
Pasi’s defence that there isn’t anything political in his articles that he wrote for a neofascist journal is not convincing. “Orion”, where he published repeatedly, is described as “Italian organ of the subversive right, negationist, philo-khomeinist, member of the most radical current of the European New Right” (“organe italien de la droite subversive, négationniste, philo-khomeiniste, membre du courant le plus radical de la Nouvelle droite européenne”). How difficult is it, especially for an expert of politics, to identify the orientation of a journal even when just looking at covers like this:
How difficult is it to identify the orientation of a still-active publisher that sells titles like this, this:
… or this? It is relevant that this publisher also prints the Italian translations of Goodrick-Clarke, next to Nazis (including “Mein Kampf”), Neonazis, far-right occultists and so on.
Why participate on these groups? Why publish in such publications? Why publish in the Ares Verlag? Because one only “engages” with the groups one is researching? If yes, why not publish the findings of that research about those groups and publishers? Should we believe that this is an ongoing undercover mission? Moreover, these are, after all, academic (!) groups that serve as platforms for rightwing-extremist-esoteric influence on academia. These networks are not simply extra-academic research subjects but are themselves part of the university. In them, Evola, Benoist or Dugin are not “researched” but propagated. Against this background, I find it alarming how EASR dismissed my concerns and apparently has at least no problem whatsoever with being associated on the Ares Verlag site.
What goes wrong in a university landscape where such references are dismissed with rhetoric of naivity, irrelevance and collegiality? Perhaps there is no evil master plan behind all this, as I was assured by some reasonable people, but at least it needs to be addressed openly rather than denied and downplayed.
After all this, I can only conclude that esoteric studies need to do some serious soul-searching. When looking at the “founding league”, however, I have seen the contrary in recent debates. I have followed the social media of Pasi’s chair Wouter Hanegraaff for over half a year and was shocked by his polemic against so-called postmodernism, feminism, Marxism, the Frankfurt school and critical theory, postcolonialism and so on, while he praised standpoints of people like Jordan Peterson or the Polish government. The hostility of these senior esotericism academics to everything associated with the left (corretly or not, because much of it is simply new research methods) was first hard for me to understand but it became clearer and clearer when I learned about what I am showing here.
What makes all this even more serious is that these problems have been debated over a decade ago already. I was baffled when I found a speech by Wouter Hanegraaff from 2009, where he discusses “Politics and the Study of Western Esotericism”. I found that speech bizarre when thinking of all what I have found out so far. I am copying some of the passages where Hanegraaf tries to deny any accusations of extreme right links with many, many words that speak of “information control and manipulation of knowledge”, of “propaganda machines” and cencorship and a kind of conspiracy of the mainstream against esotericism:
“One of our tasks as scholars is to study the complex relations between esotericism and politics thoroughly, critically, and with attention to nuance and detail. Among our own membership, important pioneering work in this regard has been done by well-known specialists such as Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke and Hans Thomas Hakl,…
Some of the best scholars in the study of esotericism, many of them members of our society, have, at some point in their career, made the painful experience of seeing themselves listed or ‘exposed’ as an apologist of the far right or as a crypto-fascist. And it is predictable that those whose research has focused specifically on the links between fascism and esotericism have been particularly vulnerable in that regard.
For a professional academic organization like ours, this phenomenon is too important to ignore. The popular association between esotericism and fascism is bound to surface again and again, in the popular media and elsewhere, and therefore we as a society for the study of Western esotericism should better think about it seriously. And what is more, I believe the association is far from random. Ultimately, I would argue, it is a reflection of deep structures in European culture which have to do with the complex dialectics of simultaneous attraction and rejection between biblical monotheistic traditions on the one hand, and the “pagan” traditions of Platonism and Hermetism on the other. Unless I am mistaken, this dialectics goes to the very heart of our field of study.
Another reason for us to be concerned about popular associations of esotericism with fascism, finally, is that it constitutes a crucial test case for how serious we are about defending the very foundations of the academic enterprise. Let me explain what I mean with this. As scholars, we are committed to critical methodologies which historically, since the 18th century, have played a crucial emancipatory role by undermining the political dominance of traditional religious authority and helping create the foundations of modern secular democracies. Apart from sheer brutal force, the exercise of political power typically requires information control and manipulation of knowledge; and from that perspective, the scholarly nuance that comes with critical methodologies is necessarily an unwelcome obstacle. We can see this logic at work in the propaganda machines of any totalitarian system known from history or in our own time; but in less extreme forms, it is a standard temptation for anybody in a position of political power. The common technique of information control is that of secrecy and concealment, i.e. preventing the common population from having access to “classified” information: a practice which is deeply problematic from the perspective of critical scholarship, which requires open debate based upon full access to all relevant sources of information. Another technique is dualistic simplification. Sensitive issues need to be simplified so as to create clear and unambiguous boundaries between “good” and “evil”, the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, “us” and “them”. But critical academic scholarship, in sharp contrast, is bound to question such simplifications and call attention rather to complexity, nuance, and ambiguity. It therefore undermines or disrupts the effectiveness of political power. Instead of rhetoric, it requires arguments; instead of rumors or insinuations, it requires evidence; instead of easy generalizations it requires often difficult analyses. In thus taking the hard and difficult road towards knowledge, critical scholarship is necessarily subversive of political power and control.
It is therefore predictable that if scholars of esotericism venture into sensitive political domains – and to a considerable extent, the whole field of esotericism is a sensitive political domain! – they may find that the weapons of simplification are being turned against themselves, attempts will be made to restrict the free dissemination of information and knowledge, and they may find themselves under attack personally.
Another example brings us back to the theme of esotericism and the extreme right. Scholars studying the relation between politics and esotericism are bound to call attention, for reasons of simple accuracy and respect for historical evidence, to the actual variety of historical fascisms and right-wing ideologies, which have taken very different shapes in different European countries and cultural traditions, and cannot all be tarred by the same brush. But here too, scholars who thus try to lift the debate to a higher academic level by insisting on nuance, complexity and reliable knowledge may sadly find themselves rewarded by being portrayed as apologists for fascism, who are muddying the waters by blurring the sharp boundaries between right and wrong, and are therefore eligible for censorship and exclusion from academic debate. Such cases are most painful when they are inspired by sheer political expediency, for example when academic institutions exclude scholars or scholarly projects simply because they are afraid of what their colleagues, the media, or financial sponsors might say.
This brings me to my conclusion, which is a very simple one: responsible scholarship requires moral and political courage. This is true of scholarship in general, but it is particularly relevant in a domain like the study of esotericism. We are not just in the business of writing nice and safe articles or books about interesting groups and personalities, or advancing our careers in academia. Rather, as scholars we are engaged in an inherently political enterprise, in which we are required to defend “The pursuit of knowledge” against the “the pursuit of power”. Respect for facts and demonstrable evidence, insistence on critical argumentation, and open debate without censorship of opinions are not self-evidently given: on the contrary, they are necessarily problematic and unwelcome from the perspective of power, and therefore must be gained and defended again and again by each new generation of scholars. This struggle is not an easy one, and one cannot play safe. But the goal is worth the effort: that of an open society based upon the free pursuit of knowledge: a society, in fact, in which the very distinction between orthodoxy and heresy has become meaningless. Of course I know that such a society sounds like a utopian ideal. But even though it may never be reached, our task as scholars is to walk the road that leads towards it.”
Not only is this not coming to terms with a highly problematic past, but it is an ongoing development, an aggressive defense of people like Goodrick-Clarke, Hakl and the networks associated with them. That this defense of right-wing extremists is directed against conspiratorial “propaganda machines” designed to control society reflects motives we know all too well. This doesn’t help the fact that Hanegraaff polemicizes against postmodernism/Marxism/feminism/critical theory/postcolonialism…. and asks people to swallow the “red pill” and “deprogram” their minds. All of this is a taking up of New Right, Alt-Right, and other far-right rhetoric against “postmodernism” and the supposed demise of the Occident.
The use of such language and ideas is dismissed as “naivity”, as I have heard from several people in esotericism studies. It is said that there is no ill will behind it. It is said that the people in question only “engage” with their research objects. I cannot agree with such a conclusion, having found the evidence, which certainly only scratches the surface. I think this downplaying is dangerous. We are dealing with a decades-long development here, a development that was openly discussed as early as 2009. A development that reflects more general tendencies against which every scientist, regardless of political views or career stage, must take a stand. As long as pandering to right-wing extremist ideologies is not only accepted but aggressively defended in esotericism studies, I have no interest in starting my academic career in such an environment. I hope that this text will stimulate the necessary change that might alter these circumstances.
2 reacties op “Esotericism Studies and Far-Right Academic Networks”
Doorbraak received this statement by Marco Pasi and Wouter J. Hanegraaff:
On 18 February 2022, the Dutch organisation Doorbraak published an article on its website entitled “Esotericism Studies and Far-Right Academic Networks” (as well as a Dutch translation of the same article), in which the undersigned are being accused of participating in far-right extremist networks and of spreading far-right extremist ideas in our academic field of study.
We are shocked and amazed by these accusations, firstly because they have absolutely no foundation; and secondly because neither the author nor the organisation Doorbraak appears to have contacted us in advance, to give us an opportunity for response or factual corrections.
The author (who hides behind anonymity) has not been able to present a single statement by Pasi or Hanegraaff that could suggest right-wing sympathies or activities – and indeed, that could not be otherwise, because neither such sympathies nor such activities have ever existed. Rather, the contrary is true. The facts:
– We have never disseminated ideas anywhere that could be characterized as far-right, neo-fascist, racist, or anti-Semitic. These ideas are diametrically opposed to our personal views.
– We have never been a member of any organization or political group that could be characterized as far-right, neo-fascist, racist, or anti-Semitic.
– To confuse the study of particular subjects with the author’s personal views is completely incorrect. In the introduction of his book on Crowley, mentioned by the author, he is perfectly clear about his perspective: “The present study makes use of various sources that are often ‘committed’ – either in a political or in an esoteric sense. The reader must be aware that these sources have always been treated with the critical attitude that the scholar must possess and that their use does not imply any agreement with the opinions expressed therein. On the contrary, it must be made clear that the author’s personal views are very far removed from ideologies based on violence, oppression and discrimination against individuals or entire communities, whether these ideologies are ‘far-left’ or ‘far-right’. The author [i.e. Marco Pasi] in fact condemns such ideologies in the strongest possible terms” (Marco Pasi, Aleister Crowley und die Versuchung der Politik, Ares Verlag: Graz 2006, 20-21; translation from the German).
– Marco Pasi has never been part of any political party or movement.
– Wouter Hanegraaff has been a member since about twelve years of the SP (Socialist Party). He became a member around the time of the first cabinet Rutte, out of feelings of worry about the rightwing turn that society was taking. For more clarity about his perspective, we are happy to refer to the very same document to which the author herself refers: https://www.academia.edu/30576084/Politics_and_the_Study_of_Western_Esotericism_2009_unpublished_). It concerns a public lecture in which Hanegraaff takes position explicitly against the right-wing populism that was becoming prominent in society at the time (2009); and it analyzes the broader dynamics of precisely the type of accusations with which we are dealing here (i.e., in this article in Doorbraak). He still stands entirely behind the contents of this lecture today.
The fact of having published in a particular journal or with a particular publisher can in no way be interpreted as an endorsement of any particular ideology; and any assumption to the contrary is simply mistaken. Furthermore, the authors mentioned in the article (H.T. Hakl, J. Godwin, M. Introvigne, N. Goodrick-Clarke) are well respected members of the community of scholars in the field of esotericism, in which they have been involved for many years. Whatever opinions one might have about their activities, publications, and opinions cannot be used to draw any conclusions about the political position of the undersigned.
To sum up: we have been the object of anonymous, unsubstantiated allegations, without having been given the possibility to refute them. There is no shred of evidence simply because the allegations are false and completely unfounded. In terms of political views, we both belong in the left-liberal democratic center and we are proud of our scholarly track record.
Wouter J. Hanegraaff
For a detailed substantive rebuttal, we refer to:
We posted the above rebuttal after a lawyer threatened legal action on behalf of both men. We also removed a screenshot of a video of Pasi at the top of the piece because the professor stood by his “portrait rights”. By phone and in writing, the lawyer even demanded removal of the article because it would be “defamatory” and “condemn innocent people”, and because we did not adhere to “journalistic proceedings”.
But Doorbraak is a political, not a journalistic project, and we do not consider it necessary to offer the right a platform. And by the way, both gentlemen are indeed quoted extensively in the article.
It is remarkable that, while in their response they may claim not to be “participating in far-right extremist networks” or “spreading far-right extremist ideas in [their] academic field of study”, they not even try to refute any of the evidence Marie Lucille provides in her article.
Pasi publishes with a far-right publisher, gives a fascist space in his book to write an afterword, has his work translated into English by a fascist, writes articles in far-right journals, participates in meetings with the far-right and calls scholars who spread far-right ideology “valued colleagues”. This is not to say that Pasi is far-right, but he certainly contributes to making the far-right acceptable. And that is deeply problematic.
In her article, Lucille refers to the permanent list of authors of the far-right publishing house Ares, because Pasi was on it. Shoulder to shoulder with an enormous list of far-right ‘intellectuals’, including Baudet and De Benoist. According to the Wayback website, Pasi was on there from at least November 2011 until at least April 2022. But after that – after publication of Lucille’s article and before we received Pasi’s rebuttal – his name suddenly disappeared there.
It’s hard to escape the impression that the professor does seem to sense a problem. Incidentally, we understand from Lucille that she has several contacts in Amsterdam with young scientists in this field, and that they fully share her criticism and are dissatisfied. The openness towards the far-right must come to an end. The question is how long the old guard manages to keep the lid on the boiling pan.
The Ares author list as of late: https://www.ares-verlag.com/autoren/
The same list the past decade: https://web.archive.org/web/20220501000000*/https://www.ares-verlag.com/autoren/