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Nonetheless, Himmler thought highly enough of this book to order a special edition of 5, leather-bound copies to be printed during the war; for distribution, presumably, to select SS personnel. One cannot discuss this book today without at least mentioning the Steven Spielberg film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Rahh will get to the Cathars below, after we have given the devil his due.
A Corte de Lucifer, French
The differences from the film are even more interesting, of course. The Grail for Rahn, tahn the extent that he considers it a physical object, is the German Grail, the Stone that fell from Heaven in Parzival, rather than the cup associated with Jesus in the Anglo-French Grail stories.
Also unlike the film, the book is virulently, relentlessly, jumping-up-and-down anti-Christian. It is particularly anti-Catholic, so much so as to reduce the antisemitic implications of its rejection of Yahweh to a mere subtext. In this work, Rahn has become more radical. If the Cathars considered themselves Christians at all, then they were mistaken. Lucifer, properly understood, is the hero of the story.
A Corte de Lucifer, French | Otto Rahn Memorial
The sections of the book, all undated and very brief, are headed by place names; the author tells us what he saw or felt or did at each location. The sections are arranged in three groups. The second group includes trips to northern Italy, Switzerland, and southern Germany. The organizing principle appears to be that the medieval drama of the Grail was played out in the South, but the meaning and perhaps the origin of the Grail is to be found in the furthest North. The North is key for Rahn, both as a symbol and as a source of historical influence from pre-historic times.
Early in the book, in a passage written in Paris, the author cites the verses from Isaiah 14 that are traditionally said to refer to the fall of Satan from Heaven:. How have you fallen from the heavens, O glowing morning star; been cut down to the ground O conqueror of Nations?
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north For Rahn, Isaiah speaks for the great enemy: His adherents are scattered throughout history and in many countries.
Look, I will tell you a secret: The time has come for the groom to crown his bride; guess where the crown lies? Toward midnight, because the light is clear in the darkness Many paths and bridges lead to him. There are mysteries in that passage, not the least of which is that the Decalogue seems to have sprouted two new commandments. Actually, there are mysteries intentional and otherwise throughout the whole book. Rahn often quotes slabs of text without citation, a deficit that his editors do not always supply.
There are questionable specific points. Provins is a small region to the southeast of Paris, while Provence is a major region in the south of France. As Richard Barber notes in his sober study, The Holy Grail, the parallels between the notables of medieval Provence and the characters in Parzival just are not that close. Catharism is actually a blanket term for a range of sects and beliefs which had some currency throughout Europe.
Rahn does not make these distinctions, and since he is concerned with Cathars elsewhere, particularly in Germany, we will use that term. Catharism is one of those doctrines we know only from the accounts of its enemies, so reconstructing its actual content has always been difficult.
The Cathars seem to have been Manicheans, in the sense their theology was like that of the third-century Zoroastrian would-be prophet, Mani, though they may not have knowingly looked to him for inspiration. Manicheanism is a kind of dualism, holding that there are independently existing good and evil principles.
In the Cathar version, this world, the world of matter, is evil, and Yahweh of the Old Testament is its god. In some versions of this kind of speculation, the Creator was an inferior entity, sometimes called the Demiurge, and his Creation was defective. It is not clear how much of this the Cathars believed, but none of it would have been original with them: For him, the New Testament, or part of it, is the revelation of a good, alien God.
This God did not create the world. His messenger was Jesus, according to Marcion, though as we have seen, Rahn thought otherwise. The Cathars seemed to have believed that Jesus was never really material, and that he was never crucified. They further rejected the Church hierarchy and its system of sacraments. They had a sacrament of their own called the consolamentum.
Perfecti pledged to vegetarianism, and not to take life, and to celibacy. Birth was an evil, since the entrapment of human souls in matter was one of the things Catharism was supposed to help remedy. The Cathars seem to have believed in a cycle of reincarnation which, like the Buddhists, they sought to escape. Ordinary believers, who had not yet become perfecti, could and did function normally in medieval society. To this account of possible Cathar doctrines Rahn adds and subtracts with perfect freedom.
Cathar anti-natalism and horror of matter disappear entirely: There are ancient doctrines which make a hero of Lucifer, or at any rate, of Satan: Rahn mentions more than once the old notion that Lucifer is simply in exile from Heaven, and will return in due course.
It is not at all clear that the Cathars ever thought any such thing, however. We may note that, after the meditation, he camps with a group of Hitler Youth; they are Courtiers of Lucifer, too.
Shakespeare was in on the secret, too, it seems. Parzival introduced the idea that the Grail Stone had been brought to Earth by angels of ambiguous allegiance. In later developments of the story, the Grail is a jewel that fell from the crown of Lucifer. Rahn likes that expression and uses it repeatedly. As many commentators on Rahn have noted, stones do sometimes fall from the sky.
There has been considerable speculation that Rahn may have been seeking, or actually helped recover, a meteoric Cathar relic on his spelunking expeditions to the south of France. By and by, in fact, we learn that maybe we should not take the connection between historical Catharism and Luciferian liberation too literally, either. The same illumination came to two groups of Aryan peoples, one in Western Europe and the other in the Near East.
The familiar Grail story is just one manifestation of it. The quest of the Argonauts for the Golden Fleece is, in some ways, the same story.
This illumination is connected with the recollection of a time when the far north was warm and hospitable, and a healthy sort of mankind lived in harmony with nature.
The point has never been the recovery of an empirically verifiable historical tradition. Rather, to use a term that Rahn or this translation does not use, Rahn realizes that he has been seeking to clarify an archetype. Or perhaps that term is too easy. By rising above their individuality and pucifer this struggle, heroes can hope to attain a genuine immortality by entering the mythical realm.
The fate of the hero is less like apotheosis and more like psychic mulch. Dualism involves two universal principles in conflict.
As it happens, there are just two such entities, Yahweh and Lucifer, that interest Rahn. They represent the Jewish and German or Aryan peoples and the struggle between them. However, one might point out that there is no particular reason why there should not be more than two, or more than one. This cosmic struggle is a historical accident; different only in scale, perhaps, from a fight occasioned by a chance encounter between dinosaurs.
A otot section of the book is an excerpt from Don Quixote, the story of the old knight whose lcifer was so addled by reading romances lucier medieval chivalry that he could no longer tell the difference between the stories and reality. Rahn identifies with Quixote, but not in the sense that either was really deluded. The events of the everyday world, both in the past and in the present, gain their meaning to the extent that they reflect the myths.
Legends communicate a higher truth than does sober history. Rahn takes care to emphasize his disappointment with Ultimate Thule, the place to which he believed the remnants of ancient Nordic culture fled to escape the Christian infection, and perhaps the last piece of a primordial world that existed before all known history.
,ucifer as Rahn encountered it, however, was treeless; at the summer solstice, it was not so much nightless as shadowless. Reykjavik the capital was a town of corrugated-iron roofs and concrete walls. The locals luciifer friendly enough, but dee seemed nothing to connect this shabby country with the world of the Edda s, Elder or Younger. Rahn does manage to do some hiking, apparently with another German, who may also have been another SS man: The two climb a cliff and settle down to admire the view.
The companion delivers a lecture. Much of this discourse expands on the relationship we have just considered between myth and history. Where something divine or celestial strikes the Earth, we are told, a horde may turn into a people. Culture is the striving of the Earth to reach Heaven. Heaven and Earth meet at the point of sacrifice.
In a healthy world, the sacrifice is perpetual, a relationship of balanced flow between high and low that unites man and nature.
A review of Otto Rahn’s Lucifer’s Court by John J. Reilly
The story of the world since the triumph of Christianity, however, is the story of the consequences of the interruption of that flow. The myths of northern Europe ohto the coming of the current dark age; they also foreshadow its ending.
The twilight of the gods was at the same time the dissolution of tribal loyalty to the gods, heroes, and the almighty forces of nature The mythical world of prehistory also saw its destruction in the final battle of the gods Odin was lufifer by a wolf As it says in the Edda, Baldr returned and announced to mankind the divine mystery of the earth and the cosmos: Worthy lords must live there