Karl Maria Wiligut was a quintessential occultist. Quintessential because “occultus” means “secret” in Latin. In other words, it refers to some knowledge and practices deliberately kept secret (hidden) from just about anyone – except a very small number of the “initiated” (some occult knowledge and practices are limited to just one individual).
Historian Michael Moynihan – author of the book “The Secret King: The Myth and Reality of Nazi Occultism” called Wiligut “an eternally obscure man”. Which is true – and very appropriate for the best-known (most likely, the only known) “Nazi occultist”.
Wiligut wrote relatively little (in comparison to his predecessor Guido von List) and published even less (much – if not most – of his work remains in archives). It sure looks like he had no desire to share his occult knowledge with the general public – he preferred to restrict to a very small number of individuals who fit the “need to know” criteria.
He was a shadowy figure in early twentieth-century Austria (he published his ideas only in little-known journals in the 1930s) and (all of a sudden) became a member of Himmler’s SS in 1933 where he produced what amounted to private reports for his chief.
It appears that he had but one Mission in life – to communicate certain esoteric and occult knowledge to Heinrich Himmler (and inspire the latter to get involved in certain occult, mystical and magical practices).
Little is known of his early life. And what is known, gives no explanation for his interest in occult (and subsequent commitment to this subject). Karl Maria Wiligut was born December 10th, 1866 in Vienna to a second generation army officer, Franz Karl Wiligut and baptized Roman Catholic (no surprise here – Austria was a Catholic country).
At the age of fourteen Karl Maria began to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather (which made him a third-generation Army officer) and enrolled in the Imperial Cadet School in Vienna-Breitensee.
In December 1884 (i.e. at the age of eighteen) he joined the 99th Imperial and Royal Infantry Regiment at Mostar, Herzegovina. Four years later, he was promoted to Second Lieutenant, in another four years to First Lieutenant, ten years later to Captain and in ten more years he made major. Not exactly a meteoric rise, if you ask me.
During the First World War Wiligut served with distinction in heavy combat on the Russian front. By the end of the war he had been promoted to the rank of full colonel (Oberst). At that time, he was already 52 years old; the Austrian-Hungarian Empire collapsed… so it is no surprise at all that the Austrian Army did not need him anymore.
Hence he was left with no other option but to resign from military (effective from 1 January 1st 1919) and move on to the civilian life, taking residence in Salzburg. It appears that he was shocked and hurt by his forced retirement which inflicted on him a severe emotional trauma.
After all, he gave almost 40 years (all his adult life, in fact) to serving his country in its armed forces (the country that no longer existed – which definitely did not help) and retired with impeccable record. This trauma was exacerbated by a personal tragedy – his only son (his other children were daughters) died in his infancy in 1910.
His reaction was completely natural (albeit unhealthy – to put it mildly): he “escaped” into his “alternative world”. The only world (except the military, of course) that he knew. The world of the occult.