We do not know (and, most likely, will never know) how, why and when Karl Maria Wiligut got involved with the occult. We know only that it (most likely) happened when Wiligut was already in his 30s and was probably the (not unusual) next step after getting involved in the Masonic (actually a quasi-Masonic) group.
In 1889 (at the age of 22), Wiligut joined Schlaraffia – a worldwide German-speaking society founded in Prague (then Austrian Empire) in 1859 with a pledge of friendship, art and humor (believe it or not).
Schlaraffia (named after the mythical medieval castle) was founded by one Franz Thomé – an Austrian theater director and actor (and, believe it or not, the son of the Russian Ambassador in Vienna, Prince Andrey Razumovsky).
Neither Herr Thomé not the Schlaraffia society were ever interested in (let alone involved with) the occult. And not only had no connections (relationships) whatsoever with nationalist-esoteric groups or ideas, but were regarded by the latter as sworn enemies (in 1935, Adolf Hitler even issued an anti-Masonic decree and Freemasons and quasi-masons were severely persecuted in the Third Reich).
Schlaraffia was a social club – cut and dry, plain and simple, loud and clear. The Schlaraffen, members of a men’s organization, meet in midwinter (1 October – 30 April in northern hemisphere) once per week in their local “Schlaraffen castle” (equipped in the style of a knight’s tavern from the Middle Ages) for gatherings which take place in the fixed ceremonial form of a knight’s play.
Just about all Schlaraffen were (and are – the society exists to this day) artists, actors, poets, musicians and other individuals of that nature. Hence Karl Maria Wiligut – with his strictly military occupation and background was some kind of a “black sheep”.
So was Adolf Eichmann – also a Schlaraffen – who was forced to give up his association due to Nazi opposition (to put it mildly) to Freemasonry. Another well-known member of the society was no other than Richard Bruno Heydrich – father of Reinhard Heydrich.
Wiligut stayed in Schlaraffia for twenty years – and even rose to the grade of Knight and office of Chancellor before resigning from the lodge in 1909. It appears that he always regarded the society as a purely social club so when he wanted more, he simply left.
The mascot’ of the society is the eagle owl which symbolizes knowledge wisdom, virtue and humor. It appears that Wiligut joined the society not only to have a good time, but also in search of knowledge and wisdom (possibly even secret knowledge and wisdom).
He did not find any – a social men’s club is a wrong place to look for them – so he had to continue his search somewhere else. Most likely, he did not join any esoteric or occult (let alone secret) organization as such membership did not exactly fit with his military service and career.
Instead, he became a self-educated occultist (at the time there were already plenty of books, magazines and other printed material widely available)… and in 1903 considered himself competent enough to write something of his own.
He wrote and published 1903 he published Seyfrieds Runen. This is an epic poem re-telling the legend of (a now virtually unknown and possibly even mythical) King Seyfried of Rabenstein. In an introduction to the poem, Wiligut provided an overview of the story and supplies his own nature-mythological interpretation.
The fact that he produced a poem (and thus could write poetry) means that he did, in fact, belong to Schlaraffia – the society of actors, artists, musicians and poets. This was also his first treatise (of sorts) on a magical subject – runes (years later, he became an expert on runes).
Five years later, in 1908, he published the so-called “Nine Commandments of Gôt” which reads like a foundation for a (surprisingly monotheistic) religion:
- Gôt is Al-unity!
- Gôt is “Spirit and Matter,” the dyad. He brings duality, and is nevertheless, unity and purity . . .
- Gôt is a triad: Spirit, Energy and Matter. Gôt-Spirit, Gôt-Ur, Gôt-Being, or Sun-Light and Waker, the dyad.
- Gôt is eternal—as Time, Space, Energy and Matter in his circulating current.
- Gôt is cause and effect. Therefore, out of Gôt flows right, might, duty and happiness.
- Gôt is eternally generating. The Matter, Energy and Light of Gôt are that which carry this along.
- Gôt—beyond the concepts of good and evil—is that which carries the seven epochs of human history.
- Rulership in the circulation of cause-and-effect carries along the highness—the secret tribunal.
- Gôt is beginning without end—the Al. He is completion in Nothingness, and, nevertheless, Al in the three-times-three realization of all things. He closes the circle at N-yule,1 at Nothingness, out of the conscious into the unconscious, so that this may again become conscious.
Now that was already some serious occult and esoteric stuff. Hence it is no surprise that Karl Maria Wiligut got the attention of “esoteric nationalists” (twentieth-century Vienna was a fertile ground for this ideology).
More specifically, he met one Theodor Czepl, a member of a brand new Ordo Novi Templi (ONT) in Vienna. It is also possible that Wiligut was introduced into the Viennese circle of “esotericists” by his cousin, Willy Thaler, who was a member of the Liebenfels circle.
Not surprisingly, Ordo Novi Templi (Order of the New Templars) had nothing to do with the Christian military-religious Order of Knights Templar. Nothing whatsoever. Neither did the Germanenorden – with the Christian military-religious Order of Teutonic Knights (the Teutonic Order).
Ordo Novi Templi was a mystical association with its headquarters at Burg Werfenstein, a castle in Upper Austria overlooking the river Danube (reminds you of the Wewelsburg Castle, doesn’t it?).
The declared aim of ONT was to “harmonize science, art and religion on a basis of racial consciousness” (something that the Nazis would attempt to do decades later). Its rituals (in a way predecessors of the SS rituals) were designed to beautify life in accordance with Aryan aesthetics, and to express the Order’s theological system which Lanz called Ario-Christianity (apparently, the objective was to “liberate” Christianity from its “Jewish heritage”).
The Order was the first to use the swastika in an “Aryan” meaning (before that, it was a pretty much universal religious symbols used even on Christian objects). It was founded in 1907 by one Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels – a very colorful character (to put it mildly).
Adolf Josef Lanz who called himself Lanz von Liebenfels was an Austrian political and racial theorist and occultist – and ex-Cistercian monk, respected Bible scholar and inventor to boot. He founded and published the Ostara magazine (allegedly fervently read by Adolf Hitler).
It appears that it were the ONT members who brought Karl Maria Wiligut into the occult big time. The fundamental question is “Why?”. Why would a military officer with an impeccable record want to go into such an area?