Joseph Howard Tyson
Hitler’s Mentor: Dietrich Eckart, His Life, Times, & Milieu
Bloomington, Ind.: iUniverse, 2008
This is an incredibly detailed account of the life and works of Dietrich Eckart, arguably indeed “Hitler’s mentor.” You can almost follow him from day to day, which is quite an accomplishment for a guy whose bohemianism (drink, drugs, living off girlfriends, scribbling in cafes, eschewing gainful employment, scrounging off friends – no less than Kaiser Wilhelm called his begging letters “masterpiece[s] of the pump art”) would give Dean Moriarty or Gnossos Pappadopoulis a run for his money. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in Hitler or in the wild intellectual years of pre-War Germany, whether it’s politics, history, literature or spiritualism. I give it four out of five stars.
Why not five stars? Well, first of all, though Tyson marshals incredible amounts of material, he presents it with ill-concealed bias. Since Tyson’s bias is shared by the culture at large (Eckart and Hitler are stupid and crazy), and the reader can be expected to know little or nothing about Eckart and his milieu, Tyson seems to think he can dismiss Eckart’s views and activities with a contemptuous “absurd” or “silly,” or, when he feigns argument, relying on easily constructed, and knocked down, straw men. However, Tyson’s biases — being unexamined and un-argued — are even more easily dealt with, so readers can feel free to just skip his editorial intrusions.
For example, the chapter on “Eckart’s ‘Spiritual Anti-Semitism’” has lots of information that would be of surpassing interest to someone interested in Hitler, anti-Semitism, the historical Jesus, paganism, etc. But it’s also full of irritating “knowing” rebuttals at every turn that rebut nothing. He says Eckart “contradicted himself” when he calls the Jews a “crypto-nation” and then, elsewhere, says they are “incapable of state formation.” As a student of philosophy, Tyson should know that a contradiction occurs when you assert the same predicate of the same subject at the same time and place. As Baron Evola writes in Revolt against the Modern World, the Jews were a nation until they were smashed by the Babylonians (as Tyson notes, as if correcting Eckart); subsequently, according to Evola and his school of “spiritual anti-Semitism,” they have mutated and function only as a leaven of discontent, subverting other nations. Right or wrong in fact, there is no logical “contradiction” here.
Again, he heaps scorn on Eckart’s idea of an “Aryan Christ,” and when he deigns to present evidence, alludes to “the footnotes in the New Testament” [!] and asserts that the Gospel of Matthew cites the Old Testament over 40 times. No doubt, he expects his reader to be ignorant of the biblical criticism of the last two hundred years — still fresh in Eckart’s time — where established scholarly consensus is that the books of the NT are not “objective accounts” of anything, but tendentious documents, written for particular audiences and for particular motives. That Matthew quotes or alludes to the NT only shows that he is writing to convince a Jewish audience, not that he or any other Gospel author — or, most of all, Jesus himself, is Jewish; one might as well argue that Eckart or any other anti-Semite was Jewish — look at all the quotes! — or that Tyson himself is an anti-Semite — again, look at all the quotes!
And those “footnotes” are presumably those added to a modern edition of the text, supplied by those very same scholars, who will also call the reader’s attention to how those “quotes” are often inaccurate or wholly fictitious. This alone suggests that the author of Matthew, or any other book, is either not familiar with the OT — hence, likely not a Jew, or not a practicing Jew– or else is simply making stuff up, in which case, as a forger, he is generally unreliable. (Forgery was a well-known technique of Christians: see Bart Ehrman’s recent works on “holy forgery.”)
In fact, the whole “Aryan Christ” research program is simply one, perhaps not very successful, instance of the “search for the Historical Christ.” As such, it compares well, in establishment cred, with the “Christ Myth” school that dismisses the existence of Jesus altogether; the latter school, once up and coming in the early 20th century, has more recently been demoted to “crackpot” but is currently making a strong comeback.
Again, he treats Eckart’s economic theories – especially his campaign against bank interest — i.e., usury — as self-evidently “crackpot” and notes with smug satisfaction that Hitler must have been embarrassed when Eckart ranted about it in front of industrialists — despite the solid theoretical and practical grounding of the idea of state-issued credit replacing central banks (e.g., the Federal Reserve). Tyson claims a modern industrial society couldn’t be run like that; without noticing that’s exactly how Germany rose from the ashes of the Depression. Once more, Tyson the gatekeeper heaps scorn on ideas that are actually being reexamined and becoming as relevant today as they were in Eckart’s time.
Tyson is so defensive about the status quo that when his first chapter documents Eckart’s early enthusiasm for Heine, which soon evolved into a loathing of the poet as “the cosmopolitan Jew” who was the archetypal culture-traitor, he feels compelled to devote a long, second chapter to documenting just how magnificent Heine’s poetry is. It’s mildly interesting — I know nothing of Heine, except the Lorelei song I had to sing in high school German class — but just too long, especially right up front.
The bias angle thus leads to my second criticism: there’s too much padding; his defensive work is just too long-winded, and the combination is deadly. For example, Tyson gives us another long chapter on the diplomatic and dynastic history leading up to the First European Civil War. Again, this would be interesting, if it weren’t taken straight from the British War Office’s propaganda folder. We are given everything but the Kaiser rolling on the floor, frothing, and biting the carpet. His colonial ambitions, for example, are dismissed as maniacal obsessions, without addressing the question of how a modern industrial nation (and Tyson everywhere mocks Eckart’s notions about agrarian society operating without bank lending) is supposed to run without oil.
Obviously, some account of Hitler has to be given, even before Eckart meets him, but there’s no need for several chapters of boiler plate Hitler History that rise up like icebergs in the first third of the book and derail the far more unfamiliar story of Eckart. It’s not as if his readers haven’t been exposed to over 80 years of hate Hitler propaganda.
On the other hand, as they used to say on the internets, “your mileage may vary.” I, for example, just loved the long section on the antics of Rudolf Steiner and Annie Besant as they vied from Eckart’s allegiance. Even Tyson won’t countenance all the nonsense about Hitler and Eckart as black magicians aligned with Aleister Crowley, so his account is a useful corrective for all the “History” Channel nonsense out there.
The story of the three-way publicity war between Theosophy, Ariosophy, and Anthroposophy is almost worth the price of admission, even perhaps only for this anecdote that got an audible chuckle from me: when Steiner’s pretentious Goetheanum — carved from the same fruitwoods violins are made of, it was, though “architecturally splendid,” a “tinderbox by fire safety standards”– predictably burned to the ground, Anthroposophists, suspecting arson, sent postcards to hostile Lutheran pastors asking “Who did it?” One pastor replied “Your boss is the clairvoyant. Go ask him.”
My final critical point is that the kindle formatting lacks links to the chapter endnotes, which are simply printed as text, making it extremely difficult if not impossible to rapidly check citations or follow up interesting leads; though not as bad as some publishers who load all the chapter endnotes at the end of the book, making them effectively useless.
With these caveats, this is a highly recommendable book, giving a detailed look at a “milieu,” as the subtitle says, seldom covered in college classes or cable shows but full of colorful characters, surprisingly modern and “relevant” as the kids say, and written, when not busy gatekeeping, with some verve: “Franckenstein’s ‘queer eye’ divined something amiss, under the general category of ‘bad vibes’ [when] Hitler appeared at his plush home in Lenbach Villa with a whip in hand, wearing riding breeches and a slouch hat.” I look forward to dipping into his 2010 follow-up, The Surreal Reich. With a title like that, you can’t say we didn’t know what to expect.
1. I purchased this as a Kindle for $3.00 but it seems to have disappeared from Amazon, leaving only the considerably more expensive paperback. This review will contain some comments about formatting relevant only to the Kindle.
2. Giving all three a run as well is Countessa Franziska Grafin zu Reventlow, whose counter-cultural antics, outlined by Tyson, make her seem a kind of Nazi Auntie Mame.
3. According to the publisher, “Joseph Howard Tyson graduated from LaSalle University in 1969 with a B.A. in Philosophy.”
4. See, for example, Arthur Drews: The Christ Myth (Chicago: Open Court, 1910).
5. For the contemporary scene, see the numerous works of Robert M. Price (also a noted Lovecraft scholar, which gives him special expertise in fake mythologies) and especially work collected in Bart Ehrman and the Quest of the Historical Jesus of Nazareth (2013), a cumulatively devastating riposte to Ehrman’s failed attempt to prop up, Tyson-like, the status quo in Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (2012).
6. For the history, before and after Eckart, see Kerry Bolton’s “Two Volumes by Gottfried Feder” here. Unfortunately, as with all ideas that challenge the established wisdom, there’s always some enthusiast who has to provide “evidence” linking it to UFOs, Freemasons, and hidden Nazis: see Babylon’s Banksters: The Alchemy of Deep Physics, High Finance and Ancient Religion by Joseph P. Farrell (Portland: Feral House, 2010) for a kind of Left-wing Eckartism.
7. Not to be confused with the Lorelei Gilmores of The Gilmore Girls; I think.
8. To see how an objective biography of even Adolf Hitler can be written, see the magisterial Hitler: Beyond Evil and Tyranny by naval historian and retired Marine colonel R. H. S. Stolfi; reviewed by Greg Johnson here.
9. See my Review of James Neill’s “The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies” (Kindle, 2013).
10. The Thule Society’s program sounds quite modern, though un-PC: “a moratorium on immigration . . . prohibition against real estate speculation . . . increase in old age pensions, the dissolution of department stores [viz., Walmart] . . . abolition of unearned income,” etc.