And The Quest For The Holy Grail
Otto Rahn (1904-1938), described as a gifted young
author and historian, was one of this century's truly fascinating figures. Prior
to his mysterious death, at age 35, he wrote two books about the Cathars of
southern France: *Kreuzzug gegen den Gral* ("Crusade Against the
Grail") and *Luzifers Hofgesindel* ("Lucifer's Court"). Legends
continue to surround both his life and tragic death. While his books influenced
such authors as Trevor Ravenscroft and Jean-Michel Angebert, they were never
translated into English. In the 1982 best selling book *Holy Blood, Holy Grail*,
Otto Rahn's name appears in a small but intriguing footnote.
by Alexander Dugin
Otto Rahn in Cathar cave
Otto Rahn believed that he had found the location of
the Holy Grail Mountain, the Montsalvat of legend, in the Cathar mountain
fortress of Montsegur in the French Pyrenees. He was, says Prof. Joscelyn
Godwin, "largely responsible for the mythological complex that associated
the Cathars and Montsegur with the Holy Grail and its Castle."
Norma Lorre Goodrich in her own highly acclaimed
work *The Holy Grail* pays tribute to Otto Rahn's "Crusade Against the
Grail" describing it as "a wonderful book, a monument to this German
idealist author, who died mysteriously during a descent in the Alps."
According to his French translator, Otto Rahn
believed with absolute conviction that (1) the Cathars were the last owners of
the Holy Grail, and (2) the Holy Grail "perished" when they died at
the hands of the "pope and the King of France" at the beginning of the
The war of the Roman Catholic church against the
Cathars is variously described as a war where *Roma and *Amor stood opposite
each other, in which the catholic ('common') idea triumphed with flame and sword
over the catharic ('pure') idea.
The medieval Cathars believed in the existence of an
eternal war between the principles of Light and Darkness on whose meetings and
encounters everything in the universe was based. Darkness was for them dark
matter, the unperfected, the transient. They identified all clerical and secular
rulers, principally the Catholic Church as the personification of the Darkness.
In their mythology the sun symbolised the primordial Light from which all life
emerged. Miguel Serrano coined their doctrine: *Solar Kristianity. For Otto Rahn,
Montsegur was the "Lighthouse of Catharism."
Otto Rahn was born on February 18th, 1904 in
Michelstadt in southern Germany. In secondary school he developed a fascination
with the history of the medieval Cathars, their faith and revolt against king
and pope. From 1922 to 1926 he studied jurisprudence, German philosophy and
history. Rahn intended to write a dissertation on Guyot, the Provencal
Troubadour on whose lost Grail poem Wolfram von Eschenbach claimed to have based
Rahn's Grail Quest
The medieval Germanic tale of *Parzival, revived in
the 1800s by Wagnar's popular mystical operas, fired Otto Rahn's modern quest
for the Holy Grail. He soon pieced together a series of clues gleaned from a
study of the history of the Cathars and the poem of Wolfram von Eschenbach, a
Knight Templar of the thirteenth century.
Driven by his deep interest in the Cathars and Grail
legends, from 1928 to 1932 Rahn researched and travelled widely in France,
Spain, Italy and Switzerland.
Early in the summer of 1929 Otto Rahn made his first
appearance in the Languedoc region of southern France. He quickly settled in the
village of Lavelanet and over the next three months systematically explored the
ruined Cathar temple-fortress on Montsegur as well as the surrounding mountain
It was in Languedoc that the city of Carcassonne,
the holy mountain of the Cathars (Montsegur) and the church of Rennes-le-Chateau
were located. All of these places were steeped in Cathar lore and it was here
that all legends of the Holy Grail seemed to converge.
At Montsegur, writes Nigel Pennick, "in 1244
the heretical Cathars had made their last heroic stand against a Catholic
crusade which finally triumphed in their destruction. Here, tradition affirms
that on the night before the final assault, three Cathars carrying the sacred
relics of the faith slipped unnoticed over the wall. They carried away the
magical regalia of the Merovingian King Dagobert II and a cup reputed to be the
"Possession of the Grail has always been the
dream of chivalric orders. The Knights of King Arthur's Round Table, the
Templars, even the Teutonic Knights have sought the mystic vessel. But Otto Rahn
believed that he could triumph where centuries of questing had failed. He had
studied the sacred geometry of Montsegur, its sunrise orientations and its
relationship with other sacred places, and had discovered secret underground
passages, where he felt the treasure must be concealed" (*Hitler's Secret
Otto Rahn's knowledge of 'sacred geography', Nigel
Pennick suggests, can be traced back to the Druids and Templars. The Cathars
were also said to be familiar with this tradition.
In many meetings with the local people (he is said
to have spoken the local Provencal language fluently) Otto Rahn gathered
everything concerning the Cathars and the Grail.
These formed the basis of Rahn's thrilling accounts
of his exploration of the caverns of Sabarthes south of Montsegur and especially
the Lombrives caverns called "the Cathedral" by the local people. He
described this magnificant cavern as follows:
"In time out of mind, in an epoch whose
remoteness has been barely touched by modern historical science, it was used as
a temple consecrated to the Iberian God Illhomber, God of the Sun. Between two
monoliths one which had crumbled, the steep path leads into the giant vestibule
of the cathedral of Lombrives. Between the stalagmites of white limestone,
between walls of a deep brown colour and the brilliant rock crystal, the path
leads down into the bowels of the mountain. A hall 260 feet in height served as
a cathedral for the heretics."
Rahn tells how, "Deeply stirred I walked
through the crystal halls and marble crypts. My hands put aside the bones of
fallen pure ones and knights..."
An old Languedoc shepard's tale recorded by Otto
Rahn and incorporated into his first book displays profound mystical symbolism:
"During the time when the walls of Montsegur
were still standing, the Cathars kept the Holy Grail there. Montsegur was in
danger. The armies of Lucifer had besieged it. They wanted the Grail, to restore
it to their Prince's diadem from which it had fallen during the fall of his
angels. Then, at the most critical moment, there came down from heaven a white
dove, which, with its beak, split Tabor [Montsegur] in two. Esclarmonde, who was
keeper of the Grail, threw the sacred jewel into the depths of the mountain. The
mountain closed up again, and in this manner was the Grail saved. When the
devils entered the fortress, they were too late. Enraged, they put to death by
fire all of the Pures, not far from the rock on which the castle stands in the
Field of the Stake. All of the Pures perished on the pyre except Esclarmonde de
Foix. When she knew the Grail to be safe, she climbed to the summit of Mount
Tabor, changed into a white dove and flew off toward the mountains of
Both "Crusade Against the Grail" and
"Lucifer's Court" are full of remarkable insights and revelations of
important historical links.
Deep within the grottoes of Sabarthez Rahn found
chambers in which the walls were covered with symbols characteristic of the
Knights Templar, side by side with emblems of the Cathars. This finding
confirmed the notion, fostered by mystical historians, that the Knights Templar
and the Cathars were at one time closely associated. One intriguing image which
had been carved into the stone wall of a grotto was clearly a drawing of a
lance. This depiction immediately suggests the bleeding lance which appears over
and over again in the Arthurian legends.
This cave was the last refuge of the Cathar Parfaits
The legend of the Grail, explains Miguel Serrano,
"reappears forcibly Christianised in the Middle Ages. The Templars
disseminated it. It is centred on the legend of the court of King Arthur (who is
the King of the Grail and is also called Amfortas). It is interesting to point
out that Arthur is Arthos, Bear, that is to say Arctic. By which the exact
geographical position of the lost continent of the first Solar Age is
pinpointed: Hyperborea, seat of the Grail. In the Middle Ages, it became a cup,
when the myth was Christianised, the one from which Christ was said to have
drunk at the Last Supper, or else the one in which Joseph of Arimathea received
the blood of Christ as it spurted from his side as he hung on the cross."
The Cathars who guarded the Holy Grail in their
castle at Montsegur, Otto Rahn believed, could be traced back to Druids who
converted to Manichaeism. The Druids in Britain were forerunners of the Celtic
Christian Church. He saw in the culture of the mediaeval Cathar stronghold of
Languedoc strong resemblances to the Druids. Their priests akin to the Cathar
Parfaits. The Cathar secret wisdom being preserved by the later Troubadours, the
travelling poets and singers of the medieval courts of France.
Most Troubadours, according to Rahn, were secret
Cathars. Their apparent yearning and longing songs only seldom dedicated to a
special woman, their feminine symbolism referred to the Cathar community, the
Sophia, the Wisdom of the Gnostics. Julius Evola explains in *Le Mystere du
Graal*: "To make this doctrine inaccessible to the profane, it is hidden in
an *erotic symbolism, similar to the Grail cycle where it is represented by a
When Otto Rahn first studied Wolfram von
Eschenbach's *Parzival he noticed remarkable similarities with names and places
in southern France, and he suspected that *Parzival's Grail castle *Munsalvaesche
(Richard Wagnar called it Montsalvat) was non-other than the Cathar
solar-fortress Montsegur. In Eschenbach's work he discerned the influence of
Cathar poetry. The probably incorrect assumption that the persecuted Cathars had
retreated under the earth and celebrated their mysteries in subterranean
churches was adopted by Otto Rahn from the researcher of Cathar enthusiast
Antonin Gabal. Gabal gave Rahn the freedom of his library and private museum. In
letters Rahn called him his "Trevrizent" (the uncle of Parsifal in
Eschenbach's work) and developed the propositions laid out in Gabal's *Au Chemin
du Saint Graal*.
The tale that Otto Rahn actually found the Grail and
that it was kept until the end of World War II in the Wewelsburg, the SS castle
near Paderborn, can easily be disproved. There was a Grail in Wewelsburg but it
was just a huge rock crystal. Rene Nelli, an important scholar of Catharism,
maintains that the Grail is not mentioned in any of the still existing Cathar
texts, while Julius Evola did not think much of the Cathar Grail thesis.
Return to Germany
After 1933 Rahn lived in Berlin, devoting himself to
further studies of the Grail. His quest for a secret primordial religious
tradition - the Religion of Light - came to the attention of Nazi SS leader
Heinrich Himmler who sought Rahn's collaboration in SS-sponsored research. After
first joining the SS heritage bureau, the *Ahnenerbe*, as a civilian, his
talents were soon recognised by his superiors. Pursuaded to formally join the SS
in 1936, within a matter of weeks Otto Rahn was promoted to SS-Unterscharfuhrer.
By September 1935 Rahn was writing excitedly to the
chief of the *Ahnenerbe about the places he visited in his hunt for Grail
traditions in Germany, requesting complete confidence in the matter with the
exception of Himmler.
Otto Rahn is even rumored to have founded a neo-Catharist
circle within the SS. In the summer of 1936 he undertook, by order of the SS, an
expedition to Iceland. Highlights of this journey formed part of some chapters
in his second and final book "Lucifer's Courtiers", published in 1937.
Rahn makes no mention of the SS and the ship that sailed for Iceland flew a flag
with a blue swastika on white background (in sharp contrast to the official
standard of the Third Reich).
We know that Otto Rahn fell into disgrace with the
Nazi hierarchy in 1937 and for disciplinary reasons was assigned a tour of duty
at the SS run Dachau concentration camp. In the winter of 1938/39 he wrote to
the SS Reichsfuhrer requesting immediate dismissal from the SS. A few months
later he was dead.
Rumours abound concerning Otto Rahn's departure from
the Nazi SS. Some claim that he was a homosexual or of Jewish descent, but
evidence is lacking. In a conversation Rahn claimed that he had been betrayed
and that his life was in danger. In a letter to a friend he openly expressed his
concern about the Third Reich:
"I have much sorrow in my country. Fourteen
days ago I was in Munich. Two days later I preferred to go into my mountains.
Impossible for a tolerant, liberal man like me to live in the nation that my
native country has become."
Col. Howard Buechner, the author of the *Emerald
Cup, says that Rahn "let it be known that he opposed the war for which
Germany was obviously preparing in 1938. In place of war, he believed that
Germany and then Europe, should be transformed into a community of 'Pure Ones'
or Cathars. In other words, Rahn's long association with the history of the
Cathars and their unjust persecution by the church and the throne of France, had
led to his conversion to the Cathar faith. He was also proposing a 'New Order'
in which the states of Europe, and perhaps all other nations, would adopt the
Cathar beliefs in the interest of world peace."
On 13 March 1939 - almost on the anniversary of the
fall of Montsegur - Otto Rahn died in the snow on the Tyrolean mountains.
"In the manner of the Cathar heretics," says Nigel Pennick, "Rahn
voluntarily left a world he saw disintegrating." A few years earlier Otto
Rahn had written in "Crusade Against the Grail":
"Their doctrine allowed suicide but demanded
that one did not put an end to his life because of disgust, fear or pain, but in
a perfect dissolution from matter. This kind of Endura was allowed when it took
place in a moment of mystical sight of divine beauty and kindness...It is only
one step from fasting to suicide. To fast requires courage but the final act of
definitive ascesis requires heroism. The consequence is not as cruel as it may
The story of the enigmatic life and work of Otto
Rahn, symbolising as it does a Great Mystery, will always fascinate both
students of the Holy Grail and seekers of the Cathar tradition. This Mystery can
be discerned in the following quote from Miguel Serrano's *Nos: Book of the
"When we talk about the religion of love of the
troubadours, of the initiated knights of the Grail, of the true Rosicrucians, we
must try to discover what lies behind their language. In those days, love did
not mean the same thing as it does in our day. The word *Amor (Love) was a
cipher, it was a code word. Amor spelt backwards is Roma. That is, the word
indicated, in the way in which it was written, the opposite to Roma, to all that
Rome represented. Also *Amor broke down into 'a' and 'mor', meaning
*Without-Death. That is, to become immortal, eternal, thanks to the way of
initiation of A-Mor. A way of initiation totally opposed to the way of Rome. An
esoteric, solar Kristianity. The Gnostic Kristianity of Meister Eckhart. And
mine. Because I have tried to teach western man to resurrect Kristos in his
soul. Because Kristos is the Self for western man.
"This is why *Roma destroyed *Amor, the Cathars,
the Templars, the Lords of the Grail, the *Minnesinger, everything which may
have originated in the 'Hyperborean Blood Memory' and which may have had a
polar, solar origin.
"The love talked and written about so much
in novels, poetry and magazines, the love of one's neighbour, the universal love
of the churches, love of humanity, has nothing whatsoever to do with 'loveless
love' (A-Mor, Without-Death), which is a harsh discipline, as cold as ice, as
cutting as a sword, and which aspires to overcome the human condition in order
to reach the Kingdom of the Immortals, Ultima Thule."
This remains a fitting tribute to Otto Rahn.