From
Nova Religio Vol.1, No.2, April 1998

The Turner Diaries and Cosmotheism: William Pierce's Theology of Revolution

Brad Whitsel

This article may be read in conjunction with the introduction to the American Nazism document. It is a significant contribution to the explanation of neo-nazism as an occult movement and a useful expose of the Turner Diaries text. (The Editors)


ABSTRACT

The 19 April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City brought media attention to bear on a violent, futuristic novel that had been widely circulated in the radical right political subculture for nearly two decades prior to the disaster. Although the media would not explore the connection between William Pierce's novel, The Turner Diaries, and the bombing until weeks after it occurred, the book had incited violence before and was used earlier as a blueprint for launching a revolution against the federal government. In recent days, The Turner Diaries has received growing attention as a racist, anti-government tract. However, what remains unexplored about the book is its millenarian message and the apocalyptic theology that motivates its reclusive author. Pierce, who is the director of National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group headquartered in West Virginia, embraces a worldview shaped by a philosophy he refers to as 'Cosmotheism.' This syncretic belief ccombines scientific evolutionary theory with racial mysticism in its construction of reality. Cosmotheism, like all millennial beliefs of a catastrophic nature, mandates the destruction of the present order of earthly existence before a new era of redemption and bliss for the community of the chosen can unfold.

 

Although the evidence is still inconclusive, it appears as if William Pierce's pseudonymously authored 1978 novel, The Turner Diaries, may have been used as a blueprint for the 19 April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Sources close to Timothy McVeigh, who was found guilty in June 1997 of the murder of the 168 people who died in the blast, revealed that the Gulf War veteran was utterly absorbed with the book's violent message.<1> While the media devoted much attention to the eerie similarities between the novel's plotline and the circumstances of the bombing, this possible linkage was pursued superficially. As a consequence of the shallow treatment of the novel and its author by the media, the religious vision of The Turner Diaries remains underexplored both by academic and law enforcement groups.

Unfortunately, a consensus has emerged which narrowly places Turner in the literary genre of 'terrorist literature.' This categorization, while partially accurate, fails to perceive the book in terms other than a 'how- to' manual designed to enlighten its readers concerning the tactics of urban guerrilla warfare. Curiously, the renewed interest in Turner following the Oklahoma City bombing has not extended to consideration of the book's chiliastic dream for the future. This oversight is strange since once before the novel's apocalyptic message may well have served as the springboard for acts of domestic terrorism. Robert Mathews, a martyred hero to many on the radical right fringe, almost certainly regarded Turner as a canonical text. A one-time associate of William Pierce, Mathews used Turner as a guide to organize his own terrorist secret society (the Order) and followed aspects of the novel's plot in his group's use of rituals and tactics.<2>

From 1983 to 1984 the members of the Order conducted a two-year campaign of counterfeiting and robbery to finance a racial revolution in America. The objective for Mathews' organization was to trigger a rebellion of the white population against the forces of ZOG, the Zionist Occupation Government of the United States, which was believed to be engineering the destruction of the white race and its Aryan heritage.<3> For Mathews, this insurrectionary goal was driven by a divine imperative which ran far deeper than political concerns. Having become captivated with the spiritual aspects of racialism,<4> Mathews heard in Pierce's fantasy novel a call for a holy war and the promise of a new dawn for those committed to the Aryan ideal of life.

Although Turner has often been referred to as the 'white supremacist bible' by the media, more attention has been given to its tactical and strategic plans for domestic terrorism than to the book's unusual spiritual impulse.<5> What has been lacking thus far in the examination of the novel is a careful scrutiny of its millenarian overtones and an assessment of its implications for holy terrorism. I suggest that Turner should be viewed as a theological statement, marked by a vision of divine transformation and a sense of ultimacy derived from a fusion of racial and spiritual ideas. By examining the novel through this conceptual lens, our understanding of the strange appeal of Turner to a potentially violent faction of the antigovernment subculture may be substantially broadened.


PIERCE AND THE COSMOTHEIST WORLDVIEW

The Turner Diaries is the first and better known of two novels written by William Pierce, a figure generally viewed as an intellectual leader of the American far right. Having sold nearly 200,000 copies,<6> Turner has been remarkably well-received for a book with an obvious fringe theme. The futuristic story unfolds in the 1990s and recounts the experiences of Earl Turner, a leader of an underground guerrilla force (the Organization) that engages in a campaign of terrorism against a Jewish-controlled American government. Turner's group of devoted revolutionaries succeeds in carrying out a series of sabotage operations, bombings, and assassinations which result in the occurrence of an all-out race war and the eventual violent dissolution of the central government.

The novel concludes with an apocalyptic vision of the future in which the Organization, having established a separate 'white territory' in California, initiates a global nuclear war. The nuclear strikes carry strange symbolic connotations, both for their timing and for their intended consequences. Undertaken in the late 1990s, the worldwide nuclear apocalypse occurs just prior to the arrival of the new millennium, the dawn of a pristine era promising glory and fulfillment for the Organization and its racial kinsmen. Equally chiliastic is the totality of destruction wrought by the weapons themselves and the metaphorical 'cleansing' effect they seem to possess. By unleashing the forces of mass destruction against its enemies, the terrorists erase from the face of the earth the impure 'alien hordes' who have long impeded the evolution of a new species'the rejuvenated white race.<7>

The millennial subcurrents of Turner convey a deeper message than that which is often associated with the book. While Pierce intended for this fictional work to promote the ideas of his racialist organization (the National Alliance) to a wider readership, Turner also reflects the author's observance of a belief system steeped in conceptions of ultimate things.<8> Strangely, this central feature of Pierce's worldview has gone essentially unnoticed despite his occasional statements and writings suggesting his adherence to a divine cosmology.

Pierce's gravitation toward extremism appears to have begun during his days at Oregon State University in the early 1960s. While employed there as an assistant professor of physics (1962-65), Pierce became increasingly preoccupied with what he saw as the 'racial erosion' of American society.<9> Convinced that the university environment fostered a 'politically correct atmosphere' which prevented an honest dialogue on race from taking place, Pierce gave up on an academic career and shortly thereafter immersed himself completely in a quest for radical solutions to America's 'race problem.'<10>

Following a short association with George Lincoln Rockwell's American Nazi Party (ANP) in Arlington, Virginia, Pierce continued his work as a racial activist with a number of ANP successor organizations. By 1974, after having worked in high-ranking positions for a number of groups in the neo-Nazi orbit, he founded the National Alliance, an Arlington-based group devoted to promoting the progress of the white race.<11> In 1985, Pierce relocated his organizational headquarters to a 300-acre property in a remote portion of southeastern West Virginia. At this site, Pierce and a few members of his group run the organization's day-to-day operations, which involve the printing and distribution of racial separatist propaganda through the National Alliance's literature-selling arm, National Vanguard Books.

From the time of its inception, the National Alliance has separated itself from other neo-Nazi groups by its adoption of a distinctive and highly literate organizational rhetoric and a guiding philosophy that invokes sacred themes. Although the disparate ranks of the American neo-Nazi circle have commonly shared ideals loosely based on 'Blood and Soil' mythology and Nordic lore, this general movement has tended to be more ideological than spiritual. In marked contrast to these 'Hitler cults' which emerged in the wake of the post-Rockwell Nazi movement, Pierce's National Alliance sought to establish itself as a community of the Elect galvanized by a common belief in racial destiny and the Aryan path to godhood.

In order to understand Pierce's millenarian worldview, it is necessary briefly to explore the racially rooted theology upon which his organization is based. This philosophy, which Pierce calls 'Cosmotheism,' resonates in his literary work, particularly in Turner, and provides adherents with a totalistic logic explaining the order of the universe.<12> Blending Darwinian evolutionary theory with ideas from ancient Teutonic legend, Cosmotheism synthesizes the scientific with the mystical in its construction of reality. While the empirical and otherworldly components of this belief system might initially appear incompatible, in a strange sense each reinforces the other in an all-encompassing concept for human evolutionary development.<13>

Pierce perceives the world in terms of separate, biologically differentiated evolutions of racial groups. Reflecting strong traces of the theories of scientific racism he read while at Oregon State University,<14> Pierce's conception of racial progress would seem, at first glance, to be merely an extension of the early twentieth century's 'racial anthropology' literature. Here it is important to see that Pierce's system of thought diverges significantly from the purely scientific structure adopted by early racial theorists. In the Cosmotheist thoughtworld, evolution takes on a spiritual meaning as mankind follows predetermined courses of racial destiny. Pierce has described this process as an 'upward path' with its end point leading to the goal of 'oneness with the Creator.'<15> This ultimate Cosmotheist objective, the white race's realization of godhood, is viewed as a genetically wired certainty. According to Pierce, who has lectured on the subject to small gatherings of National Alliance members, the race's 'divine spark' has propelled it to greatness throughout history and separates it from all other forms of life.<16>

The concept of a unique Aryan path to godhood has parallels with the 'secret wisdom' beliefs found in ancient Gnosticism. Although lacking the racial mystique that would come to preoccupy some of its distant offshoots, Gnosticism established an early foundation for alternative expressions of salvationism. Embracing a mysterious and syncretic belief system borrowed from Platonism, oriental religions, Judaism, and Christianity, Gnosticism flourished in the first few centuries c.e. in the Mediterranean Basin as a counter religious movement to orthodox Christianity.<17> The importance of Gnosticism as a forebearer of other elite, alternative theological systems is found in its dualistic interpretation of reality. Perceiving in themselves a divine spark that differentiated those within the sect from outsiders, the early Gnostics held that the realization of spiritual unity with God could be achieved through secret revelation and initiation into the group's esoteric tradition.<18> This knowledge, which was deemed unavailable to group outsiders, permitted the 'release' of one's godly potential, and thus facilitated the 'insider's' personal path to divinity.

The Gnostic gravitation toward dualism and group secrecy was continued by a host of esoteric orders in the Western world. In particular, notions of occult revelations resonated with many of the secret societies which drew their inspiration from the Gnostic worldview. It is interesting to note that the uniquely German permutations of Gnostic belief, which in the nineteenth century combined Volkish nationalism with the mysticism of legendary secret societies, became the prime expositors of a 'revolutionary gnosis' that possessed both a racial basis and a political agenda.<19> The best-known of these relatively obscure ideas was Ariosophy, an Aryan variant of the era's widely popular Theosophy. Blending German nationalistic sentiments, occultism, and Teutonic belief, Ariosophy emerged as a 'crisis cult' in response to its adherents' sense of dislocation within late nineteenth-century German society and the disunified nature of the German state.<20>

Pierce has consistently displayed a fascination with various figures who are commonly associated with the Western esoteric tradition. Throughout his writing career, Pierce has admired the metaphysical ideas of mystical philosophers such as Meister Eckhart (1260-1327 c.e.) and Giordano Bruno (1548-1600 c.e.).<21> Scholars have generally located Eckhart and Bruno in the lineage of esotericists whose brand of mysticism incorporated Gnostic and Neoplationist themes.<22> For Pierce, these theological scholars provided their race with a glimpse of the Divine in man's soul. Inspired by similar views about the innate urge to achieve union with a higher nature, Eckhart and Bruno observed cosmologies which, while subtly differentiated, stressed the possibility of the soul's perfectibility.<23> It was, in fact, the mystical reference to this divine spark, a point of central important in Eckhart's philosophy,<24> which Pierce integrated into his own racially based cosmology. In a 1978 essay entitled 'The Faustian Spirit,' Pierce employs the Gnostic understanding of the soul's upward path in his racially deterministic framework of thought:

The race which is the bearer of this spirit must, therefore, be doubly careful that its genetic basis is preserved'that it does not become a race solely of lawyers, clerks, laborers, and merchants but remains a race also of philosophers, explorers, poets, and inventors: of seekers of ultimate knowledge, of strivers toward the perfection which is Godhood.<25>

Cosmotheism appears to be philosophically related to this ancient esoteric tradition in some important ways. First, Cosmotheism can be viewed as an extension of the same type of protest subculture which organized around groups in the Gnostic constellation. Galvanized by the feeling that society was flawed and on the wrong course of development, these groups turned inward, away from the surrounding social system, and sought security in a group-specific, utopian image of the world. Second, despite the chronological gap between the emergence of the Gnostic outlook and that of Cosmotheism, there are similarities in their respective uses of dualism. Employed by each as a means to divide society into camps comprised of the 'enlightened' and the 'unknowing,' these philosophies provide believers with a neat, systematized way of differentiating between insider and outsider. Such an outlook provides the group with a sense of unity and a means to coalesce around shared ideals which are held to be superior to those of the outside culture.<26>


DESTRUCTION AND REBIRTH

Cosmotheism is partly differentiated from what some scholars of radical mass movements have termed the 'reconstructed tradition,' which defines the outlook of groups seeking to return society to a past golden age.<27> Finding the dominant culture unsatisfying and threatening, separatist movements of this type are mobilized around inspirational themes taken from a putatively untarnished past. Despite sharing this tendency to look backward through history'particularly to Viking lore and classical antiquity'for models of an earlier, glorified existence, Cosmotheism possesses an inherently forward-looking character which extends from its emphasis on evolutionary development. In this respect, the Cosmotheist vision for the future is presented as a linear path of racial progress, with each forward step taking the race closer to the threshold of divinity. Whereas other factions in the radical right constellation (such as the Christian Identity fold and the various Klan organizations) perceive in bygone eras a purity of life to which they long to return,<28> the National Alliance uses utopian imagery drawn from both the past and the future. It is the more forward-looking component of Pierce's philosophy which carries revolutionary implications.

Like all millennial beliefs, Cosmotheism is a salvific philosophy that anticipates the dissolution of an existing world order and the eventual realization of a new and perfect society. Its bio-racial underpinnings reflect a deterministic view of history in which the anticipated age of ultimate renewal is arrived at through evolutionary means. This process of 'racial advancement,' as Pierce sees it, is preordained, and thus part of a cosmic plan for universal order.<29> The connotations of logical progress in Cosmotheism, albeit disturbing, convey optimism about the future, an attitude which is linked to an underlying faith in racial destiny. But unlike those 'progressive' millenarians whose beliefs are anchored in a view of history defined by constant improvement,<30> Pierce and his adherents envision the secular world in an eroded and decaying condition.

The conviction that the entire social system is headed for destruction is actually a key source of faith for millenarians whose dreams of renewal are contingent upon the realization of a sweeping disaster period. This system of thought, which religion scholar Catherine Wessinger has termed 'catastrophic millennialism,' is predicated upon a group's belief that the imminent destruction of the existing order must first take place before the perfect age, the new millennium, is brought about.<31> From the perspective of the believer, the catastrophe initiates the process whereby the forces of total worldly transformation are set in motion. In this vision, hope for the future is inextricably tied to the catastrophic event which alone has the power to recast an impure environment in a more hallowed form.

The redemptive quality of the apocalyptic vision for world transformation is understood in two ways by catastrophic millenarians. At one level, the disaster completely eradicates the past, giving birth to the new order in which life starts in a pristine form. The second level at which redemption occurs takes place within the community, which sees itself as benefiting from the destruction of the old way of life. As Norman Cohn observed, for revolutionary chiliasts the meaning of the Heavenly City on earth is inherently exclusive. Salvation is reserved for the 'chosen people' who will reap the reward for their faith when history is brought to its consummation.<32>

Catastrophic millennial theory provides us with a starting point from which to gauge the connection between disaster and salvation, but it fails to elaborate on an important aspect of this nexus. What is left undeveloped is the notion that disaster assumes a role in the renewal process that carries with it a faith-sustaining power. When considered from this vantage point, catastrophic events designed to bring down the decayed order of things perform a critical function in the totalistic mindset of those engaged in 'the final struggle.' This function, as Michael Barkun notes, is illusory and gives catastrophically inclined millenarians the appearance that the ultimate dream for change is unfolding.<33> Thus, for the believer, the disaster may be seen to be as much an act of self-confirmation, or reassurance, as it is part of the transformative cycle. At this point we begin to encounter the strong possibility that disaster is itself part of the millennial dream and not merely a precursor to it or a separate time on the millennial clock. The result is that whereas disaster and the era of perfection might, in other situations, be viewed as distinct epochs of history, here they are joined together in a synthesis of revolutionary change.

Pierce's conception of total change from the degraded state of present affairs to a sublime future has as its major obstacle the societal institutions which are believed to be responsible for the decline of white America. Presented in National Alliance literature in pathological terms, the government, courts, media, universities, and all other vestiges of the modern democratic social system are considered sick and inherently corrupted.<34> Comprising the core of this societal power structure are the same groups Pierce portrayed in Turner as 'unassimiliable,' especially Jews and non-whites.<35> These groups, along with the government and its supporters, are seen as the promoters of a subversive 'diversity' agenda which has as its goal the disintegration of white culture. There is, however, a strong hint of hopefulness to be found in the National Alliance's appraisal of America's diseased condition. As Pierce points out in a recent article he wrote outlining the future strategy of his organization, the nation's advanced state of social decay represents the beginning of the end for the old Order:

The situation in America is no longer quasi-static, as it was during most of the 1970s and 1980s. During that earlier period the Jewish media were able to keep nearly all of the public hypnotized, to provide a false reality for them in the place of the real world around them. . . . Now the process of decay and disintegration has accelerated; now the hypnosis is beginning to wear off as reality becomes too harsh to ignore. This process will continue to accelerate in the future.<36>


TAPPING INTO THE MILLENNIAL OUTLOOK

The theme of 'rebirth' undergrids all expressions of millennialism; but when catastrophe is eagerly anticipated as a precondition for earthly bliss, critical questions should be asked about the implications of the group's beliefs. Above all, it is necessary to consider whether the group's vision of disaster promotes action on the part of adherents to 'trigger' the events leading to the perfect age. It is this specific behavior, the act of forcing the millennium through human effort, which may place the group on a collision course with society. The distinction between the passive expectation and active promotion of catastrophe is important because it effectively separates disaster-prone millennialism into either nonviolent or potentially violent types. When we turn our attention to the Cosmotheist impulse which informs Pierce's literary work, it becomes clear that the doctrine legitimizes violence as a tool for implementing its program for change.

The Turner Diaries' fictionalized route to racial Armageddon provides us with a glimpse of Cosmotheism's track of logic. Presented in the novel in its most highly distilled form, the philosophy mandates the complete eradication of enemies who are portrayed as subhuman. Only by purging the world of their degenerate and impure society can a new system'an Aryan order of life'be created. The pure vs. impure dynamic in Turner does not lend itself to strategies of change which are less than total. This interpretive framework is ultimately reductionistic. Absolute distinctions drawn between 'the righteous' and 'the alien' take the form of a timeless truth and propel the believer on a course running counter to the interests and values of the larger society.

With these insights in mind, we can begin to see how Pierce's Cosmotheist beliefs, if followed to their logical ends, may activate the revolutionary forces needed to overthrow the opposing power structure. As the designs for an Aryan society are increasingly thwarted by the despised regime, some members of the faith may take it upon themselves to 'make history.' Although Pierce has been quick to dismiss as 'impulsive and overzealous' the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing,<37> his early writings reveal an entirely different perspective on the use of terrorism to further organizational goals. In a 1971 essay, Pierce minces no words about the resolve necessary to do battle with the 'system':

We do not need to reason with the monster; we need to put a bullet into its brain and hammer a stake through its heart. If that means blood and chaos and battling the alien enemy from house to house in burning cities throughout our land'then, by God, it is better that we get on with it now than later.<38>

While Turner's call for anti-government mobilization appears in the shape of a religious imperative, the novel's millennial hopes depend on the psychology of its readers. Touching upon the same general themes normally found in the discourse of the far right, particularly alienation and nativism, Turner's threatening motif is peculiarly well-suited to appeal to a Manichaean mindset. In this sense, Pierce's work does not so much reorient the beliefs of readers, but rather taps into the psychological outlook of those already inclined to see the world in apocalyptic and conspiratorial terms.<39> Here, Turner's versatility as an instigator for anti-system activism merits special attention. Depending upon the convictions of the reader, the 'enemy' may assume a number of forms, all of which become psychologically reconstituted as part of the larger New World Order. This does not suggest, however, that all those finding confirmation of their beliefs in Turner are blind to its sanction for religious warfare. One case, of course, stands out. Robert Mathews' close association with William Pierce, described by some as a student-mentor relationship,<40> points to the probability that he was a Cosmotheist believer.41

It is likely that the evolutionary basis of Pierce's syncretic Aryan theology lacks the explosive dynamism required to mobilize legions of religiously inspired terrorists. But, when dealing with issues of faith, the numerical size of an extremist millenarian movement may have little bearing on its ability to conduct sacred warfare. Visualizing themselves as participants in a cosmic-level battle with the forces of evil, religious terrorists are moved by a desire to reshape the existing order in accordance with the divine will. This source of inspiration is fueled by the group's profound sense of alienation and a certainty that its way of life is imperiled.<42>

Pierce's 1989 novel, Hunter, may provide us with some perspective on the author's maturation as a revolutionary prophet. Eschewing the fanciful strategic guerrilla war theme laid out in Turner for a more realistic plot,<43> Pierce focuses on the activities of a lone terrorist (the fictional Oscar Yeager) in his second novel. Yeager, a self-employed engineer and contractor in the Washington, D.C. area, comes to the realization that his one-man attempts at striking out against the government by random assassinations will not bring about its demise. However, the central character comes to see that by creating an environment in which such acts trigger exponentially greater effects, the isolated terrorist incident can be useful as a revolutionary tactic. Joining forces with the National League, a small band of like-minded revolutionaries, Yeager and the group undertake a calculated campaign aimed at inciting a nationwide backlash against Jews. Using a media propaganda strategy to win the allegiance of disaffected whites opposing the Jewish domination of America, the National League succeeds in fomenting a state of racial discord across the country. As tensions rise, American cities are reduced to combat zones where armed conflicts take place between minorities and whites. Like Turner, the novel ends on an apocalyptic note as America dissolves along racial lines and an all-out race war seems an inevitability.<44>

Pierce's apparent advocacy of a new strategy for insurrection, that of the small propaganda-utilizing cadre, would seem tailor-made for contemporary times when the far right's activities are being increasingly scrutinized by law enforcement organizations. Prefiguring the general strategy of 'leaderless resistance' outlined in 1992 by Christian Identity figure Louis Beam,<45> the protagonists of Hunter make use of the media to mobilize individuals or small groups in support of a racial cause. Such a plan improved upon the dated tactics of Turner for two reasons: leaderless terrorists are difficult for the state to monitor and control, and, lacking central direction, the 'cells' or individuals engaging in illegal activity provide the inciting policy with a high degree of plausible deniability from the actor's endeavors.


CONCLUSION

Although Pierce's perception of the best-suited strategy for revolutionary violence may have changed from the time he wrote Turner, the same Cosmotheist ideals still influence his work. While the golden age vision in Hunter is presented in a less obvious manner than in the clearly millennial context of Turner, a Cosmotheist impulse also provides Hunter's protagonists with their sense of racial duty. At a primordial level of understanding, the 'heroes' in Hunter know that an integrated, multi-racial world is unnatural. By instigating racial unrest, the major characters in the novel set the stage for the unfolding forces of racial evolution to purge the country of its alien presence.

Pierce is not alone in his role as the far right's expositor of millennial violence. In recent days, other writers on America's rightward fringe have succeeded in attracting a limited following of sympathizers and in captivating the attention of media, law enforcement, and various interest groups. Of these, two stand out. The first is Richard Kelly Hoskins, whose 1990 book, Vigilantes of Christendom, tells the story of the Phineas Priesthood. Although Hoskins has been writing in the racialist genre since the late 1950s, his Vigilantes of Christendom appears to have gained the reclusive author a significant measure of recent notoriety. Tracing the existence of a divinely ordained group of zealots from the biblical stories of Phineas, Hoskins maintains that individuals from this special priesthood have appeared throughout history whenever God's Law was broken.<46> According to Hoskins, the Phineans act as agents of God's wrath and, in accordance with their holy duty, 'execute judgment' against those held responsible for the corruption of Christian society.<47> Hoskins, whose theological justifications for violence seem based in a Christian Identity worldview, has either intentionally or unintentionally had his beliefs operationalized. Not unlike Turner, which has at least once incited a receptive mind to violence, Vigilantes of Christendom has already motivated a handful of sympathizers to place themselves in the self-perceived role of the Phineas Priest.<48>

Less well-known than Hoskins' Vigilantes of Christendom is another violent work of growing fringe popularity with roots in the Odinist tradition. Written under the pen name O.T. Gunnarsson, the anonymous 1993 novel Hear the Cradle Song mimics Turner's race war theme, but sets the futuristic action in a localized area (southern California) and substitutes an Odinist cosmology for the implicit Cosmotheism in Pierce's first book, after which Gunnarsson's saga is clearly modeled. The novel's protagonists, a contingent of Odinists who heroically defend a white community in coastal southern California against invasion by Hispanic and Chinese armies, rely on their bravery and cunning to defeat the numerically superior racial outsiders in an America torn apart by economic turmoil and social chaos. The millennial subcurrents of Hear the Cradle Song surface conspicuously at the novel's conclusion when, following the final victory over the invaders, the white community purges itself of troublesome Jews and homosexuals and begins a new future as a racially pure, orderly utopia.<49> Gunnarsson's novel is a modern-day extension of the Golden Age ideology embraced by the youthful Odinist subculture of Weimar-era Germany. Turning to the legendary Teutonic gods for inspiration during the darkest days of the interwar period, disillusioned German youth revived pagan deities as a means of reconstructing a time of imagined greatness.<50>

Both Vigilantes of Christendom and Hear the Cradle Song cater to an audience attracted to a reconstructed vision of a fanciful past and in search of a decisive plan for instituting order in a world perceived as having gone awry. However, despite their innate differences with the predominantly forward-looking nature of Cosmotheism, all share a common trait: each emphasize the use of 'purifying' violence enmeshed within a philosophy of the divine. That such works are gaining increasing attention in the far right subculture at this moment in time may not be surprising. Countercultural ideas of an intellectual and quasi-religious character have flourished during previous fin de si'cle periods, and the arrival of the new millennium conveys images of a historical slate wiped clean of the past.<51> At a sociopsychological level, this turn of the cosmic clock has contributed to a pervasive mood of anticipation. For millennialists within this protest movement, however, the hopes associated with the new dawn of time involve the utter destruction of the old order of things before utopia can be achieved. It is this concept'the notion of eradicating a corrupted and decayed realm of life'which carries serious implications for public order. The potential consequences of such outbreaks of catastrophic millennial activism oblige scholars and police agencies to expand their efforts at understanding the beliefs of those willing to use violence to usher in the perfect age.

 


ENDNOTES

<1> Mark Hamm, Apocalypse in Oklahoma: Waco and Ruby Ridge Revisited (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1997), 144-45.

<2> Kevin Flynn and Gary Gerhardt, The Silent Brotherhood: Inside America's Racist Underground (New York: Free Press, 1989), 140.

<3> Michael Barkun, Religion and the Racist Right: The Origins of the Christian Identity Movement, rev. ed. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 11.

<4> Flynn and Gerhardt, 121-22.

<5> 'Links of Anti-Semitic Bank Provokes 6-State Parley,' New York Times, 27 December 1984, B7.

<6> This figure is cited on the inside cover of The Turner Diaries (Hillsboro, West Virginia: National Vanguard Books, 1978). Scholars have generally accepted this sales figure as accurate. See, for example, Robert S. Robins and Jerrold M. Post, Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 206.

<7> Ibid., 210.

<8> I base this impression upon my personal interview with William Pierce conducted at his West Virginia Cosmotheist Community on 5 January 1993. This interview lasted approximately 90 minutes. Pierce proved willing to answer all of my questions concerning Cosmotheism, his writing career, and his views on the current social and political condition of America. However, he refused to divulge any information regarding the numerical size of the National Alliance.

<9> Ibid.

<10> Ibid.

<11> William Pierce, Human Dignity: A Racial Ethic (Hillsboro, West Virginia: National Vanguard Books, 1978). This is a recorded speech given by Pierce at Arlington, Virginia before a small audience of National Alliance members.

<12> While Cosmotheist beliefs are most clearly evident in Pierce's first novel, the same conception of ultimate truth also informs his second novel, Hunter (Hillsboro, West Virginia: National Vanguard Books, 1989). Pierce has been a relatively prolific writer. In addition to his novels, he has written many editorials and essays for the publications with which he has been associated over the years. For a good understanding of the Cosmotheistic impulses which move Pierce, see his 'The Radicalizing of an American,' in The Best of Attack! and National Vanguard Tabloid (Hillsboro, WV: National Vanguard Books, 1989), 124-26. The article is one of many written by Pierce found in this compendium of essays marketed by National Vanguard Books.

<13> See Brad Whitsel, 'Aryan Visions for the Future in the West Virginia Mountains,' Terrorism and Political Violence 7, no. 4 (1995): 129.

<14> Pierce, interview with author.

<15> Ibid.

<16> Ibid.

<17> John Saliba, Understanding New Religious Movements (Grand Rapids, MI: William Eerdman Publishing Co., 1985), 39.

<18> Ibid., 39.

<19> Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology (New York: New York University Press, 1992), 31.

<20> Ibid., 29.

<21> William Pierce, Cosmotheism: Wave of the Future, audiotape of lecture by William Pierce at Arlington, Virginia (Hillsboro, WV: National Vanguard Books, 1977). In this address, Pierce pays tribute to Meister Eckhart for his visionary ideas about human perfectibility. Also see William Pierce, 'Giordano Bruno: Visionary and Martyr,' in The Best of Attack! and National Vanguard Tabloid, 165.

<22> Emily Sellon and Ren'e Weber, 'Theosophy and the Theosophical Society,' Modern Esoteric Spirituality: An Encyclopedic History of the Religious Quest, eds. Antoine Faivre and Jacob Needleman (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1992), 311.

<23> Antoine Faivre, 'Ancient and Medieval Sources of Modern Esoteric Movements,' in Modern Esoteric Spirituality, eds. Faivre and Needleman, 7.

<24> Oliver Davies, ed., The Rhineland Mystics: Writings of Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler, and Jan van Ruusbroec and Selections from the 'Theologica Germanica' and the 'Book of Spiritual Poverty' (New York: Crossroad, 1980), 30-34.

<25> William Pierce, 'The Faustian Spirit,' in The Best of Attack! and National Vanguard Tabloid, 145.

<26> Philip J. Lee, Against the Protestant Gnostics (London: Oxford University Press, 1987), 33.

<27> Jeffrey Kaplan, 'Right Wing Violence in North America,' Terrorism and Political Violence 7, no. 1 (1995): 57-58.

<28> Michael Barkun, 'Religion and Violence in the Christian Identity Movement' (paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., 3 September 1993).

<29> Pierce, Cosmotheism.

<30> For an understanding of the distinctions between catastrophic and progressive millennial thought, see Catherine Wessinger, 'Millennialism With and Without the Mayhem,' in Millennium, Messiahs, and Mayhem: Contemporary Apocalyptic Movements, eds. Thomas Robbins and Susan J. Palmer (New York: Routledge, 1997), 49-51.

<31> Ibid.

<32> Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium (New York: Harper and Row, 1961), 308.

<33> Michael Barkun, Disaster and the Millennium (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974), 210.

<34> What is the National Alliance?: Ideology and Program of the National Alliance (Hillsboro, WV: National Vanguard Books, 1993). This pamphlet describes the beliefs of National Alliance members.

<35> It should be noted that in The Turner Diaries other groups, including feminists, liberal Christians, and conservatives, are also viewed as 'obstacles' to the goals of the Organization.

<36> What is the National Alliance?, 6.

<37> William Pierce, 'OKC Bombing and America's Future' (address given 29 April 1995 on the radio program American Dissident Voices). This is a weekly, short-wave program broadcasted from WRNO Radio, New Orleans.

<38> William Pierce, 'Why Revolution?,' in The Best of Attack! and National Vanguard Tabloid, 9.

<39> Michael Barkun, 'Religion, Militias, and Oklahoma City: The Mind of Conspiratorialists,' Terrorism and Political Violence 8, no. 1 (1996): 59.

<40> Flynn and Gerhardt, 271.

<41> Ibid., 96. It is also known that Mathews studied Odinism. In some respects, Odinism and Cosmotheism are quite similar. However, as a reconstructed belief, Odinism lacks the forward-looking, evolutionary character of Cosmotheism.

<42> Bruce Hoffman, 'Holy Terror: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative,' Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 18 (1996): 273.

<43> Pierce, interview with author.

<44> William Pierce [Andrew MacDonald, pseud.], Hunter (Hillsboro, WV: National Vanguard Books, 1989), 259.

<45> Barkun, Religion and The Racist Right, 280. It bears attention that Pierce's new strategy for civil insurrection, as laid out in Hunter, preceded Beam's 1992 essay 'Leaderless Resistance,' which was included in the program of Rev. Pete Peters' Estes Park Conference of the same year.

<46> Richard Kelly Hoskins, Vigilantes of Christendom (Lynchburg, VA: The Virginia Publishing Company, 1990), 23. The tale of Phineas is taken from Psalms 106: 'Then stood up Phineas, and executed judgment, and so the plague was stayed.'

<47> Ibid., 26.

<48> 'Possible Lead in Bomb Blast at Olympics,' New York Times, 27 January 1997, A-3. Federal law enforcement officials reported that three men with ties to the Phineas Priesthood were considered suspects in the Olympic Park Bombing.

<49> O.T. Gunnarsson, Hear the Cradle Song (self-published, 1993). Marketed by the Institute for Historical Review, Newport Beach, CA.

<50> Jeffrey Kaplan, Radical Religion in America: Millennarian Movements from the Far Right to the Children of Noah (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997), 15.

<51> Walter Laqueur, 'Once More with Feeling,' Society 33, no. 1 (Nov./Dec. 1995): 16.

 

 


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American Nazism In The Context Of The American Extreme Right 1960 - 1978