The Grail Message is often lauded as a divine revelation that provides eternal answers to questions in all spheres of life ranging from God and the Universe to the Laws in Creation, the meaning of life, responsibility, free will, intuition and the intellect.
Many who fervently adhere to the Grail message desperately appeal to a vicious circular reasoning to validate these presuppositions.
However, an objective historical background into the Grail message clearly indicates that Bernhardt’s teachings, far from transcending his era, stem from the realities of the world he lived in and are the indisputable products of it.
Ab-dru-shin himself wrote:
“For there is really nothing new to be created; in everything it is merely a matter of producing new forms, since all the elements already exist in the vast Creation.” (In the Light of Truth, Vol. 1, Ch. 6 “Silence.”)
Going by his logic, there is nothing essentially new that the Grail message brought. For one, culture encompasses religion and adapts it to suit the times. The Grail message was simply a form fossilized by the social contexts of its time.
Anyone who undertakes a foucauldian analysis of the Grail message will find it heavily influenced by late 19th-early 20th century European customs, culture, politics and religious philosophies.
In other words, much of what Ab-dru-shin presented as “higher insights” from the ethereal world were already found in cultural and literary sources prevalent in his time. They were purely of earthly origins and obviously not beyond his physical or mental reach.
Consequently, the elaborate claim that Ab-dru-shin’s message was inspired by God, that it unlocks the mysteries of the universe and provides a reliable future for mankind are shown to be hallowed myths. This will be documented in this piece.
Special attention will be given to the work of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots of Nazism (Tauris Parke: London, 2005). This work examines the occult ideas that played midwife to the Hitler movement, regarded as the most destructive right-wing ideology in history.
Quotes from the book will appear in green whilst quotes from the Grail message will be in blue.
The Occult Roots of Nazism documents the lives, doctrines and cult activities of the Ariosophists of Vienna and their successors in Germany, who combined volkish German nationalism and Aryan racial theories with occultism.
For starters, Ab-dru-shin was heavily influenced by the beliefs of the Ariosophists and the similarities between his exposure, teachings and style and theirs is no coincidence.
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, the author of the Occult Roots of Nazism, was a British historian and professor of Western Esotericism at University of Exeter. As a specialist in Nazi ideology, his work provided several clues into the political, social and philosophical climate that shaped the contents of the Grail message.
A cursory look into the historical and philosophical underpinnings of Oskar’s credentials shows that there were other mystics, seers, and dreamers in his time who also espoused their imaginations, mysticism and occult-racist doctrines after being disenchanted with material wealth.
Two of such historical figures were Guido von List (1848 – 1919) and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels (1874 – 1954). But, let’s first take a brief look at Oskar’s biography:
He was born on April 18, 1875, in Bischofswerda, Germany, and given the name Oskar Ernst Bernhardt. It was while developing and writing the lectures of his Grail Message that he took the name Abd-ru-shin, which translates to “Servant of the Light.”
Oskar spent a happy childhood in the small Saxon town of Bischofswerda. Following completion of school there, he was trained in commerce and served a business apprenticeship in nearby Dresden.
As an independent merchant and business owner, and later as part-owner of a larger import/export firm, Oskar travelled extensively.
His experiences and impressions soon prompted him to set aside the mercantile profession in favour of his literary inclinations, and from 1907 he worked solely as a writer, producing travelogues,
short stories and novels.
As a playwright, he gained notable success. After a year-long stay in New York (1912 to 1913), he moved to London where he intended to further his education.
As a German national at the outbreak of World War I, he was arrested and interned on the Isle of Man, in the British Isles. He was 40 years old at the time.
During his four years of imprisonment (1915 to 1919), he experienced what we would call an “epiphany.” The Grail movement described it as “a recognition and knowledge of vital, overarching connections, and the wish to help suffering human beings awakened within him.”
Based on these recognitions, in 1923, Oskar began giving public lectures and publishing them using the pen-name Abd-ru-shin.
Of course, there was a strong religious currency attached to this name. The name expresses to his followers what he understood as his mission—to be a servant of the Light and a bringer of the Grail Message.
There was nothing strikingly unique about Oskar’s religious odyssey except that the Grail movementhas given his writings a halo that it didn’t merit.
History shows that there were several other figures like Oskar in Germany and Austria with very similar backgrounds, experiences and spiritual “recognitions.” One of them was List.
Guido (Von) List was the first popular writer to combine völkisch ideology with occultism and theosophy. His readers and followers regarded him as an old patriarch and a mystical nationalist guru whose clairvoyant gaze had redeemed the glorious Aryan and Germanic past of Austria from the corruption of foreign influences and Christian culture.
List was born in Vienna on October 5, 1848, the eldest son of a prosperous middle-class merchant. He was said to have had a happy childhood.
His love of nature and rural landscape was cultivated by his parents who took delight in taking their children on country excursions around the capital.
He had a Roman Catholic background, and he claimed his conversion to alternative spirituality occurred when he visited the catacombs of St. Stephen’s and swore to later build a temple to Wotan [Germanic god, Odin] in the labyrinth under the cathedral, which he regarded as a pre-Christian shrine dedicated to a pagan deity. (Guido List, Deutsch-Mythologzsche Landschafsbilder [German Mythological Landscape Pictures], 2nd Ed. Leipzig and Vienna, 1913, II. 592.
List’s ambition to be an artist and scholar conflicted with his father’s wish for him to work in the family’s leather business as the heir. List decided to combine both roles – partly in the commercial sector and partly a seeker on excursions to indulge his private world of art, imagination and nature worship.
With time, as List ritualized these adventures, he became known as a lone wolf and a mystic. He rationalized his withdrawal from the mundane life as an escape from the “fearful scenes of the wild pursuit of profit.” The modern economy had, according to him, led humans astray under the motto of self-seeking individualism.
In his own words, “One must flee those places where life throbs and seek out lonely spots untouched by human hand in order to lift the magic veil of nature.” (Deutsch-Mythologzsche, I p. 125).
Interestingly, Ab-dru-shin reiterated this:
“For when at last base sensations are gradually outlived or discarded, and ascent begins, then the constant yearning for what is higher and purer awakens and steadily drives him upwards. This is the normal course!” (Vol. 2:13 “Earthbound”)
In the 1890s List began publishing his literary works on the heroic past and religious mythology. After undergoing an eye operation to relieve a cataract in 1902, List was blind for eleven months.
During this period, he began to intersect occult concepts with his ideas of ancient Germanic faith. In the words of Goodrick-Clarke:
In April 1903 List sent a manuscript about the Aryan proto-language to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna. This document set out the idea of a monumental pseudo-science concerned with Germanic linguistics and symbology: it was his first attempt to interpret, by means of occult insight, the letters and sounds of the runes and alphabet on the one hand, and the emblems and glyphs of ancient inscriptions on the other…
In September 1903 the Viennese occult periodical Die Gnosis published an article by List, which indicated the new theosophical cast of his thought. Here the author outlined the process of the universe’s creation and illustrated its phases with the triskelion and swastika glyphs (p. 41)
From this, several threads of similarities can be seen, the literary or artistic bent, an attachment to and later detachment from material wealth, a personal calamity and a journey into mysticism.
Below are several examples of how Oskar’s teachings were shaped by the social, cultural and political contexts of Austria/Germany.
People will have noticed how often I mention the unlimited domination of the intellect and the great spiritual indolence as fatal, but it is necessary to do so; for both processes are inseparably linked together and can be designated as starting points of many evils, indeed as the real hostile to-the-Light cause of the decline and fall of the developed beings. (Vol. 3, ch. 44 “Believers Merely Out of Habit”)
This was a reflection of the spiritual mood in early 20th century Germany. The materialism and the elevation of reason propounded by the Enlightenment era was losing its zing among the people. The people were craving mystical/spiritual insights through intuition.
The new irrationalism was thus a product of the revaluation of the emotive and intuitive faculties, coupled with a fearful distrust of analytical reason, materialism and empiricism. This spiritual mood, widespread in Germany, generated many sects and societies concerned with the occult and mysterious during the second half of the eighteenth century. These groups were responsible for a revival of interest in the arcane materials of alchemy, Rosicrucianism and Freemasonry. (Page 58)
Ab-dru-shin taught that the human intellect had to be suppressed in order for one to spiritually ascend:
The domination of the intellect entirely shuts off the spirit from every possibility for its necessary development. This actually is not malevolent on the part of the intellect, but only a quite natural effect. In this the intellect merely acts according to its nature, because it cannot do otherwise than only develop its nature to blossom and to full strength when it is cultivated one-sidedly and put in the wrong place by unreservedly subjecting the whole of life on earth to it!
The fault lies solely with man himself and with the fact that he surrendered the mastery to the intellect, thus also gradually enslaving himself to it, i.e., binding himself to the earth. In doing so he completely lost the real purport of his life on earth – the possibility of spiritual recognition and spiritual maturing. (3:44)
There’s nothing new in these concepts as taught by Ab-dru-shin. Between the 17th-19th centuries, Germany boasted of a number of scholar magicians and secret societies that were devoted to Rosicrucianism, theosophy, and alchemy.
The rationalism of the Enlightenment era was falling apart in Europe, giving an impetus to a nostalgia for the Middle Ages, a desire for mystery and revival of occultism.
Theosophy was a system founded by a Russian occultist, Helena Blavatsky. Drawing on pagan mythology, ancient mystery religions, Gnosticism, the Hemetica, the Rosicrucians and other secret fraternities, she taught about a boundless God (Lucifer), and his electro-spiritual force (Fohat) which impresses the divine scheme upon the cosmic substance as the “laws of nature,” the endless cycle of death and rebirth, and the fundamental unity between the Creator and creation. (Alvin Boyd Kuhn, Theosophy. A Modern Revival of Annent Wisdom, New York, 1930, p. 199).
Undoubtedly, these are the core beliefs of the Grail message. While it can be adduced that both figures received their inspiration from the same spiritual source, history also points to another key.
In early 20th century, Theosophy enjoyed a considerable vogue in Germany and Austria. Therefore, the presence of these occult philosophies in Ab-dru-shin’s writings is evidence that his knowledge was based on and limited by the spiritual climate of Germany in his own time:
How can one explain the enthusiastic reception of Blavatsky’s ideas by significant numbers of Europeans and Americans from the 1880s onwards? Theosophy offered an appealing mixture of ancient religious ideas and new concepts borrowed from the Darwinian theory of evolution and modern science.
This syncretic faith thus possessed the power to comfort certain individuals whose traditional outlook had been upset by the discrediting of orthodox religion, by the very rationalizing and de-mystifying progress of science and by the culturally dislocative impact of rapid social and economic change in the late nineteenth century.
George L. Mosse has noted that theosophy typified the wave of anti-positivism sweeping Europe at the end of the century and observed that its outré notions made a deeper impression in Germany than in other European countries. (p. 22)
Ab-dru-shin’s depictions and low view of Africans and other “primitive tribes” cannot be ignored or explained away by any sincere reader.
But when one takes his writings as a product of his time, instead of a material with vested spiritual authority for all times and cultures, one would be willing to overlook his idea of racial superiority.
This is not so very difficult, for the stages of development are externally discernable, and can be studied in those races of men which are still on the earth.
The spirits of the most primitive men, to which socalled savages, Bushmen and Hottentots belong, have not been incarnated in matter for a shorter time than the others, but it is either that they have not striven diligently enough towards the Light, or that, after having developed to a certain degree of perfection, they have degenerated, either here on earth or in the ethereal world, and thus can only incarnate in the inferior surroundings in which we find them.
Hence it is their own fault that they are still, or are again, on the same step of maturity as before, surrounded by an ethereal world of the same undesirable character. (Vol. II, ch. 67 “The Gods Olympus and Valhala” 1931 edition)
Note: the Grail movement, in its revisionist vigour, has reworded these writings to temper their implications in modern editions.
The undeveloped or degenerate spirits of lower races of mankind are naturally either still or once more, spiritually deaf and blind. Such a man cannot see with his spiritual eye; nor has indeed any man up to the present day been able to see with his spiritual eyesight…
This is the real reason why we first of all find only the fear and worship of demons among the lower human races! It is what they are able to see and what they fear on account of it’s different nature!…
The Greeks, Romans and the Teutons [Germans] could see still further. Their inner seeing reached beyond the World of Matter into the Animistic Sphere lying above it. (Vol. II, ch. 67 1995 ed.)
This flagrant racial strata laced with mystic terms is a reflection of the teachings of the Ariosophists prevalent in Germany in the time of Oskar Bernhardt. Goodrick-Clarke enunciates:
Racism was a vital element in the Ariosophists’ account of national conflict and the virtue of the Germans. An early classic on the superiority of the Nordic-Aryan race and a pessimistic prediction of its submergence by non-Aryan peoples was Arthur de Gobineau’s essay.
Although this work evoked no immediate response, its notions were echoed and its conclusions reversed by numerous propagandists for the superiority of Germandom towards the end of the century.
When the Social Darwinists invoked the inevitability of biological struggle in human life, it was proposed that the Aryans (or really the Germans) need not succumb to the fate of deterioration, but could prevail against the threats of decline and contamination by maintaining their
racial purity (p. 13)
Obviously, Oskar couldn’t see into the future to realize that Africans would read his writings, thus one can only marvel at his vague stereotype of Africans and his dismissive racist remarks about the black race reminiscent of his limited social exposure.
Just go with me in spirit to Africa to any Negro tribe! Think of such people’s power of comprehension! Make an effort clearly to envisage their inner life and way of thinking! These people believed in demons and all sorts of things! They possessed idols of roughly carved wood, and then Christian missionaries visited them…
The profitable inner experiencing, and thus the true support, are lacking! It is always and everywhere the same! The missionaries and converters throw themselves upon the people and want to convert them to Christianity without any further transition!” (Vol. III, ch. 2 “Ponderers”).
This was a clear reflection of the influence of volkish affirmation of the superior white race – the same ideology that was the driving force of Hitler’s Third Reich – on Oskar’s worldviews:
Racism and elitism also had their place in the volkisch ideology. The fact of racial differences was exploited to lend validity to claims of national distinction and superiority.
Once anthropology and linguistics had offered empirical standards for the classification of races, these became a staple in volkisch eulogies of the German race.
A set of inner moral qualities was related to the external characteristics of racial types: while the Aryans (and thus the Germans) were blue-eyed, blond-haired, tall and well-proportioned, they were also noble, honest, and courageous.
The Darwinist idea of evolution through struggle was also taken up in order to prove that the superior pure races would prevail over the mixed inferior ones…
This shrill imperative to crude struggle between the races and eugenic reform found broad acceptance in Germany around the turn of the century; the principal works of Ernst Krause, Otto Ammon, Ludwig Wilser, and Ludwig Woltmann, all Social Darwinists, were all published between the early 1890s and 1910.
Ernst Haeckel, the eminent zoologist, warned repeatedly against the mixing of races and founded the Monist League in 1906 in order to popularize this racist version of Social Darwinism among Germans.
These scientific formulations of racism in the context of physical anthropology and zoology lent conviction to vodlkisch nationalist prejudice in both Germany and Austria. (pp. 4-5)
The Laws of Nature
One of the major themes in the Grail message is the existence of some mysterious laws in nature than can be harnessed by the adept:
This also is strictly subject to the perfect Laws of Nature, and even God Himself could not do it because it would be against His Own Perfect Laws, against His Own Perfect Will which operates automatically in Nature!
It is just on account of this very Perfection that there could never occur to Him such an imperfect thought, which would only be an arbitrary action! (Vol. II, ch. 48, “The Resurrection of Christ’s Physical Body”)
Needless to say, this is not a new concept. It’s an old belief that can be traced back to ancient paganism. This was part of the theosophical beliefs which List and Oskar adopted and fine-tuned:
Behind this process of change List saw the ‘primal laws of nature’, according to which all change occurred. He claimed that these laws represented an immanent God in Nature. List conceived of all things as an emanation of a spiritual force. Man was an integral part of this unified cosmos and thus obliged to follow a single ethical precept: to live in accordance with Nature.
At her bosom all tensions were dissolved in a mystical union between man and the cosmos. A close identity with one’s folk and race was reckoned a logical consequence of this closeness to Nature. (p. 50)
From what has been documented earlier, the Hindu, Gnostic and Egyptian philosophies of Helena Blavatsky were already prevalent in Germany and Austria at the time of Oskar. So he didn’t need to become a “servant of light” to adopt them.
The times he lived in dictated his beliefs. If he had lived in a jungle in Africa or the Amazon forest in South America at the time, he wouldn’t have encountered these ideas and there would be no Grail message or cross bearers today.
In the knowledge of Creation which I have given in my Message, and in the related explanation of all the Laws automatically working in Creation, which may also be called the Laws of Nature, the whole weaving of Creation is displayed without a gap; it allows every process to be clearly recognised, and there with the purpose of man’s whole life. With unassailable logic it also unfolds his “whence” and his “whither”, thus giving an answer to every question, provided man seriously seeks for it. (Vol. I, ch. 9 “Rigidity”)
This idea was already popularized in Germany in the late 19th century:
The Wotanist priesthood, which List had first discussed in the early 1890s, was now transformed into an exalted gnostic elite of initiates (the Armanenschaft), which corresponded to the hierophants in The Secret Doctrine. Die Rita der Ario-Germanen [The Rite of the Ario-Germans] (1908) regurgitated substantial parts of the theosophical cosmogony in its putative account of ancient Ario-Germanic belief.
The unmanifest and manifest deities, the creation of the universe by divine respiration, a primal fire as the energy source of a force redolent of Fohat, and the gradual evolution of the cosmos according to this agent’s
obedience to the ‘laws of nature’ received detailed treatment…
List’s cyclical vision of time was derived from his three sources of theological inspiration: the holy world of Nature, Norse mythology and modern theosophy.
It has already been shown how the elementary content of Armanist doctrine focused upon the ‘laws of nature’, which ostensibly determined the periodicity of all planetary and organic cycles in the cosmos. (pp. 52, 56)
From what has been presented, one can see that on comparing the Grail teachings with the social and religious concepts of Germany/Austria, it can be inferred that Ab-dru-shin’s message didn’t descend from above – no matter how one slices the cake – but were developed and conceptualized down here on earth, thus lacking eternal value.