A Heretic’s Journey in Search of the Light Bringers
By Otto Rahn
Published by Inner Traditions
256 pages, paperback
There are few authors whose reputation outshines their literary contribution, but German writer Otto Rahn’s short life comes dangerously close to overshadowing his heart-touching book, Lucifer’s Court.
A serious researcher might be tempted to dismiss Otto Rahn as an innocent caught up in the Nazi occult machinery, but would then miss discovering a work of true genius.
Otto Rahn is best known as a dreamer who went in search of the Holy Grail and was discovered by SS leader Himmler, who shared his esoteric interests.
The Nazi regime offered Rahn employment in the early 1930s. But within a few years he uncovered the Nazi hidden agenda and resigned before apparently committing suicide in 1939 at the age of 35 in the snows of the Tyrolean Mountains.
Rahn is best known for the book Crusade Against the Grail, but it is his account of how he uncovered the information, Lucifer’s Court, that reveals the keen mind and genius that Himmler recognised in the young philosopher.
The book is a very personal and revealing account of self-discovery; it is in effect a travel diary he kept whilst searching for the “ghosts of the pagans and heretics” who Rahn believed were his ancestors.
It was during this time that Rahn grasped the positive role Lucifer plays in these forbidden religions as the bearer of true illumination.
Today Lucifer has been aligned with Satan and other “demons” by the church, but Rahn discovers that Lucifer, a name that means light bearer, is in fact the fallen star who comes to reveal the illusory nature of the world in which we live. He was also aligned with Apollo and other gods in pagan worship.
As he travelled deeper into southern France and Spain, he found a faithful echo of his own innermost beliefs in the lives of a sect we now know as the Cathars. He believed that the Cathars were the last custodians of the Grail, and spent many days living and meditating in the caves around the Languedoc area.
The moving story of the Cathars, their beliefs and their cruel treatment at the hands of the Roman Catholic Church, shocked Rahn emotionally. It was during a meditation in one of the secret caves he felt the inspiration to call himself a Cathar, and nurtured ambitions of restoring that faith which had been destroyed in the fires of the Inquisition.
This beautifully written and very personal account of his travels takes us through the small towns of southern France, such as Foix, Carcassonne, and Mirepoix and then back to Germany, and the Rahn family.
There is a delightfully written segment on his gift to a young cousin of a book on German heroic stories. Rahn re-reads the stories of his youth and discovers evidence that the German troubadours were in collusion with Cathar heretics. This is an epiphany for Rahn who then declares that, “I have a final goal; to find the stone that fell from Lucifer’s crown, if not the crown itself. I have searched for years for the philosopher’s stone. How many more years will I need?”
He writes: “The sense of touch is one of our five senses. As the sense of sight weakens, a person becomes more discerning and sensitive. Why not grope through the darkness until the light becomes bright? The Sabarthes caves were good teachers. If my sense of touch also fails, I know a final means to keep me from losing the way; I will let my soul stretch its wings. Surely, he who believes in himself after a disappointment, ultimately succeeds.”
What disappointments lay in the heart of Rahn? As the reader joins him on his journey along the ancient pathways of the heretics and troubadours, it becomes clear that he had so embraced the wisdom of the Cathar traditions that he was literally seeing the world through Cathar eyes. The Cathars believed that the world was created by an evil “God” because the true God would never allow such pain and suffering.
Today we tend to view these characteristics as psychological elements within us all. Cathars also believed in reincarnation and taught that souls return to this world many times until they learn to overcome the darkness. Today, reincarnation is a belief common to many people.
This book so moved me that in August this year I found myself walking in the footsteps of Rahn and found his spirit still pervades the beautiful Pyrenees of southern France. But the caves and narrow pathways that lead to the Cathar fortresses are no longer the neglected byways described by Rahn in the 1930s. Today they bustle with pilgrims.
As I trod the steep climb to Montsegur, with Lucifer’s Court tucked safely in my backpack, I found myself stopping to re-read chapters. Like him I took a stone from the castle, as did so many others I watched sitting and meditating in the ruins high in the craggy mountain. The climb to Montsegur is steep and exhausting but the spirit of Rahn echoes across the valley.
Lucifer’s Court is a personal, heart-felt journey of a young, perhaps naïve scholar, who wanted to find the essential truth of the universe. It is beautifully written with many personal touches and observations.
It reveals a young man whose desires lead him along a mystical path into self-discovery and is one of the most compelling and touching accounts of the ancient wisdom of the Cathars and other heretics.
This book is a definite “must read” for any serious student of lost wisdom, and certainly for any student of the Cathar traditions. It is well written, personal and utterly riveting.
Rahn reveals a German psyche that was still unscarred by the later insanity marked by the events of World War II.
But I must warn you that you may get an urge to make your own pilgrimage to the Languedoc!