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Guido Karl Anton List, better known as Guido von List (October 5, 1848 – May 17, 1919) was an Austrian/German (Viennese) poet, journalist, writer, businessman and dealer of leather goods, mountaineer, hiker, dramatist, playwright, and rower, but was most notable as an occultist and völkisch author who is seen as one of the most important figures in Germanic revivalism, Germanic mysticism, Runic Revivalism and Runosophy in the late 19th century and early 20th century, and continues to be so today.
He is the author of Das Geheimnis der Runen (The Secret of the Runes), which is a detailed study of the Armanen Futharkh, his intellectual world-view (as realised in the years between 1902 and 1908), an introduction to the rest of his work and is widely regarded as the pioneering work of Runology in modern occultism.
Guido von List was born in Vienna in the Austrian Empire to Karl Anton List, a prosperous middle class leather goods dealer, and Maria List (née Killian). He grew up in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna. Like the majority of his fellow Austrians at that time, his family was Roman Catholic, and he was christened "Guido Anton List" as an infant in St Peter's Church in Vienna on October 8, 1848.
In 1862 a visit to the catacombs beneath the Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna) made a deep impression, and List regarded the catacombs as a pagan shrine. As an adult he claimed he had then sworn to build a temple to Wotan when he grew up. This he recounted in volume 2 (page 592-593) of his book Deutsch-Mythologische Landschaftsbilder:
It was in the year 1862 - I was then in my fourteenth year of life - when I, after much asking, received permission from my father to accompany him and his party who were planning to visit the catacombs [under St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna] which were at that time still in their original condition. We climbed down, and everything I saw and felt excited me with a kind of power that today I am no longer able to experience. Then we came - it was, if I remember correctly, in the third or fourth level - to a ruined altar. The guide said that we were now situated beneath the old post office (today the Wohlzeile House No. 8). At that point my excitement was raised to fever pitch, and before this altar I proclaimed out loud this ceremonial vow: "Whenever I get big, I will build a Temple to Wotan!" I was, of course, laughed at, as a few members of the party said that a child did not belong in such a place… I knew nothing more about Wuotan than that which I had read about him in Vollmer's Wörterbuch der Mythologie.
Despite these artistic and mystical leanings, Guido was expected, as the eldest child, to follow in his father's footsteps as a businessman. He appears to have fulfilled his responsibilities in a dutiful manner, but he took any and all opportunities to develop his more intense mystical and naturesque interests. The trips that List had to make for business purposes gave him the opportunity to indulge his passion for hiking and mountaineering. This activity seems to have provided a matrix for his early mysticism.
His father died in 1877 when List was 29 years old. It appears that neither he nor his mother had his father's keen sense of business, and as economic times became difficult List quit the family business to devote himself full-time to his writing, at this time still of a journalistic kind.
During this time List wrote articles for newspapers, such as the Neue Welt (New World), Neue deutsche Alpenzeitung (New German Alpine Newspaper), Heimat (Homeland), and the Deutsche Zeitung (German Newspaper), which dealt with his earlier travels and mystical reflections on the Loci (land spirits). Many of these written newspaper articles were anthologised in 1891 in his famous Deutsch-Mythologische Landschaftsbilder. He also had articles appear in the Leipziger Illustrierte Zeitung and on a regular basis in the newspaper Ostdeutsche Rundschau (East German Review), owned by the powerful publicist and parliamentary deputy Karl Heinrich Wolf. At this time he also came to know well Georg von Schönerer, a leading political figure and Pan-German member of the Imperial Parliament.
He also had many articles appear in periodicals such as Laufers Allgemeine Kunst-Chronik, Der Sammler, Das Zwanzigste Jahrhundert, Die Gnosis, Der Deutsche, Neue Metaphysische Rundschau, Die Nornen, Österreichische Illustrierte Rundschau and Johannes Balzli's occult magazine Prana.
In 1878 List married his first wife, Helene Föster-Peters. However, the marriage was not to last through this difficult period.
Through the years 1877–1887 List was also working on his first book-length (two-volume) effort, Carnuntum, an historical novel based on his vision of the Kulturkampf between the Germanic and Roman worlds centred at Carnuntum around the year 375 CE that was published in 1888 by the Wannieck family's organisation and publishing house Verein "Deutsche Haus" ("German House" Association) in Brno, where List made the acquaintance of the industrialist Friedrich Wannieck. This association was to prove essential to List's future development.
Throughout this period in List's life he devoted himself to writing more neo-romantic prose, such as Jung Diethers Heimkehr ("Young Diether's Homecoming") in 1894 and Pipara in 1895. An anthology of his earlier journalism Deutsch-Mythologische Landschaftsbilder was published in 1891, and List developed his writing skills in poetic and dramatic genres as well.
In 1892 he delivered a lecture on the ancient Germanic cult of Wuotan to the Verein Deutsche Geschichte (German History Association), and it is said that numerous other associations allied with this one proliferated in Austria at this time. Another group, the Bund der Germanen (Germanic League), sponsored a performance of List's mythological dramatic poem, Der Wala Erweckung ("The Wala's Awakening") in 1894. In another performance of this drama in 1895, which was attended by over three thousand people, the part of Wala was read by Anna Wittek von Stecky, a young actress who in August 1899 became List's second wife.
During the years 1888–1899 List was involved with two important literary associations. In May 1891 Iduna, which had the descriptive subtitle of "Free German Society for Literature", was founded by a circle of writers around Fritz Lemmermayer. Lemmermayer acted as a sort of "middle man" between an older generation of authors (which included Fercher von Steinwand, Joseph Tandler, Auguste Hyrtl, Ludwig von Mertens, and Josephone von Knorr) and a group of younger writers and thinkers (which included Rudolf Steiner, Marie Eugenie delle Grazie, and Karl Maria Heidt). The name Iduna was provided by List himself and is that of a North Germanic goddess of eternal youth and renewal. Richard von Kralik and Joseph Kalasanz Poestion, authors with specifically neo-Germanic leanings, were also involved in the circle. The other organisation List was involved with was the Literarische Donaugesellschaft (Danubian Literary Society), which was founded by List and Fanny Wschiansky the year the Iduna was dissolved in 1893. At this time List met Rudolf Steiner and Lanz von Liebenfels but his association with Liebenfels did not develop until Lanz had left the Heiligenkreuz monastery in 1899.
In August 1899, List married Anna Wittek von Stecky.
In 1871, List's writing talents were given full rein as he became a correspondent of the Neue deutsche Alpenzeitung ("New German Alpine Newspaper"), later called the Salonblatt. He also began to edit the yearbook of the Österreichischer Alpenverein (Austrian Alpine Association), of which he became secretary in that year.
List was an ardent, enthusiastic mountaineer and hiker. On one of these adventures List came very close to losing his life. While climbing a mountain on May 8, 1871 in the Großes Höllental (Larger Valley of Hell) leading up to the Rax mountain in Lower Austria, a mass of ice gave way under his feet and he fell some distance. He was apparently saved only by the fact that he had landed on a soft surface covered by a recent snowfall. In memory of his good luck and to help others, at his own expense List had the track equipped with a chain put up and officially opened by him on June 21, 1871. It was also named (now called Gaislochsteig) after him the "Guido-List-Steig"
On June 24, 1875, List was camping with four friends near the ruins of Carnuntum. As the 1500th anniversary of the Germanic tribes' defeat of this Roman garrison in 375, the evening carried a lot of weight for List. Carnuntum became the title of List's first full-length novel, published in two volumes in 1888. After its success, it was followed by two more books set in tribal Germany; Jung Diethers Heimkehr ("Young Diether's Homecoming", 1894) and Pipara (1895). These books led to List being celebrated by the pan-German movement. Around the start of the 20th century, he continued with several plays.
Between 1903 and 1907, he began using the noble title von on occasion, before finally settling on it permanently in 1907.
In the spring of 1919, at the age of 71, List and his wife set off to recuperate and meet followers at the manor house of Eberhard von Brockhusen, a List society patron who lived at Langen in Brandenburg, Germany.
On arrival at the Anhalter Station at Berlin, List was too exhausted to continue the journey. After a doctor had diagnosed a lung inflammation, his health deteriorated quickly, and he died in a Berlin guesthouse on the morning of May 17, 1919. He was cremated in Leipzig and his ashes laid in an urn and then buried in Vienna Central Cemetery, Zentralfriedhof, in the gravesite KNLH 413 - Vienna's largest and most famous cemetery (including the graves of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Strauss.) in Vienna's 11th district of Simmering.
List called his doctrine “Armanism” (after the Armanen, supposedly the heirs of the sun-king, a body of priest-kings in the ancient Ario-Germanic nation). Armanism was concerned with the esoteric doctrines of the gnosis (distinct from the exoteric doctrine intended for the lower social classes, Wotanism).
List claimed that the tribal name Herminones mentioned in Tacitus was a Latinized version of the German Armanen, and named his religion the Armanenschaft, which he claimed to be the original religion of the Germanic tribes. His conception of that religion was a form of sun worship, with its priest-kings (similar to the Icelandic goði) as legendary rulers of ancient Germany.
List claimed that the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church in Austria-Hungary constituted a continuing occupation of the Germanic tribes by the Roman empire, albeit now in a religious form, and a continuing persecution of the ancient religion of the Germanic peoples and Celts.
This conception bears strong resemblance to many other 19th century romanticised ideas of ancient polytheistic religions in Europe; a comparatively similar text in the thematic elements and overall textual bias is the famous Oera Linda forgery from the Lowlands region of western Europe.
He also believed in magical powers of the old runes. In 1891 he claimed that heraldry was based on the magic of the runes. In April 1903, he had sent an article concerning the alleged Aryan proto-language to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna. Its highlight was a mystical and occult interpretation of the runic alphabet. Although the article was rejected by the academy, it would later be expanded by List and become the basis for his entire ideology.
Among his ideological followers was Lanz von Liebenfels. More controversially, some allege that, in his pagan-Theosophical synthesis, List developed the direct precursor of occult Nazism. His defenders counter that any influence was indirect and inconsequential; in Nazi Germany the strongest occult influence upon Heinrich Himmler, the head of the SS, was Brigadeführer Karl Maria Wiligut who believed List's Armanism to be a heresy from his own ancestral religion of Irminism and had various of List's followers interned in concentration camps.
List's concept of renouncing Christianity, a Semitic religion intertwined with Judaism, and returning to the pagan religions of the ancient Europeans did nevertheless find some supporters within the Nazi party and is favoured by some advocates of Neo-Nazism and White Nationalism in their turn. Germanic paganism has, as a result, been linked to Nazism since the early twentieth century — unfairly, in the eyes of many pagan revivalists.
List’s Ariosophy was closely related to the philosophy of the Thule Society. In 1919, Anton Drexler, a member of the Thule Society, founded the German Workers’ Party (DAP), the predecessor of the Nazi party (NSDAP). List’s prophecy that a “German Messiah” would save Germany after World War I was popular among Thule members. Thule member and publicist Dietrich Eckart expressed his anticipation in a poem he published in 1919, months before he met Hitler for the first time. In the poem, Eckart refers to ‘the Great One’, ‘the Nameless One’, ‘Whom all can sense but no one saw’. When the Thules met Hitler in 1919, many believed him to be the prophesied redeemer. As most Thule members were socially and politically influential, their faith was crucial to Hitler’s meteoric rise.
The row of 18 so-called "Armanen Runes", also known as the "Armanen Futharkh" came to List while in an 11 month state of temporary blindness after a cataract operation on both eyes in 1902. This vision in 1902 allegedly opened what List referred to as his "inner eye", via which he claimed the "Secret of the Runes" was revealed to him. List stated that his Armanen Futharkh were encrypted in the Hávamál (Poetic Edda), specifically in stanzas 138 to 165, with stanzas 146 through 164 reported as being the 'song' of the 18 runes. It has been said this claim has no historical basis.
List noted in his book, The Secret of the Runes, that the "runic futharkh (= runic ABC) consisted of sixteen symbols in ancient times.".
As a side note to this, in the English translation of the work, Stephen Flowers notes that "(the designation futharkh is based on the first seven runes it is for this reason that the proper name is not futhark -- as it is generally and incorrectly written -- but futharkh, with the h at the end; for more about the basis of this, see the Guido von List Library number 6, The primal language of the Aryan Germanic people and their mystery language)".
List's system was allegedly based on the structure of a Hexagonal Crystal. You can shine light through a crystal at different angles and project all 18 of the Armanen runes.
List's rune row was rather rigid; while the runes of the past had had sharp angles for easy carving, his were to be carefully and perfectly made so that their shape would be a reflection of the 'frozen light', a pattern that he had found in his runes. All of his runes could be projected by shining the light through a hexagonal crystal under certain angles. Rune Hagal is so-called 'mother-rune' because its shape represents that hexagonal crystal.
Karl Hans Welz states that the "crystalline structure of quartz is the "hexagonal system" which is also one of the bases of the Runic symbolism (the hexagon with the three inscribed diameters)." and that "The hexagonal cross section of quartz and the fact that all of the 18 Sacred Futhork Runes are derived from the geometry of the hexagon is the basis of an enormous increase in crystal power when it is associated with Rune images."
A look at the signatories of the first announcement concerning support for a Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft (Guido von List Society), circa 1905, reveals that List had a following of some very prestigious people and shows that List, his ideology and his influence had widespread and significant support, including that amongst public figures in Austria and Germany. Among some 50 signatories which endorsed the foundation of the List Society (which had an official founding ceremony on March 2, 1908) were the industrialist Friedrich Wannieck and his son Friedrich Oskar Wannieck, Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, and Karl Lueger (the mayor of Vienna). These supporters also included occultists such as Hugo Göring (editor of theosophical literature at Weimar), Harald Arjuna Grävell van Jostenoode (theosophical author at Heidelberg), Max Seiling (an esoteric pamphleteer and popular philosopher in Munich), and Paul Zillmann (editor of the Metaphysische Rundschau and master of an occult lodge in Berlin)
List's influence continued to grow and attract distinctive members after the official founding of the society in 1908. From 1908 through to 1912, new members included the deputy Beranek (co-founder of the "Bund der Germanen" in 1894), Philipp Stauff (a Berlin journalist and later a founding member of the Germanenorden), Franz Hartmann (a leading German theosophist), Karl Heise (a leading figure in the vegetarian and mystical Mazdaznan cult at Zürich), and the collective membership of the Vienna Theosophical Society.
As the list demonstrates, the growth of nationalism within Germany during the late 19th to early 20th century, culminating in the Third Reich of Nazi Germany, provided an ideal audience of people who were already predisposed to accept List's ideas and unidentifiable personal gnosis of the Armanen way. The register shows that List's ideas were acceptable to many intelligent persons drawn from the upper and middle classes of Austria and Germany. So impressed were they that these men were prepared to contribute ten crowns as an annual society subscription. The main part of the Society's assets derived from the Wannieck family, which put up more than three thousand crowns at the Society's inauguration.
The Society's inner circle was called the High Armanen Order or Hoher Armanen Orden.
List is referred to throughout Katherine Neville's book, The Magic Circle, (NY: Random House; 1998) and is mentioned on page 154 of The Black Order, ([n.pl.]: Orion; 2006) by James Rollins. He also occurs as a character in the novel Vienna Blood (London: Century; 2006), the second in the Max Liebermann series, by British author Frank Tallis.
The following books have detailed accounts of List's life:
The life of von List has featured in many TV documentaries on his life, occultic Germanic revivalism and the occult roots of Nazism. Some of these are as follows: