Guido von List against the modern world

Guido von List was the first popular author to unite populist ideology with occultism and theosophy. He was also a prominent figure among...

Guido von List was the first popular author to unite populist ideology with occultism and theosophy. He was also a prominent figure among journalists of Germany before 1914 and was born in Vienna, the capital of Habsburg’s Austria, which at the turn of the centuries appeared to be away from from the axis of German national development.

The young List had a good relationship with his parents. They liked to take their children to walk around the city, and these tours have awakened List’s passion for nature and rural landscapes. He discovered his artistic aptitudes as well, by trying to express his feelings with a pen and paints. Encouraging his efforts, his father gave him painting and drawing lessons. List’s notes dated 1863, and drawings of castles, landscapes of Lower Autria and Moravia are (still) preserved.

He wanted to become an artist and a scientist ; scolarship meant to him a romantic image of a historian who can read the past in folklore and landscapes. This desire led him to a conflict with his father, as he intended to make his eldest son the successor of the family’s business. List obeyed his father’s expectations and started business studies, however this was not a complete submission. Since then, he devided his time between business demands and private life in a world of art, imagination, and nature reverance.

During working hours he helped his father, but all his free time was devoted to walks and horse riding; he also did sketches, wrote down his impressions. Walks in the countryside heightened his interest in climbing and rowing. As he had a good grasp of both sports, he became a member of the « Vienna rowing club » and secretary of the « Austrian alpine association » in 1871.

List’s love for nature was a desire to get away from the daily world’s bustle. He was happy only when he could walk alone. He didn’t avoid the company of friends, but he often perceived them as an obstacle to his inner life. The preserved depictions of his travels, which always were followed by a ritual, tell about his fancies and adventures. Thus he acquired a reputation as a lone wolf and mystic. An example of those rituals is meetings during the summer solstice ; after a long crossing of Mansfeld List and his friends get to the hotel, and the storm forces them to spend the night there. So List leaves his comrades to greet the sun by staying alone overnight at Kasselberg . Another time, on June 24 1875, he convinced four of his friends to go rowing ; they reached the ruins of the roman city Carnuntum, where the camped and feasted all night. For his friends it simply was a good night ; for Liszt it was the 1500 anniversary of the german victory over the Romans, which he celebrated with fire and the burial of eight wine bottles in shape of a swastika under the arch of the gate.

In his last years List openly explained his attraction to nature and the hostility to the modern world, including streets, shops, factories. He didn’t like the new Vienna : when leaving the city for the countryside, he felt like he was escaping from the « muddy savanna of the metropolis » and « disgusting scenes of wild pursuit of profit ». According to List, modern economy has misdirected mankind. «It is necessary to run away from the places where life pulsates, to look for secluded islands, which have not been touched by human hand, in order to raise the magic shroud of nature ».

In his words, wotanism also emphasizes the mystical unity with the world and his magical power over it. The world is here described as a continuous series of transformations, as a way through « Formation », « Genesis », « Transit », and « Transit to a new Formation ». The rotation of planets, the seasons, the prosperity and the recession of all life on earth corfirm the veracity of a simple cyclic cosmology. According to this chain of changes and transformations, Liszt saw the « primary laws » that affirm the unseen presence of God in nature.

List saw everything as a manifestation of a spiritual power. The human turns out to be an integral part of a single cosmos and therefore is forced to follow a the simple ethical rule of living in harmony with nature. All tensions and contradictions must vanish in the mysterious unity of the human and the cosmos.

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