09 March 2011

Martin Heidegger -- Nazi, Astral Traveller, or Both?

This one, the next in a series of posts tweaking real world figures into a Weird War II context, is a little tricky.  Not only is it the first one about a Nazi, it has a bit of a personal connection.  I've read and written about Heidegger; I find his work challenging and fascinating, even as I find his Nazism deplorable.  Given that work, however, it's easy to imagine a Weird take on the philosopher for gaming purposes.

Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher, born in 1889.  Through a long career of lecturing and writing, which included his mammoth, seminal work Being and Time and later essays such as "The Question Concerning Technology", he had a profound effect on 20th Century thought.  He is strongly associated with phenomenology (the study of conscious experience) and is considered a forerunner of existentialism. Being and Time explores the possibility of Being -- the reasons and methods of existence itself.

Heidegger became a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Freiburg in 1928, based largely on the success of Being and Time, published the previous year.  In April 1933, he was elected Rector of Freiburg.  He joined the Nazi party on May 1st.

Heidegger's full involvement and intellectual sympathies with Nazism are still debated.  Given the timing of his party affiliation, it's easy to see his Nazism as personally and politically expedient, rather than the result of a deep intellectual commitment to Nazi tenants; this is, perhaps, no less deplorable.  As he grew older, he tried to justify his Nazi involvement as an attempt to defend the university from Nazi anti-intellectualism.  He helped his Jewish mistress leave Germany prior to the war.  Overall, his involvement with the Nazi party has certainly stained his intellectual and personal reputation.  (My great undergraduate philosophy teacher called him "a great thinker but a crummy human being").

That's what we know.

What Really Happened is still unknown.  Being and Time is a dense, almost incomprehensible text -- if one reads it as straight philosophy. Buried within it's pages, particularly if one reads it in the original German, is a code, a method for personally transcending the limits of both Being and Time.  Existence becomes dependent on Thought.  Time can be manipulated by Will.  Some postulate Heidegger was a fully committed Nazi, working with the Ahnenerbe and Nazi intelligence to train Nazi soldiers to venture into the astral and temporal frontiers.  There are rumors of Nazi agents materializing from thin air in Britain with copies of Being and Time among their gear.  Others defend Heidegger, taking him at his word that he was a Nazi only to save the university.  They point to the disappearance of almost the entire occult collection from the library of the University of Freiburg in 1934, shortly before Heidegger was removed as Rector.  Did he thwart a Nazi attempt to gain a copy of the Necronomicon?


  1. I'm a philosophy ignoramus but this is still very interesting and cool. Love that bit about burying magic in Being Human. I get a kind of Unknown Armies vibe off of it.

  2. Like Risus, my philosophy knowledge is limited, but this is indeed cool. Perfect for say Kenneth Hite's GURPS Weird World War II.

    Looking forward to this series.