The Thule Society (German: Thule-Gesellschaft), originally the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum 'Study Group for Germanic Antiquity', was a German occultist and Völkisch group in Munich, named after a mythical northern country from Greek legend. The Society is notable chiefly as the organization that sponsored the Deutsche
Arbeiterpartei, which was later transformed by Adolf Hitler into the Nazi Party. Hitler, however, was never a member of the Thule Society.
The Thule Society was a cover-name adopted by Rudolf von Sebottendorff, a German occultist, for his Munich lodge of the Germanenorden Walvater of the Holy Grail at its formal dedication on August 18, 1918. The Germanenorden Walvater was a schismatic offshoot of the Germanenorden, a secret society (a.k.a. the "Order of Teutons") founded in 1911 and named Germanenorden in 1912.
Sebottendorff later claimed that he originally intended the Thule Society to be a vehicle for promoting his own occultist theories, but that the Germanenorden pressed him to emphasize political, nationalist and anti-Semitic themes. The fact that this claim was made while the Nazis were in power and Sebottendorff had little to gain by denying anti-Semitism lends credibility to this claim.
A primary focus of Thule-Gesellschaft was a claim concerning the origins of the Aryan race. "Thule", or Θούλη, was a land located by Greco-Roman geographers in the furthest north. The term "Ultima Thule" — (Latin: most distant Thule) is also mentioned by the Roman poet Virgil in his epic poem Aeneid. This was supposed to be the far northern segment of Thule and is now generally understood to mean Scandinavia.
Said by Nazi mystics to be the capital of ancient Hyperborea, they identified Ultima Thule as a lost ancient landmass in the extreme north: near Greenland or Iceland. These ideas derived from earlier speculation by Ignatius L. Donnelly that a lost landmass had once existed in the Atlantic, and that it was the home of the Aryan race, a theory he supported by reference to the distribution of swastika motifs. He identified this with Plato's Atlantis, a theory further developed by Helena Blavatsky, the famous occultist during the second part of the 19th century. The Thule-Gesellschaft maintained close contacts with Theosophists, the followers of Blavatsky.
The Thule Society attracted about 250 followers in Munich and about 1,500 in greater Bavaria. Its meetings were often held in the luxury Hotel Vierjahreszeiten ("The Four Seasons") in Munich.
The followers of the Thule Society were, by Sebottendorff's own admission, little interested in his occultist theories. They were more interested in racism and combating Jews and Communists. They are also said to have planned to kidnap the Bavarian Socialist Prime Minister Kurt Eisner. After the establishment of the Bavarian Soviet Republic, they were accused of trying to infiltrate its government and of having attempted a coup on April 30, 1919. During this attempt, the Soviet government took several members of the Thule Society into custody, and later executed them.
Early in 1920 Karl Harrer was forced out of the DAP as Hitler moved to sever the party's link with the Thule Society, which subsequently fell into decline and was dissolved about five years later (Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 221), well before Hitler came to power.
Rudolf von Sebottendorff had withdrawn from the Thule Society in 1919 , but in 1933 he returned to Germany in the hope of reviving it. In that year he published a book entitled Bevor Hitler kam (Before Hitler Came), in which he claimed that the Thule Society had paved the way for the Führer: "Thulers were the ones to whom Hitler first came, and Thulers were the first to unite themselves with Hitler." This claim was not favorably received by the Nazi authorities: after 1933, esoteric organizations (including völkisch occultists) were suppressed, many closed down by anti-Masonic legislation in 1935. Sebottendorff's book was prohibited and he himself was arrested and imprisoned for a short period in 1934, afterwards departing into a lonely exile in Turkey.
Nonetheless, it has been argued that some Thule members and their ideas were incorporated into the Third Reich (Angeburt 1974: 9). Some of the Thule Society's teachings were expressed in the books of Alfred Rosenberg. Many occult ideas found favour with Heinrich Himmler who, unlike Hitler, had a great interest in mysticism, but the SS under Himmler emulated the ethos and structure of Ignatius Loyola's Jesuit order (Höhne 1969: 138, 143-5) rather than the Thule Society.
Like the Ahnenerbe section of the SS, and due to its occult background, the Thule Society has become the center of many conspiracy theories concerning Nazi Germany. Such theories include the creation of spacecraft and secret weapons.
The Thule Society in popular culture
Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum mentions the society perhaps half a dozen times as the three protagonists discuss ways that mysticism, Rosicrucianism, and ideas about the Knights Templar have interested modern conspiracy theorists.
In Everquest and Everquest II, there is an evil god named Cazic Thule. He is the god of fear and primarily worshipped by the Iksar; an evil, reptilian race whose members often engage in torture and the capture of slaves, much akin to the Nazis.
Karl Ruprecht Kroenen, one of the antagonists in the Hellboy movie, is described as a member of the Thule Society.
The Thule Society and its leader, Dietlinde Eckart (a fictionalized, female version of Dietrich Eckart), play key roles in the anime feature Fullmetal Alchemist the Movie: Conqueror of Shamballa
The Thule Society appears in the video game Bloodrayne.
It is mentioned in the Friday the 13th: The Series episode "The Butcher" when a high ranking Nazi Colonel is brought back from the dead with the help of a mystic swastika amulet.
It is the source of the mystic rites that power many of Germany's super soldiers in Green Ronin's Mutants and Masterminds Golden Age Superhero campaign.
It is mentioned heavily in the 1978 thriller novel The Spear by James Herbert in the context of a contemporary Nazi mysticist terrorist organisation.
Mack Bolan, The Executioner, goes up against the Thule Society in the 1998 novel, Devil's Guard, by Mark Ellis.
Russian songwriter, Alexander Laertsky had published an album called Общество Туле (Thule Society).
The society was a central topic in the fictional novel by James Rollins named The Black Order.
Fictional Villain, Friedrich von Schlitz, is said to be a member of the Thule Society in Decoder Ring Theatre's Red Panda Adventures (episode 24) "The World Next Door".
The Thule Society is mentioned in the PC video game Clive Barker's Jericho.
The Thule Society is behind an alien invasion in Mercedes Lackey and Steve Libbey's science fiction story, The Secret World Chronicle.