Alfred Schuler (* 22 November 1865 in Mainz; † 8 April 1923 in Munich) was a religious founder, a gnostic, a mystic and a visionary. Franz Wegener has called Schuler the last of the German Cathars. Schuler saw himself as a reborn Roman of the late imperial era. Also a neopagan, he was the spiritual focus of the "Munich Cosmic Circle", and made a broad impact without ever publishing a book during his lifetime. Stefan George and Ludwig Klages were, amongst others, significantly influenced by him.
Schuler studied Archaeology (and Law) in Munich but came to see archaeologists as "desecrators of graves ripping out of the earth what has been sanctified by the rite of burial, and confining to the unwholesome air of museums the lustrous force rightly working its mighty influence under the cover of darkness". After his studies Schuler made his living as an 'independent scholar' in Munich. He held his own "rebirth into an unpleasant epoch" to be the responsibility of an evil demon. Schuler died during an operation meant to remove a malignant tumour.
"Blood Beacon" and "Cosmic Circle"
At the turn of the nineteenth century the Munich borough of Schwabing became the center of certain anti-bourgeois forces tending towards an interest in the 'occult', among which were found the secretive cult of the 'Blutleuchte' ("Blood beacon"). An occult circle (Munich Cosmic Circle) gravitating around Karl Wolfskehl, Alfred Schuler and Ludwig Klages developed a doctrine according to which the Occident was plagued by downfall and degeneration, caused by the rationalizing and demythologizing effects of Christianity, held to be responsible for the betrayal of life's primary forces. A way out of this desolate state could, according to the "Cosmic" view, only be found by a return to the pagan origins. No exact common ground did however exist, as to what this "homecoming" would entail.
Alfred Schuler and Ludwig Klages came to know each other in 1893. They were, above all others, the leading personalities of the "Blutleuchte" and, with a few other 'initiates' such as Ludwig Derleth and the poet Karl Wolfskehl, the founders of this "occult circle". The first contact with Stefan George was established through Wolfskehl.
As clearly signalled by the name - "Blutleuchte" - "Blood" and "Light" were to play an important role. With the historical "degeneration of the blood", held to be a sacred life elixir and a metaphysical substrate of souls, "truthful" life was seen as sinking into an ever more weakened state. And thus it was found to be necessary to lead this conception of the blood up to its former state of light and power, as it was thought to have been in heathen times thousands of years ago, and to some degree in antiquity. In the sign of the "Blood Beacon" and the swastika, its incarnate emblem, a healthy state of life were to be regained.
From a chosen few, among which they imagined themselves to be and in which the "untainted blood" was supposed to be still working its healthy influence, a reversal was thought to be possible. By the work of these chosen few, the "incarnation of the undying spark of a distant past" (L. Klages), the founding energies of the "cosmic solstice" were to be rekindled. The occult practices of the Blutleuchte was supposed to be a symbiosis of heathendom and "lordly leadership" in the service of a wayward humanity in need of a fundamental rebirth.
The influence of the "Cosmic Circle" on Stefan George and his entourage is apparent by his use of the swastika in some of his publications, such as the Blätter für die Kunst. The "cosmic" influence can also be traced in the article "The Seventh Circle" and in his later work. As there was, however, in 1904, a rupture between George and the Schuler circle, its overt influence was intermittent.
From about the turn of the century Schuler kept in touch with occultists such as Henri Papus, and later took part in spiritualist séances directed by Albert von Schrenck-Notzing. Schuler also held a large number of lectures on "ancient heathen mysteries"; and in the "salon" of Elsa Bruckmann a series of speeches (from 1915 to 1923) on the subject of "the eternal city". Rainer Maria Rilke is known to have been present during Schuler's speeches.
The research into Schuler's life has been predominantly concerned with the memetic influence he may have exerted upon certain progenitors of German National Socialism, spurred by his anti-Judaism, his distinct employment of the swastika and, above all, by Robert Boehringer's thesis that Adolf Hitler may have met Schuler in the "salon Bruckmann". Despite his anti-Semitism, Schuler was however neither a National Socialist nor a member of any political party and it may seem likely that he would have found the active, public agitation of a politician to be a sacrilege against his gnostic beliefs. He is also known to have criticized the "nationalist tumour", and the "Hitler group" as representing the "drunken torchlight of death, leading people into the slaughterhouse".
In later years Schuler has become the subject of some interest as a poet in his own right and as a forerunner of certain experimental practices of modernist literature.
- Alfred Schuler: Dichtungen. München 1930.
- Alfred Schuler: Fragmente und Vorträge aus dem Nachlass. Mit Einführung von Ludwig Klages. Leipzig 1940.
- Alfred Schuler: Gesammelte Werke. Herausgegeben, kommentiert und eingeleitet von Baal Müller. München, Telesma-Verlag, 2007. ISBN 978-3-9810057-4-5
- Wolfgang Frommel, Marita Keilson Lauritz, Karl Heinz Schuler: Alfred Schuler. Drei Annäherungen; Amsterdam 1985.
- Baal Müller (ed.): Alfred Schuler. Der letzte Römer. Neue Beiträge zur Münchner Kosmik: Reventlow, Schuler, Wolfskehl u.a. Castrum Peregrini Presse, Bonn 2000. ISSN 0008-7556
- Michael Pauen: Einheit und Ausgrenzung. Antisemitischer Neopaganismus bei Ludwig Klages und Alfred Schuler. In: Renate Heuer, Ralph-Rainer Wuthenow, Konfrontation und Koexistenz. Zur Geschichte des deutschen Judentums. Frankfurt New York 1996 p. 242-269.
- Michael Pauen: Alfred Schuler: Heidentum und Heilsgeschichte. In: Castrum Peregrini 42 (1993) p. 21-54.
- Gerhard Plumpe: Alfred Schuler. Chaos und Neubeginn. Zur Funktion des Mythos in der Moderne. Berlin 1978
- Franz Wegener: Alfred Schuler, der letzte deutsche Katharer. Gnosis, Nationalsozialismus und mystische Blutleuchte (2003) ISBN 3-931300-11-0
- Baal Müller: Kosmik. Prozeßontologie und temporale Poetik bei Ludwig Klages und Alfred Schuler: Zur Philosophie und Dichtung der Schwabinger Kosmischen Runde. München: Telesma-Verlag 2007 ISBN 978-3-9810057-3-8