“The Spear of Destiny” is considered to be a classic of occultism and alternative history (think “The Da Vinci Code” or similar). The book surprised me on a number of levels. First, it's extremely well written. Large portions of it read like a novel. Second, it's explicitly Anthroposophical. I had expected the book to be occultist or alt-historical on a more general level. It's probably the subject matter (Hitler's early years and his connections to the dark arts) that has made Ravenscroft's exegesis of Rudolf Steiner and Walter Stein so popular. Otherwise, Anthroposophy strikes me as a very narrow subject!
The British national Trevor Ravenscroft served during World War II and was taken prisoner by the Nazis during a botched attempt to assassinate the German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in North Africa. Others say he was taken captive during an earlier reconnaissance mission. After the war, Ravenscroft became a reporter and a serious student of esotericism. In the latter capacity, he met Walter Stein, a prominent German Anthroposophist residing in Britain since 1933 (Stein had to flee Germany due to his Jewish ancestry). Stein told Ravenscroft about his meetings with a young Hitler in Austria before World War I, and revealed that the future Führer was a black magician obsessed with the Spear of Destiny, a Catholic relic kept in the imperial palace in Vienna as part of the Habsburg crown jewels. “The Spear of Destiny”, published after Stein's death, is thus based on Stein's recollections of Hitler. Naturally, skeptics are not amused and usually charge Ravenscroft with having invented the whole story by himself. According to this scenario, the author never really met Stein at all! An interesting question is whether the Anthroposophists accept Ravenscroft's version of events and what status, if any, “The Spear of Destiny” has in their canon?
As for the book itself, it expounds on two interrelated themes. First, Stein's sensational claims about having befriended Hitler in Vienna during the latter's most down-and-out period. Hitler experimented with mescaline to achieve occult clairvoyance, understood the esoteric meaning of Wolfram von Eschenbach's medieval romance “Parzival” and Richard Wagner's opera “Parsifal”, and had contacts with black magicians around the notorious Guido von List. Depraved sex magic á la Aleister Crowley was also very much part of the picture. Above all, Hitler knew the secret of the Spear of Destiny, the previously mentioned relic kept in the Hofburg. Also known as the Spear of Longinus or the Holy Lance, during the Middle Ages this spearhead was believed to come from the lance of the Roman soldier who pierced the side of Jesus at the crucifixion. It was used in coronation ceremonies of German emperors. Hitler supposedly knew that the spear could be used for both good and evil, and that an evil magician gaining possession of it could literally conquer and rule the world. Stein told Ravenscroft that Hitler became literally possessed by Lucifer when standing in front of the glass casket where the spear is kept, completely entranced by it. Stein also had dramatic visions himself when visiting the Hofburg and looking at the spear. Furthermore, Stein claimed that Hitler had learned his earlier incarnation through occult means: the future Nazi leader had been Landulf II, a 10th century Lombard prince who Ravenscroft identifies with Klingsor, the evil magician in “Parzival” and “Parsifal”.
The second theme of the book is an Anthroposophical exegesis of the esoteric significance of the Spear of Destiny, the Holy Grail, various characters in “Parzival” and “Parsifal”, and also of 20th century German history. This explains the peculiar fact that Ravenscroft is somewhat more positive to World War I Germany than to World War II ditto, since Rudolf Steiner (the founder of Anthroposophy) supported the Central Powers during the first war. Steiner even had a connection to German general Helmuth von Moltke! Otherwise, I suppose Ravenscroft follows Stein's writings on the Grail quest and the Arthurian romances (which I haven't read). The seemingly peculiar preoccupation with the Spear of Longinus seems to be connected to Steiner's idea that the blood of Christ shed on the cross had occult properties of significance to earthly evolution. Indeed, I get the impression that Ravenscroft paints Nazism as a kind of conscious counter-Anthroposophy, since Hitler is said to have studied exactly the same texts as Steiner and Stein. The author claims that the Nazis tried to assassinate Steiner at least twice, and that the mysterious fire which destroyed Steiner's mystery temple “Goetheanum” in Switzerland was a Nazi arson attack specifically intended to destroy Steiner's sculpture of Christ's victory over Lucifer and Ahriman, a sculpture the author apparently believes has occult properties. Further, Ravenscroft claims that SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler was the “Anti-Man” and the “Doppelgänger”, two other Anthroposophical concepts. As a side show, he speculates that U.S. general Patton was an esotericist with a strong interest in the Holy Lance.
As already mentioned, Ravenscroft's book has been strongly questioned, even condemned, and the author himself painted as a half-crazed charlatan. I think virtually all scholars deny that Hitler had any esoteric interests – indeed, he attacks the Völkisch Neo-Pagans in the pages of “Mein Kampf”. Himmler, by contrast, was interested in occultism, so an occult strain in Nazism certainly exists. (Ever noticed the occult symbol on the Nazi flag? Hiding in plain sight, or what?) There is also Rudolf Hess, who according to some sources was interested in…Anthroposophy! As for “The Spear of Destiny”, it could be read as creative fiction, as Anthroposophical exegesis or even as clairvoyant truth, depending on your state of mind. Or mind-expansion.