on 8 June 2007
According to The Gospel of John (chapter 19, verses 28 through 37) in the New Testament, as Jesus Christ hung on the Cross a Roman centurion pierced His side with a spear. Variously called the Holy Lance, the Spear of Christ and the Spear of Destiny, this strange relic has been written about in novels and non-fiction books, in many languages, for nearly two thousand years. Besides being the name of a heavy metal rock band from the UK, the Spear of Destiny has also appeared in at least two comic books: "Indiana Jones and The Spear of Destiny," and "Hellblazer;" and was a principal plot device in "Constantine," the 2005 major motion picture from Warner Brothers, directed by Francis Lawrence, staring Keanu Reeves. The most important non-fiction books in English are, in chronological order:
"Spear Of Destiny: The Occult Power Behind The Spear Which Pierced The Side Of Christ," by Trevor Ravenscroft (1973);
"Hitler's Ashes -- Seeds of a New Reich," by Howard A. Buechner (1988);
"Adolf Hitler And The Secrets Of The Holy Lance," by Howard A. Buechner (1989);
"Mark Of The Beast: The Continuing Story Of The Spear Of Destiny," by Trevor Ravenscroft and Tim Wallace-Murphy (1990);
"The Secret of the Spear: The Mystery of The Spear of Longinus," by Alec MacLellan (2005);
"SECRETS OF THE HOLY LANCE: The Spear of Destiny in History & Legend," by Jerry E. Smith & George Piccard (2005).
I found Trevor Ravenscroft's "The Spear Of Destiny" a fascinating but ultimately disappointing read. If you are looking for verifiable facts about the lance that pierced Christ's side don't waste your time or money here. The vast majority of this book is conjecture and the few facts he bothers to include are often wrong. I found this out the hard way while trying to verify his "facts" for my own book on the Spear of Destiny, "Secrets of the Holy Lance," which I co-authored with Operation Paperclip/CIA expert George Piccard.
Ravenscroft claimed that his friend and mentor Dr. Walter Johannes Stein would have written "The Spear Of Destiny" if he had lived long enough to do so. Curiously, several persons who said that they too were friends and associates of Dr. Stein deny Ravenscroft's claimed friendship with Dr. Stein, saying that they met but once, and then only for an hour. Since Ravenscroft's death from cancer in 1989 there has been an international debate over how much of his book was actually written from hard facts and how much he simply made up. In retracing his steps George and I found that, when we could locate and verify the facts, Ravenscroft was often in error. Not being disposed to speak ill of the dead we only comment on this in our book in a few passages where it seemed important enough to set the record straight, as in when and how the US actually took possession of the artifact now housed in Vienna after the fall of Nuremberg in 1945.
Ravenscroft begins with telling you that World War II was a wizard's battle, one between white-magic-using occultists working for the British Crown, and black magicians who comprised the top of the Nazi hierarchy. He never detailed any of their alleged battles, though. Without going into much detail he just hints that he had first hand knowledge of white wizard's existence through his claimed intimate association with Dr. Stein, one of these white wizards. Instead, he spent nearly all his efforts on revealing who the enemy where. His primary contention was that a cabal of black magicians tried to take over Europe in the Eleventh Century (forming the basis for the Holy Grail epic and later Wagnerian opera "Parsifal"), and that they had reincarnated and regrouped to try it again in the Twentieth Century. The majority of the book is an attempt to prove whom each of the top Nazis, Hitler, Himmler, etc., were in their past lives. Fascinating, but utterly unverifiable.
Further, he asserted that the Nazi black magic was based on using the Power of this so-called Spear of Destiny or Holy Lance (in German "Heilige Lanze"). He related a story, which he claimed had been told to him by Dr. Stein, that Hitler as a youth of 18 or so years of age wandered into Vienna, Austria's, Kunsthistorisches museum and there had a life changing event. A tour group gathered around a glass case stopped Hitler in his meander through the museum. He heard the guide tell them about the object in the case, this Heilige Lanze, and that a legend had arisen about it: "Whosoever possesses this Holy Lance and understands the powers it serves, holds in his hand the destiny of the world for good or evil." After the group moved on Hitler approached the case and was transfixed. He was transported back in time and found his flophouse rags replaced with royal vestments, the Spear was in his hands and he, as a great king of Germany, was using it to rule the Holy Roman Empire. It lasted but a few moments then he found himself back in front of the case wondering what had just happened to him. Ravenscroft said Hitler then went on a personal crusade to verify if this truly was the real Holy Lance if it did indeed have any supernatural powers. In doing so Hitler was drawn into the occult, eventually becoming the greatest black magician of the age and picking up where he left off a millennium before in trying to take over the world through magical means.
Ravenscroft accepted that the artifact on display today in room 11 of the Schatzkammer (Treasure House) was the object that pierced the side of Christ. Dr. Robert Feather, a British metallurgist, who is currently preparing his own book on the Spear, has since disproved this. He was permitted in 2003 to conduct a series of tests on it, which conclusively proved that it had been forged in the 6th or 7th centuries and so could not have been used at the Crucifixion. While Ravenscroft could not have known what Dr. Feather would find thirty years after his book came out, a visit to the museum would have revealed to him that its curators had been convinced of its Carolingian origins for over a century.
He also completely ignored the half-dozen other objects scattered around the world, each of which is claimed to be the real Holy Lance. In so doing he gives us not a book about the spear that pierced the side of Christ, but a book about the Nazi's obsession with the Spear of Destiny and other matters occult. Indeed, it is primarily a book about occult initiation - Hitler's, Ravenscroft's and ultimately the readers. Interesting yes, but not terribly useful for one wanting to know more about this purported relic of the Passion of the Christ.
All major religions believe in the importance and power of relics, which are more than mere mementos of Saints and Prophets but are believed to be a contact point between the supernatural and ourselves. People visit the shrines where relics are kept in hopes that some of the supernatural power that made the deceased into a Saint will come through and positively affect them. The Holy Lance, should it actually exist, then is not merely a curious object reminding us of Christ's sacrifice on the cross but may have, through having pierced his body, become imbued with supernatural power. It is that power that Ravenscroft said Hitler tried to tap. Ravenscroft repeatedly called that Power the "Anti-Christ" and the "Spirit of the Age" (whatever that meant).
The sequel, "The Mark of the Beast" by Trevor Ravenscroft and Tim Wallace-Murphy, is even more disappointing, in part because it wasn't actually written by Ravenscroft, who at least was an engaging writer. Published in 1990, it was written after Trevor died. All of his discernable contributions to the book are quotes lifted directly from "The Spear Of Destiny," which frankly is about all "The Mark of the Beast" has to do with the Spear. Tim Wallace-Murphy is a rather pedestrian writer with, in this book, a rather curious theory to put forward. He believed that the system of cathedrals in Europe was a one-foot equals one-mile scale model of the Temple in Jerusalem! His "proof" is to be found, he wrote, in Rosslyn Chapel. If you are not keenly interested in the mysteries of Rosslyn Chapel or in cathedrals in general this book is a real snooze. And if you fail to find a connection between the Spear Of Destiny and Rosslyn Chapel you are not alone! Calling it a "stretch" is an understatement.
In 1988-89 two other remarkable books came out, purporting to tell the real story of what happened to Hitler's Holy Lance. These were by Dr. Howard A. Buechner, M.D., a professor of medicine at Tulane and later L.S.U., who wrote over 240 medical textbooks and several books on art history. His two books on the Holy Lance, now long out of print, became underground bestsellers in the `90s. In them he relates that he was contacted by a former German U-boat submariner who claimed to have helped take the Holy Lance to Antarctica in 1945 and to have helped a group of German businessmen whom he called The Hartmann Expedition recover it in 1979.
Doctor Buechner was a retired Colonel with the U.S. Army who had served as a battalion surgeon in World War II. In the mid-1980s he was presented by the pseudonymous "Capt. Wilhelm Bernhart" with what was claimed to be the log of the equally pseudonymous "Hartmann Expedition," including a hand-written letter of authenticity signed by "Hartmann," and photos of some of the objects recovered.
According to Buechner, this former Nazi sailor claimed that he could prove that the spear on display in the Schatzkammer is a fake. It is well known that prior to the war Heinrich Himmler, who would become head of the Occult Bureau of the SS, formed a circle of Knights dedicated to the Holy Lance, called The Knight's Grand Council. It has been widely reported that they used a replica of the Holy Lance in arcane black magic ceremonies in a specially appointed castle in Wewelsburg, Germany, which today welcomes tourists with a taste for the macabre. Capt. Bernhart claimed that during the war Himmler had Japan's greatest sword maker flown to Germany where he created a second and much more exact duplicate of the lance. The "perfect" copy then went on display in Nuremberg, from whence it was turned over to Austrian authorities at the war's end, while the real one remained under Himmler's control - until sent to Antarctica by order of Hitler.
In the final hours of the war, according to this sailor, Hitler personally selected a man who would later be called "Col. Maximilian Hartmann" to send several of his most prized possessions, including the Spear of Destiny, to Antarctica via submarine - the one on which Bernhart said he had served. Further, Col. Hartmann was alleged to have recovered the real Spear of Destiny, again with aid from Bernhart, in 1979. According to Buechner and Bernhart the Holy Lance is now in hiding somewhere in Europe, in the possession of the reconvened order of Himmler's knights, renamed The Knights of the Holy Lance.
After contacting most of the purported members of the 1979 Hartmann Expedition and others involved, including senior former Nazi officials and close personal associates of Adolf Hitler, like Hitler Youth Leader Artur Axmann, Buechner became convinced that the sailor's claims were true. Either he was the victim of an incredibly elaborate hoax, or the Spear of Destiny really did reside for a while in Antarctica and may well be in the hands of a group of individuals who believe in its power to direct the destiny of mankind - and may be conducting magic rites with it right this moment!
But if the object on display in Vienna isn't it, where is it? What of the other objects around the world that are claimed to be the spear that pierced the side of Christ - such as the one in a monastery in Etschmiadzin, Armenia, or the one said to be in the Vatican - could any of them be the real deal? Two books in recent years have tried to pull together the full story of the Spears and the bona fides of the various claims for them. Both were published in 2005 a few months apart. Alec MacLellan's "The Secret of the Spear: The Mystery of The Spear of Longinus," was published in England shortly before our book, "Secrets Of The Holy Lance: The Spear of Destiny in History & Legend," came out in the US. Alec MacLellan believed that the lance currently in Armenia is the real one. George and I leave it up to the reader to draw his or her own conclusions.
MacLellan `s book is very similar to ours in general subject matter in that we both tried to round up and tell the full 2,000 plus year story of the various objects claimed to be the Holy Lance. We both cover several of the major wielders of the Spear, while leaving others out, often citing the same sources. George and I focused more its Roman era wielders (Queen Boadicea, St. Maurice, Constantine the Great) while Alex focused more on its Holy Roman Empire claimants (Charlemagne and Barbarossa). Our book is 75 pages longer than MacLellan's. This gave us greater freedom to wander farther a field than he, both historically and into delving into contemporary politics (how the Third Reich has, in America, morphed into the Fourth Reich); as well as the links between science and the supernatural, quantum metaphysics if you will.
Col. Buechner's story was examined and partially corroborated by both MacLellan and George and I. Common sense, perhaps, would lead one to reject such a wild tale. Yet, over and over we discover that truth is indeed stranger than fiction. Although George and I lean toward believing that Buechner was the victim of a hoax we agreed that his story was certainly worthy of inclusion in a book about legends surrounding the Holy Lance - and elements of Buechner's tale did strike awfully close to the truth, as both we and Alec MacLellan found.
In 1939 Germany and Norway each staked official territorial claims, within days of each other, to the Atlantic coastal area of Antarctica known today as Queen Maud Land. The German Antarctica Expedition of 1938-39 over-flew nearly one-fifth of the continent, taking some 11,000 photographs. The expedition's aircraft also dropped several thousand small Nazi flags, as well as special metal poles with the expedition's insignia and the swastika, claiming the territory for Germany.
They named the region Neuschwabenland after Swabia, which was one of the original duchies of the German Kingdom. Swabia was home to one of the most powerful dynasties of European monarchs, the Hohenstaufen Dynasty, which ruled the Holy Roman Empire in the 12th and 13th centuries. Frederick Barbarossa was the greatest of the Hohenstaufen kings, and a wielder of the Holy Lance. It has been reported that Hitler believed he was a reincarnation of Barbarossa. He dubbed the invasion of Russia "Operation Barbarossa."
The German Antarctic Expedition discovered several ice-free regions with lakes and signs of vegetation (mostly lichen and moss) in the territory's interior. The expedition's geologists said that this phenomenon was due to hot springs or other geothermal sources. This discovery may have led Reichsfuhrer-SS Heinrich Himmler to hatch a bold plan to build a permanent base in Antarctica. For more than sixty years rumors about a base code named "Station 211" have tantalized historians and researchers. Could it be that it was actually constructed and staffed as an ongoing project throughout the war? Perhaps Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz announced its completion when, in 1943, he said: "The German submarine fleet is proud of having built for the Fuhrer, in another part of the world, a Shangri-La on land, an impregnable fortress."
Most of the rumors agree that Station 211, if it really existed, was located inside a prominent ice-free mountain in the Muhlig-Hofmann Mountains of Neuschwabenland. In 1946-47 Admiral Byrd, America's most recognized polar explorer may have searched for Station 211 in what was called "Operation Highjump." During it he had at his disposal the largest armada ever sent to Antarctica. It was comprised of some 13 ships and 4,700 men; including: an aircraft carrier, a submarine, two destroyers, more than two-dozen aircraft and 3,500 Marines in full battle gear. All these were sent by the United States to Antarctica on what was officially described as a "training" mission. Yet persistent rumors insist that the actual purpose of Highjump was to find the Nazi fortress. It's unclear if Byrd ever discovered the location of the Fuhrer's "Shangri-La" -- if it really was there and if he really was looking for it, that is.
Col. Buechner and Capt. Bernhart avoid mention of Station 211 though, perhaps to maintain its secrecy, which would be in keeping with the general tone of their two books. Indeed, they admit that the names given for all members of the 1979 expedition, including Bernhart and Hartmann, are fictitious and where used to protect their true identities. It is clear that Buechner did not tell us all he knew.
Instead, Buechner and Bernhart tell us that the submarine crew in 1945 placed Hitler's treasure at the foot of an unnamed glazier in the Muhlig-Hofmann Mountains, dug in and protected with steel plates. This would have meant trekking more than 100 miles deep into the interior, loaded down with a ton or more of steel! This seemed to George and I as the least plausible piece of this whole mad jigsaw puzzle. Some parts of Antarctica receive as much as sixty feet of snow in a single year. How deeply would this treasure have been buried after more than thirty years? And why head for an ice-free region only to stash it in the ice? No, we rejected Buechner's cover story, feeling sure that if any of it were true then they must have taken the Holy Lance somewhere from which it would be easily recoverable -- to Station 211.
We chose as a literary device to begin most of our chapters with a fictionalized dramatization of the most important scene in them. Having made that decision, we than decided to do the same with the whole book. Thus, we began "Secrets of the Holy Lance" with "Chapter Ought," a dramatic blend of Buechner's revelations about The Hartmann Expedition and Urban Legends about Station 211. We chose Hartman's recovery of the Spear as the most important scene from our book because, if true, then the Spear of Destiny is not an object hidden in some church or displayed in a musty museum but is in the hands of men who mean to alter mankind's destiny with it - for good or evil?