Anders Behring Breivik leaves an Oslo court Monday in a police car after a judge jailed him under strict conditions for eight weeks.
Photograph by: Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen, AFP-Getty Images, Postmedia News
By A. Millar
Many media outlets are describing Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged perpetrator of the Oslo terrorist attacks on Friday, as a Christian fundamentalist. His 1,500-page manifesto — 2083 A European Declaration of Independence — and an accompanying video reveal a more complex picture.
Aside from his interest in Christianity, Breivik appears to have studied aspects of esotericism and neopaganism, and may have been involved with such circles at one time. In regards to followers of the neopagan religion of Odinism, he says, “Even Odinists can fight with us or by our side as brothers” in the Knights Templar organization that Breivik claims to be a founding member of.
He also says his primary weapon is Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer), but criticizes neopagans, saying that Thor’s hammer cannot unify the people of Europe, but that the cross will. For Breivik, Christianity is a political and cultural banner, not necessarily a religious one. “Christian atheists” are able to join the organization.
The modern Knights Templar will, according to the manifesto, fight “against the “cultural Marxist/multiculturalist regimes of Western Europe before . . . we are completely demographically overwhelmed by Muslims.” In its romantic view of indiscriminate violence and adoption of militant religious imagery, the organization — whether real or imagined — is in many respects a mirror image of al-Qaeda. The manifesto says that the founders of the organization decided on carrying out a “large successful attack every five to 12 years . . . depending on available forces.”
In the manifesto and video are three photographs. In the first, Breivik is shown wearing Masonic regalia. This seems a peculiar decision, but it is extremely significant. Popular legend suggests that the Masonic fraternity was created by the medieval order of the Knights Templar, but Breivik was probably also aware that Islamist extremists have viewed Freemasonry as an enemy for several decades. It was made illegal in Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1978-79, and the Hamas Charter of 1988 claims that Freemasons “work in the interest of Zionism.”
This idea was introduced to the Middle East by the Nazi Party of Germany, which flooded the area with anti-Semitic propaganda during the Second World War.
The notorious, proven anti-Semitic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, used by the Nazis for propaganda, and which alleges that Zionists employ the Freemasons, is still regularly cited as an authentic document in the Arab media. With satellite television, the message has reached back into the West, and is propagated by numerous extremist Islamist websites.
The results have been dramatic. In 2004, Islamist suicide bombers attacked a Masonic building in Turkey, attempting to set off explosives in a dining hall, and opening fire, killing a waiter and wounding six others. In 2009, two men from the U.S. state of Georgia were sentenced for their support of terrorism after they made “casting videos” of possible targets and sent them to an alleged al-Qaeda operative in the U.K.
Breivik would almost certainly have known that a Masonic building in Oslo was attacked in January 2009. The assault took place during an anti-Israel demonstration by pro-Palestinian Muslims and left-wing activists, at which anti-Semitic chants and threats against Jewish people were reportedly made. At one point, several Arab-looking youths broke away from the demonstration and led a reporter and cameraman to the Masonic building. They then smashed a window and took turns throwing high-power firecrackers inside.
It is possible that this assault was a factor in Breivik’s decision to target youth members of the Labour Party, since a children’s party was being held inside the Masonic building at the time of the attack, and children could be heard screaming in terror after each firework exploded.
In another photograph in the manifesto and video, Breivik is wearing a ceremonial military uniform. However, on the arm is the emblem of a skull pierced by a dagger. Breivik calls this “the badge of the Justiciar Knight,” and says it is “marked with the symbols of communism, Islam and Nazism on the forehead, impaled on the cross of the martyrs.”
On the uniform are three Masonic medals, given to those who have obtained the Knights Templar degree of Freemasonry in Britain. Breivik had not received this Masonic degree, but it is possible for members of the public to purchase regalia.
In the manifesto, Breivik acknowledges being a member of the Masonic fraternity, and of taking the first three degrees, but he also criticizes Freemasonry because it is “not in any way political.” Freemasons, says Breivik, “claim to be Knights of Christ, yet they are not willing to sacrifice their life for the preservation of European Christendom. They do not even acknowledge that European Christendom is in the process of being deconstructed.”
Breivik does commend Freemasonry as “keepers of cultural heritage.” This appears to be emotionally important for Breivik, who insists that those joining his Knights Templar organization must perform an initiation ceremony that is “somewhat similar to the ancient and original ritual of the Knights Templar.”
“This ritual,” he says, “has been partly adopted and kept alive by the Freemasons and similar ‘chivalric orders.’ ”
The manifesto states that he was present at the founding of the revived Knights Templar in London in April 2009. This, he says, is a “revolutionary conservative movement because we had lost hope that the democratic framework can solve Europe’s current problems.”
It may be a coincidence, but “revolutionary conservative” was a term used by the anti-Masonic occultist and fascist Julius Evola. Notably, Breivik criticizes the extreme right for being inspired by Rene Guenon, a convert to Islam and the founder of the pro-Islamic esoteric school of traditionalism that Evola knew and imitated. Breivik seems to place himself broadly within the school, while rejecting its favourable view of Islam.
Breivik says, “In the U.S., Christian fundamentalists and Islamic organizations are increasingly creating common platforms to speak out against trends of moral decay (abortion, pornography, etc.). Some of these phenomena of traditionalist alliance-building are quite respectable, but they are nevertheless conducive to Islam negationism.”
There were “nine original founding members.” Breivik says he met only four of these, but he claims that it later grew to 25 or 30, and that there “might be tens, even hundreds of Justiciar Knights now spread all across Western Europe as far as I know.”
Breivik clearly sees himself as initiating this revival with his acts of violence that left nearly 100 people dead on Friday in Norway’s worst atrocity since the Second World War.
A. Millar is a regular contributor to The Westminster Journal in New York and is working on a book on unorthodox religious beliefs and political extremism.