Walter Benjamin Meets the Cosmics

The “Cosmic Circle” was a Männerbund (society of men), anchored by the inimitable Stefan George, that prowled the Bohemian districts of fin-de-siècle Munich. Its members were committed aesthetes who celebrated matriarchy and hierarchy, engaged in séances and bacchanalia, and, during the late 1890s, hatched a improbable scheme to awaken a comatose Nietzsche through free form dance. They flirted with Ariosophy and contributed to Stefan George’s yearbook, Blätter für die Kunst, which unashamedly featured a swastika on its cover. Among its members were: Ludwig Klages, Alfred Schuler, and Karl Wolfskehl – the so-called “Jewish Cosmic.” Walter Benjamin eulogized the Cosmics: he corresponded with Klages and employed their ideas as the methodological cornerstone of his celebrated Arcades Project. Why did he revere their work, and why has the “Cosmic connection” been so little discussed in run-of-the-mill Benjamin scholarship?