When Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), was accepted into the manager magazine Hall of Fame, author Paulo Coelho declared him a true alchemist. In 2007, the highly symbolic Haus der Geschichte der Bundesrepublik Deutschland/House of the History of the Federal German Republic extoled Schwab as an outstanding manager. How flattered Klaus Schwab must have been, on top of his two PhDs and sixteen honorary doctor titles and despite his Brazilian friend disregarding academic custom, to be anointed Alchemist! Paul Coelho’s novel The Alchemist may have introduced speculative philosophy and white magic to a broader public but welcoming the WEF founder to the ranks of quackery requires closer inspection.
Schwab’s tendency to doctor the world far exceeds Thomas Mann’s esoteric imprint on a Magic Mountain of Davos backdrop. German literary research has long exhausted what the formerly apprenticed mechanical engineer calls The Spirit of Davos. Can protagonist Castorp’s seven-year – instead of two-day – involuntary isolation in the sanatorium with a fabricated pulmonary disease; can constant, ritualized temperature-taking as a symbol for the European world’s internal disorder; can borderline experiences, achieving refinement and spirituality through shortness of breath; can all this be extrapolated to encompass the world? Yes, if you possess Klaus Schwab’s omniscience. Even Paracelsus would turn green with envy.
It would be impossible to illustrate Schwab’s heal the world concept without in-depth examination of Thomas Mann’s and his wife’s imaginary pulmonary disease – as Prof. Dr. Christian Virchow, former Magic Mountain director has done. “I have never known a more intensive blending of poet, pneumology and literature,” the renowned pneumologist wrote in a speech commemorating the two esoteric patients’ medical history and findings. I, too, have never heard of a more intensive blending of mechanical engineering, convalescence and scheming.
What if the disease Schwab assumes is plaguing the world is as imaginary as Mann’s? An obsession incurring mythical treatment? It would be far more perilous to our well-being when Schwab’s pioneering spirit becomes enamored with the novelist’s obscure depths and proposes healing humanity with isolation and breath-taking angst. The honorable true alchemist has no lack of utterances referencing Magic Mountain.
Soaring above Thomas Mann’s literature, it couldn’t possibly have escaped the Shaman of Davos’ attention – since he repeatedly lectures on global health – that his neighboring township, Cologny (in the Geneva Canton), was once home to another literature-loving mystery monger avidly seeking to change the world. Dr. Martin Bodmer, former vice-president of the International Red Cross, library founder and editor of the literary Corona Nova Magazine, died in Cologny in 1971. Precisely the same year Klaus Schwab founded WEF, also in Cologny. The Corona Nova Magazine (1930-1942) was reputedly elitist and regularly invited Thomas Mann to publish his writings. Co-editor Herbert Steiner claimed Corona was modeled to build international bridges. The same maxim applied to WEF. According to Steiner, the publication was necessary to confront the dark clouds looming on the horizon. And he was expressly not referring to the Nazi regime. Corona was a noble, international Swiss discussion platform publishing only invited writers, similar to WEF creed and participant exclusivity. What could be better for the local neighborhood in Cologny than leading a paradigm-switch? Once home to the elitist Corona Magazine, publishing the brainchildren of the enlightened, now nurturing the equally exclusive WEF in Davos, a platform to save the world from Corona.
Now, let us take a look at a singular literary genre. The two most prominent works by our new age world therapist, Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (2016) and The Great Reset (2020) have both provoked intense discussions, accusing the author, unfairly in my opinion, of cultivating a fascistic ideology.  Instead of interpreting Schwab’s words, it seems to me far more practical to view these topics from an overall context, applying Dr. Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal’s yardstick. In the celebrated historian’s paper The Occult in Modern Russian and Soviet Culture, she defines the attributes of mystic and occult literature. An analysis of Schwab’s world-reform literature would suffice to expand the 450-page The New Age of Russia Occult and Esoteric Dimensions (Birgit Menzel, Michael Hagemeister und Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal)  by several hundred pages. Of course, a treatise would emerge juxtaposing Bolshevik occult literature prospering during Stalin’s tyranny, Russian shamanism and Schwab’s proposals for a better world – an excellent dissertation theme, by the way. But let’s focus here on the outstanding idiosyncrasies.
One reigning motif is to create a new order by supplanting the old one.  As a rule, a utopia was founded on the reasoning suggested by vaporous defects or rifts within the old world. Both the Bolshevik class struggle and the ecological upheaval coursing through the Magic Mountain whisperer’s criticism of neoliberalism and capitalism took the collective spirit of unity with nature or the universe for granted. They also pointed out the apocalyptical repercussions of the looming disaster, should people fail to adhere to utopian ground-rules. Schwab’s visions of doom lie in the pending climate catastrophe and social uprising. Bolshevik anthropotechnics hoped to fabricate human beings. Schwab banks on breeding artificial organs while Ziolkowski aimed to launch a monstrous global project to disinfect rainforests because he’s terrified of bacteria and WEF Magic Mountain therapists are eager to fight future pandemics – both authors have the temerity to mold the fate of imperfection.
One of them was a hero of Soviet propaganda, the other cooperates with democratically legitimized governments. An enormous range of technical fantasies plays a major role: outer space speculation, artificial intelligence, life-extending measures, transhumanism, genetic engineering, developing a new language, not to mention brainwave communication, a seemingly mystical public health policy and the Reign of the Sublime. The overall picture mirrors occult and esoteric literature. Mankind will not only reshape the Earth to suit his tastes, he will also harmonize himself, will bend the subconscious processes within his own organism to his mind and will, thereby becoming incomparably cleverer, stronger and more sensitive. The average man will…soar to the heights of Aristotle…. Soviet Pravda 1923, not The Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Referring to Bolshevism, Karl Popper speaks of utopian social technology, which claims to renew society within the shortest time. An ambitious tempo that Schwab intends to accelerate further, insisting the time has come for reform. Not just reform, no, flat-out salvation. Not just correcting errors, but an infallible ratification of utopia, setting the course for an authoritative, totalitarian regime. As was Lenin’s shift from war communism to the New Economic Policy, so is the current pivot from pandemic lockdown to climate crisis. Both motives point toward the decisive phase of consolidating power structures to engender utopia. Utopia itself does not necessarily imply totalitarianism. It is the zealous dream of forging a conflict-free existence with government funds.
Since the compulsion to recreate humanity and reshape the world is embedded in Gnostic thought, I tend to agree with Bernice Rosenthal’s view that modern occult systems make use of scientific terminology to prove their declarations are scientifically sound. Still, their search for higher wisdom is as transcendental as ever. Along these lines, Ms. Rosenthal also pointed out that it remains to be seen if the Russians learn from their historic experiences, or if other nations learn from their experiences with Russia.
As opposed to Paulo Coelho, I claim no friendship with Schwab. Yet, when the appellation Alchemist is considered a public honor, then the same should apply to the title Shaman. What’s fair is fair.