Dietrich Eckart was born in Neumarkt, Germany (near Nuremberg) in 1868 as the son of a royal notary and law counselor. His mother died when he was ten years old; seventeen years later, in 1895, his father died as well, leaving him a considerable amount of money that Eckart nevertheless used up soon.
Eckart initially started to study medicine in Munich, but quit in 1891, instead beginning to work as a poet, playwright and journalist. He moved to Berlin in 1899, where he wrote a number of plays, often with autobiographical traits; however, despite becoming the protegé of Graf Georg von Hülsen-Haeseler, the artistic director of the royal theatres, he never was successful as a playwright, a failure for which he blamed society.
Later on, he developed an ideology of a “genius higher human,” based on earlier writings by Lanz von Liebenfels; he saw himself in the tradition of Arthur Schopenhauer and Angelus Silesius, and also became fascinated by Mayan beliefs, but never had much sympathy for the scientific method. Eckart also loved and strongly identified with Henrik Ibsen's Peer Gynt.
Moving back to Munich, Eckart joined the Rudolf von Sebottendorff's right-wing Thule Society in 1913 and became politically active; in 1915, he also wrote the nationalist play "Heinrich der Hohenstaufe" ("Heinrich of the High Baptism"), in which he postulated a claim to world leadership for the German people.
Later on, between 1918 and 1920, Eckart was the editor of the anti-semitic periodical Auf gut Deutsch, which he published with the help of Alfred Rosenberg and Gottfried Feder. A fierce critic of the newly-formed Weimar Republic, he vehemently opposed the Treaty of Versailles, which he viewed as treason, and propagated the so-called Dolchstoßlegende, according to which the social democrats and jews were to blame for Germany's defeat in World War I.
Eckart was involved in the founding Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (German Workers' Party) together with Gottfried Feder and Anton Drexler in 1919, which later on was renamed Nationalsozialistische deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers' Party, NSDAP); he invented and published the NSDAP's own periodical Völkischer Beobachter, and also wrote the songtext "Deutschland erwache" (Germany awake), which became the anthem of the Nazi party.
Eckart soon met Adolf Hitler as well, during a speech he gave before party members on August 14 1919; he exerted considerable influence on Hitler in the following years, who later on described him as his “fatherly friend.”
On November 9 1923, Eckart was involved in the Nazi party's failed Beer Hall Putsch; he was arrested in Landsberg prison along with Hitler and other party officials, but released again soon due to illness. He died of a heart attack caused by a morphine addiction in Berchtesgaden on December 26, 1923.
In 1925, Eckarts unfinished essay, Der Bolschewismus von Moses bis Lenin. Zwiegespräch zwischen Hitler und mir ("Bolshevism from Moses to Lenin. Dialogues between Hitler and me"), was posthumously published, although it has been shown (Plewnia 1970) that it the dialogues were an invention; the essay was in fact written by Eckart alone.