Blavatsky on race - in the original


From: Detlef Hardorp
Date: Sun Mar 14, 2004 12:33 pm
Subject: Blavatsky on race - in the original

Dear friends,

since I had not looked at Blavatsky's "Secret Doctrine" for quite some time, I did that today. To my delight I also discovered an online version of the complete volumes, saving me the effort of scanning things and - even more important - facilitating a search for words.

The reason for looking is, of course, to trace the origin of the "root race" concept more clearly and to see how Blavatsky used the word "race". It is exactly how I remembered it.

I found one reference in a footnote to "inferior Races, of which there are still some analogues left -- as the Australians (now fast dying out) and some African and Oceanic tribes". There may well be more, I didn't feel like rereading every page of these rather thick volumes. To speak of "inferior races" (relative to the "civilized" west) was not uncommon in those days. In fact, when I did some independent studies in anthropology in the early seventies, I found this kind of thinking and writing - albeit somewhat subdued - as late as the 1950's - amongst anthropologists! And Blavatsky writes about animal and human races mixing in the past (this you will not find in Steiner!), leading to "descendants of these half-animal tribes or races, both of remote Lemurian and Lemuro-Atlantean origin. The world knows them as Tasmanians (now extinct), Australians, Andaman Islanders, etc.".

But I only stumbled upon these comments after reading reams and reams of what she mainly has to say on race. In fact, it gets somewhat repetitive after a while. It is all about root races, to which she mainly refers to as "races" plain and simple. These "races" are temporal incarnations of the human race, with one "race" generally superceding the next, usually with some cataclysmic event in-between. It is not identical to what Steiner recount. For example, the second race is referred to as Hyperborea by Blavatsky, whereas it's the first in Steiner's scheme (if I remember correctly, I am too lazy to double check every sentence I type into my computer!). Furthermore, Blavatsky writes that the next sub-race (what Steiner would call the 6th Epoch) will be an American sub-race, whereas Steiner has a Slavic epoch coming next.

But it mostly is a similar chronology. And one thing is clear: it has little to do with our ordinary concept of race. Yes, there are a few references like the above to peoples like "Australians", and she does talk about innumerable races coming into existence and dying out, which might refer to anything. But the main races she is talking about are the seven root races of the current round of evolution. Without much further ado, I will now give you a taste of how Blavatsky uses the word "race". Primary sources are always good when talking about authors! (I won't bother to cite the pages they come from - if it interests you, type it into a search engine and you will undoubtably land on the page where they're from!).

There are a lot of words here. The main point is to get a feel for Blavatsky's concept of "race". It then becomes clear very quickly that it has little to do with what we usually refer to as "race". Which is why Steiner called this a misnomer and phased out using the word "race" to refer to some epoch of time quite soon after began lecturing on esoteric topics. By the time he gives his 1910 lectures in Oslo, he has essentially quit using the word "race" in the sense of Blavatsky. The five races he talks about in the "Mission ..." book certainly don't bear any resemblance to the seven races of Blavatsky. Anyone claiming that there is a relation would have to show what it is! Which root-race, for ex., is the black race related to? The yellow race? The white race? The brown race? The red race?

So here it goes! All from the "Secret Doctrine". A new paragraph sometimes means a completely new quote (I forgot to separate them!).

Regards, Detlef Hardorp

Blavatsky writes:

But men, during the first and the second races, were not physical beings, but merely rudiments of the future men: The first race of men were, then, simply the images, the astral doubles, of their Fathers, who were the pioneers, or the most progressed Entities from a preceding though lower sphere, the shell of which is now our Moon.

(a) The old (primitive) Race merged in the second race, and became one with it.
(b) This is the mysterious process of transformation and evolution of mankind. The material of the first forms -- shadowy, ethereal, and negative -- was drawn or absorbed into, and thus became the complement of the forms of the Second Race. The Commentary explains this by saying that, as the First Race was simply composed of the astral shadows of the creative progenitors, having of course neither astral nor physical bodies of their own -- this Race never died. Its "men" melted gradually away, becoming absorbed in the bodies of their own "sweat-born" progeny, more solid than their own. The old form vanished and was absorbed by, disappeared in, the new form, more human and physical.

What will be most contested by scientific authorities is this a-sexual Race, the Second, the fathers of the "Sweat-born" so-called, and perhaps still more the Third Race, the "Egg-born" androgynes. These two modes of procreation are the most difficult to comprehend, especially for the Western mind.

Thus, as we shall find, for the first three and a half Root-Races, up to the middle or turning point, it is the astral shadows of the "progenitors," the lunar Pitris, which are the formative powers in the Races, and which build and gradually force the evolution of the physical form towards perfection -- this, at the cost of a proportionate loss of spirituality. Then, from the turning point, it is the Higher Ego, or incarnating principle, the nous or Mind, which reigns over the animal Ego, and rules it whenever it is not carried down by the latter. In short, Spirituality is on its ascending arc, and the animal or physical impedes it from steadily progressing on the path of its evolution only when the selfishness of the personality has so strongly infected the real inner man with its lethal virus, that the upward attraction has lost all its power on the thinking reasonable man. In sober truth, vice and wickedness are an abnormal, unnatural manifestation, at this period of our human evolution -- at least they ought to be so.

An impenetrable veil of secrecy was thrown over the occult and religious mysteries taught, after the submersion of the last remnant of the Atlantean race, some 12,000 years ago, lest they should be shared by the unworthy, and so desecrated. Of these sciences several have now become exoteric -- such as Astronomy, for instance, in its purely mathematical and physical aspect. Hence their dogmas and tenets, being all symbolised and left to the sole guardianship of parable and allegory, have been forgotten, and their meaning has become perverted. Nevertheless, one finds the hermaphrodite in the scriptures and traditions of almost every nation; and why such unanimous agreement if the statement is only a fiction?

It is this secrecy which led the Fifth Race to the establishment, or rather the re-establishment of the religious mysteries, in which ancient truths might be taught to the coming generations under the veil of allegory and symbolism.

After which come the Third and Fourth Root-Races of mankind*** -- that is to say, Races of men and women, or individuals of opposite sexes, no longer sexless semi-spirits and androgynes, as were the two Races which precede them.

After MAN of Genesis ch. i. 26 and Enos, Son of Man of ch. iv. v. 26, after Adam, the first androgyne, after Adam Kadmon, the sexless (the first) Logos, Adam and Eve once separated, come finally Jehovah-Eve and Cain-Jehovah. These represent distinct Root-Races, for millions of years elapsed between them.

Hence the Aryan and the Semitic Theo-anthropographies are two leaves on the same stem; their respective personifications and symbolic personages standing in relation to each other in this way.


It is in the Third Race that the separation of sexes occurred. From being previously a-sexual, Humanity became distinctly hermaphrodite or bi-sexual; and finally the man-bearing eggs began to give birth, gradually and almost imperceptibly in their evolutionary development, first, to Beings in which one sex predominated over the other, and, finally, to distinct men and women.

It means that the First Root-Race, the "Shadows" of the Progenitors, could not be injured, or destroyed by death. Being so ethereal and so little human in constitution, they could not be affected by any element -- flood or fire. But their "Sons," the Second Root-Race, could be and were so destroyed. As the "progenitors" merged wholly in their own astral bodies, which were their progeny; so that progeny was absorbed in its descendants, the "Sweat-born." These were the second Humanity -- composed of the most heterogeneous gigantic semi-human monsters -- the first attempts of material nature at building human bodies. The ever-blooming lands of the Second Continent (Greenland, among others) were transformed, in order, from Edens with their eternal spring, into hyperborean Hades. This transformation was due to the displacement of the great waters of the globe, to oceans changing their beds; and the bulk of the Second Race perished in this first great throe of the evolution and consolidation of the globe during the human period. Of such great cataclysms there have already been four.* And we may expect a fifth for ourselves in due course of time.

Here the seven Rishis stand for the seven Races

All this goes to show that the semi-universal deluge known to geology (first glacial period) must have occurred just at the time allotted to it by the Secret Doctrine: namely, 200,000 years (in round numbers) after the commencement of our FIFTH RACE, or about the time assigned by Messrs. Croll and Stockwell for the first glacial period: i.e., about 850,000 years ago. (footnote)

The mankind of the First Root-Race is the mankind of the second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. To the last it forms a cyclic and constant reincarnation of the Monads belonging to the Dhyan Chohans of our Planetary chain.

Enough was said to show that evolution in general, events, mankind, and everything else in Nature proceed in cycles. We have spoken of seven Races, five of which have nearly completed their earthly career, and have claimed that every Root-Race, with its sub-races and innumerable family divisions and tribes, was entirely distinct from its preceding and succeeding race. This will be objected to, on the authority of uniform experience in the question of Anthropology, and Ethnology. Man was -- save in colour and type, and perhaps a difference in facial peculiarities and cranial capacity -- ever the same under every climate and in every part of the world, say the Naturalists: ay, even in stature. This, while maintaining that man descends from the same unknown ancestor as the ape, a claim that is logically impossible without an infinite variation of stature and form, from his first evolution into a biped. The very logical persons who maintain both propositions are welcome to their paradoxical views. Once more we address only those who, doubting the general derivation of myths from "the contemplation of the visible workings of external nature" . . . . think it, "less hard to believe that these wonderful stories of gods and demi-gods, of giants and dwarfs, of dragons and monsters of all descriptions, are transformations, than to believe them to be inventions." It is only such "transformations" in physical nature, as much as in the memory and conceptions of our present mankind, that the Secret Doctrine teaches. It confronts the purely speculative hypotheses of modern Science, based upon the experience and exact observations of barely a few centuries, with the unbroken tradition and records of its Sanctuaries; and brushing away that tissue of cobweb-like theories, spun in the darkness that covers a period of hardly a few millenniums back, and which Europeans call their "History," the Old Science says to us: Listen, now, to my version of the memoirs of Humanity.

The human Races are born one from the other, grow, develop, become old, and die. Their sub-races and nations follow the same rule. If your all-denying modern science and so-called philosophy do not contest that the human family is composed of a variety of well-defined types and races, it is only because the fact is undeniable, no one would say that there was no external difference between an Englishman, an African negro, and a Japanese or Chinaman. On the other hand it is formally denied by most naturalists that mixed human races, i.e., the seeds for entirely new races, are any longer formed in our days. But this last is maintained on good grounds by de Quatrefages and some others.

Nevertheless our general proposition will not be accepted. It will be said that whatever forms man has passed through in the long pre-historic Past there are no more changes for him (save certain variations, as at present) in the future. Hence that our Sixth and Seventh Root Races are fictions.

To this it is again answered: How do you know? Your experience is limited to a few thousand years, to less than a day in the whole age of Humanity and to the present types of the actual continents and isles of our Fifth Race. How can you tell what will or will not be? Meanwhile, such is the prophecy of the Secret Books and their no uncertain statements.

Since the beginning of the Atlantean Race many million years have passed, yet we find the last of the Atlanteans, still mixed up with the Aryan element, 11,000 years ago. This shows the enormous overlapping of one race over the race which succeeds it, though in character and external type the elder loses its characteristics, and assumes the new features of the younger race. This is proved in all the formations of mixed human races. Now, Occult philosophy teaches that even now, under our very eyes, the new Race and Races are preparing to be formed, and that it is in America that the transformation will take place, and has already silently commenced.

Pure Anglo-Saxons hardly three hundred years ago, the Americans of the United States have already become a nation apart, and, owing to a strong admixture of various nationalities and inter-marriage, almost a race sui generis, not only mentally, but also physically. "Every mixed race, when uniform and settled, has been able to play the part of a primary race in fresh crossings," says de Quatrefages. "Mankind, in its present state, has thus been formed, certainly, for the greatest part, by the successive crossing of a number of races at present undetermined" ("The Human Species," p. 274.)

Thus the Americans have become in only three centuries a "primary race," pro tem., before becoming a race apart, and strongly separated from all other now existing races. They are, in short, the germs of the Sixth sub-race, and in some few hundred years more, will become most decidedly the pioneers of that race which must succeed to the present European or fifth sub-race, in all its new characteristics. After this, in about 25,000 years, they will launch into preparations for the seventh sub-race; until, in consequence of cataclysms -- the first series of those which must one day destroy Europe, and still later the whole Aryan race (and thus affect both Americas), as also most of the lands directly connected with the confines of our continent and isles -- the Sixth Root-Race will have appeared on the stage of our Round. When shall this be? Who knows save the great Masters of Wisdom, perchance, and they are as silent upon the subject as the snow-capped peaks that tower above them. All we know is, that it will silently come into existence; so silently, indeed, that for long millenniums shall its pioneers -- the peculiar children who will grow into peculiar men and women -- be regarded as anomalous lusus naturae, abnormal oddities physically and mentally. Then, as they increase, and their numbers become with every age greater, one day they will awake to find themselves in a majority. It is the present men who will then begin to be regarded as exceptional mongrels, until these die out in their turn in civilised lands; surviving only in small groups on islands -- the mountain peaks of to-day -- where they will vegetate, degenerate, and finally die out, perhaps millions of years hence, as the Aztecs have, as the Nyam-Nyam and the dwarfish Moola Koorumba of the Nilghiri Hills are dying. All these are the remnants of once mighty races, the recollection of whose existence has entirely died out of the remembrance of the modern generations, just as we shall vanish from the memory of the Sixth Race Humanity. The Fifth will overlap the Sixth Race for many hundreds of millenniums, changing with it slower than its new successor, still changing in stature, general physique, and mentality, just as the Fourth overlapped our Aryan race, and the Third had overlapped the Atlanteans.

This process of preparation for the Sixth great Race must last throughout the whole sixth and seventh sub-races (vide supra, the diagram of the Genealogical Tree of the Fifth Race). But the last remnants of the Fifth Continent will not disappear until some time after the birth of the new Race; when another and new dwelling, the sixth continent, will have appeared above the new waters on the face of the globe, so as to receive the new stranger. To it also will emigrate and settle all those who shall be fortunate enough to escape the general disaster. When this shall be -- as just said -- it is not for the writer to know. Only, as nature no more proceeds by sudden jumps and starts, than man changes suddenly from a child into a mature man, the final cataclysm will be preceded by many smaller submersions and destructions both by wave and volcanic fires. The exultant pulse will beat high in the heart of the race now in the American zone, but there will be no more Americans when the Sixth Race commences; no more, in fact, than Europeans; for they will have now become a new race, and many new nations. Yet the Fifth will not die, but survive for a while: overlapping the new Race for many hundred thousands of years to come, it will become transformed with it -- slower than its new successor -- still getting entirely altered in mentality, general physique, and stature. Mankind will not grow again into giant bodies as in the case of the Lemurians and the Atlanteans; because while the evolution of the Fourth race led the latter down to the very bottom of materiality in its physical development, the present Race is on its ascending arc; and the Sixth will be rapidly growing out of its bonds of matter, and even of flesh.

I get giddy reading Blavatsky - how about you?


From: Tarjei Straume
Date: Sun Mar 14, 2004 12:47 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Blavatsky on race - in the original

At 21:33 14.03.2004, Detlef wrote:

I get giddy reading Blavatsky - how about you?

I seem to recall RS saying about HPB, after first praising her pioneering and courageous work highly, that her texts are so confusing and strongly influenced by her tempestuous emotions that in order to make sense of them, one would have to delete four fifths and then re-write the remaining fifth completely. (Perhaps someone can find the relevant quote and reference.)

I've got "Isis Unveiled" in two volumes (Science and Theology). I'm still struggling with it, and I admire those of my friends who are theosophists and not anthroposophists. I admire their ability to make sense of HPB without Steiner's help.



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