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spiritual-racial theory: Theosophy  Peter Staudenmaier
 May 22, 2007 15:13 PDT 




Here is a small selection of theosophical writings on spiritual-racial
theory. This post may not be so small, but there is lots and lots more where
this came from; what I present here is only a minimal cross-section. Much of
it will be familiar to those who have followed discussions of theosophy on
this list in the past.

In many ways the founding scripture of modern spiritual-racial theory is H.
P. Blavatsky's three-volume magnum opus The Secret Doctrine (1888/1893).
Much of volume two of the book is devoted to the themes of racial evolution,
racial progress, and racial decline. This is the proximate origin of the
root-race theory that Steiner later adopted into anthroposophy. Blavatsky
assigned a central role to "racial divisions" within esoteric thought:

"Though all [people] were of one common origin, yet, for reasons given,
their potentialities and mental capabilities, outward or physical forms, and
future characteristics, were very different. Some superior, others inferior,
to suit the Karma of the various reincarnating Monads, which could not all
be of the same degree of purity in their last births in other Worlds. This
accounts for the difference of races, the inferiority of the savage and
other human varieties." (The Secret Doctrine vol. II, 259)

According to Blavatsky, racial karma accounts for "the variation and great
difference between the intellectual capacities of races" (332):

"Mankind is obviously divided into God-informed men and lower human
creatures. The intellectual difference between the Aryan and other civilized
nations and such savages as the South Sea Islanders is inexplicable on any
other grounds. No amount of culture, no generations of training amid
civilization, could raise such human specimens as the Bushmen, the Veddhas
of Ceylon, and some African tribes, to the same intellectual level as the
Aryans, the Semites, and the Turanians so-called. The 'Sacred Spark' is
missing in them, and it is they who are the only inferior races on the
globe, now happily -- owing to the wise adjustment of Nature which ever
works in that direction -- fast dying out. Verily mankind is 'of one blood,'
but not of the same essence." (439)

The Secret Doctrine refers to Africans as the "degenerate descendents" of
the fourth root race, the Atlanteans (447), and also maintains that "the
present yellow races are the descendants, however, of the early branches of
the Fourth Race," whereas the "degenerated Australians" are descended from
the third root race, the Lemurians (209). For Blavatsky, the yellow, red,
brown, and black races are "abject and savage" (786), while "the Aryan Race"
represents "the apex of physical and intellectual evolution" (209).

The Secret Doctrine also offers a spiritual-racial theory of native
populations and their ostensibly inevitable spiritual-racial decline.
Blavatsky says that the Tasmanians, Australian aborigines, and other
indigenous peoples are "descendants of these half-animal tribes or races,
both of remote Lemurian and Lemuro-Atlantean origin." (205) She continues:
"There are, however, considerable numbers of the mixed Lemuro-Atlantean
peoples produced by various crossings with such semi-human stocks -- e.g.
the wild men of Borneo, the Veddhas of Ceylon, [...] most of the remaining
Australians, Bushmen, Negritos, Andaman Islanders, etc." (206)

Blavatsky characterizes "the Australian savages" as "lower tribes" descended
from "human monsters" (203), and consigns them, along with "some African and
Oceanic tribes", to "the inferior races" (171). She depicts Africans,
Australians, and South Sea Islanders as "the lowest specimens of humanity",
saddled with "brains devoid of intellect" (177). The same theme appears
throughout The Secret Doctrine:

"The survivors of those later Lemurians, who escaped the destruction of
their fellows when the main continent was submerged, became the ancestors of
a portion of the present native tribes. Being a very low sub-race, begotten
originally of animals, of monsters, whose very fossils are now resting miles
under the sea floors, their stock has since existed in an environment
strongly subjected to the law of retardation. Australia is one of the oldest
lands now above the waters, and in the senile decrepitude of old age, its
'virgin soil' notwithstanding. It can produce no new forms, unless helped by
new and fresh races, and artificial cultivation and breeding." (207)

"The Malays and Papuans are a mixed stock, resulting from the intermarriages
of the low Atlantean sub-races with the seventh sub-race of the Third
Root-Race. Like the Hottentots, they are of indirect Lemuro-Atlantean
descent. It is a most suggestive fact -- to those concrete thinkers who
demand a physical proof of Karma -- that the lowest races of men are now
rapidly dying out; a phenomenon largely due to an extraordinary sterility
setting in among the women, from the time that they were first approached by
the Europeans. A process of decimation is taking place all over the globe
among those races whose 'time is up' -- among just those stocks, be it
remarked, which Esoteric Philosophy regards as the senile representatives of
lost archaic nations. It is inaccurate to maintain that the extinction of a
lower race is invariably due to cruelties or abuses perpetrated by
colonists. Change of diet, drunkenness, etc., have done much; but those who
rely on such data as offering an all-sufficient explanation of the crux,
cannot meet the phalanx of facts now so closely arrayed." (824)

"Redskins, Eskimos, Papuans, Australians, Polynesians, etc. -- all are dying
out. Those who realize that every Root-Race runs through a gamut of seven
sub-races with seven branchlets, etc., will understand the 'why'. The
tide-wave of incarnating Egos has rolled past them to harvest experience in
more developed and less senile stocks, and their extinction is hence a
Karmic necessity." (825)

Describing the Lemurian age, Blavatsky declares: "There were civilized
people and savages in those days as there are now. Evolution achieved its
work of perfection on the former, and Karma its work of destruction on the
latter. The Australians and their like are the descendants of those who,
instead of vivifying the Spark projected into them by the 'Flames,'
extinguished it by long generations of bestiality. Whereas the Aryan nations
could trace their descent through the Atlanteans from the more spiritual
races of the Lemurians, in whom the 'Sons of Wisdom' had personally
incarnated." (331-332)

After Blavatsky's death, leading theosophists in several countries continued
to develop her spiritual-racial theories. In their 1913 book Man: Whence,
How and Whither, Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater describe the process of
spiritual eugenics whereby the "Aryans" were developed out of earlier racial
forms. According to their narrative, "Lord Vaivasvata, the Race Manu" of the
fifth root race, selected his Aryan breeding stock over a period of hundreds
of thousands of years:

"It was rather like looking over a flock of sheep, and choosing the most
suitable. Of these, numbers would be dropped out on the way, and the
selection would be thus narrowed down from time to time."

The initial core of the future Aryans was a "white sub-race" which was
carefully "purified" and from which only "the best types" were preserved.
Eventually this process of racial breeding produced "the Aryan Root-Race",
which was "fine and pure" and segregated on "the White Island" where it
built great temples to the "Aryan Mysteries". These early Aryans promoted "a
brotherhood of Race" and kept all other racial groups at a distance.

In his entry on "Races" in the theosophical collection Extracts from the
Vahan (London 1904; pp. 671-3), Leadbeater described the formation of "our
own Aryan race" as a process whereby "the
best-developed" were chosen "by judicious selection" and protected from "any
admixture with lower races," all "in order to provide fitting vehicles" for
the incarnation of especially advanced souls.

Besant also addresses this theme in her 1904 book The Pedigree of Man,
contrasting the "backward, disappearing races" with the "more advanced"
races, and noting that the "Aryans" are progressing
toward spiritual perfection while the "degraded remnants" of obsolete races
decline toward a "semi-animal" state. For Besant, a divinely supervised
program of "deliberate breeding" lead to "the ideal type that now we know as
the Aryan." (Annie Besant, The Changing World, London 1910, p. 116)

A similar complex of spiritual-racial theories appears in the work of French
theosophist and anthroposophist Edouard Schure. Schure's book The Great
Initiates (English translation 1913) remains a very popular text among
esotericists today; it is now published in English by the Anthroposophic
Press and distributed by Steinerbooks. The book's opening chapter (in the
first section, on "The Aryan Cycle") carries the title "The Human Races and
the Origins of Religion." Here we read much about "the Aryan race" and "the
genius of the white race." (24) Schure says
that there are four chief races, each arising separately on its own
continent. According to his spiritual-racial theory, "the American Indians"
are "the offspring of Troglodytes" and "merely the remnant" of "the
primitive red race" that once peopled a lost southern continent (5): "The
souls of these poor laggards are weighed down with the incurable melancholy
of a dying race devoid of all
hope." (7)

Schure also discusses "the degenerate negro", and offers a remarkable
explanation for the divergence between the "Semitic and Aryan nations" after
the exodus from Atlantis:

"Wherever the white colonists submitted to the black nations, accepting
their rule and receiving religious initiation from their priests, there, in
all probability, appeared the Semitic nations"; while "The Aryan
civilisations, on the other hand, were formed where the whites must have
ruled over the blacks either by war or by conquest" (p. 18).

Schure's sequel to The Great Initiates is From Sphinx to Christ: An Occult
History (Rudolf Steiner Publications, 1970), which today is also published
by the Anthroposophic Press and distributed by
Steinerbooks. In a section on the "Development of the White Race" (68-71),
Schure quotes extensively from Steiner's Cosmic Memory and enthusiastically
endorses Gobineau's The Inequality of the Human Races, the founding text of
modern racism, calling it "an admirable study of the white race, compared to
the yellow and black races" (68). Schure declares that "the Aryan has had
the courage to seek the Eternal through Freedom," and concludes this section
in rapturous tones:

"The sunward journey with fire stolen from heaven -- is not this typical of
the Aryan race, at the dawn as at the noonday of its histroy, in its first
eastward migration as in its later return towards the west? The rising sun,
or earthly future -- the settting sun, or heavenly future; the aim of this
race shall ever be Divinity and Truth." (p. 71)

In stark contrast to this sunny future that esotericists foresaw for the
"Aryan race," the Jews were considered a relic of the past. Consider the
remarks of Canadian occultist author Manly P. Hall, whom some
anthroposophists today consider an "Initiate." Hall was a central figure in
the mid-century esoteric scene in California, and is perhaps best known as
the author of the occult compendium The Secret Teachings of All Ages. He
also published an important early New Age journal, Horizon. The
premier issue of this Los Angeles journal, from August 1941, carried a
substantial article by Hall under the title "The Jew Does Not Fit In", a
classic instance of esoteric attitudes toward Jews.

Beginning from the assumption that Jewishness is based on a "principle of
segregation," Hall declares that "Karma is breaking down" Jewish existence
so that "one human family" can emerge. Hall recognizes the unfortunate role
that persecution of Jews has played in this process -- keep in mind the date
of the article -- but insists that this is the Jews' fault: "It is the ego
in Judaism which causes the Jew to say, "I am a Jew," and it has been his
destroyer." Hall concludes:

"I firmly believe that the karma of the Jew holds a gradual dying out of
racial persecution of Jews as a class in the degree and with the rapidity
that the Jew forgets he is a Jew and remembers that he is a human being."

The article categorizes Jews as "Asiatics" who have a fundamentally
different
character from "us". Hall pays particular attention to the supposed peculiar
business practices of "the Jew": "He does not view business the way we do;
of his Asiatic viewpoint we have no practical appreciation, little grasp."

"Jews exist within our midst as a group of people who are essentially
Oriental. They do not look particularly Asiatic, and since they do not speak
an Oriental language or something of the kind, we do not recognize for them
a series of motivations expressing a fundamental psychological difference."

These claims serve as a Hall's version of spiritual insight, and he directly
contrasts them to the argument that antisemitic persecution is responsible
for the present Jewish predicament in 1941. Hall instead says emphatically
that Jews themselves are "at fault" for their plight, because of their basic
ethnic character:

"Persecution of the Jews has been largely charged up as retribution for the
Jew's economic attitude, and many have been the rebuttal explanations that
the Jewish attitude is the outgrowth and result of his persecution in
Europe. In my belief, this has little to do with the way a Jew does
business. I believe rather that he is governed by an Oriental psychology of
living; it is important to recognize that he does not view business the way
we view business. This fundamental psychological difference is one of the
subtle problems of human life, and one not taken sufficiently into
consideration by either Jew or Gentile. For, essentially the Jew is an
Oriental, and as such he has the Oriental consciousness, Oriental
viewpoint."


These are only samples from the extensive history of spiritual-racial
theory. Further examples from the theosophical tradition include:

Fio Hara, “The Secret Doctrine of Racial Development”, Theosophist (August
1904), 661-69

A. Schwarz, “Notes on the Pedigree of Man”, Theosophist (June 1905), 545-557

W.A. Mayers, “Contemporary National Evolution” Theosophist (June 1898), 523-

Max Heindel, The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception (Oceanside 1911)

Basil Crump, Evolution as Outlined in the Archaic Eastern Records (London:
The Blavatsky Association, 1930)

Alice Hamaker, “Karma: Its Racial and National Aspect”, The Theosophist
(April 1925), 53-67

Irene Hudson, Heredity in the Light of Esoteric Philosophy (London 1932)

Isabelle Pagan, Racial Cleavage, or The Seven Ages of Man (London:
Theosophical Publishing House, 1937).


I will continue in a following post with further examples from German
sources.


Peter Staudenmaier

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