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Standing up to Blavatsky’s racism

One of the Prime movers and shakers of 19/20th-century occultism was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and her Theosophical movement. It is hard to find an occult current which was not influenced by her or her followers. These names include Golden Dawn leaders, Dion Fortune, Rudolf Steiner, Alice A. Bailey, the New Age movement and even Aleister Crowley.

What Blavatsky did was create a structure of thought with lots of details which created a “complete” picture of the universe. It managed to merge everything in a syncretic approach which was attractive to those who wanted a very structured universe.

There is much to this universe which has been layered into the Western Occult movement, for better or worse. But one of the things that did get carried on was Blavatsky’s racist views.

In “The Secret Doctrine” Blavatsky writes:

“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, nor 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. We are the hot-house, artificially quickened plants in nature, having in us a spark, which in them is latent” (Vol 2, pg. 421).

To Blavatsky, the Aryan race is intellectually superior to all other races. It has a sacred spark that the inferior races lack. She continues:

“Thus, will mankind, race after race, perform its appointed cycle-pilgrimage. Climates will, and have already begun, to change, each tropical year after the other dropping one sub-race, but only to beget another higher race on the ascending cycle; while a series of other less favoured groups — the failures of nature — will, like some individual men, vanish from the human family without even leaving a trace behind” (Vol 2, pg. 446).

So the “less favoured” races are failures of nature: not the image and likeness of God as per Christian doctrine, but freaks.

This view was common in ignorant more racist times; it was later to supply the esoteric backdrop to Nazi thought. Gerald Suster in his book “Adolf Hitler, The Occult Messiah” claimed that Hitler kept a copy of “The Secret Doctrine” by his bedside, ever since being introduced to its teachings by Dietrich Eckart and Karl Haushofer.” True or not, there are similarities between the two worldviews.

The ridiculousness of Blavatsky’s root race racism can be seen in her prediction that the Sixth Root Race will replace the Fifth Root Race. This sixth root race is evolving in America which is renown for its legendary forward-thinking, tolerance and spirituality.

But what is alarming about Blavatsky’s racism is that it follows the brutal and ugly Darwinian approach of the Eugenics movement mixed in with some beautiful spirituality. Its themes of brotherhood and unity sit alongside a system which advocates the opposite. By dividing humanity into tribes which are inferior to white Europeans Blavatsky is undermining her central premise and taking a large chunk of Western occultism down with her.

The side effect is to damn those who followed her teaching.  Dion Fortune never escaped her Theosophical roots, and her Society of Inner Light was treated with suspicion because of its demands that its followers were “sympathetic to the British race mind” (to be fair by the 1960s it was initiating those of African descent).

In the 21st century, the only people who follow these sorts of views are those you do not want in an esoteric order. While there might have been a time when innovative thinkers were racists, that time has long gone.  The stereotype of a white racist is seen as a hate-filled knuckle-dragging moron. Such a person is full of fear and as the Golden Dawn ritual says, “fear is failure.”

If you were to take a God’s eye view of the world, you would see nothing but a vision of unity.  There are no boundaries, no countries, no religions, just humans doing human things.  No human is better or more important than the next; no God worshipped by these humans anything less than a mask of central unity.  All divisions have been placed there by the minds of humans as an illusion which enshrines their separateness and an insecure belief in their superiority. In the West, the current divisions are being placed by white guys (many of them rich) who are fighting to keep their dominance as technology and world trends takes away their relevance.

As magicians, we cannot help to create divisions in humanity. Occultism thrives when people come together. Those who would divide people into “us and them” are creating the same illusion of separateness which we are fighting to overcome in our magical lives.  The person who says “homosexuality is an abomination” is banishing a part of God which has as much right to exist as any other. Ancient Greeks and Romans were much more tolerant than the Christians and Muslims on this matter.  In-fact modern “homophobia” is a relic of a Christian past.

Issues like immigration, nationalism and the rise of the Right Wing have made it acceptable to declare these divisive views publicly and insist on them being right. There are even magicians who are working magic to ban Muslims from their country believing this is “spiritual.”

It is time to consign these divisive views to the dustbin of history and make the world a much safer place for everyone. By removing racist thought from Western occultism we make it relevant to a world which will be less divided.

In the short term though, it is up to magicians to have zero tolerance for the false divisions of Unity which have been placed into our teaching by the likes of Blavatsky and her followers. If we don’t then we too will be swept aside along with the other forms of white privilege as a meaningless footnote to western thought.

13 thoughts on “Standing up to Blavatsky’s racism

  1. Okay, so she was racist (and supposedly suffered worsening dementia in her later years), but others have since interpreted the hierarchy differently in which the Aryans are a representation of Homo Sapiens Sapiens (all humans alive today) instead of only “whites” or “Caucasians.” To myself, the chart only “works” when it is viewed as the evolutionary stages of the different species of our taxonomic family rather than different races of our taxonomic species. That’s how I first interpreted the chart, I could in no way see that it had anything to do with races – it has to be species.

    The term “race” at the time she was writing was often (and still is) used synonymously – and erroneously – with species… For instance, the phrase “human race” is scientifically innacurate but people still commonly use it today and political movements have even been founded on the absurd claim, “There is only one race – the human race.”

    Here’s a real kicker: referencing a whole species as a race is like being worse than racist – that’s being specist – being prejudice against an entire species. We must be careful of the things we say and what we really mean, right? 😉

    1. So I follow the race/species ordeal. I can also understand the ‘time frame’ in which she was writing had different uses for words and what have you. But if I were to look at the chart using your logic. Would it mean the Aryan species is more ‘fine tuned’ then the others? I’m not understanding.

  2. Most things are in a process of evolving from gross to fine. People are no different. Not all truths are pretty my friend. Peace

  3. Nick, This is misinformation. Blavatsky wasn’t talking about ethnicities. She was talking about cycles of human evolution. A good example of another race which died out is Neanderthal Man.
    You have to put things in context and realize she was speaking from an early 19th Century vocabulary. – Kate

  4. Well fucken aye….i learned something new. Never dawned on me that blatvasky was racist. But i HAVE come to notice my past involvement with other groups that have really pushed me to my highest levels of disappointment and disbelief.
    Like always, we learn as we go.

  5. There are (at the very least) two very distinct differences between the world views of Hitler and Blavatsky…one, her definition of Aryans, indeed the ethnographic definition of Aryans as a Caucasian sub-race, includes Semites. Hitler’s idea of the “Aryan master race”, pointedly excluded Semites, the ones (among others, to a lesser degree) that he tried to wipe out. Two, she leaves it to nature to potentially eliminate what she viewed as inferior races or species of humans, just as nature and evolution use natural selection to get rid of any other species of animal as it clearly has countless times. She did not condone or even begin to suggest the idea of another maniacal human taking it upon himself to hatefully murder millions. So to compare Blavatsky to Hitler, or even presumptuously draw parallels between their world views based on what one guy CLAIMED in one book, i.e. that Hitler kept “The Secret Doctrine” by his bed, is pretty absurd and misleading. Even if he did keep that book by his bed, he clearly misconstrued and misapplied a lot of what she said. You can’t try to claim that she directly influenced him or even remotely put her in a class with him. Their world views were NOT as similar as you are trying to suggest in order to defame her as a racist, cut & dried. I completely agree with Kate’s comment about evolutionary cycles as opposed to ethnicities, and the context of early 19th century vocabulary. There is a lot more genuine active racism being perpetuated by people very much alive and influential today, both inside and outside of the occult, and your energy would be much better spent addressing them.

  6. Also, your use of an image of the Ku Klux Klan, with which Blavatsky had absolutely nothing to do, seems little more than a device to illicit shock and pre-programmed negative emotional responses from people before they\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’ve even read the article, thereby reinforcing your misconstrued conclusion that she was racist. If you want the contrivance that this article comes across as on its own to be taken more seriously, especially as you don\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\’t even mention the Klan, I highly recommend dropping that provocative image.

  7. Nick you need to study Teosophy a little more. The fifth race has seven sub races. All people living today either belong to the fifth or sixth root races regardless of skin color. The fifth race developed five senses while the sixth will develop the sixth sense. The term Aryans for Blavatsky did not ment white people. It was Hitler many years later after Blavatsky death who appropriated that term from teosophy and gave it it’s current meaning.

  8. The Root Races 7 major each subdivided into 7 more, making 49 in the whole scheme of evolution, are a map of the entire human experience. We are now about half way along. Blavatsky was not a racist. Her first 2 ‘Root Races’ were even devoid of gender! What is unfortunate is that Blavatsky permitted herself to be misinterpreted by others, through loose terminology. Mostly long after her death . (President Nottingham TS Lodge)

  9. If we don’t then we too will be swept aside along with the other forms of white privilege as a meaningless footnote to western thought

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