The Coming Race

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The Coming Race is a novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, published anonymously in 1871. It has also been published as Vril, the Power of the Coming Race. Some theosophists, notably Helena Blavatsky, William Scott-Elliot, and Rudolf Steiner, accepted the book as based on occult truth, in part.

The Coming Race (1871)


(full text online, multiple formats)

  • I am a native of _____, in the United States of America... My father died shortly after I was twenty-one; and being left well off, and having a taste for travel and adventure, I resigned, for a time, all pursuit of the almighty dollar, and became a desultory wanderer over the face of the earth... In the year 18__, happening to be in _____, I was invited by a professional engineer, with whom I had made acquaintance, to visit the recesses of the ________ mine, upon which he was employed... (Chapter I)
  • The reader will understand, ere he close this narrative, my reason for concealing all clue to the district of which I write, and will perhaps thank me for refraining from any description that may tend to its discovery. (Chapter I)
  • my infinite surprise, streamed upward a steady brilliant light... As I drew nearer and nearer to the light, the chasm became wider, and at last I saw, to my unspeakable amaze, a broad level road at the bottom of the abyss, illumined as far as the eye could reach by what seemed artificial gas-lamps placed at regular intervals, as in the thoroughfare of a great city; and I heard confusedly at a distance a hum as of human voices... Whose could be those voices? What human hands could have levelled that road and marshalled those lamps? (Chapter II)
  • The world without a sun was bright and warm as an Italian landscape at noon, but the air less oppressive, the heat softer. Nor was the scene before me void of signs of habitation. (Chapter III)
  • Its chief covering seemed to me to be composed of large wings folded over its breast and reaching to its knees; the rest of its attire was composed of an under tunic and leggings of some thin fibrous material. It wore on its head a kind of tiara that shone with jewels, and carried in its right hand a slender staff of bright metal like polished steel. But the face! it was that which inspired my awe and my terror... The face was beardless; but a nameless something in the aspect, tranquil though the expression, and beauteous though the features, roused that instinct of danger which the sight of a tiger or serpent arouses. (Chapter IV)
  • A voice accosted me — a very quiet and very musical key of voice—in a language of which I could not understand a word, but it served to dispel my fear. I uncovered my face and looked up.
  • The stranger... surveyed me with an eye that seemed to read to the very depths of my heart. He then placed his left hand on my forehead, and with the staff in his right, gently touched my shoulder. The effect of this double contact was magical. In place of my former terror there passed into me a sense of contentment, of joy, of confidence in myself and in the being before me. (Chapter V)
  • Yet I was the first creature of that variety of the human race to which I belong that they had ever beheld, and was consequently regarded by them as a most curious and abnormal phenomenon. (Chapter V)
  • All rudeness is unknown to this people, and the youngest child is taught to despise any vehement emotional demonstration. (Chapter V)

Quotes about[edit]

  • There has been an infinite confusion of names to express one and the same thing... The chaos of the ancients; the Zoroastrian sacred fire, or the Antusbyrum of the Parsees; the Hermes-fire...the burning torch of Apollo...the flame on the altar of Pan; the inextinguishable fire in the temple on the Acropolis...the fire-flame of Pluto's helm... the staff of Mercury...the Egyptian Phtha, or Ra; the Grecian Zeus Cataibates (the descending)...the pentecostal fire-tongues; the burning bush of Moses... the "burning lamp" of Abram... the Sidereal light of the Rosicrucians; the Akasa of the Hindu adepts; the Astral light of Eliphas Levi... and finally, electricity, are but various names for many different manifestations, or effects of the same mysterious, all-pervading cause — the Greek Archeus, or Archaios... Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton, in his Coming Race, describes it as the vril, used by the subterranean populations, and allowed his readers to take it for a fiction... Absurd and unscientific as may appear our comparison of a fictitious vril invented by the great novelist, and the primal force of the equally great experimentalist, with the kabalistic astral light, it is nevertheless the true definition of this force.
  • These people consider that in the vril they had arrived at the unity in natural energic agencies...under the more cautious term of correlation... I have long held an opinion, almost amounting to a conviction, in common, I believe, with many other lovers of natural knowledge, that the various forms under which the forces of matter are made manifest, have one common origin; or, in other words, are so directly related and naturally dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, into one another, and possess equivalents of power in their action.
  • First published in 1871, "The Coming Race"...Its premise is unflinchingly futuristic: the inevitable displacement of today's humanity by a more highly evolved "race." But the story unfolds in perhaps the last unexplored place on earth -- the "hollow" interior of the planet... The inhabitants of the interior, who call themselves the Vril-ya, have developed a civilization that far surpasses 19th-century Europe and America in its enlightened use of power. Drawing on an inexhaustible energy source called "Vril," which is controlled by sheer willpower, they have created what the narrator, a naïve American who literally stumbles into their realm, sees as a utopia -- a society without crime, war, poverty or gender inequality... No Vril-ya community exceeds 30,000 in population, on the grounds that "no state shall be too large for a government resembling that of a single well-ordered family..." Female Vril-ya, "bigger and stronger" than the males, are the aggressors in courtship. Once married, however, they are "amiable, complacent, docile mates" -- so much so that they freely abandon the Vril-powered wings that allow the young of the race to enjoy the effortless flight of angels.
    • Gerald Jonas, It Was a Dark and Stormy Galaxy, The New York Times (7 August 2005)

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External links[edit]

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