The Coming Race
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.
- 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)
- ...to 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)
- Now, in this social state of the Vril-ya, it was singular to mark how it contrived to unite and to harmonise into one system nearly all the objects which the various philosophers of the upper world have placed before human hopes as the ideals of a Utopian future. It was a state in which war, with all its calamities, was deemed impossible, — a state in which the freedom of all and each was secured to the uttermost degree, without one of those animosities which make freedom in the upper world depend on the perpetual strife of hostile parties. (Chapter XXVI)
- Here the corruption which debases democracies was as unknown as the discontents which undermine the thrones of monarchies. Equality here was not a name; it was a reality. Riches were not persecuted, because they were not envied. Here those problems connected with the labours of a working class, hitherto insoluble above ground, and above ground conducing to such bitterness between classes, were solved by a process the simplest, — a distinct and separate working class was dispensed with altogether. (Chapter XXVI)
- Mechanical inventions, constructed on the principles that baffled my research to ascertain, worked by an agency infinitely more powerful and infinitely more easy of management than aught we have yet extracted from electricity or steam, with the aid of children whose strength was never overtasked, but who loved their employment as sport and pastime, sufficed to create a Public - wealth so devoted to the general use that not a grumbler was ever heard of. (Chapter XXVI)
- The vices that rot our cities here had no footing. Amusements abounded, but they were all innocent. No merry-makings conduced to intoxication, to riot, to disease. Love existed, and was ardent in pursuit, but its object, once secured, was faithful. (Chapter XXVI)
- The adulterer, the profligate, the harlot, were phenomena so unknown in this commonwealth, that even to find the words by which they were designated one would have had to search throughout an obsolete literature composed thousands of years before. (Chapter XXVI)
- They who have been students of theoretical philosophies above ground, know that all these strange departures from civilised life do but realise ideas which have been broached, canvassed, ridiculed, contested for; sometimes partially tried, and still put forth in fantastic books, but have never come to practical result. Nor were these all the steps towards theoretical perfectibility which this community had made. (Chapter XXVI)
- It had been the sober belief of Descartes that the life of man could be prolonged, not, indeed, on this earth, to eternal duration, but to what he called the age of the patriarchs, and modestly defined to be from 100 to 150 years average length. Well, even this dream of sages was here fulfilled—nay, more than fulfilled; for the vigour of middle life was preserved even after the term of a century was passed. With this longevity was combined a greater blessing than itself—that of continuous health. (Chapter XXVI)
- Such diseases as befell the race were removed with ease by scientific applications of that agency—life-giving as life-destroying—which is inherent in vril. Even this idea is not unknown above ground, though it has generally been confined to enthusiasts or charlatans, and emanates from confused notions about mesmerism, odic force...
- Passing by such trivial contrivances as wings, which every schoolboy knows has been tried and found wanting, from the mythical or pre-historical period, I proceed to that very delicate question, urged of late as essential to the perfect happiness of our human species by the two most disturbing and potential influences on upper-ground society, — Womankind and Philosophy. I mean, the Rights of Women.(Chapter XXVI)
- But among this people there can be no doubt about the rights of women, because, as I have before said, the Gy, physically speaking, is bigger and stronger than the An; and her will being also more resolute than his, and will being essential to the direction of the vril force, she can bring to bear upon him, more potently than he on herself, the mystical agency which art can extract from the occult properties of nature. Therefore all that our female philosophers above ground contend for as to rights of women, is conceded as a matter of course in this happy commonwealth. Besides such physical powers, the Gy-ei have (at least in youth) a keen desire for accomplishments and learning which exceeds that of the male; and thus they are the scholars, the professors—the learned portion, in short, of the community.(Chapter XXVI)
- Most important on the bearings of their life and the peace of their commonwealths, is their universal agreement in the existence of a merciful beneficent Diety, and of a future world to the duration of which a century or two are moments too brief to waste upon thoughts of fame and power and avarice; while with that agreement is combined another—viz., since they can know nothing as to the nature of that Diety beyond the fact of His supreme goodness, nor of that future world beyond the fact of its felicitous existence, so their reason forbids all angry disputes on insoluble questions. Thus they secure for that state in the bowels of the earth what no community ever secured under the light of the stars—all the blessings and consolations of a religion without any of the evils and calamities which are engendered by strife between one religion and another. (Chapter XXVI)
- I now saw but little of Zee, save at meals, when the family assembled, and she was then reserved and silent. My apprehensions of danger from an affection I had so little encouraged or deserved, therefore, now faded away, but my dejection continued to increase. I pined for escape to the upper world, but I racked my brains in vain for any means to effect it. (Chapter XXVI)
- One day, as I sat alone and brooding in my chamber, Taee flew in at the open window and alighted on the couch beside me. I was always pleased with the visits of a child, in whose society, if humbled, I was less eclipsed than in that of Ana who had completed their education and matured their understanding. And as I was permitted to wander forth with him for my companion, and as I longed to revisit the spot in which I had descended into the nether world, I hastened to ask him if he were at leisure for a stroll beyond the streets of the city. His countenance seemed to me graver than usual as he replied, “I came hither on purpose to invite you forth.” (Chapter XXVII)
- We soon found ourselves in the street, and had not got far from the house when we encountered five or six young Gy-ei, who were returning from the fields with baskets full of flowers, and chanting a song in chorus as they walked. A young Gy sings more often than she talks. They stopped on seeing us, accosting Taee with familiar kindness, and me with the courteous gallantry which distinguishes the Gy-ei in their manner towards our weaker sex. (Chapter XXVII)
- And here I may observe that, though a virgin Gy is so frank in her courtship to the individual she favours, there is nothing that approaches to that general breadth and loudness of manner which those young ladies of the Anglo-Saxon race, to whom the distinguished epithet of ‘fast’ is accorded, exhibit towards young gentlemen whom they do not profess to love. No; the bearing of the Gy-ei towards males in ordinary is very much that of high-bred men in the gallant societies of the upper world towards ladies whom they respect but do not woo; deferential, complimentary, exquisitely polished—what we should call ‘chivalrous.’ (Chapter XXVII)
- 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.
- The vril of the "Coming Age" was the common property of races now extinct.
- 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)