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Vril is a substance described in Edward Bulwer-Lytton's 1871 novel The Coming Race, which was later reprinted as Vril: The Power of the Coming Race. The novel is an early example of science fiction. However, many early readers believed that its account of a superior subterranean master race and the energy-form called "Vril" was accurate, to the extent that some theosophists accepted the book as truth. Furthermore, since 1960 there has been a conspiracy theory about a secret Vril Society.


The Coming Race was originally published anonymously in late 1871 but Bulwer-Lytton was known to be the author. Samuel Butler's Erewhon was also published anonymously, in March 1872, and Butler suspected that its initial success was due to it being taken by many as a sequel by Bulwer-Lytton to The Coming Race; when it was revealed in the 25 May 1872 edition of the Athenaeum that Butler was the author, sales dropped by 90 percent because he was at the time an unknown.[1]

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Plot summary

The novel centers on a young, independently wealthy traveler (the narrator), who accidentally finds his way into a subterranean world occupied by beings who seem to resemble angels and call themselves Vril-ya.

The hero soon discovers that the Vril-ya are descendants of an antediluvian civilization who live in networks of subterranean caverns linked by tunnels. It is a technologically supported Utopia, chief among their tools being the "all-permeating fluid" called "Vril", a latent source of energy which his spiritually elevated hosts are able to master through training of their will, to a degree which depends upon their hereditary constitution, giving them access to an extraordinary force that can be controlled at will. The powers of the will include the ability to heal, change, and destroy beings and things; the destructive powers in particular are awesomely powerful, allowing a few young Vril-ya children to wipe out entire cities if necessary. It is also suggested that the Vril-ya are fully telepathic.

The narrator states that in time, the Vril-ya will run out of habitable spaces underground and start claiming the surface of the Earth, destroying mankind in the process if necessary.

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Vril in the novel

The uses of Vril in the novel amongst the Vril-ya vary from an agent of destruction to a healing substance. According to Zee, the daughter of the narrator's host, Vril can be changed into the mightiest agency over all types of matter, both animate and inanimate. It can destroy like lightning or replenish life, heal, or cure. It is used to rend ways through solid matter. Its light is said to be steadier, softer and healthier than that from any flammable material. It can also be used as a power source for animating mechanisms. Vril can be harnessed by use of the Vril staff or mental concentration.

A Vril staff is an object in the shape of a wand or a staff which is used as a channel for Vril. The narrator describes it as hollow with 'stops', 'keys', or 'springs' in which Vril can be altered, modified or directed to either destroy or heal. The staff is about the size of a walking stick but can be lengthened or shortened according to the user's preferences. The appearance and function of the Vril staff differs according to gender, age, etc. Some staves are more potent for destruction, others for healing. The staves of children are said to be much simpler than those of sages; in those of wives and mothers the destructive part is removed while the healing aspects are emphasized. The destructive force is so great that

the fire lodged in the hollow of a rod directed by the hand of a child could cleave the strongest fortress or cleave its burning way from the van to the rear of an embattled host.

It is also said that if army met army and both had command of the Vril-force, both sides would be annihilated.

Interestingly, the Vril-ya also use Vril to take baths:

It is their custom also, at stated but rare periods, perhaps four times a-year when in health, to use a bath charged with Vril. They consider that this fluid, sparingly used, is a great sustainer of life; but used in excess, when in the normal state of health, rather tends to reaction and exhausted vitality. For nearly all their diseases, however, they resort to it as the chief assistant to nature in throwing off the complaint.

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Analysis

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The "science" of Vril

Bulwer-Lytton makes many references to the scientists of his time.

In Chapter VII, Vril is defined as what Michael Faraday had been experimenting with:

There with Zee began to enter into an explanation of which I understood very little, for there is no word in any language I know which is an exact synonym for Vril. I should call it electricity, except that it comprehends in its manifold branches other forces of nature, to which, in our scientific nomenclature, differing names are assigned, such as magnetism, galvanism, &c. These people consider that in Vril they have arrived at the unity in natural energic agencies, which has been conjectured by many philosophers above ground, and which Faraday thus intimates under the more cautious term of correlation:--[2]

Faraday is then quoted:

"I have long held an opinion," says that illustrious experimentalist, "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 mutually dependent, that they are convertible, as it were, into one another, and possess equivalents of power in their action."[2]

Again in Chapter XVI, we are told that Faraday would understand the "science" of Vril:

Though I had a secret persuasion that whatever the real effects of vril upon matter Mr. Faraday could have proved her a very shallow philosopher as to its extent or its causes, I had no doubt that Zee could have brained all the Fellows of the Royal Society, one after the other, with a blow of her fist. Every sensible man knows that it is useless to argue with any ordinary female upon matters he comprehends; but to argue with a Gy seven feet high upon the mysteries of vril,--as well argue in a desert, and with a simoom![3]

Bulwer-Lytton refers to the then current theory of universal luminiferous aether, which was thought necessary for the propagation of wave energy. The book goes on to say in Chapter XI:

"She described a subtle and life-giving medium called Lai, which I suspect to be identical with the ethereal oxygen of Dr. Lewins, wherein work all the correlative forces united under the name of Vril; and contended that wherever this medium could be expanded, as it agencies of Vril to have ample play, a temperature congenial to the highest forms of life could be secured."[4]

Bulwer-Lytton also quotes zoologist Louis Agassiz at length in Chapter XIV a part of an examination of the religious beliefs of the Vril-ya.[5] Agassiz is remembered today as the first scientist to propose that there had been an Ice Age. However, at the time of the book's writing he was well known as a biologist opposed to Darwin's theory of evolution[6] and an advocate of "scientific" justifications for racism.[7]

In chapter XV Bulwer-Lytton uses ideas from the geologist Charles Lyell to introduce an examination of the phrenology of the Vril-ya.[8] Where Lyell is still considered an important contributor to the development of geology, phrenology is now considered a discredited science. It claimed to be able to understand human personality by examining the shape of the skull.

Lyell was a friend of Darwin's and the story Zee later tells of how the ancestors of Vril-ya in their ignorant past had a major debate over whether they descended from frogs or frogs descended from them is clearly meant to be a parody of the very heated debate over Darwinism taking place in Bulwer-Lytton's time.[3] However, there seems to be at least some evidence that Bulwer-Lytton didn't know the difference between Darwinism and the already discredited Lamarckism. He explains that the palm nerve necessary to control Vril was developed by generations of exercising this nerve.

"It has been slowly developed in the course of generations, commencing in the early achievements, and increasing with the continuous exercise, of the Vril power; therefore, in the course of one or two thousand years, such a nerve may possibly be engendered in those higher beings of your race, who devote themselves to that paramount science through which is attained command over all the subtler forces of nature permeated by Vril"[3]

This book mentions fountains of Naphtha at several points and describes in chapter XXIII:

In the centre of the floor were a cistern and a fountain of that liquid light which I have presumed to be naphtha. It was luminous and of a roseate hue; it sufficed without lamps to light up the room with a subdued radiance. All around the fountain was carpeted with a soft deep lichen, not green (I have never seen that colour in the vegetation of this country), but a quiet brown,......[9]

Naphtha refers to a family of petroleum distillates which burns with about the same heat and light as gasoline, kerosene, or diesel. They are poisonous to drink, inhale as fumes, or touch. They have dangerous explosive vapors.

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The Vril-ya as an Aryan Race

According to the book:

"I arrived at the conviction that this people—though originally not only of our human race, but, as seems to me clear by the roots of their language, descended from the same ancestors as the great Aryan family, from which in varied streams has flowed the dominant civilization of the world; and having, according to their myths and their history, passed through phases of society familiar to ourselves,--had yet now developed into a distinct species with which it was impossible that any community in the upper world could amalgamate: And that if they ever emerged from these nether recesses into the light of day, they would, according to their own traditional persuasions of their ultimate destiny, destroy and replace our existent varieties of man."[10]

In essence, the narrator believes the language of the Vril-ya to be of the same origin as Aryan languages. Chapter XII describes the grammar in some detail and also states that "the language of the Vril-ya is akin to the Aryan or Indo-Germanic".[11] These passages do not outright affirm the narrator's belief that there is also an ethnic connection between the Vril-ya and the Aryans. In fact, subsequent passages have Zee, a female Vril-ya scientist, explain to the narrator that the Vril-ya are descended from frogs.[12]

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The Vril-ya as Descendants of Atlantis

Nowhere does the book contain any statement or even suggestion of such a lineage. The Atlantis connection is entirely the work of subsequent occult writers who believed The Coming Race to be a non-fiction work.[citation needed]

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The Vril-ya in Serious Prophecy

The Polish explorer Ferdinand Ossendowsky described in his book Beasts, Men and Gods (London, 1923, p. 313-314) a reported visit by the "King of the World" to the Tibetan monastery of Narabanchi in 1890. In a prophecy passed to the High Lama, a succession of horrors was predicted for the coming century and a third, at the completion of which "the people of Agartha will leave their caverns and appear on the surface of the Earth". It is open to speculation that the Vril-ya are synonymous with, or a constituent people of, Agartha. It is possible to calculate from the King of the World prophecy that the invasion from below occurs in 2029. This date coincides with the Mariological prophecy.

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Hollow Earth

The legend has received a further layer of elaboration from recent authors like Raymond Bernard who conflate Bulwer-Lytton's "Coming Race" with speculations about interior civilizations which live on the inside of the Hollow Earth. (The concept of a hollow earth was first advanced by Edmond Halley at the end of the seventeenth century.) By contrast, Bulwer-Lytton's subterranean people dwelt in caverns within the crust of a solid earth. The world of the Vril-ya is always described as being underground tunnels, artificially lit (using Vril). The book contains no suggestion of a hollow earth; theories of this kind are only found in subsequent works.

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Literary significance and reception

The book was quite popular in the late 19th century, and for a time the word "Vril" came to be associated with "life-giving elixirs".[13] The best known use of "Vril" in this context is in the name of Bovril (a contraction of Bovine and Vril).[14]

Some readers believe the book is non-fiction, and "Vril" has become associated with theories about Nazi-piloted Flugscheiben ("Flight Discs"), Vril-powered KSK (Kraftstrahlkanone, "force-ray cannon" — transmission rods that produce potent energy rays), Jesuit "spiritual exercises", and Atlanteans to name a few.[citation needed]

The concept of Vril was given new impetus by the French author Louis Jacolliot (1837-1890), who at one time was the French Consul in Calcutta. In Les Fils de Dieu (1873) and in Les Traditions indo-européennes (1876), Jacolliot claims that he encountered Vril among the Jains in Mysore and Gujarat.[15]

The writings of these two authors, and Bulwer-Lytton's occult background, convinced some commentators that the fictionalised Vril was based on a real magical force. Helena Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, endorsed this view in her book Isis Unveiled (1877) and again in The Secret Doctrine (1888). In Jacolliot and Blavatsky, the Vril power and its attainment by a superhuman elite are worked into a mystical doctrine of race. However, the character of the subterranean people was transformed. Instead of potential conquerors, they were benevolent (if mysterious) spiritual guides.

When the theosophist William Scott-Elliot describes life in Atlantis in The Story of Atlantis & The Lost Lemuria (first published 1896), the aircraft of the Atlanteans are propelled by Vril-force.[16] Obviously he did not regard that description as fiction, and his books are still published by the Theosophical Society.

George Bernard Shaw read the book and was attracted to the idea of Vril, according to Michael Holroyd's biography of him.

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Stage Adaptation

A stage adaptation of the book was written by journalist David Christie Murray and magician Nevil Maskelyne. The production premiered at Saint George's Hall in London on January 2, 1905. Both Nevil Maskelyne and his son John Nevil Maskelyne collaborated on the special effects for the play. The play did not meet with success and closed after a run of eight weeks.[17]

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Vril society

Speculation on Vril has not ceased. However, the speculation has not been continued by the Theosophical Society.

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Willy Ley

 

Willy Ley (right) in a discussion with Heinz Haber and Wernher v. Braun, 1954

Willy Ley was a German rocket engineer who had emigrated to the United States in 1937. In 1947, he published an article entitled "Pseudoscience in Naziland" in the science fiction magazine Astounding Science Fiction. There he attempted to explain to his readers how National Socialism could have fallen on such a fertile ground in Germany. He explained this with the high popularity of irrational convictions in Germany during the time. Among other pseudo-scientific groups he mentions a very peculiar one: "The next group was literally founded upon a novel. That group which I think called itself Wahrheitsgesellschaft - Society for Truth - and which was more or less localized in Berlin, devoted its spare time looking for Vril."

The article by Ley, and two small pamphlets by a "Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft‚ Das kommende Deutschland", that describe a perpetual motion based on Vril, are the only real basis for the speculation that set off later. The Society for Truth that Ley describes was conducting 'research' on the existence of Vril. One can assume that it did not succeed, since the existence of Vril would not comply with common physics. However, it may not be related in any way to Nazi organizations. On the other hand, theories around the Nazi's wonder weapons might support links to research to the existence and application possibilities of Vril, for example in the purported top secret and highly sensitive scientific technological device Die Glocke.

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Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels

The existence of a Vril-Society was first alleged in 1960 by Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels.[18] In their book Le Matin des Magiciens, which appeared in 1960, they claimed that the Vril-Society was a secret community of occultists in pre-Nazi Berlin. The Berlin Vril Society was in fact a sort of inner circle of the Thule Society. It was also thought to be in close contact with the English group known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The Vril information takes up about a tenth of the volume, the remainder of which details other esoteric speculations, but the authors fail to clearly explain whether this section is fact or fiction.

In his book Monsieur Gurdjieff, Louis Pauwels[19] claimed that a Vril Society had been founded by General Karl Haushofer, a student of Russian magician and metaphysician Georges Gurdjieff. Pauwels later recanted many assertions in relation to Gurdjieff.[citation needed]

Obviously belief in the existence of the Vril Society has persisted.

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Publications on the Vril Society in English

Supposedly, a historian with the name Michael Fitzgerald has published two books on the Vril society, seeking to establish both the reality of the Vril Society, and Hitler's own membership in it.

        Michael FitzGerald, Storm Troopers of Satan (Robert Hale, 1990)

        Michael FitzGerald, Adolf Hitler: A Portrait (Spellmount, 2006)

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Publications on the Vril Society in German

The book of Jacques Bergier and Louis Pauwels was published in German with the title: Aufbruch ins dritte Jahrtausend: von der Zukunft der phantastischen Vernunft in 1969.

New publications appeared in Germany in the 1990s. In 1992 Norbert Jürgen-Ratthofer and Ralf Ettl published Das Vril-Projekt, in which they linked the legend of the Vril-Society with the older myth of the Nazi UFOs. In 1993 the German right-wing author Jan Udo Holey, writing under penname Jan van Helsing, published Geheimgesellschaften und ihre Macht im 20. Jahrhundert which is said to have sold over 100,000 copies.

In his book Black Sun, Prof. Goodrick-Clarke refers to the research of the German author Peter Bahn PhD, which has revealed a plausible origin of the Vril Society myth. Bahn writes in his 1996 essay, Das Geheimnis der Vril-Energie, of his discovery of an obscure esoteric group calling itself the "Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft", which revealed itself in a rare 1930 publication Vril. Die Kosmische Urkraft written by a member of this Berlin based group, under the pseudonym "Johannes Tauffer". Published by the influential astrological publisher, Wilhelm Becker (whom Bahn believes was "Tauffer"), the 60 page pamphlet says little of the group other than that it was founded in 1925 to study the uses of Vril energy, and other speculative free energy devices, in what it called "psycho-physical technology". It also talks of the reform and continuation of German Rosicrucianism for the 20th century. Later in the same year a similar pamphlet, Weltdynamismus, was published by the same group, by a different author under a new publisher, Otto Wilhelm Barth, though both pamphlets referred to each other. The terms used in both the pamphlets were identical to the terminology of the Pansophia Lodge, a Futurist influenced German occult order which had uniquely called for the fusion of Occultism and Alternative Science, coining such terms as "psycho-physical". This would at least indicate a small group with a Pansophist ideology, however esoteric writer Theo Paijmans, in his book on John Keely, Free Energy Pioneer, suggests that given that the Pansophia Lodge also broke up in 1925 following a schism, with the majority of its members dividing between the O.T.O and the rival Fraternitas Saturni, the Reichsarbeitsgemeinschaft was most likely a small offshoot from this schism. Goodrick-Clarke explored alleged links between this group and various Neo-Templar Orders and compares it favourably with Willy Ley's "Society for Truth".

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Le mythe d’Agartha a absorbé d’autres thèmes ou croyances liés au monde souterrain. Ainsi, le Vril, inventé par Bulwer-Lytton dans son roman The Coming Race (1871), force psychokinétique possédée par la race souterraine des Vril-ya. Le thème fut développé par Louis Jacolliot, auteur navigant entre la fiction, l’utopoe politique et la description fantaisiste de la civilisation indienne, puis pris au sérieux par de nombreux lecteurs. Helena Blavatsky et les théosophes acceptèrent son existence. Raymond Bernard fut le premier à relier le monde du Vril aux théories de la Terre creuse dans son livre The Hollow Earth (1969). Agartha est parfois décrit comme dépositaire du Vril.

Alice Bailey en fait un des royaumes de l’éther. Diverses localisations, tel que l’Atlantide, Thulé, l’Hyperborée, Shambhala et d’autres sont suggérées comme le foyer de la société originelle des surhommes.

Vril, concept de la science-fiction, est une forme d'énergie possédée par une race souterraine extrêmement puissante, le monde de l'Agharta. Elle a, pour la première fois, été exposée dans (en) The Coming Race (La race à venir), roman écrit par Edward George Earle Bulwer Lytton en 1870. Sur la page de titre, le nom de l'auteur est mentionné comme : "l'Honorable Lord Lytton".

Cet ouvrage était populaire vers la fin du XIXe siècle et, pendant un certain temps, le mot vril était associé à l'élixir qui donne la vie.

Quelques lecteurs croient que le livre n'est pas de la fiction, et celui-ci est devenu associé aux théories sur le pilotage des disques volants nazis (Flugscheiben), aux tiges de Vril actionnées par des « canon de rayon de force » (Kraftstrahlkanone), aux exercices spirituels des Jésuites et aux Atlantes, pour n'en nommer que quelques-uns.

Plusieurs auteurs (détaillés ci-dessous) ont réclamé que la Vril Gesellschaft (Société du Vril), ou loge lumineuse, était une communauté secrète d'occultistes dans le Berlin pré-Nazi. La société de Berlin Vril était en fait une sorte de cercle intérieur de la société de Thulé. On l'a également pensé en contact étroit avec le groupe anglais connu sous le nom d'ordre hermétique de l'aube dorée. Aucune preuve vérifiable de l'existence de la société du Vril n'a jamais été publiée.

Il y a seulement une source primaire d'information sur la société du Vril : Willy Ley, un ingénieur allemand qui s'est enfui aux États-Unis en 1933. En 1947, Ley a édité un article intitulé (en) Pseudoscience in Naziland (que l'on peut traduire par Pseudo-science en pays nazi). Après une description de l'Aryosophie, Ley écrit : « Le prochain groupe a été littéralement fondé sur un roman. Ce groupe s'est appelé Wahrheitsgesellschaft - société pour la vérité - et qui plus ou moins a été localisé à Berlin, consacré à rechercher durant son temps disponible le Vril. »

La Société du Vril s’inspirerait des idées de Louis Jacolliot (ésotérisme, indianisme, occultisme) et de Edward Bulwer-Lytton pour son ouvrage « La race qui nous supplantera » (1873), qui aurait été lu par Hitler. Le "Vril" serait l’énergie cachée en soi qui permet de devenir un surhomme.

 

 

Par Socrates Philalethe - Publié dans : Cénacles, Clubs et Sociétés Secrètes
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