Race, Sub-race and sociological interpretation

Katinka Hesselink


H.P. Blavatsky uses the word race in a variety of connotations. Sometimes it means the present day humanity, sometimes a 'sub-race' of mankind. When she means present day humanity she does not say humanity, because she was of the opinion that humanity goes through a variety of stages (called rounds), which take tremendous amounts of time. All our known human history, starting in India, Egypt or Mesopotamia, is in her opinion still the present (fourth) round. Therefore, the way H.P. Blavatsky used the word race can often be translated in with 'humanity,' or 'present day humanity.'


The people of America and Western Europe are clearly the wealthiest and the most intellectually active at this time in history. Blavatsky therefore distinguishes them from other people by calling 'us' a sub-race of the fifth rootrace. This seems to me more a sociological distinction than a physical one. For instance, the American people were formed from immigrants from all over the world, yet form one 'sub-race' in her terminology. The fifth rootrace is again a subdivision of the fourth round, to which all of humanity belongs. This does not mean that H.P. Blavatsky is very positive of this sub-race of western people. We are intellectual, more than we are spiritual. We therefore have a lot to learn from our Indian brothers (and sisters) where it comes to spirituality. In addition, the western race is young. We have just started our civilization, whereas the Indian people (also called Aryan's by the way), have centuries of unbroken civilization before them, according to H.P. Blavatsky that is.

H.P. Blavatsky was often called racist in the past century. Still, from her writings, she does not very often express racist opinions. She expresses herself both negatively AND positively about the Jews for instance. Also, from the above it can be seen that, although she did distinguish among different groups of people, the western people (to whom she belonged, physically speaking) did not come out best at all fronts. This was revolutionary, at the end of the nineteenth century, when she lived. Also she helped set up the Theosophical Society and repeatedly called for a brotherhood regardless of race, creed, sex or color. Her work in the T.S. helped make a bridge between western thought and eastern thought. She could not have done that if she had not been thoroughly convinced of the value of that Eastern thought.

Sociological interpretation

Understanding her 'race'-concept as more a sociological than a biological concept clarifies a great deal of controversy. For instance H.P. Blavatsky talks a great deal about cycles in relation to races and sub-races. Each sub-race, for instance, has its time of growth, glory and decay. At each of those periods monads (the essence of the future human) incarnate who will learn most from that phase and who will (at a higher level of evolution) be able to do the work needed to contribute best at that phase.

See also: Was Blavatsky a Nazi? The link between Ariosophy and Theosophy as well as my review of the book 'The Occult Roots of Nazism, by Goodrick-Clarke.

Esoteric Studies Guide