The following is part of an essay that was composed in response to an article titled “The Question of G. de Purucker,” published at blavatskytheosophy.com. The full essay can be found here.
Let it be clear from the outset that we are not here to defend a particular person. Nor are we here to debate or discuss “successorship,” “leadership” or the “occult status” of any individual. It is to be understood that this reply is not the result of parroting G. de Purucker, but simply the result of long independent study, besides the fact that the conceptual understanding of theosophical teachings is always open to interpretation and thus open to misunderstanding by any student.
In the above mentioned article, following a dissertation on the person of G. de Purucker, the article moves on to select a handful of ideas drawn from his writings. In doing so, it is suggested that these ideas are “entirely at odds with the teaching in ‘The Secret Doctrine’.” We find this to be an incorrect conclusion, and believe it could mislead students of Theosophy into believing a priori, without sufficient evidence or argument, that Purucker’s ideas entirely oppose those of H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) and her teachers. We will, therefore, address each of these ideas in turn, providing references to Purucker’s writings and those of The Secret Doctrine (SD) and other writings of HPB. This, we believe, will illustrate that the ten points of criticism in the article are generally mistaken and not actually in opposition to what the authors refer to as “genuine theosophy.”
Point #9: 4th vs. 5th “Sub-Race”
The ninth point of contention is:
His teaching that humanity is still only in the 4th sub-race of the 5th root race, whereas “The Secret Doctrine” and the other original teachings of Theosophy make it extremely clear and state specifically that we are in the 5th sub-race and that the 6th sub-race will begin to take form in the not too distant future.
Let us address this carefully, without the intention of defending Purucker’s conclusions, but without blindly accepting the conclusions of the article either.
First, Purucker et al on our position in the races:
“During evolution on each of the globes of the earth-chain, the human life-wave passes through seven evolutionary stages called root-races, of which we are at present in the fifth root-race of the fourth round on the fourth globe. Each root-race is divided into seven subraces, of which we are now in the fourth of the fifth root-race.” (ETG: Race(s))
As to the position of humanity in regard to the fifth root-race:
“we are in the mid-point of our sub-race of the Fifth Root Race—the acme of materiality in each . . .” (SD 1:610). This is interpreted by de Purucker as meaning “the middle point of the fourth of any cyclical series: for instance, the fourth Primary Subrace; the fourth subrace of the fourth primary subrace of the fifth root-race” (Fund 281). Thus we have at present nearly reached the middle period of the fifth root-race, and are therefore in our fourth primary subrace, but in a smaller sub-subrace which is the fifth of its own cycle.” (ETG: Subrace)
For the most complete treatment of the races and sub-races by Purucker, which give his reasoning in detail, see Studies in Occult Philosophy: Sub-Races of the Fifth Root-Race, and also Fundamentals of the Esoteric Philosophy, chapter 21. It is highly recommended that the student read these passages before moving on.
And now, the Secret Doctrine on “Sub-Races”:
“To avoid confusion, let the reader remember that the term Root-Race applies to one of the seven great Races, sub-Race to one of its great Branches, and Family-Race to one of the sub-divisions, which include nations and large tribes.” (SD 2:198fn)
This would seem to be a clear-cut statement that we can follow in all instances of these terms, but as we’ll see, the term “sub-race” is used much more liberally than this.
First, our position in the fifth root-race:
“Nevertheless, as every sub-race and nation have their cycles and stages of developmental evolution repeated on a smaller scale, it must be the more so in the case of a Root-Race. Our race then has, as a Root-race, crossed the equatorial line and is cycling onward on the Spiritual side; . . . ” (SD 2:301)
This would seem to indicate that we are at least in or past the mid-point of the fourth sub-race of this root-race.
Now, our position in “our” sub-race:
“But as we are in the mid-point of our sub–race of the Fifth Root Race—the acme of materiality in each—therefore the animal propensities, though more refined, are not the less developed for that: and they are so chiefly in civilized countries.” (SD 1:610)
So, whichever “sub-race” is meant here by “our sub-race,” we are at around the mid-point of it. This, the student will find great difficulty in, as there are many other statements (see the following quotes) that would put us past the mid-point of “our sub-race.”
“History—or what is called history—does not go further back than the fantastic origins of our fifth sub-race, a “few thousands” of years” (SD 2:351)
So here’s an issue. If we are at the mid-point of the “our sub-race” in the preceding quote and yet “our fifth sub-race” is only a “few thousands” of years old. . . . that makes for a very short lifespan for “our subrace.” How long is a sub-race supposed to last in our fifth root-race?
Nevertheless, the meaning [of certain Zodiacal symbols] is plain, as the three Zodiacs belong to three different epochs: namely, to the last three family races of the fourth Sub-race of the Fifth Root-race, each of which must have lived approximately from 25 to 30,000 years. The first of these (the “Aryan-Asiatics”) witnessed the doom of the last of the populations of the “giant Atlanteans” who perished some 850,000 years ago (the Ruta and Daitya Island-Continents) toward the close of the Miocene Age. The fourth sub-race witnessed the destruction of the last remnant of the Atlanteans—the Aryo-Atlanteans in the last island of Atlantis, namely, some 11,000 years ago. In order to understand this the reader is asked to glance at the diagram of the genealogical tree of the Fifth Root-Race—generally, though hardly correctly, called the Aryan race, and the explanations appended to it. . . . Now our Fifth Root-Race has already been in existence—as a race sui generis and quite free from its parent stem—about 1,000,000 years; therefore it must be inferred that each of the four preceding Sub-Races has lived approximately 210,000 years; thus each Family-Race has an average existence of about 30,000 years. Thus the European “Family Race” has still a good many thousand years to run, although the nations or the innumerable spines upon it, vary with each succeeding “season” of three or four thousand years. It is somewhat curious to mark the comparative approximation of duration between the lives of a “Family-Race” and a “Sidereal year.”
This, on the surface, may seem clear-cut, but let’s look at it closely. HPB starts off talking about the last three family races of the “fourth sub-race” 850,000 years ago, even though our root-race is only 1,000,000 years old! Then all of a sudden she’s talking about the “fourth sub-race” 11,000 years ago! And, if “the first of these” last three family races “witnessed the doom of the giant Atlaneans who perished 850,000 years ago” but each of those family-races only lasted 30,000 years, well that’s a lot of bad math! Then, suddenly we’re 11,000 years ago with that very same fourth sub-race!!?? Hmm . . .
The difficulties here are solved (at least in part) when we realize that the term “sub-race” is not solely used to refer to the sub-race of a root-race, but to the sub-race of any race. Thus, family-races are often called “sub-races” in the Secret Doctrine. Any race is a subdivision of another race, so every race is, in a sense, a “sub-race,” and that term is used liberally enough to leave us in need of sorting things out for ourselves and not in a position to simply point to the use of the term “fifth sub-race” as though that settles it all (which is all too often the case among theosophists).
So let’s break this down if we can:
Fifth root-race: 1,000,000 +/- years old
Each sub-race: 210,000 +/- years life-span
Each family-race: 25-30,000 +/- years life-span
HPB plays around with terms here to make us figure it out.
1,000,000 minus 850,000 = 150,000 (i.e. 150,000 years into the first sub-race is when the doom of the Atlanteans happened)
150,000 divided by 30,000 = 5 family races of that first sub-race having passed at 850,000 years ago.
So, the “fourth sub-race” who witnessed the doom of the Atlanteans, had to have been the fourth family race of the first sub-race of the fifth root-race.
Now, another, different “fourth sub-race” witnessed the sinking of the final island 11,000 years ago. Neither of these two different “fourth sub-races” is actually a sub-race of the root-race, but rather they are family-races of different sub-races.
It does seem from the 210,000 year calculation that we would thus be in the fifth sub-race of the fifth root-race, but this seems to be the only place where such a straightforward calculation can be made. Nothing is really clearly and explicitly stated, as the following will show.
Now, the following is a quote often given, and often referenced, that supposedly clearly states that we’re in the “fifth sub-race.”
“Thus the Americans have become in only three centuries a “primary race,” pro tem., before becoming a race apart, and strongly separated from all other now existing races. They are, in short, the germs of the Sixth sub-race, and in some few hundred years more, will become most decidedly the pioneers of that race which must succeed to the present European or fifth sub-race, in all its new characteristics. After this, in about 25,000 years, they will launch into preparations for the seventh sub-race; until, in consequence of cataclysms—the first series of those which must one day destroy Europe, and still later the whole Aryan race (and thus affect both Americas), as also most of the lands directly connected with the confines of our continent and isles—the Sixth Root-Race will have appeared on the stage of our Round.” (SD 2:444-445)
But here it is clear that the term “sub-race” is again actually being used for “family-races,” each of which lasts about 25,000 years (or as in the previous quote, 25-30,000 years). When HPB is referring to the “fifth sub-race” (the Europeans) and the “sixth sub-race” (the Americans), she is speaking of family-races, not the 210,000 year long sub-races of our fifth root-race.
It would thus make sense that the “fourth sub-race” that witnessed the sinking of the island 11,000 years ago was the “sub-race” that preceded this our “fifth sub-race.” . . . all of these actually being 25-30,000 year long family-races. There is a gap, then, between these “fifth,” “sixth” and “seventh” family-races and the “arrival” of the Sixth root-race. These three family races (the European, American and then ???) actually only bring us to the coming of the next “primary” sub-race, not to the coming of the sixth root-race, which will arrive “still later.”
So when the article we are critiquing states that “The Secret Doctrine” and the other original teachings of Theosophy make it extremely clear and state specifically that we are in the 5th sub-race and that the 6th sub-race will begin to take form in the “not too distant future,” we believe that this conclusion arises from the all too common mistake about the flexible use of the term “sub-race”. What will arrive in the “not too distant future” is but a new 25-30,000 year long family-race.
There are additional problems with the math when one goes through the SD in search of the lifespan of the previous root-races, and compares those to the lifespan of this our fifth root-race, but that we leave to students to explore for themselves.
Now, HPB’s treatment of the “semitic race” might help us see the use of family and sub-races a little clearer.
The Aryan Hindu belongs to the oldest races now on earth; the Semite Hebrew to the latest. One is nearly million years old; the other is a small sub-race some 8,000 years old and no more.*
* Strictly speaking, the Jews are an artificial Aryan race, born in India, and belonging to the Caucasian division. . . . Considering that our Race has reached its Fifth Sub-race, how can it be otherwise? (SD 2:470-71 & fn)
The little Semitic tribe—one of the smallest branchlets from the commingling of the 4th and 5th sub-races (the Mongolo-Turanian and the Indo-European, so-called, after the sinking of the great Continent). (SD 1:319)
All races have their own cycles, which fact causes a great difference. For instance, the Fourth Sub-Race of the Atlanteans was in its Kali-Yug, when destroyed, whereas the Fifth was in its Satya or Krita Yuga. The Aryan Race is now in its Kali Yuga, and will continue to be in it for 427,000 years longer, while various “family Races,” called the Semitic, Hamitic, etc., are in their own special cycles. The forthcoming 6th Sub Race—which may begin very soon—will be in its Satya (golden) age while we reap the fruit of our iniquity in our Kali Yuga. (SD 2:147fn)
So here we have the semitic race (or tribe) described as the commingling of the 4th and 5th sub-races, yet it is only 8000 years old. It becomes fairly obvious that the 4th and 5th “sub-races” here spoken of are again the 4th and 5th family-races of a longer sub-race. They are not the 210,000 year long sub-races. So this “5th sub-race” that is part of its commingling is the “european fifth-sub race” from our previous quote. (it is also interesting to note that the 427,000 year long kali yuga is applied here only to the Aryan Race, and not the coming “6th Sub Race,” but that is but a side note in the present discussion).
Let’s try to clear some of this up, if we can.
The fourth family-race witnessed the sinking of the island 11,000 years ago. 8000 years ago the Semitic “tribe” or “race” is born, a commingling of the fourth and fifth family-races—remember HPB’s statement about the “origins of our fifth sub-race, a “few thousands” of years.” This fifth family-race is the Europeans, who are now passing the torch to the sixth family-race, who are the Americans. 25,000-30,000 years later this will give rise to the seventh family-race, and thus on to the next sub-race.
From all this it would seem that we are in the Fifth root-race, perhaps in its fifth sub-race (based on the 210,000 year math), or perhaps in its fourth sub-race (based on other statements); and depending on who we are (European, American, Indian, Semitic, Egyptian, Chinese, etc.), we may belong to any one of the family-races of the current sub-race, or we may belong to races that reach back even before the fifth root-race, one of the many family-races still present on Earth.
So, Purucker may be mistaken, or, his interpretation may be valid. The main thing is: all this is left for each of us to explore and decide for ourselves. Nothing is given out “clearly” or “explicitly” in the SD or by the Masters! That’s not their style. We should always be careful not to take too literally certain terms, for instance, to read the term “fourth sub-race” or “fifth sub-race” and imagine that we know automatically which fourth or fifth race is being spoken of. Everything is given in such a way as to encourage us to figure it out for ourselves and use our intuitions. There is little use, then, in attempting to claim this or that as “clearly stated” in order to dismiss someone else’s conclusions. Perhaps Purucker was guilty of too strongly putting forth his own conclusions as fact, while the article we are critiquing may be equally guilty of dismissing his ideas based on differing opinions, which seem also to be put forward as fact. Perhaps it is best to leave it to each student to decide.
Now, if one wants to see how confusing the story of races, sub-races, family-races, nations, etc., can be, have a look at how the information was given to A. P. Sinnett!!
Our fourth Round Humanity has its one great cycle, and so have her races and sub-races. The “curious rush” is due to the double effect of the former—the beginning of its downward course;—and of the latter (the small cycle of your “sub-race”) running on to its apex. Remember, you belong to the fifth Race, yet you are but a Western sub-race. . . . Your sub-races are now running toward the apex of their respective cycles, and that History goes no further back than the periods of decline of a few other sub-races belonging most of them to the preceding fourth Race. . . . As every other race you had your ups and downs, your periods of honour and dishonour, your dark midnight and—you are now approaching your brilliant noon. The youngest of the fifth race family you were for long ages the unloved and the uncared for, the Cendrillon in your home. And now, when so many of your sisters have died; and others still are dying, while the few of the old survivors, now in their second infancy, wait but for their Messiah—the sixth race—to resurrect to a new life and start anew with the coming stronger along the path of a new cycle . . . Yes; the fifth race—ours—began in Asia a million years ago. What was it about for the 998,000 years preceding the last 2,000? . . . Of course the 4th race had its periods of the highest civilization. Greek and Roman and even Egyptian civilization are nothing compared to the civilizations that began with the 3rd race. Those of the second were not savages but they could not be called civilized. And now, reading one of my first letters on the races (a question first touched by M.) pray, do not accuse either him or myself of some new contradiction. Read it over and see, that it leaves out the question of civilizations altogether and mentions but the degenerate remnants of the fourth and third races, and gives you as a corroboration the latest conclusions of your own Science. Do not regard an unavoidable incompleteness as inconsistency. You now ask me a direct question, and, I answer it. Greeks and Romans were small sub-races, and Egyptians part and parcel of our own “Caucasian” stock. Look at the latter and at India. Having reached the highest civilization and what is more: learning—both went down. Egypt as a distinct sub-race disappearing entirely (her Copts are a hybrid remnant). India—as one of the first and most powerful off-shoots of the mother Race, and composed of a number of sub-races—lasting to these times, and struggling to take once more her place in history some day. . . . What would you say then to our affirmation that the Chinese—I now speak of the inland, the true Chinaman, not of the hybrid mixture between the fourth and the fifth Races now occupying the throne—the aborigines, who belong in their unallied nationality wholly to the highest and last branch of the fourth Race, reached their highest civilization when the fifth had hardly appeared in Asia, and that its first off-shoot was yet a thing of the future. . . . When was it? Calculate. You cannot think that we, who have such tremendous odds against the acceptance of our doctrine would deliberately go on inventing Races and sub-races (in the opinion of Mr. Hume) were not they a matter of undeniable fact. . . . I told you before now, that the highest people now on earth (spiritually) belong to the first sub-race of the fifth root Race; and those are the Aryan Asiatics; the highest race (physical intellectuality) is the last sub-race of the fifth—yourselves the white conquerors. The majority of mankind belongs to the seventh sub-race of the fourth Root race,—the above mentioned Chinamen and their off-shoots and branchlets (Malayans, Mongolians, Tibetans, Javanese, etc., etc., etc.) and remnants of other sub-races of the fourth—and the seventh sub-race of the third race. All these, fallen, degraded semblances of humanity are the direct lineal descendants of highly civilized nations neither the names nor memory of which have survived except in such books as Popalvul and a few others unknown to Science. . . . (Mahatma Letter 23b)
Can anyone claim to grasp the full picture after having read this passage?
To close, here is an indirect corroboration of the difficulty with regard to the subject of the races from Robert Bowen’s Madame Blavatsky on How to Study Theosophy:
“H. P. B. seems pretty definite about the importance of the teaching (in the Conclusion) relating to the times of coming of the Races and Sub-Races. She put it more plainly than usual that there is really no such thing as a future ‘coming’ of races. ‘There is neither COMING nor PASSING, but eternal BECOMING,’ she says. The Fourth Root Race is still alive. So are the Third and Second and First—that is, their manifestations on our present plane of substance are present. I know what she means, I think, but it is beyond me to get it down in words. So likewise the Sixth Sub-Race is here, and the Sixth Root Race, and the Seventh, and even people of the coming ROUNDS. After all that’s understandable. Disciples and Brothers and Adepts can’t be people of the every day Fifth Sub-Race, for the race is a state of evolution.
“But she leaves no question but that, as far as humanity at large goes, we are hundreds of years (in time and space) from even the Sixth Sub-Race. I thought H. P. B. showed a peculiar anxiety in her insistence on this point. She hinted at ‘dangers and delusions’ coming through ideas that the New Race had dawned definitely on the World. According to her the duration of a Sub-Race for humanity at large coincides with that of the Sidereal Year (the circle of the earth’s axis—about 25,000 years). That puts the new race a long way off.”