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Root race according to Theosophy was and is a major phase in the development of the human consciousness in its interaction with the material world. Each endures for a long period of time, going through cycles of development and decline, during which seven distinct subtypes or subdivisions are manifested. Theosophists see these foot races as steps in human development, the final result not known until all steps are accomplished, but many feel ancestors knew more than present population.
The term root race was first introduced by Helena Petrovna blavatsky, secretary of the Theosophical Society, in the second volume of her work The Secret Doctrine. In the first volume she explains the evolution of the earth itself. In the second volume she explains what she terms root races, or epochs or geological periods, through man evolved and contributed to the earth's history.
Theosophy terms the presence of what will develop into human existence or life "Pilgrims." The first Pilgrims in the First Foot Race appeared in the formative stages of the earth's development, still a primordial liquid. Their bodies were more etheric than organic, and recognized as the first adaptations of human existence. They were called Polarians because they existed around the North and South Poles.
The Second Root Race was called the Hyperboreans. They too were more etheric having a loose-knit watery. Their appearance is thought to have occurred in a balmy climate; such Theosophical assumption is now partially supported by beliefs in continental and polar shifts that vary with time. The watery bodies of these Hyperboreans assumed remarkable diverse and monstrous shapes as they experimented with existence in the physical world.
It seems the first two Root Races were asexual, multiplying by division. They enjoyed an amoeba-like immortality. Little is known of their consciousness, but certainly it was primitive with the manas largely latent.
In the Third Root Race, the Lemurian period, the current form of humanity possessing sexual reproduction between male and female began. During the middle of the Lemurian period the higher forms of beings appeared to allow the wrath-like precursors to rake form and spark the evolution of human intelligence.
It is speculated that these maybe the ancestors of Africa and parts of Asia where the oldest human remain have been discovered. As previously mentioned some of these assumptions are based upon the continental and polar drift theories, but one must not place too much substance upon this judgment because there is a significant difference of time span between root race and epoch or geological period. In some cases the difference is as great as 2.5 billion years. The reason given for the difference is that modern science ignores the differences in the radioactive decaying rates during different time periods; for example, the reheating of minerals after earlier crystallization.
Mostly of what is known of the consciousness of the Lemurians comes from Blavatsky's The Secret Doctrine, meaning there is no or little scientific evidence. The Lemurians were extremely primitive, ruled by kings, and built massive but crude cities. However, they possessed exceptional psychic powers, out reaching those exhibited today, that were put to everyday use.
Their religion was a simple, uninstitutionalized monotheism. Within the religion was a small group called the "elect" that were led by higher beings, incarnated in human form to guide the development of the race, and to keep deep wisdom alive in secret lodges. It is uncertain as to the relationship, if any, between these Theosophical speculations and reality. When belief in the "elect' declined they are thought to have retreated to Shambhala, a mysterious place in the Gobi desert.
The Fourth Root Race, coming from the Lemurian remnants, is the Atlantean, a name derived from Plato's lost continent of Atlantis, but not referring to just the island alone but other areas on earth as well according to Blavatsky. It is thought the appearance of the Atlanteans more or less coincide with the discovered remains of the first humanoids in Eastern and Southern Africa dating back some four million years.
Initially it is thought the Atlanteans were two divided races, a warrior rave and a "pious, meditative" one. At first, they both were, each in its separate way, "deeply versed in primeval wisdom and the secrets of nature" though antagonistic. They pursued a "double evolution." There are obscure indications of the following developments use of fire, building of cities, some development of metallurgy, and among the "pious" recurrent visits of ''gods.'
The Altanteans like the Lemurians before them fell into decline, evil ways led to destruction of much of their civilization by a great, cataclysmic deluge as thought being described in ancient literature. Remnants of the lost island population were roots of later culture established on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether such events actually happened as described in literature is uncertain but the general Atlantean scenario could coincide with the initial millions of years of proto-humanity and humanity such as the first tribal people that emerged into the initial more-advanced civilizations.
For some, there is a great stress on the decline of the Atlantean cultures, especially the "pious." As with the Lemurians, the Atlanteans were thought to initially possess more psychic powers because evolving in the middle of the Lemurian era they were closer to an etheric existence than a physical one. As might be mentioned here, many think there was an overlapping of the Root Races; one did not begin as the preceding one ended. Like their predecessors, though to a lesser degree, the Atlanteans retained some vestige of a proto-physical existence in which astral and etheric (psychic) modes of communication were commonplace. These psychic powers declined as the people adapted more to their physical environment. Weakening these powers were the demands and pleasures of their physical surroundings. It was a developmental stage, common among many cultures, which inevitably leads to evil when adults refuse to surrender childish ways or a modern nation refuses to works towards human rights for everyone. Then the Atlanteans decline to the use of low magic and sorcery; the perversion of power eroded psychic abilities and spiritual reality. The sorcerers were called the 'Dark Face" of these cultures, and they mostly perished while remnants of the righteous escaped to help build future cultures.
The Fifth Root Race has been generally labeled the Aryan and its nucleus or core is said to have been composed mostly of the Atlanteans who escaped the deluge. The present age is said to be about in the middle of this Fifth Root Race, which spans from the se of the first flint blade to spaceships. The psychic powers of the people are nearly depleted since they are comfortable living in the physical realm of existence but bits still are traceable through the people's love of Ultimate Reality as the ideal of knowledge and beauty. Its greatest temptation, and possible defeat, is to regard the human self with no more respect than given to physical material.
Here again must be noted the overlapping of the Root Races which is especially noted in the development of the human consciousness and seen in the Fifth Root Race as the remnant of psychic power. Because of this overlapping of Root Races a predominant factor in one Race may influence another thus result in a no pure Root Race.
There is a definite distinction made between the term Aryan as designating rheFifth Root Race and its use by German National Socialism, or the Nazis. Aryan, in Sanskrit means "noble," and in Buddhist scriptures it applies to all those who are spiritually sincere, regardless of race. In Theosophy, Aryan, as with the names of the other Root Races, applied to a certain kind of emerging human consciousness. It has nothing to go with intrinsic racial superiority or inferiority as the Nazis implied.
From the description of the preceding Root Races according to Theosophical teaching one sees they are shown to follow a similar pattern of rise and decline. As with previous Root Races, the Fifth it is thought will decline too. Two indications for such a decline have been mentioned, the lack of psychic powers and the lack of respect for human self. If it is understood that each Root Race signaled the emergent of a certain kind of human consciousness then the importance of these two indications can be fully comprehended. The lack (decline) of psychic powers, use of them for communication, results in a different mindset, a different way of thinking. For example, as supposed, when mental telepathy was commonplace, people would have less need for the telegraphy, telephone, television, and so on; more could communicate with each other without the need for external instruments. As can be seen, when human psychic powers decreased the need for material instruments and things increased until humanity became totally dependent on a material environment and comfortable living within it.
Inevitably this led to or produced the second and far dangerous indication, the lack of respect for human self. As a general rule when people become increasingly dependent on material things in their environment they lose respect for each other; the more dependent they become on the physical environment, the more they seek to keep for themselves which can lead to natural catastrophes and wars. Soon respect of human self and spirituality is depleted. This is pretty much the situation in which current society finds itself.
According to Theosophical teaching there are two more Root Races to come,
the Sixth and Seventh. The Fifth Root Race now appears to have entered its
declining stage; if it follows a similar path as the preceding Root Races
it may be destroyed by atomic warfare or some other catastrophe. Following
the same pattern, there will be survivors of the Fifth Root Race who may
already exist that will develop the Sixth Root Race. Like its predecessors
the Sixth Root Race will attempt to advance a higher human consciousness
which most probably means exerting attempts to eliminate the causes promoting
the decline of its predecessor. Following a similar pattern this Sixth Root
Race will decline and the Seventh will take its place. According to Blavatsky
the Seventh Root Race marks the end of the evolution of human consciousness
on earth before humanity migrates to Mercury to continue its evolution.
Previously and currently others are avoiding the term root race for they consider it prejudicial and misused. It gained popularity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and was adopted by such groups as the Ariosophists to justify their racial ideologies. For instance, Rudolf Steiner described similar time spans by using the term "cultural epoch" instead of root race to avoid any possible misunderstanding in relating race to time periods.
Since the term race has collected many negative connotations through many uses and misuses the term is generally avoided. Epochs and other terms have replaced it. Many still feel that humanity will further evolve. The Christian belief that this world will be destroyed and a new heaven will be built on earth is one example. Others think this will come through an attitudinal change; people will become more environmental conscious and learn to live together peacefully. Others think those believing that the world will come to an end will destroy themselves and then people left will continue living as they once did. A.G.H.
Greer, John Michael. The New Encyclopedia of the Occult.
St. Paul, MN, Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 398
Ellwood, Robert. Theosophy: A modern expression of the wisdom of the ages. Wheaton, IL. Quest Books. 1994. pp. 88-96