Preceding Jules Verne's subterranean novel by just a few years, Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Vril: The Power of the Coming Race tells the story of the narrator's descent through a mine shaft into the cavern home of the Vril-ya, a race of humans who fled from floods on the earth's surface in ancient times, lost their way, and established a civilization in underground caverns. This account places the subterranean civilization in caverns beneath the earth's surface rather than in the earth's hollow interior.
The narrator describes a prosperous and advanced civilization with fields of vegetables and running water. Canals and buildings have been carved out of the stone walls of the caverns. And the residents?
And now there came out of this building a form - human: - was it human? It stood on the broad way and looked around, beheld me and approached. It came within a few yards of me, and at the sight and presence of it an indescribable awe and tremor seized me, rooting my feet to the ground . . . It was tall, not gigantic, but tall as the tallest men below the height of giants.
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. It was the face of a man, but yet of a type of man distinct from our known extant races. The nearest approach to it in outline and expression is the face of the sculptured sphinx - so regular in its calm, intellectual, mysterious beauty. (19-20)
The wings of the stranger turned out to be an apparatus rather than natural appendages, but, like the wings of a bird, they allowed the residents of the inner earth to fly throughout the caverns.
The Vril-ya quickly learned English from their visitor and shared with him the secret of their ability to fly and their other remarkable feats. Their great wonders, he was told, were accomplished through the use of vril - a source of power that pervades all of the universe. The narrator describes vril in this way:
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, &c. These people consider that in vril they have arrived at the unity in natural energic agencies, which have been conjectured by many philosophers above ground, and which Faraday thus intimates under the more cautious term of correlation. (45)
By mastering the vril force, which they do through sheer willpower, the Vril-ya are able to accomplish amazing things, including influencing the weather. The vril power allows its users to influence other human minds and bodies: 'The faculties of the mind could be
4 it wore on its head a kind of tiara that shone . . . and carried in its hand a slender staff of bright metal 5
quickened to a degree unknown in the waking state, by trance or vision, in which the thoughts of one brain could be transmitted to another, and knowledge be thus rapidly interchanged' (46). Vril can be used to carve through solid rock, a technique used by the Vril-ya to create their homes and buildings. Vril is the source of subterranean light and heat. In addition to these seemingly beneficial uses of vril, however, it is also revealed that a wielder of such great power can also do great harm. Vril can be used to destroy as well as to heal and teach:
The fire lodged in the hollow of a rod directed by the hand of a child could shatter the strongest fortress, or cleave its burning way from the van to the rear of an embattled host. If army met army, and both had command of this agency, it could be but to the annihilation of each. (56)
The rod wielded by the narrator's hypothetical child is otherwise referred to as the Vril Staff and is described in some detail:
It is hollow, and has in the handle several stops, keys, or springs by which its force can be altered, modified, or directed - so that by one process it destroys, by another it heals - by one it can rend the rock, by another disperse the vapour - by one it affects bodies, by another it can exercise a certain influence over minds. It is usually carried in the convenient size of a walking-staff, but it has slides by which it can be lengthened or shortened at will. (111)
It is this power of destruction rather than of healing and progress that resides with the narrator after he returns to the surface world. He wonders what might happen on that day when the Vril-ya decide to come to the surface. He muses:
The more I think of a people calmly developing, in regions excluded from our sight and deemed uninhabitable by our sages, powers surpassing our most disciplined modes of force, and virtues to which our life, social and political, becomes antagonistic in proportion as our civilization advances, the more devoutly I pray that ages may yet elapse before there emerge into sunlight our inevitable destroyers . . . I have thought it my duty to my fellow-men to place on record these forewarnings of The Coming Race. (248)
Far from being taken as an early example of science fiction, Bulwer-Lytton's novel has been taken, like The Smokey God, as more than a work of fiction. For example, the concept of vril seems to have had some influence upon Blavatsky who wrote in Isis Unveiled: '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' (126). Alec Maclellan claims that the influence is far greater than this mention by Blavatsky would indicate, however. In his account of the hollow earth, which adds the folklore and legends associated with mines and caves to the mix of geology and theosophy, he claims that:
There have been numbers of people who, over the years since the publication of The Coming Race in 1871, have believed it to be literally true - the description of an actual race of people living below the surface of the world. But of these believers, few were more passionate in their conviction than Adolf Hitler. (101)
The claim that Hitler, who we have already seen associated with the Koreshan version of the hollow earth, was also a believer in the power of vril is one that seems to have first been suggested by Willy Ley in a 1947 article for Astounding Science Fiction. This claim was brought to the attention of a more mainstream audience in The Morning of the Magicians (Pauwels and Bergier), in which the authors claimed to have learned that a secret community was formed in Germany prior to the Second World War whose followers took the Bulwer-Lytton novel as fact. This Berlin group, it was said, believed that a pure Aryan race dwelled at the earth's core and possessed a secret knowledge that gave them great power. This group is said to have called itself 'The Luminous Lodge' or 'The Vril Society.' From there the claims of Nazi associations with hollow earth lore grow exponentially. It is said that Hitler was a believer in the theosophical lands of Hyberborea, Lemuria, and Atlantis and sent expeditions in search of them. He is also said to have believed in the subterranean land of Agharta, ruled over by the mystic city of Shambala, and to have thought that a passageway to the center of the earth was located in Tibet as well as at the poles. Seeking vril power as his own, Hitler is presented by some as immersed in the search for the lost worlds and hollow earth of esoteric traditions.
Rob Arndt, for example, claims that the Vril Society, and its sister Thule Society, which believed that the origins of the Aryan race were in the northern land of Hyperborea or Thule, initiated a program in the 1920s to create flying saucer technology based on that used by the underground races. He claims that the first device built using vril-based technology was completed in 1922. Not an aircraft, it was what he calls an inter-dimensional flight machine. (http://laesieworks.com) Terry Melanson goes into even greater detail in describing the history of vril in Nazi Germany in his 'The Vril Society, the Luminous Lodge and the Realization of the Great Work' (www. conspiracyarchive.com). Melanson claims that the Vril Society combined the political ideals of the Order of the Illuminati with Hindu mysticism, Theosophy and the Cabbala. It was the first German nationalist group to use the symbol of the swastika as an emblem linking Eastern and Western occultism. The Vril Society presented the idea of a subterranean matriarchal, socialist utopia ruled by superior beings who had mastered the mysterious energy called the Vril Force.
Melanson reports that the Nazi flying saucer program was made possible by a secret arrangement between the Vril Society and the Vril-ya themselves to share technology. He writes:
As early as 1936 Hitler was sending teams of 'Spelunkers' into caves and mines all over Europe searching for the Vril-ya. The Nazi's had also explored Antarctica extensively during the years 1937-38. In search of the fabled hole of the South Pole they apparently had success, like Admiral Byrd, in discovering these entrances. It was here that some say they made contact with the 'Unknown Superman' who lived in the fabled 'Rainbow City'.
Though discussion of the claim seems to have fallen off in recent years, Mattern Friedrich, in the 1970s, claimed that Hitler had escaped alive following the end of the Second World War. He supposedly made his way to Argentina and then to the hollow earth through the southern polar opening. Many, if not all, present-day UFOs are actually craft controlled by the subterranean Nazis.
Of course, the power used by Nazis for their saucers is also available to you - for the small price of $75. Yes, you heard me right. The Vril Generator can be yours. According to one website:
The Immortals of the Subterranean Kingdoms of Light, Agartha, are NOW announcing its reality to Surface Dwellers
The VRIL Generator, is a blessed gift from 'the high astral technology of Agartha', by the surface and inner earth residents of the Agarthian lineage. It is a synchronizer of the high frequency of energy-light, once activated in the inner space of self-originated consciousness, this energy is revealed through the act of practice, connecting simultaneously with the inner door, opening one's own inner and multidimensional reality to the external dimensional doors, which opens the space-temporal gates between the real world and the virtual one. Connecting One to the VRIL power, the hidden energy and awareness of Immortality. (http://onelight.com)
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