Okay, so that title is pretty much untrue; the Vril were not supposed to be Nazis, only psychic and subterranean. But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Today I’m going to talk about the Vril and the concept’s relevance to the world of Conspiracy Theories. The name may sound familiar, and that’s probably not surprising, since the idea of the Vril has been associated with everything from Nazi mysticism to New World Order and Illuminati conspiracies, to the ‘theory’ of the Hollow Earth. So let’s break it down and talk about the Vril: who they are, where they lived, who was searching for them, and why they matter.
THE VRIL-YA: EARTH’S BASEMENT DWELLERS
The beings known as the Vril-ya are the creation of one of the earliest writers of what is now known as science-fiction, Edward Bulwer-Lytton who, in 1871, wrote a novel called The Coming Race in which an explorer somehow found his way into a subterranean world populated by angelic-appearing beings who called themselves the ‘Vril-ya’. Bulwer-Lytton’s novel describes these beings as a powerful ancient race possessing both advanced technology and incredible psychic abilities. At the root of both their technology and their psionic powers is a substance called ‘vril’, which is a fluid of mysterious origins that can be harnessed by the beings in order to accomplish great and terrible things. The novel describes how vril can be used to both heal or destroy, depending on the purpose to which it is directed, which includes being used as a light source, a healing catalyst, a fuel for vehicles, and an energy storage medium to power the Vril-ya’s feats of psychic might. In many respects, the society of the Vril-ya is seen as idyllic – even utopian – but with one glaring problem; the subterranean world of the Vril-ya is becoming overcrowded. The novel warns that in time, the Vril-ya may resort to invading the surface world in order to acquire more land and resources, and if they are forced to war against humankind, well then so be it.
Physically, the Vril-ya possess an odd blend of features. According to the novel, the Vril-ya are ‘akin to man’ in their appearance, although stronger, more graceful, and more beautiful; their eyes are dark, their skin the colour of a ‘red man’, they possess wings, and a ‘sphinx-like’ face. The Vril-ya wore robes – as pretty much all advanced races are wont to do – and had the appearance of ‘oriental’ contemplatives, while at the same time evoking in the narrator a fear and dread that it was only out of curiosity that he was spared immediate destruction. In fact, the narrator’s earliest brush with annihilation comes at the hands of the children of the Vril-ya, who seem to initially view the narrator as some kind of insect or other inferior form of life.
The Vril-ya were described as a powerful, educated, technologically advanced and tribal society which was ruled by a central gerontocracy in which both male and female Vril enjoyed equal rights and privileges. It is interesting to note that when describing this advanced race, Bulwer-Lytton realized that egalitarianism was one of the characteristics of such advancement, which was a fairly contentious statement for a 19th Century man to make. At any rate, as a science-fiction tale, it’s a fairly engaging – if ponderous – one that I recommend people read.
And then it gets weird. Because of Theosophers; those well-meaning New-Agers of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.
THE VRIL AND THEOSOPHY: ‘NEW-AGE’ FROM AN AGE GONE BY
That Theosophists and other 19th and early 20th Century mystics would be interested in tales of a hyper-advanced antediluvian race is unsurprising; this was the time when beliefs in Atlantis, Mu, Lemuria, and other mythical civilizations was flourishing and in the cultic milieu, the Vril-ya were just another of these ancient races. Some authors have alleged that an early, proto-Vril Society came into existence after some in the Theosophy movement simply reinterpreted Bulwer-Lytton’s novel as a factual account and built on the idea from there.
One of the names most closely related to the Vril in this context was that of Maria Orsic, a medium and ‘metaphysical’ thinker from Germany, who, it is alleged, believed that she was in contact with members of the Vril-ya race through telepathic means. This connection is problematic, due to the unreliable nature of the sources that provide it, and so I include it here only reluctantly and with the caveat that it could be completely wrong. Attributing validity to the histories written by conspiracy theorists is bad enough, but when those conspiracy theorists also have their work routinely posted on white supremacy sites such as Stormfront, I look at them even more suspiciously. By these accounts, Orsic was a German Nationalist, and an advocate of a sort of proto-fascist pan-Germanism with blatent racist undertones. Certainly much is made of the belief that Osric was an ‘Aryan’ woman with long, blonde hair.
From here the historical continuity from Vril to Nazis breaks down; there appear to be several intermediaries between formal Nazi outfits and Vril believers, which makes any attempt to directly relate them seem more to be a case of playing ‘degrees of separation’ than it does to drawing strong lines of relation. It is my own belief that much of what ‘Vril historians’ claim to know of the early days of Vril belief is actually pseudo-historical fable retroactively applied to the genre by individuals in the 1960s and later who began to publish ‘histories’ of the ‘Vril Society’. In essence, these people ‘retconned’ the history of the Vril in order to give it a patina of historical legitimacy and organizational continuity.
THE VRIL SOCIETY
In 1960, Jaques Bergier and Louis Pauwels published a book, The Morning of the Magicians, a speculative history which alleged that the Vril Society was a real occult organization that had connections to other such groups, such as the Thule Society and the Order of the Golden Dawn, as well as to the Nazi Party. In fact, the book alleges that the Vril Society was actually the precursor to the Nazi party; apparently the paramilitarism of the post WWI German Friekorps weren’t as important to the development of Nazi ideology as ‘traditional historians’ liked to believe. This point is actually quite important to people who study the historical narratives of Neo-Nazi organizations who all too often resort to bolstering their rather specious claims of racial superiority by appealing to conspiracy theories such as this, or ones based on obvious forgeries like the Protocols of Zion. In fact, my own thesis research has strongly indicated that conspiratorial thinking is an important psychological bulwark in the service of maintaining alternative historical narratives within racist organizations.
At any rate, according to this book, the Vril Society was a secretive mystical order dedicated to gathering knowledge about the existence of Vril – the superfluid capable of creating or destroying worlds – and depositing that knowledge into the hands of nefarious persons unknown in order to allow them to rule the world. This book may have helped to popularize many of the more famous modern mystical conspiracy theories, including the ‘ancient astronauts’ beliefs of that titan of pseudohistory, Erich von Daniken.
Part of the draw of the Vril mythos is its universalizability. If you’re a racist alt-historian, the Vril become Aryan supermen that hold the secrets to Aryan world supremacy. If you are an alien astronaut enthusiast, the Vril become ancient alien visitors who helped seed technology into the world. If you like your Earths Hollow, then the Vril can be found living there, syphoning power from their Black Sun. If you are more of a New World Order/Illuminati person, then the Vril Society becomes just another mystical – and evil – society dedicated to finding ancient energy sources or super-weapons with which to destroy the world. In other words, when you make things up from whole cloth, you can do just about anything with them.
The Vril have become, in some conspiratorial circles, a sort of independent validation of other, less well known conspiracies; by appealing to some facet of the Vril mythos, a conspiracy theorist can attempt to graft its history onto a newer one, thereby granting the nascent theory legitimacy. A good example of this can be found on the David Icke forums where theories about subterranean (or alien, depending on who you ask) reptiloids grow like fungus in the moldy basements of the internet. (WARNING: The page linked to is filled with crazy!) Having trouble believing in Reptiloids? No problem! Just look at the stories of the Vril; surely if people have talked about them for over a century, then there must be something to them, and if there’s something to them, why can’t there be something to the Reptiloids? After all, both claims use the same standards of evidence, and both are equally ‘too crazy to be made up, right?