The Coming Race is an 1871 novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, reprinted as Vril, the Power of the Coming Race. Among its readers have been those who have believed that its account of a superior subterranean master race and the energy-form called “Vril” is accurate, to the extent that some theosophists, notably Helena Blavatsky, William Scott-Elliot, and Rudolf Steiner, accepted the book as being (at least in part) based on occult truth. A popular book, The Morning of the Magicians (1960), suggested that a secret Vril Society existed in pre-Nazi Berlin. However, there is no historical evidence for the existence of such a society.
The novel centers on a young, independent unnamed wealthy traveler (the narrator), who after following a friend on a constructed mine, falls down a small crevice and accidentally finds his way into a subterranean world occupied by beings who seem to resemble angels. He befriends the first being he meets, who guides him around the city, which reflects ancient Egyptian architecture. After meeting his family (his wife, two sons and daughter), they learn to speak English via using a sort of makeshift dictionary during which the narrator unconsciously teaches them the language. His guide comes towards him, and he and his daughter Zee explain who they are, and how they function.
The hero discovers that these beings, who call themselves Vril-ya, have great telepathic and other parapsychological abiities, such as being able to transmit information, get rid of pain, and put others to sleep. The narrator is offended by the idea that the Vril-ya are much better adapted to learn about him more than he is to learn about them. Nevertheless, the guide (who turns out to be a magistrate) and his son Taee behave kindly towards him.
The hero soon discovers that the Vril-ya are descendants of an antediluvian civilization called the Ana, who live in networks of subterranean caverns linked by tunnels. They escaped towards the ground and gained greater power by facing and dominating the harsh conditions of the ground. The place where the hero landed housed 12,000 families, one of the largest groups. Their society was a technologically supported Utopia, chief among their tools being the “all-permeating fluid” called “Vril”, a latent source of energy that its spiritually elevated hosts are able to master through training of their will, to a degree which depends upon their hereditary constitution, giving them access to an extraordinary force that can be controlled at will. They used this fluid to communicate with the narrator. The powers of the vril include the ability to heal, change, and destroy beings and things; the destructive powers in particular are awesomely powerful, allowing a few young Vril-ya children to wipe out entire cities if necessary. Men (called An, pronounced “Arn”) and women, called Gy-ei (pronounced “Jy-ei”) share the same rights. The women are as strong, if not stronger than the men, and both can marry for only three years, after which they are free to remarry or stay single once more.
Their religion only states the existence of a superior being but doesn’t dwell on his nature. The Vril-ya also believe in the permanence of life, which is not destroyed according to them, but merely changes form. The narrator then adopts their attire, and beings molding to their customs. Zee falls in love with the narrator, and tells her father, who orders Taee to kill him with his staff. Eventually both Taee and Zee conspire against such order, and Zee takes the narrator through the same place he first fell. He ends up in the same mine, and gives out a last warning. He states that in time, the Vril-ya will run out of habitable spaces underground and start claiming the surface of the Earth, destroying mankind in the process, if necessary