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The Aryans or Airya (Sanskritआर्य, Persian آریا ārya- "noble", derived from Proto-Indo-European *ar-yo-, roughly "well-fitted") were a prehistoric nomadic people who, according to Rudolf Steiner, descended from the most highly developed sub-race[1] of Atlantis, the acient Semites. At the time when Atlantis perished, they lived in an area to the west of present-day Ireland, from where the great solar initiate, the Manu, led them eastwards to the region of the Tarim Basin. From here they became the real founders of the post-Atlantean culture, splitting into an Indian (Indo-Aryan) and Iranian (Irano-Aryan) branch.

„Our root race, the Aryan, descended from the most highly developed subrace of the Atlantians, the Ur-Semitic, which last dwelt approximately in the region of present-day Ireland. The island of Poseidonis, mentioned by Plato, can be regarded as the last remnant of the declining Atlantis. Manu, a leading figure of the Atlantians, led the most mature people to the East.“ (Lit.:GA 94, p. 168)

With the racial theories that blossomed in the 19th and 20th centuries, the term "Aryan" was increasingly misused in the sense of an alleged master race in order to justify colonialism, racism and antisemitism.

Through the detailed analysis of sacred texts such as the Vedas and the Avesta, the existence of a Central Asian pastoral people, who gave themselves the name Aryas (Aryans), is also considered certain for external research. As far as can be seen from archaeological finds and the reconstruction of the original Indo-European languages, the Aryans were a warlike, strictly hierarchical, patriarchally organised nomadic people who had already mastered the art of pottery, weaving and bronze casting. From about the 4th millennium BC, they domesticated the horse (ek'wos) and the cow (gwous). They probably also kept sheep, dogs, goats and pigs. The invention of the chariot with spoked wheels contributed significantly to their military superiority. (Lit.: Kulke/Rothermund, p 44)

After the fall of Atlantis, a new phase of human development began. Whereas in the Atlantean period spiritual development was still closely related to the formation of the physical body and thus also to racial criteria, it was now increasingly determined by the spiritual characteristics of the peoples[2]. In the primal Indian period, the human etheric body was brought to maturity, in the primal Persian period, in which the domestication of animals also began, the astral body; with the Egyptian-Chaldean culture, the actual development of the soul finally began first with the sentient soul.

„What we call races today are only remnants of the significant differences between people that were common in ancient Atlantis. The concept of race is only really applicable to the old Atlantis. Therefore, since we reckon with a real development of humanity, we have not used the concept of race in its most eminent sense for the post-Atlantean period. We do not speak of an Indian race, Persian race and so on, because that is no longer correct. We speak of an ancient Indian cultural period, an ancient Persian cultural period and so on.

And it would completely lose all sense if we wanted to speak of a sixth race preparing itself in our time. If remnants of the old Atlantean differences, of the old Atlantean group soulfulness still exist in our time, so that one can still speak of the racial division still having an effect - what is preparing for the sixth period consists precisely in the fact that the racial character is being stripped away. That is the essential thing. That is why it is necessary that the movement which is called anthroposophical, which is to prepare for the sixth period, should take up in its basic character this stripping away of the racial character, namely that it should seek to unite people from all races, from all nations, and in this way bridge this differentiation, these differences, these chasms which exist between the individual groups of people. For it has in a certain respect a physical character, which is old racial standpoint, and it will have a much more spiritual character, which will take place in the future.“ (Lit.:GA 117, p. 152f)

According to Rudolf Steiner, the special spiritual abilities of the Aryans were based on the fact that they were able to combine the last remnants of ancient clairvoyance with an initial disposition to rational thinking.

„In the legends and myths, and probably also in history, it is told that certain people descended from the highlands of Asia, who in very ancient times brought a certain culture to the south and south-west. Spiritual science must fathom what kind of people these were who descended to those people who only received the power of direction for life from within, from their intuitions. There we find, examined spiritually, that these people, who came like a new element of the population into the civilisation of that time, united two things with each other which the others did not have. The other people had the atavistic power of clairvoyance without the intellect, without the intelligence; those who came down also had something of the power of clairvoyance, but at the same time they had received in their soul the first disposition to intelligence, to the intellect. And so they brought upon the civilisation of that time a clairvoyance imbued with understanding. These were the first Aryans of whom history tells. And out of the antagonism between the old atavistic-soul-living people and these people who penetrated the old soul force with the intellect, the first caste difference arose externally-physically-empirically, which still has an effect in Asia, of which Tagore, for example, speaks. The most outstanding of these people, who at the same time had the ancient vision of the soul and the intellect, the intelligence that was just emerging in humanity, became the leaders of those mysteries of which I have just spoken, the mysteries of the Oriental light, and from them emanated what later came over to Greece. So that, if I am to draw it schematically, I can say to you: From the mysteries of the Orient went forth the stream of the spirit.“ (Lit.:GA 195, p. 16f)


References to the work of Rudolf Steiner follow Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works (CW or GA), Rudolf Steiner Verlag, Dornach/Switzerland, unless otherwise stated.
Email: URL:
Index to the Complete Works of Rudolf Steiner - Aelzina Books
A complete list by Volume Number and a full list of known English translations you may also find at Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works
Rudolf Steiner Archive - The largest online collection of Rudolf Steiner's books, lectures and articles in English.
Rudolf Steiner Audio - Recorded and Read by Dale Brunsvold - Anthroposophic Press Inc. (USA)
Rudolf Steiner Handbook - Christian Karl's proven standard work for orientation in Rudolf Steiner's Collected Works for free download as PDF.


  1. The term "sub-race" originates from the terminology used by the Theosophical Society at that time and was later no longer used by Rudolf Steiner, just like the term "root race". Steiner repeatedly pointed out that the term "race" is actually no longer justified in the post-Atlantean period, since now it is no longer the physical but the soul-spiritual development that comes to the fore. The division of man into races will gradually be completely overcome and is already meaningless for the spiritual development of mankind.
  2. These views of Steiner were in sharp contrast to the racial doctrine advocated by the Nazis, through which they wanted to glorify the Aryans as the supposed "master race". After Rudolf Steiner had already been fiercely opposed by the first representatives of National Socialism during his lifetime, the Anthroposophical Society was banned by Reinhard Heydrich's decree on 1 November 1935 "as a result of the antagonism between the views of the Anthroposophical Society and the nationalist ideas advocated by National Socialism".