Origins of Racism: The Case of the Count de Gobineau - Beyond Strangeness (2023)

Origins of Racism: The Case of the Count de Gobineau - Beyond Strangeness (1)When we see that racism is still at work in our world, it is important not only to know its current manifestations, but also to understand how it came about. This article concerns Count Arthur de Gobineau, a man often referred to as the "father of racism". Of course, no one is solely responsible - but he was clearly one of those whose influence helped strengthen racist ideology.

Curiously, he also appears as the European historian who wrote the first comprehensive account of the birth of the Babi religion,as we saw in the article about E.G. have seen Browne. Regrettably, it seems, Gobineau did not sufficiently pursue his investigations of the Báb to learn anything of Bahá'u'lláh or his teachings.

But let's learn more about Gobineau's life story and influence. He came from an aristocratic French family and was born in 1816 and died in 1882. He therefore lived in the same era as Baha'u'llah (1817-1892).

The revolutions in France were central to de Gobineau's life. His father was a staunch royalist and was imprisoned during the Napoleonic era. Not even the Orleanist monarchical regime that replaced the Bourbons was traditionalist enough for the Gobineau. After the restoration of democracy in the second half of the 19th century, it still didn't hit the ground running. He had a disdain for democracy - a deep believer in itthe inequalityof people - an inequality marked by racial and class boundaries. Believing he lived in a retrograde age, he created a mythical "Aryan" racial identity that represented a superior human. He viewed miscegenation as a form of "degeneration." Among the Aryans he counted Germanic, Celtic, Iranian and Hindu peoples. In his vain notions, the best of civilization arose primarily, if not exclusively, from "Aryans." For him, the upper class was the “most Aryan”.

Apart from its illusory character, we can note the essentially materialistic conception of human nature.

Alexis de Tocqueville, the well-known 19th-century political philosopher who was a friend of Gobineau, was nonetheless scathing about the implications of his work:

Do you not see that from your teaching arise all the evils that produce permanent inequality, pride, violence, contempt for one's fellow man, tyranny and submission in all their forms? [cited in Gobineau and the Origins of European Racism]

Over time, his ideas of an "Aryan" superrace and racial purity would contribute to the horrors of Nazism and provide theoretical pillars for the maintenance of slavery and racial segregation in the United States.

Gobineau was a French diplomat for most of his life, which led him to Persia. Gobineau was twice dispatched to Persia. Both were not long after the events connected with the life of the Báb, some of which are briefly recounted in the articlesthe birth of the Babi faith,the execution of the Báb,the pursuit of the babies, andthe secret mission of Sulayman Khan.

(Video) literature Existentialism Jean Paul Sartre

Gobineaus 1865Religions and philosophies in Central Asiais the earliest detailed account in a European language of the birth of the Babi religion. The lively report inspired other scholars to continue or improve on his work. As it turned out, Gobineau's account wasn't entirely accurate, but he was a fine (and prolific) writer. There is no indication that Gobineau ever met a single follower of the Báb. In fairness to say, when Gobineau was in Persia it would have been quite a challenge to do so. The Church had been practically liquidated in Persia itself, and by that time Bahá'u'lláh had already been dispatched to Constantinople and Adrianople.

The tragic fate of the Bab and that of his congregation clearly inspired Gobineau to put considerable effort into recording history. The result was a book-length treatment of the subject.

Gobineau also attempted to delve into Orientalism - proposing interpretations of cuneiform and Iranian history. These efforts were scorned by European scholars to whom he presented his work.

Whatever his merits as a writer or his shortcomings as a Middle Eastern student, Gobineau's racist theory and work is a much darker side of his character. His work was celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic and he had enormous influence.

The tragic consequences were to unfold over time. Among them, the terrible "race war" that constituted World War II.

We have seen, of course, that Bahá'u'lláh's thoughts go in exactly the opposite direction.Humans are primarily spiritual rather than material. Furthermore, all people are decidedly equal:

Don't you know why we created you all from the same dust? That no one should rise above the other.[1]

andthe unity of humanityis the lynchpin of his teachings:

year the fruit of a tree and the leaves of a branch. Engage in utmost love and harmony, in kindness and fellowship.[2]

We also saw howclear and energetic Abdu'l Bahawas created to promote racial equality and fight racism.

Bahá'u'lláh's opponents tried to bury him alive and to obstruct his teachings. So much so that Bahá'u'lláh had to lament:

How can the celestial bird soar into the atmosphere of divine mysteries when its wings have been beaten by the stones of vain imagination and bitter hatred, and it is thrown into a prison built of unyielding stone? By the righteousness of God! The people have committed a grave injustice.[3]

Bahá'u'lláh also warns of the consequences of the obstacles placed in the way of his teachings.

We can well see how the whole human race is surrounded by great, incalculable sufferings. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore and disillusioned. Those intoxicated with complacency have placed themselves between her and the divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all humans, including themselves, in the web of their devices. They cannot discover the cause of the disease, nor do they have any knowledge of the cure. They imagined the straight as crooked and imagined their friend as the enemy. Bend your ears to this prisoner's sweet melody. Rise and raise your voices that perhaps the deep sleepers may be awakened.[4]

Michael D. Biddiss,Gobineau and the origins of European racism

Arnold H. Rowbotham,Gobineau and the Aryan Terror

Stefan Kale,Gobineau, Racism and Legitimism: A Royalist Heretic in Nineteenth-Century France

Robert Irwin,Gobineau, wannabe orientalist

(This article is the 131st in a series of hopefully 200 articles in 200 days to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Bahá'u'lláh. The anniversary will be celebrated worldwide on October 21st and 22nd, 2017. The articles are simply my personal Reflections on Bahá'u'lláh's life and work. Any errors or inadequacies in these articles are solely my responsibility.)


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