European intellectuals

The book which introduced the Bab to a generation of European intellectuals was Religions and philosophies of Central Asia, by Joseph Arthur, Compte de Gobineau (1816-1882), published in 1865. Gobineau was a French writer and diplomat posted in Persia during the time of the Bab who developed a great interest in the country’s history. This work contained the first extensive account of the Babi religion and early history of the faith. He had come into possession of the only manuscript of a history of the Babi Faith which had been written by Haji Mirza Jani.

Gobineau wrote this description of Tahirih:

“…she was not content with passive belief; she spoke publically about the teachings of her master; she stood up not only against polygamy but also against the use of the veil, and showed her face in public places to the great shock and scandal of her family and all sincere Muslims, but also to the applause of the numerous people who shared her enthusiasm and whose public preaching greatly added to the circle of believers.”[i]

“…she consecrated herself fully to her Apostleship of the Bab to which he had given all the rights and entrusted her with many responsibilities. Her knowledge of theology became immense…I never heard any Muslim put in doubt the virtue of such a unique person.”[ii]

Gobineau’s other legacy is as a leading contributor to the 19th century European quest to base ideas of racial superiority and inferiority on science which today have been completely rejected as pseudo-scientific but were widely accepted in that period.

The young Gobineau watched his family collapse in disgrace with his parents separating and his mother arrested for fraud. As a young man, Gobineau chafed against his circumstances. Despite being an aristocratic but struggled to earn a living as a writer and political activist. He loathed the ideas of equality spawned by the French Revolution—commoners were an inferior type of people--but also saw the French aristocracy as largely corrupt and useless.

He developed racial theories that were an extension of his romantic conservative view of history, of a past bygone age when good aristocrats ruled society. While in his lifetime he was known as a travel writer and a diplomat, he was later remembered for his ideas on the superiority of Aryan races over non-Aryan races.

Click below 1) for a video on the history of the Bab and a little about the world in which he lived and 2)  a video on the roots of German fascist ideology including the ideas of Gobineau: