Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hey Baby, What's Your Caste?

Let me clarify a comment I made yesterday about people belonging to different castes. I did not mean this in an elitist way, and I certainly didn't mean to imply an endorsement of how the caste system was applied in India.

That system actually had a sensible basis. Remember, before the scientific and market revolutions, culture was virtually static. There was no notion of progress; in fact, most cultures thought that the reverse was true--that our ancestors once lived in the mythological "Great Time" of a golden age, but that subsequent generations had somehow deviated from the ideal. The purpose of culture was to try to imitate the ways of the ancestors, otherwise the passage of time would simply lead to more degeneration and chaos.

Obviously human beings all over the world still struggle mightily with the allied notions that dynamic chaos is the source of order and that the application of rigid order generates chaos. Where would the socialist left be, for example, without the primordial distrust of free markets and individual liberty?

In fact, European conservatives are the same way--by and large, they are nothing like the revolutionary conservatives of contemporary America, in that they tend to be elitists who wish to preserve inherited power and privilege (Margaret Thatcher notwithstanding, who was a modern Hayekian "conservative liberal"). Prior to the conservative intellectual movement founded by William F. Buckley in the mid-1950's, American "paleo-conservatives" were similar to their reactionary European counterparts.

Likewise, the Islamists are quite transparent in their desire to impose a caliphate to impose order on the world. They are specifically in revolt against every form of chaos that leads to order and complexity: free markets, democracy, free speech, religious plurality, emancipation of women.

Remember, history is not just horizontal, but vertical. There is a deeply ingrained collective mind parasite that causes human beings to be terrified of disorder and to want to remedy it with rigid solutions applied in a top-down fashion, not just in the past, but today. We are all somewhat susceptible to it.

But in order for human beings to evolve in the post-biological sense, it was necessary for them to break through this particular psychological barrier, which was only accomplished in the Christian West. Before that, human beings were stuck in an evolutionary rut, or world-historical eddy, if you like. But that is the norm--after all, all successful species are basically stuck on a Darwinian treadmill of rigid adaptation.

Now the Hindu caste system was originally based on the banal but accurate observation that individual human beings do indeed belong to different castes--that there are different personality types (for example, consider Jung's typological system of 16 main personality types; see book below). This should surprise no one. It is simply a variant of the idea that "it takes all kinds to make a world." Their mistake was in wedding this idea to the primordial fear of disorder, and creating a rigid system in which one's caste was determined by genealogy instead of inclination.

In a perfectly functioning market system, the same thing will happen spontaneously, as people discover their particular gift, actualize their innate potential, and find their adaptive "niche." (Yes, troll, let me save you some time and say that I realize the system is not perfect.)

Again, the original caste system was based on the idea that a functioning society required very different tasks and skills, and that certain temperaments were better suited than others to discharge those tasks. Warriors, priests, intellectuals, merchants, laborers--all have very different temperaments (in fact, there even appear to be temperamental slaves, but I don't think I'll go there; suffice it to say that there are a great many sheep in the world whose collective energy creates wolves).

It has long been observed that living another man's dharma is a grave spiritual danger. In other words, it is possible for us to get stuck in the wrong caste, so to speak. If this happens, we will never actually be. Rather, we will only seem to be, and our life will pass by unlived before we plunge into the abyss.

Hey, it almost happened to me. When I started college it was as a business major, as I had no earthly notion of what else I might do with my life. I did not know my caste. But I was definitely not a merchant. Thankfully I flunked out after two and a-half years, saving me from a fate worse than death--worse, because it would have been a living death. That is by far the scariest kind of death--hence the universal fear of zombies and vampires, of which there are more than a few in the world. Another man's dharma is not just dangerous--it is death.

It is important to emphasize that our caste is not just a present fact, but a future one. This is another area of confusion. We are all oriented by a ruling idea, and our lives will generally be stationary--even if there appears to be a great deal of movement and commotion on the surface---if we do not search for the way toward this permanent goal, or align ourselves with our highest aspiration.

If someone had told me when I was 10, 20, or even 30, that I was a member of the priestly caste, I would have scoffed at the idea. But that turned out to be the case. It just happens to be what I am temperamentally suited for. There are many people operating as documented and undocumented priests, gurus, holy men and suburban shamans that are not so suited. They are dangerous frauds. But you may know them by their fruits, in the same way that you may know my business acumen by its fruits.

Now, what about humility? Am I saying that the priestly caste is superior? Not at all. Quite the opposite. I think you will find that the person to whom the priestly inclination comes naturally is already humble, whereas the false-priest is full of spiritual pride and vanity. They make outlandish claims and they require followers to confirm their greatness.

These false teachers--Tony "Unlimited Power!" Robbins and Deepak "The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire!" Chopra come to mind, but there are countless others--are somewhat like vampires, feeding on the spiritual substance of their adoring flock. They require the constant flattery of Nobodies in order to feel like a Somebody. The world is full of such characters. Just look! They're everywhere. Their spiritual knowledge never rises above the plane of mere information (usually dis- or misinformation, at that).

Now, my crack about religion being only for the very stupid and very smart probably also sounded elitist. My point was this: there are different kinds of men--emotional men, physical men, intellectual men, spiritual men, and various shades in between. And there is a religion for each.

To put it in yogic terms, for the physical man there is karma yoga, the yoga of action. For the emotional man there is bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. For the intellectual man there is jnana yoga, the yoga of metaphysical and philosophical knowledge. And for the spiritual man, there is raja yoga, the yoga of meditation and ascent. They all work, and no one is better than the others, but one can be worse than the others if you are practicing the wrong one.

To cite just one example, many sophisticated westerners such as JWM have difficulty embracing Christianity because in the West it has largely lost its sapiential (knowledge) and transformational components, and has been reduced to a simple fideism of bhakti yoga, or worship of Christ.

But in fact, all of the major religions are analogous to yoga, in that they have a place for all the castes and temperaments. In Christianity, the sapiential-transformational component was never lost in the Orthodox tradition, whereas by necessity it was under-emphasized in the Catholic West due to the exigencies of worldly power and the need for organization and orthopraxis.

But even then, you don't have to search far in Western Christendom to find the most sublime and unsurpassed spiritual wisdom, for example, in the figure of Meister Eckhart. His corpus is impenetrable to those who are not "resonating" at the same spiritual wave length, which is a good thing, because it protects it from becoming the watered-down gruel of mere intellectual knowing and false teaching. Such teachings are only for the trans-intellectual, which is what I meant by my elitist sounding wisecrack. These teachings cannot be understood by the worldly intellect. But obviously, there's nothing at all wrong with the worldly intellect of the scientist or engineer. The world can get along just fine without me, but where would we be without them?

Well, I've probably rambled for too long. Time to leave the slackitareum and earn my keep by the sweat of my brow, like everyone else. Except for all those scoundrels making a living from the postmodern-day Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.

*****

Almost forgot--my wife is a career transition coach who specializes in helping people who are stuck in the wrong caste, so to speak, find a more spiritually satisfying career. Her book provides a structure to help find your calling if your calling has been calling and you haven't been answering. Her website has excerpts from the book and a link to reviews on Amazon.com:

LeslieGodwin.com

What's your caste?

14 Comments:

Anonymous dilys said...

Are you responsible for GagMom's article title, "No Niche, No Scratch"? Somehow, it has a familiar ring...

Bless me father for I have blogged.

2/16/2006 10:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Mrs. G said...

Yes! You're good :)
Bob is brilliant at coming up with titles as well as pet and children's names.

Mrs. G

2/16/2006 12:17:00 PM  
Anonymous John D said...

Is it possible to have satisfaction from financial achievement in one's worklife (in place of spiritual uplift) and find spiritual fulfillment in other pursuits. Or is that a route to zombiedom ? What's your strategy ?

If one is seeking to breakout of zombiedom which comes first :spiritual enlightenment that you describe or what seems to be a very pragmatic approach that your wife follows ?

2/16/2006 01:06:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

john d--

"Is it possible to have satisfaction from financial achievement in one's worklife (in place of spiritual uplift) and find spiritual fulfillment in other pursuits?"

I wouldn't take any chances. A generous love gift to Petey's ministry will probably cover you.

Actually, I suppose it just depends on the person. I couldn't personally do it, because in the spiritual life, just as in raising chuildren, there is really no such thing as "quality time." Rather, it's quantity time that counts. Quality is a function of that.

"Which comes first. spiritual enlightenment that you describe or what seems to be a very pragmatic approach that your wife follows?"

Good question. I would say neither. I always advise a multi-pronged effort that addresses body, mind and spirit simultaneously. Everything contributes, from mundane things such as diet, general health, exercise, and rest, to relationships and hobbies, to being strictly ethical, to avoiding bad stress and noxious cultural influences, to prayer, contemplation, reading and meditation.

2/16/2006 01:42:00 PM  
Anonymous dilys said...

At the risk of putting a muddy footprint on Mrs. G's expert turf, I'll weigh in with what I've come across in similar questions, especially from young women. That is, young feminists have been told to Have It All, to Do What You Love, to Find Meaningful Work.

I'm coming to believe that finding something ethical, not too exhausting that fits your psychology, that brings home the bacon, is Just Fine, and that the personal and spiritual realm does not have to be foremost in that decision. Too many women especially are stuck in, say, dysfunctional not-for-profit jobs, because sinple work-for-money wouldn't be "meaningful." Well, better people than I, have recognized great meaning in the integrity of meeting the bills without drama.

And this may not have been the question. And always there is the danger of being devoured by either the demands of the job, or ambition taking over.

2/16/2006 03:27:00 PM  
Blogger D. Vision said...

Bob,

I think you are confusing division of labor with a caste system; it is not so. Along the lines of spiritual "caste", if your meaning is closer to division of labor I might be tempted to agree, but the word you used has a connotation that is negative--and for good reason, India's emergence from that system of injustice is a long, ongoing process. Culturally there are still vestiges--a person's social status is communicated primarily through the shade of their skin, the lighter being the higher.

If you suggest that because a person chooses not to believe in any form of spirituality (and for good reasons) that they are somehow of a lower spiritual "caste", you're ascribing to them, wrongly, a stunted humanity incapable of fulfillment.

If you think that enlightenment is to be revealed through clever wordplay and lean-to koans constructed haphazardly of contradictory statements, you're descending down a path where logic will not guide you, and your conclusions will likewise be unsound. You mistake inversion for duality, and are so obsessed with the term "vertical" one wonders whether you haven't permanently crippled your reasoning powers searching for mysterious perpedinculars.

2/16/2006 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

d vision

"If you suggest that because a person chooses not to believe in any form of spirituality (and for good reasons) that they are somehow of a lower spiritual "caste", you're ascribing to them, wrongly, a stunted humanity incapable of fulfillment."

--That's certainly one way of looking at it. But it's not my way. There is a developmental spectrum of consciousness with higher and lower forms. The lower forms are accessible to the higher, but the lower does not know of the higher, any more than a child understands algebra.

"If you think that enlightenment is to be revealed through clever wordplay and lean-to koans constructed haphazardly of contradictory statements, you're descending down a path where logic will not guide you, and your conclusions will likewise be unsound. You mistake inversion for duality, and are so obsessed with the term "vertical" one wonders whether you haven't permanently crippled your reasoning powers searching for mysterious perpedinculars."

--No purpose is served by wasting words in response to such an argument. It would be like trying to convince a behaviourist that the unconscious exists.

Suffice it to say that the spiritual realm is not illogical but translogical, and requires that language be used in a special way in order to make it present and knowable. Applying assymetrical logic to it is like trying to bite a wall. Spirtual growth involves exiting the closed circle of the lower intellect. In so doing, one hardly loses one's conventional reasoning power. It is simply supplemented by higher faculties and not misused to speak of things about which it must remain silent.

2/16/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Anonymous john d said...

are you describing your professional practice ? For instance if a prospective patient calls and wants to know how you work with patients would you advise him/her that there is a strong spiritual element to your practice certainly involving acknowledgement of a higher being, avoiding negative cultural exposure etc (along the lines of what you just described). Would you decline to take on someone not open to this approach that sought mere "vertical" therapy ?

2/16/2006 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Mrs. G said...

Dilys,
You're so right. I often suggest to clients that they can do a lot of meaningful things in their spare/personal time, including family relationships, community service, and religious practices.

You said it best...thanks for making that point,
Leslie

2/16/2006 05:53:00 PM  
Blogger The Bunnies said...

Bob, do you believe that there can be an inherent imbalance between the castes to which people ascribe themselves and the needs of the society at large?

For example, in the West we have many who believe themselves to be artists, but the market relegates most of them to waiting tables. Is this because the "artists" aren't following their correct path, because society undervalue what they have to offer, or does this indicate an imbalance of sorts?

2/16/2006 08:02:00 PM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

I appreciate you taking the time and giving your detailed explanation Bob, I get what you are saying now about the caste thingy and it makes sense.

I want to say to everyone that I have never had a problem with Bob using the term "vertical" because its a great representive slot to include everyone's path and for me I relaxed instantly when Bob went on to include that where the vertical and the horizontal met made a cross. I had no problem grasping what that "vertical" meant for me after that.

IMHO, I think it's everyone's responsibility to fill that slot. That is where the choice comes in. I HAVE to put a particular name to it because it's important for me because I also feel it's important to my maker. "In the beginning was the word." and God's word is yesterday-today-tomorrow so that makes me understand how important the word is, not just that in the bible but all words because words have power and I know there is power in HIS word. So if we take that one step further, What is a name but a language unit by which a person or thing is known? Yet His name has power. His name is a word and it's a word and a name with glorified power put into it yesterday...today...and tomorrow, so for me to not fill "the vertical" with what it really is and what it really means for me in my own faith would be to stay stuck in a variable and miss out on the blessings that the power of His name has. John 16:23 teaches us, "Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in MY NAME, he will give it to you." We are taught here how powerful this word/name has to the ear of our maker. Wow! I can't miss out on that! There is power in the right choice of the God you choose and in my choice there is power in the name of His son also! WoooooHooo!

I think even in revelation 3 God is pleased about not denying His name ("You have kept My Word, you have not denied my name.”)That shows me that it's important to God. So it should be important to me.

So I understand that "vertical" is just a variable term for everyone to fill with their own choice and for me, John 20:31 teaches me that there is life in His name.

Isaiah 49:16 promises me where I belong, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

Ecclesiastes 3:10-11 reminds me that we all have it in our hearts to desire a life after this one, "I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

2/17/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

BTW, I didn't mean for my last post here to get all "preachy" I was just typing from the heart, but I wanted to come back here and share THIS with each of you....

The pilgrim is not just a man, but a lifetime of a man and the cathedral is not a building.

We will give these bodies back to the earth in the end.

2/17/2006 01:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

John D--

"if a prospective patient calls and wants to know how you work with patients would you advise him/her that there is a strong spiritual element to your practice certainly involving acknowledgement of a higher being"

--Yes, except for very short term situations.

"Would you decline to take on someone not open to this approach that sought mere "vertical" therapy ?"

--Well, you get what you pay for. If you go to a Jungian, for example, there's going to be a spiritual component that is intrinsic to the work. At the moment I'm more involved in non-therapeutic forensic work, but you could call my approach "transpersonal psychoanalysis," so there's an unavoidable spiritual dimension to it. I couldn't work any other way, because it's how I see and experience things.

The Bunnies--

"Bob, do you believe that there can be an inherent imbalance between the castes to which people ascribe themselves and the needs of the society at large?"

--Not really, because we're not actually dealing with castes but personality types. It's like asking, "are there too many spotted owls and not enough brown ones?" In the interest of diversity, nature tosses out all kinds of personalities. As Dilys mentioned, they all have their parts to play as well as their blind spots.

"For example, in the West we have many who believe themselves to be artists, but the market relegates most of them to waiting tables. Is this because the "artists" aren't following their correct path, because society undervalue what they have to offer, or does this indicate an imbalance of sorts?"

--Well that's a different question. Most of the people you describe are not actually artists, but waiters. They just think they are artists, perhaps because they are narcissistic or just don't like working.

For example, the world already has way too many books. 99% of them not only do not need to be written, but just add to the confusion. They are just vanity projects for the author, not anything of actual merit. Same with most visual art, most movies, most music, and obviously most television. So in that sense there is an imbalance. But what can you do? You can't really worry about that. All you can do is make sure you are actualizing your own potential and not living as one of the alienated zombies.

2/17/2006 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

You know Bob, I have never done therapy or sought any psychologist, but I know if I ever had to that I would want someone with a strong spiritual element to them.

Its like when having a surgery how confident and lucky one feels if they have the surgeon pray with them prior.

I feel this way on legal issues also, in that I would much rather have a lawyer representing me, that to me, is open about having a conviction to a higher authority than themselves.

2/17/2006 05:46:00 PM  

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