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...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.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. One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin