One strength of the concept of the Anwei (the “spirit of the lineage”) is that it acknowledges the inheritance of legacy, but it does so without falling into the trap of the caste system.
The caste system is — arguably — the most prominent religious-political system which also acknowledges the role of inheritance and legacy along the lineage. It tacitly acknowledges the inheritance of traits and the relationship between those traits and certain roles in society (for example, strength and labor, or linguistic proficiency and law). By establishing certain “castes” (etymology: LATIN castus “chaste” => PORTUGESE casto “pure” => casta “lineage, breed” => caste), the genetic inclination for both competence and identity within a social role could be bred into different populations of society. This, at least, was the stated aim.
But historically, we see a very different origin with the caste system.
In India, the castes were created and imposed by the invading Indo-European population. Reserving for themselves the higher castes of “Brahmin” (priests) and “Kshatriya” (warrior), the native Indians were made to be “Vaishyas” (artisans, farmers, traders), “Shudras” (laborers), and “Dalits” (untouchables). So from the very beginning, the castes were not designed for the purpose of making society function efficiently and harmoniously, but for maintaining a purity and separation between a conquering population and the conquered.
We see a similar origin-story in the caste-system of Ancient Sparta. The “Spartans” — a Doric people from the north — conquered Laconia and established three castes: the Spartiate homoioi (“equal ones”), warrior citizens; the perioikoi (“the ones who live nearby”), free non-citizens — usually merchants or traders; and the helots — state-owned slaves.
As with India, the Spartan perioikoi and helots were not divided from a common lineage to create a harmonious society; rather, a pre-existing distinction was codified by the castes, attempting to permanently separate a conquered indigenous people (the perioikoi) or those captured in battle (helots) from the conquering tribe.
Ironically, the Indian caste system had been waning, and was described as “fuzzy” in the years before the British Raj in 1858. In an effort to more efficiently maintain political control over the native Indians, Imperial England codified and enforced the caste system, thus breathing new life — as conquerors — into a dying division that had once been created by another invading population.
This puts the history of the caste system at odds with modern caste-idealists.
Many traditionalists in the school of Julius Evola believe that the caste system is a “natural” state of affairs which will arise organically from any well-run society with a respect for tradition:
…human society is structured in four ‘functional classes’ or castes, which correspond to definite and differentiated ways of being; each caste possesses its own character, ethics, rights and duties within the broader framework of Tradition. The highest caste is comprised of those individuals who embody spiritual authority; the second of the warrior aristocracy; the third of the property-owning bourgeoisie; the fourth of servants.– Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar
But again, these castes only “emerge” when a conquering people come into contact with a conquered indigenous population. They do not — and indeed should not — emerge from within a single homogenous population. The Indo-Europeans did not relegate their own to become Shudras or Dalits, nor did the Doric Spartans make helots of their own people. Similarly, it would have been unthinkable for the crown of 19th-century England to impose a caste system of the Indian variety on its own citizenry in London.
The “tradition” of castes is not a universal, but a contextual truth, and the castes are not a tradition without their shortcomings, even for the priests and warriors at the top.
First, the caste-system undermines national identity in favor of caste identity.
As can be seen from the examples of Sparta and India, this undermining of national identity actually represents a reflection of reality: neither Sparta nor India were one nation, but two: conquerors and conquered. These two nations came with two distinct sets of loyalties. For the purposes of the conquering people, this system may have functioned reasonably well. But for those living in a pre-existing and relatively homogeneous society seeking to create or impose castes for the sake of “tradition,” the division will almost certainly reduce the strength and cohesion of the nation, rather than increase it.
Second, the caste-system is unlikely to function well according to its own moral justification — namely, the breeding of competence and purpose within functional social domains. Human society is dynamic and the nature of these roles change across time, with new technology and experimentation. The physical and psychological requirements from a warrior today are different than they were 500 years ago, reflecting the emergence of firearms, advanced communication, airplanes, etc. Even 500 years ago, the nature of the warrior was different than what he may have been 5,000 years ago; the imposing hunter with natural speed and strength had been replaced and overpowered by the man who could fight in formation, perhaps with a crossbow or a pike, and perhaps from horseback. These warriors reflect differences not just in technique of combat, but in genetic type with a predisposition towards success. And the warrior is just an example; all of the social roles represented by the caste system change across time in this fashion, and seem to be changing faster with each passing decade.
Related to this problem is the interrelated nature of these roles. The warrior who understands other personality-types will be better able to anticipate or even fight against rivals, compared to the warrior who only understands the warrior mindset. The laborer who has a bit of the priest or the artisan in him will better be able to fulfill his client’s expectations in the performance of his work. The merchant who understands the priest or the warrior will better know how to sell to them. And so on. The caste-member who is completely and exclusively his own function may, paradoxically, actually be worse at performing his role precisely because of his specialization.
This ties into the third problem, which is more existential. Human beings are adaptive pack animals; we are not bees. We were not created by nature to be warriors or a priests or a laborers or a merchants, but to be all of these things. Even for the warriors and the priests at the “top” of the caste-hierarchy, something is missing in their lives; a telos is not being fulfilled, and their existence as a human being is incomplete. The warrior may find himself, from time to time, yearning to harvest their own food from the soil, or to build a house, or paint a masterpiece, or to dwell upon the questions of philosophy and religion… just as the academic or the laborer may one day find himself heretically yearning for the thrill of combat.
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.– Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love
Is this unnatural? Is this longing for a completeness in the fulfillment of our purpose as humans truly antithetical to “tradition” and the good life because it breaks down the borders of caste?
I think it is not. Rather, I think the caste system’s specialization is unnatural, and leads to lifestyles which are at odds with the older tradition of nature.
Nevertheless, the acknowledgment of differences between people and the inheritance of these differences is something that the caste system has in its favor. The chief opponent of the caste-system — liberal egalitarianism — correctly identifies the broader range of skills and subsequent inclinations, but falsely assumes that because of this broader range, no differences can be known — or, perhaps, no meaningful differences in ability and value even exist. To avoid the unnatural constraints of the caste, liberal egalitarianism denies the science of inheritance and biology.
It is at this juncture that the concept of the Anwei shines. The Anwei acknowledges trends and traits within the lineage, but accepts these and divergences from clearly-defined roles with equanimity. To the Anwei, a social role is not the aim, as it is with the caste. Patterns in social roles are emergent properties, but not blueprints. The caste treats humans as domesticated dogs, to be bred for some purpose. The Anwei acknowledges the inheritance of traits and roles just as the dog-breeder does, but the desires of the breeder hold no power over the Anwei.
The dogs of the caste are stretched and compressed to fit some external mold, but the wolves of the Anwei create themselves to their own standards.
Different roles will still be required of a functioning nation. There will still be warriors, priests, artisans, and laborers; no one can become master of all facets of human life. We may develop deeper understanding of other fields through hobbies and communication, but we still need day-jobs. The accountant may build boats or practice martial arts on the side, but at the end of the day, he is still first and foremost an accountant.
But the accountant whose brother is a soldier, and whose cousin is a day-laborer, and whose uncle is a politician, will have a different concept of loyalty than the accountant whose brother, cousin, and uncle are all accountants as well. In the latter case, one’s lineage — even “race” — is synonymous with “accountant.” This is what it means to be in a “caste.” But in the former instance, the accountant is still an accountant, but he is also something else. His identity, even within the same social role, is more expansive, more holistic, and more complete as a human being. He is less of an insect, and more of a person.
The nation comprised of such humans rather than bees will naturally be stronger because it will be more unified and more flexible. Perhaps this is why when the Romans collided with the military power-house of Sparta, they were underwhelmed and amused by its weakness and backwardness. Perhaps this is why India has stagnated into a “tradition” of mediocrity far beneath its ancient civilizational glory. The caste system creates a functional compromise that allows a divided polis to survive, but does so at the cost of the vivacious human strength of its membership.
By contrast, the Anwei creates — or, rather, identifies — a central core to human identity that is stable… not despite its undefined, organic foundation, but because of it. It acknowledges the reality of inheritance and lineage without weaponizing the concept, intentionally against a conquered people, and unwittingly against oneself.