This is part of the work on the Principles of Gorean Thought – A Primer
6) The Gorean Philosophy
The Gor books are an excellent source work which details a rather broad philosophical spectrum, but despite vehement debates regarding what it comprises, the message inherent in those books still seems to me to be a rather basic one. It might be broken down to the following statement:
Know who you are, be what you are, and do not be afraid to acknowledge what makes you tick. Strive to work with nature, rather than against it. Be proud of your accomplishments, work to improve yourself and to serve the citizens of your polis, and live boldly, with no regrets and as little guilt and insecurity as possible. And above all, acknowledge your weaknesses as well as your strengths, whether those weaknesses are based on either a physical or emotional plane. In other words, admit what you are, and simply be it to the best of your ability.
This basic philosophy is repeatedly hammered home, throughout the Gor series, through Norman’s descriptions of how Goreans think, how they behave, and their justification for their actions. Their very society, with its included caste system, seems structured to support this series of core beliefs. Even their many proverbs and aphorisms, such as “A man in his heart yearns for freedom, a woman in her belly yearns for love” and “Be strong and do as you will. The swords of others will set you your limits” extoll the virtues of a deeper understanding of one’s own natural place in the scheme of things, while encouraging boldness of action. The Goreans also believe that “A man is not a man who cannot think. But neither is he who can only think.” Goreans think for themselves, yet they do not confine themselves to mere mental pursuits: they act upon what they know. Goreans display their emotions openly and with the simple phrase “I did it because it pleased me to do so” they disdain the need for guilty excuses. Such Gorean behaviours, and a thousand others like them, reinforce their insistence upon the acceptance of one’s internal nature in microcosm, and the acknowledgement of the dictates of external nature in macrocosm.
Gorean Philosophy also proposes the following behaviours as being inherently correct beneath its aegis:
Be WHAT you are: Similar in many respects to a tenet set forth by the Earth philosopher Marcus Aurelius; namely that each thing which exists possesses its own unique singularity. When a thing attempts to be something it is not, problems arise. A man is a man; a woman is a woman; a tree is a tree; a flower is a flower. To the Gorean mind, it is foolish for anything to assume the properties of another thing. Therefore, each person is required to understand his or her basic nature, and to abide by it. According to such a tenet, therefore, it is assumed that there are needs, desires and activities which are specifically masculine, and those which are specifically feminine. Though the lines may blur at times, when all things are reduced to their basic forms, each thing is appreciated and celebrated for its own uniqueness, and is not forced to assume properties of another, different, thing.
Be WHO you are: This tenet applies in regard to a person’s existence in society and the caste structure. It takes into account the fact that everyone possesses certain talents and abilities from birth, regardless of their familial caste.
Therefore, upon Gor a person is free to alter or raise his or her caste on the basis of ability, though it is rarely done, since most Goreans value their familial caste as a badge of their clan identity. But the above principle also applies in regard to freedom and slavery. To the Gorean mindset, each person is born with a desire for freedom, and an innate slave nature. A person’s proper place in society is dependant upon how these two factors are balanced within the personality of that particular Gorean. Most Goreans believe that anyone who has within them a burning desire to exist free of strictures will not suffer slavery, dying rather than submitting to bonditude. A person who has within them a strong slave nature, the desire to be controlled and commanded, will eventually succumb to their inner need to serve others, free of all responsibility to things other than themselves and their service.
Obey the Natural Order of things: This tenet applies to the way Goreans view the world around them. They feel it is futile to attempt to disregard the effect of hundreds of generations of evolution. If a creature is naturally genetically equipped to fulfil a specific function in relation to another, then it is considered fitting and proper that such a creature be allowed to do so, even when such natural predisposition might result in stratification. In regards to human beings, it is understood that stronger, more intelligent, and more ambitious human beings will naturally assume a higher social strata in regards to their interaction with the less strong, less intelligent, and less ambitious.
In regard to male/female sexual relations, it is therefore the natural propensity of the male, who is genetically predisposed for physical dominance, to control certain physical aspects of his relationship to the female. In return, he is expected to behave as the hunter/provider, seeing to the protection of the female to insure the propagation of the race. Females, meanwhile, who tend to be smaller and less physically powerful, are expected to respect the biological truths of their lesser physical stature, while making the most of their genetic predisposition to serve and aid the male, and utilizing their superior emotional empathy and long-term endurance to do so while surviving and advancing the species. Not all women, therefore, are “slaves,” though the female sex is often referred to by Gorean males as “the slave sex.” Gorean females are simply expected to respect and understand that they are less able in areas requiring raw physical strength than their male counterparts, and adjust their behaviour accordingly. When one considers the fact that personal combat to the death is a daily occurrence throughout Gor, such behaviour among Gorean women is a wise practice to say the least.
Advancement of the Strong: This tenet is similar to that described above; it simply refers to the common Gorean belief that strength, whether it is physical strength, mental strength, or strength of will, should be celebrated and set forth as an example. In this way the Gorean feels he advances the human race, adding to its chances for survival and continued existence.
Diminishment of the Causes of Weakness: This principle acts as the inverse to the tenet described above. In order that the human species may grow stronger, it is necessary that the weaker and lesser adaptive elements of Gorean society be carefully controlled and encouraged to grow in strength and adaptability. Anti-social elements are to be excised from society through restriction of citizenship, or confined and rehabilitated. Warfare and enforced captivity are two methods by which this last end is accomplished upon the surface of the planet Gor.
Do what you will: This is one of the key principles to Gorean philosophy; basically, it means that every Gorean is expected to strive within the limits of his or her existence to achieve self-fulfilment and lasting happiness. A Warrior may draw his sword and lead an army to conquer a city, if he is strong enough and fit enough to do so. A free woman may attempt to contract a profitable companionship or to build a financial empire, if she is strong enough and clever enough. Even a slave is expected to seek her deepest self-fulfilment within the bonds of her Master’s chains. In such a manner, each Gorean is expected to strive and achieve something for the collective Gorean society, and struggle to attain perfection within the structure of that society. To the Gorean mind, there are always possibilities for advancement no matter what the situation.
Responsibility for One’s Actions: This tenet is based upon the Gorean concept of basic “cause and effect.” It is through the practice of this principle that the rest of the tenets listed above make sense, and function. This is the belief that everyone, no matter how great or humble, chooses the course of his or her destiny. When a warrior draws his sword, he can expect to suffer the consequences. When a Gorean submits to the bonds of slavery, he or she is expected to acknowledge and accept what occurs afterward. In such a way every choice made by every single Gorean is inextricably bound together with the choices of his or her fellow Goreans in a great interlinking web of cause and effect, a massive net of fate which moves the race forward into the future like an unstoppable juggernaut. Do whatever you want to, but expect it to effect you, either for good or ill. You are responsible for yourself. Excuses are futile and no one wants to hear them anyway. If you screw up, take your medicine, deal with the situation and move on to the next thing. The basic rules and maxims of the various caste codes and the fundamental principles of Gorean honour seem to be based mostly upon this concept; this, in effect, is the explanation for Gorean “cruelty.” Goreans are not cruel, they are practical. “That which does not kill them makes them stronger,” to paraphrase from Nietzsche. If you wear the collar of a slave, look like a slave, act like a slave, and do not either fight your way to freedom or die in the attempt, then you must really be one. In any case, you most probably were free at one point… so what happened? You either needed to be a slave, were too weak to stay free, or screwed up really badly somewhere along the way. Whatever the case, deal with it. Life is not fair, and most Goreans are far to practical to try to make it so. Life sucks. If you get hit on the head, don’t waste time crying about it… accept it and next time wear a helmet.
Stratification by Natural Process: Superior strength– be it strength of will, strength of body, or strength of mind– will tend naturally to manifest itself among ordered human groupings. Even particulars such as sexual gender do not universally define how matters of strength are involved in the stratification process. Anyone who is stronger will naturally assume a position of dominance, be it mental or physical, over those weaker or less willing to match themselves in human dominance struggles. Therefore, it is categorically incorrect to assign presumed dominance or blanket superiority over anyone, or any one grouping, within the human condition, since these matters tend to be somewhat situational. While human beings are defined to a great extent by their sex, there is no “dominance gene” nor is there any “submission gene.” There are only combinations of heritable genes, each of which will render the individual more prone to certain behaviours than others. These genetic leanings can be circumvented, though typically the act of doing so is costly, both to the individual involved and to the system in which he or she functions.
The final tenet, listed above, has only one interpretation: if anyone, be they male or female, possesses the ability to dominate others, he or she will naturally tend to do so when the opportunity presents itself, even against his or her pre-existent genetic propensities. It is when the dominance factor clashes with the biologically ingrained sexual selection behaviours, and circumvents pre-programmed sexual-based survival behaviours, that the human being becomes, to paraphrase Norman, “a mass of conflicting drives and emotions, more prone to heightened mental stress, physical illness, psychological disease and a substantially shortened lifespan.
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