"... It is further evident that this impact of Religiosity upon the Institution of Caste in India must have aggravated the banefulness of the institution very seriously. Caste is always on the verge of being a social enormity; but when Caste is "keyed up" by recieving a religious interpretation and a religious sanction in a society which is hag-ridden by Religiosity, then the latent enormity of the institution is bound to rankle into a morbid social growth of poisonous tissue and monstrous proportions. In the actual event the impact of Religiosity upon Caste in India has begotten the unparalleled social abuse of "Untouchability" ..."
The following is excerpted from the chapter "The Impact of Religiosity upon Caste", in Volume IV - The Breakdowns of Civilizations, of A.J.Toynbee's "A Study Of History" (1939). I have omitted the material on racism in the US of A and apartheid in South Africa to keep focus on caste in Hinduism (as well as to keep this mail within reasonable length).
IV. The Breakdowns of Civilizations 13. The Impact of Religiosity upon Caste
The Lucretian and Voltairean view that Religion in itself is an evil - and perhaps the fundamental evil in human life - might be supported by citing, from the annals of Indic and Hindu history, the sinister influence which Religion has ascertainably and incontestably exercised, in the lives of two civilizations, upon the institution of Caste. This institution, which consists in the social segregation of two or more geographically intermingled groups of human beings or social insects, is apt to establish itself wherever and whenever one community makes itself master of another community without being able or willing either on the one hand to exterminate the subject community or on the other hand to assimilate it into the tissues of its own body social. In the recent history of our own Western World a caste-division has arisen in the United States between the dominant element of White race and European origin and the subject Negro element ..... A similar caste-division has arisen between the two corresponding elements in the population of the Union of South Africa ..... In the sub-continent of India the institution of Caste seems to have arisen out of the irruption of the Eurasian Nomad Aryas into the former domain of the so-called "Indus Culture" in the course of the first half of the second millenium B.C.; and in this Indian case the resulting situation has been still more unhappy than it is in the two cases just cited; for in India there was not only an original diversity of race between the dominant caste and the subject caste - a diversity which has continued to produce its estranging effect socially and morally, long after it has been physically obliterated - but the relative material power of the two castes was in inverse ratio to their relative civilization. The Aryan conquerors of the Indus Basin in the second millenium B.C. were barbarians, like the "Dorian" conquerers of Crete and the Lombard conquerers of Italy, while their victims, like the Minoans and the Romans, were the heirs of a once great civilization. ....
..... In the Indian case, on the other hand, we may conjecture that from the beginning the castes were distinguished by certain differences of religious practice, since the Aryan intruders who constituted the dominant caste were presumably still in the primitive social stage at which the religious and the secular side of life are not yet distinguished from one another, and at which the possession of a distinct and separate life as a community consequently implies the practice of a distinct and separate religion as well. It is evident, however, that this hypothetical religious ingredient in the original form of the local Indian version of the institution of Caste must have been accentuated when the Indic Civilization developed the religious bent which it has bequeathed to a Hindu Society that is related to it by "affiliation". It is further evident that this impact of Religiosity upon the Institution of Caste in India must have aggravated the banefulness of the institution very seriously. Caste is always on the verge of being a social enormity; but when Caste is "keyed up" by recieving a religious interpretation and a religious sanction in a society which is hag-ridden by Religiosity, then the latent enormity of the institution is bound to rankle into a morbid social growth of poisonous tissue and monstrous proportions. In the actual event the impact of Religiosity upon Caste in India has begotten the unparalleled social abuse of "Untouchability"; and since there has never been any effective move to abolish or even mitigate "Untouchability" on the part of the Brahmans - the hieratic caste which has become master of the ceremonies of the whole caste-system and has assigned to itself the highest place in it - the enormity survives, except in so far as it has been assailed by revolution. The earliest known revolts against Caste are those of Mahavira the founder of Jainism (occubuit prae 500 B.C.) and Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism (vivebat circa 567-487 B.C.): two creative personalities who were non-Brahmans themselves and who ignored the established barriers of Caste in recruiting the bands of disciples whom they gathered round them to wrestle with the moral problems of the Indic "Time of Troubles". If either Buddhism or Jainism had succeeded in captivating the Indic World, then conceivably the institution of Caste might have been sloughed off with the rest of the social debris of a disintegrating Indic Society, and an affiliated Hindu Civilization might have started life free from this incubus. As it turned out, however, the role of the universal church in the last chapter of the Indic decline and fall was played not by Buddhism but by Hinduism - a parvenu archaistic syncretism of things new and old; and one of the old things which Hinduism resuscitated was Caste. Not content with resuscitating this old abuse, it embroidered upon it. The Hindu Civilization has been handicapped from the outset by a considerable heavier burden of Caste (a veritable load of karma) than the burden that once weighed upon its predecessor; and accordingly the series of revolts against Caste has run over from Indic to Hindu history. In the Hindu Age these revolts have no longer taken the form of creative philosophical movements of indigenous origin like Buddhism or Jainism, but have expressed themselves in definite secessions from Hinduism under the attraction of some alien religious sytem. Some of these secessions have been led by Hindu reformers who have founded new churches in order to combine an expurgated version of Hinduism with certain elements borrowed from alien sources. Thus, for example, Kabir and the founder of Sikhism, Nanak, (vivebat A.D. 1469-1538) created their syncretisms out of a combination between Hinduism and Islam, while Ram Mohan Roy (vivebat A.D. 1772-1833) created the Brahmo Samaj out of a combination between Hinduism and Christianity. It is noteworthy that, in all these three syncretisms alike, the institution of Caste is one of the features of Hinduism that has been rejected. In other cases the secessionsts have not stopped at any half-way house but have shaken the dust of Hinduism off their feet altogether and have entered outright into the Islamic or the Christian fold; and such conversions have taken place on the largest scale in districts in which there had previously been a high proportion of members of low castes or depressed classes in the local Hindu population. The classic instance is the latter-day religious history of Eastern Bengal, where the descendents of former barbarians who had been admitted just within the pale of Hinduism on sufferance, with an extremely low status, have become converts to Islam en masse. This is the revolutionary retort to the enormity of "Untouchability" which has been evoked by the impact of Religiosity upon Caste; and, as the masses of the population of India are progressively stirred by the economic and intellectual and moral ferment of Westernization, the trickle of conversions among the outcasts seems likely to swell into a flood, unless the abolition of the stigma of "Untouchability" is achieved at the eleventh hour by the non-Brahman majority of the Caste-Hindus themselves, in the teeth of Brahman opposition, under the leadership of the Banya Mahatma Gandhi.
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