“The principle of the institution of castes, so completely misunderstood by Westerners, is nothing else but the differing natures of human individuals; it establishes among them a hierarchy the incomprehension of which only brings disorder and confusion…In effect, each man, by reason of his proper nature, is suited to carry out certain definite functions to the exclusion of all others…and thus the social order exactly expresses the hierarchical relationships that result from the nature of the beings themselves.”
~ Rene Guénon
The properly ordered social body, because it is a unity of the human order, has a structure that is analogous to that of the human body, composed of differing parts each contributing in a unique way to form a coherent and harmonious whole. This is why throughout traditional societies we find the various members of the social body, along with their corresponding functions, being symbolically represented by the human body.
The traditional world acknowledged the diversity among human beings. No one was born as a blank slate, capable of performing any task with the same aptitude as his neighbor, as if mankind were a homogenous mass of identical “atoms.” The egalitarian outlook has no place in the traditional understanding of society. “Caste” is the result of this anti-egalitarian understanding. It is nothing more than the acknowledgement that men differ in aptitude and inclination, and that these differences correspond to the functional needs of society in such a way that, if they are acknowledged and ordered properly, all men in a society can be assigned a “vocation” that fits their nature and allows them to realize their potential to the greatest degree possible.
This system has its equivalents in all traditional societies, from the Christian Middle Ages to Japan. However, the Hindu caste system in India, because it is the only one with which modern men are vaguely familiar, will be used an example here, although its underlying assumptions and its categories must be understood to be universal amongst the other traditional civilizations. The terms for the Hindu castes (varnas) are the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas, and the Shudras. Returning again to Guénon:
…the Brahmins represent essentially the spiritual and intellectual authority; the Kshatriyas, the administrative prerogative comprising both the judicial and the military offices, of which the royal function is simply the highest degree; to the Vaishyas belongs the whole varied range of economic functions in the widest sense of the word, including the agricultural, industrial, commercial and financial functions; as for the Shudras, they carry out the tasks necessary to assure the purely material subsistence of the community.
If we choose to represent this “social body” symbolically, the Brahmins form the mouth, the Kshatriya the arms, the Vaishya the thighs, the Shudra the feet.
Translating these functional groups into more familiar terms, such as those of the Medieval West, we can speak of the priestly class (Brahmins), the nobility (Kshatriyas), the “third estate” (Vaishyas), and peasantry (Shudras).
While the study of each of these four principal castes would be beneficial for the modern Westerner, our purposes make it necessary to focus on the divergence between the first two only: the priesthood and the nobility, the “Sacerdotum” and “Regnum,” or in other words the Spiritual Authority and the Temporal Power. The third and fourth classifications are, after all, subordinate or lesser subdivisions of the nobility.
The Spiritual Authority and the Temporal Power are, as should be clear at this point, the representatives of “knowledge” and “action” respectively, and therefore these are the categories we really ought to have in mind when we are considering problems of “Church and State,” even if the latter terms are specific to the modern world.
 Spiritual Authority and Temporal Power, pp. 8-9.
 Introduction to the Study of the Hindu Doctrines, pp. 154-155.
 Rig-Veda, x. 90.