The Word Foundation


Harold W. Percival



Section 8

The four classes of human beings.

There are four classes of human beings according to the amount, quality and aim of their thinking: laborers, traders, thinkers, and knowers. The classes are invisible. The measure by which the human beings are so divided is their development achieved by thinking.

Sex, age, dress, occupation, station, possessions are often used as marks to put mankind into classes. These marks are only outward. They do not reach the portions of doers that live in the bodies so classified. Even feelings, emotions, tendencies and desires fail to offer a comprehensive and causal classification. The marks which are physical destiny, depend on thinking. Only according to the thinking men do can they be separated into classes which are causal to physical characteristics.

This classification has nothing to do with the caste systems known to history, which are usually connected with or based on a religious system. A grading of men according to their thinking is independent of any religion. The four classes exist and are, whether they are recognized or not, whenever there is a humanity and whatever its form of government. In every man all four types are represented, since every man has a body and is related to the three parts of the Triune Self. But one type predominates, and indicates the class to which he belongs, irrespective of sex, rank, possessions, occupation or other outward marks. In some ages this division, which always persists in his atmospheres, obtains also in the exteriorizations of physical life, and is sharply marked. This is the case in the best periods of a people. Then everyone knows himself to be, and is known by others to be, in his class. He knows it as well as a child knows that it is a child and not a man. There is no contempt for or envy of any class distinctions. At other times, however, the distinctions of these classes are not strictly displayed, but there are always at least general indications which suggest the underlying fourfold classification.

There are many things that all men today have in common. They all have desires for food, drink, dress, amusement, comforts. They nearly all have a certain good nature and sympathy, especially when the misfortunes of others appeal in a striking manner. They all sorrow and suffer. All have some virtues, some vices, all are subject to diseases. In different localities large numbers hold to the same beliefs as to government, religion and social order. These things which men have in common are so evident that they often obscure the distinctions of the classes. Then there is the leveling influence of money in a commercial and materialistic age. However, the four classes exist today as surely as ever.

In the first class are the persons who think little, whose thinking is narrow, shallow and sluggish and whose aim is to claim their rights from everybody and not to consider their duties to anybody. Their life is a service to their bodies. They want things for their bodies. They do not think of others except as the others affect their bodies. They have little or no memory of experiences and facts distant from the present and remember nothing from history except what falls in with their aims. They seek no information. They want no restraint, are lawless, illogical, ignorant, credulous, inconstant, irresponsible and self-indulgent. They take what they get, not because they would not take better things, but because they are not enough interested and are mentally too lazy to think out ways of getting them. They are carried on by the stream of events and are the servants of environment. They are servants by nature. Some of them have fortunes and high positions in the social order, some work in the arts and professions, but most are muscular laborers, hand workers or clerks. In recent times inventions have advanced industries and increased commerce. This has caused workers to be concentrated in cities, labor to become more specialized and people to become more dependent on the work of others. These gradual changes have aided in making labor prominent by organized minorities and labor unions. Thereby the heads of many persons in this first class have been filled with undue notions of their importance and such distorted views have not been rectified by the universal voting rights that exist in some countries.

However, their belief does not remove the persons who are in this class, from it. Nor will turmoil, strike and revolution do so. The persons who are in this class and remain in it are there because they belong there, because their mental destiny keeps them there and because they could not be in any of the other classes. Without the thinker and the trader, who create and distribute what the laborer is employed to produce, there would be no productions by the first class. Even the leaders of the first class do not usually belong to it. Often they are traders who deal in persons of the first class as other traders trade in coal or cattle. The power of these demagogues is exercised by trickery and by sensing the amount, quality, aim and range of the thinking done by the first class.

Some doers are born into this first class though they are not of it; after they have had the rough training they need they work themselves out of it, as an engine wiper who becomes a railroad head, a clerk who becomes a banker, or a millhand who becomes a scientist.

In the second class are doers who think more than the laborers, whose thinking is broad, takes in many subjects, accommodates itself to conditions, is agile and accurate though superficial. Their aim usually is to give as little as they have to and to get as much as they can, and not to do their duties to others any more than they are compelled to. They think of others from expediency and for exploitation. Their desires are the most active part of them; they try to control their bodies as well as their thinking. The aim of most of their thoughts is to get something that will satisfy a desire for gain, rather than to enjoy through the body. They live in and for their desires and make their bodies serve them. They will often go without food and drive their bodies relentlessly to obtain an object of desire, put through a business deal, drive a bargain, and generally pursue their trading. They will live penuriously to accumulate money. One of the first class, a body doer, will not work the body hard to satisfy a desire for money alone. He may work hard to get money, but his aim is to spend what he has so earned, on his body. As desire works the body in this second class, so does it also work the body-mind and compel thinking. Their aim then is to find means to satisfy desire. The more active the desire for gain is, the greater will be the amount of thinking which desire can command for its service and the better will be its quality as to thoroughness and comprehensiveness.

They want a general order in affairs, as this protects their interests. They are not as lawless as are those of the first class but want to use that general order to further their own interests, and they are not averse to finding loopholes or special protection for themselves at the expense of those who are bound by general laws. To them what they desire is right; what opposes their desire is wrong. They are logical in their enterprises and keen observers of the weaknesses of human nature. They are usually informed about facts and circumstances that affect their particular business. They are not credulous but are skeptical and suspicious of what concerns their property and projects. They feel a certain responsibility if they have property, but try to evade it if they can. They indulge their desires for enjoyment through the body only when they can afford it and when no dominating desire offers obstacles. Their ruling desire is for gain, profit, possessions. They trade everything for these. They accommodate themselves to conditions until they can make conditions to suit themselves. They overcome their environment instead of being satisfied or ruled by it. Naturally they obtain power over the first class.

The persons in this class are essentially traders. Mere buying and selling does not bring anyone into this class, for almost everybody has some buying and selling to do. Farmers and peasants, though they buy some things and sell their products, do not usually belong to the traders. Nor do persons who sell their unskilled, skilled, artistic or professional services, whether they work for wages or independently. But those who engage in commercial pursuits and whose desire is for gain rather than for getting a mere living, or for patriotism, honor or fame, all from peddlers to merchant princes belong to this class. From the shopkeeper in a village and the packman selling along country roads to the dealers in whole cargoes, from small pawnbrokers to bankers who make national loans, all are in the same class. Their poverty or riches, failure or success, do not affect the classification. The changes which have come in the social order in modern times have not only helped the first class, the body workers, into prominence, but have made the second class, the traders, the rulers of the world. With the development of manufacturing and commerce has come a mass of real estate brokers, loan brokers, promoters, agents, commissionmen, functionaries, and go-betweens of many varieties. They are clear types of the second class. Here belong also the rulers in modern democracies, that is, the heads of those behind the heads of big business, bankers, party politicians, lawyers and labor leaders. All persons in the second class try to bend everything to the service of their desire for gain and possessions. Their aim is always to get the best of the bargain.

In the third class are the persons here called thinkers. They think much; their thinking is broad, deep and active, compared with that of laborers and traders. Their chief aim is to achieve ambitions and ideals irrespective of material preferment. Their desire is for their thinking to be above and to control their desires. In this they differ from the traders, whose desire is that their desires shall control the thinking. The outstanding traits of the thinkers are a regard for honor, valor, conventions, fame and attainment in the professions, arts and sciences. They think of how to better the conditions of others. They make their bodies serve the aims of their thinking. Often they tax the endurance of their bodies, challenge privations and disease and incur dangers in pursuit of their ideals. They desire ideals. Their ideals dominate their other desires, and by thinking they lead their desires to serve their ideals.

To this class belong persons who are leaders in thinking, people who have ideals, think about and strive after them. They lead in and preserve honor, learning, culture, manners and language. They are found in the ranks of science, among artists, philosophers, preachers and in the medical, teaching, legal, military and other professions. They are found in families of distinction who value their honor, culture, good name and public service. They devise and discover the means by which the traders profit and the laborers find work in industry and commerce. They set the moral standard of right and wrong for the laborers and the traders. Among them start movements for the improvement of the people and of the conditions under which the less fortunate or the miserable parts of mankind live. They are the backbone of the nations. At a crisis in national life they lead the way. Many of them have means. But as the pursuit of their ideals is not a worship of the money god, he does not voluntarily give them money, land and possessions as their reward. When they are without visible distinctions of these kinds, the world pays little respect to the third class. Their mental attitude and love for their ideals is often a challenge to fate, which then permits them to be tried by hardships. Even in such situations their thinking bestows upon them advantages far above anything that the traders and laborers get out of life.

The fourth class are here called knowers. Their thinking is concerned with self-knowledge, that is, with what has been distilled out of learning which itself has resulted from experience. This knowledge is in the noetic atmosphere of the human, whereas the sense-knowledge of a lifetime is with the breath-form. Their thinking turns about self-knowledge, though they may not have access to it. Their desire is to get at ideas. They know about ideas like justice, love and truth, but that knowledge is not available to them, so they think about the ideas, clearly, logically, incisively. They think about their conscious selves in their bodies and their relation to their own Divinities beyond their bodies and nature, and also to the gods of nature. They think about others, not for exploitation or from necessity, but they put themselves in other persons’ places. The thinking of traders serves their desires, the thinking of the thinkers reaches out for ideals, but the thinking of the knowers seeks to connect with ideas and either to dwell with them in the abstract or to apply them to the affairs of life. The knowers depend upon themselves to get this knowledge, as life shows them that they cannot get it from any other source. Inspirations come from within. When they think, they can throw light on problems of life. They are not mystics, nor do they get information in ecstatic states. Some of them are not what the world calls thinkers; but they have insight into things. They do not belong to any particular layer in the social order. They are not numerous enough to make a layer. If found they may be in any vocation or position. They do not set the usual values on position, approval or possessions, because their thinking does not deal much with them, except to generalize from and consider about them. But at certain times some of them impart enlightenment, usually to the thinkers who are in a position to make use of it for the world. They are only few in number and are of types like Penn, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin.

These four classes exist always whether among barbarians or high civilizations and irrespective of the outward form of government. The doers in bodies on the earth are going up and down inside these four invisible classes into which the amount, quality and aim of their thinking puts them and which indicates their development as human beings.

A change in the aim may put a thinker into the laborers or traders class and a knower can become a trader. Such descents as a rule are temporary. The higher can become the lower suddenly, but the lower cannot become the higher except by slow progression. When a laborer or a trader suddenly thinks and pushes himself out of his class and becomes a thinker or knower, he shows thereby that he had first descended from these higher classes.

According to the changing conditions of the mental atmosphere of its human being a doer goes up and down in these four classes. When human beings change the aim of their thinking, the change carries with it the quantity, quality and range of the thinking and so changes the condition of their mental atmospheres. That affects the conditions of their other three atmospheres. If the four atmospheres could be seen, the changed aspects which they present from time to time, would appear as marked as those of a day which may be dull, and brilliant and stormy.

Today the four classes cannot be discerned easily. Nevertheless they are there. The largest number of persons by far is in the first class; a much smaller number makes up the traders; the thinkers are in number less than a quarter of the second class; and the knowers are few indeed.

Usually the class to which a human belongs can be discerned in a general way, but often the marks of the layer of the social order he is in do not accord with the type that rules interiorly. Many who are in the professional layer of the lawyers do not belong to the thinkers, but are traders or laborers. Many physicians also are only traders, notwithstanding their occupation and even reputation. Many officiating as men of God are likewise traders or even body-doers. Most of the statesmen, lawgivers, politicians, agitators and wirepullers monger in public affairs merely or mostly for their own pockets. They occupy places which should be filled by thinkers, but they are traffickers. In all such cases the human beings are in the class of the traders, but figure in positions which in a well-ordered community could never be held by them while their thinking kept them in the trader class.

Often body-doers, those of the first class, figure in places in which thinkers should be. They are courtiers and time servers in monarchies; and in democracies they fill many public offices, where they obey the bosses who put them there and who are themselves traders. From partisan lawgivers and facile judges to arbitrary officials and brutal jailkeepers, their words and acts show the class to which they really belong. They think little and that little is narrow, shallow and sluggish and aims at self-indulgence and body worship. Sometimes some of this first class figure in positions which ought to be filled by the best of the traders. This is the case especially where the making of public contracts and expenditure of public money is concerned

The mental destiny of the four classes has been determined by their thinking, in every age and through every civilization. These ages and civilizations go back far, far beyond anything that legend, tradition and history tell. In the following pages a brief account will be given of what has been called a “Beginning.”