(#53, Version 5.0)
(A few caveats: One, this scroll is meant only to highlight the issues involved. RT Gor is a complex matter and no single scroll can adequately explain all of its facets. Two, numerous generalizations will be used to better highlight the basics. Obviously there may be exceptions to these generalizations. These generalizations are not meant to say that all RT Goreans do or think something. Three, this scroll is not an indictment of anyone. It is simply one man's perspective who is trying to explain some basics of this topic.)
What is "Real Time Gor?"
Different people also have different names or descriptions for this term: Gorean lifestyler, follower of the Gorean ethos or philosophy, or even simply Gorean. By whatever name it is known, it essentially refers to the same matter: a person who chooses to live their life using items from the Gorean novels. For simplicity's sake, I shall refer to these people collectively as RTers.
What must be accepted to be a RTer? Is there a checklist of such matters? Is it enough to embrace the philosophies or must you also accept their societal institutions? If you adapt Gorean ways for Earth, modifying those Gorean matters, are they still Gorean? Is there scientific evidence to support the beliefs espoused in the novels? So many questions and so many different answers.
When it comes to defining what RT Gor entails, each person has their own definition. Their opinion that they are a RTer is generally sufficient for them. Small groups do exist that share similar definitions but even they disagree on certain issues. There is no single consensus among the RT community as to what makes one "Gorean." There is a wide diversity in their beliefs and definitions. The Gorean novels are akin to the Bible in that different people and groups see the same books quite differently.
No matter what their definition, RTers usually modify Gorean ways to use on Earth. A more accurate term might be "Hybrid Gorean," a cross between Gorean and Earth ways. Their lifestyle is a part of both worlds, and not solely of either. RTers are free to define themselves as they wish. They may consider themselves simply "Goreans" if they desire. It is only a matter of semantics. Hybrid Gorean is simply a more descriptive term for what is actually done. It is not meant to be a derogatory term.
No one uses everything from the books. First, some things from the books simply do not exist on Earth. The books are science fiction and deal with some fantastic matters. RTers understand that Gor is not real. They understand that tarns, tharlarions and Priest-Kings do not exist. Second, other matters that are legal on Gor are illegal on Earth. For example, nonconsensual slavery is legal on Gor but generally illegal in most places on Earth. Killing an errant slave on Gor is legal but would land you in prison on Earth. Generally, RTers are willing to follow Earth laws and thus support matters such as consensual slavery.
The books were written originally as entertainment. They were not created to be a guide to a lifestyle. Thus, the books do not offer a complete picture of Gorean society. There are missing or incomplete areas. For example, the Caste Codes are never completely defined for any Caste. The most is written about the Warrior Caste Codes but even they are still incomplete. New books may also add matters to Gor that could change some previously held ideas. For instance, Magicians of Gor, the last published book, touched on matters that were not clear or did not exist in earlier books.
The books were also not intended to be a guide to role-playing Gor. Yet, both RP and RT exist. Both have taken the books into unintended areas. But both are equally valid extensions of the novels. RP is simply a form of entertainment, a game to place you within the action of the novels. Proper RP harms no one. Proper RP acknowledges that it is only a game. But if that is so, why are there RTers who vehemently oppose RP? The basic argument against RP is that it harms the reputation of the RTers. It also confuses people who might consider adopting a RT lifestyle. Examples are also cited of people who pretended to be RTers to manipulate others.
These arguments first presuppose that RT has more validity or primacy than RP. I see no validity to this belief. Both RT and RP are unintended extensions of a series of science fiction novels. Just because some choose to make it a lifestyle does not automatically grant it a prioritized status. To stop RP would be a path of censorship with potential far reaching ramifications. How far should one go in eliminating matters that offend people because it deals with their lifestyle? Since some feminists are opposed to the novels because it is opposed to their lifestyle should the books be censored? Should not freedom of expression prevail? Should not tolerance be the order of business?
What are the alleged harms of RP? First, there are the manipulators but they are not truly role-players. The games they play are real and they have ulterior motives. They are in the middle, between RP and RT, belonging to neither. No true RPer supports their actions. Second, there are those RPers who do not follow the books in their games. They are often derogatorily called "Disney Goreans." It is claimed that they give people the wrong ideas about Gor. That is partially true but those truly interested in Gor will read the books and learn the truth. It is thus only a minor harm, if at all.
What is truly harmful to the reputation of RTers? In the public's eye, it is those extreme examples of RT Gor, the examples that tend to shock those unfamiliar with the books. A recent article on Gor in an online magazine, Salon.com, discussed a couple examples of RTers. These examples could be seen as negative by the general public. A number of RTers were offended by the article for emphasizing these examples. Yet, they are examples of RTers. They may not be representative of the average RTer but they are still a part of the RT community. The "Disney Gorean" RPer does much less harm to the reputation of RT Gor than does the example of the RTer discussing his desire to kidnap a woman off the streets.
Instead of bad mouthing each other, RPers and RTers should find common ground. They both are based on their love of Norman's novels. There are members in both communities who emphasize education about the novels. Joint efforts in that direction could only benefit both groups. Learn to accept the differences and try to understand the viewpoints of others.
So, what parts of the books are emulated by RTers? There are three basic areas: Gorean philosophy, Gorean societal institutions and Gorean traits. The philosophy is the basic tenets by which Goreans live, the core ideas and concepts that led to their society and culture. They are broad basics that unite most, if not all, of the Gorean world. In my estimation, these are the items that best define Gor. The societal institutions are generally those constructs that stem from their philosophy. This includes such matters as slavery, Home Stone, Caste system, forms of government, etc. These are not always universal matters on Gor. Many of the societal institutions that exist in the cities of Gor do not exist in the barbaric lands. These institutions are also the inventions of men and could be changed without truly affecting the definition of Gor. These institutions do not necessarily result from the Gorean philosophies. They are simply one chosen path among others. Traits are basic characteristics shared by many Goreans. They are generalizations and, though common, are not essential matters to be Gorean.
Most RTers follow a combination of philosophy, societal institutions and traits. They use what they see as essential and ignore the rest. They adapt what matters they feel require modification for Earth. Each RTer decides what combination of these matters fits their own personal definition of Gorean. There is no general consensus over the correct combination. RT Gor is very much a personal issue. Even though there are small groups who share some commonalties, these groups still do not agree on all issues. There are no easy answers as to a one single definition of Gorean.
The easiest items from the books to understand and learn are the societal institutions and the traits. Such items are generally black and white. Any person with the books can find the relevant passages and understand what is being depicted. Though some of these items are incomplete, they are easy enough to define and comprehend. There is little gray area involved. Those who misunderstand these matters have generally not read the books and are relying on the incorrect words of others as their source for Gorean information.
The most commonly emulated societal institution is Gorean slavery. Even those who do not consider themselves RTers may use aspects of Gorean slavery in their D/S relationships. Examine the myriad Gorean web sites, RP and RT, and you will see the prominence of slavery in many of them. Though the novels state that less than 3% of Goreans own a slave, slavery is very prominent in the novels. This tends to give an exaggerated importance to the issue of slavery. There are long, often repetitive, passages explaining slavery on Gor. The slavery aspect is what attracts many people to the Gor novels in the first place.
The books outline much about the conduct of slavery on Gor. See Kajirae Basics for an overview of much of this material. The material in the books covers such matters as the various types of slaves, slave positions, tavern service, silk colors, laws concerning slavery and much more. These items are fairly easy to learn with some study. There are a few gray areas but generally those matters are determined by the preference of the slave's owner. A slave would learn such matters from their owner. If you please your owner, then basically you have succeeded as a slave.
We should differentiate between slavery as an institution and the philosophy behind slavery. Slavery itself is not a philosophy. It is a societal system by which a portion of the populace is legally enslaved. There are philosophies that support slavery but they are separate from the act of slavery itself. The philosophies involved will be discussed later in this essay.
There is a major difference between Gorean slavery and its emulation by RTers. On Gor, slavery is often nonconsensual. A woman can be kidnapped and forcefully collared. She becomes mere property and can be killed by her owner with impunity. On Earth, RTer slavery is rarely nonconsensual. True Gorean slavery would be illegal in most places on Earth. Few RTers advocate ignoring Earth laws and forcefully collaring women. RTer slavery is often of the mindset that a slave must obey every command or be released. There are no discussions over safe words. It is an all or nothing issue.
The Caste system and its Codes are generally easy to understand but none of the Castes were given complete Codes in the books. The Warrior Caste has the most information on their Codes but it is still largely incomplete. It is thus impossible to follow the Caste Codes as a Gorean would due to the scarcity of information available. One can follow what Code sections exist, but must realize they are incomplete. Even with the known code items, not all of them are followed by RTers. For example, many RTers choose to follow the Warrior Caste and Codes. One such Code states that if a woman submits to you, you must either enslave her or kill her. This is not a matter followed by RTers. They understand the ramifications if they were to kill a woman and they see no need to enslave every woman who asks for their collar. In addition, as Earth does not have a Caste system like Gor, any emulation of the Castes of Gor must be only an approximation.
Other societal institutions also exist that are followed by some RTers. Like the previous two examples, modification is generally necessary to conform to Earth conditions. In the eyes of most RTers, such modifications do not take away from the Gorean nature of these items. As stated previously, this is more appropriately a hybrid or fusion Gorean lifestyle, a melding of Gor and Earth. That does not lessen its importance or impact. It only better defines what is actually being done.
Gorean traits are also an easily understood area. In the novels, a Gorean trait might consist of a one-liner or a set of similarly worded lines. They attempt to generalize Gorean attitudes and characteristics. Though these traits might be common on Gor, a lack of any trait does not make someone any less Gorean. It simply shows the diversity of Gorean society, the same diversity present in all civilizations. For example, it is said that Goreans are not sadistic, they rise early in the mornings, they do not pity and they are touchy when it comes to their honor. Overall, these traits are true but there will obviously be individuals who do not possess these traits. RTers may embrace these traits but should not fault someone for not possessing them. The RT community is permitted to have diversity in their views.
The key to properly understanding Gor is the philosophies that form the foundation for their society and culture. It is the philosophies that are common to all Gorean cultures, be it the cities like Ar and Ko-ro-ba or the barbaric lands of Torvaldsland or the Wagon Peoples. It is the philosophies that form the basis for the societal institutions and traits. It is the philosophies where there are the fewest nonconformists. Changing a trait or societal institution might alter matters slightly. Changing a philosophy though would drastically alter the world. It is the philosophies that can be embraced on Earth without adapting them. It is my opinion that you only need embrace the philosophies to be Gorean. You need not embrace any of their societal institutions or traits.
Consider the term "Gorean." Gor is the name for an entire world. "Gorean" reflects a universal commonality of both people from the cities and also from the more barbaric lands. Certain societal institutions such as Caste and Home Stone are restricted to the cities. Thus it would be a misnomer to make such matters essential to being "Gorean" if such institutions do not apply to a significant portion of the population. If you wish to include such matters, then maybe you should differentiate it as "City Gorean." Port Kar did not have a Home Stone for quite some time yet would still have been considered Gorean. You must dig deeper than the surface of a society to get to its essence.
Discerning the Gorean philosophies within the novels is more difficult than locating Gorean traits or societal institutions. It is harder to understand these concepts and how they apply to everyday life. They are matters that require careful analysis and contemplation. A single reading of the novels will not enable you to adequately understand all of the philosophies. You should read each book several times over, taking notes. Discuss the ideas with others to see how they interpret these matters. You may wish to research outside matters to get a better comprehension of certain philosophical concepts.
A philosophy is essentially a theory concerning a basic principle. As it is only a theory, that entails there is not enough formal evidence to prove the issue one way or another. There are people who will offer evidence to support or refute the Gorean philosophies. Each side has scientists who can give their opinions on the issues. Though interesting, this debate will not solve the matter. There is evidence on both sides of the debate but neither side has conclusive evidence to prove their point. That does nothing though to degrade the value of the philosophies. How many philosophies do you know that are supported by conclusive evidence? I doubt you will find any. Philosophies exist because they speak to certain people. To them, the philosophy has validity. A more fruitful debate may be over the effects of living the philosophy rather than its basic validity.
We also must differentiate between core and derivative philosophies. A core philosophy is the most basic of concepts, ideas that operate without exception. They are starting points from which you cannot backtrack. Derivative philosophies are based on the core philosophies. Derivatives may have exceptions. They are not starting points but actually way stations on a road that begins with the core philosophies. Derivatives are important but you must realize that the core philosophies take precedence and that is why there may be exceptions to the derivatives. Differentiating between what is a core and what is derivative can be a gray area. There are few easy answers.
The most basic of the core philosophies is: Live in accordance with nature. This concept has several elements that I consider core philosophies rather than derivative ones. This is because these elements are essential to the basic concept and are very basic ideas that are part and parcel of the original statement. They are more explanatory than derivative. These elements include: Respect nature; Follow the natural order; and People are not Equal. Each one of these elements is deserving of its own lengthy and detailed essay. I will only be touching on a few highlights in my discussion of these issues.
Respecting nature is essentially being ecologically conscious and concerned. Goreans take from nature only what they need. A Gorean hunter does not leave a trap in place once he is done hunting. Forest fires are considered a great tragedy. Woodsmen talk to the trees before they cut them. Many Goreans admire the simple beauty of the sky, flowers and other natural items. They generally do not pollute their environment. This is a philosophy espoused by some on Earth and one that could only benefit our world. It is also a philosophy though you hear little in discussions of RT Gor. But, it is a philosophy that would enhance the image of RTers in the eyes of the general public.
Following the natural order seems simple enough but it actually much more complex. The problem is over the definition of what constitutes the "natural order." The natural order is essentially what nature has decreed is our destiny. For example, nature has given us sentience and that is part of the destiny of mankind. The philosophy of natural order extends back into antiquity. Aristotle himself proposed a theory of natural order to support slavery. Natural order deals with certain ingrained behaviors that are specific to our race, sex or ethnic origin. These behaviors are part of our genetic heritage. This can be a controversial philosophy. It can also be very dangerous. It can be twisted and abused by those you wish to promote personal agendas.
The Nazis during WWII followed a philosophy of a natural order, stating that the Aryan race was superior to all others. They felt that certain peoples, especially the Jewish race, were inferiors and should be exterminated. The natural order was one rationale for the enslavement of Africans during the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. Blacks were seen as inferiors to whites and thus there was nothing wrong with enslaving them. White supremacists in the present day follow a natural order where the white man is superior to other races. Many cultures and persons, at various times in history, have used a natural order philosophy to justify genocide, murder, oppression and enslavement.
Does this mean RT Goreans are like Nazis? No. Though they both may believe in a philosophy of a natural order, their definition of what that constitutes varies greatly. That is the crux of the matter, the definition of natural order. Those who have abused this philosophy have chosen to define it to suit their own needs and against most evidence to the contrary. Obviously, these people can find or create some evidence to justify their positions. But this evidence is often scant and they must twist the interpretation of certain sources to fit their own theories. For example, the Bible if often used to support many white supremacist views. But, the idea that a single race is overall inferior to another race is not supported by the weight of evidence. Goreans do not discriminate on the base of race. Their definition of a natural order does not decree that certain racial groups are inferior to others.
The concept that "people are not equal" is closely tied to the natural order. It is essentially an elitist philosophy, based on a hierarchy of importance, intelligence, talent, skill and much more. It does not differentiate between races or genders. It is very basic in that no two people are considered to be the same or equal. This is a difficult philosophy for many to embrace. That is in part due to our upbringing in democratic societies that stress the equality of all. It is one of the founding concepts of the United States. We have a myriad of laws to enforce such equality in all avenues of our lives. Goreans though would see such laws as being protection for inferiors. They hold that it is the desire of the inferiors to be placed on the same level as their superiors. This is said to be a morality of slaves.
This philosophy forms the basis for the Gorean Caste system, a hierarchical structure that creates a ranking system of station and status. There are High Castes and Low Castes and rankings within each division. Each Caste also has their own individual member rankings. For example, in the Warrior Caste, First Sword is the most skilled rarius. The Caste Leader though is the highest ranked member of the Caste. This philosophy also forms the basis for their systems of government. For example, the Low Castes do not possess the power to vote. That is held only by the High Castes. This philosophy has many small effects as well such as the types of weapons that will be used by someone. The longbow is considered a weapon of the Peasant Caste, the lowest Caste on Gor, and thus other castes will not use it because they feel superior to the Peasant Caste.
Like the natural order, those on Earth that follow a philosophy of "people are not equal" have often used it to justify horrendous crimes. It is for those reasons that our society has continued to make laws to promote equality. Some might say though that we have gone too far, trying to atone for past discriminatory behavior. They might say we go overboard in the protection of people's rights against discrimination. Earth would prefer to err on the side of caution. This philosophy does not sit well on Earth.
The most well known aspect of Gorean philosophy though is the concept of male dominance. It is a hotly contested issue, supported on both sides by scientific evidence. Too many people seem to see male dominance as an absolute, that all women must submit to men. As an absolute, male dominance would thus occupy a position as a core philosophy. I disagree with that position, seeing it not as an absolute but more of a generalization. By that outlook, male dominance becomes a derivative philosophy.
Male dominance stems from both the natural order and inequality philosophies. Male dominance is one facet of what it means to follow the natural order. Male dominance has exceptions though which are very obvious from an examination of Gor. The philosophy that people are not equal takes precedence over the male dominance philosophy. Dominance does not equate with superiority. A trained female Physician who is enslaved by a male Peasant may very well be intellectually superior to this man. Dominance is about control and who should be in charge of a relationship. Male dominance is a generalization that entails men should be control of women.
The books depict how this is only a generalization and not an absolute. On Gor, only 2-3% of all women are slaves. That is a very small number especially if the Goreans truly believed all women should be slaves. Women belong to all the Castes of Gor and thus occupy a position in those hierarchies. Any woman of the High Castes is superior in station and status to almost any male of a Low Caste. Female rulers, such as a Ubara or Tatrix, exist and wield great power. They control many thousands of men. Thus, as exceptions do exist in this philosophy, it is more appropriately labeled as a derivative philosophy.
Following a philosophy of male dominance on Earth is the most problematic when it is viewed as an absolute. This is the basis of those men who treat all women as inferiors and feel they owe they no respect. By failing to accept the fact that some women may be superior to you, you are failing to fully embrace Gor. You must accept your proper place in society, accepting of your assets and limitations.
There are other philosophical concepts inherent in Gor but this essay is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject. I touched on some major philosophical concepts that reflect much about Gor. To truly be Gorean, these are some of the matters you must believe and follow. They are philosophies that apply to all the cultures of Gor, city or not. They can be followed on Earth without adapting them. Yet, there is also a potential danger in incorrectly emulating these philosophies.
The philosophical foundations play a significant role in the type of societal institutions that develop. But, there are always options involved. This foundation does not mandate specific institutions that must be created in support of the philosophies. Instead, it provides a series of finite possibilities. What ultimately is created depends on a number of other factors as well. For example, the Priest Kings of Gor are a limiting factor in the development of Gorean society. They prohibit certain matters and this limits the Goreans. We can also see the differences between Gorean cities and how their societal institutions vary even though they follow the same basic philosophies. It is even more evident when you compare the cities and the barbaric cultures surrounding them.
You may hear some RTers state that they were Gorean even before they had read the novels. Essentially they mean that they followed the philosophies within the books before they knew they existed within the novels. None of the Gorean philosophies are unique to Gor. They have all existed on Earth, some since the days of antiquity. If that is so, why even call it Gorean? Because even though each individual philosophy may exist on Earth, what makes it Gorean is the particular combination of philosophies. Norman chose several different philosophies and combined them to create the world of Gor. That particular combination has probably never existed on Earth in any particular society.
Each individual ultimately determines what RT Gor means to him or her. My view is that you must only follow its philosophical base. You do not need to follow Gorean traits and societal institutions. Those items are only flavoring to the underlying foundation. They may enhance your lifestyle, but they are not essential. But, you should read the books yourself to make your own decisions. There are no shortcuts.