The Caste of Initiates represent themselves as the intermediaries and
interpreters of the will of the Priest-Kings. They regard themselves as the
highest caste of all castes. They shave their heads and dress in robes of
white which is the color of their Caste.
Religious training is the province of the Initiates. Religious matters are carefully guarded by the Caste. Very few from other castes are allowed to participate in their ceremonies and rituals. They utilize old Gorean, an archaic language seldom heard on the planet, to conduct their religious services and prayers.
The Initiates can not kill or shed the blood of another. They may not bear arms. They hire men to do this for them, if the need arises. They converse in archaic Gorean. They abstain from alcohol. It is forbidden for a woman to touch an Initiate or the Initiate to touch a woman. This would thus, presume that Initiates are celibate.
The Caste of Initiates believe in immortality and only Initiates can obtain eternal life. The way to eternal life is thru the learning of mathematics and avoiding the impurities of beans and meat. No woman is allowed to be an initiate, therefore no woman can achieve eternal life.
Their level of education, their reverence for archaic knowledge, and their long, involved rituals tend to bind the Initiates together in a cohesive group, making them interdependent. It is rumored some of their teachings are in spells and magic, secret, known only to the Caste of Initiates. It sets them apart and makes them feel important and wise, specially privileged.
The High Initiate of each city holds jurisdiction over one of two court systems. The Initiates court can be compared to an ecclesiastical court. The areas of jurisdiction for each court system is not well defined. The Initiates do claim jurisdiction over everything, by virtue of their supposed relationship with the Priest-Kings. The civil jurists disagree with this. This lends itself to tension between the civil authorities and the Initiates, for each feels they are supreme in matters of policy and law.
The Initiates tend not to be taken seriously by the High Castes or more intelligent members of the population, except in matters of political alliance. Their teachings and their purported ability to intercede with the Priest-Kings, is taken quite seriously by many of the lower caste. Civic leaders tend to not purposefully come into conflict with the Initiates, no matter how they feel about them, so that the power of the Initiates does not turn the lower castes against them.
"My father then spoke to me of the world on which I found myself. He said, from what he could learn from the Initiates, who claimed to serve as the intermediaries of Priest-Kings to men..." --Tarnsman of Gor, pages 19-20
"Oddly enough, there was little religious instruction, other than to encourage awe of the Priest-Kings, and what there was, Torm refused to administer, insisting it was the province of the Initiates. Religious matters on this world tend to be rather carefully guarded by the Caste of Initiates, who allow members of other castes little participation in their sacrifices and ceremonies. I was given some prayers to the Priest-Kings to memorize, but they were in Old Gorean, a language cultivated by the Initiates but not spoken generally on the planet, and I never bothered to learn them. To my delight, I learned that Torm, whose memory was phenomenal, had forgotten them years ago. I sensed that a certain distrust existed between the Caste of Scribes and the Caste of Initiates." --Tarnsman of Gor, page 26
"The tier nearest the floor, which denoted some preferential status, the white tier, was occupied by Initiates, Interpreters of the Will of the Priest-Kings. In order, the ascending tiers, blue, yellow, green, and red, were occupied by representatives of the Scribes, Builders, Physicians, and Warriors." --Tarnsman of Gor, page 44
"There are two systems of courts on Gor-those of the City, under the jurisdiction of an Administrator or Ubar, and those of the Initiates, under the jurisdiction of the High Initiate of the given city; the division corresponds roughly to that between civil and what, for lack of a better word, might be called ecclesiastical courts. The areas of jurisdiction of these two types of courts are not well defined; the Initiates claim ultimate jurisdiction in all matters, in virtue of their supposed relation to the Priest-Kings, but this claim is challenged by civil jurists." --Tarnsman of Gor, page 156
"The Initiates themselves do not execute their victims, as the shedding of blood is forbidden by those beliefs they regard as sacred. " --Tarnsman of Gor, page 165
"The Goreans generally, though there are exceptions, particularly the Caste of Initiates, do not believe in immortality." --Outlaw of Gor, page 12
"It was common, of course, for Initiates to claim to speak for the Priest-Kings; indeed, it was presumably the calling of their caste to interpret the will of the Priest-Kings to men." --Outlaw of Gor, page 29
"The words were in archaic Gorean which I find very difficult to understand. On the surface it is spoken by none but members of the Caste of Initiates, who use it primarily in their numerous and complex rituals." --Priest-Kings of Gor, page 163
"The Tuchuks and the other Wagon Peoples reverence Priest-Kings, but unlike the Goreans of the cities, with their castes of Initiates, they do not extend to them the dignities of worship." --Nomads of Gor, page 28
"It might be mentioned, for those unaware of the fact, that the Caste of Merchants is not considered one of the traditional five High Castes of Gor-the Initiates, Scribes, Physicians, Builders and Warriors. Most commonly, and doubtless unfortunately, it is only members of the five high castes who occupy positions on the High Councils of the cities." --Nomads of Gor, pages 85-86
"...Initiates, incidentally, are not permitted by their caste codes to bear arms; nor are they permitted to injure or kill; accordingly, they hire men for these purposes." --Assassin of Gor, page 267
"It had been decided that she should now
undertake the journey to the Sardar, which, according to the teachings of
the Caste of Initiates, is enjoined on every Gorean by the Priest-Kings, an
obligation which is to be fulfilled prior to their attaining their
If a city does not see that her youth undertake this journey then, according to the teachings of the Initiates, misfortunes may befall the city.
It is one of the tasks of the Initiates to keep rolls, and determine that each youth, if capable, discharge this putative obligation to the mysterious Priest-Kings." --Captive of Gor, page 233
"The men of Torvaldsland, on the whole, I knew, while tending to respect Priest-Kings, did not accord them special reverence. They held to old gods, and old ways. The religion of the Priest-Kings, institutionalized and ritualized by the caste of Initiates, had made little headway among the primitive men to the north. It had, however, taken hold in many towns, such as Kassau. Initiates often used their influence and their gold, and pressures on trade and goods, to spread their beliefs and rituals." --Marauders of Gor, page 26
"Initiates do not eat meat, or beans. They are trained in the mysteries of mathematics. They converse among themselves in archaic Gorean, which is no longer spoken among the people. Their services, too, are conducted in this language. Portions of the services, however, are translated into contemporary Gorean." --Marauders of Gor, page 26
"The Initiates are an almost universal, well-organized, industrious caste. They have many monasteries, holy places and temples. An Initiate may often travel for hundreds of pasangs and, each night, find himself in a house of Initiates. They regard themselves as the highest caste, and, in many cities, are so regarded generally. There is often a tension between them and the civil authorities, for each regards themselves as supreme in matters of policy and law for their districts. The Initiates have their own laws, and courts, and certain of them are particularly versed in the laws of Initiates. Their education, generally, is of little obvious practical value, with its attention to authorized exegeses of dubious, difficult texts, purporting to be revelations of Priest-Kings, the details and observances of their own calendars, their interminable, involved rituals, and so on, but, paradoxically, this sort of learning, impractical though it appears, has a subtle practical aspect. It tends to bind Initiates together, making them interdependent, and muchly different from common men. It sets them apart, and makes them feel important and wise, and specially privileged. There are many texts, of course, which are secret to the caste, and not even available to scholars generally. In these it is rumored there are marvelous spells and mighty magics, particularly if read backward on certain feast days. Whereas Initiates tend not to be taken with great seriousness by the high castes, or the more intelligent members of the population, except in matters of political alliance, their teachings and purported ability to intercede with Priest-Kings, and further the welfare of their adherents, is taken with great seriousness by many of the lower castes. And many men, who suspect that the Initiates, in their claims and pretensions, are frauds, will nonetheless avoid coming into conflict with the caste. This is particularly true of civic leaders who do not wish the power of the Initiates to turn the lower castes against them. And, after all, who knows much of Priest-Kings, other than the obvious fact that they exist. The invisible barrier about the Sardar is evidence of that, and the policing, by flame death, of illegal weapons and inventions. The Gorean knows that there are Priest-Kings. He does not, of course, know their nature. That is where the role of the Initiates becomes most powerful. The Gorean knows there are Priest-Kings, whoever or whatever they might be. He is also confronted with a socially and economically powerful caste that pretends to be able to intermediate between Priest-Kings and common folk. What if some of the claims of Initiates should be correct? What if they do have influence with Priest-Kings?" --Marauders of Gor, page 28-29
"Incidentally, it is a teaching of the Initiates that only Initiates can obtain eternal life. The regimen for doing this has something to do with learning mathematics, and with avoiding the impurities of meat and beans. This particular teaching of the Initiates, it is interesting to note, is that taken least seriously by the general population. No one, except possibly, Initiates, takes it with much seriousness. The Gorean feeling generally is that there is no reason why Initiates, or only Initiates, should live forever. Initiates, though often feared by the lower castes, are also regarded as being a bit odd, and often figure in common, derisive jokes. No female, incidentally, may become an Initiate. It is a consequence, thusly, that no female can obtain eternal life." --Marauders of Gor, page 29
"In taking companionship with one of the Warriors she would raise caste, for the Warriors on Gor are among the high castes, of which there are five, the Initiates, Scribes, Physicians, Builders and Warriors." --Slave Girl of Gor, pages 121-122
"They were white-robed and chanting, and shaven-headed. The caste of initiates is rich on Gor." --Beasts of Gor, page 46
"The only Gorean caste which, as far as I know, officially believes in an afterlife is that of the Initiates, and they believe in it, it seems, only for themselves, and seem to believe it is connected with such things as the performance of secret rites, the acquisition of secret knowledges, mostly mathematical, and the avoidance of certain foods. Initiates commonly wear white and have their heads shaved. They also, supposedly, and perhaps actually, on the whole, abstain from alcohol and women. They count as one of the five high castes, the others being the Physicians, Scribes, Builders and Warriors. In some cities they are quite powerful, in others it seems they are largely peripheral to the life of the community. I have never been in one of these temples. Slaves, like other animals, are not allowed within. It is felt they would defile such places. They may wait, however, in special, small, walled areas outside the temples, usually at the back or sides, where their presence will not prove distractive or offensive to free persons. I have looked within some of these temples, from the street, through great opened doors, or through the open colonnades, such temples being roofed, but not walled, upon occasion. Some are lavishly decorated, even ornately; others seem very austere. It depends on the city, I suppose, or the tastes of the community of Initiates, those who care for the temples, in a given place." --Dancer of Gor, pages 302-303
"A free woman drew back her robes, hastily, frightened, lest they touch an Initiate. It is forbidden for Initiates to touch women, and, of course, for women to touch them. Initiates also avoid meat and beans. A good deal of their time, I gather, is devoted to sacrifices, services, chants, prayers, and the perusal of mystic lore. By means of the study of mathematics they attempt to purify themselves." --Magicians of Gor,
"The Initiates, as I understood it, were celibate, or putatively so." --Witness of Gor.
"Initiates, as I understand it, spend a great deal of time in self-purification. In this, interestingly, the study of mathematics seems to be essentially involved. It is not only women, incidentally, which are forsworn by Initiates but also, interestingly, beans. I am unfamiliar with the historical origins of these matters." --Witness of Gor,
NOTICE: There are many versions of the Gorean Saga books in many languages. Because of this, page numbers are not always the same from version to version. All quotes on this website are from the English, print version published by E-Reads commemorating the 40th anniversary of the first book, Tarnsman of Gor.