The Imago Dei & His Lord

The dignity of each man qua man, ergo his liberty under his sovereigns – of nation, tribe, clan, family and household, each in his properly subsidiary domain – derive from the fact that all men are images of God, and may not properly therefore be treated as means, but only as ends; for, as God is not a means of some magic of our own intended for our own worldly aims, but rather the proper aim and intention of all means and magics, all arts and sciences, all acts of any sort, so likewise with his images: men.

Men may not therefore be simply used by their rulers, willy nilly, as if they were chattels. Their commands must rather find fulfillment in virtue of the free assent of their subjects (the ancients after all sought prior consent to sacrificial immolation even from the bestial victims of their rites – which is to say, from all the animals they slaughtered for meat). This pledge of fealty must be freely undertaken if it is to qualify as a pledge in the first place. Formally, it is a vow of sonship, of filial obedience to a fundamentally paternal authority. From this sort of free pledge, explicitly given at the inception of their terms of service and utter loyalty, derive the iterated pledges given by soldiers and sailors in response to the commands of their officers: “Yes, sir” or “Aye aye, sir” – both of which mean literally “Yes, sire.”

But then, any unbending dissent of a subject from the commands of his sovereign, or from the cult and culture of his people, is tantamount to a decision to leave his accustomed political order (his household, family, clan, tribe, nation, etc.), and to strike out on his own for another, or for virgin territory, there to take his chances. To defect is effectually to banish oneself, and to invite the ostracism of commensals. The right to defect is the right of exit. It is a risky move. Sovereigns may not justly prevent it; defection must always be a legal option, if laws are true, for it is always an ontological option.

Defection is the ultimate check on abuse of the dominical office: children may run away, and a leader find himself without enough loyal subjects to defend his domain, or therefore his dominion. In the limit, exit is expressed as general rebellion, or as a coup d’etat. The cruel, unjust or foolish sovereign may himself be banished, or sacrificed.

Such is the origin of the ancient myths of parricide and rebellion among gods and men.

Such also is the peril and privilege of him who has dominical office: to be the scapegoat when his policy disagrees with reality as the polis apprehends it, generally in virtue of its manifest failure, and so to die for the sake of his people. That regal succession can involve regicide is not a bug of monarchy, but a feature. The risk of assassination is an ineliminable cost of dominion.

The pledge of fealty to the sovereign is the vote* of his subject. It may not be escheated, for it cannot: the capacity to vote attaches to each man ontologically – any man can get to his feet and walk away over the border whenever he chooses – so that the only way to take it from him is to kill him. The vote of the subject ought not however properly to be treated as dispositive of the legitimacy, truth, righteousness or sagacity – or, a fortiori, the sway and efficacy – of his lord’s rule or rules, but rather only of the subject’s response thereto. It cannot then alone formally deprive the sovereign of his office in the polis (or by derivation immediately vitiate his policies), but rather redounds only to the subject. In voting against his lord, the subject removes himself from his subjection.

This is not so for the vote of an elector, NB. Electors have much greater power than citizens, or mere subjects (viz., the vote of confidence in the Parliament of Britain). But in a properly ordered polis, not all subjects are citizens, nor are all citizens electors.

The True and Just King then may not use his subjects, much less abuse them. He may command them, but not for his own benefit only, but rather only for their own vis-à-vis their true Good. And if they demur, he may at most banish them, except in time of war or dire national emergency. Likewise may his subjects shun the dissenter, but not rightly scape him as a goat. They may not bewilder him any more than he has bewildered himself.


Latin votum “a vow, wish, promise to a god, solemn pledge, dedication,” noun use of neuter of votus, past participle of vovere “to promise, dedicate” (see vow (n.)).

4 thoughts on “The Imago Dei & His Lord

  1. Pingback: The Imago Dei & His Lord | Neoreactive

  2. Pingback: The Imago Dei & His Lord | Reaction Times

  3. Christ asked his followers, not to imitate him, but to imitate his imitation of The Father. The implication of this self-deferring gesture is immense – everything that is good in the unfolding Western-Christian continuum derives from it.

  4. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/12/27) | The Reactivity Place


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