Profane Hierarchies are Bound to Work Evil

A hierarchy that is not consecrated and thus ordered in all its parts to the vision of the Good vouchsafed by the common cult is as likely to work good as is a broken clock to display the correct time. A profane institution is finally, and thus fundamentally, and thus thoroughly misdirected away from the proper mundane end of all human acts: the achievement, maintenance, repair and restoration of that proper harmony among and within things under and toward heaven, in virtue of which alone is there any health, prosperity, propagation, contentment, wisdom.

Thus all the institutions of the ancient world were consecrated. Art, architecture, drama, sport, familiar life, war, commerce, manufacture, education, the judiciary, agriculture, the parliament and the agora; all were more or less blessed. All were licensed and governed, ruled and ordered by the sovereign in his capacity as chief executive officer of the cult, and all their sessions ritually bounded, anointed, and at regular intervals liturgically ordered and refreshed to their ultimate purposes and meanings by the priesthood.

So then likewise necessarily were politics consecrated, ordered, and constrained, including the sovereign in his operations.

We were fools to think it could be done otherwise.

All the institutions of a properly ordered society must be organs of the cult, and ordered toward its vision of the Good. When they are not, people lose sight of what they are about, and for – their lives, and the institutions by which they live them. The center no longer holds, and then things wander more and more off course, and soon fall apart. Balance and integrity are lost. Insanity compounds, and with it all manner of errant policy.

The people perish with their cult.

33 thoughts on “Profane Hierarchies are Bound to Work Evil

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  3. There are subgroups that live this way: the Amish, some Orthodox Jewish sects, various fundamentalist cults of other religions. All facets of life ordered according to their conception of what God wants. So why don’t you go join or start a community that is ordered according to the principles you believe in? That would seem to be far more effective than complaining that the mainstream culture isn’t to your liking.

    • Physician, heal thyself.

      Who said anything about mainstream culture, anyway?

      What led you to believe that the post was in any way a critique of modern society, or for that matter of any other? Were your ears burning?

      All modern institutions are ordered toward the vision of the Good promulgated by the predominant cult of modernity. The only difference between modernity and other sorts of cultures is that unlike the cults of all other cultures, the cult of modernity disavows the Most High, and so insists that it is not itself a cult. So doing, it disavows the Good, or therefore any vision thereof; its vision of the Good is blindness – and, thus, resistance – thereto.

  4. Excellent!

    The idea that institutions that do not aim at Good will anyway attain Good – by means of The Market, or Scientific Method, or because of Regulations or Regulators or whatever – is a common and alluring falsehood.

    In science, which I know well; modern researchers think that they personally can be as short-termist, greedy, careerist and dishonest as they can get-away-with – but the corrupt dross of their contribution will somehow be turned to the pure gold of objective truth by the magic of Peer Review, or Scientific Method, or whatever (despite that everybody performing peer review, or administering publications, promotions, awards etc. is every bit as corrupt as the corrupt researcher).

    Thus we get ‘scientist’ liars lying to themselves, and to each other, and to the public; united in claiming to be sole guardians of Pure Objective Truth.

    It is a selective-distorted/ false version of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations; which leaves-out the necessary framework of Adam Smith author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

    Half-truths are the most dangerous.

    • Aye. Markets – to take the palmary example – can’t operate in the absence of values. All discourse, all transactions operate on value; which to say, on the Good, more or less enacted, more or less sought. Modernity rules out the Good, but to continue functioning at all, must smuggle him in by night, by the back door: a gigantic unprincipled exception at the very root of modern life, and upon which the entire edifice rests, and which therefore makes of the whole modern project a great lie.

      Notwithstanding all that, the post was intended more as an argument for a principle of social design, rather than as a polemic against the modern disregard of that principle.

  5. Ordered hierarchy is as legitimate as those that have to submit themselves to it allow it to be, and they reserve the right to reject it when it no longer produces good outcomes. Are you aware that you’re actually making the case for the divine right of kings here?

    • I’m not making that case. There is to be sure a Mandate of Heaven, and authority must flow down from on high in order to operate authoritatively. But the Mandate of Heaven can be lost should a sovereign err too grievously, and when that happens his people will lose confidence in him; he will then sooner or later be replaced somehow.

      Kingship can be sacred; but it can also be profane – in which case, woe betide the land and her people.

      • Respectfully, the OP reads that you’re supporting a government that has “subjects” as opposed to “citizens.” Citizens have rights and obligations to a shared authority (even if in many systems it is an unequal shared authority with unequal rights and obligations). Meanwhile subjects do what the sovereign compels lest they suffer his wrath. Moreover, bi-directional authority is more effective than one that flows from on high, because citizens have a stake in the outcome of the system and can correct errors. Yes, the masses can make errors that flow upward too. But in a nation of subjects, the use of force will compel compliance if Yertle the Turtle wants to stand on high, but force alone hardly makes for a functioning system, as all systems need feedback loops to correct errors. For a real world example, the government tells the citizens of Venezuela that the Bolivar is worth a set amount, and they all agree, until they don’t and they have rampant inflation.

        Your distinction about kings being either sacred or profane is a meaningless distinction. Nations have had good kings and bad kings, but they are all kings by divine right (or the strength of their sword arm). I think where you go wrong, is that a dominance hierarchy is indeed natural (as he who says organization, says oligarchy), but that doesn’t make it innately legitimate.

      • The OP makes no mention of kings, or even of sovereigns of any sort, or of this or that political order, let alone either of citizens or of subjects. Its topic is hierarchy in general. Its argument applies with equal pertinence to business enterprises, religious orders, families, military orders, fraternal organizations, schools and universities, movie production companies – and political organizations.

        So, you’re reading a lot into it that it does not say.

        “Subject” and “citizen” are not mutually exclusive terms. They are not opposed, nor a fortiori are they opposites. There are many subjects of the United States who are not citizens; and all her citizens are also her subjects.

        I would suggest in fact that there are at least three political categories of persons in any polity (although in many societies there are more): subjects, citizens, and electors. None of them are exclusive categories: electors are also citizens and subjects. Just as not all subjects are also citizens, nor are all citizens also electors. Even today, under “universal suffrage,” not all American citizens are electors, for children and felons are citizens who cannot vote; but suffrage was not always universal, nor did the Founders intend it.

        To suggest that there are always electors (whether or not they are reckoned as such) is as much as to suggest that, just as there is always an established cult (whether or not it is reckoned as such), so likewise there is always some sort of bi-directional control – or rather, omni-directional control – of any hierarchy. No man is an island; so, autarchic control is a myth. There is no such thing even within a single human body.

        … force alone hardly makes for a functioning system, as all systems need feedback loops to correct errors.

        Yes! Society per se *just is* a network of feedback loops, so that control of its acts is *always* somehow distributed. This holds for all biological organs. The only questions are matters of detail respecting how control is distributed across the system, and how well the system acts toward the true Good.

        Whenever for example a sovereign loses the Mandate of Heaven by his stupidity, cupidity, or perfidy – or by simple bad luck – there is in practice always a means of replacing him in the sovereign office. If he does not voluntarily abdicate or resign or offer his life in sacrifice, then he is removed by some organ or subset of his subjects – e.g., his electors.

        Your distinction about kings being either sacred or profane is a meaningless distinction.

        You’ll have to show your work on that score.

        A king who is not ordered toward the Good – who is, i.e., profane – is almost certain to be a bad king. Pretty simple. To be a sacred king is ipso facto to be ordered toward the Good. If sacred, kings can be either good or bad, can succeed or fail; but if profane, they are almost certain to be bad, and to fail. Ditto for presidents, prime ministers, premiers, Dear Leaders, chieftains, what have you.

        Nations have had good kings and bad kings, but they are all kings by divine right (or the strength of their sword arm).

        Not so. The doctrine of divine right of kings is a late development of monarchical theory. And no king’s sword arm, no matter how strong, can prevail against those of any two of his vassals who join to oppose him. Kings are ridiculously easy to get rid of. They die like any other man. So every king rules at the pleasure of his subsidiaries, and by means of their cooperation with him. Alfred the Great did not *force* his vassals to act, he worked with them, and influenced them; they were loyal to him, not because he forced their loyalty, but because they agreed that he deserved it, and freely offered it to him.

        I think where you go wrong, is that a dominance hierarchy is indeed natural (as he who says organization, says oligarchy), but that doesn’t make it innately legitimate.

        Not only do I not disagree with this, it is an implicate of the OP. A profane hierarchy cannot be legitimate, because, as not ordered toward the Good, it is radically *disordered:* it revolts against the Natural Law. Notwithstanding that, a sacred – and therefore legitimate – hierarchy can screw up royally, can be corrupted, can Fall. It can lose the Mandate of Heaven. It could in such a case continue ostensibly consecrated toward the Good, and thus legitimate de jure; but would have lost its legitimacy de facto, along with its preponderant agreement with Natural Law.

        This all applies, NB, not just to monarchy, but to any hierarchy whatever, whether or not political.

      • Whilst the OP makes no mention of kings specifically, you do say; “All were licensed and governed, ruled and ordered by the sovereign in his capacity as chief executive officer of the cult, and all their sessions ritually bounded, anointed, and at regular intervals liturgically ordered and refreshed to their ultimate purposes and meanings by the priesthood.” A sovereign is a category that includes kings.

        You are strongly saying that ancient hierarchies were superior, and that a just and ordered society was one that had a hierarchy that was anointed and consecrated. You sound like John Adams wanting the president to have a grander title than “Mr. President” in order to inspire awe. I’m saying the anointed might be self interested in their maintenance of the hierarchy. Further, the anointed may have done the anointing of themselves, like Napoleon taking the crown and placing it on his own head. Where you end up with your essay, whether you intended it or not, is at an argument for Divine Right for the anointed to maintain their sovereign status is merely an appeal to an unverifiable authority. Natural Law can’t tell me if the king is supposed to be there or not. Therefore, I’m not really reading into what you say, just following its logic and disputing it by saying that hierarchy is a two way street, it requires the acquiescence of those below the anointed, willingly or by force. Who then decides that the “Mandate of Heaven” has been lost, well, those below the sovereign. So based on your follow up comments, we are so far off from each other’s thinking.

        Subjects and citizens are indeed mutually exclusive terms. For a citizen, the relationship with the sovereign is reciprocal. The sovereign has responsibilities to the citizen, and the citizen to the sovereign. For example, an Athenian male had to go to war for his city, and the city had to administer justice to solve disputes. For a subject, the relationship flows one direction, subjects have no rights and are obliged (usually by force) to do the will of the sovereign, and the sovereign has to do nothing for the subject. Your typology is pretty good, but misses that distinction. Thus there is no crossover in the Venn diagram, and citizens and subjects are mutually exclusive. Socrates was a citizen, he had both right a right to a trail for his supposed crimes, and to fight against Sparta. Slaves in Athens were subjects of the citizens, the sovereign. Everyone that lived in Persia, except Xerxes, were subjects of Xerxes, and it was his will alone whether he wanted to do anything for his subject or not. The same goes for other despotisms today.

        In response to my comment about the meaningless distinction between a sacred or profane king, you wrote:
        “To be a sacred king is ipso facto to be ordered toward the Good. If sacred, kings can be either good or bad, can succeed or fail; but if profane, they are almost certain to be bad, and to fail. Ditto for presidents, prime ministers, premiers, Dear Leaders, chieftains, what have you.”

        There is no ipso facto. How can one expect that just because a sovereign is sacred, by which I take you mean anointed, that they will be superior to one that isn’t, just because they are anointed? They are more likely to be Good, given that order is preferable to anarchy and an anointed leader will likely side with order. But the act of anointing to make one sacred, does not, in and of itself, make a sovereign Good. And as I’ve pointed out, the top of the dominance hierarchy are very self interested in making themselves anointed, or sacred, or whatever term you prefer, to both inspire awe in those below them in the hierarchy, but also to maintain the system that is in their favor.

        Alfred the Great, or any good leader for that matter, knows that there are limits to human capacity, and works within those limits. A despot can ask everything from his subjects, but there is only so much they can actually give, and only so many people you can have killed and replaced who fail. Kings are actually quite difficult to get rid of, because there are so many people under that are willing to use force in their defense. Granted, they are but men physically, but they represent an entire hierarchical system. This should help you understand why the Magna Carta was such a big deal, because it put limits on the king. I’m not seeing how any of this adds to the debate.

        In sum, there is no objective judge for deciding a hierarchy is profane or sacred. A profane hierarchy makes itself legitimate by its own self anointing. It has incentives too do so. I am sure there are some exceptions, but what dictator or president or ruler has ever publicly said that they are illegitimate? After one has screwed up, we can later call it illegitimate, profane, or whatever.

        p.s. long time lurker, first time commentor. Thanks for the blog.

      • When I wrote that, “The OP makes no mention of kings, or even of sovereigns of any sort,” I meant something like, “The OP makes no mention of kings, or for that matter of presidents, premiers, juntas, emperors, popes, mayors, Indian chiefs, judges, CEOs, husbands, or of any other sort of sovereign.” Sorry for the want of clarity.

        I take “sovereign” to indicate the regnant authority over a particular hierarchy (whether or not that hierarchy is political), however that sovereign is constituted, and however many human persons constitute it. Sovereigns need not be sole. Julius Caesar ended the sovereignty of the Roman Senate; Constantine ended the joint sovereignty of the two Augusti. There is a good case, e.g., that the Supreme Court is now sovereign of the United States.

        The argument of the OP pertains to any sort of sovereign, and to all sorts of hierarchies.

        You are strongly saying that ancient hierarchies were superior, and that a just and ordered society was one that had a hierarchy that was anointed and consecrated.

        Not quite. I am strongly saying that a hierarchy that is explicitly devoted to the pursuit of the Good as he is understood by the predominant cult is likely at the least to be *trying* to do the right thing, whereas a hierarchy that explicitly rejects any vision of the Good (pace for the nonce on the perfect incoherence of such a move) is extremely unlikely to do any good, except by sheer happenstance, because it is *not even trying.*

        Now, in practice, life can’t be lived, nor can affairs of state be prosecuted, except under some vision or other of the Good. And there is always an established cult. And most people are at least trying to do the right thing. So, in practice, it’s really pretty hard to find a hierarchy that honestly and completely carries through on a commitment to nihilism – which is the doctrine that remains after the rejection of the Good.

        … hierarchy is a two way street, it requires the acquiescence of those below the anointed, willingly or by force. Who then decides that the “Mandate of Heaven” has been [lost? Well,] those below the sovereign. So based on your follow up comments, we are [not] so far off from each other’s thinking.

        Agreed.

        I construe “subject” to denote a person subject to the rules of a sovereign; which is to say, a person subject to the law of the hierarchy over which that sovereign bears rule. A foreign visitor to Italy is subject to her laws. So are her citizens, and so are all those in positions of authority in all her hierarchies. As her temporary subjects, visitors to Italy have rights and responsibilities under her laws, enjoy their protections, and must obey them. Insofarforth, they bear a reciprocal relation to the sovereign of Italy: they owe him their duty, and he owes them his. They are not slaves, merely in virtue of their subjection to Italian law.

        You seem to construe “subject” as denoting “slave.” But the proper word, the precise term for slave is “slave.”

        All slaves are subjects; it does not follow that all subjects are slaves.

        How can one expect that just because a sovereign is sacred, by which I take you mean anointed, that they will be superior to one that isn’t, just because they are anointed?

        You proceed to answer this question:

        They are more likely to be Good, given that order is preferable to anarchy and an anointed leader will likely side with order.

        NB though that anointment is not dispositive of sanctity. Sanctity is not conferred by chrismation, or any other formal rite of consecration. Like all rites of ordination, chrismation is a sacrament: an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible charism. Obviously, you can be outwardly anointed and remain inwardly profane. You can lie when you take your royal vows. But if such vows are a condition of the office to which you aspire, then at least you must give the appearance of making them, and then of following through on them. You must, i.e., take the trouble of lying, and pay all the penalties that dishonesty so reliably imposes.

        Kings are actually quite difficult to get rid of, because there are so many people under that are willing to use force in their defense. Granted, they are but men physically, but they represent an entire hierarchical system.

        Like I said:

        … every king rules at the pleasure of his subsidiaries, and by means of their cooperation with him. Alfred the Great did not *force* his vassals to act, he worked with them, and influenced them; they were loyal to him, not because he forced their loyalty, but because they agreed that he deserved it, and freely offered it to him.

        It is the loyalty of their vassals that makes kings strong. Going up against a king is going up against a whole system of robustly interwoven loyalties, both up and down the hierarchy, and across it. It is to begin a civil war. The Magna Carta was a big deal because it involved a catastrophe of what had been a settled order, in which all involved had some stake (and a restoration of a more ancient order). John’s humiliation by his barons at Runnymede exemplifies my assertion that sovereigns exert their sovereignty in virtue of the loyalty of their subsidiaries.

        In sum, there is no objective judge for deciding [whether] a hierarchy is profane or sacred.

        Well, but God is an objective judge, and history comes close. And we can be pretty sure that a hierarchy which explicitly asserts its own profanity is indeed profane, at least in its intentions.

        Thank you for your comments, and for reading the Orthosphere.

      • Just a couple points to clarify. I do use sovereign to be the authority in a given governmental system in the manner than Thomas Hobbes does. Given that I referenced Athenian democracy and Xerxes as both sovereigns, I thought I was clear that it could be one person or many.

        A person can be a citizen of one sovereign’s jurisdiction, a defined hierarchy as you say, but a subject when they reside in another jurisdiction. Dred Scott in 1860 if he fled north could have been citizen in Canada, but was a subject while he lived in the U.S. Prior to the Dred Scott decision (to reference your apt note about the judicial supremacy in our system) he was a citizen in Illinois but a subject when he moved back to Alabama. A subject is always a slave to the sovereign, even if a highly paid or respected one with slaves of his own. I am a subject of Italy if I were to visit Rome. But as a citizen of my government’s jurisdiction, as part of its responsibilities to me, there are certain treaties in place with Italy to ensure some of my rights as a citizen are retained while there. As a visitor to Italy, though, I have no obligations to that country to, for example, serve on a jury or fight its wars, as there I am a subject.

        The lessons of history as an objective judge take far to long to those who have to suffer under an unjust sovereign. Your post on this hierarchy stands so in stark contrast to your previous beautiful post about the stupid art project that deserved to collapse and the larger lesson I took from it. It was this incongruity that motivated me to comment for the first time in the year or so I’ve read your blog. While we will all have our lives enfolded in the light of God’s judgment one day, a more earthy and immediate concern concern to me would be an inordinate belief that a particular hierarchy is somehow legitimate. Caesar, which you mention, is a perfect example. While the Roman Senate was increasingly inept, his making himself emperor was problematic to say the least in that it undid centuries of tradition and respect for the Rule of Law, and the current hierarchy who had a stake in the old system paid him back for it. And thank you for engaging.

      • A subject is always a slave to the sovereign …

        This is just false. You contradict it yourself in the very same paragraph:

        As a visitor to Italy, though, I have no obligations to that country to, for example, serve on a jury or fight its wars, as there I am a subject.

        If subjection to the sovereign of Italy entailed enslavement to him, your subjection to his rule would entail that you *did* have an obligation to do *whatever he ordered you to do.* For, you would be nothing more than his chattel. As his chattel, your citizenship in some other nation would be neither here nor there.

        Examples of that sort of enslavement of foreign nationals are all over the place. Almost everyone ever taken into slavery was taken from his native land, and his membership therein counted for nothing in the land of his enslavement.

        Think then of the old Roman Empire, wherein but few of its subjects were citizens. Saint Peter was a freeman, and a subject of Rome; but he was not a citizen. So when it came time to execute him, Rome crucified him. Saint Paul, on the other hand, was both a freeman and a citizen. That did not mean he was not a subject of Rome, and of her laws, which eventually executed him duly, as a citizen: by the sword, rather than by the cross. Both Paul and Peter were subjects of the Emperor and his laws, but neither of them was a slave. Onesimus, by contrast, *was* a slave. Paul, Peter and Onesimus were all subjects of the Emperor, but only Onesimus was a slave.

        Again, the Duke of York is a subject of the Queen, like her subject to the laws of England and the UK; he is a citizen of Great Britain, and an elector; he is both free and noble; and he is nowise her slave.

        The lessons of history as an objective judge take far too long to those who have to suffer under an unjust sovereign.

        I have not suggested that the only thing subjects of an unjust or inept sovereign can rightly do about their political predicament is meekly wait for history to deliver its verdict upon him. On the contrary, I have in this thread several times iterated the notion that a sovereign rules at all only in virtue of the fealty of his subsidiaries, who therefore wield some social power over him, and so bear some responsibility for their predicaments under his government.

        Who truckles agrees thereto.

        I responded to your statement that there is no objective judge only because it can open a door to moral relativism – i.e., to a rejection of the ultimate sovereignty of the Good, and thus to profanation.

        The main point of the OP had nothing to say about how to tell whether a hierarchy is just. It was rather, only, that a hierarchy which explicitly asserts its profanity, as thus implicitly denying the influence upon its acts of any vision of the Good, is therefore unlikely to work any good, except by accident or unprincipled exception. It is on the contrary almost certain to work evil.

        It is bound to work just such viciousness as Professor Smith noticed in his recent post: “art” that, as having forsworn any interest in sublimity, is ugly, pointless, meaningless, unstable junk that falls and fails, and deserves to.

      • “You contradict yourself in the next paragraph”

        Not really. As I noted that as a citizen of one jurisdiction (in this day and age) one of the government’s obligations is to protect its citizens even while abroad. You’re misstating my argument, whether intentionally or on purpose. In short: citizen has rights and obligations and the sovereign has obligations to a citizen, while a sovereign has no obligations to a subject and can do what it wills. Now, just because a sovereign can do what it wills to a citizen, making them essentially a slave, it doesn’t mean that subjects will be treated poorly. There are good kings and bad kings.

        You’re actually making my case for me with your example of Saints Peter and Paul. I noted that there are treaties our jurisdiction has with another jurisdiction to ensure that my some of my rights are ensured when I am not in my jurisdiction. In an era before such things, a person who was a Roman citizen could travel to Persia and be a subject. Once a subject, you are a essentially a slave to Pharaoh, as Joseph and his people found out. One of the rights a Roman citizen had was a quick death, a subject had no such right, and thus could be crucified. There can be minimal rights (like in Rome), or there can be a lot of rights (like today), but one is a citizen if there is rights and a subject if there are not. With the fall of Rome, there the whole concept of citizenship, with rights and obligations on both the state and person, that was developed by the Ancient Greek city-states, did fade, only to be brought back later.

        Skeptical questioning of the validity of a hierarchy as opening the door to moral relativism? That is one giant slippery slope you’re conjuring up there. You don’t have to fear a French Revolution around every corner. These next two points are crucial; no hierarchy will ever call itself profane, they all self-appoint themselves as anointed and/or sacred by their own supposed superiority or by alluding to support of a higher power (whether it’s true or not). Therefore your profane/non-profane distinction is a meaningless one, especially as you say that only God and history are objective judges.

        “Professor Smith noticed in his recent post”…..

        Ah, that was a guest post. I admittedly didn’t notice, as I never looked at the authorship. Thanks for the clarification.

      • It wasn’t a guest post; Dr. Smith is one of our regular contributors here.

        Skeptical questioning of the validity of a hierarchy as opening the door to moral relativism?

        No; suggesting that there is no objective judge opens that door. Not that I took you to be making such a suggestion too seriously, or to be a moral relativist. Just that we must be careful to distinguish between the difficulty of discerning the truth and the impossibility of doing so. Moderns slide from the first position to the second with almost no friction at all, and that lands them in moral relativism and – if they are consistent – in nihilism. Again, not to suggest that you are thus confused.

        … a sovereign has no obligations to a subject and can do what it wills …

        So the Queen of England can torture and kill her subject the Archbishop of Canterbury, with no let or hindrance, no due process of law, and at her sole whim, for any reason or no reason?

        My only point in this dispute we are having about subjects versus citizens is that *citizens are also subjects* of their sovereign. That, at least, according to customary English diction. *All* the inhabitants of the UK are subjects of the Queen, and must obey her laws while they remain in her dominions. Some of them are also citizens. Some of those citizens are electors. Some of those electors are noblemen. And so forth. These terms are not mutually exclusive. A subject of the Queen does not pass out of subjection to her upon his admission to citizenship in the UK.

        You can use the terms differently if you like. But your usage will be idiosyncratic, and people will have difficulty understanding you that they might not otherwise have suffered.

        … no hierarchy will ever call itself profane, they all self-appoint themselves as anointed and/or sacred by their own supposed superiority or by alluding to support of a higher power (whether it’s true or not). Therefore your profane/non-profane distinction is a meaningless one …

        Almost all the institutions of modern Western society aver their profanity. This they do implicitly when they abjure any dedication to a sacred vision of the Good. Church institutions are the only exception – and as we have seen with “Catholic” universities, not even they are quite comfortable with their ecclesial heritage.

      • Well, I never said I read the blog religiously. I make my way here sometimes from Dalrock or Zippy, and stay and grab a beer. It’s a nice house, but I haven’t been here long enough to put my feet up and kick back. The dog still eyes me suspiciously.

        “suggesting that there is no objective judge opens that door.”

        Yes, I agree. I am opening the door, but not in a way that is designed to lead to moral relativism, just as a by product of Enlightenment questioning. I think the American Revolution was a good example of skeptical questioning. Burkean conservatism really.

        “So the Queen of England can torture and kill her subject the Archbishop of Canterbury, with no let or hindrance, no due process of law, and at her sole whim, for any reason or no reason?”

        No, Englishmen slowly, gradually, and sometimes by force, pulled themselves up from being subjects into being citizens. They have something akin to our Bill of Rights, and this wall all part of the Glorious Revolution. We inherited the gains from that struggle in America. But a subject lives or dies on the whims of a sovereign. A resident of North Korea could be killed on a whim, not to mention countless examples in history of a king killing a subject just because. The only free man in country without citizenship is the sovereign, and in North Korea, it’s Rocket Man. Yet even a tyrant knows there is a limit to his tyranny, he risks a revolt if to many subjects are killed to arbitrarily, or an unstable regime if the masses are not kept in place. A subject may have some rights, depending on the nature of the regime, but these are either “paper” rights or so minimal as to not exist. The Soviet Union, for example, had a long list of positive rights that were in practical effect, meaningless, meanwhile its residents better not be the first to stop applauding comrade Stalin lest they be shot or disappear without trial to a gulag.

        “…your usage will be idiosyncratic”

        Again, not really. The “subjects of the crown” is itself idiosyncratic and an anachronism from an earlier time. Being a “subject of the Queen” has no more meaning than a symbolic one today. Just using dictionary.com definitions you can see the distinction between subject and citizen.

        The word subject is defined as: “being under dominion, rule, or authority, as of a sovereign, state, or some governing power; owing allegiance or obedience (often followed by to).

        The word citizen is defined as: a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection (distinguished from alien). an inhabitant of a city or town, especially one entitled to its privileges or franchises.

        Citizenship started in the Greco-Roman world as yeoman farmers gained political influence, and waned as Rome outsourced its wars and imported slaves, and it died when Rome fell. It started to make a comeback with Swiss and German commercial towns and Italian city-states in the 1500s.

        “Almost all the institutions of modern Western society aver their profanity.”

        I have to agree in theory but disagree in principle. Silly, I know, but necessary. In principle, given the Rule of Law, we also owe allegiance to many of them (we can debate the extent). In theory, I agree, most progressive institutions think of themselves as the enlightened few, working to free the masses from the misery of their ignorance in darkness. They are setting up the possibility of human perfection in lieu of the sacred good, and thus usually are up to no good. And so from that perspective, yes, they are profane, but they are still not to themselves and those beholden to them.

      • Had you not noticed that there is no logical contradiction between being a person under the dominion or rule of a sovereign, or who owes allegiance to a government and lives under its protection, on the one hand, and on the other being a native or naturalized member of a state or nation who owes allegiance to its government and is entitled to its protection? Sure, they are not the same thing, just as being a man and being a father are not the same thing. But neither are they mutually exclusive. One can be both a subject and a citizen, just as one can be both a man and a father.

        I’m not sure why this is so difficult for you to swallow. It does not at all vitiate the points you have made about the differences in various nations between citizenship and subjection. So I’m not sure why you care. Nor do I see why it matters so much to you to think that subjects are all slaves of the sovereign, and nothing more. It seems obvious that this is not necessarily so: Saint Peter was subject to the Emperor, but he was not a slave of the Emperor. It was the slaves of the Emperor who were the slaves of the Emperor. Likewise the Archbishop of Canterbury is a subject of the Queen, but is nowise her slave.

        Why strain at this gnat?

        You are correct to say that by their own lights secular progressives see themselves as engaged in Doing the Right Thing. They serve a cult. It’s just that they don’t see, or therefore admit, that this is what they are doing. They insist that the offices of their hierarchies are immaculately secular – are, i.e., precisely *not* ordered ultimately toward some transcendent ultimate Good. And they are correct! As avowedly disordered in respect to the ultimate Good, their hierarchies are ordered to, and serve, something less – much, much less; indeed, *infinitely* less. It’s a cult, alright. But it’s a cult of evil, rather than of the Good. So they work its evil, rather than good.

      • “Why strain at this gnat?”

        This is the pot calling the kettle black. I think you are being obtuse about it, and refusing to concede the point, despite give example after example, and having objective dictionary definitions show you are wrong. It is an important distinction, and a quite large one, that responsibility flows both ways in being a citizen. To liken it to the erstwhile general topic of this blog, God expects of us as we do of him, even if the relationship is not equal. Citizenship has an ancient history and it is an important distinction in what makes up Western civilization. Take it away, and you have something entirely different. To put it bluntly, do you like the idea of being a slave to the profane hierarchies you note? Because that is what you would be if you are a subject and not a citizen.

      • That’s absurd. I have not said that there is no such thing as citizenship. Nor have I said that there is no difference between citizenship and subjection. On the contrary.

        All I’m saying – to repeat – is that there is no *logical contradiction* between being a citizen and being a subject, so that one can be both.

        The two definitions you offered show this quite clearly.

        According to those definitions, a subject is a person under the dominion or rule of a sovereign of a state or nation, or who owes allegiance to its government and lives under its protection, while a citizen is a person under the dominion of a sovereign of a state or nation, or who owes allegiance to its government and lives under its protection – i.e., a subject – and is *also* native or naturalized thereto, and therefore *entitled* to its protection.

        How can you not see that this is so? How does it in any way vitiate the distinctions between citizenship and subjection?

        I argue also that there is an important distinction between slavery and subjection, so that they are not merely the same thing, as you insist they are. Saint Peter was Caesar’s subject, but was not Caesar’s personal property. Subjects can of course be slaves, as Onesimus was; but the two categories are not identical. That’s why we have different terms for them, with different definitions.

      • Look at the definitions again. A citizen owes allegiance, but is entitled to protections, privileges, or franchise. A subject is under dominion and owes allegiance, but has no rights or privileges. That a subject has no rights and privileges makes it so subject and citizen are two separate and distinct types of persons that inhabit a jurisdiction under a sovereign. Further, look at the definition of slave, which is “a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another” or “a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person.” If you are in a nation-state, and you have no rights, and are under the dominion of the sovereign, you are, in effect, a slave.

        Just because birds and airplanes both move through the air, it does not make them the same. For all practical purposes, a bird and a plane are both “objects that can fly” and the comparison ends there.

        If you can’t understand this, then there is no hope for continuing a conversation on this subject.

      • Look at the definitions yourself. Read them with great care. Notice then that the definition of “subject” *simply does not say* that subjects have no rights or privileges. Upon that notion your whole argument depends. It is a ridiculous notion. Look about you at the way subjects are treated by their governments throughout the civilized world. *None* of them are treated as slaves. If subjects were all slaves, many of them would be – for there are some rather barbarous “civilized” nations out there.

        Your notion that subject = slave is counterfactual. There are literally millions of counterexamples to your equation living in the United States at this moment. And there have always been subjects, of many lands, who were not treated as slaves – who were not, in point of simple fact, slaves at all. Saint Peter is a palmary example.

        You have not read the definitions carefully enough. You have misread my statements in this thread. Finally, you have not read facts rightly. How then can you expect to get on?

      • I had walked away from this debate, mostly because I was busy, and secondly because it appears to me that you’re to egotistical to admit an anonymous blog commentator show that you’re wrong. I apologize for sounding snarky, but that is the best conclusion to make when you’re telling me the dictionary is wrong.

        However, by chance I was listening to this podcast by Victor Davis Hanson because my kids and I watched 300 this weekend. Listen to the first 20 minutes, and if perhaps if you can let your guard down, maybe the world’s preeminent historian on classical history can penetrate your fog. Why Greece Matters- Victor Davis Hanson: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-pOwv6ZIbM

      • I think you are working way faster than you are really capable of doing – or perhaps willing to do. The syntactical errors in your writing bewray haste in composition; your errors of understanding what I and dictionary.com have written indicate haste in reading, or perhaps poor reading comprehension – or else, willful obstinate refusal to read what is set forth plainly before you on the page, instead reading something that does not actually appear there.

        To wit: I did not ever suggest that the dictionary definitions are wrong. On the contrary, I simply restated them, in the process demonstrating that, when read carefully, they do not support the identity you draw between subjection and slavery, or the mutual exclusion you apprehend between subjection and citizenship. The dictionary definitions you furnished to buttress your case just don’t say what you’d like them to say. On the contrary, they support the differences I have pointed out – nay, they simply *state* the differences I have pointed out – between subjection, slavery, and citizenship.

        I didn’t explain that the definitions were wrong. I explained that you were wrong about the definitions.

        I’ll be glad to watch Hanson’s video. But nothing he says shall convince me that, e.g., a freeman in medieval Europe subject to his lord was *exactly the same thing* as a slave. Because why? Because they just weren’t, that’s why. Not even serfs, villeins or bondservants were the same thing as slaves.

    • Certainly. A vision of the Good that is not accurate can understand and convincingly present itself as true, can therefore attract the loyalty and cooperation of the people, and can thus lead to a coherent and functional society. But the more accurate the vision of the Good, the better; and the worse, the worse.

      • No; all sorts of things can influence the outcome, including the relative accuracy of the visions of adjacent competitive cultures.

        We can’t say that success demonstrates truth. But we can certainly say that truth improves the likelihood of success. So, we can take success as an index of truth, in rather the way that we take a clear complexion, bright eyes, and vivacity as indices of health, or lean muscularity as an index of fitness.

  6. It is impossible to abolish hierarchy, which is a constitutive principle of the universe, both physically and metaphysically speaking. The abolitionist, to the degree that he succeeds in toppling one hierarchy, only makes another, but less elegant, one, with himself, of course, seated atop the pyramid. Frederick Turner turns a useful phrase in a book of his from the mid-1990s, to the effect that the time has come for us to liberate ourselves from the oppression of the liberators. Hierarchy is the most free principle of social organization.

  7. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2017/09/23) - Social Matter

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