Profane Kingship Is Finally Moot

Profane kingship is inherently weak, thus always defensive and in fight mode, and so tyrannical. For, a sovereign who rules merely by force of arms, and not by any authority grounded ultimately in the moral lógos of things, is naturally resented by all his subjects, as being nowise legitimate under heaven (unless he be also a good master – but as purely profane it is hard to be good) and his reign is rendered thereby inherently unstable, and vulnerable.

A merely profane king cannot possibly motivate his subjects to any voluntary sacrifice on behalf of the nation; because he does not himself embody the national spirit, and cannot speak for her as her angel. He can speak only for himself. All he can do then is oppress them in his own interests, to which he cannot but hold theirs as subservient; as therefore their more or less alienate enemy.

So must a truly just and truly noble and thus truly efficacious king be also himself an anointed officer of the Church. As even her national head, he must be still subject in all things to her discipline, as must he also and likewise be vassal pledged to her high heavenly King.

The only true and truly efficacious kingship is sacred; is such then as participates divinity. Merely secular rulers are no more than bosses.

14 thoughts on “Profane Kingship Is Finally Moot

  1. This would be true in a nation composed entirely of civilians. Where there is no warrior class, especially no warrior nobility, warrior aristocracy.

    I do agree divine-rights justification and taking advice from the church is necessary, but no such thing as an anointed officer of the church i.e. a priest. Warriors are going to follow a warrior simply because he is a good leader. Merit.

    Divine-rights justification is necessary because we don’t want everybody to always argue if the king has enough merit and maybe that guy over that has more. He should have enough merit (ability to lead warriors) to do the job, the rest is divine-rights justification. And yes taking advice from the church is necessary because warriors entirely on their own can get quite immoral. I was reading up on why Persia fell to the Muslim. Well, apparently because it was entirely normal for kings to kill their own father and take his throne. Their priests were either not doing their jobs or the kings did not listen to them. Or, say, Nero was doing things that were entirely immoral even in the pagan worldview. The problem was not so much that the moral code was pagan and not Christian but more like the pagan priesthood did not have enough influence, Nero basically didn’t care about their opinion.

    But the point still stands that you are thinking in the framework of purely civil nations. Warriors are different. Warrior kings are different. And they can make warriors loyal quite well.

    Modern society tends to forget the existence of warriors as a class. Modern officers are just uniformed bureaucrats. Well of course you are not a modern, Kristor, but still, questioning modernity purely through the lenses of religion might lead to ignore the importance of a warrior-aristocrat class in any traditional society. I keep re-reading Jerry Pournelle’s Falkenberg stories. I recommend you the same, especially Prince of Sparta. It really makes the case why warrior elites matter and how warrior kings arise.

    • “but no such thing as an anointed officer of the church i.e. a priest. Warriors are going to follow a warrior simply because he is a good leader. Merit.”

      Kristor didn’t propose a hierocracy — rule by priests — but rather by an anointed . . . and consecrated — king. Hebrew and Christian kings were (and will again be) anointed (and perhaps still are if you’re charitable to the Anglicans).

      Even warriors know the limits of mortal man and of themselves (to some extent, if they manage to survive). Wise ones want to fight with and for a lieutenant of the heavenly host rather than a bandit destined for the outer darkness, no matter his skill. Of course, mundane matters might sway a man’s interpretation of heaven’s mandate. If we look at the Roman Empire in the East, there was no shortage of mini civil wars, usurpers, and shifting loyalties. The less civilized Westerners thought the Greeks treacherous. They certainly would think so of their descendants, as well.

    • Thanks, Dividualist: I’ve meant to plumb Pournelle for decades; you might just have pushed me over the threshold to actually following through on the intention.

      As for whether I was presuming an entirely civilian society: not so. What, at the Orthosphere? Good God, man! Heaven forbid.

      If we could imagine an aristocratic culture of the sort that we of the Orthosphere have long and consistently advocated, but without a traditional religion – I know, I know, that’s a contradiction in terms, but bear with me arguendo – then clearly such an atheist society could not for long sustain kingship – and, nor, by extension, could it long sustain any part of the aristocratic hierarchy. As we have seen.

      Nor for that matter could it sustain any complex social order. No cult → no culture. As we see.

      NB that all baptized Christians are anointed officers of the Church, members of the Body of Christ and thus of the Host of Heaven, and are furthermore ordained forever to the priestly Order of Melchizedek. Christendom is in each of her citizens wherever they may be a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, and a Cloud of Witnesses. So all Christian warriors are anointed officers of the Church. But not all Christians are sworn to vows of obedience to ecclesial superiors, or to holy orders like the priesthood, monastic life, or marriage. So while all knights are bound to Nazirite vows of Christian Chivalry, Christian warriors may or may not owe fealty to the ecclesial hierarchy. If they be vassals to a bishop or abbot, then yes. Viz., the Templars were vassals of the Pope.

      As Joseph has pointed out, I was not suggesting that kings should be ruled by priests, but only that, to be effective in the long run, a monarchy must be consecrate. Kingship must be construed by all and sundry as truly holy if it is to be true at all: true as metal is true, true as an arrow is true, true as a proposition is true, true as a rule or measure is true, true as a good solid faithful doughty companion is true.

  2. Pingback: Profane Kingship Is Finally Moot | Reaction Times

  3. Authority is unstable if it is too closely tied to efficacy. Of course it is tyrannical when it is completely detached from efficacy, which is why a Chinese emperor who ruled by divine right could “lose the mandate of heaven.” But your main point is that authority must be able to survive some amount of failure, and I think this is correct.

    At the risk of being topical, frivolous impeachment of a President would move us even closer to an identification of authority and efficacy. Perfect identification would be removal from office after one negative opinion poll.

    Loyalty causes a man to stick to an authority that has let him down. It is really a form of charity towards power. But there is a point where loyalty becomes a vice. It is hard to say where that point is, and the question is made harder by the fact that it is a question where we must mistrust the answer given by Authority.

    • Yes. But we confront this difficulty in all our friendly and familiar relationships, and indeed even in our business relationships. Tit for Two Tats seems to be a winning strategy. Jesus thought so, anyway.

      • Yes. The “other cheek” and “extra mile” are qualified by the “pearls before swine. One can be loving and forgiving without being the eternal chumps of the universe.

      • I owe the insight that TFTT is the ethical policy of the Lord to Jim. The profective equilibrium generated by prevalent TFTT engenders civilizations such as Christendom. They tend to overwhelm competitor cultures operating on TFT. TFTT profective equilibrium supervenes upon the general and more basic profective equilibrium procured by prevalent TFT. A social world pervaded by TFT profective equilibrium is a forecondition of the efficacy of TFTT. But, thanks to Emerson’s Law of Compensation, a social world characterized throughout by TFT is exactly what we’ve got. TFT is a case of the more general conservation laws. So, except in cases of radical social dissolution, TFTT is the way to go. When chaos hits, though, it’s back to TFT.

  4. “The title ‘King of the World,’ taken in its highest, most complete, and at the same time most rigorous sense, applies properly to Manu, the primordial and universal legislator, whose name is found in diverse forms among a great many ancient peoples; in this regard, let us recall only Mina, or Menes, of the Egyptians, Menw of the Celts, and Minos of the Greeks. This name moreover does not designate a more or less legendary historical personage, but rather a principle, a cosmic Intelligence that reflects pure spiritual light and formulates the law (Dharma) appropriate to the conditions of our world and of our cycle of existence; and at the same time it is the archetype of man, considered particularly insofar as he is a thinking being (in Sanskrit, manava).” René Guénon, The King of the World, Chapter 2.

    If there were such a person in the contemporary world, he would be resting, like Arthur or Holger or Barbarossa, in a mystic trance under a magic mountain. How to put him, actively, in the scene? Or how to activate the principle, when the principle is no longer known? I am completely at a loss.

    • Like all principles of the Logos, the Royal principle is active at all times, in just the way that the Holy Spirit is active at all times and in all places; i.e., sometimes manifest to our apprehension, sometimes not. That there are no triangles evident anywhere in the near vicinity does not at all indicate that the principles of trigonometry are in local abeyance.

      The Royal principle, then, is bound to manifest itself to our apprehension in the fullness of time, in due and proper course. If it is indeed a principle, then it cannot forever be gainsayed or ignored or forestalled. It will out, sooner or later, no matter what.

      To hasten that day ourselves, the most and best we can do is to make manifest in ourselves and apparent to others those virtues proper to us and to our stations in life. The more generally and pervasively the proper natural order of man is concretely expressed, the more likely and the more easy is it that his nature may be more completely and more properly expressed. So, we tend our own gardens, as best we can.

      • Yes. — I forget these things. As Voegelin writes: The urge to order lies in the experience of disorder. Is a more disorderly world than North-American contemporaneity imaginable? The craving for order must rise as steeply as the ambient disorder sinks. I take a degree of solace in the Euripidean notion that, “Whom the gods would destroy — they first drive mad.” The existing enemies of order are madly mad.

      • Yes. What can’t work, won’t. Our Western cultural adversaries are not reproducing. K always follows a period of r. The worm always, always turns. There is reversion to the mean. Equilibrium is a terrifically strong attractor; the Good is a terrifically strong attractor. He shall not be gainsayed; the Gates of Hell cannot stand against his Body. We may take heart at all that.


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