Why the role of the British monarchy remains still largely unaddressed
The Queen is dead. Charles III is now the King. But King of what? For seven decades, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland hasn’t had to think so much about this question, and for the last two weeks, it hasn’t thought much about it either.
What’s been unfolding instead is a mass public ritual of extraordinary distinction, as exemplified by the tens of thousands of individuals who spent hours standing in line in the most sacred of all British institutions, the Queue to pay their final respects to their late sovereign and check-in with death, the reigning sovereign of this world.
All this has been impressive. Ceremony cannot be eradicated from human community and if the demand is not satisfied it will express itself in violent and destructive forms. This is partly what happened during the so-called pandemic, and is still happening across multiple sectors of society.
Also for this reason, the last ten days have felt surreal. The sense of unreality was heightened by the appearance of thousands of articles, all saying more or less very little, about the importance of dignity, duty, tradition, and so on. Valid though these sentiments may be, their rhetorical celebration by media outlets who normally mock them felt as empty as everything else they say.
The attention paid to individuals and groups transgressing the ceremony supplies another angle on this point. Emphasised by sections of the online Right has been the juxtaposition of an image of masked, black “Cult of Barabbas” protesters marching through London on September 10 to protest against the death by police of a man named Chris Kaba with an image of nice-looking white people congregating outside of Buckingham Palace. The contrast is striking, but its obvious meaning is misleading. The question is how affinity and unity are established by the figure of the monarch, for whom, and how.
That hostility to the monarchy or national customs exists in part of Britain’s migrant population, and that similar dynamics exists elsewhere in the West is not surprising. Not only is no effort made to compel migrants to integrate into traditional customs and culture, but the opposite is the case: migrants are repeatedly informed by what appear to be the official authorities in their host nations that the societies they are joining are fundamentally racist, oppressive enterprises. Everyone contesting this narrative (for instance, Calvin Robinson, a mixed-race man denied a position in the Anglican Church and relentlessly racially abused by the Left for refusing to affirm the theology of systemic racism) is marginalised and viciously attacked. Seen from this angle the migrants are integrating perfectly; they are integrating into the national ideology of self-loathing.
The role of the monarchy with respect to this problem is complex; the key point is that neither the political idea of the sovereign as embodying ruthless British imperialism (the position channeled by various over-promoted fanatics in US academia) nor the moralist view of the Queen as a hard-working figure (the position expressed among others by a young man named William Single, who travelled to London to pay his respects to the Queen because she “has served for 70 years and worked every day of her life”) captures the traditional function of kingship. The monarch is not just a popular, charitable figure: the role of the king is alchemical, which is why alchemy is called the ‘royal art’.
This art consists in integrating and transmuting what Spinoza called the “sad passions” into higher-order qualities and forms enabling more complex political and spiritual organisation. Today this idea appears esoteric but in traditional societies it remains generally recognised.
In a pre-modern universe, the terrestrial monarch served as the analogue of the celestial monarchy and was understood as the axis of cosmological order. In a post-Copernican universe this perspective is structurally incomprehensible, yet traces of it nonetheless survive as remnants in the rituals themselves. William Single’s statement, for instance, expresses both the historical ethics of the Protestant universe (or the Gutenberg Galaxy) and a more archaic conception of the great work of the spirit.
From the Amazonian rain forest to the deserts of Mexico, the seriousness and unity of purpose, but also the irony, with which Elizabeth II performed her ceremonial function is precisely the quality demanded by rituals everywhere: it is this quality of intention which rituals develop and strengthen. What’s important is holding within the space of society an atmosphere of high tension enabling an organised struggle with demonic or unconscious forces.
Rituals represent barricades to the collapse of the world into a spiritual chaos in which demonic forces and aggressive drives roam free. At this point the spiritual drive, unable to acquire an adequate object, degrades into the search for a “subject not supposed to believe” to anchor a faith that would otherwise remain incoherent. Everybody should beware of falling into this trap. The striking contemporary figure here is Meghan Markle, this fourth-rate Canadianized actress and bête noire of boomers, and the herald of a world that has become spiritually Canadian: the most desperate of all conditions.
Here again we should wonder if the “woke are more correct than the mainstream.” The desperate desire for a meaningful universe is destructive and violent. But myth without violence is nothing, and nothing is ultimately the most violent thing. The “dogmatic myth of gnosticism” doesn’t come from nowhere, but represents a response to a nihilistic condition. The question is whether the British monarchy in its present form confronts or perpetuates this.
With the dust now beginning to settle it is useful to consider this situation less sentimentally and more critically. For seventy years, Queen Elizabeth II served as the emblem of a power which, as Dean Acheson put it, “lost an empire, and failed to find a role.” Over the course of her reign, British sovereignty drained away almost to nothing, and Britain’s sense of the sacred reduced itself to worshipping an NHS death cult. She had nothing to say about this. Should she have said something?
Elizabeth II was in the public eye for ninety years, and emerged without a scratch. She inscrutably embodied the enigma of a once Great Britain. The fact that Britain has convinced itself and the world that this is a record of extraordinary praise is both entangled with the psychology of the nation itself, and not exactly wrong. It, too, has survived – sort of. For the most part, it has at least retained a sense of humour, which is far from nothing. Although it is difficult to say how precisely the Queen engineered this, she nonetheless somehow embodied it, like the punchline to a joke.
What now awaits us, however, is difficult to predict. During his long period waiting to accede to the throne, the new King embraced a much more defined ideological position than his mother, namely the Traditionalist philosophy associated in particular with Rene Guénon. From this perspective he has delivered a series of positive statements about Islam, a number of critical comments about modern architecture and served as the patron of several admirable projects devoted to putting his ideals into practice.
At the same time, Charles has also involved himself with the World Economic Forum’s Great Reset project and the radically anti-Traditionalist transhumanist paradigm it embodies. On this basis, he appears as an ideological enemy alongside George Soros and “the fat burgher” Klaus Schwab in his fellow Traditionalist Alexander Dugin’s book The Great Awakening Versus the Great Reset. The point of convergence is a concern with the question of the environment, which is both a genuine issue and a totally mystified ideaology fabricated by the bureaucratic directives of a managerial regime: the truth about climate change is that is not about climate, and it is not about change. How Charles III intends to resolve this point remains to be seen.
What’s clear in any case is that we are entering a new phase. The late Queen Elizabeth was almost revered as a saint precisely insofar as she stayed silent. But this is no time for silence. It is becoming increasingly necessary to speak up and raise questions that have remained unaddressed for a long time.