The Meaning and Function of Monarchy (2)

This is the second installment of the essay by Julius Evola that was published under the title Significato e funzione della monarchia. This section concludes Part I of the original essay.

⇐ Segment 1   Segment 3 ⇒

If in the past, the bond of fidelity that united the subject and follower with the sovereign could be treated as a sacrament — sacramentum fidelitatis — something that was preserved even later as the quite perceptible foundation of a special ethics, an ethic, in fact, of loyalty and honor, which could acquire a particular force in the assumption, just now indicated, of the presence of a personalized symbol. In normal times, the fact that the sovereign as an individual might not always be at the height of the principle, did not matter; his function remained unprescriptive and intangible because obedience was not to the man but to the king and his person had value essentially as a support so that the capacity for super-individual dedication, that pride in serving freely and possibly even the readiness to sacrifice (as in the dramatic moments when a whole people rallied around their sovereign) could be awakened or propitiated, that they might constitute a way of elevation and dignification for the individual and, at the same time, the most powerful force to hold together the union of a political body and to limit in it what it has that is anodyne and disheartened, and in recent times has taken a dangerous extent.

That everything that cannot be achieved to the same extent in another form of political regiment, is quite obvious. A president of the republic can be flattered, but no one will ever recognize in him anything but a functionary, a “bourgeois” like any other, which only extrinsically, not on the basis of an inherent legitimacy, is vested with a temporary and conditioned authority. Whoever maintains a certain subtle sensibility perceives that ‘”being in the service of their king”, the “fight for their king” (even the fight “for their own country,” despite the romantic coloring, has in comparison something less noble, more naturalistic and collectivistic), the “representing the king”, all have a specific quality, all of which indicates instead a parodic, not to say grotesque, character when it pertains “to one’s own president”. Especially in the case of the army, high bureaucracy, and diplomacy (regardless of the nobility), this appears very obvious. The same oath, when it is not paid to a sovereign but to the republic or one or another abstraction, has something discordant and empty about it. With a democratic republic, something immaterial, but still essential and irreplaceable, is inevitably lost. The anodyne and the profane prevail. A monarchist nation that becomes a republic is, in a certain way, a “degraded” nation

If we observed that the kind of fluidity that forms around the symbol of the Crown is quite different from what may be related to the exalted “states of the multitude”, which can arouse or favor the demagogy of a popular leader, the difference also exists with regard to any simple nationalistic mysticism. Of course, the sovereign also incarnates the nation, symbolizes its unity on a higher plane, establishing almost, with it, a “unity of destiny.” But here we find the opposite of every Jacobin patriotism; there are none of those confused collectivizing myths that speak to the pure demos and that almost divinize it. It can be said that monarchy moderates, limits, and purifies simple nationalism; which, as it prevents any dictatorship replacing it with advantage, so it also prevents any nationalistic excess; it defends a structured, hierarchical, and balanced order. It is known that the most calamitous upheavals of recent times can be attributed mainly to unrestrained nationalism.

After what we have said, it is clear that we do not share at all the idea that monarchy at this point should be democratized, that the monarch should assume almost bourgeois features — “must come down from the august heights of the past and present himself and act in a democratic way,” as Loewenstein claimed. That would simply destroy his dignity and his raison d’être, as we indicated. The king of the north European countries who carries a valise, who goes shopping in the stores, who consents to letting radio or television display his well-behaved family life to the people including his tantrum-throwing children, or else the Royal House that is provided for the curiosity and gossip of the news magazines, and whatever else one thinks, might make people close to the king, including, in the end, a good-natured paternal appearance (if the father is conceived in a bland bourgeois form), all this cannot avoid damaging the very essence of the monarchy. The “Majesty” then really becomes an empty epithet of the ceremony. It has rightly been said that “the powerful who, through a badly understood sense of popularity, consents to get closer, ends up in a bad way.”

It is clear that take to take all that as firm, means going against the current. But, again, we pose an alternative: it is a question of accepting, or not, a state of fact as irreversible, thinking that only the useless vestiges of monarchy can exist. One of the elements to consider in this regard is the intolerance in our world, for distance. The success of dictatorships and other spurious political forms is due, in part, precisely to the fact that the leader is seen as “one of us”, the “Great Comrade,” and only in these terms is he accepted as a guide and obeyed. In these circumstances the concern for ‘popularity’ and for “democratic” means is quite understandable. But that, basically, is anything but natural; we do not see why he should be subordinated when the leader, in the end, is just “one of us” when an essential distance is felt, as in the case of the true sovereign. So a “pathos of distance” — to use one of Nietzsche’s expressions — should be substituted for that of affinity, in relationships that exclude any haughty arrogance on the one hand, and every servility on the other. This is a basic point, in its existential character, for a restoration of the monarchy. Without exhuming anachronistic forms, instead of propaganda that “humanizes” the sovereign in order to captivate the masses, almost on the same line as the U.S. presidential election propaganda, one should see to what extent traits of a figure characterized by some innate superiority and dignity can have a profound activity in a suitable context. A kind of asceticism and liturgy of power could play a part here. While just these traits will enhance the prestige of the one who embodies a symbol, they should be able to exert a force of attraction on common man, even pride, in the subject. Moreover, even in fairly recent times there has been the example of Emperor Franz Joseph who, while interposing the strict ancient ceremonial between himself and his subjects, while not imitating in the least the “democratic” kings of the small Nordic States, enjoyed a particular, not common popularity.

To sum up, the main prerequisite for a revival of monarchy, pursuant to the dignity and function which we mentioned, there remains, in our opinion, the awakening of a new sensibility for an order that is detached from the most material, and also the simply “social”, plane, and tends to everything that is honor, loyalty, and responsibility, because similar values in the monarchy have their natural center of gravity; while, in turn, the monarchy will be end up degraded, reduced to a simple formal and decorative survival when these values are not alive and active — first in an elite , in a real ruling class. They are not the same chords that the defender of the monarchical idea and of any other system must make resonate in the individual and in the community. So it is absurd to entrust the destinies of the monarchical idea to propaganda and a praxis that approximately copies the methods of the opposed party in a democratic spirit. Even today being able to ascertain the appearance of tendencies toward an authoritarian center, towards a “monarchy” in the literal sense (= monocracy) is not enough, after what we said about the profound differences which the various objectifications of the principle of unity and authority may present. The meaning of what is not allowed to be sold, bought, or usurped in the dignity and participation in political life is a decisive factor and escapes like water through their fingers for those who think only in terms of matter, of personal advantage, hedonism, functionality, and rationality. If one must no longer speak of that meaning because of the famous Marxist “meaning of history”, which is claimed to be irrevocable, we might as well set aside definitively the cause of monarchy. This would, moreover, be tantamount to profess the most bleak pessimism in regard to what still can appeal to man of recent times.

9 thoughts on “The Meaning and Function of Monarchy (2)

  1. A monarchy is an aristocracy or a nobility. (Aristocracy is different from nobility, in that nobility means that one bloodline would rule, an aristocracy would mean that a few or many bloodlines would rule) An aristocracy can also be a Republic. Aristocracy is always the form of rule in an Traditional society. There can also be more than one king, that would not be a monarchy but a diarchy. This goes further on, or if you prefer, further back, as there are also Traditional tribes ruled by Chieftains or Wizards. But we mustn’t forget nobility We mustn’t forget the Chakravartin, the King of the Earth, REX TERRANEOUS, the World Ruler. n any case all of this is REGALITY and Order informed by the Sacred.

    Saying which I prefer would be ridiculous as this isn’t something that is decided by consensus or established by opinions but is all by the Lord’s Grace and Providence.

    This settles the “debate.”

  2. Well, I certainly couldn’t call the American military a “traditional” institution in the sense the word is used here. Politically speaking, I also think that it is currently doing great harm in the world, but whether or not serving would be good for ones’ own development and whether that can be done in accord with the regime and program one is serving is something one would have to look so a spiritual advisor for. Speaking personally, I would not serve in the American military because of the regime it serves, but I would not call the institution in and of itself evil or dishonourable, and even less so those who serve in it to the greatest degree of honour that they can. I can certainly see Evola giving that strain of advice, but I would say that this would be an example of his tendency to lose himself in the symbol rather than what it represents (thus making a similar error to his monarchy argument). A man could probably develop virtue and soul serving a lesser regime, but if he has a choice in doing so then can that be reconciled?

  3. It is precisely because I could not find any transcendent ideal in the American military that I chose to abandon my original plans to attend West Point. I could not in good conscience serve something that I knew to be false and beneath me. While Evola probably would have advised me to join the army anyhow and use it as a personal means of development, I just felt like it would be dishonourable for me to participate in what I knew to be an evil and anti-traditional institution. Was I wrong ?

  4. Agreed. Evola unfortunately does not mention here the ways in which a transcendent foundation could manifest outside of monarchy. A question about your comment on the American military though – when was it *not* an expression of the will of the people? Even at its very foundation it was fighting for states or for the Republic, which originated from a declaration claiming to speak for “We the people.”

  5. The best part of this article so far was in Part 1: A political order, a truly organic and living collective unity is only made possible where there is a stable center and an elevated principle in respect to any particular interest and the purely “physical” aspect of society, a principle independently having a corresponding intangible and legitimate authority. Even though the article is about monarchy, this actually makes a fine case for a democratic state like Portugal’s Estado Novo as long as it preserves a unwavering Catholic character.

    You are correct about liberalism and degeneracy in Japan, to an extent that many outsiders do not realize, but actually the conservative side of the intellectual world has put leftist historical views in eclipse, especially compared to Germany. A drive to learn from Japan’s excesses but honor the sacrifices of the past is rather mainstream these days. And the Imperial House, as I indicated above, has proven much less willing than its European counterparts to beg the media for attention.

    (On a side note, one thing I am concerned about is that Japan’s netuyo online reactionaries, while their unconscious intuition may be similar to those on this blog, have no social mores, sense of duty beyond knee-jerk nationalism, or capacity for self-improvement. That’s not really related to this article, though.)

  6. @ Avery, I will need to depend on your judgement as I have never been to Japan, but can we say that the Japanese tradition is still living ? From what I know, it seems as post-WW2 Japan has been Americanised and filled with liberalism, pacifism, socialism and degeneracy not to mention “guilt” for the “crimes” of the past, maybe not as bad as in Germany but similar ?

    Two things struck me about the Evola article, I read the full piece in Italian rather than wait for Cologero to finish the translation and twice he mentioned Portugal as offering an example of a normal socio-economic system. Traditional Catholic believe the same and point to Portugal as a superior case to XXth century Italian and German attempts to overcome democracy. A good book to read is this one :–Portugal.pdf

    Another book that Evola’s piece reminded me of the THE MENACE OF THE HERD by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn which by the way has some good point s about the USA as well.

  7. …whatever else one thinks, might make people close to the king, including, in the end, a good-natured paternal appearance (if the father is conceived in a bland bourgeois form), all this cannot avoid damaging the very essence of the monarchy… It has rightly been said that “the powerful who, through a badly understood sense of popularity, consents to get closer, ends up in a bad way.”

    It is interesting to note that the Emperor of Japan has only addressed the people on three occasions. The first was when Emperor Meiji presented the Imperial Rescript on Education, a Confucian document that all schoolchildren of that era had to memorize as holy writ. The second was to announce Japan’s surrender; here the Imperial voice made it possible to believe the unbelievable. The third and most recent was when the present Emperor appeared on television to console the people, as a “fatherly” figure, after the 2011.3.11 earthquake. This was from beginning to end a well-intentioned idea for an extraordinarily horrific day, but at the same time I hope it is not repeated, for the reasons Evola describes above. It was of course based in the thinking of 20th century Europe, which long ago sunk to such frivolities as the “Royal Christmas Message” in Britain.

    The same oath, when it is not paid to a sovereign but to the republic or one or another abstraction, has something discordant and empty about it. With a democratic republic, something immaterial, but still essential and irreplaceable, is inevitably lost.

    Not that hard to put your finger on it; Evola did it himself in other works. When the people are asked to fight for representatives that they elected or for symbols of democracy, that is to say for a mirror of themselves, there is no honor involved at all. (Note that honor encourages heroic, not “humane”, behavior. A “humane” military is one in which the will to fight will be eclipsed.)

    This is such simple psychology that Americans from the beginning have fought to defend the Constitution — that is, a document written by their forefathers which guarantees their freedom — rather than their President, the Union, or anything like that. This provided an artificial “distance” for the first two centuries of the Republic, and for the most part kept the military above politics.

    In reality, though, the laws that grow out of the Constitution can be modified by the people, so the American military has in the past few decades noticeably degraded into a force fighting for “the will of the people”, which now makes it difficult to acknowledge any higher principles. One particularly disturbing example of this could be seen in this month’s blogs. The appearance of such internal confusion should make it possible for smarter people to calculate the decade in the near future when the American military will simply disintegrate.

    As for the complaint about the large number of democracies, elected monarchies, or at least aristocracies in the Classical period: to associate these with the Faustian political systems is a misunderstanding. The kings of the Classical world were simply the head priests, and where there were no kings a direct appeal to the gods would do. Perhaps Evola will address this later on.

  8. Unfortunately, Evola seems to be sinking into an emotional argument in this part of the essay, particularly with the vague accusation that the Republic has “something less noble” about it. He may have trouble convincing the Republican-era Romans, the Swiss, the Irish, or many other peoples of that fact. A Jacobin could just as easily make the argument “is it not far more noble to fight for the ideal and idea of the Republic than the petty wars of a man with a crown?” And those on Gornahoor who place the spiritual as coming before the temporal would have trouble against that argument, even if we’re talking about a good King vs. an ideal Republic. He also forgets that the earliest kings were usually not hereditary. Sparta and Rome provide key European examples of this.

    While I am a monarchist with regards to the Canadian/UK/Commonwealth and European monarchies, and with regards to the “ideal” forms of governance, I must confess I have always found Maurrassian arguments more useful in this sphere: the role of the institution in the State. With regards to its ability to stand above petty day-to-day politics, I must say that our tradition of constitutional monarchy has at least allowed this aspect of the monarchy to become far more entrenched, one might say to an extreme. Certainly, monarchs like Tsar Alexander III, ruling with the “right and power of Autocracy”, are far more beholden to the daily trials, conspiracies, and deals of ruling a State. Evola does a good job of showing how monarchy can be a reflection of the universal order, but he fails to show why other forms of governance cannot be held valid in this regard as well. The Jacobin example can be cited here – should not the foundation of the State be an Idea rather than a position held by a person? (Devils’ advocate, of course).

  9. Excellent analysis.

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