First posted on Thursday, 11 October 2012 at 21:54
King James II - authority undermined
Within what is currently taken to be conservatism, the traditionalists, the truly anti-Enlightenment thinkers, need to separate from their erstwhile pro-Enlightenment partners.
For libertarianism, as well as liberalism, anarchism and Marxism, had its roots in the Reformation and Enlightenment.
Conservatismhas perhaps swallowed Burke’s interpretation of the Glorious Revolutiontoo readily. It might not have been as bloody as its French successor,but it led to the same ends - individualism, humanism and the denial ofa higher authority in political life.
De Maistre knew well ‘the great enemy, which must be fought by all legal methods.... It is the son of pride, the father of anarchy, the universal solvent: Protestantism. What is Protestantism, de Maistre continued, ‘it is the revolt of individual reason against general reason; consequently it is the worst thing possible’.
And just how prescient his remarks were might be judged from his further prophesy. Protestantismis ‘the mortal enemy of all sovereignty, even of those who reign with it, because by establishing independence of judgement, free discussion of principles, and contempt for tradition, it undermines all national dogmas, which are, as we have seen, the shield of all great civil and religious institutions’.*
The rationalist denial of divine authority marked the wrong turn in history. A political life devoid of no other meaning than the pursuit of individual freedom leads to nihilism, which is what we are left with today.
An anti-Enlightenment, anti-humanist conservatism has the potential to reintroduce authenticity into men’s lives. To offer life with meaning would be a hugely powerful political message. First, it must separate from movements which had their ideological origins in the Reformation and Enlightenment. Then it must reject systems of authority in which man is ruled by man, offering instead rule from a higher authority, divine authority.
*Reflections on Protestantism in its Relations to Sovereignty (1798).