Did C. S. Lewis contradict himself on Monarchy?

Lewis’s beautiful (and unassailable) remarks on Monarchy are liturgical in nature and point to the fact that proper veneration is essential to man’s nature (Sutton 1985).

Monarchy can easily be debunked; but watch the faces, mark well the accents of the debunkers. These are men whose tap-root in Eden has been cut; whom no rumor of the polyphony, the dance can reach — men to whom pebbles laid in a row are more beautiful than an arch. Yet even if they desire mere equality they cannot reach it. Where men are forbidden to honor a king they honor millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead; even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison. (1)

Beautiful, wise words and in need of no commentary.   Democrats–and under that label I include  theonomists, Ron Paul fans, the American Media Elite, Baptists–immediately point to another Lewis quote,

I am a democrat because I believe in the Fall of man…mankind is so fallen that no one man can be trusted with unchecked power.

Here is the difficulty with the latter quote:  Lewis affirmed both in the same essay (“Equality,” February 11, 1944).   Assuming he isn’t just stupid enough to contradict himself within a few paragraphs, we must assume that Lewis did not think monarchy and at least some form of democratic government to be mutually exclusive.

The better apologists of monarchy realize that forms of social democracy are not incompatible with monarchy.   One of the difficulties moderns have with monarchy is they read later absolutist doctrines back into earlier monarchical systems.  As a result, they think that all monarchs are necessarily as evil as Edward I of Bravheart (which itself was a stereotype, however superior the movie is).

But as Fr. Raphael has noted, even the more absolutist Tsarist system was never supremely absolutist.  Absolute rule was an impossibility, for there were many mediating institutions between the peasant and the monarch:  the church, guild, and village.  As Johnson noted elsewhere (2004) it was Western liberalism that sought to remove the institutions that protected the common man from the raw power of the State:

Liberalism did one thing (and it was not elevating the “dignity of the individual”); it destroyed the intermediate institutions, the varied local foci of authority that preserved communal freedom in the complex of informal groups who emanated their own specific brand of authority in their own particular sphere of competence. Freedom is never abstract, it is always freedom to do something specific or to be free of some specific irritant. The oligarchy, Russian or otherwise, therefore, demands standardization and conformity because the strictness of contract law and exchange cannot admit of groups of traditional yet still informal and ad hoc groupings (however enshrined by tradition) that characterize traditional societies

In fact, our conclusion is this: any healthy monarchical system must also be radically  socially democratic on the levels where democracy truly helps the people:  village and guild.

NOTES

(1) This quotation is from Lewis’s essay, not Sutton’s.  The reference to Sutton concerned his essay on the liturgical nature of man.

Works Cited:

Johnson, Matthew.  The Third Rome:  Orthodoxy, Tsarism, and Holy Russia.  New York:  The Foundation for Economic Liberty, 2004.

Lewis, C. S.  “Equality” Present Concerns.  New York:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1987.

Sutton, Ray.   “The Saturday Night Church and the Liturgical Nature of Man” Christianity and Civilization  (4) 1985.

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