Written by Vladimir Moss


Equality and Human Rights

     The idea that all men are created equal, first proclaimed as part of a national ideology by the American Declaration of Independence in 1776, is probably the most influential socio-moral-political idea of the modern world. It is also the most fundamental and axiomatic; for the Declaration of Independence, after declaring the “self-evident truth all men are created equal”, goes on immediately, in the same sentence, to assert “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights…” In other words, the whole Human Rights philosophy (or religion) of the so-called “international community”, is based on “the egalitarian dogma”; most of the actions of modern politicians are justified on the basis of “human rights”, which in turn are justified on the basis of egalitarianism.  Even after witnessing the vast upheavals and huge rivers of blood that have been poured out to force equality on the nations of the world since 1 776, the world still loves the dogma, still worships it, is still prepared to die for it. Even most Christians, who should know better, regard it as an article of their faith which they believe in with greater sincerity and passion than any other article, including the Holy Trinity or the Divinity of Christ.

     When it was first proclaimed, the egalitarian dogma was greeted with a healthy dose of scepticism. The British Gentleman’s Magazine for September, 1776 ridiculed it: “‘We hold, they say, these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal. In what are they created equal? Is it in size, strength, understanding, figure, civil or moral accomplishments, or situation of life?”

     The answer to these questions is self-evident: in all these spheres, men are profoundly and persistently unequal…

     This is true especially in the moral and spiritual spheres, which alone could provide a basis for certain “human rights”. For, as C.S. Lewis writes, “equality is a purely social conception. It applies to man as a political and economic animal. It has no place in the world of the mind. Beauty is not democratic; she reveals herself more to the few than to the many, more to the persistent and disciplined seekers than to the careless. Virtue is not democratic; she is achieved by those who pursue her more hotly than most men. Truth is not democratic; she demands special talents and special industry in those to whom she gives her favours. Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into these higher spheres. Ethical, intellectual, or aesthetic democracy is death…”[1]

     Until the arrival of the philosophy of human rights, most men accepted this position. It was self-evident to them that men were unequal in both the higher and the lower spheres. Moreover, they accepted that these inequalities justified different treatments or rewards, that the talented should be rewarded differently from the untalented, the industrious from the lazy, the good from the evil. The “scandal” was not so much in the obvious and inescapable fact of inequality in every sphere of life, as in the fact that life so often does not seem to distribute rewards in accordance with natural inequality: “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the learned, nor favour to the skilful” (Ecclesiastes 9.11). So life is unjust, not so much because it contains inequalities, as because the natural order of inequality is not rewarded as it should be…

     But then there was the consolation that all injustice would be put right in the age to come by “the God of justice” (Malachi 2.17). However, justice in that age would not be done by removing all inequalities among men, but by rewarding them unequally but justly in accordance with their unequal deserts. For, as the Apostle Paul says, “there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another in glory” (I Corinthians 15.41).

     In the meantime, if we wish to shine with any kind of true glory in the age to come, we have to accept the natural order or inequality or hierarchy of being, what Shakespeare in Troilus and Cressida called “degree”:

Take but degree away, untune that string,

And hark what discord follows! Each thing melts

In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters

Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores,

And make a sop of all this solid globe;

Strength should be lord of imbecility,

And the rude son should strike his father dead;

Force should be right; or, rather, right and wrong –

Between whose endless jar justice resides –

Should lose their names, and so should justice too.


     But the humanrightists of the eighteenth century no longer believed in the age to come or in any kind of “degree” except the inequality between enlightened people like themselves and the unenlightened traditionalists. They wanted their justice (and their apocalypse) now. They thought that they could take the place of the Creator and Judge, change nature by education and “benign intervention”, and thereby remove the need for any justice in the usual sense. For after all, they reasoned, people can’t help being what they are. It’s all just a question of heredity and environment – and we can fix the latter, at any rate, while the former will undoubtedly come within our power in the future… As for the traditionalists, with their scare-stories about a “natural order” or hierarchy of Being, their real motivation was simply to perpetuate inequality and keep their place in the sun…

     Actually, there was a grain of truth in this last comment. In all ages, privileged individuals, classes and nations have sought to justify and perpetuate their privileges on the basis of their supposed innate superiority to those less privileged. Even the founders of the American Constitution, such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, did not go so far as to think that “self-evident equality” extended to the Indians or their black slaves … So there was hypocrisy on both sides in the egalitarian versus anti-egalitarian debate… But the hypocrisy of a philosopher does not in itself invalidate his philosophy. There have been many unchristian Christians, but that fact does not invalidate the truth of Christianity– although it makes it less persuasive for those who base the truth of an opinion on the worthiness of the man who expresses it…

     So let us abandon ad hominem arguments and examine the case for the egalitarian dogma as objectively as possible.

Equality in Adam and Christ

     God said in the beginning: “Let us create man in our image and after our likeness” (Genesis 1.26). This verse certainly constitutes a basis for the thesis that mankind is a single species, all men having essentially the same nature. Human nature is quite distinct from that of any animal species in that it is sealed with the image of God – a concept that receives many interpretations in the patristic writings, but which is generally agreed to refer to freewill and rationality, and hence the ability to make moral choices.

     Our common origin in Adam is the reason, according to the Prophet Malachi, why we should see each other as brothers and treat each other with love: “Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why then doth every one of us despise his brother, violating the covenant of our fathers?” (Malachi 2.10).

     A still stronger reason than brotherhood in Adam for treating each other equally is brotherhood through the Church in the New Adam, Christ. This was beautifully expressed in the seventh century by St. John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria: “If by chance the blessed man heard of anybody being harsh and cruel to his slaves and given to striking them, he would first send for him and then admonish him very gently, saying: ‘Son, it is come to my sinful ears that by the prompting of our enemy you behave somewhat too harshly towards your household slaves. Now, I beseech you, do not give place to anger, for God has not given them to us to strike, but to be our servants, and perhaps not even for that, but rather for them to be supported by us from the riches God has bestowed on us. What price, tell me, must a man pay to purchase one who has been honoured by creation in the likeness and similitude of God? Or do you, the slave’s master, possess anything more in your own body than he does? Say, a hand, or foot, or hearing, or a soul? Is he not in all things like unto you? Listen to what the great light, Paul, says: ‘For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus’. If then we are equal before Christ, let us become equal in our relations with another; for Christ took upon himself the form of a servant thereby teaching us not to treat our fellow-servants with disdain. For there is one Master of all Who dwells in heaven and yet regards the things of low degree; it does not say ‘the rich things’ but ‘things of low degree’. We give so much gold in order to make a slave for ourselves of a man honoured and together with us bought by the blood of our God and Master. For him is the heaven, for him the earth, for him the stars, for him the sun, for him the sea and all that is in it; at times the angels serve him. For him Christ washed the feet of slaves, for him He was crucified and for him endured all His other sufferings. Yet you dishonour him who is honoured of God and you beat him mercilessly as if he were not of the same nature as yourself.”[2]

     If brotherhood in Adam or in Christ was what the American revolutionaries – and their followers in the French and other revolutions – meant by being “created equal”, then we would have no quarrel with them. But of course they meant much more than that. They meant that all the evident inequalities in human nature that appeared after the fall – “in size, strength, understanding, figure, civil or moral accomplishments, or situation of life”, as the Gentleman’s Magazine put it – are irrelevant, and in a sense unreal.

     We can agree with this up to a point. We should not love a man more or less, or treat him more or less as a brother, because he is more or less tall, or fat, or strong, or wise, or beautiful, or powerful, or rich. Differences in “moral accomplishments” are a different matter, to which we shall return later. But differences caused by genes or environment are morally neutral or irrelevant in the sense that our attitude to their bearers as people should not be influenced by them. Nevertheless, they are real differences, and, as we shall argue later, they cannot and should not be ignored as if they did not exist, still less subjected to processes of social or (as is becoming increasingly possible) genetic engineering in order to bring the human mass back to a supposed condition of “original equality” before the “original sin” of inequality.

Equality and the Fall

     The mention of “original sin” takes us back to the creation story and the real cause of the inequalities between men…

     In the beginning there existed a man and a woman who were as similar to each other as any man and woman – or perhaps any two human beings - in history. After all, Eve derived her whole nature from Adam, without any other “parent”, and their environments were virtually identical. Of course, there was this difference: that he was a man, and she was a woman. But the difference was so small that the words for the two sexes are almost the same in Hebrew (“isha” as opposed to “ish”), a similarity that, among modern languages, is mirrored only in English (“woman” as opposed to “man”). Moreover, it is not recorded in what that difference consisted in the pre-lapsarian state. We cannot assume that then, as now, after the fall, it consisted in the difference between “XX” and “XY” chromosomes. All we know is that she was created to be “a helper like him” (Genesis 2.18), not the other way round – that is, she was meant to be a follower rather than a leader.

     But it was precisely this very small difference – a difference in role rather than nature – which Satan exploited to widen the gap and lead to a difference also in nature. First, the difference in role between the man and the woman was reflected in the difference in the sin that they committed. For “Adam was not seduced; but the woman being seduced, was in the transgression” (I Timothy 2.14). So in spite of their commonality of nature, which made them equal from a natural point of view, Eve was deceived, but Adam was not. Adam sinned also, of course, but in a different way. He was not deceived by the serpent, but he did follow his wife – and followed that up by blaming God for giving her to him. So he who was created to lead his wife, disobeyed by following her; while she who was created to follow her husband, disobeyed by leading him.

     Shortly after that, God gave the couple “garments of skins” (Genesis 3.21), which, according to the interpretation of the Holy Fathers, signify the opaque, coarse nature of our present, postlapsarian bodies, together with the fallen passions that are associated with such bodies: gluttony, lust and anger. Their bodies were now more different from each other than they had been in Paradise because of the new demands placed on them in order to survive both as individuals and as a species. In particular, the man’s body was modified in order to carry out hard agricultural work and in order to beget children, while the woman’s body was modified in order to give birth to and raise children. Moreover, the difference in their roles was sharpened. The woman, instead of being simply a “helper” to the man, was placed in definite subjection to him: “thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee” (Genesis 3.16).

     Since the original sin of Adam, together with its consequences in death and corruption, extended to all subsequent generations, the differences and inequalities between men have multiplied – that is, political, social and economic inequalities. But the most fundamental inequality was revealed already in the first generation after Adam, in  his sons Cain and Abel. This was the moral inequality between those men who love God and those who love only themselves. Now this inequality is not a difference in nature; men are not made good and evil, saints and sinners, in the sense that they cannot help belonging to this or that category (that is the error of the Calvinists). True, evil is mixed with our nature from our conception – “I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me” (Psalm 50.5). But all men still retain in themselves that image of God – freewill and rationality – that enables them to choose good over evil. The image has been darkened, and our freewill has been weakened (“the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26.41)). But by exercising the good in our nature that still remains from our original creation, we can, with the help of God, overcome the sin in our nature that flows from the original sin of Adam and Eve. So the first, most fundamental inequality between men is the moral or spiritual inequality that is expressed in the different ways in which they freely direct the nature they have received from their parents – towards God or towards the devil.

     From this first, moral inequality flow all the others; for none of these would exist if sin had not entered the world and the whole world did not lie in sin. These less fundamental inequalities can be divided into those that are based, on the one hand, on the entrance of death into men’s genetic inheritance, causing the degeneration of the gene-pool and the appearance of destructive mutations that are passed down the generations, so that some are born as geniuses and with various talents and abilities while others are born with crushing physical and mental disabilities; and on the other hand, on inequalities in environment and social station, so that some people are born in crushing poverty or slavery, while others are born with all the advantages of wealth and education. The very struggle to survive in a fallen world creates man-made inequalities, the hierarchical structures of families, tribes and states that institutionalize inequality. For without some such distinctions and inequalities society as a whole could not defend itself against invaders from without or criminals from within. Again, the need to survive and reproduce and prosper, both individually and collectively, explains why strength and beauty and intelligence are rewarded, while the lack of these attributes is penalized.

     So we are not equal by nature, and the nature of the fallen world is such that there is no way in which these inequalities can be ironed out, even supposing that that were desirable in all cases. But this has not stopped all modern societies from trying to do just that – that is, re-engineer human nature and society to its prelapsarian condition of perfect harmony by the elimination of all inequalities of every kind. Not that modern societies believe in Paradise or the Fall. On the contrary, the socialist experiment (for that is what this striving for unnatural equality is) rejects all such “religious myths”; for it sees the subjection of man to God as the first and worst of all inequalities, that generates all subsequent inequalities, such as the divine right of kings to rule over their subjects. Thus the most thorough-going and famous socialist experiment, that of the Soviet Union, began its attempt to wipe out the natural inequalities of human nature and society by killing the Tsar and all belief in God – and ended up creating the most hideously unequal society in world history…

Equality and Divine Providence

     However, what has been said so far will be unlikely to convince die-hard egalitarians, and especially those with a Christian background who believe in the “Social Gospel” – that is, that it is God’s command that we help the poor by ironing out differences in wealth, power and privilege through democratization, redistribution and social engineering. Such people will not be deterred by the example of the Soviet Union, a “mistake” that could have been avoided, in their opinion, if the Soviets had followed the path of German welfare socialism rather than Marxist revolutionary socialism. They fail to draw the deeper lessons from the collapse of communism in 1989-91, which is why there has been so little comment on, or study of, that epochal event in the last twenty years.[3] For them, socialist egalitarianism is simply the application of the command to love one’s neighbour. And the fact that it has so often failed proves only that it is difficult, not that it is not mandated; just as the command “Be ye perfect” is difficult, but still mandated…

     Let us put the argument for Socialist Christianity in a different way: “Since the radical inequalities that exist between men are consequences of the fall, is it not right that we should seek to reverse these consequences as far as we can?” This argument rests on the assumption that the consequences of the fall, in the form of social, political and economic inequalities, are evil in themselves. But this assumption is false. In fact they are like bad-tasting medicine administered to us by the Providence of God for the sake of our moral health. For “all things work together for those who love God” (Romans 8.28); and so if we love God, all the crushing inequalities that follow from the fall – poverty, illness, slavery – can, if borne with patience and gratitude, contribute to our ultimate goal, which is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. It is this goal, rather than the abolition of inequality, that constitutes the true reversal of the fall. For the evils of this present fallen world are inflicted on us in order to humble us, to subdue our passions, and thereby to make us fit vessels for the reception of God’s Grace, the same Grace that Adam and Eve lost when they refused the light burden of obedience God placed upon them.   

     “So are you saying,” objects the Socialist, “that it is good that the rich should continue to oppress the poor?!” Of course not! Economic inequality is a challenge for the rich as for the poor. If the rich man stops worrying about his own well-being and opens his heart to help the poor, then he comes closer to God; and if the poor man bears his poverty with patience, and prays for his rich benefactors, then he, too, comes closer to God. Thus inequality can help both men towards the Kingdom.

     When Mary poured the oil of spikenard over the head of Christ, Judas complained that the oil could have been sold for a lot of money and the money given to the poor. But “this he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box, and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always” (John 12.6-8).

     This story illustrates several things. First, it shows that the motive in alms-giving is all important. The call to help the poor may proceed, not from compassion towards the poor, but from greed and envy towards the rich. In the case of all socialist revolutions, this greed and envy predominate to such an extent that the revolutionaries seek to destroy, not only economic inequality, but every kind of superiority of one man over another. For, as C.S. Lewis writes, “the demand for equality has two sources; one of them is among the noblest, the other is the basest, of human emotions… There is in all men a tendency (only corrigible by good training from without and persistent moral effort from within) to resent the existence of what is stronger, subtler or better than themselves. In uncorrected and brutal men this hardens into an implacable hatred for every kind of excellence…”[4]

     However, even if greed or envy is not to be suspected in a particular naïve socialist, the abolition of inequality as such and in toto should not be the aim either of almsgiving or of government legislation (still less, anti-governmental revolution). For, as the Lord says, “the poor you have with you always”. That is, inequality has been implanted permanently in the society of fallen men by God for our salvation, so that we should learn obedience, patience and compassion and drive out self-will, anger and hardness of heart. If all men were equal in all things, they could not learn these moral lessons, and God’s purpose would be thwarted. So almsgiving, like every other good work, should be done, not in order to restructure society, but in order, as St. Seraphim said, to acquire the Holy Spirit.

     For, as Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich wrote, “it is God’s desire that men be unequal in externals: riches, power, status, learning, position and so forth. But he does not recommend any sort of competitiveness in this. God desires that men compete in the multiplying of the inner virtues.”[5]

Equality and Slavery

     Let us look a little more closely at one kind of social inequality whose supposed abolition the liberals and socialists point to as an undoubted achievement and triumph of Christian morality – the abolition of slavery.

     Now Christianity has never endorsed slavery, and has always considered the emancipation of a slave by his master as a laudable act of charity. But on the other hand it has always called on slaves to obey their masters, and has not endorsed violent wars to destroy the institution. As Archbishop Averky of Jordanville writes: “The epistle [of the holy Apostle Paul] to Philemon vividly witnesses to the fact that the Church of Christ, in liberating man from sin, does not at the same time produce a forcible rupture in the established inter-relationships of people, and does not encroach on the civil and state order, waiting patiently for an improvement in the social order, under the influence of Christian ideas. Not only from this epistle, but also from others…, it is evident that the Church, while unable, of course, to sympathize with slavery, at the same time did not abolish it, and even told slaves to obey their masters. Therefore here the conversion of Onesimus to Christianity, which made him free from sin and a son of the Kingdom of God, did not, however, liberate him, as a slave, from the authority of his master. Onesimus had to return to [his master] Philemon, in spite of the fact that the Apostle loved him as a son, and needed his services, since he was in prison in Rome. The Apostle’s respect for civil rights tells also in the fact that he could order Philemon to forgive Onesimus [for fleeing from him], but, recognizing Philemon’s right as master, begs him to forgive his guilty and penitent slave. The words of the Apostle: ‘Without your agreement I want to do nothing’ clearly indicate that Christianity really leads mankind to personal perfection and the improvement of the social legal order on the basis of fraternity, equality and freedom, but not by way of violent actions and revolutions, but by the way of peaceful persuasion and moral influence.”[6]

     “That is all very well,” say the socialist. “But this applies to individuals, not states. States must surely be occupied with abolishing inequality through social reform and redistribution. It is a scandal that there should be poor people in our modern societies when the State can easily abolish poverty through legislation.”

     Which is why begging became a crime in the world’s “first socialist state”, and “almsgiving”, miloserdie, disappeared from the vocabulary of Soviet society…

     No: rulers can, unlike private citizens, occupy themselves with a certain degree of social restructuring and redistribution. Nevertheless, even the most radical such measures in Orthodox lands never went so far as to seek to abolish classes or the very existence of poverty. For example, in 1861 Tsar Alexander II abolished serfdom in Russia, freeing 22 million serfs from their noble landowner masters in the greatest single act of social reform in world history. And yet poverty and inequality were not thereby abolished; nor was that the aim. The peasants remained peasants, and the nobles remained nobles, even if their relationship in law had changed.

     Moreover, because people are people, and there are losers as well as winners in every social reform, the results even of this great act were by no means unambiguous.   Emancipation changed the relationship both between the state and the landowners, and between the landowners and the peasants. As the nobles began to lose their feeling of duty and obedience to the state, the peasants, correspondingly, began to see their obedience to the nobles as a burden that was not justified, as in the past, by the defence of the land. As such, the formal structure probably had to change in view of the change in its spiritual content. But the change in formal structure from patriarchal to civil meant that the sanctifying bonds of obedience broke down still faster than they would have done otherwise. To that extent, the reform, though rational from a politico-economic point of view, was harmful from a moral one.

     As Schema-Monk Boris of Optina said: “The old order was better, even though I would really catch it from the nobleman… Now it’s gotten bad, because there’s no authority; anyone can live however he wants.”[7] Indeed, so self-willed had emancipation made the peasants that the sons and grandsons of those liberated by the Tsar set about murdering him and his successors and enslaving the whole population in their new communist paradise – all in the name of freedom and equality!

     Archpriest Lev Lebedev writes: “Later critics of the reform also justly point out that it suffered from an excessive ‘slant’ in one direction, being inspired most of all by the idea of the immediate emancipation of the serfs from the landowners, but without paying due attention to the question how and with what to substitute the guiding, restraining and, finally, educating function of ‘the lords’ (the landowners) for the peasants. Indeed, delivered as it were in one moment to themselves, to their own self-administration (after 100 years of the habit of being guided by the lord), could the Russian peasants immediately undertake their self-administration wisely and truly, to their own good and that of the Fatherland? That is the question nobody wanted to think about at the beginning, being sometimes ruled by the illusion of the ‘innateness’ of the people’s wisdom!…

     “They began to think about this, as often happens with us, ‘in hindsight’, after they had encountered disturbances and ferment among the peasantry. All the indicated mistakes in the reform of 1861 led to the peasantry as a whole being dissatisfied in various respects. Rumours spread among them that ‘the lords’ had again deceived them, that the Tsar had given them not that kind of freedom, that the real ‘will of the Tsar’ had been hidden from them, while a false one had been imposed upon them. This was immediately used by the ‘enlighteners’ and revolutionaries of all kinds. The peasants gradually began to listen not to the state official and the former lord, but to the student, who promised ‘real’ freedom and abundant land, attracting the peasant with the idea of ‘the axe’, by which they themselves would win all this from the deceiver-lords…

     “But in spite of inadequacies and major mistakes, the reform of 1861, of course, exploded and transfigured the life of Great Russia. A huge mass of the population (about 22 million people) found themselves a free and self-governing estate (class), juridically equal to the other estates. This immediately elicited the need to build its life and activity on new foundations…”[8]

     But it is the extreme difficulty of rebuilding life on new foundations that constitutes the danger of such huge transformations. We see this only two years later, in Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation of the American slaves. He imposed it by war, costing 600,000 lives. And the result? Poverty for the newly emancipated, and bitterness between whites and blacks, North and South, that lasted for generations…

     J.M. Roberts compares the two acts of emancipation as follows: “In retrospect [the emancipation of the Russian serfs] seems a massive achievement. A few years later the United States would emancipate its Negro slaves. There were far fewer of them than there were Russian peasants and they lived in a country of much greater economic opportunity, yet the effect of throwing them on the labour market, exposed to the pure theory of laissez-faire economic liberalism, was to exacerbate a problem with whose ultimate consequences the United State is still grappling. In Russia the largest measure of social engineering in recorded history down to this time was carried out without comparable dislocation and it opened the way to modernization for what was potentially one of the strongest powers on earth…”[9]

     It is ironic and instructive that the most successful social transformations have been carried out, not by secular socialists fighting for equality, but by traditionalist Christians who profoundly believed in the natural order and hierarchy of being. Thus Tsar Nicholas II as an individual was one of the most charitable rulers in history. Even as a child he would give his shoes to the poor, and throughout his life he was secretly giving alms to the people, not to mention the huge benefits, spiritual and material, that he gave to the nation as a whole, including the reform of Church-State relations, an agrarian policy that released millions of peasants from poverty and a system of labour legislation that was hailed by American President Robert Taft as the most enlightened of its time. The result was that Russia became not only the fastest-developing nation in the world, but on the way to becoming one of the most just.

     But even he did not attempt to destroy the class system in Russia or radically overturn the foundations of society. For he understood that inequality is built into human society by God Himself, and that the ruler’s task is not to revolutionize society, but to mitigate, as far as he was able, those unfortunate consequences introduced into its God-established hierarchies by the evil of men. And too late the Russian democrats who overthrew the tsar came to understand that, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “the old authority in kings, priests, husbands, or fathers, and the old obedience in subjects, laymen, wives, and sons, was [not] in itself a degrading or evil thing at all.”[10]

Equality and Monarchism

      Besides, even in fallen men there is a secret desire to look up and admire, even if the object is not admirable: “where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters.”[11] Since inequality is so deeply ingrained in human nature and society at every level, simply destroying an institution or even a state that embodies it solves nothing. Deep in their hearts, men know that they are not equal; and if their hearts are not filled with greed and envy, they delight in the honour given to their superiors; which is why monarchy survives and prospers even in such a liberal and socialist society as contemporary England.

     Thus at the heart of the English democracy, Westminster Abbey, there still lies, like a rose among thorns, the body of the most holy of the Orthodox kings of England, Edward the Confessor. It is as if the English people, even while leading the way into the new, anti-Orthodox and democratic age, subconsciously feel that they have lost something vitally important, and cling to the holy corpse with despairing tenacity, refusing to believe that the soul has finally departed. Even such a convinced democrat as C.S. Lewis could write of the monarchy as “the channel through which all the vital elements of citizenship - loyalty, the consecration of secular life, the hierarchical principle, splendour, ceremony, continuity - still trickle down to irrigate the dustbowl of modern economic Statecraft".[12] And even today, hysteria can seize a whole nation on the death of a princess, for little other reason than that she was a princess…

     Roger Scruton has spoken of the English monarchy as “the light above politics, which shines down on the human bustle from a calmer and more exalted sphere. Not being elected by popular vote, the monarch cannot be understood as representing the views only of the present generation. He or she is born into the position, and also passes it on to a legally defined successor. The monarch is in a real sense the voice of history, and the very accidental [sic] way in which the office is acquired emphasises the grounds of the monarch’s legitimacy, in the history of a place and a culture. This is not to say that kings and queens cannot be mad, irrational, self-interested or unwise. It is to say, rather, that they owe their authority and their influence precisely to the fact that they speak for something other than the present desires of present voters, something vital to the continuity and community which the act of voting assumes. Hence, if they are heard at all, they are head as limiting the democratic process, in just the way that it must be limited if it is to issue in reasonable legislation. It was in such a way that the English conceived their Queen, in the sunset days of Queen Victoria. The sovereign was an ordinary person, transfigured by a peculiar enchantment which represented not political power but the mysterious authority of an ancient ‘law of the land’.”[13]

     Monarchy represents the summit of inequality among men. As such, it is an image of the infinitely greater distance separating all men from God, the King of kings. So veneration of the monarch facilitates the worship of God, and vice-versa; which is why its destruction inevitably leads to that falling away from God that we see in all the nations that have killed their kings….


     It was Satan who first whispered the egalitarian dogma – or rather, heresy- into the words of our first parents, saying: “You shall be as gods”. His motivation was envy – “Long ago the crafty serpent envied my honour”, “Of old the enemy who hates mankind envied me the life of happiness that I had in Paradise”.[14] By offering the bait of equality with God, he wanted to separate man from God and bring him into equality with himself – an accursed equality on the bottom rung of the Hierarchy of Being, filled with unutterable pain, bitterness and shame.

     Such is, and always will be, the motivation of those who dangle the unattainable mirage of equality with God before suffering mankind. Their goal is in the literal sense of the word satanic, being the goal of Satan himself when he was cast from heaven: “How are thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut to the ground, who didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascent into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.  Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit…” (Isaiah 15.12-15).

     And yet the paradox is that God does want us to be “as gods”, “partakers of the Divine nature” (II Peter 1.4). “God became man”, as St. Athanasius said, “that men should become gods”. His will is that when He comes again at His First Coming “we shall be like Him” (I John 3.2), having transformed the fallen, muddied image of God in us into a true and radiant likeness, wholly suffused by Grace.

     However, the key to this exaltation of human nature is that we follow the example He gave at His First Coming, when, “being in the form of God, He did not consider it robbery to be equal to God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Himself the form of a slave, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2.6-7). In other words, God the Son, although fully equal to God the Father by nature, renounced, as it were, this lofty equality, and made Himself equal instead to the infinitely lower nature of man. And, moreover, “being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross…” (v. 8)

     So equality of a Divine, paradoxical kind is attainable, and exaltation to unimaginable heights is possible – but only through voluntary self-humiliation to the depths of the created hierarchy, and the patient acceptance of all the inequalities – physical, psychological, social, political, economic, and above all moral and spiritual – that exist in the real, fallen world.

March 6/19, 2012.




[1] Lewis, “Democratic Education”, in Compelling Reason, London: Fount, 1987, p. 41.

[2] Life of St. John the Almsgiver, 33; in Elizabeth Dawes & Norman H. Baynes, Three Byzantine Saints, London: Mowbrays, 1977, pp. 243-244.


[3] Janet Daley, “The Lessons of 1989 have still not been learnt”, The Sunday Telegraph (London), February 5, 2012, p. 24.

[4] Lewis, op. cit., p. 40.

[5] Velimirovich, Homilies, book 2. Italics mine (V.M.).

[6] Archbishop Averky (Taushev), Rukovodstvo k izucheniu Sviaschennago Pisania Novago Zaveta (Guide to the Study of the Holy Scriptures of the New Testament), Jordanville, N.Y.: Holy Trinity Monastery, vol. II, pp. 354-355 . Italics mine (V. M.).

[7] Victor Afanasyev, Elder Barsanuphius of Optina, Platina, Ca.: St. Herman of Alaska Press, 2000, pp. 216, 217. The old family retainer in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard also believed that the rot set in with “Freedom”.

[8] Lebedev, Velikorossia (Great Russia), St. Petersburg, 1999, pp. 342-343.

[9] Roberts, History of the World, London: Helicon, 1992, p. 612.

[10] Lewis, “Equality”, op. cit., p. 28.

[11] Lewis, “Equality”, op. cit., p. 31.

[12] Lewis, "Myth became Fact", God in the Dock: Essays on Theology, Fount Paperbacks, 1979, p. 64.

[13] Scruton, England: An Elegy, London: Chatto & Windus, 2000, p. 188.

[14] Triodion, Sunday of Forgiveness, Mattins, Canon, Canticle 3, troparion, Canticle 5, troparion,.

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