Thomas Carlyle: The Divinity of Order

Photo by Rashid Khreiss

Evelyn Grant

Despite the pains and lengths man has suffered to legislate and manage post-industrial society, we find ourselves living in a state of disorder, and that we have lived in a growing state of it for centuries at the least. No matter the quantity of data and peer-reviewed studies that suggest otherwise, it is evident that the 21st century is a deeply confusing and undignifying time to live within. It lacks any real truth to its subject matters, all is reduced to its most material and basilar, an instinct that reflects scientific savagery. The philosophers, industrialists, progressives and managerialists either forgot or chose to ignore that one truth not dictated by the material sciences, that “Heaven’s laws are not repealable by Earth.”

There is an inherent truth in and to all things that can be discerned only by the careful study of them in their most transcendent forms. It is through this study and this study alone that each and every aspect of nature, man included, can be understood to have a right place. This right place must consequently mean that the system of all things in nature must have some right order to it—a true order. This realisation on its own, to those navigating the depths of the 21st century, is stark and has led one to think much more seriously on topics of faith. Whilst being hesitant to identify fully with the term, this is an incredibly important aspect of Christain metaphysics and one that cannot be looked past for those who wish to quell the pullulating chaos we find ourselves surrounded in.

It is not that order can not be imposed, it most certainly can, it is a much greater question to consider whether or not this or that imposition is of the right or true order. The truest order is the relation from God to man, it is infinite, permanent and utterly unbreakable. It is the ideal model of man’s relation to his other. He is born to parents he does not choose, onto land he cannot pick and with abilities or inabilities he can in only minor ways influence. There are those above and those below, but at the highest, there is only God in the divine order.

The recognition of this order, if it is divine, would then be the duty of all men. To venerate God as the highest in the metaphysical hierarchy, then too to venerate the higher in the physical hierarchy, to recognise a noble aristocracy.

“If a man have any precious thing in him at all, certainly the most precious of all the
gifts he can offer is his approbation, his reverence to another man. This is his very
soul…”

This raises an obvious follow-up question, if one doesn’t act in this soulful manner, in his life, work and community. What might he expect, much like those who attempt to overcome gravity or reject biological imperatives, he should expect failure. The order of nature set out before him has already dictated the correct path, as Carlyle states it would require that one is incapable of seeing, or has fully rejected what they have seen under the auspices of a “dismal science”.

“A divine message, or eternal regulation of the Universe, there verily is, in regard to
every conceivable procedure and affair of man: faithfully following this, said
procedure or affair will prosper, and have the whole Universe to second it, and carry
it, across the fluctuating contradictions, towards a victorious goal; not following this,
mistaking this, disregarding this, destruction and wreck are certain for every affair.”

It is no wonder then that the modern world is a confusing disaster, of all the development, innovation, growth, investment, time and energy expended. Man has achieved nothing truly great in centuries, only an ever more inane conquest for material knowledge and its application to the detriment of a lasting, authentic and sustainable order of society. Plunging the depths of the oceans and firing themselves into the cold dark grasp of space has become the new pastime of our idle aristocracy.

No longer does the common man and those above him work hand in hand to create and sustain a social order rich in honour and truth. Instead, both classes look past each other, if not at each other’s throats for every waking moment in the asinine glory of the parliamentary “political struggle”. If one cannot choose their father, their abilities or their blood. Then why must one choose his leaders?

“That there are greedy blockheads in huge majority, in all epochs, is certain; but that
any sane mortal should think of counting their heads to ascertain who or what is to
be king, this is a little peculiar.”

If the model of the universe we live in is one of hierarchy and indentured servitude to a higher power that too has its own duties. Then it would seem like an oddity to demand that some intermediary levels of power between the common man and God must somehow be of the common man’s choosing. It is interesting to note that Carlyle, writing numerous decades before the implementation of universal suffrage, saw it as an inevitability.

“For universal democracy, whatever we may think of it, has declared itself as an
inevitable fact of the days in which we live…”

Carlyle, even in the days of a mere 20,000 thousand voters, could see that this is not
the way a society must be ordered. An entity is more supreme than the hereditary monarchy which sought its legitimacy from man itself as opposed to anything higher.

If the divine order of kings, patriarchs and heroic leaders is the product of God’s work, it is clear then that democracy, suffrage, and a society ordered purely by political consent, is the work of the Devil. Once evil becomes the sovereign force in society, it is only a matter of time until it creates a cascading effect.

The lower classes become ever more embroiled in the political process, looking less to hard work, good leaders and divine ideals for their guidance. Instead, they demand privileges under the excuse of hardship and strife, otherwise thought of as the prior natural state of man. As the lower classes are fooled into believing that they somehow rule themselves, the aristocracy are unshackled from their duties as chief social organisers. Allowing for idleness, opportunism, corrupt profiteering and outright subversion of any lasting vestige of true or right ideals. All rungs of the societal ladder are at once emancipated of their duty to God and thrust into the hands of Satan.

“Hallucinatory visions rise in the head of my poor fellow man; make him claim over
me rights which are not his.”

Both in Carlyle’s time and our own, evil manifests itself in front of our very eyes daily, and has only become more crass and overstated as time has passed. Carlyle identifies this evil and the common acceptance of it as a direct consequence of rejecting the divine hierarchical order. Man no longer venerates the truly heroic or those of great wisdom; instead, shams, quacks, and mammonisms rule. Glory and success in spiritual struggles towards something bigger than oneself are pushed to the wayside. The masses and their idle aristocracy instead seek industrial profits by ill-gotten and facile means. Carlyle sees that there is a divine way to carry out all tasks within society, no matter how small and insignificant they may at first seem. He focuses on one example of a hat maker parading a 7-foot tall prop hat amongst the hustle and bustle of city centre London as a marketing ploy, one which demonstrates the lack of authenticity within the entrepreneur’s actions.

“The Hatter in the Strand of London, instead of making better felt-hats than another,
mounts a huge lath-and-plaster Hat, seven-feet high, upon wheels; sends a man to
drive it through the streets; hoping to be saved thereby. He has not attempted to
make better hats, as he was appointed by the Universe to do so, and as with this
ingenuity of his he could have very probably have done; but this whole industry is
turned to persuade us that he has made such! He knows too that the Quack has
become God.”

Even the humble hatmaker is not so, he does not strive to achieve something great, if only within the realm of hats. He shies away from the hard work required to learn a craft and master it, he no longer wants his actions and his products to speak for the authenticity of his character. He would much rather waste his time on the frivolous novelties of advertising and crude showmanship. Whether knowingly or not the hatter is appealing to the false values of a corrupting time, he does not see God in his work, only profit and fame—becoming one for the “cheap and nasty.” He would rather be known to many as the man with the 7-foot hat, than the man known to a few for the mastery of a craft. In short, he seeks a place in society that is not his to take and attempts to break free of the order imposed upon him from on high.

Greatness itself becomes corrupted as the sham salesman and his dastardly tactics become the height of industrial reverence, not he who commits his life and work to a trade solemnly and quietly, expecting no great reward for his time other than that of the heavens.

“The terror of ‘not succeding’, of not making money, fame, or some other figure in the
world,—chiefly of not making money! Is not that a somewhat singular Hell?”

To propagate evil, one must first decry it as what it is not, so as to obfuscate what it really is. A large portion of Carlyle’s work is written at the time of the Chartism movement, a sentiment within the lower rungs of society—of course first stirred by the literary and intellectual class—that the lack of material worth amongst the poor was society’s greatest ill, and that it must be solved by the involvement of the common man in setting the order of the nation. It was composed of a national protest movement, its own national newspapers and a number of sympathetic parliamentary members. All to campaign and in a sense advertise that the working man felt his say should be equal, that the values in permanency, tradition and hierarchy be damned.

No sacrifice too small, no divine truth too great not to turn the other cheek to. Much like the hatter, the chartism movement reduced itself to shallow public displays and a great rabble to speak for what they were. Shunning the ideals of what allowed the very order of nature to form around them. They wished to ‘reform’ the divine order before them, fairness and representation demanded it, to do otherwise would be evil they clamoured. So of course the idle lot in parliament eventually caved, and one
can be sure that eroding the sovereignty of the king had absolutely nothing to do with it. The opportunists in parliament thought not of their values, their duties and to whom they serve, they thought only of a power which was not theirs and a reverence which was not warranted unto them. For they achieved no greatness and mocked the very image of it by playing to man’s most singular desires, a great evil in the name of good.

“Do you want a man to not practice what he believes, then encourage him to keep
often speaking it in his words.”

This pattern has repeated countlessly since Carlyle’s time, to the extent that utter disorder both in values and general life are now the norm. We revere the very worst in our society and give them positions they could never earn or in many cases would even want to seek. It is carried out daily in the name of progress; such rapid continuous developments and ‘reforms’ of this and that, have in the wider scope revolutionised the once divine order of things. In the age of evil and disorder to even hint at notions of permanency, servitude, duty or of greatness worth reverencing is the highest of crimes. Yet there is no better choice for ourselves than to stand by these. Even if not in ideal forms, the commitment to imposing a true, workable and maybe even divine order towards something great is all that can be done in an attempt to turn the tide. Do not just let your words speak for you, do so too in your actions and your judgements, refuse the way of the sluggard!

“Who is he that says always, There is a lion in the way? Sluggard, thou must slay the lion then; the way has to be travelled!”

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