With the coronation of a new British king comes simply the question, What significance does such an event have for me in my own life?
We may feel a certain sympathy or antipathy towards the occasion; we may feel complete indifference; or else we may look upon the whole event with some interest as a global news event, but little more. We must also observe that there are people who do not even know that such an event is happening, including those who live within the 15 countries the British monarch ‘rules over’.
That such a range of responses is even possible tells us something about the reality of our time, and the way that a process such as the crowning of a monarch has changed over the centuries and millennia. Through this, it tells us also something fundamental about ourselves and the way that we as human beings have also changed over time.
It used to be that the crowning of a monarch was something that significantly affected all the ‘subjects’ in any given place on earth. Human beings could feel that something essential to who they were was intimately bound up with such a process. It was not just a matter of feeling that they were receiving a new ‘head of state’ (as we say today) but, to put it imaginatively, a new ‘head’; or, to put it another way, it was felt that there was a continuity, via bloodline from the predecessor, of the head of the realm.
And who did such heads answer to? It was not to the people – monarchs were not essentially political leaders (being a political ‘figurehead’ came only later with the formation of the nation state, as did answering to a citizenry, such as in the French Revolution), nor did they answer to shareholders or accountants. So who then did monarchs answer to? They answered to God; or elsewhere – or in earlier times – they answered to spiritual beings.
Not only was such an accountability a mere formality, however, it was perceived as reality. People felt that here, on the throne, ‘my highest self is active, is receiving guidance – is in divine dialogue – and has my best interests in mind’. This was only dimly felt, of course, and was not formulated in such clarity of thought, because people were not then so individualised as we are today – their individuality was tied up intimately with their ruler.
The British monarch still technically answers to God today. I say technically because what would seem to be a more common occurrence is the answering to public opinion via the media. We do not today in full reality experience the monarch – of the British Commonwealth at least – to be answerable to, and to receive divine guidance from, God in order to maintain effective rulership over the best interests of its subjects – namely, people like ourselves. We do not experience such monarchs to be an open door to the spiritual world – a door that we ourselves supposedly lack.
Essentially, we do not feel the British monarch to be a divinely-inspired head of the realm (or in our times, the state or commonwealth) providing divine guidance. The monarch – the head – we may rightly feel, does not necessarily speak for God, or for spiritual beings – nor does it think or speak for myself. Such processes of rulership are no longer collective ones, unfolding over a whole realm. We are now each ourselves our own realm and ruler; our own heads have replaced such heads of state in these matters. No longer does the monarch ‘think’ for us – we think for ourselves.
What we are left with today, instead, is tradition; is the crown, which symbolises such divine connection; is golden robes which symbolise a kind of spiritual inspiration or communion; is all the other objects and regalia of the ceremonial ritual. Being without actual substance, however, these are merely objects and symbols of tradition, nothing more.
Such symbols and traditions can, however, serve as reminders – as an external display of what can now in potential unfold for every human being. We can each one of us wear our own crown today, our own golden robes. And we can also support others in taking up their own thrones – not as a stand-in for ourselves or our own activity, but in service to the unfolding of another human being, in freedom of course, through love.
Here we can experience freedom as a reality when taking up our own thrones – when thinking with our own crowned heads – and in supporting the freedom of other human beings.
Such realities, of course, have consequences today also for nations and states – for countries – wherein we have also to do with political and economic realities in addition to such spiritual and cultural considerations as we have been exploring here. There is, of course, much to say on this matter, but from this current perspective we can say that the more governments are able to support the freedom of their citizens by providing free spaces for the unfolding of such capacities as we have been considering – while providing also for a free flow of economic resources in support of such activity – the nearer the social system will come to something that is healthy for the reality we as human beings experience today.
In any case, the world is in need of such free human activity in our time – of the free gifts and love that self-coronated human beings can bring to the earth as a whole, in accordance with the spirit of our time.
John Stubley PhD