Charles III: integral traditionalist, Islam sympathiser, admirer of classical beauty

Prince William and King Charles III follow Queen Elizabeth II's coffin from Buckingham Palace to the Palace of Westminster on 14 September 2022 in London. Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

Will the British monarchy survive the current century? I am quite pessimistic. The Queen was untouchable, mainly because of her age. Charles, on the other hand, has never been popular. I think he will be a much better king than many expect, but it will be difficult for him to navigate what Polish-born sociologist Zygmunt Bauman called liquid modernity - says Rod Dreher, an American conservative essayist.

TVP WEEKLY: Now when Elizabeth Regina is gone, Great Britain has a new king, Charles III. A couple of years ago you wrote a remarkably interesting piece about then Prince of Wales. You called him a philosophical traditionalist, but his support for organic agriculture and other green causes, his sympathetic view of Islam, and his disdain for liberal economic thinking have earned him skepticism from some on the British right. What kind of monarch may he turn out to be?

ROD DREHER
: Charles has shown in his long public life an admirable appreciation for traditional standards of beauty, particularly in architecture. British architects hate him for it, but I think we might see a renaissance of architectural tradition under Charles. He is also intellectually engaged. His mother loved horses; Charles loves ideas. It is difficult for a British monarch, who has to be carefully neutral, to say much in public, but I believe Charles will continue to cultivate his interests in art and architecture, and environmental protection. 

Charles is sympathetic to Islam, but is also known to be close to the Orthodox monks of Mount Athos. His mother was known to be pious, though in a conventional way. Not Charles, whose ecumenical passions will almost certainly conflict with his role as the head of the Church of England.

What effect, if any, will Charles have on the perception and practice of religious faith in that highly secular country? I don't know, but it's going to be exciting to watch this new monarch develop. The fact is, Charles is an intellectually serious man who is conservative in non-political ways that many will find surprising. However, we know from his past behavior that Charles has sometimes crossed the invisible line that British royals are not supposed to transgress, regarding making commentary about public life. I think this will always be a risk for him.

You also wrote that “Charles is a devotee of the so-called “perennial philosophy” espoused by René Guenon's traditionalists, and this is the key to understanding his worldview.” Could you elaborate a little more? It is a very interesting to have a monarch influenced – if only indirectly - by thoughts of René Guénon, the French traditionalist who converted to Sufi Islam and died as a sheikh in Cairo.

Perennialism is a school of thought that teaches that all of mankind's religions share a core metaphysical unity. Earlier forms of perennialism were universalist, but Charles has been associated with a branch of perennialism known as Traditionalism. The Traditionalists believe that there is indeed an eternal wisdom uniting all religions, but they emphasize difference. That is to say, they believe that God revealed Himself in particular ways to particular peoples, and argue that one should choose a path and stick with it. 

It should be obvious how this semi-universalism conflicts with orthodox forms of Christianity. What I find interesting about it, and about Charles's support of Traditionalism, is that this philosophy strongly contends that modernity has become imbalanced towards materialism. Man has lost his harmony with the natural world, it says, because he has forgotten the fundamentally spiritual nature of human life. 

For the Traditionalists -- and certainly for the new king, who expressed his Traditionalist views in a fascinating book called Harmony -- the problem is modernity, which denies intrinsic, ordered meaning in the material world. Charles says that God created man to be "participants in creation," and that all the ancient thinkers understood this. It is only in the modern world that we dehumanize men, and turn them into what Charles calls "ideological, indoctrinated machines." Leaving aside his religious ecumenism and his enthusiasm for Sufi Islam, Charles's ideas about the deep order in the cosmos make perfect sense to me as an Orthodox Christian, and I believe also resonate with traditional Catholics. Though I don't share his broad view of religion, I strongly identify with Charles's general metaphysical stance, and appreciate how he has supported for a long time anti-modern schools of art and architecture. Charles cares about beauty, not just because he has aesthetic taste, but because he believes there is an intrinsic connection between beauty and the flourishing of the human soul. 

In general, do you believe Charles III could be a new kind of postmodern monarch, giving away to all modern Elite ideas? And more important, do you expect that British monarchy survive this postmodern deconstruction of almost all institutions of the Western civilization?

No, he is not a modernist. However, I do worry that he is far too uncritical of the World Economic Forum types. He seems to have a weakness for their world government schemes. He should stop and think about how these globalists, deep down, hate most of what he stands for. 

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