As I write, the funeral cortege for Queen Elizabeth II is about to enter Windsor Castle. She will be interred this afternoon. So her seventy years' reign reaches its end and we are severed again from the historical past. This pleases some people, who want to destroy the past, all custom, and all tradition. They are people who essentially seek to overthrow reality and to usher in something they believe to be new. They believe, I think, that they can create something new, that reality--the universe and all of its laws and underpinnings, all of nature, including human nature, more things still--is both flawed and alterable. This is the progressive program, I think, and it rages against conservatism. Progressivism is in more than one heir to the queen's throne. I hope that they may draw back once they realize that the time for playing games is behind them. I think the survival of their nation is at stake. I'm an American and farther back than that Irish, but if we are forced to choose between mooring ourselves to the verities and certainties of the past and unmooring ourselves from those things and casting ourselves into storms of chaos, then I think we have to choose the safe harbors of the past. Life and living depend on it.
C.S. Lewis wrote about progressivism. In The Screwtape Letters (1942), in the voice of the demon Screwtape, he wrote:
But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the Same Old Thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption in the will. It is here that the general Evolutionary or Historical character of modern European thought (partly our work) comes in so useful. The Enemy [i.e., God] loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? is it prudent? is it possible? Now if we can keep men asking "Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way that History is going?" they will neglect the relevant questions. [. . .] And great work has already been done. Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective "unchanged" we have substituted the emotional adjective "stagnant." We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain--not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is[.] [Emphasis added.]
In That Hideous Strength (1945), Lewis created among other things an organization called the National Institute for Co-ordinated Experiments, or N.I.C.E. The aims of N.I.C.E. can only be called progressive: they seek to overthrow the past, transcend their bodies, and make of themselves as gods. They are of course defeated, as any rebellion against reality must be.
This summer I read an article called "Lockdown and the Price of Suppressing Dissent" on the website Spiked (Aug. 26, 2022). The author is Fraser Myers. In his article, Mr. Myers mentions another organization, this one apparently real. It's called SAGE, for Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. According to Mr. Myers, SAGE's "unelected advisers were effectively 'empowered' to set policy during the pandemic, with little pushback from the government." As soon as I saw that acronym, my thoughts went immediately to That Hideous Strength. Again, there is predictive power in the conservative imagination.
Queen Elizabeth herself was subject to the COVID regime. Imagine: she was the queen and yet not sovereign in her own nation. At her husband's funeral, she was forced to sit alone in church. Meanwhile, her prime minister and all of his corrupt and morally decadent cronies partied on. The queen lived long enough to see him out of office, though, and to approve his successor. It was her last official act in fact. There may be some satisfaction in that. Like I wrote before, we can only hope that that new boss, who I believe is seated right now in the funeral chapel, will not be the same as the old boss, and that she will do something--anything--to banish even the smallest part of progressivism from her government and its policies.
I have been to so many funerals these past few years. Maybe you have been, too. It's hard to watch another one. It's hard to fall away from the past again. But there are still steadfast and imperishable things. We can still hold on to them. The priests have called the queen a "most excellent" monarch. That she was. I don't think we'll see her like again.
Original text copyright 2022 Terence E. Hanley