Great Destroyers lay waste in every age, only active more or less so variegated by happenstance. These Great Destroyers have never been alone; the Sophists had their Plato, the Medici’s had their Luther, the Modernists had their Machen. Glory belongs to these noble souls only in the age to follow, never their own.
Normally unacquainted with the laureate of the poet, the Guardian is the unsung hero. But no dismay overtakes any man called to this sorry task. No, a noble task. Man has e’er and on designed to destroy what is most excellent, hiding his shame like Cain did to Abel. Here we find the sinner’s paradox; hiding shame begets more shame, exposing shame removes it.
The ‘old soul’ is no friend of the ‘noble’ one. The noble soul is one that values the virtuous and honorable. And what man fails by instinct and nature protect what he values? The old soul defends what is, for fear, the noble soul defends not what is old, but what is noble and excellent in it.
The noble man is the man who is upright. Noble has always meant this, regardless of aberrations from time to time.
The true conservative is not an ‘old soul’ but a ‘noble soul.’ We are a most blessed people, standing in a long line of men, tracing a line from Socrates and Plato, Augustine and Aquinas, Edmund Burke and Russell Kirk. But Guardians are not created, they are trained. The task of the Guardian consists in:
quaerentes enim fideles homines
This most noble task is never fulfilled by the man who is protecting out of fear, but out of love. A ‘noble soul’ must find one faithful to what is being passed on. Yet, faithfulness to all that is just, noble, and excellent, neither excludes nor minimizes the ability or task of making more just, more noble, and more excellent. The old soul might be able to deliver the letter to Garcia. The noble soul does it.
Everyone is a conservative in a sense. Whether they want to conserve a plot of trees, or conserve some fossils and rocks, or an entire foreign culture; we conserve and protect what we love. The enlightened conservative is a unique breed. The enlightened conservative does not conserve a tradition for tradition’s sake, as those who protect rocks because they are rocks, or a cannibalistic culture, simply because. This form of conservatism is not worthy of the name. It’s indifference or ignorance is disgusting.
A true conservatism loves, and therefore protects and guards, what is most lovable. What exists needs not be the most lovable.
This all can make more sense when we understand the theological framework for every worldview. Only three foundations exist for any worldview; God, Man, and the Universe.
A worldview built on Man is essentially an atheistic one. It protects what exists due to a sentimentalism. It looks back to the way things were, and wishes to recreate it, or sees the here and now as that which shouldn’t change, due to fear of the unknown.
A worldview built on the Universe is essentially pantheistic. If the entire universe is sacred, then it follows that the universe must not be desecrated and disturbed. The here and the now must be forever frozen.
But a worldview, that is, a conservatism, based on theism is a living and vibrant one. It protects what is good, but does not fear change, knowing that God is sovereign, working all things for the good of those who love Him. A noble soul is one that balances the twin demands of continuity and discontinuity, change and stability. An old soul is one who merely lives in the past.
Daniel MasonSee More Essays
Daniel Mason studied theology in his undergrad, and currently pursuing graduate studies, with a particular interest in the Dutch statesman, Groen van Prinsterer. Daniel Mason is the co-founder of The Reformed Conservative.