The limitations of the executive power

But as no individual thinker can determine in thought by
his arbitrary reason the evolution of the rational self-conscious
society, so no executive individual or succession of executive
individuals can determine it in fact by his or their arbitrary
power. It is evident that he cannot determine the whole social
life of the nation, it is much too large for him; no society would
bear the heavy hand of an arbitrary individual on its whole
social living. He cannot determine the economic life, that too is
much too large for him; he can only watch over it and help it in
this or that direction where help is needed. He cannot determine
the religious life, though that attempt has been made; it is too
deep for him; for religion is the spiritual and ethical life of the
individual, the relations of his soul with God and the intimate
dealings of his will and character with other individuals, and no
monarch or governing class, not even a theocracy or priesthood,
can really substitute itself for the soul of the individual or for
the soul of a nation. Nor can he determine the national culture;
he can only in great flowering times of that culture help by his
protection in fixing for it the turn which by its own force of
tendency it was already taking. To attempt more is an irrational
attempt which cannot lead to the development of a rational society.
He can only support the attempt by autocratic oppression
which leads in the end to the feebleness and stagnation of the
society, and justify it by some mystical falsity about the divine
right of kings or monarchy a peculiarly divine institution. Even
exceptional rulers, a Charlemagne, an Augustus, a Napoleon, a
Chandragupta, Asoka or Akbar, can do no more than fix certain
new institutions which the time needed and help the emergence
of its best or else its strongest tendencies in a critical era. When
they attempt more, they fail. Akbar’s effort to create a new
dharma for the Indian nation by his enlightened reason was a
brilliant futility. Asoka’s edicts remain graven upon pillar and
rock, but the development of Indian religion and culture took its
own line in other and far more complex directions determined by
the soul of a great people. Only the rare individualManu, Avatar
or prophet who comes on earth perhaps once in a millennium
can speak truly of his divine right, for the secret of his force
is not political but spiritual. For an ordinary political ruling
man or a political institution to have made such a claim was
one of the most amazing among the many follies of the human
458 The Ideal of Human Unity CWSA Vol 25


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