How should we view the “princes of this world”? (February 7, 2011)

There is a fascinating discussion about “the princes of this world” in the Urtext, which I think can tell us a lot about how to view the earthly leaders with whom we are upset.

“The princes of this world” is a term that comes out of the writings of St. Paul. In I Corinthians, he speaks of “the wisdom of God, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (2:8). The term immediately refers to the political rulers who sent Jesus to the cross. However, it has often been taken to also mean the demonic princes who were controlling those rulers, and through them the world. 

It is that latter sense that Jesus is referring to in the Urtext. He says, “The ‘Princes of this World’ are princes only because they are really angels. But they are free to establish their kingdom where they see fit.” In other words, even though they appear to be demons, these “Princes” are still really angels. And as such, they are free to make this world their kingdom if they so choose. In the end, no matter what they do in this kingdom, it will not change who they really are, and it cannot threaten who we really are. Along these latter lines, Jesus said of Bill, “when he is afraid of Possession, he need only remember that error cannot really threaten Truth, which always can withstand its assaults.” 

You can almost hear Jesus saying, “All right, there are demons who have made this world their kingdom, but that’s OK, because in reality they are still angels, and their errors cannot actually affect anything that is real.” 

What struck me is that we can readily apply this to the term’s immediate meaning: the human rulers of this world. I envision a progression of points: 

1. There are human rulers for whom this world is their kingdom and who, in Paul’s words, lack wisdom and therefore crucify God’s Son. 

Most of us already understand this. We probably fill in the word “rulers” with different names, but we probably all see certain powerful people as exerting tremendous influence without the requisite wisdom, and therefore doing a lot of harm. 

2. These rulers, regardless of how “demonic” they may seem, are still in truth angelic. They are still pure and innocent Sons of God.

Just before the “Princes of this World” comment, Jesus explicitly draws the parallel between fallen angels and fallen man: “After all, Lucifer fell, but he was still an angel. He is thus the symbol for man.” So, like Lucifer, we fell, but we are still Sons of God. 

I think many compassionate people of political persuasion understand this to some degree. They realize that even if a certain ruler has embraced truly demonic intentions, as historically some rulers have, he is still at heart an “angel.” His reality is still divine. 

But we need to take this one step further: 

3. However much influence these rulers may have in the illusion, their errors can change nothing that is real. Their errors, in other words, are ultimately powerless. 

This to me is the most radical step, the one that virtually no one seems to take. Or they take it while in denial about the first point. Yet this third step only takes on its full meaning when combined with the first step. Here they are together:

There are human rulers who exert vast influence, despite their little wisdom and destructive actions.

Yet their errors can change nothing that is real and are therefore ultimately powerless.

Now we need to add on one last step, which comes from this passage in the Text: “The saviors of the world, who see like Him, are merely those who choose His strength instead of their own weakness, seen apart from Him. They will redeem the world, for they are joined in all the power of the Will of God” (T-31.VIII.4:4-5). 

So here is my last point: 

4. The real power in this world lies with those who are joined in all the power of the Will of God. They will redeem the world.

These four points to me would constitute some of the skeletal points of a Course-based politics. To honor the Course, it seems to me, we would have to cover the entire spectrum represented by these four points. We’d need to honor the dark side, the ugly “realities” withing the illusion (point #1), but we’d need to also bring in the light as well, and keep turning up its level of brightness until we got all the way to points #3 and #4.

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