1914, Scottish Independence & the Future of Britain

Thoughts on 1914 in relation to Scottish Independence and the Future of Britain

This article first appeared in New View magazine Issue 72 July-Sept 2014

2014, a year rich in historical resonance: D-Day in Normandy 1944, seventy years ago; a hundred years on from the birth of Dylan Thomas in 1914; the deaths of Franz Ferdinand and his dear wife Sophie in Sarajevo that same year; the defeat of King Edward II of England at the Battle of Bannockburn by Robert the Bruce in 1314, which saved Scottish independence for nearly 400 years.  Yet Scotland is not Serbia and Britain is not the Balkans. What we call ‘nationalism’ is not the same everywhere or at all times. For example, the Austrian Rudolf Steiner, author of The Philosophy of Freedom (1894), spoke about the complex relationship between nationalism and individual personality in Britain and France since the 15th century in his lectures of October 1918 (titled in English From Symptom to Reality in Modern History), and on 11,12,13 October 1918 he spoke for the first time about the being Sorath, the two-horned beast associated with the number 666 that is mentioned in the Book of Revelation. At the very same time another Austrian, Adolf Hitler, began a long march to his nationalist dictatorship during the night of 13-14 October 1918, when he suffered gas poisoning and blinding in battle on the Western Front; he would later insist that the nation took precedence and required the individual’s total submission; the individual was nothing in comparison to the people. One ought not to say, however, that because nationalism appeared to be, literally, a de-structive force in Germany in the 1930s and in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, then what appears to be nationalism in Scotland is also merely ‘destructive’. Destruction, de-structuring, is a necessary process in biology and in human history; all things have their time. One could well argue that Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia were in any case artificial constructs created to suit the requirements and the wills of the victorious Powers after the Great War and those of certain abstract-minded nationalists in those countries who had aligned themselves with those Powers. The two states were enabled to emerge because Russia and her western allies, Britain, France and, later, Italy, had made war upon the Habsburg Empire, a potentially cosmopolitan federative state in central Europe, and upon its ally Germany. The Austro-Hungarian Empire had then been deliberately terminated by the western Allies and their Slavic nationalist partners between 1918 and 1920. The Treaty of Versailles had been signed with Germany, on 28 June 1919.(1) 28 June was the very day on which, in 1914, a most carefully constructed international conspiracy had resulted in the murder by a 19 year-old Bosnian Serb named Gavrilo Princip (Gabriel Prince) of the man who intended to transform the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the Habsburgs from one dominated by Austrians and Hungarians to one in which Slavs would share political control with German and Hungarian speakers. This triadic transformation of the Empire was the vision of the heir to the Habsburg throne, Archduke Franz Ferdinand; it was a vision for ensuring the future of the polyglot Middle European state. Franz Ferdinand was not a man to whom many immediately warmed but he had a certain integrity; he sought to marry a Slavic (Czech) duchess, Sophie Chotek because he loved her, but her rank was too low for union with the imperial family. Despite tremendous opposition from the Emperor, from some of his own relatives and from the Court officials, Franz Ferdinand insisted on marrying the woman he loved.

FF and Sophie 1

Their marriage was accepted only on condition that it be morganatic, that is, Franz Ferdinand personally had to abjure, in a formal ceremony on 28 June 1900, all rights, titles and privileges for his wife and for their future children, who would not inherit the throne after Franz Ferdinand himself. His wife then had to endure the constant humiliation throughout the 14 years of their marriage of not being allowed to accompany her husband officially or of being recognised at all at any official events or even of having the same family name as him. The love between this very energetic Austrian prince and his gentle Slavic wife, could at least have initiated a metamorphosis of the ancient Habsburg Empire into a more modern Central European federation. But such a metamorphosis did not suit the purposes of certain men in St Petersburg, Paris, London and Belgrade, and so, on 28 June 1914, 14 years to the day after the  formal statement of renunciation of the rights of his wife and children, and 525 years to the day after Serbia’s great defeat by a foreign empire (Ottoman Turkey) at the Battle of the Field of Blackbirds, Franz Ferdinand, Archduke of Habsburg-Lorraine, and Sophie Chotek, Duchess of Hohenberg, were killed by two bullets from a Belgian pistol supplied by a member of the Serbian secret society – the so-called ‘Black Hand’ – and fired by Gavrilo Princip outside Schiller’s delicatessen on Franz-Josefstrasse. A policeman almost managed to stop Princip firing but he was kicked in the leg by a young man who sympathised with Gavrilo Princip, a man named Mihailo Pušara, so Princip was able to fire his fateful shots.

The Forming of a Union
Just 37 days later, on 4th August 1914 at 11 pm GMT –  after a crisis that had burned for three weeks like a slow fuse but then, from 23rd July, sped towards explosion with a malevolent velocity – the United Kingdom declared war on Germany – the British Empire declared war on the German Empire, and the European war became a world war. The white Dominions of the British Empire (Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa) were not consulted before the declaration – it was assumed they would go along with the decision of the Cabinet in London – and neither, of course, were the non-white peoples of the Empire; they would have had no say in any case, as none of them had a vote, as did no woman in Britain in 1914, nor 40% of adult males. The state that was declaring war on Germany had been in existence for only 113 years. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland had been formed in 1801 after a bloody suppression of the Irish rebellion of 1798 which had been inspired and supported by the French revolutionaries. Before 1801 Ireland had been a separate kingdom from “Great Britain” but ruled by the monarch in London, although from 1782 it had had its own Parliament, which was annulled by the Acts of Union (1800), and Irish politicians were now required to come to London. “The Kingdom of Ireland” had been a creation of the government of Henry VIII (1541). Before that, the Papacy had been the titular sovereign of Ireland ruling feudally through the “Lord of Ireland”, as the king of England was known. From 1603 until 1707 the monarchs who ruled from London wore three crowns, so to speak – those of England (including Wales), Ireland and Scotland. A completely independent kingdom until 1603, when its king, James VI (1567-1625), became King James I of England as well (1603-1625), Scotland remained a separate kingdom with its own parliament until 1707, when the merchants of Edinburgh and the Scottish Lowlands who dominated the Scottish political scene decided to throw in their lot with the English and opt for full political Union with England, thinking they would be compensated for their huge losses in the disastrous Darien colonisation scheme  of 1698-1700 (2). Scotland retained certain separate educational, ecclesiastical and juridical rights, but the Union was not widely popular north of the border; “Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, an ardent pro-unionist and Union negotiator, observed that the treaty was ‘contrary to the inclinations of at least three-fourths of the Kingdom’” (3) The English elite, meanwhile, were keen to prevent Jacobite exiles in France from using Scotland as a base from which to mount a restoration of the pro-Catholic Stuart (Jacobite) dynasty that had been ousted from England in the so-called “Glorious Revolution” of 1688; this had brought the Protestant Dutch King William to power in England as King William III (1688-1702). In neither Scotland in 1707, nor Ireland in 1801, was union with England desired by the majority of the population; it was forced upon them. The same was true, of course, for the Welsh, the first of the three Celtic populations to fall completely under English control (1277-1283). Ironically, the victory of the half-Welsh Henry Tudor (King Henry VII, 1485-1509) at the end of the English Wars of the Roses did not lead to freedom for Wales; the second Tudor king, Henry VIII (1509-1547), simply incorporated Wales into England between 1536 and 1543 by “harmonising” the laws of Wales with those of England.

The French regained the port of Calais, the last English possession on the Continent, from Henry VIII’s daughter Queen Mary (1553-1558), and from 1558 until 1607, a period of just 49 years, England (or Great Britain as it became known after 1603), was now truly an island state. King James I, the 23rd crowned monarch since the Norman conquest of 1066, was the first monarch to rule over all the peoples of the British Isles. Under King James and his government, led by his Secretary of State Sir Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury (1563 – 1612) and first cousin of Sir Francis Bacon, the first British colony was founded at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, and ‘Great Britain’ embarked upon the path that would ultimately lead to world-empire. In those increasingly global undertakings over the next 300 years, the Celtic peoples of the British Isles played a very great part. Indeed, although Englishmen in the 19th century, such as Disraeli, often used to refer to ‘the English Empire’, it was very much a ‘British Empire’ and it is no exaggeration to say that without the multi-faceted contributions of the Celtic peoples, it would have been impossible.

We often think that the ‘English’ began this process, and certainly, it got underway, as indicated above, only after the English Crown had, in one way or another, ‘incorporated’ Wales, Ireland and Scotland. But how English was this process of incorporation in fact? English was not even the language of the courts of those kings of England who began the process of conquering, first Ireland (Henry II, r.1154-1189), and then Wales (Edward I, r.1272-1307), and who then attempted unsuccessfully to conquer Scotland (Edward I and his son Edward II, 1307-1327). These men were still very French in their language and lifestyle, but the ruling class at the head of which they presided had arrived in England in 1066 as Normans, who were in fact Vikings with but a thin veneer of French and Latin civilisation acquired over just three generations, since the conquest of Normandy in 911 by Danish Vikings led by their chieftain Hrolf (‘Frenchified’ as Rollo, 846-c.931). The Anglo-Saxon kings of England before 1066 had never sought to attack the Continent, nor had they even tried to conquer the Celtic lands of the British Isles. But after the new Norman elite had consolidated their rule over their newly conquered subject people in England and had indulged in their own Civil War,(4)  it was not long before they sought to conquer the Celtic lands as well, beginning with Wales in 1081. The invasion of Ireland began in 1171; the conquest of Wales was completed in 1277-1283 and the vain attempt to absorb Scotland took place between 1296 and 1314. (5) Repulsed by the Scots, England’s French-speaking elite then turned their attentions to their old homeland, France, and embarked upon the 100 Years’ War (1337-1453) in the ultimately vain effort to become the kings of France as well as of England. As stated earlier, the loss of the last gain from this particular struggle, Calais, led to the only period (49 years, 1558-1607) in British history since the Norman Conquest of 1066, in which the English Crown possessed no overseas territories beyond the British Isles. (6)

People and Geography: the Expansion of England
In the British Isles then, a particularly energetic and aggressive foreign group, led by those who were essentially Vikings in their origins, conquered England, then attempted to conquer the ‘Celtic periphery’ regions. They followed this by seeking to expand their territories on the Continent and finally, after being rebuffed there by French resistance initiated by Joan of Arc (1429-31) they gradually lost all English possessions in France (1431-1558), which culminated in that eventual respite, as mentioned, of 49 years with no overseas possessions. Rudolf Steiner was not the only one to point out that Joan’s deeds in the end served England just as much as France.(7) Steiner also encouraged us to become sensitive to the differences between on the one hand, what lives in a particular human population as the specific ethnic and human qualities of that people and on the other hand, what particular geographical energies are present in the territory in which that population lives – the nature of the earth forces below them, the nature of the climate,  topography, and natural features around them and so on.(8) This is especially important when we want to understand what happens to a people and to a country when, for example, a new substantial group  of immigrants move to that country. The very oldest elements of the population of ‘England’ had lived in the British Isles for millennia before the arrival of the Celts. After the Celts had come other settlers from the Continent, including the Romans and finally the Anglo-Saxons, who created seven kingdoms that were only eventually unified in the 10th century under the pressure of having to resist invasions by the Scandinavian Vikings. By 1500 the pre-Viking and pre-Norman peoples of England had internalised something of the Norman-Viking ruthless and acquisitive spirit – something which was actually very different from the gentler, more motherly being of the land and nature of England. Having internalised this acquisitive spirit, from the beginning of the 17th century, the English people, who by now  regarded themselves as a ‘nation’, resumed an aggressive posture towards the outer world after that 49 year respite (1558-1607) and by 1914 they had taken possession of a fifth of the world’s land mass and dominated its oceans – a very remarkable feat by any measure: the geographical ‘point’ that was the British Isles expanded to ‘embrace’ the entire global periphery and made a most significant contribution to the emergence of what is often today called a ‘global consciousness’.

After this huge expansion from the British Isles, something remarkable occurred as the First World War approached, a colossal symptom, one could say, of deeper historical developments. The background for this was the global expansion of England itself  (9) the preparations for which had begun c.1500 under the first Tudor kings, Henry VII and his son Henry VIII, with the exploration of North America by John Cabot (Venetian: Zuan Chabboto) and the founding of the Royal Navy. Although the British Empire reached its greatest actual extent in the 1920s with the acquisition of some former German colonies (SW Africa, Tanganyika, Cameroons, Togoland and several Pacific islands) it was in the 1880s that Britain’s global power began its slow decline in the face of the industrial and commercial challenge from Germany and the USA. The real period of the expansion of England thus occurred entirely within the era known since the 15th century in western esotericism as the Age of Gabriel (1525-1879, according to the German esotericist, abbot Trithemius of Sponheim or, according to Steiner, 1510-1879). There are seven of these archangelic ages, which are associated with the seven traditional planetary bodies and have been known since Babylonian times. According to Trithemius, each age lasts 354 years and 4 months. Each of the seven archangels exercises a specific influence on human history and works through particular peoples in order to exercise that influence during the era. The key feature of the recurring Gabriel periods of human history is a focus on material life and the material plane – everything that relates in the broadest sense with incarnation into material existence.

Titanic: Misunderstanding the Message
The “colossal symptom” referred to above was the sinking of the ocean liner Titanic, that great technological and social symbol of so much in the British civilisation of the previous 300 years.  It was built in Belfast, N. Ireland, that is, Ulster, the centre – since the time of King James I – of the Anglo-Scottish Protestant domination of Ireland. 33 years after the end of the Age of Gabriel in which Britain’s star of external power had risen so high, on 15 April 1912, the Titanic sank after steaming too fast and colliding with an iceberg on its maiden voyage across the Atlantic to America. Meanwhile, the issue of Home Rule for Ireland – we would call it ‘devolution’ today – a topic that had been bubbling for decades, now erupted with such force that between March and late July 1914 it seemed as if there would be civil war in Ireland. Fiery speeches were made, mass demonstrations held, guns were imported by both sides, Unionists and Republicans, armed groups were drilled. Unlike the Welsh, who did not rise in arms again after the Tudors gained the throne, the Irish had never in 750 years accepted English rule. A conflagration was avoided in 1914 only because the imminent civil war in Ireland was overtaken, from 4th August 1914, by the greater conflagration of the World War. The British government and Establishment breathed a collective sigh of relief. In his famous House of Commons speech of 3rd August which in effect announced – although without actually doing so – Britain’s imminent entry into the European war, the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey declared that “the only bright spot in the whole of this terrible situation is Ireland” (meaning that the coming ‘Great War’ would redirect attention from Ireland and defuse the situation there). But he spoke too soon, for the events of August 1914 proved to be only a postponement of the climax of the tensions in Ireland. The Irish had finally had enough of subjection to Westminster, England and the British Empire. The Easter Rising in Dublin of 1916, and especially Irish reactions to London’s brutal suppression of that Rising, signalled that the Irish now ‘wanted out’. Battered and exhausted by the trials of the World War, drained of its finances and suffering from the loss of so many of its own sons, the British Establishment no longer had the persistent and ruthless will to dominate, which it had always shown in centuries past throughout the Empire in suppressing rebellions and acquiring new territories. In 1922 London finally agreed to independence for a Republican Ireland.(10) Ireland, one of the first overseas territories to be violently assaulted by the ‘English’ (actually Franco-Norman) Crown (from 1171) was now the first to make its exit from that Crown’s Empire. What the British Establishment could not see or accept in 1914, it was now presented with again in the wake of the First World War, which it had engaged in for its own imperial purposes. Ireland’s exit from the Empire signalled the beginning of the end of the Empire and thus the closing of a chapter in the long history of the British Isles.

These three events – the sinking of the Titanic just before the First World War, pyrrhic victory in the war itself (in which there was such a cost to Britain with so many lives lost), and Irish independence after the war – all presaged the imminent closure of the chapter of Britain’s imperial history. That chapter  had been based on Britain’s control of the seas. Just as the enormous liners of the Titanic class symbolised the Edwardian bombast of Britain’s passenger ships, so too were the huge, so-called ‘Dreadnought’ super-battleships (first launched in 1906) of the Royal Navy the culmination of materialist bombast in naval warfare: their size and might were seen to reflect the Power of the Empire. Much hubris, as it turned out, for during the war they were put to the crucial test just once – at the Battle of Jutland (1916) – and were found wanting.(11) Not giant battleships but submarines and aircraft were the new weapons of the 20th century and in these Britain did not turn out to have the edge at sea. After the end of the Second World War in 1945 and the continuing diminishment of the Empire, the Royal Navy shrank drastically. Britain’s merchant marine also steadily declined in size as shipbuilding moved to the Far East and Britain’s shipyards could no longer compete. For example, “in 1939 the Merchant Navy was the largest in the world with 33% of total tonnage. By 2012, the Merchant Navy – yet still remaining one of the largest in the world – held only 3% of total tonnage.”(12) These were all outer signs that the chapter of British history which had opened c.1600, was now closing.

Four generations of Cecils: father and son, uncle and nephew

Wilaim Cecil Lord Burghley(c) National Trust, Hatchlands; Supplied by The Public Catalogue FoundationLord SalisburyArthur_James_Balfour

        

 

William Cecil              Robert Cecil            Lord Salisbury          Arthur Balfour

However, many in Britain’s elite did not comprehend the message that they were receiving from the course of history itself, or else interpreted it very differently. In 1919, at the very time that the baton of imperial power was passing from Britain to the USA, powerful circles in the British elite connected to the Cecil family (e.g. former Prime Minister Arthur J. Balfour, nephew of Lord Salisbury, and Sir Robert Cecil, Salisbury’s son), and to Lord Alfred Milner and his Round Table Group (founded 1909), established the British Institute of International Affairs (1920, later renamed the Royal Institute of International Affairs – the RIIA – and also known today as Chatham House) following discussions in May 1919 at the Hotel Majestic in Paris during the Paris Peace talks. The Institute’s first formal heads were Sir Arthur Balfour, Sir Robert Cecil and Sir Edward Grey; Grey’s formal resolution called the institute into being. Those behind this Institute were closely allied to similar elite circles in the USA (notably the J.P. Morgan and Carnegie financial interests) who went on to establish the Council on Foreign Relations (1921), which both organisations regarded as a sister group to the RIIA.(13) These two transatlantic extra-governmental organisations have cooperated closely in coordinating and exerting influence on Anglo-American foreign policy since their foundations and continue to do so. Today these two groups stand at the top of the Anglo-American mountain of think-tanks, and together with many other such groups below and around them, are working to maintain Anglo-American global dominance through finance, military power, intelligence networks and global surveillance by, amongst other things, knitting together the USA with East Asia in trade and investment blocs (the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or TPP – 2011) and with the EU (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement, or TTIP – 2013).(14)  Obviously, Anglo-American antipathetic relations with Russia and China are at the critical core of these geopolitical and economic manoeuvrings, not least in relation to access to natural resources, the material underpinnings of both ‘hard power’ (military) and ‘soft power’ (e.g. the metallic ore coltan and ‘rare earth’ metals needed in digital entertainment and communications technology and numerous other advanced industrial applications). A similar situation prevailed c.1900 when Britain and Germany were competing for the gold and diamonds of South Africa and the oil of Mesopotamia.

Modern Capitalism  – Back to the Future?
There has been no real change in the fundaments of Anglo-American economic thinking since the late 18th century, the time of the Scottish pioneer of political economy, Adam Smith (1723-1790). At a conference on ‘Inclusive Capitalism’ in the City of London in late May this year headed by Prince Charles, Christine Lagarde of the IMF and other luminaries of the global elite such as economist Larry Summers, Eric Schmidt (Google), and hosted by Lynn Forester de Rothschild of the Henry Jackson Society, The Economist,  and E.L.Rothschild, ‘crony capitalism’ was criticised but a return to the 18th century principles of Adam Smithian capitalism was held up as a solution to our 21st century problems. As long as such ideas remain dominant among the global elite, struggles between the egocentric economic interests of the world’s Powers are bound to continue, based as they are on the 18th century concept of economic self-interest. The radical spirit of the 18th century affirmed the notion of individual liberty in all areas of social life, and in parallel with this, evolution as a concept of change began to emerge but that concept has never been sufficiently and soundly extended to human consciousness and socio-economic practice in the West: hence the false claims in 1914-18 that a society that was actually still dominated by the aristocracy and the very wealthy (Britain) was somehow a ‘democracy’ defending modern liberty and modern economic life against a supposed primitive autocracy (Germany); hence too the back-to-the-future notion today that our economic troubles in the 21st century can be solved by a return to 18th century first principles, such as the American Tea Party recommends in the socio-economic sphere  – rather like economic Puritans in the Reformation calling for a return to the early church. This back-to-the-future attitude makes as much sense today as a middle-aged man in mid-life crisis trying to solve his problems by returning to the ideas and habits of his adolescence, whereas he will be able to move forward in a healthy way only by identifying and moving on from what is still adolescent in his middle age, not by embracing it anew as a solution. Steiner saw the economic life as a threefold relationship of producers, distributors and consumers and maintained that only as consumer is the human being rightly and inevitably egocentric in economic life, concerned for his own needs, whereas the other two actors in the economic process – the producer and the distributor  – are essentially there to serve the community in a fraternal and collaborative way. (15) Yet almost our entire economic practice in the West is based on the self-interest, self-assertion, and ruthless competition that were the discoveries and assertions of the 18th century, and we have enthusiastically spread these attitudes and practices around the world, and not least to the 2.6 billion people of India and China. The 18th century principle of personal liberty applied to all three aspects of economic activity is literally destroying our economy and our ecology today. The over-production and ceaseless growth of our economic processes are driven by the notion of the personal liberty of producers and distributors who are acting without sufficient thought for their social and ecological environments.

Scotland and Britain
Mention of Adam Smith brings us back to Scotland. The predominant  tendencies towards empiricism and materialism among ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ thinkers have played an important part in the development of Anglo-American political and economic thinking since the 18th century and contributed towards the philosophical basis of capitalism centred on self-interest, which led towards the Great War – from the economic self-interest of individuals to the economic self-interest of nation states. Given this major role of Scotland and its traditionally renowned education system in the intellectual underpinnings of western capitalism, as well as the vigorous role of the Scots in the expansion of the British Empire – everything from their high profile in the slave and sugar trades in the West Indies to opium trading, banking and engineering in the East Indies (in the 18th century the East India Company was “at the very least half Scottish”)(16) – it is again symptomatic that there is now, in 2014, 100 years on from the time the English elite failed to recognise the rumblings of coming independence in Ireland, a similar movement in Scotland. And once again, today’s English elite and its Scottish allies are seeking to suppress those rumblings, this time by recourse to anti-independence propaganda based largely on economic fear-mongering. This is because the English elite wish things to go on in the coming decades – and perhaps even centuries – as they have done for the last 500 years at least, since the time of Henry VIII but now on the global scale, with ‘governance’ headed by “as many billionaires as one can fit in a double-decker London bus” (according to Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England at a speech to the Inclusive Capitalism conference in the City of London, 27 May 2014) and by a small group of neo-feudal elite corporations and financial institutions. En route to this ‘new world order’, Britain would be a single unitary State ruled by a small elite of very rich men (and a very few women), a single source of political authority that sees itself as an aggressive world power with a self-bestowed right to compete against and dominate all other peoples in the world in the name of ‘national self-interest’, which despite its numerous claims to the contrary, has at root never been anything but the self-interest of the English elite. Hence the doctrine, shared by the leaders of all the main political parties (Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats) as well as by the newer, so-called renegades, such as Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (UKIP), of the need for Britain to “compete in the global race” against the mega-states of India and China, which are held up by the UK political class and the media as economic bogeymen to frighten the populace into running ever faster in that competitive race. Never is it mentioned that India and China are only running in accordance with the notions of economics and philosophy that those in the British Isles – English, Welsh, Irish and Scots – delineated some 250 years ago.

There is, however, a recognition in Scotland today that the chapter of British imperial history has closed; that the cooperation of England and Scotland in that particular enterprise has come to an end and that it was, moreover, a cooperation into which the majority of the Scottish people entered unconsciously, involuntarily or even against their will. And this has been the nature of so much in the relations between the four peoples of the British Isles since 1066 -  that they have been largely unconscious, involuntary or even compulsory and violent, serving predominantly the interests of ‘the English Crown’ and the English elite. Led by the Irish a hundred years ago before, during and after the Great War, the Celtic peoples of these isles now seem to be saying: “we seek in this time in history to take full and conscious responsibility for our own societies and that once again, as long ago, we will  no longer be directed by the English, from London, in the interests of the English Establishment and of the City of London.”

This is not a petty nationalist break-up of an historically artificial entity. It is the entirely natural and historical end of a chapter in the long lives and destinies of four neighbouring peoples. Of course, it is the case that over the centuries many of them intermarried, so that countless connections were created between the four countries, mostly unconsciously proceeding from the depths of personal destiny. What is happening now is that the Irish, the Scots and the Welsh are seeking to take conscious control of their historical communities through this modern process of discussing and debating their futures. After all, we are only some 600 years into ‘the modern era’ of the conscious self standing on its own spiritual feet before ‘God and man’, which began in the 15th century with the likes of John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Joan of Arc, Albrecht Dürer and Martin Luther, to name but five: the emergence of the modern individual who sought liberty and autonomy, first in his own spiritual or artistic life and then in his social relations and political life. Modern nationalism too began at that time in the complex interweaving between clan or national attachment and the new burgeoning personality. (17) In the British Isles there has been a tendency for the personal element to be stronger in England and the social or collective element to be more prominent in the Celtic periphery; socialism has always been strong in the three Celtic countries. It is not an accident that the Tory Party led today by David Cameron (who has a Scottish surname) has only one Member of Parliament in Westminster whose constituency is in Scotland, nor is it an accident that the Tories are weak in Wales and much stronger in England. This no doubt reflects those proclivities to self-will amongst the English that have something to do with the Viking and Norman settlers and conquerors who came among them a thousand years ago and more and also with those clannish, more collective sentiments that prevailed longer among the Celtic peoples of these isles. But as a result of all the intermingling with the English over the centuries, the more social Celts have been accustomed to individualism and as a result – not least of intermingling with the Celts, many English people over the centuries have become more socially aware.

From an anthroposophical perspective, whichever tendency one’s culture has, the important point is that one recognises one’s individual relation to it and takes responsibility for that. Our national communities are ‘garments’, so to speak, that we put on, or ‘houses’ within which we live in a particular life, and as such they are to be valued and cared for, for they serve to shape and form us to a degree and we can learn much that we personally need from living within them. Those garments or houses, however, have an objective life of their own. Like a piece of land or a garden, the culture of a nation and the land upon which that nation lives was nurtured and developed by those who came before us and will be so by those who come after us. Yet those garments or houses are nevertheless not us in our individual selves, our spiritual selves, for those selves pass through many such garments or houses on our path through material existence. We can cherish them and seek to be responsible for and in them but as modern people we can also be aware at the same time that we owe allegiance to none of them in any absolute sense. Our modern consciousness is that allegiance ultimately is owed to the family of mankind as a whole, to the planet as a whole which sustains all nations and territories, and to the cosmic spirit which sustains our dear planetary body itself.

It may well, therefore, turn out that if the Scots and perhaps later even the Welsh opt for independence from England, relations between the Celtic peoples and the English may become much more conscious and – dare one say it – ‘adult’. The English themselves will be challenged to rethink their destiny as a political community and open a very new chapter in their long story. A new, more modern and appropriate way of living together socially and politically, we may hope, will emerge between the peoples of these British Isles – one that better and more consciously reflects the differences between individuals and the differences between peoples and cultures as well as the similarities that we share as a result of living on (or offshore of) these isles that are themselves both distinct from, but also part of, the Continent of Europe. This more conscious, more adult way for ethnic, linguistic and regional communities to live together within historically bound regions of Europe may well be able to contribute to bringing about a more truly modern way of living together in Europe than the current European Union, which in so many ways is but the attempt to create another old unitary and uniform nation state on a continental scale – another retrogressive solution to the old conundrum of how the peoples of Europe can live together in peace and in a  manner that is both modern and sound. Just as Britain is not the Balkans, so is the 21st century not the 18th. Earthly spaces and times vibrate with their own particular sounds.

“The answer to 1984 is 1776!” declares the Texan radio host and anti-New World Order campaigner Alex Jones frequently via his Internet sites. But no, the answer to the global tyranny of 1984, which many today in 2014 fear may soon be upon us is not to be found either in 1776 or 1066 but here and now in the 21st century within ourselves, in our understanding of nature all around us  and the threefold human being: liberty in our cultural life; equality in our political life, and fraternal cooperation in our economic life.

Endnotes
(1) Germany had entered the war ostensibly in defence of its ally Austria-Hungary, and the German Kaiser Wilhelm II had been a personal friend of the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand who had been  assassinated in Sarajevo on that same day in 1914.  
(2) A scheme to establish a Scottish colony in Panama. Between ¼ and ½ of all the money in Scotland was involved http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-27405350
(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Act_of_Union_1707#Political_motivations
(4) 1139-1154 between King Stephen and his cousin Empress Matilda, daughter of King Henry I.
(5) It is of interest that the  College of Oxford University that is one of the two most associated since the 19th century  with the British Empire – Balliol College – was founded c.1263 by the father of King John I  of Scotland.
(6) Excepting  the Channel Islands which, as remains of the Duchy of Normandy,  have been Crown possessions since 1066.
(7) 18.10.1918 Collected Works GA185
(8) See Steiner lecture 16 Nov. 1917 The Mystery of the Double. Geographic Medicine Collected Works GA 178
(9) “The Expansion of England” was also a best-selling book (1883) by the Regius Professor of History at Cambridge University, Prof. John. R. Seeley, appointed by Lord Rosebery
(10) Except, of course, for the six, majority Protestant  counties of Ulster, which remained part of the UK and still do.
(11) Although the battle could be described as a British victory in that the German High Seas Fleet did not risk another engagement for the rest of the war, the Royal Navy actually lost more ships in the battle (113,000 tons vs  63,000  tons for the Germans)  and men (6,784 British and 3,039 German sailors)
(12) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_Navy_%28United_Kingdom%29
(13) See Carroll Quigley, The Anglo-American Establishment pp.182-197
(14) Much can be gleaned in this direction from the CFR’s publicly available, but very expensive (!)  magazine Foreign Affairs.
(15) See R.Steiner, World Economy (14 lectures, July-Aug. 1922, Collected Works GA 340) and his 1919 book Towards Social Renewal (Collected Works GA 23, republished 1999, Rudolf Steiner Press)
(16) N.Ferguson, Empire, p.45
(17) See Rudolf Steiner, From Symptom to Reality in Modern History, GA 185, first 3 lectures.

                                   Terry Boardman