The lines above appear in Michael Hirst's six-season saga Vikings -- a sprawling and somewhat curious blend of mythology, legend, fiction, and history that depicts the lives of the legendary Viking hero Ragnar Lothbrok and his five sons during the tumultuous and violent backdrop of the ninth century.
The Ragnar Lothbrok character employs the lines as a warning to his son, Björn Ironside, who reveals his future ambition of securing power; more specifically the power of a king.
Ragnar’s warning pertains specifically to worldly political power, the struggles over which end up consuming three-fourths of the plotlines within the six season series encompassing the halls and courts of Norway, Wessex, Northhumbria, Frankia, Kiev, and beyond.
On one level, the entire series amounts to little more than a damning epic against the danger inherent in worldly political power; a danger that manifests in the seemingly never-ending betrayals, lies, scheming, assassinations, plots, and coups that permeate each episode of the show.
Suffice to say, like the Ragnar Lothbrok character, Vikings – as a series – presents power as a negative concept and value – a dangerous and corruptive force that attracts the worst of people, who are driven by intense ambition and self-interest.
Unfortunately, the worldly political power portrayed in Vikings can barely hold a candle to the political machinations of our modern world. Power may have always been dangerous, but it has rarely, if ever, been as dangerous as it is now. Worldly political power has always been a "necessary evil", but it has never been the pure evil it is now.
The monolithic satanic global System that consolidated its power in 2020 is openly and vehemently opposed to God and Creation. Though it still corrupts whatever little good remains within its mechanisms, it does not need to expend too much energy on corruption anymore.
The worldly power the System wields only attracts the worst now. It also bars anyone but the worst from gaining access to it. Those who seek power today must indeed lower themselves, all the way to the depths of hell, which is exactly what the overwhelming majority of those in power have done.
The current state of worldly power presents a major challenge for all Christians. What, if any, accommodations should Christians make? Willingly cooperating with the System is a recipe for damnation. Challenging the System’s power in any meaningful material sense is virtually impossible. Reforming the System is even more impossible. Disconnecting from the System entirely is literally impossible.
Given such circumstances, what options do Christians motivated by the desire to function within this power structure or gain power to “do good” have?
To put it bluntly – not many. The System will not allow a sincere Christian anywhere near real external power unless it can thoroughly corrupt or destroy the sincere Christian in the process. And let’s face it, the System has done a stellar job corrupting and destroying Christians. Any Christian seeking external, worldly power today will have to stoop to pick it up.
Does this mean that Christians should turn their backs on all semblances of worldly power and simply accept a state of powerlessness?
No. Powerlessness is not a good thing. One thing Christians should do is re-examine their attitudes towards power. Like everything else in Creation, power – even manifestations of external, material power – possesses an undeniable spiritual dimension. Exclusively external material power does not exist. Everything we perceive and experience as external and worldly power emanates from an inward spiritual force.
The Ragnar Lothbrok character presents power as a negative concept and value. His views on power echo conventional views, views that are often promulgated by the “powerful” to deter others from seeking power. But is power really a negative concept and value? If all power is rooted in the spiritual, then shouldn’t power be a positive concept and value instead? And if it is indeed a positive concept and value, why do we only experience its negative variety in the external world, especially today?
In his essay Power and Coercive Violence, Nikolai Berdyaev argues that Christians must begin working on “a radical and spiritual transformation of their attitude towards power, in awareness and in action” to overcome the servility and slave-like humility that mars Christian thinking and leads to nothing beyond inability and dependence. As Dr. Charlton noted in a comment the other day, this sort of transformation would have to involve consideration of “the spiritual as well as the material, and eternity as well as the duration of mortal life.” Suffice to say, this is no small task.
Berdyaev wades into the radical and spiritual transformation by dividing power into two broad categories – coercive force and authentic power. Power that stems from the spirit but is ultimately directed against God and Creation, either intentionally or unintentionally, is a diabolical form of power. Contrary to appearances, diabolical power is not real power, but the illusion of power because it relies on the instillation of fear and danger and upon the implementation of what Berdyaev refers to as coercive violence, which is a wholly external and negative force.
Coercive violence manifests entirely as external power. All contact with coercive violence is external contact. Those in “power” resort to coercive violence because they lack spiritual persuasiveness and appeal. They cannot touch or move the spirit. They cannot drill down into the depths. They cannot positively motivate or inspire. They seek to break down rather than build up. They abhor freedom and work to control, restrain, and restrict. Coercive violence is an oppositional form of power that presents itself as being over us or against us. It happens upon us, forces itself upon us, threatens us, terrifies us, and violates us even when – or especially when – it claims to be aiding or protecting us.
On the other hand, authentic power stems from freedom and the spirit. Authentic power aligns with God and Creation, is always personal, and it presents itself as being with us, for us. Authentic power invites us and entices us. It seeks to establish inner contact with our souls and spiritually moves us. It never forces itself upon us, nor does it threaten us. It works upon us only after it has received freely provided affirmation.
Authentic power is internal contact. It appeals to what is realest about us and seeks to expand us and build us up. It instills freedom and leaves the control, restraint, and restriction of that freedom in care of our discipline. It motivates us to align ourselves with God and Creation.
Authentic power speaks to the deepest, innermost part of us – the divine self. When we encounter authentic power, we feel as if we have encountered something familiar, something we have always longed to encounter. We feel delight.
The radical and spiritual transformation of our attitude towards power lies not in humility, non-resistance, servility, or a refusal to participate but in empowerment – in the cultivation of spiritual strength. Only authentic spiritual power can overcome the inauthentic, diabolical power of coercive violence. Yet the cultivation of spiritual power depends upon a positive concept of power, a positive concept Berdyaev describes in the following manner:
Power -- is of God. God first of all is power. In every great man, genius or saint, is power. In every great deed in the world there is power. In a great value -- is power. In great creativity -- is power. In life itself is power. Powerlessness, an insufficiency of power is something very negative, bad a thing.
I would add that God is power because God is love, and God’s love is the greatest power of all.
Diabolical power in the form coercive violence can push around our bodies and cause a great deal of physical discomfort and pain. It can even go as far as to kill us, seemingly at will, but it cannot push around our souls – unless we let it.
Diabolical power always involves lowering. One really does have to stoop to pick it up.
System power relies exclusively on coercive violence – on lies, manipulations, harassment, pressure, oppression, intimidation, etc. – all of which is aimed exclusively at our false selves. Those who respond willingly and positively to coercive violence or see it as the only authentic power available to men lack the spiritual resources needed to recognize and understand authentic power.
The only way to overcome diabolical power and its coercive violence is by rising and stretching toward a higher power while simultaneously withdrawing toward an inner power, both of which exist outwith the System.
Authentic power is inner power. Only those wielding coercive violence consider it dangerous.
Authentic power fortifies the best and draws the worst towards repentance.
Authentic power is created, not given, but it is only created by those who raise themselves up toward God after they have discovered the source of God’s power within themselves.
Authentic power is the “power” to be in the world but not of the world. Put another way, authentic power is in the world and overcomes the world.
Those who wish to gain power to "do good" in the world should focus first on overcoming the world -- at least a little.