Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

Austrian noble and political theorist (1909-1999)

Erik Maria Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn (31 July 190926 May 1999) was an Austrian Catholic nobleman and socio-political theorist.



The Menace of the Herd (1943)

  • We have said before that it is difficult to find the exact reasons for the growing popularity of the word democracy and democratic taken from a dead language which is thoroughly nonunderstandable to 999 out of 1000 Americans. The decline of classical education in favor of progressive "self-realization" has favored the increased use of wrong labels.
    • p. 7
  • There is something pathetic in seeing Americans almost daily besmirching unconsciously their ideals and their traditions—all thanks to a faulty education. The Founding Fathers would turn in their graves if they could hear themselves called "Democrats"; America indeed was never a democracy, and never will be [...] Those who have been taught the wrong interpretation may ask their money back from the schools where they have wasted their adolescence. And the textbooks which preach a spurious democracy may still provide us with fuel in cold days to come.
    • p. 8
  • America is not a democracy. We are not fighting for democracy. We fight for liberty. America not only fights for its own survival, for its own liberty, but also for liberty abroad. Human dignity can never be preserved without liberty. Liberty is therefore a real good, a precious good worth while to be redeemed by blood.
    • p.8
E pluribus unum, the constructive principle of federation, In God We Trust, the recognition of God's limitless fatherhood — these two watchwords, together with that of Liberty, should be our creed.
  • E pluribus unum, the constructive principle of federation, In God We Trust, the recognition of God's limitless fatherhood — these two watchwords, together with that of Liberty, should be our creed, not that spurious label democracy which our American forebears despised and execrated.
    • p. 9
  • In the linguistic usage of the Left, "democratic" denotes much more frequently highly negative values. Everybody is acquainted with the real meaning of such expressions as "making democracy work in the classroom" which just stands for lack of discipline, or "democratizing literature" which means plain trash.
    • p. 10
  • [T]here are in America about a hundred different types of "democracy," each held to be "real democracy, democracy as it was meant by the Founding Fathers, democracy as we all understand it." But the Founding Fathers, although they had very clear and concise ideas, wanted personally no democracy, and the only way out of the chaos is to go back like good children to the giants of the past, be they theologians like St. Thomas, philosophers like Plato, or statesmen like the authors of the Federalist. Confusion of words and meanings leads to the confusion of minds, and the confusion of minds breeds upheavals and revolution, as a well-known American once rightly pointed out.
    • p.10
  • The true "herdist" will carefully avoid acting or thinking originally, in order not to destroy the uniformity which is so dear to him, and he is also ready to rise immediately against anybody who dares to act independently and thus destroy the sacred unity of the uniform group to which he belongs. The loyal herdist will not rise alone against the sacrilegious offender; he will have the support of the rest of the circumscribed society and thus a mass action of collective protest will take place, forcing the "lonely individual" to conform or to withdraw. It must be fully borne in mind that no one of us is completely free from the influence of the herdist instinct and even the noblest among us yield to its dark appeal in one form or the other.
    • p.16
  • The herdist instinct is furthermore not only personal, in the sense that it clamors for a personal collectivism; it creates also a longing and desire for the visual or acoustic contemplation of identitarian or uniformistic phenomena. The true herdist, the man truly dominated by that inferior instinct, will not only rejoice in marching amongst twenty thousand uniformly clad soldiers, all stepping rhythmically in one direction, but he will find an almost equal gratification in contemplating the show from a balcony. He will not only be happy in sitting amidst two hundred other bespectacled businessmen, drinking beer and humming one chant in unison, but the aspect of a skyscraper with a thousand identical windows will probably impress him more than a picture by Botticelli or Zurbarán.
    • p. 16
  • The ideal dwelling place for the herdist is the city, the megalopolis with its apartment houses, clubs, cinemas, theaters, offices, factories, and restaurants. Here the herdist has ample opportunity to live the life of the masses, to lead an impersonal and lonely existence in a truly dehumanized ant heap, to love and like nobody but himself and perhaps those similar to him.
    • p.17
  • It should not be forgotten that none of us lacks the herd instinct completely and that there is scarcely a human being who is totally devoid of the romantic spirit. But while the herd instinct of those "who want to march through life together, along the collective path, shoulder to shoulder, wool rubbing wool and the head down" (José Ortega y Gasset)—is of the animalistic order, the romantic spirit is purely human, divine. The plenitude of life so eagerly sought by the Romantic, as here conceived, is inaccessible to the animal. The terrifying diversity of the total cosmos (visible as well as invisible) has no meaning for the termite or the herdist with their limited existences in their limited buildings.
The great achievements — sanctity, heroism, holy wisdom, the beatific vision — are not eagerly sought for by the herdist who like the beasts of the field longs to be a "secure" animal (to use an expression of Peter Wust) instead of being proud to remain an "insecure" animal, which man is by nature and in the order of things. Hostile to adventure, which after all was one of the great magnetic powers of the Middle Ages, the herdist moves cautiously in the broad stream of the mediocre masses avoiding all extremes except those in a frenzied mass hysteria. Yet Christianity is an extreme. The yoke of Christ is not a lesser menace to his meager and miserable personality than the iron postulates of the Cross — of the same Cross which is a flat denial of his shining rule of the "fifty-fifty," and disturbing to all his cautious calculations and plannings. Only the select can be closely confronted with the Absolute without taking flight. Only the saints, but not the "commonsensical" herd, can and will surrender to the "Holy Folly of the Cross." For this reason we have such hatred on the part of the mediocre man, who hates any sort of hierarchy, whether of the saints or of sanctity itself. Sanctity is not only an extraordinary condition but also an adventure. And adventure belongs to the domain of the "Romantic." Adventure is a solitary enterprise, like sanctity, and therefore not congenial to the herd and the herdist.
  • pp. 18–19
  • One should, in that connection, certainly not forget the "greatest" adventure of the herdist, his banal excursions into the animalistic aspects of sex. Here he hopes to drown the despair over his loneliness in the herd. The Romantic may be alone, but he is never lonely, and that because of his knowledge of the presence of God. (Certainly, also, there is more loneliness in an apartment house or in a crammed subway than in a village with widely dispersed cottages.) Yet the restriction of adventure to the sexual sphere is the reason why our urban culture and civilization is so terribly oversexed. The great thirst does not go for "women" or "men" but for sex alone, sex for sex' sake. It is not the attraction of the other sex, but sex as a drug and escape. It thus stands in the same category as the movies. Modern man, having abandoned the supernatural, here seeks for perhaps a last consolation, in order not to be completely overpowered by machine and monotony.
It should not be denied that the ugliness and the deadly routine of traditionless urban civilizations engendered often a nostalgic thirst in man for beauty and romance, and this may be the reason for the enormous power of Eros in the technicized world. In the shadow of soul-murdering offices and workshops, of desolate railway yards and "main streets," without character and expression, love becomes the only emotional experience and woman the only living memory of nature and a paradise lost.
  • p. 19
  • The true herdist [...] is nothing but an egoist who cannot tolerate anybody differing from himself. John Doe, the identitarian, wants a nation, a world, a universe peopled by millions of John Does. He cannot sympathize nor like anybody at variance with John Doe. No wonder that his wishful dream is a humanity of John Does without God or Devil. The herdist is by necessity a humanitarian.
    • p. 20
  • We must furthermore always bear in mind that equality presupposes the perpetual application of force; equality after all is an unnatural condition — it is just as unnatural as a completely straight line, a geometrical plain, a perfect circle, distilled water, etc. It needs the intervention of human agencies who have to curtail and to stem the natural growth and development sometimes in the most brutal and cynical way. Docteur Guillotin, Procrustes, the mythological Hellenic bandit, and the magistrate of Strasbourg who decided during the French Revolution to demolish the tower of the medieval cathedral because it was higher than the surrounding houses, belong all to the same category.
    • pp. 21–22
  • True herdism, elevated from the status of a low and contemptible instinct to the supreme level of an ideology, of a Weltanschauung, has become a tremendous force in our modern culture and civilization. The herdist ideologies, based on that powerful animal instinct, have attacked and transformed most spheres of human activities including love, sex, and politics. The different "democratic" (and superdemocratic totalitarian) parties of the twentieth century have continued and fostered this process of dehumanization of our Christian culture to a degree hitherto unknown in the annals of human existence.
    • p.23
  • It must furthermore be borne in mind that equality stands for monotony and not for harmony. A harmonious melody can only be established by different unidentical musical tones. These tones must be assembled and have to follow in a certain sequence; otherwise they will result in chaos and not in melody. Human society presupposes such an inequality and unity.
    • p. 24
  • From a purely human and material point of view we are utterly unequal — unequal in the eyes of our fellow men (which matters less) but also unequal from an absolute material standard. From that point of view we are not even born equal; the syphilitic babe and the healthy newcomer in this world are different in material quality. The stupid and the intelligent man or woman, the physically strong and the physically weak, the learned and the unlearned — they are all humanly unequal from the aspects compared. And of course there is also a hierarchy of characteristics. The Theist will give precedence to spiritual qualities over intellectual qualities, and most people will value intellect higher than mere bodily strength.
    • p. 25
  • If medieval man would have been told that he could "appoint" his kings or superiors, he might have become quite interested in the proposition. Yet on discovering that his vote was scheduled to be drowned in an ocean of millions of other votes his reaction would have been that of a man whose leg had been pulled successfully.
    • p. 29
  • This pagan geocentrism has changed the very content of our culture. The "happy end" of the cheap, popular novels and the films is nothing but the outcome of the supposition that the human drama finds its ultimate conclusion here on earth. The Calvinists in their materialism took a similar attitude. The more subtle Atheist, of greater experience, has contempt for the "happy end" and substitutes for it a stubborn heroical pessimism which comes pretty near to integral despair. The modern Catholic French writers like Mauriac and Bernanos avoid the happy end in relation to this life. Paul Claudel, in L'Ôtage, expresses his disbelief in earthly justice by punishing the people of good will and rewarding the villains in the last scene of this play. For the Christian the earth is essentially a "vale of tears."
    • p. 32
  • This change from the fatherhood of God to the fatherhood of the pithecanthropus erectus, Dubois' "Walking Ape-Man," has destroyed a good deal of genuine human pride. Once everybody was proud of his own class or station in life. But now there is everywhere an unquenchable thirst for identity and equality. Nobody wants to serve, nobody wants to be subjected because service in a nonhierarchical society means going under the level of equality. [...] the genuine pride which people used to feel for their station in life, vanished: the aristocratic pride, the craftsman's pride, the burgher's pride and honor. Everybody wanted to get quickly to the top of the ochlocratic sand heap of equal gains. The feeling of inequality begins now to be a burning pain, snobism lifts its ugly head, the element of general human competition gains headway in every phase of life.
    • p.34
It is difficult to project into the frame of a comfortistic civilization the picture of Christ, hanging on the cross with a body convulsed by pain, the palms torn to shreds by the heavy nails, the hairs glued to the scalp by sweat and coagulated blood. It ought to be repeated again that culture is always "magnificent."
  • These expressions — "culture" and "civilization" — have to be used in their Continental sense to make the point clear. "Culture" is the sum of all products which represent a personal manifestation, like painting, poetry, religion, philosophy, and the humanities. "Civilization" is nonpersonal. It is the sum total of all efforts which contribute to the increase of comfort or "usefulness" in the practical sense. Bathtubs, dentists' tools, railways, and traffic regulations are products of civilization. […] Yet while civilization is basically lack of friction, smoothness, comfort, and material enjoyment we have to look at traditional Christianity as being something "uncomfortable." […] It is difficult to project into the frame of a comfortistic civilization the picture of Christ, hanging on the cross with a body convulsed by pain, the palms torn to shreds by the heavy nails, the hairs glued to the scalp by sweat and coagulated blood. It ought to be repeated again that culture is always "magnificent." […] Civilization is geocentric comfort. But culture, which must be bought by bitter suffering (there is neither art nor sanctity without suffering), points always toward heaven. And the ochlocratic millennium hell bent upon avoiding suffering will turn its back toward heaven.
    • pp. 36–37
  • There is hierarchy as well as function in every organism. One man may be more important than another just as the eye is more important than the finger.
    • p. 39
  • Liberty is the ideal of aristocracy, just as equality stands for the bourgeoisie and fraternity for the peasantry. One can combine liberty with fraternity but neither of them with equality.
It must be stated again in all candor that equality presupposes force on account of its unnaturalness. Force is the end of liberty as well as of fraternity. In order to level a landscape full of mountains and valleys one needs dynamite, tractors, picks, and shovels. By filling the valleys with the mountaintops a level with a uniform altitude could be established. Thus there is only liberty or equality.
  • p. 48
  • There used to be once the dominating idea of "Christendom," but this was far from being collectivistic in character as it contained two hierarchic principles: the visible one from beggar to Pope and the invisible one from sinner to saint. "Humanity" as such scarcely existed as a living principle in the Middle Ages because man had in regard to eternity no collective existence. Individuals sacrificed themselves for their families, their manorial lords, kings, cities, rights, privileges, religion, their beloved Church or the woman they loved, in fact, for everything or anybody to which or to whom they had a personal relationship. The anonymous sand-heap "humanity" was unknown to medieval man and even the concept of the "nation" was not equivalent to a gray mass of unilingual citizens but was looked upon as a hierarchy of complicated structure. Sanctity as well as heroism were problems of the individual.
    • p. 58
  • Arbitrary compulsory education is after all a flagrant curtailment of parental rights and at least as "totalitarian" as conscription. Yet practically nobody dared to contradict the sacrifices made to the idol of "education" and few people sensed that compulsory elementary education was a great step in the direction of totalitarianism which in time intervened in every region of human existence. True, the father's right is not violated by compulsory education in so far as a certain degree of education is reasonably deemed necessary by the State for citizenship, to be administered in the school of the father's choice, provided that school is not subversive in its nature. But the supreme rule is that the child belongs to the parent and not to the State.
    • p. 67n
Bodies are mutually attracted by nearness, knowledge, and pleasure but souls by distance, mystery, and suffering.
  • The personal mystery of medieval man has been largely destroyed by capitalistic technicism and bourgeois scientism. There was always something mystical in personal creation as well as a "secret" in manual, artistic skills; convents and monasteries jealously kept the secret of their liquors; craftsmen had their secrets and so had doctors, alchemists, astrologers, and pharmacists in their more or less dark trades. Mystics, hermits, midwives, cooks, and violin builders harbored their secrets. Nature was full of unpenetrable mysteries and strange events; the scarcity of written documents furthered the growth of sagas, folklore, and legends. But not only man, nature, and life had their mysteries; even today we speak of the mysteries of the Rosary, of the Mass. In the Armenian Rite of the Catholic Church a veil is spread between the altar and audience during the Consecration of the Host. These mysteries on the other hand, personal as they might be, were far from creating walls between human beings who were by them not less magnetically attracted than by distance. Bodies are mutually attracted by nearness, knowledge, and pleasure but souls by distance, mystery, and suffering.
    • p. 70
  • The worship of size and number is an old ochlocratic as well as materialistic trend as opposed to the Christian traditional love for quality. It is "bigger and better" and not "better and bigger" which inspires our democratists with their competitive and recordistic tendencies.
    • p. 81
  • Cities like London, New York, Berlin, Paris, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, or Glasgow are high spots of slavery in comparison to Albania, Bulgaria, or even Central Africa. The slavery of the watch and clock, the bourgeois, anthropocentric slavery of material prestige and successful competition (to slave in order to keep up standards), the wage slavery of the proletarian, the school slavery of the children, the conscription slavery of the adolescents, the road slavery, the factory slavery, the barrack slavery, the party slavery, the office slavery, the parlor slavery of manners and conventions — all these slaveries make political "freedom" appear a bitter joke.
    • p. 85
  • Once Europe could boast of a large class of craftsmen — free people with the opportunity for artistic creation; but now everything is manufactured by mass production and the result is an incredible shrinkage in the variety of forms due to standardization. There is probably a greater variety of goods in Timbuctoo or in the Sooks of Marrakesh than in Frankfort or Los Angeles. The artifacts are thus "democratized." (Mr. Gray and Mr. Green get an identical product for an identical price.) […] The defenders of mass production emphasize the fact that modern manufacture makes more goods accessible to a greater number. They are not aware psychologically that the gain is nil. It is true that a book used to cost during the Middle Ages the equivalent of two to five hundred dollars whereas Gone With the Wind can be bought in editions of $1.49 and even less. Libraries were the privileges of a very few. But on the other side people enjoyed books far more, and the purchase of a book was a greater event in life than today the acquisition of a Cadillac. Nowadays one walks nonchalantly into a bookstore, pushes two and a half dollars over a counter, reads the book and forgets it sometimes in the suburban train.
    • p. 86
  • A Christian will consider a tyrannical person bossing a city brutally a lesser evil than a whole city lynching one man. In the first case there is one sinner and thousands of sufferers, in the latter case thousands of sinners and one sufferer. The materialist will look at the problem the other way round. He is never interested in sin, but as a humanitarian only in suffering. His final logical conclusion is euthanasia and the sacrifice of individuals to the whim of the masses.
    • p. 104n
  • The horizontalist is tied down and cannot rise above himself. In his antagonism toward all hierarchy he even finally opposes the idea of God as a superior to himself, as a Supreme Being, and therefore also the conceptual images of Popes, emperors, kings, and fathers.
    • pp. 89–90
  • The Catholics can find consolation in the fact that Catholicism is the only conscious negation of our ailing and perverted modern world, and therefore (spiritually and intellectually at least) the only revolutionary movement. All other political philosophies — Leftist "Democrats," National Socialists, Continental Liberals, Communists, and Technocrats — agree on the coming earthly millennium of equality, plumbing, hygiene, and statistical increases in the material sphere. Their fight against each other is so bitter only because it is in its essence fratricidical. They all believe in a more or less identical Utopia yet they differ about the means to achieve it. In this respect they resemble the unfortunate masons trying to build the Tower of Babel but who failed to achieve their goal because the confusion of languages prevented them from mutual understanding and common planning; the man who could translate their thoughts would indeed be antichrist.
    • p. 91
Dignity is naturally an "aristocratic" virtue, best demonstrated in adverse circumstances, in bearing of suffering, in facing death, childbirth, or the guillotine. Dignity as an attitude is also something personal and not collective. Democratism never liked dignity. Nothing infuriates the howling mob more than dignity.
  • Dignity is naturally an "aristocratic" virtue, best demonstrated in adverse circumstances, in bearing of suffering, in facing death, childbirth, or the guillotine. Dignity as an attitude is also something personal and not collective. Democratism never liked dignity. Nothing infuriates the howling mob more than dignity.
    • p. 96
The traditional European of the prereformation period lived and believed in the patriarchal principle which was one of authority based on love. Medieval man had not only a physical father, but also a Father in Heaven, a Holy Father in Rome, the Monarch (the Pater Patriae), the godfathers, and a "Father" in the person of his confessor.
  • The traditional European of the prereformation period lived and believed in the patriarchal principle which was one of authority based on love. Medieval man had not only a physical father, but also a Father in Heaven, a Holy Father in Rome, the Monarch (the Pater Patriae), the godfathers, and a "Father" in the person of his confessor. It was his physical father who had brought him into being, cooperating with the Divine Power of Creation. The physical father was truly regarded to be the auctor (in a similar, not identical sense, as God is creator mundi) and human beings looked upon themselves to be existing ex voluntate viri. Woman was merely in the position (physically as well as psychologically) to accede to man's will, to reject it or to influence man's free will through her power of attraction.
    • p. 111
  • We witness in the eighteenth century the preparation of the French Revolution by individualism and the degeneration of the old "liberal" trends into economical liberalism of the deterministic Manchesterian pattern. Egalitarianism only appears in strongly collectivistic societies where strong exogenous powers try to shape persons into "individuals," deprived of their original character. The "individual" is merely the last indivisible unit of the "mass," and individualism the last, grotesque, and hopeless fight of depersonalized man within the ocean of collectivism to withstand the encroachment of the masses. Charles V had a personality but Gustave de Nerval, who promenaded a tamed lobster in the streets of Paris, was a mere individualist.
    • p. 115
  • Europe's rise is written in the terms of Christianity and Monarchy, Europe's decay in the terms of Republicanism, "Progressivism," and Godlessness.
    • p. 122 (emphasis in the original)
  • On the surface there was a strong monarchical, rightist, and "medievalist" reaction to be felt all over Europe; Chateaubriand, de Maistre, de Bonald, Schlegel, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Zacharias Werner, Clemens Brentano, the brothers Stolberg and Manzoni wrote their great works within this movement. Romanticism east of the Rhine was truly diversitarian and romantic. A wave of conversions swept over the Continent and the Tractarian movement in England was not far off. The Church seemed to regain her old influence. Yet, under the surface, the nationalists of the herdist pattern would render all efforts of the spiritual-intellectual elite illusory. The vast masses of Slav inhabitants of the East European plains began to raise their voices in favor of a union. And from the northwestern plains and islands another monster raised its head, another phenomenon bound to change the face of the earth — the Industrial Revolution. While Kaspar David Friedrich and Kriehuber painted mountain scenes and Schwind and Ludwig Richter dwelt on the subtle lore of small German towns, tall chimneys and great machines, heralding the advent of another scourge, made their appearance; while poets, painters, and princes spoke in glowing terms of the coming New Middle Ages a German of Jewish descent, horrified and bewildered by the spectacle of British industrialism, first conceived the ideas which a few years later led to the publication of the "Communist Manifesto."
    • p. 124
In the mountainous parts of the world traditions have been better preserved; patriarchalism, piety, loyalty, altruism — all the truly "romantic" virtues are here more at home than in the progressive plains.
  • Historical Europe is mountainous. The Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Greeks, Turks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Croatians, Serbs, Slovenes, the Slovaks and the Austrians, the Swiss, the Norwegians and the Icelanders, the Scots and the Welsh, half the Rumanians and Ruthenians, the Turks, the South Germans, the Sudeten Germans and the South French are either living in mountains or at least in very hilly countries. Many people see the "real" Europeans in these moutaineers. In these parts of the world traditions have been better preserved; patriarchalism, piety, loyalty, altruism — all the truly "romantic" virtues are here more at home than in the progressive plains.
    • p. 126
  • In the Middle Ages, people were born and baptized into the Church. But the Church was the corpus mysticum and it depended upon one's own free will whether one wanted to be a living or a dead member of the Mystical Body of Christ. The cry "traitor" was only raised against those who broke the solemn oath of allegiance, not those who chose to go ways different from their status of birth. The Connêtable Charles de Bourbon who served with Charles V, or Marshal Moritz of Saxony, the great general under Louis XV were hardly considered to be traitors. Soldiers picked out the countries they wanted to serve. Prospective monks chose their orders. There were no "traitors to the proletariat" or "traitors to democracy." Today we live in an age of increased predestination and decreased free will, where Calvin, Freud, Marx, Luther, Darwin, Dewey, and the host of racial biologists have laid down the inexorable laws of anthropological, religious, psychological, environmental, and sociological determinism with no hope for escape. We are merely exhorted to make a virtue out of necessity and to be loyal to our prison and prisoners. Every attempt from our side to escape the artificial shell or to use our dormant remainders of free will to destroy the chains is branded as treason and punished accordingly by State or Society or even by both.
    • p. 133 (emphasis in the original)
  • The natural, romantic man, regardless of whether he liked or disliked the Jews, saw in them the representants of an interesting and ancient race, blood brothers of our Lord. Yet the true herdist resented the baptized or unbaptized sons of Abraham violently, and for the identitarian National Socialist, with his latent inferiority complex and his petit bourgeois lack of worldly experience, they were the worst offenders against the sacred law of uniformity.
    • p. 203
  • Ninety-five per cent of modern people have no ideas or convictions of their own. Five per cent have views and convictions but again ninety-five per cent of these do not dare to stand up for them. There are five per cent of five per cent who have courage and convictions. These make history for good or evil.
    • p. 210
  • It is a commonplace that the great values of life cannot be expressed in numbers and statistics, and this is partly the reason why the ideas of quality and permanence have been so neglected in the period of the Great American Impasse. Neither the holiness of a Santa Teresa, nor the heroism of Tone, nor yet the profundity of theological truth can be expressed in numbers. But in the technicized world numbers become involved with human or inhuman activities of every kind, which find their expression in statistical recording. The various denominations vie in their yearly revenues from whist drives and bingo parties; games are expressed in numbers which are broadcasted all over the country; human beings are said to be "worth" so and so many thousand dollars a year; Bridge has been evolved into a system of mathematical probabilities (Culbertson); houses are evaluated by their rooms and floors, and public squares by their equivalent in money.
    • p. 251
Education is, after all, something thoroughly "aristocratic" in the intellectual sense.
  • The worship of numbers, quantity, and size has also wrought havoc wherever it found little opposition. Education is, after all, something thoroughly "aristocratic" in the intellectual sense. Already the Ancients were aware of the fact that there are different degrees of knowledge, but ochlocracy spread the conviction that everybody with the proper educational facilities is able to learn everything. The very idea of genius or inborn talents as disequalizing factors must be repulsive to people who not only believe that we are (theologically speaking) created as equals but that we also remain equals all through our lifetime. There naturally are a fair number of scholars and educators who have protested desperately against the low standards in American higher education as well as against the view that a true education should teach "how to make a living" instead of helping the student to solve his problem "how to live" by giving him the philosophical and cultural elements for a cultured existence.
    • p. 253
  • Hardly is there anywhere in the United States a church possessing originality which has been built after 1840. The houses of God are usually misplaced gothic or romanesque imitations squeezed in between dismal railway stations or surging skyscrapers. It is even more shocking to see the abortive efforts of town planning, or the utopian habit of naming streets after mere numbers or letters. A cultured man cannot possibly live in room 6489 on the sixty-fourth floor of a house on the corner of 109th Street and 10th Avenue. This may be fitting for one of the unfortunate creatures in Huxley's Brave New World but not for man created in the image of God.
    • pp. 268–269
  • There is no such thing as a historical fatality; there is only a historical nemesis which punishes those who have hesitated to act when action was still possible.
    • p. 273
One cannot repeat it often enough that the only true revolutionary in this world is the Church with her basic opposition to the very spirit of our modern times. The same is true, to a certain extent, of every genuine, freedom-loving tradition which is based upon the Catholic notion of human responsibility and the free will, for whose philosophical and theological defense the Society of Jesus has earned everlasting merits.
  • Neither are the progressivists, in present-day America, revolutionaries or enemies of the order. Being "radical" or "progressive" they merely want to continue with greater speed and determination along the established, wrong trail.
One cannot repeat it often enough that the only true revolutionary in this world is the Church with her basic opposition to the very spirit of our modern times. The same is true, to a certain extent, of every genuine, freedom-loving tradition which is based upon the Catholic notion of human responsibility and the free will, for whose philosophical and theological defense the Society of Jesus has earned everlasting merits.
  • p. 281
  • Rightist ideas are only truly magnetic if they are absolutely pure; Leftist ideas, on account of their materialistic and heretic essence, never demand perfection. Mediocrity is the death of every Rightist movement, but it is the very air in which Leftism thrives. A totalitarian leader who betrays practically every point of his party program hardly shakes the faith of his fanatical followers, but mediocre monarchs, Popes, and prelates have destroyed the old order.
    • p. 282
  • The automatic desire for more power is only apparent in children, primitives, people of low character or intellect; for the superior man, power is like a cross, duty a burden, responsibility an obligation.
    • p. 310
  • If the proverbial man of the planet Mars would come to this earth and inquire about the difference between "leader" and "ruler" he would learn that "rulers" are strange people who dressed in ermine, wore crowns, married foreign women, kept strictly to themselves, and had the inclination to administer the country without asking the people about their wishes. A "leader," on the other hand, he would be told, is a regular fellow in a simple uniform who embodies his nation, who tries desperately to create by propaganda complete unison between his ideas and the people. A leader, he might hear, was a local boy who made good, who spoke everybody's language, who never traveled abroad and disliked titles and royal paraphernalia.
    • p. 313

Liberty or Equality (1952)

Liberty or Equality (1952) at
  • Even 51 per cent of a nation can establish a totalitarian and dictatorial règime, suppress minorities, and still remain democratic; there is, as we have said, little doubt that the American Congress and the French Chambre have a power over their respective nations which would rouse the envy of a Louis XIV or a George III were they alive today.
    • p. 88
  • The monarch is a responsible person. The fact that a monarch is responsible "to God alone," rather than to an assembly or a popular majority, is rather shocking to an agnostic mind; but while God cannot be fooled, the masses can. While it is perhaps true that "one cannot fool all the people all the time," it seems one can fool millions for centuries. History abounds with such examples, especially the history of religions. In spite of the republican-democratic emphasis on "responsible government," subject to the sanction of not getting re-elected (and if being impeached only in the grossest cases of corruption), the demo-republican government nonetheless derives its authority from anonymous, secretly voting masses on a purely numerical basis. It is even impossible to trace the empowering individual; and thus we get what French authors call the "cult of irresponsibility." The electees, rejecting all responsibility, can easily blame the electors for their "mandates." Thus we get today the immoral idea of making whole nations responsible for the misdeeds of their rulers, regardless of whether these had majority support or not. This collective judgment of moral acts is one of the great maladies of the democratic age.
    • p. 158

The Timeless Christian (1969)

  • Now, there is a genuine social justice which proceeds not from the principle of equality, but from the principle: Suum cuique — to each his own. It is true that to deprive the workman of his just wage is not only a sin, but a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. When one hinders social advance by putting barriers in the way of the diligent and the talented, one not only commits a personal injustice, but damages the common good of the whole nation, which always requires a genuine elite of ability and the contribution of extraordinary brainpower in every walk of life. And it would be socially unjust if a few individuals or certain groups had so much material wealth that, in consequence of this concentration of property and income, other classes had to live not only in povery, but in misery. Whoever lives in real abundance has a Christian duty to assist those living in wrechedness. Before we proceed, however, let us affirm that the notion of misery is different from that of poverty. Péguy has already drawn the distinction between pauvreté and misère. To live in misery means to suffer genuine physical privation: to know cold and hunger, to have no proper dwelling, to be dressed in rags, to be unable to secure medical attention. The poor, by contrast, have the necessities of life, but scarcely any more. They can borrow books, no doubt, but cannot buy them; they can hear music on the radio, but cannot afford a ticket to a concert; they cannot indulge in little extras of food and drink, but should, by self-discipline, be able to save a little. The poor have, therefore, the normal material preconditions for happiness — unless plagued by acquisitiveness or even envy, which has become a political force in the same measure as people have lost their faith. The fact that there are happy poor (alongside unhappy rich people) is beside the point. Demagogues know how to stir up terrible and murderous unrest even among the happy poor, as has been demonstrated clearly by the history of the left from Marat to Marx to Lenin to Hitler.
    • pp. 53–54
  • Almost everywhere and at all times the saying of St. Augustine aptly described the situation: "et paupera et inops est ecclesia — the Church is poor and helpless." The Church was powerful only when the state wanted it to be so or when pious laymen had a burning desire to make it so. In the Middle Ages especially the Church was sedulously oppressed: Popes were frequently imprisoned, made the pawns of secular rulers, persecuted, ridiculed, besieged, plundered, exiled, imprisoned and insulted. What about Canossa? People forget how the story ended, and the words of Gregory VII on his death-bed in exile: "Dilexi iustitiam et odi iniquitatem, propterea morior in exilio [I loved justice and hated injustice, therefore I die in exile]." Finally there came the Babylonian Captivity at Avignon. It is true that all of this looks quite different in the elementary schools of Kazachstan, in McKinley High and to our intellectuals, whose grasp of history is almost nil.
    The situation altered very little in the nineteenth century. Once again there was a prisoner in the Vatican, Pius IX, whose body the mob yelling "Al fiume la carogna!" wanted to throw into the Tiber. This brings us to the twentieth century: Mexico City, Moabit, Dachau, Plötzensee, Auschwitz, Struthof, Carcel Modelo, Andrássy-út 66, Sremska Mitrovica, Vorkuta, Karaganda, Magadan, Lubyanka, Ocnele Mare — these are the modern Stations of the Cross of our clergy.
    • p. 128
  • 'Welfare State' is a misnomer, for every state must care for the common good.
    • p. 211

The Roots of Anticapitalism (1972)

  • The Christian insistence on freedom — the monastic vows are voluntary sacrifices of a select few — derives from the Christian concept that man must be free in order to act morally. (A sleeping, a chained and clubbed, a drugged person can neither be sinful nor virtuous.) Yet, the free world which is practically synonymous with the world of free enterprise alone provides a climate, a way of life compatible with the dignity of man who makes free decisions, enjoys privileges, assumes responsiblilities, and develops his talents as he sees fit. He is truly the steward of his family. He can buy, sell, save, invest, gamble, plan the future, build, retrench, acquire capital, make donations, take risks. In other words, he can be the master of his economic fate and act as a man instead of a sheep in a herd under a shepherd and his dogs. No doubt, free enterprise is a harsh system; it demands real men. But socialism, which appeals to envious people craving for security and afraid to decide for themselves, impairs human dignity and crushes man utterly.

Leftism Revisited (1990)

  • The demand for equality and identity arises precisely in order to avoid that fear, that feeling of inferiority. Nobody is better, nobody is superior, nobody feels challenged, everybody is "safe." Furthermore, if identity, if sameness has been achieved, then the other person's actions and reactions can be forecast. With no (disagreeable) surprises, a warm herd feeling of brotherhood emerges. These sentiments – this rejection of quality (which ineluctably differs from person to person) – explain much concerning the spirit of the mass movements of the last two hundred years. Simone Weil has told us that the "I" comes from the flesh, but "we" comes from the devil.
    • p. 5
  • In the last two hundred years the exploitation of envy—its mobilization among the masses—coupled with the denigration of individuals, but more frequently of classes, races, nations, or religious communities, has been the key to political success.
    • p. 6
  • When then is liberalism correctly understood? Liberalism is not an exclusvely political term. It can be applied to a prison reform, to an economic order, to a theology. Within the political framework, the question is not (as in a democracy) “Who should rule?” but “How should rule be exercised?” The reply is “Regardless of who rules—a monarch, an elite, a majority, or a benevolent dictator—governments should be exercised in such a way that each citizen enjoys the greatest amount of personal liberty.” The limit of liberty is obviously the common good. But, admittedly, the common good (material as well as immaterial) is not easily defined, for it rests on value judgments. Its definition is therefore always somewhat arbitrary. Speed limits curtail freedom in the interests of the common good. Is there a watertight case for forty, forty-five, or fifty miles an hour? Certainly not. ... Freedom is thus the only postulate of liberalism—of genuine liberalism. If, therefore, democracy is liberal, the life, the whims, the interests of the minority will be just as respected as those of the majority. Yet surely not only a democracy, but a monarchy (absolute or otherwise) or an aristocratic (elitist) regime can be liberal. In fact, the affinity between democracy and liberalism is not at all greater than that between, say, monarchy and liberalism or a mixed government and liberalism. (People under the Austrian monarchy, which was not only symbolic but an effective mixed government, were not less free than those in Canada, to name only one example.)
    • p. 21
  • Who is secure in all his basic needs? Who has work, spiritual care, medical care, housing, food, occasional entertainment, free clothing, free burial, free everything? The answer might be “monks and nuns,” but the standard reply is, “prisoners.” And inevitably this conjures up citizens of the Provider State who have protection from the “cradle to the grave.”
    • p. 88
  • American nationalism has been conditioned, to a large extent, by the "indoctrination" of the children of immigrants, inevitably coupled with a certain denigration of the Old World. Any German, or Italian, or American gentleman will naturally defend his country against patently unjust accusations—loyalty demands this; but he will not try to convince others that his nation has the highest qualities in the world, the most gifted inventors, the most profound philosophers, the best writers, the finest painters, the fastest trains, the most beautiful women. (This uncouth boasting is reserved for the traveling salesman after a third drink, or the likes of a National Socialist or a Russian Communist.)
    • p. 199
  • Mr. Hoover's presidency was drawing to a close and Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the most dynamic grave diggers of the Western world, succeeded on a platform not dissimilar to that of his predecessor. Though Mr. Roosevelt belonged to the Democratic party, his social background indisposed him for a time to leftist policies, both national and international. But his wife (from another branch of the Roosevelt family) was more in tune with leftist ideas, undoubtedly the aftereffect of higher feminine education in the United States. Whereas Mr. Roosevelt played his politics by ear, his wife, who wielded considerable influence, was ideologically far more consistent. Mr. Roosevelt, moreover, had but the scantiest education for his task; he hardly knew Europe, and his knowledge of foreign languages was as modest as his acquaintance with the mentality of other nations. Largely ignorant himself, and profoundly anti-intellectual, he had no way of judging, evaluating, and coordinating expert opinion. Even worse, perhaps, his sense of objective truth was gravely impaired. His handicap was by no means primarily of a physical nature.
    • pp. 230-231
  • The dropping of the [atomic] bomb on a populated center was another totally superfluous crime. Even if callous arguments for the annihilation of Hiroshima could be made, there was no necessity for the slaughter in Nagasaki, cradle of Japanese Christianity. Within a split second the bomb wiped out one-eighth of Japan’s Catholic Christians. Here the argument resurfaces—Truman wanted to impress the Soviets, just as Churchill had with Dresden. But how could any butcher impress the arch-butcher from the Caucasus? Not even the late Adolf Hitler had succeeded.
    • p. 282
  • Patriotism, not nationalism, should inspire the citizen. The ethnic nationalist who wants a linguistically and culturally uniform nation is akin to the racist who is intolerant toward those who look (and behave) differently. The patriot is a "diversitarian"; he is pleased, indeed proud of the variety within the borders of his country; he looks for loyalty from all citizens. And he looks up and down, not left and right.
    • p. 327
  • Marx, although a man of broad knowledge, had one blind spot: he was ignorant of the true character of economics. He did not realize that economics can only be understood in close relationship to the other humanities (and certain sciences), and therefore should not be studied in vacuo. Ironically, this very weakness was largely instrumental in making Marxism successful. Marxist economics—yet another instance of a false but clear idea—can be explained to the merest child in a matter of minutes. (Conversely, to explain the workings of the free market economy to an adult would take weeks of hard work.) Because it was easily grasped, Marxism flooded the world within a few decades, as had other simplistic ideologies and religions, such as Islam and the Enlightenment; this same sort of simplicity gave rise to the French Revolution and national socialism. Christianity, on the other hand, took three centuries to triumph.
    • p. 337

Monarchy and War (2000)

  • It is most amazing that one encounters fairly well-educated Christians who believe that "we are all equal before God." If Judas Iskariot were equal to John the Baptist or John the Evangelist, Christianity would have to close shop. Dominican R.L. Bruckburger said rightly that the New Testament is a message of human inequality. (Could one imagine that, at the Day of Judgment, all sentences could be equal? That God would not "discriminate" between saints and sinners?)
    • p. 7n
  • Generosity is a virtue more frequently found in the small top layers than among the masses. After all, it takes intelligence to suspect that generosity very often pays while egotism does not.
    • p. 24

Quotes about Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

  • I never met anyone with a mind so capacious and so filled, not just with facts but with connections among those facts.
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