The great crisis of Protestantism in the Anglo-Saxon as well as in the Scandinavian world is intrinsically connected with the breakdown and shrinkage of the average man’s power of imagination; this is after all the loss of a faculty which is as serious as the loss of a limb or sense, or perhaps even more so. One of the most important differences between “modern” society and preindustrial society consists largely in the great antithesis between phantasism and realism, between man and machine. All fictional heroes in Europe, from Parzifal and Don Quixote to Peer Gynt and Dostoyevsky’s “Idiot,” are fantasist dreamers. The “traditional” European, and especially the nonprogressive easterner and southerner, has almost always an “inner realm” of which he is king. This is the reason why he does not feel the grim realities so keenly (as we outsiders imagine he does) and manages to retire into his realm of dreams like a tortoise into her shell. The total materialists (who are called “realists” without justification because their nonrecognition of metaphysics as well as lack of imagination makes them anything else but realists in a higher sense) have always led uncomfortable and drab lives, hurting themselves continuously, while the dreamer might live in all luxury among the creations of his phantasy. The dreamer and fantasist is in a way invincible while the “realistic” materialist is exposed to danger by more than one Achilles heel. The fantasist and dreamer has moreover the added advantage of a greater dexterity in the interpretation of the visible world, thanks to his well-cultivated artistic vision. With transcendental perception his eye sees through things and happenings, and he thus uncovers and senses the deeper causalities and reasons which remain hidden to the cold and expressionless fishy eye of the “realist.” Protestantism as well as technicism has contributed a great deal toward the firm entrenchment of “realism” in the modern world. The former preached an unnatural “soberness” while the latter actuated a real “desiccation” of the human mind.
Already in decadent Rome, where a populace with a phantasy crippled through a megalopolitan way of life clamored for circenses, do we witness this decline of the imaginative and artistic faculties of a people. That process is today accelerated through the leveling tendencies in general education and the increasingly technical and collective methods of production. The average man from the nonindustrial world (South Italian, American Indian, Arabian, Persian, Ruthene, Slovakian, etc.), is often unable to read or to write, yet he is self-sufficient and can be independent of the artificial forms of megalopolitan amusement because he can sing or produce poems, carve wood, paint or compose; he is able to invent new fairy tales, to weave, to stitch, or to play an instrument; he is often a good conversationalist and his humor has roots without being derived from half a dozen funny papers; as a peasant he has a deep organic connection with nature and as a craftsman he can be a true artist, using all his personality to create objects of art. The craftsmen of Ur, Shinar, Lagash or Babylon had undoubtedly greater satisfaction with their finished products than the workers in Henry Ford’s River Rouge plant — in spite of the fact that the Ford worker can read and write (in order to send telegrams and read ads). Yet the workers of Detroit contribute less to literature than the Old Karelians who in spite of their illiteracy produced the “Kalevala.” It is even highly probable that all the great European epics were composed by illiterates and only later on recorded.
The decline of phantasy naturally engenders a decrease of the manifoldness of forms, because all new combinations (inventions) are nothing else but “Castles in Spain” brought to reality. The terrifying lack of phantasy is also the reason for the imitative urge in our modern American civilization and the predominance of monotony in the industrial centers. This decline can only be measured by comparison with phantasy (and intellectual-artistic production) prior to ochlocracy, mass immigration, and industrialization. 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.
Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)