Such, then, was the daily existence of some typical medieval women. If medieval civilization is to be judged by it, it must be admitted that it comes well out of the test. It is true that the prevalent dogma of the subjection of women, becoming embedded in the common law and in the marriage laws, left to future generations a legacy which was an unconscionable time in dying. It is true that woman was not legally ‘a free and lawful person’, that she had no lot or share then, or indeed until the twentieth century, in what may be called public as distinct from private rights and duties, and that the higher grades of education were closed to her.

On the other hand, she had a full share in the private rights and duties arising out of the possession of land and played a considerable part in industry, in spite of the handicap of low wages and sometimes of masculine exclusiveness. The education of the average laywoman compared very favourably with that of her husband, and some ladies of rank were leaders of culture, like the royal patronesses of the troubadours, and occasionally blue-stockings, like Christine de Pisan. Although there was small place in the society of the upper classes for the independent unmarried woman, she found an honourable occupation for her activities in monasticism. In every class of the community the life of the married woman gave her a great deal of scope, since, as has already been indicated, the home of this period was a very wide sphere; social and economic conditions demanded that a wife should always be ready to perform her husband’s duties as well as her own, and that a large range of activities should be carried on inside the home under her direction.

Finally, while the Middle Ages inherited the doctrine of the subjection of women, in some degree at least, from the past, in evolved for itself and handed down to the modern world a conception of chivalry which has had its share in the inspiration of poets, the softening of manners, and the advance of civilization. Taking the rough with the smooth and balancing theory against practice, the medieval woman played an active and dignified part in the society of her age.

C. G. Crump & E.F. Jacob, The Legacy of the Middle Ages (1951)


Since this book is written by a Christian let us first deal with the well-known cliche according to which, even though we are neither identical nor equal physically or intellectually, we are at least “equal in the eyes of God.” This, however, is by no means the case. None of the Christian faiths teaches that we are all equally loved by God. We have it from Scriptures that Christ loved some of his disciples more than others. Nor does any Christian religion maintain that grace is given in equal amount to all men. Catholic doctrine, which takes a more optimistic view than either Luther or Calvin, merely says that everybody is given sufficient grace to be able to save himself, though not to the same extent. The Reformers who were determinists did not even grant that minimum. It is obvious that the Marquis de Sade and, let us say, St. Jean Vianney or Pastor von Bodelschwingh were not “equals in the eyes of God.” If they had been, Christianity no longer would make any sense, because then the sinner would equal the saint and to be bad would be the same as to be good.

Erik Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse (1974)

But let us conjure up the memory of a late medieval feast. The guests have arrived in a great variety of clothes, and even the costumes of the males show the most adventurous diversity. But they all would have belonged to one faith and one basic ideology. Based on this common denominator, they would have uttered a whole score of views. Yet we can very well imagine a dinner given in a “modern democracy” – and not only a so-called “people’s democracy” of the Eastern pattern! – in which all the men arrive in a black uniform (the tuxedo or “tails”), all of them with clean-shaven faces, all of them uttering in unison with parrot-like monotony the same identical political and social cliches. After some questioning and investigation one would nevertheless find that this monotony stems from a chaotic cauldron of the most variegated religions and philosophies.

If a deist Mason, a Catholic, a Barthian, a vegetarian with Hinduist notions, and a “Freethinker” consider it as natural that they all believe in equality, majority rule, compulsory education and “progress” – then we have to doubt sincerely not only the logicality of their capacity to think, but also their real freedom of thinking! And it is also self-evident that a society with different premises, but bent upon achieving the same results from its “thinking” process, has to exercise a far greater pressure than one with a uniform religious basis. In its stark irrationalism such a society must be strictly anti-intellectual, and arrive at the very rejection of methodic thought.

Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)

The functions of individual parts have importance for the whole and ideologically their functions may be “equal,” but to all practical purposes their hierarchy is evident. A chimney sweep is a valuable as well as necessary member of society, but his function in earthly relation is to sweep chimneys, to beget children, to pay taxes, to lead with charity and authority his family as well as his apprentices, and to raise his voice in these few public matters which by his education, knowledge, and wisdom he is able to judge. His function is not to operate upon cancer patients, to drive locomotives, or to direct the foreign policy of the country. All these functional divisions are matters of reason and prudence. If we need new clothes we will go to a tailor, if we have a bodily ailment we will call upon a doctor, if the country needs a military or a budgetary reform it is reasonable and prudent to enlist the aid of a military or financial expert for this purpose; it would certainly be sheer nonsense to ask a tailor or a doctor to remedy such situations.

Yet ochlocrats who never tired of accusing conservatives and Catholics of superstition, illogical traditionalism, and “unscientific” procedure make an act of faith in the inner illumination of the individual and the infallibility of numerical majorities. Phrases like “forty million Frenchmen can’t be wrong” display, nevertheless, a gross misunderstanding of logic; never in history has there been a more farcical and insipid amalgamation of Lutheran and Rousseauan confusion than in the interpretations underlying elections and the general franchise. Luther already was certain that everybody ought to be his own Pope by making use of his own wits in a private interpretation of the bible after dispensing with expert theological judgment; every interpretation was more or less right and had to be tolerated provided it did not conflict with the general line of the Reformers’ intention, and provided — last not least — that it did not lead back to Rome. The ochlocratic “liberal” is indeed in a difficult position toward the followers of terroristic heresies and his belief that “truth stands by itself” has often proved to be suicidal. He is therefore inclined to abandon his liberalism and to turn ochlocracy into a brutal totalitarianism. Luther with his ducal and baronial disciples was followed by terrorists of the type of Calvin, Thomas Münzer or Jan van Leyden, just as Robespierre succeeded Mirabeau and Noailles

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

Collectivism implies egalitarianism. An ideal mass is homogenous and consists therefore of equal atoms. Egalitarianism as well as collectivism are thus incompatible with liberty. Force must not only be used for the leveling process in the initial stage — it becomes necessarily a permanent factor in order to maintain the unorganic “symmetrical order.” This brutal force is necessary for any and every egalitarian effort. It is even more necessary in the case of a frantic identitarianism. The desire for more equality and identity becomes finally a mania and the use of more force a sadistic delight. Gynaecocracy and pedocracy, so familiar to ochlocratic cultures, become a part of the great program and even the animals rise to the level of human equality.102 From there it is only a short step to a terroristic pantheism bordering on madness.* Yet even in the urban life a truly inhuman equality can be achieved only by sheer force and the more logical a people will be by nature, the more brutally will this equality be realized. A comparison between America, England, France, Germany, Russia, and Spain demonstrate to us the various methods of handling the problem of equality. French egalitarianism was comparatively mild — yet it was far more ferocious than for instance American egalitarianism. But for modern ochlocracies at least fictional equality is essential; as a tendency it is basic for the creation of mere masses. Masses or mobs consist necessarily of identical or similar atoms in order to function as great irresistible units which, confident in their homogeneity and quantity, are not only able to smother all obstacles but also to transmit in the shortest time emotional and “electric” shocks to the remotest parts of the whole. The French philosophers had prepared the advent of the “individual” and the French Revolution completed their work. “The philosophy of the French Revolution” quotes Stapleton in his Life of Canning, “reduced the nation to individuals so as to, later on, congregate them into mobs” And these mobs on account of their strong inferiority complex shouted loudly for equality and demanded the elimination of everybody who dared to be different. The proposition of the elders of Strasbourg was actually carried out with human beings who defied the iron law of similarity and identity; they were shortened — beheaded by the progressive medical machinery of Docteur Guillotin.

Equality, identity, and uniformity have since been the backbone of every ochlocratic movement and the only liberty compatible with the true spirit of ochlocracy is the collective liberty — the liberty of a class or a nation state. The element of equality has never succeeded in getting a foothold in international politics — not even in the League of Nations, where the position of the Great Powers was legally different from that of the smaller states.103 Modern nationalism appealed less to the “democratic” demand of equality than to the worship of majorities which is not less in the ochlocratic tradition. It does not recognize the fact, that each nation is an entity in itself, having its own life and its intransferable destiny, and, independently of its size, an inalienable right for existence.* This conception would resemble too much a personalistic, medieval point of view. Modern nationalism prefers to count the noses of the inhabitants by national groups in a given geographical sector and then let the majority rule. A German Empire in Central Europe with eighty million Germans and 79,999,999 non-Germans is a thoroughly “democratic” proposition in the new style of 1942.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

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. The fact that the ochlocratic Utopia of the year A.D. 3000 contains both elements is hardly able to contradict this truism effectively. Yet the more sinister aspect of the problem lies in the circumstance that democratism and its allied herd movements, while remaining loyal to the principle of equality and identity, will never hesitate to sacrifice liberty.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

The great struggle of our time is the twofold assault to which Christian doctrine is exposed from both groups of identitarian herdists. There are first of all the universal herdists clamoring for the absolute equality of all human beings, provided they accept “proletarian” standards of wealth, behavior, and morals, which Communists insist upon. This involves logically the denial of the existence of morals and the acceptance of determinism as preached by Teachers College, Columbia, and now gradually conquering the youth of the United States.

Needless to say that every successful attack against the concept of free will results in an almost total degradation of human dignity. It puts us beyond good and evil and fosters a fantastic quietism or an even more fantastic irresponsibility. It is nevertheless amusing to see determinists of all heretical denominations – Calvinists, Marxists, Behaviorists – flocking to clubs and leagues defending civil liberties. Liberties to be enjoyed without free will! One sees how far the prostitution of logic has led many of us.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

It is important to remember that Christianity had not abolished slavery. Neither had the Church ever praised this institution, like Calhoun, because the whole relationship of master to slave was not important enough in the light of a life eternal to be combated with furious indignation apart from the fact that even a slave had every protection in a truly Christian society. But now the servant was an “eternal” servant, the master an “eternal” master, and the rich man possibly all through his assumed existence a rich man; thus the hatred of the lower classes now became wide awake. The employees had during the Middle Ages a knowing smile for those in the higher stations of life; they knew it could easily happen that a rich prince might suffer agonies in hell while a leprous beggar sat in the immediate nearness of God’s throne. This is also the reason why such great stress was laid on the “democratic” aspects of death during the Middle Ages. It can still be witnessed in many a mystery play, especially in Everyman. The Totentanz, “Death Dance,” was a very popular motif in song as well as in art. The most famous of all these representations is probably Albrecht Dürer’s conception depicting death carrying away beggar, merchant, burgher, emperor and pope. One would really love to see in our democratic age the result of a Russian etcher’s artistic activity representing Stalin as fetched away by death, or the moral indignation of the progressive mob should somebody portray the President of the United States in similar circumstances. Neither can one imagine Adolf Hitler washing the feet of twelve poor inmates of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The reason for this change is that we are living in an age of “equality” and it is only surprising that our common descent from an assumed powerful King-Kong, instead of God, has not rendered us more charitable to each other.

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.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, The Menace of the Herd, or Procrustes at Large (1943)

The theme of the necessity of the feminine in the work of salvation recurs in one of the final sermons on the Song of Songs. Throughout his earthly life Jesus took pleasure in the company of Martha and Mary. In their presence his heart and mind found rest, and he was comforted by these women’s virtues. How wonderful that he, in all his majesty, loved the familiarity of these pure souls and chaste bodies, even though they were only earthly beings, members of the weaker sex. He gave courage to their shyness, joy to their humility, nourishment to their devotion. The pleasure that Jesus took in the feminine sex was a sign of his own humility and his ability to forgive. Thenceforth the Son of God has never ceased coming into this world. Yet he manifests himself, not with power, as the one who is to judge the world, but as he once appeared, ‘like a little child, born for us of this feminine, this weaker, sex’. That he should be born of a woman is a sign of his goodness, of his will to forgive, of the gentleness he will show on the day of his wrath. These qualities are not found only in women, but. According to Bernard, it is in women that they are more frequently seen. Even the weakness of their sex is a natural fact which, though not recognized as a positive value by literary and philosophical tradition, is transformed in Mary, and changed into a symbol of salvation.

His insistence on the presence of feminine qualities, through Mary, in the mystery of Christ and our relations with him, is probably the only really original contribution Saint Bernard made to mariology. Not that he invented Mary’s role in the birth of Christ, but he presented it and its consequences in a way which seems to have been largely unique to him and to have expressed his reaction to the culture around him. It is as though in a violent society where men exercised physical and material force, he saw a need for a compensating non-violence, something he attributed to women, and particularly to Mary. The two kinds of equality he saw in her were the opposites of the failings for which women were generally reproached. On the one hand, women were supposed to lack courage because they were weak; that was why Bernard was fond of quoting Solomon’s ‘valiant woman’. On the other hand, traditional misogyny reproached women with being arrogant, moody, and shrewish, talkative and fond of spicy gossip. Bernard believed that women – Martha, Mary her sister, and the Virgin Mary – were capable of calmness and kindness and holding their tongues: he praised the Virgin’s silence. She is not the only woman to have these qualities; they are found in others as well. But in her, the Mother of God, they are present perfectly and symbolically.

Jean Leclercq, Women and Saint Bernard of Clairvaux (1989)

When we talk about freedom and equality we must realize that we are faced here, to all practical purposes, by relative, not by absolute terms; by trends and tendencies rather than by unalloyed abstractions. Freedom in this study means the greatest amount of self-determination which in a given situation is feasible, reasonable and possible. As a means to safeguarding man’s happiness and protecting his personality it is an intermediary end, and thus forms part of the common good. It is obvious that under these circumstances it cannot be brutally sacrificed to the demands of absolute efficiency nor to efforts towards a maximum of material welfare. Man does not live by bread alone. Here, as in some other basic matters, most readers will probably admit that they see with us eye to eye because, although not belonging to the Church, they are nevertheless adherents (and beneficiaries) of the Hebrew-Greek-Christian tradition which has something approaching a common denominator.

When we speak about equality we do not refer to equity (which is justice). Even the so-called “Christian equality” is not something mechanical, but merely subjection under the same law—in other words isonomy. Yet to the Christian two newly-born babes are spiritually equal, but their physical and intellectual qualities (the latter of course in potency) are from the moment of conception unequal. We shall not go into the psychological reasons for the egalitarian and identitarian tendencies of our age, which we have dealt with elsewhere; it suffices to say that the artificial establishment of equality is as little compatible with liberty as the enforcement of unjust laws of discrimination. (It is obviously just to discriminate —within limits—between the innocent and the criminal, the adult and the infant, the combatant and the civilian, and so on.) Whereas greed, pride and arrogance are at the base of unjust discrimination, the driving motor of the egalitarian and identitarian trends is envy, jealousy and fear. “Nature” (i.e., the absence of human intervention) is anything but egalitarian; if we want to establish a complete plain we have to blast the mountains away and fill the valleys; equality thus presupposes the continuous intervention of force which, as a principle, is opposed to freedom. Liberty and equality are in essence contradictory.

Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time (1940)