The therapeutic mentality has developed especially in post-Protestant America because the waning of an “ascetic” culture – a culture of authority, moral demands, and self-discipline – is its most fertile soil. It is a mentality which, virtually as a matter of principle, ceases even trying to resolve contradictions or opposing demands (the stuff of tragedy) and in effect tells people, “Live within your moral means.” Self-improvement, then, becomes the characteristic modern faith. “Prophets” arise who, unlike those who classically bore the name, preach the mechanisms of release rather than control, “liberating” people rather than placing greater responsibilities on them. […]

So complete was the intellectual victory of the therapeutic mentality that many in the Church are now unable even to conceive of renewal in any terms other than further acts of release from obligations.

James Hitchcock, Catholicism and Modernity (1979)


One must be very blind not to be aware that the term “democratic” is very sparingly used in the great enunciations of our time. It appears sometimes in proclamations and speeches of the President calculated for home consumption, as a concession to the mass mind, but in the great, programmatic speeches, in the Atlantic Charter, in the outlines of the Four Freedoms, “democracy” figures nowhere — and rightly so. The Wilsonian blunders will not be repeated. The crime to proclaim that the world should be made safe for democracy against which the Founding Fathers had violently protested will not take place again. The artificial fostering of allegedly American ideas belongs to the past. America of today and tomorrow will help other nations to live, to breathe, to be themselves again, to find their own forms and their own destinies free from the fetters of foreign occupation, of demagogues and mystagogues, of quislings and paid traitors. 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.

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

This protest against the use of the word democracy is not a mere pedantic fight against a technical term. “Democracy” should be discarded as quickly as possible from our vocabulary; it should only be used in its classical connotation. The reason for such a reform lies in the world-wide implications of technical terms. 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.

Yet by calling this great struggle a fight for democracy, we are implying a fight for a political ideal which is not ours and which even in some of its journalistic-popular connotations is shared by only a tiny minority of our allies. Russia may be a democracy according to St. Thomas, but it is no democracy according to popular conception (confounding it with liberal popular representation). Perhaps it matters little in the case of Russia which momentarily is our military, not our ideological ally. But India, China, Greece, Serbia, Austria . . . are these “democracies,” in the popular or classical sense? Does Europe nourish a nostalgia for either form of democracy? Or is there not rather the world over a desperate craving for liberty, personal liberty, group liberty, national liberty, religious liberty? Are we not rather going to win the world over to our side by appealing to the unquenched thirst of liberty without which, as we have said, there can be no realization of human dignity and personality ?

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

Thus the problem of our time remains—to have good government with personal liberty; to have a maximum of security with a maximum of liberty. For the solution of such a problem, democracy offers no solution, because the masses, choosing between freedom and the illusion of economic security, will usually head straight for the will-o’-the-wisp. After having fallen prey to the fausse idee claire of democracy they will succumb to the even falser idee claire of national or international socialism. When we mention the masses, all the optimistic demagogy about the superb qualities of the Common Man comes to our mind. Indeed, the old monarchies were far from being models of perfection. The ancien regime, if we look merely at its seamy side, was made up of murder, inefficiency, corruption, narrowness, immorality, procrastination, intrigue, egoism, deceit and pettiness and it had long been in need of radical reform when it disappeared.

Yet it never promised a New Dawn or a Paradise on Earth and it must be conceded that it relinquished the stage of history with little opposition, almost in the expectation that the bombastically heralded New Experiments were bound to fail. And fail they did! The ancien regime had lasted a thousand years, and for over a hundred years the Continentals had tried to make a synthesis with the new forces. Then the stage was entirely left to the “Dawnists,” to our noble friend, the Common Man, and bankruptcy arrived not within a thousand years, but within half a generation. It came in a swift and deadly way. It murdered liberty by entirely new methods and it repeated the errors of the Old Government on a colossal scale: all the persecutions of Jews through the ages were dwarfed to microscopic size by Hitler’s delirious mass murders, and all the victims of the Inquisition burnt at the stake through centuries did not amount to one-fourth of the number of those cremated alive one afternoon in Dresden, when among 150,000 killed at least two-thirds perished fully conscious in the fiery flames…and this without an inquest, without the slightest effort to establish a real or even a subjectively imputed guilt at the very end of a war. To the horrors of the concentration camps almost girdling the globe we are at a loss to find any parallel.

Thus, the crown to many a European, especially to a Central European, indeed is a symbol of freedom—not only when he thinks of the terrors of the East, but also when he reflects upon the sly process of enslavement in the West.

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

History, unfortunately, is not rational or strictly logical, but a process which takes place in a Vale of Tears. Democracy rose in our civilization when the condition of the world least warranted it. It put tremendous weapons of technical progress into the hands of those least qualified to use them, and, allied with nationalism, it now becomes a powerful obstacle to the necessary unification of large regions. The Federation of Europe is lamentably handicapped by “politics,” that is, party-politics; and every word spoken by the various party leaders in the democracies must be weighed not so much as to their effect abroad as to their possible repercussions at the next elections. The disappearance of an effective monarchy is a special blow to the co-operation and amalgamation of the Old World, because monarchy alone would by now possess the full necessary supra-national outlook. It has got past the stage of tribal affiliations, which republicanism and democracy have by no means achieved. A Council of European Monarchs could be an effective co-ordinating body for Europe; an all-European Parliament, on the other hand, could not. Not only would it be faced, as a genuinely elected body of popular representatives, by an insuperable language problem, but, considering the level of our parliaments in wisdom and manners, as well as their ideological divisions, it would merely serve to break up, not to unify Europe. It is one thing that French deputies in the Chamber should shout at each other Scélérat! Assassin! Voleur!; but such verbal exchanges between a Communist gentleman from Toulouse and a Carlist gentleman from Pamplona might have deadly consequences. ” Civil wars” on an unprecedented scale could be the result.

Thus the historical problem of our day is and remains the establishment of minimal government-from-above assuring and maintaining personal liberty. This issue cannot be shirked or permanently delayed by preserving the illusory fluidity of democratic institutions which have final control of the central government. Sooner or later this flux will congeal into the tyranny or the virtual dictatorship of a mass-party. Little it matters whether such rule is based on repeated elections won through permanent appeals to the lower half of the social pyramid, or whether it rests squarely, as in the “People’s Democracies,” on the efficiency of a ubiquitous police. Little it matters that finally a new oligarchy arises which methodically suppresses even those layers who helped to establish its sway. And since only real elites have a genuine psychological and intellectual interest in liberty, it is evident that they must have a position in political life which is more substantial than their numerical share. Needless to say, we do not identify such elites with classes or castes; they are the people capable of creative action. And creation as well as creativeness stands in constant need of liberty.

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

Political parties of the totalitarian type on the other hand promise “everything” — faith (in a worldly millennium), intellectuality (on a sentimental basis), drunkenness (with words), crime (of the “honorable,” i.e., political type). An American Fascism of tomorrow might actually attract all “better” elements leaving the scum to its pastime of drink, theft, and sex. Needless to say this is a dangerous game. It may be that these elements, having a free hand, would “save America” for the “White Man,” and Christianity might thus well-nigh become a tolerated religion, but the Church as such would suffer bitterly in the long run and the catacombs might be her last stage of development here in this country.

In the sober forties there will be another generation, steeled by the war, grimmer in outlook, far more determined to have its own way. The generation of the twenties was one of despair, of despair for the “right reasons”; there is a danger that our decade will be one of wrong and false aims. The issue is thus far graver. Most planning (whether it is done by ochlocrats, Fascists, Pinks, or Communists) points to a radical decrease of liberty. Yet there is no doubt that the end of liberty in America would be practically the end there of the Church.

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

Our proposal for a form of government adapted to preserve liberty in modern times, and steer clear of the calamitous errors we have described, is based on four premises or, rather, postulates: (i) the greatest reasonably possible liberty of the person must be preserved and protected, since liberty is part and parcel of the common good; (2) the party system must be abolished because of its inherent drive and tendencies toward totalitarianism; (3) the ideological and philosophical struggles, which can neither be suppressed nor made an organic part of the governmental machine, have to be relegated to the private sphere of society; (4) the will of the majority has no right to prevail over the reasonable and the useful; the utilitarian and rational values in turn have to be subordinated to the commands of ethics and religion

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

Numerical majorities are not necessarily keen to preserve civil liberties; the demand for civil liberties {and privileges) always arose from select minorities. Genuinely “democratic” societies can be brutally cruel to those who dare to be “different” in an unconventional way.  

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)

In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity (in necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas), is a wonderful program, which should characterize all Christian cultures at all times. The Middle Ages were largely imbued with this spirit. The necessary element of unity was the Church and her dogmas. If a medieval prince gave a feast, he would have been extremely shocked to find that one of his guests did not believe in God or considered the crucifixion a myth. As regards the dress of his guests he would permit a far-reaching latitude and he would indeed be highly astonished if all his male friends would wear identical garments. Today we consider it quite natural that our left-hand neighbor at a banquet is an atheist, our host a heretic, and our right-hand neighbor an agnostic. Emily Post would probably severely censure anybody who would take exception to the religious views of his hosts or guests. It would be “tactless” and demonstrate a lack of good breeding. Yet it would be an even greater crime to appear at a formal dinner in sports clothes and not to don the rigorously prescribed uniforms: tuxedo or tails. So we have today disunity in the necessary things and uniformity in the “doubtful things,” not to speak of charity which has been replaced by ambition.

In order to illustrate the situation even more accurately one might take the example of a tree with roots hanging in the air and the branches fixed individually on iron poles. The situation in ancient Rome and in the United States have certain parallels when we remember that both countries served as meeting places for the most different religions. The Roman chaos of Isis, Mithras, Jahveh, Zeus, Kybele, Jupiter, and Saturn has been matched by Mary Eddy-Baker, Joseph Smith, Aimée S. Macpherson, and others. This variety of forms has caused religion to be held as something merely relative (an opinion not a truth). People who dogmatize furiously about the President, the gold reserves of Fort Knox, and the New Deal become suddenly vague, “broad minded,” and uncertain if they talk about religion. They look to the most abstruse laymen for “orientation,” and nowhere is the distrust for the expert greater than in this domain.* Astronomers, mathematicians, biologists, electrical engineers, and movie stars expound publicly their views about God, eternity, grace, and original sin, whereas nobody would dream of asking archbishops or professors of divinity about their opinions on atom smashing, protoplasm, or short waves.

Catholicism fits very badly into this “pantheon,” it fits into it only as ancient Christianity did into the multiform, liberal religious world of the first century A.D. Christendom was then considered to be an unsporting, disagreeable, exclusive, and totalitarian low-class sect, which “didn’t play the game.” Catholicism in the United States is frequently looked upon with similar feelings. One will find Unitarians in America who invite Episcopalian ministers to preach in their churches and — what is less surprising — Jewish rabbis delivering their sermons in Presbyterian houses of worship. This concessionalism and interdenominationalism leads to that famous nonsectarian attitude that culminates in the saying: “There’s truth in every religion,” which is precisely the gist of the parable of the ring in Boccaccio’s Decameron. The true early Christians never minded being used as living torches or as crocodile fodder. Sectarians now too often forget the tradition of these heroic martyrs, and the intolerance even of their sectarian fathers. One finds Presbyterian pastors using “Luther” as their Christian name and Lutherans who are called “Calvin,” oblivious of all the abysmal antagonism between the ex-monk and the dictator of Geneva, who founded their respective religions. One also wonders whether the rabbis preaching in Lutheran Churches know anything about Luther’s contempt and hatred for their race and faith.

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