Vic Milione Tribute to Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
Tribute to Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
Philadelphia Society Regional Meeting
Wilmington, Delaware, October 9-10, 1998
In an early essay for Modern Age Dr. Leddihn wrote that: “…if Judas had been admitted to be the equal of St. John, Christianity would have had to close shop. There is no equality in Heave, nor for that matter in purgatory, but there may very well be equality in Hell, where it belongs.”
In Leftism Revisited he wrote: “In the United States illiterates are now admitted to the polls. Sometime in the coming century, people will rack their brains pondering how nations with tremendous scientific and intellectual achievements could have given uninstructed and untrained men and women the right to vote equally uninstructed and untrained people into responsible positions.”
There you have two of Dr. Leddihn’s bete noires, equality and democracy. I must say that he makes cogent and persuasive arguments against both in his works. However, the most compelling and corroborative indictment of democracy is the current occupant of The White House and the public’s continuing favorable impression of his presidency.
I met Erik over forty years ago through the good graces of Dick Ware, Program Officer of the Relm Foundation and Steve DeBrul, a GM executive, who was a member of Relm’s Board. Dr. Leddihn had received grants from Relm and Earhart for a book and some lectures. Needless to say, we met a brilliant scholar and a great teacher who liked to travel and lecture. I made a new friend, and Relm gave ISI a grant to support Dr. Leddihn on a speaking tour to ISI members. That would be a good deal at any time, but during ISI’s infancy, the lean mean years, it was a great one. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
You cannot read Dr. Leddihn’s books The Menace of the Herd, Liberty or Equality, Leftism Revisited, and his many essays or listen to him lecture without being awed by the scope and depth of his knowledge. It is encyclopedic, encompassing a knowledge of religious, philosophic, political, economic thought and social history. One senses his concern for the totality of life and with thought in these disciplines as to whether it enhances or hinders freedom or impedes man’s necessary completion as a God created being. This aspect of his thought is immediately evident to those students he lectures.
Also evident is the fact that he is a spiritual man, a Catholic. He believes in God, order in the Universe, and man’s ability to attain truth. This attribute is ridiculed at many colleges and universities, mired in a wasteland of relativism and nihilism.
As a classical liberal in the European tradition of that term, he has a passion for liberty and economic freedom. This is in marked contrast to the liberal economic nostrums prevalent on campus. I have heard ISI members leaving a lecture by Dr. Leddihn exclaim, “What a tonic!”
The unity and wholeness of truth has been mutilated in the academy. A former orderly synthesis of knowledge and truth, an inspiring core, has been fragmented at best or thoroughly replaced by intellectual chaos. Lem Boulware, a deceased ISI Trustee, called this the rescrambling of ignorance.
John Milton likened truth to the good Osiris, whose Body, hewn into a thousand pieces was scattered to the four winds. “From that time every since,” wrote Milton “the sad friends of Truth, such as durst appear, imitating the careful search that Isis made for the mangled boy of Osiris, went up and down gathering up limb by limb still as they could find them.”
Dr. Leddihn is one such friend of truth, sifting through the wreckage of Western Civilization in the wake of the Enlightenment, “gathering limb by limb.”
It was fortuitous we came upon him in ISI’s infancy because he was precisely the sort of scholar we wanted ISI members to meet. And, many of them did over the past four decades. They and we were blessed by his friendship and wisdom. Thank you Erik, and God bless!