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mardi, 09 octobre 2018

Oswald Spengler et la collapsologie en 1931

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Oswald Spengler et la collapsologie en 1931

par Nicolas Bonnal

Ex: http://www.dedefensa.org

Nous sommes mal partis, et nous le savons depuis longtemps maintenant. Poe, Tocqueville, Balzac nous mirent en garde à l’époque romantique puis Nietzsche, Le Bon ou le redoutable australien Pearson au demi-siècle de l’électricité et du colonialisme. Le problème c’est que nous pouvons encore être mal partis pendant encore longtemps !

Longtemps donc avant les plus lucides de nos « mécontemporains », comme dit Alain Finkielkraut, la « collapsologie » (citons en vrac nos amis Kunstler, Klein, Diamond, Orlov) intéresse de grands et controversés esprits comme Oswald Spengler. Dans son dernier chapitre de l’homme et la technique (ici retraduit de l’anglais), le célèbre auteur du Déclin de l’occident (si le contenu du livre est oublié, déjà déconstruit en son temps par Thomas Mann, le titre est demeuré magique) observe notre lent déclin.

Il attaque au dernier chapitre de son bref et très brillant essai :

« Chaque haute culture est une tragédie. L’histoire de l’humanité dans son ensemble est tragique. Mais le sacrilège et la catastrophe du Faustien sont plus grands que tous les autres, plus grands que tout ce qu'Eschyle ou Shakespeare n’ont jamais imaginé. La créature se soulève contre son créateur. »

Spengler évoque la puissance de l’Europe « nordique » et son origine… charbonnière :

« Leur pouvoir politique dépend de leur richesse et celle-ci consiste en leur force industrielle. Mais cela est lié à l’existence du charbon. Les peuples germaniques, en particulier, sont protégés par ce qui est presque un monopole des charbonnages connus, ce qui les a conduits à une multiplication de leurs populations sans égale dans l’histoire. »

Ce règne de la quantité (Spengler est contemporain de Guénon) crée le monde inégal de l’économie aux temps de la mondialisation (qui fête ses trois siècles et non ses trois décennies, lisez Voltaire) :

« Les pays industriellement pauvres sont pauvres en tous points ; ils ne peuvent donc pas soutenir une armée ou faire la guerre ; ils sont donc politiquement impuissants ; et, par conséquent, leurs ouvriers, qu'ils soient dirigeants ou dirigés, sont des pions dans la politique économique de leurs adversaires. »

Spengler souligne la grande altération physique, et même climatique du monde dit moderne :

« L'image de la terre, avec ses plantes, ses animaux et ses hommes, a changé. En quelques décennies, la plupart des grandes forêts sont parties pour être transformées en journaux d’actualité, ce qui a entraîné les changements climatiques qui menacent l’économie foncière de populations entières. D'innombrables espèces animales ont été éteintes, ou presque, comme le bison ; Des races entières de l'humanité ont presque atteint le point de disparition, comme les Indiens d'Amérique du Nord et les Australiens. »

Le golem de Prague ou la machine de Bernanos remplace le monde ancien :

« Toutes les choses organiques meurent sous l'emprise de l'organisation. Un monde artificiel imprègne et empoisonne le naturel. La civilisation elle-même est devenue une machine qui fait ou tente de tout faire de manière mécanique. Nous pensons seulement en chevaux [-vapeur] maintenant ; nous ne pouvons pas regarder une cascade sans la transformer mentalement en énergie électrique ; nous ne pouvons pas arpenter une campagne pleine de bétail en pâturage sans penser à son exploitation comme source d'approvisionnement en viande ; nous ne pouvons pas regarder la belle vieille main d'un peuple primitif intact sans vouloir le remplacer par un processus technique moderne. »

Puis Spengler annonce le grand mécontentement des années soixante, soixante-dix, la montée de l’écologie, des spiritualités emballées sous vide(Debord) et le scepticisme du progrès :

« La machine, par sa multiplication et son raffinement, va finalement à l'encontre de son objectif. Dans les grandes villes, l’automobile a, par son nombre, détruit sa propre valeur, et on marche plus vite à pied. En Argentine, à Java et ailleurs, la simple charrue à cheval du petit cultivateur s'est révélée économiquement supérieure au gros outil à moteur et chasse ce dernier. Déjà dans de nombreuses régions tropicales, l'homme noir ou brun avec ses méthodes de travail primitives est un concurrent dangereux de la technique moderne de plantation du blanc. Et le travailleur blanc de la vieille Europe et de l’Amérique du Nord commence à s’inquiéter de son travail. »

unterangDTV.jpgOn a parlé de l’écologie. Spengler écrit sur cette fatigue (plus que crise) du monde moderne :

« La pensée faustienne commence à en avoir assez des machines. Une lassitude se répand, une sorte de pacifisme de la bataille avec la Nature. Les hommes reviennent à des formes de vie plus simples et plus proches de la nature ; ils passent leur temps dans le sport au lieu d'expérimentations techniques. Les grandes villes leur deviennent odieuses, et elles voudraient bien se soustraire à la pression de faits sans âme et au climat froid et clair d'organisation technique. Et ce sont précisément les talents forts et créatifs qui se détournent des problèmes pratiques et des sciences pour se tourner vers la pure spéculation. »

Spengler voit bien le retour à l’orientalisme :

« L'occultisme et le spiritualisme, les philosophies hindoues, la curiosité métaphysique à la couleur chrétienne ou païenne, qui étaient tous méprisés à l'époque darwinienne, sont en train de réapparaître. C'est l'esprit de Rome à l'âge d'Auguste. Par satiété, les hommes se réfugient dans les parties les plus primitives de la terre, dans le vagabondage, dans le suicide. Chaque grand entrepreneur a l’occasion de constater une diminution des qualités intellectuelles de ses recrues. »

Car Spengler annonce même le déclin du QI comme on dit aujourd’hui :

« Le XIXe siècle n’a été possible que parce que le niveau intellectuel ne cessait de s’élever. Mais un état stationnaire, à moins d’une chute réelle, est dangereux et laisse présager une fin… »

C’est la mutinerie des mains :

« Il commence sous de multiples formes – du sabotage au suicide en passant par la grève – en passant par la mutinerie des Mains contre leur destin, contre la machine, contre la vie organisée, contre tout et n'importe quoi. »

Spengler voit aussi que notre déculottée sera longue et n’aura pas de fin heureuse ou digne. La fin de l’histoire c’est la maison de retraite :

« Face à ce destin, il n’existe qu’une vision du monde digne de nous, celle qui a déjà été mentionnée comme le choix d’Achille – mieux vaut une vie courte, accalmie des actes et de la gloire, qu'une longue vie sans contenu. Déjà, le danger est si grand, pour chaque individu, chaque classe, chaque peuple, que de chérir toute illusion déplorable. Le temps ne se laisse pas arrêter ; il n'est pas question de retraite prudente ni de sage renonciation. Seuls les rêveurs croient qu'il existe une issue. »

Spengler voit aussi le problème « racial » se profiler. Le sous-homme blanc n’aura pas le courage de continuer (et on est placés avec May, Merkel ou Macron pour voir qu’il se donne les chefs qu’il mérite) et il se fera remplacer :

« Le troisième et le plus grave symptôme de l'effondrement qui commence est cependant ce que je pourrais appeler une trahison envers la technique. »

L’humanisme ou l’humanitarisme blanc fait déjà école (derrière sa puissance industrielle ou militaire Nietzsche comme Goethe voyaient notre affaiblissement) :

« Au lieu de garder strictement les connaissances techniques qui constituaient leur plus grand atout, les peuples « blancs » l’offrent avec complaisance au monde entier, dans chaque Hochschule, verbalement et sur papier, et l’hommage étonné des Indiens et des Japonais les ravissait. »

Tout cela va avec la mondialisation et le commerce bien sûr :

 « La fameuse « diffusion de l’industrie » s’est installée, motivée par l’idée de réaliser des profits plus importants en amenant la production sur le marché. Ainsi, au lieu d'exporter exclusivement des produits finis, ils ont commencé à exporter des secrets, des processus, des méthodes, des ingénieurs et des organisateurs. Même les inventeurs émigrent, car le socialisme, qui pourrait, s'il le voulait, les exploiter dans son équipe, les expulse à la place. Et si récemment, les « indigènes » ont pénétré dans nos secrets, les ont compris et les ont pleinement utilisés. »

Résultat, la bataille de Tsushima en 1905 :

« En trente ans, les Japonais sont devenus des techniciens de premier rang et, dans leur guerre contre la Russie, ils ont révélé une supériorité technique à partir de laquelle leurs professeurs ont pu tirer de nombreuses leçons. »

C’est la vengeance des « races de couleur ». A l’époque de Spengler écrivent aussi les penseurs pessimistes américains Madison Grant et Lothrop Stoddard (parodiés dans Gatsby le magnifique) :

« Le monde exploité commence à se venger de ses seigneurs. Les innombrables mains des races de couleur – au moins aussi intelligentes et beaucoup moins exigeantes – briseront l'organisation économique des Blancs à sa base. Le luxe habituel de l'ouvrier blanc, en comparaison avec le coolie, sera son destin. Le travail du blanc devient lui-même indésirable. Les énormes masses d'hommes concentrés dans les bassins miniers du Nord, les grands travaux industriels, les capitaux investis dans ces régions, des villes et des quartiers entiers, sont confrontés à la probabilité de tomber dans la compétition. »

Détroit, Cleveland, Lorraine : Spengler voit alors la fin de notre civilisation « faustienne ». A la même époque (1931 donc) André Siegfried recense le déclin de la civilisation industrielle de la Grande-Bretagne :

« Cette technique de la machine se terminera avec la civilisation faustienne et un jour restera en fragments, oubliés – nos chemins de fer et bateaux à vapeur aussi morts que les routes romaines et le mur de Chine, nos villes géantes et nos gratte-ciels en ruines comme le vieux Memphis et Babylone. L’histoire de cette technique touche à sa fin inévitable. Elle sera mangée de l’intérieur, comme les grandes formes de toute culture. Quand et de quelle manière, nous ne le savons pas. »

Spengler ignore la civilisation postindustrielle et surtout la civilisation de la dette immonde – et perpétuellement augmentée (New deal, guerres, dépenses de beurre et de canons…). Le catastrophisme ignore en effet la dimension vraie de notre catastrophe, dimension qui est de durer. Plus notre société touche le fond, plus elle creuse !

Il termine brillamment avec ce style snob et envolé que lui reprochait Thomas Mann :

« L'optimisme est la lâcheté. Nous sommes nés à cette époque et devons courageusement suivre le chemin qui nous mène à la fin prévue. Il n'y a pas d'autre moyen. Notre devoir est de garder la position perdue, sans espoir, sans secours, comme ce soldat romain dont les ossements ont été retrouvés devant une porte à Pompéi, qui, lors de l'éruption du Vésuve, est décédé à son poste, faute d'avoir été relevé. C'est cela la grandeur. C'est ce que signifie être un pur-sang. Une fin honorable est la seule chose qui ne peut pas être prise à un homme. »

On se demande toutefois quelle fin honorable nous attend…

Source 

Oswald Spengler, l’homme et la technique (cinquième partie)

mercredi, 01 août 2018

The Historical Background of Oswald Spengler’s Philosophy of Science

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Between the Heroic & the Immeasurable:
The Historical Background of Oswald Spengler’s Philosophy of Science

Oswald Spengler’s writings on the subject of the philosophy of science are very controversial, not only among his detractors but even for his admirers. What is little understood is that his views on these matters did not exist in a vacuum. Rather, Spengler’s arguments on the sciences articulate a long German tradition of rejecting English science, a tradition that originated in the eighteenth century.

Luke Hodgkin notes:

It is today regarded as a matter of historical fact that Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz both independently conceived and developed the system of mathematical algorithms known collectively by the name of calculus. But this has not always been the prevalent point of view. During the eighteenth century, and much of the nineteenth, Leibniz was viewed by British mathematicians as a devious plagiarist who had not just stolen crucial ideas from Newton, but had also tried to claim the credit for the invention of the subject itself.[1] [2]

This wrongheaded view stems from Newton’s own catty libel of Leibniz on these matters. During this time, the beginning of the eighteenth century, Leibniz’s native Prussia had not yet become a serious power through the wars of Frederick the Great. Leibniz, together with Frederick the Great’s grandfather, founded the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences. Newton’s slanderous account of Leibniz’s achievements would never be forgiven by the Germans, to whom Newton remained a bête noire as long as Germany remained a proud nation.

In the context of inquiring into the matter of how such a pessimist as Spengler could admire so notorious an optimist as Leibniz, two foreign members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences merit attention. The thought of French scientist and philosopher Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis, an exponent and defender of Leibnizian ideas, was in many ways a precursor to modern biology. Maupertuis wrote under the patronage of Frederick the Great, about a generation after Leibniz. Compared to other eighteenth-century philosophies, Maupertuis’ worldview, like modern biology and unlike most Enlightenment thought, presents nature as rather “red in tooth and claw.”

An earlier foreign member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, a contemporary and correspondent of Leibniz, Moldavian Prince (and eccentric pretender to descent from Tamerlane) Dimitrie Cantemir, left two cultural legacies to Western history. Initially an Ottoman vassal, he gave traditional Turkish music its first system of notation, ushering in the classical era of Turkish music that would later influence Mozart. Later – after he had turned against the Ottoman Porte in an alliance with Petrine Russia, but was driven out of power and into exile due to his abysmal battlefield leadership – he wrote much about history. Most impactful in the West was a two-volume book that would be translated into English in 1734 as The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman Empire. Voltaire and Gibbon later read Cantemir’s work, as did Victor Hugo.[2] [3]

Notes one biographer, “Cantemir’s philosophy of history is empiric and mechanistic. The destiny in history of empires is viewed . . . through cycles similar to the natural stages of birth, growth, decline, and death.”[3] [4] Long before Nietzsche popularized the argument, Cantemir proposed that high cultures are initially founded by barbarians, and also that a civilization’s level of high culture has nothing to do with its political success.[4] [5] Thus was the Leibnizian intellectual legacy mixed with pessimism even in Leibniz’s own lifetime.

OswSP-MTech.jpegIt was most likely in the context of this scientific tradition and its enemies that Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, generally recognized as Germany’s greatest poet (or one of them, at any rate), later authored attacks on Newton’s ideas, such as Theory of Colors. Goethe, an early pioneer in biology and the life sciences, loathed the notion that there is anything universally axiomatic about the mathematical sciences. Goethe had one major predecessor in this, the Anglo-Irish philosopher and Anglican bishop George Berkeley. Like Berkeley, Goethe argued that Newtonian abstractions contradict empirical understandings. Both Berkeley and Goethe, though for different reasons, took issue with the common (or at least, commonly Anglo-Saxon) wisdom that “mathematics is a universal language.”

By the early modern age of European history, when Goethe’s Faust takes place, cabalistic doctrines, notes Carl Schmitt, “became known outside Jewry, as can be gathered from Luther’s Table Talks, Bodin’s Demonomanie, Reland’s Analects, and Eisenmenger’s Entdecktes Judenthum.”[5] [6] This phenomenon can be traced to the indispensable influence of the very inventors of cabalism, collectively speaking, on the West’s transition from feudalism to modern capitalism since the Age of Discovery, and in some cases even earlier. In 1911’s The Jews and Modern Capitalism, Werner Sombart points out that “Venice was a city of Jews” as early as 1152.

Cabalism deeply permeates the worldviews of many influential secret societies of Western history since medieval times, and certainly continuing with the official establishment of Freemasonry in 1717. Although the details will never be entirely clear, it is known that Goethe was involved with the Bavarian Illuminati in his youth. He seems to have experienced conservative disillusionment with it later in life. It is possible that the posthumous publication of Faust: The Second Part of the Tragedy was due at least in part to the book’s ambivalently revealing too much about the esoterica of Goethe’s former occult activities.

What is clear is that he was directly interested in cabalistic concepts. Karin Schutjer persuasively argues that “Goethe had ample opportunity to learn about Jewish Kabbalah – particularly that of the sixteenth-century rabbi Isaac Luria – and good reason to take it seriously . . . Goethe’s interest in Kabbalah might have been further sparked by a prominent argument concerning its philosophical reception: the claim that Kabbalistic ideas underlie Spinoza’s philosophy.”[6] [7]

At one point in the second part of Faust, Goethe shows an interest in monetary issues related to usury or empty currency, as Schopenhauer after him would.[7] [8] This is fitting for a story that takes place in early modern Europe and concerns an alchemist. Some early modern alchemists were known as counterfeiters and would have most likely had contact with Jewish moneylenders. Insofar as his scientific philosophy had a social, and not just an intellectual, significance, this desire on Goethe’s part for economic concreteness was perhaps what led him to reject and combat one key cabalistic doctrine: numerology.

Numerology is the belief that numbers are divine and have prophetic power over the physical world. Goethe held the virtually opposite view of numbers and mathematical systems, proposing that “strict separation must be maintained between the physical sciences and mathematics.” According to Goethe, it is an “important task” to “banish mathematical-philosophical theories from those areas of physical science where they impede rather than advance knowledge,” and to discard the “false notion that a phrase of a mathematical formula can ever take the place of, or set aside, a phenomenon.” To Goethe, mathematics “runs into constant danger when it gets into the terrain of sense-experience.”[8] [9]

In his well-researched 1927 book on Freemasonry, General Erich Ludendorff remarks, “One must study the cabala in order to understand and evaluate the superstitious Jew correctly. He then is no longer a threatening opponent.”[9] [10] In his proceeding discussion of the subject, Ludendorff focuses exclusively on the numerological superstitions in cabalism. Such beliefs are affirmed by a Jewish cabalistic source, which informs us that “Sefirot” is the Hebrew word for numbers, which represent “a Tree of Divine Lights.”[10] [11]

Everything about Goethe’s rejection of scientific materialism can be seen as a rebellion against numerology in the sciences – and certainly, the modern mathematical sciences stand on the shoulders of numerology, as modern chemistry does on alchemy. Schmitt once mentioned the “mysterious Rosicrucian sensibility of Descartes,” a reference to the mysterious cabalistic initiatory movement that dominated the scientific philosophies of the seventeenth century.[11] [12] In this Descartes was hardly alone; the entire epoch of mostly French and English mathematicians in the early modern centuries, which ushered in the modern infinitesimal mathematical systems, was infused with cabalism. Even if it were possible to ignore the growing Jewish intellectual and economic influence on that age, one would still be left with the metaphysical affinities between numerology and even the most scientifically accomplished worldview that takes literally the assumption that numbers are eternal principles.

According to early National Socialist economist Gottfried Feder, “When the Babylonians overcame the Assyrians, the Romans the Carthaginians, the Germans the Romans, there was no continuance of interest slavery; there were no international world powers . . . Only the modern age with its continuity of possession and its international law allowed loan capitals to rise immeasurably.”[12] [13] Writing in 1919, Feder argues with the help of a graph that that “loan-interest capital . . . rises far above human conception and strives for infinity . . . The curve of industrial capital on the other hand remains within the finite!”[13] [14] Goethe may have similarly drawn connections between the kind of economic parasitism satirized in the second part of Faust and what he, like Berkeley, saw as the superstitious modern art of measuring the immeasurable.

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The fusion of science with numerology, it should be noted, is actually not of Hebrew or otherwise pre-Indo-European origin. It originates from pre-Socratic Greek philosophy’s debt, particularly that of the Pythagoreans, to the Indo-Iranian world, chiefly Thrace.[14] [15] (Possibly of note in this regard is that Schopenhauer admired the Thracians for their arch-pessimistic ethos, as though this mindset were the polar opposite of the world-affirming Jewish worldview he loathed.)[15] [16] In any case, Goethe recognized it as a powerful weapon. That he studied numerology has been established by scholars.[16] [17]

A generation before Goethe, Immanuel Kant had propounded the idea that the laws of polarity – the laws of attraction and repulsion – precede the Newtonian laws of matter and motion in every way. This argument would influence Goethe’s friend Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling, another innovator in the life sciences as well as part of the literary and philosophical movement known as Romanticism. By the time Goethe propounded his anti-Newtonian theories and led a philosophical milieu, he had an entire German tradition of such theories to work from.

Goethe’s work was influential in Victorian Britain. Most notably, at least in terms of the scientific history of that era, Darwin would cite Goethe as a botanist in On the Origin of the Species. Darwin’s philosophy of science, to the extent that he had one, was largely built on that of Goethe and the age of what came to be known as Naturphilosophie. Historian of science Robert J. Richards has found that “Darwin was indebted to the Romantics in general and Goethe in particular.”[17] [18] Darwin had been introduced to the German accomplishments in biology, and the German ideas about philosophy of science, mainly through the work of Alexander von Humboldt.[18] [19]

Why has this influence been forgotten? “In the decade after 1918,” explains Nicholas Boyle, “when hundreds of British families of German origin were forcibly repatriated, and those who remained anglicized their names, British intellectual life was ethnically cleansed and the debt of Victorian culture to Germany was erased from memory, or ridiculed.”[19] [20] To some extent, this process had already started since the outbreak of the First World War.

This intellectual ethnic cleansing would not go unreciprocated. In 1915’s Händler und Helden (Merchants and Heroes), German economist and sociologist Werner Sombart attacked the “mercantile” English scientific tradition. Here, Sombart is particularly critical of what he calls the “department-store ethics” of Herbert Spencer, but in general Sombart calls for most English ideas – including English science – to be purged from German national life. In his writings on the philosophy of science, Spengler would answer this call.

Spengler heavily drew on the ideas of Goethe, and evidently also on the views of a pre-Darwinian French Lutheran paleontologist of German origin, Georges Cuvier. For instance, Spengler’s assault on universalism in the physical sciences mostly comes from Goethe, but his rationale for rejecting Darwinian evolution appears to come from Cuvier. The idea that life-forms are immutable, and simply die out, only to be superseded by unrelated new ones – a persistent theme in Spengler – comes more from Cuvier than Goethe.

oswSP-car.jpgCuvier, however, does not belong to the German transcendentalist tradition, so Spengler mentions him only peripherally. On the other hand, in the third chapter of the second volume of The Decline of the West, Spengler uses a word that Charles Francis Atkinson translates as “admitted” to describe how Cuvier propounded the theory of catastrophism. Clearly, Spengler shows himself to be more sympathetic to Cuvier than to what he calls the “English thought” of Darwin.[20] [21]

Several asides about Cuvier are in order. First of all, this criminally underrated thinker is by no means outmoded, at least not in every way. Modern geology operates on a more-Cuvieran-than-Darwinian plane.[21] [22] Secondly, it is worth noting that Ernst Jünger once astutely observed that Cuvier is more useful to modern military science than Darwin.[22] [23] It may also be of interest that the Cuvieran system is even further removed from Lamarckism – and its view of heredity, as a consequence, more thoroughly racialist – than the Darwinian system.[23] [24]

Another scientist of German origin who may have influenced Spengler is the Catholic monk Gregor Mendel, the discoverer of what is now known as genetics. One biography notes:

Though Mendel agreed with Darwin in many respects, he disagreed about the underlying rationale of evolution. Darwin, like most of his contemporaries, saw evolution as a linear process, one that always led to some sort of better product. He did not define “better” in a religious way – to him, a more evolved animal was no closer to God than a less evolved one, an ape no morally better than a squirrel – but in an adaptive way. The ladder that evolving creatures climbed led to greater adaption to the changing world. If Mendel believed in evolution – and whether he did remains a matter of much debate – it was an evolution that occurred within a finite system. The very observation that a particular character trait could be expressed in two opposing ways – round pea versus angular, tall plant versus dwarf – implied limits. Darwin’s evolution was entirely open-ended; Mendel’s, as any good gardener of the time could see, was closed.[24] [25]

How very Goethean – and Spenglerian.

His continuation of the German mission against English science explains, even if it does not entirely excuse, Spengler’s citation of Franz Boas’ now-discredited experiments in craniology in the second volume of The Decline of the West. In his posthumously-published book on Indo-Europeanology, the unfinished but lucid Frühzeit der Weltgeschichte, Spengler cites the contemporary German Nordicist race theorist Hans F. K. Günther in writing that “urbanization is racial decay.”[25] [26] This would seem quite a leap, from citing Boas to citing Günther. However, in the opinion of one historian, Boas and Günther had more in common than they liked to think, because they were both heirs more of the German Idealist tradition in science than what the Anglo-Saxon tradition recognizes as the scientific method.[26] [27] Spengler must have keenly detected this commonality, for his views on racial matters were never synonymous with those of Boas, any more than they were identical to Günther’s.

He probably went too far in his crusade against the Anglo-Saxon scientific tradition, but as we have seen, Spengler was not without his reasons. He was neither the first nor the greatest German philosopher of science to present alternatives to the ruling English paradigms in the sciences, but was rather an heir to a grand tradition. Before dismissing this anti-materialistic tradition as worthless, as today’s historiographers of science still do, we should take into account what it produced.

Darwin’s philosophy of nature was predominantly German; only his Malthusianism, the least interesting aspect of Darwin’s work, was singularly British. As for Einstein, that proficient but unoriginal thinker was absolutely steeped in the German anti-Newtonian tradition, to which he merely put a mathematical formula. These are only the most celebrated examples of scientists influenced by the German tradition defended – maniacally, perhaps, but with noble intentions – in the works of Oswald Spengler.

Whether we consider Spengler’s ideas useful to science or utterly hateful to it, one question remains: Should the German tradition of philosophy of science he defended be taken seriously? Ever since the post-Second World War de-Germanization of Germany, euphemistically called “de-Nazification,” this tradition is now pretty much dead in its own fatherland. But does that make it entirely wrong?

Notes

[1] [28] Luke Hodgkin, A History of Mathematics: From Mesopotamia to Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

[2] [29] See the booklet of the CD Istanbul: Dimitrie Cantemir, 1630-1732, written by Stefan Lemny and translated by Jacqueline Minett.

[3] [30] Eugenia Popescu-Judetz, Prince Dimitrie Cantemir: Theorist and Composer of Turkish Music (Istanbul: Pan Yayıncılık, 1999), p. 34.

[4] [31] Dimitrie Cantemir, The History of the Growth and Decay of the Othman Empire, vol. I, tr. by Nicholas Tindal (London: Knapton, 1734), p. 151, note 14.

[5] [32] Carl Schmitt, The Leviathan in the State Theory of Thomas Hobbes: Meaning and Failure of a Political Symbol, tr. by George Schwab and Erna Hilfstein (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), p. 8.

[6] [33] Karin Schutjer, “Goethe’s Kabbalistic Cosmology [34],” Colloquia Germanica, vol. 39, no. 1 (2006).

[7] [35] J. W. von Goethe, Faust, Part Two, Act I, “Imperial Palace” scene; Schopenhauer, The Wisdom of Life, Chapter III, “Property, or What a Man Has.”

[8] [36] Jeremy Naydler (ed.), Goethe on Science: An Anthology of Goethe’s Scientific Writings (Edinburgh: Floris Books, 1996), pp. 65-67.

[9] [37] Erich Ludendorff, The Destruction of Freemasonry Through Revelation of Their Secrets (Mountain City, Tn.: Sacred Truth Publishing), p. 53.

[10] [38] Warren Kenton, Kabbalah: The Divine Plan (New York: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 25.

[11] [39] Schmitt, Leviathan, p. 26.

[12] [40] Gottfried Feder, Manifesto for Breaking the Financial Slavery to Interest, tr. by Alexander Jacob (London: Black House Publishing, 2016), p. 38.

[13] [41] Ibid., pp. 17-18.

[14] [42] See, i.e., Walter Wili, “The Orphic Mysteries and the Greek Spirit,” collected in Joseph Campbell (ed.), The Mysteries: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1955).

[15] [43] Arthur Schopenhauer, tr. by E. F. J. Payne, The World as Will and Representation, vol. II (Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2014), p. 585.

[16] [44] Ronald Douglas Gray, Goethe the Alchemist (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), p. 6.

[17] [45] Robert J. Richards, The Romantic Conception of Life: Philosophy and Science in the Age of Goethe (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010), p. 435.

[18] [46] Ibid, pp. 518-526.

[19] [47] Nicholas Boyle, Goethe and the English-speaking World: Essays from the Cambridge Symposium for His 250th Anniversary (Rochester, N.Y.: Camden House, 2012), p. 12.

[20] [48] Oswald Spengler, tr. by Charles Francis Atkinson, The Decline of the West vol. II (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), p. 31.

[21] [49] Elizabeth Kolbert, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (London: Bloomsbury, 2015), p. 94.

[22] [50] From Jünger’s Aladdin’s Problem: “It is astounding to see how inventiveness grows in nature when existence is at stake. This applies to both defense and pursuit. For every missile, an anti-missile is devised. At times, it all looks like sheer braggadocio. This could lead to a stalemate or else to the moment when the opponent says, ‘I give up’, if he does not knock over the chessboard and ruin the game. Darwin did not go that far; in this context, one is better off with Cuvier’s theory of catastrophes.”

[23] [51] See Georges Cuvier, Essay on the Theory of the Earth (London: Forgotten Books, 2012), pp. 125-128 & pp. 145-165.

[24] [52] Robin Marantz Henig, The Monk in the Garden: The Lost and Found Genius of Gregor Mendel, the Father of Genetics (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2017), p. 125.

[25] [53] Oswald Spengler, Frühzeit der Weltgeschichte (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1966), Fragment 101.

[26] [54] Amos Morris-Reich, “Race, Ideas, and Ideals: A Comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F. K. Günther [55],” History of European Ideas, vol. 32, no. 3 (2006).

 

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: https://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2018/07/between-the-heroic-and-the-immeasurable/

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[34] Goethe’s Kabbalistic Cosmology: https://www.jstor.org/stable/23981598?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

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[55] Race, Ideas, and Ideals: A Comparison of Franz Boas and Hans F. K. Günther: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1016/j.histeuroideas.2006.05.001

vendredi, 25 mai 2018

Spengler's "Der Mensch Und Die Technik" / Troy Southgate

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Spengler's "Der Mensch

Und Die Technik"

Troy Southgate

 
Troy Southgate's speech about Oswald Spengler's
"Der Mensch Und Die Technik" @ International N-AM Conference
in Madrid 17th and 18th june 2017.
 
More info : www.national-anarchist.net
FIND US ON FACEBOOK!
 

mardi, 01 mai 2018

The Winter of Spengler’s Discontent

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The Winter of Spengler’s Discontent

 
The decline of Spengler: reconsidering High Cultures
 
Ex: http://westdest.blogspot.com
 
It has been decades since I last tackled Oswald Spengler, and it seemed time to refresh my understanding of his major work.  Upon the advice of a Spengler expert (and following the Pareto Principle), I acquired the abridged edition of The Decline of the West.
 
OSPb1.jpgFirst, a few words about Spengler’s writing in this book, which I found to be terrible: like Heidegger, overly dense and sometimes nearly incomprehensible in the pompous old school German style (in contrast, Nietzsche, particularly apart from Zarathustra, was exceedingly comprehensible and easily understandable).  Contrary to all of Spengler’s breathless fans, I did not find his magnum opus to be very well written.  It’s a terribly boring, turgid compilation of rambling prose.  I can only imagine the full-scale version is worse (and if memory serves, it was). Another point is that Spengler’s deconstructivism is highly annoying to the more empiricist among us, his idea that Nature is a function of a particular culture.  Well (and the same applies to some of Yockey’s [plagiarized] rambling on the subject), for some cultures, Nature apparently is a more accurate “function” of reality than for others, and this more accurate representation of objective reality has real world consequences that cannot be evaded.
 
Thus, Spengler’s rambling on “Nature Knowledge” can be for the most part safely ignored.  Spengler laughably wrote: “Every atomic theory, therefore, is a myth, and not an experience.”  Yes, tell that to the Japanese of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who encountered the myth – not the experience, oh no! – of being blasted by atom bombs.  Spengler’s comments about the “uranium atom” are particularly ludicrous in hindsight. I have to say: Spengler was an idiot (*).
 
The problem with Spengler (and Yockey) and science is that the Spenglerian view could be tenable if science was only a purely abstract phenomenon, with no practical real world consequences.  Unfortunately, for Spengler, science leads to technics, and the outcome of technics (contra Yockey) is directly related to the reality behind the science.  In the absence of real world consequences, in the absence of technics, the Spenglerians can pretend that there is no objective difference between, say, Classical or Egyptian physics on the one hand, and Faustian physics on the other. However, the former, if followed to technics, will not lead to methods that can obliterate cities, shatter mountains, and sink islands; while the latter can, and has.  Facts are facts. “Theory is working hypothesis…” according to Spengler’s formulation of Faustian technics, but that can be just as easily reversed: the working hypothesis is based upon theory.  Without scientific theory, practical technics is mere makeshift tinkering.
 
OSPb2.jpgThe sections “Race is Style” and “People and Nation” are of course relevant from a racial nationalist perspective, and reflects Spengler’s anti-scientific stupidity, this time about biological race.  Those of you familiar with Yockey’s wrong-headed assertions on this topic will see all the same in Spengler’s work (from which Yockey lifted his assertions).  This has been critiqued by many – from Revilo Oliver to myself – and it is not necessary to rehash all of the arguments against the Spenglerian (Boasian) deconstructivist attitudes toward biological race.  We can just shake our heads sadly about Spengler’s racial fantasies – that is as absurd as that of any hysterical leftist SJW race-denier – and move on to other issues.
 
The comments by Spengler (and others) about the Russian soul and Russian character, and its “non-Faustian” nature (‘the horizontal expansive plain…the plain, the plain….”) are interesting, and may well have some validity (as a close look at Russian literature informs us, to some degree).  But this can all be taken too far.  With the benefit of hindsight obviously not available to Spengler himself – but which is just as obviously available to modern-day Spenglerians – we look at the Russian interest in space exploration, particularly during the Soviet period, and ask – was that merely just for political propaganda purposes?  The answer is not quite clear.  There are differences between cultures, yes, but when there is an underlying racial affinity, then the different cultures are not quite orthogonal to each other.  And the same principle applies to the Classical-Faustian distinction as well. Spengler would argue that the Classical and Faustian are as different from each other than either are to, say, the Chinese, Indian, or Egyptian.  I think that’s nonsense, and the same applies to Russian-Faustian/Western.  There are differences and then there are DIFFERENCES.  Being more objective about Spengler’s ideas than Spengler himself, I hope the “differences between differences” are obvious.
 
The section on “State and History” was actually readable and made some valid points, but I disagree with Spenglerian inevitability, and I believe he draws the line of the Fellah stage too early in some historical cases. The high point of the Roman Empire, the Pax Romana – was a historyless desert?  Spengler, I think, became too enamored with his own theories (or nonsense, if you want to be harsh).  The “Philosophy of Politics” section is also readable, with some useful points, but also has, obviously, areas of profound disagreement between Spengler and reality.  The idea that the “born statesman” has – or should have - no convictions, should be a completely amoral actor dealing with facts and effects with no ideology affecting their actions - that I reject. Who is or is not a “born statesmen?”  The examples Spengler gives are ludicrous given his assertion. Sulla, Robespierre, Bismarck, and Pitt – they all acted with no underlying ideology or conviction influencing their actions?  I will say his comments about the value of a “tradition” in politics, statesmanship, in fact in any manifestation or organized human activity (comments mirrored by Yockey), are basically sound. Again, in reading Spengler, there are some diamonds in the piles of dirt and dung; one has to dig them out and treasure them.  However, the diamond-to-dung ratio is not enough to grant Spengler the acclaim as a “great writer.” While Spengler and his ideas have worth, whether or not we agree with all of them, I wonder if he may not be one of the most over-rated writers in history.
 
OSPb3.jpgThose are mere details however.  Important details, but not the fundamental, the main thesis.  So, what about the main thesis of his work?  The overall idea of cyclical history?  Yockey’s lifting of that idea in his own work?  Rereading Spengler’s major thesis hasn’t changed my mind about it in any major way, but there are some further points to make.
 
To begin with, I do believe that Spengler was on to something; his most fundamental observations about the cyclical nature of High Cultures, in their broadest sense, have validity.  I reject his self-assured assertions about inevitability and his smug and snide pontification about the emptiness of current and future cultural possibilities, as well as his complete lack of self-awareness of the effects of his fundamental observation on the ability of future generations to interfere with what was previously a completely unguided historical process.  By analogy, before the germ theory of infectious disease was asserted, and then proven as fact, man was for the most part helpless against the onslaught of microbes, apart from the natural and (by conscious thought) unguided processes of the human immune system.  After the discovery of the germ-disease link, we have preventive and therapeutic interventions against these diseases.  Furthering this analogy, we can say that before Spengler, man was helpless in the face of historical inevitability; after Spengler and his discovery, the situation is changed.
 
Another point: being more familiar with Yockey’s work than with Spengler’s, I note how much Yockey plagiarized from Spengler.  Everyone talks about Yockey plagiarizing Carl Schmitt, and that Spengler “inspired” Yockey  - well, if by “inspired” you mean ruthlessly copy than, yes, Yockey was very “inspired.”  However, I do not say that to disparage Yockey or Imperium, the work which contains most of the plagiarism in question.  Yockey was a political polemicist, and Imperium was meant to be a thoroughly political work, sort of a Communist Manifesto for fascists, it wasn’t meant as a scholarly work and Yockey made no pretense of any original thought in that book. So, I just note for the record that the plagiarism took place.  I also note that, in a real sense, it is good that the plagiarism did take place, because Imperium is much more readable, much more digestible, than Spengler’s ponderous work, which is, as stated above, a caricature of “heavy” self-indulgent pedantic German scholarship.  Spengler’s views on (biological) race, as derived from his statements in this book, were as wrong-headed as Yockey’s regurgitation of them.  But enough of that; it is a side-issue at this time, and has been already discussed, by myself and (many) others, with respect to Imperium.
 
OSPb4.jpgLet’s get back to Spengler’s content, and some of my objections alluded to above.  Thus, as far as content goes, my “take” on it remains the same; I agree with much but I disagree with much as well, particularly the “pessimistic” inevitability of it, and the smug arrogance in suggesting, or implying, that disagreement with that aspect of the work implies some sort of mental weakness, delusion, or cowardice on the part of the reader.  Spengler himself suggests that he “truth” of the book is a “truth” for him, a “truth” for a particular Culture in a particular time, and should not necessarily be viewed as an absolute truth in any or every sense (indeed, it everything from science to mathematics is, according to Spengler, formed by the Culture which creates it, and is thus no absolute in any universal sense, then we can quote Pilate ‘“what is truth?”).  Therefore, my “truth” in the current year leads me to conclusions different from Spengler; one can again assert that Spengler himself, by writing the book and outlining he problem, himself undermined his assertion of inevitability, since know we can understand the trajectories of Cultures and, possibly, how to affect those trajectories.
 
I’ll have more to say about that shortly.
 
One thing about re-reading the book that did influence me – more of a minor point – is that I’m now more in agreement (although not totally in agreement) with Spengler that the Classical Culture was quite different from out Western Faustian one.  There was always a sense of a different style, a different mindset, a different worldview, but The Decline of the West, and the evidence Spengler presents, helps clarify the Classical-Faustian distinction and brings it into stark relief.  So, yes, there’s more to that issue than I previously thought.  However, it doesn’t’ change the fact that both the Classical and the Faustian (or Western) High Cultures came into being in Europe, created by Europeans, and, therefore, if we accept one aspect of Spenglerian inevitability – the actual “decline of the West” – and indeed we appear to be ahead of schedule, well into Winter, then we can discard other aspects of inevitability and assert that Europe and Europeans are well capable of creating other High Cultures.
 
So, I will say that Spengler exaggerates the Classical-Faustian divide, even though I’m a bit more supportive of his views on that than before.  There is an intermediate ground between saying the two Cultures are completely and utterly distinct entities with absolutely no connection and saying that the Faustian is merely an outgrowth of the Classical.  On a side note, as a result of re-reading Spengler, I’m now studying the last period of the Western Roman Empire, from Adrianople to Odoacer, to (1) examine the parallels to our own day, (2) discern the “breaking point” where the last vestiges of the Classical World died out (What happened? How?  What came after, what was the result?), and (3) to re-examine stupid “movement” dogma on how the later Empire was becoming ever more decadent as a result of racial changes (if anything, the later Empire was more moral than before).
 
OSPb5.jpgThat is related to an important deficit in the work of Spengler that I have read.  He describes the lifecycle of High Cultures, but never really dissects why the cultures inevitably (or so he says) move from Culture to Civilization to Fellahdom.  What actually are the mechanistic causes of Spring to Summer to Fall to Winter?  I guess that Spengler (and Yockey) would just say that it is what it is, that the Culture is life an organism that grows old and dies.  The problem is that this analogy is just that, an analogy.  A Culture is composed of living organisms, humans, but is itself not alive. And esoteric rambling about a “cosmic beat” explains nothing.  If ones buys into the Spenglerian premise, then some rigorous analysis as to why High Cultures progress in particular ways is necessary.  We need an anatomical and molecular analysis of the “living organism” of the High Culture. Does Frost’s genetic pacification play a role? The cycle, noted by Hamilton, of barbarian invasions, the influx of altruism genes, followed by the aging of the civilization at which point fresh barbarian genes are required to spark a renaissance in the depleted fellhahs?  The moral decay that occurs with too much luxury, too much wealth, too much power?  A form of memetic exhaustion?  
 
By analogy to the memetic exhaustion hypothesis, consider successful television shows.  Although a few of these have been unusually very long lasting – but even these eventually do go off the air – the vast majority follow a trajectory of a lifespan of, say, half-a-dozen years or so.  In the first season of a successful show, there is freshness and novelty, experimentation with plotlines and characters, some unevenness, but excitement and the growth of a fan base.  Then the show reaches a crest wave of success – compelling storylines, solid character development, a strong fan base. This is followed by a bit of stagnation, attempts are made to shake things up, introducing new characters, altering the basic storyline, which may well cause a secondary, shorter spike in interest (Caesarism?), followed by “jumping the shark,” actors leaving the show, stale and repetitious stories, flat characters, a loss of interest of the fan base, decline, and eventual cancellation.  At some point, the show exhausts the memetic possibilities of its setting, characters, and fundamental storyline, and the “magic” is lost.  Does a Culture likewise exhaust all the possibilities of its actualization?  But unlike a TV show, where the station and the show writers (and the fans and reviewers) are consciously following the show’s trajectory and ratings, a High Culture is, or has been, independent of such analysis and direction.  In what way does memetic exhaustion promote the next phase of development?  Further, given Spengler’s identification of the cycle, does this now mean that a High Culture can be tracked analogous to a defined cultural artifact, like a TV show?  If so, how?  Can an elite consciously and directly alter a culture’s direction?  Can they “cancel” it and create a new one?  These are questions that require the rigorous analysis of mechanism previously stated as being required.
 
What about moving forward?
 
ospb6.jpgI maintain that those of us in the interregnum between High Cultures have the power to shape the next High Culture to come, to plant the seed, to choose the specific seed to plant, to nurture it as it grows up toward the sun.  Analogous to lucid dreaming, in our awareness of the Spenglerian thesis – to the extent that it is true – we can guide what was in the past an unconscious and organic flowering, speed it up, and mold it in particular directions.  Obviously, the extent of this control is limited; one cannot “preplan” an entire High Culture in advance, but one can influence its direction, and get it jumpstarted. Imagine some asteroid or comet hurtling toward Earth; if you can deflect it just a small bit, when it is far enough away, that small deflection will become amplified over time, over the long distances it travels at great speeds, and it would them miss the Earth by a healthy margin.  Giving a “nudge” in the right direction at the very beginning of a High Culture’s flowering can be enough, over time, to create a path along which it will develop.  The exact outcome, the precise path, cannot be determined or even precisely predicted, but the general direction, the overall constraints of a set of possible paths, I believe can be determined and predicted.  You might not be able to pinpoint a direction to the precision of saying, “we’re going to Boston” but perhaps to the extent of “we are going to the Northeast United States.”  And that would be enough.
 
In any case, imagine a person, or group of people, and here I mean our people, who today or tomorrow (broadly defined) wish to create cultural artifacts.  And this culture creation can be of our current Western Faustian High Culture or some new one to come.  Very well.  Should they refrain from doing so simply because Spengler insisted that the time of culture was over, and we should now be concerned only with technics and conquest?  When Spenglerism takes itself too seriously, it descends into absurdity.  It is best thought of as possible guidance, as broad outlines, as description – but not any sort of definitive absolute prescription.
 
By the way, having a European Imperium – which Spenglerians would say is a marker of late Civilization – is not in my opinion in any way incompatible with the creation of a new High Culture.  After all, some Spenglerians are fond of telling us that a new High Culture is likely to come from Russia, and Russia is, as many Duginite Russian “nationalists” like to tell us, an empire.  So massive states, including multiethnic empires, can very well be the wellsprings of new cultures.  We shouldn’t confuse surface political forms with the underlying cultural realities.
 
ospb7.jpgSpeaking of Russia, another part of Spengler’s work that I found reasonably well argued and somewhat convincing (as well as fairly novel) is his idea of applying the concept of pseudomorphosis to human populations. In particular, one cannot really dispute some of his points about the Magian and Russian cultures in this regard, but when he says that Antony should have won at Actium – what nonsense is that?  So, that Rome should have become more tainted with Near Eastern cults and ideas even more than it was?  What’s the opposite of pseudomorphosis – where a Civilization becomes memetically conquered by a meme originating from a young Culture?  How did the memetic virus of Christianity infect the West?  Wouldn’t it have been worse if Actium was won by the East?  When Spengler writes of “syncretism” he begins to touch upon this reversal, which eventually goes in both directions (and as Type I “movement” apologists for Christianity like to tell us, that religion was eventually “Germanized” in the West).
 
Speaking of Christianity, Spengler’s comments about Jesus are interesting, but in my opinion too naive and too positive.  Yes, the meeting between Jesus and Pontius Pilate was world historical and meaningful; however, I view it from the Pilate perspective rather than, as Spengler does, the Jesus perspective.  Spengler takes his own view too seriously in the sense that – and the Antony-Actium thing fits here – and he seems to think that we all need to look from the viewpoint of “what was best for the new Magian High Culture?”  Personally, I could care less – I care about – only care about – those High Cultures of racially European origin (Classical, Faustian, Russian, and what comes next for the West).  Let the Magians worry about the Magian.  What? The poor little NECs were suppressed by the Classical?  Too bad. Who cares about them?  Spengler rightfully outlines how alien the Magian worldview is from the Faustian; thus, why should Faustian peoples care about Magians or follow a Magian religion like Christianity?
 
Spengler’s basic, fundamental thesis is novel and powerful: the idea of a series of High Cultures, moving in parallel with similar life morphologies.  But he went too far, arrogantly casting his idea with the aura of rigid inevitability – neglecting that the very act of identifying and evaluating the phenomenon, and doing so as part of a history-obsessed Faustian High Culture, forever destroyed a basic prerequisite of the phenomenon’s previous record of repeatability; i.e., that it was unknown and ahistorical.  Ironically, Spengler’s own observations are a major reason why the patterns he observed are no longer inevitable, or, perhaps better said no longer immune from intentional manipulation and control.  When the process was unknown, unidentified, and occurring in the background independent of direct human perception, it was beyond control, once identified and classified, that no longer necessarily holds.  
 
Let’s reconsider the analogy I made above, about the discovery of the germ theory of disease.  Before discovery, there was inevitability of certain events; with vaccination, that no longer holds.  Smallpox epidemics are no longer inevitable.  Even if the decline of the West (which has already occurred) is not stoppable, the idea that rollover to the next European High Culture is beyond control has been refuted by the knowledge gained by Spengler’s own analysis.  Spengler himself is responsible for eliminating the clockwork inevitability of his system.  What kind of “Fellah” status can a people really have once they – or at least their intellectual elites – are aware of Spenglerism?  Is a “Fellah” aware of their “Fellahsm” really “Fellah” anymore?  Or is that an oxymoron?  The Spenglerian Cycle can occur in its previously manifested form only when its actors – human actors in various cultures and civilizations and post-civilizations – are not consciously aware of its workings.  Once aware, the illusion of inevitability fades, once aware, and awareness manifested in those with a will to power, the knowledge becomes a tool and the Cycle becomes amenable to manipulation and direction.  Spengler’s work was based on the analysis of High Cultures that were to a very basic extent unaware of their own existence in these terms, unable to look at themselves objectively from “outside.”  That is no longer the case.
 
ospb8.jpgAnd if Spengler’s main thesis is flawed by its own self-realization, what can one say about his side ideas?  Those, particularly dealing with science, are absolute hogwash.  In that sense, Spengler is over-rated, never mind his poor writing, including his horrifically turgid style.  Yockey may have been offended by this “blasphemy” against his idol – “The Philosopher of History” – but it is nevertheless warranted.
 
Do I recommend The Decline of the West to the reader?  No.  As per the Pareto Principle, just read Imperium, which will take 20% of your effort and give you 80% of Spenglerism.
 
Notes:
 
*A particularly retarded footnote: “And it may be asserted that the downright faith that Haeckel, for example, pins to the names atom, matter, energy, is not essentially different from the fetishism of Neanderthal Man.”
 
Yeah, that’s great Oswald, you pompous semi-Jewish purveyor of ponderous Teutonic rumblings.  Too bad this idiot wasn’t around in the 1950s; they could have tied him to the Castle Bravo thermonuclear device and he could have experienced the “downright faith” that what he was about to experience was just the subjective interpretation of the Faustian High Culture.  Oswald would have been deconstructed indeed!
 
And for those who wish to take the Yockeyian line that technics is separate from scientific theory - that is nonsense.  The technics of nuclear power or GPS systems require an understanding of the underlying physics; the technics of CRISPR requires an understanding of the biological principles involved.  Can you train someone to use those technics, at a low level, without understanding the science?  Of course you can, but what’s the point?  Someone can read a history book without knowing Spengler, someone can fix a car engine without knowing about internal combustion.  But you cannot construct, refine, improve, or replace with something superior a technic without knowing the principles behind it. Read up on the difficulties nations had in figuring out how to get thermonuclear weapons to work (and, no, it’s not that you stick a tank of hydrogen behind an atom bomb) and you’ll understand how integral theory is for getting the technics to work and keep working.  It doesn’t take an understanding of nuclear physics to drop the bomb; however, it does require such an understanding to invent the bomb to begin with.
 
Further:
 
I can’t help notice that the buffoon Chad Crowley cites Spengler to support some of his viewpoints, even though Spengler’s fundamental thesis was that ALL High Cultures have an innate tendency to travel along the same socio-economic-politico-religious trajectory; the case of Rome is not unique, and “racial degeneration” by no means needs to be invoked to explain any of the broader changes that, according to Spengler, were destined to occur there as in any other culture he studied.

lundi, 15 janvier 2018

Spenglers duiding van wiskunde als cultuurfenomeen

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Spenglers duiding van wiskunde als cultuurfenomeen

Verschillende cultuurzielen leveren verschillende soorten wiskunde op

door Emanuel Rutten

Ex: http://cult.tpo.nl

Welke rol speelt wiskunde in het denken van Spengler? In zijn hoofdwerk De ondergang van het avondland uit 1917 neemt de wiskunde ontegenzeggelijk een belangrijke plaats in. De titel van het eerste hoofdstuk – over de betekenis van getallen – verwijst er niet voor niets al naar.

Wiskunde is cultureel bepaald

Bekend is uiteraard dat volgens Spengler elke cultuur een bepaalde levenscyclus doormaakt en gekenmerkt wordt door een specifieke cultuurziel. Deze cultuurziel drukt zich uit op een groot aantal verschillende culturele en maatschappelijke terreinen. Alle cultuurfenomenen binnen een cultuur zijn ten diepste te begrijpen als veruitwendigingen of manifestaties van die ene cultuurziel die de gehele cultuur in kwestie bezield, draagt en in stand houdt.

Nu begrijpt Spengler de wiskunde eveneens als een cultuurfenomeen. Iedere cultuur drukt dus vanuit haar eigen verborgen ziel haar eigen wiskunde uit. Iedere cultuur heeft zijn eigen specifieke wiskunde precies omdat zelfs de wiskunde net zoals muziek, architectuur, politiek en alle andere cultuurfenomenen een uitdrukking is van de ziel van een cultuur. Zelfs de wiskunde is volgens Spengler dus een cultureel bepaald verschijnsel en niet universeel. Dit gaat uiteraard radicaal in tegen de gangbare Platoonse opvatting van wat wiskunde is.

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De cultuurziel van de Griekse Oudheid

In zijn boek behandelt hij vervolgens de wiskunde van een aantal verschillende culturen. In wat volgt zal ik stilstaan bij twee daarvan, namelijk de wiskunde van de Griekse Oudheid oftewel de klassieke tijd en de wiskunde van het Avondland oftewel het Europese Westen. Om goed te begrijpen hoe deze twee zich tot elkaar verhouden dienen we op grond van het voorgaande dus eerst na te gaan hoe beide cultuurzielen zich precies tot elkaar verhouden.

Welnu, de ziel van de Griekse Oudheid is apollinisch. Ze wordt gesymboliseerd door het oersymbool van het zintuiglijk waarneembare individuele menselijke lichaam dat zich in een vaste, begrensde en welbepaalde onveranderlijke vorm in onze nabijheid voor ons bevindt. Deze typische gerichtheid op het menselijke waarnemen, op het “zien”, vinden we onder andere in de openingspassage van De Metafysica van Aristoteles. Daarin stelt hij dat alle mensen van nature streven naar weten en dat de mens het meest gehecht is aan het “zien” omdat we daarvan het meeste leren. De klassieke tijd wordt dus gekarakteriseerd door een hang naar concreetheid, naar het zintuiglijk aanschouwelijke, naar het eindige, naar het begrensde en naar de vaste vorm. In genoemd werk ontwikkeld Aristoteles dan ook een specifieke ‘vormen’-metafysica. Iets “is”, iets bestaat pas, doordat en omdat het een eindige afgeronde concrete vorm heeft. Het onbepaald vormloze, zoals volgens hem bijvoorbeeld het actueel oneindige, kan dan ook eenvoudigweg niet bestaan. Het vormloze staat anders gezegd gelijk aan het niets. Daarnaast is de klassieke oerziel gericht op “zijn” in plaats van op worden en op het in stand willen houden van een vaste natuurlijke orde in plaats van het voortdurend willen overschrijden van natuurlijk gegeven grenzen. Men heeft een sterke voorkeur voor het statische boven het dynamische en voor het discrete boven het continue.

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De cultuurziel van het Avondland

Het oersymbool van de cultuurziel van het Avondland is daarentegen de abstracte oneindige, onmetelijke en onbegrensde ruimte. De Westerse cultuur is faustisch. Ze wordt gekenmerkt door het faustische streven naar oneindigheid en onmetelijkheid. Wat haar bezield is een enorme expansiedrift in ruimte en tijd. En dit ondanks dat deze abstracte oneindige ruimten haar ook een bepaalde angst kunnen inboezemen, zoals Pascal opmerkt in zijn Gedachten. De Westerse cultuur is steeds gericht op het abstracte, oneindige en onbegrensde. Men zoekt het vormloze en het onbepaalde. Ze wil in eerste instantie het intelligibele en niet het zintuiglijk waarneembare. Men wil “worden” in plaats van zijn. Het gaat voortdurend om het willen overschrijden van grenzen in plaats van om de gegeven natuurlijke orde in stand te houden. Ze heeft dan ook een sterke voorkeur voor het dynamische boven het statische en voor het continue boven het discrete.

Deze twee verschillende cultuurzielen leveren volgens Spengler twee volstrekt verschillende soorten wiskunde op. Eudoxis, Archimedes en Euclides waren wezenlijk andere wiskundigen dan Descartes, Leibniz en Newton, en later Euler, Lagrange, Poincare en Gauss.

ER-eucl.jpgApollinische antieke wiskunde

Uitgaande van haar oerziel wordt de apollinische antieke wiskunde gekenmerkt door de volgende aspecten. In de eerste plaats zijn getallen concrete meeteenheden voor het meten van de afmetingen en het volume van eindige voorwerpen die elk een welbepaalde en vaste vorm hebben. Daarnaast wordt de natuur gekenmerkt door volkomen harmonieuze onderling vergelijkbare verhoudingen. Al het waarneembare is anders gezegd ten opzichte van elkaar meetkundig commensurabel. Daarom erkent de apollinische wiskunde alléén gehele getallen en getallen die te schrijven zijn als verhouding van twee gehele getallen (i.e., breuken).

Alleen deze getallen representeren immers een harmonieuze maat. Het getal nul, negatieve getallen en irrationale getallen werden onverbiddelijk afgewezen omdat ze niet passen in de door hen veronderstelde harmonieuze orde van de natuur. Dergelijke getallen corresponderen niet met een eindige commensurabele vorm. Ze werden daarom tegennatuurlijk gevonden. Bekend is dan ook de legende uit de klassieke tijd dat de man die op een gegeven moment inzag dat de wortel van twee niet als breuk te schrijven is – en zo de irrationale getallen ontdekte – deze ontdekking vervolgens met de dood moest bekopen door op zee schipbreuk te leiden.

Zintuiglijk waarneembare bewijsvoering

Ten derde erkende de Griekse wiskunde geen actuele oneindigheden. Uitsluitend potentiële oneindigheden werden erkend. Actuele oneindigheden werden naar hun wezen verondersteld onbepaald en vormloos te zijn en dus onmogelijk te kunnen bestaan. Precies om deze reden wees men oneindig convergente rekenkundige reeksen – zoals de reeks 1/2+1/4+1/8+… met als limietsom het getal 1 – resoluut af. Een wiskunde van de limieten van dergelijke reeksen kwam dan ook niet van de grond. Ook werd om dezelfde reden het bestaan van een oneindig continuüm afgewezen. Want zo’n continuüm zou een actuele oneindigheid impliceren. En omdat actuele oneindigheden ontkend werden, werkte men nooit met oneindige verzamelingen van objecten, zoals de oneindige verzameling van alle driehoeken.

De aandacht richtte zich louter op één enkel concreet object, zoals een bepaalde driehoek die in de aanschouwing is gegeven. Iedere verdergaande abstractie werd geschuwd. In de vierde plaats was ook de wiskundige bewijsvoering altijd concreet en aanschouwelijk. Bewijsvoering diende plaats te vinden op grond van zintuiglijk waarneembare en uitvoerbare constructies en nooit op grond van een onthechte abstracte formele afleiding. Tenslotte maakte men om deze reden nooit gebruik van abstracte variabelen. Vanuit hun gerichtheid op het “statische” kende men meer in het algemeen géén dynamische wiskundige concepten zoals het moderne functiebegrip. Functies beelden de ene collectie entiteiten af op een andere en zijn dus te formeel en te dynamisch.

Faustische wiskunde

Uitgaande van haar oerziel wordt daarentegen de grensverleggende faustische wiskunde van het Avondland gekenmerkt door de volgende aspecten. Getallen worden geheel formeel en abstract begrepen als functies of als verzamelingen van verzamelingen. Het getal ‘drie’ wordt bijvoorbeeld strikt formeel gedefinieerd als de collectie van alle verzamelingen die in een één-op-één correspondentie te brengen zijn met de verzameling {a, b, c}. Zo ontstaat een zuiver abstract en onthecht getalbegrip.

De faustische wiskunde richt zich vanuit haar drang tot expansie en grensoverschrijding vervolgens op het ontwikkelen van zoveel mogelijk nieuwe soorten abstracte getallen. Naast het getal nul, de negatieve en de irrationale getallen kan hierbij gedacht worden aan complexe getallen, quaternionen, transcendentale getallen, kardinaalgetallen, ordinaalgetallen en infinitesimalen. De hechte band met de concreet gegeven empirisch waarneembare werkelijkheid die voor de Griekse wiskunde heilig was, wordt dus volledig losgelaten, ook al bleken later verrassend veel van deze nieuwe abstracte getallen zeer concrete toepassingen te hebben in de technische wetenschappen. Veel moderne technologische ontdekkingen zijn zonder deze nieuwe abstracte getallen zelfs onmogelijk.

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Wiskundige bewijsvoering werd formeel en abstract

In de tweede plaats erkent men volop het bestaan van actuele oneindigheden. Sterker nog, de wiskundige Cantor introduceerde een abstracte verzamelingenleer waarmee oneindig veel soorten oneindigheden ontsloten werden. Het aantal verschillende soorten oneindigheden bleek hierbij zelfs zo groot dat er niet aftelbaar maar zelfs overaftelbaar veel verschillende soorten oneindigheden zijn. De Duitse wiskundige Hilbert merkte na Cantors ontdekking dan ook op dat de moderne wiskunde zich nooit meer uit het door Cantor ontsloten paradijs zou laten verdrijven. In het verlengde hiervan begonnen de wiskundigen van het Avondland te werken met willekeurige oneindige verzamelingen van objecten in plaats van met één enkel object dat ons in de zintuiglijke aanschouwing gegeven is. Dit leidde tot een stormvloed aan nieuwe wiskundige ontdekkingen.

Ten derde werd wiskundige bewijsvoering volstrekt formeel en abstract. Ook in dit opzicht verbrak men dus de oude band met de concrete zintuiglijk waarneembare werkelijkheid. We kunnen hierbij denken aan de louter abstracte algebra en het inzetten van de zuiver formele rekenmethodes van de door Newton en Leibniz ontdekte integraal en differentiaalrekening. Daarnaast introduceerde men vanuit haar gerichtheid op het dynamische in tegenstelling tot het statische formele variabelen en abstracte functies. Het moderne functiebegrip had in de Oudheid dan ook nooit tot ontwikkeling kunnen komen. Tenslotte denkt men niet langer na over begrensde en eindige meetkundige figuren. De aandacht wordt volledig verlegd naar het analyseren van oneindige ruimten en abstracte oneindige structuren zonder directe concrete wetenschappelijke toepassingen. Dit resulteerde in een heel universum van nieuwe oneindige ruimten, zoals niet-Euclidische – , metrische – , Sobolev – , Banach – en Lebesque ruimten. Eveneens ontstonden allerlei nieuwe oneindige wiskundige structuren, zoals de structuren van de mathematische groepen –, Galois –, en categorieëntheorie.

Eeuwen wachten op oneindig convergente reeksen

Deze abstracte Westerse wiskunde zou door de concrete apollinische antieke cultuur gezien worden als een ernstige, ja zelfs perverse, ontaarding en ontkenning van het primaat van de harmonische natuurlijke orde. Men zou het hebben afgedaan als onthecht, onnatuurlijk, niet reëel en illusoir. Dit pathos van de Griekse cultuurziel heeft er echter wel voor gezorgd dat zij zich nooit zo sterk expansief heeft kunnen ontwikkelen als in het Avondland. Vele belangrijke paradoxen, zoals die van Zeno, zijn voor de Griekse wiskunde altijd onoplosbaar gebleven. En dit precies omdat zij de faustische wiskundige concepten die nodig zijn voor het oplossen ervan – zoals in dit geval oneindig convergente reeksen – nooit heeft kunnen overwegen en aannemen. De mensheid moest na de Griekse Oudheid dan ook nog vele eeuwen wachten voordat de wiskunde van het Avondland deze en andere problemen eindelijk zou oplossen.

Dr. ir. Emanuel Rutten (1973) is filosoof en verbonden aan de Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. Het onderzoeks- en onderwijsterrein van Emanuel omvat de relatie tussen geloof en wetenschap, evalueren van de rationaliteit van seculiere en religieuze wereldbeelden, kennisleer en speculatief realisme, logica, retorica en esthetiek.

jeudi, 14 décembre 2017

Ondergang van het Avondland

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Ondergang van het Avondland

Bestaat er wel een wereldziel, een soort geestelijke grammatica die aan de basis van elke grote cultuur ligt?

Dit is zo’n boek dat velen kennen maar weinigen lazen. Het is nochtans, zoals vele van zulke boeken, ruim de moeite waard. Er bestaan maar weinig studies waaruit een dergelijke eruditie spreekt, waar wetenschap, kunst, filosofie, wiskunde, religie, politiek, techniek, landschap … niet als dusdanig worden voorgesteld, maar vanuit hun ziel en dus onderlinge samenhang worden besproken. Eigenlijk vormt dat de grootst mogelijke (hedendaagse) kritiek op deze studie: bestaat dat wel, zo’n overkoepelend, alomvattend systeem dat elke cultuur in al haar veruitwendigingen verklaart? Bestaat er wel een wereldziel, een soort geestelijke grammatica die aan de basis van elke grote cultuur ligt? Gehoorzamen alle culturen aan eenzelfde historische wetmatigheid? Dreigt de werkelijkheid dan niet te worden opgeofferd aan het systeem?

Toen men Hegel opmerkte dat sommige elementen en gebeurtenissen uit de werkelijkheid niet pasten in zijn systeem, zou die koudweg geantwoord hebben: “Dat is dan jammer voor de werkelijkheid.” Is dat in Spenglers ‘morfologie van de culturen’ ook het geval? De manhaftige en (daardoor) aanvechtbare aanpak van Spengler wordt nu voor het eerst volledig in Nederlandse vertaling door Mark Wildschut aangeboden door Uitgeverij Boom. De uitgever lanceert tegelijk ook het digitaal platform LeesSpengler.nl waar u mits een in het boek meegegeven code toegang krijgt op commentaren, samenvattingen en een hele video-voorstelling per hoofdstuk door Ad Verbrugge.

Rome

Ondanks wat veelal wordt beweerd, gaat het in dit boek niet om een pessimisme. Dat veronderstelt immers de mogelijkheid van een weliswaar afgewezen optimistische lezing van de geschiedenis. Spengler bejubelt noch betreurt, nog minder vuurt hij aan tot ‘redding’ uit de ondergang. Die ondergang heeft namelijk geen morele betekenis, alleen een fysionomische. De westerse cultuur, het Avondland, is oud geworden en treedt haar laatste fase in: de civilisatie. Dat leest Spengler af aan haar prioriteiten: een geesteloze pragmatiek, totale metropolisatie en geld als ultieme maat voor de weging van de wereld. Dat is geen veroordeling, een te remediëren toestand, een laakbare historische misstap van enkelen. Zo vergaat het nu eenmaal elke cultuur. Zo betekende Rome de laatste fase, de ondergang van de antieke cultuur.

Europees denken

De antieke cultuur is niet onze voorloper of de primitieve versie van de moderne cultuur, zoals dat vandaag de dag nog steeds wordt verkondigd. De antieke cultuur en de westerse cultuur staan volledig op zichzelf, net als bijvoorbeeld de Chinese, de Indiase, de Babylonische, de Egyptische, de Arabische en de Mexicaanse. Dat zijn ze dan ineens allemaal. Spengler wijst op twee fouten in het bedrijven van cultuurgeschiedenis, met name de (typisch moderne) idee van vooruitgang als bovengeschiedlijke as waarlangs culturen zich opvolgen;  de (even typisch moderne) promotie van de eigen tijd als een historische finaliteit. Culturen zijn namelijk zo goed als onvertaalbaar naar elkaar, dus zeker niet afleidbaar uit elkaar volgens een boventijdelijk schema. Bovendien is er niets speciaals aan het heden, dat heeft geen enkele prevalentie op eender welke andere periode. Elke vorm van eurocentrisme of moderne arrogantie is dus uit den boze. Wél is het zo dat we alleen volgens het westers schema over culturen kunnen nadenken, omdat er nu eenmaal geen buiten-cultureel standpunt bestaat. We denken dus Europees, maar zonder Europa een speciale plaats binnen het wereldgebeuren te geven.

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In die zin start Spengler een redelijk nieuwe geschiedbeoefening op, waarbij culturen vanbinnen uit als organismen worden opgevat, organismen die groeien, bloeien en afsterven. Spengler aanvaardt dus geen overkoepelende geschiedenis waarin culturen elk hun voorbestemde positie innemen, maar wel een organische wetmatigheid, een fysionomie, waaraan elke cultuur gehoorzaamt. Dat wil wel zeggen dat Spenglers geschiedenistheorie een westerse is, noodgedwongen. Eigenlijk is dat zelfs niet eens zo vreemd, omdat het belang dat wordt gehecht aan geschiedenis typisch westers is.

Getal

De westerse cultuur noemt Spengler ‘faustisch’, naar het bekende stuk van Goethe. De antieke cultuur heet dan apollinisch, de Arabische magisch … De faustische ziel wordt geëvoceerd in alle mogelijke facetten van de westerse cultuur: het oneindige (tot haar hoogtepunt gebracht in de infinitesimaalrekening en het ‘limietbegrip’), het muzikale (‘voelbaar’ tot in de architectuur), de innerlijk-reflexieve ziel (het tragische bewustzijn van King Lear versus de tragische situaties bij Oidipous), de hang naar steeds meer tot in het onbereikbare … Dat leest Spengler zelfs af in de manier waarop het Westen het getal ‘cultiveert’. Het is werkelijk fascinerend hoe die in een getal, voor de geciviliseerde westerling een louter rekenmiddel, de basisgrammatica van een hele cultuur kan oproepen. Geduldig ontvouwt Spengler hoe elke cultuur anders omgaat met het getal en hoe die manier telkens weer tekenend is voor die cultuur. Het getal als basissymbool en betekenaar voor de cultuurziel.

Caesarisme

Wat ons te doen staat, is het begrijpen van de actualiteit vanuit die ziel, voornamelijk dan in termen van haar politieke opdracht. Dat laatste maakte trouwens de oorspronkelijke opzet van deze studie uit. Maar om de politiek binnen het culturele raamwerk te kunnen begrijpen, in de ‘diepte’, moest hij eerst in een cultuurhistorische en –filosofische studie voorzien. Die ligt dus nu en hier voor. De westerse ziel is uitgeput, haar beschaving markeert haar eigen ondergang. Nogmaals, Spengler bepleit hier geen politiek die tegen die ondergang ingaat, dat is een foute nazi-lezing. De nazi-ideologen wilden de klok terugdraaien en de waarden en instellingen waarvan Spengler in zijn diagnose de erosie noteerde, nieuw leven inblazen. Dat is nu precies wat Spengler niét zegt. Hij voorspelt een terugval in een ‘primitiever’ politiek stadium, met onder meer een vorm van ‘caesarisme’, iets waarnaar ons huidig populisme misschien verwijst. Immers, democratie is een vervallen politieke vorm waarin geld en wetenschap overnemen van adel en priesterstand. Vervallen, omdat het volgens Spengler nooit om een echte democratie gaat, maar veeleer een verhulde dictatuur waarin het geld via dictatuur van partij en pers wezenlijk het maatschappelijk gebeuren bepaalt. Dat laat een mechanisme toe waar uiteindelijk een charismatisch figuur wars van elk programma of ideologie, utopie of visie, botweg de macht neemt door het handig inzetten van de massa. Het heeft geen enkele zin hier tegenin ter gaan, want zo vergaat het nu eenmaal elke cultuur.

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Cultuurrelativisme

Het verschil tussen het grote historische schema van Hegel en dat van Spengler zit hem hierin dat de eerste een alomvattende geschiedenis ontvouwt terwijl de laatste een westerse geschiedenis van binnenuit uitrolt volgens een universeel programma, geïnspireerd op het levend organisme. Dat leverde hem ten onrechte de titel van ‘cultuurrelativist’. Volgens Spengler kan niemand, zelfs geen cultuurfilosoof, uit de cultuur stappen om vanuit een ‘view fromnowhere’ culturen als objecten te bestuderen. Cultuurrelativisme vooronderstelt namelijk dergelijk abstract gezichtspunt. De vraag naar de cultuurgeschiedenis is zelf typisch voor de westerse cultuur. Ook al bekritiseert hij de bestaande historische modellen en theorieën, toch noemt hij zijn aanpak en methode onvervalst westers.

We komen tussen de regels van deze studie vele voorlopers en volgelingen uit de (westerse) filosofie en wetenschap tegen. We lezen de echo’s van onder meer Dilthey (natuur vs. geschiedenis) en Bergson (ruimte vs. tijd), begrijpen waar onder meer Heidegger (er bestaat geen universele historische dialectiek), Cassirer (symbolische vormen als bouwstenen van cultuur), Gadamer (historische horizontaliteit van het begrijpen) en Fukuyama (apocalyptiek van de westerse beschaving) hun inspiratie vandaan haalden. In die zin kan dus dit monumentale werk van Spengler terecht als mijlpaal worden gelezen.

samedi, 28 octobre 2017

Het Avondland in het licht van Spengler en de Islam

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Het Avondland in het licht van Spengler en de Islam

door Sid Lukkassen

De nu volgende tekst is een ingekorte versie van een voordracht die Sid Lukkassen op 23 oktober jl. hield voor het KVHV Leuven.

Het motto van deze voordracht is: “Ducunt fata volentem, nolentem trahunt”: de gewillige leidt het lot, de onwillige wordt erdoor meegesleept; het lot zal leiden wie wil, wie niet wil zal het dwingen.Uitgeverij Boom voltooide een vertaling van Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918) van Oswald Spengler. Boom onderstreept met de publicatie (terecht) de urgentie en relevantie van Spenglers werk voor de huidige tijd. In deze verhandeling maak ik u deelgenoot van mijn omgang met Spengler en de waarde van zijn werk voor een politiek filosoof.

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Culturen voorgesteld als levensvormen

Over Spengler moet allereerst gezegd worden dat zijn levensloop in alles naar de conceptie voert van Der Untergang des Abendlandes. Daarop volgt de receptie van dat werk en ten slotte wordt Spenglers leven geheel beheerst en getekend door zijn reacties op die receptie. Steeds keert daarbij terug dat er volgens Spengler ‘culturen’ bestaan; wezenlijk van elkaar te onderscheiden ‘levensvormen’. In de geschiedenis maken zij een analoge ontwikkeling door die in essentie de levenscyclus van een mensenwezen volgt.

Spenglers uitgangspunt wijkt af van het ‘maakbaarheidsdenken’ van de Verlichting en het techno-utopisme – daarom wordt zijn werk verworpen in progressieve kringen. Ook botst de cyclische uitleg van de historie met de lineaire voorstelling van het christendom (vanaf de schepping tot de openbaring gevolgd door de Apocalyps en de verlossing). Ook de nazi’s maakten Spengler het leven zuur: zijn geschiedsopvatting zou het onderwerp ‘ras’ verwaarlozen en werd als ‘fatalistisch’ aangemerkt.

Deze auteur overstijgt zijn tijdsgewricht

Spengler was groot vóór de machtsovername van de nazi’s en dit maakte hem tot een van de enkelen die nog in een positie was om het nieuwe regime te kunnen bekritiseren; dit scenario kan zich in onze toekomst makkelijk herhalen. Het zijn er maar weinigen die intrinsiek gedreven zijn om in alle omstandigheden objectief en kritisch te blijven – dit type mensen keert maar zelden terug op verkiesbare lijstplaatsen: partijbesturen kunnen dit persoonlijkheidstype simpelweg niet aan.

Het is ook precies waarom Spengler zijn tijdsgeest kon overstijgen en waarom het nazi-regime dat niet kon, evenzeer als dat de Westerse politieke partijen zichzelf vandaag overbodig maken. Permanent gevangen in de noodzaak om stemmen te trekken kijken partijleiders niet vooruit maar raken zij blijvend verweven in de waan van de dag. Populariteit, meeklappen en meeglibberen boven inhoud: de buitendienstcultuur in een notendop.

Wat de hofintriges van het politieke spel betreft zag Spengler scherp de schaduwzijden. Hij herkende die in de massapolitiek als voorwaarde voor plebiscieten en demagogie. Zoals toen grote aantallen mensen werden samengeperst in de straten van Rome; zuchtend naar vermaak en afleiding waren zij gevoelig voor bespeling en ophitsing door populaire volksleiders. Kijkend naar hoe joviaal de huidige leiders zich profileren zult u de buitendienstcultuur moeiteloos in hen herkennen: besef dat achter deze gemoedelijke façades meedogenloze partijhiërarchieën schuilgaan. De leden zijn aanvankelijk noodzakelijk om de partij op de kaart te zetten en populair te maken; zij worden gaandeweg op de achtergrond geplaatst en vervangen door teams van professionele spindoctors en imagomakers.

Spengler zou het daarom met ons eens zijn dat de oplossing van onze huidige malaise niet ligt in partijen met hun fladderige leiders – steeds vluchtig en jachtig op zoek naar bekende individuen wier populariteit op hen moet afstralen en die zij vervolgens weer afdanken en aan de kant schuiven – maar ligt in de geaarde binding aan een gemeenschap; een gemeenschap zoals zij vorm krijgt en wortels aanmaakt in een Nieuwe Zuil.

Dit project begrenst tegelijk de libertijnse en hedonistische ego’s van politici: het is de politicus die de zuil dient en politiek vertegenwoordigt; het is de zuil die de politicus corrigeert. De politicus kan omgekeerd niet leven zonder de zuil – zonder de zuil is het geen bestendigd gedachtegoed dat hem draagt maar slechts het vergankelijke beeld dat de spindoctor produceert. Daarmee – zonder zuil – ligt de macht bij de spindoctor en niet bij de gekozen volksvertegenwoordiger. Het zijn zuilen die democratieën überhaupt mogelijk maken, want zonder verankering in gewortelde gemeenschappen, in intellectuele arbeid en in Bildung, is het de wispelturigheid van het moment die de democratie beheerst; zo’n democratie is decadent en gedraagt zich min of meer als tirannie. Ook Spengler constateert in Der Untergang des Abendlandes dat de handel in imago’s een decadente democratie typeert.

Het boek zelf las ik voor het eerst in de vroege lente van 2008. Ik nam het boek mee op studiereis naar Berlijn, de hoofdstad van wat eens “het noordelijke Sparta” werd genoemd. Als er eens een uur was waarin de leerlingen zichzelf vermaakten, dan trok ik mij terug om in rust wat pagina’s te lezen – ik zette daarbij de ramen open en voelde hoe de lentebries zich binnenliet vanuit de skyline van de betonnen metropool. Zo werkte ik het boek in zijn totaliteit door, van kaft tot kaft – als een roman.

Duiding van het thema ‘Avondland’

Volgens Spengler is ‘alleen zijn in het woud’ de diepste religieuze ervaring van Europeanen. Gotische kathedralen bootsen die ervaring na – de meest geslaagde bouwwerken raken iets van het eindeloos ronddolen, wat we ook zien in de epische verhalen van de Westerse cultuur: het ronddolen van koning Arthur, Parsifal en The Lord of the Rings gaat terug op Odin: “Veel heb ik gereisd, veel heb ik gezien, veel van goden ervaren.” aldus het Vikinggedicht Vafþrúðnismál. Ook verwees Spengler vaak naar Gauss en Leibniz – naar ontdekkingsreizen en wiskundige formules. Het Westerse brein heeft een existentiële behoefte aan doorgronding en expansie: de oer-Europeaan vecht tegen de elementen en vormt het leven op het aambeeld van zijn wilskracht.

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Europa is voor Spengler het ‘Avondland’ omdat het met zijn westelijke ligging de grond verbeeldt waarachter de zon verdwijnt wanneer de avond valt. Verkenningsschepen doorkruisten kolkende oceanen, zoekend naar nieuwe gebieden met helwitte stranden, waar de zon tot aan de einder loopt – dit was een tijd waarin de schepen van hout waren en de mannen van staal. “Westerse kunst staat gelijk aan het weghakken van de overvloedigheid der natuur” schrijft Camille Paglia. “De Westerse geest maakt definities; dat wil zeggen – deze trekt lijnen.” Het Europees intellect schept een logica die zich exponentieel doorzet, voorbij de grenzen van tijd en ruimte – het oneindige, het lineaire, het abstracte – raketten lancerend door een ijl heelal, afkoersend op onbekende bestemmingen. Dit is een belangrijk verschil met de Oosterse religies – in het boeddhistische Morgenland ligt het einddoel juist in het ophouden te streven. Vanuit deze tegenstelling denkend is ‘Avondland’ tevens een overkoepelend begrip voor de geestelijke cultuur van de Europese beschaving.

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In Avondland en Identiteit wees ik vooral op de invloed van Spengler tegen de achtergrond van het fin de siècle. De meesters van de achterdocht, zoals Marx, Nietzsche en Freud brachten het Europese zelfvertrouwen aan het wankelen. Was die indrukwekkende Westerse beschaving niet een façade voor allerlei economische klassenbelangen, machtswellust en seksuele driften? Ook bleek het zelfnuancerende, zelfreflexieve bewustzijn van het christendom gevolgen te hebben voor het zelfbeeld van de Europese beschaving. Het Bijbelboek Daniël beschrijft een opeenvolging van wereldrijken die ten val komen: mede hierdoor hebben Euro­peanen de neiging om zichzelf te duiden binnen een geschiedenis die eigenlijk al is afgerond – als een uitvloeisel van een tijdperk dat reeds is afgesloten. Dit leidde tot relativisme en uiteindelijk tot schuldbesef, vermoeidheid en verlamming. Het is tegen deze achtergrond dat Spengler Der Untergang des Abendlandes schreef.

Een mogelijk dilemma is de lastige falsifieerbaarheid van Spenglers voorspellingen. Ieder fenomeen van verval is uit te leggen als een voorteken van het naderende instorten van een beschaving; dat verval is immers aangekondigd en vervolgens wordt alles in dat licht gezien. Alexis de Tocqueville, toch niet de minste, stelde het zeer krachtig: iedere nieuwe generatie biedt weer vers materiaal om te vormen naar de wensen die wetgevers vooropstellen. Als de wetgevers eenmaal decadent worden, dan is er een groter probleem.

Vervreemding van de eigen cultuur

Spinoza merkte al op dat wetten niet zijn opgewassen tegen de gebreken waarin mensen vervallen die te veel vrije tijd hebben – gebreken die niet zelden de val van een rijk veroorzaken. Zo stelt hij in hoofdstuk tien van Tractatus Politicus (1677) dat in het lichaam van een staat zich net als in een natuurlijk lichaam kwalijke stoffen ophopen, die zo nu en dan moeten worden gereinigd en doorgespoeld. De staat moet dan terugkeren naar haar uitgangspunt – naar de normen en waarden die de grondslag vormen van de bijbehorende cultuur. Blijft deze omwenteling uit, dan zullen het karakter van het volk en het karakter van haar staat volgens Spinoza twee verschillende paden inslaan. “Waardoor men er ten slotte toe komt de vaderlijke zeden te minachten en zich vreemde eigen maken, wat erop neer komt zichzelf te knechten.”

Vanuit deze verandering van heersende zeden komen wij vanzelf op de actuele migratiekwestie en het ‘Heimatgefühl’. Dit wil zeggen dat mensen, wanneer ze niet in de toeristische modus zijn, het liefst in een omgeving verkeren waar ze zich thuis, vertrouwd en geborgen voelen. Het woord ‘goed’ hangt oorspronkelijk samen met dat wat je ervaart als het eigene – vandaar ook een woord als ‘landgoed’. Met de instroom van andere culturen maakt dit thuisgevoel plaats voor maatschappelijke versplintering en sociaal atomisme. Mensen identificeren zich minder met elkaar waardoor solidariteit verdwijnt voor berekenend gedrag. De tradities die voor maatschappelijke samenhang zorgen verwaaien en men krijgt er enclavevorming voor terug.

Als een beschaving de fase van cultuurvervreemding heeft bereikt, dan treedt het onderscheid naar voren dat Spengler in Der Untergang des Abendlandes aanbracht tussen ‘slapende’ en ‘wakende’ zielen. De slapende zielen vertegenwoordigen de onderstroom van een beschaving: ze overdenken hun cultuur niet bewust maar beleven deze gevoelsmatig. Ze zijn verbonden met een oerkracht en sluimeren tussen met mos begroeide ruïnes waaruit een lichte nevel opstijgt. Soms komen ze spontaan in roering – precies om de “giftige stoffen uit te spoelen”. De wakkere zielen daarentegen staan volgens Spengler meer op hun eigen oordeelskracht: ze denken systemen uit en zijn op abstracties gericht, op ‘hoe de wereld in theorie zou moeten functioneren’.

In theorie kan men inderdaad zeggen: “Hoe erg is het als er duizenden of zelfs honderdduizenden immigranten naar Europa komen? Geen enkele cultuur is statisch – we passen ons vanzelf aan.” In de praktijk redeneren alleen mensen op deze wijze die voortdurend in een toeristische modus zijn: het slag mensen voor wie cultuur, geschiedenis en erfgoed geen intrinsieke waarde hebben, en voor hen volledig inwisselbaar zijn. Het is hierom dat Spengler in het tweede deel van zijn magnum opus concludeert dat ontworteling en doorgedreven kosmopolitisme kenmerkend zijn voor oude en stervende beschavingen. 

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Nu eerst meer over de invloed van de islam op het Avondland. Daarvoor verdiepen wij ons in een bespiegeling op Michel Houellebecqs roman Onderworpen. Het is in 2015 geschreven als Soumission en naar het Nederlands vertaald door Martin de Haan, dat onze gedachten in die richting stuurt. Het boek verscheen in Frankrijk op exact dezelfde dag dat de moordaanslag op Charlie Hebdo plaatsvond, waarbij tekenaars van onwelgevallige cartoons door moslimfundamentalisten met machinegeweren werden doorzeefd. De provocatieve titel verwijst naar de significantie van het woord islam, wat letterlijk “onderwerping” betekent en uitdraagt dat het leven van de individuele gelovige niet aan hemzelf toebehoort maar aan diens opperwezen.

Integratie tussen de lakens?

In mijn leven deed zich een ontmoeting voor die het voorgaande bevestigt. Dit was toen ik tijdens een wetenschappelijke conferentie een knappe jongedame trof met een migratieachtergrond. Ze kwam me zeer Westers voor. Niet alleen was ze als een veelbelovend wetenschapper uitgekozen voor de bijeenkomst: ook accentueerde de dunne stof van haar kleding haar zandloperfiguur. De rok die ze droeg benadrukte hoe haar venusheuvel afstak tegen de musculatuur van haar onderbuik. Haar ontblote schouders boden uitzicht op de verfijnde pezen en zelfs de amberkleurige huid van haar bescheiden borsten was bij de juiste invalshoek te zien. Plots vertelde ze dat ze de relatie met haar Nederlandse vriend had verbroken vanwege de islam.

Hij was naar haar zeggen goed op weg. Drie jaar geleden had hij zich voor haar bekeerd en sindsdien hadden ze een relatie. Hij had echter laten doorschemeren dat hij voor haar alcohol en varkensvlees liet staan. Met een verzoekende ondertoon vroeg hij haar of er dan ook een punt was waarop zij concessies kon doen. “Hij moet zich aan Allah geven ter wille van Allah,” zei ze resoluut. “niet ter wille van mij.” Precies, zo vulde ik aan, “want zijn overgave moet absoluut zijn.” Haar okerkleurige ogen begonnen te fonkelen: “Absoluut, volkomen en totaal. De kern van ons geloof is onderwerping. Onderwerping aan Allah vanwege Allah en niet vanwege je vriendin.”

Onderworpen is het levensverhaal van een docent in de negentiende-eeuwse Franse literatuur aan een prestigieuze universiteit. Buiten enige affaires met studentes is zijn leven eigenlijk bar saai. Dat verandert zodra de Moslimbroederschap in Frankrijk aan de macht komt en salafistische oliesjeiks zich met het onderwijsbeleid gaan bemoeien. In Onderworpen vertegenwoordigt de islam niet zozeer een bedreiging voor Europa alswel de redding van Europa:

“Want in dezelfde mate als het liberale individualisme wel moest zegevieren zolang het alleen tussenstructuren zoals vaderlanden, corporaties en kasten ontbond, had het zijn eigen doodvonnis getekend toen het zijn aanval richtte op de ultieme structuur van het gezin, en dus op de demografie; daarna kwam logischerwijs de tijd van de islam.” (blz 212).

“De massale komst van immigrantenpopulaties die waren doordrongen van een traditionele cultuur waarin de natuurlijke hiërarchieën, de onderworpenheid van de vrouw en het respect voor ouderen nog niet waren aangetast, vormde een historische kans voor de morele en familiale herbewapening van Europa. Dit opende de weg voor een nieuwe bloeitijd van het oude continent.” (blz 215).

Dit brengt ons terug op wat ik zei over de politieke filosofen van de twintigste eeuw. Als politiek filosoof vermoed ik dat de politieke wijsbegeerte na de voornoemde ‘grote leermeesters’ feitelijk stil kwam te staan. De literatuur blijkt ons te hebben ingehaald en drukt ons nu met de neus op de feiten. Ik bedoel hiermee de enorm visionaire kracht van Houellebecq: terwijl liberalen en socialisten elkaar bevechten met economische vertogen (Piketty) voelt de schrijver haarfijn aan dat het politieke debat zich verplaatst naar identiteit. Politieke botsingen zullen gaan om de demografische voorwaarden die een beschaving nodig heeft om überhaupt te kunnen voortbestaan.

“De Moslimbroederschap is een bijzondere partij – voor hen zijn demografie en onderwijs de hoofdpunten: de bevolkingsgroep die de beste vruchtbaarheidscijfers heeft en die zijn waarden weet door te geven trekt aan het langste eind. Zo simpel is het in hun ogen, economie en zelfs geopolitiek zijn maar bijzaak: wie de kinderen heeft, heeft de toekomst, punt uit.” (blz 64).

Wat Onderworpen nóg controversiëler maakt is dat het Front National in het verhaal een verzetsbeweging wordt, als de enige groep die nog bereid is voor de traditionele Westerse waarden te vechten. Sociaal-liberalen zijn bezig met ‘lauwe’ economische compromissen en ondertussen verplaatst het ‘bezielend-ideologische vuur’ zich naar de rechterkant van het politiek spectrum. Zoals in een debat tussen filosoof Etienne Vermeersch en politicus Bart de Wever al werd gezegd “zijn de mensen nu wel een beetje klaar met de holle vertogen over wereldburgerschap die ze vanuit hun maatschappelijke elites krijgen opgedrongen”. Rond dezelfde tijd omschreef Martin Bosma zichzelf als leider van een club rebellen die zich verzet tegen de afschaffing van Nederland. Dit was in een interview over zijn boek Minderheid in eigen land (2015). Ook de recente oprichting van een nieuwe groep in het Europees Parlement, met daarin onder meer Front National, PVV en Vlaams Belang, is een teken aan de wand.

Westerse zelfopheffing?

Minder visionair was de bijeenkomst in Utrecht op 16 mei 2015 waar de schrijver optrad ondersteund door diens vertaler. Wie in de ban is van Houellebecqs boeken is dat wegens de aangrijpende thema’s: de invloed van feminisme op man-vrouw verhoudingen, de pornografisering van de samenleving en de botsing tussen de islam en het Westen. Het vraaggesprek ging echter over technische trivialiteiten omtrent het vertalingsproces. “Hoe vaak herhaal je een woord binnen een alinea – volg je daarin Flaubert of Balzac?” Helaas kreeg het publiek maar vijf minuutjes om vragen te stellen en het debat te ontketenen.

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In een interview met Paris Review (2 januari 2015) noemde Houellebecq Frankrijk juist een verzetshaard tegen deze collectieve zelfopheffing; dat maakt het land vrij uniek in vergelijking met andere Europese landen (zoals Zweden). De uitspraak is interessant omdat de discussie «wel of geen Westerse zelfopheffing en zo ja, in hoeverre?» de inhoud van zowel politieke filosofie als geopolitiek zal bepalen. Deze kwestie is de ultieme inleiding tot mijn nieuwe boek Levenslust en Doodsdrift: essays over cultuur en politiek, dat op de boekenbeurs van Antwerpen gepresenteerd zal worden en uitvoerig ingaat op de laatstgenoemde vraag.

jeudi, 07 septembre 2017

Oswald Spengler y la Europa fáustica

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Un libro ejemplar.

Volver a leer a Oswald Spengler.

Reseña del libro de Carlos X. Blanco Martín, Oswald Spengler y la Europa fáustica (Fides Ediciones, 2016).

Manuel F. Lorenzo

Profesor Titular de Filosofía, Universidad de Oviedo (España).

En el libro que reseñamos, el autor, después de una breve presentación del, filósofo alemán Ostwald Spengler, nos pide, ya en la Introducción, una lectura urgente y necesaria hoy de la obra spengleriana, al que considera el pensador más importante del pasado siglo XX. Afirmación polémica, esta última, que contrasta con el olvido académico de su figura a lo largo de la segunda mitad del siglo XX. Pues, durante ese tiempo se habría preferido la Filosofía materialista de la Historia del marxismo a la Filosofía de la Historia de Spengler, de carácter vitalista nietzscheano. No obstante, justo a finales del pasado siglo, con la caída del Muro de Berlín y la guerra civil que llevó a la destrucción de la antigua Yugoslavia, irrumpe con fuerza de nuevo la influencia spengleriana en los ambientes académicos de la Historia política, con el famoso artículo de Samuel Huntington, ¿Choque de civilizaciones?(1996), convertido posteriormente en libro, en el cual el autor resucita el concepto histórico de Civilización como Gran Cultura, utilizado por Spengler y otros historiadores, para interpretar dicha guerra como una guerra, no tanto de conflicto ideológico tipo capitalismo/comunismo, sino como una guerra de Choque de las Civilizaciones culturales, Cristiana Occidental, Ortodoxa Rusa e Islámica. Los atentados neoyorkinos del 11 de Septiembre, de efecto mundial, reforzarían esta interpretación del Choque de Civilizaciones.

Tiene sin embargo razón el autor cuando mantiene la persistencia del olvido de la obra de Spengler en los ambientes académico-filosóficos. De ahí creemos que viene la  presentación que Carlos X. Blanco hace del alemán como el Gran filósofo ignorado del siglo XX (p.17). Otros nombres, sin embargo, parecen hoy más merecedores de tal galardón, como Husserl, Heidegger o Wittgenstein, según preferencia de escuelas. Aunque sabemos de la relatividad de tales juicios, que precisan del paso quizás de siglos para fijar esa consistencia valorativa, nos basta con considerarlo el mejor filósofo de la Historia del siglo XX. Pues, ni Schopenhauer ni Nietzsche, padres del Vitalismo filosófico, desarrollaron sistemáticamente una Filosofia de la Historia vitalista que se pudiese contraponer a la propia de las filosofías progresistas, del positivismo y del marxismo (La teoría de los Tres Estadios de Augusto Comte o el Materialismo Histórico de Marx). Lo hizo, sin embargo, Spengler en su famoso libro La decadencia de Occidente (1918). Hoy es necesaria de nuevo su lectura como antídoto contra el dominante Multiculturalismo y relativismo cultural. Pues Spengler, aunque parte del pluralismo histórico de las grandes culturas o civilizaciones, no cree en “la porosidad y mezcla de rasgos culturales que se ve positiva en sí misma de una manera acrítica y ajena a toda evidencia empírica. El filósofo de Blanckenburg nos enseñó que, en realidad, cada cultura es un organismo único, intraducible, irrepetible” (p. 27). Tampoco cree Spengler en la Humanidad como algo realmente existente, sino como una mera Idea abstracta. En la realidad Histórica la Humanidad se dice de muchas maneras, y estas son las Civilizaciones actuales y las ya desaparecidas. No hay una Civilización como suma de Civilizaciones (La Humanidad) ni tampoco una multiplicidad equívoca de ellas (Globalización y Multiculturalismo), sino una pluralidad análoga, susceptible de desarrollar una Historia Comparada de dichas Civilizaciones, la cual permite obtener, en base a dichas analogías, unos rasgos que se repiten y permiten extraer ciertas leyes comunes de desarrollo en cuyo marco se perciben diferentes fisonomías.

De ahí su visión fisiognómica de las Civilizaciones orientada a captar intuitivamente su proceso vital, su impulso vital creador, como diría Bergson, lo que acerca la investigación histórica, según Spengler, más a la labor de un hermeneuta, que interpreta la acción creadora de un poeta, que a la de un físico que se limita a coordinar meros hechos (p. 54). Dicho Análisis Morfológico de las Civilizaciones permite, paradójicamente, que la ciencia histórica pueda hacer predicciones, como hacen las ciencias físicas, que nos permita “savoir pour prevoir, prevoir pou pouvoir”, como preconizaba el fisicalismo científico de Augusto Comte. Pues de dichos análisis Spengler diagnostica la Decadencia de Europa, no al modo de un “fatum mahometanum”, como diría Leibniz, sino más en la línea de un “fatum cristianum”, que permitiría combatir dicha decadencia para retrasarla o preparar una reestructuración anamórfica, generando una civilización superior, como ocurrió en el propio surgimiento de la Civilización Europea al final del mundo antiguo. Como escribe Carlos X. Blanco, “Spengler afirma que una filosofía a la altura de nuestro tiempo es una filosofía que pueda poner ante la mirada una morfología de la historia. Los grandes de la filosofía moderna habían ignorado o despreciado  esta ciencia: Kant, Schopenhauer. Es preciso dejar de ser moderno. La Física-matemática no es la categoría central en torno a cuyo punto de gravedad orbite la totalidad de la filosofía. Hay que hacerse cargo de la nueva ciencia de la historia, de su específica morfología. Y en esa ciencia se necesita acostumbrar la mente al método comparativo, entendiendo por comparación la búsqueda de correspondencias, homologías. Los periodos pueden corresponderse analógicamente: nuestro periodo (iniciado hace un siglo, cuando Spengler publicó LDO) se corresponde perfectamente con la Antigüedad decadente” (p. 128).

Es este diagnóstico spengleriano de la Decadencia de Occidente que nos corresponde el que mejor actualiza el autor interpretando, de un modo congenial con el gran filósofo alemán, los nuevos fenómenos a los que estamos asistiendo en Occidente del Abandono de las raíces (pg. 113 ss.), del creciente parasitismo de Estado (p. 151 ss.), la Civilización pornográfica (p. 122 ss.), el Hombre Masa (p.132 ss.), el capitalismo globalizador, deslocalizador y esclavizador (p. 163 ss.), etc. Son interesantes, asimismo, los análisis que hace Carlos X. Blanco sobre la Reconquista española, que tiene su foco originario principal en Asturias con la mítica sublevación fronteriza de Pelayo frente al Islám en Covadonga, y que el autor sitúa en el empuje fundacional de la propia Civilización Occidental, cuyo núcleo metropolitano de mayor influencia inmediata surge en la Aquisgrán de Carlomagno. La importancia, en principio menor, de la sublevación de Covadonga, no se debe, sin embargo, determinar kantianamente a priori, como se podría hacer con el foco del Sacro Imperio, el cual, aunque comienza bien a priori,  no mantuvo su unidad tras la muerte de Carlomagno. La importancia de Covadonga debe determinarse a posteriori, por sus consecuencias, que se podrán de manifiesto, como diría Eugenio Trías, por la lógica de la frontera o limes con el Islám, que los reinos ibéricos vivieron más intensamente que el resto de los europeos. Pues la España de la Reconquista, que derrota al Islám, emergerá en el Renacimiento como la gran Superpotencia europea, cuya política Contrareformista acabará provocando la división y crisis del propio Sacro Imperio.

Para finalizar esta reseña, me gustaría matizar la propia contextualización de la Decadencia que el autor hace al considerar que estamos entrando en una fase similar a lo que fue el llamado Bajo Imperio, que el propio Spengler sitúa en el siglo IV después de Cristo, con el ascenso del cristianismo apoyado por el emperador Constantino. Habría que hacer antes la matización de que Spengler profetizó la Decadencia de una Europa que sería dominada por Rusia, una nueva Roma. En esto Spengler se equivocó, como reconoce el autor, pues fueron los Norteamericanos los que acabaron asumiendo el papel de una nueva Roma en relación con Europa, tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial  y con el resto del mundo tras la desintegración de la URSS. Pero, con ello Occidente no decayó sino todo lo contrario, nunca fue más extensa su influencia y prestigio civilizatorio. Otra cosa es que estemos asistiendo hoy, tras la victoria de Trump a una fuerte crisis y división de la sociedad norteamericana a consecuencia de fenómenos característicos de la decadencia cultural, como el triunfo aplastante de la cultura de masas, los fenómenos de corrupción económica crecientes, la penetración del relativismo multiculturalista a través de las grandes ciudades, como Nueva York o San Francisco, enfrentadas a la llamada “América profunda”, etc. Pero esto podría verse como algo similar a la crisis del siglo I antes de Cristo que marcó el paso de la Republica al Imperio, el cual mantendría la política civilizadora de Roma por todo el Mediterráneo durante varios siglos más. En tal sentido, podríamos decir que, lejos de haber entrado ya en una decadencia semejante a la romana, estaríamos hoy en una crisis de la propia Democracia Americana, como la llamaba Tocqueville, que deberá adoptar otra forma política más adecuada si quiere seguir el lema de su actual presidente, Donald Trump, America first. El cual no debe ser visto como una renuncia a su influencia mundial, sino todo lo contrario, pues la propia Globalización Multiculturalista todavía dominante, podría conducir a la hegemonía mundial de China en detrimento de USA y, con ello, de Occidente. Seguramente se acabará girando en USA hacia una democracia más autoritaria y menos fundamentalista.  Pues otro de los errores de Spengler fue su creencia de que el Socialismo superaría económica y políticamente al Capitalismo. Despues de la caída del Muro de Berlín sabemos que esto no es posible. Al esclavismo romano sucedió el feudalismo, un régimen relativamente mejor, pero que nadie previó. Sencillamente resulto de los fenómenos de anamórfosis que dieron lugar al surgimiento de la Europa medieval. Por todo ello, lo único que se puede desear, a corto y medio plazo, es la evolución  de las sociedades occidentales a formas que frenen esta degeneración prematura que amenaza a Occidente como Gran Cultura,  y que se puedan hacer las reformas precisas, incluyendo la mayor influencia de esta filosofía vitalista de la Historia spengleriana, para que se mantengan vivas las  posibilidades de continuar la influencia civilizadora occidental durante un periodo tan largo como fue el que tuvo la antigua Roma, que permita el surgimiento de una futura civilización en la que surgirán, sin duda, nuevas creencias y valores más firmes, profundos y mejores que los actuales.

dimanche, 09 juillet 2017

Troy Southgate: Spengler's "Der Mensch und die Technik"

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Spengler's "Der Mensch Und Die Technik"

Troy Southgate (First N-AM International Conference,Madrid)

jeudi, 22 décembre 2016

L’homme et la technique

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L’homme et la technique

Ex: https://argoul.com

Oswald Spengler fut célèbre en son temps. Notamment parce qu’il a publié une vaste fresque du destin humain intitulée ‘Le déclin de l’Occident’ en 1918. Presqu’un siècle plus tard, il reste d’actualité ! En 2018 (dans 7 ans), la Chine sera le premier exportateur mondial, le premier prédateur mondial de matières premières, le premier néocolonialiste économique mondial. Elle défendra aussi âprement ses intérêts que l’Angleterre de la reine Victoria ou les États-Unis de George W. Bush. Car, analyse Oswald Spengler, ce sont l’essor de la technique et de la population qui ont bouleversé le monde.

oswald-spengler-l-homme-et-la-technique.jpg‘L’homme et la technique’ est un opuscule qui devrait ravir les écolos et les économistes de la décroissance ; il devrait stimuler les souverainistes et les partisans d’une Europe puissance ; il décrit parfaitement le mental américain face aux défis chinois. Paru en 1931, après la crise financière de 1929 et avant les cataclysmes nationalistes, racistes et guerriers des années 1940, il en a le vocabulaire daté. Mais Spengler livre une intuition, pas un système dogmatique. Il ne prône aucune révolution qui passerait une quelconque catégorie sociale ou raciale par les armes, il analyse la longue histoire. Il dit une manière d’être, la nôtre, ce qu’il appelle « la culture faustienne ».

Pour Oswald Spengler, la culture est le devenir, le mouvement ; la civilisation est le devenu, l’aboutissement historique. Or, dit-il, notre culture faustienne, alimentée par le désir et l’incessante exploration curieuse des choses, se meurt. Elle est désormais ‘civilisation’ : matérielle, matérialiste, comptable. La vie quotidienne, la famille, la morale, les croyances, les espoirs – tout est façonné par la technique, dit Oswald Spengler (y compris la procréation). Qui lui donnerait tort ?

Or la technique est la meilleure et la pire des choses, comme la langue d’Ésope. Elle est tactique pour survivre dans la nature. Le singe nu a utilisé ses mains, libérées par la station debout, pour prendre les armes et se défendre ou faire levier. La première dialectique de la main et de l’outil a fait de l’homme un animal de proie pour son environnement qui le libère de ses déterminants génétiques. L’être humain n’est pas une fourmi, il devient intelligent. Tout ce qu’il crée est « artificiel », non naturel.

Première tragédie : la nature sera toujours la plus forte, elle a les millions d’années pour elle, mais l’homme ne sait pas faire autrement que l’artifice. Jusqu’à lever la main contre sa mère, en rebelle, et peut-être détruire le climat, la faune ou la planète…

Vient la seconde dialectique entre le langage et l’entreprise. Car l’être humain n’est pas seul : il vit en famille, en horde, en clan, plus tard en village, en ville, en société. Animal politique, l’homme s’entend par le langage pour un projet commun : projet de la cité pour organiser les hommes, projet de l’entreprise pour utiliser la matière et produire des biens. Le langage ne sert pas à comprendre le monde, écrit Spengler, mais à la conversation pour agir.

Seconde tragédie : toute organisation prend sur la liberté humaine. L’entreprise oblige à commander ou à exécuter, à laisser une part de son travail pour le bénéfice et l’investissement, en bref à être plus ou moins exploité ; la cité elle-même contraint par ses lois, sa morale, ses obligations physiques comme le service militaire. L’homme s’aliène en s’organisant en groupes humains.

L’Occident – ce qui est à la fois sa grandeur et sa tragédie – incarne au plus haut point l’insatiable curiosité de savoir, l’exploration ultime des secrets de la nature, la volonté de maîtrise et de création. De la culture technique est née la civilisation matérielle que nous connaissons. Cet « ensemble de modes de vie artificiels, personnels, autogènes, se transforme en une cage aux barreaux serrés pour les âmes rebelles à tout frein » (p.124). L’accroissement de la population, grâce à la technique (alimentation, confort, hygiène, médecine), noie l’individu et lui fait perdre toute importance. Les nations, organisées en États (« L’État est l’ordre intérieur d’un peuple en vue de ses objectifs extérieurs » p.120), instaurent des frontières pour se préserver (accès aux ressources, emplois, style de vie, croyances) et entrent en rivalité entre elles. « La frontière, de quelque nature qu’elle soit, ne serait-ce qu’intellectuelle, est l’ennemi mortel de la volonté de puissance », écrit l’auteur dans un cri libertaire.

Car Oswald Spengler est analyste, pas politicien ni philosophe. Il dit que l’Occident court à sa perte mais qu’il n’y peut rien. Toute civilisation est mortelle. Il prédit dès 1931 les rébellions : hippie contre la vie bourgeoise, révolutionnaire contre l’accaparement de la rente pétrolière, écologiste contre le mode de vie consumériste industriel. « Il n’est pas vrai que la technique humaine économise du travail », écrit Spengler. « Chaque découverte contient la virtualité et la nécessité de découvertes nouvelles, tout désir satisfait en éveille des milliers d’autres, chaque triomphe sur la nature en appelle d’autres encore » (p.125).

D’où « le dernier acte » qui fait l’objet du chapitre 5 : l’avènement et la dissolution de la culture machiniste.

  • Par le mouvement social : La technique appelle la société pour organiser son règne. Toute société crée des classes sociales pour la division nécessaire du travail. « Avec la croissance des agglomérations urbaines, la technique prit un caractère bourgeois » (p.148). Naît le luxe, « la culture dans sa forme la plus poussée » (p.134), donc l’envie sociale et la contestation.
  • Par le divorce de la vérité et des faits : Se séparent le prêtre, le savant et le philosophe qui vivent dans le monde des vérités – et le noble, le guerrier et l’aventurier (l’entrepreneur), qui vivent dans le monde des faits. « Le successeur de ces moines gothiques fut l’inventeur laïque cultivé, le prêtre-expert de la machine. Enfin, avec l’avènement du rationalisme, la croyance à la technique tend presque à devenir une religion matérialiste » (p.148). Éternelle, immortelle, elle apporte le salut à l’humanité. La découverte est jouissance pour soi, sans aucun souci des conséquences, parfois immenses pour le genre humain. Les découvertes se multiplient mais la peine de l’homme n’est pas réduite, il faut toujours plus de mains pour alimenter la machine. Pour quel but ?
  • Par la lutte des États : Seul l’État a un but qui est d’accroître sa puissance politique en accroissant sa richesse, donc son industrie. D’où les guerres pour l’accès aux ressources, qui exploitent ou achètent les pays miniers ou pétroliers dans une sorte de néocolonialisme, la guerre des monnaies qui déstabilise l’épargne, l’emploi et la redistribution sociale. Malgré la tendance européenne à se vouloir hors de l’histoire, jouissant bourgeoisement de ses richesses acquises, Spengler nous rappelle que vivre est lutter. La Chine nous le montre à l’envi, mais aussi le Brésil (qui va choisir le F18 plutôt que le Rafale) ou la Turquie (qui négocie avec l’Iran contre l’Occident) ou le Mexique (qui se fout des intellos médiatiques français). Or « au lieu de garder jalousement pour eux-mêmes le savoir technique qui constituait leur meilleur atout, les peuples ‘blancs’ l’offrirent avec complaisance au tout-venant dans le monde entier » (p.174). Ceux qui « grâce au bas niveau des salaires, vont nous mettre en face d’une concurrence mortelle » (p.175). C’est exactement ce qui se passe : notre fameux TGV est copié par les Chinois, ils préparent leur Airbus pour 2014, les Coréens ont des centrales nucléaires moins sophistiquées que nous (et moins chères) à exporter, les Iraniens usent d’un logiciel allemand Siemens pour leurs centrifugeuses destinées à la bombe nucléaire.
  • Par les menaces sur le climat et la planète : « La mécanisation du monde est entrée dans une phase d’hypertension périlleuse à l’extrême. La face même de la terre, avec ses plantes, ses animaux et ses hommes, n’est plus la même. (…) Un monde artificiel pénètre le monde naturel et l’empoisonne. La civilisation est elle-même devenue une machine faisant ou essayant de tout faire mécaniquement » (p161).
  • Par la perte de sens : L’âme se dilue dans le calcul, la computation et la mathématisation froide du monde : « notre propre culture faustienne représente pour sa part le triomphe de la pensée technique pure sur les grands problèmes » (p.135). On l’a vu avec le krach de la raison pure dans la finance, les échecs humains de la rationalisation du personnel chez France Télécom. A trop rationaliser l’humain perd son âme. « La culture faustienne, celle de l’ouest européen, n’est probablement pas la dernière mais elle est certainement la plus puissante, la plus véhémente et, conséquence du conflit intérieur entre son intellectualité compréhensive et son manque d’harmonie spirituelle, de toutes la plus tragique » (p.136). « Être donc soi-même Dieu, c’est bien cela le rêve du chercheur faustien » (p.146) – mais être Dieu, en ce monde-ci, est-ce possible ou même raisonnable ? « La pensée faustienne commence à ressentir la nausée des machines. Une lassitude se propage, une sorte de pacifisme dans la lutte contre la nature » (p.167).

Ce qui nous fait être, notre culture faustienne, est attaqué de toute part. Or, si les autres cultures usent de la technique comme d’un outil, nous seuls en faisons un but spirituel, la quête incessante pour savoir et pour explorer la nature. D’où notre condamnation à terme, de l’intérieur par l’écologie, de l’extérieur par l’émergence des pays tiers. Entre Montaigne et Nietzsche, un petit livre à méditer ! Il a inspiré Heidegger.

Oswald Spengler, L’Homme et la technique, 1931, Gallimard Idées, 1969, 181 pages. Difficile à trouver, mais occasion possible.

lundi, 18 juillet 2016

Islam: The Magian Revolution

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Islam: The Magian Revolution

Western academics and media-types write a lot of drivel about Islam. Part of the problem is there is a dearth of good information, and a bounty of superficial, politically self-serving garbage. But the real problem is misplaced emphasis. Western experts and commenters are used to thinking of history in simplistic terms--as the story of human progress. This model might be a good fit for Euro-American history, it is at least workable. But the progressive model falls apart when applied to the history of Islam. Islam’s heights seem to correspond to the West’s depths, and vice-versa. The “Progress” model causes Westerners to ask the wrong questions about Islamic history. “What went wrong?” “Why has the Middle East been so beset by violence?” “When will Islam adopt modern political and ethical principles?”

This misguided criticism has two faces--liberal and reactionary. Both sides share a simplistic view of history--that millennia-long, worldwide advance of the human spirit. But each side approaches its subject with different motives. Liberals, who dominate public discourse on the subject (surprise), assume the intrinsic goodness of all people. “Islam is peace” (eye roll). They feel good when they can cite examples of seemingly precocious modernism, such as early Muslim rulers’ tolerance (in the strictest sense) for religious minorities. It makes them feel good to contrast these anecdotes with the supposedly unrelenting fanaticism of Euro-Americans throughout the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, the 19th and 20th centuries, up to and including last week. This rosy, Islamophilic picture is not really about Islam. It is just another stick with which to beat guilt into the Euro-American historical conscience.

The liberal position, while dominant, does not go unchallenged. On the other side are the reactionaries. They are “reactionaries” because they have no real position on Islam, they only know that the liberals are wrong, and reflexively counterattack. Theirs is a form of hypercriticism, given to denying long-established facts and trends of Islamic history with little or no justification other than to refute the Islamophiles. Given the current situation in the West, their excesses are understandable. But the reactionaries’ zeal leads them to stake out indefensible positions. Many of them are have ulterior motives--some are pro-Jewish fanatics or apologists for imperialism, others are democratic ideologues. But they share a defect. They lack a healthy, Faustian drive to pursue universal Truth--whether we like its conclusions or not.

Both approaches fail for two reasons. First, neither affords its subject the proper attitude of “sympathetic criticism.” The student must devote himself to understanding a culture on its own terms--learning its languages, reading its history and literature--all the while imagining things from its perspective. Once he has done this, he can render judgment on its ethics, its cultural attainments, and its overall importance to history. This was the approach of the great orientalists of the late 19th and early 20th century. They devoted tremendous intellectual effort to comprehending Islamic civilization, yet they were unafraid to pass judgment on its shortcomings. The liberals have no aptitude for criticism, the reactionaries have none for sympathy.

Second, the liberals and reactionaries neglect the questions of philosophical history. It is from this oversight that they fall into their assumption of perpetual historical progress. But there is a better way. One hundred years ago, Oswald Spengler reframed the discussion of history by tearing down an idea of progress (at least as it is commonly understood). His “Copernican revolution” in historical thought worked wonders for the study of Classical civilization and Europe, but it would prove even more effective for understanding the meaning of Middle Eastern history. Spengler shifted the emphasis away from time and toward Cultures. Following Spengler, we can understand how meaningless most of the questions posed by conventional commenters are, and begin to see Islam for what it really is.

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The Magian Reformation

Spengler rejected the conventional historical focus on religions and polities. He saw these as merely superficial expressions of something deeper--the Culture. Cultures, in Spengler’s scheme, are a complex of peoples who share a world-outlook. This outlook--the spirit of a Culture--drives it to produce or adapt a religion. “Religion” is the outward expression of the world-outlook and includes such things as prayer rituals, religious architecture, calligraphy, and sculpture. For example, while Euro-Americans and Korean evangelicals may both be “Christians,” they do not belong to the same Culture, because their world-outlooks differ so drastically, despite their notionally common religion. A present-day American protestant has more in common, spiritually, with a 9th-century Norse pagan than with a modern-day Korean convert, despite professing the same doctrines. Cultures are the basic unit by which to analyze history.

Islam is part of the “Magian” Culture. In his Decline of the West, Spengler defines the Magian Culture as comprising the Muslim Arabs, but also many pre-Islamic Middle Eastern groups such as the Babylonian Jews, the Zoroastrians, the Coptic and Syriac Christians, as well as syncretic/heretical groups like the Manichaeans. It arose around the time of Christ and lasted until the 12th century when the anti-rationalist thinker Al-Ghazali dealt the deathblow to Magian philosophical speculation. All of subsequent Magian history was, in Spengler’s view, “civilization”--grandiose, bombastic, imperial, but sterile. No new philosophical or religious ideas could arise from the Magian world outlook. The culture had run its course.

So the birth of Islam does not represent the foundation of a new religion. It was, rather, a revolution in Magian religious thought. As such, it is analogous to the Reformation in Western history. Like Luther, Muhammad preached a puritanical systematization of earlier currents in the spiritual thought of his Culture. Muhammad and Luther were both anti-clerical, iconoclastic reformers who exhorted their adherents to build a more personal relationship with God. They both made the scripture accessible to the masses--Luther by translating the Bible into the vernacular, Muhammad by “receiving revelations” in easily memorized rhymed prose. After their deaths, their Cultures were unified the culture by marginalizing the earlier creeds and, at the same time, quickly spawning an array of heresies. The puritanical movements unleashed a storm, driving the post-reformation Europeans and post-Islam Magians to conquer half the world in a fanatical outburst of religious fervor--compare that to the religious and colonial wars of Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Both movements, to a large degree, cleansed their cultures of foreign influence. Hellenistic influence on the Middle East, while not wiped out, was severely reduced in the first centuries of Islam. The Greek language, long the lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean, died out in Egypt and Syria, and later in Anatolia. To use Spengler’s term, Islam ended the Hellenistic pseudomorphosis (false-development) of early Magian Culture, allowing it to come into its own. Likewise after Luther, Northern Europe was free to work out its own cultural development. Free of Rome, the North underwent its own Renaissance. Florence and Rome were replaced by Nuremberg, Rotterdam, and Weimar. The Italian composers of the baroque were, by degrees, superseded by the likes of Bach and Handel. Thus Muhammad is not an Islamic Jesus, but a Luther. His movement, Islam, is a puritanical systematization of earlier currents in the Magian spirit.

Islam needs a Reformation

All this flies in the face of the conventional wisdom. Lacking any deeper insight into the place of Islam in history, the Mass-Media has been promoting a meme, “Islam needs a Reformation” eg: (WSJ and HuffPo). It makes sense superficially. Based on the conventional historical assumptions, one would compare Muhammad to Jesus as founders of world-religions. It follows then that Islam, having gotten a late start, is due for a reformation. After all, it’s been 14 centuries since Muhammad fled to Medina, and about the same duration separates Jesus from Martin Luther. The pre-Reformation Church superficially resembles current-day Islam.

But with a deeper understanding of history, comparing Jesus to Muhammad is preposterous. In contrasting the current state of the West and the Middle East, it would be ridiculous to set the two up as analogs. Jesus no longer matters to Faustian man. When the decadent West looks for myths and heroes, it looks for world-denying saints of Tolerance and Progress. New heroes must spring up or be manufactured--MLK and Gandhi, Anne Frank and Mother Theresa. Jesus would seem to fit the mold, but he is too bound-up in the popular imagination with the distant past. And in the popular imagination, History is Progress, therefore the farther back you go, the more evil everything is. But the West has absolutely no need for heroic men-of-the-world like Luther, so his place in our history is undervalued.

hitti8_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgBut the reborn Islamic fury, much pondered in the West, is not the necessary outcome of Islam’s doctrines. That the Middle East is still populated by “Muslims” is of less consequence than its stage of historical development. Islam is in winter. For centuries following the Crusades the Arabs and Persians were inactive. Islam’s last great conquests were not carried out by these “core-Magians,” but by the Berbers, Turks, and Mughals. And these imperial peoples could only prolong the agony of Magian decline. After c. 1500, the Magians had no meaningful history. They have endured wars and changes of dynasty, but no revolutions of thought or spirit. Classic histories of Middle East recognized this historical void--in over 750 pages of The History of the Arabs, the Lebanese Christian scholar Philip Hitti devoted less than 100 to anything after the 13th century.

What’s to be done

The liberal and reactionary views of Islam are shallow and polemic. They are worthless as history. Neither framework allows us to understand the relationship between Magian culture and ours because the Magians are actually ahead of us. Their decline did not begin in the 19th century, but in the 11th. Their reformation did not happen in the 16th century, but in the 7th.

Where are we now? Today’s situation resembles the era of the Crusades, with the roles reversed. Like Islam of the 1100s, the West has passed its peak. Our spirit is dying, our philosophy and art have ossified. We find ourselves beset by external enemies, barely able to summon the strength for our own preservation. Like Europe of the 1100s, the Middle East is the matrix of peoples--young, vigorous and aggressive.

What can we look forward to? If the West follows the same trajectory as Islam did after 1100, we are doomed. While Islam expelled the Crusaders and launched counteroffensives on its Eastern and Western frontiers, it only did so because it received infusions of fresh blood semi-civilized converts. These barbarian peoples adopted the outward forms of Magian Culture--Islam--but were unable to revive its spiritual vigor.

So contrary to the common view, the West does not face an ancient religious enemy. Islam died centuries ago--any invocation of its doctrines is now entirely superficial. The Arabs have for centuries wallowed in spiritual decrepitude. The “refugees” are not driven on by religious fervor, but simple greed, lust, and envy. They are not so much religious fanatics as they are zombies. Soulless and decrepit, they swarm to history’s last civilization. Do we still have the spirit to do what needs to be done?


Holland, Tom. In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire. New York: Doubleday, 2012.

Spengler, Oswald, and Charles Francis Atkinson. The Decline of the West: Perspectives of World-history. Vol. 2. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.

jeudi, 09 juin 2016

Is de ondergang van Europa onvermijdelijk?

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Is de ondergang van Europa onvermijdelijk?

Ex: http://www.erkenbrand.nl

De geschiedenisfilosoof Oswald Spengler voorspelde in zijn beroemde boek 'Der Untergang des Abendlandes' de onvermijdelijke ondergang van de Europese beschaving. Wie was hij en hoe kwam hij tot deze conclusie?

Afgelopen week bezochten drie leden van Erkenbrand een lezing van de NSV! Gent. De NSV! is een Vlaamse nationalistische studentenvereniging met afdelingen in de universiteitssteden Gent, Antwerpen, Brussel en Leuven. Voor de lezing maakten we een mooie stadswandeling door het middeleeuwse Gent. Daarbij ontbraken natuurlijk het heerlijke Vlaamse bier en de Vlaamse frieten niet.

Aldus gesterkt richtten we onze schreden naar de lezing, die gegeven zou worden door Peter Logghe, redacteur van de uitgeverij TeKoS. Deze uitgeverij brengt boeken uit van bijvoorbeeld Alain de Benoist en Koenraad Elst. Dit jaar verschijnt bij hen ook een nieuwe Nederlandse vertaling van "Der Untergang des Abendlandes" van Oswald Spengler. Over deze beroemde filosoof en geschiedkundige zou de lezing gaan. Wat nu volgt is geen weergave van de lezing, maar een kort essay waar ik onder andere deze lezing voor heb gebruikt.

Oswald Spengler wordt gerekend tot zogenaamde 'Conservatieve Revolutie'. Dit was een intellectuele stroming die antwoorden zocht op de maatschappelijke chaos na de ineenstorting van het Duitse keizerrijk in de Eerste Wereldoorlog. Overal waren opstanden en revoluties door de communisten. De hele samenleving dreigde af te glijden naar links en dus naar de heerschappij van de meute.

De Conservatieve Revolutie wilde de laffe toegeeflijkheid van het doorsnee conservatisme vervangen door een radicaal doordacht maatschappelijk en cultureel model. Daarin stonden hiërarchie, kwaliteit en onderscheid centraal. Een rechtvaardige samenleving leek volgens hen eerder op een leger dan op een markt. Kwaliteit moest doorslaggevend zijn, niet kwantiteit, de massa. Het is typerend voor de Conservatieve Revolutie dat de meeste leden ook Hitler afwezen omdat ze hem een proleet vonden.

Wat is nu de centrale stelling van Spengler? Spengler onderzocht culturen van over de hele wereld. Hij probeerde patronen te ontdekken in hun geschiedenis. Hij wilde tot een morfologie te komen die zowel de geschiedenis van culturen zou kunnen verklaren als hun toekomst zou kunnen voorspellen. Spengler kwam tot de conclusie dat alle culturen een onontkoombare levenscyclus doormaken, net als een bloem, of de wisseling der seizoenen. Na een periode van groei en bloei komt verval en dood, en daar is niets tegen te doen. Ook niet bij onze cultuur, die nu in haar laatste fase zou zitten.

faust-690792.jpgOnze cultuur, de cultuur van het Avondland, ziet Spengler als 'Faustisch', naar het toneelstuk 'Faust' van Goethe. Het idee is dat de mens van onze cultuur streeft naar onbeperkte kennis, zelfs als hij daarvoor – net als Faust – een pact met de duivel moet sluiten. Als poëtisch beeld voor deze cultuur geeft Spengler “de oneindige ruimte”. Het ruimtevaartprogramma zou hij als een typerende  cultuuruiting van het Avondland zien.

Het begin van onze cultuur legt Spengler rond 900, bij de opkomst van een sterk Germaans beïnvloed Katholicisme. Hierna volgde de eerste fase, die Spengler 'Kultur' noemt, en die zijn hoogtepunt bereikt rond 1500, op het snijpunt van de Gotiek en de Barok. De tweede fase, die van het verval, noemt Spengler 'Zivilisation'. Deze begint met de Verlichting, en de Amerikaanse- en Franse Revolutie. 'Zivilisation' betekent een toenemende vormloosheid, een overwinning van de stad op het platteland, van de massa op de elite, van de kwantiteit op de kwaliteit, van het geld op de politiek. De kosmopolitische, ontwortelde, vormeloze massa grijpt de macht. De cultuur kent geen innerlijke morele beleving meer, heeft geen binding meer met het land, en wordt intolerant en oorlogszuchtig.

Op grond van zijn historische voorbeelden, met name van het Romeinse rijk, voorziet Spengler drie fasen in de 'Zivilisation' van het Avondland. Van 1800 tot 2000 de fase van de democratie, wat in feite de heerschappij van het geld betekent. Dan tot 2200 de heerschappij van steeds primitievere volksmenners en despoten in de lijn van Caesar. In de laatste fase volgt dan volledige verstarring en onmacht door nepotisme en corruptie van de machthebbers, een krimpen van de bevolking en totale weerloosheid tegen het binnendringen van andere culturen en volken.

De houding die Spengler aanbeveelt tegenover deze onvermijdelijke loop van de geschiedenis is een 'heroïsch realisme': acceptatie van het einde en het dapper dragen van het noodlot. Alain de Benoist vult hierbij aan dat het einde ook een voltooiing is. Optimisme is volgens Spengler  ongegrond en laf. Geïnspireerd door Nietzsche spreekt hij zelfs over een "amor fati", een liefhebben en omarmen van het lot. Wat telt is karakter en moed, naar het voorbeeld van de Romeinse soldaat van Herculaneum. Deze werd opgegraven uit de lava, nog steeds op zijn post staande. Hij had zijn plaats niet verlaten tijdens de uitbarsting van de vulkaan Vesuvius, omdat hij niet was afgelost.

De invloed van Spenglers ideeën was enorm en reikt tot in onze tijd. We zien zijn ideeën bijvoorbeeld terug bij Patrick Buchanan en bij Samuel Huntington. Deze laatste ziet de verschillende culturen als een soort acteurs op het wereldtoneel in zijn boek "The Clash of Civilizations". We kunnen de invloed van Spengler ook terugzien bij Tolkien. De opeenvolgende tijdperken in diens Midden-aarde kennen allemaal opbloeiende- en afstervende culturen. Zelfs in de overwinning op de Zwarte Heerser Sauron ligt een zekere melancholie, omdat daarmee "het tijdperk van de Elfen" ten einde gaat.

In hoeverre kunnen wij nu Spengler volgen in zijn analyse?

Wetenschap houdt zich bezig met het ontdekken van patronen in de werkelijkheid, maar de kans is aanwezig dat de onderzoeker patronen ziet die er niet zijn. De enorme feitenkennis van Spengler is geen garantie. Het is natuurlijk vrij opvallend dat de door hem geponeerde neergangsfase van onze cultuur precies die kenmerken vertoont die Spengler als persoon afkeurde. Bovendien is een absoluut determinisme van de historische ontwikkeling bij Spengler net zo min gerechtvaardigd als bij Marx of Hegel. De toekomst is per definitie onvoorspelbaar.

We zouden Spengler misschien wel kunnen gebruiken voor het ontdekken en inschatten van globale trends. Wat kan de geschiedenis van andere culturen ons leren over de toestand in onze huidige cultuur? Spengler heeft wellicht de menselijke neigingen in groepsprocessen goed in kaart gebracht.

Zo zouden we in het Duitsland en Italië van de jaren twintig tot vijfenveertig een periode van 'Caesarisme' kunnen zien, de tweede fase van de 'Zivilisation'. Onze huidige tijd zou een combinatie kunnen zijn van de eerste en derde fase: de heerschappij van democratie en het geld, gecombineerd met verstarde despoten op de achtergrond die heersen door geld en "soft power" ( dat wil zeggen: indoctrinatie via de media en het schoolsysteem ).

Zeker is dat de door Spengler beschreven kenmerken van verval in onze cultuur ruimschoots aanwezig zijn, zoals wijdverbreide gevoelens van leegte, verlies, decadentie en ontworteling, een laag geboortecijfer en een binnendringen van vreemde culturen en volken. Het is een grote verdienste van Spengler dat hij de aandacht vestigt op deze kwetsbaarheid van onze cultuur. Dit staat haaks op het gevaarlijk naïeve idee van de Verlichting en de Amerikaanse- en Franse Revolutie dat er alleen maar lineaire vooruitgang mogelijk is in de geschiedenis. Tegenover dit aan het Christendom ontleende lineaire denken stelt hij het heidense, cyclische denken, dat juist ook rekening houdt met neergang in plaats van alleen maar vooruitgang.

Misschien heeft Spengler gelijk, en maken wij nu de onafwendbare ondergang van het Avondland mee. Volgens zijn theorie zal echter ook uit de vergane glorie een nieuwe cultuur verrijzen. Daar kunnen wij wellicht toch al een bijdrage aan leveren, ook al zullen wij haar opbloei niet meer meemaken.  Hoe het ook zij, voor onze instelling zou het niet mogen uitmaken. Er zijn nooit  garanties. Zoals Tolkien schrijft:

'Ik wou dat het niet in mijn tijd hoefde te gebeuren,' zei Frodo.

'Ik ook,' zei Gandalf, 'en dat geldt voor allen die in een dergelijke tijd leven. Maar die beslissing is niet aan hen. Het enige dat wij moeten beslissen, is wat we zullen doen met de tijd die ons gegeven is.'

mercredi, 01 juin 2016

Oswald Spengler & the Controversy of Caesarism

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Oswald Spengler & the Controversy of Caesarism

There has long been a commonplace notion in journalism (now often repeated in blogs and social media), that Oswald Spengler declared us to be at the end of Civilization. After all, he did write The Decline of the West, didn’t he? Furthermore, Spengler’s end-phase of Civilization is Caesarism, and we passed that many decades ago—so the story goes—during the age of Musso & Dolf.

This is all nonsense, of course. It comes as no surprise that this misrepresentation took hold during the 1930s and early 1940s, when Spengler came to be recast as a kind of prophet for National Socialist Germany. But before getting to that, let me just point out that the “Caesarism” bit is easily disproven. You need only consult the fold-out endpaper charts of “Historical Morphology” in The Decline of the West to set the facts straight.

I reproduce a portion of the relevant ‘Contemporary “Political” Epochs’ table at the bottom of this essay for reference, but the essential takeaway is this: Spengler’s “Winter” epoch, when Civilization finally supplants Culture, begins with the age of Napoleon around 1800 and moves on through two centuries of Imperialism and Wars of Annihilation. After 2000 comes the period of Caesarism, which reaches final maturity, and decay, after 2200.[1]

cae73720959.jpgAccording to this matrix, our Caesarism period of 2000-2200 corresponds to 100 BC – 100 AD in Classical civilization. The post-2200 era corresponds to the Roman Empire from Trajan onwards. Here civilization has attained its peak, while cultural forms are completed, calcified, past evolution. This, you might say, is the true End of History—for our Western, Faustian civilization at least. But we have a way to go.

Now, one can dismiss Spengler’s schema as hogwash, the way one might reject astrology or Kondratieff waves; but one should at least know Spengler’s timeline before declaring an opinion on it. Just as one should bear in mind that in presenting his theory of the morphology of history, Spengler uses convenient analogies, e.g., the cultural epochs of Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. When he says the great cultures are organic—they mature, bloom, and decay—he does not literally mean they are flowers. Yet these metaphors have always been a sore point with his critics. [2]

Getting back to Caesarism, let’s accept Spengler’s thesis arguendo and look at its significance. Caesarism marks the end of “Democracy,” brings “Victory of force politics over money” (chart at bottom). Economic powers give way to an authoritarian model that promotes collective values of health and social justice—or to use Spengler’s own description, “Ethical socialism after 2000” (Table I, Contemporary “Spiritual” Epochs—not reproduced here).

Breaking the money-power and promoting the national welfare was of course what the European nationalist governments of the 1920s and 1930s imagined they were doing, or intended to do. Spengler himself rejected the association of ‘Caesarism’ with National Socialism (The Hour of Decision). But it is easy to see how journalists—or Nazis—might confuse the two.

To Spengler, Caesarism isn’t a good thing or a bad thing, it just is. But his description of the epoch in Roman times is bleak. This truly was the end of that culture’s growth-and-struggle:

There are no more of those great decisions which concentrate the inner meaning of the whole culture . . . All great political questions are solved, as they are solved sooner or later in every civilization, inasmuch as questions are no longer felt as questions and are not asked . . .

. . . The struggle for the Caesar-title became steadily more and more negroid, and might have gone on century after century in increasingly primitive and, therefore, eternal” forms.

These populations no longer possessed a soul. Consequently they could no longer have a history proper to themselves. At best they might acquire some significance as an object in the history of an alien Culture and whatever deeper meaning this relation possessed would be derived entirely from the will of the alien Life. (Vol .2, pp. 50-51)

The “alien Life” Spengler has in mind here is of course our own culture and civilization, what he called Western or Faustian-Gothic. The solons of the Renaissance and Enlightenment might have liked to imagine otherwise, but there is no real continuity between the civilization of Greece and Rome and our own; we merely treasure their artifacts as museum-pieces.

Confusion about Caesarism, and Spengler’s schema in general, has been around a long while. But it was apparently not there in the 1920s when thoughtful people read Decline for the first time. That cynosure of high-middlebrow discernment, Time magazine, treated it appreciatively, almost worshipfully, when it reviewed Vols 1 and 2 in 1926 and 1928.

Hard to improve upon is Time’s deft précis of the complete work, noting that Spengler

. . . analyzes history by huge analogies. Civilizations he sees as emerging & disappearing in cycles, each one, like a flower, experiencing birth, growth, decay, death. Our own Western civilization he declares to be in the phase of decay, characterized by material expansion, effete spirituality. Collapse is imminent in perhaps 300 years. But by that time another human group will be unwittingly generating a new civilization to flourish and sink in its own long turn. Herein lies the refutation of the charge of pessimism applied to Spengler by lesser minds. Regarding civilizations as organisms, he is no more the pessimist than any man who recognizes the transient nature of all organic life.[3]

This would be the high point of Spengler’s international reputation. A polymath and popular philosopher with a special appeal to autodidacts, Spengler was inevitably ground down by other, more specialized critics. Scholars in every field nit-picked his assertions and called him an amateur, a dilettante, a shoddy researcher. (A mere Gymnasium teacher, moreover.) Writing in The Spectator in 1929, an English reviewer lambasted Spengler’s whole conception of history as a “top-heavy tower,” a house of cards built upon factual inaccuracies and murky reasoning. Spengler’s description of the coming Caesarism came in for particular criticism as obscurantist wish-fulfillment.[4]

Oswald-Spenglerkkkk.jpgAnyway, when Time reviewed Man and Technics a few years later, the bloom was off the rose. In an about-face from 1926, Time now declared Spengler a pessimist, one who thinks Civilization is done for. This time around, the reviewer dismissed his work with lip-smacking sarcasm:

To ward off suicidal despair Spengler recommends the psychological attitude of the Roman soldier who died at his post in Pompeii. When the volcano under civilization explodes, and the burning dust begins to descend, the more honorable Spenglerian carnivores will take it standing, polish up their buttons as the lava rises. [5]

The height of anti-Spenglerism came about ten years later. At the height of World War II, Foreign Affairs ran a 25-year retrospective of Decline of the West and found it all nail-bitingly depraved. 1942 was of course the height of the Second World War, thus this essay by Georgetown diplomatic historian Hans W. Wiegert can be regarded as a sort of stuffy, highbrow equivalent of Der Fuehrer’s Face.

Since Spenglerism is a flame which burns and can cripple souls, we are justified in reexamining it twenty-five years later. Indeed, we have a duty to do so. [6]

Wiegert demonizes Spengler’s masterwork as pure proto-Nazi propaganda on a par with Karl Haushofer. Decline is so tendentious that although Spengler pretends to be writing about the West (Abendland), he’s really describing an aggressive, expansive Germany:

The realm which he calls the West is not the West as we understand it. It is limited distinctly to Germany, and not even the whole of Germany, but only those parts of it which can be labeled (spiritually rather than geographically) the Germanic North. England and America, even France and Italy, are not within the boundaries of the West which he covers in his factual materials and comparisons.

* * *

The present writer believes that the human area which Spengler calls the Faustian-Nordic-German sphere, and whence he drew the factual foundations of his doctrine, is the only one where a Spenglerian conception of a human type fits—the type, that is, which gave up its freedom to become an earth-bound slave of Hitlerism.[7]

Wiegert spends several pages musing over the interplay of Spengler’s Caesarism forecasts and the rise of Hitler. At no point does he ever admit that Hitler just doesn’t fit into Spengler’s Caesar-time-scheme. He doesn’t care. Spengler sounded the drumbeat for Caesarism, incited the crowds. Thus he bears the weight of guilt for Nazism.

Spengler’s conception of Caesarism foreshadowed the growth of the totalitarian religions of our time. He translated Plato’s ideas on the relationship of tyranny and democracy into the language of the twentieth century. The dictatorship of money had used democracy as its political weapon. At the end of the First World War Spengler saw the doom of this money-power age. New forces, the forces of Caesarism, of which the multitude becomes willingly the passive object, were arising from the soil of democracy. The scene was set for the final battle between the forces of financial plutocracy and the purely political will-to-order of the Caesars.

* * *

Those Caesars who would rule the world when all the creative forces of culture had disappeared would be war-keen men. The appearance of one, Spengler wrote in 1917, would suddenly raise a powerless nation to the very peak, and his death would plunge a mighty nation into chaos. “They are for war, and they want war,” he added. “Within two generations it will be they whose will prevails.”[8]

For Wiegert, Hitler is plain-and-simple part of the Caesarian drama. He tops off his analysis with the suggestion that Hitler himself will succumb a military coup. (“The great drama of German Caesarism: the fall of the tyrant and the rise of army rule.”[9])

Wiegert seems to be suggesting an officers’ revolt along the lines of what became the failed coup of July 1944. But that’s really beside the point here, because he is trying to shoehorn the Hitler situation into Spenglerian Caesarism, and it just doesn’t fit.

Notes

1. This is taken from the combined one-volume 1928 edition of The Decline of the West, published by Alfred Knopf, translated by C. F. Atkinson. In the original two-volume format published in 1926 and 27, the tables appear at the end of Volume One, subtitled “Form and Actuality.”

2. See for example the C.E.M. Joad review in The Spectator, quoted below. (And not to belabor the point, but I have found that Spengler’s metaphors are very hard for some people to wrap their heads around. Decades ago I gave Yockey’s Imperium to a co-worker, thinking he’d enjoy it. And he did, but found the Spenglerian conceits ridiculous because “Culture isn’t really a living organism.” It is as though I showed him a chair for the first time and referred to its legs, and he said: “But those aren’t really legs! Those are just pieces of wood!” Maybe we’re all autistes when encountering the unfamiliar.)

3. Time, June 28, 1926.

4. “A Top-heavy Tower”, C.E.M. Joad, The Spectator, 12 January 1929.

5. Time, Feb. 29, 1932

6. Hans W. Wiegert, “Spengler Twenty-Five Years After,” Foreign Affairs, Oct. 1942.

7, 8, 9. Ibid.

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2016/05/oswald-spengler-and-the-controversy-of-caesarism/

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lundi, 09 mai 2016

Understanding Spengler

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Understanding Spengler

Editor’s Note:

This is the transcript by V. S. of Richard Spencer’s Vanguard Podcast interview of Jonathan Bowden about Oswald Spengler. You can listen to the podcast here [2]

Richard Spencer: Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Vanguard! And welcome back as well, Jonathan Bowden! How are you, Jonathan? 

Jonathan Bowden: Yes, hello! I’m very well. Thanks for having me on again.

RS: Quite good. Today we’re going to talk about the philosophy of Oswald Spengler. In these podcasts we’ve talked quite a bit about philosophers who are of interest to the New Right or the Alternative Right or White Nationalists or whatever you want to call us. And we’ve talked about Nietzsche in particular. Nietzsche is an interesting case in the sense that, despite the fact that he has quite a few unfashionable ideas from the standpoint of our enlightened modern age, nevertheless he is still quite popular. Libraries and bookstores are well-stocked with titles on Nietzsche.

Spengler, on the other hand, who equaled or surpassed Nietzsche’s popularity in Central Europe in his own time, has gone down the memory hole in a way. It’s hard to find a book by Spengler at your local bookstore, even a large one. Though I think people have heard about him or they have some general notion that he was a pessimistic German or something like this, they don’t really know a lot about the man and his philosophy. We hope we can increase the level of understanding, certainly, with this discussion today.

Jonathan, the way I wanted to start out this talk about Spengler and the philosophy of history is at a very basic level of understanding. I was thinking before we started this conversation that this idea of linear history is one that is really powerful for people and it also has something to do with Christianity in a way, but it’s also something that’s survived well into the post-Christian West. What I mean by linear history is what maybe could be described in just a simple phrase like “It keeps getting better all the time,” this notion that we’re the next step in history, and this history leads to greater freedom, greater liberation, greater understanding, greater technology, so on and so forth and that, yes, there might be some bad things that happen along the way but those are kind of speed bumps along this highway towards utopia or something like that.

I think if we look at the world from the standpoint of technology perhaps that is true. We’ve had the creation of medicines, from the automobile to the iPhone. Obviously, there’s a way that things have been getting better. They’ve been slowly perfected.

But, of course, culture and civilization, these are two very different things than technology.

Jonathan, maybe we can talk just a little about that just to get this conversation started and to get our listeners’ minds’ wheels turning, so to speak, about the philosophy of history. Think about that powerful assumption. Just that it seems like something that everyone in the modern West, maybe even the modern world, Left and Right, all have and that is of linear history and how Spengler is really challenging that. What do you think about that idea, Jonathan?

osspççç.jpgJB: Yes, I think that’s a good way in. Spengler is a cosmologist of history. He’s a botanist of history, in a way. He sees human cultures and their attendant civilizations very much like geological strata or the morphology of plant life in that they have a natural cycle, even a diurnal, seasonal one. They have a brief flowering and they have a spring, they have a summer, they have an autumnal phase, and then they have a winter of the soul, and then they die. They literally atrophy and die. His belief in the death of great cultures, that cultures could be seen to come to an end, or they can lie silent for enormously long periods prior to some renaissance or kickstart, is deeply troubling to the modern mind which is addicted to the idea of progress and progressivism whatever its standpoint.

Spengler’s emotional register was profoundly melancholic and pessimistic. He once famously in Man and Technics said that “optimism is cowardice.” There is a degree to which his view of history, which is these radial circles which overlap with each other rather like a Venn diagram in mathematics, a science with which he was familiar, accords very much with his own view that things are cyclic and circular and turn back upon themselves, and cultures go through various stages which are inevitable, and each stage follows from the other one and has the seeds of death in its own mouth in the sense that the thing will turn full circle on itself. He turned cultural decline away from merely being of archival and archeological interest.

These are forbidding and almost totalitarian insights of pessimism which don’t accord easily with the 20th century. If you look at a book like Niall Ferguson’s The War of the World, for example, which is a narrative of the extreme violence in Western and global society in the century of the masses, the 20th century, that’s a mordant book. It’s an apocalyptic book. It’s a book that in some ways is opposed to the idea that things are getting better and better. Yet at the same time, it doesn’t feel emotionally pessimistic despite the fact that it’s brimming, on the whole, with pessimistic criteria. So, Ferguson remains an optimist in a sort of belletrist liberal methodology, the belief that things can get better even if they turn out for the worst at a particular time, which he wishes to express.

Spengler would have no truck with that. Spengler believes that cultures are sort of caged in a way and will wither and die a natural death just as [. . .] beauty in accordance with the rhythm which is close to that of biological life in human affairs.

RS: Before we get into his organic concept of history let’s talk a little bit about his milieu, where he was coming from. I would like to talk about the milieu of his life in Germany at the first quarter, first half of the 20th century.

But before that I think it’s worthwhile going back a little bit to the 19th century and some of the philosophies of history which preceded Spengler’s, and I’m thinking, of course, of Hegel and Kant — probably the two biggest figures in that philosophical school. Maybe you could just mention what are some of the ways that Hegel, probably the most well-known, influenced Spengler. Obviously Hegel had a dialectical view of history which is certainly more complicated than “it’s getting better all the time” linear view, but nevertheless it was a progress view of history. He actually felt that history was coming to an end with the Prussian state and so on and so forth.

So, what do you think about, say, the influence of some of these great German idealist thinkers that came before Spengler and how that impacted his notion of the decline of the West?

JB: Yes, I think that they obviously affected him deeply, because they looked for systematic answers unlike the neo-Kantian school that said there is no time for history and that all attempts to find a time in history are artistic and subjective and therefore historically worthless.

It’s important to realize that for a proportion of critics Spengler’s view is not just anathema, but it’s been fundamentally mysterious, because quite a few philosophical schools believe, whether it’s on the Left with Toynbee or it’s on the Right with Spengler, that it’s utterly pointless to have attempts at historical analysis which are non-linear and which seek for an answer to the conundrum of history, that seeks to elucidate the Sphinx and get it to answer questions about the nature of historical reality. They consider that there is no plan. There is nothing other than linear motion in the spasm of time and any attempt to find a historical plan other than the received wisdom of a work is fruitless. They would consider a work like The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon to be perfect in its way because it takes the Roman Empire as its topic where you have an enormous unfolding vista of historical time, and you have the idea that you have many triumphs and many disasters, but the end is partly a projection of the beginning. So, you have almost a biography of a society.

That’s acceptable. What isn’t acceptable from this school of thinking, which is the current one in academic orthodoxy at the present time, is to try to find a key or philosophical agency to history, to interpret history, that history has a meaning in the way that Thomas Carlyle believed it had meaning in the 19th century. Spengler’s addicted to finding the meaning in history, which pulls him to the outside of several of the major historical schools to begin with. There’s also the fact that he was self-taught and was a sort of autodidact and a sort of terribly gifted dilettante, as someone not completely kindly once said. History is an area par excellence which only academics really believe they are entitled to write.

So, in two areas, academicism and the search for an ontology in history — the search for teleology, the belief that there is a prospective future which can be determined, as Marx believed in a different way, and mapped out — those lie outside of Spengler’s purview and yet make marginal his historical essay, his attempt at finding out the meaning of things in his two volume enormous work The Decline of the West published in 1918 and 1923.

So, he draws on the primary idealists like Hegel, but I don’t think there’s much comparison to be frank when you get to the work, because Hegel believes that history will reach its fulcrum and its termination in the idealistic presentation of the Prussian state in history — a sort of being in history — whereas for Spengler the Prussian state, although he wanted Germany and the Germany of his time to dominate Europe, was just a part of the West and a part of the cycle of the West that would be doomed to decline as all of the great civilizations — the Arab, the Eastern Chinese, the Medieval — were doomed to decline in their way.

ossp750480.jpgRS: Before we talk a little bit more about Germany in his time, actually, I think it would be good to lay out some of the basic terms of Spengler’s history. He talked about a series of great or high cultures and these included the Magian culture, which I guess is the Semitic culture, and the Apollonian of Classical culture, and then Western-American culture, which he described as quintessentially Faustian in nature.

So, Jonathan, maybe you could elucidate some of these big ideas for our listeners so they could have an idea of his organic historical sense, just in particular with those three massive cultures. And again, we’re not talking about epochs, because he’s getting away from a sense of time and he’s putting it in terms of a culture and a people, a civilization. So, maybe you could explain those basic concepts and then also just delineate for our listeners what he means by the Magian, Apollonian, and then finally the Faustian culture, which he felt was coming to a close.

JB: Yes. He felt cultures were self-enclosed and were organic and were not time-concentric. He thought they have a period or expanse of time associated with them.

He sees the Middle Eastern culture as essentially magical and somewhat sterile and introverted and flat and a culture of the desert.

He sees Greek culture as proportioned and massive in its architectural and classical relief. He sees it as less dynamic than the Western culture, more staid, more fixed, and had a tendency towards a preternatural order and the specificity of same.

The Western culture, which he is most keen on, he sees as a partly diabolical culture. He sees it as Faustian. He sees it as a mismatch and matching of things that don’t coherently go together in other cultures. He sees it as a culture of advanced restlessness and absence of an inner sense of ease and with an extraordinary desire for self-transcendence, which is a desire to change everything again and again and again to make it new and make it work and make the Western culture the most dynamically aggressive culture on Earth.

RS: So, is he talking about a mindset with this — I hesitate to use this term but — a collective consciousness, so to speak, amongst the people that is expressed most fully in some of the great people of the civilization? Is that a good way to describe what he’s talking about?

JB: Yes, it’s a sort of civilizational construct of culture permeated through an elite as articulated through and by the masses within a particular civics over time. It’s racially-based to an extent, but only partly so, because his positions are sublimated racialisms whereby, although the Semitic mostly goes with the Magian and the Eastern Mediterranean largely goes with the Apollonian, and the Western is made up of most of Europe and ex-Europe in the New World and the far reaches of the world associated with Western imperial conquests and settlements, North America in particular, the notion that they are purely racial is not one that he accedes to.

He has a Nietzschean concept of race which is that race is important, because breeding is the basis of everything, but it’s too rudimentary for reasons of analysis. For analysis, you have to look at the culture and the civics which are created by specific races and intermingled variants of races over time, and pure biology is not enough to describe man’s ascent, if indeed it has been an ascent rather than a withering to death of prior acknowledged cultures of whatever beauty.

So, Spengler’s always an unhappy bedfellow for various people, because he never fits in with people’s preconditions and prior suppositions. There will always be a tension even with the racialist Right with Spengler as there is with the Left over his pessimistic and non-materialist views of history, his intuitionism, his opening to the subjective elements in culture, his belief in the wintering of the soul of a culture and its partial decline over time, his obsession with the coming up to decadence. All of these would not render him attractive to a Left-wing mind at all. But, at the same time, the liberal progressive sees little in him, the man of the center, because he’s too morbid, too mordant, and pessimistic, too professorial, and too linked to a prior theory which cuts against their ingrained optimism, including the idea, as you said at the beginning of this clip, that “things are getting better and better.”

RS: Jonathan, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this organic story of Western or Faustian culture and its origins after the collapse of the Roman Empire and then how he felt that it was declining and ending in his own lifetime? Maybe you could just give us some outlines of Faustian culture’s birth and flowering and then decline. What was he talking about? Obviously, in order to talk about these things you have to paint in really broad strokes, but I think that’s good, particularly with a podcast like this. So, give our listeners a sense of this organic story of Faustian culture.

JB: With the collapse of the Roman Empire I think he thinks that the classical world comes to an end and the medieval world as such begins. The medieval world is a static and closed civilization which is a magical one based upon totem and taboo and based upon a stiff and regulated cosmology that is only unsettled by the return of classical wisdom in what becomes the proto-Renaissance and then the Renaissance.

The Renaissance inflamed the entire civilization mentally and culturally and sends an enormous coursing torrent of energy through it which leads to an unmapping and an unfolding of new visions and new vistas. Whereby, we see the Middle Ages replaced by a post-Medieval Europe that looks back on the classical period but based upon the stolidity and solidity and the transcendental Magianship of the Middle Ages. It’s the Renaissance and the scientific methodology that gives rise to it, which is a return to a particular intellectual inheritance of the Greeks that gives man this diabolical pact element in the Western cosmos. This is the idea that Faust literally would sell his soul to Mephistopheles for knowledge. He would sell his soul for power over given things, for the power of magic almost in the interpretation of physical reality and the ability to hold sway over the physical world with which the sciences are concerned.

Western man begins a transmutation of everything in life, of every science, of every art, of all forms of economic dealing, all forms of culture and civilizational intent. Recalibrated and cast anew through this prism of Faustian fire, and this enables the West to set out as the Athenians had once done in a restricted Grecian compass to conquer much of the known world and to subdue it to their own restless tasking and desire for self-overbecoming at every possible instance. So, the West is seen as in some ways as a culture of the superman, in Nietzschean terms, reaching out across the world, reshaping other cultures and interacting with them in often destructively creative ways to release more energy, to enhance more transcendence, to enhance more creativity, to lead to more Faustian pacts and bargains, and then to become even more enraptured of its own colossal strength and vigor by importing even more energy through even greater and deeper and more resonating Faustian pacts until the thing teeters on the brink of absurdity to a degree, because the West becomes so enamored of its own mettle that it can’t see that it’s beginning, like all cultures, to engage upon ineffable decline.

RS: What creates the decline? What leads to decadence? What turns continual self-overcoming into decadence?

JB: Probably repetition and probably the fact that he believes that everything is pre-programmed like a computer chip to decay over time. You can only go to the well so often. Probably the spread of democratic, liberal humanist, and materialist ideas and the disjunction between the Enlightenment and the Renaissance.

The Renaissance is seen by most Enlightenment thinkers as a precursor of the Enlightenment, but he doubtless sees the Enlightenment as a giving way of the Faustian bargain to decadence to untrammeled ideas about the will of the majority which the people who put them forward, he believes, must know are absurd because the majority of men could never decide any question of any importance amongst themselves. That women would be given the vote and would be allowed into the function hall of the male. The liberal humanism that would increasingly refuse to distinguish between patterns of being and hierarchies in nature as they express themselves in society.

So, really, it’s the Enlightenment and its definition of the West, which is necessary, because in my reading of his codex of history the decline is necessary and therefore is inborn and the forces which are there, rather like illness and death in the individual, are there to permit change in the rule in the future and the ending of a cycle which is natural as it is in the biological world. So, he doesn’t see decadence as a disaster. He sees it as a necessity.

RS: So, are we still living in an enlightened age in a way that that was the turning point, and we’re kind of the last dregs of the Enlightenment?

JB: You could interpret it in that way, although at the end of The Decline of the West, of course, in the second volume, he preaches a new caesarism, that there may be a democratic caesarism, which of course came to be true throughout the latter third of the first quadrant of the 20th century.

His view that democratic niceties would be replaced by a much more Machiavellian and realistic politics, a politics of ruthless Realpolitik associated, even though he never advocated it, with Fascism. Although some of his political sayings are close to that of a fascistic or faschistoid conservative. That’s why, again, he falls between two camps. He’s not fascistic enough for those people who are enamored of those governments, movements, and regimes at a particular time, but nor is he conservative enough not to be associated with them at least through the glamor of nostalgia. So, he’s too quasi-fascistic for many conservatives, particularly now, but he’s also too conservative for thoroughgoing fascistic types. And that was his attitude, of course, to one of the most notorious governments in the Western world which he lived through the early stages of in the 1930s in his own country.

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RS: Right. Actually, we talked about that and the Nazi regime banned his book, The Hour of Decision, which, again, I’m sure in the most of the modern mind they would probably just lump someone like Spengler on in there with Hitler as evil Right-wingers, but obviously that’s certainly not the way they saw it at the time.

Let’s put a little more pressure on this, because this is an interesting issue of Spengler’s life in an age which could even be described as “democratic caesarism.” That is, one based on populism, on popular sovereignty, but then one that is harsh and brutal in many ways, enamored with Realpolitik and so on and so forth. I think it’s a very interesting topic of Spengler’s own life.

JB: Yes, there’s always been a liberal qualm here as to why he didn’t support the Nazi regime. He did vote for Hitler against Hindenburg in the presidential election, which of course Hitler lost. Hindenburg retained the presidency until he died in office, and then it was after the Gleichschaltung it was just rolled up and it became one of Hitler’s many offices as he became supreme leader of all elements of the state and the offices of the president and chancellor were amalgamated into that of the Leader figure.

He also put a swastika outside his lodging windows to annoy the neighbors with his sister, saying that if he unfurled it one should always be prepared to pay the price for annoying people.

But, at the same time, he thought of them as irretrievably vulgar and without high culture, very much Ernst Jünger’s snobbish intellectual attitude towards them. He wasn’t so much bothered about the social origins of many of them, which is what convulsed the German old Right with which Spengler would have been more comfortable, but he was concerned about their cultural ignorance, as far as he was concerned, and the greatness and glory of what it was to be German seen in cultural terms.

In some ways, he’s too spare and too stark and too elitist a figure. For him, just to make mouthwatering speeches about Germany and German identity entirely begins it, what you mean by Germany, what you mean by German cultural identity, unless you’re highly educated, civilized, and knowledgeable about what it means to be German, or to be European in extenso, these political remarks are slightly meaningless.

His one intervention into politics, when he was attempting to get the power for a German on Ludendorff’s general staff during the First World War, General von Schacht I think, didn’t really go anywhere, because his view of practical politics as a man of the study was rather probably overly conspiratorial and sort of overly rarefied. Like a lot of academic intellectuals, he wouldn’t make a good politician.

But, at the same time, although he despised the Weimar Republic and regarded it as an unnecessary appendage, he looked at the glory of the German Empire which had preceded it. He was actually not particularly enamored of the Germans, partly because he believed they were too hostile to other European peoples, and he believed that the coming battles were civilizational and there should be alliances with other European nation-states against the hordes of Asia and Africa and the Far East who would be the real enemies in the future.

RS: So, he had an almost Nietzschean “Good European” sense or one that was almost similar to maybe even Lothrop Stoddard and some of the other people in that general time period.

JB: That’s right. To a Leftist’s mind, he’s almost as Right-wing as Hitler, but he doesn’t agree with his views, just as there are an enormous number of Left-wing intellectuals who, of course, didn’t agree with Stalin. So, there’s a degree to which he also didn’t entirely agree with the aggressive technological features in the Third Reich, which was Romantic and realist and agrarian at one level and yet embraced motorways and rockets and high technology at another, because he believed that technology had become a part of the enslavement of modern man. Very much prefiguring Heidegger’s thinking in this regard.

Also, of course, he didn’t share the anti-Semitism either, particularly. While in no sense being philo-Semitic, like Nietzsche, he didn’t share the crude Jew-baiting, beer hall attitudes that swirled around the German Right. It’s not civilizationally part of the way he perceived reality, because he didn’t view the world conspiratorially or metaphysically conspiratorially. He viewed the world in terms of these great overarching abstractions of cultural civilizations of which Germany was only a part.

He also was a pessimist and didn’t share the extreme and rather myopic optimism of that regime that was very shrill, particularly on its own behalf.

ossp15177784.jpgRS: So, Jonathan, what kind of ideas did Spengler have for the future and did he see the rise of a new civilization?

This past weekend I attended the American Renaissance conference, and Dr. Richard Lynn was there and he gave a very enjoyable and informative talk about eugenics, actually, but he ended by talking about the world of the 21st and probably 22nd, maybe 23rd century being that of the East and China in particular.

Did Spengler talk about any of this? Or did he believe that a new civilization would arise, that an Oriental civilization might have a new rebirth? Did he talk about this? Maybe you could even speculate on it yourself.

JB: Yes, he didn’t really speak of it. He sounded the death knell of an ever present West that was exhausted at the end of the Great War. His thesis was misunderstood and tens of thousands of copies that made him from a sort of penniless, living in genteel poverty intellectual into a sort of major cultural figure throughout Germany and the West, was based on a misnomer.

The mass of the cultured people, of course we’re talking in terms of hundreds of thousands and not the millions, who bought his enormous book and some of the others, which made him moderately wealthy as a consequence and able to live independently, they interpreted the book as an explanation for Germany’s defeat in the First World War, and because it put it into world-historical and cosmological terms it exonerated Germany from its personal defeat. It also seemed scholarly and well-wrought and was not propagandistic. It was not the “stab in the back” mythology. It was not the fact that they’d been let down by forces at home, nor was it the normative liberal view that they’d just run out of men, run out of material, run out of resources and been defeated in that way.

So, people stuck to his book really on the misnomer, because what he was saying was that Germany’s defeat was part of a pattern of defeats that were going on within the civilization at a particular time.

He posited the idea that these defeats could be arrested for a time by democratic caesarism and various forms of populism for which he had a distaste actually, but which he believed to be necessary at this time in the cycle. In Man and Technics, for example, there’s a quite ruthless extolling of the virtues of some of these sorts of regimes up to a point. But he never thought that they were the be all and end all for culture. So, his belief was that the West would continue to decline throughout the 20th century. One of Spengler’s offshoots, of course, is the doctrine of the “clash of civilizations,” which was made famous by that book, The Clash of Civilizations.

RS: Right. By Samuel Huntington.

JB: Yes, written about what? Fifteen years ago now?

RS: Or so, yeah.

JB: Now, that’s a Spenglerian thesis, which he may not like to admit to be influenced by Spengler, some people don’t choose to. You have all sorts of people like the Beats on the Left, or metacultural Left — let’s put it that way — like Burroughs and Ginsberg and Kerouac, who openly admitted being strongly influenced by Spengler, but other people are very reluctant to even admit the fact that he’s come anywhere hear them and their thinking at all.

Nevertheless, the idea that other civilizations will rise, particularly in the Far East, and will challenge the West’s hegemony later in the last century — don’t forget he died in 1936 — is indisputable from the nature of his work, but he doesn’t go on to specify it very much. The second volume of The Decline of the West basically closes on the turnaround of democratic caesarism and the fact that the West is, nevertheless, going into an autumnal and wintry stage and leaves it at that.

But lots of people, of course, take up the mantle. Yockey’s views are strongly Spenglerian even though he fills in Spengler’s work by essentially giving it a National Socialist register. In some ways, Yockey is a Nazified Spengler, because Spengler was never a whole-hogger as far as they were concerned and actually had a different viewpoint. That’s why Yockey’s book tends to be two books in one. Eighty percent of it is a Spenglerian exercise and then at the end there’s the 20% where he basically adopts a Fourth Reich/Third Reich viewpoint, which is his own grafting onto the Spenglerian architecture of a sort of neo-National Socialist Proclamation of London opinion or editorial.

RS: One question that was coming to my mind was we are witnessing, experiencing the winter of Faustian Western culture. Do you think that if there were a rebirth amongst European peoples that it would be something different than Faustian culture? Would it be a kind of revival of the West as we’ve known it, or would there actually be a different paradigm that would be adopted by European peoples?

JB: Well, that’s very broad. I, personally, think that if there is to be a revival it would probably have to be more Classical than anything else and has to be a sort of classicism and has to be a return to the verities of the Greco-Roman world as at least a cultural basis and a starting point for thinking, because that provides you with a pre-Christian as well as a post-Christian dynamic. It’s rational. All of Western high culture had the Hellenic stamp upon it filtered through Rome and the Holy Roman Empire, Christianized and Germanicized, that came after it. And in some ways it’s a common appeal to the inner tensions in Western man that can be resolved classically. So, that’s the inner reason for GRECE, de Benoist’s outfit, calling itself the Group for Research and Study of European Civilization and culture. They want to go back to Greece with modern technology and with the hallmark of a new West and they want a new Right rather than an old Right to carry that project forward even though there are at least five currents of the New Right now separated even from de Benoist.

RS: Right. That’s certainly true. Well, Jonathan, this has been a fascinating discussion and I’m just going to put a bookmark in it because I think we could return to Spengler later on. As with so many of our podcasts, we only scratch the surface on these ideas and — I’m sure I speak for a lot of the listeners — I’m waiting for more. So, we should do it again. Thanks for being on the show again and speaking to us about Spengler, and we’ll talk to you soon.

JB: Thanks very much! All the best.Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

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dimanche, 07 février 2016

Spiritual Roots of Russo-American Conflict

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Spiritual Roots of Russo-American Conflict

Whatever Russia is called outwardly, there is an inner eternal Russia whose embryonic character places her on an antithetical course to that of the USA.

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The rivalry between the USA and Russia is something more than geopolitics or economics. These are reflections of antithetical worldviews of a spiritual character. The German conservative historian-philosopher Oswald Spengler, who wrote of the morphology of cultures as having organic life-cycles, in his epochal book The Decline of The West had much to say about Russia that is too easily mistaken as being of a Russophobic nature. That is not the case, and Spengler wrote of Russia in similar terms to that of the ‘Slavophils’. Spengler, Dostoyevski, Berdyaev, and Solzhenistyn have much of relevance to say in analyzing the conflict between the USA and Russia. Considering the differences as fundamentally ‘spiritual’ explains why this conflict will continue and why the optimism among Western political circles at the prospect of a compliant Russia, fully integrated into the ‘world community’, was so short-lived.

Of the religious character of this confrontation, an American analyst, Paul Coyer, has written:

Amidst the geopolitical confrontation between Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the US and its allies, little attention has been paid to the role played by religion either as a shaper of Russian domestic politics or as a means of understanding Putin’s international actions. The role of religion has long tended to get short thrift in the study of statecraft (although it has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance of late), yet nowhere has it played a more prominent role—and perhaps nowhere has its importance been more unrecognized—than in its role in supporting the Russian state and Russia’s current place in world affairs.[1]

spengmermmmm.jpgRussia’s ‘Soul’

Spengler regarded Russians as formed by the vastness of the land-plain, as innately antagonistic to the Machine, as rooted in the soil, irrepressibly peasant, religious, and ‘primitive’. Without a wider understanding of Spengler’s philosophy, it appears that he was a Slavophobe. However, when Spengler wrote of these Russian characteristics, he was referring to the Russians as a still youthful people in contrast to the senile West. Hence the ‘primitive’ Russian is not synonymous with ‘primitivity’ as popularly understood at that time in regard to ‘primitive’ tribal peoples. Nor was it to be confounded with the Hitlerite perception of the ‘primitive Slav’ incapable of building his own State.

To Spengler, the ‘primitive peasant’ is the wellspring from which a people draws its healthiest elements during its epochs of cultural vigor. Agriculture is the foundation of a High Culture, enabling stable communities to diversify labor into specialization from which Civilization proceeds.

However, according to Spengler, each people has its own soul, a conception derived from the German Idealism of Herder, Fichte et al. A High Culture reflects that soul, whether in its mathematics, music, architecture; both in the arts and the physical sciences. The Russian soul is not the same as the Western Faustian, as Spengler called it, the ‘Magian’ of the Arabian civilization, or the Classical of the Hellenes and Romans. The Western Culture that was imposed on Russia by Peter the Great, what Spengler called Petrinism, is a veneer.

Spengler stated that the Russian soul is ‘the plain without limit’.[2] The Russian soul expresses its own type of infinity, albeit not that of the Westerner’s Faustian soul, which becomes enslaved by its own technics at the end of its life-cycle.[3] (Although it could be argued that Sovietism enslaved man to machine, a Spenglerian would cite this as an example of Petrinism). However, Civilizations follow their life’s course, and one cannot see Spengler’s descriptions as moral judgements but as observations. The finale for Western Civilization according to Spengler cannot be to create further great forms of art and music, which belong to the youthful or ‘spring’ epoch of a civilization, but to dominate the world under a technocratic-military dispensation, before declining into oblivion like prior world civilizations. While Spengler saw this as the fulfilment of the Western Civilization, the form it has assumed since World War II has been under U.S. dispensation and is quite different from what might have been assumed under European imperialism.

It is after this Western decline—which now means U.S. decline—that Spengler alluded to the next world civilization being Russian.

According to Spengler, Russian Orthodox architecture does not represent the infinity towards space that is symbolized by the Western high culture’s Gothic Cathedral spire, nor the enclosed space of the Mosque of the Magian Culture,[4] but the impression of sitting upon a horizon. Spengler considered that this Russian architecture is ‘not yet a style, only the promise of a style that will awaken when the real Russian religion awakens’.[5] Spengler was writing of the Russian culture as an outsider, and by his own reckoning must have realized the limitations of that. It is therefore useful to compare his thoughts on Russia with those of Russians of note.

Nikolai Berdyaev in The Russian Idea affirms what Spengler describes:

There is that in the Russian soul which corresponds to the immensity, the vagueness, the infinitude of the Russian land, spiritual geography corresponds with physical. In the Russian soul there is a sort of immensity, a vagueness, a predilection for the infinite, such as is suggested by the great plain of Russia.[6]

The connections between family, nation, birth, unity and motherland are reflected in the Russian language:

род [rod]: family, kind, sort, genus

родина [ródina]: homeland, motherland

родители [rodíteli]: parents

родить [rodít’]: to give birth

роднить [rodnít’]: to unite, bring together

родовой [rodovói]: ancestral, tribal

родство [rodstvó]: kinship

Western-liberalism, rationalism, even the most strenuous efforts of Bolshevik dialectal materialism, have so far not been able to permanently destroy, but at most repress, these conceptions—conscious or unconscious—of what it is to be ‘Russian’. Spengler, as will be seen, even during the early period of Russian Bolshevism, already predicted that even this would take on a different, even antithetical form, to the Petrine import of Marxism. It was soon that the USSR was again paying homage to Holy Mother Russia rather than the international proletariat, much to Trotsky’s lament.

rusoc677099.jpg‘Russian Socialism’, Not Marxism

Of the Russian soul, the ego/vanity of the Western culture-man is missing; the persona seeks impersonal growth in service, ‘in the brother-world of the plain’. Orthodox Christianity condemns the ‘I’ as ‘sin’.[7]

The Russian concept of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, and of impersonal service to the expanse of one’s land, implies another form socialism to that of Marxism. It is perhaps in this sense that Stalinism proceeded along lines often antithetical to the Bolshevism envisaged by Trotsky, et al.[8] A recent comment by an American visitor to Russia, Barbara J. Brothers, as part of a scientific delegation, states something akin to Spengler’s observation:

The Russians have a sense of connectedness to themselves and to other human beings that is just not a part of American reality. It isn’t that competitiveness does not exist; it is just that there always seems to be more consideration and respect for others in any given situation.[9]

Of the Russian traditional ethos, intrinsically antithetical to Western individualism, including that of property relations, Berdyaev wrote:

Of all peoples in the world the Russians have the community spirit; in the highest degree the Russian way of life and Russian manners, are of that kind. Russian hospitality is an indication of this sense of community.[10]

Taras Bulba

Russian National Literature starting from the 1840s began to consciously express the Russian soul. Firstly Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol’s Taras Bulba, which along with the poetry of Pushkin, founded a Russian literary tradition; that is to say, truly Russian, and distinct from the previous literature based on German, French, and English. John Cournos states of this in his introduction to Taras Bulba:

The spoken word, born of the people, gave soul and wing to literature; only by coming to earth, the native earth, was it enabled to soar. Coming up from Little Russia, the Ukraine, with Cossack blood in his veins, Gogol injected his own healthy virus into an effete body, blew his own virile spirit, the spirit of his race, into its nostrils, and gave the Russian novel its direction to this very day.

Taras Bulba is a tale on the formation of the Cossack folk. In this folk-formation the outer enemy plays a crucial role. The Russian has been formed largely as the result of battling over centuries with Tartars, Muslims and Mongols.[11]

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Their society and nationality were defined by religiosity, as was the West’s by Gothic Christianity during its ‘Spring’ epoch, in Spenglerian terms. The newcomer to a Setch, or permanent village, was greeted by the Chief as a Christian and as a warrior: ‘Welcome! Do you believe in Christ?’ —‘I do’, replied the new-comer. ‘And do you believe in the Holy Trinity?’— ‘I do’.—‘And do you go to church?’—‘I do.’ ‘Now cross yourself’.[12]

Gogol depicts the scorn in which trade is held, and when commerce has entered among Russians, rather than being confined to non-Russians associated with trade, it is regarded as a symptom of decadence:

I know that baseness has now made its way into our land. Men care only to have their ricks of grain and hay, and their droves of horses, and that their mead may be safe in their cellars; they adopt, the devil only knows what Mussulman customs. They speak scornfully with their tongues. They care not to speak their real thoughts with their own countrymen. They sell their own things to their own comrades, like soulless creatures in the market-place…. . Let them know what brotherhood means on Russian soil![13]

Here we might see a Russian socialism that is, so far from being the dialectical materialism offered by Marx, the mystic we-feeling forged by the vastness of the plains and the imperative for brotherhood above economics, imposed by that landscape. Russia’s feeling of world-mission has its own form of messianism whether expressed through Christian Orthodoxy or the non-Marxian form of ‘world revolution’ under Stalin, or both in combination, as suggested by the later rapport between Stalinism and the Church from 1943 with the creation of the Council for Russian Orthodox Church Affairs.[14] In both senses, and even in the embryonic forms taking place under Putin, Russia is conscious of a world-mission, expressed today as Russia’s role in forging a multipolar world, with Russia as being pivotal in resisting unipolarism.

Commerce is the concern of foreigners, and the intrusions bring with them the corruption of the Russian soul and culture in general: in speech, social interaction, servility, undermining Russian ‘brotherhood’, the Russian ‘we’ feeling that Spengler described.[15]

The Cossack brotherhood is portrayed by Gogol as the formative process in the building up of the Russian people. This process is not one of biology but of spirit, even transcending the family bond. Spengler treated the matter of race as that of soul rather than of zoology.[16] To Spengler, landscape was crucial in determining what becomes ‘race’, and the duration of families grouped in a particular landscape—including nomads who have a defined range of wandering—form ‘a character of duration’, which was Spengler’s definition of ‘race’.[17] Gogol describes this ‘race’ forming process among the Russians. So far from being an aggressive race nationalism it is an expanding mystic brotherhood under God:

The father loves his children, the mother loves her children, the children love their father and mother; but this is not like that, brothers. The wild beast also loves its young. But a man can be related only by similarity of mind and not of blood. There have been brotherhoods in other lands, but never any such brotherhoods as on our Russian soil.[18]

The Russian soul is born in suffering. The Russian accepts the fate of life in service to God and to his Motherland. Russia and Faith are inseparable. When the elderly warrior Bovdug is mortally struck by a Turkish bullet, his final words are exhortations on the nobility of suffering, after which his spirit soars to join his ancestors.[19] The mystique of death and suffering for the Motherland is described in the death of Tarus Bulba when he is captured and executed, his final words being ones of resurrection:

‘Wait, the time will come when ye shall learn what the orthodox Russian faith is! Already the people scent it far and near. A czar shall arise from Russian soil, and there shall not be a power in the world which shall not submit to him!’[20]

Petrinism

A dichotomy has existed for centuries, starting with Peter the Great, of attempts to impose a Western veneer over Russia. This is called Petrinism. The resistance of those attempts is what Spengler called ‘Old Russia’.[21] Berdyaev wrote: ‘Russia is a complete section of the world, a colossal East-West. It unites two worlds, and within the Russian soul two principles are always engaged in strife—the Eastern and the Western’.[22]

With the orientation of Russian policy towards the West, ‘Old Russia’ was ‘forced into a false and artificial history’.[23] Spengler wrote that Russia had become dominated by Late Western culture:

Late-period arts and sciences, enlightenment, social ethics, the materialism of world-cities, were introduced, although in this pre-cultural time religion was the only language in which man understood himself and the world.[24]

Pierre_le_grand_1305833229.jpg‘The first condition of emancipation for the Russian soul’, wrote Ivan Sergyeyevich Aksakov, founder of the anti-Petrinist ‘Slavophil’ group, in 1863 to Dostoyevski, ‘is that it should hate Petersburg with all this might and all its soul’. Moscow is holy, Petersburg satanic. A widespread popular legend presents Peter the Great as Antichrist.

The hatred of the ‘West’ and of ‘Europe’ is the hatred for a Civilization that had already reached an advanced state of decay into materialism and sought to impose its primacy by cultural subversion rather than by combat, with its City-based and money-based outlook, ‘poisoning the unborn culture in the womb of the land’.[25] Russia was still a land where there were no bourgeoisie and no true class system, but only lord and peasant, a view confirmed by Berdyaev, writing: ‘The various lines of social demarcation did not exist in Russia; there were no pronounced classes. Russia was never an aristocratic country in the Western sense, and equally there was no bourgeoisie’.[26]

The cities that emerged threw up an intelligentsia, copying the intelligentsia of Late Westerndom, ‘bent on discovering problems and conflicts, and below, an uprooted peasantry, with all the metaphysical gloom, anxiety, and misery of their own Dostoyevski, perpetually homesick for the open land and bitterly hating the stony grey world into which the Antichrist had tempted them. Moscow had no proper soul’.[27] Berdyaev likewise states of the Petrinism of the upper class that ‘Russian history was a struggle between East and West within the Russian soul’.[28]

Berdyaev2.jpgKatechon

Berdyaev states that while Petrinism introduced an epoch of cultural dynamism, it also placed a heavy burden upon Russia, and a disunity of spirit.[29] However, Russia has her own religious sense of mission, which is as universal as the Vatican’s. Spengler quotes Dostoyevski as writing in 1878: ‘all men must become Russian, first and foremost Russian. If general humanity is the Russian ideal, then everyone must first of all become a Russian’.[30] The Russian messianic idea found a forceful expression in Dostoyevski’s The Possessed, where, in a conversation with Stavrogin, Shatov states:

Reduce God to the attribute of nationality? … On the contrary, I elevate the nation to God…. The people is the body of God. Every nation is a nation only so long as it has its own particular God, excluding all other gods on earth without any possible reconciliation, so long as it believes that by its own God it will conquer and drive all other gods off the face of the earth…. The sole ‘God bearing’ nation is the Russian nation….[31]

This is Russia as the Katechon, as the ‘nation’ whose world-historical mission is to resist the son of perdition, a literal Anti-Christ, according to the Revelation of St. John, or as the birthplace of a great Czar serving the traditional role of nexus between the terrestrial and the divine around which Russia is united in this mission. This mission as the Katechon defines Russia as something more than merely an ethno-nation-state, as Dostoyevski expressed it.[32] Even the USSR, supposedly purged of all such notions, merely re-expressed them with Marxist rhetoric, which was no less apocalyptic and messianic, and which saw the ‘decadent West’ in terms analogous to elements of Islam regarding the USA as the ‘Great Satan’. It is not surprising that the pundits of secularized, liberal Western academia, politics, and media could not understand, and indeed were outraged, when Solzhenitsyn seemed so ungrateful when in his Western exile he unequivocally condemned the liberalism and materialism of the a ‘decadent West’. A figure who was for so long held up as a martyr by Western liberalism transpired to be a traditional Russian and not someone who was willing to remake himself in the image of a Western liberal to for the sake of continued plaudits. He attacked the modern West’s conceptions of ‘rights’, ‘freedom’, ‘happiness’, ‘wealth’, the irresponsibility of the ‘free press’, ‘television stupor’, and referred to a ‘Western decline’ in courage. He emphasized that this was a spiritual matter:

But should I be asked, instead, whether I would propose the West, such as it is today, as a model to my country, I would frankly have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through deep suffering, people in our own country have now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just enumerated are extremely saddening.[33]

These are all matters that have been addressed by Spengler, and by traditional Russians, whether calling themselves Czarists Orthodox Christians or even ‘Bolsheviks’ or followers of Putin.

Spengler’s thesis that Western Civilization is in decay is analogous to the more mystical evaluations of the West by the Slavophils, both reaching similar conclusions. Solzhenitsyn was in that tradition, and Putin is influenced by it in his condemnation of Western liberalism. Putin recently pointed out the differences between the West and Russia as at root being ‘moral’ and religious:

Another serious challenge to Russia’s identity is linked to events taking place in the world. Here there are both foreign policy and moral aspects. We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual.[34]

Spengler saw Russia as outside of Europe, and even as ‘Asian’. He even saw a Western rebirth vis-à-vis opposition to Russia, which he regarded as leading the ‘colored world’ against the whites, under the mantle of Bolshevism. Yet there were also other destinies that Spengler saw over the horizon, which had been predicted by Dostoyevski.

Once Russia had overthrown its alien intrusions, it could look with another perspective upon the world, and reconsider Europe not with hatred and vengeance but in kinship. Spengler wrote that while Tolstoi, the Petrinist, whose doctrine was the precursor of Bolshevism, was ‘the former Russia’, Dostoyevski was ‘the coming Russia’. Dostoyevski as the representative of the ‘coming Russia’ ‘does not know’ the hatred of Russia for the West. Dostoyevski and the old Russia are transcendent. ‘His passionate power of living is comprehensive enough to embrace all things Western as well’. Spengler quotes Dostoyevski: ‘I have two fatherlands, Russia and Europe’. Dostoyevski as the harbinger of a Russian high culture ‘has passed beyond both Petrinism and revolution, and from his future he looks back over them as from afar. His soul is apocalyptic, yearning, desperate, but of this future he is certain’.[35]

To the ‘Slavophil’, Europe is precious. The Slavophil appreciates the richness of European high culture while realizing that Europe is in a state of decay. We might recall that while the USA—through the CIA front, the Congress for Cultural Freedom—promoted Abstract Expressionism and Jazz to Europe (like it now promotes Hi-Hop, which the State Department calls ‘Hip-Hop diplomacy’), the USSR condemned this as ‘rootless cosmopolitanism’. Berdyaev discussed what he regarded as an inconsistency in Dostoyevski and the Slavophils towards Europe, yet one that is comprehensible when we consider Spengler’s crucial differentiation between Culture and Civilisation:

Dostoyevsky calls himself a Slavophil. He thought, as did also a large number of thinkers on the theme of Russia and Europe, that he knew decay was setting in, but that a great past exists in her, and that she has made contributions of great value to the history of mankind.[36]

It is notable that while this differentiation between Kultur and Zivilisation is ascribed to a particularly German philosophical tradition, Berdyaev comments that it was present among the Russians ‘long before Spengler’:

It is to be noted that long before Spengler, the Russians drew the distinction between ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’, that they attacked ‘civilization’ even when they remained supporters of ‘culture’. This distinction in actual fact, although expressed in a different phraseology, was to be found among the Slavophils.[37]

dostoTTTT.jpgDostoyevski was indifferent to the Late West, while Tolstoi was a product of it, the Russian Rousseau. Imbued with ideas from the Late West, the Marxists sought to replace one Petrine ruling class with another. Neither represented the soul of Russia. Spengler stated: ‘The real Russian is the disciple of Dostoyevski, even though he might not have read Dostoyevski, or anyone else, nay, perhaps because he cannot read, he is himself Dostoyevski in substance’. The intelligentsia hates, the peasant does not. He would eventually overthrow Bolshevism and any other form of Petrinism. Here we see Spengler unequivocally stating that the post-Western civilisation will be Russian.

For what this townless people yearns for is its own life-form, its own religion, its own history. Tolstoi’s Christianity was a misunderstanding. He spoke of Christ and he meant Marx. But to Dostoyevski’s Christianity, the next thousand years will belong.[38]

To the true Russia, as Dostoyevski stated it, ‘not a single nation has ever been founded on principles of science or reason’.[39]

By the time Spengler’s final book, The Hour of Decision, had been published in 1934 he was stating that Russia had overthrown Petrinism and the trappings of the Late West. While he called the new orientation of Russia ‘Asian’, he said that it was ‘a new Idea, and an idea with a future too’.[40] To clarify, Russia looks towards the ‘East’, but while the Westerner assumes that ‘Asia’ and East are synonymous with Mongol, the etymology of the word ‘Asia’ comes from Greek Aσία, ca. 440 BC, referring to all regions east of Greece.[41] During his time Spengler saw in Russia that,

Race, language, popular customs, religion, in their present form… all or any of them can and will be fundamentally transformed. What we see today then is simply the new kind of life which a vast land has conceived and will presently bring forth. It is not definable in words, nor is its bearer aware of it. Those who attempt to define, establish, lay down a program, are confusing life with a phrase, as does the ruling Bolshevism, which is not sufficiently conscious of its own West-European, Rationalistic and cosmopolitan origin.[42]

Of Russia in 1934, Spengler already saw that ‘of genuine Marxism there is very little except in names and programs’. He doubted that the Communist program is ‘really still taken seriously’. He saw the possibility of the vestiges of Petrine Bolshevism being overthrown, to be replaced by a ‘nationalistic’ Eastern type which would reach ‘gigantic proportions unchecked’.[43] Spengler also referred to Russia as the country ‘least troubled by Bolshevism’,[44] and the ‘Marxian face [was] only worn for the benefit of the outside world’.[45] A decade after Spengler’s death the direction of Russia under Stalin had pursued clearer definitions, and Petrine Bolshevism had been transformed in the way Spengler foresaw.[46]

Conclusion

As in Spengler’s time, and centuries before, there continues to exist two tendencies in Russia : the Old Russian and the Petrine. Neither one nor the other spirit is presently dominant, although under Putin Old Russia struggles for resurgence. U.S. political circles see this Russia as a threat, and expend a great deal on promoting ‘regime change’ via the National Endowment for Democracy, and many others; these activities recently bringing reaction from the Putin government against such NGOs.[47]

Spengler in a published lecture to the Rheinish-Westphalian Business Convention in 1922 referred to the ‘ancient, instinctive, unclear, unconscious, and subliminal drive that is present in every Russian, no matter how thoroughly westernized his conscious life may be—a mystical yearning for the South, for Constantinople and Jerusalem, a genuine crusading spirit similar to the spirit our Gothic forebears had in their blood but which we can hardly appreciated today’.[48]

Bolshevism destroyed one form of Petrinism with another form, clearing the way ‘for a new culture that will some day arise between Europe and East Asia. It is more a beginning than an end’. The peasantry ‘will some day become conscious of its own will, which points in a wholly different direction’. ‘The peasantry is the true Russian people of the future. It will not allow itself to be perverted or suffocated’.[49]

The arch-Conservative anti-Marxist, Spengler, in keeping with the German tradition of realpolitik, considered the possibility of a Russo-German alliance in his 1922 speech, the Treaty of Rapallo being a reflection of that tradition. ‘A new type of leader’ would be awakened in adversity, to ‘new crusades and legendary conquests’. The rest of the world, filled with religious yearning but falling on infertile ground, is ‘torn and tired enough to allow it suddenly to take on a new character under the proper circumstances’. Spengler suggested that ‘perhaps Bolshevism itself will change in this way under new leaders’. ‘But the silent, deeper Russia,’ would turn its attention towards the Near and East Asia, as a people of ‘great inland expanses’.[50]

While Spengler postulated the organic cycles of a High Culture going through the life-phases of birth, youthful vigor, maturity, old age and death, it should be kept in mind that a life-cycle can be disrupted, aborted, murdered or struck by disease, at any time, and end without fulfilling itself. Each has its analogy in politics, and there are plenty of Russophobes eager to stunt Russia’s destiny with political, economic and cultural contagion. The Soviet bloc fell through inner and outer contagion.

Spengler foresaw new possibilities for Russia, yet to fulfil its historic mission, messianic and of world-scope, a traditional mission of which Putin seems conscious, or at least willing to play his part. Coyer cogently states: ‘The conflict between Russia and the West, therefore, is portrayed by both the Russian Orthodox Church and by Vladimir Putin and his cohorts as nothing less than a spiritual/civilizational conflict’.[51]

The invigoration of Orthodoxy is part of this process, as is the leadership style of Putin, as distinct from a Yeltsin for example. Whatever Russia is called outwardly, whether, monarchical, Bolshevik, or democratic, there is an inner—eternal—Russia that is unfolding, and whose embryonic character places her on an antithetical course to that of the USA.

References

[1] Paul Coyer, (Un)Holy Alliance: Vladimir Putin, The Russian Orthodox Church And Russian Exceptionalism, Forbes, May 21, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/paulcoyer/2015/05/21/unholy-a...

[2] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of The West, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1971, Vol. I, 201.

[3] Ibid., Vol. II, 502.

[4] Ibid., Vol. I, 183-216.

[5] Ibid., 201

[6] Nikolai Berdyaev, The Russian Idea, Macmillan Co., New York, 1948, 1.

[7] Oswald Spengler, The Decline, op. cit., Vol. I, 309.

[8] Leon Trotsky, The Revolution Betrayed: what is the Soviet Union and where is it going?, 1936.

[9] Barbara J. Brothers, From Russia, With Soul, Psychology Today, January 1, 1993, https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199301/russia-soul

[10] Berdyaev, op. cit., 97-98.

[11] H Cournos,‘Introduction’, N V Gogol, Taras Bulba & Other Tales, 1842, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1197/1197-h/1197-h.htm

[12] N V Gogol, ibid., III.

[13] Ibid.

[14] T A Chumachenko, Church and State in Soviet Russia, M. E. Sharpe Inc., New York, 2002.

[15] Spengler, The Decline, op. cit., I, 309

[16] Ibid., II, 113-155.

[17] Ibid., Vol. II, 113

[18] Golgol, op. cit., IX.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., XII.

[21] Spengler, The Decline, op. cit., II, 192.

[22] Berdyaev, op. cit., 1

[23] Spengler, The Decline, op. cit., II, 193

[24] Ibid., II, 193

[25] Ibid., II, 194

[26] Berdyaev, 1

[27] Spengler, The Decline, op. cit., II, 194

[28] Berdyaev, op. cit., 15

[29] Ibid.

[30] Spengler, The Hour of Decision, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1963, 63n.

[31] Fyodor Dostoevski, The Possessed, Oxford University Press, 1992, Part II: I: 7, 265-266.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Alexander Solzhenitsyn, A World Split Apart — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978

[34] V Putin, address to the Valdai Club, 19 September 2013.

[35] Spengler, The Decline, op. cit., II, 194

[36] Berdyaev, op. cit., 70

[37] Ibid.

[38] Spengler, The Decline, op. cit., Vol. II, 196

[39] Dostoyevski, op. cit., II: I: VII

[40] Spengler, The Hour of Decision, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1963, 60

[41] Ibid., 61

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ibid., 63.

[44] Ibid.,182

[45] Ibid., 212

[46] D Brandenberger, National Bolshevism: Stalinist culture and the Formation of Modern Russian National Identity 1931-1956. Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, 2002.

[47] Telegraph, Vladimir Putin signs new law against ‘undesirable NGOs’, May 24, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/1...

[48] Spengler, ‘The Two Faces of Russia and Germany’s Eastern Problems’, Politische Schriften, Munich, February 14, 1922.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Paul Coyer, op. cit.

Oswald Spengler e i segni premonitori del globalismo occidentale

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Oswald Spengler e i segni premonitori del globalismo occidentale

Vincenzo Bovino

Ex: http://www.ereticamente.net

“Senza una politica forte non c’è mai stata in alcun luogo, un’economia sana”
O. Spengler

L’idea di tramonto dell’Occidente fa pensare all’esaurimento delle energie vitali di una civiltà ma anche all’insorgere di altre: declino di un mondo e alba di un altro.

Oswald Spengler si è occupato del problema negli anni Venti, in piena euforia progressista, con una straordinaria capacità di anticipo sui tempi. Nelle sue pagine complesse e laboriose, si colgono i primi segni di quello che nei decenni successivi diventerà il progetto cosmopolita dell’Occidente.


Pessimista, Spengler ritiene fatale il declino e invita a tener duro rifiutando un atteggiamento passivo. Mentre altri vedevano nelle contaminazioni tra vecchio e nuovo, un fattore di arricchimento, Spengler evidenziava l’impossibilità di aggregare ciò che è non assimilabile. Il rifiuto del cosmopolitismo è inevitabile per cui considera strutturale l’unità di una civiltà, che può dirsi tale se possiede un radicamento in una precisa realtà spazio-temporale e, quindi, una forte identità.

“Una civiltà scrive – fiorisce su una terra esattamente delimitabile, alla quale resta radicata come una pianta”.

La multiculturalità che parte dal rifiuto di ogni elemento spaziale si fonda sulla convinzione che ogni tradizione può e deve convivere con altre, anche se tra di esse ci sono differenze incompatibili, talvolta manifestate con ostilità e ferocia.  Spengler quando lo scrisse non avvertiva il problema con la stessa intensità di oggi, dove più forti sono i contrasti tra gruppi etnici in Europa e Stati Uniti. Il progetto multiculturale viene utilizzato ideologicamente per affrontare la questione dell’integrazione dei flussi migratori che portano in Occidente masse di popolazioni sempre più numerose ed estranee. Non si tratta di impedire ai gruppi etnici di rispettare le loro usanze, bensì di rifiutare la protezione legale, comprensione e indulgenza culturale a quei gruppi le cui usanze risultino incompatibili, ostili e in conflitto con i nostri principi di libertà.


Culture diverse radicate in tradizioni differenti non si possono mescolare, è l’avvertimento impietoso di Spengler verso chi difende ancora l’ideologia multiculturalista, mostrando come la sua effettiva conseguenza sia l’accelerazione del declino dell’Occidente per opera di popoli che credono nella loro tradizione e identità culturale. Popoli, direbbe Spengler, ricchi di simbolicità, non disposti a farsi “contaminare” da altre civiltà e che in questa loro determinazione esprimono la forza aggressiva di una civiltà in ascesa rispetto a quella occidentale del tramonto.


In questo senso si spiega come il globalismo economico dell’Occidente, sia l’atto finale della sua avventura e non un processo espansionistico della propria civiltà. Il globalismo cancella differenze storiche, identitarie, tradizionali delle popolazioni, imponendo un analogo modello di sviluppo economico che esige una cultura omogenea, necessaria per uniformare i popoli sulla base della stessa idea di benessere e di felicità. Questa omologazione trova la sua ragion d’essere in un contesto il più possibile “de-simbolizzato”.


Spengler non indica i motivi per i quali la cultura si sarebbe esaurita nel passaggio verso la civilizzazione; egli si esprime solo in termini biologico-organici.

Una volta che lo scopo è raggiunto e che l’idea è esteriormente realizzata nella pienezza di una tutte le sua interne possibilità, la civiltà d’un tratto s’irrigidisce, muore, il suo sangue scorre via, le sue forze sono spezzate, essa diviene civilizzazione”.

Obiettivo del globalismo è la perdita di riferimenti simbolici. Spengler ha cercato in migliaia di pagine di mostrare come sia la cultura simbolica a dare forza e energia vitale a una civiltà, consentendone la crescita. La sua desimbolizzazione non è che il segno evidente del tramonto. Quindi, la globalizzazione non può rappresentare l’apogeo di una civiltà, bensì il segno di un irreversibile declino.

Con la cortese collaborazione delle Edizioni di Ar (www.edizionidiar.it), sezione segnalazioni librarie periodiche.

 

dimanche, 08 novembre 2015

Oswald Spengler and the Soul of Russia

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Oswald Spengler and the Soul of Russia

By Kerry Bolton
Ex: http://katehon.com

It would be easy to regard Oswald Spengler, author of the epochal Decline of The West in the aftermath of World War I, as a Russophobe.

In so doing the role of Russia in the unfolding of history from this era onward could be easily dismissed, opposed or ridiculed by proponents of Spengler, while in Russia his insights into culture-morphology would be understandably unwelcome as being from an Slavophobic German nationalist. However, while Spengler, like many others of the time in the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, regarded – partially - Russia as the Asianised leader of a ‘coloured revolution’ against the white world, he also considered other possibilities. This paper examines Spengler’s views on Russia as a distinct culture that had not yet fulfilled her destiny, while Western civilisation is about to take a final bow on the world historical stage. His views on Russia as an outsider are considered in relation to the depiction of the Russian soul by seminal Russians such as Gogol.

Russia’s ‘Soul’

Spengler regarded Russians as formed by the vastness of the land-plain, as innately antagonistic to the Machine, as rooted in the soil, irrepressibly peasant, religious, and ‘primitive’. Without a wider understanding of Spengler’s philosophy it appears that he was – like Hitler – a Slavophobe. However, when Spengler wrote of these Russian characteristics he was referencing the Russians as a still youthful people in contrats to the senile West. Hence the ‘primitive’ Russian is not synonymous with ‘primitivity’ as popularly understood at that time in regard to ‘primitive’ tribal peoples. Nor was it to be confounded with the Hitlerite perception of the ‘primitive Slav’ incapable of building his own State.

To Spengler, the ‘primitive peasant’ is the well-spring from which a race draws its healthiest elements during its epochs of cultural vigour.

Agriculture is the foundation of a High Culture, enabling stable communities to diversify labour into specialisation from which Civilisation proceeds.

However, according to Spengler, each people has its own soul, a German conception derived from the German Idealism of Herder, Fichte et al. A High culture reflects that soul, whether in its mathematics, music, architecture; both in the arts and the physical sciences. The Russian soul is not the same as the Western Faustian, as Spengler called it, the ‘ Magian’ of the Arabian civilisation, or the Classical of the Hellenes and Romans. The Western Culture that was imposed on Russia by Peter the Great, what Spengler called Petrinism, is a veneer.

The basis of the Russian soul is not infinite space – as in the West’s Faustian (Spengler, 1971, I, 183) imperative, but is ‘the plain without limit’ (Spengler, 1971, I, 201). The Russian soul expresses its own type of infinity, albeit not that of the Western which becomes even enslaved by its own technics at the end of its life-cycle. (Spengler, 1971, II, 502). (Although it could be argued that Sovietism enslaved man to machine, a Spenglerian would cite this as an example of Petrinism). However, Civilisations cannot do anything but follow their life’s course, and one cannot see Spengler’s descriptions as moral judgements but as observations. The finale for Western Civilisation according to Spengler cannot be to create further great forms of art and music, which belong to the youthful or ‘ spring’ epoch of a civilisation, but to dominate the world under a technocratic-military dispensation, before declining into oblivion that all prior world civilisations. It is after this Western decline that Spengler alluded to the next word civilisation being that of Russia. At that stage Spengler could only hint at the possibilities.

Hence, according to Spengler, Russian Orthodox architecture does not represent the infinity towards space that is symbolised by the Western high culture’s Gothic Cathedral spire, nor the enclosed space of the Mosque of the Magian Culture, (Spengler, 1971, I, 183-216) but the impression of sitting upon a horizon. Spengler considered that this Russian architecture is ‘not yet a style, only the promise of a style that will awaken when the real Russian religion awakens’ (Spengler, 1971, I, p. 201. Spengler was writing of the Russian culture as an outsider, and by his own reckoning must have realised the limitations of that. It is therefore useful to compare his thoughts on Russia with those of Russians of note.

Nikolai Berdyaev in The Russian Idea affirms what Spengler describes:

There is that in the Russian soul which corresponds to the immensity, the vagueness, the infinitude of the Russian land, spiritual geography corresponds with physical. In the Russian soul there is a sort of immensity, a vagueness, a predilection for the infinite, such as is suggested by the great plain of Russia. (Berdyaev, 1).

‘Prussian Socialism’, ‘Russian Socialism’


Of the Russian soul, the ego/vanity of the Western culture-man is missing; the persona seeks impersonal growth in service, ‘in the brother-world of the plain’. Orthodox Christianity condemns the ‘I’ as ‘sin’ (Spengler, 1971, I, 309). Spengler wrote of ‘Prussian Socialism’, based on the Prussian ethos of duty to the state, as the foundation of a new Western ethos under the return to Faith and Authority during the final epoch of Western civilisation. He contrasted this with the ‘socialism’ of Karl Marx, which he regarded as a product of English economics, (Spengler, 1919) as distinct from the German economics of Friedrich List for example, described as the ‘ national system of political economy’, where nation is the raison d’etre of the economy and not class or individual.

The Russian concept of ‘we’ rather than ‘I’, and of impersonal service to the expanse of one’s land implies another form socialism. It is perhaps in this sense that Stalinism proceeded along lines different and often antithetical to the Bolshevism envisaged by Trotsky et al. (Trotsky, 1936), and established an enduring legacy on Russia.

A recent comment by an American visitor to Russia, Barbara J. Brothers, as part of a scientific delegation, states something akin to Spengler’s observation:

The Russians have a sense of connectedness to themselves and to other human beings that is just not a part of American reality. It isn’t that competitiveness does not exist; it is just that there always seems to be more consideration and respect for others in any given situation.

Of the Russian concept of property and of capitalism, Berdyaev wrote:

The social theme occupied a predominant place in Russian nineteenth century thought. It might even be said that Russian thought in that century was to a remarkable extent coloured by socialistic ideas. If the word socialism is not taken in its doctrinaire sense, one might say that socialism is deeply rooted in the Russian nature. There is already an expression of this truth in the fact that the Russian people did not recognize the Roman conception of property. It has been said of Muscovite Russia that it was innocent of the sin of ownership in land, the one and only landed proprietor being the Tsar: there was no freedom, but there was a greater sense of what was right. This is of interest in the light that it throws upon the rise of communism. The Slavophils also repudiated the Western bourgeois interpretation of private property equally with the socialists of a revolutionary way of thinking. Almost all of them thought that the Russian people was called upon to give actual effect to social troth and righteousness and to the brotherhood of man. One and all they hoped that Russia would escape the wrongness and evil of capitalism, that it would be able to pass over to a better social order while avoiding the capitalist stage of economic development. And they all considered the backwardness of Russia as conferring upon her a great advantage. It was the wisdom of the Russians to be socialists during the period of serfdom and autocracy. Of all peoples in the world the Russians have the community spirit; in the highest degree the Russian way of life and Russian manners, are of that kind. Russian hospitality is an indication of this sense of community. (Berdyaev, 97-98).

Here again, we see with Berdyaev, as with Spengler, that there is a ‘Russian Socialism’ based on what Spengler referred to as the Russian ‘we’ in contrast to the Late Western ‘I’, and of the sense of brotherhood dramatised by Gogol in Taras Bulba, shaped not by factories and money-thinking, but by the kinship that arises from a people formed from the vastness of the plains, and forged through the adversity of centuries of Muslim and Mongol invasions.

The Russian Soul - Русская душа

The connections between family, nation, birth, unity and motherland are reflected in the Russian language.

род [rod]: family, kind, sort, genus
родина [ródina]: homeland, motherland
родители [rodíteli]: parents
родить [rodít']: to give birth
роднить [rodnít']: to unite, bring together
родовой [rodovói]: ancestral, tribal
родство [rodstvó]: kinship

Russian National Literature starting from the 1840s began to consciously express the Russian soul. Firstly Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol’s Taras Bulba, which along with the poetry of Pushkin, founded a Russian literary tradition; that is to say, truly Russian, and distinct from the previous literature based on German, French and English. John Cournos states of this in his introduction to Taras Bulba:

The spoken word, born of the people, gave soul and wing to literature; only by coming to earth, the native earth, was it enabled to soar. Coming up from Little Russia, the Ukraine, with Cossack blood in his veins, Gogol injected his own healthy virus into an effete body, blew his own virile spirit, the spirit of his race, into its nostrils, and gave the Russian novel its direction to this very day.

Taras Bulba is a tale on the formation of the Cossack folk. In this folk-formation the outer enemy plays a crucial role. The Russian has been formed largely as the result of battling over centuries with Tartars, Muslims and Mongols. Cournos writes of the Gogol myths in reference to the shaping of the Russian character through adversity and landscape:

This same Prince Guedimin freed Kieff from the Tatar yoke. This city had been laid waste by the golden hordes of Ghengis Khan and hidden for a very long time from the Slavonic chronicler as behind an impenetrable curtain. A shrewd man, Guedimin appointed a Slavonic prince to rule over the city and permitted the inhabitants to practise their own faith, Greek Christianity. Prior to the Mongol invasion, which brought conflagration and ruin, and subjected Russia to a two-century bondage, cutting her off from Europe, a state of chaos existed and the separate tribes fought with one another constantly and for the most petty reasons. Mutual depredations were possible owing to the absence of mountain ranges; there were no natural barriers against sudden attack. The openness of the steppe made the people war-like. But this very openness made it possible later for Guedimin’s pagan hosts, fresh from the fir forests of what is now White Russia, to make a clean sweep of the whole country between Lithuania and Poland, and thus give the scattered princedoms a much-needed cohesion. In this way Ukrainia was formed. (Cournos, ‘Introduction’, ibid).

Their society and nationality were defined by religiosity, as was the West’s by Gothic Christianity during its ‘Spring’ epoch. The newcomer to a Setch or permanent village was greeted by the Chief as a Christian and as a warrior: ‘Welcome! Do you believe in Christ?’ —‘I do’, replied the new-comer. ‘And do you believe in the Holy Trinity?’— ‘I do’.—‘And do you go to church?’—‘I do.’ ‘Now cross yourself’. (Gogol, III).

Gogol depicts the scorn in which trade is held, and when commerce has entered among Russians, rather than being confined to non-Russians associated with trade, it is regarded as a symptom of decadence:

I know that baseness has now made its way into our land. Men care only to have their ricks of grain and hay, and their droves of horses, and that their mead may be safe in their cellars; they adopt, the devil only knows what Mussulman customs. They speak scornfully with their tongues. They care not to speak their real thoughts with their own countrymen. They sell their own things to their own comrades, like soulless creatures in the market-place. The favour of a foreign king, and not even a king, but the poor favour of a Polish magnate, who beats them on the mouth with his yellow shoe, is dearer to them than all brotherhood. But the very meanest of these vile men, whoever he may be, given over though he be to vileness and slavishness, even he, brothers, has some grains of Russian feeling; and they will assert themselves some day. And then the wretched man will beat his breast with his hands; and will tear his hair, cursing his vile life loudly, and ready to expiate his disgraceful deeds with torture. Let them know what brotherhood means on Russian soil! (Spengler, 1971, II, 113).

Here we might see a Russian socialism that is, so far form being the dialectical materialism offered by Marx, the mystic we-feeling forged by the vastness of the plains and the imperative for brotherhood above economics, imposed by that landscape. Russia’s feeling of world-mission has its own form of messianism whether expressed through Christian Orthodoxy or the non-Marxian form of ‘world revolution’ under Stalin, or both in combination, as suggested by the later rapport between Stalinism and the Church from 1943 with the creation of the Council for Russian Orthodox Church Affairs (Chumachenko, 2002). In both senses, and even in the embryonic forms taking place under Putin, Russia is conscious of a world-mission, expressed today as Russia’s role in forging a multipolar world, with Russia as being pivotal in resisting unipolarism.
 

Sergijev-Posad-Zagorsk.jpg


Commerce is the concern of foreigners, and the intrusions bring with them the corruption of the Russian soul and culture in general: in speech, social interaction, servility, undermining Russian ‘brotherhood’, the Russian ‘we’ feeling that Spengler described. (Spengler 1971, I, 309). However, Gogol also states that this materialistic decay will eventually be purged even from the soul of the most craven Russian.

And all the Setch prayed in one church, and were willing to defend it to their last drop of blood, although they would not hearken to aught about fasting or abstinence. Jews, Armenians, and Tatars, inspired by strong avarice, took the liberty of living and trading in the suburbs; for the Zaporozhtzi never cared for bargaining, and paid whatever money their hand chanced to grasp in their pocket. Moreover, the lot of these gain-loving traders was pitiable in the extreme. They resembled people settled at the foot of Vesuvius; for when the Zaporozhtzi lacked money, these bold adventurers broke down their booths and took everything gratis. (Gogol, III).

The description of these people shows that they would not stoop to haggling; they decided what a merchant should receive. Money-talk is repugnant to them.

The Cossack brotherhood is portrayed by Gogol as the formative process in the building up of the Russian people. This process is, significantly, not one of biology but of spirit, even transcending the family bond. Spengler treated the matter of race as that of soul rather than of zoology. (Spengler, 1971, II, 113-155). To Spengler landscape was crucial in determining what becomes ‘race’, and the duration of families grouped in a particular landscape – including nomads who have a defined range of wandering – form ‘a character of duration’, which was Spengler’s definition of ‘race’. (Spengler, Vol. II, 113). Gogol describes this ‘ race’ forming process among the Russians. So far from being an aggressive race nationalism it is an expanding mystic brotherhood under God:

The father loves his children, the mother loves her children, the children love their father and mother; but this is not like that, brothers. The wild beast also loves its young. But a man can be related only by similarity of mind and not of blood. There have been brotherhoods in other lands, but never any such brotherhoods as on our Russian soil. It has happened to many of you to be in foreign lands. … No, brothers, to love as the Russian soul loves, is to love not with the mind or anything else, but with all that God has given, all that is within you. Ah! (Golgol, IX).

The Russian soul is born in suffering. The Russian accepts the fate of life in service to God and to his Motherland. Russia and Faith are inseparable. When the elderly warrior Bovdug is mortally struck by a Turkish bullet his final words are exhortations on the nobility of suffering, after which his spirit soars to join his ancestors:

‘I sorrow not to part from the world. God grant every man such an end! May the Russian land be forever glorious!’ And Bovdug’s spirit flew above, to tell the old men who had gone on long before that men still knew how to fight on Russian soil, and better still, that they knew how to die for it and the holy faith. (Gogol, IX).

The depth and duration of this cult of the martyrs attached to Holy Mother Russia was revived under Stalin during the Great Patriotic War. This is today as vigorous as ever, as indicated by the celebration of Victory Day on 7 May 2015, and the absence of Western representatives indicating the diverging course Russia is again taking from the West.

The mystique of death and suffering for the Motherland is described in the death of Tarus Bulba when he is captured and executed, his final words being ones of resurrection:

‘Wait, the time will come when ye shall learn what the orthodox Russian faith is! Already the people scent it far and near. A czar shall arise from Russian soil, and there shall not be a power in the world which shall not submit to him!’ But fire had already risen from the fagots; it lapped his feet, and the flame spread to the tree.... But can any fire, flames, or power be found on earth which are capable of overpowering Russian strength? (Gogol, XII).

The characteristics of the Russian soul that run through Tarus Bulba are those of faith, fate, struggle, suffering, strength, brotherhood and resurrection. Tarus Bulba established the Russian national literature that articulated the Russian soul.

Pseudomorphosis

A significant element of Spengler’s culture morphology is ‘Historic Pseudomorphosis’. Spengler drew an analogy from geology, when crystals of a mineral are embedded in a rock-stratum: where ‘clefts and cracks occur, water filters in, and the crystals are gradually washed out so that in due course only their hollow mould remains’. (Spengler, II, 89).

Then comes volcanic outbursts which explode the mountain; molten masses pour in, stiffen and crystallize out in their turn. But these are not free to do so in their own special forms. They must fill out the spaces that they find available. Thus there arise distorted forms, crystals whose inner structure contradicts their external shape, stones of one kind presenting the appearance of stones of another kind. The mineralogists call this phenomenon Pseudomorphosis. (Ibid.).

Spengler explained:

By the term ‘historical pseudomorphosis’ I propose to designate those cases in which an older alien Culture lies so massively over the land that a young Culture, born in this land, cannot get its breath and fails not only to achieve pure and specific expression-forms, but even to develop its own fully self-consciousness. All that wells up from the depths of the young soul is cast in the old moulds, young feelings stiffen in senile works, and instead of rearing itself up in its own creative power, it can only hate the distant power with a hate that grows to be monstrous. (Ibid.).

Russia is the example of ‘Historic Pseudomorphosis’ given by Spengler as being ‘presented to our eyes to-day’. A dichotomy has existed for centuries, starting with Peter the Great, of attempts to impose a Western veneer over Russia. This is called Petrinism. The resistance of those attempts is what Spengler called ‘Old Russia’. Spengler, 1971, II, 192). Spengler described this dichotomy:

…This Muscovite period of the great Boyar families and Patriarchs, in which a constant element is the resistance of an Old Russia party to the friends of Western Culture, is followed, from the founding of Petersburg in 1703, by the pseudomorphosis which forced the primitive Russian soul into an alien mould, first of full Baroque, then of the Enlightenment, and then of the nineteenth century. (Ibid., II, p. 192).

Spengler’s view is again in accord with what is spoken of Russia by Russians. Nikolai Berdyaev wrote in terms similar to Spengler’s:

The inconsistency and complexity of the Russian soul may be due to the fact that in Russia two streams of world history East and West jostle and influence one another. The Russian people is not purely European and it is not purely Asiatic. Russia is a complete section of the world a colossal East-West. It unites two worlds, and within the Russian soul two principles are always engaged in strife - the Eastern and the Western. (Berdyaev, 1).

With the orientation of Russian policy towards the West, ‘Old Russia’ was ‘forced into a false and artificial history’. (Spengler, II, 193). Spengler wrote that Russia had become dominated by Western culture from its ‘Late’ epoch:

Late-period arts and sciences, enlightenment, social ethics, the materialism of world-cities, were introduced, although in this pre-cultural time religion was the only language in which man understood himself and the world. In the townless land with its primitive peasantry, cities of alien type fixed themselves like ulcers – false, unnatural, unconvincing. ‘Petersburg’, says Dostoyevski, ‘it is the most abstract and artificial city in the world’.
After this everything that arose around it was felt by the true Russdom as lies and poison. A truly apocalyptic hatred was directed on Europe, and ‘Europe’ was all that was not Russia… ‘The first condition of emancipation for the Russian soul’, wrote Aksakov [1] in 1863 to Dostoyevski, ‘is that it should hate Petersburg with all this might and all its soul’. Moscow is holy, Petersburg Satanic. A widespread popular legend presents Peter the Great as Antichrist.
(Spengler, 1971, II, 193).


Berdyaev also discusses the introduction of Enlightenment doctrines from France into Russia:

The Western culture of Russia in the eighteenth century was a superficial aristocratic borrowing and imitation. Independent thought had not yet awakened. At first it was French influences which prevailed among us and a superficial philosophy of enlightenment was assimilated. The Russian aristocrats of the eighteenth century absorbed Western culture in the form of a miserable rehash of Voltaire.
(Berdyaev, 16).


domes-ancient-russian-church-11780967.jpgThe hatred of the ‘West’ and of ‘Europe’ is the hatred for a Civilisation that had already reached an advanced state of decay into materialism and sought to impose its primacy by cultural subversion rather than by combat, with its City-based and money-based outlook, ‘poisoning the unborn culture in the womb of the land’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 194). Russia was still a land where there were no bourgeoisie and no true class system but only lord and peasant, a view confirmed by Berdyaev, writing:

The various lines of social demarcation did not exist in Russia; there were no pronounced classes. Russia was never an aristocratic country in the Western sense, and equally there was no bourgeoisie. (Berdyaev, 1).

The cities that emerged threw up an intelligentsia, copying the intelligentsia of Late Westerndom, ‘bent on discovering problems and conflicts, and below, an uprooted peasantry, with all the metaphysical gloom, anxiety, and misery of their own Dostoyevski, perpetually homesick for the open land and bitterly hating the stony grey world into which the Antichrist had tempted them. Moscow had no proper soul’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 194).

The spirit of the upper classes was Western, and the lower had brought in with them the soul of the countryside. Between the two worlds there was no reciprocal comprehension, no communication, no charity. To understand the two spokesmen and victims of the pseudomorphosis, it is enough that Dostoyevski is the peasant, and Tolstoi the man of Western society. The one could never in his soul get away from the land; the other, in spite of his desperate efforts, could never get near it. (Ibid.).

Berdyaev likewise states of the Petrinism of the upper class:

Peter secularized the Russian Tsardoni and brought it into touch with Western absolutism of the more enlightened kind. The Tsardom of Moscow had not given actual effect to the messianic idea of Moscow as the Third Rome, but the efforts of Peter created a gulf between a police absolutism and the sacred Tsardom. A breach took place between the upper governing classes of Russian society and the masses of the people among whom the old religious beliefs and hopes were still preserved. The Western influences which led on to the remarkable Russian culture of the nineteenth century found no welcome among the bulk of the people. The power of the nobility increased and it became entirely alien from the people. The very manner of life of the landowning nobility was a thing incomprehensible to the people. It was precisely in the Petrine epoch during the reign of Katherine II that the Russian people finally fell under the sway of the system of serfdom. The whole Petrine period of Russian history was a struggle between East and West within the Russian soul. (Berdyaev, 15).

Russian Messianism

Berdyaev states that while Petrinism introduced an epoch of cultural dynamism, it also placed a heavy burden upon Russia, and a disunity of spirit. (Ibid.). However, Russia has her own religious sense of Mission, which is as universal as the Vatican’s. Spengler quotes Dostoyevski as writing in 1878: ‘all men must become Russian, first and foremost Russian. If general humanity is the Russian ideal, then everyone must first of all become a Russian’. (Spengler, 1963, 63n). The Russian Messianic idea found a forceful expression in Dostoyevski’s The Possessed, where, in a conversation with Stavrogin, Shatov states:

Reduce God to the attribute of nationality?...On the contrary, I elevate the nation to God...The people is the body of God. Every nation is a nation only so long as it has its own particular God, excluding all other gods on earth without any possible reconciliation, so long as it believes that by its own God it will conquer and drive all other gods off the face of the earth. At least that’s what all great nations have believed since the beginning of time, all those remarkable in any way, those standing in the vanguard of humanity...The Jews lived solely in expectation of the true God, and they left this true God to the world...A nation which loses faith is no longer a nation. But there is only one truth; consequently, only one nation can posses the true God...The sole ‘God bearing’ nation is the Russian nation... (Dostoevsky, 1992, Part II: I: 7, 265-266).

Spengler saw Russia as outside of Europe, and even as ‘Asian’. He even saw a Western rebirth vis-à-vis opposition to Russia, which he regarded as leading the ‘coloured world’ against the white, under the mantle of Bolshevism. Yet there were also other destinies that Spengler saw over the horizon, which had been predicted by Dostoyevski.

Once Russia had overthrown its alien intrusions, it could look with another perspective upon the world, and reconsider Europe not with hatred and vengeance but in kinship. Spengler wrote that while Tolstoi, the Petrinist, whose doctrine was the precursor of Bolshevism, was ‘the former Russia’, Dostoyevski was ‘the coming Russia’. Dostoyevski as the representative of the ‘coming Russia’ ‘does not know’ the hatred of Russia for the West. Dostoyevski and the old Russia are transcendent. ‘His passionate power of living is comprehensive enough to embrace all things Western as well’. Spengler quotes Dostoyevski: ‘I have two fatherlands, Russia and Europe’. Dostoyevski as the harbinger of a Russian high culture ‘has passed beyond both Petrinism and revolution, and from his future he looks back over them as from afar. His soul is apocalyptic, yearning, desperate, but of this future he is certain’. [65] (Spengler, 1971, II, 194). Spengler cites Dostoyevski’s The Brothers Karamazov, where Ivan Karamazov (Dostoyevski, 1880, 34: II: V: 3) says to his mother:

I want to travel in Europe… I know well enough that I shall be going only to a churchyard, but I know too that that churchyard is dear, very dear to me. Beloved dead lie buried there, every stone over them tell of a life so ardently lived, so passionately a belief in its own achievements, its own truth, its own battle, its own knowledge, that I know – even now I know – I shall fall down and kiss these stones and weep over them’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 195).

To the ‘Slavophil’, of which Dostoyevski was one, Europe is precious. The Slavophil appreciates the richness of European high culture while realising that Europe is in a state of decay. Berdyaev discussed what he regarded as an inconsistency in Dostoyevski and the Slavophils towards Europe, yet one that is comprehensible when we consider Spengler’s crucial differentiation between Culture and Civilisation:

Dostoyevsky calls himself a Slavophil. He thought, as did also a large number of thinkers on the theme of Russia and Europe, that he knew decay was setting in, but that a great past exists in her, and that she has made contributions of great value to the history of mankind. (Berdyaev, 70).

It is notable that while this differentiation between Kultur and Zivilisation is ascribed to a particularly German philosophical tradition, Berdyaev comments that it was present among the Russians ‘long before Spengler’, although deriving from German sources:

It is to be noted that long before Spengler, the Russians drew the distinction between ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’, that they attacked ‘civilization’ even when they remained supporters of ‘culture’. This distinction in actual fact, although expressed in a different phraseology, was to be found among the Slavophils. (Ibid.).

Tolstoi, who sought to overcome the problems of Civilisation by a ‘return-to-Nature’ in the manner of the Western Enlightenment philosopher J J Rousseau, on the other hand, is the product of the Late West, ‘enlightened and socially minded’, and sees only a problem, ‘whereas Dostoyevski ‘does not even know what a problem is’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 195). Spengler states that the problematic nature of life is a question that arises in Late Civilisations, and is a symptom of an epoch where life itself has become questionable. It is a symptom of the Late West transplanted as a weed onto the soil of Russia, represented by Tolstoi who, stands midway between Peter and Bolshevism, and neither he nor they managed to get within sight of Russian earth…. Their kind of opposition is not apocalyptic but intellectual. Tolstoi’s hatred of property is an economist’s, his hatred of society a social reformer’s, his hatred of the State a political theorist’s. Hence his immense effect upon the West – he belongs, in one respect as in another, to the band of Marx, Ibsen, and Zola. (Ibid.).

Dostoyevski, on the contrary, was indifferent to the Late West, looking beyond the physical, beyond questions of social reform and economics, and to the metaphysical: ‘Dostoyevski, like every primitive Russian, is fundamentally unaware’ of the physical world and ‘lives in a second, metaphysical world beyond’. The living reality is a religious one, which Spengler compares most closely with ‘primitive Christianity’. Dostoyevski is a ‘saint’, Tolstoi, ‘only a revolutionary’, the representative of Petrinism, as the forerunner of Bolshevism, ‘the last dishonouring of the metaphysical by the social’, and a new form of pseudomorphosis. The Bolshevists and other such revolutionaries were ‘the lowest stratum of … Petrine society’. (Ibid., II, 196). Imbued with ideas from the Late West, the Marxists sought to replace one Petrine ruling class with another. Neither represented the soul of Russia. Spengler states: ‘The real Russian is the disciple of Dostoyevski, even though he might not have read Dostoyevski, or anyone else, nay, perhaps because he cannot read, he is himself Dostoyevski in substance’. The intelligentsia hates, the peasant does not. (Ibid.). He would eventually overthrow Bolshevism and any other form of Petrinism. Here we see Spengler unequivocally stating that the post-Western civilisation will be Russian.

For what this townless people yearns for is its own life-form, its own religion, its own history. Tolstoi’s Christianity was a misunderstanding. He spoke of Christ and he meant Marx. But to Dostoyevski’s Christianity, the next thousand years will belong. (Ibid.).

To the true Russia, as Dostoyevski stated it, ‘not a single nation has ever been founded on principles of science or reason’. Dostoyevski continues, with the character Shatov explaining:

[N]ot a single nation has ever been founded on principles of science or reason. There has never been an example of it, except for a brief moment, through folly. Socialism is from its very nature bound to be atheism, seeing that it has from the very first proclaimed that it is an atheistic organisation of society, and that it intends to establish itself exclusively on the elements of science and reason. Science and reason have, from the beginning of time, played a secondary and subordinate part in the life of nations; so it will be till the end of time. Nations are built up and moved by another force which sways and dominates them, the origin of which is unknown and inexplicable: that force is the force of an insatiable desire to go on to the end, though at the same time it denies that end. It is the force of the persistent assertion of one's own existence, and a denial of death. It’s the spirit of life, as the Scriptures call it, ‘the river of living water’, the drying up of which is threatened in the Apocalypse. It’s the æsthetic principle, as the philosophers call it, the ethical principle with which they identify it, ‘the seeking for God’, as I call it more simply. The object of every national movement, in every people and at every period of its existence is only the seeking for its god, who must be its own god, and the faith in Him as the only true one. God is the synthetic personality of the whole people, taken from its beginning to its end. It has never happened that all, or even many, peoples have had one common god, but each has always had its own. It’s a sign of the decay of nations when they begin to have gods in common. When gods begin to be common to several nations the gods are dying and the faith in them, together with the nations themselves. The stronger a people the more individual their God. There never has been a nation without a religion, that is, without an idea of good and evil. Every people has its own conception of good and evil, and its own good and evil. When the same conceptions of good and evil become prevalent in several nations, then these nations are dying, and then the very distinction between good and evil is beginning to disappear. Reason has never had the power to define good and evil, or even to distinguish between good and evil, even approximately; on the contrary, it has always mixed them up in a disgraceful and pitiful way; science has even given the solution by the fist. This is particularly characteristic of the half-truths of science, the most terrible scourge of humanity, unknown till this century, and worse than plague, famine, or war. (Dostoyevski, 1872, II: I: VII).

Here we have the expression of the Russian soul, its repudiation of Petrinism, and in a manner similar to Spengler’s, the identification of faith, not darwinian zoology or economics, as the premise of culture-nation-race-formation, and the primacy of rationalistic doctrines as a symptom of decay.

‘Conflict Between Money & Blood’

Spengler states that at the Late – ‘Winter’ - epoch of a Civilisation where money-thinking dominates, a point is reached where there is a reaction: a ‘Second Religiousness’ which returns a decaying Civilisation to its spiritual foundations. There proceeds a revolt against oligarchy and a return to authority, or what Spengler called ‘Cæsarism’, and from there the fulfilment of a destiny before being eclipsed by a new high culture.

The Second Religiousness is the necessary counterpart of Cæsarism, which is the final political constitution of a Late Civilisation… In both phenomena the creative young strength of the Early Culture is lacking. But both have their greatness nevertheless. That of the Second Religiousness consists of a deep piety that fills the waking-consciousness… (Spengler, 1971, II, 310).

Spengler states that the ‘profoundly mystical inner life feels “thinking in money” as a sin’. The money-thinking imposed on Russia as Communism was ‘Western’ insofar as Marxism reflects the economic thinking of Western civilisation in its Late epoch, (Ibid., II, 402):

[A]n upper, alien and civilised world intruded from the West (the Bolshevism of the first years, totally Western and un-Russian, is the lees of this importation), and a townless barter-life that goes on deep below, uncalculating and exchanging only for immediate needs. We have to think of the catchwords of the surface as a voice, in which the Russian, simple and busied wholly with his soul bears resignedly the will of God. Marxism amongst Russians is based on an inward misunderstanding. They bore with the higher economic life of Petrinism, but they neither created it nor recognised it. The Russian does not fight Capital, but he does not comprehend it. Anyone who understands Dostoyevski will sense in these people a young humanity for which as yet no money exists, but only goods in relation to a life whose centre of gravity does not lie on the economical side. (Ibid., II, 495n)

dome.jpgSpengler states above that the Russians do not ‘fight’ capital. (Ibid., 495). Yet their young soul brings them into conflict with money, as both oligarchy from inside and plutocracy from outside contend with the Russian soul for supremacy. It was something observed by both Gogol and Dostoyevski. The anti-capitalism and ‘world revolution’ of Stalinism took on features that were drawn more from Russian messianism than from Marxism, reflected in the struggle between Trotsky and Stalin. The revival of the Czarist and Orthodox icons, martyrs and heroes and of Russian folk-culture in conjunction with a campaign against ‘ rootless cosmopolitanism’, reflected the emergence of primal Russian soul amidst Petrine Marxism. (Brandenberger, 2002). Today the conflict between two world-views can be seen in the conflicts between Putin and certain ‘oligarchs’ and the uneasiness Putin causes among the West.

The conflict that arises is metaphysical, but oligarchy and plutocracy can only understand the physical. Hence, ‘money-getting by means of money is an impiety, and (from the viewpoint of the coming Russian religion) a sin’. (Ibid.). ‘Money-getting by means of money’ manifests in speculation and usury. It is the basis upon which the economics of the Late West is founded, and from which it is now tottering. That this was not the case in the Gothic era of the West’s ‘high culture’ is indicated by the Church’s strident condemnation of usury as ‘ sin’.

Spengler predicted that in answer to the money-ethos a ‘third kind of Christianity’, based on the ‘John Gospel’, would arise, ‘looking towards Jerusalem with premonitions of coming crusades’. (Ibid.). The Russian also eschews the machine, to which Faustian man is enslaved, and if today he adopts Western technics, he does so ‘with fear and hatred of wheels, cables, and rails’, and will ‘blot the whole thing from his memory and his environment, and create about himself a wholly new world, in which nothing of this Devil’s technique is left’. (Ibid., II, 504).

Has time proved Spengler wrong in his observation that the Russian soul is repelled by the materialism, rationalism, technics and scientism of the Late West, given that the USSR went full throttle to industrialise? Spengler also said that Russia would adapt Western technics for her own use, as a weapon. Anecdotally, in our time, Barbara Brothers, a psycho-therapist, while part of a scientific delegation to Russia in 1993, observed that even among Russian scientists the focus is on the metaphysical:

The Russians seem not to make the divorce between ‘hard’ science and heart and soul that we do in the United States. Elena is probably a classic example. In her position as a part of the Academy of National Economy, a division of the Academy of Science, she works in facts and statistics all day long; when you ask her how (how in the world!) she thinks they will make it, she gives you a metaphysical answer. The scientist part of her gave a presentation that showed us how it was absolutely impossible for the economy to begin to work. Yet, she says, ‘I am not pessimistic’.

Again, Spengler’s observations of the Russian soul are confirmed by this anecdote: the true Russian – even the scientist and mathematician - does not comprehend everything as a ‘problem’ in the Late Western sense. His decisions are not made by Western rationalism, but by metaphysics and instinct. It is an interesting aside to recall that under the USSR, supposedly predicated on dialectical materialism, the metaphysical and the psychic were subjects of serious investigation to an extent that would be scoffed at by Western scientists.
(Kernbach, 2013).


By the time Spengler had published The Hour of Decision in 1934 he was stating that Russia had overthrown Petrinism and the trappings of the late West, and while he called the new orientation of Russia ‘Asian’, he said that it was ‘a new Idea, and an idea with a future too’. (Spengler, 1963, 60). To clarify, Russia looks towards the ‘East’, but while the Westerner assumes that ‘Asia’ and East are synonymous with Mongol, the etymology of the word ‘Asia’ comes from Greek Aσία, ca. 440 BC, referring to all regions east of Greece. (Ibid., 61). As an ethnic, historical, cultural or religious designation it means as little as as the World War I propaganda reference to Germans as ‘Huns’. During his time Spengler saw in Russia that,

Race, language, popular customs, religion, in their present form… all or any of them can and will be fundamentally transformed. What we see today then is simply the new kind of life which a vast land has conceived and will presently bring forth. It is not definable in words, nor is its bearer aware of it. Those who attempt to define, establish, lay down a program, are confusing life with a phrase, as does the ruling Bolshevism, which is not sufficiently conscious of its own West-European, Rationalistic and cosmopolitan origin. (Ibid.).

Of Russia in 1934 Spengler already saw that ‘of genuine Marxism there is very little except in names and programs’. He doubted that the Communist programme is ‘really still taken seriously’. He saw the possibility of the vestiges of Petrine Bolshevism being overthrown, to be replaced by a ‘nationalistic’ Eastern type which would reach ‘gigantic proportions unchecked’. (Spengler, 1963, 63).Spengler also referred to Russia as the country ‘least troubled by Bolshevism’, (Ibid.,182) and the ‘Marxian face [was] only worn for the benefit of the outside world’. (Ibid., 212). A decade after Spengler’s death the direction of Russia under Stalin had pursued clearer definitions, and Petrine Bolshevism had been transformed in the way Spengler foresaw. (Brandenberger, 2002).

Conclusion

As in Spengler’s time, and centuries before, there continues to exist two tendencies in Russia : the Old Russian and the Petrine. Neither one nor the other spirit is presently dominant, although under Putin Old Russia struggles for resurgence. Spengler in a published lecture to the Rheinish-Westphalian Business Convention in 1922 referred to the ‘ancient, instinctive, unclear, unconscious, and subliminal drive that is present in every Russian, no matter how thoroughly westernised his conscious life may be – a mystical yearning for the South, for Constantinople and Jerusalem, a genuine crusading spirit similar to the spirit our Gothic forebears had in their blood but which we can hardly appreciated today’. (Spengler, 1922).

Bolshevism destroyed one form of Petrinism with another form, clearing the way ‘for a new culture that will some day arise between “Europe” and East Asia. It is more a beginning than an end’. The peasantry ‘will some day become conscious of its own will, which points in a wholly different direction’. ‘The peasantry is the true Russian people of the future. It will not allow itself to be perverted or suffocated’. (Ibid.).

The ‘Great Patriotic War’ gave Stalin the opportunity to return Russia to its roots. Russia’s Orthodox foundations were returned on the basis of a myth, an archetypically Russian mysticism. The myth goes that in 1941:

The Virgin appeared to Metropolitan Ilya of the Antiochian Church, who prayed wholeheartedly for Russia. She instructed him to tell the Russians that they should carry the Kazan Icon in a religious procession around the besieged city of Leningrad (St Petersburg). Then, the Virgin said, they should serve a molieben [2] before the icon in Moscow. The Virgin said that the icon should stay with the Russian troops in Stalingrad, and later move with them to the Russian border. Leningrad didn’t surrender. Miraculously, Moscow was also saved. During the Battle of Stalingrad, the icon was with the Russian army on the right bank of the Volga, and the Nazi troops couldn’t cross the river. The Battle of Stalingrad began with a molieben before the Kazan Icon. Only when it was finished, did the troops receive the order to attack. The Kazan Icon was at the most important sectors of the front, and in the places where the troops were preparing for an offensive. It was like in the old times, when in response to earnest prayers, the Virgin instilled fear in enemies and drove them away. Even atheists told stories of the Virgin’s help to the Russian troops. During the assault on Königsberg in 1945, the Soviet troops were in a critical situation. Suddenly, the soldiers saw their commander arrive with priests and an icon. Many made jokes, ‘Just wait, that’ll help us!’ The commander silenced the jokers. He ordered everybody to line up and to take off their caps. When the priests finished the molieben, they moved to the frontline carrying the icon. The amazed soldiers watched them going straight forward, under intense Nazi fire. Suddenly, the Nazis stopped shooting. Then, the Russian troops received orders to attack on the ground and from the sea. Nazis died in the thousands. Nazi prisoners told the Russians that they saw the Virgin in the sky before the Russians began to attack, the whole of the Nazi army saw Her, and their weapons wouldn’t fire. (Voices from Russia).

The message to Metropolitan Ilya from The Theotokos [3] for Russia was that:

‘The cathedrals, monasteries, theological seminaries and academies have to be opened in the whole country. The priests have to be sent back from the front and released from incarceration. They must begin serving again…. When the war will be over, Metropolitan Elijah has to come to Russia and witness how she was saved’. The metropolitan contacted both Russian church representatives and Soviet government officials. Stalin then promised to do everything God indicated. (Russia before the Second Coming).

During ‘The Great Patriotic War’ 20,000 churches were opened. In 1942 the Soviet Government allowed Easter celebrations. On 4 September 1943 Stalin invited the hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church to the Kremlin to discuss the need for reviving religious life in the USSR and the prompt election of a Patriarch.

This is the type of Myth that is nation-forming. It exists as a constant possibility within Russia. Spengler stated in his lecture to the German businessmen in 1922 that,

There can be no doubt: a new Russian people is in the process of becoming. Shaken and threatened to the very soul by a frightful destiny, forced to an inner distance, it will in time become firm and come to bloom. It is passionately religious in a way that we Western Europeans have not been, indeed could not have been, for centuries. As soon as this religious drive is directed towards a goal, it possesses an immense expansive potential. Unlike us, such a people does not count the victims who die for an idea, for it is a young, vigorous, and fertile people. (Spengler, 1922).

The arch-Conservative anti-Marxist, Spengler, in keeping with the German tradition of realpolitik, considered the possibility of a Russo-German alliance in his 1922 speech, the Treaty of Rapallo being a reflection of that tradition. ‘A new type of leader’ would be awakened in adversity, to ‘new crusades and legendary conquests’. The rest of the world, filled with religious yearning but falling on infertile ground, is ‘torn and tired enough to allow it suddenly to take on a new character under the proper circumstances’. Spengler suggested that ‘perhaps Bolshevism itself will change in this way under new leaders’. ‘But the silent, deeper Russia,’ would turn its attention towards the Near and East Asia, as a people of ‘great inland expanses’. (Ibid.). Berdyaev, discussing the Slavophil outlook, wrote:

Russian reflections upon the subject of the philosophy of history led to the consciousness that the path of Russia was a special one. Russia is the great East-West; it is a whole immense world and in its people vast powers are confined. The Russian people are a people of the future; they will decide questions which the West has not yet the strength to decide, which it does not even pose in their full depth. (Berdyaev, 70).

There are no certainties. While Spengler postulated the organic cycles of a High Culture going through the life-phases of birth, youthful vigour, maturity, old age and death, it should be kept in mind that a life-cycle can be disrupted, aborted, murdered or struck by disease, at any time, and end without fulfilling itself. Each has its analogy in politics, and there are plenty of Russophobes eager to stunt Russia’s destiny with political, economic and cultural contagion. The Soviet bloc fell through inner and outer contagion.

What Spengler foresaw for the possibilities of Russia, yet to fulfil its historic mission, messianic and of world-scope, might now be unfolding if Russia eschews pressures from within and without. The invigoration of Orthodoxy is part of this process, as is the leadership style of Putin, as distinct from a Yeltsin for example. Whatever Russia is called outwardly, whether, monarchical, Bolshevik or democratic, there is an inner – eternal – Russia that endures and awaits its time on the world historical stage. We see it now with the re-emergence of Eurasianism, for example; not of the ‘East’ nor the ‘West’, but of Russia.

Notes

1. Ivan Sergyeyevich Aksakov (1823-1886) a Pan-Slavic leader, established the ‘Slavophil’ group at Moscow to restore Russia to its pre-Petrine culture.
2. Orthodox service for the sick.
3. Mary.

References

Berdyaev, Nikolai. The Russian Idea, MacMillan Co., New York, 1948
Brandenberger, D. National Bolshevism: Stalinist culture and the Formation of Modern Russian National Identity 1931-1956. Harvard University Press, Massachusetts, 2002.
Brothers, Barbara J. Psychiatry Today, 1 January 1993, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199301/russia-soul
Chumachenko, T.A. Church and State in Soviet Russia, M. E. Sharpe Inc., New York, 2002.
Cournos, H. ‘Introduction’, N V Gogol, Taras Bulba & Other Tales, 1842, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1197/1197-h/1197-h.htm
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov, 1880
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Possessed, Oxford University Press, 1992.
Kernback, S. ‘Unconventional research in USSR and Russia: short overview, 2013, http://arxiv.org/pdf/1312.1148.pdf
Russia before the Second Coming, Svyato-Troitskaya Sergiyeva Lavra Monastery, p. 239; Archbishop Alypy, ‘My thoughts about the Declaration of 1927’, 2 February 2005, http://www.stjamesok.org/ArbpAlypyBIO.htm
Spengler, Oswald. Prussian and Socialism, 1919.
Spengler, Oswald ‘The Two Faces of Russia and Germany’s Eastern Problems’, Politische Schriften, Munich, 14 February, 1922.
Spengler, Oswald. The Hour of Decision, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1963.
Spengler, Oswald. The Decline of The West, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1971.
Trotsky, Leon. The Revolution Betrayed: what is the Soviet Union and where is it going?, 1936.
Voices from Russia, 15 January 2008, http://02varvara.wordpress.com/2008/01/15/the-wonderworking-icon-of-kazan-of-the-most-holy-mother-of-god/

jeudi, 29 octobre 2015

Vico, der Vorläufer Spenglers

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Vico, der Vorläufer Spenglers

von Carlos Wefers Verástegui

Ex: http://www.blauenarzisse.de

Der Geschichtstheoretiker und Kulturphilosoph Giambattista Vico (16681744) ist, wenn überhaupt, nur als „Vorläufer Spenglers“ bekannt.

Zu Unrecht, denn der Neapolitaner Vico ist Spengler in Sachen Eingebungskraft, Selbständigkeit und Reichhaltigkeit des Denkens überlegen. Er verdient es, als Bildungsmacht neben den ganzen Deutschen Idealismus gestellt zu werden, aber auch Wilhelm Dilthey, Friedrich Nietzsche – vor allem der geniale Nietzsche von „Lüge und Wahrheit im außermoralischen Sinne“ – und Ferdinand Tönnies sind Vico ebenbürtig. Vicos leidenschaftliche, aber dennoch den Tatsachen auf den Grund gehende Beschäftigung mit der Geschichte lassen ihn vorteilhafter als Spengler erscheinen. Anders als die herkömmlichen Geschichtsphilosophen neigt Vico nicht zu Ideologie und politischer Auswertung der Vergangenheit.

Bedeutung Vicos für den Konservatismus

Dass Vico immer noch so wenig bekannt ist, liegt vor allem daran, dass er im Gegensatz zu Spengler keinen durch Zeitumstände bedingten Erfolg hatte. Sein Hauptwerk, die „Neue Wissenschaft“ (Scienza Nuova), war seiner Zeit derart voraus, dass es über ein Jahrhundert lang einsam dastand und auch später meist unverstanden blieb.

Erst die Arbeiten des italienischen Philosophen Benedetto Croce sowie die Forschungen Deutscher, wie Richard Peters, aber auch Karl Löwith, haben die Viquianische Methode der historischen Einsicht in ihrem Wert wiedererkannt. Auch konservative Gelehrte, wie Werner Sombart und Carl Schmitt, haben Vico durchaus die Wertschätzung zuteil kommen lassen, die er verdient. Der ehemalige Spann-​Schüler Eric Voegelin hat in ausdrücklicher Anlehnung an Vico seinem Hauptwerk den Titel „Die neue Wissenschaft der Politik“ gegeben.

Gemäß ihrem Schöpfer ist die neue Wissenschaft eine teologia civile e ragionata della provvidenza divina, frei übersetzt: eine „auf Vernunftbelege gegründete politische Theologie der göttlichen Vorsehung“. Hinter dem barocken Ausdruck verbirgt sich eine Philosophie des Geistes, ähnlich imposant wie die Hegelsche. Dazu gesellen sich noch eine empirische Geschichte oder, wie Croce präzisiert, „eine Gruppe von verschiedenen Geschichten“, sowie eine Gesellschaftswissenschaft. Obwohl Vico den Begriff nicht gebraucht, ist sein Werk als eine umfassende Kulturphilosophie zu bezeichnen, die sich bereits im Übergang zu einer konservativen Soziologie befindet.

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Ideale ewige Geschichte

Nach Vico bezeichnet seine Wissenschaft eine „ideale ewige Geschichte“. Dieser idealistische Begriff geht auf zwei Gegenstände Viquianischer Eingebung zurück: durch die Erfassung des Heroenzeitalter Homers ist er im Mythos verankert, die römische Geschichte hat ihm als Vorlage für alles Weitere gedient – sie stand geradezu Modell für Vicos geschichtliche Zyklenlehre der corsi und recorsi. Vicos Geschichtsbild gemäß dieser „idealen ewigen Geschichte“ ist aufs innigste verwand mit romantischen Naturgeschichtsvorstellungen, wie denen Heinrich Leos oder Wilhelm Roschers, aber auch Othmar Spanns universalistische Geschichtstheorie gehört hier her.

Das Geschaffene ist das Wahre

Wie leicht es ist, Vico mißzuverstehen, beleuchtet Spanns Fehlurteil über Vico als eines „naturalistischen Geschichtsphilosophen“. Der Ernst von Vicos System ist, wie bei Spann, „objektiver Idealismus“. Auch führte Vico konsequent die fundamentale Unterscheidung zwischen Natur und Kultur, zwischen physischer Welt und Welt des Geistes als erkenntnistheoretischer Grundlage einer von den Naturwissenschaften geschiedenen und, im Gegensatz zu diesen, wahren Wissenschaft – der vom menschlichen Geist nämlich – ein.

Dadurch, dass Vico seinen Gottesglauben gedanklich ausführte, kam er zu der Feststellung: In Gott sind Einsicht, Erkennen und Schaffen eins. Nur Gott, als dem Schöpfer, gebührt vollkommene Einsicht in sein Werk, nur er besitzt wahres Wissen über alles. Der Mensch aber findet sich in einer natürlichen Welt zurecht, die er nicht geschaffen hat, und über die er deshalb nur „Gewissheit“, niemals aber „wahres Wissen“ erlangen kann. Nur was der Mensch selbst schafft, vermag er auch vollkommen zu erkennen, wahres Wissen erlangt er nur über seine eigenen Erzeugnisse.

Vico stützt sich in seinen Untersuchungen auf die Fähigkeit des menschlichen Geistes, Erkenntnis über sich selbst zu erlangen, auf die Einheit des Menschengeschlechtes sowie die (relative) Unveränderlichkeit der Menschennatur. Relativ unveränderlich ist die Menschennatur deshalb, weil Vico sich der Geschichtlichkeit des Menschen sowie seiner individuellen Abhängigkeit vom geschichtlichen Schicksal der „Völker und Nationen“ sicher ist.

Gegen Naturrecht, Rationalismus und Atheismus

Diese dogmatische Erkenntnisvoraussetzung nimmt bei Vico die Gestalt einer Kritik des Rationalismus sowie der utilitaristischen Naturrechtslehren, vor allem von Hobbes und Spinozas, an. Am Ende dieser Kritik steht bei Vico eine entschieden fromme Philosophie der Autorität, die für sich beansprucht, die gesamte Überlieferung, den Mythos, die Phantasie und überhaupt die Intuition wieder in ihr angestammtes Recht eingesetzt zu haben. Überhaupt ist die Frömmigkeit bei Vico erster und letzter Begriff.

Erst der Fromme besitzt den Schlüssel zum wahren, nämlich einfühlsamen Verständnis der gesellschaftlich-​geschichtlichen Welt. Gegenüber dem Frommen und seiner wahren Einsicht nehmen sich die Naturrechtler und Rationalisten toll und hochmütig aus; die Wahrheit bleibt ihnen auf immer verschlossen, und sie merken es nicht einmal. Derselbe tolle Hochmut macht für Vico auch die Atheisten so hassenswert. Über hundert Jahre später übernimmt der spanische Reaktionär Juan Donoso Cortés dieses Viquianischen Argument in seinem Kampf gegen die politischen Nachfahren der Rationalisten und Naturrechtler, die Liberalen und Sozialisten.

Die Rolle der „Vorsehung“

Vico_La_scienza_nuova.gifAls strenger Theist ist Vico der Ansicht, dass die Geschichte, die ihm immer eine Geschichte der „Völker und Nationen“, niemals von Individuen ist, zwar von Menschen gemacht ist, dass aber hinter den Menschen und selbst durch die Menschen hindurch unentwegt die göttliche Vorsehung wirkt. Die Selbsterkenntnisfähigkeit des menschlichen Geistes ist ein Beweis für dieses Wirken der Vorsehung, ja, sie nähert den Menschen selbst in gewisser Weise an Gott an.

Dieses Vergnügen in der Gewissheit, in der Erkenntnis der menschlichen Dinge über sich selbst als Menschen herausgewachsen zu sein, macht Vico zu einem würdigen Nachfahren und Geistesverwandten Machiavellis, der für sich – und für intelligente Leser ebenfalls – stillschweigend beanspruchte, die politischen Dinge sowohl von der Ebene als auch zugleich von der Anhöhe aus zu betrachten. Was aber bei Machiavelli verhohlener Stolz und eine kleine Eitelkeit gegenüber den Fürsten ist, ist bei Vico freudige Demut ob der errungenen wahren Einsicht im Angesicht Gottes.

Gott besitzt die vollkommene Einsicht, nur er besitzt die ganze Wahrheit, und sich ein wenig zu ihm emporgerungen zu haben, ist keine Kleinigkeit für den menschlichen Geist. Darauf ist Vico stolz. Die Menschen spielen sich nämlich dauernd selbst Streiche, sie irren über die wahren Beweggründe ihres Handelns. Sie meinen, etwas zu wollen oder zu tun, erreichen aber etwas ganz anderes, was ihnen nicht aufgeht – es ist die Vorsehung, die die Selbstsucht, die Triebe, den Ehrgeiz, die Laster, die Leidenschaften, die Irrtümer und überhaupt alles Streben der Menschen dazu benutzt, das Allgemeinwohl hinter dem Rücken der Akteure und über ihre Köpfe hinweg zustande zu bringen.

Machiavellischer Realismus und geschichtliche Dialektik

Vicos „Vorsehung“ hat zwar auf den ersten Blick etwas von Adam Smiths „unsichtbarer Hand“, die gerade da die allgemeine Wohlfahrt befördert, wo jeder seinem eigenen Vorteil nachgeht. Ihre genaue Entsprechung ist jedoch Hegels List der Vernunft: dadurch, dass die Menschen sich in ihren wesentlichen Überzeugungen, Glaubensartikeln, Ansichten und Zwecksetzungen täuschen bzw. sich grundsätzlich irren, machen sie sich letzen Endes selbst, nämlich freiwillig und ohne dass sie irgendetwas davon ahnten, zu Werkzeugen der Vorsehung.

Diese eigentümliche dialektische Spannung zwischen Existenz, Bewusstsein und Handeln des Individuums und dessen eigentlicher, ungeahnter Bewandtnis innerhalb von Gottes Vorsehung, sagt trotz ihrer, für heutiges Empfinden mythologischen Einkleidung, tatsächlich etwas über die Struktur der menschlichen Wirklichkeit aus. Sie tut es auf die gleiche Weise, wie es Machiavelli mit dem Hinweis getan hat, dass der Fürst sich auch darauf verstehen müsse, nach Notwendigkeit böse zu handeln. Nur ist bei Vico das Aktivistische von Machiavellis individualistischer Handlungstheorie eben zum überindividuellen Prozess der Vorsehung ausgeweitet, der so zur geschichtlichen Dialektik wird. Die Vorsehung ist gerade deshalb, weil sie göttlichem Ratschluss, Gottes Vernunft und Autorität in einem, entsprungen ist, gut und gerecht; in der Notwendigkeit des geschichtlichen Verlaufs rechtfertigt, d.h. reinigt, heilt und korrigiert sie diesen.

Sympathie für barbarische Heroen

vico1zs1fqL._UY250_.jpgAls tief einem in der Tradition verwurzelten Katholiken fehlte Vico jeder Begriff von „Fortschritt“. Trotzdem beinhaltet seine „Neue Wissenschaft“ eine intensive Auseinandersetzung mit dem Aufstieg und Verfall der Völker und Nationen. Nach Vico liegt der Anfang der Völker in einem dunklen Heroenzeitalter. Dies ist gekennzeichnet durch barbarische Gefühlsausbrüche und körperliche Sinnlichkeit. Doch gerade dieses unmenschliche Zeitalter der rohen Gewalt und Barbarei ist ganz im Sinn der Vorsehung, und zwar zum Besten der Menschen: sie sind der Urkeim eines wahrhaft geselligen Zustandes, der erst ein menschenwürdiges Zusammenleben möglich macht. Obwohl Vico nicht mit groben Bezeichnungen für seine barbarischen Helden spart, behandelt er diese Vorzeit mit Liebe und Verständnis, ja sogar mit Sympathie für die „Riesen und Polypheme“, wie er die Barbaren nennt. Ihr Zeitalter ist das einer unschuldigen Jugend, reichlich ausgestattet mit Phantasie und ursprünglicher Schaffenskraft.

Sind es auch Barbaren, so sind sie doch edelmütig und aufrichtig bei aller Gewalttätigkeit. Indem sie ihr zyklopisches Heroenrecht gegenüber anderen Barbaren und, vor allem, den nichtheroischen Schwachen durchsetzten, wurden sie zu Stiftern der Zivilisation. Die Schwachen machten sie sich unterwürfig, nahmen sie in ihre Obhut und gewährten ihnen so ein erträgliches Dasein.

Den weiteren Fortschritt der Kultur zeichnet Vico, hauptsächlich anhand der römischen Geschichte, als eine Folge von Kämpfen, Klassenkämpfen und Bürgerkriegen, zwischen Adligen und Niedriggeborenen, einheimischen Patriziat und fremdstämmigen Plebejern. Nach jedem dieser Kämpfe kommt es zu einem Ausgleich, der immer mehr diese „Gemeinen“, die für Vico die eigentliche Menschheit ausmachen, begünstigt. Dadurch, dass die Plebejer in der Geschichte gegenüber den sich immer mehr weibischen Adligen an Boden gewinnen, wird die mildeste und den Schwachen gemäße Zeit eingeläutet: das „menschliche Zeitalter“. In diesem sichert ein rechtlicher Zustand den Schwachen das Dasein, die „Gesellschaft“ – im Gegensatz zur Gemeinschaft. Auch die Regierungsformen ändern sich während dieses Prozesses: die Aristokratenrepublik, bestehend aus Heroennachkommen, weicht dem demokratischen „Volksstaat“, welcher am Ende in einen Cäsarismus bei bloß „sozialer“ Demokratie ausläuft.

Demokratie bloß eine Durchgangsphase

Die gesellschaftliche Entwicklung geht dabei vom Notwendigen zum Nützlichen. Darauf folgen nacheinander das Bequeme, das Gefällige und, schließlich, der völkerverderbende Luxus. Die „humanen Zeiten“ sind nicht dazu bestimmt, eine den Leuten zuträgliche demokratische Staatsform zu stabilisieren. Nach Vico wissen die „Menschen“ mit ihrer Sicherheit und ihrem Wohlsein nichts Besseres anzufangen, als sich immer mehr in ihrem Eigennutz und ihrer Genussucht gehen zu lassen.

Auch ihren hochentwickelten Verstand benutzen sie nur zu Falschheiten – zur Gemeinheit und Niedertracht. Entgegen den Behauptungen eines Forschers zeigt Vico überhaupt kein besonderes Interesse an der „Demokratie“, sondern sieht diese nur in ihrer geschichtlichen Notwendigkeit und Bestimmung in Egoismus und Unrecht umzuschlagen. Auf sie folgt wieder der ungesellige Zustand, es wird unerträglich für alle. Wegen dieser unerträglichen Ungerechtigkeit des Daseins legt nun die Vorsehung bei der idealen ewigen Geschichte als einem obersten Weltgericht „Berufung“ – ricorso – ein.

Drei Möglichkeiten sind es nun, die sich dabei auftun: 1. Der Retter kommt, gleich Oktavian-​Kaiser Augustus, aus den eigenen Reihen. Es ist die cäsarische Lösung. 2. Es kommt ein fremder Eroberer, der über die erwiesenermaßen sich selbst zu regierenden Unfähigen herrscht – zu ihrem eigenen Besten. 3. Es ist zu spät, die zivilisatorisch überfeinerte Gemeinheit und die Barbarei des Verstandes gehen so lange weiter, bis die Völker sich total heruntergebracht haben. Hier greift nun die Vorsehung rettend ein und gewährt der Menschheit nach all dem Schmerz und Unrecht eine zweite Chance – ein neues Mittelalter bricht an. Nur dieser völlige Rückfall in eine ganz ursprüngliche und gewalttätige Barbarei, wie die, die das Mittelalter ermöglichte, ist in der Lage, die zivilisierte Menschheit zu läutern und von sich selbst, als einem leidigen Übel, zu kurieren.

vendredi, 05 juin 2015

Spengler, Yockey, & The Hour of Decision

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Spengler, Yockey, & The Hour of Decision

“That is what the craving for the peace of fellahdom, for protection against everything that disturbs the daily routine, against destiny in every form, would seem to intimate: a sort of protective mimicry vis-a-vis world history, human insects feigning death in the face of danger, the “happy ending” of an empty existence, the boredom of which has brought in jazz music and negro dancing to perform the Dead March for a great Culture.”
—Oswald Spengler, The Hour of Decision 

Francis Parker Yockey is routinely described as a Spenglerian philosopher. Yet the Oswald Spengler whom Yockey evokes in Imperium and The Enemy of Europe is not the patient, ponderous explainer from The Decline of the West. Rather, Yockey’s writings are modeled stylistically on Spengler’s polemical manifesto from 1933, The Hour of Decision.

I offer the epigraph above as an example. In English translation, at least, Spengler’s rhetorical flights are very similar to Yockey’s of fifteen or more years later. Many of Yockey’s themes are virtual retreads of Spengler in The Hour of Decision. Here is something from The Enemy of Europe (circa 1948). Yockey is talking about how Great Britain abandoned her sovereignty after the Great War:

During the third decade of the 20th century, England gradually handed over its sovereignty to America in order to continue pursuing its distorted policy, a policy devoted to the world-wide preservation of the status quo. Naturally, such an unpleasant fact was not admitted by the representatives of a certain mentality, and naturally again—those who bore the responsibility for the transfer of power shied away from defining the new relationship precisely; for had they done so, the whole policy would have been spoilt. Nevertheless, when Baldwin announced in 1936 that he would not deploy the English fleet without consulting America beforehand, he informed the entire political world in unmistakable terms that the end of English independence had come, that English sovereignty had passed over to America. (The Enemy of Europe [1], p. 9)

Now here is Spengler making a similar point, fifteen years earlier:

In 1931 England granted by statute complete equality of status to the white Dominions in the Commonwealth of Nations, thereby relinquishing her priority and allying herself with these states on the ground of common interests, particularly that of protection by the British navy. But there is nothing to prevent Canada and Australia from throwing sentiment to the winds and turning to the United States if they see a chance of better protection there – for instance, from Japan, as white nations. England’s former position on the farther side of Singapore is already abandoned, and if India is lost, there will be no real sense in retaining it in Egypt and the Mediterranean either. In vain does English diplomacy of the old style try in the old way to mobilize the Continent for English ends: against America as the debtor front and against Russia as the front against Bolshevism. (The Hour of Decision [2], p. 40)

Imperium/The Enemy of Europe (the second work was conceived as a pendant to the first) is thus like a reiteration, a New Revised Edition of The Hour of Decision. The parallels are striking, but they are not simply a result of Yockey slavishly imitating Spengler. I doubt Yockey consciously did. I suggest rather that the echoes are there because both Spengler and Yockey are both speaking in a conceptual shorthand that leans on the ideas and terms of art first adumbrated in The Decline of the West. In The Hour of Decision, Spengler can talk about the spirit of Prussianism or the culturelessness of “Fellaheen” peoples, for example, without laboriously explaining the terms. This is because he presupposes a familiarity with the Morphology of History described in Decline. And so it is with Imperium/Enemy. The main difference is that Yockey alludes to Spengler, whereas Spengler is referencing himself.

Now, this derivation from Decline means that readers who don’t know Spengler’s basic schema may well be bewildered or annoyed when reading The Hour of Decision. This is what happened when some American book critics reviewed Hour in 1934, when the English translation was published. Writing in The Saturday Review of Literature, one scribe indulges in non-stop head-scratching, saying in effect, What does Spengler mean when he talks about Prussianism? He doesn’t actually mean Prussians. He’s got some personal, idiosyncratic definition; perhaps Prussianism is meant to designate

some fundamental trait of character . . . essential to the greatness, or even the preservation, or any nation worth thinking about. What that trait is cannot easily be stated in a definition; it involves, however, above all, a subordination of every softer impulse of mankind to the stern duty of rigorous discipline . . .[1]

The reviewer, of course, is winging it. He hasn’t read The Decline of the West, but he has a mental image of a Prussian (in a Pickelhaube helmet, no doubt) and figures that Prussianism is a cult of martinets, hard men. Anyway, it fits in well with the review’s title: “Spengler’s Fascist Manifesto.”

Contrariwise, Allen Tate reviewed The Hour of Decision around the same time for The American Review, and showed an extensive understanding of The Decline of the West. Tate has one quibble with the new manifesto: it seems to be a clarion call for heroic, individual effort, and that would appear to be inconsistent with the historic inevitability that runs through Spenglerian theory:

How can Spengler’s organic determinism be reconciled with the call to arms that he now shouts to the white races, particularly the Teutonic peoples, to repel the twin revolutionary menace of the dark races and of the proletariat? I think this part of the new Spengler book may be dismissed as so much jingoism. In the violent attack on communism and other phases of the international revolutionary movement, Spengler forgets the schematicism of The Decline of the West, and falls into a kind of “rugged individualism” when he praises here and there the responsible man who by zeal and foresight builds a factory or a fortune.[2]

yockey.pngWell, not quite. Tate, whose attitude toward Spengler is generally approving, seems to be straining at a gnat here. The answer to his question is that individual action and “organic determinism” can and do coexist. They do not contradict each other. Denizens of a high culture do not turn into a herd of mindless cattle simply because some force majeure is in operation.

But Tate is making a useful point in a roundabout way. He is noting the difference in rhetorical styles between The Decline of the West and The Hour of Decision. The first is an impassive, intricate, delicate trusswork of philosophical theory; the second is something akin to journalism. If Spengler in Hour seems to be sloganeering more than usual, and indulging in such untoward, piquant topics as the threat of the colored races, it’s because he’s writing political commentary, not philosophy.

This immediacy, I submit, accounts for a lot of the rhetorical similarity between the Yockey of Imperium/Enemy and the Spengler of The Hour of Decision. The writers are giving us a snapshot of the world situation as it appears now—”now” being in 1948 and 1933. Coming to The Hour of Decision for the first time, after knowing Yockey’s work for forty years, I was struck by both the similarities in style and by Spengler’s breathtaking insights. Just a sample:

Is the United States a power with a future? Before 1914 superficial observers talked of unlimited possibilities after they had looked about them for a week of two, and post-war “society” from Western Europe, compounded of snobs and mobs, for full of enthusiasm for “husky” young America as being far superior to ourselves – nay, positively a model for us to follow. But for purposes of durable form records and dollars must not be taken to represent the spiritual strength and depth of the people to whom they belong; neither must sport be confused with race-soundness nor business intelligence with spirit and mind. What is “hundred per cent Americanism”? A mass existence standardized to a low average level, a primitive pose, or a promise for the future? . . . All we know is that so far there is neither a real nation nor a real State. Can both of these develop out of the knocks of fate, or is this possibility excluded by the very fact of the Colonial type, whose spiritual past belongs elsewhere and is now dead? (The Hour of Decision, p. 36)

As Yockey will reiterate years later, there are great parallels between America and Russia; but Spengler specifically sees a kind of Bolshevism in the 1920s-’30s USA:

The resemblance to Bolshevik Russia is far greater than one imagines. There is the same breadth of landscape, which firstly, by excluding any possibility of successful attack by an invader, consequently excludes the experience of real national danger, and, secondly, by making the State not indispensable, prevents the development of any true political outlook. Life is organized exclusively from the economic side and consequently lacks depth, all the more because it contains nothing of that element of historic tragedy, of great destiny, that has widened and chastened the soul of Western peoples through the centuries. . . . And there is the same dictatorship there as in Russia (it does not matter that it is imposed by society instead of a party), affecting everything – flirtation and church-going, shoes and lipstick, dances and novels à la mode, thought, food, and recreation – that in the Western world is left to the option of individuals. There is one standardized type of American, and, above all, American woman, in body, clothes, and mind; any departure from or open criticism of the type arouses public condemnation in New York as in Moscow. . . .

Granted, there is no Communist party. But neither did this exist as an organization for election purposes in the Tsarist regime. And in the one country as in the other, there is a mighty underworld of an almost Dostoievsky sort, with its own urge to power, its own methods of destruction and of business, which, in consequence of the corruption prevailing in the organs of public administration and security, extends upwards into very prosperous strata of society – especially as regards that alcohol-smuggling which has intensified political and social demoralization to the extreme. It embraces both the professional criminal class and secret societies of the Ku Klux Klan order, Negroes and Chinese as well as the uprooted elements of all European stocks and races, and it possesses some very effective organizations, certain of which are of long standing, such as the Italian Camorra, the Spanish Guerrilla, the Russian Nihilists before 1917, and the agents of the Cheka later. Lynching, kidnapping, and attempts to assassinate, murder, robbery, and arson are all well-tested methods of political-economic propaganda. (The Hour of Decision, pp. 36-38)

Notes

1. Fabian Franklin, “Spengler’s Fascist Manifesto,” The Saturday Review of Literature, 17 February 1934. http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1934feb17-00490a02 [3]

2. Allen Tate, “Spengler’s Tract Against Liberalism,” The American Review, April 1934, p.41. http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmericanRev-1934apr-00041 [4]

 

 

 

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

 

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/05/spengler-yockey-and-the-hour-of-decision/

 

URLs in this post:

[1] The Enemy of Europe: http://www.jrbooksonline.com/pdf_books/enemyofeurope.pdf

[2] The Hour of Decision: https://archive.org/stream/TheHourOfDecision/HOD#page/n40

[3] http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1934feb17-00490a02: http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1934feb17-00490a02

[4] http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmericanRev-1934apr-00041: http://www.unz.org/Pub/AmericanRev-1934apr-00041

jeudi, 04 juin 2015

The Question of Race in Spengler & its Meaning for Contemporary Racialism

Kunze_Spengler_2.jpg

The Question of Race in Spengler & its Meaning for Contemporary Racialism

Picture, above: Michael Kunze, Oswald Spengler

Introduction

It is a tradition at Counter-Currents to remember the great German philosopher of history, Oswald Spengler, on the anniversary of his birth, the 29th of May. This year, I would like to take the time to critically reflect on Spengler’s views of race within his magnum opus, The Decline of the West (1918–22), and, in particular to discuss the importance these ideas hold for modern day racialists and ethno-nationalists. 

Some of these issues were touched on by Greg Johnson in his 2010 essay, “Is Racial Purism Decadent? [2],” and my arguments here are largely in response to some of the questions he poses therein. In brief, my intent with this piece is to (1) provide a brief overview of Spengler’s racial doctrine, (2) illustrate the disjunctions existing between the Spenglerian conception of “race” and materialistic ones, and (3) to explore what the Spengler being correct on the question of race means for those currently involved in the various shades of racial preservationism common among Counter-Currents’ readership.

When discussing “race,” it is common parlance among racial preservationists to adopt usages of the term derived from the great physical anthropologists and anthropometrists of the early 20th century. It is in works such as Carleton S. Coon’s The Races of Europe (1939) or Bertil Lundman’s Nordens Rastyper (1940), that the highly developed and nuanced models of the different human races are exemplified. And, it is from works such as these that contemporary discourses on race within preservationist circles find their genealogical root. Primary examples of this can be seen in the wide selection of early-twentieth century literature hosted on the website of the Society for Nordish Physical Anthropology (SNPA)[1]—an organization “founded in January 1999 […] by three university students” with the goals of reviving the theories of “the nature and phylogeny of human biodiversity” which dominated academia “prior to 1950.”[2] The SNPA’s website is presently hosted by a racial preservationist web forum, The Apricity, one of whose most active sub-forums is devoted to classifying both forum members and celebrities according to the racial typologies such as Lundman’s or Coon’s.[3] The deep relationship between pre-1950 physical anthropology and contemporary racialist discourse is hardly unique to The Apricity, and can be found throughout racialist websites and forums.

This biological view of race—focusing both on the phenotypical and genotypical variations both within and without Europe—is, however, quite far from what Spengler means when uttering the word “race.” While he does not deny that there is a biological dimension to race, Spengler does not reduce race to biology.[4] Rather, for Spengler, the notion of race was one which included the material, but supervened over it to include psychological and cultural dimensions as well. Later in life, this non-reductionist position would put him at odds with the high-profile members of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (NSDAP), particularly with Alfred Rosenberg, whose racialism bore more in common with Lundman and Coon’s physical anthropology than with Spengler’s anti-materialism.[5] What, however, is meant by an anti-material conception of race? If Spengler did not reduce race to physical characteristics, how did he understand it?

Spenglerian “Race”

In his own words, Spengler defines a race as “the cosmic-plantlike side of life, of Being, [which] is invested with a character of duration.”[6] Race is, he tells us, “determined by the fact that the bodily succession of parents and children, the bond of the blood, forms natural groups, which disclose a definite tendency to take root in a landscape”—with “race” standing in for the “fact of a blood which circles, carried on by procreation, in a narrow or wide landscape.”[7] Prima facie, this definition of the term does not sound too far a cry from those of the physical anthropologists. However, as Spengler develops his thesis within The Decline of the West, his position emerges as one which is far closer to the völkisch landscape mystics of the Bodenbeschaffenheit movement, such as Hermann Keyserling.[8] We see this connection emphasized in the relationship Spengler postulates between race, landscape, language, and culture. In terms of the connection between race and landscape, we see Spengler advocating for a fundamentally formative and governing impact of the latter upon the former:

A race has roots. Race and landscape belong together. Where a plant takes root, there it dies also. There is certainly a sense in which we can, without absurdity, work backwards from a race to its “home,” but it is much more important to realize that the race adheres permanently to this home with some of its most essential characters of body and soul. If in that home the race cannot now be found, this means that the race has ceased to exist. A race does not migrate. Men migrate, and their successive generations are born in ever-changing landscapes; but the landscape exercises a secret force upon the plant-nature in them, and eventually the race-expression is completely transformed by the extinction of the old and the appearance of a new one. Englishmen and Germans did not migrate to America, but human beings migrated thither as Englishmen and Germans, and their descendants are there as Americans.[9]

In this, we see that Spengler’s view on race is such that it can be essentially treated as a function of a specific landscape and place—with individual races being inextricably tied to their geographic birthplaces as peoples.[10] The differences between this conception of racial formation and Darwinian models of evolution are more pronounced when we consider as well that Spengler’s philosophy treated a race not as a collection of related organisms, but rather as a single organism, and that the physical and psychological formation wrought by the landscape was collective rather than individual in nature. This collectivism is seen in the relationship Spengler posits between race and language as well, with the two complementing one another in a way analogous to body and mind in an individual:

In the limit, every race is a single great body, and every language the efficient form of one great waking-consciousness that connects many individual beings. And we shall never reach the ultimate discoveries about either unless they are treated together and constantly brought into comparison with one another.[11]

This relationship between a people’s race and its language, then, is one wherein each necessarily complements one another, with both being fundamentally necessarily to the integral unity of the singular organism. Carrying the metaphorical comparison between the individual and the people further, we see culture emerge from this race-language dyad as the natural expression of the two as they exist in the world. Spengler sees language as essentially two-fold, being divided into talk and speech, with each linguistic mode being proper to one “of the two primary Estates” such that “talk belongs with the castle [the state], and speech to the cathedral [the church].”[12] By means of its expression through these two estates, Spengler sees language as participating in the “waking relation that has Culture, [and] that is Culture.”[13] In this way, culture emerges as the activity of the interaction of the bodily race and mental language of a people with their given landscape.

This conception of mankind which Spengler elucidates is not anti-material in that it denies the material dimensions of race, but is so in that it does not treat a people as being reducible to mere physiological characteristics and differences. For Spengler, the very term “people” is not a simple designation for a group with physical or political or linguistic ties, but is “a unit of the soul,” designating a unified collective spiritual internality shared by all members of the group.[14] For Spengler, this racial soul was expresses most fully through the peoples’ modes of cultural production—namely through the arts. He saw racial virility as being intimately tied to artistic expression, with the development of High Art being “a mark of race,” rather than of learning.[15] He tells us that “the great art by which the Culture finds its tongue is the achievement of race and not that of craft.”[16] In this, Spengler is saying that the art whose expression comes to define a people (e.g. the relationship between Gothic architecture and Western man) is essentially racial in nature, and not a learned skill—insofar as the art itself is the cultural “vocalization” of the race’s experience of the world.[17]

It is with this sense of both the terms “race” and “art” that we can make sense of Spengler’s assertion that “the creators of the Doric temples of South Italy and Sicily, and those of the brick Gothic of North Germany were emphatically race-men, and so too the German musicians from Heinrich Schütz to Johann Sebastian Bach.”[18] For, in this, he is saying that these great artists throughout history exemplified through their works the inner experience of their race, and as such were great men of race. The art of these great men, which forms the core cultural expression of Western man, is for Spengler, thus seen not as the products of artistic education achieved by individuals. Rather, it is a fundamentally racial production, which can no more be separated from the race of the people who birthed it than can that race from its language, nor the race from its landscape. It is through cultural production generally, and through art particularly, that the genius of the race is made manifest—its strength and vitality being translated into forms which supervene over the brute materiality of phenotype and genotype.

Questions of Preservation

If Spengler is correct, what does this mean for contemporary racialists and racial preservationists? To begin, let us examine one of Spengler’s best known statements on the question of racial purity and preservation, from The Hour of Decision (1943):

But in speaking of race, it is not intended in the sense in which it is the fashion among anti-Semites in Europe and America to use it today: Darwinistically, materially. Race purity is a grotesque world in view of the fact that for centuries all stocks and species have been mixed, and that warlike—that is, healthy—generations with a future before them have from time immemorial always welcomed a stranger into the family if he had “race,” to whatever race it was he belonged. Those who talk too much about race no longer have it in them. What is needed is not a pure race, but a strong one, which has a nation within it. This manifests itself above all in self-evident elemental fecundity, in an abundance of children, which historical life can consume without ever exhausting the supply.[19]

In this passage, we see Spengler vehemently rejecting the purity-based racial theories prevalent within the NSDAP. But, what is the nature of this strong rejection? At its root, what we see in Spengler is a sharp contrast between his characterization of (a) the raceless man’s engaging in discourse on race and (b) the man of race’s non-discursive lived experience of race. The former discursive behavior, we see Spengler treat as degenerate and weak—the latter non-discursive behavior, as vital and strong. As Johnson notes, one of the key differences between these two behaviors is the activity’s vector; where “racial consciousness is backwards looking […] the feeling of race is forward-looking.”[20] The former is an after-the-face reflection on the past activities of race men; while the latter is the present experience of the man of race, impelling him to reach new creative heights in the cultural expression of his race.

Spengler would argue, then, that the discursive activities of contemporary racialists and racial preservationists on maintaining racial purity not only miss the point of race entirely by reducing it to mere physical characteristics, but also that such discursive action is a decadent and unhealthy way of approaching race. The man of race would view, Spengler tells us, such concerns with racial purity as entirely backwards-looking, seeking to preserve what his race once was. However, the non-discursive experience of one’s race is correspondingly forward-looking, seeking to actualize and create a strong and vital future culture. Johnson tells us that Spengler would argue that “the racial purist looks to the past, not the future, because he does not have the vitality in him necessary to create a future.”[21] The racial consciousness of the preservationist is defined entirely by his race’s past—a past which is, by definition, immutable and fixed; his engagement with race, then, is wholly discursive, merely talking of past glories and present ills. It is not defined by the action born of the inner experience of race-feeling itself.

These unhealthy manifestations of discursive preoccupations with racial purity run counter to the healthy non-discursive race-feeling and its resulting cultural production not because the discourse of the purist is wrong. Indeed, as Johnson argues, “decadent people can be right, and healthy people can be wrong.”[22] However, in terms of effective action, there are more important things than simply holding “correct” opinions, or engaging in “correct” discourses. What is needed so much more than mere discourse is the action which springs naturally from the healthy man of race’s vitality. In, correctly in my estimation, judging “White nationalism in America” as “as overwhelmingly degenerate movement,” Johnson concludes his musings on Spengler by asking the question: “what would a vital white nationalism look like?” We know now what a movement whose primary activity is discourse on race looks like; it is what we have today—a decadent movement which produces a near endless stream of discussion and literature on the topic of race. How would a vital and healthy movement differ from this? Johnson speculates:

A vital white nationalist movement would be a utopian, progressivist, eugenicist mythical-cultural phenomenon. It would not be founded on empirical studies of how race influences culture. It would not propagate itself through academic conferences and policy studies. It would be founded on a grand culture-creating, race-shaping myth, propagated through art and religion, that enthralls and mobilizes a whole people. It would be less concerned about the race we were or the race we are than about the race we can become.[23]

In terms of Spenglerian views on the question of race, we can imagine a healthy movement as one whose primary activity is not discourse, but cultural production. A healthy movement would not necessarily be wholly unconcerned with “correct” discourse on race, but its dominant and overriding concern would be the cultural production stemming from the non-discursive experience of the vital feeling of one’s race. The healthy movement would by defined not by polemic literature on the “dangers” of race-mixing, but by grand works of art expressing the inner experience of the race. It would be a movement whose “celebrities” were not the authors of books on race, but men whose entire being was devoted to the furtherance of their race’s artistic expression.

In this way, Richard Wagner, stands forth as the near-ideal example of Spengler’s man of race. Wagner was not unconcerned with the question of race, or with discourse on race, but when we look at the scope of his life and work, his activities were overwhelmingly defined by cultural production rather than discourse. We remember Wagner not primarily for his writings on race. Rather, we remember him because the art he produced was a force of nature, which expressed to purely the soul of his race that it drew together thousands upon thousands of the German people—giving rise to sweeping cultural movements. Taking Wagner as our paradigm, then, we should perhaps revise our questions. Rather than asking what would a vital movement look like, perhaps we should ask how can I become a Spenglerian man of race? It is my contention that if we are to succeed—to win, as Johnson puts it—it will not be through the endless discourse we have engaged in thus far; nor will it be through grand plans to re-shape the movement from the top-down.

Our success will come through individual change and progress. It is not necessary that we cease engaging in racialist discourse, or that such discourses are wrong, but this is not the means of our victory. Rather than through imitation of racialist authors like Francis Parker Yockey, our success will come through the imitation of cultural producers like Wagner. Naturally, such a movement would be characterized by physical vitalism and fecundity as well, but it would not be limited to such. It would be equally—if not moreso—characterized by cultural fecundity and strength. In this way, a reevaluation of our very idea of “race” in Spenglerian terms proves to be of the utmost importance in providing a pathway to success.

Bibliography

Bolton, Kerry. “Oswald Spengler: May 29, 1880–May 8, 1936.” Counter-Currents Publishing: Books Against Time. 29 May 2012. http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/05/oswald-spengler/ [3] [accessed 25 May 2015].

Borthwick, Stephen M. “Historian of the Future: An Introduction to Oswald Spengler’s Life and Words for the Curious Passer-by and the Interested Student.” Institute for Oswald Spengler Studies. https://sites.google.com/site/spenglerinstitute/Biography [4] [accessed 25 May 2015].

Brown, David Henry. “Metaphysical Presuppositions in Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes.” PhD diss., McMaster University 1979.

Coon, Carleton S. The Races of Europe. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939. http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/racesofeurope.htm [5]

Dreher, Carl. “Spengler and the Third Reich.” The Virginia Quarterly Review: A National Journal of Literature and Discussion. 15, no. 2 (1939). http://www.vqronline.org/essay/spengler-and-third-reich [6] [accessed 25 May 2015].

Duchesne, Ricardo. “Oswald Spengler & the Faustian Soul of the West, Part 1.” Counter-Currents Publishing: Books Against Time. 2 January 2015. http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-1/ [7] [accessed 25 May 2015].

———. “Oswald Spengler & the Faustian Soul of the West, Part 2.” Counter-Currents Publishing: Books Against Time. 5 January 2015. http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-2/ [8] [accessed 25 May 2015].

“Essays & Excerpts.” Society for Nordish Physical Anthropology. http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/index2.htm [9] [accessed 25 May 2015].

Farrenkopf, John. “Spengler’s Historical Pessimism and the Tragedy of Our Age.” Theory and Society 22, no. 3 (1993): 391–412.

———. “Spengler’s Theory of Civilization.” Thesis Eleven: Critical Theory and Historical Sociology 62, no. 1 (2000): 23–38.

“Introduction.” Society for Nordish Physical Anthropology. http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/introduction.htm [10] [accessed 25 May 2015].

Johnson, Greg. “Is Racial Purism Decadent?” Counter-Currents Publishing: Books Against Time. 10 July 2010. http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/07/is-racial-purism-decadent/ [2] [accessed 25 May 2015].

Lundman, Bertil. Nordens Rastyper: Geografi och Historia. Verdandis Småskrifter 427. Stockholm: Albert Bonnier, 1940.

Noll, Richard. The Jung Cult: Origins of a Charismatic Movement. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

Spengler, Oswald. The Decline of the West. 2 vols. Revised edition. Translated by Charles Francis Atkinson. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1961.

———. The Hour of Decision: Germany and World-Historical Evolution. Translated by Charles Francis Atkinson. Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific, 2002.

Notes

[1] [11] “Essays & Excerpts,” Society for Nordish Physical Anthropology.

[2] [12] “Introduction,” Society for Nordish Physical Anthropology.

[3] [13] “The Apricity: A European Community.”

[4] [14] Farrenkopf, “Spengler’s Historical Pessimism and the Tragedy of Our Age,” 395; Borthwick, “Historian of the Future”; Johnson, “Is Racial Purism Decadent?”.

[5] [15] Dreher, “Spengler and the Third Reich”; Bolton, “Oswald Spengler.”

[6] [16] Spengler, The Decline of the West, 2:113.

[7] [17] Ibid.

[8] [18] Noll, The Jung Cult, 95–103.

[9] [19] Spengler, The Decline of the West, 2:119.

[10] [20] Brown, “Metaphysical Presuppositions in Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes,” 223.

[11] [21] Spengler, The Decline of the West, 2:114.

[12] [22] Spengler, The Decline of the West, 2:153.

[13] [23] Ibid.

[14] [24] Spengler, The Decline of the West, 2:165.

[15] [25] Spengler, The Decline of the West,

[16] [26] Ibid.

[17] [27] Farrenkopf, “Spengler’s Historical Pessimism and the Tragedy of Our Age,” 396; Farrenkopf, “Spengler’s Theory of Civilization,” 24–25.

[18] [28] Spengler, The Decline of the West, 2:118–19.

[19] [29] Spengler, The Hour of Decision, 219.

[20] [30] Johnson, “Is Racial Purism Decadent?”

[21] [31] Johnson, “Is Racial Purism Decadent?”

[22] [32] Johnson, “Is Racial Purism Decadent?”

[23] [33] Johnson, “Is Racial Purism Decadent?”

 

 

 

 

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

 

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/05/the-question-of-race-in-spengler/

 

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Kunze_Spengler_2.jpg

[2] Is Racial Purism Decadent?: http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/07/is-racial-purism-decadent/

[3] http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/05/oswald-spengler/: http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/05/oswald-spengler/

[4] https://sites.google.com/site/spenglerinstitute/Biography: https://sites.google.com/site/spenglerinstitute/Biography

[5] http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/racesofeurope.htm: http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/racesofeurope.htm

[6] http://www.vqronline.org/essay/spengler-and-third-reich: http://www.vqronline.org/essay/spengler-and-third-reich

[7] http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-1/: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-1/

[8] http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-2/: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-2/

[9] http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/index2.htm: http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/index2.htm

[10] http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/introduction.htm: http://www.theapricity.com/snpa/introduction.htm

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jeudi, 07 mai 2015

History and Decadence: Spengler's Cultural Pessimism Today

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History and Decadence: Spengler's Cultural Pessimism Today
Dr. Tomislav Sunic expertly examines the Weltanschauung of Oswald Spengler and its importance for today's times.

by Tomislav Sunic

Ex: http://traditionalbritain.org

Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) exerted considerable influence on European conservatism before the Second World War. Although his popularity waned somewhat after the war, his analyses, in the light of the disturbing conditions in the modern polity, again seem to be gaining in popularity. Recent literature dealing with gloomy postmodernist themes suggests that Spengler's prophecies of decadence may now be finding supporters on both sides of the political spectrum. The alienating nature of modern technology and the social and moral decay of large cities today lends new credence to Spengler's vision of the impending collapse of the West. In America and Europe an increasing number of authors perceive in the liberal permissive state a harbinger of 'soft' totalitarianism that my lead decisively to social entropy and conclude in the advent of 'hard' totalitarianism'.

Spengler wrote his major work The Decline of the West (Der Untergang des Abendlandes) against the background of the anticipated German victory in World War I. When the war ended disastrously for the Germans, his predictions that Germany, together with the rest of Europe, was bent for irreversible decline gained a renewed sense of urgency for scores of cultural pessimists. World War I must have deeply shaken the quasi-religious optimism of those who had earlier prophesied that technological intentions and international economic linkages would pave the way for peace and prosperity. Moreover, the war proved that technological inventions could turn out to be a perfect tool for man's alienation and, eventually, his physical annihilation. Inadvertently, while attempting to interpret the cycles of world history, Spengler probably best succeeded in spreading the spirits of cultural despair to his own as well as future generations.

Like Giambattista Vico, who two centuries earlier developed his thesis about the rise and decline of culture, Spengler tried to project a pattern of cultural growth and cultural decay in a certain scientific form: 'the morphology of history'--as he himself and others dub his work--although the term 'biology' seems more appropriate considering Spengler's inclination to view cultures and living organic entities, alternately afflicted with disease and plague or showing signs of vigorous life. Undoubtedly, the organic conception of history was, to a great extent, inspired by the popularity of scientific and pseudoscientific literature, which, in the early twentieth century began to focus attention on racial and genetic paradigms in order to explain the patterns of social decay. Spengler, however, prudently avoids racial determinism in his description of decadence, although his exaltation of historical determinism in his description often brings him close to Marx--albeit in a reversed and hopelessly pessimistic direction. In contrast to many egalitarian thinkers, Spengler's elitism and organicism conceived of human species as of different and opposing peoples, each experiencing its own growth and death, and each struggling for survival. 'Mankind', writes Spengler, should be viewed as either a 'zoological concept or an empty word'. If ever this phantom of mankind vanishes from the circulation of historical forms, 'we shall ten notice an astounding affluence of genuine forms.. Apparently, by form, (Gestalt), Spengler means the resurrection of the classical notion of the nation-state, which, in the early twentieth century, came under fire from the advocates of the globalist and universalist polity. Spengler must be credited, however, with pointing out that the frequently used concept 'world history', in reality encompasses an impressive array of diverse and opposing cultures without common denominator; each culture displays its own forms, pursues its own passions, and grapples with its own life or death. 'There are blossoming and ageing cultures', writes Spengler, 'peoples, languages, truths, gods and landscapes, just as there are young and old oak trees, pines, flowers, boughs, and peta;s--but there is no ageing mankind.'. For Spengler, cultures seem to be growing in sublime futility, with some approaching terminal illness, and others still displaying vigorous signs of life. Before culture emerged, man was an ahistorical creature; but he becomes again ahistorical and, one might add, even hostile to history: 'as soon as some civilisation has developed its full and final form, thus putting a stop to the living development of culture." (2:58; 2:38).

Spengler was convinced, however, that the dynamics of decadence could be fairly well predicted, provided that exact historical data were available. Just as the biology of human beings generates a well-defined life span, resulting ultimately in biological death, so does each culture possess its own ageing 'data', normally lasting no longer than a thousand years-- a period, separating its spring from its eventual historical antithesis, the winter, of civilisation. The estimate of a thousand years before the decline of culture sets in corresponds to Spengler's certitude that, after that period, each society has to face self-destruction. For example, after the fall of Rome, the rebirth of European culture started andes in the ninth century with the Carolingian dynasty. After the painful process of growth, self-assertiveness, and maturation, one thousand years later, in the twentieth century, cultural life in Europe is coming to its definite historical close.

As Spengler and his contemporary successors see it, Western culture now has transformed itself into a decadent civilisation fraught with an advanced form of social, moral and political decay. The First signs of this decay appeared shortly after the Industrial Revolution, when the machine began to replace man, when feelings gave way to ratio. Ever since that ominous event, new forms of social and political conduct have been surfacing in the West--marked by a widespread obsession with endless economic growth and irreversible human betterment--fueled by the belief that the burden of history can finally be removed. The new plutocratic elites, that have now replaced organic aristocracy, have imposed material gain as the only principle worth pursuing, reducing the entire human interaction to an immense economic transaction. And since the masses can never be fully satisfied, argues Spengler, it is understandable that they will seek change in their existing polities even if change may spell the loss of liberty. One might add that this craving for economic affluence will be translated into an incessant decline of the sense of public responsibility and an emerging sense of uprootedness and social anomie, which will ultimately and inevitably lead to the advent of totalitarianism. It would appear, therefore, that the process of decadence can be forestalled, ironically, only by resorting to salutary hard-line regimes.

Using Spengler's apocalyptic predictions, one is tempted to draw a parallel with the modern Western polity, which likewise seems to be undergoing the period of decay and decadence. John Lukacs, who bears the unmistakable imprint of Spenglerian pessimism, views the permissive nature of modern liberal society, as embodied in America, as the first step toward social disintegration. Like Spengler, Lukacs asserts that excessive individualism and rampant materialism increasingly paralyse and render obsolete the sense of civic responsibility. One should probably agree with Lukacs that neither the lifting of censorship, nor the increasing unpopularity of traditional value, nor the curtailing of state authority in contemporary liberal states, seems to have led to a more peaceful environment; instead, a growing sense of despair seems to have triggered a form of neo-barbarism and social vulgarity. 'Already richness and poverty, elegance and sleaziness, sophistication and savagery live together more and more,' writes Lukacs. Indeed, who could have predicted that a society capable of launching rockets to the moon or curing diseases that once ravaged the world could also become a civilisation plagued by social atomisation, crime, and an addiction to escapism? With his apocalyptic predictions, Lukacs similar to Spengler, writes: 'This most crowded of streets of the greatest civilisation; this is now the hellhole of the world.'

Interestingly, neither Spengler nor Lukacs nor other cultural pessimists seems to pay much attention to the obsessive appetite for equality, which seems to play, as several contemporary authors point out, an important role in decadence and the resulting sense of cultural despair. One is inclined to think that the process of decadence in the contemporary West is the result of egalitarian doctrines that promise much but deliver little, creating thus an economic-minded and rootless citizens. Moreover, elevated to the status of modern secular religions, egalitarianism and economism inevitably follow their own dynamics of growth, which is likely conclude, as Claude Polin notes, in the 'terror of all against all' and the ugly resurgence of democratic totalitarianism. Polin writes: 'Undifferentiated man is par excellence a quantitative man; a man who accidentally differs from his neighbours by the quantity of economic goods in his possession; a man subject to statistics; a man who spontaneously reacts in accordance to statistics'. Conceivably, liberal society, if it ever gets gripped by economic duress and hit by vanishing opportunities, will have no option but to tame and harness the restless masses in a Spenglerian 'muscled regime'. 

Spengler and other cultural pessimists seem to be right in pointing out that democratic forms of polity, in their final stage, will be marred by moral and social convulsions, political scandals, and corruption on all social levels. On top of it, as Spengler predicts, the cult of money will reign supreme, because 'through money democracy destroys itself, after money has destroyed the spirit' (2: p.582; 2: p.464). Judging by the modern development of capitalism, Spengler cannot be accused of far-fetched assumptions. This economic civilisation founders on a major contradiction: on the one hand its religion of human rights extends its beneficiary legal tenets to everyone, reassuring every individual of the legitimacy of his earthly appetites; on the other, this same egalitarian civilisation fosters a model of economic Darwinism, ruthlessly trampling under its feet those whose interests do not lie in the economic arena. 

The next step, as Spengler suggest, will be the transition from democracy to salutary Caesarism; substitution of the tyranny of the few for the tyranny of many. The neo-Hobbesian, neo-barbaric state is in the making: 

Instead of the pyres emerges big silence. The dictatorship of party bosses is backed up by the dictatorship of the press. With money, an attempt is made to lure swarms of readers and entire peoples away from the enemy's attention and bring them under one's own thought control. There, they learn only what they must learn, and a higher will shapes their picture of the world. It is no longer needed--as the baroque princes did--to oblige their subordinates into the armed service. Their minds are whipped up through articles, telegrams, pictures, until they demand weapons and force their leaders to a battle to which these wanted to be forced. (2: p.463)

The fundamental issue, however, which Spengler and many other cultural pessimists do not seem to address, is whether Caesarism or totalitarianism represents the antithetical remedy to decadence or, orator, the most extreme form of decadence? Current literature on totalitarianism seems to focus on the unpleasant side effects of the looted state, the absence of human rights, and the pervasive control of the police. By contrast, if liberal democracy is indeed a highly desirable and the least repressive system of all hitherto known in the West--and if, in addition, this liberal democracy claims to be the best custodian of human dignity--one wonders why it relentlessly causes social uprootedness and cultural despair among an increasing number of people? As Claude Polin notes, chances are that, in the short run, democratic totalitarianism will gain the upper hand since the security to provides is more appealing to the masses than is the vague notion of liberty. One might add that the tempo of democratic process in the West leads eventually to chaotic impasse, which necessitates the imposition of a hard-line regime.

Although Spengler does not provide a satisfying answer to the question of Caesarism vs. decadence, he admits that the decadence of the West needs not signify the collapse of all cultures. Rather it appears that the terminal illness of the West may be a new lease on life for other cultures; the death of Europe may result in a stronger Africa or Asia. Like many other cultural pessimists, Spengler acknowledges that the West has grown old, unwilling to fight, with its political and cultural inventory depleted; consequently, it is obliged to cede the reigns of history to those nations that are less exposed to debilitating pacifism and the self-flagellating feelings of guilt that, so to speak, have become the new trademarks of the modern Western citizen. One could imagine a situation where these new virile and victorious nations will barely heed the democratic niceties of their guilt-ridden formser masters, and may likely at some time in the future, impose their own brand of terror that could eclipse the legacy of the European Auschwitz and the Gulag. In view of the turtles vicil and tribal wars all over the decolonized African and Asian continent it seems unlikely that power politics and bellicosity will disappear with the 'Decline of the West'; So far, no proof has been offered that non-European nations can govern more peacefully and generously than their former European masters. 'Pacifism will remain an ideal', Spengler reminds us, 'war a fact. If the white races are resolved never to wage a war again, the coloured will act differently and be rulers of the world'. 

In this statement, Spengler clearly indicts the self-hating 'homo Europeanus' who, having become a victim of his bad conscience, naively thinks that his truths and verities must remain irrefutably turned against him. Spengler strongly attacks this Western false sympathy with the deprived ones--a sympathy that Nietzsche once depicted as a twisted form of egoism and slave moral. 'This is the reason,' writes Spengler, why this 'compassion moral',  in the day-to day sense 'evolved among us with respect, and sometimes strived for by the thinkers, sometimes longed for, has never been realised' (I: p.449; 1: p.350).

This form of political masochism could be well studied particularly among those contemporary Western egalitarians who, with the decline of socialist temptations, substituted for the archetype of the European exploited worker, the iconography of the starving African. Nowhere does this change in political symbolics seem more apparent than in the current Western drive to export Western forms of civilisation to the antipodes of the world. These Westerners, in the last spasm of a guilt-ridden shame, are probably convinced that their historical repentance might also secure their cultural and political longevity. Spengler was aware of these paralysing attitudes among Europeans, and he remarks that, if a modern European recognises his historical vulnerability, he must start thinking beyond his narrow perspective and develop different attitudes towards different political convictions and verities. What do Parsifal or Prometheus have to do with the average Japanese citizen, asks Spengler? 'This is exactly what is lacking in the Western thinker,' continues Spengler, 'and watch precisely should have never lacked in him; insight into historical relativity of his achievements, which are themselves the manifestation of one and unique, and of only one existence" (1: p.31; 1: p.23). On a somewhat different level, one wonders to what extent the much-vaunted dissemination of universal human rights can become a valuable principle for non-Western peoples if Western universalism often signifies blatant disrespect for all cultural particularities. 

Even with their eulogy of universalism, as Serge Latouche has recently noted, Westerners have, nonetheless, secured the most comfortable positions for themselves. Although they have now retreated to the back stage of history, vicariously, through their humanism, they still play the role of the indisputable masters of the non-white-man show. 'The death of the West for itself has not been the end of the West in itself', adds Latouche. One wonders whether such Western attitudes to universalism represent another form of racism, considering the havoc these attitudes have created in traditional Third World communities. Latouche appears correct in remarking that European decadence best manifests itself in its masochistic drive to deny and discard everything that it once stood for, while simultaneously sucking into its orbit of decadence other cultures as well. Yet, although suicidal in its character, the Western message contains mandatory admonishments for all non-European nations. He writes: 

The mission of the West is not to exploit the Third World, no to christianise the pagans, nor to dominate by white presence; it is to liberate men (ands seven more so women) from oppression and misery. In order to counter this self-hatred of the anti-imperialist vision, which concludes in red totalitarianism, one is now compelled to dry the tears of white man, and thereby ensure the success of this westernisation of the world. (p.41)

The decadent West exhibits, as Spengler hints, a travestied culture living on its own past in a society of indifferent nations that, having lost their historical consciousness, feel an urge to become blended into a promiscuous 'global polity'. One wonders what would he say today about the massive immigration of non-Europeans to Europe? This immigration has not improved understanding among races, but has caused more racial and ethnic strife that, very likely, signals a series of new conflicts in the future. But Spengler does not deplore the 'devaluation of all values nor the passing of cultures. In fact, to him decadence is a natural process of senility that concludes in civilisation, because civilisation is decadence. Spengler makes a typically German distinction between culture and civilisation, two terms that are, unfortunately, used synonymously in English. For Spengler civilisation is a product of intellect, of completely rationalised intellect; civilisation means uprootedness and, as such, it develops its ultimate form in the modern megapolis that, at the end of its journey, 'doomed, moves to its final self-destruction' (2: p.127; 2: p. 107). The force of the people has been overshadowed by massification; creativity has given way to 'kitsch' art; genius has been subordinated to the terror reason. He writes:

Culture and civilisation. On the one hand the living corpse of a soul and, on the other, its mummy. This is how the West European existence differs from 1800 and after. The life in its richness and normalcy, whose form has grown up and matured from inside out in one mighty course stretching from the adolescent days of Gothics to Goethe and Napoleon--into that old artificial, deracinated life of our large cities, whose forms are created by intellect. Culture and civilisation. The organism born in countryside, that ends up in petrified mechanism (1: p.453; 1: p.353).

In yet another display of determinism, Spengler contends that one cannot escape historical destiny: 'the first inescapable things that confronts man as an unavoidable destiny, which no though can grasp, and no will can change, is a place and time of one's birth: everybody is born into one people, one religion, one social stays, one stretch of time and one culture.' Man is so much constrained by his historical environment that all attempts at changing one's destiny are hopeless. And, therefore, all flowery postulates about the improvement of mankind, all liberal and socialist philosophising about a glorious future regarding the duties of humanity and the essence of ethics, are of no avail. Spengler sees no other avenue of redemption except by declaring himself a fundamental and resolute pessimist:

Mankind appears to me as a zoological quantity. I see no progress, no goal, no avenue for humanity, except in the heads of the Western progress-Philistines...I cannot see a single mind and even less a unity of endeavours, feelings, and understanding in thsese barren masses people. (Selected Essays, p.73-74; 147). 

The determinist nature of Spengler's pessimism has been criticised recently by Konrad Lorenzz who, while sharing Spengler's culture of despair, refuses the predetermined linearity of decadence. In his capacity of ethologist and as one of the most articulate neo-Darwinists, Lorenz admits the possibility of an interruption of human phylogenesis--yet also contends that new vistas for cultural development always remain open. 'Nothing is more foreign to the evolutionary epistemologist, as well, to the physician,' writes Lorenz, 'than the doctrine of fatalism.' Still, Lorenz does not hesitate to criticise vehemently decadence in modern mass societies that, in his view, have already given birth to pacified and domesticated specimens, unable to pursue cultural endeavours,. Lorenz would certainly find positive renounce with Spengler himself in writing: 

This explains why the pseudodemocratic doctrine that all men are equal, by which is believed that all humans are initially alike and pliable, could be made into a state religion by both the lobbyists for large industry and by the ideologues of communism (p. 179-180).

Despite the criticism of historical determinism that has been levelled against him, Spengler often confuses his reader with Faustian exclamations reminiscent of someone prepared for battle rather than reconciled to a sublime demise. 'No, I am not a pessimist,' writes Spengler in Pessimism, 'for Pessimism means seeing no more duties. I see so many unresolved duties that I fear that time and men will run out to solve them' (p. 75). These words hardly cohere with the cultural despair that earlier he so passionately elaborated. Moreover, he often advocates forces and th toughness of the warrior in order to starve off Europe's disaster. 

One is led to the conclusion that Spengler extols historical pessimism or 'purposeful pessimism' (Zweckpressimismus), as long as it translates his conviction of the irreversible decadence of the European polity; however, once he perceives that cultural and political loopholes are available for moral and social regeneration, he quickly reverts to the eulogy of power politics. Similar characteristics are often to be found among many pets, novelists, and social thinkers whose legacy in spreading cultural pessimism played a significant part in shaping political behaviour among Europrean conservatives prior to World War II. One wonders why they all, like Spengler, bemoan the decadence of the West if this decadence has already been sealed, if the cosmic die has already been cast, and if all efforts of political and cultural rejuvenation appear hopeless? Moreover, in an effort to mend the unmendable, by advocating a Faustian mentality and will to power, these pessimists often seem to emulate the optimism of socialists rather than the ideas of these reconciled to impending social catastrophe.

For Spengler and other cultural pessimists, the sense of decadence is inherently combined with a revulsion against modernity and an abhorrence of rampant economic greed. As recent history a has shown, the political manifestation of such revulsion may lead to less savoury results: the glorification of the will-to-power and the nostalgia of death. At that moment, literary finesse and artistic beauty  may take on a very ominous turn. The recent history of Europe bears witness to how daily cultural pessimism can become a handy tool of modern political titans. Nonetheless, the upcoming disasters have something uplifting for the generations of cultural pessimists who's hypersensitive nature--and disdain for the materialist society--often lapse into political nihilism. This nihilistic streak was boldly stated by Spengler's contemporary Friedrich Sieburg, who reminds us that 'the daily life of democracy with its sad problems is boring but the impending catastrophes are highly interesting.'

Once cannot help thinking that, for Spengler and his likes, in a wider historical context, war and power politics offer a regenerative hope agains thee pervasive feeling of cultural despair. Yet, regardless of the validity of Spengler's visions or nightmares, it does not take much imagination observe in the decadence of the West the last twilight-dream of a democracy already grown weary of itself.

Content on the Traditional Britain Blog and Journal does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Traditional Britain Group

dimanche, 01 février 2015

Qu’est-ce qu’un événement ?

Qu’est-ce qu’un événement ?

Qu’est-ce qu’un événement?

par Grégoire Gambier

Ex: http://institut-iliade.com

Les attaques islamistes de ce début janvier 2015 à Paris constituent à l’évidence un événement. Tant au sens historique que politique et métapolitique – c’est-à-dire total, culturel, civilisationnel. Il provoque une césure, un basculement vers un monde nouveau, pour partie inconnu : il y aura un « avant » et un « après » les 7-9 janvier 2015. Au-delà des faits eux-mêmes, de leur « écume », ce sont leurs conséquences, leur « effet de souffle », qui importent. Pour la France et avec elle l’Europe, les semaines et mois à venir seront décisifs : ce sera la Soumission ou le Sursaut.

Dans la masse grouillante des « informations » actuelles et surtout à venir, la sidération politico-médiatique et les manipulations de toute sorte, être capable de déceler les « faits porteurs d’avenir » va devenir crucial. Une approche par l’Histoire s’impose. La critique historique, la philosophie de l’histoire et la philosophie tout court permettent en effet chacune à leur niveau de mieux reconnaître ou qualifier un événement. « Pour ce que, brusquement, il éclaire » (George Duby).

C’est donc en essayant de croiser ces différents apports qu’il devient possible de mesurer et « pré-voir » les moments potentiels de bifurcation, l’avènement de l’imprévu qui toujours bouscule l’ordre – ou en l’espèce le désordre – établi. Et c’est dans notre plus longue mémoire, les plis les plus enfouis de notre civilisation – de notre « manière d’être au monde » – que se trouvent plus que jamais les sources et ressorts de notre capacité à discerner et affronter le Retour du Tragique.

Tout commence avec les Grecs…

Ce sont les Grecs qui, les premiers, vont « penser l’histoire » – y compris la plus immédiate.

Thucydide ouvre ainsi son Histoire de la guerre du Péloponnèse : « Thucydide d’Athènes a raconté comment se déroula la guerre entre les Péloponnésiens et les Athéniens. Il s’était mis au travail dès les premiers symptômes de cette guerre, car il avait prévu qu’elle prendrait de grandes proportions et une portée dépassant celle des précédentes. (…) Ce fut bien la plus grande crise qui émut la Grèce et une fraction du monde barbare : elle gagna pour ainsi dire la majeure partie de l’humanité. » (1)

Tout est dit.

Et il n’est pas anodin que, engagé dans le premier conflit mondial, Albert Thibaudet ait fait « campagne avec Thucydide » (2)

Le Centre d’Etude en Rhétorique, Philosophie et Histoire des Idées (www.cerphi.net) analyse comme suit ce court mais très éclairant extrait :

1) Thucydide s’est mis à l’œuvre dès le début de la guerre : c’est la guerre qui fait événement, mais la guerre serait tombée dans l’oubli sans la chronique de Thucydide. La notion d’événement est donc duale : s’il provient de l’action (accident de l’histoire), il doit être rapporté, faire mémoire, pour devenir proprement « historique » (c’est-à-dire mémorable pour les hommes). C’est-à-dire qu’un événement peut-être méconnu, mais en aucun cas inconnu.

2) Il n’y a pas d’événement en général, ni d’événement tout seul : il n’y a d’événement que par le croisement entre un fait et un observateur qui lui prête une signification ou qui répond à l’appel de l’événement. Ainsi, il y avait déjà eu des guerres entre Sparte et Athènes. Mais celle-ci se détache des autres guerres – de même que la guerre se détache du cours ordinaire des choses.

3) Etant mémorable, l’événement fait date. Il inaugure une série temporelle, il ouvre une époque, il se fait destin. Irréversible, « l’événement porte à son point culminant le caractère transitoire du temporel ». L’événement, s’il est fugace, n’est pas transitoire : c’est comme une rupture qui ouvre un nouvel âge, qui inaugure une nouvelle durée.

4) L’événement ouvre une époque en ébranlant le passé – d’où son caractère de catastrophe, de crise qu’il faudra commenter (et accessoirement surmonter). Ce qu’est un événement, ce dont l’histoire conserve l’écho et reflète les occurrences, ce sont donc des crises, des ruptures de continuité, des remises en cause du sens au moment où il se produit. L’événement est, fondamentalement, altérité.

5) Thucydide, enfin, qui est à la fois l’acteur, le témoin et le chroniqueur de la guerre entre Sparte et Athènes, se sent convoqué par l’importance de l’événement lui-même. Celui-ci ne concerne absolument pas les seuls Athéniens ou Spartiates, ni même le peuple grec, mais se propage progressivement aux Barbares et de là pour ainsi dire à presque tout le genre humain : l’événement est singulier mais a une vocation universalisante. Ses effets dépassent de beaucoup le cadre initial de sa production – de son « avènement ».

Repérer l’événement nécessite donc d’évacuer immédiatement l’anecdote (le quelconque remarqué) comme l’actualité (le quelconque hic et nunc). Le « fait divers » n’est pas un événement. Un discours de François Hollande non plus…

Il s’agit plus fondamentalement de se demander « ce que l’on appelle événement » au sens propre, c’est-à-dire à quelles conditions se produit un changement remarquable, dont la singularité atteste qu’il est irréductible à la série causale – ou au contexte – des événements précédents.

Histoire des différentes approches historiques de « l’événement »

La recherche historique a contribué à défricher utilement les contours de cette problématique.

L’histoire « positiviste », exclusive jusqu’à la fin du XIXe siècle, a fait de l’événement un jalon, au moins symbolique, dans le récit du passé. Pendant longtemps, les naissances, les mariages et les morts illustres, mais aussi les règnes, les batailles, les journées mémorables et autres « jours qui ont ébranlé le monde » ont dominé la mémoire historique. Chronos s’imposait naturellement en majesté.

Cette histoire « événementielle », qui a fait un retour en force académique à partir des années 1980 (3), conserve des vertus indéniables. Par sa recherche du fait historique concret, « objectif » parce qu’avéré, elle rejette toute généralisation, toute explication théorique et donc tout jugement de valeur. A l’image de la vie humaine (naissance, mariage, mort…), elle est un récit : celui du temps qui s’écoule, dont l’issue est certes connue, mais qui laisse place à l’imprévu. L’événement n’est pas seulement une « butte témoin » de la profondeur historique : il est un révélateur et un catalyseur des forces qui font l’histoire.

Mais, reflet sans doute de notre volonté normative, cartésienne et quelque peu « ethno-centrée », elle a tendu à scander les périodes historiques autour de ruptures nettes, et donc artificielles : le transfert de l’Empire de Rome à Constantinople marquant la fin de l’Antiquité et les débuts du Moyen Age, l’expédition américaine de Christophe Colomb inaugurant l’époque moderne, la Révolution de 1789 ouvrant l’époque dite « contemporaine »… C’est l’âge d’or des « 40 rois qui ont fait la France » et de l’espèce de continuum historique qui aurait relié Vercingétorix à Gambetta.

Cette vision purement narrative est sévèrement remise en cause au sortir du XIXe siècle par une série d’historiens, parmi lesquels Paul Lacombe (De l’histoire considérée comme une science, Paris, 1894), François Simiand (« Méthode historique et science sociale », Revue de Synthèse historique, 1903) et Henri Berr (L’Histoire traditionnelle et la Synthèse historique, Paris, 1921).

Ces nouveaux historiens contribuent à trois avancées majeures dans notre approche de l’événement (4) :

1) Pour eux, le fait n’est pas un atome irréductible de réalité, mais un « objet construit » dont il importe de connaître les règles de production. Ils ouvrent ainsi la voie à la critique des sources qui va permettre une révision permanente de notre rapport au passé, et partant de là aux faits eux-mêmes.

2) Autre avancée : l’unique, l’individuel, l’exceptionnel ne détient pas en soi un privilège de réalité. Au contraire, seul le fait qui se répète, qui peut être mis en série et comparé peut faire l’objet d’une analyse scientifique. Même si ce n’est pas le but de cette première « histoire sérielle », c’est la porte ouverte à une vision « cyclique » de l’histoire dont vont notamment s’emparer Spengler et Toynbee.

3) Enfin, ces historiens dénoncent l’emprise de la chronologie dans la mesure où elle conduit à juxtaposer sans les expliquer, sans les hiérarchiser vraiment, les éléments d’un récit déroulé de façon linéaire, causale, « biblique » – bref, sans épaisseur ni rythme propre. D’où le rejet de l’histoire événementielle, c’est-à-dire fondamentalement de l’histoire politique (Simiand dénonçant dès son article de 1903 « l’idole politique » aux côtés des idoles individuelle et chronologique), qui ouvre la voie à une « nouvelle histoire » incarnée par l’Ecole des Annales.

thu6451.jpg

Les Annales, donc, du nom de la célèbre revue fondée en 1929 par Lucien Febvre et Marc Bloch, vont contribuer à renouveler en profondeur notre vision de l’histoire, notre rapport au temps, et donc à l’événement.

Fondée sur le rejet parfois agressif de l’histoire politique, et promouvant une approche de nature interdisciplinaire, cette école va mettre en valeur les autres événements qui sont autant de clés de compréhension du passé. Elle s’attache autant à l’événementiel social, l’événementiel économique et l’événementiel culturel. C’est une histoire à la fois « totale », parce que la totalité des faits constitutifs d’une civilisation doivent être abordés, et anthropologique. Elle stipule que « le pouvoir n’est jamais tout à fait là où il s’annonce » (c’est-à-dire exclusivement dans la sphère politique) et s’intéresse aux groupes et rapports sociaux, aux structures économiques, aux gestes et aux mentalités. L’analyse de l’événement (sa structure, ses mécanismes, ce qu’il intègre de signification sociale et symbolique) n’aurait donc d’intérêt qu’en permettant d’approcher le fonctionnement d’une société au travers des représentations partielles et déformées qu’elle produit d’elle-même.

Par croisement de l’histoire avec les autres sciences sociales (la sociologie, l’ethnographie, l’anthropologie en particulier), qui privilégient généralement le quotidien et la répétition rituelle plutôt que les fêlures ou les ruptures, l’événement se définit ainsi, aussi, par les séries au sein desquelles il s’inscrit. Le constat de l’irruption spectaculaire de l’événement ne suffit pas: il faut en construire le sens, lui apporter une « valeur ajoutée » d’intelligibilité (5).

L’influence marxiste est évidemment dominante dans cette mouvance, surtout à partir de 1946 : c’est la seconde génération des Annales, avec Fernand Braudel comme figure de proue, auteur en 1967 du très révélateur Vie matérielle et capitalisme.

braudel.jpgDéjà, la thèse de Braudel publiée en 1949 (La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen à l’époque de Philippe II) introduisait la notion des « trois temps de l’histoire », à savoir :

1) Un temps quasi structural, c’est-à-dire presque « hors du temps », qui est celui où s’organisent les rapports de l’homme et du milieu ;

2) Un temps animé de longs mouvements rythmés, qui est celui des économies et des sociétés ;

3) Le temps de l’événement enfin, ce temps court qui ne constituerait qu’« une agitation de surface » dans la mesure où il ne fait sens que par rapport à la dialectique des temps profonds.

Dans son article fondateur sur la « longue durée », publié en 1958, Braudel explique le double avantage de raisonner à l’aune du temps long :

  • l’avantage du point de vue, de l’analyse (il permet une meilleure observation des phénomènes massifs, donc significatifs) ;
  • l’avantage de la méthode (il permet le nécessaire dialogue – la « fertilisation croisée » – entre les différentes sciences humaines).

Malgré ses avancées fécondes, ce qui deviendra la « nouvelle histoire » (l’histoire des mentalités et donc des représentations collectives, avec une troisième génération animée par Jacques Le Goff et Pierre Nora en particulier) a finalement achoppé :

  • par sa rigidité idéologique (la construction de modèles, l’identification de continuités prévalant sur l’analyse du changement – y compris social) ;
  • et sur la pensée du contemporain, de l’histoire contemporaine (par rejet initial, dogmatique, de l’histoire politique).

Pierre Nora est pourtant obligé de reconnaître, au milieu des années 1970, « le retour de l’événement », qu’il analyse de façon défensive comme suit : « L’histoire contemporaine a vu mourir l’événement ‘naturel’ où l’on pouvait idéalement troquer une information contre un fait de réalité ; nous sommes entrés dans le règne de l’inflation événementielle et il nous faut, tant bien que mal, intégrer cette inflation dans le tissu de nos existences quotidiennes. » (« Faire de l’histoire », 1974).

Nous y sommes.

L’approche morphologique : Spengler et Toynbee

Parallèlement à la « nouvelle histoire », une autre approche a tendu à réhabiliter, au XXe siècle, la valeur « articulatoire » de l’événement – et donc les hommes qui le font. Ce sont les auteurs de ce qu’il est convenu d’appeler les « morphologies historiques » : Toynbee et bien sûr Spengler.

L’idée générale est de déduire les lois historiques de la comparaison de phénomènes d’apparence similaire, même s’ils se sont produits à des époques et dans des sociétés très différentes. Les auteurs des morphologies cherchent ainsi dans l’histoire à repérer de « grandes lois » qui se répètent, dont la connaissance permettrait non seulement de comprendre le passé mais aussi, en quelque sorte, de « prophétiser l’avenir ».

Avec Le déclin de l’Occident, publié en 1922, Oswald Spengler frappe les esprits – et il frappe fort. Influencé par les néokantiens, il propose une modélisation de l’histoire inspirée des sciences naturelles, mais en s’en remettant à l’intuition plutôt qu’à des méthodes proprement scientifiques. Sa méthode : « La contemplation, la comparaison, la certitude intérieure immédiate, la juste appréciation des sentiments » (7). Comme les présupposés idéologiques pourraient induire en erreur, la contemplation doit porter sur des millénaires, pour mettre entre l’observateur et ce qu’il observe une distance – une hauteur de vue – qui garantisse son impartialité.

De loin, on peut ainsi contempler la coexistence et la continuité des cultures dans leur « longue durée », chacune étant un phénomène singulier, et qui ne se répète pas, mais qui montre une évolution par phases, qu’il est possible de comparer avec celles d’autres cultures (comme le naturaliste, avec d’autres méthodes, compare les organes de plantes ou d’animaux distincts).

Ces phases sont connues : toute culture, toute civilisation, naît, croît et se développe avant de tomber en décadence, sur des cycles millénaires. Etant entendu qu’« il n’existe pas d’homme en soi, comme le prétendent les bavardages des philosophes, mais rien que des hommes d’un certain temps, en un certain lieu, d’une certaine race, pourvus d’une nature personnelle qui s’impose ou bien succombe dans son combat contre un monde donné, tandis que l’univers, dans sa divine insouciance, subsiste immuable à l’entour. Cette lutte, c’est la vie » (8).

Certes, le terme de « décadence » est discutable, en raison de sa charge émotive : Spengler précisera d’ailleurs ultérieurement qu’il faut l’entendre comme « achèvement » au sens de Goethe (9). Certes, la méthode conduit à des raccourcis hasardeux et des comparaisons parfois malheureuses. Mais la grille d’analyse proposée par Spengler reste tout à fait pertinente. Elle réintroduit le tragique dans l’histoire. Elle rappelle que ce sont les individus, et non les « masses », qui font l’histoire. Elle stimule enfin la nécessité de déceler, « reconnaître » (au sens militaire du terme) les éléments constitutifs de ces ruptures de cycles.

Study_of_History.jpgL’historien britannique Arnold Toynbee va prolonger en quelque sorte cette intuition avec sa monumentale Etude de l’histoire (A Study of History) en 12 volumes, publiée entre 1934 et 1961 (10). Toynbee s’attache également à une « histoire comparée » des grandes civilisations et en déduit, notamment, que les cycles de vie des sociétés ne sont pas écrits à l’avance dans la mesure où ils restent déterminés par deux fondamentaux :

1) Le jeu de la volonté de puissance et des multiples obstacles qui lui sont opposés, mettant en présence et développant les forces internes de chaque société ;

2) Le rôle moteur des individus, des petites minorités créatrices qui trouvent les voies que les autres suivent par mimétisme. Les processus historiques sont ainsi affranchis des processus de nature sociale, ou collective, propres à l’analyse marxiste – malgré la théorie des « minorités agissantes » du modèle léniniste.

En dépit de ses limites méthodologiques, et bien que sévèrement remise en cause par la plupart des historiens « professionnels », cette approche morphologique est particulièrement stimulante parce qu’elle intègre à la fois la volonté des hommes et le « temps long » dans une vision cyclique, et non pas linéaire, de l’histoire. Mais elle tend à en conserver et parfois même renforcer le caractère prophétique, « hégélien », mécanique. Surtout, elle semble faire de l’histoire une matière universelle et invariante en soi, dominée par des lois intangibles. Pourtant, Héraclite déjà, philosophe du devenir et du flux, affirmait que « Tout s’écoule ; on ne se baigne jamais dans le même fleuve » (Fragment 91).

Le questionnement philosophique

La philosophie, par son approche conceptuelle, permet justement de prolonger cette première approche, historique, de l’événement.

Il n’est pas question ici d’évoquer l’ensemble des problématiques soulevées par la notion d’événement, qui a bien évidemment interrogé dès l’origine la réflexion philosophique par les prolongements évidents que celui-ci introduit au Temps, à l’Espace, et à l’Etre.

L’approche philosophique exige assez simplement de réfléchir aux conditions de discrimination par lesquelles nous nommons l’événement : à quelles conditions un événement se produit-il ? Et se signale-t-il comme événement pour nous ? D’un point de vue philosophique, déceler l’événement revient donc à interroger fondamentalement l’articulation entre la continuité successive des « ici et maintenant » (les événements quelconques) avec la discontinuité de l’événement remarquable (celui qui fait l’histoire) (11).

Dès lors, quelques grandes caractéristiques s’esquissent pour qualifier l’événement :

1) Il est toujours relatif (ce qui ne veut pas dire qu’il soit intrinsèquement subjectif).

2) Il est toujours double : à la fois « discontinu sur fond de continuité », et « remarquable en tant que banal ».

3) Il se produit pour la pensée comme ce qui lui arrive (ce n’est pas la pensée qui le produit), et de surcroît ce qui lui arrive du dehors (il faudra d’ailleurs déterminer d’où il vient, qui le produit). Ce qui n’empêche pas l’engagement, comme l’a souligné – et illustré –Thucydide.

Le plus important est que l’événement « fait sens » : il se détache des événements quelconques, de la série causale précédente pour produire un point singulier remarquable – c’est-à-dire un devenir.

L’événement projette de façon prospective, mais aussi rétroactive, une possibilité nouvelle pour les hommes. Il n’appartient pas à l’espace temps strictement corporel, mais à cette brèche entre le passé et le futur que Nietzsche nomme « l’intempestif » et qu’il oppose à l’historique (dans sa Seconde Considération intempestive, justement). Concept que Hannah Arendt, dans la préface à La Crise de la culture, appelle « un petit non espace-temps au cœur même du temps » (12).

C’est un « petit non espace-temps », en effet, car l’événement est une crise irréductible aux conditions antécédentes – sans quoi il serait noyé dans la masse des faits. Le temps n’est donc plus causal, il ne se développe pas tout seul selon la finalité interne d’une histoire progressive : il est brisé. Et l’homme (celui qui nomme l’événement) vit dans l’intervalle entre passé et futur, non dans le mouvement qui conduirait, naïvement, vers le progrès.

ha.jpgPour autant, Arendt conserve la leçon de Marx : ce petit non-espace-temps est bien historiquement situé, il ne provient pas de l’idéalité abstraite. Mais elle corrige l’eschatologie du progrès historique par l’ontologie du devenir initiée par Nietzsche : le devenir, ce petit non espace-temps au cœur même du temps, corrige, bouleverse et modifie l’histoire mais n’en provient pas – « contrairement au monde et à la culture où nous naissons, [il] peut seulement être indiqué, mais ne peut être transmis ou hérité du passé. » (13) Alors que « la roue du temps, en tous sens, tourne éternellement » (Alain de Benoist), l’événement est une faille, un moment où tout semble s’accélérer et se suspendre en même temps. Où tout (re)devient possible. Ou bien, pour reprendre la vision « sphérique » propre à l’Eternel Retour (14) : toutes les combinaisons possibles peuvent revenir un nombre infini de fois, mais les conditions de ce qui est advenu doivent, toujours, ouvrir de nouveaux possibles. Car c’est dans la nature même de l’homme, ainsi que l’a souligné Heidegger : « La possibilité appartient à l’être, au même titre que la réalité et la nécessité. » (15)

Prédire ? Non : pré-voir !

Pour conclure, il convient donc de croiser les apports des recherches historiques et des réflexions philosophiques – et en l’espèce métaphysiques – pour tenter de déceler, dans le bruit, le chaos et l’écume des temps, ce qui fait événement.

On aura compris qu’il n’y a pas de recette miracle. Mais que s’approcher de cette (re)connaissance nécessite de décrypter systématiquement un fait dans ses trois dimensions :

1) Une première dimension, horizontale sans être linéaire, plutôt « sphérique » mais inscrite dans une certaine chronologie : il faut interroger les causes et les remises en causes (les prolongements et les conséquences) possibles, ainsi que le contexte et les acteurs : qui sont-ils et surtout « d’où parlent-ils » ? Pourquoi ?

2) Une deuxième dimension est de nature verticale, d’ordre culturel, social, ou pour mieux dire, civilisationnel : il faut s’attacher à inscrire l’événement dans la hiérarchie des normes et des valeurs, le discriminer pour en déceler la nécessaire altérité, l’« effet rupture », le potentiel révolutionnaire qu’il recèle et révèle à la fois.

3) Une troisième dimension, plus personnelle, à la fois ontologique et axiologique, est enfin nécessaire pour que se croisent les deux dimensions précédentes : c’est l’individu qui vit, et qui pense cette vie, qui est à même de (re)sentir l’événement. C’est son histoire, biologique et culturelle, qui le met en résonance avec son milieu au sens large.

C’est donc fondamentalement dans ses tripes que l’on ressent que « plus rien ne sera comme avant ». L’observateur est un acteur « en dormition ». Dominique Venner a parfaitement illustré cette indispensable tension.

Il convient cependant de rester humbles sur nos capacités réelles.

Et pour ce faire, au risque de l’apparente contradiction, relire Nietzsche. Et plus précisément Par-delà le bien et le mal : « Les plus grands événements et les plus grandes pensées – mais les plus grandes pensées sont les plus grands événements – sont compris le plus tard : les générations qui leur sont contemporaines ne vivent pas ces événements, elles vivent à côté. Il arrive ici quelque chose d’analogue à ce que l’on observe dans le domaine des astres. La lumière des étoiles les plus éloignées parvient en dernier lieu aux hommes ; et avant son arrivée, les hommes nient qu’il y ait là … des étoiles. »

Grégoire Gambier

Ce texte est une reprise actualisée et légèrement remaniée d’une intervention prononcée à l’occasion des IIe Journées de réinformation de la Fondation Polemia, organisées à Paris le 25 octobre 2008.

Notes

(1) Histoire de la guerre du Péloponnèse de Thucydide, traduction, introduction et notes de Jacqueline De Romilly, précédée de La campagne avec Thucydide d’Albert Thibaudet, Robert Laffont, coll. « Bouquins », Paris, 1990.

(2) Ibid. Dans ce texte pénétrant, Thibaudet rappelle notamment l’histoire des livres sibyllins : en n’achetant que trois des neuf ouvrages proposés par la Sybille et où était contenu l’avenir de Rome, Tarquin condamna les Romains à ne connaître qu’une fraction de vérité – et d’avenir. « […] peut-être, en pensant aux six livres perdus, dut-on songer que cette proportion d’un tiers de notre connaissance possible de l’avenir était à peu près normale et proportionnée à l’intelligence humaine. L’étude de l’histoire peut nous amener à conclure qu’en matière historique il y a des lois et que ce qui a été sera. Elle peut aussi nous conduire à penser que la durée historique comporte autant d’imprévisible que la durée psychologique, et que l’histoire figure un apport incessant d’irréductible et de nouveau. Les deux raisonnements sont également vrais et se mettraient face à face comme les preuves des antinomies kantiennes. Mais à la longue l’impression nous vient que les deux ordres auxquels ils correspondent sont mêlés indiscernablement, que ce qui est raisonnablement prévisible existe, débordé de toutes parts par ce qui l’est point, par ce qui a pour essence de ne point l’être, que l’intelligence humaine, appliquée à la pratique, doit sans cesse faire une moyenne entre les deux tableaux ».

(3) Après bien des tâtonnements malheureux, les manuels scolaires ont fini par réhabiliter l’intérêt pédagogique principal de la chronologie. Au niveau académique, on doit beaucoup notamment à Georges Duby (1919-1996). Médiéviste qui s’est intéressé tour à tour, comme la plupart de ses confrères de l’époque, aux réalités économiques, aux structures sociales et aux systèmes de représentations, il accepte en 1968 de rédiger, dans la collection fondée par Gérald Walter, « Trente journées qui ont fait la France », un ouvrage consacré à l’un de ces jours mémorables, le 27 juillet 1214. Ce sera Le dimanche de Bouvines, publié pour la première fois en 1973. Une bombe intellectuelle qui redécouvre et exploite l’événement sans tourner le dos aux intuitions braudeliennes. Cf. son avant-propos à l’édition en poche (Folio Histoire, 1985) de cet ouvrage (re)fondateur : « C’est parce qu’il fait du bruit, parce qu’il est ‘grossi par les impressions des témoins, par les illusions des historiens’, parce qu’on en parle longtemps, parce que son irruption suscite un torrent de discours, que l’événement sensationnel prend son inestimable valeur. Pour ce que, brusquement, il éclaire. »

(4) Cette analyse, ainsi que celle qui suit concernant l’Ecole des Annales, est directement inspirée de La nouvelle histoire, sous la direction de Jacques Le Goff, Roger Chartier et Jacques Revel, CEPL, coll. « Les encyclopédies du savoir moderne », Paris, 1978, pp. 166-167.

(5) Cf. la revue de sociologie appliquée « Terrain », n°38, mars 2002.

(6) Cf. L’histoire, Editions Grammont, Lausanne, 1975, dont s’inspire également l’analyse proposée des auteurs « morphologistes » – Article « Les morphologies : les exemples de Spengler et Toynbee », pp. 66-73.

(7) Ibid.

(8) Ecrits historiques et philosophiques – Pensées, préface d’Alain de Benoist, Editions Copernic, Paris, 1979, p. 135.

(9) Ibid., article « Pessimisme ? » (1921), p. 30.

(10) Une traduction française et condensée est disponible, publiée par Elsevier Séquoia (Bruxelles, 1978). Dans sa préface, Raymond Aron rappelle que, « lecteur de Thucydide, Toynbee discerne dans le cœur humain, dans l’orgueil de vaincre, dans l’ivresse de la puissance le secret du destin », ajoutant : « Le stratège grec qui ne connaissait, lui non plus, ni loi du devenir ni décret d’en haut, inclinait à une vue pessimiste que Toynbee récuse tout en la confirmant » (p. 7).

(11) L’analyse qui suit est directement inspirée des travaux du Centre d’Etudes en Rhétorique, Philosophie et Histoire des Idées (Cerphi), et plus particulièrement de la leçon d’agrégation de philosophie « Qu’appelle-t-on un événement ? », www.cerphi.net.

(12) Préface justement intitulée « La brèche entre le passé et le futur », Folio essais Gallimard, Paris, 1989 : « L’homme dans la pleine réalité de son être concret vit dans cette brèche du temps entre le passé et le futur. Cette brèche, je présume, n’est pas un phénomène moderne, elle n’est peut-être même pas une donné historique mais va de pair avec l’existence de l’homme sur terre. Il se peut bien qu’elle soit la région de l’esprit ou, plutôt, le chemin frayé par la pensée, ce petit tracé de non-temps que l’activité de la pensée inscrit à l’intérieur de l’espace-temps des mortels et dans lequel le cours des pensées, du souvenir et de l’attente sauve tout ce qu’il touche de la ruine du temps historique et biographique (…) Chaque génération nouvelle et même tout être humain nouveau en tant qu’il s’insère lui-même entre un passé infini et un futur infini, doit le découvrir et le frayer laborieusement à nouveau » (p. 24). Etant entendu que cette vision ne vaut pas négation des vertus fondatrices de l’événement en soi : « Ma conviction est que la pensée elle-même naît d’événements de l’expérience vécue et doit leur demeurer liés comme aux seuls guides propres à l’orienter » – Citée par Anne Amiel, Hannah Arendt – Politique et événement, Puf, Paris, 1996, p. 7.

(13) Ibid. Ce que le poète René Char traduira, au sortir de quatre années dans la Résistance, par l’aphorisme suivant : « Notre héritage n’est précédé d’aucun testament » (Feuillets d’Hypnos, Paris, 1946).

(14) Etant entendu que le concept n’a pas valeur historique, ni même temporelle, car il se situe pour Nietzsche en dehors de l’homme et du temps pour concerner l’Etre lui-même : c’est « la formule suprême de l’affirmation, la plus haute qui se puisse concevoir » (Ecce Homo). L’Eternel retour découle ainsi de la Volonté de puissance pour constituer l’ossature dialectique du Zarathoustra comme « vision » et comme « énigme » pour le Surhomme, dont le destin reste d’être suspendu au-dessus du vide. Pour Heidegger, les notions de Surhomme et d’Eternel retour sont indissociables et forment un cercle qui « constitue l’être de l’étant, c’est-à-dire ce qui dans le devenir est permanent » (« Qui est le Zarathoustra de Nietzsche ? », in Essais et conférences, Tel Gallimard, 1958, p. 139).

(15) « Post-scriptum – Lettre à un jeune étudiant », in Essais et conférences, ibid., p. 219. En conclusion à la conférence sur « La chose », Heidegger rappelle utilement que « ce sont les hommes comme mortels qui tout d’abord obtiennent le monde comme monde en y habitant. Ce qui petitement naît du monde et par lui, cela seul devient un jour une chose »…

jeudi, 22 janvier 2015

Spengler, Lasch, Bourget: culture et décadence

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Spengler, Lasch, Bourget: culture et décadence

Avant de se demander trivialement qu’est-ce qu’une culture ou société décadente il faudrait peut-être réfléchir – et notre époque nous y oblige – à la possibilité même d’une telle interrogation. En effet, peut-on encore, sans provoquer l’incompréhension générale, associer culture et décadence ? Notre culture n’aurait-elle tout simplement pas anémié les préjugés intellectuels ou les outils conceptuels requis pour détecter un éventuel état de décadence ? Nous ne prétendons pas répondre sérieusement à ces questions dans ce court article mais simplement jeter, ci et là, quelques pistes de réflexion dont l’articulation devrait permettre d’esquisser les présupposés théoriques d’une rhétorique de la décadence. 

spengler.jpgNous avons déjà vu qu’un des traits de la médiocrité s’exprime dans une rupture du sens historique parfaitement illustrée par l’homme-masse et Festivus festivus. Un rapport à l’histoire décadent n’est pas autre chose qu’une culture de l’oubli, du pur présent. D’aucuns s’enivrent de ce présent jusqu’à la pâmoison, d’autres lui font révérence et le presse jusqu’à en extraire le jus aigre du progrès perpétuel. Il s’agit d’un progrès amnésique ayant pour seul critérium une propension à dynamiter les cadres institutionnels, à émanciper, à promouvoir le relativisme culturel. Différent à la fois de l’idéalisme politique des Lumières et des doctrines du salut par l’histoire (matérialisme historique et idéalisme absolu) dont pourtant il procède, l’idée actuelle de progrès tend à l’inauguration d’un état au sein duquel la notion même de décadence perd son sens, à savoir un état de déconstruction maximale et d’identité commune minimale. Notre vision du progrès (celle, du moins, des « élites » en place) repose sur une architecture conceptuelle peu propice à développer une sensibilité conservatrice ou réactionnaire et donc une lecture de notre civilisation en terme de déchéance.

La décadence suppose toujours la trace d’une chute (le péché originel, l‘hybris, ou le mythe de l’âge d’or), une dégénérescence (Chez Morel par exemple, qui définit la dégénérescence comme une déviation du « type primitif » lui-même produit de la création divine et « créé pour atteindre le but assigné par la sagesse éternelle ». Il y a dégénérescence « si les conditions qui assurent la durée et le progrès de l’espèce humaine, ne sont pas plus puissante encore que celles qui concourent à la détruire et à la faire dégénérer », autrement dit lorsque nous constatons une « déviation maladive d’un type primitif ».) ou un déclin (voir Oswald Spengler). L’idée de décadence se réalise pleinement lorsque le temps des horloges ne conserve plus mais dégrade et qu’une harmonie ou un ordre naturel se défait. A l’inverse, il devient impossible d’asseoir une critique basée sur une rhétorique de la décadence à l’heure où l’exaltation chimérique d’un progrès sans fin et d’une culture déconnectée de la nature alimentent les esprits. N’importe quelle matrice culturelle offre la possibilité de penser les changements en terme de progression ou de régression, de mieux ou de moins (l’imagination humaine est sans limite pour inventer des étalons de mesure autorisant de tels jugements), mais il n’est peut-être pas vrai que toutes les cultures ou civilisations (sous-entendu les individus allant dans le sens de cette culture et non pas, bien sûr, les figures de la réaction) puissent penser la décadence, c’est-à-dire appréhender la déliquescence dans son aspect le plus absolu, le plus fondamental, à l’échelle, précisément, d’une civilisation.

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Culture de l’oubli où gît pourtant encore la certitude d’un progrès ; où l’histoire ressemble à une fonction exponentielle traduisant l’ascension infinie dans laquelle l’homme du présent entretient l’illusion d’un devoir de prolongement. Quoi prolonger exactement ? Ce qui a le goût et l’odeur du présent. Or, la possibilité d’une décadence est toujours ouverte lorsque nous entretenons une vue cyclique ou providentielle de l’histoire. Par exemple, « La conception biblique de l’histoire avait, nous dit Christopher Lasch, après tout, plus de points communs (…) avec la conception classique, telle qu’elle fut reformulée au cours de la Renaissance, qu’avec la louange moderne du progrès. Ce qu’elles partageait était une conscience du « sort des sociétés menacées » – une intelligence du fait que la qualité contingente, provisoire et finie des choses temporelles trouve sa démonstration la plus vivace non seulement dans la mort des individus, mais dans la grandeur et la décadence des nations ». L’histoire chrétienne, sous sa forme providentielle, demeure impénétrable et se rapproche sans doute davantage de la conception cyclique de l’antiquité ou de la fortune machiavélienne que de la conception linéaire ou rectiligne que nous connaissons. L’espérance chrétienne évolue très loin d’une interprétation progressiste de l’histoire ; son essence ne réside « ni dans le paradis sur terre de la fin de l’histoire, ni dans la christianisation de la société et les perfectionnements moraux qu’elle impliquerait », mais « dans « la conviction que la vie est une affaire délicate », « que rien n’y est jamais tenu pour acquis, que rien de temporel n’est capable de porter le fardeau de la foi humaine »» (Richard Niebuhr cité par Christopher Lasch).

lash15dfQC0YAL.jpgSimilairement, la théorie d’Oswald Spengler, annonçant le déclin inévitable de l’Occident, se raccroche à une détermination cyclique d’un sens de l’histoire qu’il estime être en mesure de saisir. Selon lui, le déclin de la culture occidentale s’amorce dans les civilisations qui elles-mêmes représentent le dernier souffle d’une culture, « son achèvement et sa fin » ou encore « un pas de géant vers l’anorganique ». « Un siècle d’activité extensive pure, excluant la haute production artistique et métaphysique – disons franchement une époque irreligieuse, ce qui traduit tout à fait le concept de ville mondiale – est une époque de décadence ». Cette anthropologie pessimiste du déclin indexée sur un mouvement historique erratique se retrouve dans l‘Homme et la technique. Pour Spengler l’homme se distingue de l’animal par sa supériorité technique qui lui confère une force de domination inédite. Technique de forme « générique », c’est-à-dire « invariable » et « impersonnelle » – « la caractéristique exclusive de la technique humaine (…) est qu’elle est indépendante de la vie de l’espèce humaine » – au contraire, bien entendu, des animaux pour qui la « cogitation » se veut « strictement tributaire du « ici et maintenant » immédiat, et ne tenant compte ni du passé ni de l’avenir, elle ne connaît pas non plus l’expérience ou l’angoisse ». Ainsi, « l’homme est devenu créateur de sa tactique vitale (…) et la forme intime de sa créativité est appelée culture ». L’histoire de la technique n’est rien d’autre que l’histoire de la culture et de la civilisation, c’est-à-dire l’histoire d’une activité créatrice décorrélée de la « tactique de la vie ». Considérant la nature « comme du matériau et des moyens à son service », l’homme prométhéen s’éloigne toujours plus de celle-ci en y substituant, de son emprunte drue, l’artifice (l’art au sens de technique) afin de se « construire sois-même un monde, être soi-même Dieu (…) » : « c’est bien cela le rêve du chercheur Faustien ». Cette prétention génère un déphasage tragique entre l’homme et la nature puisque, en dernière analyse, « l’homme ne cesse pas d’en dépendre (…) elle continue à l’englober elle-même, lui comme tout le reste, en dépit de tout ce qu’il peut faire ». « Toute haute culture est une tragédie ». La notion de chute est ici toujours présente ainsi que l’idée d’une nature humaine désorganisée par la technique.

Dans une même perspective, mais sous un mode d’avantage psychologique qu’historique, Paul Bourget dépeint la décadence des âmes au prisme d’une riche étude littéraire ( de Baudelaire à Tourgueniev en passant par Flaubet, Taine, Stendhal et bien d’autres) dans son Essais de psychologie contemporaine. En étudiant Baudelaire il relève d’emblée le climat suffocant d’une civilisation emportant un « désaccord entre l’homme et le milieu ». A ceux qui ont cru que l’assombrissement de la littérature à cette époque n’était qu’un simple passage, « Baudelaire n’y voyait-il pas plus juste, souligne Bourget, en regardant une certaine sorte de mélancolie comme l’inévitable produit d’un désaccord entre nos besoins de civilisés et la réalité des causes extérieure ? La preuve en est que, d’un bout à l’autre de l’Europe, la société contemporaine présente les mêmes symptômes, nuancés suivant les races, de cette mélancolie et de ce désaccord. Une nausée universelle devant les insuffisances de ce monde soulève le cœur des Slaves, des Germains et des Latins. Elle se manifeste chez les premiers par le nihilisme, chez les seconds par le pessimisme, chez nous-mêmes par de solitaires et bizarres névroses ». Ensuite l’auteur précise le sens du terme décadence dans un long commentaire : « par le mot décadence, on désigne volontiers l’état d’une société qui produit un trop petit nombre d’individus propres aux travaux de la vie commune. Une société doit être assimilé à un organisme (…) l’individu est la cellule sociale. Pour que l’organisme total fonctionne avec énergie, il est nécessaire que les organismes moindres fonctionnent avec énergie, mais avec une énergie subordonnée, et, pour que ces organisme moindres fonctionnent eux même avec énergie, il est nécessaire que leurs cellules composantes fonctionnent avec énergie, mais avec une énergie subordonnée.» En effet, « si l’énergie des cellules devient indépendante, les organismes qui composent l’organisme total cessent pareillement de subordonner leur énergie à l’énergie totale, et l’anarchie qui s’établit constitue la décadence de l’ensemble ». Encore une fois, on retrouve dans les analyses de Paul Bourget une remise en cause d’un progrès perpétuel (« ceux qui croient au progrès n’ont pas voulu apercevoir cette terrible rançon de notre sécurité mieux assise et de notre éducation plus complète ») et une croyance en un ordre social immanent qu’il faut préserver et non pas engendrer.

nisard41T0nlJaBUL.jpgAutre variation sous la plume de Désiré Nisard puisée dans son Études de mœurs et de critique sur les poètes latins de la décadence. Nisard fustige sous le nom de littérature décadente deux traits principaux : l’engouement pervers de la description ainsi qu’une érudition déplacée. Deux symboles d’un manque d’imagination sur le plan artistique. Cependant, il n’y pas de littérature décadente sans une décadence générale des mœurs. Alors que la description homérique se fixe sur l’humanité dans ce qu’elle possède de générique – la description brosse alors un monde commun, un homme commun, une spiritualité commune sous une multitudes de visages -, à l’inverse, la littérature décadente (notamment celle de Lucain) s’appesantit sur l’homme du divers : on passe d’une description de l’humanité à celle de l’individu. L’érudition irrigue la description et lui donne une coloration passéiste : il s’agit d’un « besoin de chercher dans les souvenirs du passé des détails que l’inspiration ne fournit pas » et non de cette érudition critique, parfaitement louable, qui consiste à amasser des faits sur une époque pour ensuite les comparer et les juger. Une fois de plus l’auteur mélange les deux fondamentaux inhérents aux discours de la décadence : la déchéance d’un passé en décomposition exprimée dans un ordre moral dévoyé. Ceux qu’il nomme « les versificateurs érudits » se rattachent à une littérature de seconde classe, une littérature dans laquelle s’épuise la grandeur des époques primitives. Alors que l’érudition de type décadente se perd dans les détails et dans la répétition d’un passé ou d’une nature révolue (on pourrait ici relever l’analogie avec le décadentisme ; notamment chez Huysmans pour qui le goût de l’érudition confine à l’exaltation de l’artifice, à l’art pour l’art – c’est-à-dire précisément ce que Nisard reproche aux versificateurs érudits – : « à coup sûr, on peut le dire : l’homme a fait dans son genre, aussi bien que le Dieu auquel il croit » nous dit des Esseintes) en s’attachant de trop près aux beautés purement descriptives (contingentes, relatives, casuels), les chef-d’œuvres primitifs (La Bible, les épopées d’Homère et de Dante, etc…) cultivent les beautés d’un ordre moral (soit des vérités éternelles valables pour toutes les époques et toutes les nations, soit ces vérités nécessaires qui fleurissent aux époques de grandeurs mais demeurent liées à une certaine culture). Chez les versificateurs érudits nous avons une simple « sensation de curiosité passagère qui résulte d’une heureuse combinaison de mots, d’une chute, d’une pointe » ; la littérature de l’âge d’or s’applique, quant à elle, à « conserver dans les formes pures et sacrées la somme des vérités pratiques nécessaires à la conservation et à l’amélioration de l’homme, dans quelque temps qu’il vive, et malgré toute ces variétés de mœurs, de société, de coutume, qui modifient son état, mais ne changent pas sa nature ».

La décadence n’a plus de sens pour une époque qui a fait table rase du passé, qui ne se situe plus vraiment par rapport au passé, et qui n’a plus une haute estime de sa propre culture : nous nous réjouissons de cet « horizon toujours ouvert à toutes les possibilité ». Ortega Y Gasset estime que dans une telle configuration, quand bien même il y aurait une décadence objectivement perceptible de notre culture, il n’est pas raisonnable de prononcer la déchéance d’une époque sentant bien que « sa vie est plus intense que toutes les vies antérieures »  ; et « une vie qui ne préfère à elle-même (et peu importe les raisons) aucune autre vie d’autrefois ou de quelque temps que ce soit, et qui, par cela même, se préfère à toute autre » ne peut décemment éprouver sa propre décadence. Le paradoxe réside en ceci que ce « désir de vivre » n’est plus lié à un sentiment de grandeur, d’appartenance à une culture supérieure – toujours accompagné d’une inquiétude quant à une éventuelle chute -, mais au monde de l’enfance. La cécité nous préserverait de l’expérience intime, profonde et douloureuse d’un monde qui s’écroule. Combien de temps encore ? Les écrits dénonçant un déclin rampant de notre civilisation se multiplient (Renaud Camus, Alain Finkielkraut, Bernard Lugan, Dominique Venner par exemple) et pourraient bien traduire un désir de vivre moins intense.

mercredi, 14 janvier 2015

Oswald Spengler & the Faustian Soul of the West

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Oswald Spengler & the Faustian Soul of the West,

Part 1

By Ricardo Duchesne

Ex: http://www.counter-currents.com 

If I had to choose one word to identify the uniqueness of the West it would be “Faustian.” This is the word Oswald Spengler used to designate the “soul” of the West. He believed that Western civilization was driven by an unusually dynamic and expansive psyche. The “prime-symbol” of this Faustian soul was “pure and limitless space.” This soul had a “tendency towards the infinite,” a tendency most acutely expressed in modern mathematics. 

The “infinite continuum,” the exponential logarithm and “its dissociation from all connexion with magnitude” and transference to a “transcendent relational world” were some of the words Spengler used to describe Western mathematics. But he also wrote of the “bodiless music” of the Western composer, “in which harmony and polyphony bring him to images of utter ‘beyondness’ that transcend all possibilities of visual definition,” and, before the modern era, of the Gothic “form-feeling” of “pure, imperceptible, unlimited space” (Decline of the West, Vol.1, Form and Actuality [Alfred Knopf, 1923] 1988: 53-90).

This soul type was first visible, according to Spengler, in medieval Europe, starting with Romanesque art, but particularly in the “spaciousness of Gothic cathedrals,” “the heroes of the Grail and Arthurian and Siegfried sagas, ever roaming in the infinite, and the Crusades,” including “the Hohenstaufen in Sicily, the Hansa in the Baltic, the Teutonic Knights in the Slavonic East, [and later] the Spaniards in America, [and] the Portuguese in the East Indies.” Spengler thus viewed the West as a strikingly vibrant culture driven by a type of personality overflowing with expansive impulses, “intellectual will to power.” “Fighting,” “progressing,” “overcoming of resistances,” battling “against what is near, tangible and easy” – these were some of the terms Spengler used to describe this soul (Decline of the West: 183-216).

A variety of words have been used to describe or identify the peculiar history of the West: “individualist,” “rationalist,” “imperialist,” “secularist,” “restless,” and “racist.” Spengler’s term “Faustian,” it seems to me, best captures the persistent, and far greater, originality of the West since ancient times in all the intellectual, artistic, and heroic spheres of life. But many today don’t read Spengler; there are no indications, in fact, that the foremost experts on the so-called “rise of the West” have even read any of his works.

The current academic consensus has reduced the uniqueness of the West to when this civilization “first” became industrial. This consensus believes that the West “diverged” from other agrarian civilizations only when it developed steam engines capable of using inorganic sources of energy. Prior to the industrial revolution, we are made to believe, there were “surprising similarities” between Europe and Asia. Both multiculturalist and Eurocentric historians tend to frame the “the rise of the West” or the “great divergence” in these economic/technological terms. David Landes, Kenneth Pomeranz, Bin Wong, Joel Mokyr, Jack Goldstone, E. L. Jones, and Peer Vries all single out the Industrial Revolution of 1750/1830 as the transformation which signaled a whole new pattern of evolution for the West (or England in the first instance). It matters little how far back in time these academics trace this Revolution, or how much weight they assign to preceding developments such as the Scientific Revolution or the slave trade, their emphasis is on the “divergence” generated by the arrival of mechanized industry and self-sustained increases in productivity sometime after 1750.

spenglervbbnjh.jpgBut I believe that the Industrial Revolution, including developments leading to this Revolution, barely capture what was unique about Western culture. I am obviously aware that other cultures were unique in having their own customs, languages, beliefs and historical experiences. My claim is that the West was uniquely exceptional in exhibiting in a continuous way the greatest degree of creativity, novelties, and expansionary dynamic. I trace the uniqueness of the West back to the aristocratic warlike culture of Indo-European speakers [2] as early as the fourth millennium. The aristocratic libertarian culture of Indo-European speakers was already unique and quite innovative in initiating the most mobile way of life in prehistoric times [3] starting with the domestication and riding of horses and the invention of chariot warfare. So were the ancient Greeks in their discovery of logos and its link with the order of the world, dialectical reason, the invention of prose, tragedy, citizen politics, and face-to-face infantry battle.

The Roman creation of a secular system of republican governance anchored on autonomous principles of judicial reasoning was in and of itself unique. The incessant wars and conquests of the Roman legions, together with their many war-making novelties and engineering skills, were one of the most vital illustrations of spatial expansionism [4] in history. The fusion of Christianity and the Greco-Roman intellectual and administrative heritage, coupled with the cultivation of the first rational theology in history [5], Catholicism, were a unique phenomenon. The medieval invention of universities [6] — in which a secular education could flourish and even articles of faith were open to criticism and rational analysis in an effort to arrive at the truth — was exceptional. The list of epoch making transformation in Europe is endless, the Renaissance, the Age of Discovery, the Scientific Revolution(s), the Military Revolution(s), the Cartographic Revolution, the Spanish Golden Age, the Printing Revolution, the Enlightenment, the Romantic Era, the German Philosophical Revolutions from Kant to Hegel to Nietzsche to Heidegger.

Limitations in Charles Murray’s Measurement of the Accomplishments of Western civilization

Some may wonder how can one make a comparative judgment about the accomplishments of civilizations without some objective criteria or standard of measurement. There is a book by Charles Murray published in 2003, Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950 [7], which systematically arranges “data that meet scientific standards of reliability and validity” for the purpose of evaluating the story of human accomplishments across cultures. It is the first effort to quantify “as facts” the accomplishments of individuals and countries across the world in the arts and sciences by calculating the amount of space allocated to these individuals in reference works, encyclopedias, and dictionaries. Charles Murray informs us that ninety-seven percent of accomplishment in the sciences occurred in Europe and North America from 800 BC to 1950. It also informs us that, in the Arts, Europe alone produced a far higher number of “significant figures” than the rest of the world combined. In music, “the lack of a tradition of named composers in non-Western civilization means that the Western total of 522 significant figures has no real competition at all” (p. 252-259).

Murray avoids a Eurocentric bias by creating separate compilations for each of “the giants” in the arts of the Arab world, China, India, and Japan, as well as of the “giants” of Europe. In this respect, Murray recognizes that one cannot apply one uniform standard of excellence for the diverse artistic traditions of the world. But he produces combined (worldwide) inventories of “the giants” for each of the natural sciences. Combined lists for the natural sciences are possible since world scientists themselves have come to accept the same methods and categories. The most striking feature of his list of “the giants” in the sciences (the top 20 in Astronomy, Physics, Biology, Medicine, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, and Mathematics) is that they are all (excepting one Japanese) Western (p. 84, 122-29).

What explanation does Murray offer for this remarkable “divergence” in human accomplishments? He argues that human accomplishment is determined by the degree to which cultures promote or discourage individual autonomy and purpose. Accomplishments have been “more common and more extensive in cultures where doing new things and acting autonomously [were] encouraged than in cultures [where they were] disapprove[d].” Human beings have also been “most magnificently productive and reached their highest cultural peaks in the times and places where humans have thought most deeply about their place in the universe and been most convinced they have one” (p. 394-99). The West was different in affording individuals greater autonomy and purpose.

One major limitation in Murray is that he attributes to Christianity this sense of purpose and place in the universe, unable to account for the incredible accomplishment of the pagan Greeks and Romans. It is also the case that Murray’s Human Accomplishment is a statistical assessment, an inventory of names, not an attempt to capture the historically dynamic character of Western individualism. His book leaves out all the dramatic transformations historians have identified with the West: Why did the voyages of global discovery “take place” in early modern Europe and not in China? Why did Newtonian mechanics elude other civilizations? Actually, no current historical work addresses all these transformations together. Countless books have been published on one or two major European transformations, but no scholar has tried to explain, or pose as a general question, the persistent creativity of Europeans from ancient to modern times across all the fields of human endeavor. The norm has been for specialists in one period or transformation to write about (or insist upon) the “radical” or “revolutionary” significance of the period or theme they happen to be experts on.

Missing is an understanding of the unparalleled degree to which the entire history of the West was filled with individuals persistently seeking “to transcend every optical limitation” (Decline of the West: 198). In comparative contrast to the history of India, China, Japan, Egypt, and the Americas, where artistic styles, political institutions and philosophical outlooks lasted for centuries, stands the “dynamic fertility of the Faustian with its ceaseless creation of new types and domains of form” (Decline of the West: 205). I can think of only three individuals, two philosophers of history and one historical sociologist, who have written in a wide-ranging way of:

  1. the “infinite drive,” “the irresistible trust” of the Occident,
  2. the “energetic, imperativistic, and dynamic” soul of the West, and
  3. the “rational restlessness” of the West

— Hegel, Spengler, and Weber.

Spengler is the one who overcomes in a keener way another flaw in Murray: his account of European distinctiveness is limited to the intellectual and artistic spheres. He pays no attention to accomplishments in warfare, exploration, and heroic leadership. His definition of accomplishment includes only peaceful individuals carrying scientific experiments and creating artistic works. Achievements come only in the form of “great books” and “great ideas.” In this respect, Human Accomplishment is akin to certain older-style Western Civ textbooks where the production of “Great Works” by “Great Men” in conditions of “Liberty” were the central themes. David Gress dubbed this type of historiography the “Grand Narrative [8]” (1998). By teaching Western history in terms of the realization of great ideas and works in the arts and sciences these texts “placed a burden of justification on the West” to explain how the reality of Western colonialism across the world, the higher degree of warfare among Europeans, the invention of far more destructive military weapons, the slave trade, and the unprecedented destruction of the civilizations of the Americas, should be left out of the account of Western accomplishments. Gress called upon historians to move away from an idealized image of Western uniqueness. Norman Davies, too, has criticized the way early Western civilization courses tended to “filter out anything that might appear mundane or repulsive” (A History of Europe, 1997: 28).

The Faustian Personality

I believe that Oswald Spengler’s identification of the West as “Faustian” provides us with the best word to overcome the current naïve separation between a cultured/peaceable West and an uncivilized/antagonistic West with his image of a strikingly vibrant culture driven by a type of Faustian personality overflowing with expansive, disruptive, and imaginative impulses manifested in all the spheres of life. For Spengler, the Faustian spirit was not restricted to the arts and sciences, but was present in the culture of the West at large. Spengler thus spoke of the “morphological relationship that inwardly binds together the expression-forms of all branches of Culture.” Rococo art, differential calculus, the Crusades, the Spanish conquest of the Americas were all expressions of the same restless soul. There is no incongruity between the “great ideas” of the West and the so-called “realities” of conquest and suffering. There is no need, from this standpoint, to concede to multicultural critics, as Norman Davies believes, “the sorry catalogue of wars, conflict, and persecutions that have dogged every stage of the [Western] tale” (p. 15-16). The expansionist dispositions of Europeans were not only indispensable but were themselves driven, as I argue in my book, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization, [9] and will briefly outline below, by an intensely felt desire to achieve great deeds and heroic immortality.

The great men of Europe were artists driven by an intensively felt desire for unmatched deeds. The “great ideas” – Archimedes’ “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world,” or Hume’s “love of literary fame, my ruling passion” – were associated with aristocratic traits, defiant dispositions – no less than Cortez’s immense ambition for honour and glory, “to die worthily than to live dishonoured.”

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In contrast to Weber, for whom the West “exhibited an unrivaled aptitude for rationalization,” Spengler saw in this Faustian soul a primeval-irrational will to power. It was not a calmed, disinterested, rationalistic ethos that was at the heart of Western particularity; it was a highly energetic, goal-oriented desire to break through the unknown, supersede the norm, and achieve mastery. The West was governed by an intense urge to transcend the limits of existence, by a highly energetic, restless, fateful being, an “adamantine will to overcome and break all resistances of the visible” (Decline: pp. 185-86).

There was something Faustian about all the great men of Europe, both in reality and in fiction: in Hamlet, Richard III, Gauss, Newton, Nicolas Cusanus, Don Quixote, Goethe’s Werther, Gregory VII, Michelangelo, Paracelsus, Dante, Descartes, Don Juan, Bach, Wagner’s Parsifal, Haydn, Leibniz’s Monads, Giordano Bruno, Frederick the Great, Rembrandt, Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler.

The Faustian soul — whose being consists in the overcoming of presence, whose feeling is loneliness and whose yearning is infinity — puts its need of solitude, distance, and abstraction into all its actualities, into its public life, its spiritual and its artistic form-worlds alike (Decline: 386).

For Spengler, Christianity, too, became a thoroughly Faustian moral ethic. “It was not Christianity that transformed Faustian man, but Faustian man who transformed Christianity — and he not only made it a new religion but also gave it a new moral direction”: will-to-power in ethics (344). This “Faustian-Christian morale” produced

Christians of the great style — Innocent III, Loyola and Savonarola, Pascal and St. Theresa [ . . . ] the great Saxon, Franconia and Hohenstaufen emperors . . . giant-men like Henry the Lion and Gregory VII . . . the men of the Renaissance, of the struggle of the two Roses, of the Huguenot Wars, the Spanish Conquistadores, the Prussian electors and kings, Napoleon, Bismarck, Rhodes (348-49).

But what exactly is a Faustian soul? How do we connect it in a concrete way to Europe’s creativity? To what original source or starting place did Spengler attribute this yearning for infinity? To start answering this question we should first remind ourselves of Spengler’s other central idea, his cyclical view of history, according to which

  1. each culture contains a unique spirit of its own, and
  2. all cultures undergo an organic process of birth, growth, and decay.

In other words, for Spengler, all cultures exhibit a period of dynamic, youthful creativity; each culture experiences “its childhood, youth, manhood, and old age.” “Each culture has its own new possibilities of self-expression, which arise, ripen, decay and never return” (18-24, 106-07). Spengler thus drew a distinction between the earlier vital stages of a culture (Kultur) and the later stages when the life forces were on their last legs until all that remained was a superficial Zivilisation populated by individuals preoccupied with preserving the memories of past glories while drudging through the unexciting affairs of their everyday lives.

However, notwithstanding this emphasis on the youthful energies of all cultures, Spengler viewed the West as the most strikingly dynamic culture driven by a soul overflowing with expansive energies and “intellectual will to power.” By “youthful” he meant the actualization of the specific soul of each culture, “the full sum of its possibilities in the shape of peoples, languages, dogmas, arts, states, sciences.” Only in Europe he saw “directional energy,” march music, painters relishing in the use of blue and green, “transcendent, spiritual, non-sensuous colors,” “colours of the heavens, the seas, the fruitful plain, the shadow of the Southern noon, the evening, the remote mountains” (245-46). I think John Farrenkopf [10] has it right when he argues that Spengler’s appreciation for non-Western cultures as worthy subjects of comparative inquiry came together with an “exaltation” of the greater creative energy of the West (2001: 35).

But what about Spengler’s repetitive insistence that ancient Greece and Rome were not Faustian? Although I agree with Spengler that in certain respects the Greek-Roman “soul” was oriented toward the present rather than the future, and that its architecture, geometry, and finite mathematics were bounded spatially, restrained, and perceptible, he overstates his argument about the lack of an expansionist spirit, downplaying the incredible creative energies of Greeks and Romans, their individual heroism and urge for the unknown. Farrenkopf thinks that the later Spengler came to view the Greeks and Romans as more individualistic and dynamic. I agree with Burckhardt that the Classical Greeks were singularly agonal and individualistic, and with Nietzsche’s insight that all that was civilized and rational among the Greeks would have been impossible without this agonal culture. The ancient Greeks who established colonies throughout the Mediterranean, the Macedonians who marched to “the ends of the world,” and the Romans who created the greatest empire in history, were similarly driven, to use Spengler’s term, by an “irrepressible urge to distance” as the Germanic peoples who brought Rome down, the Vikings who crossed the Atlantic, the Crusaders who wrecked havoc on the Near East, and the Portuguese who pushed themselves with their gunned ships upon the previously tranquil world of the Indian Ocean. Spengler does not persuade in his efforts to downplay this Faustian side of the Greeks and Romans.

fausto.jpgWhat was the ultimate original ground of the West’s Faustian soul? There are statements in Spengler which make references to “a Nordic world stretching from England to Japan” and a “harder-struggling” people, and a more individualistic and heroic spirit “in the old, genuine parts of the Mahabharata . . .  in Homer, Pindar, and Aeschylus, in the Germanic epic poetry and in Shakespeare, in many songs of the Chinese Shuking, and in circles of the Japanese samurai” (as cited in Farrenkopf: 227). Spengler makes reference to the common location of these peoples in the “Nordic” steppes. He does not make any specific reference to the Caucasian steppes but he clearly has in mind the “Aryan Indian” peoples who came out of the steppes and conquered India and wrote the Mahabharata. He calls “half Nordic” the Graeco-Roman, Aryan Indian, and Chinese high cultures. In Man and Technics, he writes of how the Nordic climate forged a man filled with vitality

through the hardness of the conditions of life, the cold, the constant adversity, into a tough race, with an intellect sharpened to the most extreme degree, with the cold fervor of an irrepressible passion for struggling, daring, driving forward.

Principally, he mentions the barbarian peoples of northern Europe, whose world he contrasts to “the languid world-feeling of the South” (Farrenkopf: 222). Spengler does not deny the environment, but rather than focusing on economic resources and their “critical” role in the industrialization process, he draws attention to the profound impact environments had in the formation of distinctive psychological orientations amongst the cultures of the world. He thinks that the Faustian form of spirituality came out of the “harder struggling” climes of the North. The Nordic character was less passive, less languorous, more energetic, individualistic, and more preoccupied with status and heroic deeds than the characters of other climes. He was a human biological being to be sure, but one animated with the spirit of a “proud beast of prey [11],” like that of an “eagle, lion, [or] tiger.” Much like Hegel’s master who engages in a fight to the death for pure prestige, for this “Nordic” individual “the concerns of life, the deed, became more important than mere physical existence” (Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life, Greenwood Press, 1976: 19-41).

This deed-oriented man is not satisfied with a Darwinian struggle for existence or a Marxist struggle for economic equality. He wants to climb high, soar upward and reach ever higher levels of existential intensity. He is not preoccupied with mere adaptation, reproduction, and conservation. He wants to storm into the heavens and shape the world. But who exactly is this character? Is he the Hegelian master who fights to the death for the sake of prestige? Spengler paraphrases Nietzsche when he writes that the primordial forces of Western culture reflect the “primary emotions of an energetic human existence, the cruelty, the joy in excitement, danger, the violent act, victory, crime, the thrill of a conqueror and destroyer.” Nietzsche too wrote of the “aristocratic” warrior who longed for the “proud, exalted states of the soul,” as experienced intimately through “combat, adventure, the chase, the dance, war games” (The Genealogy of Morals, 1956: 167). Who are these characters? Are their “primary emotions” any different from humans in other cultures?

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-1/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Faust-im-Studierzimmer-Georg-Friedrich-Kersting.jpg

[2] Indo-European speakers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpbjquTQT98

[3] most mobile way of life in prehistoric times: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8488.html

[4] vital illustrations of spatial expansionism: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiIXC1U8HNo

[5] first rational theology in history: http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/history/history-science-and-technology/god-and-reason-middle-ages

[6] invention of universities: http://www.cambridge.org/ca/academic/subjects/history/european-history-1000-1450/first-universities-studium-generale-and-origins-university-education-europe

[7] Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060929642/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0060929642&linkCode=as2&tag=countecurrenp-20&linkId=RSAI5XD63BIRHVZ5

[8] Grand Narrative: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/g/gress-plato.html

[9] The Uniqueness of Western Civilization,: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/.UdQ80Ds6Oxo#.VAhMZPldVOw

[10] John Farrenkopf: http://www.arktos.com/john-farrenkopf-prophet-of-decline.html

[11] beast of prey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLkeIACfi4Y&list=UUIfnKm98q78j2ZNcfSQhhCQ&index=3

 

Oswald Spengler & the Faustian Soul of the West,

Part 2

By Ricardo Duchesne 

Kant and the “Unsocial Sociability” of Humans

I ended Part 1 [2] asking who are these characters with proud aristocratic souls so different from the rather submissive, slavish souls of the Asiatic races. A good way to start answering this question is to compare Spengler’s Faustian man with what Immanuel Kant says about the “unsocial sociability” of humans generally. In his essay, “Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View,” Kant seemed somewhat puzzled but nevertheless attuned to the way progress in history had been driven by the fiercer, self-centered side of human nature. Looking at the wide span of history, he concluded that without the vain desire for honor, property, and status humans would have never developed beyond a primitive Arcadian existence of self-sufficiency and mutual love:

all human talents would remain hidden forever in a dormant state, and men, as good-natured as the sheep they tended, would scarcely render their existence more valuable than that of their animals . . . [T]he end for which they were created, their rational nature, would be an unfulfilled void.

Faust1r7yrluo1_400.gifThere can no development of the human faculties, no high culture, without conflict, aggression, and pride. It is these asocial traits, “vainglory,” “lust for power,” “avarice,” which awaken the otherwise dormant talents of humans and “drive them to new exertions of their forces and thus to the manifold development of their capacities.” Nature in her wisdom, “not the hand of an evil spirit,” created “the unsocial sociability of humans.”

But Kant never asked, in this context, why Europeans were responsible, in his own estimation, for most of the moral and rational progression in history. Separately, in another publication, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View [3] (1798), Kant did observe major differences in the psychological and moral character of humans as exhibited in different places on earth, ranking human races accordingly, with Europeans at the top in “natural traits”. Still, Kant never connected his anthropology with his principle of asocial qualities.

Did “Nature” foster these asocial qualities evenly among the cultures of the world? While these “vices” — as we have learned today from evolutionary psychology — are genetically-based traits that evolved in response to long periods of adaptive selective pressures associated with the maximization of human survival, there is no reason to assume that the form and degree of these traits evolved evenly or equally among all the human races and cultures. It is my view that the asocial qualities of Europeans were different, more intense, strident, individuated.

Indo-European Aristocratic Lifestyle

I believe that this variation should be traced back to the aristocratic lifestyle of Indo-Europeans. Indo-Europeans were a pastoral people from the Pontic-Caspian steppes who initiated the most mobile way of life in prehistoric times starting with the riding of horses and the invention of wheeled vehicles in the fourth millennium BC, together with the efficient exploitation of the “secondary products” of domestic animals (dairy products, textiles, harnessing of animals), large-scale herding, and the invention of chariots in the second millennium. By the end of the second millennium, even though Indo-Europeans invaded both Eastern and Western lands, only the Occident had been “Indo-Europeanized [4].”

Indo-Europeans were also uniquely ruled by a class of free aristocrats. In very broad terms, I define as “aristocratic” a state in which the ruler, the king, or the commander-in-chief is not an autocrat who treats the upper classes as unequal servants but is a “peer” who exists in a spirit of equality as one more warrior of noble birth, primus inter pares [5]. This is not to say that leaders did not enjoy extra powers and advantages, or that leaders were not tempted to act in tyrannical ways. It is to say that in aristocratic cultures, for all the intense rivalries between families and individuals seeking their own renown, there was a strong ethos of aristocratic egalitarianism against despotic rule. A true aristocratic deserving respect from his peers could not be submissive; his dignity and honor as a man were intimately linked to his capacity for self-determination.

Different levels of social organization characterized Indo-European society. The lowest level, and the smallest unit of society, consisted of families residing in farmsteads and small hamlets, practicing mixed farming with livestock representing the predominant form of wealth. The next tier consisted of a clan of about five families with a common ancestor. The third level consisted of several clans — or a tribe — sharing the same. Those members of the tribe who owned livestock were considered to be free in the eyes of the tribe, with the right to bear arms and participate in the tribal assembly.

Although the scale of complexity of Indo-European societies changed considerably with the passage of time, and the Celtic tribal confederations that were in close contact with Caesar’s Rome during the 1st century BC, for example, were characterized by a high concentration of economic and political power, these confederations were still ruled by a class of free aristocrats. In classic Celtic society, real power within and outside the tribal assembly was wielded by the most powerful members of the nobility, as measured by the size of their clientage and their ability to bestow patronage. Patronage could be extended to members of other tribes and to free individuals who were lower in status and were thus tempted to surrender some of their independence in favor of protection and patronage.

Indo-European nobles were also grouped into war-bands. These bands were freely constituted associations of men operating independently from tribal or kinship ties. They could be initiated by any powerful individual on the merits of his martial abilities. The relation between the chief and his followers was personal and contractual: the followers would volunteer to be bound to the leader by oaths of loyalty wherein they would promise to assist him while the leader would promise to reward them from successful raids. The sovereignty of each member was thus recognized even though there was a recognized leader. These “groups of comrades,” to use Indo-European vocabulary, were singularly dedicated to predatory behavior and to “wolf-like” living by hunting and raiding, and to the performance of superior, even superhuman deeds. The members were generally young, unmarried men, thirsting for adventure. The followers were sworn not to survive a war-leader who was slain in battle, just as the leader was expected to show in all circumstances a personal example of courage and war-skills.

Young men born into noble families were not only driven by economic needs and the spirit of adventure, but also by a deep-seated psychological need for honor and recognition — a need nurtured not by nature as such but by a cultural setting in which one’s noble status was maintained in and through the risking of one’s life in a battle to the death for pure prestige. This competition for fame among war-band members (partially outside the ties of kinship) could not but have had an individualizing effect upon the warriors. Hence, although band members (“friend-companions” or “partners”) belonged to a cohesive and loyal group of like-minded individuals, they were not swallowed up anonymously within the group.

The Indo-European lifestyle included fierce competition for grazing rights, constant alertness in the defense of one’s portable wealth, and an expansionist disposition in a world in which competing herdsmen were motivated to seek new pastures as well as tempted to take the movable wealth (cattle) of their neighbors. This life required not just the skills of a butcher but a life span of horsemanship and arms (conflict, raids, violence) which brought to the fore certain mental dispositions including aggressiveness and individualism, in the sense that each individual, in this male-oriented atmosphere, needed to become as much a warrior as a herds-man.

The most important value of Indo-European aristocrats was the pursuit of individual glory as members of their warbands and as judged by their peers. The Iliad, Beowulf, Song of Roland, including such Irish, Icelandic and Germanic Sagas as Lebor na hUidre, Njals Saga, Gisla Saga Sursonnar, The Nibelungenlied recount the heroic deeds and fame of aristocrats — these are the earliest voices from the dawn of Western civilization. Within this heroic ‘life-world’ the unsocial traits of humans took on a sharper, keener, individuated expression.

What about other central Asian peoples from the steppes such as the Mongols and Turks who produced a similar heroic literature? There are a number of substantial differences. First, the Indo-European epic and heroic tradition precedes any other tradition by some thousands of years, not just the Homeric and the Sanskrit epics but, as we now know with some certainty from such major books as M. L. West’s Indo-European Poetry and Myth, and Calvert Watkins’s How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of IE Poetics (1995), going back to a prehistoric oral tradition. Second, IE poetry exhibits a keener grasp and rendition of the fundamentally tragic character of life, an aristocratic confidence in the face of destiny, the inevitability of human hardship and hubris, without bitterness, but with a deep joy.

Third, IE epics show both collective and individual inspiration, unlike non-IE epics which show characters functioning only as collective representations of their communities. This is why in some IE sagas there is a clear author’s stance, unlike the anonymous non-IE sages; the individuality, the rights of authorship, the poet’s awareness of himself as creator, is acknowledged in many ancient and medieval European sagas (see Hans Gunther, Religious Attitudes of the Indo-Europeans [1963] 2001, and Aaron Gurevich, The Origins of European Individualism [6], 1995).

Nietzsche and Sublimation of the Agonistic Ethos of Indo-European Barbarians

nietzschefffggg.jpgBut how do we connect the barbaric asocial traits of prehistoric Indo-European warriors to the superlative cultural achievements of Greeks and later civilized Europeans? Nietzsche provides us some keen insights as to how the untamed agonistic ethos of Indo-Europeans was translated into civilized creativity. In his fascinating early essay, “Homer on Competition” (1872), Nietzsche observes that civilized culture or convention (nomos) was not imposed on nature but was a sublimated continuation of the strife that was already inherent to nature (physis). The nature of existence is based on conflict and this conflict unfolded itself in human institutions and governments. Humans are not naturally harmonious and rational as Socrates had insisted; the nature of humanity is strife. Without strife there is no cultural development. Nietzsche argued against the separation of man/culture from nature: the cultural creations of humanity are expressions or aspects of nature itself.

But nature and culture are not identical; the artistic creations of humans, their norms and institutions, constitute a re-channeling of the destructive striving of nature into creative acts, which give form and aesthetic beauty to the otherwise barbaric character of natural strife. While culture is an extension of nature, it is also a form by which human beings conceal their cruel reality, and the absurdity and the destructiveness of their nature. This is what Nietzsche meant by the “dual character” of nature; humans restrain or sublimate their drives to create cultural artifacts as a way of coping with the meaningless destruction associated with striving.

Nietzsche, in another early publication, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), referred to this duality of human existence, nomos and physis, as the “Apollonian and Dionysian duality.” The Dionysian symbolized the excessive and intoxicating strife which characterized human life in early tribal societies, whereas the Apollonian symbolized the restraint and re-channeling of conflict possible in state-organized societies. In the case of Greek society, during pre-Homeric times, Nietzsche envisioned a world in which there were no or few limits to the Dionysian impulses, a time of “lust, deception, age, and death.” The Homeric and classical (Apollonian) inhabitants of city-states brought these primordial drives under “measure” and self-control. The emblematic meaning of the god Apollo was “nothing in excess.” Apollo was a provider of soundness of mind, a guardian against a complete descent into a state of chaos and wantonness. He was a redirector of the willful and hubristic yearnings of individuals into organized forms of warfare and higher levels of art and philosophy.

For Nietzsche, Greek civilization was not produced by a naturally harmonious character, or a fully moderated and pacified city-state. One of the major mix-ups all interpreters of the rise of the West fall into is to assume that Western achievements were about the overcoming and suppression of our Dionysian impulses. But Nietzsche is right: Greeks achieved their “civility” by attuning, not denying or emasculating, the destructive feuding and blood lust of their Dionysian past and placing their strife under certain rules, norms and laws. The limitless and chaotic character of strife as it existed in the state of nature was made “civilized” when Greeks came together within a larger political horizon, but it was not repressed. Their warfare took on the character of an organized contest within certain limits and conventions. The civilized aristocrat was the one who, in exercising sovereignty over his powerful longings (for sex, booze, revenge, and any other kind of intoxicant) learned self-command and, thereby, the capacity to use his reason to build up his political power and rule those “barbarians” who lacked this self-discipline. The Greeks created their admirable culture while remaining at ease with their superlative will to strife.

The problem with Nietzsche is lack of historical substantiation. The research now exists to add to Nietzsche the historically based argument that the Greeks viewed the nature of existence as strife because of their background in an Indo-European state of nature where strife was the overriding ethos. There are strong reasons to believe that Nietzsche’s concept of strife is an expression of his own Western background and his study of the Western agonistic mode of thinking that began with the Greeks. One may agree that strife is in the “nature of being” as such, but it is worth noting that, for Nietzsche, not all cultures have handled nature’s strife in the same way and not all cultures have been equally proficient in the sublimated production of creative individuals or geniuses. Nietzsche thus wrote of two basic human responses to the horror of endless strife: the un-Hellenic tendency to renounce life in this world as “not worth living,” leading to a religious call to seek a life in the beyond or the after-world, or the Greek tragic tendency, which acknowledged this strife, “terrible as it was, and regarded it as justified.” The cultures that came to terms with this strife, he believed, were more proficient in the completion of nature’s ends and in the production of creative individuals willing to act in this world. He saw Heraclitus’ celebration of war as the father and king of the whole universe as a uniquely Greek affirmation of nature as strife. It was this affirmation which led him to say that “only a Greek was capable of finding such an idea to be the fundament of a cosmology.”

The Greek speaking aristocrats had to learn to come together within a political community that would allow them to find some common ground and thus move away from the “state of nature” with its endless feuding and battling for individual glory. There would emerge in the 8th century BC a new type of political organization, the city-state. The greatness of Homeric and Classical Greece involved putting Apollonian limits around the indispensable but excessive Dionysian impulses of barbaric pre-Homeric Greeks. Ionian literature was far from the berserkers of the pre-Homeric world, but it was just as intensively competitive. The search for the truth was a free-for-all with each philosopher competing for intellectual prestige in a polemical tone that sought to discredit the theories of others while promoting one’s own. There were no Possessors of the Way in aristocratic Greece; no Chinese Sages decorously deferential to their superiors and expecting appropriate deference from their inferiors.

Friedrich_Nietzsche_by_lieandletdie.jpgThis agonistic ethos was ingrained in the Olympic Games, in the perpetual warring of the city-states, in the pursuit of a political career and in the competition among orators for the admiration of the citizens, and in the Athenian theater festivals where a great many poets would take part in Dionysian competitions. It was evident in the sophistic-Socratic ethos of dialogic argument and the pursuit of knowledge by comparing and criticizing individual speeches, evaluating contradictory claims, collecting out evidence, competitive persuasion and refutation. And in the Catholic scholastic method, according to which critics would engage major works, read them thoroughly, compare the book’s theories to other authorities, and through a series of dialogical exercises ascertain the respective merits and demerits.

In Spengler’s language, this Faustian soul was present in “the Viking infinity wistfulness,” and their colonizing activities through the North Sea, the Atlantic, and the Black Sea. In the Portuguese and Spaniards who “were possessed by the adventured-craving for uncharted distances and for everything unknown and dangerous.” In “the emigration to America,” “the Californian gold-rush,” “the passion of our Civilization for swift transit, the conquest of the air, the exploration of the Polar regions and the climbing of almost impossible mountain peaks” — “dramas of uncontrollable longings for freedom, solitude, immense independence, and of giant-like contempt for all limitations.” “These dramas are Faustian and only Faustian. No other culture, not even the Chinese, knows them” (335-37).

The West has clearly been facing a spiritual decline for many years now as Spengler observed despite its immense technological innovations, which Spengler acknowledged, observing how Europe, after 1800, came to be thoroughly dominated by a purely “mechanical” expression of this Faustian tendency in its remorseless expansion outward through industrial capitalism with its ever-growing markets and scientific breakthroughs. Spengler did not associate this mechanical (“Anglo-Saxon”) expansion with cultural creativity per se. Before 1800, the energy of Europe’s Faustian culture was still expressed in “organic” terms; that is, it was directed toward pushing the frontiers of inner knowledge through art, literature, and the development of the nation state. It was during the 1800s that the West, according to him, entered “the early Winter of full civilization” as its culture took on a purely capitalistic and mechanical character, extending itself across the globe, with no more “organic” ties to community or soil. It was at this point that this rootless rationalistic Zivilisation had come to exhaust its creative possibilities, and would have to confront “the cold, hard facts of a late life. . . . Of great paintings or great music there can no longer be, for Western people, any question” (Decline of the West, Vol. I: 20-21; Vol II: 46, 44, 40).

The decline of the organic Faustian soul is irreversible but there is reason to believe that decline is cyclical and not always permanent — as we have seen most significantly in the case of China many times throughout her history. European peoples need not lose their superlative drive for technological supremacy. The West can re-assert itself, unless the cultural Marxists are successful in their efforts to destroy this Faustian spirit permanently through mass immigration and miscegenation.

Source: http://www.eurocanadian.ca/2014/09/oswald-spengler-and-faustian-soul-of_8.html [7]

Article printed from Counter-Currents Publishing: http://www.counter-currents.com

URL to article: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-2/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Apollos.jpg

[2] Part 1: http://www.counter-currents.com/2015/01/oswald-spengler-and-the-faustian-soul-of-the-west-part-1/

[3] Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View: http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/philosophy/philosophy-texts/kant-anthropology-pragmatic-point-view

[4] Indo-Europeanized: http://books.google.ca/books/about/The_Kurgan_Culture_and_the_Indo_European.html?id=hCZmAAAAMAAJ&redir_esc=y

[5] primus inter pares: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Primus_inter_pares

[6] The Origins of European Individualism: http://books.google.ca/books/about/The_Origins_of_European_Individualism.html?id=QrksZOjpURYC&redir_esc=y

[7] http://www.eurocanadian.ca/2014/09/oswald-spengler-and-faustian-soul-of_8.html: http://www.eurocanadian.ca/2014/09/oswald-spengler-and-faustian-soul-of_8.html

 

samedi, 13 décembre 2014

Una antropología de la Técnica. Consideraciones spenglerianas.

spengler-196248.jpg

Una antropología de la Técnica.

Consideraciones spenglerianas.

Carlos Javier Blanco Martín

cblancomartin@yahoo.es

Ex: http://www.revistalarazonhistorica.com

Resumen: En este ensayo revisamos la idea de Técnica, sirviéndonos especialmente de las aportaciones de Oswald Spengler. Tratamos de su conexión con la ciencia, y la cuestión del supuesto relativismo spengleriano. También discutimos el tema de la continuidad entre mito, religión y ciencia, y el diverso sentido que estas tres ideas pueden tomar en nuestra civilización, la civilización occidental o fáustica. La degradación de la civilización fáustica expresada en la existencia del hombre-masa, incita a fijar nuevos conceptos sobre el significado actual de la técnica.

Abstract: In this paper we review the idea of ​​Technique, especially through the contributions of Oswald Spengler. We try to connect Technique with science, and the question of alleged Spengler relativism. We also discussed the issue of continuity between myth, religion and science, and the different sense that these different three ideas can take in our civilization, Western or Faustian civilization. The degradation of the Faustian civilization is expressed in the existence of the mass-man, encourage us to set new concepts about the current meaning of Technique.

Matizaciones en torno al universalismo o relativismo de la ciencia.

Las palabras de Spengler han sido mal interpretadas, con harta frecuencia, en un sentido relativista. De acuerdo con el relativismo, no habría una “ciencia universal” válida para todas las culturas y civilizaciones, cada una de estas culturas y civilizaciones poseerá su verdad. Contra el relativismo, y a favor del universalismo, se podría alegar que los cohetes espaciales chinos se lanzan en base a cálculos y teorías de la Física pertenecientes a un mismo corpus epistémico, no distinto del europeo, americano, ruso. Igualmente, los científicos nucleares iraníes comparten la misma ciencia, y pueden llevar dicha ciencia a las mismas realizaciones prácticas que los de cualquier otro ámbito cultural de la humanidad. Hay, en sus realizaciones, una universalidad en la ciencia. Pero este pretendido universalismo de la ciencia contemporánea arrastra un lastre habitual en nuestros días de “globalización”. El lastre se denomina “presentismo”. Se vive como si no existiera la Historia, como si se borrara de forma completa el proceso de desarrollo de cada una de las culturas y civilización hasta llegar al caótico horno y a la efervescente olla que es el mundo hoy. La ciencia físico-química, precisamente en lo que hace a sus aplicaciones prácticas, a sus extensiones tecnológicas, es de facto un conocimiento y recetario universal que, dentro de civilizaciones diversas, ya está a libre disposición de todos los hombres. Véase que ya en la Antigüedad y en el Medievo, los avances armamentísticos se universalizaban y no precisamente para traer paz y concordia entre los pueblos. Sustancialmente no hay diferencias en estos tiempos que corren: Occidente, con todo su potencial fáustico unilateralmente orientado hacia un capitalismo tecnológico está creando las bombas y los aparatos con los que, mañana, otro día, los islámicos o los orientales podrán esclavizarlo. Esta es la lección de Spengler que podemos leer en sus libros.

En una mirada histórica, no presentista, se observa que hay “una” física apolínea (antigua, griega), “una” física mágica (árabe), “una” física fáustica (europea). Esta evidencia histórica no guarda relación con una platónica concepción de la verdad, con un realismo de la índole que sea. Lo que Spengler quiere decirnos es que las tres ciencias físicas que fueron posibles son mutuamente incomprensibles, cada una verá a la otra como un simple depósito de vaguedades y nociones abstrusas. Como sucede con la moral y con el arte, hay tantas “físicas” como culturas y civilizaciones sean posibles, pues con la ciencia acontece lo mismo que con cualquier otra creación del alma del hombre: ésta se realiza y se expresa a partir del suelo donde arraiga y a partir de los derroteros que el sino ha trazado para esa cultura. Bien es cierto que nos encontramos en el trance de una “civilización universal”, pero este trance es asintótico, y una vez que se llegue a cierto punto de fusión, la olla puede reventar y el proceso puede revertir. Nada garantiza (pues el sino es inescrutable) que esa civilización universal haya de triunfar, ni tampoco lo contrario. Y precisamente porque los factores más rápidamente universalizables (armamento, tecnología deshumanizadora, depredación capitalista) son los más genocidas, siempre cabe aguardar a una protesta venida desde los elementos más hondos de cada especie de alma, una verdadera revuelta de la raíz contra la hojarasca inmunda. Esa reacción identitaria, esa “vuelta a las raíces”, nunca es del todo descartable. No en la Europa decadente de nuestros días, que ha sido, bien mirada, la exportadora de sus creaciones, la ciega y estúpida engendradora de armas mortíferas con las que ella misma se suicida. No cabe esperar del Islam o de cualquier otra civilización rival del occidente europeo un giro dulcificado en su devenir, una vez que adopten la ciencia tecnológica que nació con Galileo y siguió con Newton, Born y Max Planck. Los nuevos "bárbaros" tomarán esto, pero en el montón de sus basuras arrojarán las ideas de democracia, derechos humanos, tolerancia y respeto a la persona. La propia tradición filosófica occidental, la irradiación misma que “el milagro griego” supuso para el mundo se rebaja a la condición de mera “literatura” cuando olvida el verdadero bloque compacto que fue el Racionalismo una vez que nació en Grecia hace 2.600 años.

Mito, Religión y Ciencia: continuidades.

 

spenglermierzch-zac.jpgEn La Decadencia de Occidente de Oswald Spengler se muestra con claridad que entre la ciencia -como actividad teórica- y la religión hay una identidad de fondo. Las teorías de los físicos, sus entes teóricos (átomos, fuerzas, energía) son algo más que “abstracciones”. Son inobservables, suprasensibles en el mismo sentido en que podemos decir que son númina, esto es, divinidades. La ciencia no rompe con el mito (dando a la palabra mito todo su sentido de “siempre verdad”, y no el moderno y degradado sentido de “precursor falso de la verdad”). La actividad epistémica del hombre hunde sus raíces en las conductas animales y en la experiencia sensible de éstos, por supuesto. Entre el “ver” de un águila cuando localiza su presa, y la aprehensión del objeto teórico por parte del investigador, hay toda una continuidad, que no se puede negar. El anima,l al cazar o al preparar sus refugios, ya está manifestando de manera incipiente su condición de animal técnico, aunque es la reflexión por parte del sujeto la que deberá dar paso a la teoría:

“En el hombre, esta experiencia de los sentidos se ha condensado y profundizado en el sentido de experiencia visual. Pero al establecerse la costumbre de hablar con palabras, la intelección se separa de la visión y sigue desenvolviéndose independiente, en forma de pensamiento: a la técnica de la comprensión momentánea sigue la teoría, que representa una re-flexión. La técnica se orienta hacia la proximidad visible y la necesidad inmediata. La teoría se orienta hacia la lejanía, hacia los estremecimientos de lo invisible. Junto al breve saber de cada día, viene a colocarse a fe. Y, sin embargo, el hombre desarrolla un nuevo saber y una nueva técnica de orden superior: al mito sigue el culto. El mito conoce los númina; el culto los conjura. La teoría en sentido sublime, es completamente religiosa. Solo mucho después, en épocas muy posteriores, el hombre separa de la teoría religiosa la teoría física, al adquirir conciencia de los métodos. Pero, aparte de esto, poco es lo que cambia. El mundo imaginado por la física sigue siendo mitológico (...)” [LDO, I, 544-545] [1]

En los tiempos arcaicos, justo cuando la planta que damos en llamar Cultura, es una joven creación que se levanta por encima del suelo, y extiende sus primeros brotes (así los griegos de Homero, así los germanos y los celtas en su época prerromana) hay toda una labor colectiva de mitopoiesis. El pueblo, más que los poetas, crea sus dioses, su Olimpo, su Walhalla, a partir de su sentido de la vista y de su radicación en un solar. Cuando estos pueblos son móviles, migrantes, como acontece con los indoeuropeos, su experiencia itinerante les va enriqueciendo sin perder del todo aquellas primeras impresiones de un solar primigenio (Urheimat). El precedente del filósofo es el mitólogo, “conocedor” de los dioses, poeta que sabe dar el paso desde la cercanía a la lejanía. El precedente del sacerdote, ejecutor de ritos y maestro del culto debido a los dioses es, por el contrario, el sacerdote. El sacerdote conjura (beschwören) esos dioses, los invoca para atraérselos, por así decir. La ciencia moderna, la actual física que nos habla de átomos, fuerzas, energías fundamentales, ha desplegado una “nueva mitología”, por tanto, un complicado Olimpo que sólo los sabios más especializados surgidos de la Universidad pueden detallar y comprender. El tecnólogo, el científico aplicado, será quien les rinda culto y domine las prescripciones necesarias para su invocación.

Debemos insistir: estas continuidades, que tampoco Spengler cifra en clave darwinista, entre ver y comprender, mito y teoría, religión y ciencia, no significan un relativismo. Significan una comprensión de la ciencia contemporánea –y muy especialmente nuestra física fáustica- en un amplio contexto histórico-cultural. No hay por qué desvirtuar a Spengler con prejuicios realistas o platónicos en torno al carácter inmutable o no de nuestros conocimientos sobre la naturaleza. La física “mágica” de la cultura árabe era la verdad para aquella cultura, así como la física “apolínea” era la verdad para los griegos. El pensamiento alquimista y sustancialista no puede ser comprendido hoy, desde nuestra mentalidad dinámica y direccional- nuestra alma fáustica- así como nada entenderemos de la estática de los griegos si perseveramos en verla como un antecedente de nuestra dinámica.

Con todo, la subordinación de la ciencia a la tecnología, la integración de toda la física en el seno del complejo industrial, ha arrojado al “sabio” especialista de su pedestal sacerdotal. Acaso es el cosmólogo el único ejemplo de “sabio” actual que se deja arropar por un manto sacro y un aura de mitopoeta, pues la cosmología declina por su propia naturaleza el carácter aplicado, indaga sobre “los orígenes”. Teorías como la del Big Bang o los universos paralelos, especulaciones en torno al número de dimensiones del universo, las “estructuras últimas” de éste, la existencia de un “más allá” de los agujeros negros, la esencia oculta del tiempo y la materia oscura, etc. retrotraen la ciencia a los tiempos balbucientes de la filosofía presocrática, sin peder un ápice de aquel carácter mitopoético de que aquella gozaba todavía, sustituyendo (como empezó a hacerse en la Jonia de hace 2.600 años) los númina por conceptos, por un logos despersonificado. El carácter críptico, la oscuridad que un día dio fama a Heráclito y demás sabios de la antigüedad, hoy viene dado por el complejo andamiaje matemático que disimula, en realidad, la inevitable tendencia mitopoética y fáustica de nuestros cosmólogos.

Por supuesto, en la enseñanza primaria, secundaria, y en la propia universidad, antes de toda especialización, la “ciencia” sigue ofreciéndose en forma de parcelas y recetarios, yuxtaponiéndose toda clase de procedimiento técnico, “servil”. La metafísica, la sabiduría de los primeros principios y causas, aunaba (al tiempo que separaba) la Historia y la Naturaleza. En su fase griega era el estudio del ser en cuanto tal ser, sin Historia, el estudio de lo ya sido. La Naturaleza pasa a ser “eterno pretérito”, saber sobre lo producido: saber de dónde viene algo. La Historia, por el contrario, es el saber del adónde vamos: el sino. La ciencia de la naturaleza no puede ser vivida, sólo pensada. La Historia, en cambio, es vivida y lanzada hacia adelante.[2]

La Historia suele ser definida como “ciencia del pasado”, y nada más opuesto al enfoque de Spengler, para quien su estudio –en sentido morfológico y en una visión metaempírica- es en realidad la ciencia del eterno futuro, el eterno devenir (ewiges Werden, ewiges Zukunft). Pero somos víctima del moderno intelectualismo, un intelectualismo que nada tiene que ver con el pensamiento ontológico clásico de los griegos y escolásticos. Cuando Kant denomina a la causalidad “forma necesaria del conocimiento” [3], hay, en esta expresión, un evidente intelectualismo una restricción del significado de la palabra causalidad. El producirse, a partir del siglo XIX, vino a confundirse con lo producido. Esto último, lo “ya sido”, el conjunto de los hechos de la naturaleza, sirve de modelo para la Historia, ciencia de la vida y del producirse. Spengler dice que esta frontera borrada ha sido propia de una “espiritualidad decadente, urbana, habituada a la coacción de la causalidad” [LDO, 236][4]

El hombre de la gran ciudad, el hombre “civilizado” se ha formado en universidades y centros técnicos especializados, centros que ejercen una coacción mental (Denkzwang), una rigidez mecánica del espíritu. Triunfa el espíritu mecánico sobre el orgánico. El cientifismo aplicado a la Historia (vide: el materialismo histórico o el positivismo) busca la “ley”, acaso sustituida ahora por la finalidad, su remedo. De toda la ontología del devenir humano y del destino no logra otra cosa que un engranaje. [5]

Nacimiento del alma fáustica.

oswald-spengler-l-homme-et-la-technique.jpgDe lo que se trata es de situar la moderna ciencia física en el curso de desarrollo de la cultura fáustica, ya devenida civilización a partir, digamos, de las guerras napoleónicas a principios del siglo XIX. La cultura fáustica surge en el trayecto que va desde el siglo VIII al siglo X, y sus expresiones artísticas más imponentes ya pueden verse en los estilos arquitectónicos del románico y el gótico. Las creaciones del feudalismo, la Iglesia medieval, la Monarquía Asturiana, Carlomagno, el Sacro Imperio Romano Germánico, la Escolástica, etc., son sus correspondientes en el terreno institucional. Las semillas de la ciencia fáustica más esplendorosa del barroco (la dinámica y la Monadología de Leibniz, las fluxiones de Newton) ya están presentes in nuce en aquella feliz síntesis de germanismo “bárbaro” y cristiandad latina que va surgiendo de las oscuridades del siglo VIII. Una Cristiandad acosada, desde el Sur y desde el Oriente por el Islam, desde el norte por los vikingos. Aparentemente empequeñecida, a la defensiva, tímida y parapetada tras las selvas y fortalezas que todavía no son los sólidos castillos murados que vemos florecer a lo largo de la Edad Media. Pero una cristiandad, como aquella de la Liébana de Asturias donde Beato amonesta –nada menos- que al metropolitano de Toledo, viviendo éste bajo dominación musulmana y en cierta connivencia con ella. Esa Cristiandad rural que sobrevive gracias al valor de su sangre, de su ethnos y de una fe incólume que ya no es la fe “mágica” de la mozarabía, de los eremitas rupestres del periodo visigodo, de los cristianos del viejo Mare Nostrum, de un Bizancio decadente, ya orientalizado, “arábigo”, o de un mahometanismo pujante.

Es el cristianismo fáustico, a decir de Spengler, el que hizo de este conglomerado de pueblos celtogermánicos y latinos una Europa de Occidente a calificar como entidad cultural por derecho propio. Y de forma magistral e intuitiva el filósofo alemán asocia el origen de la arquitectura cristiana fáustica con las selvas del norte y las impresiones que el alma del germano balbuciente en su nueva fe, pudo obtener de ellas. En la propia península ibérica, donde se dan dos climas y dos religiones, es el Norte el que se comunica plenamente con la Europa carolingia y celtogermánica. En ese corredor que, desde el mar cantábrico hasta las grandes llanuras nórdicas, se llena de selvas y, acaso, riscos, el alma del hombre se impresiona por los fenómenos de la naturaleza, el misterio de los bosques, las tempestades, los mares bravos. [6]

El arábigo hubo de retroceder ante los paisajes agrestes y, para él, terribles de los (nunca mejor llamados) Picos de Europa en 718 (o 722). Poco después, el arte asturiano, partiendo de técnicas constructivas romanas pero plagado de mil influjos más, sin excluir el arte local, preanuncia los derroteros de una nueva espiritualidad, buscando la verticalidad y la afirmación fáustica. La verticalidad del gótico, el estilo del lejano Norte, ya es producto del alma que creció en las grandes selvas europeas.

Los cipreses y los pinos producen la impresión de cuerpos euclidianos; no hubieran podido ser nunca símbolos del espacio infinito. El roble, el haya, el tilo, con sus vacilantes machas de luz en los espacios llenos de sombra, producen una impresión incorpórea, ilimitada, espiritual” [LDO, I, 546].[7]

Algunos autores han señalado interesantes parecidos y diferencias entre Spengler y Ortega:

No es posible separar al hombre de sus circunstancias. En este sentido, la reflexión sobre la técnica no es sólo una parte de un sistema mayor, un sistema en el que vive el hombre, y donde no es posible separar la voluntad de vivir de la complejidad de las relaciones sociales. Lo individual y la historia están tan unidos que no es posible aislar a los unos de los otros. [...] primero, para reflexionar sobre la técnica se debe describir la naturaleza antropológica del hombre. Ambos empiezan por describir a un hombre sin un lugar en el mundo. Cazador inestable, hambriento de poder y pleno de voluntad para lograr sus deseos. Un hombre en una lucha constante con su entorno natural. Un hombre que no puede existir sin someter todo lo que encuentra. Ortega y Spengler están lejos del cristianismo. Sin embargo, su visión del hombre, nos parece, es un reflejo de la mentalidad que se centra en el hombre y que proviene principalmente de la traducción cultural judeo-cristiana. Segundo, el medio ambiente en el que el hombre vive es hostil. Continuamente opuesto a la voluntad de vivir del hombre. Un entorno natural en el que el hombre es un cuerpo extraño. Un entorno natural donde la opción es la sumisión o la muerte. Tercero, la técnica es un reflejo de la voluntad de poder. La técnica se utiliza para llevar a cabo los deseos del hombre. La principal diferencia es que Spengler es más determinista y pesimista que Ortega. Para Spengler, toda la historia está obligada a decaer, y la técnica es sólo una fase de esta decadencia. En Ortega, la técnica es un peligro, pero es también una posibilidad. La técnica es una forma vacía, que puede llenarse con la desesperación y la estupidez, o puede ser una herramienta útil para lograr los propósitos del hombre. En este sentido, Spengler es más determinista que Ortega.” [8].

En suma, la visión del hombre como cazador, como depredador rebelde, que se enfrenta a la naturaleza, lucha contra ella e impone su instinto de rapiña, excluye el hecho -milenario en años- de que gran parte de la humanidad ha llevado a cabo una existencia campesina, pacífica, sobrepuesta a los ciclos naturales de la vida, regulándolos y adaptándose a ellos. Piro, en cambio, resalta la visión más abierta, más optimista, de una humanidad que –ciertamente- puede dejarse dominar por una técnica vacía de contenido o instrumentalizada por intereses espurios, aborrecibles, pero una técnica que, a su vez, igualmente puede ponerse al servicio de la felicidad humana. De momento, Ortega ve, a la altura ya de los comienzos del siglo XX, cómo la técnica es la que da cabal explicación del imperio de la masa.

Degeneración del alma fáustica y producción del hombre-masa.

La democracia del siglo XX ya no es, como en el XIX, el imperio de la opinión (doxa), el imperio de la prensa escrita y de las élites burguesas que dicen hablar en nombre de todos. A fin de cuentas, aquellos lectores de periódicos del siglo XIX eran personas semi-instruidas que podían pastorear a grandes masas incultas. El poder del Capital requería de la prensa y de la creación de opinión. Había una nueva aristocracia del dinero y de la ideología por sobre la aristocracia vieja de la tierra y la sangre. Incluso en las clases trabajadoras, los líderes socialistas a veces eran hombres selectos de entre la fábrica y los sectores menesterosos, individualidades nacidas para ser aristócratas del espíritu, con capacidad de mando. Spengler y Ortega no abandonan nunca, nos parece, el fundamental legado aristotélico en materia política, la ley natural que ha de regir incluso los sistemas que se dicen democráticos: “hay hombres nacidos para mandar y hay hombres nacidos para obedecer”. Sin embargo, la libertad de ambas clases de hombres quedaría garantizada si los que mandan de hecho son los más capacitados, dignos y merecedores del mando. Creemos que en este aspecto, Ortega aboga por una antropología menos agresiva y deprimente, más proclive a la corrección de la democracia, entendida como el justo gobierno del pueblo y por el pueblo bien entendido que en este “pueblo” hay élites, hay aristocracias del espíritu a las que es preciso nuevamente convocar y alentar, pues fueron las masas indóciles y las ideologías decimonónicas las que desalojaron del timón a los capitanes más preparados. En este contexto, de donde La Meditación sobre la Técnica spengleriana es una obra que se enmarca perfectamente en La Rebelión de las Masas, orteguiana, la técnica en cuanto instrumento vacío de contenido, o quizá como peligro mefistofélico, aparece como posibilidad: la renuncia a toda técnica nos lleva directamente a la barbarie, o a utopías suicidas. Sería macabro ver cómo la Europa “fáustica” que desarrollara toda la técnica moderna se entregaría a una existencia muelle, de desnudez cínica o ecologista, mientras los integristas islámicos o las “potencias emergentes” acaparan todo el saber en materia de armas nucleares, control por satélites, balística intercontinental. La técnica, una vez desarrollada, admite muy mal los pasos atrás, y –de otra parte- marca exigencias no solo agresivas, en la línea del hombre-depredador de Spengler, sino también defensivas. Una nueva civilización, o una drástica reordenación del mundo, si incluye una vida más sencilla y una reducción de la voracidad consumista actual, no podrá permitirse el lujo de renunciar a los desarrollos tecnológicos destinados a garantizar la defensa ante toda índole de amenazas, ya vengan éstas de un orden natural ya procedan de conflictos antropológicos, o de la combinación de ambas clases de amenazas.

Dialéctica entre arraigo y conquista.

La caracterización spengleriana del hombre como animal de rapiña constituye una tesis anti-intelectualista. No es el intelecto lo que pone en la cima zoológica al hombre, sostiene Spengler, sino su máxima movilidad, su insaciable afán de cobrar presa, la astucia y previsión, el acecho y la táctica. En todos estos rasgos el ser humano supera a los demás animales, incluyendo a los mejores mamíferos cazadores. La inteligencia más bien sería producto secundario y derivado de la táctica (término militar que Spengler retrotrae a la zoología). De hecho, no hay necesidad de máquinas o herramientas para poder hablar de técnica. Es más bien el uso de las mismas, la conducta con fines depredadores, lo que determina la existencia de una técnica. Acaso el trabajo coordinado de los cazadores prehistóricos, antes que sus armas, configuró ya la técnica en un verdadero sentido spengleriano. Esto es interesante, porque aleja a Spengler del materialismo y del objetivismo cultural. Nuestra civilización es técnica no tanto por la producción y acumulación de artefactos, sino por el uso esencial de tácticas, que incluyen colaboración con otros sujetos, así como su control, sometimiento y dominación, junto con las máquinas y artefactos que se precisen. Toda la dialéctica de la alienación (Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx), y en concreto, la alienación del hombre bajo el dominio de la máquina, haciéndose él mismo cosa, objetivándose como cosa al servicio de las máquinas que él mismo ha creado, quedaría aquí reinterpretada: el hombre es el creador, también es el rebelde que inventa, “ingenia” constantemente. Los trámites y procesos parciales en los que el hombre se vuelve esclavo de otros hombres y aun de las máquinas, serían necesarios para la consecución de nuevas cumbres y presas en el depredador humano. Todo ello proviene de la propia zoología. La planta, de nula movilidad, sólo proporciona un escenario para la verdadera lucha por la vida. En los animales superiores, la oposición y complementariedad entre herbívoros y mamíferos adelanta, a su vez, el sedentarismo campesino frente al nomadismo del guerrero (el “noble”). En realidad, las culturas tal y como las entiende Spengler, “plantas” que arraigan en un solar primigenio, son fruto de una síntesis dialéctica entre estos elementos más sedentarios y vegetativos (aldeanos) y los más móviles y depredadores (nobles, guerreros). Es preciso nutrirse de unos elementos minerales, térreos, atmosféricos, paisajísticos, etc. para ir conformando el alma de una cultura en su estado naciente. El bosque para el germano, el desierto para el semita, las estepas para el mongol, etc. pero este alimento de la cultura balbuciente no basta: hace falta el desenvolvimiento: las correrías, las invasiones, la medición de fuerzas con los enemigos y la estabilización de fronteras. Una dialéctica entre arraigo y conquista. Entre la casa y el terruño (factor femenino) y la expedición de caza (factor masculino y móvil).

La técnica como causa de la alienación pero como motor para la conquista. 

speng197491.jpgHoy, un “gran hombre”, no puede dejar de lado las relaciones entre la técnica y la civilización. Los filósofos profesionales, ocupados de pequeñeces, que para Spengler podrían ser la lógica, la teoría del conocimiento o la psicología, hoy, son personajes que dan vergüenza:

“...si dejando a estos grandes hombres volvemos la mirada hacia los filósofos actuales, ¡qué vergüenza!, ¡qué insignificancia personal!, ¡qué mezquino horizonte práctico y espiritual! El mero hecho de figuramos a uno de ellos en el trance de demostrar su principado espiritual en la política, en la diplomacia, en la organización, en la dirección de alguna gran empresa colonial, comercial o de transportes, nos produce un sentimiento de verdadera compasión. Y esto no es señal de riqueza interior, es falta de enjundia. En vano busco a uno que se haya hecho ilustre por algún juicio profundo y previsor sobre cualquiera cuestión decisiva del presente. No encuentro más que opiniones provincianas, como las puede tener cualquiera. Cuando tomo en las manos un libro de un pensador moderno, me pregunto si el autor tiene alguna idea de las realidades políticas mundiales, de los grandes problemas urbanos, del capitalismo, del porvenir del Estado, de las relaciones entre la técnica y la marcha de la civilización, de los rusos, de la ciencia. Goethe hubiera entendido y amado todas estas cosas. Entre los filósofos vivientes no hay uno solo capaz de do minarlas con la mirada. Todo ello, lo repito, no es contenido de la filosofía; pero es un síntoma indudable de su interior necesidad, de su fertilidad, de su rango simbólico.” [LDO, I, 80]

El autor de La Decadencia de Occidente sentía una profunda emoción ante los artefactos técnicos en la medida en que éstos revelaban voluntad de poder, prolongaciones y sofisticaciones de las garras, colmillos, cuernos y fauces con que la naturaleza había dotado a los seres superiores, vale decir, a los depredadores. Un acorazado de la marina de guerra, un cañón de largo alcance, un nuevo tipo de explosivo o de carro de combate: en esto debe pensar el filósofo de la historia cuando piensa en profundidad y se hace una imagen del mundo y de sus civilizaciones en pugna. Spengler decía admirarse más por las líneas de un trasatlántico o de una nueva máquina industrial que por todos los cachivaches verbales que se traen y se llevan los “literatos”, los “intelectuales” al uso. No hay, pues, aliento ni mucho rincón para el humanismo, para la cultura en el sentido sublime, en el sentido de ocio y superestructura volátil. Hay inventos que sólo la cultura fáustica ha elevado a su máxima expresión y que están pensados y llevados a cabo para el dominio. Dominio: si no se trata del dominio sobre potencias extranjeras al menos el dominio sobre el espacio, el tiempo, la energía y cualquier otra posible limitación a las posibilidades humanas. Contrariamente a lo que se dice, fueron aquellos monjes medievales, henchidos de la idea de un Dios fáustico, quienes empezaron a plantear el universo en términos de máquina inmensa, en términos de fuerzas, de dinamismo, de potencia. Pero aquellos escolásticos que fueron los primeros científicos modernos (y no un Galileo presentado por los hagiógrafos laicistas como el primer campeón sobre el escolasticismo) vieron pronto el carácter demoníaco de la ciencia-técnica, de ese complejo de conocimiento-acción que estaba destinado a escapar a todo control. El humanista contemporáneo es un “espíritu sacerdotal” que exorciza la voluntad de poder inscrita en cada ingenio técnico:

“Así como en la Antigüedad la altiva obstinación de Prometeo frente a los dioses fue sentida y considerada como vesania criminal, así también la máquina fue sentida por el barroco como algo diabólico. El espíritu infernal había descubierto al hombre el secreto con que apoderarse del mecanismo universal y representar el papel de Dios. Por eso las naturalezas puramente sacerdotales, que viven en el reino del espíritu y no esperan nada de «este mundo», sobre todo los filósofos idealistas, los clasicistas, los humanistas, Kant y el mismo Nietzsche, guardan un silencio hostil sobre la técnica.” [LDO, II, 466]

"El silencio hostil sobre la técnica". Habría, según Spengler, un poso profundamente idealista y sacerdotal en la filosofía europea, un poso que ni siquiera Nietzsche pudo evitar, pese a sus diatribas contra la mentalidad sacerdotal. Hay un humanismo antitécnico que, de derecha o de izquierda, anhela un retorno a la candidez y al Edén perdido, y ese humanismo pretende orillar por completo una realidad: una realidad basada en el conflicto. El mundo es guerra, y la paz sólo se disfruta velando las armas. Cualquier máquina, toda herramienta, es un arma dentro del conjunto de cosas inventadas bajo impulsos meramente crematísticos, y de ser objetos útiles, acaban convirtiéndose en armas. Sojuzgar a la naturaleza, rebelarse ante ella; dominar a otros hombres, imponerse a los enemigos.

En la era del capitalismo industrial, sin embargo, el poder de las máquinas se vuelve ajeno y envolvente del propio sujeto creador de las mismas, así como ajenas y envolventes con respecto del obrero que las usa. Spengler tiñe sus reflexiones sobre la Historia contemporánea de un cierto tecnocratismo. El ingeniero, y no el patrón, y no el obrero, es quien conduce el proceso material de la historia.

Pero justamente por eso el hombre fáustico se ha convertido en esclavo de su creación Su número y la disposición de su vida quedan incluidos por la máquina en una trayectoria donde no hay descanso ni posibilidad de retroceso. El aldeano, el artífice, incluso el comerciante, aparecen de pronto inesenciales si se comparan con las tres figuras que la máquina ha educado durante su desarrollo; el empresario, el ingeniero, el obrero de fábrica. Una pequeña rama del trabajo manual, de la economía elaborativa, ha producido en esta cultura, y sólo en ella, el árbol poderoso que cubre con su sombra todos los demás oficios y profesiones: el mundo económico de la industria maquinista [376]. Obliga a la obediencia tanto al empresario como al obrero de fábrica. Los dos son esclavos, no señores de la máquina, que desenvuelve ahora su fuerza secreta más diabólica.” [LDO II, 774]

¿Qué queda de la “lucha de clases”? No hay tal. El obrero se vuelve esclavo obediente de la máquina, hasta aquí se le concede razón a Marx y a tantos críticos humanistas del maquinismo. Pero el patrón, que en la teoría marxiana acaba convirtiéndose en un parásito de la producción, es presentado por Spengler como un servidor obediente de una técnica diabólica, que comienza a marcar sus propias pautas, que legisla el comportamiento de los agentes humanos. El patrón, una vez realizada su inversión en tecnología, habrá de atenerse a las leyes impuestas por la propia tecnología. Marx pensaba que el ingeniero, en cuanto trabajador asalariado, podría emprender los cálculos racionales adecuados para mantener la producción maquinista y ponerla al servicio de la sociedad, esto es, de los demás obreros. Para Marx, el ingeniero debería dejar de ser un empleado íntimamente unido al patrón frente a la clase obrera, y alinearse con ella en le proceso socialista de eliminación del patrón capitalista enteramente superfluo. Por el contrario, en Spengler la caracterización de la industria maquinista es por completo diferente: el propio trabajo es una categoría abstracta y huera, hay jerarquía esencial en el mundo del trabajo, hay que regresar al dictum aristotélico: “unos hombres nacen para mandar y otros nacen para obedecer”. El trabajo de dirección es sustancialmente distinto al trabajo servil, manual y basado en la obediencia. No todos los hombres son iguales y, por tanto, no todos los trabajos son iguales. Y este principio, general en la Historia de las culturas y de las civilizaciones, no deja de aplicarse en la sociedad capitalista altamente industrializada. Los trabajos de dirección, a cargo de ingenieros y tecnócratas, son la nueva modalidad del caudillo guerrero, del conductor y conocedor de hombres. En rigor, podría hablarse de un socialismo: en la nueva era por venir, todos hemos de ser trabajadores, no hay lugar para los parásitos, quien no trabaje que no coma. Pero al mismo tiempo, en este nuevo socialismo, hay ineludiblemente jerarquías: trabajos de dirección y trabajos de base.

“El organizador y administrador constituye el centro en ese reino complicado y artificial de la máquina. El pensamiento, no la mano, es quien mantiene la cohesión. Pero justamente por eso existe una fisura todavía más importarte para conservar ese edificio, siempre amenazado, una figura más importante que la energía de esos empresarios, que hacen surgir ciudades de la tierra y cambian la forma del paisaje; es una figura que suele olvidarse en la controversia política: el ingeniero, el sabio sacerdote de la máquina. No sólo la altitud, sino la existencia misma de la industria, depende de la existencia de cien mil cabezas talentudas y educadas, que dominan la técnica y la desarrollan continuamente. El ingeniero es, en toda calma, dueño de la técnica y le marca su sino. El pensamiento del ingeniero es, como posibilidad, lo que la máquina como realidad. Se ha temido, con sentido harto materialista, el agotamiento de las minas de carbón. Pero mientras existan descubridores técnicos de alto vuelo, no hay peligros de esa clase que temer. Sólo cuando cese de reclutarse ese ejército de ingenieros, cuyo trabajo técnico constituye una intima unidad con el trabajo de la máquina, sólo entonces se extinguirá la industria, a pesar de los empresarios y de los trabajadores” [LDO, II, 775].

La lucha de clases en el marxismo ha de interpretarse imperativamente, no descriptivamente. Es un mandato que hizo Marx a los obreros a rebelarse, no es una “ley” que explique la historia, porque, para empezar, no siempre hubo clases sino estamentos y “grupos” definidos por muy otros criterios que los criterios economicistas de control y posesión de los medios de producción. De otra parte, el socialismo “ético” o “filantrópico” que ha llenado las cabezas huecas y las librerías desde el siglo XIX no es, en realidad, este marxismo “aguerrido” que llama a una guerra y a un odio de clases. Antes al contrario, gran parte de la izquierda (en especial la izquierda oficial e integrada plenamente en el sistema capitalista) llama a una reconciliación universal, a una abolición de los conflictos, a un  amor indiscriminado y a una paz perpetuas. La exacerbación de ciertas ideas racionalistas, del humanismo masónico, de la religión natural y deísta, del igualitarismo fanático, ha devenido, desde sus inicios sectarios, a constituir una suerte de pensamiento único, fuera del cual no hay más que criminalidad intelectual o “fascismo”. Derecha e izquierda admiten este marxismo “culturalista”, sin aguijón, según el cual la lucha de clases se sustituye por un diálogo o “acción comunicativa” infinita, se trueca por una madeja de intercambios dialógicos entre mónadas todas ellas autosuficientes. El empresario, el ingeniero, el obrero o el aldeano son, todos ellos “ciudadanos”, y después de asumida esta rotulación indistinta –burguesa- de “ciudadano” todo será paz y después gloria.

El hombre y la técnica. [9]

Y aquí interviene la técnica. La técnica entendida como panacea, como vertiente material u objetual de la misma medicina universal que constituye el diálogo o acción comunicativa, jamás podrá ser comprendida en toda su profundidad. Es lo que hacen hoy los “socialistas éticos”, los ideólogos posmarxistas, ya sin aguijón: en el fondo no serán necesarias nuevas revoluciones, y los obreros no tendrán que salir al frío de la calle, en donde ya no hay barricadas. La técnica, igual que el Cuerno de la Abundancia, vendrá a darnos los bienes necesarios que permitirán “bienestar para todos” y “parlamentarismo para todos”. El marxismo sin aguijón, todo el socialismo progresista que se ha impuesto hoy como doctrina oficial mundial, proclama una tesis que ya estaba presente en el propio corpus marxiano, y que la II Internacional no haría sino desarrollar de forma oportuna y oportunista: el propio desarrollo de las fuerzas productivas convertirá en superflua la figura del patrono, del capitalista. Unos obreros debidamente formados en administración y tecnología serían capaces de tomar el mando, de dirigir intelectualmente la producción. En esto, hay pocas diferencias con el muy extenso (y poco profundo) credo burgués de la Inglaterra utilitarista (Bentham o Mill): habría que llevar el mayor bienestar al mayor número posible de individuos. La titularidad jurídica de los medios de producción pasaría a ser una cuestión menor ante la perspectiva, cansada y propia de las momias de la cultura occidental (perspectiva “civilizada” en términos de Spengler). Pero he aquí que la técnica es algo más que un instrumento elevador del bienestar, algo más que una panacea posible para solventar disfunciones sociales. La perspectiva “extensiva” de la técnica ha de ser completada con la perspectiva “en profundidad”. La técnica es viejísima y consustancial con la evolución biológica del hombre. La técnica es táctica.

También los idealistas y los humanistas, la “gente de letras”, ignoran esta verdad. Para ellos la técnica arroja un hedor plebeyo, mundano, utilitario, que la acerca al ámbito de otras funciones corporales (nutrición, excreción, reproducción) sobre las que sería mejor callar fuera del ámbito especializado de la anatomía y fisiología. Y, sin embargo, gran parte de la Filosofía moderna es una reflexión sobre éstas técnicas de la vida, oscureciendo la técnica de las técnicas, esto es la Táctica, el combate. Con Nietzsche se ha puesto de moda relacionar la dieta, el régimen sexual y la necesidad de caminatas al aire libre, por un lado, y un saber degradado que conserva el nombre de “filosofía”. Las modas francesas, la sombra de Foucault, y toda esa literatura postmoderna en torno a las “tecnologías del Yo” acercan fatalmente a la filosofía de la fase civilizada occidental a subgéneros de otra índole como los libros de autoayuda, el psicoanálisis, las terapias alternativas y recetarios varios para una “vida sana y feliz” en la que el sexo, la dieta y el “pensamiento positivo” adquieren un enorme protagonismo. Justamente esto sucedió en la Antigüedad tardía: estoicos, cínicos, epicúreos, y demás sectas, redujeron la Filosofía a Ética, y ésta, a su vez, degeneró en un listado de consejos para la buena gestión de los genitales, del estómago, de la lengua y de pensamientos “positivos”. Ignoraron por completo que la técnica es la táctica de la vida, y que la vida es lucha. La Ética de las grandes urbes decadentes es la técnica del derrotado. La paz que se impone es la de quien triunfa porque ha luchado. Por el contrario la paz que se busca es la de aquel que ya no quiere o no puede luchar: cobarde, débil, cansado, tullido.

Basándose en Nietzsche, pero remitiéndose a una antropología mucho más nítida y naturalista, el Spengler de El Hombre y la Técnica retrotrae la Técnica al conjunto de tácticas de supervivencia de nuestra prehistoria animal, y en modo alguno las vincula a la herramienta. Hay técnica sin herramienta, como la del león que acecha a la gacela. Las herramientas pueden existir como una parte del ser orgánico (las garras, las zarpas, los picos, etc.) o pueden, en el caso humano, ser útiles fabricados y dotados de una vida extrasomática. Pero esta frontera del cuerpo humano no es la nota que distingue el origen de la técnica.

Además hay una analogía muy clara entre las especies animales y las dos clases fundamentales de hombre. Herbívoros y carnívoros, presas y rapaces. También en la sociedad humana se da esta dicotomía: dominadores y esclavos. En el filósofo germano no hay espacio para ternuras, no hay restos de humanismo cristiano o filantrópico, como sí quedaban en sus rivales (el socialismo ético y el marxismo, el liberalismo, el utilitarismo). El pensador de Blankenburg nos ofrece un cuadro crudo, belicista, feroz, de la historia natural y de la historia política. Este cuadro que se presenta como realista, sin idealizaciones ni edulcorantes, nos lo pone delante con una prosa bellísima, enérgica, feroz. Sin alambiques técnicos, sin jerga especializada, Spengler pone en funcionamiento sus profundas nociones de Biología, y muy especialmente de Etología. Partiendo de los precedentes fundamentales de Goethe, Schopenhauer y Darwin, pero corrigiéndolos a la vez (en especial a los dos últimos), Spengler nos hace conscientes de la muy diversa organización sensorial que poseen las distintas especies. El poder de la mirada en los animales rapaces (unos ojos cuya actuación ya, en sí mismo, es poder), que abre un abismo entre el ave de presa –por ejemplo- y la ternura ocular de una vaca... Este tipo de comparaciones (que por la época conformaban todo un continente nuevo de la ciencia, de la mano de von Üexkull) ilustran muy bien el tipo de aproximación naturalista que nuestro filósofo hace a la técnica y a las actividades directamente relacionadas con ella, la caza y la guerra.

En el animal no humano existe la “técnica de la especie”. Es ésta una técnica no personal, no inventiva, fija y repetitiva. Cada individuo se limita a ejecutar lo que su especie ha asimilado desde hace generaciones. Por el contrario, el hombre es creador para ser señor: innova, crea, se las ingenia para dominar, que es su verdadera vocación.


[1] A partir de ahora, las citas de La Decadencia de Occidente se harán de la siguiente manera: LDO, I significa tomo primero de la versión castellana de la obra,y LDO II es el segundo tomo de la misma en la traducción de Manuel G. Morente, Editorial Espasa, Madrid, 2011. Las citas de la versión alemana, corresponden con las iniciales en esa lengua, y se citará DUA, Der Untergang des Abendlandes, Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, München, 1972.

[2] “Die Geschichte ist ewiges Werden, ewige Zukunft also; die Natur ist geworden, also ewige Vergangenheit” [LDO, 538: DUA, 499-500].

[3] Kausalität  als notwendige Form der Erkenntnis”, DUA 197

[4]  “…inmitten späten, städtischer, an kausalen Denkzwang gewohnter Geiste”, [DUA, 236]

[5] Aber der Geist unsrer grossen Städte will so nicht schliessen. Umgeben von einer Maschinentechnik, die er selbst geschaffen hat, in dem er der Natur ihr gefährlichsts Geheimis, das Gesetz ablauscht, will er auch die Geschichte technisch erobern, theoretisch un praktisch” [DUA, 198].

[6] Wladensrauchen und Waldeinssamkeit, Gewitter und  Meeresbrandung, die das Naturgefühl des fautsichen Menschen, schon das des Kelten und Germanen, völlig beherrschen und seinen mythischen Schöpfungen den eigentümlichen Charakter geben, lassen das des antiken Menschen unbreührt” [DUA, 518] [LDO, I, 554-555].

[7] Die Zupresse und Pinie wirken körperhaft, euklidisch; sie hätten niemals Symbole des unendlichen Raumes werden können. Die Eiche, Buche und Linde mit den irrenden Lichtflecken in ihren schattenerfüllten Räumen wirken körperloss, grenzenlos, geistig” [DUA, 509].

[8] Pietro Piro: Dos meditaciones sobre la técnica: El hombre y la técnica de Oswald Spengler y Meditación de la técnica de Ortega y Gasset, en Laguna: Revista de filosofía, , Nº 32, 2013 , págs. 43-60. Cita en p. 55.

[9] Así se titula el ensayo breve de Oswald Spengler: El hombre y la técnica: una contribución a la filosofía de la vida, Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1934. Trad. Española de Manuel García Morente.