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dimanche, 01 août 2021

De Covadonga à la nation espagnole : l'hispanité selon une interprétation spenglerienne

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Recension :

De Covadonga a la nación española. La hispanidad en clave spengleriana (De Covadonga à la nation espagnole. L'hispanité selon une interprétation spenglerienne), de Carlos X Blanco

De Covadonga à la nation espagnole: l'hispanité selon une interprétation spenglerienne

Ex: https://www.hiperbolajanus.com/2021/07/de-covadonga-la-nacion-espanola-la.html?m=1

9788494959646-fr.jpgL'ouvrage que nous allons recenser, De covadonga a la nación española, de Carlos X Blanco, possède déjà un titre suffisamment suggestif qui invite à la lecture et suscite un grand intérêt, surtout quand on lit le sous-titre qui l'accompagne, "La hispanidad en clave spengleriana"; dans l'introduction Robert Steuckers commence déjà à exposer certaines des idées qui seront développées tout au long du livre. Dès le départ, une dualité décisive s'instaure dans la configuration toujours actuelle que l'Espagne acquerra au fil des siècles, une empreinte indélébile qui a conditionné le développement de la plus ancienne nation d'Europe occidentale, cette dualité apparaît clairement, avec l'existence de deux pôles ou deux âmes, de deux visions du monde opposées et conflictuelles : d'une part, celle représentée par les peuples du nord-ouest de la péninsule, pionniers et artisans des premières étapes de la Reconquête depuis le Royaume des Asturies, marquée par la présence d'un important élément celto-germanique, également romanisé mais sans le poids décadent et crépusculaire des civilisations précédentes, et d'autre part, les peuples hispano-romains du Levant et du sud de la péninsule, qui sont tombés sous la domination arabe et ont pris forme sous un modèle de civilisation différent, marqué par l'influence de civilisations disparues ou tombées en déclin, comme les civilisations romaine, byzantine ou arabe. C'est précisément cette antithèse qui forme la colonne vertébrale du livre, dans lequel l'auteur, Carlos X Blanco, utilise les théories et les interprétations du célèbre philosophe allemand de l'histoire Oswald Spengler et de son œuvre monumentale Le déclin de l'Occident. 

Cependant, cet essai ne reste pas une simple analyse des contraires qui ont marqué l'histoire espagnole, mais nous fournit, au fil des pages, un schéma d'idées assez précis pour délimiter l'histoire de l'Espagne depuis ses débuts jusqu'à nos jours en fonction des catégories de la pensée spenglerienne. Il nous avertit également que nous devons comprendre les approches du philosophe et historien allemand dans leur contexte, avec toute sa terminologie et ses méthodes d'interprétation, tout en tenant compte des limites et des erreurs qu'il a pu commettre dans son travail tout au long de sa carrière intellectuelle. Il convient également de noter comment, dans la dernière partie du livre, il est fait référence à José Ortega y Gasset, que notre auteur décrit comme "le Spengler hispanique" pour sa vision plus élaborée des problèmes et des solutions possibles au problème espagnol et pour "sa compréhension du fait national". 

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Revenons à l'antithèse entre ces deux modèles de civilisation qui s'enracinent dans l'Espagne de l'Antiquité tardive et du haut Moyen Âge, dans une sorte de dualité qui, à la lumière de la pensée spenglerienne, permet de distinguer parfaitement les concepts antagonistes de "culture" (Kultur) et de "civilisation" (Zivilisation) si caractéristique de son approche. La culture représente l'état d'apogée vital, des grandes conquêtes et des réalisations historiques qui déterminent un type humain audacieux et particulièrement doué, qui deviendra l'archétype de la culture faustienne, qui dans le cas hispanique se reflète dans le nord-ouest de la péninsule, dans les territoires inclus dans le royaume asturien, et qui représente la tendance qui sera hégémonique dans le reste de l'orbe européen sous le christianisme faustien et où la présence de l'élément germanique sera fondamentale.

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La base fondatrice du royaume asturien était constituée d'Asturiens, de Cantabres et de Goths appartenant à la petite noblesse qui avaient fui l'avancée musulmane, se réfugiant dans les montagnes du nord. De cette union des peuples, de cette ethnogenèse, pour reprendre la terminologie de l'auteur, est né un nouveau peuple, une nouvelle culture au sens spenglerien. C'est un peuple avide de conquête, avec une conscience claire et sûre de la nécessité de chasser l'envahisseur maure et infidèle de la péninsule et d'être le porteur de l'Imperium. C'est par le début du processus de la Reconquête que se crée la nation espagnole, dont le point de départ est les Asturies, qui trouvera plus tard une continuité dans les actions de la Castille.

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En ce qui concerne l'hégémonie castillane, l'auteur cultive un certain préjugé à son égard, car elle représenterait un "concept métis et douteusement chrétien" qui a vécu son multiculturalisme de manière traumatique, avec pour conséquence les expulsions de Juifs et de Maures, l'Inquisition et l'intolérance. Tout cela était dû, selon notre auteur, au manque d'homogénéité sur le plan ethnique et religieux en raison d'un problème d'identité. En revanche, le Nord-Ouest représentait une société plus homogène sur le plan ethnique et religieux, avec son empreinte celto-germanique, beaucoup plus comparable au reste de l'Europe. En ce sens, peut-être devrions-nous nous tourner vers certains essais qui, depuis des années, ont contribué, avec une sorte de révisionnisme, à dissiper certains clichés et préjugés qui obscurcissaient l'histoire de l'Espagne dans ses siècles d'or, comme Elvira Roca Barea ou Iván Vélez, pour citer les plus importants. 

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Un autre des aspects déterminants signalés par rapport au Nord-Ouest est l'absence de villes, un environnement à prédominance rurale, dominé par la vie paysanne et villageoise libre, dans ce qui constitue l'axe principal du développement de la culture spenglerienne, et qui s'enracine et prospère sur le territoire, s'intégrant au paysage, se constituant ainsi comme une unité vivante assimilable à l'élément végétal, un conglomérat de peuples producteurs-conquérants. C'est le contraste évident avec l'homme antique et méditerranéen, l'homme du sud qui vit dans la ville, un produit de la civilisation, lorsque la culture perd son souffle vital et finit par se scléroser. Les habitants de ces villes sont les héritiers d'une civilisation qui fut en plein déclin, vieillie, produit de la pseudo-morphose romaine. Ils sont le sous-produit dégradé d'un modèle capitaliste urbain, esclavagiste, qui asservit et détruit les campagnes. Une nouvelle antithèse naît précisément de l'opposition entre la campagne et la ville, et elle est représentée par deux types d'âme différents : l'âme magique, typique de l'homme méditerranéen romain tardif, et l'âme faustienne des peuples du Nord-Ouest, ce qui explique en grande partie les attitudes différentes des uns et des autres face à l'invasion musulmane de 711.

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Le nouveau peuple né dans les montagnes cantabriques, avec son élément celto-germanique, montre les éléments vivants d'une culture faustienne, totalement indo-européenne dans sa formulation, avec le besoin de hiérarchies militaires dans une phase de vie très différente de l'hispano-romaine méridionale, et qui n'a rien à voir avec un quelconque élément de nature quichottesque, avec tout romantisme qui est explicitement rejeté par Spengler lui-même, comme cela se produira peut-être plus tard sous l'Empire, avec l'illusion de gouverner selon les postulats de la politique en ignorant les autres variables économico-matérielles, car ce qui compte dans l'histoire, ce sont les faits, matérialisés par les entreprises politiques dans leur ensemble. Dans ce cas, les rois asturiens ont effectivement assumé le passé mythique du royaume gothique déchu afin de prendre conscience de leur mission de propriétaires légitimes des terres usurpées par l'envahisseur sarrasin. Et la noblesse qui a émergé de ces terres était la quintessence de la classe villageoise que Spengler désigne comme la base fondamentale de toute culture faustienne. En même temps, comme toute culture faustienne, elle était fondée sur le principe dynastique et du sang, protégé dans le temps, l'aire de domination de tout principe aristocratique propre à la classe primordiale de la noblesse. 

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Mais le discours de Carlos X Blanco ne se limite pas aux débuts de la Reconquête, il comprend également un examen de l'histoire de l'Espagne dans son ensemble, comme nous l'avons noté dans les premières lignes de notre compte rendu. Le XVIIIe siècle, avec les Lumières et les grands changements et transformations politiques qui ont annoncé l'avènement de la modernité, surtout depuis la Révolution française, nous a présenté une Europe vieillissante, malade et en décomposition. Dans le cas de l'Espagne, à laquelle Spengler n'attache pas trop d'importance dans ses idées, bien qu'il reconnaisse qu'elle a fait partie d'une culture faustienne sous la figure du soldat et du conquérant, mais il croit qu'elle est passée. 

Avec la révolution industrielle, les archétypes du prolétaire et du bourgeois sont venus remplacer les précédents marqués par l'héritage et la lignée dans le monde agricole. Dès lors, le processus de dégénérescence est marqué par le triomphe de l'individualisme, du libéralisme, du démocratisme et par le triomphe de la ville sur la campagne. Avec tous ces éléments est venu l'avènement du matérialisme extrême, le triomphe de l'abstrait sur le concret, le pouvoir des grandes masses, de l'ochlocratie et le discours du marxisme, à l'égard duquel Spengler s'est livré à des préjugés idéologiques contre le prolétaire, en opposition ouverte, selon Spengler, au paysan, une populace envieuse et un détritus de la ville.

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Le début de la modernité, après 1789, est aussi la fin des nations, le début du jacobinisme centralisateur et la dénaturalisation des peuples dont les membres deviennent des citoyens, totalement inorganisés et atomisés. Et il est important de noter ici la différence entre peuple et nation, si souvent confondue à notre époque moderne, et qui dans le second cas correspond au légalisme et au vernis du constitutionnalisme, alors que le premier est une unité naturelle au-dessus des classes et des formalismes bourgeois. Cette dérive vers le bas s'accentue avec le temps jusqu'à atteindre le capitalisme d'entreprise d'aujourd'hui, avec une Europe géopolitiquement inopérante et devenue politiquement inexistante après la Seconde Guerre mondiale.

Après la guerre froide, l'Europe et ses démocraties libérales, qui ne sont rien d'autre que des ploutocraties, tournent le dos à leur histoire et tentent de se couvrir de ce vernis légaliste à travers des constitutions, des lois et la doctrine des soi-disant "droits de l'homme", et voilà la distinction spenglerienne entre les "vérités" (doctrines, idées, etc.) et les faits déterminés par la factualité même de l'histoire. C'est le monde des bourgeois, dont le socialiste fait également partie comme l'un de ses sous-produits les plus marquants, ennemis des peuples et des nations, ennemis des "classes primordiales" pointées par Spengler (la noblesse et le sacerdoce). Mais ce qui est fondamental dans ce monde décadent et artificiel, c'est le pouvoir de la technologie conçue comme un instrument de domination de la nature et de soumission de l'homme, l'outil fondamental du rationalisme qui imprègne toute la science. Aujourd'hui, nous le voyons plus que jamais à travers le pouvoir de la technologie sur nos vies et dans la formation d'un marché mondial ou dans l'avancée même du transhumanisme et, par conséquent, de la déshumanisation. 

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Dans le cas particulier de l'Espagne, qui obéit au contexte fondamental de l'essai, la modernité met en évidence l'existence d'un État failli, qui n'est pas à la hauteur des autres puissances européennes comme le Royaume-Uni ou la France. Nous sommes géopolitiquement inconséquents, d'un emplacement présenté comme un pont ou une charnière entre l'Europe et l'Afrique, historiquement soumis à des influences afro-sémitiques, étant les parents pauvres de l'Union européenne dans une adhésion qui, comme le souligne à juste titre l'auteur, a été une fatalité pour l'Espagne et sa souveraineté économique en démantelant les principaux secteurs stratégiques, le secteur agricole, et en nous laissant au secteur des services et au tourisme, ce qui offre peu d'opportunités d'emploi pour nos jeunes et le développement de notre potentiel en tant que nation. C'est une Espagne qui a renoncé à l'autosuffisance productive, un pays soumis à la corruption politique, à la mafia syndicale, à un patronat tyrannique et au parasitisme social, dont aucun secteur n'est capable d'exercer un rôle de leadership moral face à une telle catastrophe. 

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L'Espagne a également un autre problème, à savoir sa propre configuration territoriale et l'idée même de nation ou de patrie, ainsi que la manière dont elle est conçue. Tous ces problèmes sont devenus plus évidents que jamais avec l'actuel régime de 1978, sous un système libéral qui ignore complètement les particularités des différents peuples dont l'Espagne est née, car, comme le souligne à juste titre notre auteur, les territoires ont une mémoire et sont imprégnés d'histoire. Mais pour réunir à nouveau tous les peuples hispaniques, il est nécessaire de dépasser aussi bien le centralisme libéral d'origine jacobine et bourbonienne, celui du "centralisme madrilène", que celui du sécessionnisme périphérique et provincial, afin de promouvoir un changement qui doit venir du nord-ouest de la péninsule, des territoires qui ont été le point de départ de la Reconquête et qui représentent le principal foyer de l'européanité. L'Espagne autonome s'est déjà révélée non viable économiquement, historiquement et culturellement, et a également entravé le processus d'intégration entre la population et le territoire. Carlos Blanco est allé jusqu'à proposer son propre modèle d'organisation/division territoriale basé sur les territoires du Nord-Ouest (Galice, Asturies, León et Cantabrie), les deux Castillas fusionnées en une seule, et d'autres unités fédérées comme Aragon et Valence, ainsi que des unités intermédiaires au niveau local et foral. Ce serait un modèle très proche dans son idée de celui du traditionalisme hispanique, loin des caprices d'oligarchies libérales corrompues étrangères à notre histoire. Un modèle décentralisé, animé par la richesse et la pluralité des territoires qui composent ce que l'on appelait autrefois Las Españas. 

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Conformément au postulat de la pensée spenglerienne, dans la nécessité d'approfondir les aspects culturels et vitaux dans le développement de chaque âme collective et particulière, chaque peuple doit être jugé par les faits historiques et les réalisations auxquelles il a participé, dans ses aptitudes spécifiques. Particulièrement intéressant est l'appel que notre auteur fait à Ortega y Gasset, qui, comme Spengler, se positionne dans des positions anti-libérales et anti-socialistes, en ce qui concerne l'Espagne et ses problèmes de "vertébration".

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Pour Ortega, l'important était la nation au-dessus de tout pragmatisme juridique, et l'essentiel, comme le souligne à juste titre Spengler dans son œuvre, est la configuration ethnique des peuples qui habitent ses différents territoires face à toute imposition provenant du centralisme bourgeois et du modèle radial bourbonien. Il est intéressant de voir comment il est fait appel aux éléments de l'Espagne traditionnelle, aux corps intermédiaires, à toutes ces formes d'organisation sociale avec leurs propres conditionnements socio-juridiques, comme la Commune et la Famille, de caractère pré-étatique. La raison historique devient l'outil fondamental pour assembler les institutions, la société et les pouvoirs publics en un tout parfaitement organique. Par conséquent, il faut avant tout considérer la constitution historique, l'existence de formes coutumières dérivées de cette expérience historique. L'histoire ne doit donc pas être considérée comme un élément mort, un objet à collecter comme l'a fait la science historique positiviste, mais comme un élément vivant dont l'homme est porteur dans le présent, d'où la nécessité de tenir compte des expériences passées de chaque peuple dans l'organisation et le fonctionnement de chaque communauté nationale et organique. 

En guise de conclusion, nous pouvons dire que ce livre nous invite à une profonde réflexion sur l'Espagne d'aujourd'hui à la lumière de la pensée spenglerienne, et qu'il cherche à trouver les moyens d'inverser le cours de la décadence et de la dégénérescence qui nous conduisent vers une mort certaine en tant que civilisation en état de putréfaction à tous les niveaux, ou du moins qu'il s'agit d'un diagnostic très précis de notre situation actuelle et du monde moderne dans lequel nous nous trouvons. En résumé, ce travail nous permet de comprendre les dimensions du problème auquel nous sommes confrontés à partir de paramètres interprétatifs politiquement incorrects, avec un penseur fortement stigmatisé, mais non moins précis dans sa méthodologie et son analyse interprétative.

Pour commander l'ouvrage: https://editorialeas.com/producto/de-covadonga-la-nacion-espanola-la-hispanidad-en-clave-spengleriana/

mercredi, 16 juin 2021

Le déclin de l'Europe annoncé il y a un siècle

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Le déclin de l'Europe annoncé il y a un siècle

Valentin Katasonov*

Ex: http://www.elespiadigital.com/index.php/tribuna-libre/34222-2021-05-27-11-56-23

Il y a environ cent ans paraissait le livre "Le déclin de l'Occident" (Der Untergang des Abendlandes) d'Oswald Spengler (1880-1936). Je dis "approximativement" parce que l'œuvre se compose de deux volumes, elle a dès lors deux dates de naissance. Le premier volume a été publié en 1918, le second en 1922.

Le livre est né à une époque où l'Europe se consumait dans les flammes de la Première Guerre mondiale, et les mots "décadence", "effondrement", "mort" de l'Europe en 1918 n'étaient pas perçus comme choquants.

Dans une traduction exacte, le titre du livre de Spengler ressemble plutôt à l'anglais "The Sunset of the West" (= Le crépuscule de l'Occident), et l'accent mis sur l'Europe dans l'édition traduite a été mis dans les années 1920 : l'Amérique du Nord semblait alors assez prospère, il n'y avait aucun signe du déclin du nouveau monde. Aujourd'hui, il s'agit d'une autre question, celle de savoir si le livre de Spengler doit revenir à son titre original que nous baptiserions en anglais "Sunset of the West".

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Pendant une centaine d'années, l'œuvre de Spengler a figuré parmi les plus célèbres ouvrages du XXe siècle sur la philosophie de l'histoire et de la culture. À différents moments, l'intérêt pour le livre a explosé puis s'est émoussé. K. A. Svasian, qui a fait une nouvelle traduction du premier volume de Der Untergang des Abendlandes donne, dans la préface à la publication de ce volume en 1993, des statistiques intéressantes. En Allemagne, entre 1921 et 1925, la bibliographie des ouvrages sur Spengler contient 35 titres. Dans les cinq prochaines années, leur nombre sera réduit à cinq. 1931-1935 - pendant la période marquée par la persécution de Spengler par les nazis, neuf œuvres apparaissent, en 1936-1940 - cinq encore. "Dans la période d'après-guerre", écrit K. A. Svasyan, "l'image s'est considérablement détériorée, et ce n'est que dans les années 1960 qu'il reveindra timidement à l'avant-plan, grâce aux efforts d'Anton Mirko Koktanek (l'auteur du livre Oswald Spengler und seine Zeit publié en 1968 - V.K.) , lequel a publié la correspondance de Spengler et certains matériaux de son héritage... éphémère..."

Il me semble que dans les années 1990 et 2000, l'intérêt pour l'œuvre de Spengler a commencé à retomber, est resté le même dans les années 2010, et depuis l'année dernière, l'intérêt est reparti. Et ce n'est pas étonnant : des signes sont apparus non seulement du déclin, mais aussi de la mort de l'Europe, de l'ensemble du monde occidental, voire de l'humanité.

oseph.jpgLes évaluations du travail de Spengler étaient différentes, parfois diamétralement opposées. L'une des premières estimations appartient au philosophe et sociologue allemand Georg Simmel (1858-1918). Il a pris connaissance du premier volume du Déclin de l'Occident un mois avant sa mort et a qualifié l'œuvre de Spengler de "philosophie la plus significative de l'histoire après Hegel". Mais le philosophe et culturologue allemand Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) considérait l'auteur du Déclin de l'Occident comme "un petit chien sans intérêt".

L'œuvre de Spengler est inégale et ambiguë. On y trouve de la trivialité et de l'ingéniosité, mais aussi des choses tout à fait originales. L'auteur fait preuve d'une étonnante érudition en termes de connaissance de nombreuses cultures. Certains critiques ont fait remarquer à Spengler qu'il avait construit sa philosophie de l'histoire sur des bases fragiles, sans se référer à de nombreux ouvrages sur la philosophie de l'histoire. Spengler dans les pages de Der Untergang des Abendlandes réfute les attaques qu'il attendait. Il déclare qu'il ne fait pas confiance à la science académique officielle. Cette histoire, comme les autres sciences sociales (humanitaires), il ne la considère pas comme une science, s'appuyant uniquement sur les sciences naturelles. Mathématicien de formation, Spengler s'appuie principalement sur cette science-là. Il aime le mysticisme des nombres, et le premier chapitre du premier volume s'intitule "Sur la signification des nombres".

Beaucoup ont attribué l'œuvre de Spengler au genre de la philosophie de l'histoire (l'historiosophie). Cependant, l'auteur lui-même a déclaré que les critiques ne comprenaient même pas son intention. Il s'agit d'un ouvrage portant non pas sur la philosophie de l'histoire, mais sur la culture en tant que phénomène de l'histoire humaine. Dans l'histoire, certaines cultures sont remplacées par d'autres, diverses cultures coexistent, les cultures peuvent s'influencer mutuellement, s'emprunter quelque chose, se concurrencer et même essayer de se détruire. Avec une certaine variabilité dans les formes externes, la structure interne de la culture est très forte. L'objet de recherche de Spengler est la culture, sa structure et ses formes. Le sous-titre de Der Untergang des Abendlandes explique d'ailleurs l'intention de l'auteur : "Essais sur la morphologie de l'histoire mondiale".

imaosdows.jpgSpengler considère la science historique officielle comme primitive : "Le monde antique, le Moyen Âge, les temps modernes : voilà un schéma incroyablement maigre et vide de sens". Spengler oppose ce schéma linéaire à son schéma morphologique. La morphologie est une science née dans le cadre des sciences naturelles, qui étudie la structure et les formes des différents objets du monde matériel : minéraux, végétaux, organismes vivants. Et Spengler applique le schéma de l'étude morphologique de la nature à la société humaine. Pour Spengler, toute société est un organisme à la structure complexe, aux éléments et aux formes interconnectés. Et cet organisme social s'appelle "culture". Toute culture est précédée par la naissance d'une "âme", par laquelle Spengler entend une nouvelle vision du monde (religieuse ou scientifique) : "Toute nouvelle culture s'éveille avec une certaine nouvelle vision du monde".

Spengler a identifié huit cultures mondiales : égyptienne, babylonienne, chinoise, indienne, mésoaméricaine, antique, arabe et européenne. Spengler mentionne également la neuvième grande culture : la culture russe-sibérienne. Il la considérait comme un éveil et en parlait très brièvement, ses contours étaient vagues pour lui.

Il est facile de voir que la "culture" de Spengler correspond à ce qu'on appelle plus souvent "civilisation" aujourd'hui.

Bien que Spengler ait également fait usage du concept de "civilisation", mais l'utilise toutefois dans un sens différent. Dans son concept, chaque culture a son propre cycle de vie : "Chacune a sa propre enfance, sa propre jeunesse, sa propre maturité et sa propre vieillesse". Ce qui précède la vieillesse, Spengler l'appelle culture au sens propre du terme. Et il appelle une culture vieillissante et mourante une "civilisation": "Chaque culture a sa propre civilisation". Les civilisations "continuent à devenir ce qu'elles sont devenues, la vie comme la mort, le développement comme l'engourdissement ...". Spengler calcule l'espérance de vie moyenne des cultures à un millénaire, suivi de la léthargie et de la mort. Pour décrire la civilisation, Spengler a introduit le concept de "fellahisation", c'est-à-dire "l'acquisition lente d'états primitifs dans des conditions de vie hautement civilisées".

Plusieurs cultures sont déjà passées par une phase de civilisation, disparaissant ensuite de l'histoire (les cultures égyptienne, babylonienne, antique). Spengler identifie les traits distinctifs suivants de la phase de civilisation: la domination de la science (scientisme) ; l'athéisme, le matérialisme, le révolutionnisme radical; la sursaturation technologique; le pouvoir de l'État devient tyrannie; l'expansion extérieure agressive, la lutte pour la domination mondiale. Il considère également comme un signe de "civilisation" le remplacement des établissements ruraux par des villes géantes, la formation de grandes masses humaines dans celles-ci : "dans la ville-monde, il n'y a pas de gens, il n'y a que de la masse".

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Spengler identifie et analyse scrupuleusement tous les signes de la disparition des cultures primitives afin de répondre à la question : à quel stade de son développement se trouve la culture européenne ? Selon lui, cette culture est née à la jonction du premier et du deuxième millénaire après la naissance du Christ. La durée de vie moyenne des cultures qu'il a examinées avant d'entrer dans le stade de la "vieillesse" ("civilisation") est d'environ mille ans. Il s'avère que sur la base de ces termes estimés, la culture européenne est sur le point de se transformer en civilisation.

Apparemment, Spengler ne croyait pas vraiment (ou ne voulait pas croire) que la culture européenne entrerait rapidement dans une phase de décrépitude et de mort. Lui-même, comme il l'a avoué dans ses notes autobiographiques, est arrivé à cette conclusion de manière soudaine. Ce fut une sorte de révélation au moment où il apprit le déclenchement de la Première Guerre mondiale : "Aujourd'hui, au plus grand jour de l'histoire du monde qui tombe sur ma vie et qui est si impérieusement lié à l'idée pour laquelle je suis né, le 1er août 1914, je me sens seul chez moi. Personne ne pense même à moi. C'est alors qu'il a conçu l'idée de justifier rationnellement le "déclin de l'Europe".

De nombreux détracteurs de Spengler l'ont accusé d'emprunter, voire de plagier. La liste des prédécesseurs à qui Spengler aurait "emprunté" est assez longue. Plus d'une centaine de noms sont cités, en commençant par Machiavel, en poursuivant par Hegel, Schelling, les encyclopédistes français, pour finir par Henri Bergson, Theodore Lessing, Houston Stuart Chamberlain, Max Weber, Werner Sombart. Ces listes comprenaient également deux penseurs russes : Nikolai Danilevsky et Konstantin Leontiev.

51D11GFPS9L._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgEn réponse à ces attaques, Spengler a déclaré que s'il avait réellement étudié les œuvres d'un cercle aussi large de personnes intelligentes, voire brillantes, il n'aurait pas eu le temps d'écrire ses propres œuvres. Spengler a admis qu'il avait des prédécesseurs: Johann Wolfgang Goethe et Friedrich Nietzsche. Les deux sont les idoles de Spengler. Voici un extrait des notes de Spengler sur Nietzsche : "Il a découvert la tonalité des cultures étrangères. Personne avant lui n'avait la moindre idée du rythme de l'histoire...... Dans le tableau de l'histoire, que les recherches scientifiques ultérieures ont résumé en dates et en chiffres, il a d'abord connu un changement rythmique d'époques, de mœurs et de modes de pensée, de races entières et de grands individus, comme une sorte de symphonie ... Le musicien Nietzsche élève l'art du sentiment au style et au sentiment des cultures étrangères, sans tenir compte des sources et souvent en contradiction avec elles, mais quel sens !". Dans les notes autobiographiques de Spengler, publiées après sa mort, on trouve une telle révélation : "J'ai toujours été un aristocrate. Nietzsche était clair pour moi avant même que je ne le connaisse."

L'influence de Goethe sur Spengler n'est pas moins évidente. La culture européenne, qui était au centre de l'attention de Spengler, il l'appelle la culture faustienne, ou "la culture de la volonté", et Faust en est un symbole. Pour lui, la culture faustienne qui se désintègre est la civilisation faustienne, et le citoyen de la civilisation faustienne est un nouveau nomade, pour qui l'argent et le pouvoir passent avant les mythes héroïques et la patrie.

PS : Dans ses mémoires, la sœur de Spengler a écrit à propos du dernier voyage de l'auteur du "Déclin de l'Occident" : "Nous avons mis Faust et Zarathoustra dans le cercueil. Il les prenait toujours avec lui quand il partait quelque part".

Le déclin de l'Europe hier et aujourd'hui

En poursuivant la conversation sur Le déclin de l'Occident d'Oswald Spengler, il n'est pas superflu de parler de ceux qui peuvent être considérés comme ses précurseurs et ses suiveurs.

J'ai déjà dit que Spengler lui-même a identifié ses mentors, deux seulement : Goethe et Nietzsche. "Il avait cette façon, écrit Spengler à son éditeur Oscar Beck, de connaître plus de cinquante prédécesseurs, dont Lamprecht, Dilthey et même Bergson. Leur nombre, quant à lui, devait dépasser la centaine. Si je m'étais mis en tête d'en lire au moins la moitié, aujourd'hui je n'aurais pas fini .... Goethe et Nietzsche sont les deux penseurs dont je me sens dépendant de manière fiable. Celui qui, depuis vingt ans, déterre des "prédécesseurs" ne pense même pas que toutes ces pensées, et de surcroît dans une édition beaucoup plus anticipée, sont déjà contenues dans la prose et les lettres de Goethe, comme, par exemple, l'enchaînement des premiers temps. de l'ère, de l'ère postérieure et de la civilisation dans un petit article "Epoques spirituelles", et qu'il est aujourd'hui généralement impossible de dire quoi que ce soit qui n'ait été mentionné dans les volumes posthumes de Nietzsche."

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Nikolai Danilevski & Konstantin Leontiev.

Dans la longue liste de ceux qui ont alimenté de leurs réflexions l'auteur du Déclin de l'Occident, les penseurs russes Nikolai Yakovlevitch Danilevsky (1822-1885) et Konstantin Nikolaevitch Leontiev (1831-1891) sont également mentionnés. Cependant, il est ici presque impossible de parler d'emprunts: en Occident, ces penseurs étaient peu connus, peu traduits. Ainsi, la traduction allemande de Russia and Europe (1869) de Danilevsky n'a été publiée qu'en 1920, deux ans après la publication du premier volume de Der Untergang des Abendlandes. Rien n'indique que Spengler ait lu Danilevsky, Leontiev et les auteurs russes en général.

Et la similitude de certaines des idées entre ces trois-là est frappante. Pour un Allemand, le concept clé est "culture", pour N. Danilevsky, c'est "type culturel-historique". Pour un Allemand, la "culture" signifie un "organisme", c'est-à-dire un système social complexe composé d'une idéologie (religion), d'une science, d'un art, d'une économie, d'un droit et d'un État interconnectés. Danilevsky dit presque la même chose dans son Russia and Europe. La même composition, le même principe morphologique (la forme détermine le type de culture). Même analogie avec les organismes vivants (Danilevsky était biologiste de formation).

La "culture" de Spengler, le "type culturel-historique" de Danilevsky, la "civilisation" de Toynbee sont des concepts identiques, Danilevsky a juste eu recours à ce concept plusieurs décennies avant Spengler et Toynbee.

En ce qui concerne la proximité idéologique entre Konstantin Leontiev et Oswald Spengler, il convient de noter que le penseur allemand consacre une part importante de son œuvre à la description du cycle de vie de la culture. Pour lui, le point de départ de la naissance d'une culture est la vision du monde: "Chaque nouvelle culture s'éveille avec une certaine nouvelle vision du monde". Spengler, dans le cadre de la vision du monde, peut comprendre à la fois la religion et le système des vues scientifiques. La vie de la culture, selon Spengler, se développe selon le schéma suivant: "Chaque culture passe par les étapes de l'âge d'un individu. Chacun a son enfance, sa jeunesse, sa maturité et sa vieillesse". Dans Der Untergang des Abendlandes, il identifie quatre étapes du cycle de vie de la culture : 1) l'origine ("mythologique-symbolique") ; 2) le début ("morphologique") ; 3) le sommet ("métaphysique et religieux") ; 4) le vieillissement et la mort ("civilisation").

Konstantin Leontiev (qui a repris de Danilevsky le concept de "types culturels-historiques", mais a également utilisé les termes "culture" et "civilisation") a presque le même schéma. Leontiev a formulé la loi du "processus trilatéral de développement", selon laquelle tous les organismes sociaux ("cultures"), comme les organismes naturels, naissent, vivent et meurent : il a défini la naissance comme la "simplicité primaire", la vie comme la "complexité florissante", la mort comme la "simplification secondaire du mélange". Leontiev a diagnostiqué le début de la transition de la culture européenne de la phase de "complexité florissante" à la phase de "simplification par mélange secondaire" dans l'ouvrage Byzantinisme et monde slave (1875). Dans le langage de Spengler, c'est le "déclin de l'Europe". La chronologie des étapes de la civilisation (culture) européenne est similaire pour Spengler et Leontiev. L'apogée de l'Europe dans les deux cas remonte à la période des XVe-XVIIIe siècles, et la transition vers le stade de l'extinction commence au XIXe siècle. Seul Leontiev a formulé l'idée d'un "processus de développement trilatéral" ("cycle de vie de la culture") quarante-trois ans avant le philosophe allemand.

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Arnold Toynbee.

En Occident, il est généralement admis que l'ouvrage le plus fondamental sur l'histoire et la théorie des civilisations est l'ouvrage fondamental (en 12 volumes) A Study of History d'Arnold Toynbee (1889-1975). Cet Anglais a admis que pour lui Spengler était un génie, et, lui, Toynbee, a adopté et développé l'enseignement de l'Allemand sur les cultures et les civilisations (Toynbee a étendu la liste de Spengler de 8 cultures majeures à 21, les appelant civilisations).

La priorité incontestée de deux penseurs russes - Danilevsky et Leontiev - par rapport à Spengler et Toynbee est malheureusement rarement, voire pas du tout, évoquée.

Les chercheurs de l'œuvre de Spengler notent la forte influence de Der Untergang des Abendlandes sur José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955), philosophe, publiciste et sociologue espagnol. Dans ses œuvres majeures La déshumanisation de l'art (1925) et La révolte des masses (1929), un Espagnol a exposé pour la première fois dans la philosophie occidentale les idées fondamentales sur la "culture de masse" et la "société de masse" (culture et société qui se sont développées en Occident à la suite de la crise de la démocratie bourgeoise et de la pénétration des diktats de l'argent dans toutes les sphères des relations humaines). Mais cette idée a d'abord été formulée par Spengler, qui a décrit les signes de la mort de la culture dans les phases de la civilisation. Le signe le plus important de cette mort est l'urbanisation, la concentration de personnes dans des villes géantes, dont les habitants, selon Spengler, ne sont plus du tout des citoyens, mais une "masse humaine" dans laquelle une personne a le sentiment de faire partie d'un collectif impersonnel, d'une foule.

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Nikolai Berdiaev.

Tous les intellectuels allemands n'ont pas eu le temps de réagir à la sortie du Déclin de l'Occident, et à Petrograd en 1922 est apparu le recueil Oswald Spengler et le déclin de l'Europe (auteurs N. A. Berdiaev, Ya. M. Boukchan, F.A., S . L. Frank). Le plus intéressant de ce recueil est l'essai de Nikolaï Berdiaev intitulé Pensées de Faust sur son lit de mort ..... Berdiaev pensait à Oswald Spengler lui-même, un admirateur de la culture "faustienne" (européenne). Le paradoxe de ce nouveau Faust, selon Berdiaev, est que, tout en décrivant les signes de l'apocalypse, il n'a pas compris qu'il s'agissait de l'Apocalypse de Jean le Théologien. Il (c'est-à-dire Faust, également connu sous le nom de Spengler) montre que la culture européenne, qui entre dans la phase de "civilisation", mourra, et qu'une nouvelle culture la remplacera, mais elle ne viendra pas ! La tragédie de Spengler-Faust, souligne N. Berdiaev, est que, étant athée, il ne réalise pas que la religion est le noyau de toute culture. La civilisation européenne (selon Berdiaev) tue finalement la religion, et, sans elle, la suite de l'histoire terrestre est impossible. Les chercheurs qui se sont penchés sur la créativité de N. Berdiaev ont noté que les travaux de Spengler ont eu une forte influence sur le philosophe russe,

La Seconde Guerre mondiale a pleinement manifesté la tendance désastreuse décrite dans Le Déclin de l'Occident. Depuis lors, de nombreux philosophes, historiens et politologues ont diffusé un état psychologique alarmant. Cette alarme est portée sur les couvertures des livres publiés: Jane Jacobs, The Decline of America. The Dark Ages Ahead (1962); Thomas Chittam, The Collapse of the United States. The Second Civil War. 2020  (1996) ; Patrick Buchanan, Death of the West (2001), On the Brink of Death (2006), The Suicide of a Superpower (2011); Andrew Gamble, A Crisis Without End ? The Collapse of Western Prosperity (2008), etc.

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L'un des auteurs qui a utilisé les concepts de "culture faustienne" et de "civilisation faustienne" de Spengler était Igor Ivanovitch Sikorsky, qui, en tant que concepteur d'avions de premier plan (et d'hélicoptères), était également théologien. En 1947, son ouvrage Invisible Encounter est publié aux États-Unis. L'un des concepts avec lesquels Sikorsky décrit l'état du monde au 20ème  siècle est la "civilisation faustienne" de Spengler.

*Professeur, docteur en économie, président de la Société économique russe. S.F. Sharapova.

jeudi, 10 juin 2021

L'intuition d'un livre intuitif. Un siècle après Spengler

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L'intuition d'un livre intuitif. Un siècle après Spengler

Le produit de masse de la décadence de la civilisation occidentale est déjà une sorte d'animal urbain dénaturé, qui a enterré ou tué ses archétypes.

par Carlos X. Blanco

Ex: https://www.tradicionviva.es/2021/06/08/la-intuicion-de-un-libro-intuitivo-un-siglo-despues-de-spengler/   

Der Untergang des Abendlandes est un livre intuitif à lui seul. Le véritable historien est un philosophe de l'histoire, un homme doté d'une faculté particulière, l'intuition historique, un pouvoir avec lequel il saisit, à la manière d'un artiste, les objets de sa connaissance. Ce qui est à découvrir dans l'Histoire, ses objets, ne sont pas des entités statiques, fixes et mortes, mais un flux d'êtres historiques, comme le fleuve d'Héraclite dans lequel on ne peut se baigner deux fois. Les êtres historiques ne sont pas du tout des objets rigides ou morts. L'intuition historique est, avant tout, un devenir. Le philosophe de l'histoire n'a d'autre choix que de se présenter devant le devenir. En tant que penseur, il fait partie de ce devenir, et il n'est pas libre de saisir ce qu'il doit saisir si son contexte personnel est, en fait, celui d'un philosophe de l'histoire. Dans l'avant-propos de la deuxième édition allemande, Spengler écrit : "Un penseur est un homme dont le destin consiste à représenter symboliquement son époque au moyen de ses intuitions et concepts personnels. Il ne peut pas choisir. Il pense comme il doit penser, et ce qui est vrai pour lui est finalement ce qui naît avec lui, constituant l'image de son monde " [LDO, I, p. 20]. Ein Denker est dans Mensch, dem es bestimmt war, durch das eigene Schauen und Verstehen die Zeit symbolisch darzustellen. Il n'a pas le choix. Er denkt, wie er denken muss, und wahr ist zuletzt für ihn, was als Bild seiner Welt mit ihm geboren wurde, VII].

cms_visual_1056799.jpg_1529499361000_267x450.jpgLe philosophe de l'histoire porte en lui un archétype, inné et non construit, et lorsque ces objets fluides lui sont présentés, il n'a pas le choix. Il déploie les potentialités de son archétype. Au niveau personnel et gnoséologique, il se passe la même chose que dans le cycle des cultures. L'âme de chaque culture, lorsqu'elle naît dans une parcelle primordiale, est tout entière un immense -mais non infini- rassemblement de possibilités : la biographie de cette culture est l'ensemble des manifestations déjà closes, qui se présentent à son regard et à sa compréhension. Une manifestation historique est déjà une obstruction à des possibilités qui n'ont pas eu lieu.

Et qu'est-ce que la vérité historique ? Il ne s'agit pas, à la manière de l'évolutionnisme et du matérialisme historique, d'une construction ou de la découverte de causes finales ou efficientes, de relations fonctionnelles, etc. La vérité historique spenglerienne est une vérité par découverte, mais par découverte de l'archétype qu'un type d'homme très spécifique doit réaliser. Un homme, disait Fichte, réalise la philosophie selon le genre d'homme qu'il est. Eh bien, le philosophe spenglerien, ou le véritable historien qui comprend l'objet du devenir, est un homme très proche du poète. Le poète n'est ni un raisonneur ni un bâtisseur de systèmes. Il est une lanterne qui se concentre dans les profondeurs de son âme et trouve le trésor auquel il est appelé :

"La vérité, il ne la construit pas, mais la découvre en lui-même. La vérité, c'est le penseur lui-même ; c'est sa propre essence réduite à des mots, le sens de sa personnalité vidé en une doctrine. Et la vérité est immuable pour toute sa vie, parce qu'elle est identique à sa vie" [LDO, I, 19] [Es ist das, war er nicht erfindet, sondern in sich entdeckt. Es ist er selbst noch einmal, sein Wesen in Worte gefasst, der Sinn seiner Persönlichkeit als Lehre geformt, unveränderlich für sein leben, weil es mit seinem Leben identisch ist", VII].

Il n'y a pas d'invention de la vérité historique, il y a l'intuition et la découverte de son propre archétype. Une faculté intuitive qui rend compte de la construction de l'histoire est en accord avec un livre qui a fait l'histoire : Le Déclin de l'Occident, un texte qui, selon les mots de son auteur lui-même, est "... intuitif dans toutes ses parties". Il est écrit dans un langage qui cherche à reproduire avec des images sensibles les choses et les relations, au lieu de les substituer par des séries de concepts" [LDO, I, p. 20]. Il est difficile de rédiger et de faire rédiger un texte dans une langue qui décrit les situations et les relations d'une manière claire et nette, sans qu'il soit nécessaire d'établir des comparaisons entre les textes, et c'est aux lecteurs qu'il revient de le faire, car les textes et les images sont tout aussi claires", VIII]  [Es ist anschaulich durch und durchgeschrieben in einer Sprache, welche die Gegenstände und die Beziehungen sinnlich nachzubilden sucht, statt sie durch Begriffsreihen zu ersetzen, und es wendet sich allein an Leser, welche die Wortklänge und Bilder ebenso nachzuerleben verstehen”, VIII]..

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Ce lecteur, pour vraiment comprendre ce livre, doit être un lecteur poétique. Il est obligé de percevoir la décadence très profondément. Le produit de masse de la décadence de la civilisation occidentale est déjà une sorte d'animal urbain dénaturé, qui a enterré ou tué ses archétypes. Ou bien c'est une créature transplantée d'autres cultures, le nouveau nomade, l'être sans racines. Ce type de lecteur ne verra dans la grande œuvre spenglerienne qu'une accumulation d'absurdités, de textes non rationnels, de fatras de toutes sortes de choses. Pour ce nouveau nomade sans racines, pas le livre qu'écrit Spengler. Mais dans la même présentation de l'ouvrage, Oswald Spengler s'adresse de façon individuelle à celui qui est capable d'intuitionner l'archétype même qui lui parlera de la décadence de sa civilisation, car il lui suffira d'opposer cette âme faustienne à tous les phénomènes -parfois horribles- qui se déroulent autour de lui et alors... quoi ? Alors il ne succombera pas au désespoir. Le sort qui nous est réservé ici n'est pas à regretter. Il faut aimer le destin et chevaucher le tigre. Vous devez vous préparer pour un dernier combat.

Un monde entier s'effondre, mais avant le chaos et la décadence, il reste un combat à mener. Le philosophe du socialisme prussien n'est pas - pas du tout - le philosophe pessimiste, qui prône la passivité ou la lâcheté de la résignation. Il est l'homme qui voit loin et qui est capable de prévoir, comme il y a juste un siècle, les tâches de lutte pour un monde qui va tomber. Parce qu'il doit y avoir une lutte, et que la transition vers un nouveau "monde" au sens spirituel est inéluctable, et que sans notre lutte, l'horreur ne fera que croître.

Note : les citations sont extraites de la traduction espagnole de Manuel García Morente, La Decadencia de Occidente, volume I, Austral, Madrid, 2011. La version allemande consultée est celle du Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich, 1979, qui est elle-même basée sur celle de Beck (Munich, 1923) : 

lundi, 21 décembre 2020

Spengler et le kathekon

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Spengler et le kathekon

Carlos X. Blanco

Ex: https://decadenciadeeuropa.blogspot.com

Le philosophe allemand Oswald Spengler a été, à mon avis, le grand phare du XXe siècle. Au-delà de quelques exagérations, surtout dans le domaine de ses analogies et de ses audaces poétiques, et au-delà de son allergie au rationalisme et à la pensée systématique, cet homme était, avant tout, un prophète, un esprit puissant et fin, une lumière qui nous éclaire sur la longue perspective.

Il y a un siècle, il a publié Le Déclin de l'Occident [Der Untergang des Abendlandes]. Le titre même, la polysémie (surtout pour un hispanophone) du terme Untergang, sa propre conception très originale, c'est-à-dire une conception qui veut que l'histoire ait une morphologie, qu'elle est un paysage de cultures et de civilisations plutôt qu'un flux d'événements qui peuvent être "expliqués" par des lois ... tout cela et bien d'autres choses encore ont fait que son livre était destiné au succès et, pour ou contre lui, de près ou de loin, tout le monde en parlait. Spengler est, comme son compatriote Schopenhauer, l'auteur d'"un livre". Il est vrai qu'il a fait publier d'autres textes, dont aucun n'est exempt d'étincelle féconde, d'intuition, de substance, d'intérêt historique, politique, sociologique, métaphysique. Mais Der Untergang des Abendlandes est sa cathédrale, son Magnum Opus, son sommet, d'une manière similaire à la façon dont Le monde comme volonté et comme représentation a été la carte d'entrée unique à l'Olympe de la pensée pour Arthur Schopenhauer. C'est dans ce fait là, celui d'être les auteurs d'un seul grand livre, et non dans leur « pessimisme », que je placerais la parenté entre les deux penseurs, Oswald Spengler et Arthur Schopenhauer. Je ne pense pas qu'il y ait un réel pessimisme - du moins pas chez Spengler - lorsque l'auteur nous dit que cet effondrement et cette dissolution (Untergang) sont aussi étrangers à nos sentiments et à nos désirs que l'évaporation d'une goutte du fleuve ou le lent glissement d'une couche tectonique peuvent l'être pour la galaxie tout entière. Un tel regard "cosmique", et plus que "cosmique", quasi théiste, avec lequel le philosophe de l'histoire veut se donner une vaste perspective, en vue de dépouiller le cours inexorable des événements humains de tout anthropomorphisme, rappelle notamment les prédécesseurs non reconnus de Spengler : Hegel ou Marx, que ces prédécesseurs regardent le passé avec les yeux du réactionnaire, ou qu'ils entrevoient l'avenir de façon progressiste et révolutionnaire.

Hegel et Marx, eux aussi, ont adopté dans une large mesure le "point de vue de Dieu" pour voir ce que font les rois, les sujets, les concurrents ou les paysans, les ouvriers ou les magnats, en tant que sujets encastrés dans des masses, ou à la manière des fourmis piégées dans le miel, une substance collante fourrée dans un bocal de verre sur le point de tomber en morceaux sur le sol. Que la raison suive son cours inexorable (Hegel), ou que "les forces sociales au-dessus de la volonté humaine" (Marx) déterminent les individus et les groupes dans leurs lignes de conduite, sont des schémas de pensée qui ne sont pas très éloignés du fatum spenglerien. Ce dernier nous dit que l'histoire est la biographie des cultures et que les cultures - et non les "sociétés" ou les "nations" - sont la véritable unité vitale dont le cours doit être étudié par l'historien.

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L'homme européen, et plus précisément une partie importante et déterminante de cet homme européen, l'Espagnol, vit aujourd'hui une époque sombre, à la croisée des chemins. Il y a trop de ténèbres ce soir pour savoir quel chemin prendre. Certains chemins mènent à coup sûr à une falaise dont le fond semble aussi profond que l'enfer. D'autres pistes sont incertaines et mènent à la "mort". Qui, si ce n'est Spengler, a réfléchi aussi subtilement à la mort fatale des cultures ? Les cultures, déjà anciennes et atteintes de sclérose, sont appelées Civilisations. Ce sont les grandes civilisations de la Terre, des plantes flétries de plus en plus solidifiées, presque minérales. Et leurs villes sont faites de pierre (ou d'asphalte, de béton, d'acier). Des villes disproportionnées et hautaines, "cosmopolites" et "multiculturelles" qui, en réalité, ignorent le sol dont elles sont issues et se développent contre les racines mêmes d'où cette culture, en tant que jeune progéniture, a un jour germé. Nous vivons dans une Espagne et une Europe asphaltées, à plusieurs mètres au-dessus de l'humus dont sont issus nos groupes ethniques, nos racines, nos croyances. Nous vivons, daltoniens, sans voir le sang rouge de ceux qui ont versé le leur pour que nous puissions être ici.

Aucun parti politique ne peut redonner vie au cadavre de notre Espagne et de notre culture européenne, qui est devenue une civilisation universelle pétrifiée. La peur de la balkanisation de l'Espagne, le dégoût de l'euro-bureaucratie de Bruxelles, l'horreur de l'invasion allogène, la détérioration de la famille, la dangerosité et l'impunité des criminels, les moqueries à l’encontre de notre Histoire et de nos Gloires, l'injustice économico-sociale, la montée de l'ochlocratie à l'intérieur et à l'extérieur des partis... Rien de tout cela, seul ou en synergie, ne peut aujourd'hui constituer le déclencheur du souci collectif de former un "katehon", un mouvement de résistance face à la dissolution. L'Espagne seule ne peut plus résoudre ces problèmes. Nous avons besoin d'un mouvement de résistance et d'opposition à la décadence des deux côtés de l'Atlantique, sur les rives de l'océan où nous avons encore des frères : l'Amérique et l'Europe. Une "droite", bourrée de complexes et jouant à gagner des sièges et des conseils ne nous suffit plus. En réalité, ni la gauche ni la droite ne nous sont utiles. Toute la petite affaire montée en 1978 en Espagne (le nouvel ordre constitutionnel post-franquiste) ne sert plus à rien. Nous avons besoin d'un grand pôle de rétivité populaire et d'une nouvelle sève innervée de colère. La nuit sera très sombre. C'est le moment pré-césariste que Spengler a prophétisé. C'est l'obscurité qui pénètre dans votre âme, où tout est confus, dans un bourbier où même les excréments sont avalés avec plaisir et il faut, à ce moment-là, avoir un phare dans le cerveau et voir les choses bien à l'intérieur.

Source : La Tribuna del País Vasco

mardi, 13 octobre 2020

Soldiers, Anarchs, and Ideologues

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“Soldiers, Anarchs, and Ideologues” 

I have a contribution to this titled “Nietzsche vs. Hitler: Anti-Nazism on the German Revolutionary Right.”

Copies of SOLDIERS, ANARCHS & IDEOLOGUES: HEROES OF THE CONSERVATIVE REVOLUTION are 175 pages in length and cost just 20 EUROS with free postage to anywhere in the world. The PayPal address is blackfrontpress@yahoo.co.uk and you can find more details below.

AFTER the tremendous success of our two-volume series, Eye of the Storm, Black Front Press has decided to widen its scope a little and feature one or two examples of those who pursued similar ideas elsewhere. Rather than confine our study to Germany, therefore, this latest volume includes Conservative Revolutionary trends from countries as far afield as Portugal and China. We are certain that this book will provide you with both a sufficient grounding in the subject concerned and a springboard from which to inform and enhance your own thoughts and actions.

Chapters include

Unity in Diversity: Ernst Jünger and the Importance of Multiplicity;

Chiang Kai-Shek: Revolutionary Conservative;

The Marburg Speech;

A Critical Look at Jünger’s Workerism;

The Fortunes of War: A Curious Link Between Otto Strasser and Walter Benjamin;

Nietzsche vs. Hitler: Anti-Nazism on the German Revolutionary Right;

Oswald Spengler and History as Destiny;

Life as an Anarch;

Parallels in Mannheim, Jünger and Gramsci;

The 20th July Conspirators: ‘Traitors’ to Tyranny, Heroes of Geheimes Deutschland;

Life, Death and Will: Echoes of Jünger in Stefan Zweig;

Sardinha’s Path to Tradition: Counter-Revolution, Monarchy and a Republic of Free Men;

The Hand of Mystery: Spengler and Prophecy;

Ernst Jünger and the Myth of Cultural Marxism;

From Ernst Jünger to Armin Mohler: An Interview with Robert Steuckers;

Ode to Spengler;

Work and Power: Jünger’s Debt to Stirner;

Walter Benjamin: Unlikeliest of Revolutionary Conservatives.

The contributors are Troy Southgate, Robert Steuckers, Tomislav Sunic, K.R. Bolton, Keith Preston, Richard J. Levy, Manuel Rezende and Sean Jobst.

mercredi, 13 mai 2020

Oswald Spengler and the Destruction of Intelligence - Matt Raphael Johnson

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Oswald Spengler and the Destruction of Intelligence

Matt Raphael Johnson

 
Spengler cannot be summarized in an hour. Therefore, we concentrate on one important element of his thought, that around which all other elements revolve: the distinction between culture and civilization.
 
Culture is the organic state; the natural life. Civilization is the decay of that state into formalism and quantity. Authority turns into power. In thought, this is manifest in the over-formalization of the intellect and the rise of the mass-intellectual. This intellectual is not a scholar, he's an actor in a role. He's the pseudo-intellectual.
 
This lecture will briefly discuss Spengler in relation to the mass-intellectual and the means to tell the phoney from the legitimate scholar. It is an unpleasant excursion into the world of fakery and fraud.
 
Presented by Matt Johnson

mardi, 05 mai 2020

Peut-on faire un lien entre véganisme et suicide civilisationnel de l'Occident?

Peut-on faire un lien entre véganisme et suicide civilisationnel de l'Occident?

(via Facebook)

Sans tomber dans l'éthologie (Fabre, Lorenz surtout, ...), soit absolument calquer le comportement humain sur celui des animaux (et vice-versa), je me souviens de Spengler notifiant quelque part que les herbivores sont caractérisés par une vision monoculaire, avec leurs yeux logés sur les positions latérales du crâne, là où les carnivores ont une vision binoculaire, avec leurs yeux au front ; c'est que les animaux herbivores sont bas dans la chaîne alimentaire, ils doivent regarder autour deux pour éviter le danger, qui est surtout représenté par les animaux carnivores, qui eux regardent droit devant, puisqu'ils guettent et complotent pour leur nourritures ; Spengler écrit alors que le carnivore étant par défaut un prédateur, il regarde "face à lui" ou "vers l’horizon", et sur un plan humain on pourrait dire qu'il a une "idéologie", donc un "avenir".

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Les végans, qui, rappelons-le, "radicalisent" le végétarisme (ils refusent absolument tout ce qui est lié à l'animal, donc même les produits laitiers), semblent donc correspondre à cette typologie : le fait qu'ils soient devenus "herbivores" pourrait être perçu comme un des nombreux symptômes de la fin de la civilisation occidentale.

51jUjQe6GUL._SY445_QL70_ML2_.jpgPlus encore, la nutrition des végans, selon plusieurs études scientifiquement, entament plus précisément un déficit de vitamine B12, de créatine et de testostérone, celle-ci étant bien sûr la testostérone mâle qui régule (à travers l'amygdale) des traits typiquement virils, et Barzilai - un Israélien - fait de la "biohistoire" (interpréter l'histoire de la civilisation à travers les modifications biologiques chez l'homme), et lui pense que c'est la chute du taux de testostérone qui justement explique la chute de l'Occident, et notamment la montée du féminisme, de l'irrationalisme, etc (par-delà même les caractéristiques que nous connaissons tous à propos des déficients en testostérone, soit la dysfonction érectile, etc).

Tout cela serait bien sûr à creuser mais il semblerait bien que, comme à plusieurs endroit, la réalité soit binaire, soit on est le prédateur, soit on est la proie, et le véganisme semble être un choix explicite.

mardi, 31 mars 2020

Homenaje a Oswald Spengler

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Homenaje a Oswald Spengler

Armin Mohler

Traducción: Carlos X. Blanco

Ex: https://decadenciadeeuropa.blogspot.com

Hay muchas maneras de ignorar los pensamientos de los grandes hombres, y de vivir como si esos pensamientos nunca hubieran sido expresados. En 1980, cualquier espectador en la Alemania Federal habría visto precisamente eso. Celebramos el centenario del nacimiento de Oswald Spengler. Incluso en los homenajes ofrecidos al filósofo, uno habría encontrado, objetivamente, lagunas. Algunos subrayaron la importancia de la filosofía spengleriana de la historia, cuyas profecías serían confirmadas por los acontecimientos; pero así evitaron abordar las afirmaciones políticas del autor de La decadencia de Occidente. Otros querían "rescatar" al político Spengler convirtiéndolo en antifascista y estudiando sólo muy superficialmente los vínculos que existían entre Spengler, Hitler y el nacional-socialismo. No diré nada de los "brillantes" ensayistas que trabajaron prodigiosamente en su estudio de Spengler para sacar tan poco de él.

El Spengler total

Fue otro gran hombre, Herbert Cysarz (nacido dieciséis años después de Spengler), quien pudo comprender verdaderamente a Spengler en su totalidad. El homenaje que ofreció, en el número de enero de la revista Aula, editada en Graz, Austria, comenzó con estas palabras:

"Ningún historiador contemporáneo ha conocido una gloria tan grande como Oswald Spengler. Ninguno ha sido, en su vida, tan incontestablemente original. Este hombre, hostil a toda la literatura y a todo idealismo, totalmente alejado del mundo abstracto de las letras, ha examinado los grandes temas y las múltiples capas de la Historia, y ha subrayado, como ningún hombre lo ha hecho hasta ahora, la intensidad que reside en la voluntad y la acción. Ha dado al mundo una nueva forma de concebir lo político, con una particular manera de ver, pensar y presentar la Historia."

No cabe duda de que Cysarz comprende que Spengler es más que un historiador: en lo que respecta a su obra, escribe, sigue siendo un signo del destino que se manifestó en el cambio de nuestra época.

Un hombre de la misma generación que Cysarz, Ernst Jünger, escribió cosas de este tipo en los años 20... Aunque su tono fuera más comedido, no tan lleno de patetismo. En un artículo político muy importante de esa época (por cuya reedición en las obras completas de Jünger no deberíamos esperar, claro está), expresa una opinión compartida por muchos de sus contemporáneos: por un cerebro del calibre de Spengler, estarían encantados de dar todo un Parlamento.

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Las debilidades del trabajo de Spengler

Una recepción tan entusiasta de la totalidad de la obra de Spengler no significa que aprobemos todos sus detalles, por lo demás, sin formular ninguna crítica. Spengler no es un superhombre: él también tenía sus debilidades. Además de las profecías que se cumplieron de hecho están las que no se han cumplido. Los profundos estudios de Spengler sobre las diversas culturas de la Historia nos obligan a señalar que no todos los dominios de la actividad humana creativa le son igualmente familiares. Por ejemplo, el estilo literario de Spengler no siempre puede estar a la altura de sus temas; esto no debe aturdirnos, ya que estos textos despiertan las emociones más fuertes. Los enemigos de Spengler también se deleitan en citar frases que muestran cierto "kitsch". Además, Spengler sufre una debilidad como muchos visionarios: lo más inmediato se le escapa. Por lo tanto, según él, el gran poeta de su generación no es ni Stefan George ni Rainer Maria Rilke, sino Ernst Droem, que, con razón, ha languidecido en la oscuridad.

Muy reveladora es la reacción del autor de la Decadencia de Occidente al envío, por parte de un joven escritor, de uno de los libros más importantes de nuestro siglo. En 1932, Ernst Jünger envió a Spengler, con sus más cálidos saludos, su libro titulado Der Arbeiter (El Trabajador). Spengler se contentó con hojear el libro y responder:

"En Alemania, el campesinado sigue siendo una fuerza política. Y cuando uno se opone al campesinado - supuestamente moribundo - el "Obrero" - es decir, el trabajador manufacturero - uno se distancia de la realidad, y se excluye de toda influencia en el futuro..."

Como Spengler no leyó el libro, no podía saber que Jünger no hablaba del obrero de la fábrica. Pero es bastante sorprendente que sobrevalore las potencialidades políticas del campesinado que, unos años más tarde, sería completamente aniquilado.

Obstrucción interna

29976181.jpgNi estos pocos puntos ciegos, ni los extraños aspectos de la vida de Spengler, deben desviar nuestra atención de la masa de su trabajo. Este hombre sensible usaba una máscara, adoptó un estilo que no debe ser tomado directamente. Por lo tanto, los admiradores de Spengler deberían evitar confundir su verdadera personalidad con esa "máscara Cesárea" que usó en sus numerosas apariciones públicas.[i]

Los detractores de Spengler, por su parte, intentarán no describirlo, a la luz de su vida privada, como una especie de extraño tótem de la burguesía decadente.

Por supuesto, la vida solitaria de Spengler permite ciertas suposiciones. Nació el 29 de mayo de 1880, hijo de un alto funcionario postal, en Blankenburg en Harz.[ii] No fue su padre, un hombre apacible, quien dominó el hogar familiar, sino su madre, una criatura medio loca, devorada por ambiciones pseudo-artísticas. Adornó su gran apartamento con tal cantidad de muebles, que el joven Oswald y sus tres hermanas tuvieron que dormir en los desvanes bajo las vigas.

Después de defender una disertación sobre Heráclito, Spengler se convirtió en profesor de matemáticas y ciencias naturales en un instituto de secundaria (Gymnasium). La posterior muerte de su madre no le dejó una gran herencia, pero le permitió vivir sin trabajar: desde 1911 hasta su muerte por un ataque al corazón el 7 de mayo de 1936, vivió retirado como investigador independiente en Munich, en un inmenso apartamento de estilo Gründerzeit (el estilo de los años 1870-80), repleto de enormes muebles y situado en la Widenmayerstraße. Una de sus hermanas lo atendía.

Viajaba poco y sólo mantenía un círculo de conocidos restringido. Rechazó el puesto de profesor que le ofrecieron. Quedó trastocado por la Primera Guerra Mundial. Esta vida parece dominada por el feroz rechazo de todo contacto humano. No sabemos nada de ninguna relación erótica. Desde el principio, hubo un repliegue hacia la interioridad. Y en Spengler, los únicos resultados que nos interesan son los productos de ese aislamiento después de 1917. La castidad de esta existencia no es en absoluto un argumento contra el trabajo de Spengler. Así como el aislamiento en una celda monástica no sería un argumento contra Agustín.

Más allá del optimismo y el pesimismo

En la historia de las ideas, el sentido de la obra de Spengler reside en que, en estado de crisis, devuelve a la conciencia los fundamentos "subterráneos" del pensamiento, con un vigor que recuerda al de un Georges Sorel. ¿Y cuáles son estos fundamentos "subterráneos"? Es el pensamiento resueltamente realista iniciado por Heráclito y la escuela del Pórtico (Stoa). Es un pensamiento que siempre ha renunciado a los falsos consuelos y a la organización del destino de los sistemas fundados en pseudo-órdenes cósmicos. De manera magistral, Spengler confronta a la generación de la guerra con este pensamiento. Su estilo era una curiosa mezcla de "monumentalidad" clásica y expresionismo, realizada con pinceladas de fuertes colores. Y fueron precisamente los que más profundamente habían experimentado el colapso del mundo burgués (el del "espectáculo de marionetas" [Puppenspiel]) los que escucharon su llamamiento.

Este pensamiento se sitúa más allá del optimismo y el pesimismo. El título que el editor eligió para la obra maestra de Spengler (La decadencia de Occidente) engaña. Es posible que Spengler, en privado, deplorara el colapso de un mundo que le era querido. Pero su obra no deplora nada: más bien nos sorprende que la Historia sea un movimiento único de surgimiento y declive, y que no haya nada que el hombre pueda hacer sino afrontar esta realidad con compostura, en el lugar que el destino le ha asignado. Esto es lo que impide a Spengler identificarse con el Tercer Reich, y lo que le llevó en 1933, en su última obra, Jahre der Entscheidung (Años Decisivos), a enfrentarse al NSDAP por su ceguera en política exterior. Para Spengler, la política exterior, por ser un combate, es primordial con respecto a la política interior, que a su vez insiste en la importancia del bienestar. Por lo tanto, el carácter híbrido del nacionalsocialismo aparece claramente: como socialismo, alimenta una fuerte tendencia a la utopía, aunque también conoce la fascinación de la melodía heraclítea.

Sin duda, ninguna praxis política es posible sin una cierta dosis de esperanza, y sin alusiones a un orden (cósmico) dotado de sentido (teleológico). Sólo una minoría de individuos puede sostener la mirada de la Gorgona. Dentro de esta minoría, el porcentaje de hombres de acción es mayor que el de los intelectuales, o sacerdotes, o de otros fabricantes de opinión. En todo caso, los discípulos de Heráclito poseen un consuelo propio, que sacan precisamente de lo que constituye, para los demás, una fuente de terror. La lectura de Spengler nos demuestra el doble aspecto del pensamiento de Heráclito.

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Inflexibilidad

De manera muy pertinente Herbert Gysarz cita dos frases que muestran de manera insuperable lo que separa a Oswald Spengler de la sociedad liberal, como de cualquier tipo de dictadura del bienestar (ya sea roja o marrón). La primera de estas frases dice: "Los hechos son más importantes que las verdades". La segunda: "La vida no es sagrada". Este es el lado duro de la filosofía de Spengler; y es en El Hombre y la Técnica (1931), un libro ajeno a toda ambigüedad, donde Spengler lo subraya más particularmente, para desafiar toda la cháchara de nuestro siglo.

Heinz Friedrich, en su artículo en Die Welt, escrito para el centenario del filósofo, ofrece fórmulas aún más precisas. Comienza con el hecho de que el propio Spengler es un discípulo declarado de Goethe y Nietzsche. El propio Cysarz dice que la noción spengleriana de destino muestra más afinidad electiva con las sagas germánicas y el heroísmo trágico de Shakespeare que con el humanismo clásico. Friedrich escribe, en un idioma nada Spengleriano (¡habla de "verdades"!):

Al final de la era del caos, los ciudadanos deben habituarse no sólo a llegar a tomar conciencia de las verdades, sino también a vivirlas y a convivir con ellas. Como dijo Goethe, no sólo la naturaleza es insensible, sino también la historia; porque, parafraseando a Spengler, se podría decir que conserva más características naturales que las que nos gustaría admitir. Por consiguiente, es con una absoluta indiferencia que ella ignora nuestras esperanzas y temores.

Para Friedrich, lo que es nietzscheano en esto es el diagnóstico que representa la decadencia como una debilidad vital: "El agente de la vida, el factor favorecido del eterno devenir es, para Nietzsche, la voluntad de poder". Friedrich añade una advertencia: "La voluntad de poder, reconocida por Nietzsche como principio vital, es cualquier cosa menos el orgullo biológico y muscular que aún hoy queremos que signifique". Esta concepción vulgar de las cosas es compartida por los adeptos de Nietzsche como por sus adversarios. Simplemente significa que toda la vida siente el impulso de afirmarse a sí misma. Spengler es más que un discípulo de Nietzsche: lo completa y lo transforma. La contribución personal de Spengler a esta escuela de pensamiento es cumplir algo que encontró en Nietzsche en forma de un llamamiento.

Los colores de la vida

Quien se resiste a la mirada de la Gorgona no se aparta del mundo. Al contrario: ve el mundo de una manera más intensa, más plástica, más colorida. Esta es la paradójica verdad del asunto. La mirada de la esperanza, por otra parte, sólo puede ver coherencias, leyes, y, por esta razón, desvía su atención de lo particular para perderse en lo general: desencanta al mundo.

Hay que tener en cuenta cómo los Weltanschauungen dominantes, que son un lúgubre pastiche de la insípida ideología de la Ilustración y del cristianismo secularizado, han transformado el mundo, para el hombre mediocre, en un conjunto de tristes esquemas. Es el resultado de una visión bien definida de la Historia (en la Historia, el hombre descifra el mundo para comprenderlo). ¿De dónde, en esta visión, saca su valor la vida? De algo que se alcanzará en un futuro lejano, después de una larga evolución, y después de nuestra propia muerte. Nada es en sí mismo; todo existe sólo en la medida en que significa otra cosa, que está "detrás".

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La vida se ve entonces reducida a una racionalidad mediocre, que excluye todas esas grandes efervescencias que conducen a las alturas o a las profundidades; el hombre se mueve entonces dentro de una angosta estrechez, que no le ofrece nada más que la satisfacción de sus necesidades físicas. Por encima de esta estenosis sopla un tibio aliento de ética conductista. Arnold Gehlen llamó a esto "eudaimonismo masivo". Las masas están constituidas por individuos aislados, que no están enraizados en nada sólido, que no están enredados en una estructura de hormigón, que vagan sin rumbo en lo "general".

Es en este contexto que el ciclón spengleriano debe ser entendido: rompe la monotonía de lo que se llama a sí mismo "moderno", y reinvierte el mundo con tonalidades vibrantes. En la visión Spengleriana, el hombre ya no se manifiesta como una "generalidad", que comparte con todos sus semejantes. Al contrario, pertenece a una cultura específica, que no puede ser reducida a ninguna otra cosa, pero que tiene su propio significado. Toda cultura es de naturaleza totalmente litúrgica, porque de todo lo que produce surge el símbolo con el que se identifica y por el que se distingue. Spengler vio a estas culturas viviendo como viven las plantas: con sus fases de crecimiento y declive. Cada una de estas fases de crecimiento ocupa su propio rango. ¡Qué fuerte suena una melodía en su evocación del fin de una cultura o del Cesarismo! Podríamos citar con placer páginas enteras del primer volumen de La Decadencia:

"Una vida real se lleva a sí misma. No está determinada por el intelecto. Las verdades se sitúan más allá de la Historia y de la vida. [...] Los pueblos de la cultura son formas efímeras del río de la existencia. [...] Para mí, el pueblo (Volk) es una unidad de alma (Seele). [...] La mirada se libera de los límites de la vigilia. [...] Lo que confiere valor a un solo hecho es simplemente el mayor o menor poder de su lenguaje formal, la fuerza de sus símbolos. Más allá del bien y del mal, lo superior y lo inferior, lo necesario y lo ideal."

Todavía debemos añadir una última palabra sobre el alemán que fue Oswald Spengler. No evocó la pluralidad de culturas para sublimarse a través del exotismo. Escribió sus libros para los alemanes que vivieron el colapso del Reich. Spengler no lleva a los alemanes ante un tribunal de "generalidad", sino que los confronta con su especificidad, en el espejo de su historia. En todos los escritos de Spengler, uno siente su convicción de que los alemanes han jugado en el pasado un papel particular, y que los prusianos lo jugarán en el futuro. Estas convicciones de Spengler obviamente desmienten el deseo de mantener la mentalidad frustrada que reina hoy en día.

Versión inglesa de Fergus Cullen: https://ferguscullen.blogspot.com/2020/03/armin-mohler-homage-to-oswald-spengler.html. Con nuestro agradecimiento.

Versión francesa: http://www.archiveseroe.eu/spengler-a48363374

[i] [* Nota del autor. Podríamos, por supuesto, discutir el buen gusto de publicar la foto de Spengler en su lecho de muerte. Esta foto prueba, sin embargo, que esta máscara no impregnó de forma duradera la fisonomía de Spengler].

[ii] [** Nota del autor. Otro protagonista de la revolución conservadora que vino de esta ciudad es August Winnig. Nació dos años antes que Spengler en 1878, y era hijo de un sepulturero].

 

dimanche, 29 mars 2020

Russia’s World Mission

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Russia’s World Mission

Ex: https://blackhousepublishing.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.

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 a Slavophobe. However, when Spengler wrote of these Russian characteristics he was referencing 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 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 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 like prior world civilisations. It is after this Western decline that Spengler alluded to the next world civilisation being that of Russia.

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.

41JkTwFc0dL.jpgNikolai 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).

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.

‘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).

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. (Trotsky, 1936).

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 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. (Berdyaev, 97-98).

9782081223219.jpgTARAS 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.

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’. (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…. . 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.

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).

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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. (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. (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. (Gogol, IX). 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!’ (Gogol, XII).

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).

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.).

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:

Nikolai Berdyaev wrote in terms similar to Spengler’s: ‘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 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. (Spengler, 1971, II, 193).

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Ivan Aksakov

‘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 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). Berdyaev likewise states of the Petrinism of the upper class that ‘Russian history was a struggle between East and West within the Russian soul’. (Berdyaev, 15).

RUSSIAN THE KATECHON

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:

fyodor-dostoevsky-the-possessed-by-fritz-eichenberg-01.jpgReduce 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… (Dostoyevsky, 1992, Part II: I: 7, 265-266).

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 go 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 Dostoyevsky expressed it. (Ibid.). 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 secularised, 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 emphasised 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. (Solzhenitsyn, 1978).

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 Civilisation 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 civilisation. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. (Putin, 2013).

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 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:

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‘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’. (Spengler, 1971, II, 194).

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.).

Dostoyevski 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 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, 1872, II: I: VII).

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). During his time Spengler saw in Russia that,

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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 PetrineBolshevism 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. 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. (Telegraph, 2015).

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 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.).

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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.

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. 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

Nikolai Berdyaev, The Russian Idea, MacMillan Co., New York, 1948.

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

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

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

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, 1880

Dostoevsky, The Possessed, Oxford University Press, 1992.

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

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

Oswald Spengler, Prussian and Socialism, 1919.

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

Spengler, The Hour of Decision, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 1963.

Spengler, The Decline of The West, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1971.

TelegraphVladimir Putin signs new law against ‘undesirable NGOs’, May 24, 2015,

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

jeudi, 27 février 2020

Historian of the Future: An Introduction to Oswald Spengler’s Life and Works for the Curious Passer-by and the Interested Student

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Historian of the Future:
An Introduction to Oswald Spengler’s Life and Works
for the Curious Passer-by and the Interested Student

By Stephen M. Borthwick
Ex: https://europeanheathenfront.wordpress.com

There have been two resurgences in the popularity of Oswald Spengler since the initial blooming of his popularity in the 1920s; the first in the 1980s and the second most recently, with almost ten major books dealing directly with him or his thought published in the last ten years, and more articles in various academic journals. It is a resurgence in the popular mind that may yet be matched in the academy, where Spengler has hardly been obscure but nevertheless an unknown—a forbidden intellectual fruit for what was, in the words of Henry Stuart Hughes, his first English-language biographer, “obviously not a respectable performance from the standpoint of scholarship” calling Decline of the West, in form typical to Hughes’ species “a massive stumbling block in the path to true knowledge”.[1] This is a pervasive attitude amongst academics, whose fields, especially history, are dominated by a specialisation that Spengler’s history defies with its broad perspective and positivist influences. As such when Spengler’s magnum opus first appeared, it was immediately subject to what in popular parlance can only qualify as nit-picking, which did not cease when the author corrected what factual errors could be found in his initial text. Nevertheless, in the popular mind Spengler has remained an influential if obscure author. Most recently, his unique, isolated civilisations encapsulated in their own history has been observed in Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order, though the development of civilisations from Mediterranean to Western that he paints resembles the dominant theory posited by William McNeill in his Rise of the West rather than Spengler’s Decline of the West. Nevertheless, Spengler’s theory of encapsulated cultural organisms growing up next to one another, advanced by subsequent authors like Toynbee, remains a stirring line of thought, growing more relevant in the rising conflict between Western countries and the resurging Islamic world.

T9780195066340_p0_v1_s550x406.jpgo understand this adversity that Spengler’s ideas struggle against in the academic establishment, and therefore to know why his ideas have filtered through the decades but left his name and book behind, it is necessary to do what very few academics dare to do: to explore and openly discuss the significance of Spengler’s thought. This is the project of this essay; to explain to any who have recently discovered Spengler, especially if they are a college student or college graduate, why they have never heard the name “Spengler” before, and what his thought entails at its most basic level. This discussion will deal not just with Spengler’s most famous work, Der Untergang des Abendlandes (“The Downfall of the Occident”, popularly known as Decline of the West, after C.F. Atkinson’s translation) but also with his numerous political pamphlets and subsequent works of philosophy and history. His philosophical texts include, chiefly: Man and Technics, a specialised focus expanding on the relationship of the human being and the age of technology in which we live already mentioned in Decline, The Hour of Decision, which foresees the overthrow of the Western world by what today would be called the “Third World”, or what Spengler refers to as the “Coloured World”, and Prussianism and Socialism, his first major political text, prescribing the exact form of political structure needed, in his view, to save Germany immediately after the First World War. Numerous other texts, published by C.H. Beck in Munich, also exist, compiled in two primary collections, Politischen Schriften (“Political Writings”) of 1934 and posthumous Reden und Aufsätze (“Speeches and Essays”) of 1936; these are joined by Gedanken (“Reflections”), also of 1936. His unfinished works, posthumously collected and titled by chief Spengler scholar Anton Koktanek in the 1960s, Urfragen and Frühzeit der Weltgeschichte, will not be touched upon in this brief introduction, since they are not available in the English language, but readers fluent in German are encouraged to explore them as well as Koktanek’s other works.

On the assumption that without understanding a man, one cannot grasp his thought, it seems most appropriate to begin any exploration of Spengler the philosopher with Spengler the man. Spengler was a conservative first, then a German nationalist, then a pessimist (though he regarded himself as a consummate realist). Further, he was one of the few men (if not the only man) to meet Adolf Hitler and come away completely unmoved by the demagogue and future dictator of Germany. He openly attacked National Socialism as “the tendency not to want to see and master sober reality, but instead to conceal it with... a party-theatre of flags, parades, and uniforms and to fake hard facts with theories and programmes” and declared that what Germany needed was “a hero, not merely a heroic tenor.”[2] Nevertheless, when voting in the 1932 elections, Spengler, along with some 13.5 million other Germans, cast his ballot for the National Socialist ticket; he explained his choice to friends by saying enigmatically “Hitler is an idiot—but one must support the movement.”[3] At the time people speculated what he meant, and have subsequently continued to speculate to what he was referring when he said “the movement”, especially after his sustained criticisms of National Socialism well into what other Germans were experiencing as “the German Rebirth” in the years between 1933 and his death in 1936.

Spengler’s sustained pessimism about the National Socialist future (he remarked sarcastically shortly before his death that “in ten years the German Reich will probably no longer exist”) is reflective of a realism he had well before the beginning of the First World War, when the idea that would become Decline of the West were first conceived shortly after the Agadir crisis in 1911. Spengler lived and wrote largely in unhappy times; his chief contributions were made in Germany’s darkest hours of the interwar period, dominated by an unstable, incompetent government, extraordinary tributes exacted by the victorious allies, and as a result unrivalled poverty, inflation, and unemployment while the former Allied Powers (save for Italy) were experiencing the so-called “Roaring ‘20s”. He was born and he died, however, in times when things were looking bright. Few regular Germans in 1936 could or did foresee the barbarity of Hitler’s reign, five gruelling years of World War and the planned extermination of non-“Aryans” in conquered territories as well as at home, just as Wilhelmine Germany was oblivious to the consequences of the First World War almost right through it. All that the Germans saw was Germany, their Germany, was on the rise! In 1880, when the young Oswald was born to Bernhard Spengler and his wife Pauline, the German Empire was led by Kaiser Wilhelm I and his Iron Chancellor Bismarck, and the German Reich was still celebrating its formation and the unification of the German nation. Aside from the tribulation of the “year of three emperors” when the young Oswald was eight, there was no reason for the average German to worry about catastrophe: the kindly old Kaiser Wilhelm was replaced by his young, virulent grandson, Wilhelm II, who promised his people “a place in the Sun”. Later, in 1936, when the now established scholar died in his sleep of a heart-attack, the German people were again in good spirits; from the popular perspective, all they could see was that they at last had jobs again, inflation no longer loomed as so painful a memory, their shattered Reich was being rebuilt, and someone had finally reasserted German control over the Rhineland and the Saar—where the memory of the insulting use of colonial occupation forces by the French, and the various abuses civilians suffered during the occupation, still lingered in the German mind.

Early Life (From Youth to Decline, 1880-1917)

All of this blithe cheerfulness and celebration, though, did not affect either the young or the old Oswald Spengler. The opening chapter of Koktanek’s biography of him is titled “Ursprung und Urangst” – “Origin and Original Anxiety”, and not without good reason. Throughout his life, Spengler suffered a nervous affliction and anxiety, leading to chronic headaches in later years so bad that they caused minor short-term memory loss. He would later reflect in his planned autobiography that in his youth he had “no friends, with one exception, [and] no love: a few sudden, stupid [infatuations], fearful of the bond [of relationship]. [I had] only yearning and melancholy.”[4] His home life was similarly dismal. John Farrenkopf characterises it as the typical bourgeois home of the period; his father, a former copper miner turned civil servant, was proud of the Fatherland, conservative in social attitudes, and generally took for granted his loyalty to the Prussian State. It was, in Spengler’s own eyes, a cold place, and an unhappy one. Spengler remarked that his parents were “unliterarisch”—“unlettered, unliterary”—and they “never opened our bookcase nor bought a book”; he himself developed an early love for reading, which earned him ire from his father, of whom he wrote was characterised by a “hatred for all recreation, most of all books”.[5] Despite his newspaper reading and bourgeois sensibilities, though, Bernhard Spengler rarely raised the topic of politics in the household, and young Oswald was only exposed to the workings of the State by outside influences. He would break from this aloofness of politics only once in his life, shrinking after his failure back into scholastic and theoretical efforts to influence the political climate.

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Spengler’s mother led an unhappy life; she married Bernhard, it would seem, out of convenience rather than deep feeling, and bitter about her lot. Originally from the famous Grantzow clan of ballerinas and ballet masters, Pauline Spengler was prevented from ballet and the stage because of her figure, and then forced to leave her beloved home town, the quiet hamlet of Blanckenburg in the Harz mountains, for the bustling Hessian city of Halle-an-der-Saale when young Oswald was ten and her husband changed his trade from mining to postal work (a change he was not especially excited about, either). She displayed her dissatisfaction by brooding over her painting (an effort to cling to what artistry she could maintain in competition with her sisters) and playing petty tyrant over her children.

The young Spengler escaped this life through fantasy and fiction, inventing imaginary kingdoms and world-empires and writing childish theatre-plays with echoes of Wagner. He found further escape after he began his schooling at the Latina, administered by the Franckean Foundation in Halle, where he formally studied Greek and Latin, but in his free time devoured Goethe and Schiller, the first of literary influences that would later be joined by such eclectic writers as William Shakespeare, Gerhart Hauptmann, Henrik Ibsen, Maksim Gorky, Honoré de Balzac, Heinrich von Kleist, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Friedrich Hebbel, Heinrich Heine, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Émile Zola, Gutave Flaubert, and others.[6] Spengler complained of the Franckean focus on Greek and Latin that prevented him from learning “practical languages”, and he was forced as a result to teach himself French, English, Italian, and, later, during his university days, Russian, through reading authors in those languages. His fluency in the languages was astounding to many, but he himself never felt comfortable enough with them to correspond with many of the authors he would later read and who would bring to bear influence on his own magnum opus in their own languages. Anton Koktanek blames this anxiety and lack of formal training in modern foreign languages for Spengler remaining “a German phenomenon”.[7]

Spengler’s interest in world history and contemporary history also began here, and added to the fiction he wrote, including a short story set in the Russo-Japanese War titled Der Sieger as well as poetry, librettos, dramatic sketches, and other notes and such, most of which he would commit to the flames in 1911.[8] At University, he read the entirety of Goethe’s corpus and discovered two men who would bear tremendous influence on his later writing: Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Nietzsche. He would also become a devotee of Richard Wagner during this time, declaring his favourite work to be Tristan and Isolde.[9] His interest in Nietzsche especially would have great bearing on his choice of thesis topic, the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus.

Spengler’s father died in 1901, just as Oswald was beginning University studies. He was by and large emotionally unaffected by the loss, and began all the more focusing on his studies. Like most students at University in those days, Spengler matriculated at several Universities while formally enrolled at the University of Halle. First, he travelled to Munich, a city with which he would fall in love and later make his home. Subsequently he would also study at the University of Berlin and then returned to Halle to complete his dissertation topic, entitled “Heraklit: eine Studie über den energetischen Grundgedanken seiner Philosophie” (“Heraclitus: A Study of the Energetic Fundamental Thought of his Philosophy”). It was, as Klaus Fischer observes, “a daring subject for a young scholar because Heraclitus had only left a few and highly cryptic fragments of his thought.”[10] Spengler, however, dared, and presented the first form of his thesis in 1903, but failed the oral defence. Despite his own typically depressed personality, however, he was not downtrodden at the failure; rather, he agreed with almost every criticism that was offered against his work—in his autobiography he called himself “naïve”. He had not, as most biographers observe, consulted any professors on his thesis before submitting it, and therefore had made errors and omissions that one only really avoids from consultation and discussion of one’s work.[11] The primary complaint was his lack of citations. He would repeat this mistake with the first edition of Decline of the West in 1917, writing the book entirely alone and isolated from the outside world—after initial criticism of the book he would revisit and largely revise the text, such that when it arrived in second edition in 1922 he had fixed most of his errors, but did not, as the academics insisted he should, increase the number of citations.

Spengler received his Ph.D. in 1904 and immediately went on to pass State examinations in a number of subjects that allowed him to become a Gymnasium teacher. His first assignment was a major turning point in his life, when he resolved not to be a teacher after stepping off the train in the little town of Lüneburg, taking a glance about at the town and the school and realising how terribly provincial his life would be. Spengler promptly boarded a train for his home town of Blankenburg and had a nervous breakdown. From this point forward he resolved to use teaching as a support for his true passions of study and writing. He recovered from his breakdown and took a different assignment, this time in Saarbrücken, happy to be so close to the French border that would allow him to take several holidays in France.[12] After a year there, he moved on to Düsseldorf, where he taught for another year before taking on a permanent (or so it appeared at the time) position in Hamburg.

Spengler flourished in these cities of big industry and metropolitan life—despite his writings criticising money power and the soul-stealing metropolis, Spengler remained a cosmopolitan urbanite throughout his life. An attestation to this aspect of his personality is his behaviour while teaching. Spengler remembered his days in the Franckean Latina with mixed disdain for the parochial moralists he had as teachers and gratitude for the training he received. He resolved, in the words of Klaus Fischer, “to avoid the foibles commonly attributed to schoolteachers: pedantry, narrow provincialism, and incivility” and made an effort to keep himself fully attuned to the petty culture of fashion and the latest advances in his scholarly fields (he taught German, mathematics, and geography). He would also frequent the theatre (where he would weep easily at especially moving plots and concertos) and local museums—in Düsseldorf he was even spotted frequently in the casino, a place quite foreign to most schoolteachers![13] His time in teaching, however, was short-lived. By almost all accounts Spengler hated Hamburg, not for itself, nor because he disliked the people, his colleagues or his students—indeed in all these respects he was well-respected and well-loved and returned these feelings of affection—but because of the weather. The cold, wet north German city terrorised him, increasing the acuteness and the frequency of his chronic headaches to such a degree that he took a year sabbatical in 1911 from which he would never return. His immediate plans were a holiday in Italy, where he would sojourn frequently in imitation of Goethe.[14]

His complete departure from teaching, much to the disappointment of both colleagues and students, who regarded him as a superlative teacher and amicable fellow, was by and large decided by his mother’s death in 1910. He had little regard for his mother, who psychologically tortured his sister Gertrude, disdained his other sister Hildegard, and was no kinder to his beloved sister Adele.[15] While he marked his father’s passing in 1901 with reflections of the latter’s loyalty to Prussia, his mother’s death was marked only with his inheritance and departure from his childhood home, leaving his sister Adele to dissolve the household.[16] Adele, a frustrated bohemian and largely talentless aspiring virtuoso, quickly spent the 30,000DM she inherited and committed suicide in 1917. Oswald’s inheritance, on the other hand, was wisely invested and used with some measure of thrift, giving him a comfortable lifestyle in Munich and allowing him to pursue his desire to be a writer.

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At first, Spengler hadn’t the slightest idea what to write about. In Heraklit he displayed some of the budding thought which came to fruition as his magnum opus, to be sure. In one of the thicker sections of notes for Eis Heauton, the author proclaims that “my great book, Untergang des Abendlandes, was already emotionally conceived in my twentieth year” (four years before he would submit his doctoral thesis).[17] Farrenkopf observes that Spengler’s dissertation bears the marks of Decline as well, declaring that “what Spengler later attempted as a philosopher of history is analogous to what he claimed Heraclitus had accomplished in Greek philosophy”.[18] The true inspiration for Decline, however, came not from Heraclitus nor from Goethe or Nietzsche; nor did it come to him, as it did with Gibbon and Toynbee, from a physical visit to any landmarks. Rather, the genesis of Decline of the West was in a much different, political work titled Liberal and Conservative, which Spengler began writing in response to the Agadir Crisis of 1911.

Agadir, briefly put, was an attempt on the part of Kaiser Wilhelm II to imitate the American support of the Panamanian rebellion against Columbia, which was accomplished by placing the American fleet off the coast of Panama to prevent Columbian intervention. When Moroccans rebelled against the puppet Sultan Abdelhafid after years of allowing his country to be exploited by European powers, the French offered to support Fez by sending in troops. Wilhelm attempted to assert German interests in the region by sending the gunboat Panther to the harbour of Agadir, much to the chagrin of the French, who would later take over Morocco as part of their colonial Empire, and the British, who viewed the act as a challenge to their own power and a threat to peace in Europe. The end result of the whole event was a strengthened Entente cordiale that would eventually become the Allied Powers in the First World War.

Spengler was keenly aware of the situation at the time, and took on the task of writing a book on the subject that would contrast German and British world-aims and national spirits. The general thrust of this work would become his later work Prussianism and Socialism of 1919, but as he worked on Liberal and Conservative, he found his topic broadening more and more, to the point where he was taking into account not the national rivalries of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but the great trials and tribulations of entire civilisations over the course of millennia. Thus the work transformed into the first volume of his Decline of the West, the title of which he probably derived from discovering Otto Seeck’s Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt (“History of the Downfall of the Ancient World” or The History of the Decline of Antiquity) in a store-front window.[19] He would complete the work over the next few years, well into the World War, about which he maintained a positive outlook, to the extent that his introduction to the first volume of Decline, appearing in 1917, bore the hope of the author (omitted in Atkinson’s translation) that “this book might not stand entirely unworthy next to the military achievements of Germany.”[20]

The book that took shape was sweeping in scale, painting the picture of a broad history of mankind as the life cycle(s) of massive organisms to which Spengler gave two names: Kultur and Zivilisation, each representing the youth and the adulthood of the organism. These organisms passed through four seasons of life—(as Kultur) Spring, Summer, (as Zivilisation) Autumn, and Winter—before passing from existence and leaving the soil to which it is tied to give rise to a new organism. A more detailed discussion of the theory may be required before departing into Spengler’s life after the War and the publication of Decline.

Decline of the West and its Influences

Der Untergang des Abendlandes occurs as a part of a long tradition of German historical writing, dating from the early nineteenth century and in which the giants of the field, both famous and infamous, stand: G.W.F. Hegel, Karl Marx, Heinrich von Treitschke, Leopold von Ranke, Heinrich Friedjung, among others. It also occurs as a part of a long tradition of German philosophy and social thought, dating even further into history and starting, not with the rational Kant, but with the intuitive and romantic, sometimes quasi-mystical writings of Goethe, following to Nietzsche, Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber, and still more. More can be said of Spengler’s influences, and has been said in the works of Farrenkopf and Fischer on the subject, but a brief discussion of chief influences will be sufficient for our purposes.

osimagep.jpgIf Spengler was the first to propose a World-Historical view, as he claims in the early pages of Decline, Leopold von Ranke preceded him by for the first time proposing a European-Historical view in his two-volume Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation (“German History in the Age of Reformation”) of 1845/47.[21] Ranke wrote a history which belongs to a very specific school of historical inquiry, dependent on objectivity and a slice of historical fact drawn from primary source work with bearing only on that exact moment in history, showing things wie es eigentlich gewesen, as he proclaims in his 1824 work Geschichte der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494 bis 1514 (“History of the Latin and Teutonic Peoples, 1494-1514”). For all his efforts at objectivity in history, he was a firm believer in the balance of power of nation-states, and his loyalty to this state philosophy bleeds through in his writing. He is significant to Spengler in that both men sought to broaden historical inquiry into an objective rather than national project, and that Spengler was certainly beholden to the school of narrative historicism that Ranke would found, inasmuch as his project was heavily criticised by more loyal Rankeans than himself.

Spengler’s other major historical inheritance was G.W.F. Hegel, who stood with Ranke in his typical nineteenth century fascination with the nation-state but was completely opposed to Ranke’s objective, slice-of-history approach, demanding a broader view, and the ability to see the future in the past. Hegel was also a dedicated Prussian, much like Spengler’s father and Spengler himself—so much so, in fact, that he is among several German historians of preceding centuries who are mentioned by Shirer in his fumbling, attempt to link National Socialism and the Prussian state in Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. His declaration in Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (“Elements of the Philosophy of Right”) that “the course of God in the world—that is the State—and its foundation is the mighty force of Reason actualising itself as Will” is reflected in Spengler’s own firm belief in the role of fate in the lifespan of Kultur-Zivilisation organisms.[22] Furthermore, like Hegel, Spengler’s history is a designated march to a designated end: for Hegel, the “end of history” is a progressive, linear movement from antiquity to modernity and the pinnacle of mankind’s development—a belief that has earned Hegel accusations of arrogance and stubbornness, among other things, from detractors. He would pass this view onto his student Karl Marx, who proclaimed the same progression, but from a strictly economic view, of modes of production through history, culminating in the elimination of alienation and the realisation of Species-being in Communism. The difference between the Hegelian and Marxian view of history and Spengler, however, is two-fold: while the given lifespan of a Kultur-Zivilisation organism can be viewed as linear, it is a downward motion rather than the upward motion Hegel and Marx see; further, there is no single linear history of all mankind, the way Hegel and Marx see it. Quite the contrary, Spengler echoes Goethe, declaring that “‘Mankind’ is a zoological concept or merely an empty word.”[23]

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It seems contradictory, of course, that Spengler would reject that “mankind” exists while attempting very earnestly to write a “world-history.” As much as Spengler reflects Hegel and Ranke as historical predecessors, his views of the organism of society bear the marks of Ferdinand Tönnies, whose famous work Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft would practically found the discipline of sociology, influencing both Max Weber’s seminal The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism as well as Emile Durkheim’s functional theories of society.[24] Tönnies summarises his project in Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft in the very first page, saying “The connexion will be understood either as real and organic – this being the nature of the Gemeinschaft – or in an ideological and mechanistic form – this being the notion of Gesellschaft” and further summarising the difference between the two by saying that, “all that is familiar, private, living together exclusively (we find) is understood as life in a Gemeinschaft. Gesellschaft is the public sphere, it is the World”.[25]

Spengler’s structure of the communal, agrarian Kultur passing into individualised, urban Zivilisation has much in common with Tönnies’ conception of the organic Gemeinschaft and its artificial counterpart Gesellschaft. It is also important to bear in mind that the key to the Gemeinschaft/Gesellschaft schema is two-fold—both the contrast of the private with the public spheres as well as the organic with the artificial—when considering Spengler’s own contrast of the representative of Kultur, which is the “country-town” with the representative of Zivilisation, which is the megalopolis. As Spengler says himself, “long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her best blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.”[26]

The contrast of the organic with the artificial, the personal with the impersonal, and the village with the city runs throughout Spengler’s whole structure. Spengler’s vision is two-fold: both the binary progression of Kultur crystallising and stagnating into Zivilisation as well the four-phase life cycle that all Kultur-Zivilisation structures (or, more properly, organisms) follow. Describing this, Spengler uses two sets of terms: organic terms, describing the actual birth, growth, decline, and death of the Kulture-Zivilization organism as a life form, and the fatalistic language for which he has been so criticised: he declares “the Civilisation is the inevitable destiny of a Culture… Civilisations are… a conclusion, the thing-become succeeding the thing-becoming, death following life”.[27] The central concept there—Werden and Gewordene, “becoming” and “become”—are ideas for which Spengler is deeply indebted (as he admits) to Goethe, and play strong role in the contrast he makes between the vivacious, developing Kultur and the stagnant, crystallised Zivilisation.[28]

These Kultur-Zivilisation organisms are detailed in three tables he includes in his work: the first details the passage of Spring-Summer-Autumn-Winter, which for the Occident begins in 900, after the Carolingian period and the final death of Antiquity, and ends (or begins to end) with modernity, completely the roughly thousand-year lifespan which Spengler assigns to his Kultur-Zivilisation organisms (except those of the far east). Each Kultur-Zivilisation organism has a symbol which accompanies it in the Kultur phase; for the West it is infinite space; for the Egyptian, the long corridor; the Semitic, the cavern; the Greeks, the idealised statue, etc. Spengler also specifically names three of the “souls” of these organisms with especial bearing on the Occident. The West itself is “Faustian” defined by Goethe’s own character and his constant outward-reaching for knowledge and more; Antiquity, which the West has replaced, is “Apollonian”, a term readily borrowed from Nietzsche, defined by the Nietzschean Apollonian rationality and thirst for worldly perfection; finally, the Semitic, being Jewish, Arabic, etc. is a sort of mixed Kultur-Zivilisation organism called “Magian”, after the mystics who visited the birth of the Christ-child, and is defined by the preoccupation with essence rather than space.

9200000078648382.jpgThe Magian requires some further discussion, since it represents for Spengler a different “mutation” (to keep with the biological sense of an organism) of the main species of Kultur-Zivilizationen. This is because of a process Spengler describes in the second volume of Decline called “pseudomorphosis”. He asserts in the first volume that the “Arabian soul was cheated of its maturity—like a young tree that is hindered and stunted in its growth by a fallen old giant of the forest,” but after critiques of the work began to circulate back to him, realised that this was inadequate to explain the unique situation that the Magian Kultur-Zivilisation finds itself.[29] He therefore suggests a parallel with mineralogy, pointing the phenomenon of “pseudomorphosis”, by which volcanic molten rock flows into spaces left by washed away minerals in the hollows of rocks; likewise, since the Arabian culture’s pre-historical period is encompassed by Babylonian Civilization, and later as it develops it is stunted by Antiquity with the Roman conquest of Egypt.[30] Spengler sees a similar occurrence with the Russian Kultur-Zivilisation, which is pressed between the Faustian Kultur-Zivilisation and the Asiatic hordes which repeatedly conquer it. He maintains even in his last work, Jahre der Entscheidung, that the Bolshevist revolution represented a part of this pseudomorphosis that Russia is experiencing: “Asia has conquered Russia back from “Europe” to which it had been annexed by Peter the Great”.[31]

This is the structure within which the subject of Spengler’s title exists. Spengler remarked on his title at length in an essay titled “Pessimismus?” (“Pessimism?”) appearing in the Preußischer Jahrbücher in 1921:

But there are men who confuse the downfall [literally “going under”] of Antiquity with the sinking of an ocean liner. The notion of a catastrophe is not contained in the word. If one said—instead of downfall—completion, an expression that is linked in a special way with Goethe’s thought, the “pessimistic” side is removed without the real sense of the term having been altered.[32]

He is not, therefore, discussing a cataclysmic event that would bring about the end of Western civilisation, though no doubt much of the appeal of his work was the recent catastrophe of the Great War. What he sees instead is a general inadequacy in the trends coming out of his contemporary West, which the Great War only compounded. Faustian civilisation had come to stagnate with the rise of bourgeois economists; as he says, “through the economic history of every Culture there runs a desperate conflict waged by the soil-rooted tradition of a race, by its soul, against the spirit of money”.[33] The capitalism and industrialisation of liberal Europe represents the bleeding dry of the soul of Faustian Kultur; it, too, however, shall pass in the coming Ceasarism of the Faustian Winter that Spengler predicts. He speaks of “the sword” being triumphant over money-power and finance capital, bringing about the final period of where violence of spirit triumphs and is marked by the rise of the “Caesars”, demagogues who will bring about a Western World Imperium that Spengler envisioned being headed by Germany. It is worth noting that John Farrenkopf believes this to remain an accurate prediction for America, which Spengler himself discounted, as most Europeans at the time, as an adolescent child of Europe, hardly capable of contributing to Faustian Zivilisation in any great way.

It is, at last, important to note that while Spengler offers this structure that explains history, it is not his intent to “save” the Occident. He participated in politics that would, in his view, further the progression of Faustian Zivilization out of its Autumn and into Winter, but, in true Nietzschean fashion, he encourages his readers to adopt an amor fati toward the decline of their Kultur-Zivilisation. Indeed, the hope one retains after reading Spengler is of a peculiar kind—since all Kultur-Zivilisationen are destined to wither and die, the Faustian man should embrace the destruction of the Occident with an eye to the subsequent Kultur-Zivilisation organism that will take its place, which Spengler predicts will be Russian, a society which due to close contact to both the Occidental and Asian Kultur-Zivilisation organisms has not been able to come into itself—in short, it is not yet Werden, existing in the historyless period that marks the beginning and end of every Kultur-Zivilisation organism.

The Conservative Revolutionary (Political Writings and Speeches, 1919-1924)

The Decline of the West marks a high-point in Spengler’s life, and also a turning point for both his own life and the life of Germany as a whole. Decline appeared complete in two volumes in 1922, four years after Germany’s defeat in the First World War and in the midst of the Weimar Republic struggling to get on its feet. As mentioned above, this contributed greatly to the book’s circulation, though it is unclear how many enthusiasts made an effort to read the entire text. Spengler found himself now ushered into higher intellectual circles, battling with intellectual greats over the value of his work, and once again able to enjoy the delicacies he had to go without for the duration of the War (he wrote that much of the work he did on Decline was done by candlelight). In 1919 he joined such famous names as Hermann Alexander Graf Keyserling (for his seminal work Reisetagebuch eines Philosophen, “Travel-Diary of a Philosopher”) and distinguished Kant scholar Dr. Hans Vaihinger (for his work Philosophie des Als Ob, “The Philosophy of As-If”) in being awarded the Nietzsche Archives’ “Distinguished Scholar Award” with an academic diploma and the sum of 1,500.00DM (roughly $45.00 in 1919).[34]

Despite his acute sense of the depressing reality of his work, Spengler was materially well-off and led a generally comfortable life because of its popularity. He moved from the small flat where he had written Decline during the war to a spacious apartment that overlooked the Isar River. He decorated it with a variety of fine paintings, Chinese and Greek-styled vases, and other pieces obtained at auctions or gifted to him by admirers, and shocked visitors with his vast library, which literally lined the walls of his new home. He covered the fine hard-wood floors with even finer rugs, most markedly a strikingly red carpet in his office upon which he was known to pace endlessly in the night while he worked.[35] He was, though, of relatively modest tastes, and was frugal with his money. He took holidays to Italy frequently, but otherwise only left Germany when another party could pay for his travel; his tastes at home included trips to the theatre, fine wines, and a regular supply of dark cigars. He never hired a housekeeper or married, and his sister Hildegard, widowed by the World War, would keep house for him. He rarely entertained and continued to devote himself to work. His work now, though, was not strictly scholarly.

41-idJ1g3nL._SX339_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgA well-known name now, Spengler began to take a greater interest in politics than he had hitherto. He wrote to Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz in 1920 regarding the recovery of the flag from the SMS Scharnhorst, which was sunk in the Battle of the Falkland Islands in 1914, taking Admiral Maximillian Graf von Spee to the bottom with it; the flag, Spengler wrote, had fallen into the hands of an anti-German party who wished to send it to Britain to be a trophy of war, something offensive to Spengler as a German nationalist.[36] Admiral von Tirpitz replied that he would refer the matter to the admiralty, but the flag was undoubtedly not that from the Scharnhorst’s main post, which went down flying, and therefore the value of the demands of the original owners for the flag (50,000-60,000DM) was probably not equal even to its sentimental value. The admiral added, probably much to Spengler’s satisfaction, that he had thoroughly enjoyed reading Prussianism and Socialism, and wrote “I only wish that your ideas could find response in the Marxist-infected working classes.”[37]

The work Admiral Tirpitz praised so highly was Spengler’s second attempt to reflect on the Agadir crisis and the significance of German and British relations. Prussianism and Socialism appears in English translation by Donald O. White with a number of other shorter articles that Spengler penned in the early 1920s. The work appears in White’s 1967 collection Selected Essays, which is roughly a translation of Politischen Schriften, but making some omissions and drawing also from Rede und Aufsätze. The overall collection gives a decent introductory glance at Spengler’s social and political thought, which merits it some exposition here. Other works included in it are “Pessimism?”, which was written as a response to the charge levelled against Decline, his two speeches “The Two Faces of Russia and Germany’s Eastern Problems” (delivered to a conference of influential Ruhr industrialists in 1922) and “Nietzsche and his Century” (delivered at a conference hosted by the Nietzsche Archive in 1924 before Spengler severed ties with Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche because of her alignment with Hitler ten years later), another short essay titled “On the German National Character”, published in 1927, and finally a brief response given by Spengler to a query posited internationally by Hearst International’s The Cosmopolitan, titled “Is World Peace Possible?”, which was published in what White calls “barely adequate translation” in 1936 alongside answers from Mohandas K. Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, General Billy Mitchell, and Lin Yu-tang.[38]

Prussianism and Socialism abandons Spengler’s earlier, less informed political alignment with the Kaiser, but beyond this minor change it expresses and sets the tone for almost all of Spengler’s other political writings before and after, including his final major work, Hour of Decision. It is also the work that initiated Spengler’s name into the collection of intellectuals and aristocrats that formed the “Conservative Revolution” movement in Weimar Germany. The names he is included with range from the completely obscure to the internationally famous. Among them are obscure authors like Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, for his work, later appropriated by the Nazis, Das Dritte Reich (1923—available in English as Germany’s Third Empire) and Edgar Julius Jung, who is seen as the leader of the movement, for his work Die Herrschaft der Minderwertigen (“The Reign of the Mediocre”, 1927), and more famously for Franz von Papen’s “Marburg Speech”, the last open condemnation of Nazism made in Weimar Germany. However, members of the movement also included men like the internationally acclaimed Ernst Jünger, for his famous memoir of the World War, In Stahlgewittern (first published in 1920 and having been revised by the author 7 times, it is now available in very good translation by Michael Hoffmann as Storm of Steel), Der Kampf als inneres Erlebnis (“Battle as Inner Experience”, 1922), Das Wäldchen 125 (“Copse 125”, 1925) and Feuer und Blut (“Fire and Blood”, 1925) as well as the famous and widely translated Carl Schmitt, now well known for his works Die Diktatur (1921—now available in translation as On Dictatorship), Politische Theologie (1922—available as Political Theology), Die geistesgeschichtliche Lage des heutigen Parlamentarismus (1923—now available in a good translation by Ellen Kennedy titled The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy), and his extremely significant Der Begriff des Politischen (1926—now available as The Concept of the Political). The unifying feature of the movement was a desire to bridge the gap between nationalist conservatism and socialism, though another major factor was the distaste that all the men had for Adolf Hitler and his, in the words of Moeller van den Bruck, “proletarian primitiveness”.[39]

Spengler’s interactions with other conservatives were largely done through his involvement in the Juniclub (“June Club”) a gathering of Conservatives and Monarchists who shared Spengler’s hatred of the Versailles Treaty (commonly known in Germany as the Versailles Diktat because of the lack of input allowed from the German delegation). Among the group’s founding members was Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, with whom Spengler had many encounters from 1919 until Moeller’s suicide in 1925 through lectures that both gave to the Juniclub. At the Juniclub he also had the opportunity to meet and begin correspondence with Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, Walther Rathenau, Erich Ludendorff, Hans von Seeckt, and create friendships and lasting ties to major industrialists like Paul Reusch, Roderich Schlubach, Alfred Hugenberg, Karl Helfferich, and Hugo Stinnes.[40] Aside from Moeller, however, his encounters with the other major thinkers of the Conservative Revolutionary movement seemed few; he had some contact later with Jung, who wrote him on several occasions. However, his major inclination during his years of involvement with the Juniclub was toward becoming actively involved in conservative politics, not merely being a theoretician. His ambitions during this time were as disparate and far-flung as leading German intellectuals into politics and founding a newspaper cartel in imitation of William Randolph Hearst.[41]

SpenglerAD.jpgSpengler’s letters during this time are often brief (owing to his preference for meeting people rather than writing them) and to a wide variety of people, including invitations to tea with Erich Ludendorff and his wife, which he maintained as a regular affair until Ludendorff’s involvement in the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. There was also an extended correspondence with the German government regarding interaction with General Jan C. Smuts, who had invited General Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck (with whom Spengler also corresponded) to a dinner for African commanders of the war.[42] He also met semi-regularly, it would seem, with the Prussian royal family; Crown Prince Wilhelm wrote him a number of times, and Spengler sent copies of his magnum opus to Huis Doorn. He also managed to elicit a positive response from Gregor Strasser, a prominent rival of Hitler’s in the National Socialist party who was murdered in the Night of the Long Knives.[43]

Spengler, however, remained primarily a theoretician; he met many men with whom he had lasting friendships, but he was not a man of political action and he was acutely aware of that. Throughout his brief political career, he was advised by friends not to waste his genius on petty affairs of state, and he eventually gave in and retreated from public life in 1924 after five years of immense popularity and prolific writing. In addition to the one or two speeches and articles in the White collection, in 1924 alone Spengler published Frankreich und Europa (“France and Europe”), Aufgaben des Adels (“Tasks of the Nobility”), Politische Pflichten der deutschen Jugend (“Political Duties of the German Youth”), Neubau des deutschen Reiches (“Reconstruction of the German Reich”), Neue Formen der Weltpolitik (“New Forms of Global Politics”) all of which were derived from speeches and lectures he had given at the Juniclub or at various Industrial clubs and conferences during his involvement there. Some of them, including Politische Pflichten and Neubau would appear in Spengler’s Politischen Schriften of 1932, the others would only be published together in 1937 in the posthumous Reden und Aufsätze collection. The works, all expressing a common theme of the necessity to “reclaim socialism” from Marx and bring about a new birth of “Prussianism” in the German population, brought Spengler immense notoriety in Germany while Decline was making its way through foreign circles. Other presentations included his Das Verhältnis von Wirtschaft und Steuerpolitik seit 1750 (“The Relationship of Economy and Tax Policy since 1750”, 1924). His lectures drew tremendous crowds and he participated in a number of public debates between 1919 and 1924.

Prussianism and Socialism: A Brief Glance

Of all Spengler’s political writings and speeches, both from his public career and after, the most detailed and the most significant remains Prussianism and Socialism. In the work, Spengler makes two arguments, one unique to his own time and one with far-reaching relevance. The work’s principal argument surrounds the “true German spirit” with “the German Michel”, which Spengler declares “the sum of all our weaknesses: our fundamental displeasure at turns of events that demand attention and response; our urge to criticise at the wrong time; our pursuit of ideals instead of immediate action; our precipitate action at times when careful reflection is called for; our Volk as a collection of malcontents; our representative assemblies as glorified beer gardens.”[44] The thrust of the work is a contrast between “English” parliamentarianism and liberalism, which the “German Michel” typifies, the Marxist socialist movement of the Sparticists, which at least has the integrity that the “German Michel” lacked, and real “German” socialism, which Spengler ties to Prussian military spirit and civic duty to create the “Prussian socialism” that he insists is the only way to bring about a rebirth of the German Reich.

The opening of Prussianism and Socialism declares the same sense of destiny found in Decline, quoting Seneca's aphorism ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt (“Fate leads along the willing soul and drags the unwilling”).[45] He declares that “the spirit of Old Prussia and the socialistic attitude, at present driven by brotherly hatred to combat each other, are in fact one in the same”, defining “socialism” itself, which he claims “everyone thinks… means something different”.[46] Spengler’s hero of socialism is August Bebel, the Marxist founder of the SPD who was famously born in a Prussian army barracks. He praises Bebels’ party for its “militant qualities…the clattering footsteps of workers’ battalions, a calm sense of determination, good discipline, and the courage to die for a transcendent principle” and damns the SPD in power in the Weimar Republic for abandoning the revolution and throwing in its lot with the “foe of yesteryear” and encouraging the Freikorps to crush the Spartacists, who Spengler felt “retained a modicum of integrity”.[47] It is not the Marxism of the Social Democrats Spengler admires, however; rather, it is their integrity and their dedication to their beliefs—something that simply does not exist for the “German Michel”, the contemporary parliamentarian.

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He goes on to condemn the “so-called German Revolution” that took place in November, saying that the Germans “produced pedants, schoolboys, and gossips in the Paulskirche and in Weimar, petty demonstrations in the streets, and in the background a nation looking on with faint interest”—not at all what a real revolution entails, but something feeble, something belonging to the parliamentarian and the “German Michel”.[48] Spengler establishes the foundation of Prussian Socialism with “the real German Socialist Revolution” which he says happened in 1914—a real revolution because it involved “the whole people: one outcry, one brazen act, one rage, one goal”.[49] He further asserts that the revolution is not over—a notion he expands on in later speeches and essays. The Revolution of the German people cannot come to full fruition for Spengler and his fellow conservatives, until the German nation is truly born—for 1918 in Germany was not 1789 in France; the nation and the revolution were not the same.

He concludes that “Socialism is not an instinct of dark primeval origin… it is, rather, a political, social, and economic instinct of realistically-minded peoples, as such it is a product of one stage of our civilisation—not of our culture.”[50] He asserts a thoroughly modern origin and a thoroughly modern role for socialism: the realistic, the enemy of the dictatorship of money and capitalism, defined in socialistic form by a sense of duty to the whole, that whole being the German nation. It is in this way that “all Germans are workers”, so that the failing of Marx, he asserts, is his inability to grasp anything more in Hegel, “who by and far represented Prussianism at its best” than mere method.[51] Marx misleads socialism by creating class antagonism when in reality the bourgeois is a meaningless term, Spengler asserts—and the real enemy is the English spirit of mercantilism and parliamentarianism of the feeble “German Michel”; it is not worker against burgher, nor burgher against elite, but German against the Englishman in himself. This is why the German Revolution is incomplete: because the national revolution that unites and brings about the birth of the German nation has not been achieved.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of this and subsequent political texts is the complete absence of any mention of Germany’s Jews. Spengler did not believe, as many of his day did, that the Jewish people had any connexion to parliamentarianism or Marxism or Capitalism or any other distinctly Western phenomenon; rather Western man was at war with himself and himself alone in the conflict between Prussian Socialism and English Mercantilism, between Revolution and Cowardice. He calls Marx “an exclusively English thinker”, unable to see beyond mere economics and ignoring the notion of everyone working for the whole, but each in his own destined place—the King for Spengler’s socialist is “the first servant of the state”, in the highest place among the rest of the nation serving a single, national goal. It is such a different picture than the typical anti-Bolshevik stance in Germany that never tired of reminding the world of Marx’s Jewish origins (his grandfather was a rabbi). This, for Spengler, was as much a simplification as Marx’s class antagonism, because it directed anger and action toward an invented foe instead of directing it toward corrective measures in the West itself.

The Hermit-Scholar (Return to Private Life 1924-1930)

After he retreated from public life, Spengler returned to the lonely life of the hermit scholar, and rededicated himself to work on the theories put forth in Decline. His re-entry into politics was prevented both my deteriorating health as well as a decrease in opportunity with the rising tide of National Socialism. Of all the Conservative Revolutionary thinkers, only Jünger and Schmitt would live to see the Second World War, and their literary lives were even shorter; Spengler was silenced by the Nazi state as early 1933, Jung was murdered, along with several of Spengler’s friends, in the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, and Moeller van den Bruck had a nervous breakdown and committed suicide as early as 1925. Others, like Hugo von Hofmannsthal and Stefan George (especially famous for his Das Neue Reich of 1928), died of natural causes, Hofmannsthal of a stroke in 1929, George four years later of old age. It is indubitable with his voracious appetite for the latest works that Spengler encountered these men through their writing, but no correspondence between them exists. This is not terribly surprising—Spengler wrote letters when he felt the passion to do so (such as to Admiral Tirpitz), or when it furthered his studies (such as the many letters to academics and professors). This was not out of a dislike of people; rather, it was because he detested the task of writing letters and preferred to grant an interview or meet with friends in person, something he did frequently—his sister, Hilde, who became primary caretaker of his estate after his death, remarked that “he always disliked writing letters, even when he was a child.”[52] Those political letters he did write he wisely burned in 1933 to protect himself and others from the National Socialist state.

The return to private living gave Spengler a tremendous opportunity to begin scholarly work again after some years of pamphleteering (something he himself hated, remarking to a friend in 1919, referring to Prussianism and Socialism that “I am not a born journalist and consequently I wrote out 500 pages of rough draft in four weeks and then started paring to get 100 pages of readable German. I realise now how I ought to work and shall never again accept any assignment that carries a deadline with it”).[53] He never ceased his correspondences with high-level academics and contributors in almost every field of study, but after 1924 he was able to begin to write more widely. He wrote frequently to Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche and it was in 1924 after his departure from public life that he presented his paper “Nietzche and His Century”.

From 1925 onward his time was dominated by lectures, correspondences, and his old reading habits. He took several holidays in Italy and elsewhere, and as early as 1925 was in correspondence with Benito Mussolini, who would write a review of Hour of Decision in 1933 for Il Popolo d’Italia in December of that year. The Italian dictator, it would seem, was somewhat reserved about Spengler, who he felt tread close to Fascism but was not close enough.[54] He was not alone; after Spengler’s retreat from politics, was when his works came under heaviest fire from popular political personalities. His correspondence with Gregor Strasser in 1925 displays the chief dispute with Spengler, which seems to be his dislike of “popular movements”, like National Socialism, which he regarded as vulgar and mob-driven.[55] Aside from these, however, the bulk of his letters are not with political men but with academics.

lelivr_R240137969.jpgThe reason for this likely had much to do with Germany’s growing stability after 1925. Arthur Helps, who translated Spengler’s letters, suggests that Spengler left the public sphere precisely because of this; however, it is more likely that Spengler simply tired of the time he spent in the public eye—the constant assault of attention from both enthusiastic supporters and detractors of all stripes wore on the man whose sensitivity was well-known only to his sister and perhaps very close friends. He was a man who throughout his life was soft-hearted and sympathetic, ever striving to overcome the little boy whose nightmares in his bedroom in Halle haunted him vividly until he was well into his forties; the image he had inadvertently created of the hard-hearted, iron-willed prophet of doom was not an easy persona for him to fulfil on a constant basis, and put tremendous stress on his body. Fischer observes in his biographical sketch that “he agonised about his weaknesses with the same honesty as Rousseau did in the Confessions, with the difference that Spengler rarely tried to project his shortcomings on society… [he] believed that, in the final analysis, the individual has to assume responsibility for his own weaknesses”.[56]

Spengler’s physical weaknesses became acute during his time in politics, as the stress increased his headaches and other ailments. In 1925, rarely does a letter mention an illness or time of sickness—he seemed to recover from his ailments from getting away from stress of politics and the dismal state in which he perceived his beloved German Reich to be. He took cures in the sun of Italy, writing in February of 1925 from Palermo, after which he travelled to Rome and elsewhere.[57] In 1926, deep in the scholarly world once again, Spengler was invited by the Philosophical Congress in the United States to travel to America and conduct a lecture tour (C.F. Atkinson’s translation of the first volume of Decline appeared that very year). His excuse for declining the offer was that he felt America would leave too deep an impression on him that would disrupt the work he was conducting on his latest book (still unfinished at his death), Urfragen (“Primordial Questions”). His letters are strewn with questions to experts and professors of ancient history after information about Babylonian tablets and other Middle Eastern interests.

These interests, as a preparation for Urfragen, had begun as early as 1924, when Spengler appeared before the Oriental Institute in Munich with a lecture titled “Plan eines neuen Atlas Antiquus” (“Plan for a new Atlas Antiquus”), which detailed the need of a new cartographic project to map the ancient world within the scope of the Apollonian Kultur-Zivilisation organism.[58] The general thrust of his work, whether this lecture or the later letters to colleagues, is a collaborative effort that would overcome the increasing specialisation of history already in its adolescence in Spengler’s day and still increasing in contemporary academic history. During subsequent years he also became first enthralled and then embroiled with the famous archaeologist and ethnographer of Africa, Leo Frobenius, whose initial agreement with cyclical history caught Spengler’s attention, but his argued proofs for slow, gradual development of civilisations drew the censure of the author of Decline, who believed in epochal moments rather than gradual evolution (he detested all forms of Darwinism). His correspondence took him in more positive directions with the famous Assyriologist Alfred Jeremias, who took an immense interest in Spengler’s work.

Most striking about Spengler’s time as a private scholar in the late 1920s was the vast amount of interest being generated in his works abroad. 1927 saw contacts coming from The New York Times attempting to solicit an article from him; the paper had featured him in full-page articles twice before, and after including him in an article “Will our Civilization Survive?” of 1925, hoped he might appear in print with them—they even offered a sum of $100, which was no small sum of money in Germany at the time.[59] No response to their inquest ever came, however, and it does not appear Spengler showed any interest in taking up any journalistic venture. A query that Spengler felt did merit response came from André Fauconnet, a professor at Poitiers whose Un philosophe allemeand contemporain Oswald Spengler. Le prophète du déclin de l'Occident (“A Contemporary German Philosopher: Oswald Spengler, the Prophet of the Decline of the Occident”) appeared in 1925. He also received an invitation to speak at the University of Saragossa, which promised he could speak in German and translations of his speech would be distributed beforehand.[60] Spengler accepted the engagement, spending the entire month of April of 1928 on holiday in Spain; he loved the climate and found the place to have a profoundly positive affect on his demeanour—he even did some mountain climbing. He wrote his sister Hilde from Granada (where he stayed for about a week), “Grenada is beautiful beyond all description… I could live here”, and, later that week, that “here every day pleases me better”.[61]

lelivr_R240137968.jpgDuring all of his touring and international correspondence, Spengler did manage to make one or two forays back into political life; the first occasion was a speech in Düsseldorf before the Industry-Club titled “Das heutige Verhältnis zwischen Weltwirtschaft und Weltpolitik” (“The Contemporary Relationship between World Economics and World Politics”) in 1926, and was solicited by Edgar Julius Jung a year later to make a speech before the German Student Union, historically a hotbed for right-wing politics. 1927 also saw him begin writing on the topic again, with “Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der Deutschen Presse” (“Toward a Developmental History of the German Press”) appearing in the Der Zeitungsverlag and “Vom Deutscher Volkscharakter” (“On the German National Character”) appearing in Deutschland the same year. After some time of soliciting his attention, Richard Korherr also finally convinced Spengler to write a brief introduction to his thesis “Über den Geburtenrückgang” (“Regarding the Decline of Birthrates”) of two years previous, which the author had dedicated to Spengler. Korherr hounded Spengler with information of the thesis, especially when it was translated into Italian by deputies of Mussolini’s in 1928.[62] Spengler regarded the young student well, and congratulated him on his success; he would probably not have had so positive a view of the young Dr. Korherr twelve years later, when he became one of Heinrich Himmler’s most loyal lieutenants in executing the “Final Solution”.[63]

Cassandra (Last Writings and Death, 1930-1936)

The years of 1929 and 1930 were eventful for Germany, but for Spengler much of the same that he had experienced in the second half of the 1920s. His pessimism was beginning to be proven true, with the stock market crash in 1929 and the swift rise of National Socialist and German Communist party power in the shattered Weimar Republic. In September 1930, the results gave the Nazis 107 seats in the Reichstag, and increased the Communist seats from 54 to 77. When the Reichstag took its seats, no business could be conducted, with the National Socialist “delegates” showing up in full uniform, sometimes with flags, interrupting the proceedings with chants, shouts, and songs; the Communists, not to be outdone, followed suit, and together they made a mockery of what was left of Weimar democracy.[64] Spengler was generally not disappointed with the turn of events, and, having put his Urfragen project on hold, wrote a prolegomena to his planned work titled Der Mensch und die Technik (“Man and Technics”) in 1931.

The work can hardly be said to be of the same calibre as Decline or even of Prussianism and Socialism—but then, it was never meant to be. The most important introductory note that can be given on Man and Technics is that it is fundamentally meant to be a primer for planned works. It is, by and large, a restatement of things said in Decline, and an expansion on the relationship between human beings and the tools they create. Fischer describes the book by saying “Spengler tried to show that primitive man was a magnificent predatory animal who possessed two major advantages over other beasts of prey: a superior brain and ambidextrous hands.”[65] The work is a true experiment in Nietzschean psychology by Fischer’s estimate: a tragic conflict between a naturally savage and predatory human being with the moral codes he makes to contain his savagery, but he cannot flee from it, for as he develops his technology, he also develops his means of savagery, and therefore his savagery itself.[66]

In greater detail, the book develops themes of conflict between man and external nature as well. Farrenkopf highlights that Spengler sees a religious grounding for this conflict—a suggestion not lost on several subsequent environmentalists—declaring that Spengler “claims to have uncovered the ‘religious origins’ of Western technical thought in the meditations of early Gothic monks, who in their prayers and fastings wrung God’s secrets from Him.”[67] Farrenkopf, working at the turn of the twenty-first century, attempts to make Spengler the prophet of “climate change” and “ecological disasters”, and points to a thesis in his own work—that Spengler’s thought changed from Decline to his later works—to say that Spengler was arguing for the inevitable failure of mankind’s struggle against nature. Whether his thesis has merit or not is not really a line of inquiry this introduction need undertake, but the conflict and eventual failure of humankind because of its own “progress” is certainly present in the work. A line from Decline of the West, quoted above, accurately encapsulates the entire purpose of Man and Technics: “the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.”[68]

The urban sprawl and disappearance of the “green belt” that contemporary commentators, especially in America, where there is so much of the “green belt”, have witnessed is somewhat captured in this picture. The dangers of an industrial dystopia and plea for an agrarian Reich was one also being preached by the National Socialists at this time—Walther Darré’s 1928 pamphlet “Das Bauerntum als Lebensquell der nordischen Rasse” (“The Peasantry as the Life-source of the Nordic Race”) stands as a testament to that. The Nazis, though, were better at selling their message than Spengler was his own, primarily because of what each promised the German people. Spengler promised that the path of Western civilisation was destined and irreversible, and the coming destruction guaranteed by the very nature of Faustian man of his home-soil should be greeted with a Nietzschean amor fati. The Germans in 1931 were in no mood to hear that they were themselves to blame for their situation, and that it was an inescapable destiny.

The Nazis, on the other hand, gave the Germans an enemy—the Jews—that were causing this industrialisation and destruction of the nation, and if they could just get rid of them, there was a bright hope and future for Germans. The German people declared which message they preferred with dismal sales for Man and Technics, and subsequent tremendous victories at the ballot for the National Socialists. Hitler’s biographer, Lord Bullock gives a deep insight into the exact state of affairs; “taking 1928 as a measuring rod,” he declares, “the gains made by Hitler – close on thirteen million in four years – are still more striking,” adding that by early 1932, “with a voting strength of 13,700,000 electors, a party membership of over a million and a private army of 400,000 S.A. and S.S., Hitler was the most powerful political leader in Germany, knocking on the doors of the Chancellery at the head of the most powerful political party Germany had ever seen.”[69]

Spengler was shocked, if not a little appalled, by this turn of events. To Spengler, as he had been to Moeller, Adolf Hitler was an idiot in the scientific sense of the word: a vulgar proletarian clown shouting and flailing his arms and playing about in the muck, not a statesman who could lead Germany to her rebirth or a realistic forward-thinker. For the time being, though, there were few other options, and Spengler was willing to give the Führer the benefit of the doubt before meeting him—a meeting at which he hoped that his stature as one of Germany’s leading conservative intellectuals might moderate the Austrian firebrand somewhat.[70] He was dreadfully wrong.

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Spengler met with Hitler in 1933 at the invitation of the National Socialist Party, hoping to make use of Spengler’s sustained popularity. Fischer describes the meeting, of which little account exists on either side. It was Hitler, characteristically, who did most of the talking when the two men met, and used all of his well-accounted-for charm. Spengler was sufficiently fooled that Hitler, though a clown, was a well-meaning clown who basically wanted what was best for Germany. He nevertheless would remark later that “sitting next to him one did not gain the slightest inkling that he represented anything significant”—the jobless Austrian post-card painter may have built himself up into a powerful and captivating demagogue, but in the end he remained the disaffected young delinquent who wandered the streets of Munich and Vienna building a fantasy world in which he was important.[71] According to a popular anecdote, when the men had finished their encounter, Hitler asked Spengler for advice, to which the scholar enigmatically replied “watch your Praetorian guard!” a comment many have taken to be a bit of advice Hitler acted on in the Night of the Long Knives, when he purged his “praetorian guard” and replaced it—the S.A.—with a new one, the S.S. There is no evidence that this is accurate, but if it is, as Fischer asserts, it would be the first time Spengler had any direct influence on a public leader.[72]

It was not long, however, before the spell of Hitler’s charm over coffee wore off. The Nazis went on to preach a proletarian utopian future founded fundamentally in scapegoating the Jews and answering Germany’s problems with “party-theatre” of mass rallies and a well-tuned propaganda machine. It was in answer to the delusions of the National Socialist political machine that Spengler wrote his final book, Jahre der Entscheidung (“Years of Decision”, more popularly known in translation as Hour of Decision) in 1933. This work, largely considered Spengler’s most overtly political and explicit in its message, was banned by the Nazis as soon as they figured out what was in it—which took them a full year, even after one of their own published a critique of the book (Arthur Zweininger’s Oswald Spengler im dritten Reich), by which time the book had already made it into English translation and had received extensive comment by The New York Times.[73] Spengler also, naïvely, sent a signed copy directly to Hitler, accompanied by an expression of hope that the two might meet and discuss the work in the future.[74] Hitler consented to meet, but disparaged Spengler’s pessimism in what he was selling as Germany’s brightest hour.

Jahre der Entscheidung
deserves some specific attention to be paid to it. The first thing worth mention is that it was originally intended to be the first volume of a several-volume work, but after it was banned in 1934, Spengler abandoned the work, writing Goebbels that he would only write the conclusions of his own mind and that he would “not write books for confiscation”.[75]

The press was especially cruel to the new work, evoking (despite Fischer’s claims to the opposite) a number of highly sympathetic letters to Spengler from old conservative colleagues like Alfred Hugenburg, Crown Prince Wilhelm, Carl Friedrich Goerdeler (later executed as a resistance leader), as well as some new names, including Grand Duke Joseph Franz von Habsburg, who was enthralled by the new work, and Rudolf Graber, a professor of Theology and later Bishop of Regensburg. Despite the press and the Nazis, however, the book was initially a tremendous success, especially compared with Man and Technics. Heinrich Beck wrote to Spengler in November of 1933 that “the success of your Jahre der Entscheidung already surpasses, at least as far as tempo is concerned, The Decline of the West. You will certainly be pleased and I am proud also of publishing such a book.”[76] The Roman Curia was also impressed, and allowed the book to be placed by the Cardinal Hayes Literature Committee in the “First Circle” of their “White List” for Roman Catholics in America; the section was named for the First Circle of Hell in Dante’s inferno, where honest pre-Christian thinkers who were valuable to Christianity resided—on the White List proper for that year were titles like Essays in History by Pope Pius XI.[77]

l_9783938176153.jpgThe contents of the book are significant not just for Spengler’s life, but to his overall philosophy as well. Spengler frequently uses what critics have called “fetishistic” terms in his works like “blood”, “race”, “soul”, etc. The accusations of critics were left largely unanswered until Jahre der Entscheidung, which saw Spengler for the first time seriously take on the task of defining what he meant by “race” especially. Benito Mussolini, at the time still in his virulent anti-racist stage, received a copy of the work almost immediately after it was published, and wrote a review of the work highlighting that “Spengler clearly wishes to differentiate his views from the vulgar, materialistic Darwinism now fashionable among anti-Semites in Europe and America” (words he was in fact borrowing from Spengler) and points to Spengler’s declaration that “ ‘racial unity’ is a grotesque phrase considering that for centuries all types and kinds have mixed.”[78]

Spengler does indeed use the word “race”; however, he defines against the biological racial theories of Chamberlain, Gobineau and the various authors of National Socialism. “Race” to Spengler was captured in a spiritual feeling or will of a culture—thus in Jahre der Entscheidung, even the Russians find themselves included in Spengler’s “Coloured World”. The Faustian soul—and the Faustian will—that is the Faustian “race”. Farrenkopf observes from reading Spengler’s unpublished political writings that “Race for Spengler meant having ‘strong instincts’”, something reflected in Gedanken, where Spengler says “Men without race are without Will. Indeed, the more of a “race” one has, the more resolute is his sense of self”.[79] Spengler references this notion in Man and Technics as well, concluding with the exemplary of a man with “strong race”, the legionary who kept his post in Pompey as Vesuvius erupted because his superiors had forgotten to relieve him; “It is greatness, namely to have race”.[80] This sort of conception of race is one that has fled the English and German languages (and most other languages, really) in the wake of the biological racialist movements of the early twentieth century, but is still present in English when one says “the human race”—but for Spengler, there is no “human race”, there are different spiritual types of humans. Farrenkopf quotes him “There are not any noble races. There are only noble specimens of all races.”[81]

With this sense of “race” in mind, Spengler portrays two revolutions taking place in the coming decades and centuries: a White World-Revolution and a Coloured World-Revolution, the former of which will be a class revolution, and the latter will be a racial revolution. As he suggested in Decline, the Occident is failing, and some other Kultur-Zivilisation organisms must come into itself in order to replace the dying Faustian Zivilisation. This is what is meant in the “Coloured World-Revolution”; a collapse of the Western direct control over the rest of the world and the beginning of a new birth. The “White World-Revolution”, on the other hand, will be one of class: not because of Bolshevism, but because of the liberalism that destroyed the social structure of the West in the Autumnal season and brought about the new sense of egalitarianism. These combined “World-Revolutions” must ultimately arise from a great World War which Spengler foresees in the near future; it is his hope that the War will set the West back on its path toward Ceasarism, and begin the final phase of decay which has been prevented, be believes, by the defeat of the “Prussian Spirit” in the First World War; he therefore proclaims at the end of the work that, “Only the militarist Prussian spirit remains as a shaping force, not only for Germany, but everywhere.”[82]

Farrenkopf offers the critique that Spengler does not sufficiently “probe” into “how geopolitical competition among non-Western powers will interact with the conflict between the West and the non-West”.[83] Nevertheless, for a German in a time of when the general feeling of the nation was one of peace and plenty, to foresee a world-shattering global conflict that would bring about a post-colonial age is hauntingly astute, and speaks to the significance of Spengler’s overall corpus to contemporary political and historical study. Another testament to his skills of prophecy is the very military power gained by the United States subsequent to the Second World War; Farrenkopf also observes that Spengler discounted America but nevertheless may be applied in an American paradigm.

With all the talk of “race” and the “militaristic Prussian spirit” and Spengler’s relationship to National Socialism, it seems fitting that a special word be said of Spengler’s relationship to the Jewish community. He himself found anti-Semitism especially abhorrent, and recognised it for exactly what it was: namely, social and political scapegoating. As Fischer observes, “Spengler observed that the character of the Jew was moulded by his position as an outsider…[who is] generally forced to adopt attitudes that are inimical to the mainstream of society,” which is why they are viewed as threats; the only solution Spengler could see for the Jews to escape this inevitable situation was to assimilate or, though Spengler never suggests it, to leave.[84] A similar conclusion was reached by Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism, in his 1896 Der Judenstaat, which proposed the second option: that the Jews remove themselves from European society physically to escape anti-Semitism.

After his name was officially banned from the press and his book taken off the shelves in German bookstores, Spengler once again retreated from the public eye, this time never to return. Unlike other intellectuals of the day, he declined offers to university jobs, including the rectorship of the University of Leipzig’s Institute for Cultural and Universal History and a professorship at the University of Marburg. He was, nevertheless, honoured in 1933 with membership in the Senate of the German Academy, which he maintained even after his work was officially censored by the Nazi state. He was encouraged by friends to flee Germany and emigrate to America or England and continue his studies, but he refused to leave. He did, however, continue his work on Urfragen and his other unfinished book, Frühzeit der Weltgeschichte. He still received some attention from other countries, and in 1935 wrote an article entitled “Zur Weltgeschichte des zweiten vorchristlichen Jahrtausends” (“Toward a World History of the Second Millennium BC”) in the journal Die Welt als Geschichte.

9783902475435xxl.jpgSpengler’s final contribution while he was alive was a reply to a cable from Hearst International Cosmopolitan magazine, which at the time was still a respectable publication that gave attention to serious global political issues. The work, entitled Ist Weltfriede moeglich? (“Is World Peace Possible?”) was translated by editors of the magazine and published in January of 1936. This last work is largely ignored by Spengler biographers, but is rather his last real political offering, in which he expressed that the question was one that “can only be answered by someone familiar with world history… [which] means to know most humans as they have been and always will be.”[85] His next words encapsulate his “strong pessimism”, when he says that “there is a vast difference… between viewing the history of the future as it shall be and as one might like it to be. Peace is the wish, war is an actuality”: he echoes his introduction to Jahre der Entscheidung, “it is the great task of the connoisseur of history to understand the actualities of his age and, using them, to sense the future, to indicate and to sketch out what will come, whether we desire it or not.”[86] He follows it saying that, ultimately, man will always resort to violence in some form or another. He declares that a man may “be branded a criminal, a class can be called revolutionary or traitorous, a people bloodthirsty, but that does not alter the actuality” that violence is in escapable.[87]

He then repeats a his message to the Western world, hoping perhaps for an audience in liberal America where he had lost his in Germany: “It is a deadly reality that today only the white peoples speak of ‘world peace’, not the many coloured peoples. As long as individual thinkers and idealists do this—and they have done it in all ages—it is ineffective. When, on the other hand, entire peoples become pacifistic, it is a symptom of senility. Strong and unspent breeds do not do it: it is abandonment of the future, because the pacifist ideal is a terminal state that contradicts the reality of life.”[88] Spengler would go to his grave convinced that half of the Occident had adopted this very abandonment of the future, and the other half had gone mad on the drunkenness of National Socialism. Fischer observes that “convinced of the truth of his ideas, Spengler seems to have resigned himself to a life of quiet desperation.”[89] His desperation ended before the dawn of the 8th of May 1936, when a sudden heart attack mercifully took him from the world before he could witness his most recent predictions of death and doom become reality.

Eleven days after Spengler’s death, his closest friend, August Albers, who Fischer calls his “philosophical sounding board”, which he had been since Decline in 1917, threw himself in front of a train, unable to cope with the absence of his mentor and friend. His sister collected his papers and would spend the rest of her life handling the publication of his remaining papers; her daughter would devote most of her academic life to studying and publicising his contributions to history, politics, and philosophy. Paul Reusch chose and paid for the grave marker, a simple block of polished black granite with SPENGLER etched across it in stark white letters. Beneath it Spengler rests holding a copy of Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Goethe’s Faust.



[1] H. Stuart Hughes, Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate (New York: Charles Scribner Sons, 1952), 1.

[2] Anton Mirko Koktanek, Oswald Spengler in Seiner Zeit (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1968), 435.

[3] Koktanek, Spenger in Seiner Zeit, 427.

[4] Oswald Spengler, Ich beneide jeden, der lebt, ed. Gilbert Merlio and Hilde Kornhardt (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2007), 16. The original title of the text was to be Eis heauton, in imitation of Marcus Aurelius, and the manuscript was originally edited by Spengler’s niece and her mother, both named Hilde Kornhardt.

[5] Spengler, Ich beneide, 14.

[6] John Farrenkopf, Prophet of Decline, (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2001), 9.

[7] Koktanek, Spengler in Seiner Zeit, 19.

[8] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 7-8.

[9] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 8-9.

[10] Klaus P. Fischer, History and Prophecy: Oswald Spengler and the Decline of the West (New York: Peter Lang, 1989), 34.

[11] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 35.

[12] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 36.

[13] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 36.

[14] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 11.

[15] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 28.

[16] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 37.

[17] Spengler, Ich beneide, 73.

[18] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 15.

[19] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 45.

[20] Oswald Spengler, Der Untergang des Abendlandes, (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1969), x.

[21] Thomas A. Brady, German Histories in the Ages of Reformations (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2009), 3.

[22] G.W.F. Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (Leiden: A.H. Adriani, 1902), 238.

[23] Oswald Spengler, Decline of the West, trans. C.F. Atkinson (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1928), 21. He derives this notion from Goethe, who says in a letter to Heinrich Luden (†1847), “‘Die Menschheit’? Das ist ein Abstraktum. Es hat von jeher nur Menschen gegeben und wird nur Menschen geben.(“‘Mankind’? It is an abstraction. There have only ever been men and will only ever be men.”) (p 281)

[24] The proper rendering of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft in English is highly disputed among translators; the former is often translated as “community” but may also be understood (perhaps more clearly) as “communion”, while the latter is rendered both as “society” and “association,” with the latter being favoured in recent scholarship. Cf. Ferdinand Tönnies: A New Evaluation, ed. Werner J. Cahnman (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973).

[25] Ferdinand Tönnies, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (Berlin: Karl Curtius, 1912), 3-4.

[26] Spengler, Decline, 109.

[27] Spengler, Decline, 31.

[28] Spengler, Decline, 53.

[29] Spengler, Decline, 212.

[30] Spengler, Decline, 191-192.

[31] Oswald Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1933), 43. He doesn’t, however, make clear what the implications of Stalin’s “modernisation” policies and the five-year plan might be.

[32] Oswald Spengler, “Pessimismus?” in Rede und Aufsätze (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1937), 63-64.

[33] Spengler, Decline, 485. N.B. The notion of “race” here should not be understood as the restrictive biological concept but retaining its nineteenth-century use as a term for a broad cultural unit.

[34] Oswald Spengler, Letters 1913-1936, trans. Arthur Helps (London: George Allen Unwin, 1966), 87.

[35] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 68.

[36] Spengler, Letters, 92.

[37] Spengler, Letters, 93.

[38] Donald O. White, Introduction to Selected Essays, by Oswald Spengler, trans. and ed. Donald O. White (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1967), xiii.

[39] Timothy Ryback, Hitler’s Private Library (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008), 112.

[40] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 61.

[41] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 61.

[42] Spengler, Letters, 133-138.

[43] Spengler, Letters, 181.

[44] Spengler, Selected Essays, 7.

[45] Spengler, Selected Essays, 3.

[46] Spengler, Selected Essays, 1, 3.

[47] Spengler, Selected Essays, 10-11.

[48] Spengler, Selected Essays, 13.

[49] Spengler, Selected Essays, 13.

[50] Spengler, Selected Essays, 29.

[51] Spengler, Selected Essays, 92.

[52] Spengler, Letters, 11.

[53] White, Introduction, xi.

[54] Benito Mussolini, “Anni decisive di Osvaldo Spengler”, Il Popolo d’Italia, 15 December 1933, p. 16.

[55] Spengler, Letters, 184.

[56] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 71.

[57] Spengler, Letters, 180.

[58] Cf. Oswald Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1937), 96.

[59] Spengler, Letters, 211; “Will Our Civilization Survive?” New York Times, 24 May 1925, SM1; “Doom of Western Civilization,” New York Times, 2 May 1926, BR1. 

[60] Spengler, Letters, 222.

[61] Spengler, Letters, 229.

[62] Spengler, Letters, 203, 204, 219-220, 235.

[63] Spengler, Letters, 2031.

[64] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 73.

[65] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 66.

[66] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 66.

[67] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 202.

[68] Spengler, Decline, 109.

[69] Alan Bullock, Hitler: A Study in Tyranny (New York: Harper & Row, 1962), 217-218.

[70] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 74.

[71] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 74.

[72] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 74.

[73] William McDonald, “Spengler’s New Challenge” New York Times, 11 February 1934.

[74] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 78.

[75] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 238.

[76] Spengler, Letters, 291.

[77] “June ‘White List’ of Books Issued” New York Times, 26 May, 1934, p. 15.

[78] Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung, 157.

[79] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 256; Oswald Spengler, Gedanken, (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1941), 23.

[80] Spengler, Der Mensch und die Technik (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1931), 89.

[81] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 256.

[82] Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung, 165.

[83] Farrenkopf, Prophet, 258.

[84] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 76.

[85] Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze, 292.

[86] Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze, 292; Spengler, Jahre der Entscheidung, vii.

[87] Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze, 292.

[88] Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze, 292-293.

[89] Fischer, History and Prophecy, 68.

mercredi, 26 février 2020

The Two Faces Of Russia And Germany’s Eastern Problems

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Oswald Spengler:

The Two Faces Of Russia And Germany’s Eastern Problems

An address delivered on February 14, 1922, at the Rhenish-Westphalian Business Convention in Essen

First published in Spengler, Politische Schriften (Munich, 1932).

Ex: https://europeanheathenfront.wordpress.com

In the light of the desperate situation in which Germany finds itself today -- defenseless, ruled from the West by the friends of its enemies, and the victim of undiminished warfare with economic and diplomatic means -- the great problems of the East, political and economic, have risen to decisive importance. If from our vantage point we wish to gain an understanding of the extremely complex real situation, it will not suffice merely to familiarize ourselves with contemporary conditions in the broad expanses to the east of us, with Russian domestic policy and the economic, geographic, and military factors that make up present-day Soviet Russia. More fundamental and imperative than this is an understanding of the world-historical fact of Russia itself, its situation and evolution over the centuries amid the great old cultures -- China, India, Islam, and the West -- the nature of its people, and its national soul. Political and economic life is, after all, Life itself; even in what may appear to be prosaic aspects of day-to-day affairs it is a form, expression, and part of the larger entity that is Life.

One can attempt to observe these matters with "Russian" eyes, as our communist and democratic writers and party politicians have done, i.e., from the standpoint of Western social ideologies. But that is not "Russian" at all, no matter how many citified minds in Russia may think it is. Or one can try to judge them from a Western-European viewpoint by considering the Russian people as one might consider any other "European" people. But that is just as erroneous. In reality, the true Russian is basically very foreign to us, as foreign as the Indian and the Chinese, whose souls we can likewise never fully comprehend. Justifiably, the Russians draw a distinction between "Mother Russia" and the "fatherlands" of the Western peoples. These are, in fact, two quite different and alien worlds. The Russian understands this alienation. Unless he is of mixed blood, he never overcomes a shy aversion to or a naïve admiration of the Germans, French, and English. The Tartar and the Turk are, in their ways of life, closer and more comprehensible to him. We are easily deceived by the geographic concept of "Europe," which actually originated only after maps were first printed in 1500. The real Europe ends at the Vistula. The activity of the Teutonic knights in the Baltic area was the colonization of foreign territory, and the knights themselves never thought of it in any other way.

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Soviet architecture, 1920s

In order to reach an understanding of this foreign people we must review our own past. Russian history between 900 and 1900 A.D. does not correspond to the history of the West in the same centuries but, rather, to the period extending from the Age of Rome to Charlemagne and the Hohenstaufen emperors. Our heroic poetry, from Arminius to the lays of Hildebrand, Roland, and the Nibelungs, was recapitulated in the Russian heroic epics, the byliny, which began with the knights at the court of Prince Vladimir (d. 1015), the Campaign of Igor, and with Ilya Muromets, and have remained a vital and fruitful art form through the reigns of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, the Burning of Moscow, and to the present day. [1] Yet each of these worlds of primeval poetry expresses a very different kind of basic feeling. Russian life has a different meaning altogether. The endless plains created a softer form of humanity, humble and morose, inclined to lose itself mentally in the flat expanses of its homeland, lacking a genuine personal will, and prone to servility. These characteristics are the background for high-level politics in Russia, from Genghis Khan to Lenin.

(1. Cf. my The Decline of the West, II, 192ff.)

Furthermore, the Russians are semi-nomads, even today. Not even the Soviet regimen will succeed in preventing the factory workers from drifting from one factory to another for no better reason than their inborn wanderlust. [2] That is why the skilled technician is such a rarity in Russia. [3] Similarly, the home of the peasant is not the village or the countryside into which he was born, but the great expanses. Even the mir or so-called agrarian commune -- not an ancient idea, but the outgrowth of administrative techniques employed by the tsarist governments for the raising of taxes -- was unable to bind the peasant, unlike his Germanic counterpart, to the soil. Many thousands of them flooded into the newly developed regions in the steppes of southern Russia, Turkestan, and the Caucasus, in order to satisfy their emotional search for the limits of the infinite. The result of this inner restlessness has been the extension of the Empire up to the natural borders, the seas and the high mountain ranges. In the sixteenth century Siberia was occupied and settled as far as Lake Baikal, in the seventeenth century up to the Pacific.

(2. Cf. several stories of Leskov, and particularly of Gorki.)

(3. Except perhaps in the earlier arteli, groups of workers under self-chosen leaders, which accepted contracts for certain kinds of work in factories and on estates. There is a good description on an artel’ in Leskov’s The Memorable Angel.)

Even more deep-seated than this nomadic trait of the Russians is their dark and mystical longing for Byzantium and Jerusalem. It appears in the outer form of Orthodox Christianity and numerous religious sects, and thus has been a powerful force in the political sphere as well. But within this mystical tendency there slumbers the unborn new religion of an as yet immature people. There is nothing Western about this at all, for the Poles and Balkan Slavs are also "Asiatics."

The economic life of this people has also assumed indigenous, totally non-European forms. The Stroganov family of merchants, which began conquering Siberia on its own under Ivan Grozny [4] and placed some of its own regiments at the tsar’s disposal, had nothing at all in common with the great businessmen of the same century in the West. This huge country, with its nomadic population, might have remained in the same condition for centuries, or might perhaps have become the object of Western colonial ambitions, had it not been for the appearance of a man of immense world-political significance, Peter the Great.

(4. Grozny means "the terrifying, just, awe-inspiring" in the positive sense, not "the terrible" with Western overtones. Ivan IV was a creative personality as was Peter the Great, and one of the most important rulers of all time.)

There is probably no other example in all of history of the radical change in the destiny of an entire people such as this man brought about. His will and determination lifted Russia from its Asiatic matrix and turned it into a Western-style nation within the Western world of nations. His goal was to lead Russia, until then landlocked, to the sea -- at first, unsuccessfully, to the Sea of Asov, and then with permanent success to the Baltic. The fact that the shores of the Pacific had already been reached was, in his eyes, wholly unimportant; the Baltic coast was for him the bridge to "Europe." There he founded Petersburg, symbolically giving it a German name. In place of the old Russian market centers and princely residences like Kiev, Moscow, and Nizhni-Novgorod, he planted Western European cities in the Russian landscape. Administration, legislation, and the state itself now functioned on foreign models. The boyar families of Old Russian chieftains became feudal nobility, as in England and France. His aim was to create above the rural population a "society" that would be unified as to dress, customs, language, and thought. And soon an upper social stratum actually formed in the cities, having a thin Western veneer. It played at erudition like the Germans, and took on esprit and manners like the French. The entire corpus of Western Rationalism made its entry -- scarcely understood, undigested, and with fateful consequences. Catherine II, a German, found it necessary to send writers such as Novikov and Radishchev into jail and exile because they wished to try out the ideas of the Enlightenment on the political and religious forms of Russia. [5]

(5. "Jehova, Jupiter, Brahma, God of Abraham, God of Moses, God of Confucius, God of Zoroaster, God of Socrates, God of Marcus Aurelius, God of the Christians -- Thou art everywhere the same, eternal God!" (Radishchev).)

And economic life changed also. In addition to its ages-old river traffic, Russia now began to engage in ocean shipping to distant ports. The old merchant tradition of the Stroganovs, with their caravan trade to China, and of the fairs at Nizhni-Novgorod, now received an overlay of Western European "money thinking" in terms of banks and stock exchanges. [6] Next to the old-style handicrafts and the primitive mining techniques in the Urals there appeared factories, machines, and eventually railroads and steamships.

(6. Cf. Decline of the West, II, 480f., 495.)

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German architecture, 1920s, "Chilehaus" in Hamburg and Berlin Tempelhof

Most important of all, Western-style politics entered the Russian scene. It was supported by an army that no longer conformed to conditions of the wars against the Tartars, Turks, and Kirghiz; it had to be prepared to do battle against Western armies in Western territory, and by its very existence it continually misled the diplomats in Petersburg into thinking that the only political problems lay in the West.

Despite all the weaknesses of an artificial product made of stubborn material, Petrinism was a powerful force during the two hundred years of its duration. It will be possible to assess its true accomplishments only at some distant future time, when we can survey the rubble it will have left behind. It extended "Europe," theoretically at least, to the Urals, and made of it a cultural unity. An empire that stretched to the Bering Strait and the Hindu Kush had been Westernized to the extent that in 1900 there was hardly much difference between cities in Ireland and Portugal and those in Turkestan and the Caucasus. Travel was actually easier in Siberia than in some countries in Western Europe. The Trans-Siberian Railway was the final triumph, the final symbol of the Petrinist will before the collapse.

Yet this mighty exterior concealed an internal disaster. Petrinism was and remained an alien element among the Russian people. In reality there existed not one but two Russias, the apparent and the true, the official and the underground Russia. The foreign element brought with it the poison that caused that immense organism to fall ill and die. The spirit of Western Rationalism of the eighteenth century and Western Materialism of the nineteenth, both remote and incomprehensible to genuine Russian thought, came to lead a grotesque and subversive existence among the intelligentsia in the cities. There arose a type of Russian intellectual who, like the Reformed Turk, the Reformed Chinese, and the Reformed Indian, was mentally and spiritually debased, impoverished, and ruined to the point of cynicism by Western Europe. It began with Voltaire, and continued from Proudhon and Marx to Spencer and Haeckel. In Tolstoy’s day the upper class, irreligious and opposed to all native tradition, preened itself with blasé pretentiousness. Gradually the new world view seeped down to the bohemians in the cities, the students, demagogues, and literati, who in turn took it "to the people" to implant in them a hatred of the Western-style upper classes. The result was doctrinaire bolshevism.

At first, however, it was solely the foreign policy of Russia that made itself painfully felt in the West. The original nature of the Russian people was ignored, or at least not understood. It was nothing but a harmless ethnographic curiosity, occasionally imitated at bals masques and in operettas. Russia meant for us a Great Power in the Western sense, one which played the game of high politics with skill and at times with true mastery.

What we did not notice was that two tendencies, alien and inimical to each other, were operative in Russia. One of these was the ancient, instinctive, unclear, unconscious, and subliminal drive that is present in the soul of 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 hardly can appreciate today. Superimposed on this instinctive drive was the official foreign policy of a Great Power: Petersburg versus Moscow. Behind it lay the desire to play a role on the world stage, to be recognized and treated as an equal in "Europe." Hence the hyper-refined manners and mores, the faultless good taste -- things which had already begun to degenerate in Paris since Napoleon III. The finest tone of Western society was to be found in certain Petersburg circles.

At the same time, this kind of Russian did not really love any of the Western peoples. He admired, envied, ridiculed, or despised them, but his attitude depended practically always on whether Russia stood to gain or lose by them. Hence the respect shown for Prussia during the Wars of Liberation (Russia would have liked to pocket Prussian territory) and for France prior to the World War (the Russians laughed at her senile cries for revanche). Yet, for the ambitious and intelligent upper classes, Russia was the future master of Europe, intellectually and politically. Even Napoleon, in his time, was aware of this. The Russian army was mobilized at the western border; it was of Western proportions and was unmistakably trained for battle on Western terrain against Western foes. Russia’s defeat at the hands of Japan in 1905 can be partly explained by the lack of training for warfare under anything but Western conditions.

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Such policies were supported by a network of embassies in the great capitals of the West (which the Soviet government has replaced with Communist party centers for agitation). Catherine the Great took away Poland, and with it the final obstacle between East and West. The climax came with the symbolic journey of Alexander I, the "Savior of Europe," to Paris. At the Congress of Vienna, Russia at times played a decisive role, as also in the Holy Alliance, which Metternich called into being as a bulwark against the Western revolution, and which Nicholas I put to work in 1849 restoring order in the Habsburg state in the interest of his own government.

By means of the successful tradition of Petersburg diplomacy, Russia became more and more involved in great decisions of Western European politics. It took part in all the intrigues and calculations that not only concerned areas remote from Russia, but were also quite incomprehensible to the Russian spirit. The army at the western border was made the strongest in the world, and for no urgent reason -- Russia was the only country no one intended to invade after Napoleon’s defeat, while Germany was threatened by France and Russia, Italy by France and Austria, and Austria by France and Russia. One sought alliance with Russia in order to tip the military balance in one’s favor, thus spurring the ambitions of Russian society toward ever greater efforts in non-Russian interests. All of us grew up under the impression that Russia was a European power and that the land beyond the Volga was colonial territory. The center of gravity of the Empire definitely lay to the west of Moscow, not in the Volga region. And the educated Russians thought the very same way. They regarded the defeat in the Far East in 1905 as an insignificant colonial adventure, whereas even the smallest setback at the western border was in their eyes a scandal, inasmuch as it occurred in full view of the Western nations. In the south and north of the Empire a fleet was constructed, quite superfluous for coastal defense: its sole purpose was to play a role in Western political machinations.

On the other hand, the Turkish Wars, waged with the aim of "liberating" the Christian Balkan peoples, touched the Russian soul more deeply. Russia as the heir to Turkey -- that was a mystical idea. There were no differences of opinion on this question. That was the Will of God. Only the Turkish Wars were truly popular wars in Russia. In 1807 Alexander I feared, not without reason, that he might be assassinated by an officers’ conspiracy. The entire officers’ corps preferred a war against the Turks to one against Napoleon. This led to Alexander’s alliance with Napoleon at Tilsit, which dominated world politics until 1812. It is characteristic how Dostoyevsky, in contrast to Tolstoy, became ecstatic over the Turkish War in 1877. He suddenly came alive, constantly wrote down his metaphysical visions, and preached the religious mission of Russia against Byzantium. But the final portion of Anna Karenina was denied publication by the Russian Messenger, for one did not dare to offer Tolstoy’s skepticism to the public.

As I have mentioned, the educated, irreligious, Westernized Russians also shared the mystical longing for Jerusalem, the Kiev monk’s notion of the mother country as the "Third Rome," which after Papal Rome and Luther’s Wittenberg was to take the fulfillment of Christ’s message to the Jerusalem of the apostles. This barely conscious national instinct of all Russians opposes any power that might erect political barricades on the path that leads to Jerusalem by way of Byzantium. In all other countries such political obstacles would simply disturb either national conceit (in the West) or national apathy (in the Far East); in Russia, the mystical soul of the people itself was pierced and profoundly agitated. Hence the brilliant successes of the Slavophil movement, which was not so much interested in winning over Poles and Czechs as in gaining a foothold among the Slavs in the Christian Balkan countries, the neighbors of Constantinople. Even at an earlier date, the Holy War against Napoleon and the Burning of Moscow had involved the emotions of the entire Russian people. This was not just because of the invasion and plundering of the Russian countryside, but because of Napoleon’s obvious long-range plans. In 1809 he had taken over the Illyrian provinces (the present Yugoslavia) and thus became master of the Adriatic. This had decisively strengthened his influence on Turkey to the disadvantage of Russia, and his next step would be, in alliance with Turkey and Persia, to open up the path to India, either from Illyria or from Moscow itself. The Russians’ hatred of Napoleon was later transferred to the Habsburg monarchy, when its designs on Turkish territory -- in Metternich’s time the Danubian principalities, and after 1878 Saloniki -- endangered Russian moves toward the south. Following the Crimean War they extended their hatred to include Great Britain, when that nation appeared to lay claim to Turkish lands by blockading the Straits and later by occupying Egypt and Cyprus.

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Finally, Germany too became the object of this hatred, which goes very deep and cannot be allayed by practical considerations. After 1878, Germany neglected its role as a Russian ally to became more and more the protector and preserver of the crumbling Habsburg state, and thereby also, despite Bismarck’s warning, the supporter of Austro-Hungarian intentions in the Balkans. The German government showed no understanding of the suggestion made by Count Witte, the last of the Russian diplomats friendly to Germany, to choose between Austria and Russia. We could have had a reliable ally in Russia if we had been willing to loosen our ties to Austria. A total reorientation of German policy might have been possible as late as 1911.

Following the Congress of Berlin, hatred of Germany began to spread to all of Russian society, for Bismarck succeeded in restraining Russian diplomacy in the interest of world peace and maintaining the balance of power in "Europe." From the German point of view this was probably correct, and in any case it was a master stroke of Bismarckian statesmanship. But in the eyes of Petersburg it was a mistake, for it deprived the Russian soul of the hope of winning Turkey, and favored England and Austria. And this Russian soul was one of the imponderables that defied diplomatic treatment. Hostility to Germany kept on growing and eventually entered all levels of Russian urban society. It was diverted momentarily when Japanese power, rising up suddenly and broadening the horizons of world politics, forced Russia to experience the Far East as a danger zone. But that was soon forgotten, especially since Germany was so grotesquely inept as to understand neither the immediate situation nor the future possibilities. In time, the senseless idea of the Berlin-Baghdad Railway came up; Germany now seemed intent on capturing full control of this path to Constantinople, a move which would have benefitted neither German politics nor the German economy.

Just as in the field of politics, the economic life of Russia was divided into two main tendencies -- the one active and aggressive, the other passive. The passive element was represented by the Russian peasantry with its primitive agrarian economy; [7] by the old-style merchants with their fairs, caravans, and Volga barges; by Russian craftsmen; and finally by the primitive mining enterprises in the Urals, which developed out of the ancient techniques of pre-Christian "blacksmith tribes," independent of Western mining methods and experience. The forging of iron was invented in Russia in the second millennium B.C. -- the Greeks retained a vague recollection of the beginning of this art. This simple and traditional form of economy gradually found a powerful competitor in the civilized world of Western-style urban economy, with its banks, stock exchanges, factories, and railroads. Then it was money economy versus goods economy; each of these forms of economic existence abhors the other, each tries to attack and annihilate the other.

(7. On the contrast between agrarian and urban economy, see Decline of the West, II, 477ff.)

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The Petrinist state needed a money economy in order to pay for its Westernized politics, its army, and its administrative hierarchy, which was laced with primitive corruption. Incidentally, this form of corruption was habitual public practice in Russia; it is a necessary psychological concomitant of an economy based on the exchange of goods, and is fundamentally different from the clandestine corruption practiced by Western European parliamentarians. The state protected and supported economic thinking that was oriented toward Western capitalism, a type of thinking that Russia neither created nor really understood, but had imported and now had to manage. Furthermore, Russia had also to face its doctrinary opposite, the economic theory of communism. Communism was in fact inseparable from Western economic thinking. It was the Marxist capitalism of the lower class, preached by students and agitators as a vague gospel to the masses in the Petrinist cities.

Still, the decisive and truly agitating factor for Russia’s future was not this literary, theoretical trend in the urban underground. It was, rather, the Russians’ profound, instinctively religious abhorrence of all Western economic practices. They considered "money" and all the economic schemes derived from it, socialistic as well as capitalistic, as sinful and satanic. This was a genuine religious feeling, much like the Western emotion which, during the Gothic centuries, opposed the economic practices of the Arabic-Jewish world and led to the prohibition for Christians of money-lending for interest. In the West, such attitudes had for centuries been little more than a cliché for chapel and pulpit, but now it became an acute spiritual problem in Russia. It caused the suicide of numerous Russians who were seized by "terror of the surplus value," whose primitive thought and emotions could not imagine a way of earning a living that would not entail the "exploitation" of "fellow human beings." This genuine Russian sentiment saw in the world of capitalism an enemy, a poison, the great sin that it ascribed to the Petrinist state despite the deep respect felt for "Little Father," the Tsar.

Such, then, are the deep and manifold roots of the Russian philosophy of intellectual nihilism, which began to grow at the time of the Crimean War and which produced as a final fruit the bolshevism that destroyed the Petrinist state in 1917, replacing it with something that would have been absolutely impossible in the West. Contained within this movement is the orthodox Slavophils’ hatred of Petersburg and all it stood for, [8] the peasants’ hatred of the mir, the type of village commune that contradicted the rural concept of property passed down through countless family generations, as well as every Russian’s hatred of capitalism, industrial economy, machines, railroads, and the state and army that offered protection to this cynical world against an eruption of Russian instincts. It was a primeval religious hatred of uncomprehended forces that were felt to be godless, that one could not change and thus wished to destroy, in order that life could go on in the old-fashioned way.

(8. "The first requirement for the liberation of popular feeling in Russia is to hate Petersburg with heart and soul" (Aksakov to Dostoyevsky). Cf. Decline of the West, II, 193ff.)

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The peasants detested the intelligentsia and its agitating just as strongly as they detested what these people were agitating against. Yet in time the agitation brought a small clique of clever but by and large mediocre personalities to the forefront of power. Even Lenin’s creation is Western, it is Petersburg -- foreign, inimical, and despised by the majority of Russians. Some day, in some way or other, it will perish. It is a rebellion against the West, but born of Western ideas. It seeks to preserve the economic forms of industrial labor and capitalist speculation as well as the authoritarian state, except that it has replaced the Tsarist regime and private capitalist enterprise with an oligarchy and state capitalism, calling itself communism out of deference to doctrine.

It is a new victory for Petersburg over Moscow and, without any doubt, the final and enduring act of self-destruction committed by Petrinism from below. The actual victim is precisely the element that sought to liberate itself by means of the rebellion: the true Russian, the peasant and craftsman, the devout man of religion. Western revolutions such as the English and French seek to improve organically evolved conditions by means of theory, and they never succeed. In Russia, however, a whole world was made to vanish without resistance. Only the artificial quality of Peter the Great’s creation can explain the fact that a small group of revolutionaries, almost without exception dunces and cowards, has had such an effect. Petrinism was an illusion that suddenly burst.

The bolshevism of the early years has thus had a double meaning. It has destroyed an artificial, foreign structure, leaving only itself as a remaining integral part. But beyond this, it has made the way clear for a new culture that will some day awaken between "Europe" and East Asia. It is more a beginning than an end. It is temporary, superficial, and foreign only insofar as it represents the self-destruction of Petrinism, the grotesque attempt systematically to overturn the social superstructure of the nation according to the theories of Karl Marx. At the base of this nation lies the Russian peasantry, which doubtless played a more important role in the success of the 1917 Revolution than the intellectual crowd is willing to admit. These are the devout peasants of Russia who, although they do not yet fully realize it, are the archenemies of bolshevism and are oppressed by it even worse than they were by the Mongols and the old tsars. For this very reason, despite the hardships of the present, 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 and suffocated, and without a doubt, no matter how slowly, it will replace, transform, control, or annihilate bolshevism in its present form. How that will happen, no one can tell at the moment. It depends, among other things, on the appearance of decisive personalities, who, like Genghis Khan, Ivan IV, Peter the Great, and Lenin, can seize Destiny by their iron hand. Here, too, Dostoyevsky stands against Tolstoy as a symbol of the future against the present. Dostoyevsky was denounced as a reactionary because in his Possessed he no longer even recognized the problems of nihilism. For him, such things were just another aspect of the Petrinist system. But Tolstoy, the man of good society, lived in this element; he represented it even in his rebellion, a protest in Western form against the West. Tolstoy, and not Marx, was the leader to bolshevism. Dostoyevsky is its future conqueror.

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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 resistance, it will in time become firm and come to bloom. It is passionately religious in a way we Western Europeans have not been, indeed could not have been, for centuries. As soon as this religious drive is directed toward 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. The intense respect enjoyed over the past centuries by the "holy peasants" whom the regime often exiled to Siberia or liquidated in some other way -- such figures as the priest John of Kronstadt, even Rasputin, but also Ivan and Peter the Great -- will awaken a new type of leaders, leaders to new crusades and legendary conquests. The world round about, filled with religious yearning but no longer fertile in religious concerns, is torn and tired enough to allow it suddenly to take on a new character under the proper circumstances. Perhaps bolshevism itself will change in this way under new leaders; but that is not very probable. For this ruling horde -- it is a fraternity like the Mongols of the Golden Horde -- always has its sights set on the West as did Peter the Great, who likewise made the land of his dreams the goal of his politics. But the silent, deeper Russia has already forgotten the West and has long since begun to look toward Near and East Asia. It is a people of the great inland expanses, not a maritime people.

An interest in Western affairs is upheld only by the ruling group that organizes and supports the Communist parties in the individual countries -- without, as I see it, any chance of success. It is simply a consequence of Marxist theory, not an exercise in practical politics. The only way that Russia might again direct its attention to the West -- with disastrous results for both sides -- would be for other countries (Germany, for instance) to commit serious errors in foreign policy, which could conceivably result in a "crusade" of the Western powers against bolshevism -- in the interest, of course, of Franco-British financial capital. Russia’s secret desire is to move toward Jerusalem and Central Asia, and "the" enemy will always be the one who blocks those paths. The fact that England established the Baltic states and placed them under its influence, thereby causing Russia to lose the Baltic Sea, has not had a profound effect. Petersburg has already been given up for lost, an expendable relic of the Petrinist era. Moscow is once again the center of the nation. But the destruction of Turkey, the partition of that country into French and English spheres of influence, France’s establishment of the Little Entente which closed off and threatened the area from Rumania southwards, French attempts to win control of the Danubian principalities and the Black Sea by aiding the reconstruction of the Hapsburg state -- all these events have made England and, above all, France the heirs to Russian hatred. What the Russians see is the revivification of Napoleonic tendencies; the crossing of the Beresina was perhaps not, after all, the final symbolic event in that movement. Byzantium is and remains the Sublime Gateway to future Russian policy, while, on the other side, Central Asia is no longer a conquered area but part of the sacred earth of the Russian people.

In the face of this rapidly changing, growing Russia, German policy requires the tactical skill of a great statesman and expert in Eastern affairs, but as yet no such man has made his appearance. It is clear that we are not the enemies of Russia; but whose friends are we to be -- of the Russia of today, or of the Russia of tomorrow? Is it possible to be both, or does one exclude the other? Might we not jeopardize such friendship by forming careless alliances?

Similarly obscure and difficult are our economic connections, the actual ones and the potential ones. Politics and economics are two very different aspects of life, different in concept, methods, aims, and significance for the soul of a people. This is not realized in the age of practical materialism, but that does not make it any less fatefully true. Economics is subordinate to politics; it is without question the second and not the first factor in history. The economic life of Russia is only superficially dominated by state capitalism. At its base it is subject to attitudes that are virtually religious in nature. At any rate it is not at all the same thing as top-level Russian politics. Moreover, it is very difficult to predict its short and long-range trends, and even more difficult to control these trends from abroad. The Russia of the last tsars gave the illusion of being an economic complex of Western stamp. Bolshevist Russia would like to give the same illusion; with its communist methods it would even like to become an example for the West. Yet in reality, when considered from the standpoint of Western economics, it is one huge colonial territory where the Russians of the farmlands and small towns work essentially as peasants and craftsmen. Industry and the transportation of industrial products over the rail networks, as well as the process of wholesale distribution of such products, are and will always remain inwardly foreign to this people. The businessman, the factory head, the engineer and inventor are not "Russian" types. As a people, no matter how far individuals may go toward adapting to modern patterns of world economics, the true Russians will always let foreigners do the kind of work they reject because they are inwardly not suited to it. A close comparison with the Age of the Crusades will clarify what I have in mind. [9] At that time, also, the young peoples of the North were nonurban, committed to an agrarian economy. Even the small cities, castle communities, and princely residences were essentially marketplaces for agricultural produce. The Jews and Arabs were a full thousand years "older," and functioned in their ghettos as experts in urban money economy. The Western European fulfills the same function in the Russia of today.

(9. Cf. Decline of the West, II, Chapters XIII and XIV, "The Form-World of Economic Life.")

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Machine industry is basically non-Russian in spirit, and the Russians will forever regard it as alien, sinful, and diabolical. They can bear with it and even respect it, as the Japanese do, as a means toward higher ends, for one casts out demons by the prince of demons. But they can never give their soul to it as did the Germanic nations, which created it with their dynamic sensibility as a symbol and method of their struggling existence. In Russia, industry will always remain essentially the concern of foreigners. But the Russians will be able to distinguish sensitively between what is to their own and what is to the foreigners’ advantage.

As far as "money" is concerned, for the Russians the cities are markets for agricultural commodities; for us they have been since the eighteenth century the centers for the dynamics of money. "Money thinking" will be impossible for the Russians for a long time to come. For this reason, as I have explained, Russia is regarded as a colony by foreign business interests. Germany will be able to gain certain advantages from its proximity to the country, particularly in light of the fact that both powers have the same enemy, the financial interest-groups of the Allied nations.

Yet the German economy can never exploit these opportunities without support from superior politics. Without such support a chaotic seizure of opportunities will ensue, with dire consequences for the future. The economic policy of France has been for centuries, as a result of the sadistic character of the French people, myopic and purely destructive. And a serious German policy in economic affairs simply does not exist.

Therefore it is the prime task of German business to help create order in German domestic affairs, in order to set the stage for a foreign policy that will understand and meet its obligations. Business has not yet grasped the immense economic significance of this domestic task. It is decidedly not a question, as common prejudice would have it, of making politics submit to the momentary interests of single groups, such as has already occurred by means of the worst kind of politics imaginable, party politics. It is not a question of advantages that might last for just a few years. Before the war it was the large agricultural interests, and since the war the large industrial interests, that attempted to focus national policy on the obtaining of temporary advantages, and the results were always nil. But the time for short-range tactics is over. The next decades will bring problems of world-historical dimensions, and that means that business must at all times be subordinate to national politics, not the other way around. Our business leaders must learn to think exclusively in political terms, not in terms of "economic politics." The basic requirement for great economic opportunity in the East is thus order in our politics at home.

mardi, 25 février 2020

Oswald SPENGLER: Nietzsche And His Century

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Oswald SPENGLER:

Nietzsche And His Century

An address delivered on October 15, 1924, Nietzsche’s eightieth birthday, at the Nietzsche Archive, Weimar

First published in Spengler, Reden und Aufsätze (Munich, 1937).

Ex: https://europeanheathenfront.wordpress.com

Looking back at the nineteenth century and letting its great men pass before the mind’s eye, we can observe an amazing thing about the figure of Friedrich Nietzsche, something that was hardly noticeable in his own time. All the other outstanding personages, including Wagner, Strindberg, and Tolstoy, reflect to a certain degree the color and shape of those years. Each of them was somehow bound up with the shallow optimism of the progress-mongers, with their social ethics and utilitarianism, their philosophy of matter and energy, pragmatism and "adaptation"; each of them made sacrifice after sacrifice to the spirit of the time. Only one person represents a radical departure from this pattern. If the word "untimely," which he himself coined, is applicable to anyone at all, then it is Nietzsche. One searches in vain throughout his whole life and all of his thought for any indication that he might have yielded inwardly to any vogue or fad.

In this respect he is the antithesis of, and yet in some ways profoundly related to, the second German of modern times whose life was one great symbol: Goethe. These are the only two notable Germans whose existence has profound significance apart from and in addition to their works. Because both were aware of this from the beginning and continually gave utterance to this awareness, their existence has become a treasure for our nation and an integral part of its spiritual history.

It was Goethe’s good fortune to be born at the high noon of Western culture, at a time of rich and mature intellectuality which he himself eventually came to represent. He had only to become the epitome of his own time in order to achieve the disciplined grandeur implied by those who later called him the "Olympian." Nietzsche lived a century later, and in the meantime a great change had occurred, one which we are only now able to comprehend. It was his fate to come into the world after the Rococo period, and to stand amid the totally cultureless 1860’s and 1870’s. Consider the streets and houses he had to live in, the clothing fashions, furniture, and social mores he had to observe. Consider the way people moved about in social circles in his day, the way they thought, wrote, and felt. Goethe lived at a time filled with respect for form; Nietzsche longed desperately for forms that had been shattered and abandoned. Goethe needed only to affirm what he saw and experienced around him; Nietzsche had no recourse but to protest passionately against everything contemporary, if he was to rescue anything his forebears had bequeathed to him as a cultural heritage. Both of these men strove during their whole lives for strict inner form and discipline. But the eighteenth century was itself "in form." It possessed the highest type of society that Western Europe has ever known. The nineteenth century had neither a distinguished society nor any other kind of formal attributes. Apart from the incidental customs of the urban upper class it possessed only the scattered remains, preserved with great difficulty, of aristocratic and middle-class tradition. Goethe was able to understand and solve the great problems of his time as a recognized member of his society, as we learn in Wilhelm Meister and Elective Affinities; Nietzsche could remain true to his task only by turning his back on society. His frightful loneliness stands as a symbol over against Goethe’s cheerful gregariousness. One of these great men gave shape to existing things; the other brooded over nonexisting things. One of them worked for a prevailing form; the other against a prevailing formlessness.

Aside from this, however, form was something very different for each of them. Of all the great German intellectuals, Nietzsche was the only born musician. All the others -- thinkers, poets, and painters alike -- have either been shapers of material or have taken material apart. Nietzsche lived, felt, and thought by ear. He was, after all, hardly able to use his eyes. His prose is not "written," it is heard -- one might even say sung. The vowels and cadences are more important than the similes and metaphors. What he sensed as he surveyed the ages was their melody, their meter. He discovered the musical keys of foreign cultures. Before him, no one knew of the tempo of history. A great many of his concepts -- the Dionysian, the Pathos of Distance, the Eternal Recurrence -- are to be understood quite musically. He sensed the rhythm of what is called nobility, ethics, heroism, distinction, and master morality. He was the first to experience as a symphony the image of history that had been created by scholarly research out of data and numbers -- the rhythmic sequence of ages, customs, and attitudes.

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He himself had music, just as he walked, spoke, dressed, experienced other people, stated problems, and drew conclusions. What Bildung had been for Goethe, was for Nietzsche tact in the broadest sense: social, moral, historical, and linguistic tact, a feeling for the proper sequence of things, made all the keener by his suffering in an age that had very little of this feeling. Like Zarathustra, Goethe’s Tasso was born of suffering, but Tasso succumbed to a feeling of weakness when challenged by a contemporary world which he loved and which he regarded as superior to himself. Zarathustra abhorred the contemporary world, and fled from it to distant worlds of the past and future.

The inability to feel "at home" in one’s own time -- that is a German curse. Because of the guilt of our past we came into bloom too late and too suddenly. Beginning with Klopstock and Lessing, we had to cover in eighty years a distance for which other nations had centuries. For this reason we never developed a formal inner tradition or a distinguished society that could act as guardian of such a tradition. We borrowed forms, motifs, problems, and solutions from all sides and struggled with them, whereas others grew up with them and in them. Our end was implicit in our beginning. Heinrich von Kleist discovered -- he was the first to do so -- the problematics of Ibsen at the same time that he strove to emulate Shakespeare. This tragic state of affairs produced in Germany a series of outstanding artistic personalities at a time when England and France had already gone over to producing literati -- art and thought as a profession rather than a destiny. But it also caused the fragmentation and frustration expressed in much of our art, the thwarting of final aims and artistic thoroughness.

Today we use the terms "Classical" and "Romantic" to denote the antithesis that appeared around 1800 everywhere in Western Europe, literary Petersburg included. Goethe was a Classic to the same extent that Nietzsche was a Romantic, but these words merely designate the predominant hues in their essential natures. Each of them also possessed the other potentiality, which at times urged its way to the foreground. Goethe, whose Faust-monologues and West-Eastern Divan are high points of Romantic sensibility, strove at all times to confine this urge for distance and boundlessness within clear and strict traditional forms. Similarly, Nietzsche often suppressed his acquired inclination for the Classical and rational, which held a twofold fascination for him by reason of temperament and philological profession, to what he termed the Dionysian, at least when he was evaluating. Both men were borderline cases. Just as Goethe was the last of the Classics, Nietzsche was, next to Wagner, the last of the Romantics. By their lives and their creations they exhausted the possibilities of these two movements. After them, it was no longer possible to render the meaning of the ages in the same words and images -- the imitators of the Classical drama and the latter-day Zarathustras have proved this. Moreover, it is impossible to invent a new method of seeing and saying like theirs. Germany may well bring forth impressive formative minds in the future; however, fortunate for us, they will nonetheless be isolated occurrences, for we have reached the end of the grand development. And they will always be overshadowed by the two great figures of Goethe and Nietzsche.

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An essential characteristic of Western Classicism was its intense preoccupation with the contemporary world. While seeking to control human drives that tend in opposite directions, it attempted to make the past and the future coalesce in the contemporary situation. Goethe’s dictum about the "Demands of the Day," his "cheerful present," imply after all that he called upon various kinds of past figures and events -- his Greeks, his Renaissance, Götz von Berlichingen, Faust, and Egmont -- in order to infuse them with the spirit of his own time. The result is that when reading such works as Tasso or Iphigenia we are not at all mindful of historical precedent. Just the opposite is the case with the Romantics; their proper domain was remote places and times. They longed for withdrawal from the present to distant and foreign realms, to the past and future of history. None of them ever had a profound relationship with the things that surrounded him.

The Romantic is enticed by whatever is strange to his nature, the Classic by what is proper to his nature. Noble dreamers on the one hand, noble masters of dreams on the other. The one type adored the conquerors, rebels, and criminals of the past, or ideal states and supermen of the future; the other type construed statesmanship in practical, methodical terms or, like Goethe and Humboldt, even practiced it themselves. One of Goethe’s great masterpieces is the conversation between Egmont and William of Orange. He loved Napoleon, for he was witness to his deeds in his own time and locality. He was never able to recreate artistically the violent personalities of the past; his Caesar went unwritten. But that is precisely the type of personality that Nietzsche worshipped -- from a distance. At close range, as with Bismarck, he was repelled by them. Napoleon would also have repelled him. He would have seemed to him uncouth, shallow, and mindless, like the Napoleonic types that lived around him -- the great European politicians and the rough-and-ready businessmen whom he never even saw, much less understood. He needed a vast distance between the Then and the Now in order to have a genuine relationship with a given reality. Thus he created his Superman and, almost as arbitrarily, the figure of Cesare Borgia.

These two tendencies are tragically present in the most recent German history. Bismarck was a Classic of politics. He based his calculations entirely on things that existed, things he could see and manipulate. The fanatical patriots neither loved nor understood him until his creative work appeared as a finished product, until he could be romantically transfigured as a mythic personage: "The Old Man of the Saxon Forests." On the other hand, Ludwig II of Bavaria, who perished as a Romantic and who never created or even could have created anything of enduring value, actually received this kind of love (without returning it), not only from the people at large, but also from artists and thinkers who should have looked more closely. Kleist is regarded in Germany with, at best, a reluctant admiration that is tantamount to rejection, particularly in those instances where he succeeded in overcoming his own Romantic nature. He is inwardly quite remote from most Germans, unlike Nietzsche, whose nature and destiny were in many ways similar to the Bavarian king’s, and who is instinctively honored even by those who have never read him.

Nietzsche’s longing for remoteness also explains his aristocratic taste, which was that of a completely lonely and visionary personality. Like the Ossian-type Romanticism that originated in Scotland, the early Classicism of the eighteenth century began on the Thames and was later taken across to the Continent. It is impossible to consider it apart from the Rationalism of the same period. The Classicists engaged in the act of creativity consciously and deliberately; they replaced free imagination with knowledge, at times even with scholarly erudition. They understood the Greeks, the Renaissance, and inevitably also the world of contemporary active affairs. These English Classicists, all of them of high social standing, helped create liberalism as a philosophy of life as it was understood by Frederick the Great and his century: the deliberate ignoring of distinctions that were known to exist in the practical life but were in any case not considered as obstacles; the rational preoccupation with matters of public opinion that could neither be gotten rid of nor hushed up, but that somehow had to be rendered harmless. This upper-class Classicism gave rise to English democracy -- a superior form of tactics, not a codified political program. It was based on the long and intensive experience of a social stratum that habitually dealt with real and practicable possibilities, and that was therefore never in danger of losing its essential congeniality.

Goethe, who was also conscious of his social rank, was never an aristocrat in the passionate, theoretical sense -- unlike Nietzsche, who lacked the habituation to regular practical experience. Nietzsche never really became familiar with the democracy of his time in all its strength and weakness. To be sure, he rebelled against the herd instinct with the wrath of his extremely sensitive soul, but the chief cause of his anger was to be found somewhere in the historical past. He was doubtless the first to demonstrate in such radical fashion how in all cultures and epochs of the past the masses count for nothing, that they suffer from history but do not create it, that they are at all times the pawns and victims of the personal will of individuals and classes born to be rulers. People had sensed this often enough before, but Nietzsche was the first to destroy the traditional image of "humanity" as progress toward the solution of ideal problems through the agency of its leaders. Herein lies the immense difference between the historiography of a Niebuhr or a Ranke, which as an idea was likewise of Romantic origin, and Nietzsche’s method of historical vision. His way of looking into the soul of past epochs and peoples overcame the mere pragmatic structure of facts and events.

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Yet such a technique required detachment. English Classicism, which produced the first modern historian of Greece in George Grote -- a businessman and practical politician -- was quite exclusively the affair of higher society. It ennobled the Greeks by regarding them as peers, by "present-ing" them in the truest sense of the word as distinguished, cultivated, intellectually refined human beings who at all times acted "in good taste" -- even Harner and Pindar, poets whom the English school of classical philology was the first to prefer over Horace and Virgil. From the higher circles of English society this Classicism entered the only corresponding circles in Germany, the courts of the small principalities, where the tutors and preachers acted as intermediaries. The courtly atmosphere of Weimar was the world in which Goethe’s life became the symbol of cheerful conviviality and purposeful activity. Weimar was the friendly center of intellectual Germany, a place that offered calm satisfaction to a degree unknown by any other German writer, an opportunity for harmonious growth, maturing, and ageing that was Classical in a specifically German sense.

Next to this career there is the other, which likewise ended in Weimar. It started out in the seclusion of a Protestant pastor’s home, the cradle of many if not most of Germany’s great minds, and reached its height in the sun-drenched solitude of the Engadin. No other German has ever lived such an impassioned private existence, far removed from all society and publicity -- though all Germans, even if they are "public" personalities, have a longing for such solitude. His intense yearning for friendship was in the last analysis simply his inability to lead a genuine social life, and thus it was a more spiritual form of loneliness. Instead of the friendly "Goethe house" on Weimar’s Frauenplan, we see the joyless little cottages in Sils-Maria, the solitude of the mountains and the sea, and finally a solitary breakdown in Turin -- it was the most thoroughly Romantic career the nineteenth century ever offered.

Nevertheless, his need to communicate was stronger than he himself believed, much stronger at any rate than Goethe’s, who was one of the most taciturn of men despite the social life that surrounded him. Goethe’s Elective Affinities is a secretive book, not to speak of Wilhelm Meister’s Years of Wandering and Faust II. His most profound poems are monologues. The aphorisms of Nietzsche are never monologues; nor are the Night Song and the Dionysus Dithyrambs completely monologues. An invisible witness is always present, always watching. That is why he remained at all times a believing Protestant. All the Romantics lived in schools and coteries, and Nietzsche invented something of the sort by imagining that his friends were, as listeners, his intellectual peers. Or again, he created in the remote past and future a circle of intimates, only to complain to them, like Novalis and Hölderlin, of his loneliness. His whole life was filled with the torture and bliss of renunciation, of the desire to surrender and to force his inner nature, to bind himself in same way to something that always proved to be foreign to himself. Yet that is how he developed insight into the soul of epochs and cultures that could never reveal their secrets to self-assured, Classical minds.

This organic pessimism of his being explains the works and the sequence in which they appeared. We who were not able to experience the great flourishing of materialism in the mid-nineteenth century should never cease to be amazed at the audacity that went into the writing, at such a tender age and contrary to the opinions of contemporary philological scholarship, of The Birth of Tragedy. The famous antithesis of Apollo and Dionysus contains much more than even today’s average reader can comprehend. The most significant thing about that essay was not that its author discovered an inner conflict in "Classical" Greece, the Greece that had been the purest manifestation of "humanity" for all others except perhaps Bachofen and Burckhardt. More important still was that even at that age he possessed the superior vision that allowed him to peer into the heart of whole cultures as if they were organic, living individuals. We need only read Mommsen and Curtius to notice the tremendous difference. The others regarded Greece simply as the sum of conditions and events occurring within a certain span of time and space. Our present-day method of looking at history owes its origin, but not its depth, to Romanticism. In Nietzsche’s day, history, as far as Greece and Rome were concerned, was little more than applied philology, and as far as the Western peoples were concerned little more than applied archival research. It invented the idea that history began with written records.

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The liberation from this view came out of the spirit of music. Nietzsche the musician invented the art of feeling one’s way into the style and rhythm of foreign cultures, aside from and often in contradiction to the written documents. But what did written documents matter anyway? With the word "Dionysus" Nietzsche discovered what the archaeologists eventually brought to light thirty years later -- the underworld and the undersoul of Classical culture, and ultimately the spiritual force that underlies all of history. Historical description had become the psychology of history. The eighteenth century and Classicism, including Goethe, believed in "culture" -- a single, true, mental and moral culture as the task of a unified humanity. From the very beginning Nietzsche spoke quite unforcedly of "cultures" as of natural phenomena that simply began at a certain time and place, without reason or goal or whatever an all-too-human interpretation might wish to make of it. "At a certain time" -- the point was made clear from the very first time in Nietzsche’s book that all of these cultures, truths, arts, and attitudes are peculiar to a mode of existence that makes its appearance at one certain time and then disappears for good. The idea that every historical fact is the expression of a spiritual stimulus, that cultures, epochs, estates, and races have a soul like that of individuals -- this was such a great step forward in historical depth-analysis that even the author himself was at the time not aware of its full implications.

However, one of the things the Romantic yearns for is to escape from himself. This yearning, together with the great misfortune of having been born in that particular period in history, caused Nietzsche to serve as a herald for the most banal form of realism in his second book, Human, All-Too-Human. These were the years when Western Rationalism, after abandoning its glorious beginnings with Rousseau, Voltaire, and Lessing, ended as a farce. Darwin’s theories, together with the new faith in matter and energy, became the religion of the big cities; the soul was regarded as a chemical process involving proteins, and the meaning of the universe boiled down to the social ethics of enlightened philistines. Not a single fiber of Nietzsche’s being was party to these developments. He had already given vent to his disgust in the first of his "Untimely Meditations," but the scholar in him envied Chamfort and Vauvenargues and their lighthearted and somewhat cynical manner of treating serious topics in the style of the grand monde. The artist and enthusiast in him was perplexed by the massive sobriety of an Eugen Dühring, which he mistook for true greatness. Priestly character that he was, he proceeded to unmask religion as prejudice. Now the goal of life was knowledge, and the goal of history became for him the development of intelligence. He said this in a tone of ridicule that served to heighten his own passion, precisely because it hurt to do so, and because he suffered from the unrealizable longing to create in the midst of his own time a seductive picture of the future that would contrast with everything he was born into.

While the ecstatic utilitarianism of the Darwinian school was extremely remote from his way of thinking, he took from it certain secret revelations that no true Darwinist ever dreamed of. In The Dawn of Day and The Gay Science there appeared, in addition to a way of looking at things that was meant to be prosaic and even scornful, another technique of examining the world -- a restrained, quiet, admiring attitude that penetrated deeper than any mere realist could ever hope to achieve. Who, before Nietzsche, had ever spoken in the same way of the soul of an age, an estate, a profession, of the priest and the hero, or of man and woman? Who had ever been able to summarize the psychology of whole centuries in an almost metaphysical formula? Who had ever postulated in history, rather than facts and "eternal truths," the types of heroic, suffering, visionary, strong, and diseased life as the actual substance of events as they happen?

That was a wholly new kind of living forms, and could have been discovered only by a born musician with a feeling for rhythm and melody. Following this presentation of the physiognomy of the ages of history, a science of which he was and will always be the creator, he reached to the outer limits of his vision to describe the symbols of a future, his future, which he needed in order to be cleansed of the residue of contemporary thought. In one sublime moment he conjured the image of Eternal Recurrence, as it had been vaguely surmised by German mystics in the Middle Ages -- an endless circling in the eternal void, in the night of immeasurable eons, a way to lose one’s soul utterly in the mysterious depths of the cosmos, regardless of whether such things are scientifically justifiable or not. Into the midst of this vision he placed the Superman and his prophet, Zarathustra, representing the incarnate meaning of human history, in all its brevity, on the planet that was his home. All three of these creations were completely distant, impossible to relate to contemporary conditions. For this very reason they have exerted a curious attraction on every German soul. For in every German soul there is a place where dreams are dreamed of social ideals and a finer future for mankind. Goethe lacked such a corner in his soul, and that is why he never became a truly popular personage. The people sensed this lack, and thus they called him aloof and frivolous. We shall never overcome this reverie of ours; it represents within us the unlived portion of a great past.

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Once having arrived at this height, Nietzsche posed the question as to the value of the world, a question that had accompanied him since childhood. By doing so he brought to an end the period of Western philosophy that had considered the types of knowledge as its central problem. This new question likewise had two answers: a Classical and a Romantic answer or, to put it in the terms of the time, a social and an aristocratic answer. "Life has value to the same degree as it serves the totality" -- that was the answer of the educated Englishmen who had learned at Oxford to distinguish between what a person stated as his considered opinion and what the same person did at decisive moments as a politician or businessman. "Life is all the more valuable, the stronger its instincts are" -- that was the answer given by Nietzsche, whose own life was delicate and easily injured. Be that as it may, for the very reason that he was remote from the active life he was able to grasp its mysteries. His ultimate understanding of real history was that the Will to Power is stronger than all doctrines and principles, and that it has always made and forever will make history, no matter what others may prove or preach against it. He did not concern himself with the conceptual analysis of "will"; to him the most important thing was the image of active, creative, destructive Will in history. The "concept" of will gave way to the "aspect" of will. He did not teach, he simply pointed matters out: "Thus it was, and thus it shall be." Even if theoretical and priestly individuals will it a thousand times differently, the primeval instincts of life will still emerge victorious.

What a difference between Schopenhauer’s world view and this one! And between Nietzsche’s contemporaries, with their sentimental plans for improving the world, and this demonstration of hard facts! Such an accomplishment places this last Romantic thinker at the very pinnacle of his century. In this we are all his pupils, whether we wish to be or not, whether we know him well or not. His vision has already imperceptibly conquered the world. No one writes history any more without seeing things in his light.

He undertook to evaluate life using facts as the sole criteria, and the facts taught that the stronger or weaker will to succeed determines whether life is valuable or worthless, that goodness and success are almost mutually exclusive. His image of the world reached its culmination with a magnificent critique of morality in which, instead of preaching morality, he evaluated the moralities that have arisen in history -- not according to any "true" moral system but according to their success. This was indeed a "revaluation of all values," and although we now know that he misstated the antithesis of Christian and master-morality as a result of his personal suffering during the 1880’s, nonetheless the ultimate antithesis of human existence lay behind his statement; he sought it, and sensed it, and believed that he had captured it with his formula.

If instead of "master morality" we were to say the instinctive practice of men who are determined to act, and instead of "Christian morality" the theoretical ways in which contemplative persons evaluate, then we would have before us the tragic nature of all mankind, whose dominant types will forever misunderstand, combat, and suffer from each other. Deed and thought, reality and ideal, success and redemption, strength and goodness -- these are forces that will never come to terms with one another. Yet in historical reality it is not the ideal, goodness, or morality that prevails -- their kingdom is not of this world -- but rather decisiveness, energy, presence of mind, practical talent. This fact cannot be gotten rid of with laments and moral condemnations. Man is thus, life is thus, history is thus.

Precisely because all action was foreign to him, because he knew only how to think, Nietzsche understood the fundamental essence of the active life better than any great active personality in the world. But the more he understood, the more shyly he withdrew from contact with action. In this way his Romantic destiny reached fulfillment. Under the force of these last insights, the final stage of his career took shape in strict contrast to that of Goethe, who was not foreign to action but who regarded his true calling as poetry, and therefore restrained his actions cheerfully.

Goethe, the Privy Councillor and Minister, the celebrated focal point of European intellect, was able to confess during his last year of life, in the final act of his Faust, that he looked upon his life as having attained fulfillment. "Tarry now, thou art so fair!" -- that is a phrase expressive of the most blissful satiety, spoken at the moment when the active physical work is completed under Faust’s command, to endure now and forevermore. It was the great and final symbol of the Classicism to which this life had been dedicated, and which led from the controlled cultural education of the eighteenth century to the controlled exercise of personal talent of the nineteenth.

Yet one cannot create distance, one can only proclaim it. Just as Faust’s death brought a Classical career to an end, the mind of the loneliest of wanderers vanished with a curse upon his age during those mysterious days in Turin, when he watched the last mists disappear from his image of the world and the highest peaks come ever clear into view. This puzzling final episode of his life is the very reason Nietzsche’s existence has had the stronger influence on the world ever since. Goethe’s life was a full life, and that means that it brought something to completion. Countless Germans will honor Goethe, live with him, and seek his support; but he can never transform them. Nietzsche’s effect is a transformation, for the melody of his vision did not end with his death. The Romantic attitude is eternal; though its form may at times be unified and complete, its thought never is. It will always conquer new areas, either destroying them or changing them radically. Nietzsche’s type of vision will pass on to new friends and enemies, and these in turn will hand it down to other followers and adversaries. Even if someday no one reads his works any longer, his vision will endure and be creative.

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His work is not a part of our past to be enjoyed; it is a task that makes servants of us all. As a task it is independent of his books and their subject matter, and thus a problem of German destiny. In an age that does not tolerate otherworldly ideals and takes vengeance on their authors, when the only thing of recognized value is the kind of ruthless action that Nietzsche baptized with the name of Cesare Borgia, when the morality of the ideologues and world improvers is limited more radically than ever to superfluous and innocuous writing and speech-making -- in such an age, unless we learn to act as real history wants us to act, we will cease to exist as a people. We cannot live without a form of wisdom that does not merely console in difficult situations, but helps one to get out of them. This kind of hard wisdom made its first appearance in German thought with Nietzsche, despite the fact that it was cloaked in thoughts and impressions he had gathered from other sources. To the people most famished for history in all the world, he showed history as it really is. His heritage is the obligation to live history in the same way.

lundi, 24 février 2020

Hommage à Oswald Spengler

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Hommage à Oswald Spengler

Armin Mohler
 
Extrait du numéro 1 de la revue Orientations (1982)
Ex: https://philippedelbauvre.blogspot.com
 
Il y a plusieurs façons d’ignorer les pensées des grands hommes et de vivre comme si ces pensées n’avaient jamais été émises. En 1980, c’est ce que tout observateur a pu constater en Allemagne Fédérale. On y célébrait le centenaire de la naissance d’Oswald Spengler. Même dans les hommages rendus au philosophe, on doit, objectivement, constater des lacunes. Les uns ont souligné l’importance de la philosophie spenglérienne de l’Histoire, dont les prophéties auraient été confirmées par les événements ; mais, ainsi, ils ont évité d’aborder les affirmations politiques de l’auteur du Déclin de l’Occident. D’autres ont voulu “sauver” le Spengler politicien, en faisant de lui un antifasciste et en n’étudiant que très superficiellement les liens qui ont existé entre Spengler, Hitler et le national-socialisme. Je ne dirais rien des “brillants” essayistes, qui se sont prodigieusement acharné à l’étude de Spengler pour en tirer très peu de choses.
 
Le Spengler total
 
Ce fut un autre vénérable grand homme, Herbert Cysarz (né 16 ans après Spengler) qui put vraiment saisir l’œuvre de Spengler dans sa totalité. L’hommage qu’il lui rend, dans le numéro de janvier 1980 de la revue Aula, éditée à Graz en Autriche, commence par ces mots : « Aucun historien contemporain n’a connu une aussi grande gloire qu’Oswald Spengler. Aucun n’a été, de son vivant, aussi incontestablement original. Cet homme, hostile à toute littérature et à tout idéalisme, totalement étranger au monde abstrait des livres, a fait entrevoir les grands thèmes et les multiples imbrications de l’Histoire et a souligné, comme cela n’avait jamais auparavant été fait, l’intensité qui réside dans le vouloir et l’agir. Il a donné au monde une nouvelle manière de concevoir la politique, ainsi qu’un style particulier de voir, de penser et de présenter l’Histoire ». Bien évidemment, Cysarz sait que Spengler est plus qu’un historien ; à propos de son œuvre, il écrit qu’elle reste un signe du destin qui s’est manifesté au tournant de notre temps.
Un homme de la même génération que Cysarz, Ernst Jünger avait déjà écrit des choses de ce genre dans les années vingt, même si le ton était plus mesuré, moins pathétique. Dans un très important article politique de l’époque (dont, bien entendu, on ne prévoit pas la réédition dans les œuvres complètes de Jünger), il exprimait une opinion partagée par beaucoup de contemporains : pour un cerveau de la trempe de celui de Spengler, ils donneraient bien tout un Parlement.
 
41CdU-U0i7L._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgLes faiblesses de l’œuvre de Spengler
 
Une acceptation aussi enthousiaste de la totalité de l’œuvre de Spengler ne signifie toutefois pas qu’on en avalise tous les détails, sans formuler aucune critique. Spengler n’est pas un surhomme ; il a, lui aussi, ses faiblesses. À coté des prophéties qui se sont effectivement réalisées, il y a celles qui n’ont eu aucune suite. Les études approfondies de Spengler sur les diverses cultures de l’Histoire, nous obligent à constater que tous les domaines de l’activité créatrice de l’homme ne lui sont pas également familiers. Par exemple, le style littéraire de Spengler n’est pas toujours à la hauteur de ses sujets ; il n’y a pas lieu de s’en étonner, car ces textes suscitent de trop fortes émotions. Les ennemis de Spengler se plaisent d’ailleurs à citer les phrases où transparaît un certain “kitsch”. De plus, Spengler accuse une faiblesse, comme bon nombre de visionnaires : ce qui est tout immédiat lui échappe. Ainsi, selon lui, le grand poète de sa génération n’est ni Stefan George ni Rainer Maria Rilke, mais Ernst Droem, qui est, à juste titre, resté inconnu.
 
Très révélatrice est la réaction de l’auteur du Déclin de l’Occident à l’envoi, par un jeune écrivain, d’un livre capital de notre siècle. En 1932, en effet, Ernst Jünger fit envoyer à Spengler, accompagné de tous ses respects, son livre intitulé Der Arbeiter (Le Travailleur). Spengler s’est contenté de feuilleter le livre et écrivit : « En Allemagne, la paysannerie est encore une force politique. Et lorsque l’on oppose à la paysannerie — prétendument moribonde — le “Travailleur”, c’est-à-dire l’ouvrier des fabriques, on s’éloigne de la réalité et l’on s’interdit toute influence sur l’avenir… ». Comme Spengler n’a pas lu le livre, il ne peut savoir que Jünger ne parle pas de l’ouvrier des fabriques. Mais il est fort étonnant qu’il surévalue les potentialités politiques d’une paysannerie qui, quelques années plus tard, allait être complètement annihilée.
 
Le barrage intérieur
 
Ni ces quelques aveuglements ni les aspects bizarres de la vie de Spengler ne doivent détourner notre attention de l’ensemble de son œuvre. Cet homme susceptible se mit un masque, prit un style qu’il ne faut pas prendre tel quel. Ainsi, les admirateurs de Spengler éviteront de confondre sa personnalité véritable avec ce “masque césarien” qu’il affichait lors de ses nombreuses apparitions publiques (1).
 
Les détracteurs de Spengler, de leur côté, s’efforceront de ne pas le décrire, à la lumière de sa vie privée, comme une sorte de totem bizarre de la bourgeoisie déclinante.
 
978841517778.JPGBien sûr, la vie recluse de Spengler permet de telles suppositions. Il est né le 29 mai 1880, fils d’un haut fonctionnaire des postes, à Blankenburg dans le Harz (2). Ce n’était pas le père, homme paisible, qui dominait la vie familiale mais la mère, une créature à moitié folle, dévorée d’ambitions pseudo-artistiques. Elle remplissait leur grand appartement d’une telle quantité de meubles que le jeune Oswald et ses trois sœurs devaient loger dans des débarras, sous le toit !
 
Après avoir soutenu une dissertation sur Héraclite, Spengler devint professeur de mathématiques et de sciences naturelles, dans un lycée (Gymnasium). Ensuite, le décès de sa mère ne lui laissa pas d’héritage consistant, mais lui permit quand même de vivre sans travailler ; de 1911 à la mortelle crise cardiaque du 7 mai 1936, il vivra retiré, en chercheur indépendant, à Munich, dans un appartement immense de style “Gründerzeit” (le style des années 1870-1880), bourré de meubles massifs et situé dans la Widenmayerstraße. Une des ses sœurs le soignait.
 
Il voyageait peu et n’entretenait qu’un cercle restreint de relations. Il a refusé les postes de professeur qu’on lui offrait. Il a été réformé lors de la Première Guerre mondiale. Cette vie semble dominée par un refus farouche de tous contacts humains. On ne sait rien d’éventuelles relations érotiques. Dès le départ, il y a repli vers l’intériorité. Et seul, chez Spengler, nous intéresse le résultat qu’a produit cet isolement dès 1917. La chasteté de cette existence n’est nullement un argument contre l’œuvre de Spengler. Comme, du reste, l’isolement dans une cellule monacale ne saurait être un argument contre Augustin.
 
Au-delà de l’optimisme et du pessimisme
 
Dans l’histoire des idées, la signification de l’œuvre de Spengler réside en ceci que, dans une situation de crise, il ramène à la conscience les fondements “souterrains” de la pensée, avec une vigueur qui rappelle celle d’un Georges Sorel. Mais quel fut cette situation de crise ? L’effondrement, à cause de la Première Guerre mondiale, du Reich allemand qui, pendant des siècles, avait été le centre de l’Europe. Et quels sont ces fondements “souterrains” ? C’est la pensée résolument réaliste amorcée par Héraclite et l’école du Portique (Stoa). C’est une pensée qui renonce, depuis toujours, aux fausses consolations et aux mirages des systèmes fondés sur de pseudo-ordres cosmiques. De manière magistrale, Spengler confronte la génération de la guerre à cette pensée. Son style était un curieux mélange de “monumentalité” classique et d’expressionnisme, fait de couleurs criardes. Et ce sont précisément ceux qui, le plus profondément, avaient expérimenté l’effondrement du monde bourgeois (celui de la “Maison de Poupée”) (3), qui entendirent son appel.
 
Cette pensée se situe au-delà de l’optimisme et du pessimisme. Le titre que l’éditeur choisit pour l’œuvre majeure de Spengler (Le Déclin de l’Occident) trompe. Il est possible, qu’en privé, Spengler ait déploré l’effondrement d’un monde qui lui était cher. Mais son œuvre ne déplore rien ; elle nous apprend bien plutôt que l’Histoire est un unique mouvement d’émergence et de déclin et qu’il ne reste rien d’autre à l’homme que de faire face, avec contenance, à cette réalité, dans le lieu que le destin lui a désigné. C’est ce qui a empêché Spengler de s’identifier au IIIe Reich et qui l’a amené, en 1933, dans son dernier ouvrage, Jahre der Entscheidung (Années décisives), à reprocher au NSDAP son aveuglement en politique extérieure. Pour Spengler, la politique extérieure, parce qu’elle est combat, est primordiale par rapport à la politique intérieure qui, elle, insiste davantage sur le bien-être. Ainsi le caractère hybride du national-socialisme apparaît clairement : en tant que socialisme, il recèle une forte tendance à l’utopie, même s’il connaît aussi la fascination de la mélodie héraclitéenne.
 
Sans doute, aucune praxis politique n’est possible sans une certaine dose d’espérance et sans allusions à un ordre (cosmique) doté de sens (téléologique). Seule une minorité d’individus soutient le regard de la Gorgone. Dans cette minorité, le pourcentage des hommes d’action est plus élevé que celui des intellectuels, des prêtres et des autres fabricants d’opinions. De toutes façons, les disciples d’Héraclite disposent de leur propre consolation, qu’ils tirent précisément de ce qui constitue, pour les autres, une source de terreur. La lecture de Spengler nous démontre le double aspect de la pensée héraclitéenne.
 
71rj2J5LdWL.jpgL’inflexibilité
 
C’est avec pertinence que Herbert Cysarz a cité les deux phrases qui montrent le plus implacablement ce qui sépare Oswald Spengler tant de la société libérale que de toute espèce de dictature du bien-être (qu’elle soit rouge ou brune) (4). La première de ces phrases dit : « Les faits sont plus importants que les vérités ». La seconde : « La vie n’est pas sainte ». C’est là le rude côté de la philosophie spenglérienne et c’est dans L’Homme et la Technique (1931), un livre épuré de toute ambiguïté, que Spengler la souligne tout particulièrement, par défi contre tous les bavardages de notre siècle.
Heinz Friedrich, dans son article de Die Welt, rédigé pour le centenaire du philosophe, a eu des formules plus concises encore. Il part du fait que Spengler lui-même se déclare disciple de Goethe et de Nietzsche. Cysarz, lui, disait que la notion spenglérienne de destin révélait davantage d’affinités électives avec les sagas germaniques et l’héroïsme tragique de Shakespeare qu’avec l’humanisme classique. Heinz Friedrich écrit, dans un langage qui n’a rien de spenglérien (il parle des “vérités” !) : « À la fin de ce siècle de chaos, les citoyens doivent s’habituer à ne pas seulement prendre connaissances des vérités, mais aussi à les vivre et à vivre avec elles. Comme le disait Goethe, il n’y a pas que la Nature qui soit insensible, il y a aussi l’Histoire car, pour paraphraser Spengler, on peut dire qu’elle détient plus de caractéristiques naturelles que nous voulons bien l’admettre. En conséquence, c’est avec indifférence qu’elle ignore nos espoirs et nos craintes ».
 
Pour Heinz Friedrich, ce qu’il y a de nietzschéen dans cela, c’est le diagnostic qui pose la décadence comme faiblesse vitale : « L’agent de la vie, le facteur favorisant l’éternel devenir, c’est, pour Nietzsche, la Volonté de Puissance ». Friedrich ajoute un avertissement : « La Volonté de Puissance, reconnue par Nietzsche comme principe vital, est tout autre chose que l’orgueil biologique et musculaire qu’aujourd’hui encore, l’on veut entendre par là ». Cette conception vulgaire des choses est partagée par les adeptes de Nietzsche comme par ses adversaires). Cela signifie tout simplement que toute vie a la pulsion de s’affirmer. Spengler est plus qu’un disciple de Nietzsche : il le complète et le transforme. La contribution personnelle de Spengler à cette école de pensée est qu’il réalise quelque chose, qu’il a trouvé, chez Nietzsche, sous la forme d’un appel.
 
Les couleurs de la vie
 
Celui qui résiste au regard de la Gorgone, n’est pas détourné du monde. Bien au contraire, il voit le monde de manière plus intense, plus plastique, plus colorée. C’est cela la réalité paradoxale. Le regard des espérances, en revanche, ne veut voir que des cohérences, des lois et, de ce fait, détourne l’attention du particulier pour se perdre dans le général : il désenchante le monde.
 
Il faut se rendre compte combien les Weltanschauungen dominantes, qui sont un piètre mélange de la fade idéologie des Lumières et de christianisme sécularisé, ont, pour l’homme moyen, transformé le monde en un ensemble de schémas tristes. C’est le résultat d’une vision bien déterminée de l’Histoire (dans l’Histoire, l’homme décrypte le monde pour le comprendre). Dans cette vision, d’où la vie tient-elle sa valeur ? De quelque chose qui sera atteint dans un lointain futur après une longue évolution et après notre mort. Rien n’est soi-même ; chaque chose n’existe qu’à partir du moment où elle signifie quelque chose d’autre, qui se trouve “derrière” elle.
 
978841795067.JPGLa vie se voit alors réduite à une rationalité moyenne, qui interdit toutes ces grandes effervescences qui entraînent soit vers le haut soit vers le bas ; l’homme se meut alors dans un cadre étroit qui ne lui propose rien de plus que la satisfaction de ses besoins physiques. Au-dessus de ce cadre, souffle un tiède ventelet d’éthique behavioriste. Arnold Gehlen appelait cela « l’eudémonisme de masse ». Les masses sont constituées d’individus isolés, qui ne s’enracinent dans rien de solide, qui ne sont insérés dans aucune structure concrète, qui errent sans but dans le “général”.
 
C’est placé devant un tel arrière-plan que le cyclone spenglérien doit être compris: il brise la monotonie de ce qui prétend s’appeler “moderne” et réinjecte, dans le monde, de vibrantes tonalités. Dans la vision spenglérienne, l’homme n’incarne plus une quelconque “généralité”, qu’il partageait avec tous ses semblables. Bien au contraire, il appartient à une culture spécifique, qui ne peut être ramenée à quelque chose d’autre mais qui a son propre sens. Chaque culture est de nature totalement cultuelle, parce que, dans tout ce qu’elle produit, ressort le symbole particulier auquel elle s’identifie et par lequel elle se distingue. Spengler voit vivre ces cultures comme vivent des plantes, avec leurs phases de croissance et de décomposition. Chacune de ces phases de croissance occupe son propre rang. Quelle puissante mélodie résonne dans son évocation de la fin d’une culture ou du césarisme ! On citerait à plaisir des pages entières du premier volume du Déclin :
« Une vie véritable se mène. Elle ne se détermine pas par l’intellect. Les vérités se situent au-delà de l’Histoire et de la vie. (…) Les peuples de culture sont des formes jaillies du fleuve de l’existence. (…) Pour moi, le peuple (Volk) est une unité d’âme (Seele). (…) Le regard libère des limites de l’éveil. (…) Ce qui confère de la valeur a un fait singulier, est tout simplement la grande ou la faible puissance ce son langage formel, la force de ses symboles. Au-delà du bien et du mal, du supérieur et de l’inférieur, du nécessaire et de l’idéal ».
Il faut encore ajouter un dernier mot à propos de l’Allemand que fut Oswald Spengler. Celui-ci n’a pas évoqué la pluralité des cultures pour se sublimer dans l’exotisme. Il a écrit ses livres pour les Allemands qui vivaient l’effondrement du Reich. Spengler ne traîne pas les Allemands devant un quelconque tribunal de la “généralité”, mais les confronte à leur spécificité, dans le miroir de leur histoire. Dans tous les écrits de Spengler, on sent sa conviction que les Allemands ont joué, dans le passé, un rôle particulier et que les Prussiens en joueront un, dans l’avenir. Ces convictions de Spengler dérangent évidemment tous ceux qui veulent maintenir la mentalité de frustrés qui règne aujourd’hui.
 
► Armin Mohler, Orientations n°1, 1982.
(traduction française : Robert Steuckers)
 
Cet article d’Armin Mohler a paru dans Criticón n°60-61, octobre 1980. Ce numéro était intégralement consacré à la question allemande. Il célébrait également le dixième anniversaire de la revue et voulait, de ce fait, axer ses réflexions sur l’histoire nationale.
 
◘ Sur l’auteur : Armin Mohler est l’auteur d’un ouvrage capital : Die Konservative Révolution in Deutschland, 1918-1932 (2ème édition, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1972). Il a été le secrétaire de l’écrivain Ernst Jünger et correspondant de plusieurs journaux allemands ou suisses alémaniques à Paris. Né à Bâle en 1920, il s’est fixé à Munich en 1961 (où il décède le 4 juillet 2003). À partir de 1964, il dirige la Fondation Friedrich von Siemens de Munich et, en tant que tel, organise plusieurs colloques dont les actes ont été publiés. En outre, Armin Mohler est l’auteur de plusieurs livres sur la politique allemande. Armin Mohler morigène sans cesse nos voisins de l’Est, à cause de leur défaitisme politique.
 
91evIAsVKNL.jpgNous ne saurions achever cette introduction au dossier Spengler sans mentionner un ouvrage récent et remarquablement bien fait sur sa pensée. Il s’agit de Spengler heute, Sechs Essays (Spengler aujourd’hui, six essais), préfacé par Hermann Lübbe, sous la direction de Peter Christian Ludz. Cet ouvrage est paru aux éditions CH Beck de Munich. Il comprend des textes de Hermann Lübbe (Historisch-politische Exaltationen : Spengler wiedergelesen = Exaltations historico-politiques : Une relecture de S.), d’Alexander Demandt (Spengler und die Spätantike = Spengler et la Haute-Antiquité), de Horst Möller (Oswald Spengler : Geschichte im Dienste der Zeitkritik = O.S. : L’Histoire au service de la critique du temps), de Tracy B. Strong (O.S. : Ontologie, Kritik und Enttäuschung = S. : Ontologie, critique et déception), du spécialiste français Gilbert Merlio (S. und die Technik = S. et la technique) et de G.L. Ulmen (Metaphysik des Morgenlandes - S. über Russland = Métaphysique de l’Orient, S. et la Russie). La lecture de cet ouvrage est indispensable pour pouvoir comprendre et utiliser Spengler aujourd’hui.
 
Notes :
  • 1. On pourra, bien sûr, discuter du bon goût de publier la photo de Spengler sur son lit de mort. Cette photo prouve toutefois que ce masque n’a pas, de façon durable, imprégné la physionomie de Spengler.
  • 2. Un autre protagoniste de la Konservative Révolution, issu de cette ville, est August Winnig. Il est né deux ans avant Spengler, en 1878, et est le fils du fossoyeur.
  • 3. Puppenspiel, le mot qu’employé Armin Mohler, signifie “guignol”, “théâtre de marionnettes”. Nous avons traduit par “Maison de Poupées”, en voulant faire allusion à la pièce d’Ibsen. Cet auteur norvégien ne s’est jamais lassé de critiquer le monde bourgeois. Et dire du monde bourgeois qu’il est une “Maison de Poupées”, c’est souligner son souci d’échapper aux vicissitudes du monde et de l’Histoire. (n.d.t.)
  • 4. En Allemagne, la couleur rouge, en politique, est attribuée aux partis d’inspiration marxiste, communiste ou sociale-démocrate. La couleur brune aux nationaux-socialistes. La couleur noire aux partis confessionnels. Elle symbolise la soutane des prêtres. Aujourd’hui, une nouvelle couleur politique est née : la verte des écologistes. Le bleu est attribué aux libéraux. (n.d.t.)

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dimanche, 23 février 2020

The Revolutionary Conservative Critique of Oswald Spengler

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The Revolutionary Conservative Critique of Oswald Spengler 

Ex: https://motpol.nu

Oswald Spengler is by now well-known as one of the major thinkers of the German Conservative Revolution of the early 20th Century. In fact, he is frequently cited as having been one of the most determining intellectual influences on German Conservatism of the interwar period – along with Arthur Moeller van den Bruck and Ernst Jünger – to the point where his cultural pessimist philosophy is seen to be representative of Revolutionary Conservative views in general (although in reality most Revolutionary Conservatives held more optimistic views).[1]

To begin our discussion, we shall provide a brief overview of the major themes of Oswald Spengler’s philosophy.[2] According to Spengler, every High Culture has its own “soul” (this refers to the essential character of a Culture) and goes through predictable cycles of birth, growth, fulfillment, decline, and demise which resemble that of the life of a plant. To quote Spengler:

A Culture is born in the moment when a great soul awakens out of the proto-spirituality of ever-childish humanity, and detaches itself, a form from the formless, a bounded and mortal thing from the boundless and enduring. It blooms on the soil of an exactly-definable landscape, to which plant-wise it remains bound. It dies when the soul has actualized the full sum of its possibilities in the shape of peoples, languages, dogmas, arts, states, sciences, and reverts into the proto-soul.[3]

There is an important distinction in this theory between Kultur (“Culture”) and Zivilisation (“Civilization”). Kultur refers to the beginning phase of a High Culture which is marked by rural life, religiosity, vitality, will-to-power, and ascendant instincts, while Zivilisation refers to the later phase which is marked by urbanization, irreligion, purely rational intellect, mechanized life, and decadence. Although he acknowledged other High Cultures, Spengler focused particularly on three High Cultures which he distinguished and made comparisons between: the Magian, the Classical (Greco-Roman), and the present Western High Culture. He held the view that the West, which was in its later Zivilisation phase, would soon enter a final imperialistic and “Caesarist” stage – a stage which, according to Spengler, marks the final flash before the end of a High Culture.[4]

Perhaps Spengler’s most important contribution to the Conservative Revolution, however, was his theory of “Prussian Socialism,” which formed the basis of his view that conservatives and socialists should unite. In his work he argued that the Prussian character, which was the German character par excellence, was essentially socialist. For Spengler, true socialism was primarily a matter of ethics rather than economics. This ethical, Prussian socialism meant the development and practice of work ethic, discipline, obedience, a sense of duty to the greater good and the state, self-sacrifice, and the possibility of attaining any rank by talent. Prussian socialism was differentiated from Marxism and liberalism. Marxism was not true socialism because it was materialistic and based on class conflict, which stood in contrast with the Prussian ethics of the state. Also in contrast to Prussian socialism was liberalism and capitalism, which negated the idea of duty, practiced a “piracy principle,” and created the rule of money.[5]

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Oswald Spengler’s theories of predictable culture cycles, of the separation between Kultur and Zivilisation, of the Western High Culture as being in a state of decline, and of a non-Marxist form of socialism, have all received a great deal of attention in early 20th Century Germany, and there is no doubt that they had influenced Right-wing thought at the time. However, it is often forgotten just how divergent the views of many Revolutionary Conservatives were from Spengler’s, even if they did study and draw from his theories, just as an overemphasis on Spenglerian theory in the Conservative Revolution has led many scholars to overlook the variety of other important influences on the German Right. Ironically, those who were influenced the most by Spengler – not only the German Revolutionary Conservatives, but also later the Traditionalists and the New Rightists – have mixed appreciation with critique. It is this reality which needs to be emphasized: the majority of Conservative intellectuals who have appreciated Spengler have simultaneously delivered the very significant message that Spengler’s philosophy needs to be viewed critically, and that as a whole it is not acceptable.

The most important critique of Spengler among the Revolutionary Conservative intellectuals was that made by Arthur Moeller van den Bruck.[6] Moeller agreed with certain basic ideas in Spengler’s work, including the division between Kultur and Zivilisation, with the idea of the decline of the Western Culture, and with his concept of socialism, which Moeller had already expressed in an earlier and somewhat different form in Der Preussische Stil (“The Prussian Style,” 1916).[7] However, Moeller resolutely rejected Spengler’s deterministic and fatalistic view of history, as well as the notion of destined culture cycles. Moeller asserted that history was essentially unpredictable and unfixed: “There is always a beginning (…) History is the story of that which is not calculated.”[8] Furthermore, he argued that history should not be seen as a “circle” (in Spengler’s manner) but rather a “spiral,” and a nation in decline could actually reverse its decline if certain psychological changes and events could take place within it.[9]

md30309192093.jpgThe most radical contradiction with Spengler made by Moeller van den Bruck was the rejection of Spengler’s cultural morphology, since Moeller believed that Germany could not even be classified as part of the “West,” but rather that it represented a distinct culture in its own right, one which even had more in common in spirit with Russia than with the “West,” and which was destined to rise while France and England fell.[10] However, we must note here that the notion that Germany is non-Western was not unique to Moeller, for Werner Sombart, Edgar Julius Jung, and Othmar Spann have all argued that Germans belonged to a very different cultural type from that of the Western nations, especially from the culture of the Anglo-Saxon world. For these authors, Germany represented a culture which was more oriented towards community, spirituality, and heroism, while the modern “West” was more oriented towards individualism, materialism, and capitalistic ethics. They further argued that any presence of Western characteristics in modern Germany was due to a recent poisoning of German culture by the West which the German people had a duty to overcome through sociocultural revolution.[11]

Another key intellectual of the German Conservative Revolution, Hans Freyer, also presented a critical analysis of Spenglerian philosophy.[12] Due to his view that that there is no certain and determined progress in history, Freyer agreed with Spengler’s rejection of the linear view of progress. Freyer’s philosophy of culture also emphasized cultural particularism and the disparity between peoples and cultures, which was why he agreed with Spengler in terms of the basic conception of cultures possessing a vital center and with the idea of each culture marking a particular kind of human being. Being a proponent of a community-oriented state socialism, Freyer found Spengler’s anti-individualist “Prussian socialism” to be agreeable. Throughout his works, Freyer had also discussed many of the same themes as Spengler – including the integrative function of war, hierarchies in society, the challenges of technological developments, cultural form and unity – but in a distinct manner oriented towards social theory.[13]

41KpKuhd2tL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgHowever, Freyer argued that the idea of historical (cultural) types and that cultures were the product of an essence which grew over time were already expressed in different forms long before Spengler in the works of Karl Lamprecht, Wilhelm Dilthey, and Hegel. It is also noteworthy that Freyer’s own sociology of cultural categories differed from Spengler’s morphology. In his earlier works, Freyer focused primarily on the nature of the cultures of particular peoples (Völker) rather than the broad High Cultures, whereas in his later works he stressed the interrelatedness of all the various European cultures across the millennia. Rejecting Spengler’s notion of cultures as being incommensurable, Freyer’s “history regarded modern Europe as composed of ‘layers’ of culture from the past, and Freyer was at pains to show that major historical cultures had grown by drawing upon the legacy of past cultures.”[14] Finally, rejecting Spengler’s historical determinism, Freyer had “warned his readers not to be ensnared by the powerful organic metaphors of the book [Der Untergang des Abendlandes] … The demands of the present and of the future could not be ‘deduced’ from insights into the patterns of culture … but were ultimately based on ‘the wager of action’ (das Wagnis der Tat).”[15]

Yet another important Conservative critique of Spengler was made by the Italian Perennial Traditionalist philosopher Julius Evola, who was himself influenced by the Conservative Revolution but developed a very distinct line of thought. In his The Path of Cinnabar, Evola showed appreciation for Spengler’s philosophy, particularly in regards to the criticism of the modern rationalist and mechanized Zivilisation of the “West” and with the complete rejection of the idea of progress.[16] Some scholars, such as H.T. Hansen, stress the influence of Spengler’s thought on Evola’s thought, but it is important to remember that Evola’s cultural views differed significantly from Spengler’s due to Evola’s focus on what he viewed as the shifting role of a metaphysical Perennial Tradition across history as opposed to historically determined cultures.[17]

In his critique, Evola pointed out that one of the major flaws in Spengler’s thought was that he “lacked any understanding of metaphysics and transcendence, which embody the essence of each genuine Kultur.”[18] Spengler could analyze the nature of Zivilisation very well, but his irreligious views caused him to have little understanding of the higher spiritual forces which deeply affected human life and the nature of cultures, without which one cannot clearly grasp the defining characteristic of Kultur. As Robert Steuckers has pointed out, Evola also found Spengler’s analysis of Classical and Eastern cultures to be very flawed, particularly as a result of the “irrationalist” philosophical influences on Spengler: “Evola thinks this vitalism leads Spengler to say ‘things that make one blush’ about Buddhism, Taoism, Stoicism, and Greco-Roman civilization (which, for Spengler, is merely a civilization of ‘corporeity’).”[19] Also problematic for Evola was “Spengler’s valorization of ‘Faustian man,’ a figure born in the Age of Discovery, the Renaissance and humanism; by this temporal determination, Faustian man is carried towards horizontality rather than towards verticality.”[20]

Finally, we must make a note of the more recent reception of Spenglerian philosophy in the European New Right and Identitarianism: Oswald Spengler’s works have been studied and critiqued by nearly all major New Right and Identitarian intellectuals, including especially Alain de Benoist, Dominique Venner, Pierre Krebs, Guillaume Faye, Julien Freund, and Tomislav Sunic. The New Right view of Spenglerian theory is unique, but is also very much reminiscent of Revolutionary Conservative critiques of Moeller van den Bruck and Hans Freyer. Like Spengler and many other thinkers, New Right intellectuals also critique the “ideology of progress,” although it is significant that, unlike Spengler, they do not do this to accept a notion of rigid cycles in history nor to reject the existence of any progress. Rather, the New Right critique aims to repudiate the unbalanced notion of linear and inevitable progress which depreciates all past culture in favor of the present, while still recognizing that some positive progress does exist, which it advocates reconciling with traditional culture to achieve a more balanced cultural order.[21] Furthermore, addressing Spengler’s historical determinism, Alain de Benoist has written that “from Eduard Spranger to Theodor W. Adorno, the principal reproach directed at Spengler evidently refers to his ‘fatalism’ and to his ‘determinism.’ The question is to know up to what point man is prisoner of his own history. Up to what point can one no longer change his course?”[22]

MOM-ND.jpgLike their Revolutionary Conservative precursors, New Rightists reject any fatalist and determinist notion of history, and do not believe that any people is doomed to inevitable decline; “Decadence is therefore not an inescapable phenomenon, as Spengler wrongly thought,” wrote Pierre Krebs, echoing the thoughts of other authors.[23] While the New Rightists accept Spengler’s idea of Western decline, they have posed Europe and the West as two antagonistic entities. According to this new cultural philosophy, the genuine European culture is represented by numerous traditions rooted in the most ancient European cultures, and must be posed as incompatible with the modern “West,” which is the cultural emanation of early modern liberalism, egalitarianism, and individualism.

The New Right may agree with Spengler that the “West” is undergoing decline, “but this original pessimism does not overshadow the purpose of the New Right: The West has encountered the ultimate phase of decadence, consequently we must definitively break with the Western civilization and recover the memory of a Europe liberated from the egalitarianisms…”[24] Thus, from the Identitarian perspective, the “West” is identified as a globalist and universalist entity which had harmed the identities of European and non-European peoples alike. In the same way that Revolutionary Conservatives had called for Germans to assert the rights and identity of their people in their time period, New Rightists call for the overcoming of the liberal, cosmopolitan Western Civilization to reassert the more profound cultural and spiritual identity of Europeans, based on the “regeneration of history” and a reference to their multi-form and multi-millennial heritage.

Lucian Tudor 

 

Notes

[1] An example of such an assertion regarding cultural pessimism can be seen in “Part III. Three Major Expressions of Neo-Conservatism” in Klemens von Klemperer, Germany’s New Conservatism: Its History and Dilemma in the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968).

[2] To supplement our short summary of Spenglerian philosophy, we would like to note that one the best overviews of Spengler’s philosophy in English is Stephen M. Borthwick, “Historian of the Future: An Introduction to Oswald Spengler’s Life and Works for the Curious Passer-by and the Interested Student,” Institute for Oswald Spengler Studies, 2011, <https://sites.google.com/site/spenglerinstitute/Biography>.

[3] Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West Vol. 1: Form and Actuality (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1926), p. 106.

[4] Ibid.

[5] See “Prussianism and Socialism” in Oswald Spengler, Selected Essays (Chicago: Gateway/Henry Regnery, 1967).

[6] For a good overview of Moeller’s thought, see Lucian Tudor, “Arthur Moeller van den Bruck: The Man & His Thought,” Counter-Currents Publishing, 17 August 2012, <http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/08/arthur-moeller-van-den-bruck-the-man-and-his-thought/>.

[7] See Fritz Stern, The Politics of Cultural Despair (Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 238-239, and Alain de Benoist, “Arthur Moeller van den Bruck,” Elementos: Revista de Metapolítica para una Civilización Europea No. 15 (11 June 2011), p. 30, 40-42. <http://issuu.com/sebastianjlorenz/docs/elementos_n__15>.

[8] Arthur Moeller van den Bruck as quoted in Benoist, “Arthur Moeller van den Bruck,” p. 41.

[9] Ibid., p. 41.

[10] Ibid., pp. 41-43.

[11] See Fritz K. Ringer, The Decline of the German Mandarins: The German Academic Community, 1890–1933 (Hanover: University Press of New England, 1990), pp. 183 ff.; John J. Haag, Othmar Spann and the Politics of “Totality”: Corporatism in Theory and Practice (Ph.D. Thesis, Rice University, 1969), pp. 24-26, 78, 111.; Alexander Jacob’s introduction and “Part I: The Intellectual Foundations of Politics” in Edgar Julius Jung, The Rule of the Inferiour, Vol. 1 (Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellon Press, 1995).

[12] For a brief introduction to Freyer’s philosophy, see Lucian Tudor, “Hans Freyer: The Quest for Collective Meaning,” Counter-Currents Publishing, 22 February 2013, <http://www.counter-currents.com/2013/02/hans-freyer-the-quest-for-collective-meaning/>.

[13] See Jerry Z. Muller, The Other God That Failed: Hans Freyer and the Deradicalization of German Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), pp. 78-79, 120-121.

[14] Ibid., p. 335.

[15] Ibid., p. 79.

[16] See Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar (London: Integral Tradition Publishing, 2009), pp. 203-204.

[17] See H.T. Hansen, “Julius Evola’s Political Endeavors,” in Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins: Postwar Reflections of a Radical Traditionalist (Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2002), pp. 15-17.

[18] Evola, Path of Cinnabar, p. 204.

[19] Robert Steuckers, “Evola & Spengler”, Counter-Currents Publishing, 20 September 2010, <http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/09/evola-spengler/> .

[20] Ibid.

[21] In a description that applies as much to the New Right as to the Eurasianists, Alexander Dugin wrote of a vision in which “the formal opposition between tradition and modernity is removed… the realities superseded by the period of Enlightenment obtain a legitimate place – these are religion, ethnos, empire, cult, legend, etc. In the same time, a technological breakthrough, economical development, social fairness, labour liberation, etc. are taken from the Modern” (See Alexander Dugin, “Multipolarism as an Open Project,” Journal of Eurasian Affairs Vol. 1, No. 1 (September 2013), pp. 12-13).

[22] Alain de Benoist, “Oswald Spengler,” Elementos: Revista de Metapolítica para una Civilización Europea No. 10 (15 April 2011), p. 13.<http://issuu.com/sebastianjlorenz/docs/elementos_n__10>.

[23] Pierre Krebs, Fighting for the Essence (London: Arktos, 2012), p. 34.

[24] Sebastian J. Lorenz, “El Decadentismo Occidental, desde la Konservative Revolution a la Nouvelle Droite,”Elementos No. 10, p. 5.

mardi, 18 février 2020

The Faustian impulse and European exploration

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The Faustian impulse and European exploration

By Ricardo Duchesne

Ex: https://fortnightlyreview.co.uk

IN HIS 2003 book, Human Accomplishment: Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 BC to 1950, Charles Murray argued that the great artistic and scientific accomplishments were overwhelmingly European. ”What the human species is today,” he wrote, “it owes in astonishing degree to what was accomplished in just half a dozen centuries by the peoples of one small portion of the northwestern Eurasian land mass.”

This claim goes against the modern grain of the world history community – indeed, against fashionable belief. The New York Times unsurprisingly called it “more bluster than rigor” and “unconvincing”1, but it was nonetheless the first attempt to quantify “as facts” the creative genius of individuals in terms of cultural origin and geographic distribution. Murray did this by calculating the amount of space allocated to these individuals in reference works, encyclopedias, and dictionaries. Based on this metric, he concluded that “whether measured in people or events, 97 percent of accomplishment in the sciences occurred in Europe and North America” from 800 BC to 1950.  Murray’s inventories of the arts also confirmed the overpowering role of Europe, particularly after 1400. Although Murray did not compare their achievements but compiled separate lists for each civilization, he noted that the sheer number of “significant figures” in the arts is higher in the West in comparison to the combined number of the other civilizations. He explained this remarkable “divergence” in human accomplishments in terms of the degree to which cultures promote or discourage autonomy and purpose. I am persuaded that individualism is one of the critical variables.2

The point I want to make, however, is that Murray pays no attention to accomplishments in other human endeavors such as leadership, exploration, and heroic deeds. The achievements he measures come only in the form of “great books” and “great ideas.” In this respect, Murray’s book is similar to certain older-style Western Civ textbooks where the progression of modern liberal ideals is the central theme. David Gress dubbed this type of historiography the “Grand Narrative.” By teaching Western history in terms of the realization of liberal democratic values, these texts “placed a burden of justification on the West … to explain how the reality differed from the ideal.’3 Gress called upon historians to do away with this idealized image of Western uniqueness and to emphasize the realities of Western geopolitical struggles and mercantile interests. Norman Davies, too, has criticized the way early Western civilization courses tended to “filter out anything that might appear mundane or repulsive.”4

MY VIEW IS that Europeans were not only exceptional in their literary endeavors, but also in their agonistic and expansionist behaviors. Their great books, including their liberal values, were themselves inseparably connected to their aristocratic ethos of competitive individualism. There is no need to concede to multicultural critics, as Davies does, “the sorry catalogue of wars, conflict, and persecutions that have dogged every stage of the [Western] tale.”5 The expansionist dispositions of Europeans as well as their literary and other achievements were similarly driven by an aggressive and individually felt desire for superlative and undemocratic recognition.

It has been said that when Mahatma Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilization he answered, “I think it would be a good idea.” Academics today interpret this answer to mean that the actual history of the West—such things as the conquest of the Americas and the expansion of the British Empire— belie its great ideas and great books. I challenge this naïve separation between an idealized and a realistic West borrowing Oswald Spengler’s image of the West as a strikingly vibrant culture driven by a type of personality overflowing with expansive, disruptive, and creative impulses. Spengler designated the West as a “Faustian” culture whose “prime-symbol” was “pure and limitless space.” This spirit was first visible in medieval Europe, starting with Romanesque art, but particularly in the “spaciousness of Gothic cathedrals;” “the heroes” of the Scandinavian, Germanic, and Icelandic sagas; the Crusades; the Viking sailing of the North Atlantic Ocean; the Germanic conquest of the Slavonic East; the Spaniards in the Americas; and the Portuguese in the East Indies.6

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“Fighting,” “progressing,” “overcoming of resistances,” struggling “against what is near, tangible and easy”—these are some of the terms Spengler used to describe this soul. This Faustian being is animated with the spirit of a “proud beast of prey,” like that of an “eagle, lion, [or] tiger.” Moreover, the seemingly peaceful achievements of the West, not just its warlike activities, were infused with this Faustian impulse. As John Farrenkopf puts it:

[T]he architecture of the Gothic cathedral expresses the Faustian will to conquer the heavens; Western symphonic music conveys the Faustian urge to conjure up a dynamic, transcendent, infinite space of sound; Western perspective painting mirrors the Faustian will to infinite distance; and the Western novel responds to the Faustian imperative to explore the inner depths of the human personality while extending outward with a comprehensive view.7

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IN MY BOOK, The Uniqueness of Western Civilization, I trace the West’s Faustian creativity and libertarian spirit back to the aristocratic warlike culture of Indo-European speakers who began to migrate into Europe roughly after 3500 BC, combining with and subordinating the ‘ranked’ Neolithic cultures of this region. Indo-European speakers originated in the Pontic-Caspian steppes. They 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 goods, textiles, large-scale herding), and the invention of chariots in the second millennium. The novelty of Indo-European culture was that it was led by an aristocratic elite that was egalitarian within the group rather than by a single despotic ruler. Indo-Europeans prized heroic warriors striving for individual fame and recognition, often with a “berserker” style of warfare. In the more advanced and populated civilizations of the Near East, Iran, and India, local populations absorbed this conquering group. In Neolithic Europe, the Indo-Europeans imposed themselves as the dominant group, and displaced the native languages but not the natives.

I maintain that the history of European explorations stands as an excellent subject matter for the elucidation of this Faustian restlessness. An overwhelming number of the explorers in history have been European. The Concise Encyclopedia of Explorers lists a total of 274 explorers, of which only 15 are non-European, with none listed after the mid-fifteenth century.8 In the urge to explore new regions of the earth and map the nameless, we can detect, in a crystallized way, the “prime-symbol” of Western restlessness. We can also detect the Western mind’s desire – if I may borrow the language of Hegel – to expand its cognitive horizon, to “subdue the outer world to its ends with an energy which has ensured for it the mastery of the world.”9

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The Greeks initiated the science of geography. But just as pertinent is how contentious individuals, born in a culture engaged in widespread colonizing activities between 800 and 500 BC, drove this science. Hecataeus (550 – 476 BC), the author of the first book of geography, Journey Round the World, based his knowledge on his extensive travels along the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. To be sure, the Phoenicians, starting around the first millennium BC, established approximately 30 colonies throughout the African shores in the western Mediterranean, Sardinia, Malta, and as far west as Cádiz in modern Spain. However, more than thirty Greek city-states each established multiple colonies, with some estimating that the city of Miletus alone set up ninety colonies. All in all, Greek colonies were stretched throughout the Mediterranean coasts, the shores of the Black Sea, Anatolia in the east, southern France, Italy, Sicily, and in the northern coast of Africa, not to mention the long colonized islands of the Aegean Sea.

A popular explanation as to why the Greeks launched these overseas colonies is population growth and scarce resources at home. But the evidence shows that much of these colonial operations were small-scale undertakings rather than mass migrations led by impoverished farmers. Commercial interests and the incentive to gain new agricultural lands were motivating factors. But I would also emphasize the “general spirit of adventure” permeating the Greek world since Mycenaean times. Many of the colonies, as A. G. Woodhead has shown, had “their origins in purely individual enterprise or extraordinary happenings.”10

Hecataeus envisioned the world as a disc surrounded by an ocean. But soon there would be a challenger – Herodotus, born in 484BC. He too offered numerous geographical and ethnographic insights based on his extensive travels, and he did so in explicit awareness of his own contributions and in direct criticism of his predecessor. This competitive desire on the part of individuals to stand out from others was ingrained in the whole social outlook of classical Greece: in the Olympic Games, in the perpetual warring of the city-states, in the pursuit of a political career, in the competition among orators for the admiration of the citizens, and in the Athenian theater festivals, where numerous poets would take part in Dionysian competitions amid high civic splendor and religious ritual. New works of drama, philosophy, and music were expounded in the first-person form as an adversarial or athletic contest in the pursuit of truth.

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DURING THE HELLENISTIC centuries, explorers would venture into the Caspian, Aral, and Red Seas, establishing trading posts along the coasts of modern Eritrea and Somalia. Perhaps the most successful of Hellenistic explorers was Pytheas. In his book, On the Ocean, he recounts an amazing journey (ca. 310BC) northward to Brittany across the Channel into Cornwall, through the Baltic Sea, the coast of Norway, and even Iceland.11

These explorations encouraged astronomical and geographical scholarship leading to the full conceptualization of the shape of the earth itself by Eratosthenes (276-185BC), who not only contextualized the location of Europe in relation to the Atlantic and the North Sea, but calculated the spherical size of the earth (within 5 percent of its true measure), with the obvious implication that the Mediterranean was only a small portion of the globe. This spirit of inquiry continued through the second century AD, when Ptolemy wrote his System of Astronomy and his Geography, where he rationally explained the principles and methods required in mapmaking and produced the first world map depicting India, China, South-East Asia, the British Isles, Denmark and East Africa.

There was far less desire to explore the geography and landscapes of the world among the peoples of the non-Western world. While in the first century BC the Han dynasty extended its geographical boundaries south into Vietnam, north into Korea, and east into the Tarim Basin, the Chinese showed little geographical interest beyond their own borders. What is striking about Chinese maps in general is how insular they were in comparison with the much earlier maps of Ptolemy. Even a sixteenth-century reproduction of Zheng He’s sailing maps lacks any apposite scale, size, and sense of proportion regarding the major landmasses of the earth.

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The Chinese supposition that the earth was flat remained almost unchanged from ancient times until Jesuit missionaries in the seventeenth century brought modern ideas. In stark contrast, Greek philosophers of the fifth and fourth centuries BC were already persuaded that the earth was a sphere. Aristarchus of Samos, who lived about 310 to 230 BC, went so far as to postulate the Copernican hypothesis that all planets revolve in circles around the sun, and that the earth rotates on its axis once in twenty-four hours.

Indian civilization showed little curiosity about the geography of the world; its maps were symbolic and removed from any empirical concern with the actual location of places. Maritime activity among the isolated civilizations of America was restricted to fishing from rafts and canoes. The Phoenicians left no geographical documents of their colonizing expeditions.12

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The Vikings “discovered in their gray dawn the art of sailing the seas which emancipated them”—so says Spengler.13 During the last years of the eighth century, marauding bands of Vikings pillaged their way along the coast lines of Northern Europe and down around Spain, into the Mediterranean, Italy, North Africa, and Arabia. Some hauled their long boats overland from the Baltic and made their way down the great Russian rivers all the way to the Black Sea. During the ninth and tenth centuries, their primary aim was no longer plunder as much as finding new lands to settle. Their voyages far into the North Atlantic were “independent undertakings, part of a 300-year epoch of seaborne expansion” which resulted in the settlement of Scandinavian peoples in Shetland, Orkney, the Hebrides, parts of Scotland and Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland (present-day Newfoundland).14 They colonized the little-known and unknown lands of Iceland from 870AD onward, Greenland from 980 onward, and then Vinland by the year 1000 AD. The Icelandic geographers of the Middle Ages showed considerable detailed knowledge in their descriptions of the Arctic regions, stretching from Russia to Greenland, and of the eastern seaboard of the North American continent. This is clearly attested in an Icelandic Geographical Treatise preserved in a manuscript dating from about 1300, but possibly based on a twelfth-century original.

Peter Whitfield speculates that “some conscious impulse towards exploration and conquest” must have motivated these voyages, “prompted by harsh living conditions at home.”15 Jesse Byock explains that the settlement of Iceland was led by sailor-farmers seeking to escape population pressures in the Scandinavian mainland, and that, in turn, the settlement of Greenland was initiated by Icelanders escaping Malthusian pressures in Iceland. At the same time, the cultural world Byock reveals, through his careful reading of numerous heroic sagas associated with these voyages and settlements, is that of aristocratic chieftains and free farmers venturing into unknown lands, competing with other chieftains and struggling for survival and renown.16

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In the next centuries after the Vikings, the travels of Marco Polo (1254-1324) throughout the Asian world found expression in the Catalan Atlas of 1375, which was quite innovative in showing compass-lines, and in the accurate delineation of the Mediterranean. On the strength of Ptolemy’s work, Islam fostered its own geographical tradition with the benefit of their extensive dominions and travels. Ibn Battuta (1304-1374), the greatest Muslim traveler, visited every Muslim country and neighboring lands. But his “overmastering impulse,” to use his own words, was to visit “illustrious sanctuaries”17 – unlike Marco Polo’s desire, which was to visit non-Christian lands barely visited by Europeans and learn about the unknown tribes of Asia, including the numinous land of Cathay.18 In 1154, the greatest Islamic cartographer, al-Idrisi, produced a large planispheric silver relief map that was original in not portraying the Indian Ocean in a landlocked way and in offering a more precise knowledge of China’s eastern coast. But Islamic geography would go no further.

SPENGLER WRITES THAT the Spaniards and the Portuguese “were possessed by the adventured-craving for uncharted distances and for everything unknown and dangerous.’19 By the beginning of the 1400s, the compass, the portolan chart and certain shipping techniques essential for launching the Age of Exploration were in place. The Portuguese, under the leadership of Henry the Navigator would go on, in the course of the fifteenth century, to round the southern tip of Africa, impose themselves through the Indian Ocean, and eventually reach Japan in the 1540s. They would create accurate maps of West Africa as far as Sierra Leone, as well as rely on Fra Mauro’s new maps, one of which (1457) mapped the totality of the Old World with unmatched accuracy while suggesting, for the first time, a route around the southern tip of Africa. A mere two years after Diaz had sailed around the Cape; Henricus Martellus created his World Map of 1490, which showed both the whole of Africa generally and the specific locations of numerous places across the entire African west coast, detailing the step-by-step advancement of the Portuguese.

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The question of what motivated the expeditions of the Portuguese is a classic one, and, conversely, so is the question of why China abandoned the maritime explorations started by Zheng He. Why were his expeditions not as consequential historically as the ones initiated by Henry the Navigator? For Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Zheng He’s voyages were displays of “China’s ability to mount expeditions of crushing strength and dispatch them over vast distances.” Zheng He’s expeditions did not last and were less consequential, according to Fernández-Armesto, because China’s Confucian government assigned priority to “good government at home” rather than “costly adventures” abroad, particularly in the face of barbarian incursions from the north.20

At the same time, Fernández-Armesto portrays China’s mode of exploration in rather admiring terms: her peaceful commerce, scholarship, and even “vital contributions to the economies of every place they settled.’21He almost implies, indeed, that the Chinese, not the Europeans, were the true explorers, on the grounds that He’s expeditions along the Indian Ocean were more difficult (due to wind patterns) than the European ones through the Atlantic, and that the Europeans navigated through the Atlantic in order to overcome their marginalized economic position rather than to explore.

The major flaw in Fernández-Armesto’s account (as in all current accounts) is the unquestioned assumption that the Chinese expeditions were “explorations” stirred by disinterested curiosity while the Portuguese expeditions were primarily economic in motivation. The Chinese did little that can be considered new in the exploratory sense; they did not discover one single nautical mile; the Indian Ocean had long been a place of regular navigation, unlike the Atlantic and the western coasts of Africa. The Portuguese, it is true, were poor and many of the sailors manning the ships were longing for better opportunities, but what drove the leading men above all else was a chivalric desire for renown and superior achievement in the face of economic costs, persistent hardships, and high mortality rates.

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The Chinese were ahead of Europe in technology when the 1400s started, but their technology thereafter remained for the most part unchanged; whereas the Portuguese (and Europeans) would advance continuously. Furthermore, the nautical problems the Portuguese had to face were more difficult.  As Joseph Needham has noted,

Almost as far as Madagascar the Chinese were in the realms of the monsoons, with which they had been familiar in their own home waters for more than a millennium. But the inhospitable Atlantic had never encouraged sailors in the same way, and though there had been a number of attempts to sail westwards, that ocean had never been systematically explored.22

The main motivations of the Portuguese cannot be adequately explained without considering the chivalric and warlike spirit of the aristocratic fidalgos. Fernández-Armesto acknowledges that the ethos of chivalric honor “did make the region peculiarly conducive to breeding explorers.”23 But to him this was an ethos rooted in medieval romances exclusive to Portugal and Spain. Besides, he rejects any notion of Western uniqueness, and does not properly explain the differences between economic, religious, and chivalric motivations.

As I see it, the chivalric motivations of the Portuguese colored and intensified all their other motivations, and this is why they exhibited an excessive yearning for spices, a crusading zeal against non-Christians, a relentless determination to master the seas. The chivalry of the Portuguese was a knightly variation of the same Faustian longing the West has displayed since prehistoric times. The ancient Greeks who established colonies throughout the Mediterranean, the Macedonians who marched to “the ends of the world,” the Romans who created the greatest empire in history, the Franks who carved out Charlemagne’s Empire, and the Portuguese, were all similarly driven by an “irrepressible urge to distance.”

NO SOONER DID Columbus sight the “West Indies” in 1492, than one European explorer after another came forth eager for great deeds. By the 1520s, Europeans had explored the entire eastern coast of the two Americas from Labrador to Rio de la Plata. From 1519 to 1522 Ferdinand Magellan led the first successful attempt to circumnavigate the earth through the unimagined vastness of the Pacific Ocean. It has been said that Magellan’s energy and vision equaled that of Columbus; he “shared with his great predecessor the tenacity of a man driven by something deeper than common ambition.’24

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Between 1519 and 1521 Hernán Cortés put himself at the command of an expedition that would result in the conquest of the Aztec Empire. These days many regard Cortés as something of a criminal, and this is true. The campaigns he conducted against the Mexicans were graphically barbaric. At the same time, Cortés was a prototypical Western aristocrat, or, as described by his secretary, a man “restless, haughty, mischievous, and given to quarrelling.’25 The running story on Cortés today is that if he had not conquered Mexico someone else would have. The real agents were the guns, the steel swords, the horses, and the germs. Without denying any of these factors, I agree with Buddy Levy’s recent portrayal of Cortés as a man who displayed, again and again, an extraordinary combination of leadership, tenacity, diplomacy, and tactical skill. Finding gold was a priority for Cortés and his men, but, as Cortés’s impassioned speeches and the character descriptions of his contemporaries both testify, he was above all a man driven by an “insatiable thirst for glory and authority;” “he thinks nothing of dying himself, and less of our death.”26 A similar account can be given of Francisco Pizarro.

The same spirit that drove Cortés and Pizarro drove Luther in his uncompromising challenge to the papacy’s authority: “Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise.” It drove the “intense rivalry” that characterized the art of the Renaissance, among patrons, collectors, artists, and that culminated in the persons of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Titian.27 It motivated Shakespeare to outdo Chaucer, creating more than 120 characters, “the most memorable personalities that have graced the theater – and the psyche – of the West.’28 Let us recall that the age of the conquistadores was Spain’s golden age; the age of El Greco, Velázquez, Calderón de la Barca, and Francisco López de Gómara; the time of Cervantes’s Don Quixote and the realist transformation of the chivalrous imagination, of Lope de Vega and the creation of a new literary style in the picaresque novel with its sympathetic story of thieves and vagabonds. This century saw, additionally, a veritable revolution in cartography. As early as 1507, the German cosmographer, Martin Waldseemüller, produced a map depicting a coastline from Newfoundland to Argentina, and showed the two American continents clearly separated from Asia.

IN THE FACE of a list of rather ordinary human motivations, such as the motivation to acquire wealth and conquer new lands, it is very difficult to ascertain the Faustian character of the explorers, extract its essential nature, and apprehend it for itself. I want to suggest, even so, that the history of exploration during and after the Enlightenment era offers us an opportunity to apprehend clearly this soul. For it is the case that, from about the 1700s onward, explorers come to be increasingly driven by a will to discover irrespective of the pursuit of trade, religious conversion, or even scientific curiosity. My point is not that the unadulterated desire to explore exhibits the Faustian soul as such. The urge to accumulate wealth and advance knowledge may exhibit this Faustian will just as intensively. The difference is that in the desire to explore for its own sake we can see the West’s psyche striving to surpass the mundane preoccupations of ordinary life, comfort and liberal pleasantries, proving what it means to be a man of noble character.

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The minimization of any substantial differences among humans cultivated by the modern model of human nature has clouded our ability to apprehend this Faustian desire.  The original outlook of Locke and French Enlightenment thinkers, themselves the product of the persistent Western quest to interpret the world anew, fostered a democratic model wherein humans came to be seen as indeterminate and more or less equal, a “white paper,” a malleable being determined by outside circumstances, tradition-less and culture-less. This egalitarian view was nurtured as well in the philosophy of Descartes, Leibnitz, and Kant, with its emphasis on the innate and equally a priori cognitive capacities of humans qua humans.

It should come as no surprise, then, that historians (and psychologists) write of human passions and motivations as essentially alike across all cultures. In our subject of inquiry, exploration, we are normally told that “the desire to penetrate and explore the world’s wild places is a fundamental human impulse.” Frank Debenham’s Discovery and Exploration, a broad survey published in 1960, informs us that “man’s natural inquisitiveness has been a mainspring of discovery and exploration.”29 Yet, much of Debenham’s book is about modern Europeans exploring the world. There is an appendix that lists a total of 203 famous explorers, of which only eight are non-Western.30

61MKttOBHsL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgLikewise, Fernández-Armesto’s book Pathfinders is described as “a study of humankind’s restless spirit,” but once he reaches the period after the 1500s, he has no explorers outside the West to write about. This may explain why he becomes disparaging toward European explorers, particularly those who came after the 1700s, describing them (David Livingstone, Henry Morton Stanley, Roald Amundsen, and others) as “failures,” “naïve,” “bombastic,” “mendacious,” “useless,” and “incompetent.”31

My view is the opposite: the history of exploration provides us with a profoundly revealing index of Western heroic self-fashioning. There is much to be learned about the uniqueness of the West in the life experiences and the motivations driving such men as Captain Cook. During the course of his legendary three Pacific journeys between 1768 and 1779, it is said that he explored more of the earth’s surface than any other man in history. His methods were said to be “practical and humane,” and yet he was also a heroic figure, filled with a zeal for greatness. In his own words, what he wanted above all else was the “pleasure of being first;” to sail “not only farther than man has been before me but as far as I think it possible for man to go.”32

Fernández-Armesto is highly critical of Robert Falcon Scott’s somber expressions of boldness, risk, duty, and resolve during the last days of his tragic expedition to the South Pole in 1911-12. Max Jones offers a far more incisive assessment of the significance of Scott, less as a “great” explorer than as someone who “composed the most haunting journal in the history of exploration.’33 Jones extols the captivating drama of the journals, the mounting tension and ever present anxiety as the ship battles to reach the Antarctica coast, and the epic-like account of the relentless march to the Pole. Jones situates Scott within a wider cultural setting: his immersion in polar literature, his awareness of characters in major novels who sought to prove themselves, his copy of Darwin’s Origins of Species and Scott’s “bleak vision of the universe as a struggle for existence,” the literary influences of Ibsen and Thomas Hardy and their fascination with the dependency of the human will on the indifferent power of nature and necessity.

Overall, the pervading idea of the journals is the heroic vision of exploration as a test of individual worthiness and national character. From his early manhood, Scott was filled with anxiety and doubts about his adequacy in life’s struggles: “I write of the future; of the hopes of being more worthy; but shall I ever be – can I alone, poor weak wretch that I am bear up against it all.”34 Expedition narratives through the nineteenth century, Jones observes, became ever more focus on the character of the explorer than on the economic externalities, so exploration became an inner journey, “a journey into the self, nowhere more so than in the emptiest of continents, Antarctica.’35 Scott understood this: “Here the outward show is nothing; it is the inward purpose that counts.” There was nothing to see in the center of Antarctica except the reflection of the inner Western quest to face the struggle of life in a heroic fashion.

 ♦


Ricardo Duchesne is professor at the University of New Brunswick, Department of Social Science, Saint John, Canada. He is the author of The Uniqueness of Western Civilization (2011). [US Amazon link.]

This article was revised 8 October 2012 to correct an editing error.

NOTES:

  1. Judith Shulevitz, “‘Human Accomplishment:’ the Best and the Brightest,” The New York Times,  30 November 2003.
  2. Charles Murray, Human Accomplishment, The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences 800 BC to 1950 (New York: HarperCollins Publishing Inc, 2003), 252-259.
  3. David Gress, From Plato to NATO, The Idea of the West and Its Opponents (The Free Press, 1996).
  4. Norman Davies, A History of Europe (New York: Random House, 1997), 28.
  5. Davies, 15-16.
  6. Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West: I: Form and Actuality, translated by Charles Francis Atkinson (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1973), 183-216.
  7. John Farrenkopf, Prophet of Decline: Spengler on World History and Politics (Louisiana State University Press, 2001), 46.
  8. Ibid.
  9. G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Mind. Being Part Three of the Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, translated by William Wallace (Oxford University Press, 1971), 45.
  10. A.G. Woodhead, The Greeks in the West (New York: Praeger, 1966), 32-33. Robin Lane Fox’s Travelling Heroes: Greeks and The Epic Age of Homer (Allen Lane, 2008), deals with how their travels from one end of their world to the other shaped the Greeks’ myth, heroes, and gods.
  11. For an up-to-date review of the Greek explorations of the Atlantic world, including a chapter on Roman expeditions to the North Sea, see Duane Roller’s Through the Pillars of Herakles: Greco-Roman Exploration of the Atlantic (Routledge, 2006).
  12. Rome is not known to have carried as many explorations as the Greeks; still, it should be noted that the Romans penetrated deeper into Africa than any European power until well into the nineteenth century; see L. P Kirwan, “Rome Beyond The Southern Egyptian Frontier,” The Geographical Journal, (123.1: 1957).
  13. Decline of the West, 332.
  14. Jesse Byock, Viking Age Iceland (Penguin Books, 2001).
  15. Peter Whitfield, New Found Lands. Maps in the History of Exploration (New York: Routledge, 1998), 18.
  16.  The Vinland Sagas, The Norse Discovery of America, translated with an introduction by Magnus Magnusson and Hermann Palsson (Penguin Books, 1965).
  17. Daniel Boorstin, The Discoverers (Vintage Books, 1985), 121.
  18. John Larner, Marco Polo and the Discovery of the World (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999).
  19. Decline of the West, 333.
  20. Pathfinders, A Global History (New York: Norton, 2006), 109-117.
  21. Ibid.
  22.  Joseph Needham, The Shorter Science and Civilization in China, Volume 3: A Section of Volume IV, Part I and a Section of Volume IV, Part 3 of Needham’s Original Text (Cambridge University Press, 1995), 141.
  23. Pathfinders, 145.
  24. Whitfield, 93.
  25. Buddy Levy, Conquistador, Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs (Bantam Books, 2009), 3.
  26. Levy, 203.
  27. See Rona Goffe’s, Renaissance Rivals (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), for an account of the passionate strivings of the greatest artists of the Renaissance to outdo both living competitors and the masters of antiquity.
  28. Frank Dumont, A History of Personality Psychology (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 20.
  29. Frank Debenham, Discovery and Exploration (London: Paul Hamlyn, 1960), 6.
  30. The same line of reasoning occupies Piers Pennington’s The Great Explorers (London: Aldus Books, 1979): “this book tells the story of the world’s great adventures into the unknown,” yet the fifty-plus explorers listed are from the Occident. See also The Discoverers: An Encyclopedia of Explorers and Exploration, ed. Helen Delpar (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980).
  31. Pathfinders, 394.
  32. Cited in Hanbury-Tenison, ed., The Oxford Book of Exploration (Oxford University Press, 1993), 490-3. This book is an anthology of writings by explorers.
  33. Max Jones, “Introduction” in Robert Falcon Scott’s Journals: Captain Scott’s Last Expedition (Oxford University Press), xvii.
  34. Ibid., xix.
  35. Ibid, xxxiv-xxxv.

samedi, 15 février 2020

Oswald Spengler and the Morphology of Cultures

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Oswald Spengler and the Morphology of Cultures

Arthur Chandler

Ex: http://www.arthurchandler.com

(originally printed in Humanities, 1978)

Morphology: “the study of the form and structure of organisms and their specific structural features” (Wikipedia)

Prelude

Under the gloom of the funeral day, adult hands persuade the child to the pews. The minister intones the solemn ceremony, while grown-up faces weep, or press their sadness between steady eyes and firm lips. The child feels the strange oppressiveness of the atmosphere, but as yet cannot fathom the reason. 

Then the final processional: grim men and women file by the casket. The father’s hands reach down and lift the child high: and there, hovering like a captive angel in his father’s grip, the child first sees the shell of his grandfather’s soul. He stares down at the face he knew last week: the same face, but now shrunken into something remote and unfamiliar. It’s not like grandfather sleeping: something is gone.

“The child suddenly grasps the lifeless corpse for what it is: something that has become wholly matter, wholly space; and at the same moment it feels itself an individual being in an alien and extended world. Here, in the decisive moments of existence, when the child first becomes man and realizes his immense loneliness in the universal, the world-fear reveals itself for the first time as the human fear in the presence of death.”

Later, back in the subdued warmth of his own home, the child gazes out the window. People walk, cats prowl, birds dart. All live — but not grandfather. He will never walk the earth again. Never.

The day completes its cycle. Distinctions blur in the landscape. Stars wink into sight — tiny brightnesses in a vast dark. People lie down to sleep. Some people, like grandfather, will never see the morning: this the child now knows with certitude. 

The tears well up and shatter down his cheeks. He cries not only for the loss of what grandfather was for him: he cries for the inescapable loneliness that the sureness of grandfather’s death now means.

In these moments, the soul of the culture, like the soul of the child, is born. 

First Act: The Birth of the Soul of the Culture

“Primeval man is a ranging animal, a being whose waking consciousness restlessly feels its way through life, under no servitude of place or home, keen and anxious in its senses, ever alert to drive off some element of hostile Nature. A deep transformation sets in at first with agriculture — for that is something artificial, with which the hunter and shepherd have no touch. He who digs and plows is seeking not to plunder, but to alter nature. To plant implies, not to take something, but to produce something. Man roots in the earth that he tends, the soul of man discovers a soul in the countryside, and a new earth-boundness of being, a new feeling, pronounces itself. Hostile Nature becomes the friend, earth becomes Mother Earth. Between sowing and begetting, harvest and death, the child and the grain, a profound affinity is set up.”

People in landscape — this is the one fundamental, the basic unity of life and place that accompanies the birth of every culture. And from the shared unity of experience of the landscape comes the Culture: that totality of traditions and institutions that marks the expansion of a people’s existence into an organic unity greater than the sum of the individual lives that compose it.

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The local earth and air surround them. The new-born are delivered into a regional Nature that envelops them with its special shape of hills, demands of the soil, felt rhythm of the seasons, and sublime procession of the heavens at night. The old are finally delivered into the earth, or scattered to the winds — back to the mother-landscape. All life between infancy and death becomes a participation in the greater life of the Culture itself. 

In every culture, attitudes toward the surrounding world coalesce, and shape themselves, in their highest mode of expression, as religion. In the springtime of a society, the myth of a people expresses for them what the world is and means, why it is fashioned thus, and what they must do in obedience to the Ordering Principle. It is here, in the forms and assumptions of each religion, where cultural axioms reside.

Most of the countless human societies that come into being never become civilizations. With a very few Cultures, however, a new form of growth cycle begins. The first herald of this beginning is the birth of the soul of a town. “This is a mass-soul of a wholly new kind, which suddenly buds off from the general spirituality of its Culture. As soon as it awakes, it forms for itself a visible body. Out of the rustic group of farms and cottages, each of which has its own history, arises a totality. And the whole lives, breathes, grows, and acquires a face and an inner form and history.” When this budding culture metamorphoses into a civilization, the fateful and fated cycle has begun. Thenceforward the style-history of the Culture ever more resides in the town, the city, and finally in the gigantic megalopolis.

The Prime Symbol

As the town grows in the passage of time, the grand religious myths of its beginnings take on a style — those recognizable traits that separate each culture from all others — and mark the limits and possibilities of its soul. “Style itself is the rhythm of the process of self-implementing.” And it is the style that tells us that a building is Roman and not Renaissance, that a proof of a theorem belongs to Desargues and not Euclid, that a bas-relief is Assyrian and not Sumerian.

As an individual, everyone enacts a personal style of gesture, inflection, habit. The overall rhythm is given to us by the Culture, but its inflections are our own. Just so, people build and paint and create mathematics. Every architect, every artist, every mathematician shows forth in their work a style: unique personal inflections on the overarching rhythms of tradition. The unity of that cultural rhythm, the basic bond that integrates all branches of a culture into a pervasive whole, is its Prime Symbol. This symbol exists in every phase of a culture’s life, no matter how apparently grand or modest. But in its highest modes of creativity — in art, thought, political action and above all in religion, that the Prime Symbol is expressed with greatest purity and force.

“All that is, symbolizes.” In the great cultures — those entities that are destined to unfold into civilizations — world-fear and world-longing find expression in their Prime Symbols, which set the limits and define the possiblities of their growth and the secret of their inner principle of decay.

For Faustian Civilization — the outcome of the Culture of Western Europe and its siblings — the matrix of all reality, the core of its Prime Symbol, is infinite space.

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The Gothic Cathedral’s spires and arches yearn upward for the infinite, just as its space-commanding giant of sound, the bellows organ, storms heaven with its counterpoint of expanding volume. In Faustian painting, the ever-present and unifying device of perspective commands the eye to follow out to the vanishing point at infinity. In the realm of mathematics — where cultures show their beliefs about reality in purest form — Western mathematicians posit an infinitely extensive and infinitesimally divisible grid of space-points which radiate out to infinity in three dimension — and later, in an infinite number of directions.

For the classical culture of Greece, the Prime Symbol was radically different — and so, too, was the form-ideal is sought to express in its arts and thought. For the people of classical civilization, the near and present bodily form of things made up the basis, the ἀρχή, of existence. Greek painting contains no ordered distances, only bodies. Euclidean geometry always gives us the mathematics of surface and volume, never point-systems of variables in a matrix of infinite, Cartesian space. Even the music of Greece, with its supposed harmonic connection with Western music, is in fact based on a sound-appreciation of a radically different sort. For the classical mind, harmony consists of the relationship of two sounded notes. To the Western sensibility, music consists of the ever-changing relationship among moving intervals — mobile spaces between note clusters — that provides the sense of sonic dynamism.

The Western/Faustian mind perceives the universe as infinite space: the Classical/Apollonian as well-ordered aggregates of bodily forms beneath a corporeal vault of the heavens. A third civilization — the Near-Eastern/Magian — conceives of the universe as a cavern. Here, the primordial light-versus-dark struggle pervades the cavern dome of the heavens even as it dominates the eternal wars among the human race. The Magian world is thus a cosmos of opposing substances: God versus the devil, the righteous versus the infidel. “Even death, for the author of the John Gospel, as for the strict Moslem, is not the end of life, but a Something, a death force that contends with the life-force for the possession of man.”

By setting the high cultural achievements of the Magian world alongside those of the Apollonian and Faustian, we perceive the radical dissimilarity among them. The classical temple is an architectural body of ordered elements, optically graspable in a single glance, designed as a completely exterior experience for the eye. The Western cathedral is an expression of an inward yearning for the light from infinity. The Near-Eastern mosque is a cavern from which the symbolic duality of light and dark contend in the enclosing dome.

In Classical mathematics, proportions among magnitudes comprise the entirety of number-thought. In the West, it is the relationships among varying functions operating in infinite space that make up the concept of number. In Arabian mathematics, is the “alchemical” transmutation of undefined qualities that pervades the essence of mathematics. “And as Euclidean geometry is to Attic statuary (the same expression-form in a different medium) and the analysis of space to polyphonic music, so is algebra to the Magian art of the gold mosaic and the arabesque.”

Infinite space, the cavern cosmos, the sum of the forms of bodies — these are the essential cultural axioms of three of the great civilizations that have actualized their Prime Symbols. To the historical imagination searching for the morphology of other cultures, other Prime Symbols can be discovered:

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For the Egyptian, reality was “a resolute march down the path once entered.” The pyramids, seen in this light, are not buildings in the Western sense but pathways enclosed by mighty masonry.

“For the Chinese, the world-around is approached as a hither-and-thither wandering that nevertheless goes to the goal.” It is The Way: and in a culture where the path through Nature becomes the highest and deepest form of sensibility, landscape gardening becomes a high art, comparable in its richness and philosophical depth to the Gothic Notre Dame, the Magian Blue Mosque, and the Parthenon.

For the soul of India, the world is illusion, an existential zero, and its goal, the ever-circling phantom show of creation and destruction, to be escaped by attaining Nirvana. Here, the Prime Symbol is Zero — an idea which, in the realm of numbers, meant something entirely different to traditional Indian mathematicians than to their Faustian counterparts, for whom the 0 has always entailed deep paradoxes.

Interlude

The Child attains maturity. In the course of life, the growing youth encounters heroes and villains, profound thinkers and shallow phrased-spinners, firm friends and sly enemies. From all these people, real and fictional, we learn — but they do not influence us. We choose what we will take, and what we will ignore. Tough we expand and deepen our outlook throughout life, it is a deepening and expansion of our own nature. All outside forces are converted by our minds and bodies to our own uses. Those forces do not influence us: we pick and choose among them.  

We see a painting, hear a symphony, read a sonnet. In doing so, we “experience something in ourselves, but cannot give any account of the relation between this experience and what the creators lived in themselves. We see a form, but we do not know what in the other’s soul begat that form: we can only have some belief about the matter, and we believe by putting in our own soul. However definitely and distinctly a religion may express itself in words, they are words, and we put our own sense into them. However impressive the artist’s notes to colors, he sees and hears in them only ourselves, and if we cannot do so, the work is for us meaningless.”

Just so, the relationships between Cultures: connotations are not transferrable.

The Integrity of the Prime Symbol

Once a culture’s own Prime Symbol is established and expressed, its essence is unalterable. Individual works, or whole expression-forms such as Attic drama or Arabian alchemy, can be studied by Western dramatists or scientists. But outside their culture of origin, such works are lifeless. They have no power within themselves to move people of another origin. The choice to use this or that element must be made; and at that point, the user, not the work, dictates the nature to which the plot or formula will be put.

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Furthermore, most alien works are never “borrowed” at all. “In all conventional history, it is only the relations that are accepted that we observe. But what of those that were not accepted? Why, for example, do we fail to find in Classical expression-forms — supposedly “influenced” by Egypt — the pyramid, pylon, obelisk, hieroglyphic? What of the stock of Byzantium and of the Moorish East was not accepted by Gothic art and thought in Spain and Sicily?”

“Consider how every living Culture is continuously bathed in innumerable potential influences. But out of these, only some few are admitted as such — the great majority are not. Is the choice, then, concerned with the works, or with those creators who choose or ignore them?”

In the end, nothing reaches maturity except through the fulfillment of its own nature. Each Culture transvalues all its borrowings and makes them its own. Denotations may be taken, but connotations are inevitably transformed. The Prime Symbol, the Culture’s basic attitude toward its environment, translates all influences, expands, grows deeper and richer thereby, but remains in its essence inviolable.

Finale

Children become men and women, marry, and beget their own children. In them and through them, the parents seem to be reborn, surrounding their offspring with affection, knowledge and moral lessons condensed from life. But for all the parents’ efforts, children still go their own ways, absorbing, rejecting, and recreating themselves with all that their environment offers them. The child is the father and mother of the adult.

And so the child grows old, following the unalterable decay endemic to all creatures born and moving through time. Early creativity stiffens into pattern and habit. The fire in the blood cools, leaving noble the lukewarm pleasures of the philosophic mind, or a death-driven flight into a second religiousness.

But even in the winter years, there are tasks to perform. Twilight and winter leave bare the shape of things: the darkening mountain, the leafless tree, the multicolored past stripped to its essential components and toned down by the blank certitude of impending death. Still the world-fear and world-longing are at work, even in the deficient veins of the old; and if accident and senility can be avoided, the prime feelings of meaning in the world may yet produce final, austere monuments as departing symbols of a mature mind drawing to a close.

And then, the only end of age.

The Last Task

Some civilizations, like the Egyptian and the Indian, prolong their final years into centuries. In extended crepuscule of long-lived civilizations, the main creative works had long since been accomplished, and only a diminished echo of earlier greatness lingered in art and thought.

In some instances, late megalopolitans yearn and clamor for barbarian vigor, and turn aside from their own spiritual sources in an attempt to rediscover  meaning in borrowed forms. This second religiousness sprouts like mushroom clusters on the great sitting tree of the civilization ion. And though the death of the Culture may be postponed, the decline may not, and must proceed on its destined course to the end.

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For Western/Faustian culture, ripe autumn — the period known as the Enlightenment — has concluded. Already with the advent of Romanticism, the yellow softness of decay appears in the arts, and even in science and mathematics. “Impressionism is atheism in colors,” and n-dimensional geometry liberates Western mathematics from the obligation of perfecting the analogy between number and reality. Even the Prime Symbol of infinite space comes under challenge from thinkers who argue for a finite but unbounded universe.

In the sciences, arts, mathematics — in all of the highest orders of Faustian enterprise — the sureness of feel, the universal acceptance of the Prime Symbol of infinite space, has been lost. In all areas, a pervasive skepticism replaces certitude — a skepticism which is, in all cases, the mark of later stages of the Culture’s advance into Civilization. But in the West, this skepticism takes on an especially historical form. Faustian skepticism does not mean, as it did the Apollonian mind, a denial of the possibility of knowledge, nor, as it did for the Magians, a world-weary acceptance of Kismet. Faustian doubt takes the form of acknowledging that different conditions produce different results, that there is no truth that holds true everywhere and in all circumstances. In this connection, it is an occurrence of high cultural significance that Newton’s Laws have given way to Einstein’s theories.

With the loss of the sure feel of tradition, each of us stands at the center of our own conceptual universe and propounds our own unique theory of coherence. For each of us, this theory grows from the roots of Truth as we see it, and puts into practice the principles of action that anyone who aspires to first rank must have. But next to us in the city-scape grows another human-plant, sinking different roots and bearing different fruit. The whole of our era in Faustian civilization is a rich, varied complexity of such exotic growths, each one vying, unsuccessfully, to cover the land, to establish a new Prime Symbol.

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Only in the world of technics is the high level of traditional Faustian world-view maintained, and where the Prime Symbol is pursued with something like the intensity of earlier centuries. In the realm of technics, Faustian longing aspires towards its final achievement: the application of power-knowledge for the conquest of astronomical space. “Not this or that bit of the world, as when Prometheus stole fire, but the world itself, complete with its secrets of force, is dragged away as spoil to be built into our culture.”

Religious faith comes at the beginning, practical results at the end. The faith that first sustained Western Culture comes to be superseded by causal, scientific myths which are, nevertheless, still predicated through and through upon the religious foundations at the origin of belief. It is the expansion, refinement, and universal application of technics for the mastery of endless space that constitutes the last and greatest task of Faustian Culture.

“And so the drama of a high Culture — that wondrous world of deities, arts, thoughts, battles, cities — closes with the return of the pristine facts of the blood eternal that is one and the same as the ever-circling cosmic flow. Time triumphs over space, and it is Time whose inexorable movement embeds the ephemeral incident of the Culture, on this planet, in the incident of Man — a form wherein the incident life flows on for a time, while behind it all the streaming horizons of geological stellar histories pile up in the light-world of our eyes.”

In the end, Faustian Culture, like all that lives, must pass away. “Even our machine technics, which seems so imperishable, a contribution to the history of civilization, will end with the Faustian civilization and one day will lie in fragments, forgotten — our railways and steamships as dead as the Roman roads and the Chinese wall, our giant cities and skyscrapers in ruins like old Memphis and Babylon.”

To hope, in fond and vain delusion, for renewed life, or for technics itself to save us from the decline is worse than folly. “Optimism is cowardice.” To recognize the inevitable, and yet perform what our heritage demands of us — this is the highest form of creativity left to us in the final season of our life-course. To face the world-fear of extinction, if not with the confidence of spring then with the determination of age — that is the last task of Faustian technics.

“We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that cannot be taken from a man.”

All quotations in this essay are from Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West and Man and Technics, translated by Charles Francis Atkinson.

Backstory to “Oswald Spengler and the Morphology of Cultures”

When  I joined the interdisciplinary humanities program at my university, I at once recognized that I needed a unifying structure to unify the various works of literature, the fine arts, philosophy and history that I would be teaching — and, eventually, writing about. I had long been interested in all those fields, plus mathematics, film and photography — but had never thought about them or their interrelationships in any systematic way.

Over a lunch one day, a friend and colleague, David Renaker, suggested that I should look into Spengler’s Decline of the West for just such a unifying overview. I had heard of the book, but assumed it was just another one of the many apocalyptic pronouncements that had been popular in recent decades. But on the strength of David’s recommendation, I bought the book and started reading.

spengler-oswald-decline-west-modern_1_dd1f48fb07de64e38692927a923d4e6b.jpgThe Decline of the West, I discovered, as neither a traditional history book or a dirge predicting the end of civilization as we know it. Instead, Spengler opened up vast and profound vistas of world cultures, often with startling insights like this:

"Who amongst [present-day historians] realizes that between the Differential Calculus and the dynastic principle of politics in the age of Louis XIV, between the Classical city-state and the Euclidean geometry, between the space perspective of Western oil painting and the conquest of space by railroad, telephone and long-range weapon, between contrapuntal music and credit economics, there are deep uniformities?" (Spengler, Decline of the West, Volume I, page 7)

The special attraction of the book for me was Spengler’s unusual willingness to see mathematics, not as a system of universal truth, but as yet another creation of each culture, just as much bound to its cultural “Prime Symbol” as its works of literature, art, and religion.

Later, Spengler’s thought served as my inspiration for an essay I wrote for the Western Humanities Review (link here). And though, in the passage of time, I’ve become skeptical of some of his wide-ranging assertions, I still admire the power of his mind and his heroic determination to find unity in the infinite diversity of human history.

jeudi, 13 février 2020

La Haute Culture Surhumaniste: l’avenir de l’Occident

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La Haute Culture Surhumaniste:
l’avenir de l’Occident

English original here [2]

L’Occident et ses peuples peuvent-ils être sauvés ? Et que faudra-t-il pour cela – en particulier si nous recherchons une solution à long terme plutôt qu’une dernière digue « provisoire » ? Une nouvelle Haute Culture de l’Occident peut-elle naître pour assurer l’existence des peuples de l’Occident pour une longue durée ? Quelles caractéristiques une telle nouvelle culture devrait-elle posséder ?

Je supposerai que le lecteur connaît le the modèle civilisationnel d’Oswald Spengler [3], un  modèle en grande partie adopté par Francis Parker Yockey dans ses divers travaux sur l’Occident et ses possibilités futures. Avec un Printemps, un Eté, un Automne et un Hiver dans une Haute Culture, l’« Hiver » est la phase de la fin imminente. Il est clair, du moins pour moi (et il semble que Michael O’Meara soit d’accord avec cette évaluation), que nous sommes dans l’« Hiver » de notre Haute Culture Occidentale (c’est-à-dire « faustienne ») moderne actuelle. Et, immergée dans ce déclin, privée d’un principe organisateur dominant qui puisse fournir une structure spirituelle permettant la continuation de son existence, la race blanche est en train de mourir, ne parvient plus à se reproduire, est remplacée par des étrangers, et oppose un degré de résistance inapproprié à la mort de l’Occident.

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Dans les véritables saisons du climat physique, le printemps suit l’hiver. La même chose peut-elle être vraie pour des peuples particuliers et leurs Hautes Cultures ? Si la volonté de (re)-naissance civilisationnelle conduit à la survie raciale à long terme, devrions-nous au moins examiner les possibilités ? Bien sûr, on ne peut pas prédire avec une entière exactitude si une (re)-naissance civilisationnelle aura lieu, et encore moins la forme précise qu’un tel événement prendra. De plus, on ne peut pas planifier à l’avance et créer une Haute Culture de la même manière qu’on établit la formulation générale d’une stratégie et qu’on conduit ensuite les troupes à la bataille. Une Haute Culture doit se développer selon ses propres lois, d’après des facteurs qui ne sont pas entièrement sous contrôle humain (conscient). Cependant, on peut et on doit examiner les données, envisager les possibilités, et, dans la mesure du possible, encourager les tendances conduisant à une (re)-naissance civilisationnelle. De plus, ces tendances pourraient et devraient être guidées, dans la mesure du possible, dans des directions qui seraient plus fructueuses et plus cohérentes avec la nature de notre peuple.

Un point de départ est d’examiner notre Haute Culture actuelle, dont nous voyons les vestiges mourant autour de nous. La dénommée civilisation « occidentale » ou « faustienne » a été décrite par Spengler, et est résumée ainsi [4]:

« …les Occidentaux [5] modernes étant faustiens [6]. D’après ses théories, nous vivons maintenant dans l’hiver de la civilisation [7] faustienne. Sa description de la civilisation faustienne est celle d’une civilisation où la masse recherche constamment l’inaccessible – faisant de l’Homme Occidental une figure fière mais tragique, car tout en luttant et en créant il sait secrètement que le but réel ne sera jamais atteint. »

Ici nous voyons deux caractéristiques définissantes de la civilisation « faustienne » de l’Occident moderne (c’est-à-dire post-antique) : d’abord, un accent placé sur l’infini et l’inconnu, et ensuite que l’effort dirigé vers cela sera toujours infructueux ; les objectifs de l’Occidental sont toujours « inaccessibles ». Le second point et ses implications seront discutés plus loin. Pour l’instant, acceptons le modèle spenglérien et acceptons aussi que nous sommes dans l’Hiver de la culture faustienne. Or l’école spenglérienne, imbue d’« acceptation stoïque » (de « pessimisme »), nous conseillera d’accepter nos circonstances et d’en tirer le meilleur parti. L’ère dans laquelle nous vivons est ce qu’elle est, et, comme le soldat romain montant la garde sous le Vésuve en éruption, nous devons rester à notre poste jusqu’à la fin, jusqu’à ce que tout soit submergé par le déclin inévitable (l’entropie civilisationnelle, si vous préférez).

Mais si la race et la culture sont liées, la disparition de la culture signifie la destruction de la race. Mais est-ce vrai ? La Culture Faustienne n’est pas la première Haute Culture de l’Europe ; elle fut précédée par la Culture Antique. Spengler et son adepte Yockey rompent avec les interprétations culturelles précédentes pour souligner la forte discontinuité entre cultures antique et faustienne. Elles sont perçues comme deux Hautes Cultures distinctes, aussi différentes l’une de l’autre que, disons, la culture égyptienne et la culture « magique ».

Par conséquent, dans le même article sur l’œuvre de Spengler, nous lisons:

Spengler emprunte fréquemment à la philosophie mathématique. Il affirme que les mathématiques [8]et l’art d’une civilisation révèlent sa vision-du-monde. Il note que dans les mathématiques antiques grecques il y a seulement des entiers [9] et pas de véritables concepts  des limites [10] ou de l’infini [11]. Par conséquent, sans le concept de l’infini, tous les événements du passé lointain étaient vus comme également lointains, et ainsi Alexandre le Grand [12] n’avait aucune gêne à se déclarer descendant d’un dieu. D’autre part, le monde occidental – qui a des concepts du zéro [13], de l’infini, et de la limite – possède une vision-du-monde historique qui accorde une grande importance aux dates exactes.

De même, Revilo Oliver écrit [14] :

« Spengler identifie comme deux civilisations entièrement séparées et distinctes la civilisation antique (‘apollinienne’), entre 1100 av. J.C. et 300 apr. J.C., et la civilisation occidentale (‘faustienne’), entre 900 et 2200 apr. J.C. Ce sont les deux pour lesquelles nous avons l’information la plus complète, et entre elles Spengler établit quelques-uns de ses plus brillants synchronismes (par ex., Alexandre le Grand correspond à Napoléon). Même un siècle plus tôt, cette dichotomie aurait semblé presque folle, car chacun savait et prenait comme allant de soi que quoi qu’il puisse en être des cultures étrangères, la nôtre était une continuation, ou du moins un renouveau, de l’antique. Le rejet par Spengler de cette continuité était l’aspect le plus radical et le plus étonnant de sa synthèse historique, mais son influence écrasante a été si grande que cet aspect a été accepté par une majorité des nombreux auteurs ultérieurs sur la philosophie de l’histoire, dont nous pouvons mentionner ici seulement Toynbee, Raven, Bagby et Brown (20). L’antique, nous dit-on, était une civilisation comme les Egyptiens, maintenant morte et enterrée et sans lien organique avec la nôtre. (…)

Spengler (que Brown suit particulièrement à cet égard) appuie sa dichotomie drastique en opposant d’une manière impressionnante les mathématiques et la technologie gréco-romaines aux nôtres ; à partir de cette opposition, il déduit des différences dans la perception de l’espace et du temps, manifestées particulièrement dans la musique, et parvient à la conclusion que la Weltanschauung antique était essentiellement statique, ne désirant et ne reconnaissant qu’un monde strictement délimité et familier, alors que la nôtre est dynamique et manifeste un désir passionné pour l’infini et l’inconnu. On peut avancer diverses objections aux généralisations que j’ai si brièvement et inadéquatement résumées (par ex., la différence de vision est-elle réellement plus grande qu’entre la littérature ‘classique’ de l’Europe du XVIIIe siècle et le romantisme de l’ère suivante ?), mais le point crucial est de savoir si les différences, qui appartiennent à l’ordre que nous devons appeler spirituel par manque d’un meilleur terme, sont fondamentales ou épiphénoménales. »

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J’ai tendu vers l’explication épiphénoménale – mais en tous cas, on peut accepter la conclusion globale d’Oliver dans ses divers travaux : soit la civilisation antique et la civilisation faustienne sont des phases différentes mais connectées de la même Civilisation, soit, même si elles sont complètement distinctes, l’Homme Occidental est capable de produire de multiples Hautes Cultures. De toute manière, on peut en conclure deux choses : (1) un successeur de la Haute Culture faustienne est possible et a un précédent, et (2) ce successeur sera intimement connecté de manières importantes à son (ses) prédécesseur(s) (même si Spengler et Yockey nieraient que cela soit possible).

Par conséquent, soit la civilisation antique et la civilisation faustienne sont effectivement liées (par une réserve génétique commune, une « âme raciale », et une attitude occidentale), soit, si elles sont vraiment distinctes, elles ne sont pas complètement déconnectées, puisqu’elles proviennent d’une source commune ou d’un fondement commun (encore une fois, la réserve génétique générale, l’« âme raciale », et la mentalité occidentale d’individualisme et d’empirisme plus grands que dans d’autres peuples et d’autres cultures). Non seulement la civilisation antique et la civilisation faustienne sont en un certain sens liées, mais, contrairement à ce que disent Spengler et Yockey – et c’est en fait un blasphème pour l’école spenglérienne, qui rejette l’histoire linéaire –, il y a une idée de progression, car la vision-du-monde de la civilisation faustienne est plus large que celle de l’antique ; en effet, cette plus grande largeur de vision est une caractéristique définissante de la faustienne. Cette largeur se manifestant dans des phénomènes comme la technique de haut niveau, et une connaissance massive de base de la science, de l’histoire, de la philosophie et de la moralité et de l’éthique, les bases sont donc posées pour une nouvelle Haute Culture ayant une vision encore plus large que celle de la faustienne. Un spenglérien dirait qu’une Haute Culture de l’Occident, même si elle est possible (et il nierait peut-être cette possibilité), serait complètement déconnectée des aspects « faustiens » de la précédente Haute Culture faustienne occidentale (c’est-à-dire de l’actuelle). Cependant, je dirais que, ayant été éveillé à l’univers dans son ensemble, il est peu probable que l’homme blanc créerait une nouvelle Haute Culture qui serait insulaire, rejetant l’infini. Dans la mesure (limitée) où nous pouvons prédire, ou même influencer, le développement d’une nouvelle Haute Culture, une direction potentielle serait une direction qui ne serait pas purement « faustienne » – au sens de la recherche de l’inaccessible. Au lieu de cela, on pourrait projeter une future Haute Culture qui serait basée sur la réalisation ultime et réussie (finale) de ce qui était précédemment considéré comme « inaccessible ».

Je dirais que le fondement Chrétien de la Haute Culture faustienne est responsable du fait que les buts ultimes que l’homme occidental cherche à atteindre finissent par être « inaccessibles » – et qu’il sait secrètement qu’ils sont « inaccessibles ». La mentalité chrétienne place des limites inhérentes dans l’esprit de l’homme occidental, et il est donc condamné à échouer finalement même si le plein succès est théoriquement possible (finalement). Après tout, le centre d’intérêt du christianisme est Dieu et non pas l’Homme, c’est le « salut » et non le triomphe, et l’accent est mis sur « l’autre monde » et non celui-ci, notre monde réel. Car que l’homme parvienne à la divinité – ou même qu’il ait cela pour but – est une forme de « blasphème », c’est quelque chose qui ne peut pas être toléré. Par conséquent, l’échec ultime doit survenir, puisque la réalisation du but « faustien » (la réalisation elle-même ferait d’ailleurs en sorte que l’événement ne serait plus vraiment « faustien ») n’est simplement pas possible dans une Haute Culture basée sur le christianisme. Le plein développement de l’homme occidental a été restreint par une religion étrangère qui a placé des chaînes sur son esprit et son âme. Nietzsche a bien reconnu les contraintes imposées par le (judéo)-christianisme ; dans L’Antéchrist [15], nous lisons (caractères gras ajoutés) :

« A-t-on vraiment compris la célèbre histoire qui se trouve au commencement de la Bible – de la terreur mortelle de Dieu devant la science ?… Personne, en fait, ne l’a comprise. Ce livre de prêtre par excellence commence, comme il convient, avec la grande difficulté intérieure du prêtre : celui-ci connaît un seul grand danger ; par conséquent, ‘Dieu’ connaît un seul grand danger.

L’ancien Dieu, tout ‘esprit’, tout grand-prêtre, tout perfection, musarde dans ses jardins : il s’ennuie et cherche à tuer le temps. Contre l’ennui, même les dieux luttent en vain. Que fait-il ? Il crée l’homme – l’homme est distrayant… Mais ensuite il remarque que l’homme aussi s’ennuie. La pitié divine pour la seule forme de détresse qui envahit tous les paradis ne connaît plus de bornes : il crée sans tarder d’autres animaux. Première erreur de Dieu : l’homme ne trouva pas ces autres animaux distrayants – il chercha à les dominer ; il ne voulut plus être un ‘animal’ lui-même. – Dieu créa donc la femme. De cette manière il mit fin à l’ennui – et aussi à beaucoup d’autres choses ! La femme fut la seconde erreur de Dieu. – ‘La femme, dans son essence, est serpent, Heva’ – tout prêtre sait cela ; ‘de la femme proviennent tous les malheurs du monde’ – tout prêtre sait cela aussi. Par conséquent, la science aussi vient d’elle… C’est par la femme que l’homme apprit à goûter de l’arbre de la connaissance. – Qu’arriva-t-il ? L’ancien Dieu fut saisi par une terreur mortelle. Voici que l’homme lui-même était devenu sa plus grosse bévue ; il s’était créé un rival ; la science rend les hommes pareils aux dieux – c’en est fait des prêtres et des dieux quand l’homme devient scientifique ! – Morale : la science est l’interdit en soi ; elle seule est interdite. La science est le premier des péchés, le germe de tous les péchés, le péché originel. Voilà toute la morale. – ‘Tu ne connaîtras pas’ – le reste découle de cela. – La terreur mortelle de Dieu, cependant, ne le priva pas de son ingéniosité. Comment se défend-on contre la science ? Pendant longtemps ce fut pour lui le problème capital. Réponse : chasser l’homme du paradis ! Le bonheur, le loisir encouragent la pensée – et toutes les pensées sont de mauvaises pensées. – L’homme ne doit pas penser. – Et donc le prêtre invente la détresse, la mort, les dangers mortels de l’enfantement, toutes sortes de misères, la vieillesse, la décrépitude, la maladie surtout – autant d’armes dans le combat contre la science ! Les problèmes de l’homme ne lui permettent pas de penser… Et pourtant – quelle horreur ! – l’édifice de la connaissance commence à s’élever, assaillant le ciel, faisant de l’ombre aux dieux – que faire ? – L’ancien Dieu invente la guerre ; il sépare les peuples ; il les fait se détruire les uns les autres (– les prêtres ont toujours eu besoin de la guerre…). La guerre – parmi d’autres choses, un grand perturbateur de la science ! – Incroyable ! La connaissance, l’affranchissement du joug des prêtres, prospère en dépit de la guerre. – Alors l’ancien Dieu en arrive à sa dernière résolution : ‘L’homme est devenu scientifique – il n’y a plus rien à faire, il faut le noyer !’… »

FN-antichrist.jpgEffectivement. Si « les doux hériteront de la Terre », il n’y a pas de place pour un effort humain vers l’infini, qui atteigne son but, et qui place l’Homme sur le même plan que Dieu. Si la douceur, l’humilité, l’« humble agneau de Dieu » est l’archétype fondateur d’une culture, alors bien sûr l’infini et l’inconnu ne pourront jamais être atteints. « Tu ne connaîtras pas » : il est étonnant de voir tout ce que nous avons réalisé en dépit de cela, et ces remarquables réalisations occidentales sont survenues – pas par hasard – principalement pendant les périodes automnale et hivernale de la Haute Culture faustienne. C’est seulement quand les contraintes imposées par la culture à définition chrétienne se sont dissipées dans une large mesure que l’acceptation a priori de l’échec s’est affaiblie. Le problème est qu’avec une haute Culture décadente et mourante, cette émancipation (partielle) vis-à-vis du culte de l’humilité ne mènera nulle part. Seule une nouvelle Haute Culture bâtie sur le concept fondamental de la transcendance humaine, et sur la conquête de l’infini et de l’inconnu, permettra à l’Homme Occidental d’accomplir son destin. Les ruines croulantes de la Haute Culture précédente peuvent servir de blocs de construction pour le futur, c’est certain, elles peuvent fournir une inspiration, certainement, et être une source de fierté, c’est sûr. Mais nous devons regarder vers le Futur, et non pas monter la garde auprès d’un Passé mourant ou mort, comme le soldat romain de Spengler.

Si je n’ai aucun dédain pour les croyances des gens, qu’elles soient chrétiennes ou païennes, je ne vois pas un renouveau des anciens dieux païens comme une amélioration avancée par rapport au déclin du faustianisme. Remplacer Jésus par Thor, à mon avis, revient simplement à remplacer une béquille par une autre. Les hommes blancs ne devraient plus aller chercher des dieux exogènes, qu’ils soient nouveaux ou anciens ; nous devrions plutôt rechercher la divinité pour notre race. Pour l’homme blanc, il est temps de grandir et de rejeter les fantaisies de l’enfance, les fantaisies des dieux et des forces intelligentes externes contrôlant un destin que nous devrions être les seuls, vraiment les seuls, à modeler. La devise du monde antique était « Connais-toi toi-même », alors que celle de l’Age Faustien était une combinaison de « Tu ne connaîtras pas » et de « Tu tenteras de connaître et tu échoueras ». Pour la nouvelle Haute Culture de l’Occident, je propose la devise : « Tu connaîtras et tu triompheras ». Cela inaugurera une ère dans laquelle l’Homme Occidental libérera son potentiel en brisant les chaînes imposées par une infériorité supposée devant des dieux imaginaires.

La citation suivante de Yockey, dans The Enemy of Europe [16], résume l’objectif palingénésique que nous tenterions d’atteindre, si nous le voulions :

« Notre Mission européenne est de créer la Culture-Nation-Etat-Imperium de l’Occident, et ainsi nous accomplirons de telles actions, accomplirons de tels travaux, et transformerons tellement notre monde que notre descendance lointaine, en voyant les vestiges de nos édifices et de nos remparts, dira à ses petits-enfants qu’une tribu de dieux vivait jadis sur le sol de l’Europe. »

En d’autres mots, pas de dieux imaginaires. C’est l’Homme qui deviendra « Dieu ». Dans le livre The Portable Nietzsche, l’éditeur Walter Kaufmann interprète ainsi le « surhomme » de Nietzsche :

« ce qui est évoqué n’est pas une super-brute mais un être humain qui a créé pour lui-même cette position unique dans le cosmos, que la Bible considérait comme son droit de naissance. »

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Tout cela est très bien sauf la dernière partie : « La Bible ». Non, monsieur Kaufman, la Bible ne considère pas le Surhomme comme le droit ultime de l’humanité, elle considère plutôt que c’est le « dernier homme ». C’est nous qui devons choisir ce qu’est notre « droit de naissance », pas les fantaisies délirantes de « la Bible ». Cependant, cela étant dit, le reste de la description est sain, si nous considérons qu’elle est appliquée à la race dans son ensemble et pas seulement à des individus sélectionnés dans cette race. Plus d’échec « fier et tragique » dans « l’effort vers l’inaccessible » comme dans la culture « faustienne » – au contraire, la Culture Surhumaniste sera caractérisée par le fier accomplissement réussi de la recherche de l’infini. C’est ce qu’un individu optimiste peut envisager comme nouvelle Haute Culture de l’Occident, avec des liens avec la culture antique et avec la culture faustienne, mais surpassant les deux dans le but et l’objectif de l’esprit humain. Voilà ce que peut être et doit être le Destin Occidental.

Que pouvons-nous faire pour pousser les choses dans la bonne direction ?

Bien que l’auteur juif Isaac Asimov ne soit peut-être pas très populaire parmi les nationalistes blancs, sa série Fondation [17] peut fournir une analogie utile. « La Fondation » était conçue comme piste de lancement pour une nouvelle civilisation après l’effondrement de l’« Empire galactique », afin que l’« ère barbare » après l’effondrement ne dure que quelques milliers d’années, au lieu de 30.000 ans. Placés comme nous le sommes devant l’effondrement de l’Occident à travers l’Hiver de l’Age Faustien, il serait prudent de semer les graines d’une nouvelle civilisation occidentale blanche émergente sur le long terme, tout en luttant aussi à court terme et à moyen terme pour préserver la race blanche et sauver la plus grande partie possible de la civilisation faustienne occidentale. Sans ces objectifs à plus court terme, la renaissance civilisationnelle à long terme ne sera pas possible. Inversement, sans une renaissance civilisationnelle, le préservationnisme blanc à long terme serait contestable.

Ainsi, il y a deux choses qui sont nécessaires ici. D’abord il y a la lutte pour la préservation raciale blanche et pour sauver autant que possible de la culture faustienne, pour servir de base de connaissance et de blocs de construction pour la nouvelle Haute Culture de l’Occident. Ensuite, il faut initier un effort pour commencer à poser les fondations de cette nouvelle Haute Culture. Comme indiqué plus haut, une Haute Culture est bien sûr un phénomène organique qui ne peut pas être créé sous une forme préparée à l’avance et artificiellement imposée à un peuple. Néanmoins, il est possible de semer les graines et d’avoir quelque choix concernant les gaines qui doivent être semées. Et ensuite, nous pourrons nourrir le jeune plant pendant qu’il poussera, et pendant qu’il se développera d’après son propre caractère inhérent. Cela, nous pouvons le faire et nous devons le faire.

C’est une question sérieuse requérant une stratégie pensée à l’avance et d’un caractère visionnaire extrême, pas une chose qui peut être « discutée » légèrement sur des « liens de blogs » ou sur des forums publics (typiquement malsains). Ce n’est pas une chose qui peut être faite en un jour. C’est un projet à long terme, sur plusieurs générations, qui doit être entrepris par des individus dévoués voulant poser les fondations de quelque chose de grand et de noble pour la postérité. Ce ne sera pas une « réparation rapide » dont les résultats pourraient être vus dans une décennie ou deux ; au contraire, c’est un projet qui a le potentiel pour influencer le cours de l’histoire humaine, et il doit être mis en œuvre à ce niveau supérieur.

Par conséquent, cet essai est simplement un appel à l’action et un examen initial et rapide des possibilités. Si un tel projet est initié un jour, il ne devrait pas et ne doit pas se perdre dans les détails des « mouvements » habituels qui obsèdent beaucoup de militants, et ne peut pas non plus être lié à l’activisme « défensif » plus sérieux, mais à court terme, qui est requis pour sauver notre peuple et notre culture aujourd’hui. C’est une autre question, sur un plan entièrement différent.

Beaucoup sont appelés ; peu sont élus. Le Futur attend.

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

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2012/06/la-haute-culture-surhumaniste-l-avenir-de-loccident/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://cdn.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/DaliColossus.jpg

[2] here: https://www.counter-currents.com/2010/10/the-overman-high-culture-future-of-the-west/

[3] modèle civilisationnel d’Oswald Spengler: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spengler%27s_civilization_model

[4] ainsi: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Decline_of_the_West

[5] Occidentaux: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Western_world

[6] faustiens: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faustian

[7] civilisation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization

[8] mathématiques: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematics

[9] entiers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integer

[10] limites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limit_%28mathematics%29

[11] infini: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infinity

[12] Alexandre le Grand: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_the_Great

[13] zéro: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/0_%28number%29

[14] écrit: http://www.revilo-oliver.com/rpo/Enemy_1.html

[15] L’Antéchrist: http://www.fns.org.uk/ac.htm

[16] The Enemy of Europe: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Francis_Parker_Yockey#The_Enemy_of_Europe_.281953.29

[17] Fondation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_series

 

Le métissage des cultures est-il possible?

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Le métissage des cultures est-il possible?

par Pierre Marcowich

Ex: https://oswald-spengler-le-retour.e-monsite.com

Pour Oswald SPENGLER, les cultures sont des courants de vie organiques, c’est-à-dire un ensemble d’organes par lesquels la vie s’exprime et constitue un processus créateur de formes diverses (peuples, État, nation, religion, langues, droit, art, économie, coutumes, etc.). 

Remarquons, au passage, que, pour Oswald SPENGLER, c’est la culture qui crée le peuple, et non pas le peuple qui crée sa culture, comme il est d’usage de penser. 

Oswald SPENGLER constate que moins la pensée historique connaît ces courants de vie (cultures), plus elle s’acharne à considérer que la vie se trouve dans les relations multiples de ces cultures entre elles, et, par conséquent (et paradoxalement) moins elle comprend ces relations elles-mêmes : 

« Quelle richesse de psychologie dans ces cultures qui s’attirent, se repoussent, se rapprochent, s’étudient, se corrompent, s’entrechoquent ou se sacrifient, soit qu’elle s’admirent ou se combattent en contact immédiat, soit qu’elles vivent isolées en face du monde formel d’une culture défunte, dont le paysage montre encore les ruines. » (1) 

Oswald SPENGLER porte, à mon avis, un regard très perspicace sur les différentes sortes de relations que peuvent avoir les cultures entre elles. Qui d’entre nous, lecteur, je vous le demande, n’a pas lu un ouvrage ou un article répertoriant et décrivant avec minutie les relations commerciales depuis 1.000 ans entre l’Occident et le monde arabe, ou entre le monde arabe et la Chine, dans lequel l’auteur conclue, péremptoire, que ces relations démontrent l’influence réciproque des cultures, sans analyser plus au fond, c’est-à-dire sans tenter de découvrir l’univers intérieur produit dans chaque être par les différentes cultures qui se rencontrent. 

En effet, la pensée historique actuelle ne voit ou ne comprend pas l’univers intérieur des hommes de cultures différentes, nous dit Oswald SPENGLER. Ce sont alors deux mondes aux antipodes l’un de l’autre. Mais l’historien rationaliste et causaliste ne veut voir que les faits bruts avec lesquels il construit une chaîne continue de relations de cause à effet. 

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Oswald SPENGLER nous donne l’explication du comportement de l’historien moderne : 

« À la base de cette mentalité scientifique se trouve l’image grandiose d’une unité de l’histoire humaine, telle qu’elle est apparue un jour aux grands maîtres du gothique. » (2) 

C’est donc, nous dit Oswald SPENGLER, une vision purement occidentale. L’homme occidental veut embrasser le monde entier pour le comprendre. Du coup, il s’élève à la généralisation des êtres humains la plus élevée possible, en ignorant les courants de vie qui sont propres aux cultures.

L’unicité de l’être humain, comme on dit au XXIème siècle, signifie que tous les êtres humains ont le même univers intérieur, le même regard sur le monde, les cultures n’étant qu’un habit superficiel. 

Et Oswald SPENGLER de constater : 

« C’est une dynamique purement faustienne. Aucun homme d’une autre culture ne s’est représenté ainsi l’histoire. » (3) 

En effet, nous dit Oswald SPENGLER, jamais l’esprit grec n’a recherché les effets des unités d’expression communes entre le drame attique et l’art égyptien. Pour l’homme antique, chaque nation menait sa vie propre. 

Qu’on pense également à la notion de gentils  ou d’infidèles (païens) propre à la culture arabe (qu’on la considère au stade juif ou au stade islamique) : pas de salut pour les païens. 

Nous sommes alors, dans ces cultures, en présence d’une ligne de démarcation infranchissable : grecs/barbares, peuple élu(juif)/gentilité (idolâtres), croyants(musulmans)/infidèles (qafir). 

Par contre, pour le christianisme, qui se trouve à la racine de la culture occidentale, le païen ou l’adepte d’une autre religion (musulman, juif, indou) peut toujours mériter le paradis chrétien, même s’il ne devient pas chrétien. 

C’est pourquoi, l’homme d’Occident fait la recherche chaque jour de l’élément spécifique et général de l’être humain. 

Mais pour ce faire, il doit théoriser toute chose pour parvenir, je dirais, au plus grand commun dénominateur général. 

Oswald SPENGLER nous décrit la logique de la pensée historique moderne : 

« On confond l’être avec l’être éveillé, la vie avec ses moyens d’expression […] la pensée théorique voit partout des unités théoriques mouvantes » (4) 

Oswald SPENGLER décrit alors la logique du chercheur faustien (=occidental) en sociologie, en histoire, psychologie, etc. : 

1)   il perçoit un système de formes d’expression (langue, coutumes, État, etc.) ;

2)   il lui donne un nom ;

3)    le nom dégage à ses yeux un réseau de rapports ;

4)   dès lors il croira que le nom est un organisme vivant ayant une fonction constituée de rapports entre des formes d’expression. 

On ne peut qu’admirer la perspicacité d’Oswald SPENGLER pour démonter le système de la plupart de nos théoriciens en sciences humaines, même contemporains, plagiant la méthode scientifique.

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On ne peut pas, non plus, s’empêcher de penser, parmi d’autres, à Claude LEVY-STRAUSS avec son structuralisme, voulant, avec un acharnement inouï, construire un système de rapports de parenté global, applicable à toute l’humanité et à toutes les cultures et réussissant à obtenir que l’on mette à son service un mathématicien pour tenter (en vain) de traduire ce système structuraliste en fonctions mathématiques.

On comprend qu’un de ses laudateurs ait loué Claude LEVY-STRAUSS pour le fait qu’il voyait une égalité totale entre la diversité culturelle (humaine) et la diversité naturelle (végétale ?). On ne peut pas aller plus loin dans la généralisation théorique : le niveau supérieur consiste à intégrer les étoiles. Ce n’est plus seulement une simple spécificité occidentale. Cela devient de l’arrogance, la fameuse hybris occidentale ! 

Un autre exemple pourrait être pris dans la notion d’indo-européen qui représente un système de rapports entre diverses langues situées de l’Inde à l’Europe. À partir de ce système d’expression linguistique, on a créé ex nihilo le « peuple indo-européen » ! 

En réalité, nous dit Oswald SPENGLER, lorsque l’homme occidental découvre une structure étrangère à sa culture (religion, forme étatique, coutumes, etc.), il ignore, en général, ce qui l’a engendré dans l’âme de l’autre. Sa réaction immédiate, consiste à  projeter sa propre âme dans cette forme d’une culture qui lui est étrangère. 

Cette constatation d’Oswald SPENGLER, nous la découvrons quotidiennement dans les articles de journaux ou dans les ouvrages d’« experts » à la mode. Ainsi, cherchant à comprendre (ou plutôt « expliquer ») l’islamisme, ces « experts » considèrent que le monde musulman est divisé entre partisans de la laïcité (les « modernes ») et les intégriste (les « conservateurs »). L’Occidental ne peut même pas comprendre que la notion de « laïcité » ne peut se concevoir en Islam sans remettre en cause la nature même de l’Islam. Un « musulman avec une vision laïque » n’est déjà plus tout-à-fait musulman, me semble-t-il, ou c’est la religion islamique qui a muté, et c’est un autre problème. Il en de même pour la notion de « nation », typiquement occidentale, que l’Occidental tente de coller aux pays musulmans ou autres, et pour bien d’autres points. 

Mais, peut-on objecter, si l’on convertit l’homme de l’autre culture à notre religion, n’est-il pas possible de le transformer en Occidental ? 

La réponse d’Oswald SPENGLER est, sur ce point, formellement négative. 

En effet, selon Oswald SPENGLER, il ne peut pas y avoir de « transhumance psychique » (comme il dit) entre deux individus de culture différentes : 

« Une religion a beau se révéler dans des paroles aussi claires que possible, elle reste parole et l’auditeur y projette son sens intérieur. » (5) Il en est de même au plan artistique, politique, etc. 

Oswald SPENGLER concède tout de même que le don de « transhumance psychique », « très rare et très moderne est réservé à quelques hommes éminemment historiques », parmi lesquels, je me permets de l’ajouter, il se compte certainement, ce qui nous fait de bénéficier de son intéressante et magistrale vision de l’histoire universelle. 

Oswald SPENGLER précise qu’il y a incommunicabilité psychique entre deux cultures différentes que ce soit au niveau artistique ou religieux. Celui qui écoute ne fait qu’y projeter sa propre âme. 

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Mais alors, que penser des influences indubitables que l’on peut constater entre deux cultures étrangères ? le chiffre 0 conçu par la culture indoue et transmis par les Arabes à l’Occident, l’arc en forme de voûte des églises romanes et gothiques empruntée à la culture arabe ? 

Oswald SPENGLER commence par définir ce qu’est une « influence » : 

Pour Oswald SPENGLER, une influence est une activité organique, c’est-à-dire qu’elle est une action exercée par un courant de vie organique, une unité cosmique (vision globale du monde), en l’espèce une culture. 

Par contre, les formes d’expression d’une culture donnée (art, langue, sciences, religion, formes étatiques, etc.) et- qui apparaissent concrètement dans les relations interculturelles, Oswald SPENGLER les définit comme des unités microcosmiques, car une forment un univers particulier, réduit à une sphère spécifique, produit par la culture, courant de vie organique. 

Et Oswald SPENGLER d’observer que, dans les multiples relations interculturelles, « ce ne sont pas les unités microcosmiques qui se déplacent, mais les unités cosmiques qui les choisissent et se les approprient. » (6) 

Autrement dit, lorsqu’un homme de culture A entre en relation avec un homme de culture B, chacun des deux dispose, pour lui-même, une multitude de systèmes d’expression (art, sciences, formes politiques, langues, coutumes, etc.) spécifiques à sa propre cultures. 

Pourtant, tout au long de la relation interculturelle, seuls quelques uns des systèmes d’expression passeront dans l’autre culture. 

En effet, si les influences entre les cultures s’étaient librement donné cours, il n’y aurait depuis longtemps qu’une seule « civilisation » éternelle. Ce n’est pas le cas. 

Lorsque deux hommes de cultures différentes entrent en relation, ce ne sont pas les unités d’expression (art, structures de la parenté, religion, etc.) qui sont actives, c’est, nous dit Oswald SPENGLER, l’homme seul qui est actif. Et l’action de l’un ne peut être intégré dans l’autre de façon vivante que si l’autre la sent dans son propre être. 

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Ainsi, pour Oswald SPENGLER, ce n’est pas le bouddhisme qui a émigré de l’Inde dans la Chine, mais ce sont les Chinois d’une certaine culture (d’une certaine orientation de sentiments) qui ont accueilli le bouddhisme et l’ont transformé en une nouvelle sorte d’expression religieuse.

 En outre, Oswald SPENGLER constate que, au mépris de la théorie de ceux qui prétendre qu’il y a continuité entre les vieilles civilisations et les plus jeunes cultures, ce sont seulement les plus jeunes cultures qui empruntent aux organismes plus âgés un petit nombre d’éléments qu’elles interprètent sans égard à leurs significations originelles (dans la culture plus âgée). 

Pour Oswald SPENGLER, prétendre qu’il y a continuité entre la philosophie grecque et la nôtre, c’est utiliser un « jargon artificiel ». 

En effet, nous dit Oswald SPENGLER, l’interprétation de la philosophie grecque par les Grecs eux-mêmes, puis les Arabes et enfin par les Occidentaux constitue trois interprétations différentes. 

« […] : il n’ y a pas une seule proposition d’Héraclite, de Démocrite, de Platon, qui soit vrai pour nous, si nous ne l’avons pas tout d’abord rectifiée. » (7) 

On ne peut qu’être d’accord avec Oswald SPENGLER, en particulier lorsqu’on pense au destin de la fameuse proposition de PROTAGORAS « L'homme est la mesure de toute chose », qui était la marque d’un relativisme absolu (une sorte de nihilisme de l’homme antique), et à laquelle l’homme occidental déclinant donne spontanément un sens humanitariste, comme on a pu le constater notamment lors des affoulements provoqués par les déplacements de feu le Pape JEAN XXIII dans divers pays, durant lequels cette proposition avaient transformée en slogan sous le regard approbateur des grands médias. 

En outre Oswald SPENGLER pose alors la question que ne se posent pas les philosophes "modernes" : pourquoi certaines influences ne sont pas acceptés ? pourquoi ne montre-t-on que les influences acceptées ? 

En effet, observe Oswald SPENGLER, il est dit que la Renaissance fut entièrement sous l’influence de l’art antique. « mais alors qu’a-t-elle fait » de la forme du temple dorique, de la colonne ionique, de la tectonique des statues, etc. ? 

Pour Oswald SPENGLER, l’acceptation d’une influence, choix inconscient, constitue une exception qui va entraîner une nouvelle interprétation du sens profond de l’apport accepté. 

Oswald SPENGLER donne des exemples concrets de ces nouvelles interprétations dans le christianisme avec ses deux interprétations, sans qu’un seul mot du dogme soit modifié : culture magique (juive, arabe)  et culture faustienne (occidental). 

Ainsi, les premiers conciles chrétiens ressortaient de la conception magique (juive, arabe) où chaque homme est l’expression du pneuma (souflle, esprit) divin. Donc, dans le rassemblement conciliaire, l’idée d’origine était que  la majorité exprime la parole divine, la Vérité immédiate. Ce raisonnement était inintelligible pour l’homme d’Occident qui a fait du Concile un moyen de contrôle du pouvoir spirituel du Pape à l’époque gothique. Puis, dans un mouvement de spiritualisation totale, spécifique à l’esprit occidental, l’infaillibilité papale s’est imposée. 

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On constate la même transformation du sens profond pour le dogme de la résurrection des morts, prise à l’origine au sens propre (résurrection de chair) dans la culture magique (juive), car le pneuma divin a élu domicile dans le corps humain. Cette résurrection de la chair, bien que jamais remise en cause, s’est transformée dans le christianisme occidental, porté à la spiritualisation, en l’immortalité de l’âme humaine. 

Oswald SPENGLER cite également d’autres exemples sur CALVIN et LUTHER dans ouvrage auquel j’invite le lecteur de se reporter. 

Comme le démontre Oswald SPENGLER, la jeune culture occidentale (faustienne), tout en maintenant le dogme ancien, l’a totalement réinterprété dans le sens d’une spiritualisation qui lui convenait, tout en créant de nouveaux dogmes (confession auriculaire) sur la base des Écritures évangéliques dont pas un iota n’aura été modifié depuis la période de la culture magique (juive). 

Pierre Marcowich 

(1)  Oswald SPENGLER, Le Déclin de l’Occident ; Éditions Gallimard, 1948, renouvelé en 1976, Tome II, Chap. I, Origine et paysage, § 12, page 54, alinéa 2 ;  

(2)     Ibidem, § 12, page 54, alinéa 3 ; 

(3)     Ibidem, § 12, page 55, alinéa 1 ; 

(4)     Ibidem, § 12, pages 54 et 55, alinéa 1 ; 

(5)     Ibidem, § 12, pages 55, alinéa 2 ; 

(6)     Ibidem, § 12, pages 56, alinéa 1 ; 

(7)     Ibidem, § 12, pages 57, alinéa 1 ; 

 

The Pre-Death Thoughts of Faust

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The  Pre-Death  Thoughts  of  Faust

(1922 - #59)

N. A. BERDYAEV (BERDIAEV)

         The fate of Faust -- is the fate of European culture. The soul of Faust -- is the soul of Western Europe. This soul was full of stormy, of endless strivings. In it there was an exceptional dynamism, unknown to the soul of antiquity, to the Greek soul. In its youth, in the era of the Renaissance, and still earlier, in the Renaissance of the Middle Ages, the soul of Faust sought passionately for truth, they fell in love with Gretchen and for the realisation of his endless human aspirations it entered into a pact with Mephistopheles, with the evil spirit of the earth. And the Faustian soul was gradually corroded by the Mephistophelean principle. Its powers began to wane. What ended the endless strivings of the Faustian soul, to what did they lead? The Faustian soul led to the draining of swamps, to the engineering art, to a material arranging of the earth and to a material mastery over the world. Thus we find spoken towards the conclusion of the second part of Faust:

   Ein Sumpf zieht am Gebirge hin,
   Verpestet alles schon Errungene;
   Den faulen Pfuhl auch abzuziehn,
   Das letzte waer das Hoechsterrungene,
   Eroeffn ich Raeume vielen Millionen,
   Nicht sicher zwar, doch taetig-frei zu wohnen.

   Nigh the mountain a swamp doth stretch,
   Pollutes there every advancement;
   To drain off the foul pool,
   Would be the utmost highest achievement,
   I'd open up space for many a million,
   Not indeed secure, but active-free to be.

       And thus do end during the XIX-XX Centuries the searchings of the man of modern history. With genius Goethe foresaw this. But the final word for him belongs with the mystic chorus:

   Alles Vergaengliche
   Ist nur ein Gleichnis;
   Das Unzulaengliche,
   Hier wird's Ereignis;
   Das Unbeschreibliche,
   Hier ist's getan;
   Das Ewig-Weibliche
   Zieht uns hinan.

   All the Transitory
   Is but a Symbol Image
   The Insufficient
   Here doth transpire;
   The Ineffable
   Here doth act;
   The Eternal-Feminine
   Upward doth draw us.

        And draining the swamp is but a symbol of the spiritual path of Faust, merely a sign of spiritual activity. Upon his path, Faust passes from a religious culture over to an irreligious civilisation. And in this irreligious civilisation the creative energy of Faust becomes drained, his endless aspirations die. Goethe gave expression to the soul of Western European culture and its fate. Spengler, in his challenging book, "Der Untergang des Abendslandes" ["The Decline of the West"], announces the end of European culture, its ultimate transition over into civilisation, which is the beginning of the death-process. "Civilisation -- is the irreversible fate of a culture". The book of Spengler bears within it an enormous symptomatic significance. It conveys the feeling of crisis, of sudden impending change, that of the end of an entire historical era. It speaks about the great sorry affair of things in Western Europe. We, as Russians, have been split off from Western Europe already for many a long year, from its spiritual life. And since our access to it has been blocked, it has seemed to us to be more fortunate, more orderly, more happy, than it is in actuality. Even prior to the World War, I very acutely sensed the crisis of European culture, the impending end of an entire world era, and I expressed this in my book, "The Meaning of Creativity". During wartime also I wrote an article, "The End of Europe", in which I expressed the thought, that the twilight period of Europe has begun, that Europe is at an end as a monopolist of culture, that the emergence of culture out beyond the bounds of Europe has been inevitable, for other continents and other races. Moreover, two years back I wrote an etude, "The End of the Renaissance", and a book, "The Meaning of History: Attempt at a Philosophy of Human Fate", in both which I definitely expressed the idea, that we are experiencing the end of modern history, that we are living out the final remnants of the Renaissance period of history, that the culture of old Europe has tended towards deterioration. And therefore I read the book of Spengler with an especial tremulation. In our era, with its historical disintegration, thought is focused upon the problems of the philosophy of history. It was the same in the epoch, when Bl. Augustine conceived of his first rendering of a Christian philosophy of history. It is possible to foresee, that philosophic thought henceforth will be concerned not so much with problems of gnosseology, as rather by problems of the philosophy of history. In the "Bhagavad Gita" revelations occur during a time of warfare. During a time of war there can be resolved ultimate problems about God and the meaning of life, but it is difficult to get concerned over analytic gnosseology. And in out time is at work the thinking during a time of war. We live in an epoch inwardly akin to the Hellenistic epoch, the epoch of the collapse of the ancient world. The book of Spengler -- is a remarkable book, in places almost of genius, it stimulates and makes for thought. But it cannot be too much a surprise for those Russian people, who long since already have sensed the crisis, about which Spengler speaks.

* * *

       

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Spengler can convey the impression of being an extreme relativist and sceptic. Even mathematics for him is something relative. There exists the ancient Apollonian mathematics, -- a finite mathematics, and there exists the European Faustian mathematics, -- an infinite mathematics. Science is not unconditional, not absolute, but is rather the expression of the souls of various cultures, of various races. But still, in essence, it is impossible to classify Spengler under any sort of current. Academic philosophy is quite alien to him, and he holds it in contempt. He is first of all his own unique individualist. And in this he is akin to the Goethean spirit of contemplation. Goethe intuitively contemplated the primal phenomena of nature. Spengler intuitively contemplates the history of the primal phenomena of culture. He, just also as with Goethe, is a symbolist as regards world-concept. He refuses to think employing abstract concepts, he does not believe in the fruitfulness of such thinking. All abstract metaphysics is foreign to him. From the morbid methodologism and gnosseologism, in which German great thought emerged, from the sick and futile reflection, Spengler has instead turned away towards living intuition. He casts himself into the dark ocean of the historical existence of peoples and penetrates into the soul of races and cultures, into the styles of the various epochs. He makes a break with the epoch of gnosseologism in the philosophy of thought, but he does not pass over to ontologism, he does not construct any sort of ontology and does not believe in the possibility of ontology. He knows only of being, as manifest in cultures, as reflected in cultures. The primal grounds of being and the meaning of existence remain for him hidden. The morphology of history for him -- is the solely possible philosophy. With him there is not even a philosophy of history, exclusively it is rather -- a morphology of history. All the truths, the truths of science, of philosophy, religion, -- are for Spengler merely the truths of culture, of cultural types, of cultured souls. The truths of mathematics -- are the symbols of various styles of cultured souls. Such an attitude towards cognition and being is characteristic to a man of a late and waning culture. The soul of a man set within an epoch of cultural decline tends to ponder over the fate of cultures, over the historical fate of mankind. It has always been so. Such a soul has no interest either in the abstract knowledge of nature, nor in the abstract knowledge of the essence and meaning of being. Of interest to it is the culture itself, and everything -- is merely reflected in the culture. It is struck by the dying off of once flourishing cultures. It is wounded by the inevitability of fate. Spengler is very capricious, he does not consider himself bound by anything in general obligatory. He is, first of all -- a paradoxicalist. For him, just as for Nietzsche, paradox is a means of cognition. In the book of Spengler there is a sort of affinity with the book of the youthful genius [Otto] Weininger, "Sex and Character", and despite all the different themes and spiritual outlook, the book of Spengler -- is just as remarkable a phenomenon in the spiritual culture of Germany, as is the book of Weininger. In breadth of intent, in scope, in its unique intuitive insights into the history of cultures, the book of Spengler can take its place alongside the remarkable book of [Houston Stewart] Chamberlain ("Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts" ["The Foundations of the Nineteen-Hundreds"]). After Nietzsche -- comes Weininger, Chamberlain and Spengler -- the sole genuinely original and remarkable figures in German spiritual culture. Just like Schopenhauer, Spengler has contempt for professors of philosophy. He offers a very arbitrary list of writers and thinkers, and in his opinion of the remarkable books, esteemed by him. These people are of a quite various a spirit. But they all bear some relationship to the principle of the will to live and the will to power, all have bearing on the crisis of culture. These are -- Schopenhauer, Proudhon, Marx, R. Wagner, Duhring, Ibsen, Nietzsche, Strindberg, Weininger. Is Spengler a pessimist? For many, his book has to produce the impression of a very boundless pessimism. But this is not a metaphysical pessimism. Spengler does not desire the quenching of the will to live. On the contrary, he desires the affirmation of the will to live and the will to power. In this he is closer to Nietzsche, than to Schopenhauer. All cultures are doomed to a withering away and death. Our European culture is also doomed. But it is necessary to accept fate, not oppose it, and to live it out to the end, and to the end manifesting the will to power. With Spengler there is the amor fati. The pessimism of Spengler, if such a term be properly applicable to him, is a pessimism culturo-historical, and is neither a pessimism individually-metaphysical nor individually-ethical. He -- is a pessimist on civilisation. He denies the idea of progress, and he returns to the teaching about cyclical returns. But with him there is no pessimistic balance of suffering and pleasure, of a pessimistic understanding of the very essence of life. He admits of an inexhaustible creative wellspring of life, lodged within the primal impulse, begetting culture all ever new and anew. He is fond of this will to cultural flourishing. And he perceives the death of a culture as a law of life, as an inevitable moment within the vital fate of a culture itself. Surprisingly strong with Spengler is a correlation of phenomena in various spheres of a culture and the discerning from them of an unique symbol, such as signifies that selfsame culture, that selfsame cultural style. He transfers concepts from mathematics and physics over into painting and music, from art into politics, from politics into religion. Thus, he speaks about an Apollonian and a Faustian mathematics. He discerns one and the same primary phenomenon within various epochs, within various cultures. And he regards it possible to admit of one and the same sort of such phenomena, as Buddhism, Stoicism and Socialism, belonging to various epochs and cultures. His most remarkable thoughts are about art and about mathematics and physics. And with him there are truly intuitions of genius.

         Spengler -- is of an areligious nature. In this is his tragedy. With him there is as it were an atrophied religious sense. Whereas both Weininger and Chamberlain -- are of a religious nature, Spengler -- is areligious. He is not only himself non-religious, but he also does not understand the religious life of mankind. Yet he examined the role of Christianity within the fate of European culture. This -- is the most striking side of his book. In this is its spiritual deformity, almost its monstrous defect. It is not necessary to be a Christian, in order to understand the significance of Christianity within the history of European culture. The pathos of objectivity ought to be brought to bear on this. But Spengler does not sense himself under the compulsion of any such objectivity. He does not ponder on Christianity within history, he does not see a religious meaning. He knows, that culture is religious by its nature and by this it is distinct from civilisation, which is irreligious. But he has been able to express very noble thoughts, such as only can be expressed by a non-believing soul in our epoch. Behind his civilised self-feeling and self-awareness can be sense the imprint of a culture, which has lost its faith and is tending towards decline.

* * *

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Spengler understands and senses the world foremost of all as history. This he regards as the modern perception of the world. It is only to such an attitude towards the world that there belongs a future. Dynamism is characteristic to our times. And only a perceiving the world as history is a dynamic perception. The world as nature is static. Spengler contrasts nature and history, as two methods of viewing the world. Nature is expanse. History is time. The world presents itself to us as nature, when we view it from the perspective of causality, and it presents itself to us as history, when we view it from the perspective of fate. That history is a matter of fate, is all very well and good with Spengler. Fate cannot be conceived of by means of a causal explanation. Only the perspective of fate gives us a grasp upon the concrete. Spengler's assertion is quite correct, that for ancient man there was no history. The Greek perceived the world as static, for him it was from nature, from the cosmos, and not from history. He did not know historical remoteness. Spengler's thoughts on antiquity are very insightful. And it mustneeds be admitted, that Greek thought did not know of a philosophy of history. It was not a matter of either Plato, or of Aristotle. The point of view of a philosophy of history is contrary to the aesthetic ponderings of the Hellene. The world for him was a completed cosmos. Hellenic thought created the Hellenic metaphysics, so inconducive for conceiving the world as an historical process. Spengler senses himself as an European man with a Faustian soul, with its infinite aspirations. He not only sets himself distinct from ancient man, he moreover asserts, that the ancient soul for him is inconceivable, is impenetrable. This however does not prevent him from drawing upon its understanding and insights. But does history exist for Spengler himself, is he one for whom there is a world, as history, and not as nature? I think, that for Spengler history does not exist and for him a philosophy of history is impossible. Not by chance did he call his book a morphology of world history. The morphological perspective derives from nature-knowledge. Historical fate, the fate of culture exists for Spengler only in that sense, that fate exists for a flower. The historical fate of mankind does not exist. There does not exist a single mankind, a single subject of history. Christianity was the first to have rendered possible a philosophy of history, in that it revealed the existence of a single mankind with a single historical fate, having its own beginning and end. Thus first for the Christian consciousness is revealed the tragedy of world history, the fate of mankind. Spengler however turns back to the pagan particularism. For him there is no mankind, no worldwide history. Cultures, races -- are isolated monads with an isolated fate. For him the varied types of culture experience a cyclical turning of their own fate. He returns to the Hellenic perspective, which was surpassed by the Christian consciousness. With Spengler the Baptismal water as it were was missing. He abjures his own Christian blood. And for him, just as for the Hellene, there does not exist the perspective of an historical remoteness. The historically remote distance exists only in this instance, if there exists an historical fate of mankind, a worldwide history, if each type of culture is but a moment of a worldwide fate.

       The Faustian soul with its endless aspirations, with the distance opening up before it, is the soul of the Christian period of history. This Christianity shatters the boundaries of the ancient world, with its delimited and narrowed horizons. After the appearance of Christianity in the world, an infinity opened up. Christianity rendered possible the Faustian mathematics, the mathematics of the endless. Of this Spengler is not at all aware. He does not posit the appearance of the Faustian soul in any sort of connection with Christianity. He has made an examination of the significance of Christianity for European culture, for the fate of European culture. This fate however -- is a Christian fate. He wants to push Christianity back exclusively to the sense of a magical soul, to a type of Hebrew and Arabic culture, to the east. And he thus dooms himself to a lack of understanding of the meaning of European culture. For Spengler generally there does not exist a meaning to history. The meaning of history also cannot exist amidst such a denial of the subject of the historical process. The cyclical turnings of the various types of culture, lacking connections between them of a single fate, is totally meaningless. Moreover, the denial of a meaning to history makes impossible a philosophy of history. There remains but the morphology of history. But for the morphology of history there is merely the manifestation of nature, in it there is no unique historical process, no fate, as a manifestation of meaning. In Spengler the Faustian soul ultimately loses its connection with Christianity, which gave it birth, and in the hour of the waning of the Faustian culture it attempts to return to the ancient sense of life, tacking on it also the theme of history. In Spengler, despite his distasteful civilisation pathos, there is sensed also the exhaustion of a trans-cultural man. This weariness of a man of an era of decline quenches any sense of the meaning of history and its connections to historical fates. There remains only the possibility of an intuitive-aesthetic insight into the types and styles of the souls of cultures. Faust does not bear up under a time of historical fate, he does not want to experience it to the final end. He, weary and exhausted by the modern history, agrees it the better to die, having experienced a short moment of civilisation, set at the summit of culture. He is captivated by the thought, that he is to be given this final mitigation and consolation of death. But there is no death. Fate continues on even beyond this side of what the Faustian soul had acknowledged as the sole life. And the burden of this fate has to be carried across into the remote eternity. For Spengler's Faustian soul the remote eternity is hidden, the historical fate beyond the bounds of this life, of this culture and civilisation; to the end of his days he wants to restrict himself to the cycle of a dying civilisation. He foresees the rise of new cultures, which likewise will pass over into a civilisation and die. But these new souls of cultures are foreign to him and he regards them for himself as impenetrable. These new cultures which, perhaps, will arise in the East, will not have any sort of inward connection with the dying European culture. Faust loses the perspective of history, of historical fate. Culture for him -- is merely a springing forth, a blossoming and fading flower. Faust ceases to understand the meaning and the bond of fate, since for him the light of the Logos has grown dim, there has grown dark the sun of Christianity. And the appearance of Spengler, a man exceptionally gifted, at times close to genius in certain of his intuitions, is very remarkable for the fate of European culture, for the fate of the Faustian soul. There is nowhere further to go. After Spengler -- there is already the plunge into the abyss. With Spengler there is a great intuitive gift, but this -- is but the giftedness of a blindman. As a blindman, no longer still seeing the light, he throws himself off into the murky ocean of culturo-historical being. With Hegel there was still a Christian philosophy of history, in its sort no less Christian, than the philosophy of history of Bl. Augustine. It knows of an unified subject of history and meaning to history. It shines through everything with the rays of the Christian sun. With Spengler there are no longer these rays. Hegel belongs to a culture, possessing a religious basis; Spengler senses himself as already having passed over into a civilisation, bereft of religious basis. One might moreover still note, that the point of view of Spengler unexpectedly reminds one of the perspective of N. Danilevsky, as developed in his book, "Russia and Europe". The culturo-historical types of Danilevsky are very similar to the souls of the cultures of Spengler, but with this difference, that Danilevsky is quite lacking in the enormous intuitive gift of Spengler. Vl. Solov'ev criticised N. Danilevsky from the Christian point of view. For Spengler the fate of the history of the world remains unsolved, since for him history is but an aspect of nature, a phenomenon of nature, and it is not in that nature -- is an aspect of history, as it is for historical metaphysics.

* * *

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  Every culture inevitably passes over into civilisation. Civilisation is the fate, the doomed lot of culture. Civilisation however ends up by death, it is already the beginning of death, the exhaustion of the creative powers of a culture. This -- is a central thought of Spengler's book. "We are civilised people, and not people of the Gothic or Rococco". What differentiates civilisation from culture? A culture -- is religious as to its basis, civilisation -- is irreligious. For Spengler -- this is a fundamental distinction. And he regards himself as a man of civilisation, since he is irreligious. A culture derives from a cult, it is bound up with a cult of ancestors, it is impossible without sacred traditions. Civilisation is the will to worldwide might, to an ordering of the surface of the earth. A culture -- is national. Civilisation -- is international. Civilisation is the worldwide city. Imperialism and socialism alike -- are civilisation, and not culture. Philosophy and art exist only in a culture, in a civilisation they are impossible and unnecessary. Possible and necessary within civilisation is only the engineering art. And Spengler gives the appearances, that he understands the pathos of the engineering art. Culture -- is organic. Civilisation -- is mechanical. Culture is grounded upon inequality, upon qualities. Civilisation in contrast is pervaded by the aspiration for equality, it seeks to be based upon quantities. Culture -- is something aristocratic. Civilisation -- is something democratic. The distinction of culture in contrast to civilisation is of something extraordinarily fruitful. With Spengler there is a very acute sense of an inexorable process of the victory of civilisation over culture. The decline of Western Europe for him is first of all the decline of the old European culture, the exhaustion within it of the creative powers, the end of art, of philosophy, of religion. Civilisation has still not reached its finish. Civilisation will still celebrate its victory. But after civilisation will come the onset of death for the Western European cultural race. And after this, culture can blossom forth only in other races, only in other souls.

       These thoughts are expressed by Spengler with an astounding brilliance. But are these thoughts something new? For us, as Russians, it is impossible to be taken aback by these thoughts. We long since already know of the difference of culture from civilisation. All the Russian religious thinkers have asserted this difference. they all sensed a certain sacred terror at the perishing of culture and the ensuing triumph of civilisation. The struggle against the spirit of philistinism, which so wounded Hertsen and K. Leont'ev, people of quite varied tendencies and outlook, was grounded upon this motif. Civilisation by its nature is pervaded by a spiritual philistinism, by a spiritual bourgeoisness. Capitalism and socialism entirely alike are infected by this spirit. Beneathe the hostility towards the West of many a Russian writer and thinker lies concealed not hostility towards Western culture, but rather hostility towards Western civilisation. Konstantin Leont'ev, one of the most insightful of Russian thinkers, loved the great culture of the West, he loved the colourful culture of the Renaissance, he loved the Catholic great culture of the Middle Ages, he loved the spirit of chivalry, he loved the genius of the West, he loved the mighty manifestation of the sense of person within this great cultural world. But he abominated the civilisation of the West, the fruition of the liberal-egalitarian process, the extinguishing of spirit and the death of creativity within civilisation. He comprehended already the law of the transition of culture over into civilisation. For him this was an inexorable law within the life of societies. Culture for him corresponded to that period in the developing of societies, which he termed as the period of the "blossoming of complexity", civilisation however corresponded to a period of "simplistic confusion". The problem of Spengler was quite clearly posited by K. Leont'ev. He likewise denied progress, he confessed a theory of cycles, he asserted, that after the complex blossoming forth of culture there ensues decline, decay, death. The process of "liberal-egalitarian" civilisation is the onset of death, of disintegration. For Western European culture he regarded this death as irreversible. He saw the perishing of the flourishing culture in the West. But he wanted to believe, that a flourishing culture was still possible in the East, in Russia. Though towards the end of his life he lost also this faith, he saw, that also in Russia civilisation was triumphing, that in Russia matters were going towards a "simplistic confusion". And then he came to be imbued with a dark apocalyptic outlook. So also Vl. Solov'ev towards the end lost faith of a possibility within the world of a religious culture and he had an anguished sense of the onset of the kingdom of the Anti-Christ. Culture is possessed of a religious basis, there is in it a sacred symbolism. Civilisation however is of the kingdom of this world. It is the triumph of the "bourgeois" spirit, of a spiritual "bourgeoisness". And it makes totally no difference, whether it be a civilisation capitalistic or socialistic, it is alike -- a godless philistine civilisation. Indeed even Dostoevsky was not an enemy of Western culture. Remarkable in this regard are the thoughts of Versilov in "The Adolescent". "They are not free, -- says Versilov, -- but we are free". "Only I alone in Europe with my Russian melancholy then was free... To the Russian, Europe is precious the same, as is Russia: each stone in it is dear and precious. Europe has been our fatherland the same, as also is Russia... O, to the Russian, dear are these old foreign stones, these miracles of God's old world, these bits of sacred wonders: and to us this is even more dear, than it is to them themselves. They have now other thoughts and other feelings, and they have ceased to appreciate the old stones". Dostoevsky loved these "old stones" of Western Europe, "these miracles of God's old world". But he, just as with K. Leont'ev, denounces the people of the West for this, that they have ceased to revere their "old stones", they have forsaken their own great culture and have surrendered themselves completely to the spirit of civilisation. Dostoevsky loathed not the West, not the Western culture, but rather the irreligious, the godless civilisation of the West. Russian Easternism, Russian Slavophilism was merely a veiled struggle of the spirit of a religious culture against the spirit of an irreligious civilisation. The struggle of these two spirits, of these two types, is innate to Russia itself. This is not a struggle of East and West, of Russia and Europe. And many Western people too have felt anguish, almost to the point of agony, at the triumph of the irreligious and monstrous civilisation over a great and sacred culture. Suchlike have been the romantics of the West. Suchlike were the French Catholics and symbolists -- Barbey d'Aurevilly, [Paul] Verlaine, Villiers de L'Isle-Adam, Huysmans, Leon Bloy. Suchlike was Nietzsche, with his anguish over the tragic Dionysian culture. Not only remarkable Russian people, but also the most refined and perceptive Western people with anguish felt, that the great and holy culture of the west was perishing, that it was dying, that coming to it was a civilisation alien to it, a worldwide city, irreligious and international, that a new sort of man was coming, a parvenue, obsessed with a will to world power and taking possession of all the earth. In this victorious march of civilisation was dying the soul of Europe, the soul of European culture.

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The originality of Spengler was not in the positing of this theme. This theme had already been posited with an extraordinary alacrity by Russian thought. The originality of Spengler lies however in this, that he has no desire to be a romantic, he does not wish to anguish over the dying great culture of the past. He wants to live in the present, he wants to accept the pathos of civilisation. He wants to be a citizen of the worldwide city of civilisation. He preaches a civilisation's will to world power. He is consentual to trading off religion, philosophy, art for technology, for the draining of swamps and the erecting of bridges, for the invention of machines. The uniqueness of Spengler lies in this, that there has not been yet a man of civilisation, a drainer of swamps, endowed with such an awareness as with Spengler, a sad awareness of the inexorable decline of the old culture, endowed with such a keenness and such a gift of penetration into the culture of the past. Spengler's self-feeling for civilisation and his self-awareness are at the root contradictory and ambiguous. In him there is not civilisation's arbitrary sense of value and self-smugness, there is not that faith in the absolute excellence of its own epoch, of its own generation over all the epochs and generations that went before. It is impossible to construct a civilisation, to defend the interests of a civilisation, to dry up swamps with such a mindset as Spengler has. For these deeds what is necessary is a dulling of consciousness, becoming thick-skinned, with a naive faith in the endless progress of civilisation. Spengler tends to understand everything too well. He is not the new man of civilisation, he is rather, the dying Faust -- the man of the old European culture. He -- is a romantic in an era of civilisation. He wants to give the appearance, that he is interested by the engineering art, by the draining of swamps, by the erection of the world city. In actuality, he writes instead a remarkable book about the decline of European culture and by this he works a deed of culture, rather than of civilisation. He is as such unusual a cultural man, overwhelmingly a cultural man. Such people tend poorly to build the world city of civilisation. They are better at writing books. Faust hardly can be called a fine engineer, a fine maker of civilisation. He is dying at the very moment, when he decides to set about the draining of swamps. Spengler is not a man of civilisation, as he wants both himself and us to believe,  - he is a man of a late and declining culture. And therefore in his book is discerned the evidence of grief, foreign to a man of civilisation. Spengler -- is a German patriot, a German nationalist and imperialist. This is clearly expressed in his booklet, "Preussentum und Sozialismus" ["The Prussian and Socialism"]. In him there is the will to world power for Germany, there is the faith, that during the period of civilisation, such as still remains for Western Europe, this world power of Germany will be realised. He combines with civilisation this will and this faith for himself, he finds for himself a place within it. But the history of recent years has inflicted such a blow to the imperialistic mindset of Spengler. If imperialism and socialism -- be not one and the same thing, then -- certainly, Spengler is moreso the imperialist, than a socialist. The civilisation of a world city however is beginning to move more rapidly in the direction of realisation of a world power and world kingdom, the kingdom of this world, through socialism, rather than through imperialism.

* * *

       Our era has features of affinity with the Hellenistic era. The Hellenistic era brought to an end the culture of antiquity. And, according to the thought of Spengler, this was a transition of the culture of antiquity over into civilisation. Suchlike is the doomed lot of every culture. And for both our era and for the Hellenistic era alike there is characteristic the mutual interaction of East and West, the meeting and coming together of all cultures and all races, a syncretism, the universalism of civilisation, the feeling of an end-time, the demise of an historical era. And in our era too the civilisation of the West turns towards the East and the trans-cultural people of this civilisation seek for light from the East. And in our era too within the various theosophic and mystical currents there occurs the jumbling together and combining of various systems of beliefs and cults. And in our era too there is the will towards a worldwide uniting in imperialism and the selfsame will finds expression also in socialism. Cultures and states cease to be nationally isolated. The individuality of the cultures passes over into the universality of civilisation. And in our era too there is the thirst to believe and a powerlessness to believe, a thirst to create and a powerlessness to create. And in our era too there predominates an Alexandrianism both in thought and in creativity. Within history daylike and nightlike eras follow in succession. The Hellenistic era was a transition from the daylight of the Hellenic world over to the night of the Medieval Dark Ages. And we stand at the threshhold of a new night era. The daytime of modern history is at an end. Its rational light is dying down. Evening ensues. And it is not Spengler alone who sees the signs of the encroaching twilight. Our time in many of its portents is reminiscent of the beginning of the early Middle Ages. The have begun the processes of drawing back and consolidation, similar to the processes of drawing back and consolidation during the time of the emperor Diocletian. And it is not so improbable an opinion, to imagine that there is beginning a feudalisation of Europe. The process of the collapse of states is transpiring parallel to an universalistic uniting. There are occurring enormous transmigrations and displacements of masses of mankind. And there will perhaps ensue a new chaos of peoples, from which nowise quickly will a new orderly cosmos take shape.

        The World War has drawn Western Europe out of its customary, its established boundaries. Central Europe lies inwardly devastated. Its powers not only materially, but also spiritually, have become overstrained. Civilisation through imperialism and through socialism has to pour forth across the surface of all the earth, has to move even towards the East. Into the civilisation will be brought ever new masses of mankind, new segments. But the new Middle Ages will be a civilised barbarism, a barbarism amidst machines, and not amidst forests and fields. The great and sacred traditions of culture will turn inward. The true spiritual culture, perhaps, will happen to experience a catacomb period. The true spiritual culture, having survived its Renaissance period, having gone through its humanistic pathos, will happen to return to certain principles of a religious medieval culture, not a barbarian Middle Ages, but rather a cultural Middle Ages. Upon the pathways of the modern, the humanistic, the renaissance history, everything is already exhausted. Faust upon the paths of an outward endlessness of aspirations exhausted his powers, he wore down his spiritual energy. Still, there remains for him movement towards an inner infinity. In one of his aspects, Faust has had to totally surrender himself over to the external material civilisation, a civilised barbarism. Though in another of his aspects he has to be faithful to the eternal spiritual culture, the symbolic existence of which was expressed by the mystical chorus at the finish of the second part of "Faust". Suchlike is the fate of the Faustian soul, the fate of European culture. The future is twofold. With Spengler, the preeminence of spiritual culture is sundered. It passes as it were over totally into civilisation and dies. Spengler does not believe in an abiding meaning to world life, he does not believe in the eternal aspect of a spiritual reality. But even if spiritual culture should perish amidst the quantities, it then still will be preserved and abide amidst the qualities. It was carried forth both through the barbarity and night of the old Middle Ages. It will be carried forth also through the barbarity and night of the new Middle Ages, prior to the dawn of a new day, to a coming Christian Renaissance, when there will appear the St. Francis and the Dante of the new epoch.

* * *

       The truths of science for Spengler are not independent truths, but are rather truths relevant of the culture, of cultural styles. And the truths of physics are connected with the souls of a culture. There is a very remarkable chapter about the Faustian and Apollonian nature-knowledge. Mighty strides in physics have been characteristic of our era. Within physics there is occurring a genuine revolution. But the discoveries, which the physics of our era is uncovering, are characteristic of the decline of a culture. Entropy, connected with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, radioactivity and the decaying apart of atoms of matter, the Law of Relativity -- all this tends to shake the solidity and stability of the physico-mathematical world-perception, and it undermines faith in the lasting existence of our world. I might say, that all this -- represents a physical apocalypsis, a teaching about the inevitability of the physical end of the world, the death of the world. Only during the era of the waning of European culture does there arise such an "apocalyptic" disposition within physics. What a difference it is from the physics of Newton. Newton in his physics did not give his own interpretation of the Apocalypsis. The physics of our day can be termed the pre-death thoughts of Faust. It has become impossible to seek for stability in the physical world order. Physics posits a death sentence for the world. The world is perishing in its proportionate discharge of warm energy into the universe, of energy, unreturnable into other forms of energy. The creating energies at work in forming the manifold of the cosmos, are subsiding. The world is perishing from an irreversible and insurmountable striving towards physical equilibrium. And is not the striving towards equilibrium, towards equality, in the social world that same sort of entropy, that same ruination of the social cosmos and culture in a proportionate discharge of warm energy, unreturnable in any sort of energy as is creative of culture? A pondering over the themes, posited by Spengler, leads to these bitter thoughts. But the bitterness of these thoughts ought not to be inescapable and gloomy. Not only physics, but also sociology, do not have belonging to them the final word in deciding the fates of the world and of man. The loss of a physical stability is not an irreversible loss. It is in the spiritual world that it is necessary to seek for stability. It is in the depths that it is necessary to seek for points of support. The world as external lacks infinite perspectives. The absurdity within it has been shown over the ages. But there is apparent an infinite inner world. And it is with it that there ought to be connected our hopes.

* * *

        In the large book of Spengler nothing is said about Russia. Only in the table of contents of the projected second volume is there a final chapter entitled -- "Das Russentum und die Zukunft" ["The Russian and the Future"]. There are grounds to think, that Spengler sees in the Russian East that new world, which will come to replace the dying world of the West: in his booklet "Preussentum und Sozialismus" several pages are devoted to Russia. Russia for him -- is a mysterious world, incomprehensible for the world of the West. The soul of Russia is still more remote and ungraspable for Western man, than is the soul of Greece or of Egypt. Russia is an apocalyptic revolt against antiquity. Russia -- is religious and nihilistic. In Dostoevsky is revealed the mystery of Russia. In the East can be expected the appearance of a new type of culture, of a new soul of culture. Yet this too contradicts the suggestions about Russia as a land nihilistic and hostile to culture. In the thoughts of Spengler, ultimately not followed out to the end, there is a sort of something turned backwards, where its opposite end seems an assertion of Slavophilism. And for us these thoughts are of interest, this turning of the West towards Russia, these expectations, connected with Russia. We are situated in more propitious a position, than is Spengler and the people of the West. For us the Western culture is attainable and graspable. The soul of Europe does not represent for us a soul remote and incomprehensible. We are in an inner communion with it, we sense in ourselves its energy. And yet at the same time we are the Russian East. Therefore the scope of Russian thought has to be broader, from its apparent remoteness. The philosophy of history, towards which the thought of our era turns, with great success has to be worked out in Russia. The philosophy of history always was of a basic interest within Russian thought, beginning with Chaadayev. That, which we are experiencing at present, ought ultimately to lead us out of our isolated existence. Granted that at present we are still moreso pushed back eastwards, but at the end of this process we shall cease to be the isolated East. Whatever happens with us, we inevitably have to emerge onto the world stage. Russia -- is at the middle between East and West. In it clash two torrents of world history, the Eastern and the Western. In Russia is hidden a mystery, which we ourselves cannot fully fathom. But this mystery is connected with a resolving of whatever the themes of world history. Our hour has still not come. It will be connected with the crisis of European culture. And therefore such books, as the book of Spengler, cannot but excite us. Such books are closer to us, than to the European peoples. This -- is our style of book.

Nikolai  Berdyaev.

(1922)

©  2003  by translator Fr. S. Janos

(1922 - 59,1 -en)

PREDSMERTNYE  MYSLI  FAUSTA.  Berdyaev's article is the 3rd of a four part anthology, "Osval'd Shpengler i Zakat Evropy", first published by book-publisher "Bereg" 1922, Moscow, p. 55-72. This entire 1922 Oswald Spengler anthology has been included in the V. V. Sapov edited Berdyaev-reprint under the partially inclusive title, "Smysl Istorii; Novoe Srednevekov'e", Publisher "Kanon", 2002 Moscow, p. 312-404; the Berdyaev title p. 364-381. (The other three selections included in this Spengler anthology are: F. Stepun -- "Osval'd Shpengler i 'Zakat Evropy'", S. Frank -- "Krizis zapadnoi kul'tury", Ya. Bukshpan -- "Nepreodolennyi ratsionalizm".

 




Е-текст по-русский:  Кротова ..

Return to Berdyaev Online Library..

dimanche, 26 janvier 2020

Anton Mirko Koktanek: Oswald Spengler. Leben und Werk

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Anton Mirko Koktanek: Oswald Spengler. Leben und Werk

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren,

nach umfangreichen Vorarbeiten können wir nun endlich die schon lange geplante Neuauflage der großen Spengler-Biographie von Koktanek für den 17. Februar 2020 ankündigen.

Bitte nehmen Sie diese herausragende Biographie des bedeutenden Philosophen in Ihren Vertrieb auf.

Im Anhang finden Sie das Inhaltsverzeichnis sowie eine Titelabbildung.


Anton Mirko Koktanek

Oswald Spengler. Leben und Werk
Eine Biographie
ISBN 978-3-938176-15-3
560 Seiten + 16 Bilderseiten, Paperback, Preis: 34,00 Euro
Erscheinungstermin: 17. Februar 2020

Oswald Spengler (geb. 29.5.1880, gest. 8.5.1936) war einer der wirkungsvollsten und zugleich umstrittensten Denker des 20. Jahrhunderts. Mit seinem Hauptwerk „Der Untergang des Abendlandes“, dessen erster Band im Frühjahr 1918 erschien, beanspruchte Spengler, eine kopernikanische Wende in der Geschichtsphilosophie einzuleiten. Seine Kernthese lautete, daß die Weltgeschichte die Abfolge von verschiedenen Kulturen darstelle, die von Gesetzmäßigkeiten determiniert sei: „Jede Kultur durchläuft die Altersstufen des einzelnen Menschen. Jede hat ihre Kindheit, ihre Jugend, ihre Männlichkeit und ihr Greisentum.“ In „Zivilisationen“ sah Spengler die Spätzeiten der einzelnen Kulturen, deren Erlöschen und Untergang wie bei alternden Organismen bevorstehe. Dem gegen Ende des Ersten Weltkrieges ins Zerfallsstadium eintretenden Abendland prophezeite er ein bevorstehendes Zeitalter der Diktaturen und des Imperialismus.

Anton Mirko Koktanek, Philosoph und Nachlaßverwalter Oswald Spenglers, konnte für seine große Spengler-Biographie zahlreiche unveröffentlichte Zeugnisse verwenden, darunter auch dichterische Entwürfe Spenglers, Tagebuchnotizen seiner Schwester und nicht zuletzt seine Selbstbetrachtungen, die er als Gedächtnisstützen für die von ihm geplante, jedoch nicht geschriebene Autobiographie verfaßte. So entstand eine außerordentlich kenntnisreiche Lebens- und Werkbeschreibung des Geschichtsphilosophen Spengler, die zugleich einen Schlüssel zum Verständnis der Krisen, Kriege und Revolutionen und der Tragödie der deutschen Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert bietet.

Mit freundlichen Grüßen

Heiderose Weigel
Lindenbaum Verlag GmbH
Bergstr. 11, 56290 Beltheim-Schnellbach

Tel. 06746 / 730047
E-Brief: lindenbaum-verlag@web.de
Internetseite: www.lindenbaum-verlag.de

dimanche, 19 janvier 2020

Oswald Spengler's Apocalyptic Vision of History

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Oswald Spengler's Apocalyptic Vision of History

 
2:40 - Part 1
9:07 - Part 2
16:50 - Part 3
The last of my Spengler videos, for now at least.
 

dimanche, 24 novembre 2019

"Quelle heure est-il en Occident?" - Retour sur Oswald Spengler

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"Quelle heure est-il en Occident?" - Retour sur Oswald Spengler

par Steven Cornu

 
Le Club du Mercredi recevait Steven Cornu le Mercredi 24 Avril 2019. A travers un exposé de la philosophie d'Oswald Spengler, auteur du célèbre "Déclin de l'Occident", notre intervenant, doctorant à la faculté de droit de Nancy, nous entretient des grands cycles historiques qui dictent l'évolution des civilisations et des différentes perceptions philosophiques à leur sujet. Cette perspective de "l'histoire longue" que commencent à réintégrer dans le débat public des personnalités aussi variés que Michel Onfray, Eric Zemmour ou Michel Houellebecq, nous offre un regard nouveau et pénétrant sur les évolutions actuelles de nos sociétés occidentales et sur les perspectives d'avenir de notre civilisation.
 

dimanche, 03 février 2019

Dezsö Csejtei auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018

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Dezsö Csejtei auf der Oswald-

Spengler-Konferenz 2018 

 
Dezsö Csejtei auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018
 
 
 

samedi, 02 février 2019

Prof. Dr. Max Otte auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018

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Prof. Dr. Max Otte auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018

 
Prof. Dr. Max Otte auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018
 
 

vendredi, 01 février 2019

Gregory Swer auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018

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Gregory Swer auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018