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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) : 

mardi, 01 juin 2021

En attendant les barbares

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En attendant les barbares

Carlos X. Blanco

Qu'entend-on par barbare ? La barbarie est-elle une condition positive ? Comprendrait-on l'Europe sans la barbarie ? La civilisation ou la Haute Culture est-elle possible sans cette altérité fondamentale que nous appelons barbarie ? Ces questions et d'autres sont soulevées par un livre - très oublié - de Carlos Alonso del Real, Esperando a los Bárbaros. Je résumerai la thèse principale comme suit : sans idéalisations romantiques, sans exagérations pangermanistes ou tout type de culte et de glorification de la " bête blonde ", et des choses de ce style, les barbares ont rempli une fonction pas toujours destructrice et régressive dans l'Histoire de l'Occident ou dans l'Histoire universelle (dans cette dernière aussi, puisque nous pourrions voir des cas analogues concernant les barbares liés aux Hautes Cultures de la Chine, aztèque, islamique, indienne, etc. mais nous nous limiterons à l'Europe.

51kMbFyN5gL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTrès souvent, les barbares ont ouvert la voie à de nouveaux modes de vie et de production, détruisant des modèles dépassés et des conditions de vie décrépites et sales. Une telle fonction, que nous dirions "progressive" si nous étions en faveur d'une évolution linéaire (ce qui n'est pas le cas), est même soutenue par l'utilisation du langage. Ainsi, par exemple, lorsque nous disons que telle personne attirante ou telle chose délicieuse et en forme est "barbare". Il est vrai qu'à côté de cet usage positif, on appelle barbares ceux qui se comportent avec une cruauté inutile, irrationnelle, excessive (les nazis, l'ETA ou les staliniens "étaient des barbares"). L'ambivalence du terme cache toute la complexité et toutes les clés de la fonction historique du barbare.

Pour commencer, le professeur de préhistoire C. Alonso del Real distingue plusieurs types de barbarie, et même ainsi, chacun de ces types agit fonctionnellement de manière différente selon la dialectique que les peuples barbares établissent avec a) les hautes cultures ; b) les barbares d'un niveau culturel comparable ; c) les barbares d'un niveau inférieur ; d) les primitifs.

Deuxièmement, indépendamment de la situation de chaque peuple sur une échelle graduée qui va du primitivisme aux Hautes Cultures, en passant par une énorme variété de barbarismes, le peuple placé par rapport à toute Haute Culture peut se définir dans une lutte existentielle contre celle-ci et contre d'autres barbares de diverses manières : 1) Les barbares effectifs, qui sont ceux qui constituent une menace réelle, dangereuse et parfois mortelle pour la Haute Culture ; 2) Les barbares potentiels, dont la "raison d'être" est de résister à la conquête ou à l'assimilation de la Haute Culture.

En revanche, selon la position d'un peuple barbare, à l'intérieur ou à l'extérieur d'un limes, d'une frontière militaire ou géopolitique, on pourrait au moins distinguer (i) des barbares intraliminaires et (ii) des barbares extraliminaires. Par exemple, il est évident que l'Empire romain exerçait sa domination non seulement sur des citoyens romains mais aussi sur des masses de "barbares" intraliminaires à des degrés d'assimilation très différents. Verbi gratia : le celte et le germanique chez les Gaulois et les Hispaniques à l'époque impériale ; le berbère, l'hébreu et l'arabe dans les provinces nord-africaines et levantines de ce même État universel, etc. Parfois, la dialectique entre une barbarie intraliminaire et la barbarie extraliminaire et effective est la clé interprétative, ou le facteur causal fondamental pour comprendre pourquoi les empires déclinent et pourquoi l'Histoire avance, vers d'autres modes de vie et de production. Nous savons déjà aujourd'hui - par exemple - que l'assaut barbare contre l'Empire romain a été précédé d'une profonde germanisation et même d'une revivification des barbarismes intraliminaires. Nous savons aussi, et l'auteur que nous citons nous en donne des indices, que les nations traditionnellement considérées comme barbares ne le sont jamais à un degré zéro, et possèdent toujours de fortes composantes de Hautes Cultures qu'elles injectent ensuite dans celles-ci, comme en remboursement du prêt, en tant que Barbares effectifs, c'est-à-dire attaquants d'un Empire ou d'une Civilisation vieillie et en retraite. Quelques exemples qui pourraient être détaillés avec les innovations techniques, militaires, spirituelles et économiques :

- Le celtisme avant Rome. Cette barbarie celte ou celto-germanique, envisagée du point de vue romain, ne possédait-elle pas déjà, bien avant de devenir en partie une barbarie intraliminaire, une infinité de composantes hellénisées et même romanisées lorsqu'elle luttait contre une alternative existentielle à Rome ?

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- Les Asturiens et les Cantabres du VIIIe siècle avant le califat. Cette barbarie (ainsi vue du Califat musulman), n'était-elle pas à son tour l'héritière de Hautes Cultures, décaties, éclipsées, mais en germe pour former une barbarie potentielle, d'abord, et une barbarie effective, ensuite, avant l'Islam ? La Reconquête menée par le Royaume des Astures a été ce cas. Les Maures ont vu à Covadonga, lors de l'escarmouche ou de la bataille de 722, quelques "ânes sauvages". Ils ne savaient pas, dans la Cordoue mauresque, que la Restauration idéologique du royaume gothique, et après elle, la restauration de deux choses unies (a) la barbarie potentielle -résistante- des Cantabres et des Astures, réactivée après les terribles guerres d'Octave, (b) la restauration de la Haute Culture de la Rome chrétienne universelle, dont les Goths (et tous les peuples hispaniques en général) étaient les héritiers.

Ce n'est pas que le barbare soit simplement relatif face à une Haute Culture qui le juge comme tel. Cela pourrait signifier une rechute dans le relativisme culturel grossier qui est si répandu dans l'Académie de nos jours. Le fait est que la barbarie est le bélier de l'ancien et en même temps la graine du nouveau. Quand j'admire l'art asturien, par exemple, le style dit Ramirense, et que je vois ces petits temples ruraux de ma patrie pleins de beauté et de vitalité, je vois aussi le double visage d'une Europe qui est en train de naître. Oui : chaque naissance est une renaissance. A Oviedo et dans d'autres parties de la Principauté, je vois Rome et Tolède résister, d'une part. Je vois mes ancêtres asturiens qui résistent, eux aussi. Je contemple alors une Haute Culture romaine-germanique assaillie par la barbarie arabe et nord-africaine, et je ravive dans mon esprit une barbarie asturienne potentielle ou résistante, luttant contre une nouvelle puissance impériale venue de loin. Il ravive dans mon âme l'idée d'une nouvelle Europe chrétienne qui fait revivre les anciennes potentialités, les anciennes barbaries ainsi que les restes récupérables de la Haute Culture chrétienne et latine. Je vois dans ces pierres une âme qui naît, l'âme faustienne de l'Européen né au VIIIe siècle. Donc barbare lui, barbare dans les deux sens populaires du mot.

https://nacionalismuasturianu.blogspot.com/2018/11/espera...

10:25 Publié dans Histoire | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : barbares, histoire, philosophie de l'histoire | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

mardi, 04 août 2020

Hesperialismo. Sobre la crianza del futuro europeo (y español) autóctono

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Hesperialismo. Sobre la crianza del futuro europeo (y español) autóctono

Ex: https://www.geopolitica.ru

El hombre europeo se asoma al abismo. No está preparado para tan horrible visión. Él mismo fue cavando el abismo, que será fosa para su muerte y olvido. Los cadáveres de las civilizaciones pueblan el mundo, y sus ruinas arrugan la corteza terrestre, restos pétreos que, sin vida ni contexto, dejan de ser comprendidos. No será Europa la primera ni la última de las civilizaciones que se asomen a un abismo y den un último suspiro. Europa, o su prolongación (a veces deformada), llamada “Occidente”, es una Civilización que mira al abismo y no sabe lo que ve. El tipo humano que rigió los destinos del orbe durante cinco o seis siglos, se hinca de rodillas, se deja carcomer y cargar de cadenas. Puede ser un fin muy indigno. En el pasado, el declive de Roma o de España, civilizaciones stricto sensu, esto es, generadoras y universales, no fue tan indigno como este. Se presentó batalla al bárbaro, al pirata y al infiel hasta el último momento. Aunque la batalla final se pierde fundamentalmente por acción de la corrupción interna. Pero Europa quiere morir antes de ser invadida del todo, quiere el suicidio.

Europa muere, y no presenta batalla. Pero ¿toda ella? ¿Hay posibilidad de regeneración? La filosofía de Oswald Spengler nos da el lenguaje y la percepción adecuada para valorar esto. No es la de Spengler una “teoría” contrastada o verificable, es, antes bien, una Filosofía de la Historia. Como tal, resulta irrefutable, acientífica pero, precisamente por ello, penetrante en dirección al futuro. 

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Spengler nos propuso una vía de intuición. O se intuye el movimiento histórico, desde lejos, como el entomólogo observa las filas de hormigas que recorren el suelo, o no se comprende nada. Se debe intuir con frialdad, por más que el pathos de ser europeos y de amar lo nuestro nos embargue, y sólo así vislumbrar cuál es nuestro sino y cuáles son las opciones. Se debe intuir que no existe la “Humanidad”, que cuanto hubo y hay en la Historia es un vario paisaje, un jardín (biocenosis) de gran biodiversidad en el que abundan plantas, las culturas, no todas compatibles entre sí cuando coinciden en el espacio, y no todas comprensibles entre sí se separan en el tiempo. Se debe intuir, cuanto antes mejor, que nuestra civilización, como cualquier otra, tuvo un punto de origen y tendrá un punto final. El conocimiento exacto del momento en que nos hallamos dentro de la curva de nuestro ciclo vital es asunto harto difícil. Que la curva se ha vuelto descendente a raíz de las dos Guerras Mundiales, eso es algo que aquí no se cuestiona. Lo decisivo es saber si el declive adopta una verticalidad, una aceleración ya imparable o hay todavía ciertas fuerzas dignas de consideración que lo frenen. 

Existen reacciones y oasis de esperanza. No toda Europa es “occidente”. La gran Rusia y toda la corona de países que aún le son afines, es un espacio europeo que sigue su propio destino y atiende a otras lógicas que no son las del declive que el neoliberalismo occidental ha agudizado. Amén de la civilización rusa, pero no en armonía con ella, la rebeldía de los países del grupo de Visegrado frente a los dictados cada vez más totalitarios de la U.E. es otro bastión donde se defienden los valores de Europa, entre los cuales, y como pilar fundamental, se encuentra el cristianismo. 

Para la Europa occidental no cabe otra esperanza que mirarse en ambos espejos, el espejo ruso y el espejo de Visegrado, y cultivar eso que David Engels ha dado en llamar Hesperialismo. El Hesperialismo cuenta con el hecho de que, a diferencia de Rusa y los países centroeuropeos, las sociedades aún sanas de Europa occidental no van a contar con el Estado ni con la U.E. como herramientas para la defensa de su identidad, su patrimonio histórico-cultural, su legado religioso, sus medios (hasta ahora) dignos de vida, su estado del bienestar, la educación de sus hijos y el respeto y libertad de la mujer. Antes bien, el Hesperialismo da por sentado que los Estados occidentales y la U.E. se han vuelto instrumentos al servicio de poderes financieros y especulativos no comprometidos ni con la historia ni con el bienestar de las sociedades que ahora, despóticamente, rigen. Con lo cual se hace preciso una reorganización defensiva y resistente desde las propias familias, los individuos y las comunidades inmediatas. Esa reorganización defensiva implica, en un altísimo grado, la transmisión de todo un legado: es cuestión de educación (pero no de reformas legales de unos sistemas educativos corruptos, prevaricadores y lacerantes), o por mejor decir, es una cuestión de crianza. Se trataría de que los europeos volvieran a tener niños, muchos niños, contra viento y madera, y se les educara de forma paralela y alternativa a como los Estados y los organismos internacionales cada vez más intrusivos (ONU, UNESCO, OCDE…) pretenden. En esa educación o crianza se volvería a inculcar a los niños de cada unas de las naciones todo el aprecio por la historia de cada comunidad nacional o étnica, así como el orgullo ante los logros comunes de todas las comunidades que forman, todavía hoy, la gran nación europea. Con independencia del grado de fe religiosa, si es que alguno hay, se les daría a esos niños una exquisita formación en lo que atañe a los logros del cristianismo como religión y civilización creadora de nuestro acervo común, como enorme vaso que arrojó luz, equidad y dulzura en nuestros sistemas de derecho y en nuestras instituciones. El legado clásico del arte, la ciencia, la filosofía y el derecho, esa luz que vino de Grecia y Roma, junto con la cristiandad, que hermanó a las más varias etnicidades europeas, se volvería a transmitir de padres a hijos y en comunidades locales “resistentes”, sabedoras de que han pasado de ser hegemónicas a ser –nada más- que reductos paralelos a muchas otras comunidades de origen extra-europeo, las cuales van a ir reclamando privilegios, espacios de poder y derecho al hostigamiento de todos aquellos que un día fuimos sus anfitriones.

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El Hesperialismo no excluye una reunión y acción concertada de todas aquellas fuerzas que, de manera harto imprecisa, dan en llamarse “tradicionalistas” y a veces “conservadoras”. Antes bien, lo exige. Impreciso es –no obstante- incluir dentro del “conservadurismo” a aquellos grupos que siguen apostando por la versión más nociva del liberalismo o neoliberalismo. La versión, implícita ya en el embrión mismo del modo de producción capitalista; la versión, decimos, que sabe que el Capital no posee olor, ni se deja empapar por atmósferas nacionales, la nefasta versión que conoce que el Capital no desea fronteras, ni arraigos, ni religiones ni vínculos afectivos basados en la sangre o en el suelo. Tan impreciso y nocivo es reunir a las tribus del “anti-fascismo” en un mismo saco, como tratar de hacer lo propio con un “anti-comunismo”, hoy por hoy delirante, pues no existen apenas comunistas sino tribus populistas y anti-sistema. Impreciso y contraproducente a no ser que el propio sistema de dominación mundial, el nuevo (o viejo, si lo miramos de cerca) capitalismo depredador desee imponer tal miope “conservadurismo”. ¿Y qué es lo que desea el Capital, en el fondo, al obrar así? Remover todos los obstáculos que se oponen al crecimiento, a la acumulación y centralización del mismo Capital. La élite que hoy en día actúa en nombre de esos mecanismos de obtención de plusvalía y que, de forma cada vez más minoritaria pero dotada de poder omnímodo, es la principal beneficiaria del saqueo y depredación, es una élite apátrida, sin “olor” ni impregnaciones culturales de ningún tipo. Exactamente como el dinero. 

Los europeos occidentales que han de pasar a la resistencia deben evitar los falsos amigos tanto como los falsos enemigos. De veras, ha de hacerse un análisis profundo sobre cuál va a ser el futuro próximo y saber qué armas ciudadanas todavía están a nuestra disposición. El análisis ha de hacerse pronto, antes de que la composición sociológica y étnica de la llamada “ciudadanía” cambie, cosa que va a ocurrir drásticamente en diez o veinte años. Con la composición social y étnica totalmente alterada, por el tráfico “progresista” de personas que hoy se llama inmigración y acogida de refugiados, los cambios legales que hoy parecen radicales y sin vuelta a tras, serán cada vez más numerosos, despóticos y aplastantes. Se negará incluso el derecho a la existencia física y a la ocupación de espacios públicos al “nativo”. El europeo de dentro de dos décadas será como el poblador originario, nativo, de los Estados Unidos en la actualidad: el “indígena” vivirá en reservas o será una atracción de circo. Eso mismo le espera al autóctono europeo, blanco y cristiano, para más señas, si no espera “pasar desapercibido” en la olla multicultural obligatoria que están preparando. Dado que el confinamiento en espacios privados va a ser una realidad, pues las expresiones públicas, naturales y abiertas de su propia etnicidad, cultura y religión van a estar mal vistas, primero, y prohibidas después, será de todo punto necesario cultivar esa educación privada, reducto para esa “marca de clase” de una verdadera nueva aristocracia. La aristocracia en el sentido de cultivar un “poder de los mejores”, de quienes más se exigen a sí mismos y que reincorpore –adaptados al siglo XXI- los ideales caballerescos medievales, los ideales caritativos cristianos del Medievo y de la Hispanidad habsburguesa, así como los de la areté homérica.  Nos acercamos a una época en la cual ser europeo será una cuestión heroica. Una mezcla de caballero cristiano al servicio de un Imperium universal, donde reine la justicia y caridad, un poco de monje-sabio y de atleta de la virtud, un héroe que, anónimamente, al lado de su familia y su comunidad inmediata, preserve la esencia de una Civilización que podrá decaer, mas no morir, si ese ethos se conserva y vivifica, expandiendo a partir de ahí su radio con cada nueva generación. Para resistir, hay que criarse con fortaleza.

Las culturas son seres vivos colectivos, según Spengler. Ellas vienen al mundo, nacen y conocen una aurora originaria, en la que todo es nuevo y la inconsciencia de su identidad se asemeja a un sueño. Dentro del sueño de su propio venir al mundo, las culturas toman las formas de su propia alma, única, aunque absorben todo género de materiales de su paisaje originario. El alma auroral y balbuciente de una cultura está envuelta e impregnada de los datos físico-paisajísticos, ambientales. Para el desarrollo del proyecto impreso en el alma de una nueva cultura que viene al mundo, es preciso que ésta se sirva de un pueblo. El pueblo será el vehículo que transmita en dirección al porvenir ese embrión del alma de una cultura, cargado de formas y de materiales que hirieron definitivamente las entrañas del recién nacido que despierta a la vida. La cultura balbuciente fáustica, por ejemplo, de la que proceden la mayor parte de los europeos nórdico-atlánticos, así como los helenos y romanos clásicos en el sur mediterráneo, es la cultura que desplegó un alma “herida” por los rigores de un originario clima frío o, en el mejor de los casos, templado-frío. La gran llanura centro-europea y el inmenso bosque originario del occidente, el conocimiento de los glaciares boreales y de costas atlánticas ariscas, de lluvia, ventisca y nieves, de conquistas a golpe de hacha y de resistencia ante medios adversos o pueblos hostiles, todo ello condicionó por siglos la estructura de formas que se dio en el embrión del alma fáustica. Un alma que vislumbra infinitos, que los busca interiormente aun cuando tenga frente a sí murallas de árboles, de riscos, de océano, de enemigos. 

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Los europeos procedemos de la clase de alma que un día prehistórico despertó, aún borracha de imágenes que no podía comprender. El pueblo originario que fue portador e instrumento de un alma marcada por la fuerza de la voluntad y la conquista de infinitos, bien pronto se dividió en ramales y se esparció por gran parte de la Eurasia. Queda por saber con certeza si los primitivos vascones (no los actuales, apenas distinguibles del resto de españoles y franceses), los iberos y ciertas otras etnias minoritarias del centro y del norte de nuestro continente, fueron también ramas muy antiguas de aquel pueblo originario, nómada y conquistador. La dispersión ya era un hecho cuando las oleadas civilizatorias (más en concreto urbanizadoras) del Levante llegaron a Occidente. La potencia civilizatoria de helenos, romanos y (en otro plano) de celtas, iberos y otras culturas desarrolladas, hubo de conocerse en latitudes muy sureñas, las del Mediterráneo, antes que en el Norte. El cruce del alma fáustica (de origen estepario y nórdico) con el alma sureña provocó las primeras conmociones. El alma sureña ya es, desde tiempos inmemoriales, un combinado de formas levantinas (asiáticas) y albo-africanas. Esos primitivos pobladores blancos del norte de África, de donde proceden los ulteriores bereberes, guanches, egipcios, etc. fueron portadores, antes que creadores, de oleadas culturales muy remotas, muy lejanas, que acaso procedan de un Sahara cuando era éste más fértil, y aun más al Sur, de un África negra aún no degradada en el salvajismo, de un África “proto-civilizada” que irradió hacia el Norte, hacia el Mediterráneo, la espiritualidad carnal, femenina y lunar, frente a la espiritualidad hiperbórea solar, apolínea. 

Fue Europa, y siempre lo será, una tensión desgarrada, aunque en horas grandes también una síntesis sublime, entre la rectitud imperativa y voluntariosa de un primitivo Septentrión, y la promiscuidad y cierta dejadez pasiva de un cálido Meridión. Siempre estuvo Europa en trámite de africanizarse. Siempre ha podido convertirse en una prolongación del alma meridional en sus fases expansivas, pues los pueblos portadores de esta clase de alma también son capaces de guerra y conquista, dejando en determinados momentos de la Historia aparcado su inercial abandono y sufriendo ardores expansivos encendidos por mechas fanáticas.

Así, pues, el peligro que para la Europa naciente (siglo VIII) en sentido estricto, supuso la invasión mora, no fue un hecho puntual. La España goda, y más concretamente, la Hispania de profundo tronco celtogermánico que en Asturias, poblada entonces por cántabros, astures, así como refugiados y descendientes de suevos y godos, detuvo la gran oleada afro-levantina en 722 (Batalla de Covadonga, que otras dataciones sitúan en 718), incluso antes que Carlos Martel, al frente de los francos, lo hiciera en Poitiers (732). Desde entonces, los pueblos de Las Españas –si es que en tiempos prehistóricos no se hizo ya- han asignado para sí el papel de centinelas. Hay pueblos que deben asumir el destino, a veces trágico, de ser esencialmente los guardianes de una Civilización. Para que hermanos y parientes suyos vivan alegres y holgados allende un limes infernal, los pueblos de las Españas, desde Covadonga, tienen la misión asignada por el Cielo, de hacer de tapón, valladar, muro erizado de lanzas, que detenga la africanización del continente.

Es en tiempos de degradación moral y de confusión de conceptos, que lleva también a la confusión de sangres y de extravío de la identidad, cuando se bajan las guardias, se abren las puertas de la patria a todo género de contingentes bajo las más oportunistas excusas. El falso humanitarismo que dice amar al extraño pero que desatiende al cercano, y que contraviene al mismo Evangelio, destroza la formación moral de nuestros muchachos, así como hace mucho daño el más vil de los pacifismos: el pacifismo inducido desde potencias extranjeras para castrar a los españoles previo paso para ponerlos de rodillas, esclavizados. España, renunciando a su misión de centinela, inducida por los piratas y depredadores que, para mayor burla y escarnio, se presentan como “europeístas”, va cayendo por la pendiente de la africanización, después de haber inundado el mediterráneo con la sangre de sus mejores hijos poniendo coto a los infieles y a los salvajes.

Hesperialismo para España. Reconcentrarnos en nuestras tradiciones y transmitirlas en la familia. Y vuelta a coger la espada, sin dejar de tener a mano el rosario. De no hacerlo, estamos todos muertos.

dimanche, 02 août 2020

Rappel : Sir John Glubb et la décadence impériale

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Rappel : Sir John Glubb et la décadence impériale

par Nicolas Bonnal
Ex: https://nicolasbonnal.wordpress.com

On parle beaucoup dans le monde antisystème de la chute de l’empire américain. Je m’en mêle peu parce que l’Amérique n’est pour moi pas un empire ; elle est plus que cela, elle est l’anti-civilisation, une matrice matérielle hallucinatoire, un virus mental et moral qui dévore et remplace mentalement l’humanité  – musulmans, chinois et russes y compris. Elle est le cancer moral et terminal du monde moderne. Celui qui l’a le mieux montré est le cinéaste John Carpenter dans son chef-d’œuvre des années 80, They Live. Et j’ai déjà parlé de Don Siegel et de son humanité de légumes dans l’invasion des profanateurs, réalisé en1955, année flamboyante de pamphlets antiaméricains comme La Nuit du Chasseur de Laughton, le Roi à New York de Chaplin, The Big Heat de Fritz Lang.

On assiste néanmoins, certes, à un écroulement militaire, moral des américains et autres européens qui se font régulièrement humilier (sans forcément s’en apercevoir, tant ils sont devenus crétins) par les russes, les chinois et même par des iraniens présumés attardés…

Il faut alors rappeler ce qui motive ces écroulements impériaux. Je l’ai fait maintes fois en étudiant la décadence romaine à partir de textes tirés de la grande littérature romaine, agonisante du reste, puisqu’au deuxième siècle, après le siècle d’Auguste comme dit Ortega Y Gasset, les romains deviennent bêtes (tontos) comme les ricains, les franchouillards branchés et les Bozo britishs d’aujourd’hui. J’ai aussi rappelé dans trois brefs essais sur Ibn Khaldun les causes de la décadence morale du monde arabe.

Hervé nous a donné à connaître Glubb, personnage charmant et décati, qui me fait penser à l’oncle de Purdey dans l’un de mes « chapeau melon et bottes de cuir » préféré, oncle qui déclare que « tous les empires se sont cassé la gueule ». Dans cette série les méchants sont souvent et comme par hasard des nostalgiques de la grandeur impériale…

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Témoin donc de la désintégration de l’empire britannique causée par Churchill et Roosevelt, militaire vieille école, Glubb garde cependant une vision pragmatique et synthétique des raisons de nos décadences. 

Commençons par le résumé donc de Glubb. Causes de la grandeur.

« Les étapes de la montée et de la chute de grandes nations semblent être:
– L’âge des pionniers (explosion)
– L’ère des conquêtes
– L’ère du commerce
– L’âge de la richesse
– L’âge de l’intellect, particulièrement dangereux…

Puis Glubb donne les causes de la décadence historique :

« La décadence est marquée par :
– une culture de la défensive (nous y sommes en plein avec Trump en ce moment)
– Le pessimisme (pensez au catastrophisme financier, économique climatique, avec cette Greta barbante qui insulte ses victimes consentantes).
– Le matérialisme (vieille lune, Ibn Khaldun ou Juvénal en parlant déjà)
– La frivolité (Démosthène en parle dans son épistèmé, traité sur la réforme, les athéniens passant leur temps au théâtre)
– Un afflux d’étrangers qui finit par détraquer le pays (Théophraste en parle au quatrième siècle, avant l’écroulement athénien, dans ses caractères)
– L’Etat providence. C’est très bien que Glubb en parle, à la manière de Tocqueville (Démocratie II, p. 380), de Nietzsche (« nous avons inventé le bonheur ! », au début de Zarathoustra) et du méconnu australien Pearson. Pearson résume en un trait-éclair : le prophète et le héros sont devenus des femmes de ménage. Ou des bureaucrates humanitaires ?
– Un affaiblissement de la religion. »

 

Sur ce dernier point, on évoquera Bergoglio qui est passé comme une lettre à la poste chez les cathos zombis qui lui sont soumis. La religion catholique canal historique n’intéresse plus les ex-chrétiens, à part une poignée d’oasis, comme l’avait compris le pape éconduit Benoit XVI.Le Figaro-madame faisait récemment sans barguigner la pub d’une riche catho, bourgeoise, mariée à une femme, et qui allait à la messe le dimanche…

8mVDulCiqCdbamOM5NkmJVSHuEE@300x413.jpgBloy, Drumont, Bernanos observaient la même entropie en leur temps. Sur le journal La Croix, qu’embêtait la manif anti-PMA récemment, Léon Bloy écrivait vers 1900 dans son journal : « Pour ce qui est de la Croix, vous connaissez mes sentiments à l’égard de cette feuille du Démon, surtout si vous avez lu la préface de Mon Journal. »

Toutes ces causes se cumulent aujourd’hui en occident. Glubb écrit à l’époque des Rolling stones et on comprend qu’il ait été traumatisé, une kommandantur de programmation culturelle (l’institut Tavistock ?!) ayant projeté l’Angleterre dans une décadence morale, intellectuelle et matérielle à cette époque abjecte. C’est l’effarante conquête du cooldont parle le journaliste Thomas Frank.En quelques années, explique Frank notre nation (US) n’était plus la même. Idem pour la France du gaullisme, qui rompait avec le schéma guerrier, traditionnel et initiatique de la quatrième république et nous fit rentrer dans l’ère de la télé, de la consommation, des supermarchés, de salut les copains, sans oublier mai 68. Je ne suis gaulliste que géopolitiquement, pour le reste, merci… Revoyez Godard, Tati, Etaix, pour reprendre la mesure du problème gaulliste.

Glubb explique ensuite le raisons (surtout morales, de son point de vue de militaire de droite) de la décadence…

« La décadence est due à:
-Une trop longue période de richesse et de pouvoir
– L’Égoïsme
– L’Amour de l’argent
-La perte du sens du devoir. »

Très bien dit. Il semble que la date charnière de l’histoire de France, après le beau baroud d’honneur de la quatrième république, soit la reddition algérienne du gaullisme. Après on a consommé et on s’est foutu de tout : les bidasses, la septième compagnie prirent le relais de Camerone, de Dien-Bien-Phu…

Jusque-là Glubb nous plait mais il ne nous a pas surpris. Trouvons des pépites dans ce bref aperçu des écrits de Glubb tout de même : 
« Les héros des nations en déclin sont toujours le même, l’athlète, le chanteur ou le acteur. Le mot ‘célébrité’ aujourd’hui est utilisé pour désigner un comédien ou un joueur de football, pas un homme d’État, un général ou un littéraire génie. »

 

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Et comme notre homme est un arabisant distingué, il parle de la décadence arabe – citant lui le moins connu mais passionnant Ibn Ghazali.

« Dans la première moitié du neuvième siècle, Bagdad a connu son apogée en tant que plus grande et la plus riche ville du monde. Dans 861, cependant, le Khalif régnant (calife), Mutawakkil, a été assassiné par ses turcs mercenaires, qui ont mis en place une dictature militaire, qui a duré environ trente ans.

Au cours de cette période, l’empire s’est effondré, les divers dominions et provinces, chacun en recherchant l’indépendance virtuelle et à la recherche de ses propres intérêts. Bagdad, jusque-là capitale d’un vaste empire, a trouvé son autorité limitée à l’Irak seul. »

Cet écroulement provincial fait penser à notre Europe pestiférée, à l’Espagne désintégrée du binôme Sanchez-Soros, et évoque ces fameuses taifas, micro-royaumes écrabouillés un par un par les implacables et modernes rois catholiques.

Glubb ajoute :

« Les travaux des historiens contemporains de Bagdad au début du Xe siècle sont toujours disponibles. Ils ont profondément déploré la dégénérescence des temps dans lesquels ils vivaient, en insistant sur l’indifférence de la religion, le matérialisme croissant, le laxisme de la morale sexuelle. Et ils lamentaient aussi la corruption des fonctionnaires du gouvernement et le fait que les politiciens semblaient toujours amasser de grandes fortunes quand ils étaient en fonction. »

Détail chic pour raviver ma marotte du présent permanent, Glubb retrouve même trace des Beatles chez les califes !

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« Les historiens ont commenté amèrement l’influence extraordinaire acquise par les populaires chanteurs sur les jeunes, ce qui a entraîné un déclin de la moralité sexuelle. Les chanteurs « pop » de Bagdad ont accompagné leurs chansons érotiques du luth (sic), un instrument ressemblant à la guitare moderne. Dans la seconde moitié du dixième siècle, en conséquence, le langage sexuel obscène est devenu de plus en plus utilisé, tels qu’ils n’auraient pas été tolérés dans un âge précoce.Plusieurs califes ont émis des ordres pour interdire les chanteurs «pop» de la capitale, mais en quelques années ils revenaient toujours. »

Glubb dénonce le rôle de la gendarmerie féministe (voyez Chesterton, étudié ici…) :

« Une augmentation de l’influence des femmes dans la vie publique a souvent été associée au déclin international. Les derniers Romains se sont plaints que, bien que Rome ait gouverné le monde, les femmes gouvernassent Rome.Au dixième siècle, une semblable tendance était observable dans l’empire arabe, les femmes demandant l’admission à des professions jusque-là monopolisées par les hommes. »

 

Affreux sexiste, Glubb ajoute :

« Ces occupations judiciaires et administratives  ont toujours été limitées aux hommes seuls. Beaucoup de femmes pratiquaient le droit, tandis que d’autres ont obtenu des postes à l’université, de professeurs. Il y avait une agitation pour la nomination de femmes juges qui, cependant, ne semble pas avoir réussi. »

Sur ce rôle dela manipulation de la « libération » de la femme, qui n’a rien à voir avec l’égalité des droits, dans la décadence des civilisations, je recommanderai le chef d’œuvre sur Sparte de mon ami d’enfance Nicolas Richer, fils de Jean Richer, l’éclaireur de Nerval.

Et je célébrerai aujourd’hui cette pépite, à une époque où l’histoire devient une caricature au service de lobbies toujours plus tarés :

« Alternativement, il existe des écoles «politiques» de l’histoire, inclinée pour discréditer les actions de nos anciens dirigeants, afin de soutenir la modernité des mouvements politiques. Dans tous ces cas, l’histoire n’est pas une tentative de déterminer la vérité, mais un système de propagande, consacré à l’avancement de projets modernes. »

Nietzsche écrit déjà dans sa deuxième dissertation inactuelle :

« Les historiens naïfs appellent « objectivité » l’habitude de mesurer les opinions et les actions passées aux opinions qui ont cours au moment où ils écrivent.C’est là qu’ils trouvent le canon de toutes les vérités. Leur travail c’est d’adapter le passé à la trivialité actuelle.Par contre, ils appellent « subjective » toute façon d’écrire l’histoire qui ne considère pas comme canoniques ces opinions populaires. »

Terminons avec Glubb, qui donne deux siècles et demi à chaque empire, l’anglais, l’ottoman, l’espagnol y compris. On voit bien que l’empire américain n’en est pas un. C’est en tant que matrice subversive que l’entité-dollar-télé US est pernicieuse (Chesterton). Tout ce que Glubb dénonce dans l’intellectualisme si néfaste trouve en ce moment, avec la nouvelle révolution culturelle made in USA, un écho particulier. Tocqueville nous avait mis en garde : en démocratie, le pouvoir délaisse le corps et va droit à l’âme.

Sources

Nicolas Bonnal – Mitterrand grand initié (Albin Michel) ; Chroniques sur la fin de l’histoire ; le livre noir de la décadence romaine (Amazon.fr)

Sir John Glubb – The Fate of Empires (archive.org)

 

Charles Pearson – National Life and character (archive.org)

Léon Bloy – L’invendable (wikisource.org)

LES PROLÉGOMÈNES D’IBN KHALDOUN (732-808 de l’hégire) (1332-1406 de J. C.), traduits en Français et commentés par W. MAC GUCKIN DE SLANE (1801-1878), (1863) Troisième partie, sixième section (classiques.uqac.ca)

Nietzsche – Deuxième considération inactuelle (wikisource.org) ; Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra

Ortega Y Gasset – L’ère des masses

Nicolas Richer – Sparte (Perrin)

Démosthène – Traité de la réforme (remacle.org)

Tocqueville – Démocratie en Amérique, I, 2.

Théophraste – Caractères, traduits par La Bruyère (ebooksgratuits.com)

dimanche, 24 mai 2020

Nietzsche et l'Histoire, Nietzsche dans l'Histoire

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Nietzsche et l'Histoire, Nietzsche dans l'Histoire

"La Grande H.", Dorian Astor

 
fn-cons.jpgL'histoire est indispensable pour comprendre le présent : assurément... et voilà un lieu commun somme toute rassurant. Mais quelle(s) histoire(s), faite(s) par qui, et comment ? Y-a-t-il une manière neutre d'aborder le passé, ou plus recommandable que d'autres qui seraient trop orientées ou militantes ? Les historiens peuvent-ils s'ériger en arbitres des usages du passé – en particulier de ses usages ou instrumentalisations politiques ? Le savoir et l'érudition sont-ils en mesure de dire le dernier mot sur ce qui a eu lieu, et quelles seraient les conséquences de cette prétention ? La pensée d'un philosophe du XIXe siècle, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), peut aider à poser ces problèmes très actuels. En 1874, dans sa deuxième "Considération inactuelle", intitulée "De l'utilité et des inconvénients de l'histoire pour la vie", Nietzsche mettait en évidence les enjeux cruciaux de la "science historique" et de notre rapport au passé.
 
Pour en parler, "La grande H." a sollicité Dorian Astor, philosophe, germaniste et spécialiste de Nietzsche.
 
Motion design Jaques Muller, montage Bérénice Sevestre.
Une émission de Julien Théry.
 
** Pour en savoir plus
– D. Astor, Nietzsche, Biographies Gallimard, 2011
– D. Astor, Nietzsche. La détresse du présent, Folio, 2014
– D. Astor, Dictionnaire Nietzsche, Robert Laffont, 2017
– G. Colli, Après Nietzsche, trad. fr. L'éclat, 1987, rééd. 2000.
– G. Deleuze, Nietzsche, PUF, 1965, rééd. 1999
– G. Deleuze, Nietzsche et la philosophie, PUF, 4e éd. 1974
– M. Foucault, « Nietzsche, la généalogie, l'histoire », dans Hommage à Jean Hippolyte, PUF, 1971, p. 145-172, téléchargeable en ligne : https://www.unil.ch/files/live/sites/...
– M. Montinari, Friedrich Nietzsche, trad. fr. PUF, 2001.
– M. Perrot (dir.), L'impossible prison, Le Seuil, 1980
– Ainsi parlait Zarathoustra, livre 1 lu par Michael Lonsdale : https://youtu.be/MlvHSb_0IiE

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Soutenez Le Média :

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].

 

lundi, 30 mars 2020

"Antes de la historia: Algunas notas asistemáticas" (1975)

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"Antes de la historia: Algunas notas asistemáticas" (1975)

Armin Mohler, Nouvelle École 27-28 (1975).

Del tipo de hombre que concede una importancia especial a la historia, queremos decir que es un ser que se siente incómodo en este presente y que busca volver en sus sueños a las épocas que ama y, por esta razón, podemos decir que es "conservador". Para describir esta actitud, que hoy en día comienza a parecer una epidemia, se ha acuñado el término "nostalgia". La nostalgia es un fenómeno con múltiples aspectos y, a la luz de estos, no resulta fácil emitir un juicio. Pero parece que no depende de unas actitudes intelectuales fundamentales. Hay conservadores nostálgicos y conservadores que no lo son, mientras que un sinnúmero de no conservadores experimentan una intensa nostalgia. De todas formas, la nostalgia no es un elemento constitutivo del conservadurismo; y el hecho de que uno sea o no nostálgico no es lícito concluir que alguien es o no es conservador.

  1. La historia está cerca

La mayoría de los malentendidos sobre el tema de la historia provienen del hecho de que la consideramos distante en el tiempo. Ciertamente la historia no es inmediatamente perceptible. Pero no por ello tiene menos importancia en el presente. Podríamos concebir nuestra relación con ella según el modelo de la holografía, que fue introducido en 1948 por Dennis Gabor. Se trata esencialmente de un nuevo tipo de "fotografía", capaz de representar tanto los contornos como el reverso de un objeto, aunque nuestro ojo sólo puede tomar su propia perspectiva. El hombre sin sentido histórico es como quien se ve en un espejo: se ve a sí mismo como si estuviera transcrito en una superficie, con las distorsiones y omisiones que esto conlleva. Tener sentido histórico significa no contentarse sólo con esta dimensión. Y, para seguir con la imagen que hemos tomado como ejemplo, estudiar la historia significa sostener un segundo espejo detrás de la cabeza, o todo un sistema de espejos, para verse desde todos los ángulos y así lograr una distancia con respecto a uno mismo.

  1. La historia no es una clase académica.

El beneficio que se obtiene de la historia es generalmente de orden moral. Alabamos los ejemplos que esperamos igualar. Afirmamos que nos ayuda a evitar los errores de los demás. Y así sucesivamente. Los historiadores no han escatimado esfuerzos en lo que se refiere a estos supuestos efectos directamente educativos de la historia. Los sucesores de los grandes hombres son generalmente pocos en número; y los errores se ensayan fatigosamente. Si la historia tiene un efecto educativo, éste se manifiesta de la forma menos directa, por decir algo.

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  1. La historia permite una observación verificable

La historia tiene un poder disciplinario porque su función es la misma que la de la experimentación en el dominio de las ciencias naturales: la historia ofrece la única posibilidad de efectuar una observación verificable a nivel humano, tal como la experimentación la ofrece a nivel de la naturaleza. Esta observación es más fácil de hacer ya que la filosofía se ha degradado a un modesto papel de secretario en las reuniones interdisciplinares. La lógica tiene ciertamente sus inducciones, pero sólo en abstracto. Lo que tratamos de distinguir en el ámbito humano, como "naturaleza", "alma" (Seele) y "espíritu" (Geist), está tan íntimamente enredado que la lógica se esfuerza por comprenderlo. ¿Qué podría decir realmente verificable sobre una cosa, una persona, un evento humano? Podría decir qué es, en qué se convertirá con el tiempo y cómo cambia mientras tanto. Sobre los detalles puede haber diferencias de opinión: en términos generales, sin embargo, un consenso es posible.

  1. La verificabilidad no lo es todo

Quien comenta los severos límites de la observación verificable se expone generalmente a la sospecha de querer desvalorizar toda observación adelantada. Pero no tendría sentido actuar de esta manera: sería decir que cualquier intento de volver a las raíces, cualquier proyecto de gran envergadura debería ser limitado en consecuencia, y que la fuerza creativa en el hombre debería dejarse marchitar. En la esfera de la acción humana, la historia tiene una función particular: "verificabilidad" no significa otra cosa más. Y llamar a esa función "compensatoria" sería minimizarla: ya que la experiencia de la historia puede tener dos efectos contrarios y radicalmente opuestos.

  1. A través de la historia experimentamos lo complejo

Seguiría siendo una de esas simplificaciones inadmisibles, como en el caso de la cuestión de la nostalgia, decir que el "conservador" experimenta la historia como un absurdo. Algunos autores han utilizado la metáfora de "lo in-significativo" ("l'in-signifiant") para denotar aquello que aparece efectivamente en todo acontecimiento histórico: a saber, el hecho de la experiencia de que la historia representa siempre un exceso con respecto a los esquemas interpretativos que tratamos de atribuirle en el pensamiento. La experiencia fundamental según la cual "el mundo no es divisible", es decir, que el pensamiento humano y la realidad nunca pueden coincidir, alcanza en la dimensión histórica una intensificación que se podría comparar con un "efecto estéreo". La historia es una escuela de humildad: todos los intentos de explicación monocausal (o incluso bi- y tricausal) se hacen añicos contra ella, y nos hace conscientes del carácter complejo de toda realidad. Esto no tiene por qué molestarnos, ni siquiera desalentarnos, sino todo lo contrario: de una manera difícil de definir (e inexplicable en términos racionales), esto puede -de hecho- impulsarnos a una apreciación más profunda. Al darnos cuenta de lo complejo que es el mundo, vivimos una especie de segundo nacimiento.

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  1. A través de la historia experimentamos la forma.

"Darle un significado a lo que no tiene significado" es igualmente una fórmula de la que debemos desconfiar. Desmiente una psicología un tanto escuálida. Es cierto que el mundo no tiene sentido y que, como el hombre no puede vivir sin sentido, pues bien, se construye uno. Pero la relación que debemos tener con la historia es aún más esencial. Este "segundo nacimiento" no sólo consiste en la experiencia de la complejidad del mundo, sino que también reside en nuestro impulso de contraponer a lo complejo (Benn o Montherlant dirían "contra el caos") una forma, una configuración. Lo que nos mueve profundamente en la historia es que el hombre siempre busca, precisamente a partir de esta experiencia de una realidad compleja, e incluso en las situaciones más desesperadas, dejar todavía un rastro detrás de él. Aunque sólo sea un rasguño en una realidad tan compacta, como dijo Malraux en alguna parte, con esa brillante despreocupación que hizo suya.

El hombre de la Aufklärung [Ilustración] dirá: "No es mucho". Nuestra respuesta sólo puede ser: "Pero lo es".

Tomado de : https://ferguscullen.blogspot.com/2020/01/armin-mohler-be...

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.

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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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

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 ; 

 

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, 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 

 
 
 

jeudi, 31 janvier 2019

Prof. Dr. Alexander Demandt auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018

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Prof. Dr. Alexander Demandt auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018

Prof. Dr. Alexander Demandt auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018 https://www.oswaldspenglersociety.com/ --- Alexander Demandt studierte Geschichte und Lateinische Philologie in Tübingen, München und Marburg und wurde 1964 bei Habicht mit einer Dissertation zu Zeitkritik und Geschichtsbild bei Ammianus Marcellinus promoviert. Als Assistent an der Johann-Wolfgang-Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main erhielt er 1964/65 das Reisestipendium des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts (DAI). 1966 wurde er Assistent an der Universität Konstanz, 1970 erfolgte dort seine Habilitation mit einer Arbeit zum Thema Magister militum. Demandt war von 1974 bis 2005 Professor für Alte Geschichte am Friedrich-Meinecke-Institut der Freien Universität Berlin. Der Schwerpunkt seiner Arbeit liegt in den Bereichen der römischen Welt und in der Spätantike, außerdem beschäftigt er sich mit dem Phänomen des Niedergangs in der Geschichte, Kulturvandalismus, Geschichtstheorie, Geschichtsphilosophie und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. Im Jahr 2003 wurde Demandt mit dem Ausonius-Preis ausgezeichnet, 2008 erhielt er den Kulturpreis des Wetteraukreises. Er ist seit 1990 Korrespondierendes Mitglied des DAI sowie seit 2000 Korrespondierendes Mitglied der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Seit 2007 hatte Alexander Demandt mehrere Fernsehauftritte als Experte in der von Guido Knopp geleiteten und moderierten Fernseh-Dokumentationsreihe ZDF-History.
 

mercredi, 30 janvier 2019

Prof. Dr. Gerd Morgenthaler auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018

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Prof. Dr. Gerd Morgenthaler auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018

 
 
Prof. Dr. Gerd Morgenthaler auf der Oswald-Spengler-Konferenz 2018 https://www.oswaldspenglersociety.com/ --- Gerd Morgenthaler ist Inhaber eines Lehrstuhls für Öffentliches Recht an der Universität Siegen. Nach Studium der Rechtswissenschaft (Erstes Staatsexamen 1987), Promotion zu einem international-steuerrechtlichen Thema (Heidelberg 1991) und Rechtsreferendariat in Baden-Württemberg (Zweites Staatsexamen 1991) habilitierte er sich mit einer Arbeit zum Freiheitsbegriff des Grundgesetzes in seiner historischen Prägung durch die Naturrechtsphilosophie der europäischen Moderne (Heidelberg 1999). Seine Forschungsschwerpunkte liegen in den Bereichen des Verfassungsrechts (Freiheitsgrundrechte, Nachhhaltigkeit, Rechtsstaat), der europäischen Integration (Krisen, Zukunftsperspektiven) und des Zusammenhangs von Recht und Entwicklung in außereuropäischen Kulturen (insbesondere im Südkaukasus, in Zentralasien und in China).
 

mardi, 29 janvier 2019

"Oswald Spengler ou le tourment de l'avenir"

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Chronique 70 :

"Oswald Spengler ou le tourment de l'avenir"

Essais & analyses.
 

mardi, 09 octobre 2018

Oswald Spengler et la collapsologie en 1931

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Oswald Spengler et la collapsologie en 1931

par Nicolas Bonnal

Ex: http://www.dedefensa.org

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spengler voit bien le retour à l’orientalisme :

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

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

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

C’est la mutinerie des mains :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Résultat, la bataille de Tsushima en 1905 :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On se demande toutefois quelle fin honorable nous attend…

Source 

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

jeudi, 19 juillet 2018

Revilo P. Oliver & Francis Parker Yockey

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Revilo P. Oliver & Francis Parker Yockey

The writings of Francis Parker Yockey have fascinated the far Right for a half-century and more. I would argue that the person most responsible for this popularity is the late classics professor Revilo P. Oliver. While Prof. Oliver had little practical input in the distribution of Yockey writings (that credit would go more to Willis Carto and George Dietz), it was Oliver’s imprimatur that lent Yockey a gravitas that ensured he would be cherished as something other than the author of some controversial, obscurantist tracts. 

This is true even though Oliver disagreed with Yockey on a number of key points. He championed Yockey even in the early 1960s when Oliver was writing for the John Birch Society and had to couch his praise in evasive words. Years later, when his critical essays were mainly limited to the small-run periodical Liberty Bell and he could write whatever he pleased (which often meant page-long footnotes explicating minutiae of philology, archeology and race), he still held Yockey in great esteem, someone whose errors were as worthy of explication as his insights.

Accordingly, anyone who studies Yockey very quickly runs into Prof. Oliver. Here are some highlights of the Yockey-Oliver connection.

Francis_Parker_Yockey.jpgRPO in the Yockey Biographies

We now have two big Yockey biographies at our disposal. There is Kevin Coogan’s Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the Postwar Fascist International, published in 1999. And, new in 2018, Kerry Bolton’s Yockey: A Fascist Odyssey. Despite the somewhat similar titles, the books are very different, and hardly “synoptic” narratives. While offering many curious details of Yockey’s life, the Bolton book largely takes an historiographic view, reviewing how Yockey was seen and written about through the passing decades. For example, Bolton tells us that one notable American figure of the Right, Wilmot Robertson of The Dispossessed Majority and the magazine Instauration, did not care for Yockey at all. Yockey was too Spenglerian; he followed Spengler’s rather mystical and unprovable idea of historical cycles. Worst of all, he tried to evade the hard and essential factor of biological (or “vertical”) race. Yockey, like Spengler, instead emphasized what he called “horizontal race,” a kinship more of cultural spirit than blood.

As for Oliver, he shared some of these objections, but never ceased to endorse what he saw as the kernel of Yockey’s argument, which was the quasi-organic unity of (Western) culture. He knew of Yockey before Yockey’s Imperium was popularized in the early 1960s. He praised Yockey’s insights in the pages of American Opinion and The American Mercury during that decade. He assisted with the founding of the Yockeyite National Youth Alliance organization in the late 60s. He was still treating Yockey as a figure of serious analysis in the 1980s.

Conversely, in the Coogan study Oliver hardly appears at all. He is merely a name mentioned in passing, mainly with regard to the National Youth Alliance. Coogan ignores RPO’s extensive writing on Yockey. For that matter, Coogan does not seem to be much interested in Imperium—or even have read it, let alone Yockey’s other writings. For Coogan, Yockey’s “philosophy of history” exists mainly as a title of a big cult book that enraptured the far Right in the 1960s and beyond. It is most peculiar to attempt a biography of a philosopher without discussing his philosophy, let alone critics’ commentaries on it, but that is what we have here. And it explains why Coogan makes RPO no more than a minor, ancillary figure.

To digress a little: only about half of Coogan’s Dreamer of the Day pertains to Yockey’s writing or life events. There is little historiography or critical discussion, from RPO or anyone else. And yet the book is far longer than it needs to be (644 pp. in paperback), padded out with every stray rumor and scrap of research the author found. The biographical portion is derived in large part from FOIA files as well as various letters that an earlier researcher, Keith Stimely, received in the 1980s. The rest of the content is a hyperbolic exposition of what Coogan calls the “Fascist International”: a murky stew into which he stirs such extraneous, oddball characters as Chilean diplomat and mystic Miguel Serrano, and British occultist Aleister Crowley. Throughout the book Coogan throws in misinformed, lurid notions about such things as Yockey’s parentage (Coogan has the birthdate of Yockey’s father Louis wrong, and thereby implies Louis was a bastard, born years after his ostensible father died) and researcher Stimely’s personal life (based on allegations in David McCalden’s lively-but-scurrilous Revisionist Newsletter in the 1980s). Sensationalism was the main objective here.

RPO on Comparative Morphology

Much of Oliver’s writing on Yockey is a half-century old now, yet it is still the most trenchant and inclusive analysis. So far as I can tell, he is the only person who analyzed Imperium as a work in a definable genre, what one might call the philosophy of morphological history. In a very long 1963 essay, published in American Opinion (though very un-Birchite in scope and theme), he compares Yockey with a number of others in the school including, most obviously, The Decline of the West‘s Oswald Spengler, Lawrence R. Brown (The Might of the West) and Arnold Toynbee (A Philosophy of History).

Although RPO quibbles with some of Yockey’s factual asides—e.g., his apparent forgetfulness about the Thirty Years War when stating that Germany was fortunate to avoid most of the carnage that depleted the rest of Europe from the Middle Ages onward—he is generally appreciative of and laudatory toward Imperium. The basic reason for this seems to be that, whatever Oliver’s own doubts may have been about Spenglerian theories of historical morphology, or Yockey’s own quasi-mystical belief in Destiny, he agrees with the Yockey’s fundamental argument: that the Western civilization from the Middle Ages at least has been a unitary whole, and that the destructive conflicts of the 20th century amounted to a pathology exacerbated by outside elements:

[T]he culture of the West, like every viable civilization, is a unity in the sense that its parts are organically interdependent. Although architecture, music, literature, the mimetic arts, science, economics, and religion may seem at first glance more or less unrelated, they are all constituent parts of the cultural whole, and the disease of any one will sooner or later affect all the others. Your hands will not long retain their strength, if there is gangrene in the foot or cancer in the stomach.[1]

imperium.pngWriting in 1963, Oliver avoids mention of Yockey’s “culture-distorter” or the Jewish Question (although he makes a nod to that Birchite proxy, the International Communist Conspiracy). Years later, with the “Birch Business” well behind him, Oliver would be more explicit.

This brings us to “The Enemy of Our Enemies” (1981), which George Dietz’s Liberty Bellmagazine put out in a fat issue that also contained Yockey’s own “The Enemy of Europe.” The two monographs were later republished together as a paperback book.[2] Yockey’s extended essay, translated back into English from a surviving German version, is nearly a hundred pages, an excoriation of American hegemony over the European culture-soul. The Oliver section is even longer, a brilliant and cranky, no-holds-barred fulmination. While beginning as an exegesis of Yockey, his influences and his errors, this commentary readily departs from that pretext, delivering instead RPO’s own, broader variation on the general theme:

In 1914, our civilization was worm-eaten at the core, but its brightly glittering surface concealed the corruption within from superficial eyes. It was taken for granted that the globe had become one world, the world of which the Aryan nations were the undisputed masters, while all the lesser races already were, or would soon become, merely the subject inhabitants of their colonial possession. This reasonable conception of the world’s unity oddly survived the catastrophes that followed and it conditioned unthinking mentalities to accept the preposterous notion of the current propaganda for “One World,” which is couched in endless gabble that is designed to conceal the fact that it is to be a globe under the absolute and ruthless dominion of the Jews—a globe on which our race, if not exterminated, will be the most degraded and abject of all.[3]

The Introduction to Imperium: A Question of Attribution

Finally, a note on a point that perennially comes up when Yockey and Oliver are discussed. Was the long foreword to the post-1960 editions of Imperium, signed Willis A. Carto, actually written by Mr. Carto, or by Prof. Oliver? Keith Stimely claimed the latter, in a furious booklet he distributed in the mid-1980s after he left Carto’s employ at the Institute for Historical Review.

When pressed, Oliver was vague on the subject, writing Stimely in 1984 only that he had given Carto permission to use material he had written as suggested introduction to a new reprint of the book. Stimely reproduced part of Oliver’s letter in his anti-Carto booklet, and Kerry Bolton also excerpt it in his Yockey biography:

I wrote a lengthy and signed memorandum on Yockey’s importance as a philosopher of history and a nationalist, hoping to inlist the support of persons who would subsidize a new edition of Imperium . . .  I . . . told Carto to make whatever use he wished of what I had written for an intoduction by him or anyone he chose to introduce the new edition. I therefore gave him the material, and it would be dishonourable of me to try to reclaim it. [4]

This essay-memorandum seems to have vanished. Oliver wrote a review of Imperium some years later (1966) for The American Mercury [5] that bears some resemblance to the philosophical discussion in the Introduction, but is otherwise entirely different: i.e., not a “retread” of some older piece that was repurposed.

When the question was put to them, both Willis Carto and his wife (now widow) Elisabeth maintained that the Introduction was indeed written by Mr. Carto himself. Therefore, worrying through the problem, Kerry Bolton comes to a Solomonic compromise, and says that it

seems plausible, stylistically and philosophically . . . that Carto wrote the first biographical half of the ‘Introduction’ and Oliver wrote the second half, commenting on the Yockeyan doctrine of Culture-pathology.

Notes

[1] Revilo P. Oliver, “History and the Historians,” 1963; collected in America’s Decline, 1983, pp. 276-277. https://archive.org/stream/AmericasDecline1983V2/OLIVERRe... [2]

[2] Yockey and Oliver, The Enemy of Europe/the Enemy of Our Enemies. Liberty Bell Publications, 2003.

[3] https://archive.org/stream/TheEnemyOfOurEnemies/EEE#page/... [3]

[4] Kerry Bolton, Yockey: A Fascist Odyssey. Arktos, 2018.

[5] http://www.revilo-oliver.com/news/1966/06/the-shadow-of-empire-francis-parker-yockey-after-twenty-years/ [4]

 

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

URL to article: https://www.counter-currents.com/2018/07/revilo-p-oliver-and-francis-parker-yockey/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: https://www.counter-currents.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/ReviloOliver.jpg

[2] https://archive.org/stream/AmericasDecline1983V2/OLIVERReviloP.-Americas_Decline_1983_v2: https://archive.org/stream/AmericasDecline1983V2/OLIVERReviloP.-Americas_Decline_1983_v2

[3] https://archive.org/stream/TheEnemyOfOurEnemies/EEE#page/n49/: https://archive.org/stream/TheEnemyOfOurEnemies/EEE#page/n49/

[4] http://www.revilo-oliver.com/news/1966/06/the-shadow-of-empire-francis-parker-yockey-after-twenty-years/: http://www.revilo-oliver.com/news/1966/06/the-shadow-of-empire-francis-parker-yockey-after-twenty-years/

 

vendredi, 25 mai 2018

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

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Spengler's "Der Mensch

Und Die Technik"

Troy Southgate

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

mardi, 01 mai 2018

The Winter of Spengler’s Discontent

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The Winter of Spengler’s Discontent

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