Monday, July 21, 2008

DotW: Intro part 3

Decline of the West - Oswald Spengler
Introduction, the 3rd and final part

A century of purely extensive effectiveness, excluding big artistic and metaphysical production - let us say, frankly, an irreligious time wihch coincides exactly with the idea of the world city - is a time of decline. True. But we have not chosen this time.

Everything depends on our seeing our own position, or destiny, clearly, on our realizing that though we may ie to ourselves about it we cannot evade it.

Systematic philosophy closes with the end of the 18th century. Kant put its utmost possibilities in forms both grand in themselves and, as a rule, final for the Western soul. He is followed, as Plato and Aristotle were followed, by a specifically megalopolitan philosophy that was not speculative but practical, irreligious, social-ethical.

It has embraced, therefore, all the possibilities of a true philosophy, and at the same time it has exhausted them. Systematic philosophy, then, lies immensely far behind us, and ethical has been wound up. But a third possibility, corresponding to the Classical Skepticism, still remains to the soul world of the present day West.


This has, of course, come to pass and then some in secular Western society. It has, as well, come to pass in Jewish society - and not just among those who profess to be Reform or Reconstructionist. The number of Orthoprax - those who stay with Yiddishkeit not due to belief in Hashem and Judaism but out of a choice to stay with their friends and relatives in Jewish communities instead of venturing out into the outside world - the number of such persons increases exponentially every year. The questions of the youth in day schools and yeshivas are not being answered satisfactorily. Women and children who have suffered oppression and abuse and benign neglect have had their love of Hashem stripped from them by those supposedly acting in His name. Poverty and unhappiness have led many to question the words of the Ravs, who keep telling them the lie that money and support will fall out of the thin blue air - forbidding them to get jobs and do honest labour. What results is a dead, soulless observance of Halacha that is completely devoid of faith and belief in Hashem and His covenant.

The Classical Skepticism is ahistoric, it doubts by denying outright. But that of the West, if it is an inward necessity, a symbol of the autumn of our spirituality, is obliged to be historical through and through. Its solutions are got by treating everything as relative, as a historical phenomenon, and its procedure is psychological. Whereas the Skeptic philosophy arose within Hellenism as the negation of philosophy, declaring philosophy to be purposeless - we, on the contrary, regard the history of philosophy as, in the last resort, philosophy's gravest theme. This is "skepsis" in the true sense.

In this work it will be our task to sketch out this unphilosophical philosophy - the last that West Europe will know. Skepticism is the expression of a pure Civilization, and it dissipates the world-picture of the Culture that has gone before. For us, it's success will lie in resolving all the older problems into one, the genetic...Everything, whatever else it may be, must at any rate the the expression of something living.

The Morphology of world-history become inevitably a universal symbolism.

With that, the claim of higher thought to possess general and eternal truths falls t the ground. Truths are truths only in relation to a particular mankind.


So the Cheredi Civilization falters as a result of trying to impose its philosophy on everyone else.

Thus, my own philosophy is able to express and reflect only the Western (as distinct from the Classical, Indian, or other) soul, and that soul only in its present civilized phase by which its conception of the world, it's practical range and its sphere of effect, are specified.

...a political problem could not be comprehended by means of politics themselves and that, frequently, important factors at work in the depths could only be grasped through their artistic manifestations or even distantly seen in the form of scientific or purely philosophical ideas. Even the political-social analysis of the last decades of the 19th century...[were] found in the last resort to be impossible without bringing in all the great problems of Being in all their aspects. Fir in the historical as in the natural world-picture, there is found nothing, however small, that does not embody in itself the entire sum of fundamental tendencies.


In other words, every little symptom is indicative of the whole. It was recently noted that a cheredi man got on a 17 hour airline flight and proceeded to watch every movie on the airline's movie menu - because he thought no one on the plane was in any position to know or care that he wasn't "supposed" to be watching them. This is a tiny symptom of a much larger problem - a problem for the Ravs, that is. The problem of the rejection of their authority. What we do when we think no one is looking is the measure of our character, and the vast majority of the Ultra-Orthodox engage in practices in "private" or away from their communities that they would never advocate or admit in "public." Their halacha has become a facade they put on only in the required settings. Some may do this and hold on to their faith in Hashem - recognizing that the takanot and ma'asim of the Rabbinate is not the Torah of Hashem. But to most, rejecting one means rejecting the other, and these little symptoms show a widespread falling away from Hashem, not just the corrupt Rabbinate. Can Judaism be saved?

Consider the decline of art and the failing authority of science, the grave problems arising out of the victory of the magalopolis over the countryside [representing honest labour]...the place in society of the fluctuating Fourth Estate, the crisis in materialsim, in Socialism, in parlaimentary government, the position of the individual vis-a-vis the State, the problem of private property with its pendant problem of marriage...every one of these questions was really aimed in the same direction as every other, viz., towards that one Riddle of History that had never yet emerged with sufficient distinctness in the human consciousness. The tasks before men were not, as supposed, infinitely numerous - they were one and the same task.

But herein precisely lies the inward necessity of the stock-taking doctrine so to call it. It had to come, and it could only come at this time. Our skepticism is not an attack upon but rather the verification of our stock of thoughts and works. It confirms all that has been sought and achieved for for generations.


In other words, we have created the skepticism by our own imperialism and powermongering in our communities. The Ravs claimed to lead in Hashem's name, and when their actions and attitudes did not bear scrutiny, it cast doubt not just upon themselves but on Hashem also.

Present day historians fumble round tangible events, things-become, believe themselves to have already grasped History, the happening, the becoming itself. This is a prejudice common in all who proceed by reason and cognition, as against intuitive perception...and it is to this that we must ascribe the baneful mistake of applying the principles of causality, of law, of system - that is, the structure of rigid being - to the picture of happenings.

In other words, the "gedolim," having mis-diagnosed the problem, are applying incorrect "solutions" which will only make (and indeed ARE only making) things worse.

The habits of the scientific researcher were eagerly taken as a model...[but] no one inquired why such symbols of something living inevitably appeared just THEN, and there, in that form, and for that space of time. That every phenomenon ipso facto propounds a metaphysical riddle, that the time of its occurance is NEVER irrelevant, that it still remained to be discovered what kind of a living interdependence...that a phenomenon is not only a fact for the understanding but also an expression of the spiritual.

...all this was, philosophically, something new.


The "gedolim" look at themselves and see nothing wrong - they look at the Jewish population and ascribe the falling away to old reasons which don't apply. As a society in which all religions are treated with reasonable respect and discrimination against Jews is largely past in broader society, the "old" reasons for people falling away simply don't apply. They don't need to become secular or convert to another religion to vote, or conduct commerce, or be socially accepted. They can see how decadent American culture has destroyed children and families - there is little true envy there. But the Ravs continue to act as if contact with the outside world is the "problem" in Jewish society, when in fact it is themselves and little else. People don't leave Orthodoxy and Judaism because of the "temptations" of the outside world - people leave because of the social terrorism, power-mongering, abuse and neglect, physical and spiritual poverty inside the cheredi world. Imperialism is destroying us - the imperialism of our own Rabbis and leaders.

How ironic that we have become the very inquisition which we once hated!

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