Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Decline of the West, chapter four

Decline of the West
chapter 4 excerpts
Oswald Spengler

We live the "here" as something proper to ourselves, we experience "there" as something alien.

As it is an individual who apprehends the world, there is for each individual a singular world. There are therefore as many worlds as there are waking beings and like-living, like-feeling groups of beings. The supposedly single, independent and external world that each believes to be common to all is really an ever-new, uniquely-occurring and on-recurring experience in the existence of each.

Here Spengler refers to what I call "radical subjectivity," meaning you can only know what you have personally learned, experienced, and felt. You cannot know anything else - your entire cognitive functioning is radically subjective, as you can never fully understand someone else because their education, experiences and feelings are not the same as yours.

At the same time, these individuals' worlds as lived and experienced by men of one Culture or spiritual community are interrelated, and on the greater of less degree of this interrelation depends the greater or less communicability of intuitions, sensations, and thoughts from one to another.

The degree of interrelation between one's world and another's fixes the limit at which understanding becomes self-deception.

This is important for us because it explains the problems that the chereidi have in understanding modern or secular Jews, and vice-versa. The myths that the cheredi tell themselves about their supposed spiritual superiority and the supposedly elevated level of their communities creates a barrier that makes it difficult if not impossible to see objectively.

Every trait of the actual waking consciousness, whether it be feeling or understanding, is in the moment of our becoming aware of it, already past.

An old significance never returns - that which has entered the domain of extension has begone and ended at once.

We ARE Time, but we POSSESS also an image of history and in this image death.

Here, too, the higher thought originates as meditation upon death. Every religion, every scientific investigation, every philosophy, proceeds from it. Every great symbolism attaches its form-language to the cult of the dead...and thus every new Culture comes into existence with a new view of the world, that is, a sudden glimpse of death as the secret of the perceivable world. It was when the idea of the impending end of the world spread over Western Europe (about the year 1000) that the faustian soul of this region was born...all culture, inner or outer, bearing or performance, is as a while only the intensification of this being-human.

Judaism's brush with Babylon indoctrinated Judaism with an idea, refuted by scripture, that people have immortal souls. In Gan Edan, mankind was expelled for the specific purpose of getting rid of him BEFORE he could stretch out his hand and take from the Tree of Life. Both the Psalms and the Prophets speak of the dead as knowing nothing, being unable to praise Hashem, being "asleep" in the dust. Our prayers reflect these sentiments, that we sleep in the dust, but our mythology denies that a person really dies, because we have claimed immortality for ourselves from our birth instead of acknowledging it is something we must earn in covenant with Hashem. Those "other" people have to earn immortality, but not us. We have "Jewish" souls. We are like Hashem, we live forever no matter what. We have denied that death is a real thing with our mythology, in spite of every Biblical assurance that it is.

Judaism's brush with Christianity during the middle and modern ages has left it with a further distorted sense that life here on earth must be lived in view of this immortal soul. Like the Muslims who believe they must deprive themselves now in order to have an orgy with 70-some virgins after they die, Judaism has adopted strange ideas that it's proper to live a miserable life, and acceptable to beat, harass, coerce, burn, vandalize, ostracize and even kill people in the name of "saving their immortal soul," which they don't have. So very Christian, so very misguided.

Every thing-become is mortal. Every thought, faith and science dies as soon as the spirits in whose worlds their "eternal truths" were true and necessary are extinguished.

It is the symbolic content of a particular order as understood by one particular Culture that is expressed by this original and unanalyzable element...Every one of them has had his own Nature, though - with a naivete that was really the salvation of his world-idea and of his own self - every one believed that he had it in common with all the rest. [Even] Nature is a function of the particular Culture.

The time is past that we should be embracing the beliefs of other Cultures, such as European Culture and Catholic Culture and the Culture of the Shtetl. The time for these things has past, and we must find a way forward that embraces our true past, not the artificial one we have made for ourselves, and works in this day and age, and not a time long past that will never re-occur. We have trapped our Culture in death - refusing to let it grow and mature, trying to capture it in an unreal past.

It is only the tense, practical, technical treatment of the world-around imposed on the free-moving being which, unlike lilies of the fields, must care for its life, that lets snsuous self-extension stiffen into rational tri-dimensionality [the here and now].

There are severally equally valid structures of three-dimensional extension. That it should even be asked which of them corresponds to actual perception shows that the problem was not in the least comprehended. Mathematics, whether or not it employs visible images and representations as working conveniences, concerns itself with systems that are entirely emancipated from life, time and distance, with form-worlds of pure numbers whose validity - not fact-foundation - is timeless and like everything else that is "known" is known by causal logic and not experienced.

This space IS, the principle of its existing at all is that it is, outside time and detached from it and from life. In it duration, a piece of perished time, resides as a known property of things. And, as we know ourselves too as being in this space, we know that we also have a duration and a limit, of which the moving finger of our clock ceaselessly warns us. But the rigid Space itself is transient, too.

The symbolic experience of depth is what is lacking in the child, distance is felt, but it does not yet speak to the soul. And with the soul's awakening, direction, too, first finds a living expression. Thus the Destiny-idea manifests itself in every line of a life. With it alone do we become members of a particular Culture, whose members are connected by a common world-feeling and a common world-form derived from it.

Our perception of Hashem, of life, and of the universe is child-like, and because we feel we need to control it all, we have built an ultimate control structure around ourselves and called it Hashem's will, though there is no evidence that Hashem is an OCD nit-picking control freak such as our structure suggests. It is not He who hates diversity of practice, it is our leaders who do. His laws were simple and had many ways of being fulfilled - we have put them into a straight-jacket and are literally in the process of "controlling" ourselves to death, because we have projected our child-like need for being controlled into our adult lives. Hashem said, "Choose life!" but we have chosen death - choking enclosures and stagnation. But this is a culture We made, and we choose to be part of it - or not, as many are now choosing. Those who do not feel connected to this false world-feeling and world-form face a choice: be bound by it anyway, or be free of it.

And therewith an old philosophical problem dissolves into nothing: this prime form of the world is innate insofar as it is an original possession of the soul of that Culture which is expressed by our life as a whole, and ACQUIRED insofar that every individual soul re-enacts for itself that creative act and unfolds in early childhood the symbol of depth to which its existence is predestined, as the emerging butterfly unfolds its wings. The first comprehension of depth is an act of birth - the spiritual complement of the bodily. In it the Culture is born out of its mother-landscape, and the act is repeated by every one of its individual sould throughout its life-course.

But the prime symbol does not actualize itself, it is operative through the form-sense of every man, every community, age and epoch and dictates the style of every life-expression. It is inherent in the form of the state, the religious myths and cults, the ethical ideals, the forms of painting and music and poetry, the fundamental notions of each science - but it is not presented by these. Consequently, it is not presentable by words, for language and words are themselves derived symbols.

And here is where so many people turn away, heart-broken, when some Rav tells them that they didn't pray fervently enough, or didn't study long enough, or didn't try hard enough, or didn't care enough - when they know they did. Words are meaningless in the face of experience. It's the supernal myth - there's nothing wrong with our system, the problem must be you, or outside culture, or BTs, or converts, or outside education, or your sin or your lack of commitment or your mental problems - it's never, ever our Culture which is to blame - at least not that they admit.

What then was it that classical man, whose insight into his own world-around was certainly not less piercing than ours, regarded as the prime problem of all being? It was the problem of..,the material origin and foundation of all sensuously perceptible things. If we grasp this we shall get close to the significance of the fact - not the fact of space, but the fact that made it a necessity of destiny for the space-problem to become the problem of the Western, and only the Western, soul.

Classical humanity (which knows no word for, and therefore has no idea of, space) with one accord cuts out as the nonent...that which is not. The emphasis of this denial can scarcely be exaggerated.

Just as Jews and Christians cannot imagine themselves as "not being," therefore have granted themselves eternal life on the flimsiest of pretexts, refusing to acknowledge that the right to be resurrected FROM THE DEAD, and only then to eat from the tree of life, must be earned. This fear of un-being, thoroughly Western in origin and not Jewish at all, is a serious stumbling block. People who have cast aside their fear of real death by making death unreal have no real motivation to reform themselves and truly act as if they will be judged by Hashem and their life depends on it. Even hell is better than death, so great is our fear of unbeing - so we acknowledge hell and refute death. And since we have no fear of death, and have decided we can be "confident" that Hashem will forgive us anything we do - we begin to run amok with sin, immorality, and unethical behavior. And then, for good measure (if you can call it that) we cover up the neglect, abuse, and manipulation because we are far more concerned about our image to the outside world than we are about our image to Hashem. After all, we're so much better than the outside world, aren't we? Any evidence to the contrary must be hidden - we can't allow our mythology we made for ourselves to be contradicted. It's our prime symbol in action - the symbol we have placed our entire identity upon, and it's not real. The Culture we have made for ourselves is based on lies. It cannot last.

The Classical universe, the Cosmos or well-ordered aggregate of all near and completely viewable tings, is concluded by the corporeal vault of heaven. More there is not.

Or our spiritualized version of heaven, Gan Edan, which amounts to the same thing. Jews and Christians have simply transferred the eternal cosmos to themselves, as eternal beings. All other things will pass away, but not Jewish souls, as they imagine it. New Heavens and a New Earth, but we grant ourselves existence forever - part of our deification of ourselves.

There is a plurality of prime symbols. It is the depth-experience though which the world becomes, through which perception extends itself to world. Its signification is for the soul to which it belongs and only for that soul. It actualizes for every high Culture the possibility of form upon which that Culture's existence rests and it does so of deep necessity.

Out of the infinite abundance of world-possibilities evoke in the name of the individual Culture those possibilities that alone are significant and therefore necessary for it. None of them is exactly transferable just as it is into the experiential living and knowing of another Culture. And none of these prime words ever recurs. the choice of prime symbols in the moment of the Culture-soul's awakening into self-consciousness on its own soil - a moment, that for one who can read world-history, thus contains something catastrophic - decides all.

This culture we made for ourselves out of the Shtetl of European Christendom and "min har Sinai" empowerment mythology cannot serve us any longer and must be discarded if we are to survive as a Culture and as a People. By making this mythology, in which we grant ourselves super-powers of higher souls and pretend that we are not the same as other human beings only leads to the various forms of chillul Hashem that Others see every day and the hypocrisies that We see every day and eventually walk away from (or become broken in spirit). Either way, we are literally killing ourselves by our own hand, to preserve an unreal symbol, an idol we made of ourselves that we now worship in place of Hashem.

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