Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The problem of World History

Here is the next installment of Spengler's deep analysis of the cycles of every Culture - excerpts which I have interspersed with comments showing how his observations about the Decline of Western Society in general apply to Chereidi Judaism in particular.

Decline of the West
Oswald Spengler
Chapter Three: The problem of world history

Nature and History are the opposite extreme terms in man's range of possibilities of picturing the world. The cognized and Nature are one and the same thing. Nature is the sum of necessities imposed by law. Everything cognized is timeless, neither past nor future, but simply "there" and so permanently valid. Law and the domain of law are anti-historic.

The Rabbis agree very much with this statement. The Torah ("law") is a natural force - a spiritual law in the same manner that gravity or cause-and-effect are physical laws. Torah just "is" and fighting against it is as useless as fighting against the orbits of the planets.

Pure becoming, pure life, on the other hand, is irreversible. Every happening is unique and incapable of being repeated.

Here mystical Judaism disagrees. Everything does repeat - over and over. Time is cyclical. Each present and future date on the calendar resonates with the events which happened on that date in the past. Rabbinic Judaism has even embraced the pagan notion of reincarnation - souls get 2nd and even 3rd chances to repeat a lesson or test until they get it right.

Science reaches as far as the notions of truth and falsity have validity, viz., the collection, ordering, and sifting of material. For real historical vision the crucial words are not "correct" and "erroneous," but "deep" and "shallow."

The principle of Form and the principal of Law are the basic elements in picturing the world. The historical impression-process is intuitive, instinctive. It is only the quantitative that is capable of being casually defined, grasped through figures, of being captured in a law or formula. When it has achieved this, science has shot its bolt.


Talmud has therefore "shot its bolt," because every detail of daily life has been defined, reduced to figures, and captured in laws and formulas. By quantifying every single aspect of life, the Oral Law has made life dead - it cannot grow or expand or mature. It is stuck forever in a childish literalism which can do nothing but stagnate. Adding more and more stringencies strangles daily life more and more every time a Rabbi adds one. And adding them is not true growth, expansion or maturation of Torah - it is just the opposite, leading Torah down a dead-end path that goes only downward into oppression and intolerance, restrictive retreat into fear and anger instead of outward expansion into love and acceptance.

All modes of comprehending the world may, in the last analysis, be described as Morphology. The Morphology of the mechanical and the extended, a science which discovers and orders nature-laws and causal relations, is called Systematic. The Morphology of the organic, of history and life and all that bears the sign of direction and destiny, is called Physiognomic. In the West, the Systematic mode of treating the world reached and passed its culminating-point during the last century, while the great days of Physiognomic have still to come.

Orthodox Judaism pays lip service to organic history, but in reality denied it utterly. They feel they are on a path to a destiny, but that path has been trampled and derailed, frankly, by their Systematic world-view. They have cast their current analytical static present onto their Bronze Age forebears and on forward into the age of Hellenism, into the middle ages, and on to the present. In reality, the History of Judaism has been highly organic - each community, nation, and era living in myriad interpretations and traditions within the basic framework of the written Torah, with narrowness and exclusionary interpretations of Torah being a relatively recent phenomena. The Current crop of Torah Scholars conveniently ignores the fact that through the Middle Ages, most Jews were Karaites, and when the Pharasaic system of the Talmud - whose origins hail from Babylon, not the promised land, and were quantified at Yavneh, not Jerusalem - was introduced to the mainstream of Jewish communities, it was rejected. History, such as it is, is written by the conquerers, though, who believe the mere fact that they conquered makes them "right."

Cultures are organisms.

The prime phenomenon is that in which the idea of becoming is presented net..."The same law will apply to everything that lives."


Calling that "law" original or historical or "min har sinai" is simply propaganda. It doesn't make it so.

At present, however, we look in vain for any treatment of history that is entirely free from the methods of Darwinism - that is, of systematic natural science based on causality. Herein likes the great problem set for the [21st] century to solve - to explore carefully the inner structure of the organic units through and in which world-history fulfills itself.

A Culture is born in the moment when a great soul awakens out of the proto-spirituality of the ever-childish humanity, and detaches itself, a form from the formless, a bounded and mortal thing from the boundless and enduring. It blooms on the soil of an exactly definable landscape, to which plant-wise it remains bound.

Its living existence, that sequence of great epochs which define and display the stages of fulfillment, is an inner passionate struggle to maintain the Idea against the powers of Chaos without and the unconscious muttering deep down within.

Every Culture stands in a deeply symbolical, almost in a mystical, relation to the Extended, the space, in which and through which it strives to actualize itself. The aim once attained - the idea, the entire content of inner possibilities, fulfilled and made externally actual - the Culture suddenly hardens, it mortifies, its blood congeals, its force breaks down, and it becomes Civilization.


This is the shtetl. Chereidi Judaism was born in the shtetl and is forever shackled to it, unable to mature beyond it - stuck in a paradigm that no longer exists, and cannot exist any longer no matter how hard they try to make new artificial shtetls.

As such it may, like a worn-out giant of the primeval forest, thrust decaying branches towards the sky for hundreds or thousands of years. This is the inward and outward fulfillment, the finality, that awaits every living Culture. Every culture passes through the age-phases of the individual man. Each has its childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. The more nearly a Culture approaches the noon culmination of its being, the more virile, austere, controlled, intense the form-language it has secured for itself, the more its sense of its own power, the clearer its lineanments.

At last, in the grey dawn of Civilization, the fire in the soul dies down. The dwindling powers rise to one more, half-successful, effort of creation, and hte produce of Classicism that is common to all dying Cultures. The soul thinks once again, and in Romanticism look back piteously to its childhood, and finally, weary, reluctant, cold, it loses its desire to be, and as in Imperial Rome, wishes itself out of the overlong daylight and back in the darkness of proto-mysticism, in the womb of the mother, in the grave.


And therein lies anti-zionism, which is so prevalent among the Chereidi. It is clear to even the most uninformed person that an Israel run entirely by the Chereidi in their (recent, shtetl born) version of the ideal Civilization would be a complete disaster - economic and military and well as politically and socially. An entire country where men are not willing to earn wages and not willing to fight for independence simply cannot be. Far from being "perfect," the Chereidi culture is as full of perversions and unhappiness as the rest of the Western Culture on which it feeds for its sustenance. Certainly, the other sects of Judaism, which far outnumber the Chereidi, have no intention of being enslaved by the burdensome and nonsensical stringencies additions to the written Torah the Chereidi Civilization is trying to pass off as "min har sinai." Chereidi economic life is a parasite off of other host cultures in whatever country it exists, a welfare dependent - it is incapable of supporting people on its own the way it has been purposefully configured by the "gedolim." So, unwilling and unable to hold onto its own in the face of opposition, many Chereidi now just wish Israel would "go away," and that they could "return" back to a mythical time in which Jews lives "peacefully" under Arab leadership, back in the golden age of Judaism at the height of the Muslim Empire. Alternately, those Jews in the Diaspora refuse to move to Israel or support the state of Israel, claiming to be satisfied with life in Exile, are really only "satisfied" with the welfare and the ability to milk government and working taxpayers for their largesse and the relative safety of Western "tolerance," never imagining that this "tolerance" itself is a Cultural phenomenon that is born of a certain time and place and will not survive the West's next phase in the cultural cycle.

Either way, the "golden age" of Judaism, when scholarship bounded, is past - far past.

The style and the spiritual nature of the great historical organisms vary according to their "habitus." In the "habit" we can see the style of a definite soul. Thus every Culture, every springtime, every rise and fall, has its determined phases, which invariable recur with the emphasis of a symbol. In this sense, every being of any import, from intrinsic necessity, recapitulates the phases of the Culture to which it belongs.

Just as the mighty cosmopolitan Roman empire died amid an orgy of hate, persecution, discrimination and intolerance, so will Western Culture. I haven't written about this recently but the trend is still there, simmering under the surface. The pendulum is swinging back away from "tolerance" and "multiculturalism" to what I am calling "radical conformity." People are tired of having every alternative lifestyle and foreign culture rammed down their throats - and tired of being told they just have to "tolerate" these people who refuse to assimilate and threaten the very cultures that had opened their arms to welcome them. They are biting the hand that feeds them and this cannot continue forever. Western Culture will, at a fast approaching point, reject and expel, mentally and even physically, those who refuse to "be normal."

This rejection will include Orthodox Jews just as much as it will include homosexuality, illegal immigrants, muslims, and other cultures that are foreign to the capitalist christian conservatism that birthed this country. I fail to see how it is that Jews have not noticed that as Western Culture in general looks nostalgically back on their "golden age" and childhood, that phase of their Culture does NOT include tolerance of Jews.

Ironically, Jews don't see this coming - in spite of the fact that Orthodox Jewish Culture has already reached this phase of their own historical cycle. In this area, the Chereidi world is ahead of Western Culture in general, as the ultra-orthodox are knowingly and purposefully engaged in a drive to de-legitimize all other sects of Judaism and reject all those born frum who will not conform to their shtetl created reality and pretend it is historical and viable. The discrimination and looking down upon non-Chereidi as permanently contaminated "ben niddah" and looking down on non-Jews as practically non-human is exactly how the Roman Empire thought of the Barbarians and slave-races of their time. And it's exactly how Western Culture is going to treat Jews themselves - as permanently contaminated and sub-human - in the near future. As the Jews own embracing of these heinous ideas shows, they are not dregs from past unenlightened ages, they are stages in the declining days of Every Civilization Everywhere - they haven't gone away and will be back right on schedule in the West, as they have already arrived during the Decline of Judaism.

In homologous comparison of Cultures their forms are displayed in striking profile, though which different meanings. As they go through the same phases we can call them contemporaneous. Analogous forms in the Cultures are dependent on the habitus of the contemporary culture, but at times they show a precise congruence, thus antique plastic and Baroque organ music are analogous phenomena. It can almost be said that homologous and analogous phenomena are one and the same...

Given the physiognomic rhythm, it is possible...to reconstruct the organic characteristics of whole periods of history, and even to pre-determine the features of the still unaccomplished features of our Western History.

Such organic logic is opposed to the logic of the inorganic. Causality carries the notion of law. The inward feeling of certain destiny is the foundation of the recognition of cause and effect, as becoming is to the become. Causality could be described as destiny made inorganic and modeled in reason-forms. The idea of destiny governs the world-picture of history, for destiny is the true existence-mode of the prime phenomenon. Causality, which is the existence-mode of objects, rules and pervades the world-picture of nature. Destiny and Causality stand in regard to each other as Time and Space. Causality has nothing to do with time as Kantians thought. The causal connection, strictly regarded, confines itself to the statement that something happens, not when it happens. Insofar as Time is concerned in this connection, it is an abstract product of measurement. Teleology is a misdirected attemp to deal mechanically with the living content of scientific knowledge. Teleology is a characteristic tendency of Darwinism. It is a caricature of the idea of destiny.


The Chereidi have made a mistake in their teleology - and that mistake is the strange idea that their future kingdom is going to be handed to them on a silver platter, without having to be involved in military conflict, without having to build a viable economy, without the cooperation and assistance of other sects of Judaism. This strange idea is also an offshoot of the shtetl mentality, wherein Judaism retreated to small corners and waited on someone else to come rescue them, refusing to be involved in the "outside world" - but this is wholly unsubstantiated in scripture. Joshua wasn't the Messiah and didn't wait for one to take possession of the land of Israel. David fought for security and built up Jerusalem with his own two hands, and Solomon was very much involved in world affairs, as other sovereigns came to him for advice. Later, the prophets chided the people who had returned from captivity that they had built themselves houses but hadn't built Hashem one. We are not any different - but Western decadence has permeated our culture: the welfare state, the something-for-nothing attitude, the entitlement philosophy. We have forgotten what our past was really like, and recreated it into a shtetl mold in which neither the past nor the future actually fits.

Time is a discovery which is only made by thinking. We create it as an idea and do not begin till much later to suspect that we ourselves are Time, inasmuch as we live. Only the higher Cultures, whose ideas have reached the stage of mechanical Nature, are capable of deriving from the idea of a measurable and comprehensible spatial, a projected image of time, the phantom time, which satisfies their need of measuring and explaining all things.

While present-day philosophers "hedge" by saying that things are in "time" as in "space," and that "outside" them nothing is "conceivable," they are merely setting another interpretation of space beside the ordinary one, just as one might, if one chose, call hope and electricity the two forces of the universe.

Every Culture possesses a wholly individual way of looking at and comprehending the World-as-Nature, or (what comes to the same thing) it has its own peculiar "Nature" which no other sort of man can possess in exactly the same form. But in a far greater degree still, every Culture - including the individuals comprising it (who are separated only by minor distinctions) - possess a specific and peculiar sort of history. And it is quite impossible for us to penetrate completely a historical world-aspect of "becoming" formed by a soul that is quite differently constituted from our own.


We attempt to cast our present situation backward onto the past, but it doesn't fit because our current needs and our current culture were born of events alien to our past. Our current Culture is a reflection of our present and cannot ever be anything else. We are too caught up inside our own needs and wants to see the past clearly. We are terribly biased.

In the "late" phase of a Culture is is customary to ascribe everything to a causality. The supreme ethical expression of Incident and Destiny is found in the Western Christian idea of Grace - the grace of being made free to will. "Free will" is an inward certainty, but whatever one may will or do, that which actually ensues subserves a deeper necessity, and for the eye that sweeps over the distant past visibly conforms to a major order.

The Western species of Incident is entire alien to the Classical world-feeling and therefore to its drama. Napolean [said], "I feel myself driven towards an end that I do not know. As soon as I shall have reached it, as soon as I shall become unnecessary, an atom will suffice to shatter me." Here, certainly, is not the thought of a pragmatist. In this moment he divined how little the logic of Destiny needs particular instances, whether men or situations. A melody in the hands of a great musician is capable of a wealth of variations - it can be entirely transformed so far as the simple listener is concerned without altering itself - which is quite another matter - fundamentally.

For if it is incidental that the history of higher mankind fulfills itself in the form of great Cultures, and that one of these Cultures awoke in West Europe about the year 1000, yet from the moment of awakening it is bound by its charter. Within every epoch there is unlimited abundance of surprising, and unforseeable possibilities of self-actualizing in detail-facts, but the epoch itself is necessary, for the life-unity is in it. That its inner form is precisely what it is, constitutes its specific determination (Bestimmung). Fresh indicentals can affect the shape of its development, can make this grandiose or puny, prosperous or sorrowful, but alter it they cannot.

Mere surface phenomena, behind which is marching the great logic of genuine and invisible History, and it was in the sense of this logic that the West, having fulfilled its French-formed Culture in the ancien regime, closed it off with the English Civilization. And we begin to understand that in wars and political catastrophes - the chief material of our historical writings - victory is not the essence of the fight.


The Ravs are not just fighting a losing battle, they are actually doing Jewish Culture far more harm than good with their Imperialistic activities and illusion that more and more control will solve the "problem" of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Culture passing into Decline. The Decline is unstoppable - completely inevitable - and what they should be doing is the exact opposite of what their intuitions are telling them to do. Hate, anger, power-mongering, excluding and de-ligitimizing other sects, disdain for and control of ordinary Jews will only hasten the Decline - it certainly won't stop it. What we have to ask ourselves is what good is there in Chereidi Judaism (if any) that can be saved and transmitted to the new dominant Jewish culture that will take its place when it finally dies. And it will die. It was born in the shtetl and cannot survive away from it. It was born in dependence on Western Culture and will not be able to sustain itself as Western Culture slides into its own inevitable Decline - unless steps are taken now to alleviate the Cultural upheaval that is coming and re-direct the inevitable trends into forms that leave Judaism as a whole stronger instead of weaker. Judaism has been weakening along with the weakening of Western Culture over the past century or so - and will continue to do so unless we recognize what is happening and soften the landing.

There is no science of history, but a quality of divining what actually took place. To the historical vision the actual data are always symbols.

Is it permissible to fix upon one, any one, group of social, religious, physiological or ethical facts as the "cause" of another"? "Certainly," the rationalistic school of history, and still more the up-to-date sociology, would reply. That, they would say, is what is meant by our comprehending history and deepening our knowledge of it. But in reality, with "civilized" man there is always the implicit postulate of an underlying rational purpose - without which indeed his world world would be meaningless. Goethe's warning: "Do not, I beg you, look for anything behind phenomena. They are themselves their own lesson (sie selbst sind die Lehre)" had become incomprehensible to the century of Marx and Darwin. In both domains, the cult of the useful had set before itself an entirely different aim. Shapes were called into being, not to be, but to prove something. "Questions" of the day were "treated," social problems suitably "solved," and the state, like the history-book, became a means to that end.


The Rabbis think that they can identify "causes" of problems and using power and control to make them go away - but it's a pipe dream. Their idea of "solving" social problems is to pretend they don't exist, or blame all unrest and instability on "mental illness" or "ben niddah" status. But the manifestations of our broken Culture can only be changed by changing the Culture - letting it move on to its next phase of maturity and direct those energies in ways that acknowledge the inevitable while preserving that which can be preserved. The shtetl mentality and the ideas that "real" Jews are beneath honest work (and therefore refuse to learn skills, crafts and trades needful for the community) and especially beneath farming and animal husbandry have got to go if we are to make our future sustainable. Tolerance and leniency within the halachic framework are going to have to be embraced in place of social terrorism and control-mongering.

So must though be, Thous canst not Self escape.
So erst they Sibyls, so the Prophets told.
Nor Time nor any Power can mar the shape
Impressed, that living must itself unfold.

History has the characteristic of the singular-factual, Nature that of the continuously possible. So long as we scrutinize the image of the world-around in order to see by what laws it "must" actualize itself, irrespective of whether it does happen or merely might happen - irrespective, that is, of time - then we are working in a genuine science. For the necessity of a nature-law (and there are no other laws) it is utterly immaterial whether it becomes phenomenal infinitely often or never. That is, it is independent of Destiny. A system consists of truths, a history rests on facts.


By distorting the facts of history and trying to re-write them to suit themselves, the Rabbis have removed the basis for shepherding the Culture through its Decline and rebirth into a new paradigm. They want to make their system into their history, but this is simply impossible.

Every law must, to be available to the understanding at all, once have been discovered through some destiny-disposition in the history of an intellect - that is, it must have once been in experiential life, and every destiny appears in some sensible garb...in which Nature-laws are operative. In the waking consciousness, becoming and become struggle for control of the world-picture, and the highest and maturest forms of both sorts are seen. [What we have is] a hitherto unimagined mode of superlative historical research that is truly Western, necessarily alien to the Classical and to every other soul but ours. This philosophic view - to which we and we alone are entitled in virtue of our analytical mathematic.

Every epoch, every great figure...the cities, the tongues, the nations, the arts, in a word everything that ever existed and will become existant, are physiognomic traits of high symbolic significance that it will be the business of quite a new kind of "judge of men" (Menschenkenner) to interpret. The physiognomic of world-happening will become the last Faustian philosophy.


It will be extremely difficult for most or our "gedolim" to step outside of the dying Western paradigm that they have made part of their own culture, to step outside of the fantasy history that they have made for themselves and look at Judaism's past and future in a light that is not full of the distortions of the shtetl mentality, and the pervasive need for power and control which has infected the leaders Chereidi Judaism. They believe their Imperialism is the salvation of Judaism - in reality it will destroy it as surely as it destroyed the Roman Empire and is destroying the American empire. These things are entirely predictable - the course they are on has nowhere to go but one direction, the same direction all previous Cultures who tried this route passed through, and that direction will eviscerate the Jewish people, both from the inside and from the outside.

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