Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Decline of the West Chapter Nine

It is interesting to see how much Jewish philosophy is not unique - that is, has been contaminated by Hellenism and Buddhism and Catholicism and other -isms. As usual, my comments in brackets.

Decline of the West
Oswald Spengler
Chapter Nine
Soul Image and Life-Feeling
Buddhism, Stoicism, and Socialism

Western mankind, without exception, is under the influence of an immense optical illusion. Everyone demands something of the rest. We say "thou shalt" in the conviction that so-and-so in fact will, can and must be changed or fashioned or arranged in conformity to the order, and our belief both in the efficacy of, and in our title to give, such orders is unshakable. That, and nothing short of it, is, for us, morale. In the ethics of the West everything is direction, claim to power, will to affect the distant.

[Where to start! Chereidi Judaism lives and breathes this illusion from the first days when the Rabbis conveniently gave themselves the authority to authorize themselves right down to the modern imperialistic war to eradicate the legitimacy of all other branches of Judaism - and let's not forget the power-mongering and control they exert over people's personal and religious lives. That one paragraph of Spengler's describes the current state of Judaism to a "t."]

It is a necessity of the Faustian soul that this should be so. He who thinks or teaches "otherwise" is sinful, a back-slider, a foe, and he is fought down without mercy. You "shall," the State "shall," society "shall" - this form of morale is to us self-evident. It represents the only real meaning that we can attach to the word.

[Which doesn't make it correct, it just IS our zeitgeist.]

What we have entirely failed to observe is the peculiarity of moral dynamic. If we allow that Socialism (in the ethical, not the economic sense) is that world-feeling which seeks to carry out its own views on behalf of all, then we are all without exception willingly or no, wittingly or no, Socialists. All world-improvers are Socialists. And consequently, there are no Classical world-improvers.

The moral imperative as the form of morale is Faustian and only Faustian.

[So very true. There is simply no evidence in the Tanakh that anybody ever attempted to ram their particular interpretation of Judaism down other Jew's throats - that is a particularly "modern" idea.]

Will-to-power even in ethics, the passionate striving to set up a proper morale as a universal truth, and to enforce it upon humanity, to reinterpret or overcome or destroy everything otherwise constituted - nothing is more characteristically our own than this is.

[If I didn't know any better, I would swear Spengler used to be Chereidi.]

There are as many morales as there are Cultures, no more and no fewer. Every conception of Life held by a Culture-man possesses a priori (in the very strictest Kantian sense of the phrase) a constitution that is deeper than all momentary judgments and strivings and impresses the style of t hese with the hallmark of the particular Culture. Each Culture posseses its own standards, the validity of which begins and ends with it. There is no general morale of humanity. A morale...is a self-contained form-world expressing a life-feeling. It is a datum, fundamentally unalterable, an inward necessity.

Every Classical ethic that we know or can conceive of constitutes man an individual static entity, a body amoung bodies, and all Western valuations relate to him as a centre of effect in an infinite generality. Ethical Socialism is neither more nor less than the sentiment of action-at-a-distance, the moral pathos of the third dimension, and the root-feeling of Care - care for those who are with us, and for those who are to follow - pervades the atmosphere of our time.

[This is a lot less so now than when this was written nearly 100 years ago - we are now very thoroughly entrenched in the me-mine-now philosophical view of life and while we still pay lip-service to the great ideas of Caring of our not-so-distant past, we do this almost entirely vicariously by giving MONEY. To us, giving money is the utmost of generosity, because it is the one thing we value most - hence the paucity of volunteers for any charity or co-op.]

The ethical idea of Classical man was that which is led up to in his tragedy, and revealed in its catharsis. This in its last depths means the purgation of the Apollinian soul from its burden of what is not Apollinian, not free from the elemnts of distance and direction, and to understand it we have to recognize that Stiocism is simply the mature form of it.

Had Neitzsche regarded his own times with fewer prejudices and less disposition to romantic championship of certain ethical creations, he would have perceived that a specifically Christian morale of compassion in his sense does not exist of West European soil. We must not let the words of humane formulae mislead us as to their real significance. Between the morale that one has and the morale that one things one has, there is a relation which is very obscure and very unsteady. The text of a conviction is never a test of its reality, for man is rarely conscious of his own beliefs.

[What we DO is far more idicative of our real beliefs than what we say we believe. In the case of the ultra-orthodox Rabbinate, their "text" and their "words" are at such a cognitive dissonance with their actual works that it is truly astonishing that they refuse to notice.]

The Faustian Culture has produced a long series of granite-men.

[With hearts of stone, for whom love and compassion for others takes a seat way in the back to judgmentalism, holier-than-thou-ism, and hatred for those who will not submit.]

What other Culture has exhibited the like of these? Where, on the heights of the Faustian morale, from the Crusades to the World War [WWI], do we find anything of the slave-morale, the meek resignation, the deaconess's caritas? Only in pious and honoured words, nowhere else. The type of the very priesthood is Faustian. That is Faustian morale, and one must be blind indeed if one does not see it efficient in the whole field of West European history. And it is only through such grand instances of worldly passion which express the consciousness of a mission that we are able to understand those of grand spiritual passion, of the upright and forthright caritas which nothing can resist, the dynamic charity that is so utterly unlike Classical moderation and early-Christian mildness.

Here too "ego habeo factum" is the formula. Personal charity is the justification before God of the person, the individual.

[And here we have the roots of the incredible disdain for those who cannot or will not bankrupt themselves to adhere to the stringencies-du-jour of the various ultra-orthodox communities. It is expected of everyone to sacrifice their money on the altar of their idea of correct halacha, even if your family is flat broke and near starving. One who refuses to do so has failed to find justification before Hashem - according to the Chereidi, that is. Such a person is dirt and beneath contempt, should be shunned - however much they love Hashem and do all they can with what they have available to them. It is a sick mentality.]

Transvaluation of all values is the most fundamental character of every civilization. For it is the beginning of a Civilization that it remoulds all the forms of the Culture that went before, understands them otherwise, practices them in a different way. It begets no more, but only reinterprets, and herein lies the negativeness common to all periods of this character. It assumes that the genuine acts of creation has already occurred, and merely enters upon an inheritance of big actualities.

[Of course, the min-har-Sinai myth reigns supreme in this regard.]

And ourselves? Even now the ethical socialism of the Faustian soul, its fundamental ethic, as we have seen, is being worked upon by the process of transvaluation as that soul is walled up in the stone of the great cities.

Rousseau is the ancestor of this Socialism. He stands, like Socrates and Buddha, as the representative spokesman of a great Civilization. Rousseau's rejection of all great Culture-forms and all significant conventions, his famous "return to the state of nature," his practical rationalism, are unmistakable evidences. Each of the three buried a millennium of spiritual depth. Each proclaimed his gospel to mankind, but it was to the mankind of the city intelligentsia, which was tired of the town and the Late Culture, and whose pure (ie "soulless") reason longed to be free from them and their authoritative form and their severity, from the symbolism with which it was no longer in living communion and which therefore it detested. The Culture was annihilated by dialectic. Socrates was a Nihilist, and Buddha.

There is a Western de-souling of the human being. This is a matter not of mere political and economic, nor even of religious and artistic, transformations, nor of any tangible or factual change whatsoever, but of the condition of a soul after is has actualized its possibilities in full.

Culture and Civilization - the living body of a soul and the mummy of it.

Culture-man lives inwards, Civilization-man outwards in space and amoungst bodies and "facts." That which the one feels as Destiny the other understands as a linkage of causes and effects, and hencefoward he is a materialism - in the sense of the word valid for, and only valid for, Civilization - whether he wills it or no.

Only the sick man feels his limbs. When men construct an unmetaphysical religion in opposition to cults and dogmas, when a "natural law" is set up against historical law, when in art, styles are invented in place of the style that can no longer be borne or mastered, when men conceive of the State as an "order of society" which not only can be but must be altered - then it is evident that something has definately broken down. The Cosmopolis itself, the supreme Inorganic, is there, settled in the midst of the Culture-landscape whose men it is uprooting, drawing into itself and using up.

So long as the man of a Culture that is approaching its fulfillment still continues to follow straight onwards naturally and unquestioningly, his life has a settled conduct. This is the instinctive morale, which may disguise itself in a thousand controversial forms but which itself does not controvert, because he HAS it. As son as Life is fatigued, as soon as a man is put on to the artificial soil of great cities - which are intellectual worlds to themselves - and needs a theory in which suitably to present Life to himself, morale turns into a problem.

Therefore begin the civilized ethics that are no longer the reflection of Life but the reflection of Knowledge upon Life. One feels that there is something artificial, soulless, half-true in all these considered systems that fill the first centuries of all the Civilizations. They are not those profound and almost unearthly creations that are worthy to rank with the great arts. All metaphysic of the high style, all pure intuition, vanishes before the one need that has suddenly made itself felt, the need of a practical morale for the governance of a Life that can no longer govern itself. The enthusiasm of epistemology had to give way to hard, practical needs.

[Which is why we now have entirely idiotic "bans" on various musics, clothings, electronics, outdoor gatherings, seating arrangements, and other situations where the Ravs lose the ability to GOVERN us according to their own wills.]

Each Culture, further, has its own mode of spiritual extinction, which is that which follows of necessity from its life as a whole. In each case it is the all-power of Reason that is the starting point from which to discuss morale, and religion (in the sense of belief in anything metaphysical) does not enter into the matter. Nothing could be more irreligious than these systems in their original forms - and it is these, and not derivatives of them belonging to later stages of the Civilization, that concern us here.

Stoicism is directed to individual self-management, to statuesque and purely present being, without regard to future or past or neighbor. Social is the dynamic treatment of the same theme. It is defensive like Stoicism, but is concerned not with conduct but procedure, and more, it is offensive-defensive, for it projects itself onto into the future and plans to bring the whole of mankind under a single regimen.

Every soul has religion, which is only another word for its existence. All living forms in which it expresses itself - all arts, doctrines, customs, all metaphysical and mathematical form-worlds, all ornament, every column and verse and idea - are ultimately religious, and must be so. But from the setting in of Civilization they cannot be so any longer. As the essence of every Culture is religion, so - and consequently! - the essence of every Civilization is irreligion - the two words are synonymous.

[The Rabbis would, of course, deny this vehemently, all the while living it every day. There is no connection, no worship, no joy, no true rapport with the Divine in any of their burdensome halacha. They are so spiritually dead and so completely irreligious that the Rabbis have to enact more and more bans and controls and social terrorism to force people to adhere to them. They are offering stale bread when Hashem's banquet is in plain view right across the hall - but the Rabbis insist all must choose the stale bread "or else."]

And, correspondingly, the ethical sentiments belonging to the form-language of the megalopolis are irreligious and soulless also. Socialism is the Faustian world-feeling become irreligious. It is this extinction of living inner religiousness which gradually tells upon even the most insignificant element in a man's being, that becomes phenomenal in the historical world-picture at the turn from Culture to Civilization.

Let us, once again, review Socialism (independent of the economic movement of the same name) as the Faustian example of Civilization-ethics. Its friends regard it as the form of the future, its enemies as a sign of downfall, and both are equally right.

[I must here admit that the return to the "household economy" and "volunteering" and "co-ops" and "social societies" of various kinds to do an end-run around the economic and peak oil issues, in an attempt to save our communities from complete economic and social destruction, is very much in this idea of Socialism. Spengler is very correct that it is both an offensive and a defensive position to take - both actions that can be taken to help alleviate the turmoil to come and a defensive one, acknowledging that the paid-economy and ponzi-scheme tactics of the West that we have relied upon will and are failing us. These tactics need not be seen as some sort of permanent utopia, however, as many "Socialists" see them - rather they are a necessary component of a viable transition to the New Jewish Culture which must emerge from the ashes of the Western Culture.]

We are all Socialists, wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly. Even resistance to it wears its form.

Socialism - in its highest and not its street-corner sense - is, like every other Faustian ideal, exclusive. It owes its popularity only to the fact that it is completely misunderstood even by its exponents, who present it as a sum of rights instead of as one of duties.

[I think I can honestly say that I have not made this error - I have encouraged everyone in all my blogs and essays to consider my proposals as ways to keep the Community afloat and not so much as ways of keeping individuals afloat, and I have emphasized that we do have an obligation to keep our fund in the community, supporting and helping other Jews, and not being sent off for the benefit of Robber Baron CEOs and their communities instead of ours. I have acknowledged this requires a great deal of Stoicism and Realism on our part (see Spengler's remarks below). I have presented this as a moral and social duty which entails sacrifice on our part - paying higher prices for locally made and locally grown goods - instead of pretending we can all be happy consumerists and as an accidental byproduct help our community as well. We have to make conscious decisions to use our resources, both monetary and otherwise, for the benefit of our own community, even at some slight inconvenience or hardship to ourselves. Without the survival of the community, Judaism cannot survive. We must therefore make what sacrifices are necessary out of duty. If we fail to do so out of self-interest, we will be conceding that our Culture, like that of the West, is unsustainable and is doomed to failure. If you don't care about that, then continue to live in Faustian independence and Western self-interest.]

The trivial and superficial tendency towards ideals of "welfare," "freedom," "humanity," the doctrine of the "greatest happiness of the greatest number" are mere negations of the Faustian ethic - a very different matter from the tendency of Epicureanism towards the ideal of "happiness," for the condition of happiness wa the actual sum and substance of the Classical ethic.

The directional movement of Life tht is felt as Time and Destiny, when it takes the form of an intellectual machinery of means and ends, stiffens in death. Ethical Socialism is the most exalted expression possible of life's aims.

In spite of its foreground appearances, ethical Socialism is not a system of compassion, humanity, peace and kindly care, but one of will-to-power. Any other reading of it is illusory. The Stoic adapts himself, the Socialism commands. He would have the world world take the shape he desires...[and] act as though the maxims you practice were to become by your will the law for all. And this tyrannical tendency is not absent from even the shallowest phenomena of the time.

[We can, I hope, find the balance here - Stoic acceptance that our standard of living has been too high to be sustainable, that the world of money-for-nothing, private automobiles, and cheap-junk-from-china is over and yet embrace a Socialistic action toward taking our future into our own hands for the betterment of our community. We can also avoid tyranny by not putting strings onto participation of the co-ops, social societies, or economic relocalization projects that we undertake - by admitting and accepting all Jews and converts, regardless of what sect or philosophy they follow. Splintered exclusionary policies only divide and conquer us. This is one aspect of the Old Culture which MUST NOT be allowed to survive into the new post-Western era.]

The Socialist feels the Future as his task and aim, and accounts the happiness of the moment worthless in comparison. And here Socialism becomes tragic. Faustian man has nothing more to hope for in anything pertaining to the grand style of Life. Something has to come to an end. The Northern soul has exhausted its inner possibilities.

[But the New post-Western Judaism can, if we choose, embrace all the things that make life pleasant and enjoyable, without the money-grubbing and unsustainable economic practices of Western Culture.]

For deep down beneath it all is the gloomy feeling, not to be repressed, that all this hectic zeal is the despairing self-deception of a soul that may not and cannot rest. This is the tragic situation - and a thread of it runs through the entire fabric of Socialism, political, economic and ethical, which forces itself to ignore the annihilating seriousness of its own final implications, so as to keep alive the illusion of the historical necessity of its own existence.

[This is a mistake we must now allow to be made. It is clear that the ultra-orthodox Rabbis that now exist, the powers-that-be, are so heavily invested in this imperialistic mythology that they have made up for themselves that they cannot be trusted to guide us through the death of Western Culture - because the death of Western Culture is also the death of their artificial Culture. We must reclaim our music, our clothes, our arts and crafts, our social gatherings, our prayers and festivals and fasts from them - because they will not give them up willingly.]

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