Sunday, November 16, 2008

Decline of the West Chapter Twelve

Decline of the West
by Oswald Spengler
Chapter Twelve
Origin and Landscape
The Group of the Higher Cultures

For those who might be new to this series, it is a commentary on an English translation of Oswald Spengler's German classic work of historical philosophy called "Decline of the West." Written during a span from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, some of what Spengler had postulated has, of course, already come to pass in Western Culture as a whole. This commentary looks, however, at a particular subset of Western Culture, that of Chereidi Judaism, which has traveled in lock-step with wider Western Culture (in spite of vigorous protests to the contrary) and is on the same path of Decline. The form this decline takes is, of course, specific to Chereidi Judaism and incorporates past events and present attitudes, but it follows, as we have seen in the previous chapters, the same wide framework of Western Decline. As usual, my comments will be in brackets.

Chapter Twelve

Every period has its own historical horizon. Every Culture and every period has its own way of regarding history. There is no such thing as history in itself.

The student of the animal world or of stratification is a man, living in a period and having a nationality and a social status, and it is no more possible to eliminate his subjective standpoint from his treatment of these things than it would be to obtain a perfectly account of the French Revolution or the World War.

[Referring, of course, to WWI - the Great War. Spengler's final edition was completed prior to WWII.]

They [historians in any given time and place] put a methodical evolution over very long periods of time and recognize as causes only scientifically calculable and indeed mechanical utility-causes.

It will be the characteristic task of the 20th century, as compared with the 19th, to get rid of this system of superficial causality, whose roots reach back into the rationalism of the Baroque period, and to put in its place a pure physiognomic. For the 19th century the word "evolution" meant progress in teh sense of increasing fitness of life to purposes.

[This has not yet been accomplished in wider Western Culture - but there have been small steps. People are starting to realize the concept of Historical Point of View, and have started to acknowledge that, for example, the "facts" of the "discovery" and setlement of the United States differ tremendously depending upon whether one is of the white race of conquerors or the native race of indigenous people. History was, up until recently, written by the conquerors - not just in America but all over the world, and the conquering POV was considered to be the correct one by virtue of having prevailed. Now we're not sure that's the case. More "air-time" is given both in historical documentaries and in school classrooms to the other points of view, but overall the ordinary American people are still very American, European, Christian and Caucasian centered in their historical philosophy.

Meanwhile, in Chereidi culture, a bizarre antithesis of this process is taking place - the myriad voices of the past are being stamped out in favor of the "one true" voice of Judaism, supposedly that of ultra-orthodoxy. It is an offshoot of evolutionary thought, though unacknowledged. All roads lead to Chereidi Judaism, in their minds. In fact, now that they think about it, no other valid road ever existed. Revisionist history indeed. Just as the West is busy offending Christian White People for being conquerors and imperialists who gleefully destroyed other cultures, the Rabbis are just now becoming the imperialists and endeavoring to destroy and invalidate all other sects of Judaism. We're a bit behind the curve of Western Culture in this respect - but we're still on it, that is clear.]

So, too, we observe that swift and deep changes assert themselves in the history of Great Cultures, without assignable causes, influences or purposes of any kind. It is exactly the same with the events in the individual life of every person who counts at all, and he who is ignorant of this knows nothing of men and still less of children. The origins of the earth, of life, of any free-moving animal, are such epochs, and therefore mysteries that we can do no more than accept.

[Western Culture has made valiant attempts to deconstruct human behavior, blaming poverty and various social structures teeming with "inequality" for people's criminal and immoral behavior, finally admitting defeat and turning to DNA for answers - though it kids with the same parents (still raised in the same house) often turn out completely different for no apparent reason, even twins. And it appears clear, also, that one may have a genetic tendency towards this or that, alcoholism, let's say, or obesity, or even homosexuality - knowing this simply does not remove people's responsibility to govern their own lives in a responsible manner. We still expect an alcoholic to quit drinking, an obese person to go on a diet and exercise, and so on. So the idea that "science" can explain everything about why people do what they do has turned out to be flimsy at best. Some alcoholics go cold turkey and never look back, yet a siblings ends up dying of it. We have to accept that we cannot, after all, explain these things except the obvious way - some people choose to do good, and some people don't. It's simply free will, which the liberal socialist crowd doesn't like.]

In all primitive existence, the "it," the Cosmic, is at work with such immediacy of force that all microcosmic utterances, whether in myth, custom, technique or ornament, obey on the pressures of the very instant. For us, there are no ascertainable rules for the duration, tempo and course of development of these utterances.

Development in these cases means always some development of one or another individual aspect or trait of the primitive Culture, never of that Culture itself. This, as I have said before, is essentially chaotic; the primitive Culture is neither an organism nor a sum of organisms.

But with the type of the higher culture this "it" gives way to a strong and undiffused tendency. Within the primitive Culture, tribes and clans are the only quickened (beseelte) beings - other than the individual men, of course.

Here, however, the Culture itself is such a being. The high Culture...is the waking-being of a single huge organism which makes not only custom, myths, technique and art, but the very peoples and classes incorporated in itself the vessels of one single form-language and one single history. It was an incident, the sense of which cannot now be scrutinized, that the type of higher Culture appeared suddenly in the field of human history.

But the fact that we have before us eight such Cultures, all of the same build, the same development and the same duration, justifies us in looking at them comparatively, and therefore justifies our treating them as comparable, studying them comparatively and obtaining from our study a knowledge which we can extend backwards over lost periods and forwards over the future - provided always that a Destiny of a different order does not replace this form-world, suddenly and basically, by another.

We cannot prophesy whether and when a new species will arise, so in that of Cultural history we cannot say whether and when a new Culture shall be.

[Cultures, both old and newly forming, interact with one another and shape and influence one another.] It was just the same in every other domain of form, the relation between this forceful young Civilization and the still-remaining old ones - is that it covers them, all alike, with ever-thickening layers of West European-American life forms under which, slowly, the ancient native form disappears.

[Here Spengler is talking about cultural imperialsim, as we would call it today. America, for example, is certainly the most guilty party on the globe, pushing it's irreligious materialism as far and wide as possible. Chereidi Judaism, also, has infected all the old Jewish communities and slowly inserted itself into them, the various sects either incorporating it into themselves or rebelling against it, as they were disposed. Either way, the resulting new generation could not be the same as the old generations, because coming in contact with Chereidi Judaism had its effects, one way or the other.]

What is History? The scheme of ancient-medieval-modern history, as understood by the 19th century, contained only a selection of the more obvious relations. But the influence that old Chinese and Mexican history are beginning to exercise on us today is of a subtler and more intellectual kind. There we are sounding the last necessities of life itself. We are learning out of another life-course to know ourselves what we are, what we must be, what we shall be. It is the great school of our future. We who have history still, are making history still, find here on the extreme frontiers of historical humanity what history is.

And here I would protest against two assumptions that have so far vitiated all historical thought: the assertion of an ultimate aim of mankind as a whole and the denial of there being ultimate aims at all. Life has an aim. It is the fulfillment of that which was ordained at its conception. But the individual belongs by birth either to a particular High Culture or only to the human type in general. "Historical" man, as I understand the word and all great historians have meant it to be taken, is the man of a Culture that is in full march towards self-fulfillment. Before this, after this, outside this, man is historyless.

From this there follows the fact that man not only is historyless before the birth of the Culture, but again becomes so as soon as a Civilization has worked itself out fully to the definitive form which betokens the end of the living development of the Culture and the exhaustion of the last potentialities of its significant existence.

[This fact that the deep, ancient past of Jewish Culture and Halacha lies shrouded in not one but two national devastations means that the Rabbis are free to write Revisionist History as they please - ascribing to our Near Eastern and North African Hebrew ancestors modern sensibilities and European practices and attitudes which simply did not exist then. But their myth of min-har-Sinai fills their Cultural Need to "know" and to mechanize every aspect of life, so they accept the myth because it gives them validity in their own minds - murky history notwithstanding.]

In the history, the genuine history, of higher men the stake fought for and the basis of the animal struggle to prevail is every - even when driver and driven are completely unconscious of the symbolic force of their doings, purposes, and fortunes - the actualization of something that is essentially spiritual, the translation of an idea into a living, historical form. But the post-history is void of all t his. All that remains is the struggle for mere power, for animal advantage per se. Whereas previously power, even when to all appearance destitute of any inspiration, was always serving the Idea somehow or other, in the late Civilization even the most convincing illusion of an idea is only the mast for purely zoological strivings.

[In other words, the whole mythology is, when applied in this modern age, all about money and power and control - who gets it and who loses it, the "survival of the fittest," the most basic animal level of action. And the Chereidi have decided they will survive and all other sects of Judaism must fail to "prove" their superiority.]

This it is that confers upon these very Late conditions - which to the people living in them seem almost self-evident - that character of changeless pageantry which the genuine Culture-man...has found so astonishing in comparison with his own vigorous pulse of development. It is the changelessness of non-history.

[Ironically, Chereidi Judaism is somewhat ahead of the curve here when compared to broader Western Culture. Western Culture is just now choking on its lengthy dose of "tolerance" and "multiculturalism." The pendulum is just now at the very beginnings of starting to swing the other way, a trend which I am calling "Radical Conformity." The average American is very tired of having every sort of offensive and deviant and non-Christian culture crammed down their throats and are at the edge of rebellion against these liberal attitudes. This will take form over the next years of Western Culture - but Chereidi Judaism is already there, and then some. The past tolerance for a wide variety of interpretations and traditions within the Halachic framework is long gone - each Rav and each community now working overtly to intimidate and coerce those who don't submit and conform to either do so or leave, on threat of social terrorism and even physical violence. In an incredible irony, the mental and physical violence that the Chereidi Jews are now displaying against those of other Jewish sects and "other" type ultra-orthodox shuls will be visited back on themselves (and unfortunately all other Jews with them) when wider Western Culture turns against multi-culturalism and tolerance, too.]

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