Thursday, December 04, 2008

Decline of the West Chapter 15

Decline of the West
Oswald Spengler

These excerpts and commentary [in brackets] continue many of the themes of Chapter Fourteen, regarding religious thought and prophecy.

Chapter 15
Problems of the Arabian Culture
The Magian Soul

The world, as spread out for the Magian waking-consciousness possesses a kind of extension that may be called cavern-like [ala Leo Frobenius, Paideuma, 1920, p.92], though it is difficult for Western Man to pick upon any word in his vocabulary that can convey anything more than a hint of the meaning of Magian "space." In the Classical Culture the opposition that universally dominates the waking-consciousness is the opposition of matter and form - in the West it is that of Force and Mass.

In the World-Cavern persistent and unresolved struggles become that "semitic" primary-dualism which, ever the same under its thousand forms, fills the Magian world. The light shines through the cavern and battles against the darkness. But these polarities in the most primary sensations mingle with those of hte refined and critical understanding, like good and evil, God and Satan. Death...is not the end of life, but a Something, a death-force that contends with a life-force for the possession of man.

But still more important than all this is the opposition of Spirit and Soul (Hebrew ruach and nephesh, Persian abu and urvan, Mandean monuhmed and gyan, Greek pneuma and psyche) which first comes out in the basic feeling of the prophetic religions, then pervades the whole of Apocalyptic and finally forms and guides the world-contemplations of the awakened Culture.

Ruach means originally "wind" and nephesh "breath." The Ruach belongs to the divine, to the above, to the light. Its effects in man when it descends are the heroism of Samson, the holy wrath of Elijah, the enlightenment of Solomon, and all kinds of divination and ecstasy. It is poured out.

Paul and Philo, with their Classical (that is, Western) conceptual criteria, equated soul and body with good and bad respectively. Augustine, as a Manichaean with Persian-Eastern bases of distinction, lumps soul and body together as the naturally bad, in contrast to God as the sole Good....

Whereas the Faustian man is an "I" that in the last resort draws its conclusions about the Infinite, the Magian Man with his spiritual being is only a part of the pneumatic "we" that, descending from above, is one and the same in all believers. All our epistemological methods, resting upon the individual judgment, are for him madness and infatuation, and its scientific results a work of the evil one, who has confused and deceived the spirit as to its true dispositions and purposes. The idea of individual wills is simply meaningless, for "will" and "thought" in man are not prime, but already effects of the deity upon him. Out of this unshakable root-feeling, which is merely re-expressed, never essentially altered by any conversions, illumination or subtilizing in the world - there emerges of necessity the idea of the Divine Mediator, who transforms this state from a torment into a bliss. All Magian religions are by this idea bound together, and separated from those of all other Cultures.

[Chereidi Judaism gives lip service to the idea of Messiah, of course - but in reality they consider THEMSELVES, the writers and expositors of the Talmud, to be the true mediators between everyone else and God. Their idea of Messiah is a political-military figure, not a religious one. He can't be a religious leader, because that would take authority away from them - or if he is one, he has to BE one of them, since ultra-orthodoxy is now the only "real" Judaism.]

Not only world-space but world-time is cavern-like. Hence comes the thoroughly Magian certainty that everything has "a" time...in which the Faustian "hurry" would be meaningless and unimaginable.

The Classical Oracle answered the only questions that could perturb Apollinian man - the form the "how?" of coming things. But the question of the Cavern is "when?". The whole apocalyptic [is based on this question].

The cavern-feeling postulates a surveyable history consisting in a beginning and an end to the world that is also the beginning and the end of man. God can destroy and replace the existing cavern by a new creation.

Further, for the Magian human-existence, the issue of the feeling of this sort of Time and the view of t his sort of space is a quite individual type of piety, which likewise we may put under the sign of the Cavern - a will-less resignation, to which the spiritual "I" is unknown, and which feels the spiritual "we" that has entered into the quickened body as simply a reflection of the divine Light.

The Faustian prime-sacrament of Contrition presupposes the strong and free will can overcome itself. But it is precisely the impossibility of an Ego as a free power in the face of the divine that constitutes [Magian "submission"].

[Western man, obviously, submits to nothing.]

Every attempt to meet the operations of God with a personal purpose or even a personal option is masiga - that is, not an evil willing, but an evidence that the powers of darkness and evil have taken possession of a man and expelled the divine from him. The Magian waking-consciousness is merely the theatre of a battle between these two powers and not, so to say, a power in itself.

From this basic feeling proceeds the Magian idea of Grace. Contrition presupposes the will of an Ego, but Grace knows of no such thing. The Faustian Soul has tried by any and every route to circumvent this certainty, for which it constitutes and imminent danger of self-destruction. The Godhead radiates it, man receives it, but does not acquire it. The conception that the idea of Grace excludes every individual will and every cause but the One...finds an expression in one of the most powerful poems known to world-history...the book of Job. It is not Job but his friends who look for a sin as the cause of his troubles. They - like the bulk of mankind in this and every other Culture, present-day readers and critics of the work, therefore, included - lack the metaphysical depth to get near the ultimate meaning of suffering within the world-cavern.

In Magian there is no individual-ego, but a single Pneuma present simultaneously in each and all of the elect, which is likewise Truth. There was not and could not be any question of an infallible Papal ego or any other sort of authority to settle dogmatic truths, that would completely destroy the Magian concept of Consensus. In the Magian world, consequently, the separation of politics and religion is theoretically impossible and nonsensical, whereas in the Faustian Culture the battle of Church and State is inherent in the very conceptions - logical, necessary, unending. In the Magian, civil and ecclesiastical law are simply identical.

[However, the Chereidi Culture that sprang from the ghettos leapfrogged over their forefather's idea of Community Consensus for their own communities, and instead decided to adopt Faustian (Western) will-to-power control structures and impose a supposed "concensus" from the top which represents only their own will and not that of the people - if this was not so, no intimidation, coercion, bans, sequestering or social terrorism would be needed to ensure compliance.]

But besides the consensus there is another sort of revelation of Truth - namely the Word of God, in a perfectly definite and purely Magian sense of the phrase, which is equally remote from Classical and from Western thought, and has, in consequence, been the source of innumerable misunderstandings.

[Or outright obfuscation. The Chereidi try to impose modern, Western thought-patterns onto the commandments of God, claiming there is only "one right way" to do things when this was obviously never the intention of God, never the original Bronze Age understanding of the Words, and not the historical evidence of the past several millennia of multi-faceted, 12-tribe, locally based interpretations of halacha which were considered each community's right to decide. Now the consensus has been taken away and replaced by an Imperialistic power structure that brooks no competition, not even from God's own Written Word.]

The Sacred Book in which it has become visibly evident, in which it has been captured by the spell of a sacred script, is part of the stock of every Magian religion.

[Meaning in order to subvert the religion, one must subvert the sacred text - which is why the Rabbis wrote the Talmud - to supplant the Written Torah and enshrine their own Words as Law instead of God's Words. Torah 2.0 was put into place because God's own Written Word was supposedly inadequate and incomplete - THEY had to FIX it, to their own specifications, of course. They remade God over in their own image, one that DEFERS to THEM, and then enthroned themselves as absolute rulers over the people of Israel, whether the people agree to this or not.]

As substance, Truth is identical now with God, now with the Spirit of God, now with the Word.

[Which they have reinterpreted and rewritten to suit themselves, so now THEY are TRUTH. Just ask them.]

Pure Magian, too, is the Kabbalah, which out of numbers, letter-forms, points and strokes unfolds secret significances... As by hypothesis the "word" of an authority cannot be improved upon, the only resource is reinterpretation. The Mishnah is one vast commentary upon the Torah. And when the oldest exegetes had become themselves "authorities," commentaries were written upon commentaries.

[No need to elaborate on this, I'm sure.]

The Group of Magian religions

In the wide realm of old-Babylonian fellahdom young peoples lived. There everything was made ready. The first premonitions of the future awoke about 700 BC in the prophetic religions of the Persians, Jews and Chaldeans. Something was described in the far future, indefinitely and darkly still, but with a profound certainty that it would come. From that time men lived with the vision of this, with the feeling of a mission.

The second wave swelled up in the Apocalyptic currents after 300. Here it was the Magian waking-consciousness that arose and built itself a metaphysic of Last Things, based already upon the prime symbol of the coming Culture, the Cavern. Ideas of an awful End of the World, of the Last Judgment, of Resurrection, Paradise and Hell, and with them the grand thought process of salvation in which earth's destiny and man's were one, burst forth everywhere - mantled in wondrous scenes and figures and names. Magian Time, the "hour," directedness under the Cavern, imparted a new pulse and life and a new import to the word "Destiny." The third upheaval came in the time of Caesar and brought to birth the great religions of Salvation. And with this the Culture rose to bright day, and what followed continuously throughout one or two centuries was an intensity of religious experience, both unsurpassable and at long last unbearable. Such a tension bordering upon the breaking point the Gothic, the Vedic and every other Culture-soul have known, once and only once, in their young morning.

Now arose in the Persian, the Mandaean, the Jewish, the Christian circles of belief, and in that of the Western Psuedomorphosis as well - just as in the Indian, the Classical and the Western ages of Chivalry - the Grand Myth. All nature is a battle-ground from the beginning of the world to its annihilation.

With the end of the second century, the sounds of this exaltation die away. The flowering of epic poetry is past, and the mystical penetration and dogmatic analyses of religious material begin. Simultaneously, a higher religiousness begins to separate from the peasant's piety of the countryside, which still lingered in the apocalyptic disposition, and thenceforth maintained itself almost unaltered under various names right into the fellahdom of the Turkish age, while in the urban and more intellectual upper world the Persian, Jewish and Christian community was absorbed by that of Islam. Slowly and steadily the great assemblies moved to fulfillment. To the third century belong the great mental structures of theology.

In the West, the two cult-churches developed (in Greek) a theology that was not only cognate with this but to a great extent identical with it. Spiritually, at any rate, [Mithraism's] priests were in no wise distinguishable from those of Christianity. We possess pagan gospels and hagiologies as well as Christian...there is not the slightest difference between these works, which begin and end with prayers.

Between the churches of the East and the West we see, looking south from Edessa, the Talmudic Church (the "synagogue") with Aramaic as its written language. Against these great and firm foundations Jewish-Christians (such as Ebionites and Elkazites), Mandaeans and likewise Chaldeans were unable to hold their own. Breaking down into numberless sects, they either faded out in the shadow of the great "churches" or were structurally absorbed, as the last Marcionites and Motanists were absorbed. By about 300, outside the Pagan, Christian, Persian, Jewish and Minichaean "churches" no Magian religions remained in being.

Christianity, which even in the second century was hardly more than an extended Order, and whose public influence was out of all proportion to the number of its adherents, grew suddenly vast about the year 250. [Due to syncretization.] This is the epochal moment in which the last city-cults of the Classical effaced themselves before, not Christianity, but the new-born Pagan Church. These contradictions led t the break-up of Christianity into several religions - and forever.

It was a decisive factor - one of the results of Actium - that the contest was fought out in the Greek tongue and in the territory of the Pseudomorphosis - that is, under the full influence of the "Caliph" of the Western Church. Constantine had even been the convener and president of the Council of Nicea, where the doctrine of Athanasius carried the day. The breach between East and West, a consequence of the Council of Ephesus (431, the 5th century ce) separated two "christian" nations, that of the Persian church and that of the Greek church, inherent from the first, between the modes of thought proper to the two different landscapes.

[Of course, with the full syncretization of "Christianity" with pagan mystery cults, any vestiges of the original teachings of the (apparently) Karaite Rabbi of Nazareth were long since discarded in favor of Roman anomialism - enforced by the same Western will-to-power that the Chereidi Ravs are now themselves using to exterminate all other sects of Judaism.]

The fundamental meaning of this desperate conflict which raged for a century [was] not over scholarly concepts, but over the soul of a landscape that sought to be set free in its people. Christianity fell apart for good into three religions, which can be symbolized by the names of Paul, Peter, and John. These three religions are at the same time three nations, living in the old race-areas of Greeks, Jews and Persians, and the tongues that they used were the church-language borrowed from them - namely, Greek, Aramaic, and Pehlevi.

[The Hebrew gospels and letters having long since been translated into Greek and Aramaic and Coptic and the Hebrew originals discarded. This can hardly be emphasized enough - by removing both the Tanakh and the New Testament from the original Hebrew, alien and incorrect thought patters were introduced to the texts by translators and interpreters. They no doubt meant well, but their Cultural and language "biases" (for lack of a more succinct word here) were cast onto the original Hebrew texts and as we read in earlier chapters, once you remove something from it's original language and culture a lot is lost in the translation - or added. Looking at the original Bronze Age written Hebrew Torah through the Aramaic lens of Medieval Talmudic Judaism is no more authentic than saying "you haven't heard Shakespeare until you've read it in the original Klingon."]

The Western church continued to be bound up with the fate of the Roman Empire - that is, the cult-church became the state. Gradually, it absorbed into itself the adherents of the Pagan church, and thenceforth its importance lay not so much in itself - for Islam almost annihilated it - but in the accident that it was from it that the young peoples of the Western Culture received it, moreover, in the Latin guise of the extreme West - which for the Greek church itself was unmeaning, since Rome was now a Greek city, and the Latin language war far more truly at home in Africa and Gaul.

The essential and elemental concept of the Magian nation, a being that consists in extension, had been from the beginning active in extending itself. All these religions were, deliberately, forcefully and successfully, missionary. But it was not until men had at least ceased to think of the end of the world as imminent, and dogma appropriate to prolonged existence in this World's Cavern had been built up, and the Magian religions had taken up their standpoint towards the problem of substance, that the extending of the Culture took up that swift, passionate tempo that distinguished it from all others and found in Islam its most impressive, its last, but by no means its only example.

[I have to disagree a bit about it being the "last." Chereidi Judaism is late to the game, but it has decided to play. Kiruv is growing - but not as a Magian offshoot of a fear for the fate of one's community of blood-brothers and adopted kinsmen, but rather with a Faustian will-to-power to subvert the other sects and steal adherents away from them. They intend to expand not by sending missionaries to other nations, but by sending them to their own nations ("their nation" being, ultimatly, those who agree to submit to them - everyone else, whether born Jewish or not, will be (is) considered foreign and not-Jewish.]

But even before Christianity - and this is a fact of which the immense significance has never been observed, which has not even been correctly interpreted as "mission" effort - the Pagan church had one for the Syncretic Cult the greater part of the population. Little remained extant by the time of Constantine. [So] the three main Christian Churches everywhere followed up the blazed trails. The population of the Western Roman provinces were unable to discriminate between Mithras and Christ.

Islam is to be regarded as the Puritanism of the whole group of early-Magian religions, emerging as a relgion only formally new, and in the domain of the Southern church and Talmudic Judaism. It is this deeper significance, and not merely the force of its warlike onslaught, that gives the key to its fabulous successes.

For all this, Islam is significant only as a piece of outward religious history. The inner history of the Magian religion ends with Charles V and the Council of Trent. Any book on religious history shows "the" Christian religion as having had two ages of grand thought-movements - 1 to 500 AD in the East and 1000-1500 in the West. But these are two springtimes of two Cultures! And in them are comprised also the non-Christian forms which belong to each religious development. The closing of the University of Athens by Justinian in 529 was not, as is always stated, the end of Classical Philosophy - there had been no Classical philosophy for centuries. What he did, 40 years before the birth of Mohammed, was to end the theology of the Pagan Church by closing this school and - as the historians forget to add - to the end of the Christian theology also by closing those of Antioch and Alexandria. Dogma was complete, finished - just as it was in the West with the Council of Trent (1564) and the Confession of Augsburg (1540), for with the city and intellectualism religions creative force comes to an end.

[Here you will have to imagine a lengthy insertion of the History of Judaism during those two periods of time (1-500 and then 1000-1500). Insert also the rather self-serving claim that "prophecy is ended" and that the writings of the Rabbis are "min har Sinai," - something many communities rejected even prior to the Destruction of the Temple in the 1st Century, obviously. It is also clear that Yehuda HaNazi took the opportunity he received when the Romans granted him Yavneh to exclude from the Mishna any writings by any Rabbis or scholars who were not Pharisees. He got the opportunity to remake Judaism in his own image, and used that opportunity to the fullest. History is written by the "winners," and the Pharisees got from Rome the absolute power to make Judaism into anything they wanted.

And various Rabbis continued that process throughout the early and middle ages. Suffice it to say that the Judaism of 1500 was not, could never have been, and will never be the same as that of Moshe and Aaron back in the Bronze Age. Furthermore, Jews of 1500 had NO CONCEPT that their local multi-faceted (and generally lenient) interpretations of halacha were "wrong" or that any Bet Din or Rabbinic Council hundreds of miles away had any authority whatsoever to tell them otherwise.

As one textbook (Jews of Medieval Western Christendom) puts it (page 282): ...two disparate Jewish Cultures evolved across Europe during the years between 1000 and 1500. Southern-European Jewish Culture was deeply influenced by the legacy of Jewish creativity in the Muslim world and by extensive contact with the contemporary Christian environment. It was inclusive in its parameters, ranging from traditional concerns with Bible and Talmud into innovative domains, especially philosophy and mysticism. It was wracked by internal tensions and debates. In contrast, the "newer" Jewish communities of Northern Europe - more distanced, but by no means isolated from surrounding culture - fashioned a culture that was more limited in its parameters, and more cohesive, spared much of the turmoil generated in Southern European Jewish Culture. Subsequent to our period, Jews have recurrently attempted to assert the superiority of one or the other of these contrasting cultures.

You don't say! Neither of these European ghetto-born Cultures, of course, has anything whatsoever to do with authentic multi-faceted Hebrew Near Eastern Culture that should be the final arbiter of what Judaism is. Instead Western Though and Culture continues to be imposed on Judaism, not by those who oppressed us - not by the Roman Inquisition - but by our own self-proclaimed leaders, whose intolerant and inflexible interpretations would certainly made Torquemada proud. They have become the oppressors they once despised, forcing other Jews to convert to their sect of Judaism or lose their rights to marry, make Aliyah, and eventually even call themselves Jewish. This is where Western Culture has brought Chereidi Judaism - to a self-serving war of conquest against their fellow Jews in the name of an inauthentic European Culture which the original 12 tribes would not even recognize if they saw it.]

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