[PDF / Epub] ☃ Der Untergang des Abendlandes. Umrisse einer Morphologie der Weltgeschichte ✑ Oswald Spengler – Batdongsanhoian.co
While I was still in the middle of this book, a guy who works at a fish and chip shop near where I work told me that we are living in a time of intellectual apogee where the most ordinary people have knowledge of the world around them undreamed of by those of the near past Religion needs to die Superstitions are all hooey We need to kick clear and bask forth in our great sense of overwhelming factorama, where the pursuit and claiming of another coloured Trivial Pursuit cheese that is knowingness is the proof of our ongoing ascent into Elysium not his exact words.And he is both a little right and very wrong.While it is certainly true that people know trivial things than ever before, less and less people know anything deep than the apparent rockroll complexity of a comic book character with claws and related badassery Optimism is cowardice, Spengler most famously wrote elsewhere Covering a world with barely nothing is worth much less than just knowing one decent thing And it s probably less deceiving We certainly think we know than ever before, at the same time as being far less reliable in anything we think we knowThis is a startling book No matter what you hear about it before hand prepares you for it It is than what you think, much but also a little less, just a little I ve never read anything quite like it, so broad in scope, and so informed from such a wide variety of disciplines at such a prestigious level Spengler is a giant, and while he walks through valleys and crests mountains, he remains a giant the whole time Spengler is writing to the future which is where we are, to him He presents both a new outlook on history, and a philosophy of destiny Close to a hundred years after he wrote the Introduction to my edition, it has a contemporary mood To the accusation that it is pessimistic, he is unrelentingly indifferent By understanding the world I mean being equal to the world.It is not an easy read You need time to chew There is a central premise regarding the nature of Culture that is already alarming to anyone brought up in the 20th century and the conception of Progressiveness that Culture is finite, that by progressing you are getting closer to the end, the used up ness of what you cherish, so that your upper case P must become lower, at the very least, to acknowledge that even in ascent, you approach descent Spengler spends plenty of time comparing the world pictures of various identifiable Cultures, most particularly the Classical, the Magian and the Western He begins with the mythologies and the most basics manners in which the world around them are processed, and then leads us into art, then politics and economics hot topics in early 20th century Europe Truths lie beyond history and life, and vice versa life is something beyond all causes, effects and truths.Our management of assessment for how living history is cause and effect based is heavily challenged Our petty narcissisms It reminded me sometimes of Nassim Nicholas Taleb We look back and assign causes and effects, and so we believe we can look forward and manage them same on a cosmic level But our viewpoint is always a Cultural phantasm, even the idea that it is this is also this This doesn t make it wrong, or unnecessary, unimportant but it makes it unreliable and a cause for further investigation with this in mind It is a variety of cultural relativism that is not reductive And it is to the pristine fact that we fall into, the fact devoid of meaning, that of pure Being.Even now the world cities of the Western Civilization are far from having reached their development I see, long after A.D 2000, cities laid out for ten to twenty million inhabitants, spread over enormous areas of countryside, with buildings that will dwarf the biggest of today s and notions of traffic and communications that we should regard as fantastic to the point of madness.Fascinating that he should mention communications in particular from so far back, but otherwise, his predictions do go a little awry for us He sees a conflict between money and blood on the horizon which might be looked upon as the second world war and, later, the triumph of Caesarism over money Money is overthrown and abolished by blood Money in a Spenglarian sense echoing socialist critiques of Adam Smithism is a separation point between the producers and what is produced, and is indicative of the development of the tow city cosmopolis that are all progressive signs of a Culture s declination Through people s essence, their very lives, there is victory This has a Christ like mythos to it, and seems, on face value, to be proven wrong While Western Culture is in a greater and accelerated degree of decline than in Spengler s time, money grows stronger The machines we build to serve us and demand service from us Fantastic to the point of madness Spengler underestimated the depth of the madness All of this simply points to a longer decline than Spengler estimated Perhaps he also underestimated the heights of the West s apogee Or he might have been impatient to get to club end of his thesis Either way, he has re arranged my thinking somewhat I still have the freedom to do the necessary or do nothing in the midst of death rattling Decline It has been great, and it s still intact, to look back upon, thank God And there are some beautiful dirges still to be done And a lament can reach somewhere triumphant. This is truly an awful book It has an overriding incoherent theory of a morphology on history and the author s frustrations against democracy, and it has a sympathy for Nationalism while fascism flows throughout the second volume yes, I read both volumes I and II First, the author is not really erudite and he has an incredibly shallow grasp of complex subjects but it runs a mile long, and he is definitely frustrated with his country losing The Great War and by Volume II having lost the war Goethe and Nietzsche are his inspirations especially in Volume I, but by Volume II he barely relies on them because his full on fascism comes through In Volume I he spoke incredibly intelligently on entropy , Einstein s General Theory , and theory of groups from Topology He ties those items into his nonsense on all of history repeats itself through different forms, and that there is no truth but only myths and that that history of humanity is meaningless, culture gives us meaning, leading to Civilizations which will inevitably disappear All civilizations will end with a Caesarsism collapse, according to him, and you know what, darn those pesky little Enlightenment Ideals like democracy, equality, fairness, reason over faith by authority, or that the other fellow not a member of your tribe just might have something worthwhile to bring to the table The author moves around a lot and tries to make everything that has ever happened fit his weird theory He has an ode against double entry accounting , for example he states that it was discovered in 1490 and was as important as Columbus discovering America he s probably right, but he doesn t like it because of his weird take on money and power and politics He s certain that women have their feminine place and men have their lordly place and puts that into his twisted narrative Myth is all there is and truth is nothing but a complex word game with a series of facts, at least that is how this author plays the game.There is a fascist strain that oozes thru out this book Trump and his Republican enablers would just lap those parts up Trump has many times made statements such as only I can save you he ll say that about the stock market, immigration, or a host of other things Spengler thinks that for most of us destiny happens but only a few make destinies We are doomed and I think Spengler wants us to be led by someone who will pull us up by our bootstraps I wanted to use that metaphor of bootstraps because it is impossible as far as I know to pull myself up by one, and the Nationalist leader will not be able to do such a thing either Spengler believes blood, soil and character that is formed by the small towns makes people cultured and Jews without history are not capable of forming a worthwhile image of themselves as are the Negroes of Africa Trump calls himself a Nationalist because he does not want inclusive Patriotism but rather an exclusive Patriotism , a belief that the definition of right and wrong starts with the appearance of a self proclaimed charismatic strong leader and ends with the simplistic jingoism such as make America great again or as Spengler says my country right or wrong Spengler actually used that expression in one of his extended ramblings on history which will inevitably lead to the end of logical and rational debate because the methodology is to manipulate ones passions through emotional appeals against people who are not part of your tribe as defined by the supreme leader who is only charismatic to those who have made him so from their own manipulated feelings Tolerance of the other is anathema to exclusive patriots or Nationalists build that wall , lock her up without a trial , make sense only to those who process their truths through emotions based on fear, hate and intolerance Spengler does not like the rational The rational to him is where the urban elite he calls them megapolitans or something like that consensus uses the abstract to take away from the real facts in the world in addition he ll blame money, commercialism and controls foisted upon us by democratic processes which will inevitably lead to our own downfall He desperately wants to bring back the wonder and awe of the Homeric Greeks and the gratitude that they would say we owe to the universe all of which we have misplaced today 1920ish , and he wants us to re embrace pride in ourselves as individual parts of a Nation greater than ourselves our foundation for meaning must come from something greater than ourselves such as national pride therefore allowing us to embrace an exclusive patriotism, a Nationalism tending towards fascism in the mode of Benito Mussolini Truth, for him, would emanate from the nation not the individual The individual needs the state with a great leader and each individual s meaning can only come from a state as lead by a great charismatic leader It s obvious that this book was very influential in its day Joseph Campbell universal myths theory as shown in The Hero with a Thousand Faces which I disliked as much as this book partially because it too has within it a nationalistic narrative similar to this book Heidegger clearly is pointing to this book as the greatness of the movement when he made the statement in the Introduction to Metaphysics that the works that are being peddled about nowadays as the philosophy of National Socialism but have nothing whatever do with the inner truth and greatness of the movement namely the encounter between global technology and modern man , and I suspect Heidegger was contrasting Spengler s book with the most vile best seller ever The Myth of the 20th Century as one of the works that are being peddled about nowadays Spengler definitely dislikes the encounter between global technology and modern man and believes it weakens us and separates us from the soil, blood and culture.Spengler wisely down plays race except he didn t seem to like the Negroes or the Jews , he does walk a fine line and mostly focuses on a nation or peoples, or culture instead of a race I would say that all Nazis would be able to enjoy this book, but that doesn t mean one would have to be a Nazi to enjoy it One could just as easily be a Nationalist, or exclusive Patriot, or ignorant of history and philosophy thus thinking this book was erudite, or curious to look at what was prevalent in 1920ish Germany and how the Germans were than happy to soon embrace a monster for their leader I recently read a book, Critic of Everyday Life , by Lefebvre It s three volumes long, and it s a Marxist work and the overlap between these two books was surprising For Marxist class is the ontological foundation for all truth, for a Nationalist and Fascist, which Spengler definitely was, but wiki tells me he was not a Nazi supporter the Nation as seen through the privileged tribe as interpreted by a charismatic leader who will always make every fact that disagrees with them a false fact or fake news the source of all truth For one who has read both especially Volume I of Critic of Everyday Life there will be a lot of obvious overlap between these two works A Nationalist like Trump that s his label for himself, not mine and his Nationalist followers would get a foundation from this book that they clearly don t have They d have to ignore the goofy morphology part of the book, but this book would help them better understand themselves The author inverts all of the lessons of The Enlightenment rely on your feelings not reason, be exclusive not inclusive, nation trumps the individual, certainty in one s own truths that comes from pride from one s own tribe and anyone not a member of your tribe is not as good as you and truth comes from the authority of one s leader who you have elevated to a charismatic status All of these items are within this book and wrapped in weird mysticism that the author definitely has For example, he ll say Euclidian spirit is finite and relative to all the other morphological shapes, while Faustian truth is infinite and absolute and leads to the death of the civilization One can easily follow the author s mystical convoluted story, but most readers will just ignore that crap. Since Its First Publication In Two Volumes Between , The Decline Of The West Has Ranked As One Of The Most Widely Read And Most Talked About Books Of Our Time In All Its Various Editions, It Has Sold Nearly , Copies A Twentieth Century Cassandra, Oswald Spengler Thoroughly Probed The Origin And Fate Of Our Civilization, And The Result Can Be And Has Been Read As A Prophesy Of The Nazi Regime His Challenging Views Have Led To Harsh Criticism Over The Years, But The Knowledge And Eloquence That Went Into His Sweeping Study Of Western Culture Have Kept The Decline Of The West Alive As The Face Of Germany And Europe As A Whole Continues To Change Each Day, The Decline Of The West Cannot Be Ignored The Abridgment, Prepared By The German Scholar Helmut Werner, With The Blessing Of The Spengler Estate, Consists Of Selections From The Original Translated Into English By Charles Francis Atkinson Linked By Explanatory Passages Which Have Been Put Into English By Arthur Helps H Stuart Hughes Has Written A New Introduction For This Edition In This Engrossing And Highly Controversial Philosophy Of History, Spengler Describes How We Have Entered Into A Centuries Long World Historical Phase Comparable To Late Antiquity Guided By The Philosophies Of Goethe And Nietzsche, He Rejects Linear Progression, And Instead Presents A World View Based On The Cyclical Rise And Decline Of Civilizations He Argues That A Culture Blossoms From The Soil Of A Definable Landscape And Dies When It Has Exhausted All Of Its Possibilities Despite Spengler S Reputation Today As An Extreme Pessimist, The Decline Of The West Remains Essential Reading For Anyone Interested In The History Of Civilization Oswald Spengler s The Decline of the West was a huge international bestseller after the First World War for reasons that will become obvious, and for reasons that may be just as much so, Spengler considered his theories prophetic and completely justified given that he started this book in 1911 before the shit totally hit the fan Spengler s wide ranging theories on the subject of history writing include the repeated idea that the vast majority of historians can do no than write history from from their self centered points of view of a present they consider important than any other time Spengler turns out to be guilty of this charge himself, imparting a special meaning onto his own time that many others have seen in theirs the End of Days However, Spengler did not mean this in the completely apocalyptic Christian sense, but instead termed it the wintertime of Faustian civilization In admittedly fascinating and frequently beautiful if problematically rather mystical language, Spengler divides space and time amongst dominant Cultures, which are definite entities with specific, distinct underlying motivations and perceptions of the world that differentiate each entity from the others He concentrates mostly on contrasting the Apollonian, culture capturing the Classical age, which he sees as characterized by a perception of all time as Present and centered on the body, and Faustian, which is his name for current Western age, characterized by a precise conception of time and the continual and unfulfilled longing for the unattainable in class we talked about the fact that if we are Faustian we should really discuss what our deal with the devil was I don t think we got an answer other than unlimited power Each Culture has a natural and inevitable life cycle, which he articulates in terms of the seasons and life stages of men In each great Culture s Autumn, it becomes a Civilization, which is the signal of a definite and inevitable decline Spengler draws a distinction between Culture, which is the thing becoming, and Civilization, which is the thing become , and symbolizes inertia and death and can only refine and push to the limits the ideas that Culture has put forward and then indulge an expansion instinct until the Civilization has exhausted itself and dies as, he posits, Faustian civilization is on its way to doing, shown by the period of imperialism and expansion and finally Caesarism, which is the final sign of death Each phase is characterized by certain symbols that appear at identical moments in each culture and civilization s life phase, and tell us what phase the Culture is in Therefore there is a kind of code that can be deciphered that will in theory be able to show an informed person what the next step is He names about 8 great civilizations, but ends up collapsing it to Apollonian, Faustian, and Magian Arabian culture He does not care about that which is not world historical, and leaves many things outside his concept because, quite frankly, they do not matter Don t agree with him Well, that s probably just because of your Culture s shaping of you and the fact that you inevitably can t perhaps it is due to your Faustian need to beat a theory you can t possibly prove wrong.Spengler s theories rely on several underlying assumptions that are still prevalent and frequently acted upon in our present age, and the different inferences that have been drawn from ideas similar to his have supported different conclusions that I see in my reading quite often The most prominent of course being the inevitable conclusions of his ideas about culture How people, communities and states choose to deal with the idea of cultural difference, is one of the most important and politicized issues in today s world Spengler can be used to support some fairly innocuous ideas, such as his rejection Eurocentric world view of a privileged Western culture emphasizes the theoretical equality of cultures at a value judgment level, therefore supporting cultural diversity by showing that each culture has something to offer the world However, I spend the great majority of my studies encountering the polarizing aspects of his work, where like ideas have caused incredible amounts of damage Specifically, his strong emphasis on the natural, differences between people and his firm conviction that there are no universal truths that apply to all mankind because of cultural differences This often leads to the conclusion that there is only one right way to do things with has been mystically ordained and all who do not act the way that a person of their Culture is supposed to act are evil It is the basis of ideas that allow for the creation of racial hierarchies, or terming Others a completely different usually lesser species, and time and time again, the inability to identify past a certain line stopping any hope of solving problems or establishing partnerships Unsurprisingly, Henry Kissinger effing loved this book he wrote his undergraduate thesis on it As my professor put it, Of course he loved it It means he can make decisions on his private plane and feel justified One of the most fascinating sites for debate that deals with the extent to which cultural differences are something that must be recognized is in theory about how democracies should deal with multiple cultures under their rule should these be recognized and given rights, therefore lending perhaps dangerous support to the idea of naturalized difference or should people be merely citizens in the eyes of the law, with no differentiation, as is the French ideal at least in theory The exploration of where one should draw the line, what compromises between theory and reality are necessary, is absolutely fascinating Going too far one way or the other seems to produce negative results Beyond its effect on the shape of nations and international relations, Spengler s emphasis on the role of Culture, style, and civilizational path as the determinants of what we do as individuals is very dissatisfying This Calvinistic sense of predestination, and the inevitability of our actions leaves little room for human agency and free will I have struggled with this in judging actions in different historical periods because it is true that the environments in which we grow up certainly has an effect on us I recently read Isabel Hull s Absolute Destruction, in which an episode was discussed in which a German officer pursued defeated, dying enemies into a desert to little practical purpose at the cost of his own life and those of his men was this an effect of the military culture German officers operated in Or was this decision due to the specific personality of the officer involved Spengler might find it predestined, by the declining path of civilization and the need for expansion, but there were also many people who left Germany as rising militarism set in, and a member of the militaristic Hollenzollern family, the short lived Emperor Frederick III, was an unshakeable liberal who fought against the right wing elements in Germany until his death Spengler does not account for these anomalies of people who do not act as his map of their Culture would dictate that they, by all rights, should.But really, you guys, I feel like I am not doing this book justice It is written in this dreamy, mystical language that can work like an incantation, with your mind sinking into the crazy until the expression of it seems beautiful It is originally written in German, and perhaps due to the fact that many words are untranslatable, you get things like soul world, and world feeling, life essences, morphological world order, world consciousness, and form feeling And he repeats these nonsense words over and over like they explain everything it is beyond the mystical words of nationalist primordalists, even religiously oriented But I can t even totally dismiss it as perhaps a crazy man s poetry when it yields up random gems all the time mankind is but a zoological expression, or The word Europe ought to be struck out of history Europe expresses no reality but merely a sketchy interpretation of a map East and West are notions that contain real history, whereas Europe is an empty sound Everything great that the Classical world created, it created in pure denial of the existence of any barrier between Rome and Cyprus, Byzantium and Alexandria, The ground of West Europe is treated as a steady pole, a unique patch chosen on the surface of the sphere for no better reason, it seems, that because we live on it and great histories of millennial duration and mighty far away Cultures are made to revolve around this pole in all modesty It is a quaintly conceived system of sun and planets I don t know he s crazy, like totally over the hill nutzo, but it is based on incredibly impressive learning and knowledge He s able to do a history of art, a comparison of complicated notions of time, and a history of mathematics completely comfortably He gets facts wrong again and again, but you can sort of see the weird logic in the end He s not THAT off a lot of the time And it is terribly seductive at times you can see how so many people want to think this way There were certainly enough of them in the Bush administration and in Al Qaeda Samuel Huntington s theories are a crude adaptation of Spengler The echoes of his influence are still being felt This is a massive, massive tome, but I recommend reading at least a bit of it to better understand the method behind the madness. It took me about a year, but I finally finished reading the complete, unabridged version of Oswald Spengler s Decline of the West This is an awe inspiring book that presents an epic yet tragic view of the rise and inevitable fall of the world s great civilizations As the title suggests, its main focus is on the impending decline and fall of Western civilization.Spengler s thesis is that all cultures are born, mature, and then die, just like organisms The early stages of culture are the most creative and dynamic while the later stages what Spengler calls civilization become formalized and mechanical before withering away One of the most controversial aspects of Spengler s book is his claim that once it has descended into its declining stages, there is no future or hope for the rejuvenation of a culture The West, Spengler claims, has reached just this point.One of the most refreshing aspects of this book is Spengler s insistence that we recognize the tremendous achievements of all the world s great civilizations, not just those of Western civilization Spengler rejects the traditional division of history into a three stage ancient medieval modern progression Such a reading of history attempts to forge a false continuity between an assortment of cultures that really share differences than commonalities, according to Spengler Additionally, such a reading overlooks the grand achievements of non Western cultures, like those of the Chinese and the South Americans Spengler is, in essence, a cultural relativist who sees greatness in the inner destiny pursued by all of the world s cultures, and though they all must decline and die, every culture possesses a tragic grandeur that is worthy of admiration.Some of the most engrossing portions of Decline are, to me, the sections in which Spengler articulates his ideas on how space has been interpreted by various civilizations According to Spengler, space is the most fundamental component of reality, and it is out of our experience of space that we build our cultures The great civilizations of the world have all interpreted space in their own unique manner, and this can be seen in the art, architecture and the religions of the Greeks, Egyptians, Middle Easterners, and of course Western Europeans For instance, in the Greek temple we see the enclosure of space in a manner that emphasizes the formal, this worldly, Apollonian nature of Greek culture In the spires of the Gothic Cathedral, on the other hand, we see the aspiration toward infinity that characterizes the Faustian culture of Western Europe, while in the domed mosques of the Muslim world we encounter the world as a cave, which understands the world as an enclosure watched over by God.The most tedious portions of Decline of the West are those in which the author spends pages recounting, listing and comparing detailed events from the history of various civilizations Spengler had an amazing, encyclopedic understanding of the details of world history, but as someone who is not a historian, much of what Spengler purports to illustrate with these accounts was lost on me In these sections, minutiae obscure the message, and I found my attention waning.Decline of the West is, on the whole, an amazing, monumental work It consists of the sort of creative and wild speculation that is discouraged by mainstream scholars but this is what makes it so exciting I admire this book as a kind of imaginative poem that presents Spengler s own grand, beautiful and tragic vision of reality. It s not often you come across a perfectly internally consistent and well argued sociological theory of everything, often dipping into several other academic disciplines from art history over scientific theory to theology, that also happens to offend or less every single currently popular ideology in every single chapter.Though generally categorized as conservative, if Spengler can be called that he s very selectively so The model of cultural and social history presented in The Decline of the West does not fit easily into such a box even it that one happens to be the closest fit The best way to describe Spengler s historiography is that he takes G W F Hegel s idealistic model of history but removes the entire dialectic structure in addition to combining it with a hardline cultural relativism that wouldn t become popular in academia until many decades later one way Spengler foreshadowed post modernism along with his departure from linear progressive historical narratives be they of the liberal Whig or Hegelian Marxist variety To simplify things greatly Spengler s thesis is that everything a culture does both materially and spiritually is shaped by a unifying worldview defined by the physical nature of the geographical area in which it emerges further a culture has a lifespan comparable to the cycle of a year or the life of an organism, starting when it becomes aware of its status as a community based around said worldview and develops a distinctive social structure around it to culminate when both material as well as intellectual work expresses this worldview most efficiently The decline, one that Spengler identifies as having in Western Europe been in process since the Enlightenment, is where a culture becomes a civilization by becoming less and less focused on its founding ideological principles than on purely economic and practical matters he has similar examples from all over the world his argument for Russia being culturally part of Asia rather than Europe is intriguing Such an era can be characterized by increased globalization both political and economic, the declining influence of old aristocracies in favour of ascendant merchant classes and populist ideologies, the arts turning into increasingly crass and exaggerated takes on old archetypes as well as the simultaneous secularization of society and the rise of reactionary extremist religious movements.Here comes the part about how Spengler has something to offend everyone Conservatives can clutch their pearls over his description of every aspect of modernity they dislike as inevitable and irreversible, libertarians can get indignated over his diagnosis of parliamentary democratic states as inherently plutocratic and short lived with authoritarian collectivism being the default state of human society, likewise can socialists get offended over his presentation of a strong hierarchial structure as necessary to run an efficient and stable society.I have to say that I might only have found Spengler s argumentation for his odd worldview so persuasive because my grasp on the social sciences is rather basic at best and downright superficial at worst a reader with an in depth knowledge of economics or sociology might not have been anywhere as impressed as I was, and would probably be able to explain that Spengler has been forgotten by posterity for a reason Still, quite a few of his predictions have in the long time passed since the 1920s come to pass in some sense so there might be a reason that much influential writers of such varied nature from William S Burroughs over Samuel Huntington and Arnold Toynbee to Malcolm X have drawn inspiration from Spengler. Spengler is officially my second favourite mainstream philosopher, after only Nietzsche Spengler, rather like Nietzsche, wrote like a poet and with the profundity of a sage Nearly every single page filled me with intellectual ecstasy There is not a single topic under the sun that Spengler does not offer insight into and synthesize into his overwhelmingly elegant thought system Much like Nietzsche, Spengler is deliberately rejected by academia simply because they are afraid of him People and especially the various species of Liberals do not want to have their presumptions challenged In order to keep Spengler out of mainstream discussion they will deliberately ignore and twist his words to obfuscate him Calling Spengler a mere Prophet of Doom is like calling Nietzsche simply a Nihilist not only are either of those statements superficial, but they fail to even come close to the core of what either of them said or believe Anybody who says either of those things to you should be immediately disqualified from being Intelligent in your mind Spengler is the only philosopher of history who ever mattered, recognizing that other philosophical historians before him like Hegel are themselves only the products of a civilization experiencing a particular turning of the wheel of birth growth death rebirth Spengler is the single most self aware Westerner who ever lived, penetrating deeply than anyone into the core of the unique psychology of Western Man His process of differentiating between Classical and Western Man as well as Western Man and Magian Man Magian Spengler s term for the religious ethos of the Middle East really make you feel, in your very blood and bones, how as a Westerner, you are a unique being with a way of looking at the world that is utterly without precedent and thoroughly exciting.Days after opening this book I could feel the Spenglerian thought system refining my mind, and it is hard not to see the world from a Spenglerian lens after reading it It is best to be able to see the world from as many lenses as possible, but without falling into the delusion that all lenses are equal The Spenglerian lens is a particularly illuminating one Without question the best book I read this summer It will haunt me for a long time and I cannot wait to read it again, which I will do without question Next time I will read the un abridged version HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. The greatest book written in the 20th century Nobody can really call themselves well read if they haven t read this. All genuine historical work is philosophy, unless it is mere ant industry. Gibbon s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is one of my favorite books, not only because it is written so beautifully, but because of the spectacle of decline of a great empire slowly and inevitably crumbling The scene is irresistibly tragic Like a Macbeth or an Oedipus, the Empire succumbs to itself, brought down by its own efforts at self expansion Or perhaps the scene can be better compared to the Fall of Man in Milton s poem, a grand cosmic undoing, followed by the heroic struggle against the inevitable.Besides the sublime tragedy of Rome s decline, it fascinates because it gives us a foreboding of what might happen to us Indeed, maybe it is already This would explain all the banality we see on television every day, all the terrible music on the radio More than decline a loss of political and economic power this is decadence a decay of taste, morals, artistic skill Decadence seems observable in many historical instances the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines they all petered out, losing cultural vitality until they disappeared completely Couldn t the same thing be happening to us Oswald Spengler thought so, and he turned this thought into the basis for an entire philosophy of history He was not a professional historian, nor an academic of any kind He worked as a school teacher until his mother s inheritance allowed him quit his job and to devote all of his time to scholarship This scholarship was mustered to write an enormous book, whose publication was delayed by World War I Probably this was very lucky for Spengler, since the pessimism and anguish caused by that war set the mood for his grand theory of cultural decline The Decline of the West puts forward a radically unconventional view of history Spengler divides up world history, not into countries or epochs, but into Cultures There have been only eight the Egyptian, the Babylonian, the Meso American, the Chinese, the Indian, the Classical Greco Roman , the Arabian includes the Byzantine , and the Western European culture, beginning around the year 1000 Each of these Cultures he conceives as a super organism, with its own birth, middle age, and dotage These Cultures all age at a similar rate, and go through analogical stages in the process Napoleon is the Western equivalent to Alexander the Great, for example Spengler believed that he had delineated these Cultures and traced their basic growth and aging process, thus providing a valid scheme for all future history as well, if any new Culture should arise Spengler is a cultural determinist and a cultural relativist This means that he does not see these Cultures as dependent on the talent of individuals to grow the individual is a product of the Culture and not the reverse He also thinks that each of these Cultures creates its own self contained world of significance, based on its own fundamental ideas There is no such thing as inter cultural influence, he thinks, at least not on any deep level Each of these Cultures conceives the world so differently that they can hardly understand one another, let alone determine one another, even if one Culture can overpower another one in a contest of arms Their art, their mathematics, their architecture, their experience of nature, their whole mental world is grounded in one specific cultural worldview.Because Spengler is a determinist, he does not present us with a Gibbonian spectacle of a civilization succumbing to its own faults, struggling against its own decline For Spengler, everything that happens in history is destiny People don t make history history makes people Thus, while often classed as a political conservative, it is hard to put any political label on Spengler, or to co opt his views for any political purpose, since he didn t think we directed our own history To be a true Spenglerian is to believe that decline is inevitable decadence wasn t anyone s fault, and it can t be averted.Much of this book consists of a contrast between what he calls the Apollonian Greco Roman worldview, and the Faustian Western worldview The Apollonian world picture is based on the idea of definite form and definable shape the nude statue is its most characteristic art, the delineated human body its mathematics is all based on geometry, concrete shapes and visible lines The Faustian picture, by contrast, is possessed by the idea of infinity we make fugues, roving explorations of musical space our mathematics is based on the idea of a function, an operation that can create an endless series of numbers Spengler dwells on this contrast in chapter after chapter, trying to prove his point that Western Culture, far from being a development of Classical Culture, is entirely incompatible with it.His own Culture, the Western, he traces to around the year 1000, at the commencement of the Romanesque How or why new a Culture begins, Spengler doesn t venture to say but once they do begin, they follow the same definite steps It was inevitable, he thinks, that the Romanesque transformed into the Gothic, and then eventually flourished into the Baroque, the high point of our Culture, wherein we expressed our deep longing for the infinite in Bach s fugues and Descartes s mathematics Sometime around the year 1800, the Western Culture entered its late, senescent phase, which Spengler terms Civilization This is the phase that follows cultural growth and flourishing its onset begins when a Culture has exhausted its fundamental idea and explored its inherent forms A Civilization is what remains of Culture when it has spent its creative forcesThe 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 The decline that forms the title of this book is just this transition from Culture to Civilization, wherein major creative work is at an end Civilization is, rather, the age of Caesarism, the consolidation of political power It is the age of world cities, major metropolises filled with cosmopolitan urban intellectuals It is the age of academics rather than geniuses, the Alexandrine Greeks instead of the Golden Age of Athens It is, in other words, the period that corresponds with the onset of the Roman Empire, a period of no substantial innovation, but of magnificent stability The Western Culture, Spengler thought, was entering just this period Whereas those who are actuated by a Culture during its creative period feel themselves driven by inevitable impulses, which allow even mediocre artists to create great works, people within a Civilization are creatures of the intellect, not the instinct and instead of being given creative power and direction by their Culture, they are left to substitute their own subjective tastes and whims for cultural destiny Instead of, for example, having one overriding epoch in our artistic productions such as the Gothic, the Baroque, or what have you we have artistic movements or trends Futurism, Dadaism, Cubism which, far from being necessary phases in a Culture s self expression, are merely intellectual fads with no force behind them.Spengler s theory does have the considerable merit of being testable, because he made very specific predictions about what the immediate future held We had gone through the period of Warring States, he thought, in which country fought country and money ruled everything, and were about to enter a period of Caesarism, wherein people would lose faith in the power of self interested capitalism and follow a charismatic leader This would also be a period of Second Religiousness, a period of faith rather than reason a period of patriotism, zeal, and peaceful capitulation to the status quo Nowadays, one hundred years later, it seems these predictions were certainly false For one, he did not foresee the Second World War, but thought the period of internecine warfare was coming to a close What is , economic power has grown even important far important than political power, in many ways and no Caesar has arisen, despite many contenders including Hitler, during Spengler s lifetime, of whom Spengler didn t think highly.Aside from its breadth, one thing that sets this book apart is its style Spengler is a remarkable writer He can be poetic, describing theflowers at eventide as, one after the other, they close in the setting sun Strange is the feeling that then presses in upon you a feeling of enigmatic fear in the presence of this blind dreamlike earth bound existenceHe can be bitter, biting, and caustic, castigating the blind scholars who couldn t see the obvious, satirizing the pseudo sauve intellectuals who populated the cities of his time He can be lyrical or epigrammatic, and can write ably about art, music, and mathematics His most characteristic mode, however, is the oracular Spengler proclaims, predicts, pronounces His voice, resonating through the written word, booms as if from a mountaintop He sweeps the reader up in his swelling prose, an inundation of erudition, a flood that covers the world and brings us, like Noah in his ark, even higher than mountaintops Perhaps a flood is the most apt metaphor, since Spengler is not only overwhelming in his rhetorical force, but all encompassing in his world view He seems to have thought of everything, considered every subject, drawn his own conclusions about every fact no detail escapes him, no conventionality remains to be overturned by his roving mind The experience can be intoxicating as he draws you into his own perspective, with everything you thought you knew now blurry and swirling.Spengler is so knowledgeable that, at times, he can sound like some higher power declaiming from above But he was a man, after all, and his erudition was limited He was most certainly an expert on music, mathematics, and the arts, and writes with keen insight in each of these subjects But in politics, economics, religion, and especially science, he is less impressive He completely fails to understand Darwin s theory, for example, and he thought that physics was already complete and there would be no great geniuses and this, in one of the greatest epochs of physics He doesn t even mention Einstein Spengler also thought that our scientific theories were culturally determined and culturally bound the Western conception of nature, for example, would have no validity for the Chinese which doesn t seem to stop the Chinese from learning Newton s theories.His grand theory, though undeniably fascinating, is also impossible to accept What is the nature of a Culture Why do they arise, why are they self contained, why do they follow the same life course Why would one single idea determine every single cultural production from mathematics to music, from architecture to physics in a Culture from birth to death All these seem like fundamental questions, and yet they are not satisfactorily addressed nor do I see how they could be.By insisting on the Culture as the unit of history, Spengler seems to be at once too narrow and too broad Too narrow, because he does not allow for the possibility that these Cultures can influence one another while it seems obvious to me that, yes, there was influence from the Classical to the Western, as well as from the Classical to the so called Magian his term for the Arabian Culture , and from the Magian to the Western, and so on And too broad, because within any given Culture there are not only different ages but different areas Is the cultural difference between Spain and England ultimately superficial, but between the Renaissance and Classical Greece unbridgeable Really, the you think about Spengler s claims, the less credible they seem After all, if Spengler were right, how could he, a Western intellectual living in the Civilization phase of Western Culture, delineate the fundamental ideas of other Cultures and produce what he regarded as a major intellectual achievement I am certainly not saying that this book is intellectually valueless By comparison, Walter Pater had this to say about aesthetic theoriesMany attempts have been made by writers on art and poetry to define beauty in the abstract, and express it in the most general terms, to find a universal formula for it The value of these attempts has most often been in the suggestive and penetrating things said by the wayThis seems equally true with regard to Spengler s universal formula for history Although I think his theory is untenable, this book is nevertheless filled to the brim with suggestive and penetrating observations, especially about art, architecture, music, and mathematics Spengler may be a failed prophet, but he was an excellent critic, capable of making the most astonishing comparisons between arts of different eras and epochs Even if we reject Spengler s proposed theory, we may still savor the grand vision required to see all of human history as a whole, to scan one s eye over the past and present of humankind, in all its forms and phases, and to form conjectures as to its destiny And Spengler was undeniably original in his inclusion of Babylonian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, and Meso American Cultures as of equal importance as Western history indeed, it is at least in part to Spengler that we owe our notion of world history Rich in ideas, set forth in ringing prose, invigorating in its novelty, breathtaking in its scope here we have a true classic, yet another example of a book whose enormous originality outweighs every conventional defect we can detect in it. It has to be stated up front that I read TDOTW in its abridged format and while Werner and Helps did as well as they could have under their space restrictions, this book is still a stunted patchwork of Herr Spengler s full form thought I ve been referencing my unabridged PDF copy alongside this handsomely bound patient and at times the surgery has been severe, the amputation close to the joint If you have neither the money nor the time to do Spengler the justice of imbibing the entirety of his intellectual offering, then in such a pinch the abridgement will certainly do but I would recommend searching out the two volumes in order to experience to the full the magisterial effort that the author has made in presenting his complex theory to the public.The literal translation of Der Untergang des Abendlandes could be read as something like The Sunset of the Evening Lands or The Setting of the Twilight Realms, either of which nicely convey the lyrical touch that Spengler has liberally applied to his great work of poetic historical philosophy It s a text rich with erudition across a broad field of disciplines, rife with the dense structural elements of an organic Culture that is born, lives, and dies in a fashion both comparable and comprehensible to the human beings who constitute it It is a work that proceeded from a burgeoning conception of the requirement for a combinatory application of the empirical and the intuitional, of the gaze both within and without, of the extended material with the soul spiritual, the organic with the inorganic, the dead with the living, time with space, magnitude with function, the become with the becoming the unification of a bifurcation if the essential truth that is, the depth of what constitutes History was ever to be understood It is at once both a difficult and a delightful read, wildly overreaching and conceptually sound, profoundly insightful and intelligent and peppered with controversial claims and interpretations It should be read if for no other reason than the stimulation it provides, for it is difficult to imagine that there exists a reader who would not emerge at the end having found himself been given much to reflect upon even those predisposed to flatly disagree or take issue with Spengler s conclusions.Proceeding in a somewhat Hegelian fashion, Spengler posits an interpretation of history that has eluded all others, principally due to their being hampered by the conditions of the Civilization they live within For the author, many years of study and reflection had lead him to the conclusion that History, of necessity linked with the direction and destiny of what we lacking a better word call Time Becoming, Potentiality , has revealed itself within our world through the Higher Cultures Egyptian, Babylonian, Chinese, Indian, Classical Graeco Roman , Magian Arabian , Mexican, and Faustian Modern WesternOf these eight, one the Mexican had been extirpated another the Magian was a pseudomorphical, or stunted Culture and one the Russian, also pseudomorphical at the time of the book s publication had the possibility of achieving High Cultural status of its own Each of these Cultures was organic, with a life cycle of waxing and waning stages comparable to the lives of the human beings who lived within it, stages in which similar periods of flowering or morphologies in the fields of art, politics, religion, mathematics, philosophy, engineering, etc would occur and each of which would irrevocably, once the Culture had fully become and all of its potentialities or possibilities had been actualized wither away, becoming Civilizations, inorganic, mechanical, existent fully in the material world of causality and measurement, effectively dead to the spirituality of History and dominated by the vast, sprawling Megalopolises that had arisen and from which the decline at varying speeds and over varying intervals would occur These processes are inseparably engendered within History, in Destiny, and, whilst realized and carried out by the masses of individual humans whose blood and souls are attuned to that particular Culture, the Culture itself is also an organic unit, necessary within Time as we experience it and only capable of developing and actualizing as it actually does The Culture enables and drives forward its human members these same humans realize the Culture and allow it to blossom, and all the while proceeding from a state of Becoming in active Time to one of Become, dead actualized within the extended, material world It s a system of cyclical history that is inexorable and finite.To make the case for his impressively deep philosophy, Spengler draws upon a wide field of studies and knowledge, displaying a frightful erudition and forcefully, logically, compellingly producing his examples, making his analogies, drawing his conclusions, at all times aware of the reader and leading him through an encompassing vision that Spengler believes must, in the end, prove irrefutable It is written in a poetic and baritone text, serious, beautiful, dense, and sprinkled with a mordant wit, blasts of caustic irony It makes for a mesmerizing read, one that requires a slow and methodic pace if the reader is to absorb the seemingly endless barrage of details but it is a wonderful, a fascinating, a compulsively readable journey It is impossible to convey the breadth of information imparted by the book in the space of a Goodreads review, but several parts in especial stood out for me his proposition of a Faustian mathematics that embraced the infinite through functions and spatial abstractions abandoning purely magnitudinous calculations and an art that sought the same through the usage of brush strokes, atmospheric colors, prolific and contrapuntal instrumentation, soaring architectures and blossoming spaces, that endeavored to capture the sum of a person s and hence a Culture s soul in a maturing era that accepted no limits or boundaries There is also the interpretation of the Faustian God as coterminous with Destiny, with Time, with Becoming in other word s, God as Eternal Potentiality Eternally Realized and its juxtaposition with the Apollinian and Magian godheads that, for me, proved very enlightening and his composition of the Magian world view, its purview of existence as within a vaulted and glittering cavern, and his original outline of the conception and development of both the principal monotheisms and their pre and post birth offshoots, is first rate His chapters, so brilliantly done, on the Soul Image and Life Feeling and Nature Knowledge would, really, be worth the price of the book in and of themselves Further, when he speaks of a Civilizational Stage s Dead Art, an art completely overwhelmed by the critical faculty, in thrall to overriding causality and the promotional whim, the solo genius of the individual untethered from the wings of an onrushing or soaring Cultural Destiny, the reader cannot help but cast glances at such entities as portions of modern literature, philosophy, theory, psychology and psychoanalysis, and the variegated offerings of modern art the manner in which everything has been progressively compartmentalized and broken down and dissected into minute portions, such that the wonder or beauty or inspiration or meaning of the original, of life, of the magical creative power itself, seems to have become lost, replaced by sterile minutiae and plastic posing and semantic games to feel that Spengler might actually have been on to something.Anticipating that the majority of the attacks upon his work would come from the analytic school, at the outset of Decline Spengler cautions that an over reliance upon a materialistic and mechanistic system of causality is what both has blinded modern man to the Historical Destiny unfolding about him and is a principal symptom of the Culture that has Become and, consequentially, is already in a process of decline and decay In such a work there will inevitably be inaccuracies and forced analogies and manipulations of historical fact undertaken by the author, if for no other reason than the sheer size, the audacity of the task he has endeavored to carry out, the timeline depth and the events like grains of sand some were apparent to me as I read along, others I only discovered when I went online, after particularly rousing chapters, to investigate the response to Spengler s postulations But really, this far removed from the period of its publication and with all the societal and cultural changes that have occurred, readers will almost surely have preconceived positions going into the tome, and it is unlikely not impossible, but unlikely that they will emerge at the end swayed in their opinion Spengler is not just concocting a historical analysis here he is engaging in philosophy, in establishing an ontology, dancing with metaphysics, in an effort to mentally place the reader into a position where the chain of events and interpretations that follow will seem of a plausibility that would elevate them to veracity If the reader does not fully embrace Spengler s depiction of being, of the unprovable claim of an organic Destiny that, functioning as History s will, moves these cultures into the birth canal and ensures their fulfillment, then the entire affair cannot, in the end, hold together.For myself, I am not in accord with Spengler s philosophy I cannot accept the removal of contingency, the all bases covered necessity involved in accepting such a High Cultural position it both denies individuals the fullness of the genius they summoned to achieve the heights in their field that they did, and excuses the excesses and savageries committed by those who gave free reign to the baser or sanguinary side of their personalties by stating that the Culture ensured that there were humans available to undertake the actions that needed to be taken, that what was required to be done would be done, by hook or by crook, provides too much cover for the deplorable and not credit sufficient for the glorious It could be used to accept injustice or repression or brutality as simply being in and of the Culture under which it occurred Responsibility and freedom are vital in my conception of humanity Further, it is an inherently untenable philosophy by his own standards since he admits that every thinker is inescapably bound by the purview and mindset of his own particular Culture in Time, his own World Image and World Feeling, then it beggars any standard of truth outside of the Faustian flavor that his limit seeking and testing analysis and perception of the past Cultures, of utterly foreign construction and timber, could be so patently slotted and fitted into a particular cyclical system that coincides with an interpretation aligned to his own Teutonic spirit For notwithstanding Spengler s assertion that History cannot be measured upon the scales of truth, but rather by its depth, the impressiveness of the latter in the German s conception has actually been achieved, the layers built one upon another through this same Faustian perception, one whose profundity may be exaggerated to readers of the same Cultural milieu With all of that said, the manner in which he interlocks the events and attitudes of Cultural eras across time is quite impressive and powerful, and the fact that in several of his conclusions and predictions especially in the realms of religion, technics and politics he proved chillingly prescient and accurate is but proof of the remarkable sagacity and judgement that filled his historical insight.Yet he dismisses too readily within his destinal organicity the effects of evolutionary change, of genetic adaptability, of the capacity for the human mind, a sensory input machine beyond our full ken, to process data and adjust the brain s functional abilities over time even of the manner in which complex societies interact and change, the organizational rules under which they operate, combine and separate, overcome problems and challenges that arise Of course, this can all be laid upon an overriding Culture whose incorporeal hand is aligning with humanity along Destiny s pathways, wherein there is no stochasticity or circumstance but only purpose and fulfillment but again that is entering into metaphysics and requires belief or faith to be accepted, neither of which I find myself in possession of To keep things in perspective, I am not saying that Spengler is wrong just that I, one small unit of the Faustian Civilization, don t hold with his grand theory and in the face of the massive and deep learnedness that I am making this declaration, I may not unreasonably be likened to a zoo kept monkey instinctively and ignorantly flinging poop.The conclusion This is a work of unmitigated brilliance, and if I remained unpersuaded by the entirety of Spengler s thought, I was blown away by its magnificence and given much to ponder and consider about the interrelations and possibilities of the analogies he made and the conclusions he reached He has stirred the cup of my mind in a vigorous manner than most of the books I have read in the past year or two Conceived prior to the Great War, completed during its brutal undertaking, published just anterior to its cessation of hostilities, it is a work of Teutonic passion and mordant pessimism, a great celebration of the organic spirit and being, a somber meditation upon the material world, a deep penetration through the constituent tissues of known human cultures and societies, a crushing outline of the money democracy triumph through enslavement and the looming specter of a blood soaked Caesar, an ontological imprinting of Time, an Anti Faustian Faustian tract birthed during the civilizational stage of the latter by a man seemingly forgetful of his own proclamation that his Culture had become and that he was penning not a tract driven by Destiny, but by the pervasive rational cause and effect whose suzerainty he mistrusted that his philosophical thought ran a curious gamut of the infinite and the cyclical, evinced traits of the Magian mindset at work within the Faustian, a curious recession from infinite space to enshrouded cavern, that might help to account for the original and unique interpretation he brought to bear upon the events he recorded the aethereal agonies of the star slung and the earthy proskynesis of the entombed, peering into the depths of his conceptional cultures from such a towering, weightless height, such a cramped, crushed, gravitational embrace, that the vision swept ofttimes blurred or shimmered out of focus and required a series of longing, heart and soul driven looks backward, away from the melting horizon, before their image sharpened itself through his complex arrangment of Platonic, Hegelian, Nietzschean, and oversized Goethean lenses set in their durable Spenglerian frames It is a stunning work of art, a paean to the brilliance of man and his eternal quest to summon answers out of this question bound cosmos triumphs, profundities, mars and blemishes all.