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Old November 30th, 2011 #1
RickHolland
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Default "Optimism is Cowardice" - Oswald Spengler

Oswald Spengler: Criticism and Tribute

by Revilo P. Oliver (about the author)

Conceived before the First World War is Oswald Spengler's magisterial work, Der Untergang des Abendlandes (Munich, 1918). Read in this country chiefly in the brilliantly faithful translation by Charles Francis Atkinson, The Decline of the West (New York, two volumes, 1926-28), Spengler's morphology of history was the great intellectual achievement of our century. Whatever our opinion of his methods or conclusions, we cannot deny that he was the Copernicus of historionomy. All subsequent writings on the philosophy of history may fairly be described as criticism of the Decline of the West.

Spengler, having formulated a universal history, undertook an analysis of the forces operating in the immediately contemporary world. This he set forth in a masterly work, Die Jahre der Entscheidung, of which only the first volume could be published in Germany (Munich, 1933) and translated into English (The Hour of Decision, New York, 1934). One had only to read this brilliant work, with its lucid analysis of forces that even acute observers did not perceive until 25 or 30 years later, and with its prevision that subsequent events have now shown to have been absolutely correct, to recognize that its author was one of the great political and philosophical minds of the West. One should remember, however, that the amazing accuracy of his analysis of the contemporary situation does not necessarily prove the validity of his historical morphology.

The publication of Spengler's first volume in 1918 released a spate of controversy that continues to the present day. Manfred Schroeter in Der Streit um Spengler (Munich, 1922) was able to give a précis of the critiques that had appeared in a little more than three years; today, a mere bibliography, if reasonably complete, would take years to compile and would probably run to eight hundred or a thousand printed pages.

Spengler naturally stirred up swarms of nit-wits, who were particularly incensed by his immoral and preposterous suggestion that there could be another war in Europe, when everybody knew that there just couldn't be anything but World Peace after 1918, 'cause Santa had just brought a nice, new, shiny "League of Nations." Such "liberal" chatterboxes are always making a noise, but no one with the slightest knowledge of human history pays any attention to them, except as symptoms.

Unfortunately, much more intelligent criticism of Spengler was motivated by emotional dissatisfaction with his conclusions. In an article in Antiquity for 1927, the learned R.S. Collingwood of Oxford went so far as to claim that Spengler's two volumes had not given him "a single genuinely new idea," and that he had "long ago carried out for himself" -- and, of course, rejected -- even Spengler's detailed analyses of individual cultures. As a cursory glance at Spengler's work will suffice to show, that assertion is less plausible than a claim to know everything contained in the Twelfth Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Collingwood, the author of the Speculum Mentis and other philosophical works, must have been bedeviled with emotional resentments so strong that he could not see how conceited, arrogant and improbable his vaunt would seem to most readers.

It is now a truism that Spengler's "pessimism" and "fatalism" was an unbearable shock to minds nurtured in the Nineteenth-century illusion that everything would get better and better forever and ever. Spengler's cyclic interpretation of history stated that a civilization was an organism having a definite and fixed life-span and moving from infancy to senescence and death by an internal necessity comparable to the biological necessity that decrees the development of the human organism from infantile imbecility to senile decrepitude. Napoleon, for example, was the counterpart of Alexander in the ancient world.

We were now, therefore, in a phase of civilizational life in which constitutional forms are supplanted by the prestige of individuals. By 2000, we shall be "contemporary" with the Rome of Sulla, the Egypt of the Eighteenth Dynasty, and China at the time when the "Contending States" were welded into an empire. That means that we face an age of world wars and what is worse, civil wars and proscriptions, and that around 2060 the West (if not destroyed by its alien enemies) will be united under the personal rule of a Caesar or Augustus. That is not a pleasant prospect.
Greatness or Optimism

The only question before us, however, is whether Spengler is correct in his analysis. Rational men will regard as irrelevant the fact that his conclusions are not charming. If a physician informs you that you have symptoms of arteriosclerosis, he may or may not be right in his diagnosis, but it is absolutely certain that you cannot rejuvenate yourself by slapping his face.

Every detached observer of our times, I think, will agree that Spengler's "pessimism" aroused emotions that precluded rational consideration. I am inclined to believe that the moral level of his thinking was a greater obstacle. His "fatalism" was not the comforting kind that permits men to throw up their hands and eschew responsibilities. Consider, for example, the concluding lines of his Men and Technics (New York, 1932):

Already the danger is so great, for every individual, every class, every people, that to cherish any illusion whatever is deplorable. Time does not suffer itself to be halted; there is no question of prudent retreat or wise renunciation. Only dreamers believe that there is a way out. Optimism is cowardice.

We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.

Now, whether or not the stern prognostication that lies back of that conclusion is correct, no man fit to live in the present can read those lines without feeling his heart lifted by the great ethos of a noble culture -- the spiritual strength of the West that can know tragedy and be unafraid. And simultaneously, that pronouncement will affright to hysteria the epicene homunculi among us, the puling cowards who hope only to scuttle about safely in the darkness and to batten on the decay of a culture infinitely beyond their comprehension.

That contrast is in itself a very significant datum for an estimate of the present condition of our civilization...

Three Points of Criticism

Criticism of Spengler, therefore, if it is not to seem mere quibbling about details, must deal with major premises. Now, so far as I can see, Spengler's thesis can be challenged at three really fundamental points, namely:

(1) Spengler regards each civilization as a closed and isolated entity animated by a dominant idea, or Weltanschauung, that is its "soul." Why should ideas, or concepts, the impalpable creations of the human mind, undergo an organic evolution as though they were living protoplasm, which, as a material substance, is understandably subject to chemical change and hence biological laws? This logical objection is not conclusive: Men may observe the tides, for example, and even predict them, without being able to explain what causes them. But when we must deduce historical laws from the four of five civilizations of which we have some fairly accurate knowledge, we do not have enough repetitions of a phenomenon to calculate its periodicity with assurance, if we do not know why it happens.

(2) A far graver difficulty arises from the historical fact that we have already mentioned. For five centuries, at least, the men of the West regarded modern civilization as a revival or prolongation of Graeco-Roman antiquity. Spengler, as the very basis of his hypothesis, regards the Classical world as a civilization distinct from, and alien to, our own -- a civilization that, like the Egyptian, lived, died, and is now gone. It was dominated by an entirely different Weltanschauung, and consequently the educated men of Europe and America, who for five centuries believed in continuity, were merely suffering from an illusion or hallucination.

Even if we grant that, however, we are still confronted by a unique historical phenomenon. The Egyptian, Babylonian, Chinese, Hindu, and Arabian ("Magian"), civilizations are all regarded by Spengler (and other proponents of an organic structure of culture) as single and unrelated organisms: Each came into being without deriving its concepts from another civilization (or, alternatively, seeing its own concepts in the records of an earlier civilization), and each died leaving no offspring (or, alternatively, no subsequent civilization thought to see in them its own concepts). There is simply no parallel or precedent for the relationship (real or imaginary) which links Graeco-Roman culture to our own.

Since Spengler wrote, a great historical discovery has further complicated the question. We now know that the Mycenaean peoples were Greeks, and it is virtually certain that the essentials of their culture survived the disintegration caused by the Dorian invasion, and were the basis of later Greek culture. (For a good summary, see Leonard R. Palmer, Mycenaeans and Minoans, London, 1961). We therefore have a sequence that is, so far as we know, unique:

Mycenaean ' Dark Ages ' Graeco-Roman ' Dark Ages ' Modern. If this is one civilization, it has had a creative life-span far longer than that of any other that has thus far appeared in the world. If it is more than one, the interrelations form an exception to Spengler's general law, and suggest the possibility that a civilization, if it dies by some kind of quasi-biological process, may in some cases have a quasi-biological power of reproduction.

The exception becomes even more remarkable if we, unlike Spengler, regard as fundamentally important the concept of self-government, which may have been present even in Mycenaean times (see L. R. Palmer, Mycenaeans and Minoans, cited above, p. 97). Democracies and constitutional republics are found only in the Graeco-Roman world and our own; such institutions seem to have been incomprehensible to other cultures.

(3) For all practical purposes, Spengler ignores hereditary and racial differences. He even uses the word "race" to represent a qualitative difference between members of what we should call the same race, and he denies that that difference is to any significant extent caused by heredity. He regards biological races as plastic and mutable, even in their physical characteristics, under the influence of geographical factors (including the soil, which is said to affect the physical organism through food) and of what Spengler terms "a mysterious cosmic force" that has nothing to do with biology. The only real unity is cultural, that is, the fundamental ideas and beliefs shared by the peoples who form a civilization. Thus Spengler, who makes those ideas subject to quasi-biological growth and decay, oddly rejects as insignificant the findings of biological science concerning living organisms.

It is true, of course, that man is in part a spiritual being. Of that, persons who have a religious faith need no assurance. Others, unless they are determined blindly to deny the evidence before us, must admit the existence of phenomena of the kind described by Franz E. Winkler, M.D., in Man the Bridge Between Two Worlds (New York, Harper, 1960), and, of course, by many other writers. And every historian knows that no one of the higher cultures could conceivably have come into being, if human beings are merely animals.

But it is also true that the science of genetics, founded by Father Mendel only a century ago and almost totally neglected down to the early years of the Twentieth Century, has ascertained biological laws that can be denied only by denying the reality of the physical world. Every educated person knows that the color of a man's eyes, the shape of the lobes of his ears, and every one of his other physiological characteristics is determined by hereditary factors. It is virtually certain that intellectual capacity is likewise produced by inheritance, and there is a fair amount of evidence that indicated that even moral capacities are likewise innate.

Man's power of intervention in the development of inherited qualities appears to be entirely negative, thus affording another melancholy proof that human ingenuity can easily destroy what it can never create. Any fool with a knife can in three minutes make the most beautiful woman forever hideous, and one of our "mental health experts," even without using a knife, can as quickly and permanently destroy the finest intellect. And it appears that less drastic interventions, through education and other control of environment, may temporarily or even permanently pervert and deform, but are powerless to create capacities that an individual did not inherit from near or more remote ancestors.

The facts are beyond question, although the Secret Police in Soviet Russia and "liberal" spitting-squads in the United States have largely succeeded in keeping these facts from the general public in the areas they control. But no amount of terrorism can alter the laws of nature. For a readable exposition of genetics, see Garrett Hardin's Nature and Man's Fate (New York, Rinehart, 1959), which is subject only to the reservation that the laws of genetics, like the laws of chemistry, are verified by observation every day, whereas the doctrine of biological evolution is necessarily an hypothesis that cannot be verified by experiment.

The Race Factor

It is also beyond question that the races of mankind differ greatly in physical appearance, in susceptibility to specific diseases, and in average intellectual capacity. There are indications that they differ also in nervous organization, and possibly, in moral instincts. It would be a miracle if that were not so, for, as is well known, the three primary races were distinct and separate at the time that intelligent men first appeared on this planet, and have so remained ever since. The differences are so pronounced and stable that the proponents of biological evolution are finding it more and more necessary to postulate that the differences go back to species that preceded the appearance of the homo sapiens. (See the new and revised edition of Dr. Carleton S. Coon's The Story of Man, New York, Knopf, 1962).

That such differences exist is doubtless deplorable. It is certainly deplorable that all men must die, and there are persons who think it deplorable that there are differences, both anatomical and spiritual between men and women. However, no amount of concerted lying by "liberals," and no amount of decreeing by the Warren [Supreme Court] Gang, will in the least change the laws of nature.

Now there is a great deal that we do not know about genetics, both individual and racial, and these uncertainties permit widely differing estimates of the relative importance of biologically determined factors and cultural concepts in the development of a civilization. Our only point here is that it is highly improbable that biological factors have no influence at all on the origin and course of civilizations. And to the extent that they do have an influence, Spengler's theory is defective and probably misleading.

Profound Insights

One could add a few minor points to the three objections stated above, but these will suffice to show that the Spenglerian historionomy cannot be accepted as a certainty. It is, however, a great philosophical formulation that poses questions of the utmost importance and deepens our perception of historical causality. No student of history needed Spengler to tell him that a decline of religious faith necessarily weakens the moral bonds that make civilized society possible. But Spengler's showing that such a decline seems to have occurred at a definite point in the development of a number of fundamentally different civilizations with, of course, radically different religions provides us with data that we must take into account when we try to ascertain the true causes of the decline. And his further observation that the decline was eventually followed by a sweeping revival of religious belief is equally significant.

However wrong he may have been about some things, Spengler has given us profound insights into the nature of our own culture. But for him, we might have gone on believing that our great technology was merely a matter of economics -- of trying to make more things more cheaply. But he has shown us, I think, that our technology has a deeper significance -- that for us, the men of Western civilization, it answers a certain spiritual need inherent in us, and that we derive from its triumphs as satisfaction analogous to that which is derived from great music or great art.

And Spengler, above all, has forced us to inquire into the nature of civilization and to ask ourselves by what means -- if any -- we can repair and preserve the long and narrow dikes that alone protect us from the vast and turbulent ocean of eternal barbarism. For that, we must always honor him.

http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v17/v17n2p10_Oliver.html



Francis Parker Yockey claimed Spengler was a pivotal influence on him and wrote Imperium as a sequel to The Decline of the West. Yockey called Spengler “The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century.”

* James Blish’s Cities in Flight tetralogy explicitly lists Spengler’s theories as an influence on the future history of the Cities.

* It was sometimes believed Spengler was an intellectual influence on Charles Lindbergh’s thinking as the controversial leader of the movement to keep America out of World War II, particularly on Lindbergh’s view that Western nations should put aside their political differences and form an alliance against “foreign races” instead of fighting amongst themselves. Lindbergh also echoed Spengler’s concern about the effects of industrialization and materialism on Western Civilization, and as well as Spengler’s pessimism about the future.

* The late paleoconservative political theorist Samuel T. Francis cited Spengler’s views on race as influential on his own.

* American authors influenced by Spengler include Henry Miller, John dos Passos, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, who once referred to himself as an “American Spenglerian.” British novelist Malcolm Lowry, painter Oskar Kokoschka, orchestra director Wilhelm Furtwängler, and filmmaker Fritz Lang were also fans of Spengler’s work.

* The Hour of Decision influenced Malcolm X’s views on economics and his critiques of capitalism. Malcolm X agreed with Spengler’s prediction that class conflict would eventually be surpassed by racial conflict. When asked about Karl Marx, Malcolm X (who had never read Marx) stated that he agreed with Spengler’s view of social class and economic systems as secondary to racial identity.

http://extremetalk.net/racial-confli...m-is-cowardice

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Old November 30th, 2011 #2
P.E.
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The Spengler "Decline of the West" moment was very interesting for a few reasons.

The main, most striking one, is that it had wild enthusiasm from people of many classes in the west; in Europe, England, to a lesser degree probably in the U.S., people of the upper classes, middle classes, military personnel, this book was read and spoke about; but even now if you look on even the wikipedia page, there were Jews at the time marginalizing it, saying "big deal, nothing special", etc...

EDIT: I just looked at the wikipedia page and it's changed since last time I looked. There used to be a section called "Reception" which showed quotes with sources of the praise and criticism of the book, and much of the criticism was coming from Jews that were in academic positions or media positions in the early 20th century.

I doubt its popular praise was organic though. It had to be helped by some print media that was still influenced by non-anti-western hands. It's very much the same case of people like Ludovici, who was widely read and did well in England as a writer, but became an utterly obscure wallflower after WWII, hardly retaining his previous readership, and certainly not garnering any new mainstream followers.

So, today for example, if something like this came out, it'd be nipped in the bud by someone like Chomsky who would do his standard line of saying this is nonsense, it doesn't compute, it's not logical, blah blah.

And people would then regurgitate that. It's a very evil trick when those academic Jew types try to rally (in the minds of their masses, the readers) the idea that they have 'truth' on their side, reason, logic, etc. One really only has to say such things when they are on such perceived perches like that, and any argument - regardless of how 'bad' it actually is for a people - is taken as something to be upheld.

Chomsky fans are turd burglars par excellence; every time I hear one, it is truly a bumbling parrot, and I can only wonder how hard that old toad laughs at his minions who would not hesitate to write their thesis on how masterfully Chomsky wipes his ass.

Last edited by P.E.; November 30th, 2011 at 03:05 PM.
 
Old March 11th, 2014 #3
RickHolland
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Default Aphorisms: From the Writings of Oswald Spengler

“The press today is an army with carefully organized weapons, the journalists its officers, the readers its soldiers. But, as in every army, the soldier obeys blindly, and the war aims and operating plans change without his knowledge. The reader neither knows nor is supposed to know the purposes for which he is used and the role he is to play. There is no more appalling caricature of freedom of thought. Formerly no one was allowed to think freely; now it is permitted, but no one is capable of it any more. Now people want to think only what they are supposed to want to think, and this they consider freedom.”


“To-day we live so cowed under the bombardment of this intellectual artillery(the media) that hardly anyone can attain to the inward detachment that is required for a clear view of the monstrous drama. The will-to-power operating under a pure democratic disguise has finished off its masterpiece so well that the object's sense of freedom is actually flattered by the most thorough-going enslavement that has ever existed”


“We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that can not be taken from a man.”


“This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us . . . to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves, to act in such a way that some part of us lives on. This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us . . . to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves, to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.”


“Socialism is nothing but the capitalism of the lower classes.”


“Every Socialist outbreak only blazes new paths for Capitalism.”


“Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has destroyed intellect.”


“There is no proletarian, not even a Communist movement, that has not operated in the interests of money, and for the time being permitted by money - and that without the idealists among its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.”


“Christian theology is the grandmother of Bolshevism.”


“The question of whether world peace will ever be possible can only be answered by someone familiar with world history. To be familiar with world history means, however, to know human beings as they have been and always will be. There is a vast difference, which most people will never comprehend, between viewing future history as it will be and viewing it as one might like it to be. Peace is a desire, war is a fact; and history has never paid heed to human desires and ideals ...”


“Man makes history; woman is history. The reproduction of the species is feminine: it runs steadily and quietly through all species, animal or human, through all short-lived cultures. It is primary, unchanging, everlasting, maternal, plantlike, and cultureless. If we look back we find that it is synonymous with life itself.”


“For the Age has itself become vulgar, and most people have no idea to what extent they are themselves tainted. The bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to connive at a rather shady business transaction if it promises to bring in money without work, jazz and Negro dances as the spiritual outlet in all circles of society, women painted like prostitutes, the efforts of writers to win popularity by ridiculing in their novels and plays the correctness of well-bred people, and the bad taste shown even by the nobility and old princely families in throwing off every kind of social restraint and time-honoured custom: all of these go to prove that it is now the vulgar mob that gives the tone.”


“The common man wants nothing of life but health, longevity, amusement, comfort -- "happiness." He who does not despise this should turn his eyes from world history, for it contains nothing of the sort. The best that history has created is great suffering.”


“Talk of world peace is heard today only among the white peoples, and not among the much more numerous coloured races. This is a perilous state of affairs. When individual thinkers and idealists talk of peace, as they have done since time immemorial, the effect is negligible. But when whole peoples become pacifistic it is a symptom of senility. Strong and unspent races are not pacifistic. To adopt such a position is to abandon the future, for the pacifist ideal is a terminal condition that is contrary to the basic facts of existence. As long as man continues to evolve, there will be wars...”


"Pacifism means letting the non-pacifists have control ... Pacifism will remain an ideal, war a fact. If the white races are resolved never to wage war again, the colored will act differently and become rulers of the world."


“When three liberals get together they form a new party; that is their idea of individualism. They never join a bowling club without introducing as part of the 'agenda' an 'amendment of the statutes.”


“When the Englishman speaks of national wealth he means the number of millionaires in the country.”


“World-history is the history of the great Cultures, and peoples are but the symbolic forms and vessels in which the men of these Cultures fulfil their Destinies.”


“One cannot learn how to be creative by reading Marx. Either one is creative or one is not.”


“Suddenly all those individuals who yesterday felt that "we" meant only their families, their professions, or perhaps their communities, become men of the nation. Their emotions and thoughts, their egos, that "something" within them, all are transformed: they have become historical.”


“I maintain that today many an inventor, many a diplomat, many a financier is a sounder philosopher than all those who practice the dull craft of experimental psychology.”


“If few can stand a long war without deterioration of soul, none can stand a long peace.”


"The wealth of birth in primitive populations is a natural phenomenon, the very existence of which no one thinks about, let alone its advantages or disadvantages. Where reasons for questioning the existence of life enter the human consciousness, life itself has already become questionable."


"Animals and primitive men are neither perverse nor licentious. Their Eros is in rhythmic harmony with the universe... Only civilization has made a problem of erotism, converted it into unrestrained greed."


"In history it is not idealism, goodness or morality that reign -- their kingdom is not of this world -- but rather resolve, energy, presence of mind, and practical ability. One cannot erase this fact with laments and moral judgments. That is the way man is; that is the way life is; that is way history is."



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Last edited by RickHolland; March 11th, 2014 at 02:32 PM.
 
Old March 26th, 2015 #4
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Don't you get replies like "Why so negative?" or "You are a very negative person".

It is less painful to live in an illusion than acknowledge their racial death.

They are the White cowards pretending to live in a rosy world.
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Only force rules. Force is the first law - Adolf H. http://erectuswalksamongst.us/ http://tinyurl.com/cglnpdj Man has become great through struggle - Adolf H. http://tinyurl.com/mo92r4z Strength lies not in defense but in attack - Adolf H.

Last edited by RickHolland; March 26th, 2015 at 05:10 PM.
 
Old March 26th, 2015 #5
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Quote:
It is less painful to live in an illusion than acknowledge their racial death.
This should be in the Hall of Fame of VNN member quotes.
Sorry Rick...I have to spread more rep.
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