As we embark on the lengthy process of declaring that Western Civilization went down a bad path and crashed, and realize that we must reboot it from the ashes, the question arises as to what the core of Western Civilization is.
Some, like Richard Spencer, identify this as “conquest,” or an extension of the Nietzschean duality of sensitivity and aggression. That makes sense. Others claim is the church, individuality, liberty or some other proxy for the good. Spencer is closer than those.
Around here, we refer to the core of the West as reflection, or the ability to mirror the outsider world in our inner selves, and to contemplate it with the transcendental purpose of understanding its ways and order so that we can adapt to them, and then improve our lot “qualitatively” by improving quality, goodness and accuracy in our thinking.
Another factor might be a transcendental frequently mentioned and commonly misunderstood, beauty. This means that life is made not on a utilitarian level, but to celebrate and enhance the goodness of life in everyday experience. These are things which lift us up and make us appreciate life in a renewed sensation that it might be holy or at least incomparable.
Roger Scruton writes in Country And Townhouse about the necessity of transcendental beauty:
Aged 14, quite by accident, I discovered the soul of Mozart. It was soon obvious to me that Mozart’s music contained a kind of knowledge that could never be obtained from a psychology textbook or even from a prayer book or sacred text. I made this knowledge my own – even though I could not tell you what it is, but only play it to you on the piano. But this knowledge guides me through life. Were the ability to respond to Mozart to be forgotten, I know that the world would be a much poorer place. We would have lost one avenue to the ‘knowledge of ends’. Those that have this knowledge will do whatever they can to perpetuate it. They will teach it to their children; they will put pressure on schools and universities to do the same. They will do this not for their own good but for the common good, knowing that something necessary to human life is at stake.
…As long as places and times exist where this can be done there is hope in the world. Wordsworth wrote that ‘getting and spending, we lay waste our powers’. But when we stand back from the mill of consumption and look on the turbulent waters with the eye of an artist, we are rested in our hearts and our powers are restored. People who do this are the friends of order in a world of entropy, for they see, in the depths of the swirling pool, the still point where meaning lies. They cannot describe what they see, and that is why the highest forms of art exist – not to describe the meaning, but to reveal it, as the loveliness of the world was revealed on that first imagined Sabbath.
The core of the West is found in this reflective outlook: to see the beauty of the world, to bring it to an apex of quality, and then to let it infuse us and guide us in all of our tasks, both exceptional and mundane.