(excerpts taken from Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West – translation by Charles Francis Atkinson, 1932)
THE PROBLEM OF “CIVILIZATION”
Looked at in this way, the “Decline of the West” comprises nothing less than the problem of Civilization. We have before us one of the fundamental questions of all higher history. What is civilization, understood as the organico-logical sequel, fulfilment and finale of a culture?
For every Culture has its own Civilization. In this work, for the first time the two words, hitherto used to express in an indefinite, more or less ethical, distinction, are used in a periodic sense, to express a strict and necessary organic succession. The Civilization is the inevitable destiny of the Culture, and in this principle we obtain the viewpoint from which the deepest and gravest problems of historical morphology become capable of solution. Civilizations are the most external and artificial states of which a species of developed humanity is capable. They are a conclusion, the thing-become succeeding the thing- becoming, death following life, rigidity following expansion, intellectual age and the stone-built, petrifying world-city following mother-earth and the spiritual childhood of Doric and Gothic. They are an end, irrevocable, yet by inward necessity reached again and again.
So, for the first time, we are enabled to understand the Romans as the successors of the Greeks, and light is projected into the deepest secrets of the late-Classical period. What, but this, can be the meaning of the fact–which can only be disputed by vain phrases–that the Romans were barbarians who did not precede but closed a great development? Unspiritual, unphilosophical, devoid of art, clannish to the point of brutality, aiming relentlessly at tangible successes, they stand between the Hellenic Culture and nothingness. An imagination directed purely to practical objects was something which is not found at all in Athens. In a word, Greek soul–Roman intellect; and this antithesis is the differentia betwene Culture and Civilization. Nor is it only to the Classical it applies. Again and again there appears this type of strong-minded, completely non-metaphysical man, and in the hands of this type lies the intellectual and material destiny of each and every “late” period. Pure Civilization, as a historical process, consists in a progressive exhaustion of forms that have become inorganic or dead.
The transition from Culture to Civilization was acocmplished for the Classical world in the fourth, for the Western in the nineteenth century. Form these periods onward the great intellectual decisions take place, no longer all over the world where not a hamlet is too small to be unimportant, but in three or four world-cities that have absorbed into themselves the whole content of History, while the old wide landscape of the Culture, become merely provincial, served only to feed the cities with what remains of its higher mankind. World-city and province–the two basic ideas of every civilization–bring up a wholly new form-problem of History, the very problem that we are living through today with hardly the remotest conception of its immensity. In place of a world, there is a city, a point, in which the whole life of broad regions is collecting while the rest dries up. In place of a type-true people, born of and grown on the soil, there is new sort of nomad, cohering unstably in fluid masses, the parasitical city dweller, traditionless, utterly matter-of-fact, religionless, clever, unfruitful, deeply contemptuous of the countryman and especially that highest form of countryman, the country gentleman. This is a very great stride towards the inorganic, towards the end–what does it signify?
The world-city means cosmopolitanism in place of “home” . . . To the world-city belongs not a folk but a mob. Its uncomprehending hostility to all the traditions representative of the culture (nobility, church, privileges, dynasties, convention in art and limits of knowledge in science), the keen and cold intelligence that confounds the wisdom of the peasant, the new- fashioned naturalism that in relation to all matters of sex and society goes back far to quite primitive instincts and conditions, the reappearance of the panem et circenses in the form of wage-disputes and sports stadia–all these things betoken the definite closing down of the Culture and the opening of a quite new phase of human existence–anti-provincial, late, futureless, but quite inevitable.
This is what has to be viewed, and not with the eyes of the partisan, the ideologue, the up-to-date moralist, not from this or that “standpoint,” but in a high, time-free perspective embracing whole millennia of historical world-forms, if we are really to comprehend the great crisis of the present.
For it will become manifest that, from this moment on, all great conflicts of world-outlook, of politics, of art, of science, of feeling, will be under the influence of the same contrary factor. What is the hallmark of a politic of Civilization today, in contrast to a politic of Culture yesterday? It is, for the Classical rhetoric, and for the Western journalism, both serving that abstract which represents the power of Civilization — money. It is the money-spirit which penetrates unremarked the historical forms of the people’s existence, often without destroying or even in the least disturbing these forms.
It is possible to understand the Greeks without mentioning their economic relations; the Romans, on the other hand, can only be understood thorugh these.
Considered in iteself, the Roman world-dominion was a negative phenomenon, being the result not of a surplus of energy on the one side–that the Romans had never had since Zama–but of a defciency of resistance on the other…
Here then, I lay it down that Imperialism, of which petrifacts such as the Egyptian empire, the Roman, the Chinese, the Indian, may continue to exist for hundreds or thousands of years … is to be taken as the typical symbol of the end. Imperialism is Civilization unadulterated. In this phenomenal form the destiny of the West is now irrevocably set. The energy of culture-man is directed inwards, that of civilizaton — man outwards….
Alexander and Napoleon were romantics; though they stood on the threshold of Civilization and in its cold clear air, the one fancied himself an Achilles and the other read Werther. …
Let it be realized, then: That the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, hitherto looked on as the highest point of an ascending straight line of world-history are in reality a stage of life which may be observed in every Culture that has ripened to its limit–a stage of life characterized not by Socialists, Impressionists, electric railways, torpedoes and differential equations (for these are only body-consituents of the time), but by a civilized spirituality which possesses not only these but also quite other creative possibilities. That, as our town time represents a transitional phase which occurs with certainty under particular conditions, there are perfectly well-defined states (such as have occurred more than once in the history of the past) later than the present-day state of West Europe, and therefore that the future of the West is not a limitless tending upwards and onwards for all time towards our present ideals, but a single phenomenon of history, strictly limited and defined as to form and duration, which covers a few centuries and can be viewed and, in essentials, calculated from available precedents.
ARCHITECTURE AND DIVINITIES
Henceforth we shall designate the soul of the Classical Culture, which chose the sensuosly present individual body as the ideal type of the extended, by the name (familiarized by Nietzsche) of the Apollinian. In opposition to it we have the Faustian soul, whose prime symbol is pure and limitless space, and whose “body” is the Western Culture that blossomed forth with the birth of the Romanesque style in the Tenth century on the Northern plain between the Elbe and the Tagus.
“Space” — speaking now in the Faustian idiom — is a spiritual something, rigidly distinct form the momentary sense-present, which could not be represented in an Apollinian language whether Greek or Latin. The Classical… A landscape of Claude Lorrain, on the contrary, is nothing but space, every detail being made to subserve its illustration. All bodies in it possess an atmospheric and perspective meaning purely as carriers of light and shade. The extreme of this disembodiment of the world in the service of space is Impressionism.
IMITATION AND ORNAMENT
All art is expression-language. This expression is either ornament or imitation. Both are higher possibilities…
A.Earlier and more characteristic of race
B.Born of the secret rhythm of all this cosmic
C.Every live religion is an effort of the waking soul to reach the powers of the world-around. And so too is imitation which in its most devoted moments is wholly religious
1.Consists in an identity of inner activity between the soul and body “here” and the world around “there” which, … become one.
D.Let ourselves go in common song or parade-march or dance
1.creates out of many units one unit of feeling and expression, a “we”
E.All imitation is in the broadest sense dramatic;
1.drama in movements of brush stroke or chisel
2.melodic curse of song
3.tone of recitation
4.line of poetry
F.Only the living can be imitated
1.can be imitated only in movements
2.belongs to time and direction
G.Expresses something by accomplishing itself
H.Possess beginning and end
II.Ornament – does not follow the stream of life but rigidly faces it
A.Established motives, symbols, impressed upon it
B.Intention not to pretend but to conjure
C.The “I” overwhelms the “Thou.”
D.Imitation is speaking with means that are born of the moment andunreproducible
E.employs a languages emancipated from speaking
1.stock of forms that possess duration and is not at the merc of the individual
F.Removed from Time
1.pure extension, settled and stable
G.Expresses by presenting itself to the senses as a finished thing
1.Being as such, wholly independent of origin.
H.Possesses only duration
THE HISTORY OF STYLE AS AN ORGANISM
A.Every Spring has two definitely ornamental and non-imitative arts — Carolingian (between styles)
B.Dawn of culture, architecture as ornament comes into being suddenly and with such a force of expression that for a century mere decoration-as-such shrinks away fromit in awe.
C.Form-world of springtime at its highest: architecture is lord and ornament is vassal (ornament in the service of all- ruling architectural idea)
1. statuary groups of Gothic cathedrals
2. hymn strophe
3. parallel motion of arts in church music
D. AD 1000 – awakening at one moment Romanesque arrives
a.dynamic of space
b.inner and outer construction placed in fixed relation
A.Late period of a style – group of civic and worldly special arts devote themselves to pleasing and clever imitation, become personal
A.Soul depicts its happiness, conscious of self-completion
1.return to Nature (Rousseau)
a.reveals itself in the form-world of the arts as a sensitive longing and presentiment of the end…
b.features of last decades of a Culture…
(1)Perfectly clear intellect, jouous urbanity, pain of a farewell –
B.Haydn and Mozart, Dresden shepherdesses, pictures of Watteau
C.Transition consists of
1.Classicism – sentimental regard for Ornamentation (rules, laws, types) that has long been archaic and soulless
2.Romanticism – sentimental Imitation, not of life, but of an older Imitation
A.At the last when Civilization sets in, true ornament and, with it, great art as a whole are extinguished
1.Not architectural style, but taste
2.Methods of painting and mannerisms of writing, old forms and new, home and foreign, come and go with the fashion.
3.Pictorial and literary stock-in-trade destitute of any deeper significance, employed according to taste
B.Final or industrial form of Ornament – no longer historical, no longer in the condition of “becoming”.
ARTS AS THE SYMBOL OF THE HIGHER ORDER
The clearest type of symbolic expression that the world-feeling of higher mankind has found for itself is (if we except the mathematical-scientific domain of presentation and the symbolism of its basic ideas) that of the arts of form…And with these arts we count music….
If an art has boundaries at all — boundaries of its soul-become-form — they are historical and not technical or physiological boundaries.
…The choice of art-genus itself is seen to be a means of expression. What the creation of a masterpiece means for an individual arts–the “Night Watch” for Rembrandt or the Meistersinger for Wagner–the creation of a species of art, comprehended as such, means for the life-history of a Culture. It is epochal. Apart from the merest externals, each art is an individual organism without predecessor or successor. Its theory, technique and convention all belong to its character, and contain nothing of eternal or universal validity. When one of these arts is born, when it is spent, whether it dies or is transmuted into another, why this or that art is dominant in or absent from a particular Culture–all these are questions of Form in the highest sense, just as is that other question of why individual painters and musicians unconsciously avoid certian shades and harmonies or, on the contrary, show preferences so marked that authorship-attributions can be based on them.
The importance of these groups of questions has not yet been recognized by theory… A futile up-and-down course was stolidly traced out. Static times were described as “natural pauses,” it was called “decline” when some great art in reality died, and “renaissance” where an eye really free from prepossessions would have seen another art being born in another landscape to express another humanity.
And yet it is precisely in this problem of the end, the impressively sudden end, of a great art–the end of the Attic drama in Euripides, of Florentine sculpture with Michaelangelo, of instrumental music in Liszt, Wagner, and Bruckner–that the organic character of these arts is most evident…
POPULAR AND ESOTERIC CHARACTER
“Every Culture has its own quite definite sort of esoteric or popular charcter that is immanent in all its doings, so far as these have symbolic importance. We find everywhere in the Western what we find nowhere in the Classical  – the exclusive form. Whole periods – for instance, the Provencal Culture and the Rococo – are in the highest degree select and exclusive, their ideas and forms having no existence except for a small class of higher men. Even the Renaissance is no exception, for though it purports to be the rebirth of that Antique which is so utterly non-exclusive and caters so frankly for all, it is in fact, through and through, the creation of a circle or of individual chosen souls, a taste that rejects popularity from the outset. On the contrary every Attic burgher belonged to the Attic culture, which excluded nobody; and consequently, the distinction of deep and shallow, which is so decisively important for us, did not exist at all for it. For us, popular and shallow are synonymous – in art as in science, but for Classiclal man it was not so.
From Titian painting becomes more and more esoteric. So , too poetry. So, too, music. And the Gothic  per sehad been esoteric from its very beginnings – witness Dante and Wolfram. The Masses of Okeghem and Palestrina, or of Bach for that matter, were never intelligible to the average memeber of the congregation. Ordinary people are bored by Mozart and Beethoven, and regard music generally as something for which one is or is not in the mood. A certain degree of interest in these matters has been induced by concert room and gallery since the age of enlightenment invented the phrase “art for all.” But Faustian  art is not, and by very essence cannot be, “for all.” If modern painting has ceased to appeal to any but a small (and ever decreasing) circle of connoisseurs, it is because it has turned away from the painting of things that the man in the street can understand. It has transferred the property of actuality from contents to space – the space through which alone, accordingg to Kant, things are.
Consider our sciences too. Every one of them, without exception, has besides its elementary groundwork certain “higher” regions that are inaccessible to the layman – symbols, these also, of our will-to-infinity and directional energy. Indeed, we may take the craving for wide effect as a sufficient index by itself of the commencing and already perceptible decline of Western science. That the sever esoteric of the Baroque age is felt now as a burden, is a symptom of sinking strength and of the dulling of that distance-sense confesed the limitation with humility. For us, the polarity of expert and layman has all the significance of a high symbol, and when the tension of this distance is beginning to slacken, there the Faustian life is fading out.”
THE WILL TO POWER
“If, in fine, we look at the whole picture – the expansion of the Copernican world into that aspect of stellar space that we possess today; the development of Columbus’s discovery into a world-wide command of the earth’s surface by the West; the perspective of oil-painting and the theater; the sublimation of the idea of home; the passion of our civilization for swift transit, the conquest of the air, the exploration of the Polar regions and the climbing of almost impossible mountain-peaks – we see, emerging everywhere, the prime symbol of the Faustian soul, Limitless Space. And those specially Western creations of the soul-myth called “Will,” “Force” and “Deed” must be regarded as derivative of this prime symbol.”
“Impressionism,” which only came into general use in Manet’s time (and then, originally, as a word of contempt like Baroque and Rococo), very happily summarized the special quality of the Faustian way of art that has evolved from oil painting. Impression is the inverse of the euclidean world-feeling. It tries to get as far as possible from the language of plastic and as near as possible to that of music. The effect that is made upon us by things that receive and reflect light is made not because the things are there, but a though they “in themselves” are not there. The things are not even bodies, but light-resistances in space, and their illusive density is to be unmasked by the brush-stroke. …
Impressionism is the comprehensive expression of a world-feeling, and it must obviously therefore permeate the whole physiognomy of our “Late” Culture. There is an impresionistic mathematic, which frankly and with intent transcends all optical limitations. It is Analysis, as developed after Newton and Leibniz, and to it belong the visionary images of number-bodies, aggregates, and the multi-dimensional geometry. There is again an impressionistic physics which “sees” in lieu of bodies systems of mass-ponts–units that are evidently no more than constant relations between variable efficients. There are impressionistic ethics, tragedy and logic, and even (in Pietism) an impressionistic Christianity.
Is Impressionism (in the current narrow sense) a creationg of the nineteenth century? Has paiting lived, after all, two centuries more? Is it still existing? But we must not be deceived in the character of the new episode, that in the nineteenth century (i.e. beyond the 1800 frontier and in “Civilization”) succeeded in awakening some illusion of a great culture of painting, choosing the word Plein-air to designate its special characteristic. The materialism of a Western cosmopolis blew into the ashes and rekindled this curious brief flicker–a brief flicker of two generations, for with the generation of Manet all was eneded again. I have characterized the noble green of GrÃ¼newald and Claude and Giorgione as the Catholic space-colour and the transcendent brown of Rembrandt as the colour of the Prostestant world-feeling. On the other hand, Plein-air and its new colour scale stand for irreligion. From the spheres of Beethoven and the stellar expanses of Kant, Impressionism has come down again to the crust of the eath. Its space is cognized, not experienced, seen, not contemplated; there is tunedness in it, but not Destiny. Rousseau’s tragically correct prophecy of a “return to Nature” fulfils itslef in this dying art–the senile, too, return to Nature day by day. The modern artist is a workman, not a creator…
PERGAMUM AND BAYREUTH: THE END OF ART
The last of the Faustian arts died in Tristan. This work is the giant keystone of Western music. Painting achieved nothing like this as a finale.
…Between Wagner and Manet there is a deep relationship, which is not, indeed, obvious to everyone but which Baudelaire with his unerring flair for the decadent detected at once. For the Impressionists, the end and the culmination of art was the conuring up of a world in space out of strokes and patches of colour, and this was just what Wagner achieved with three bars. …..
[Comparison with Alexandria] There, as here in our world-cities, we find a pursuit of illusions of artistic progress, of personal peculiarity, of “the new style,” of “unsuspected possibilities,” theoretical babble, pretentious fashionable artists, weight-lifters with cardboard dumb-bells–the “Literary Man” in the Poet’s place, the unabashed farce of Expressionism, which the art-trade has organized as a ” phase of art-history,” thinking and feeling and forming as industiral art. … all is pattern-work. .. the Last Act of all Cultures.
THE MORALE OF DAWNING “CIVILIZATION”
“When Nietzsche wrote down the phrase “transvaluation of all values” for the first time, the spiritual movement of the centuries in which we are living found at last its formula. Transvaluation of all values is the most fundamental character of every civilization . For it is the beginning of a Civilization that it removes all the forms of the Culture that went before, understands them otherwise, practices them in a different way. It begets no more, but only reinterprets, and herein lies the negativeness common to all period of this character. It assumes that the genuine act of creation has already occurred, and merely enters upon an inheritance of big actualities. In the late-Classical, we find the same taking place inside Helenistic-Roman Stoicism, that is, the long death-struggle of the Apollinian soul. In the interval from Socrates – who was the spiritual father of the Stoa and in whom the first signs of inward impoverishment and city-intellectualism became visible – to Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, every existence-ideal of the old Clasical underwent transvaluation. In the case of India, the transvaluation of Brahman life was complete by the time of King Asoka (250 b.c.) As we can see by comparing the parts of the Vedanta put into writing before and after Buddha. And ourselves? Even now the ethical socialism of the Faustian soul, its fundamental ethic, as we have seen, is being worked upon by the process of transvaluation as that soul is walled up in the stone of the great cities. Rousseau is the ancestor of this Socialism; he stands, like Socrates and Buddha, as the representative spokesman of a great civilization. Rousseau’s rejection of all great Culture-forms and all significant conventions, his famous “Return to the state of Nature,” his practical rationalism, are unmistakable evidences. Each of the three buried a millennium of spiritual depth. Each proclaimed his gospel to mankind, but it was to the mankind of the city intelligentsia, which was tired of the town and the Late culture, and whoe “pure” (i.e. soulless) reason longed to be free from them and their authoritative form and their severity, from the symbolism with which it was no longer in living communion and which therefore it detested. The Culture was annihilated by dialectics. Socrates was a nihilist, and Buddha. There was an Egyptian or an Arabian or a Chinese desouling of the human being, just as there is a Western. This is a matter not of mere political and economic, nor even of religious and artistic transformations, nor of any tangible or factual change whatsoever, but of the condition of a soul after it has actualized its possibilities in full.
Culture and Civilization – the living body of a soul and the mummy of it. For Western existence the distinction lies at about the year 1800 – on the one side of that frontier life in fullness and sureness of itself, formed by growth from within, in one great uninterrupted evolution from Gothic childhood to Goethe and Napoleon, and on the other the autumnal, artificial, rootless life of our great cities, under forms fashioned by the intellect. Culture-man lives inwards, Civilization-man outwards in space and amongst bodies and “facts.” That which the one feels as Destiny the other understands as a linkage of causes and effects, and thenceforward he is a materialist – in the sense of the word valid for, and only vaid for, Civilization – whether he wills it or not, and whether Buddhist, Stoic or Socialist doctrines wear the garb of religion or not.
Only the sick man feels his limbs. When men construct an unmetaphysical religion in opposition to cults and dogmas; when a “natural law ” is set up against historical law; when, in art, styles are invented in place of the style that can no longer be borne or mastered; when men conceive of the State as an “order of society” which not only can be but must be altered – then it is evident that something has definitely broken down. The Cosmopolis itself, the supreme Inorganic, is there, settled in the mdist of the Culture-landscape, whose men it is uprooting, drawing into itself and using up.
So long as the man of a culture that is approaching its fulfilment still continues to follow straight onwards naturally and unquestioningly, his life has a settled conduct. This is the instinctive morale, which may disguise itself in a thousand controversial forms, but which he himself does not controvert, because he has it. As soon as Life is fatigued, as soon as a man is put on to the artificial soil of great cities – which are intellectual worlds to themselves – and needs a theory in which suitably to present Life to himself, morals turn into a problem. As late as Plato and as late as Kant ehtics are still mere dialectics, a game with concepts or the rounding off of a metphysical system, something that at bottom would not be thought really necessary. The Categorical Imperative is merely an abstract statement of what, for Kant, was not in question at all. But with Zeno and with Schopenhauer that is no longer so. It had become necessary to discover, to invent or to squeeze into form, as rule of being, that which was no longer anchored in instinct; and at this point therefore begin the civilized ethics that are no longer the refleciton of Life but the reflection of Knowlege upon Life. One feels that there is something artificial, soulless, half-true in all these considered systems that fill the first centuries of all the Civilizations. They are not those profound and almost unearthly creations that are worthy to rank with the great arts. All metaphysic of the high style, all pure intuition, vanishes before the one need that has suddently made itself felt, the need of a practical morale for the obvernance of a Life that can no longer govern itself. Up to Kant, up to Aristotle, up to the Yoga and Vedanta doctrines, philosophy had been a sequence of grand world-systems in which formal ethics occupied a very modest place. But now it became “moral philosophy” with a metaphysic as background. The enthusiasm of epistemology had to give way to hard practical needs. Socialism, Stoicism and Buddhism are philosophies of this type.”
THE GREAT STYLE, THE HISTORY OF STYLE AS AN ORGANISM
We are now able to see a great style sequence as an organism. Here, as in so many other matters, Goethe was the first to whom vision came in his Winckelmann he says of Velleius Paterculus; “With his standpoint, it was not given to him to see all art as a living thing that must have an inconspicuous beginning a slow growth, a brilliant moment of fulfillment and a gradual declines like very other organic being, though it is presented in a set of individuals.” This sentence contains the entire morphology of art-history. Styles do not follow one another like waves or pulse-beats. It is not the personality or will or brian of the artist that makes the style, but the style that makes the type of the artist. The style, like the Culture, is a prime phenomenon in the strict Goethian sense, be it the style of art or religion or thought, or the style of life itself. It is, as “Nature” is, an ever-new experience of waking man, his alter ego and mirror-image in the world-around. And therefore in the general historical picture of a Culture there can be but one style, the style of the Culture. The error has lain in treating mere style-phases– Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Rococo, Empire–as if they were styles on the same level as units of quite another order such as the Egyptian, the Chinese (or even a “prehistoric”) style. Gothic and Baroque are simply the youth and age of one and the same vessel of forms, the style of the West as ripening and ripened. Hence Ionic columns can be as completely combined with Doric building forms as late Gothic is with early Baroque in St. Lorenz at NÃ¼rnberg, or late Romanesque with the late Baroque in the beautiful upper part of the West choir at Mainz.
The test before art-history is to write the comparative biographies of the great styles, all of which as organisms of the same genus possess structurally cognate life-histories.
CLASSICAL BEHAVIOUR-DRAMA AND FAUSTIAN CHARACTER-DRAMA
The question is now: how far is the man of this Culture himself fulfilling what the soul-image that he has created requires of him?
What will is in the soul-image, character is in the picture of life as we see it, the Western life that is self-evident to Western men. It is the fundamental postulate of all our ethical systems, differ otherwise as they may in their metaphysical or practical precepts, that man has character. Character, which forms itself in the stream of the world–the personality, the relation of living to doing–is a Faustian impression of Man. The conception of mankind as an active, fighting, progressing whole is (and has been since Joachim of Floris and the Crusades) so necessary an idea for us that we find it hard indeed to realize that it is an exclusively Western hypothesis, living and valid only for a season. The carpe diem, the sturated being, of the Classical standpoint is the most direct contrary of that which is felt by Goethe and Kant and Pascal, by Church and Freethinker, as lone possessing value–active, fighting and victorious being.
This opposition, further, has produced forms of tragedy that differ from one another radically in every respect. The Faustian character-drama and the Apollinian drama of noble gesture have in fact nothing but name in common. It is not enough to distinguish Classical and Western tragedy merely as action-drama and event-drama. Faustian tragedy is biographical, Classical anecdotal; that is, the one deals with the sense of a whole life and the other with the content of the single moment. What relation, for instance, has the entire inward past of Oedipus or Orestes to the shattering event that suddenly meets him on his way? There is not the smallest trait in the past existence of Othello–that masterpiece of psychological analysis–that has not some bearing on the catastrophe. Race-hatred, the isolation of the upstart amongst the patricians, the Moor as soldier and as child of Nature, the loneliness of the aging bachelor–all these things have their significance. “Psychology” in fact is the proper designation for the Western way of fashioning meant, the word holds good for a portrait by Rembrandt as for the music of Tristan, for Stendhal’s Julien Sorel as for Dante’s Vita Nuova. The like of it is not to be found in any other culture…
Of deep necessity, therefore, we Faustians understand drama as a maximum of activity; and, of deep necessity also, the Greek understood it as a maximum of passivity.
EVERY CULTURE POSSESSES ITS OWN ETHIC
WESTERN mankind, without exception, is under the influence of an immense optical illusion. Everyone demands something of the rest. We say “thou shalt” in the conviction that so-and-so in fact will, can and must be changed or fashioned or arranged conformably to the order, and our belief both in the efficacy of, and in our title to give, such orders is unshakable. That, and nothing short of it is, for us, morale. In the ethics of the West everything is direction, claim to power, will to affect the distant. Here Luther is completely at one with Nietzsche, Popes with Darwinians, Socialists with jesuits; for one and all, the beginning of morale is a claim to general and permanent validity…
The moral imperative as the form of morale is Faustian and only Faustian. It is quite wrong to associate Christianity with the moral imperative. It was not Christianity that transformed Faustian man, but Faustian man who transformed Christianity–and he not only made it a new religion but also gave it a new moral direction. The “it” became “I,” the passion- charged centre of the world, the foundation of the great Sacrament of personal contrition. Will-to-power even in ethics, the passionate striving to set up a proper morale as a universal truth, and to enforce it upon humanity, to reinterpret or overcome or destroy everything otherwise constituted–nothing is more characteristically our own than this is. And in virtue of it the Gothic springtime proceeded to a profound–and never yet appreciated–inward transformation of the morale of Jesus. A quite spiritual morale welling from Magian  feeling–a morale or conduct recommended as potent for salvation, a morale the knowledge of which was communicated as a special act of grace– was recast as a morale of imperative command….
EVERY SCIENCE IS DEPENDENT UPON A RELIGION
Each culture has made its own set of images of physical processes, which are true only for itself and only alive whole it is itself alive. The “Nature” of Classical man found its highest artistic emblem in the nude statue, and out of it logically there grew up a static of bodies, a physics of the near. [Elsewhere, he relates this to Euclidian geometry. – ed] The Arabian Culture symbolized by the arabesque and the cavern-vaulting of the mosque, and out of this world-feeling there issued Alchemy with its ideas of mysterious substances like the “philosophical mercury,” which is neither a material nor a property but by magic can transmute one metal into another. And the outcome of Faustian man’s Nature idea was a dynamic of unlimited span, a physics of the distant. To the Classical therefore belong the conceptions of matter and form, to the Arabian (quite Spinozistically) the idea of substances with visible or secret attributes, and to the Faustian the idea of force and mass.
… That which Classical man saw before him as “motion” in space he understood as … change of position of bodies; we from the way in which we experience motion, have deduced the concept of a process, a “going forward,” thereby expressing and emphasizing that element of directional energy which our thought necessarily predicates the courses of Nature….
The rise of a chemical method of the Arabian style betokens a new world-consciousness. The discovery of it, which at one blow made an end of Apollinian natural science, of mechanical statics… Similarly it was just at the time of the definite emancipation of the Western mathematic by Newton and Leibniz that the Western chemistry was freed from Arabic form by Stahl (1660-1734) and his Phlogiston theory. Chemistry and mathematic alike became pure analysis. Then Robert Boyle (1626-91) devised the analytical method and with it the Western conception of the Element. That is in fact the end of genuine chemistry, its dissolution into the comprehensive system of pure dynamic, its assimilation into the mechanical outlook which the Baroque Age had established through Galileo and Newton.
What we call Statics, Chemistry and Dynamics–words that as used in modern science are merely traditional distinctions without deeper meaning–are really the respective physical systems of the Apollinian, Magian and Faustian souls, each of which grew up in its own culture and was limited as to validity to the same. Corresponding to these sciences, each to each, we have the mathematics of Euclidean geometry, Algebra and Higher Analysis, and the arts of statue, arabesque and fugue.
Atheism, rightly understood, is the necessary expression of a spirituality that has accomplished itself and exhausted its religious possibilities, and is declining into the inorganic. It is entirely compatible with a living wistful desire for real religiousness–therein resembling Romanticism, which likewise would recall that which has irrevocably gone, namely, the Culture … Atheism comes not with the evening of the Culture but with the dawn of Civilization.
But, if this late form of world-feeling and world-image which preludes our “second religiousness” is universally a negation of the religious in us. The structure of it is different in each of the Civilizations…
The spiritual in every living culture is religious, has religion, whether it be conscious of it or not. It is not open to a spirituality to be irreligious; at most it can play with the idea of irreligion as Medicean Florentines did. But the maglopolitan is irreligious; this is part of his being, a mark of his historical position. The degree of piety of which a period is capable is revealed in its attitude towards toleration. One tolerates something either because it seems to have some relation to what according to one’s experience is the divine or else because one is no longer capable of such experience and is indifferent.
What we moderns have called “Toleration” in the classical world is an expression of the contrary of atheism. Plurality of numina and cults is inherent in the conception of Classical religion. But to the Faustian soul dogma and non-visible ritual constitutes the essence. What is regarded as godless is opposition to doctrine. Here begins the spatial-spiritual conception of heresy. A Faustian religion by its very nature cannot allow any freedom of conscience; it would be in contradiction with its space-invasive dynamic. Even free-thinking itself is not exception to the rule. Amongst us there is not faith without leanings to an Inquisition of some sort….
FAUSTIAN PHYSICS AS THE DOGMA OF FORCE
The Deism of the Baroque goes together with its dynamics and its analytical geometry; its three basic principles, God, Freedom and Immortality, are in the language of mechanics the principles of inertia (Galileo), least action (D’Alembert) and the conservation of energy (J. R. Mayer).
Western physics is by its inward form dogmatic and not ritualistic. Its content is the dogma of Force which is identical with space and distance…
THE LIMITS OF FURTHER THEORETICAL–NOT TECHNICAL–DEVELOPMENT
…the sudden and annihilating doubt that has arisen about things that even yesterday were the unchallenged foundation of physical theory, about the meaning of the energy-principle, the concepts of mass, space, absolute time, and causality-laws generally. …It is a doubt affecting the very possibility of a Nature-science. To take one instance alone, what a depth of unconscious Skepsis there is in the rapidly increasing use of enumerative and statistical methods, which aim only at probability of results and forgo in advance the absolute scientific exactitude that was a creed to the hopeful earlier generations.
ORIGIN AND LANDSCAPE: THE GROUP OF THE HIGHER CULTURES
In the history, the genuine history, of higher men, the stake fought for and the basis of the animal struggle to prevail is ever–even when the driver and driven are completely unconscious of the symbolic force of their doings, purposes and fortunes–the actualization of something that is essentially spiritual, the translation of an idea into a living historical form. This applies equally to the struggle of big style-tendencies in art, of philosophy, of political ideals and of economic forms. But the post-history is void of all this. All that remains is the struggle for mere power, for animal advantage per se.
CITIES AND PEOPLES
What makes the man of the world-cities incapable of living on any but this artificial footing is that the cosmic beat in his being is ever decreasing, while the tensions of his waking-consciousness become more and more dangerous… this then, is the conclusion of the city’s history; growing from primitive barter-centre to Culture-city and at last to world-city, it sacrifices first the blood and soul of its creators to the needs of its majestic evolution, and then the lst flower of that growth to the spirit of civilization–and so, doomed, moves on to final self-destruction.
But the essence of Alexandrianism and of our Romanticism is something which belongs to all urban men, without distinction. Romanticism marks the beginning of that which Goethe, with his wide vision, called world-literature–the literature of the leading world-city, against which a provincial literature, native to the soil, but negligible, struggles everywhere with difficulty to maintain itself. … Consequently in all Civilizations the “modern” cities assume a more and more uniform type…
In all Cultures, Reformation has the same meaning–the bringing back of the religion to the purity of its original idea as this manifested itself in the great centuries of the beginning. It was Destiny and not intellectual necessities of thought that led, in the Magian and Faustian worlds, to the budding off of new religions at this point. …
For Luther, like all reformers in all Cultures, was not the first, but the last of a grand succession which led from the great ascetics of the open country to the city-priest. Reformation is Gothic, the accomplishment and the testament thereof. Luther’s chorale “Ein’ feste Burg” does not belong to the spiritual lyrism of the Baroque. There rumbles in it still the splendid Latin of the Dies Irae. It is the Church Militant’s last mighty Satan-song. Luther, like every reformer that had arisen since the year 1000, fought the Church not because it demanded too much, but because it demanded too little …
The last reformers, the Luthers and Savonarolas, were urban monks, and this differentiates them profoundly from the Joachims and the Bernards. Their intellectual and urban askesis is the stepping-stone from the hermitages of quiet valleys to the scholar’s study of the Baroque. The mystic experience of Luther which gave birth to his doctrine of justification is the experience, not of a St. Bernard in the presence of woods and hills and clouds and stars, but of a man who looks through narrow windows on the streets and house walls and gables.
The mighty act of Luther was a purely intellectual decision. Not for nothing has he been regarded as the last great Schoolman of the line of Occam. He completely liberated the Faustian personality–the intermediate person of the priest, which has formerly stood between it and the Infinite, was removed. And it was not wholly along, self-oriented, its own priest and its own judge. But the common people could only feel, not understand, the element of liberation in it all. They welcomed, enthusiastically, indeed, the tearing up of visible duties, but they did not come to realize that these had been replaced by intellectual duties that were still stricter. Francis of Assisi had given much and taken little, but the urban Reformation took much and, as far as the majority of people were concerned, gave little.
The holy Causality of the Contrition-sacrament Luther replaced by the mystic experience of inward absolution “by faith alone.” He came very near to Bernard of Clairvaux. Both of them understood absolution as a divine miracle: insofar as the man changes himself, it is God changing him. The one and the other preached: “Thou must believe that God has forgiven thee,” but for Bernard belief was through the powers of the priest elevated to knowledge, whereas for Luther it sank to doubt and separate insistence. Herein lies the ultimate meaning of the Western priest, who from 1215 was elevated above the rest of mankind by the sacrament of ordination and its character indelebilis: he was a hand with which even the poorest wretch could grasp God. This visible link with the infinite, Protestantism destroyed. Strong souls could and did win it back for themselves, but for the weaker it was gradually lost. Bernard, although for him the inward miracle was successful of itself, would not deprive others of the gentler way, for the very illumination of his soul showed him the very world of living nature, all-pervading, ever near and ever helpful. Luther, who knew himself only and not men, set postulated heroism in place of actual weakness. For him life was desperate battle against the Devil, and that battle he called upon everyone to fight. And everyone who fought it fought it alone.
…Pure contemplative philosophy could have dispensed with experiment forever, but not so the Faustian symbol of the machine, which urged us to mechanical construcitons even in the twelfth century and made “perpetuum mobile” the Promethus-idea of the Western intellect. For us, the first thing is every the working hypothesis — the very kind of thought-product that is meaningless to other Cultures. It is an astounding fact (to which, however, we must accustom ourselves) that the idea of immediately exploiting in practice any knowledge of natural relations that may be acquired is alien to every sort of manking except the Faustian…
THE SECOND RELIGIOUSNESS
…Every great Culture begins with a mighty theme that rises out of the pre-urban countryside, is carried through in the cities of art and intellect and closes with a finale of materialism in the world-cities. But even these last chords are strictly in the key of the whole. There are Chinese, Indian, Classical, Arabian, Western materialisms, and each is nothing but the original stock of myth shapes, cleared of the elements of experience and contemplative vision and viewed mechanistically. The belief is belief in force and matter, even if the words used by “God” and “world,” “Providence” and “man.”
Unique and self-contained is the Faustian materialism, in the narrower sense of the word. In it the technical outlook upon the world reached fulfillment. The whole world a dynamic system, exact, mathematically disposed, capable down to its first causes of being experimentally probed and numerically fixed so that man can dominate it–this is what distinguishes our particular “return to Nature” from all others. That “Knowledge is Virtue” Confucius also believed, and Buddha, and Socrates, but “Knowledge is Power” is a phrase that possess meaning only within the European-American Civilization. The Destiny element is mechanized as evolution, development, progress, and put into the centre of the system; the Will is an albumen-process;and all these doctrines of Monism, Darwinism, Positivism and what-not are elevated into the fitness-moral which is the beacon of American businessmen, British politicians and German progress — Philistines alike — and turns out, in the last analysis, to be nothing but an intellectualist caricature of the old justification by faith.
The next phase I call the Second Religiousness. It appears in all Civilizations as soon as they have fully formed themselves as such and are beginning to pass, slowly and imperceptibly, into the non-historical state in which time-periods cease to mean anything. (So far as the Wesetrn Civilization is concerned, therefore, we are still many generations short of that pont.) The Second Religiousness is the necessary counterpart of Caesarism, which is the final political constitution of Late Civilization… The material of the Second Religiousness is simply that of the first, genuine, young religiousness– only otherwise experienced and expressed. It starts with Rationalism’s fading out in helplessness, then the forms of the springtime become visible and finally the whole world of the primitive religion, which had receded before the grand forms of the early faith, returns to the foreground, powerful, in the guise of the popular syncretism that is to be found in every Culture at this phase.
There are streams of being which are “in form” in the same sense in which the term is used in sports… When [players] are “in form,” the riskiest acts and moves come off easily and naturally. An art-period is in form when its tradition is second nature, as counterpoint was to Bach.
The word for race (or breed) education is “training” as against the shaping which creates communities of waking-consciousness on a basis of uniform teachings or beliefs…
THE VESTING OF AUTHORITY
The destiny question, for States that exist in reality and not merely in intellectual schemes, is not that of their ideal task or structure, but that of their inner authority, which cannot in the long run be maintained by material means, but only by a belief — of friend and foe — in their effectiveness. The decisive problems lie, not in the working out of constitutions, but in the organization of a sound working government…
In every healthy State the letter of the written constitution is of small importance compared with the practice of the living constitution… The leader’s responsibility is always to a minority that possesses the instincts of statesmanship and represents the rest of the nation in the struggle of history.
The true class-State is an expression of the general historical experience that is always a single social stratum which, constitutionally or otherwise, provides the political leading. It is always a definite minority that represents the world-historical tendency of a State…
At the point when a Culture is beginning to turn itself into a Civilization, the non-Estate intervenes in affairs decisively–and for the first time–as an independent force….
The State, with its heavy demands on each individual in it, is felt by urban reason as a burden. So, in the same phase, the great forms of the baroque arts begin to be felt as restrictive and become Classicist or Romanticist — that is, sickly or formless, German literature from 1770 is one long revolt of strong individual personalities against strict poetry. The idea of the whole nation being “in training” or “in form” for anything becomes intolerable, for the individual himself inwardly is no longer in condition. This holds good in morals, in arts and in modes of thought, but most of all in politics. Every bourgeois revolution has as its scene the great city, and as its hallmark the incomprehension of the old symbols, which it replaces by tangible interests and the craving (or even the mere wish) of enthusiastic thinkers and world-improvers to see their conceptions actualized…
There is another aspect, too under which this epoch has its importance–in it for the first time abstract truths seek to intervene in the world of facts…
The mistrust felt for high form by the inwardly formless non-Estate is so deep that everywhere and always it is ready to rescue its freedom–from all form–by means of a dictatorship, which acknowledges no rules and is, therefore, hostile to all that has grown up…
THE PERIOD OF THE CONTENDING STATES
With this enters the age of gigantic conflicts, in which we find ourselves today . It is the transition from Napoleonism to Caesarism, a general phase of evolution, which occupies at least two centuries and can be shown to exist in all the Cultures…
In these conditions so much of old and great traditions a remains, so much of historical “fitness” and experience has got into the blood of the twentieth-century nations, acquires an unequalled potency. For us creative piety, or (to use a more fundamental term) the pulse that has come down to us from first origins, adheres only to forms that are older than the Revolution and Napoleon, forms which grew and were not made. Every remnant of them, however tiny, that has kept itself alive in the being of any self-contained minority whatever will before long rise to incalculable values and bring about historical effects which no one yet imagines…
By the term “Caesarism” I mean that kind of government which, irrespective of any constitutional formulation that it may have, is in its inward self a return to thorough formlessness. It does not matter that Augustus in Rome, and Huang Ti in China, Amasis in Egypt and Alp Arslan in Baghdad disguised their position under antique forms. the spirit of these forms was dead, and so all institutions, however carefully maintained, were thenceforth destitute of all meaning and weight. Real importance centred in the wholly personal power exercised by the Caesar…
With the formed state having finished its course, high history also lays itself down weary to sleep. Man becomes a plant again adhering to the soil, dumb and enduring. The timeless village and the “eternal” peasant reappear, begetting children and burying seed in Mother Earth.. Men live from hand to mouth, with petty thrifts and petty fortunes and endure…
PHILOSOPHY OF POLITICS
The essential, therefore, is to understand the time for which one is born. He who does not sense and understand its most secret forces, who does not feel in himself something cognate that drives him forward on a path neither hedged nor defined by concepts, who trusts to the surface–public opinion, large phrases and ideals of the day–he is not of the stature for its events. He is in their power, not they in his. Look not back to the past for measuring-rods! There are times, like our own present and the Grecco age, in which there are two most deadly kinds of idealism, the reactionary and the democratic. The one believes in the reversibility of history, the other in a teleology of history. But it makes no difference to the inevitable failure with which both burden a nation over whose destiny they have power, whether it is to a memory or to a concept that they sacrifice it. The genuine statesman is incarnate history, its directedness expressed as individual will and its organic logic as character.
…The genuine statesman is distinguished from the “mere politician”–the player who plays for the pleasure of the game, the arriviste on the heights of history, the seeker after wealth and rank–as also from the schoolmaster of an idea, by the fact that he dares to demand sacrifices–and obtains them, because his feeling that he is necessary to the time and the nation is shared by thousands, transforms them to the core and renders them capable of deeds to which otherwise they cold never have risen.
…but in no other civilization has the will-to-power manifested itself in so inexorable a form as in this of ours…
Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has destroyed intellect. But, just because the illusion that actuality can allow itself to be improved by the ideas of any Zeno or Marx has fled away; because men have learned that in the realm of reality one power-will can be overthrown only by another (for that is the great human experience of Contending States periods); there wakes at last a deep yearning for all old and worthy tradition that still lingers alive… And now dawns the time when the form-filled powers of the blood, which the rationalism of the Megolopolis has suppressed, reawaken in the depth. Everything in the order of dynastic tradition and old nobility that has saved itself up for the future, everything that there is of high money-disdaining ethic, everything that is intrinsically sound enough to be, in Frederick the Great’s words, the servant–the hard-working, self-sacrificing, caring servant–of the State–all this becomes suddenly the focus of immense life-forces…
For us, however, whom a Destiny has placed in this culture and at this moment of its development–the moment when money is celebrating its last victories, and the Caesarism that is to succeed approaches with quiet, firm step–our direction, willed and obligatory at once, is set for us within narrow limits, and on any other terms life is not worth the living. We have not the freedom to reach to this or to that, but the freedom to do what is necessary or to do nothing. And a task that historic necessity has set will be accomplished with the individual or against him.
 Classical = ancient Greece at the peak of its culture
 Gothic = the dawn of our culture
 Faustian = the essential nature of Western culture
 Civilization = the final dying phase of a Culture
 Magian = culture of the Near-East
 printed in 1918 and revised in 1922
Tags: Oswald Spengler