Tag Archives: Oswald Spengler

Achilles: Spengler on How to Live Our Best Lives

Achilles

Spengler often mentions Achilles from Homer’s Iliad in his work

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

The 3,000 year old epic Iliad by Homer, considered the first and best of the epic poets, boldly lays down what today would be considered the choice between being an Alpha male or a Beta male. Spengler presents the plot and gives us the choice in Man and Technics:

An ancient Greek legend tells us how his mother put before Achilles the choice of whether he wanted a long life, or a short life full of deeds and fame and he chose the second.

The safety-seeking, coddled life of today’s manlets would be blasphemous to the masculine men of history. From childhood, the innate behaviors that go with masculinity are drugged, shamed, and ridiculed out of boys. The result is a long, dull life where nothing of note happens for the average Beta male. He is indoctrinated with Marxism by the public school system, taught to hate himself by educators and the media, told he is a rapist for having sexual thoughts about women, turned into a corporate, tax-paying cog, and thereafter dulls his pain with weekly drinking binges and sex that excites rather than fulfills, going to his grave full of regrets. The top five regrets of the dying illustrate this empty lifestyle, foisted upon Western man by liberalism, corporate and government micromanagement of his conduct and choices, and a Puritanical, work-worshipping, sex denying lifestyle:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This epitaph can be useful in guiding men to make better choices before our ultimate fate comes. We need to live lives true to ourselves and not what others (especially Marxists) expect of us; not work so hard to enrich others but to enrich ourselves; express our true feelings no matter how much the SJWs scream, flop around on the floor and foam at the mouth; realize the importance of friendship; and do things that make ourselves happy – to hell with what women and society think of us.

Lisbon

Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon

Explore, Dream, Discover

Author Mark Twain also knew the choice men have, again echoing the 3,000 year old wisdom of the Iliad that Spengler was so fond of.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

For shame, we men have allowed ourselves to be turned into shadows of our former greatness. Putting it all into historical perspective, today so-called progress is worshipped by the West even though history shows the entire house of cards we build up eventually falls apart. Moreover, what are we progressing towards other than authoritarianism and not being able to breathe without asking permission first?! Spengler writes:

World history appears very differently from that which even our own age allows itself to dream. The history of Man is brief in comparison with that of the plant and animal worlds on this planet, to say nothing of the celestial realms. It is a steep ascent and fall, covering a few millennia, a period negligible in the history of the Earth, but for us who are born with it, full of tragic grandeur and force. And we human beings of the twentieth century, go downhill seeing. Our regard of history, our faculty of writing history is a revealing sign that our path lies downward. Only at the peaks of the high cultures, just as they are passing over into Civilizations, does this gift of penetrating recognition come of them for a moment.

Indeed, we seem to be headed downward. Allowing ourselves to be tamed and turned into sheeple that are placed on a government tax farm and corporate labor farm has only accelerated our fall. Women want no part of men who aren’t bold, fearless, leaders and indeed they will not even breed with Western man in sufficient numbers to keep his society from crumbling. Some of us run away from this mundane existence while we still can.

In modern parlance, the choice Spengler gives us equates to living fast, dying young, and leaving a good looking corpse.

Faced with this destiny, there is only one worldview that is worthy of us, the aforementioned one of Achilles: better a short life, full of deeds and glory, than a long and empty one. The danger is so great, for every individual, every class, every people, that it is pathetic to delude oneself. Time cannot be stopped; there is absolutely no way back, no wise renunciation to be made. Only dreamers believe in ways out. Optimism is cowardice.

While “leaving a good looking corpse” is hyperbole, it is exaggeration that’s used to make a point. In the choice between liberty and security, we have chosen security and it has dulled us as men and made us controllable.

Sailing

Men of history tell us better a short life full of deeds rather than an empty, long life of security

Live Our Best Lives

Rather than following the wishes of our masters and doing what is best for them, we men need to figure out what is best for us and then make concrete choices to make sure our wishes are fulfilled. Knowing that history shows us our wishes will not be granted to us nicely by those in positions of power leaves us with Spengler’s final paragraph in Man and Technics:

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. To hold on like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who died because they forgot to relieve him when Vesuvius erupted. That is greatness; that is to have race. This honorable end is the one thing that cannot be taken a Man.

Our bellies may be full, but our spirits are empty, dulled by the browbeating from divide and conquer politics and the mediocrity of Socialism.

In this final chapter of Western Civilization, Western men have collectively chosen the long life of security and slavery, not the short life of deeds. Perhaps it would have been better to choose the honorable end, standing up against all forms of tyranny over the mind of man rather than adapting to today’s emasculating culture with the mentality of a slave. Even if as Aristotle said, slavery is man’s natural state, it’s better to hold on to the lost position of freedom to the bitter end rather than cowing before our corporate and government masters.

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The Last Act: The Rise and End of The Machine Culture

Gears

In Man and Technics, Spengler prophesized Western man would try to remove his biology and turn himself into a machine in order to become God

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

The prophetic predictions in Spengler’s Civilization Model for the Western world have been discussed in previous articles here at The New Modern Man. In a later book he published titled Man and Technics Spengler went into further detail about how technology, Western culture’s main obsession would arise and further debase humans from their life-giving biology. This ultimately leads to the end of Western culture.

These predictions ring truer today than they have at any point in our history. Technology worship is everywhere, and people have certainly become debased from their traditions and their biology in service of the God of Technology and “the machine” in the modern age. As Spengler said would happen, life has become a problem to be solved instead of something to be lived. One of the trends representing this philosophical crisis, seen in all past High Cultures Spengler studied, is when people in a culture cannot think of a “reason” to have kids because their lives have become based only on economic theory and technical organization, rather than tradition and religion. After reaching this tipping point, the civilization sterilizes itself.

The reason a civilization moves away from tradition and religion and towards economic theory and technical organization are as follows. All High Cultures ultimately desire to see the fulfillment of their Prime Symbol. In Western civilization, the quest to realize Infinity has resulted in man attempting to turn himself into a machine to achieve perpetual prosperity. This will lead to catastrophe if history is any guide. Egyptian culture attempted to embalm itself to realize fulfillment of its Prime Symbol, The Path, a path that led to immortality in their minds. Of course, Egyptian culture now lies in ruins.

Looking back to see what history may reveal about where we are headed as society becomes based only on economic and theoretical philosophy, we learn the average life span of a High Culture in Spengler’s survey was 1,000 years. We are reaching the end of that period going by Spengler’s model. In the following excerpt from Man and Technics, he details the millennium-long long arc of civilizations and how, in the end of a civilization, the mechanical, technological city cannibalizes the life-giving population of the countryside:

On this soil from 3000 BC onwards, there now grew up, here and there, the High Cultures…each filling but a very small portion of the Earth’s space and each enduring for hardly a thousand years. This group of passionate life-courses invented for its Prime Symbol and its ‘world’ the city, in contrast to the village of the previous state – the strong city in which is housed a quite artificial living, that has become divorced from Mother Earth and is completely anti-natural – the city of rootless thought, that draws the streams of life from the land and uses them up within itself.

Indeed, today’s reality corresponds with this prediction as the vast majority of population in America and Europe has shifted from being a “Rural Intuitive” population to being a “Metropolitan and Uninspired” population today. As man becomes uprooted from Nature in the artificial environment of the city, he is no longer able to reproduce himself, he turns nihilistic and atheistic, and the end of his High Culture draws near.

Nature

Rather than live in harmony with nature, Western man tries to enslave it

The Beginning of the End

In 1931, when Man and Technics was published the “last act” of Western Man was just beginning. Spengler thought Utopian dreams of Western man that drive his technological development will never be realized as the last act plays out.

Every high culture is a tragedy. The history of mankind as a whole is tragic. But the sacrilege and the catastrophe of the Faustian (Western) man are greater than all the others, greater than anything Aeschylus or Shakespeare ever imagined. The creature is rising up against its creator.

Spengler saw man’s attempt at dominating Nature as futile, but saw no way out of that development.

Today we stand on the summit, at the point when the fifth act is beginning. The last decisions are made. The tragedy is closing.

Man’s lust for power makes him lose touch with his biology and the natural laws which he thinks do not apply to him, but still do, which leads to tragedy. This is a pattern Spengler saw in previous High Cultures, and prophetically predicted in our own:

The cultures of speech and enterprise – we are at once in the plural, and several can be distinguished – in which personality and mass begin to be in spiritual opposition, in which the spirit becomes avid of power and lays violent hands on life, these cultures embraced even at their full only a part of mankind, and they are today, after a few millennia, all extinguished and replaced. Man, evidently, was tired of merely having plants and animals and slaves to serve him, and robbing Nature’s treasures of metal and stone, wood and yam, of managing her water in canals and wells, of overcoming her obstacles with ships and roads, bridges and tunnels and dams. Now he meant not mere to plunder her of her materials, but to enslave and harness her very forces as to multiply his own strength.

It goes beyond enslaving nature. As the Final World Sentiment of Western man spreads (which Spengler said was the quest for a Socialist Utopia from the year 1900 onward) the Socialist longing turns into a desire to become God. This is a profound commentary on anti-religious Marxists of today and what they really want to accomplish by removing all biology from man. Cultural Marxism’s goal of stripping man of all traditions, individuality, religion, family, and even his gender – making both sexes androgynous as the sickness of feminism is attempting to do with catastrophic results – represents Western man’s longing to achieve infinity: He must become a machine himself in order to become God.

In other words, Marxists hate God because they themselves want to become God. To them, “progressing” into a Socialist Utopia would bring about an infinity; a heaven on earth. Spengler continues:

This last idea never thereafter let go its hold on us, for success would mean the final victory over God or Nature – a small world of one’s own creation moving like the great world, in virtue of its own forces and obeying the hand of Man alone. To build a world oneself, the oneself God – that is the Faustian (Western) inventor’s dream, and from it has sprung all our designing and re-designing of machines to approximate as nearly as possible to the unattainable limit of perpetual motion.

The quest for perpetual motion springs from this longing for the infinite in Western culture. Indeed, the search for infinity is what all art and knowledge in the society have been based on:

  • Architecture: Soaring cathedrals and soaring skyscrapers, rising towards infinity
  • Engineering: The search for perpetual motion and perpetual energy
  • Exploration: Manifest Destiny, exploring the universe/space exploration
  • Finance: Infinite economic growth, globalization
  • Music: Polyphony, or two or more simultaneous melodies, infinity-seeking sound
  • Mathematics: Infinitesimal calculus
  • Science: Infinities of space and time, evolution of biology and the universe
  • Politics: The quest for an infinite Socialist Utopia

Spengler says the quest for infinity which resulted in these achievements stretches all the way back to the beginning of the study of nature by empirical methods in Spring:

With Roger Bacon begins the long line of scientists who suffer as magicians and heretics.

Unfortunately, the more powerful and “magical” man becomes the more of a danger he becomes to himself. Machines begin to dominate his life and he eventually becomes a slave to the machines he created rather than the machines serving him.

Machine_Man

Western man’s obsession with technology begins to conflict with his biology

Machines Extinguish Life

Life in the 21st century has definitely taken on a mechanical quality to it. Men often quip they are just another cog in the machine, but this statement actually has a profound philosophical implication to it. Continuing from Man and Technics:

All things organic are dying in the grip of organization. An artificial world is permeating and poisoning the natural. Civilization has itself become a machine that does, or tries to do, everything in a mechanical fashion.

As Western culture ultimately tries to turn not only society but mankind into a machine, people begin checking out of such a sadistic, inhuman system. Echoes of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged come to mind as man grows tired of an existence which micromanages every aspect of his life and his conduct and strangles his freedom with mechanical precision; he eventually abandons the Machine Culture.

The Faustian [Western] thought begins to be sick of machines. A weariness is spreading, a sort of pacifism in the battle with Nature. Men are returning to forms of life simpler and nearer to Nature; they are spending their time in sport instead of technical experiments. The great cities are becoming hateful to them, and they would fain get away from the pressure of soulless facts, from enslavement to the Machine, and the clear cold atmosphere of technical organization.

As he abandons the Machine Culture his accomplishments will wither and fade away, along with his once dominant culture. Someday, the West’s greatest accomplishments will lie in ruin as is the case with the Egyptian pyramids and Great Sphinx of Giza, the Indian Pushpagiri Viharathe, the Chinese Great Wall, the Babylonian Ishtar Gate, the Greek Parthenon, the Roman Colosseum, and the Mesoamerican pyramids.

Pyramid

Just as other High Cultures’ achievements now lie in ruin, Spengler thought Western man’s great works will see the same fate

Western Technology in Ruins

It is reasonable to think that Western man’s tech gadgets and machines will not carry on once his culture reaches a tipping point. After passing that point of no return, his machines and technology will either not be used by other cultures, or they will be adapted to serve their own world views. From Decline of the West:

As the idea of the Babylonian or that of the Indian world was remote, strange and elusive for the men of the five or six Cultures that followed, so all the Western world will be incomprehensible to the men of Cultures yet unborn.

As Spengler saw it, the cultures who use the West’s technology see it as a luxury, it does not represent a cultural and spiritual necessity for them the way it does for Western man.

Only Faustian Man thinks, feels, and lives in its form. To him it is a spiritual need – not its economic consequences, but its victories.

Just as the West cannot understand the Point-Present Prime Symbol of Classical civilization, the Rhyming Time Prime Symbol of Mesoamerican (Mayan/Aztec) civilization, or The Path Prime Symbol of Egyptian civilization, the culture that supersedes ours will not be able to understand our Prime Symbol of Infinity and our obsession with limitless gadgets and machines. So, what to do when faced with an outcome that seems to be predetermined?

Faced with this destiny, there is only one worldview that is worthy of us, the one of Achilles: better a short life, full of deeds and glory, than a long and empty one. Only dreamers believe in ways out. Optimism is cowardice.

Spengler thought knowing about and bravely following the arc of civilization to its end would bring those who could understand his concepts to a better end than those who believe man can ultimately win in his battle against Nature find a way out of the monstrous drama of the rise and fall of civilizations. Indeed, thinking one can break out of cycles that have ended all past High Cultures is highly optimistic.

While the people comprising the culture go on to survive once it collapses, they will not dominate the world nor culture the way they once did.

The Egyptian denied mortality. Today, pathetic symbols of the will to endure, the bodies of the great Pharaohs lie in our museums, their faces still recognizable. On the shining, polished granite peak of the pyramid of Amenemhet III we can read today the words “Amenemhet looks upon the beauty of the Sun.”

The West is also attempting to deny mortality. However, according to the study of history no culture escapes its ultimate fate. The West’s rabid pursuit of a Socialist Utopia by attempting to turn human beings into perpetually running machines is its last gasp as it reaches out towards infinity, meanwhile while the soul and demographics of the society implode as it has lost touch with its life-giving religion and traditions. As the life of man is organic, so is the life of his culture.

An interesting footnote is Spengler thought Russia could be the next High Culture to arise. Russia’s Prime Symbol is The Plane Without Limit.

We can certainly feel an “elective affinity” between the Russian and the Magian souls, but as yet the Prime Symbol of Russia finds no sure expression either in religion or in architecture. It is not yet a style, only the promise of a style that will awaken when the real Russian religion awakens.

If this is correct, as the West fades a distinct Russian High Culture will arise. The epic cycle of the rise and fall of civilizations continues. The Machine Culture ends, making way for a new cultural pursuit.

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Catastrophe: Spengler’s Ideas on Evolution

DNA

Spengler thought catastrophe was more important to evolution than slow, steady change

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species is one of the most important works in Western history. It convincingly shows how one species evolves into another through entirely natural processes. However, the way these processes work was challenged three-quarters of a century ago by Oswald Spengler, author of Decline of the West. In reviewing Darwin’s work, Spengler thought the process by which evolution works showed a cultural bias and proposed another idea.

Spengler wrote the biggest problem with theory of evolution is it does not correspond with how nature actually works. He thought it represented a British temperament projected onto evolution. In his book Man and Technics, Spengler offered this criticism:

Here again we have to emancipate ourselves from the nineteenth-century idea of an “evolutionary” process. A slow, [sluggish] alteration is truly appropriate to the English nature, but it does not represent Nature.

Spengler’s take was slow adaptation and change over time is not the way evolution occurs. Instead, the existence of an organism reaches balance with nature and the organism only evolves or goes extinct when its existence is punctuated by different catastrophes.

As one example of this idea, the Coelacanth has remained unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. It has achieved what Spengler called a perfection of the form, it is in balance with nature, and its form is conserved. It will only evolve when a catastrophe threatens its existence. Other species have also changed very little since they evolved, strengthening this idea.

When a catastrophe happens, a mutation spreads spontaneously through the genome of the organism. Spengler said it comes as a single passage happening all at once instead of the slow, steady refinement proposed by Darwin. Indeed, mutations are one of the most important concepts in biology. If this idea is correct, it presents a number of implications for the future of the human race.

Volcano

This volcanic eruption in Chile is a sneeze compared to the Toba event which nearly wiped out the human species 70,000 years ago

Sudden Changes

Spengler details the idea of catastrophe driving evolution in his book Man and Technics.

Since when have there been men? What is man? And how did he come to be man? … [His] origin must have been sudden; in terms of the tempo of cosmic currents it must have happened, like everything else that is decisive in world history (epoch-making, in the highest sense) as abruptly as a flash of lightning or an earthquake.

Indeed, following mass extinctions on earth, one group of organisms who may have thrived for hundreds of millions of years like the dinosaurs are wiped out and another group undergoes a set of mutations which leads it to become the next dominant Class on earth. The Class that came to dominance after the dinosaurs was of course, the mammals.

Spengler wrote to this sudden appearance and disappearance of species in the fossil record:

In truth we cannot distinguish geological strata unless catastrophes of unknown kinds and causes have separated them for us, not yet special of fossil creature unless they appear suddenly and hold on unaltered until their extinction. Of the ancestors of Man we know nothing, in spite of all our research and comparative anatomy. The human skeleton has been, ever since it appeared, just what it is now.

While the fossil record shows a number of species that were very similar to us, we are the only surviving members at our end of the Primate branch. This adds credence to the catastrophe hypothesis since the other human-like species have gone extinct.

We also see evidence of the idea of catastrophes punctuating our evolution with our own “population bottleneck” which occurred in the human species following the eruption of Toba. The human species was nearly reduced to extinction. A catastrophe like the Toba event makes the spread of genetic mutation through a population easier following the catastrophe. Spengler goes on:

The whole thing is suddenly there its entirety. World history strides on from catastrophe to catastrophe, whether we can comprehend and prove the fact or not.

In the modern age, Spengler’s ideas of catastrophe driving evolution were substantiated 40 years after he published his claims:

In 1972, paleontologists Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould published a landmark paper developing a theory called punctuated equilibria. Eldredge and Gould proposed that the degree of gradualism commonly attributed to Charles Darwin is virtually nonexistent in the fossil record, and that stasis dominates the history of most fossil species. Their paper built upon Ernst Mayr’s model of geographic speciation, Michael Lerner’s theories of developmental and genetic homeostasis, as well as their own empirical research.

In other words, Spengler’s catastrophe theory has been bolstered by modern scientific evidence. He was a man 100 years ahead of his time in predicting the Decline of the West, and 40 years ahead of his time predicting a biological process proven to exist. Given these chilling facts, when will a catastrophe once again challenge our collective survival?

Meteor

Could a catastrophe be around the corner for us?

Our Future

With many signs pointing toward impending collapse in Western Civilization, one must at least entertain the fact that maybe a manmade catastrophe is just around the corner for our species. Certainly, feminism and materialism (especially the two combined) are posing grave risks to the survival of the Caucasian race which has had fertility rates below replacement level for two generations. This is, of course not even considering the natural catastrophes that are possible such as an asteroid impact, supervolcano eruption, or pandemic.

Believing man is immune to catastrophe is a product of our short term memory and recent successes as a species. It is stroke of luck that a disaster has not yet challenged our survival, and it is a statistical certainty this luck will eventually run out. Spengler had this to say about those whose thinking represented what he called “cowardly optimism” that our survival will not be threatened, instead of “brave pessimism” about what the future holds:

Man was, and is, too shallow and cowardly to endure the fact of the mortality of everything living. He wraps it up in the rose-colored optimism of Progress, he masks it with literature, he crawls behind the shelter of ideals so as not to see anything. But impermanence, birth, and passing is the form of all that is actual – from the stars… right down to the fleeting concourses on this planet.

He also saw evidence of catastrophe in everything from the birth and death of suns to his study of the rise and fall of high cultures. The Mayan/Aztec culture came to an end after being conquered by the Spanish. Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 and later collapsed. The other cultures in Spengler’s epic study of civilization also came to an end, usually after a catastrophe or series of catastrophes.

The life of the individual – whether animal or plant or man – is as perishable as that of peoples of cultures. Every creation succumbs to decay; every thought, every discovery, every deed to oblivion. All around us we sense traces of lost courses of history that ended in some great doom. All around us the ruins of the past works of dead cultures lie before our eyes. What, then, is our prating about the everlasting achievements of mankind supposed to mean?

Summarizing his thoughts in Man and Technics, which is in many ways the Cliff’s Notes of his much larger work Decline of the West, summarized below:

The principle idea is that many of the Western world’s great achievements may soon become spectacles for our descendants to marvel at, as we do with the pyramids of Egypt or the baths of Rome. Spengler especially pointed to the tendency of Western technology to spread to hostile societies which would then it as a weapon against the West. In Spengler’s mind, Western culture will be destroyed from within by materialism, and destroyed from without through economic competition and warfare.

How incredibly prophetic Spengler was, for this scenario is playing out before our eyes a century after he predicted it. What makes it more impressive is that it is not based on mysticism, but a study of history and historical cycles our species repeats.

A fatalistic model predicting the future can be discouraging to some, but the truth does not take our feelings into consideration. The universe does not act in favor of nor against our desires, it is only indifferent to them. However, rather than throwing our hands up, Spengler actually encouraged people to make the best of the situation fate has handed them. He encouraged us to exploit the creative possibilities still available, to value every moment of our short lives, and to live as passionately and fully as possible. Spengler thought that by fully understanding the tragic historical process and what it implies for our future, we can strive to make our short lives into a self-creating masterpiece.

Perhaps brave pessimism is not such a terrible philosophy after all.

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Democracy Collapses: Expect the Rise of a Caesar This Century

Caesar

Spengler predicted the rise of a Caesar in the West as democracy collapses under the weight of its present-day corruption by an economic elite

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

As previously pointed out in this article about Oswald Spengler’s astonishingly accurate predictions for the Western world made a century ago, we are currently in the Winter of a declining Western civilization. Liberalism, enabled by economic interests that have corrupted the political structure, is attempting to destroy the foundations the society was built on in search of the civilization’s ultimate unattainable goal: a socialist Utopia.

Spengler speaks to how this cycle has played out in other High Cultures as the foundations of religion, myth and tradition no longer inspire a culture.

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. Such are the men who carried through the Babylonians, the Egyptian, the Indian, the Chinese, the Roman Civilizations, and in such periods do Buddhism, Stoicism, Socialism ripen into definitive world conceptions which enable a moribund humanity to be attacked and re-formed in its intimate structure. Pure Civilization, as a historical process, consists in a progressive taking down of forms that have become inorganic or dead.

In other words, the spread of the Final World Sentiment of Western culture from the year 1900 results from the culture having become completely inorganic in its Winter, and the new, inorganic culture forms attempting to destroy the older, organic culture forms.

However, if Western civilization survives the onslaught of the left, there will be an iron-fisted response to suicidal liberalism coming by the end of this century (perhaps sooner) as predicted in Spengler’s Decline of the West. We are perhaps seeing the first stirrings of this sentiment with the Trump candidacy and the growing wave of nonconformity to the Marxists’ political correctness narrative. Spengler called it Caesarism – the victory of bloody politics of force over a corrupt democracy run by a moneyed elite, and the return of man from living in a state of high ideals to his more animalistic nature.

Religion

Traditions and religion are torn down in the Civilization phase of a society

New Vs. Old

Spengler noted that in every past high culture, the new eventually tries to destroy the old. This conflict reaches a crescendo at the end of a civilization. We can see this unfolding in the West with factions trying to destroy the traditions it was founded upon. The goal of a socialist Utopia, to Spengler, is Western civilization’s longing to fulfill the promise of the Prime Symbol that has motivated it for the last 1,000 years: the quest for infinity. It would represent the ultimate triumph of mankind over nature to achieve this; however nature does not operate in a vacuum. Each victory of man leads to a defeat in some other area in his struggle against nature.

This conflict between new and old, Spengler thought, happens as a key development in the evolution of a high culture, as it moves from the Spring and Summer Culture phases to the Autumn and Winter Civilization phases. A society stops looking for intrinsic fulfillment and increasingly turns to extrinsic fulfillment. Instead of tradition and ideals, the society turns to a life guided by economics and politics.

The Civilization phase represents the victory of extrinsic reason, economics, and urban life over intrinsic tradition and religion. Spengler maintained that a culture like Faustian (Western) culture would become ever more materialistic, over analytical, and irreligious as it moved through the Autumn and Winter of its evolution. It has become obvious that sacrificing one’s entire life to become a machine of economic growth is one of the reasons the West has lost the culture it was founded upon and now worships at the altar of consumerism and materialism. However, the society cannot continue to exist on economic growth, materialism, and consumerism alone. It cannot exist without the simpler, more intuitive (and biologically essential – like reproductive) ways of life represented in the Culture phase.

As seen in the West, as the culture shifts from intrinsic to extrinsic values, people can no longer come up with a reason to have children and the civilization sterilizes itself. Children become part of an economic equation instead of an intuitive part of life. Most, if not all, of the values promoted by the modern left in the United States are representative of this conflict of New vs. Old.

Fire

“New” liberalism attempts to extinguish “old” traditions the society needs to survive which leads to chaos and destruction

Chaos Ensues

As a sort of “immune system” response to the new trying to destroy the old, as in the case with modern liberalism trying to take fascistic control of the West and destroy everything it was built upon, a society will eventually look for a strong man to solve problems that its democracy cannot. As the old ways are threatened, traditionalists and conservatives will become desperate to survive. From Decline of the West:

What stands is only the historical fact of an accelerated demolition of ancient forms that leaves the path clear for Caesarism.

The Enlightenment ideals of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” are already beginning to break down as the checks and balances of a democratic system interfere with one another to create political polarization. Also, the ethnic groups that created Western civilization are being demographically replaced by foreign populations who have very different ways of life. The conflict between these ethnic groups – the native Western population and the immigrants who are replacing them – and liberalism destroying the traditions of the society will make compromise increasingly hopeless. The left will try to force its views on the right, and the State will become increasingly tyrannical in order to enforce these laws.

Those on the left are “Philistine World Improvers” in Spengler’s literature. By imposing fascist leftism on everyone, they are suffocating individualism and creativity with the power of the state. This is leading to an increasingly childlike population beholden to the state, and the death of freedom and tradition. Decline of the West says the inorganic, intellectual goals of the World Improvers are ultimately pointless:

…and all these doctrines of Monism, Darwinism, Positivism, and what not are elevated into the fitness moral which is the beacon of American business men, 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.

Spengler’s predictions tell us traditionalists and conservatives will respond with anti-intellectualism which will push back against the academic left, which now dominates Western society’s educational institutions. Traditionalists and conservatives will also begin promoting a second religiousness, and assembling private, mercenary armies.

Multiculturalism and diversity will be discredited as ethnic tensions increase, and whites are increasingly scapegoated for all the ills in society. Tensions between groups supporting the new versus the old (liberalism versus conservatism) will lead to the breakdown of democracy. Each group will begin to look out for its own best interest instead of the good of the society as a whole. As chaos results, people will demand the corrupt, broken democracy be destroyed and replaced by the leadership of a strongman.

Augustus

Will a corrupt democracy be replaced by a return to leadership by a charismatic strongman like Augustus? Spengler thought so

Hail Caesar

Caesarism is a civilization’s way of trying to restore itself, an immune response to runaway liberalism. As Western civilization is crippled by economic powers ruling the political structure instead of ideals and liberalism debasing the society, the traditional population which forms the foundation of the West will become increasingly desperate to survive.

Indeed, the tendency (especially over the last 50 years) in American politics has been towards increasing power in the hands of one man. This concentration of power in the executive branch is escalating now that squabbling factions within the democracy are rendering Western governments increasingly ineffectual. As confidence in in the state continues to decline, the final shift to Caesarism will be realized when armies shift their allegiance from the state to a charismatic strongman who promises reform and swift and decisive action. Professor Thomas Sunic ties the predicted shift to Caesarism with the deep corruption in democracy as it is hijacked by a moneyed elite:

Spengler contends that the rise of Caesarism must be viewed as a natural fulfillment of the money-dictatorship as well as its dialectical removal.

Another historian, “Galteeman” summarizes the shift to Caesarism:

People become increasingly aware that their “democracy” is not that at all and is in fact a sort of plutocracy where the strings are being pulled by the richest behind a façade of cynical self aggrandizing opportunists posing as statesmen, whose real purpose is the accumulation of power for power itself and treating politics as a sort of game to be indulged in for the pleasure of it.

The parties on the ballot paper are mirror images of each other, peopled as they are by cynical game players who can be bought by the money men, be they socialist or conservative their “policy differences” are mere window dressings and the true policies are in essence the same for both sides, the continuation of the status quo and victory for the personal, financial and power gains and “jobs for the boys.”

The masses, aware of their powerlessness resort to a purely passive role as spectators of the suffering of others on TV so long as it doesn’t affect them directly. They are supplied with a reasonable standard of living and shallow entertainments (bread and circuses) in return for keeping their heads down and their mouths shut, and for going along with the status quo at election time or abstaining as more and more do.

In any case the “free media” which goes along with democracy is essentially in the power of money also and increasingly resorts to a sloganeering form of ranting, whether either right leaning or left leaning it is just another form of entertainment to titillate the viewers without any real substance.

Slowly the cynicism builds and builds until one day, sick to the teeth of the corrupt, bogus and empty institutions of state and the utter meaninglessness of a isolated and empty existence, the people cry out for a savior in the form of a great and heroic leader who will smash the rotten edifice of democracy and purify the world.

Hail Caesar!

This synopsis fits the world America and Europe are heading into in the 21st century perfectly.

Egypt

Over half a dozen High Cultures have come and gone, there is reason to think the West’s prime time has past

The Struggle Continues

As Spengler saw it, the idea of a Utopia like the one envisioned by today’s left is ridiculous. To him life is about struggle, conflict, and man’s Will to Power – his ability to impose his will creatively or destructively. Civilization dulls his true nature. He viewed optimism about changing man’s condition as cowardice. Spengler details the process of Civilization returning the Culture back to the earth from which it sprang:

But Civilization, the real “return to Nature,” is the extinction of Nobility – not as physical stock, but as living tradition – and the supplanting of destiny pulse by causal intelligence. With this, nobility becomes no more than a prefix. And, for that very reason, Civilized history is superficial history, directed disjointedly to obvious aims, and so becomes formless in the cosmic, dependent on the accident of great individuals, destitute of inward sureness, line, and meaning. With Caesarism history relapses back into the historyless, the old beat of primitive life, with endless and meaningless battles for material power, such as those of the Roman soldier emporers of the third century and the corresponding “Sixteen States” of China (265-420) which differ only in unessentials from the events of beast life in a jungle.

In this view, the arrival of a Caesar as democracy crumbles returns man to his natural state: dominance hierarchies, battling each other for control of turf and booty. Not returning to an uncivilized state would ultimately enfeeble man according to The Heroic Vitalists, including Nietzsche, who influenced Spengler’s work.

The Heroic Vitalists feared that the recent trends toward democracy would hand over power to the ill-bred, uneducated, and immoral, whereas their belief in a transcendent force in nature directing itself onward and upward gave some hope that this force would overrule in favor of the strong, intelligent, and noble.

This force, seen in the historical cycles of the High Cultures, is a reversion to Caesarism and a return to the more animal-like nature of man. It may well be that there is no alternative to a Caesar, as we are seeing in our own democracy as its machinery breaks down. And, given the choice between Caesarism or destruction of Western culture at the hands of the Socialist left, it is reasonable to think people will choose order, however temporary, even if it is given to them by a dictator.

Help us grow by making a purchase from our Recommended Reading and Viewing page or our Politically Incorrect Apparel and Merchandise page or buy anything from Amazon using this link. You can also Sponsor The New Modern Man for as little as $1 a month. This The New Modern Man article originally appeared on Return of Kings.

The Fates: Optimism is Cowardice

Vittorio

Each High Culture in human history has displayed the same patterns, even though the expression of these patterns is completely different for each culture

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

Looking beyond our short lives can give us tremendous insight into the past and the future. History is in large part the study of the rise and fall of great civilizations. Expanding on The New Modern Man Spengler series, which began with How a German Historian Predicted The Decline of Western Civilization 100 Years Ago is this introduction to the fates as laid down by Oswald Spengler.

Each of the foundational ideas of his civilization model: The Fear of Death, which leads to a Prime Symbol, and the expression of it through Will, Force and Deed as the symbolic seasons of a civilization pass, develop from a sense of what Spengler called Sehnsucht, or a longing, that all cultures coming into being have.

We have already observed that, like a child, a primitive mankind acquires (as part of the inward experience that is the birth of the ego) an understanding of number and ipso facto possession of an external world referred to the ego. As soon as the primitive’s astonished eye perceives the dawning world of ordered extension and the significant emerges in great outlines from the welter of mere impressions, and the irrevocable parting of the outer world from his proper, his inner-world gives form and direction to his waking life, there arises in the soul — instantly conscious of its loneliness — the root-feeling of longing.

It is this that urges “becoming” towards its goal, that motives the fulfillment and actualizing of every inward possibility, that unfolds the idea of individual being. It is the child’s longing, which will presently come into the consciousness more and more clearly as a feeling of constant direction and finally stand before the mature spirit as the enigma of Time — queer, tempting, insoluble. Suddenly, the words “past” and “future” have acquired a fateful meaning.

Predictable features of civilizational growth and decline which develop from this longing can be informative to those who see the arc of history. Those who don’t see will be dragged along anyway, according to Spengler’s theory. The following fates provide the foundations for Spengler’s organic, mathematical, and theoretical model of the rise and fall of civilization. The process begins with a High Culture organically arising, of which there have been eight in recorded history. A culture forms around a shared myth which develops from the Fear of Death.

Death

The Fear of Death is the foundation of a civilization’s mythmaking

Fear of Death

The culture, its myths and the symbolism that arise from the Fear of Death are meaningful for that culture alone. Spengler explains how the Fear of Death develops in no other species but man:

The beast knows only life, not death. Were we pure plantlike beings, we should die unconscious of dying, for to feel death and die would be identical. But animals, even though they hear the death cry, see the dead body, and scent putrefaction, behold death without comprehending it. Then, and only then, life becomes the short span of time between birth and death, and it is in relation to death that the other great mystery of generation arises also.

Only then does the diffuse animal fear of everything become the definite human fear of death. It is this that makes the love of man and woman, the love of mother and child, the tree of the generations, the family, the people, and so at last world history itself the infinitely deep facts and problems of destiny they are. In the knowledge of death is originated that world outlook which we possess as being men and not beasts.

A Prime Symbol arises from the Fear of Death and the civilization expresses it through stages of youthful vigor, middle age refinement, then decline and eventually death as the progression of seasons from Spring to Summer, Autumn and Winter pass.

Sky

Western civilization is organized around a Prime Symbol of infinity

Prime Symbol

In the Western world, the Prime Symbol is infinity. Expression of this symbol is in all aspects of the society:

  • Architecture: Soaring cathedrals and soaring skyscrapers, rising towards infinity
  • Engineering: The search for perpetual motion and infinite energy
  • Exploration: Manifest Destiny, exploring the infinite universe/space exploration
  • Finance: Infinite economic growth, globalization
  • Music: Polyphony, or two or more simultaneous melodies, infinity-seeking sound
  • Mathematics: Infinitesimal calculus
  • Science: Infinities of space and time, evolution of biology and the universe
  • Politics: The quest for an infinite Socialist Utopia

Spengler explains the Prime Symbol is not conciously known by the culture even though its existence revolves around it:

But the Prime Symbol does not actualize itself; it is operative through the form sense of every man, every community, age, and epoch and dictates the style of every life expression. It is inherent in the form of the state, the religious myths and cults, the ethical ideals, the forms of painting and music and poetry, the fundamental notions of each science – but it is not presented by these.

Prime Symbols of some other high cultures include:

  • Egyptaic: The Path, a preoccupation with sequential passages of the soul.
  • Classical: The Point-Present Body, a preoccupation with the space of immediate visibility.
  • Mesoamerican: Rhyming Time, assuming past and present times rhymed, or repeated.
  • Chinese: The guiding principle of the Tao, pushing mankind down a righteous path.
  • Magian: The Cavern, into which light shines down and does battle with darkness.

The Prime Symbol guides the Will, Force, and Deed of each high culture.

Shuttle

The now-defunct Space Shuttle program is an expression of the Will, Force, and Deed of Western civilization in its quest for infinity

Will, Force and Deed

As the culture overcomes its Fear of Death with mythology, Will, Force and Deed develop as derivatives of this Prime Symbol. Spengler writes:

If 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 worldwide 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, [Infinite] Space. And those specially Western creations…must be regarded as derivative of this prime symbol.

The Western world displays its Will, Force and Deed through its belief in and search for eternal progress, a word popularly used by the Socialists of today. The quest for “ethical Socialism” represents what Spengler called the Final World Sentiment of the West as the culture withers and dies. The Collected Essays of The Hammering Shield writes:

According to Spengler, what really sets Western Civilization apart from other Civilizations, is the West’s view of the world, and of itself, as progressing. Closely related to this worldview is the Westerner’s belief in his own power to improve his situation. Unlike for those members of, say, the Greco-Roman world, society for the Western man is not static. Neither is history cyclical, Westerners feel empowered to rebel, to make improvements, to progress.

The Will Force, and Deed, i.e. the way a society searches for fulfillment of its Prime Symbol evolves as the society shifts from an organic Culture phase to an inorganic Civilization phase.

Rembrandt

Rembrandt and other “Great Masters” represent the maturing of the summer consciousness of Western Civilization and the peak of its artistic forms

Culture Vs. Civilization

The difference between Culture and Civilization can be generalized into a battle of New vs. Old ideas, organic and inorganic stages, and rural vs. metropolitan culture. Ultimately, metropolitan and uninspired Civilization extinguishes the foundational, rural, inspired Culture. As the society moves away from the Culture phase in which religion and traditions dominate and into Civilization in which rationalism, money, and urban life dominate, Civilization is defeated by its own victory as it extinguishes the life-giving force of Culture.

The society moves from intrinsic cultural goals to extrinsic civilizational goals. Art, music, and architecture lose form and become bland repetitions of past great works. Religion and traditions are mocked, and the society becomes so over-analytical that it sterilizes the culture and eventually itself demographically. Life becomes something no longer to be lived, but a problem to solve. People can no longer think of a “reason” to have children as life is based on theory rather than tradition. Nihilism spreads in the late stage of Civilization and skeptics tear down every belief people have.

This is where we find ourselves today, late in the Civilization phase, in the season of Winter. The Culture and Civilization phases are further broken down into four seasons. Generally speaking, each season is 250 years long with a an average life span of 1,000 years.

Louvre

The Civilization and Culture phases are further divided into seasons of a society

The Seasons

Each of the eight high cultures and subsequent civilizations Spengler studied showed these general patterns, which he broke down into seasons:

  • Spring: A culture’s principles and myths arise resulting from the Fear of Death. It is a religious and heroic period. The Great Myths of the society are written. People are Rural-Intuitive and tied to the land. People’s lives are based on maintaining crops and farmland.
  • Summer: The culture reaches its peak. Traditions still rule. People in the society are still Rural-Intuitive although an increasingly urban population starts showing equal influence in the society. Summer is the time of a culture’s greatest achievements (from which all subsequent achievements are derived). Rationality and the mystical foundations of the culture begin to struggle with one another. Politics in summer is the era of the Divine Right of Kings and the aristocratic state.
  • Autumn: Past its peak, traditions begin to break down. The once rich culture and myths are slowly sterilized by rational analysis. Art begins to “excite” rather than inspire and becomes urban focused. Politics begin to move away from tradition and towards economic concerns and theory.
  • Winter: The culture becomes rigid and cold, petrifying into its final form. Atheism spreads (i.e. Darwin, Marx). Everything rural is disdained as the civilization becomes metropolitan and uninspired by its myths. Fertility declines as people cannot think of a “reason” to have children. The society becomes increasingly autocratic as money infiltrates politics. Art becomes repetitive imitations of past works.

Spengler’s full civilization model detailing each of these seasons and how each culture expressed them can be found here. This brings us to the present day, the time when things begin to fall apart and the arc of Western history ends. What are our options if the fates have brought us to the end of our road and the West either disentegrates from within or is conquered from without, or both?

Pompeii

“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…”

Face Fates With Courage or Cowardly Optimism

Spengler knew his model of history was a pessimistic one. But, in reality our preferences do not determine what is true, paraphrasing astrophysicist Carl Sagan. Spengler said had this to say about those who rejected or dismissed his findings:

Does anyone I ask, see over and beyond his time, his own continent, his country, or even the narrow circle of his own activities?

Spengler believed differing philosophies like linear (always progressing) model of history (so popular with today’s liberals) were based on a philosophy of cowardly optimism. For the man who wishes to know the truth, he believed it was much better to possess brave pessimism.

Little as one knows of events in the future – for all that can be got from a comparison of other civilizations is the general form of future facts and their march through the ages – so much is certain: the forces which will sway the future are no other than those of the past. These forces are: the will of the Strong, healthy instincts, race, the will to possession and power; while justice, happiness, and peace – those dreams which will always remain dreams – hover ineffectively over them.

In short, nothing will bring about a Utopia on earth; best to buckle in for the ride as great cultures rise and fall, bravely following the fated course of human history to its end rather than trying to escape its cycles.

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 philosophy on life definitely has a Red Pill flavor to it. This is perhaps why Spengler is so interesting to the awakened man.

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10 Philosophical Quotes By Oswald Spengler

oswald-spengler

Oswald Spengler, prophet of Western decline

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

Oswald Spengler and his seminal work Decline of the West is a perennial favorite at The New Modern Man. More than perhaps any other philosophical work, it provides perspective on where we are and where we are headed to in life and society.

These 10 selected quotes from Spengler have been prescient to say the least. They are as relevant now as they were when they were published a century ago. Spengler’s study of past high cultures’ rise then decline and how our own relates to them yielded Decline of the West, Man and Technics, and Aphorisms.

His civilization model has given us astonishingly accurate predictions, not only foreseeing the current malaise and decline of Western civilization, but given us a philosophy that doesn’t just contradict the liberal, linear model of history, it destroys it.

Spengler deserves more attention than he receives from the current education system. Here are 10 of his best quotes as selected by The New Modern Man:

1. The Common Man

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.

2. Democracy

Spengler

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

3. The Media

Today 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.

4. World Peace and the Liberal Utopia

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…

5. The Real Motivation of Socialist and Communists

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.

6. Destiny

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.

7. The Death of Art

One day the last portrait of Rembrandt and the last bar of Mozart will have ceased to be — though possibly a colored canvas and a sheet of notes will remain — because the last eye and the last ear accessible to their message will have gone.

8. Liberalism Vs. Conservatism

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.

9. The City Cannibalizing the Countryside

Long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her best blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.

10. What History Tells Us

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.

Some call his world views pessimistic. To his detractors, Spengler only had this to say:

Man was, and is, too shallow and cowardly to endure the fact of the mortality of everything living. He wraps it up in rose-colored progress-optimism, he heaps upon it the flowers of literature, he crawls behind the shelter of ideals so as not to see anything. But impermanence, the birth and the passing, is the form of all that is actual — from the stars, whose destiny is for us incalculable, right down to the ephemeral concourses on our planet. The life of the individual – whether this be animal or plant or man – is as perishable as that of peoples of Cultures. Every creation is foredoomed to decay, every thought, every discovery, every deed to oblivion. Here, there, and everywhere we are sensible of grandly fated courses of history that have vanished. Ruins of the “have-been” works of dead Cultures lie all about us. The hubris of Prometheus, who thrust his hand into the heavens in order to make the divine powers subject to man, carries with it his fall. What, then, becomes of the chatter about undying achievements?

However, rather than become totally fatalistic, Spengler offers this advice for living the best life we can given the circumstances presented to us that our out of our control.

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.

A life we can be proud of when the end comes is a noble desire, indeed. Facing the circumstances we are actually in, not what we would like them to be, is the essence of masculinity and allows us to plan our lives accordingly instead of living under a Niebuhr-esque trance foisted upon us by the mythmakers. As Spengler put it, “Optimism is cowardice.”

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How A German Historian Predicted The Decline Of Western Civilization 100 Years Ago

Parthenon

The greatness of Classical civilization lies in ruins; it was one of the High Cultures Spengler studied for his epic model of civilizations

The New Modern Man | Spengler’s Decline of the West Series

Is Western Civilization in Decline? This seems to be the topic du jour of the last decade.

There is a lot of discussion these days about America and the other nations comprising Western Civilization being in decline, and there is certainly a lot of evidence to support this claim. Whether it be dying populations among the Caucasian races that created the civilization, unchecked immigration rapidly replacing native populations in Europe and the United States, evidence that America is currently and has been behaving as an imperialistic empire but is now slowly losing its power around the world, a culture that seems to completely disregard the importance of family, the building block of civilization, or a loss of religiousness and sense of purpose, signs that something is wrong are everywhere.

You may be surprised to learn that many of the things that are happening to Western Civilization today were written down in a predictive model of history by German historian and philosopher Oswald Spengler nearly 100 years ago. Our High Culture is following the same patterns he saw in the other High Cultures thought to have existed in recorded history. Spengler writes:

I see…the drama of a number of mighty Cultures, each springing with primitive strength from the soil of a mother-region to which it remains firmly bound throughout its whole life-cycle; each stamping its material, its mankind, in its own image; each having its own idea, its own passions, its own life, will and feeling, its own death.

As a result of Spengler’s study of these historical cycles, he reasoned Western Civilization is coming to a close. See Spengler’s Civilization Model as a chart.

oswald-spengler

Oswald Spengler, prophet of Western decline

Reaction to Decline of the West

Spengler has his critics, as do many generalists in an age of myopic specialization. Right or wrong, most of the attacks on his civilization model are made by those who cannot see the forest for the trees. Because of this, his work has largely gone unrecognized in modern times.

Historian Robert Merry, an author of books on American history and foreign policy wrote about the reaction to Spengler’s theory after it was published in Spengler’s Ominous Prophecy. It left the academic class with their jaws open:

When Spengler’s book appeared in the wake of the Great War’s carnage, conventional historians attacked it immediately. The scholarly world, suggests H. Stuart Hughes “has been embarrassed to know what it can do about it.” Though it manifests prodigious study and substantial knowledge, Decline is not considered respectable scholarship [by some]. He seems to be saying that subsequent scholars couldn’t quite dismiss the book but also couldn’t figure out precisely how to incorporate its arguments into their thinking.

As with many truths, “In every culture and society there are facts which tend to be suppressed collectively, because of the social and psychological costs of not doing so,” as stated by researcher Peter Dale Scott. A lot of people seem to be turned off by a predictive model of history since the psychological cost of admitting that modern humans are subject to the same cycles in nature as other civilizations is quite high. Whether you agree with Spengler’s ideas or not, they’re intellectually fascinating, and worth a look.

Seasons

Spengler’s civilization model is as organic as the four seasons

The Four Seasons

Spengler equated the four cycles in human civilizations to the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. In compiling his work, he studied the 8 High Cultures thought to have existed: Babylonian, Egyptian, Indian, Chinese, Mayan/Aztec, Greek/Roman or Classical, Arab and, finally, Faustian, or what we call Western civilization. He believed each of the eight civilizations went through phases, just like the seasons. While some of those cultures are still with us, they have not been dominant cultural forces since their Winter. For example, China was referred to as a Sleeping Giant until it picked up on the vitality of the West.

In Spengler’s model, each culture goes through a formative Culture Stage, followed by a decadent period known as Civilization. The culture period makes up the “organic” Spring and Summer of a civilization, and is when the civilization is inspired by its own art and religion. Autumn and Winter make up the Civilization phase, in which the society becomes inorganic and is based only on the organization created during the Culture phase. The creativity seen in the Culture period slowly fades away. The civilization stiffens, and becomes overpopulated, metropolitan, and uninspired. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on Western Civilization and its expression of the four seasons.

Roughly speaking, each season makes up about 250 years which combined make for a civilizational arc of around 1,000 years. This procession of “seasons” happened to all civilizations Spengler studied. Spengler confidently said that by using his civilization model he could make predictions that were so accurate they would astonish people. Indeed, since 1918 through the present day, his predictions for Western Civilization have been spot on.

Cherry Blossom

Spring and summer make up the Culture phase of a society

Culture: Spring and Summer, Youthful Vigor and Middle Age Refinement

Spengler wrote Western civilization entered its Pre-Culture stage before 1000 AD. During that time, there is what he describes as “Chaos of primitive expression forms. Mystical symbolism and naive imitation.” As with other civilizations coming into being, in Faustian civilization there is apocalyptic imagery in this period and a fascination with death. This fascination with death ultimately leads to the establishment of the civilization’s Prime Symbol and resulting Will, Force, and Deed. During this time, a collective, cultural search for the infinite and a tragic striving for an ultimate, unattainable goal become the basis of Western Culture and Civilization. The Prime Symbol of Infinity and resulting Will, Force, and Deed become overwhelming urges to change the world for Western man.

Architecturally, the Romanesque cathedrals constructed around this time mark the beginning of the new Faustian culture form. In literature, collective epics like Beowulf and works such as The Song of Roland are published and become the foundations for future literature. Politically, there are “tribes and chiefs. As yet no Politics and no State.

Moving out of the Pre-Culture period into Spring, there is a “powerful cultural creation from awakening souls, unity and [cultural] abundance. Great creations of the newly-awakened dream-heavy soul. Super-personal unity and fullness.” Spring is the flowering of the culture’s principles, and is a deeply religious and heroic period. The society is inspired by its Prime Symbol, it is organic in nature and “Rural Intuitive.” Some of Faustian Civilization’s expressions of a culture form based around its Prime Symbol of Infinity during Spring are:

  • The Holy Grail romances such as Perceval, the Story of the Grail are written.
  • Architectural style shifts from Romanesque to high-rise Gothic Cathedrals, the first inclination of a style that later becomes skyscrapers in the Civilization phase, reaching upwards towards infinity.
  • Gregorian Chant evolves as a musical form, and polyphony with its infinity-seeking sound becomes the great Western musical form.
  • Politically, there is Feudalism and eventually “Victory of money over landed property.”

Transitioning from Spring to Summer, the Culture and its consciousness are rich and ripe. The rural and urban centers have equal influence. However, the civilization begins to move from its rural roots towards an artificial, urban environment.

  • Dominant literature shifts from Grail romances to novels such as Don Quixote and Shakespearean plays.
  • Architectural forms once again shift from Gothic Cathedrals to soaring, princely palaces.
  • Polyphonic musical forms evolve into Baroque, which is the period of the birth of Classical music.
  • The Great Masters such as Rembrandt give us the peak of artistic creativity in Summer.
  • In politics there are conflicts between religious and political leaders as each struggles for power and influence over the society.

Political Epochs in Spring and Summer

1. Feudalism. Spirit of countryside and countryman. The “City” only a market or stronghold. Chivalric-religious ideals. Struggles of vassals amongst themselves and against overlord. 900-1500 AD.

2. Crisis and dissolution of patriarchal forms. From feudalism to aristocratic State. 900-1500 AD.

3. Fashioning of a world of States of strict form. 1500-1800 AD.

4. Climax of the State-form (“Absolutism”) Unity of town and country (“State” and “Society.” The “three estates”) 1500-1800 AD.

5. Break-up of the State-form (Revolution and Napoleonism). Victory of the city over the countryside (of the “people” over the privileged, of the intelligentsia over tradition, of money over policy.) 1800-2000 AD.

Winter

Autumn and Winter make up the Civilization phase of a society

Civilization: Autumn and Winter, Loss of Vitality and Old Age

The West shifts from the Culture to the Civilization phase as Summer transitions into Autumn. The intellect of the civilization, fully developed, begins to sterilize away the culture’s early organic nature, and the center of the culture moves from its rural roots into the growing metropolis. Eventually its founding principles begin to break down. Spengler describes this period as “Intelligence of the City. Peak of strict Intellectual creativeness.” These events happen in Autumn of Western Civilization:

  • The Enlightenment occurs, marking a cultural shift from mysticism to rationality.
  • Classical music peaks and then declines as an art form. The quantity and quality of creative output between the time of Mozart and Beethoven is representative of the peak and the eventual decline of this musical art form.
  • True art dies out in favor of metropolitan “art for the masses.”
  • Politically, there are “struggles between the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie, Revolutions, and Napoleonism.” The American Revolution occurs during Autumn, and represents the victory of theory over tradition and religious leadership, a crucial transition as the society becomes increasingly based on economics and theory rather than its traditional foundations.
  • State government form moves from monarchy to republic, which eventually degenerates into a democracy.

The civilization first overpopulates its cities only to eventually begin dying out once Winter arrives. Spengler noted a pattern in every High Culture of demographic decline as a society sterilizes itself by not having children. In effect, Spengler predicted the effects of feminism 50 years before it arose:

The primary woman, the peasant woman, is mother. The whole vocation towards which she has yearned from childhood is included in that one word. But now emerges the Ibsen woman, the comrade, the heroine of a whole megalopolitan literature from Northern drama to Parisian novel. Instead of children, she has soul-conflicts; marriage is a craft-art for the achievement of “mutual understanding.” It is all the same whether the case against children is the American lady’s who would not miss a season for anything, or the Parisienne’s who fears that her lover would leave her, or an Ibsen heroine’s who “lives for herself” – they all belong to themselves and they are unfruitful.

In late Autumn, Spengler describes the features of civilization like this: “The body of the people, now essentially urban in constitution, dissolves into formless mass. Megalopolis and Provinces. The Fourth Estate, inorganic, cosmopolitan.” The culture, completely uprooted from its rural roots, urban, and composed of “masses” uninspired by their own myths and history, adopts a cosmopolitan, multicultural philosophy.

As Winter sets in, the democracy eventually becomes corrupted by economic powers and disintegrates forcing a return to primitive politics, such as despotism or Caesarism. The city dominates the countryside, and everything rural is disdained. As the peak of the civilization is passed, it is followed by a “fissure in the world-urban civilization; exhaustion of mental organization strength; and irreligiousness rising.

According to Spengler, Western world has entered Winter and its civilization is ending as it petrifies into its final form. He describes Winter as the “dawn of Megalopolitan Civilization. Extinction of spiritual creative force. Life itself becomes problematical. Ethical-practical tendencies of an irreligious and unmetaphysical cosmopolitanism.” Over the coming decades Spengler expects:

  • The intellect of our civilization to fade, people to stop reading and thinking as the civilization as a whole loses interest in thought.
  • Art to further devolve into repetitions of past great works and “meaningless subjects of fashion.”
  • Government to become tyrannical.
  • Primitive forms of living to slowly return.

The population comprising the civilization will continue dying off as it loses touch with the myths and culture it was founded upon. We are also experiencing the “spread of the Final World Sentiment” of our civilization as the spread of irreligious Socialism. As a corrupt, democratic Socialist government becomes autocratic we can expect a despot or a Caesar to take control of society as “primitive human conditions slowly thrust up into the highly-civilized mode of living.

Later, our great works and most of our technology will fade and lie in ruins as the population comprising our civilization fades away. First, the countryside and then the cities will depopulate (as seen in the Rust Belt and now cities like Detroit.) Man will return to a more animal-like state as his once great Culture and Civilization wither and die. Spengler expects conquests of our now-exhausted civilization will then occur from “young peoples eager for spoil, or [foreign] conquerors” while the imperial machinery of the State falls apart.

Political Epochs in Autumn and Winter

1. Domination of Money (“Democracy”). Economic powers permeating the political forms and authorities. 1800-2000 AD.

2. Victory of force-politics over money. Increasing primitiveness of political forms. Inward decline of the nations into a formless population, and constitution thereof as an Imperium of gradually-increasing crudity of despotism. 2000-2200 AD.

3. Private and family policies of individual leaders. The world as spoil. Egypticism, Mandarinism, Byzantinism. Historyless stiffening and enfeeblement even of the imperial machinery, against young peoples eager for spoil, or alien conquerors. Primitive human conditions slowly thrust up into the highly-civilized mode of living. After 2200 AD.

Merida

The Roman Theatre of Merida was built in 16 BC by a general and friend of emperor Augustus, a testament that no High Culture lasts forever

The Future, Echoing Roman Civilization

In the Winter of Roman politics there was a shift from the Roman Republic to Caesarism, or government led by a charismatic strongman. Eventually, the idea of representation broke down and there was a shift to bloody “force politics.”

Of course, our current government is modeled on the Roman system. There are even similarities between the two dominant parties. In Rome, the two dominant parties were the Optimates and Populares, the Republicans and Democrats of their day. This form of representative government eventually stops working because the system of checks and balances interfere with each other, causing gridlock. Force politics (killing people) eventually comes along to break the gridlock. (As an aside, some historians say it’s possible we entered this era in 1963 with the assassination of JFK by the military-industrial complex.) Arguably, this predictive model is spot-on with the current situation in the Western world. If Spengler’s model is correct, we are awaiting the rise of a dictator to come along and smash the rotten edifice of democracy sometime this century.

Democracy_Greece

Spengler thought democracy was the form of government of a civilization in decline

Spengler on Democracy

Spengler believed democracy was the form of government of a civilization in decline, and interestingly the idea of mass democracy arrived in the Winter of Western Civilization. Spengler viewed democracy as a weapon of moneyed interests, who use the media to create the illusion that there is consent from the governed. To him, the notion of democracy is really no different than living under a plutocracy (government by a wealthy elite.) Using the media’s propaganda, money is turned into force and controls people’s lives. Spengler wrote:

With the political press is bound up the need of universal school education, which in the Classical world was completely lacking. In this demand there is an element – quite unconscious – of desiring to shepherd the masses, as the object of party politics, into the newspaper’s power area. The idealist of the early democracy regarded popular education, without arrière pensée, as enlightenment pure and simple, and even today one finds here and there weak heads that become enthusiastic on the Freedom of the Press – but it is precisely this that smooths the path for the coming Caesars of the world press. Those who have learned to read succumb to their power, and the visionary self-determination of Late democracy issues in a thoroughgoing determination of the people by the powers whom the printed word obeys.

The leftist causes that have dominated the last century in the press and in politics, such as equalism, feminism, and Socialism, to Spengler, were only tools used to assist the moneyed powers to be more effective.

These monetary powers permeate the government, eventually destroying it. This is where we currently are on Spengler’s timeline, which leads us to what Spengler expects will happen in the West: people will cease to participate in elections, and the best candidates will remove themselves from politics. Spengler thinks blood is the only force that can conquer the force of money.

Dead Trees

The cycles described by Spengler will likely give rise to a new High Culture, but it will not be Western (American/European)

A New Spring After the Winter?

As Civilization advances into inexorable decline, Spengler wrote about the mood of the end times, which prophetically describes today’s nihilistic culture of critique very well:

The loss it faces is that of possibility. The forms of art as of life seem exhausted, the stages of development have been run through. Institutions function painfully. Repetition and frustration are the intolerable result.

The liberal ideas of eternal progress have hidden this process until now, when the reality of decline is becoming more evident. Spengler’s predictions of decline, as prescient as they have been over the last century, may leave you feeling a sense of hopelessness after studying his work. However, as one culture and civilization fades away, it’s very likely another will arise as part of this organic cycle.

Jean David Gebser later studied Spengler’s work, and believes a new consciousness will emerge from the ashes of the old civilization. Just as Western civilization was built upon the ashes of Ancient Greece and Rome, a new civilization may well be built on the ashes of our own.

The Decline of the West, published a century ago and largely unknown today, is work that very well could be among the greatest ideas ever conceived by the human mind. It smashes the linear model of history (always moving upward) presented in the public school system, and instead presents the idea that throughout history man and his civilizations go through periods of birth, growth, decline, and death.

Help us grow by making a purchase from our Recommended Reading and Viewing page or our Politically Incorrect Apparel and Merchandise page or buy anything from Amazon using this link. You can also Sponsor The New Modern Man for as little as $1 a month. This The New Modern Man article originally ran on Return of Kings. It was also featured on Infowars.