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Decline of the West: Volumes 1 and 2 by Oswald Spengler

Decline of the West: Volumes 1 and 2 by Oswald Spengler

Author:Oswald Spengler [Spengler, Oswald]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Random Shack
Published: 2014-09-28T04:00:00+00:00


CHAPTER III

ORIGIN AND LANDSCAPE

(C) THE RELATIONS BETWEEN THE CULTURES

I

Although consideration of the Cultures themselves should logically precede that of the relations between them, modern historical thought generally reverses the order. The less it really knows of the life courses which together make up a seeming unity of world happenings, the more zealously it searches for life in the web of relations, and the less it understands even of these. What a wealth of psychology there is in the probings, rejections, choices, transvaluations, errors, penetrations, and welcomings! — and not only between Cultures which immediately touch one another, wonder at one another, fight one another, but also as between a living Culture and the form world of a dead one whose remains still stand visible in the landscape. And how narrow and poor, on the other hand, are the conceptions which the historians label “influence,” “continuity,” and “permanent effects”!

This is pure nineteenth century. What is sought is just a chain of causes and effects. Everything follows and nothing is prime. Since every young Culture superficially shows form elements of older Cultures, these elements are supposed to have had continuing effect (fortgewirkt), and when a set of such effects has been strung together, the historian regards it with satisfaction as a sound piece of work.

At bottom, this mode of treatment rests upon that idea which inspired the great Gothics long ago, the idea of a significant singleness in the history of all mankind. They saw how, on earth, men and peoples changed, but ideas stayed, and the powerful impressiveness of the picture has not worn itself out even today. Originally it was seen as a plan that God was working out by means of the human instrument. And it could still be regarded as such at a far later stage, in fact so long as the spell of the “ancient-medieval-modern” scheme lasted and its parade of permanence prevented us from noting that actuality was ever changing. But meantime our outlook also has altered and become cooler and wider. Our knowledge has long overpassed the limits of this chart, and those who are still trying to sail by it are beating about in vain. It is not products that “influence,” but creators that absorb. Being has been confused with waking being, life with the means by which it expresses itself. The critical thought, or even simple waking consciousness, sees everywhere theoretical units subjected to motion. That is truly dynamic and Faustian, for in no other Culture have men imagined history thus. The Greek, with his thoroughly corporeal understanding of the world, would never have traced “effects” of pure expression units like “Attic drama” or “Egyptian art.”

Originally what happens is that a name is given to a system of expression forms conjuring up in our minds a particular complex of relations. But this does not last long, and soon one is suppositing under the name a being, and under the relation an effect. When we speak today of Greek philosophy, or Buddhism, or Scholasticism,



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