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. [Spengler characterizes the final dying phase of a Culture as Civilization.] For it is the beginning of a Civilization that it remouls all the forms of the Culture that went before, understands them otherwise, practises 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 dialectic. 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 no, 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 oppsition 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 altgered – 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 hasit. 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, moreal turns 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 intto 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.”

Oswald Spengler. The Decline of the West. An abridged edition by Helmut Werner. English abridged edition prepared by Arthur Helps from the translation by Charles Francis Atkinson. New York: oxford University Press c199 [1926, 1928, 1932]. xxxx,415, xvix

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