Sunday, January 06, 2013
Spengler and Beyond
Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) was brilliant in finding cyclic patterns and similarities between the rise and fall of various civilizations, but I don't admire Spengler's complete rejection of the “Idea of Progress.” I think there can be both cycles and progress, like a winding path up a mountain which sometimes descends before it rises again. Evolution is the basis for accepting the idea of progress, life has evolved from the simple to the complex, and although modern human advances in saving lives has slowed harsh natural selection, progress in evolution continues.
Spengler speaks of a “mysterious cosmic force” that influences man, but he does not at all tie it to biology. I define the activation of the Spirit-Will, which is tied to biology, and is later shaped by evolution. This is the force that is universal within life and is therefore within distinct civilizations and cultures. Universal evolution does not suggest only one people or one civilization, which could be destroyed by one disease or one disaster. Evolution has always worked within a variety of people and cultures, each evolving in there own fashion---we would hope that their independence would be protected by a light federalism, while cooperating with one another in the overall evolution of human beings, even evolving into new species out into the cosmos.
Evolution also answers Spengler's attempt to define the “Prime Symbol” of each distinct civilization, eg. Faustian-Western, Apollinian-Greco-Roman, Magian-Arabian, etc. The real prime symbol is the universal symbol of evolving life, which is the Spirit-Will-To-Godhood that actives all life forms, even when each culture and civilization is uniquely shaped by evolution in its own environment and by its own genetic traits. Spengler mainly ignored heredity and racial differences but these things do influence cultural creations, as the important science of sociobiology has shown. Spengler thinks real unity is more cultural than biological, when the reality is the other way around, there is a biological origin behind cultural creations, which is basically, success in survival and reproduction, and ultimately success in the sacred drive to evolve to Godhood.
We can pay attention to the signs and cycles of the rise and decline of civilizations, which Spengler was brilliant in finding, such as the deterioration of the roots and traditions of the founders, the fall in birthrates, the rise of dictatorships, etc. but it is the ongoing evolution of life on the sacred path to Godhood which powerfully counters the ominous pessimism of Spengler.