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The Decline Of The West I by Oswald Spengler
The Decline Of The West by Oswald Spengler is a massive undertaking, not just by the shear amount of knowledge put in the two volumes, but the amount of time it’ll take you to get through it. It’s separated into two volumes: Form and Actuality followed by Perspectives of World History. Much of the right wing thought you see today is influenced by Nietzsche, Junger, and Mishima. Spengler is not a name spoken often, most likely because it requires a test of will to go through two giant books. Before taking on such a task, I would recommend you read Man and Technics by Spengler first. It will give you his philosophy in condensed form and inspire you to take on the Decline Of The West.
Centuries from now, men will look to the German philosophers much as we look back to the Greek and Roman philosophers. Everyone from Nietzsche to Schopenhauer to Spengler and Heidegger will be studied. The Germans in that time were on a whole other level and there’s a reason we still read them today. Spengler himself stated his thought is most influenced by Goethe and Nietzsche. He does however, have fair criticisms of Nietzsche in the Decline Of The West. Maybe I’ll get into that later?
The main idea put forth by Spengler is one I’ve heard before. Howard Bloom wrote a book called The Global Brain that made the argument that groups, tribes, nations of people made up super organisms. Spengler believed in similar idea. The West as we see it is a super organism he called Culture and like man, Culture has a lifecycle. It’s young, experiences manhood, gets old, and eventually dies. Everyone likes to compare the coming fall of America to the fall of Rome and Spengler wouldn’t disagree. He actually saw the rise of Caesar as part of Rome’s fall, the death of one culture and the rise of the next.
This idea of a culture dying goes back to the old world way of thinking. In this leftist hellscape we’re stuck in now, there’s the belief in progress. Time is a straight line, you just keep going forward. Older peoples didn’t believe this. Older peoples believed time was cyclical. War was something that came with the season. Every culture had a spring and a winter. Spengler’s cultures have a lifespan of around 1,000 years.
The Decline Of The West I: Form and Actuality
The hardest part about reading DOTW for me was the first volume. Full disclosure, I tackled this through a combination of ebook and audiobook forms. Audiobook isn’t recommended for volume I. You must read to get most benefit from it. I had long trip to see family so used audiobook for last half of the book. There may be good sections I missed, but did not enjoy deep dives into math and art. Near the end, Spengler critiques Nietzsche and this you should read.
Many of us on the right see Nietzsche as answer to the globohomo worldview of leftism, eating the bugs, and castrating ourselves. Nietzsche offers better way. He reveals The Will to Power and the path back into nature. His is the path of becoming more of what you are, of ascension. Contrast this is what Spengler saw happening in his time. He saw the rise of Communism in the east as well as in his own time. He saw Weimar Germany.
This thought from Nietzsche, encouraging the path of the overman to Spengler was just another form of socialism. And he’s right. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t listen to Nietzsche. He had big influence even over Spengler, but what he suggests is still socialism, just a life affirming version of it. Nor should you be turned away from Spengler because of his attacks on Nietzsche. Much of Volume I does not deal with Nietzsche however, it’s more a setup of how Spengler measures a culture.
“Cultures are organisms, and World history is their collective biography.” -Oswald Spengler
To Oswald Spengler, historians and philosophers missed the big picture. They might talk about their country or people, but Spengler thought they should be talking about continents. He also believed the key to understanding our Culture and its future is by studying Rome. Many of us yearn for a Caesar to come and make globohomo pay, but to Spengler, the coming of a Caesar marked the death rattle of the culture. Nietzsche looks to create the overman where Spengler sees the entire culture as organism in its death throes. He doesn’t think you can escape the death of your culture, rather you should face the end with bravery for the “honorable death is the one thing that can not be taken from man.”
This is not to say he completely disagrees with Nietzsche. Spengler does spend time talking about the coming of great men. He believes the coming of great men are “incalculables” in world history. No one saw Alexander or Caesar or Genghis Khan, Napoleon, and Hitler. In this respect, the studying of Nietzsche can put the right man on the path to greatness, free him from the leftist worldview. Nietzsche saw Nature for what it is and the Will to Power that drives all men.
“On the surface of history it is the unforeseen that reigns.” -Oswald Spengler
This is powerful understanding you must take from Spengler. The great man drives world history. We can’t however, account for him. He comes when fate compels him too and we’re all caught under his sway for better or worse. If you have any desire to be manifest the power of the great man, you must be something unimaginable to modern eyes. Unpredictable. Be a man historians will be studying for generations, trying to figure out how you came to be.
This is all for now. There will be a part two to cover the second volume. I leave you with this advice from Spengler:
“And I can only hope that men of the new generation may be moved by this book to devote themselves to technics instead of lyrics, the sea instead of the paint brush, and politics instead of epistemology. Better they could not do.” -Oswald Spengler