Why Liberals Are The Real Faustians
In the discourse of the True Right, one does not have to look hard for the influence of the German philosopher-historian Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) and his two-volume tome Decline of the West. Even where we do not hear the name, this influence betrays itself in the use of terms like ‘Faustian Man’ and ‘Caesarism’, as well as in the general tendency to contrast a lost organic ‘Culture’ with a soulless and materialistic ‘Civilisation’. But while these conceptual rays of enlightenment are widely appreciated, few of us muster the determination to squint for long at the darker core of Spengler’s theory, because its notorious pessimism and fatalism might annihilate our entire project for European resurgence.
So let us take a look. As is well known, Spengler starts from the idea that each High Culture is a higher organism in its own right, and that its maximum lifespan and basic pattern of development are as fixed and unchangeable as those of human beings. Each of these macro-organisms is based on a central ideal or ‘world-feeling’ – in the case of the Western or Faustian High Culture, this is “the will to infinite space” – and it develops this world-feeling, which permeates everything from its religion to its science to its politics, over a fixed term of existence lasting around two thousand years. The beginning is marked by a spiritual and cultural flowering, in which the world-feeling is realised internally, and to this rising stage Spengler gives the name of Culture. Over the passage of centuries, the Culture is hardened and externalised into a cold ‘mechanical’ edifice as its human content becomes spiritually exhausted, and to this declining stage is given the name of Civilisation.
As anyone can see, this theory is strongly deterministic at the level of broad trends, as human action can no more reverse the decline of a High Culture than it can resist the downward spiral of old age. It might also be called subjectivist, as Spengler considers the perception of “objective” truth to change according to the world-feeling of different High Cultures. Classical man yearned for corporeality and immediacy, and created sculpture, Euclidean geometry, the city-state and so on; Magian or Middle-Eastern man yearned for the world-as-cavern, and created arabesque, alchemy and the community of creed; Faustian man yearns for endless space, and has created calculus, contrapuntal music and the territorial homeland, among other expressions of his world-feeling. Culture thus determines not only art and identity, but also mathematics and science.
One interesting and controversial point is that Spengler denies any continuity between the Classical and Faustian High Cultures. In this view, their respective world-feelings actually stand in diametric opposition, and the Western world has merely pursued a long self-deceiving love affair with a beautiful memory that it could never hope to replicate. However, as the basic life-stages of High Cultures are universal, it is possible to explain or predict Western events by means of analogies with Classical ones (and with other High Cultures too, although most of Spengler’s analogies are from the Classical world). Thus, Spengler predicts that our own future will be marked by the late-civilisational phenomenon of ‘Caesarism’, i.e. authoritarianism and territorial expansion, which was carried out in the Classical world through the creation of the Roman Empire by Caesar and Augustus.
Despite the relativism of Spengler’s view, there is little in it to justify the cultural mixing so emphasised in the globalist master narrative of ‘world history’. Religious truth, for Spengler, depends upon the world-feeling of the High Culture: so when the West imported Christianity from the Magian High Culture, and the Chinese High Culture imported Buddhism from the Indian, the only result in both cases was that the original religion changed out of all recognition. In cases of involuntary subjection of one High Culture to another (i.e. the overlaying of a young Culture by the structures of a dying Civilisation), Spengler warns that this creates distortion and hatred that builds up until the rising force violently liberates itself, and cites the triumph of young Magian Islam over ageing Classical Romanism as a spectacular example of this.
Outside the High Cultures, there are only pre-historical and post-historical peoples, or barbarians and fellaheen. Barbarians, who may create a hundred empires without any of them attaining the significance of one Caesarism, are fertile soil for future High Cultures: Spengler classes the Russians of his time in this category, and wonders if the piety of Dostoyevsky does not hint at the first glimmerings of a future Russian High Culture. Fellaheen are the spiritually-exhausted people left over from a High Culture that has worked through its entire lifespan – and these may go on using their ossified cultural forms indefinitely until a more vigorous High Culture shatters them, while their leaders conquer territories in a “zoological” struggle for power devoid of historical significance. We see here that, as Spengler’s notion of decline does not always necessitate a violent dissolution, the long continuity of Chinese history does not refute his theory in the slightest: the fellaheen of China might wax and wane for another thousand years, but their original High Culture would still be long-dead (as it has been, according to Spengler, since the end of the Tang dynasty).
Now we come to the real conundrum: Spengler’s interpretation of the Western or Faustian High Culture, the only remaining macro-organism in the world that has not yet reached the end of its lifespan. Spengler denies that this High Culture is unique in a qualitative sense, but he admits that its “will to infinite space” renders it more expansive and all-encompassing than the others. He predicts that the West is destined for world conquest during its final phase of ‘Caesarist’ consummation. This idea of an imperial Faustian destiny is an important point that we should bear in mind.
The Gothic Middle Ages represented the “springtime” of Faustian Culture, its spiritual flowering. The early modern period was its “high summer”, which saw most of its cultural, scientific and artistic innovations. After the passing of the Baroque and Rococo styles, around the year 1800, the West crossed the line from Culture into Civilisation, and started to translate its distinctive world-feeling into the remorseless expansion of capitalism, technological progress, and empire. The artificial cities suck up the energies of the countryside, the original ruling castes of Nobility and Priesthood are replaced by their degenerate counterparts Money and Intellectualism, and the principle of Time (instinct, destiny, becoming) increasingly gives way to that of Space (rationalism, causality, things-become). Spengler solemnly warns his contemporaries that the time for poetry and romanticism is past: the men of the future will be hard-headed technicians, administrators or unsentimental conquerors in the mold of Cecil Rhodes. He also ridicules any attempt at influencing the tide of history through conservatism or reaction: ducunt volentem fata nolentem trahunt are the final words of Decline of the West.
In the last few chapters of this volume, Spengler fleshes out his prediction of the West’s imminent transition to Caesarism. He states that the West is currently ruled by the anonymous and irresponsible power of Money, whose political weapons are democracy and mass media, but that this masked plutocracy will eventually become an intolerable burden. As the remnants of the old Culture are destroyed, the pure will-to-power shall take the form of a strong leader and overthrow the power of Money, restoring something of the original primordial virtues eclipsed by Civilisation. The Faustian High Culture will attain unification and worldwide expansion, and in the same process come to an end. Spengler identified the rule of Money with the Anglo-Saxon world, and wanted to see the task of overthrowing it carried out by Germany, although nationalism was for him just a means to the end of Caesarist Imperium.
This is the crux of the problem. Spengler died in 1936, having made some ominous warnings about National Socialist follies in his last book The Hour of Decision, and never saw the war in which German hopes of asserting leadership over the West were finally dashed to pieces. Those who have come after this war, and see the gelded condition to which Germany has been reduced today, are left to wonder: if the nation that was supposed to manage our transition into Caesarism has been defeated beyond hope of renewal, where does that leave the West in the modern era? The most common line of thought ends up at the conclusion of this article on Spengler:
What stage, according to Spengler, has Western Civilisation reached? His [sic] answer will horrify almost everybody – the 20th and 21st centuries were destined to be those of transition into our “Roman-style” era, but this was prevented (or maybe delayed) by Germany’s defeat in two world wars.
Those in Rightist circles who take up Spengler’s legacy, either whole or in part, tend to start from this interpretation. So Francis Parker Yockey’s Imperium blames the result of the war, as well as the influence of Jewish “culture-distorters” over the West, for the present stagnation of the white peoples in a stage of arrested development that will only end when they return to their destiny of global conquest. Ricardo Duchesne, who unlike Spengler traces the Faustian essence through the Classical High Culture and right back to the Indo-Europeans, assumes (in Faustian Man in a Multicultural World) that Western man has suffered a fall from which he may yet rise again as long as he does not lose his racial character. One American white nationalist author, Ted Sallis, has even argued that the white race should have done with the Faustian High Culture and create a new one that can successfully attain the infinite! (One gets the feeling that Spengler, who always stressed that human individuals and groupings are instruments for High Cultures and not the other way around, would never have allowed such a Hollywood ending to jump onto the tail of his German tragedy).
But let’s wind back a bit: is the assumption that the West has been knocked off its normal course of development, and is now facing slow annihilation by the immigration of coloured barbarians, justified by Spengler’s theory at all? In Decline of the West, Spengler mentions only one High Culture that was murdered in its prime and prevented from developing to fruition: the Mesoamerican. Surely the Second World War, disastrous as it was, did not represent for us an annihilatory catastrophe on the scale of the Spanish conquest of Mexico? And surely the Faustian High Culture, which had developed remorselessly through all the caprice of fortune up to that point, could not have been diverted from its path by anything less than such a catastrophe?
This is not all. While suppressing Germany’s bids for dominance, the two World Wars left a peripheral offshoot of the West (America, not Russia) in a dominant position over the cultural heartland. This fits a pattern of ‘dominance from the margins’ noted by Spengler in other High Cultures transitioning to Caesarism, and reflected in the Roman domination of Greece and the Qin domination of the Chinese states. Having outlasted its last ‘barbarian’ foe, Russia, America now possesses a collection of military bases around the world that would likely astonish the men of the British Empire. And, even beyond the writ of America, the civilisational forms of the West have torn their broadest and deepest inroads into the remnants of other High Cultures post-decolonisation.
Which leads us to the question: what if the West has not been “diverted” from its predetermined course at all? What if the developments we see around us today – and castigate as the symptoms of anti-Western decadence, even as most people in the West regard them as the “inexorable progress of History” – actually represent the latest development of Faustian Civilisation? And what if we are well into the preliminary stages of Caesarism after all, yet delude ourselves as to its nature?
There are, of course, several objections to this idea. Let us deal first with those few that can claim chapter-and-verse support from Spengler. Although I am not really a Spenglerian, I believe that Spengler’s work exposes vital undercurrents in Western history, and I intend to make my present point strictly within the bounds of his theory.
First, it must be admitted that Spengler’s discussion of the Western future in Decline of the West predicts a violent conflict for the helm of our Civilisation: between Caesarism and Money, politics and economics, Prussian socialism and Anglo-Saxon capitalism. In this sort of conflict, only one side can win; such a conflict really did take place during the last major war, with the clear victory of Money over Caesarism; and there is no sign of a renewal of this conflict today, which all lends support to the idea that we are living through a stagnant age in which our civilisational evolution has become dormant. It is also true that Spengler, in his last work The Hour of Decision, made a number of ominous pronouncements on the dangers of a coloured uprising against white dominance, which he warned might even find leadership from rogue Europeans. This is presented as an existential threat to the West; so it is unlikely that Spengler would see the racial bolshevism of the present day as a stage in the consummation of Faustian Civilisation.
To show that these objections miss the mark, we should make a distinction between Spengler’s theory and Spengler the man. Although Spengler’s theory of High Cultures may be more poetry than science according to some, it nonetheless operates on the basis of a clear internal logic, which can be relied upon to interpret historical events. Moreover, where there is any conflict between the two, it is this theory – which draws on its author’s highest inspiration, as well as a vast store of historical fact – that is to be preferred to Spengler’s personal interpretations of contemporary events, many of which were far from unfolding themselves fully by the time of his death.
In fact, Spengler the man – who openly revered action and despised cold intellectualism – was far from a dispassionate narrator of the insight yielded by his theory. He wanted his own nation to take up the mission of Caesarism, and steeling the Germans for this task necessitated the rhetorical burning of certain boats that might have offered retreat. Spengler is famous for the quotation “optimism is cowardice”, but in truth he wove his optimism into his pessimism: his work represents the titanic struggle of a profoundly reactionary temperament with the objective facts of modernity and degeneration. While accepting the necessity of a Western twilight, he hoped to give the best and noblest possible form to it; but we who have come after him know that this did not come to pass. Like the modern-day conductors of Mahler’s ‘Tragic’ Sixth Symphony, we are in a position to write into Spengler’s work the final hammer-blow that removes all ambiguity from its negative verdict.
The variance in Spengler’s narrative is easily shown when we look at the first objection, to do with the need for Caesarism to defeat Money in a violent conflict. If we look only at the discussion of this issue in Decline of the West, we certainly get the impression that there must be an inevitable battle and Caesarist victory:
And now dawns the time when the form-filled powers of the blood, which the rationalism of the Megalopolis has suppressed, reawaken in the depths. Everything in the order of dynastic tradition and old nobility that has saved itself up for the future, everything that there is of high money-disdaining ethic … all that I have described elsewhere in one word as Socialism in contrast to Capitalism – all this becomes suddenly the focus of immense life-forces. Caesarism grows on the soil of Democracy, but its roots thread deeply into the underground of blood tradition. … The spirit of the knightly orders overpowers plunderous Vikingism. (emphasis added)
In Spengler’s shorter work Prussianism and Socialism, these two world-historical ideas are revealed to be synonymous with the English and Prussian peoples, who command the Anglo-Saxon and German worlds respectively. These are “the youngest and last of the Western peoples”, who “possess the Faustian will to power and infinity in its purest, most vital form”, albeit in different forms. The English mentality descends from free Viking pirate-bands and ends up as individualist capitalism; the Prussian mentality descends from the knights of the Teutonic Order and ends up as collectivist socialism. But this time, while insisting on the inevitability of conflict and eventual Caesarism, Spengler leaves the result of the contest open:
There can be no reconciliation. Each of these principles is proclaimed by a German people, Faustian men par excellence. Neither can accept a restriction of its will, and neither can be satisfied until the whole world has succumbed to its particular idea. This being the case, war will be waged until one side gains final victory. Is world economy to be worldwide exploitation, or worldwide organisation? Are the Caesars of the coming empire to be billionaires or universal administrators? (emphasis added)
Of course, we all know what the result was to be. And in the ‘managerial revolution’ as described by Samuel Francis in Leviathan and its Enemies, we see what may be conceived as a hardening of capitalism into a preliminary form of Caesarism. This managerialism builds its power on hedonism and atomisation instead of martial virtue, expands through global finance instead of military strength, and sets up a transnational elite in place of a imperial administrative class. It grows out of its predecessor, individualist capitalism, bearing the stamp of its essential nature, and does not require a violent war in order to supersede it. It may be that, after the Second World War weakened Europe’s heartland and created nuclear weaponry that quickly fell into the hands of ‘barbarians’, this insidious and supranational form of domination was the only viable means left for Western Civilisation to conquer the world.
Regarding the second objection, to do with the “coloured revolt against the West”, we can safely guess that Spengler could never have stomached the postwar irruption of non-white hordes into the West. Whether this event contradicts his theory is another matter; and since his theory is based on the method of analogy, and requires the Faustian version of the Roman Empire to extend across the whole world, I don’t see how it does. Rome, in her imperial era, came under the rule of foreign emperors like those of the Severan dynasty; she merged her own citizenry in the common rabble after Caracalla’s edict of 212; she relinquished her role as political centre to other cities like Constantinople and Ravenna, which may have had great significance in a world based on local identities; and by the time of her final collapse, she not only had a barbarised army and barbarians for high officials, but responded to provincial bagaudae revolts by sending barbarian foederati to suppress them. (This last detail strikes me as especially reminiscient of the “universal altruism” of our aspiring modern Caesars!)
The argument becomes even more compelling when we take into account the special characteristics of the Faustian High Culture, as identified by Spengler. According to him, the Classical High Culture was based on a world-feeling of corporeality, simplicity and small units: such a world would naturally produce a unified territorial state, a single common identity, and a physical Caesar to embody it all. In contrast, the Faustian West is described as dynamic and all-encompassing, removing its highest truths into the inscrutable realm of specialists, and thriving on the play of opposites in contrapuntal music and Hegelian dialectic. Why should we find it strange that such a Civilisation can expand itself without the need for a unified state, can dispense with a physical Caesar in favour of a faceless transnational managerialism, and can spiritually colonise “independent” peoples by extending to them the Faustian contract of modernisation so that they can fight against the West?
Of course, as Duchesne and others rightly lament, the spiritually Faustian man of the West is withering away into a pitiful and repulsive shadow. But this is all part and parcel of Spengler’s theory. What can still be called ‘Faustian’ in this late Civilisation is the spread of Western cityscapes and hedonistic degeneracy through the Third World; the global arterial flow of high finance and the muscular development of world managerialism; and the migration of entire hordes across the world for the convenience of the new upper class, who – let’s not forget – live a sort of neo-colonial high life even as the majority of Westerners are punished for their “sins”. (For a rough idea of what our decline might look like from their perspective, check out this vintage piece of modern Western triumphalism.)
If we find all of this more horrifying than inspiring, then perhaps we are just beginning to see in the Faustian Civilisation what other peoples saw in it long ago. (Have we forgotten who exactly, in Goethe’s play, serves as the constant companion of Faust?)
So anyway, what does all of the above mean for the True Right? Those who have just digested this colossal black pill will no doubt reply that we have to break out of the strictures of Spengler’s theory, or else abandon our Cause altogether. As I said, I am not a Spenglerian, and do not believe that we should adhere rigidly to Spengler’s worldview. However, we must recognise the basic trends and characteristics of our reality that Spengler got right, and take a realistic attitude towards them.
For instance, Spengler is right to say that the West is on a broad declining path that ends up in some form of tyranny, and that certain actions in the face of this (e.g. creating a brand new civilisation for the sake of racial convenience) are simply not in our power. Where he errs, I think, is in constructing an overly rigid schema in which the significance of events is given too little place, only the broadest and highest scale matters, and any attempt at reaction is out of the question (although Spengler, in Prussianism and Socialism, muddies this too by stating that the histories of France and Italy have largely involved reaction against Faustian universalism). As an exhortation to the Germans to concentrate on their “national destiny”, this makes sense, but we should not take it seriously in the present era; so while we may not be able to create a new civilisation, we can hope to strive for our fullest possible independence and survival within the present one, at least until another comes along.
For us, to identify with Caesar (a tribune of the mob, which in global terms is a non-white and anti-white mob) is an act of self-delusion. Honest introspection should tell us that we are heirs to the figure of Cato, and we should openly admit the reactionary nature of our movement, substituting the rhetoric of “inevitability” for the injunction to do what is right regardless of success or failure. Of course, this implies a higher reference point for what seems at first glance to be a narrowly-focused movement – and if we want to trump the declining trends of Culture, what could be better than to identify with Truth, which is largely overlooked by Spenglerian relativism?
It is correct to say that we cannot apprehend truth except through our own, Western and Faustian, mentality. But this does not mean that truth has no independent existence, or that our cultural world-feeling does not allow us to penetrate through to it. In fact, every serious manifestation of the True Right – from the spiritual yearnings of Traditionalists, to the ‘awakenings’ of young men to ancient realities of racial and sexual difference – strives for some or other form of truth, even if some of us get no further than the sewage pit under the Matrix after taking the red pill. If this should seem a banal and tautological statement, then let’s use our enemies as a point of comparison: they run entirely on dogmas and assumptions piled up by Western civilisation, old half-truths long ago digested and re-digested into truthless excrement, and believe that they can create the truth by force of will (an assumption that also hides, under a more decorous guise, in the writings of Spengler). It is yet another delusion to think that it is our enemies who are concerned with the universal, while we try only to uphold the particular form of the West; in truth, we cling onto race and nation only to retain a sense of our essence while we clean out “civilised” Europe’s cluttered temple.
To temper the wild and dangerous Faustian spirit with the truth – or, if you prefer a more poetic style, to reorient Faust from Mephisto towards God – this should be our watchword in this undoubtedly dark and yet still-unpredictable era.