The Warrior, the Priest and the Merchant
Oswald Spengler offers an interesting insight that helps us understand our time and the challenge we face. We are a merchant people. Vibrant living cultures are, at their heart, warrior societies.
Oswald Spengler is always an interesting and enlightening read. I am currently working through the second volume of his The Decline of the West and came across an interesting portion in his chapter on “Peoples, Races and Tongues” that may help enlighten our current political situation and the problems we face. As most know, Spengler’s writing deals with his theory of the birth, life cycle, and death of the great cultures. Loosely, a great culture is a thing born out of the soil, among a people bonded together spiritually into a unified whole. Within this unified, rooted group, towns begin to form and over time the towns become cities and the living culture transitions to something which is freed from its attachment to the soil, is abstracted and becomes a thing of the cities and eventually the megalopolis. The cities then bleed the cultural energy of the soil attached culture until it is empty, there is nothing left, and it becomes a dead thing, sometimes to continue on zombie like indefinitely in its final form. Along the way there are transitions related to the use of language which I found illuminating for our present moment, living as we do in the nearly exhausted husk of the great Western culture.
We cannot have this discussion without mentioning Spengler’s definition of “race” which is very much defined differently than we do today, as partly a thing of genetics, skin color and politics. For Spengler, "race” is the essence of a culture. He calls it the plant-like rootedness to a physical space by a people bonded by blood, sharing the same language.
“Every race is a single great body, and every language the form of one great waking-consciousness that connects individual beings.”
Even though blood and language are connected, Spengler makes sure that we know that language and race are distinct things. Language is far more portable and transferable than is the connection to a specific place and its geographic shaping of a specific people.
“Race has roots. Race and landscape belong together.”
Culture is always a thing of the soil. Abstractness is a feature of civilization, that period when a great culture is already well on the way to dying, cut off as it is from the soil that nourished its birth. As we will see in a moment, one might question whether or not America was able to root itself properly in the soil of the New World. Was it already carrying with it the characteristics of civilization from Europe? Did it carry to these new shores a cultural history already well along the path to realizing its inner imperative? And in the place where it did seem most rooted, the South, was this blossoming culture crushed during the Civil War? It seems to me a fair question.
In filling this idea out, though, he notes that at its heart that:
“Comradeship breeds races…it is just this, too, that has bred the types of the European Jew, with his immense race-energy and his thousand years of ghetto life; and it will always forge a population into a race whenever it has stood for long together spiritually firm and united in the presence of its Destiny.”
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