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


"Every Culture has its own quite definite sort of esoteric or popular charcter that is immanent in all its doings, so far as these have symbolic importance. We find everywhere in the Western what we find nowhere in the Classical [he means here ancient Greece at the peak of its culture] - the exclusive form. Whole periods - for instance, the Provencal Culture and the Rococo - are in the highest degree select and exclusive, their ideas and forms having no existence except for a small class of higher men. Even the Renaissance is no exception, for though it purports to be the rebirth of that Antique which is so utterly non-exclusive and caters so frankly for all, it is in fact, through and through, the creation of a circle or of individual chosen souls, a taste that rejects popularity from the outset. On the contrary every Attic burgher belonged to the Attic culture, which excluded nobody; and consequently, the distinction of deep and shallow, which is so decisively important for us, did not exist at all for it. For us, popular and shallow are synonymous - in art as in science = but for Classicla man it was not so.

From Titian painting becomes more and more esoteric. So , too poetry. So, too, music. And the Gothic [he views the Gothic as the dawn of our culture} per sehad been esoteric from its very beginnings - witness Dante and Wolfram. The Masses of Okeghem and Palestrina, or of Bach for that matter, were never intelligible to the average memeber of the congregation. Ordinary people are bored by Mozart and Beethoven, and regard music generally as something for which one is or is not in the mood. A certain degree of interest in these matters has been induced by concert room and gallery since the age of enlightenment invented the phrase "art for all." But Faustian [he uses this term to mean the essential nature of Western culture] art is not, and by very essence cannot be, "for all." If modern painting has ceased to appeal to any but a small (and ever decreasing) circle of connoisseurs, it is because it has turned away from the painting of things that the man in the street can understand. It has transferred the property of actuality from contents to space - the space through which alone, according to Kant, things are.

Consider our sciences too. Every one of them, without exception, has besides its elementarygroundwork certain "higher" regions that are inaccessible to the layman - symbols, these also, of our will-to-infinity and directional energy. Indeed, we may take the craving forwide effect as a sufficient index by itself of the commencing and already perceptible decline of Western science. That the sever esoteric of the Baroque age is felt now as a burden, is a symptom of sinking strength and of the dulling of that distance-sense confesed the limitation with humility. For us, the polarity of expert and layman has all the significance of a high symbol, and when the tension of this distance is beginning to slacken, there the Faustian life is fading out."

Sections from Spengler, The Decline of the West:
Introduction: Civilization
Introduction: Imperialism
Architecture and Divinities
Imitation and Ornament
The History of Style as an Organism
Arts as Symbol of the Higher Order
Popular and Esoteric
Will to Power
Morale of Dawning Civilizations
The History of Style as an Organism
Pergamum and Bayreuth: the End of Art
Classical Behaviour Drama and Faustian Character Drama
Every Culture Possesses its own Ethic
Every Science is Dependent upon Religion
Origin and Landscape: the Group of the Higher Cultures
Second Religiousness
The State

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