'The Decline of the West' by Oswald Spengler (1918). Vol. 1

"Purely analytical criticism of Spengler will... never discover the profounder levels of his philosophy. These reside in his evocation of those elements of life that will ever be the subject of an inner experience, in his intuition of a mystic relationship to the infinite... . Spengler's vision encompassed an approach to history which-- whatever our opinion of his conclusions-- transcended the mere causal analysis of data and the shallow dogmatism of many progress theories. [...] After all has been said, the conviction remains that Spengler has found a poetry in life which rises above the barren systematization of its manifestations."

The Meaning of History: Reflections on Spengler, Toynbee and Kant by Henry Kissinger (1950) (his Honors thesis at Harvard).

A selection from Der Untergang des Abendlandes (variously translated as 'The Decline of the West', 'Downfall of the Occident', or 'The Sinking/Setting of the Evening-Lands') by Oswald Spengler,  1918, Vol. 1, Form and Actuality.

The Decline of the West was the work of an unknown former school-master living on stipends in Munich during the Great War. The first volume appeared at the close of the war and became instantly popular, with translations rendered into French and English almost immediately (volume I appeared in English in 1926, the second volume in 1928, with the translator selected by Spengler himself). A 1928 Time review of the second volume of Decline described the immense influence and controversy Spengler's ideas enjoyed in the 1920s:
When the first volume of The Decline of the West appeared in Germany a few years ago, thousands of copies were sold. Cultivated European discourse quickly became Spengler-saturated. Spenglerism spurted from the pens of countless disciples. It was imperative to read Spengler, to sympathize or revolt. It still remains so.

Writing in the aftermath of the conflagration of WWII about Spengler's book, Theodor Adorno, in an essay called Spengler After the Decline, said that it "has been forgotten with the rapidity of the catastrophe towards which world history, according to his own theory, was moving." 

In Germany he was ostracized as a pessimist and reactionary, in the sense given those words by the gentlemen of the time. Abroad, he was considered one of those ideologically responcible for the relapse into barbarism.
Nevertheless, there is good reason to raise the question of the truth and untruth of Spengler's work again. [...] [T]he course of world history vindicated his immediate prognoses to an extent that would astonish if they were still remembered. Forgotten, Spengler takes his revenge by threatening to be right. His oblivion in the midst of confirmation endows the ominous idea of blind fatality which emerges from his conception with an objective movement. [...] Spengler found hardly an adversary who was his equal; his oblivion is the product of evasion.

Despite this 'evasion' on the part of professional historians, who no doubt
took umbrage at an amateur effort by an untrained author and his unapologetically non-scientific approach, the 'influence' of Decline on the literature of the 20th century can be felt far and wide: D.H. Lawrence, Carl Jung and Henry Miller all expressed their debt to the book, with the later expressing regret that he didn't write certain passages of it himself; T.S Eliot cites the book as a major influence on his The Waste Land; Scott Fitzgerald said that Spenglers book had a tremendous impact upon him, along with The Waste Land, while writing The Great Gatsby; W.B. Yeats, in light of the parallels between his A Vision, which was written before Decline had been translated into English, and Spengler's book, postulated a hypothetical common 'instructor' or 'muse' to explain the similarities in the results they seemed to arrive at quite independently of each other, recognizing in Spengler a 'kindred spirit'; Joseph Campbell recalled that he read the book seven times, and said that Spengler had become for him a "major prophet"; Arnold Toynbee's magnum opus A Study of History can be read, in large part, as a responce to Spengler's book, a protracted effort to surmount its conclusions; Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg held 'private readings' of the book and developed their friendship around it; Henry Kissinger, who, in a speech he gave in the 1950's, warned Americans about the need for a "heroic and deliberate effort" to "arrest narcissism" and "the collapse which starts at the moment of seemingly greatest achievement", is said to have given Richard Nixon a copy of the book, in an apparently ironic gesture, weeks before his resignation in 1974, the very same book he had been urging Nixon to read for years (Kissinger's honors thesis was called The Meaning of History: Reflections on Spengler, Toynbee and Kant, and develops a 'historicity' through a synthesis of those writers); when Michel Foucault was asked during an interview whether he would like his own efforts being situated alongside that of Spengler's he produced only a wry smile, and Terence Mckenna had a copy in his famous library that burnt down at the Esalen institute in Big Sur.

Decline belonged to a massive body of literature which took shape between the first and second world wars on the 'Crisis of Civilization', and which includes, among others, works like Stoddard's The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy (1920), Guenon's The Crisis of the Modern World (1927), Freud's Civilization and its Discontents (1929), Jung's Modern Man in Search of a Soul (1932), and is often seen, retrospectively, as a kind of manifesto of the pessimistic spirit which plagues Civilization like a demonic double; but it has also acquired the reputation for being not just an embodiment of doubts about the very project of Civilization, but a masterful work of metaphysical poetry (Miller once described it as a "stupendous morphological, or phenomenological, tone-poem"), and thus itself a product of the high culture of the West, and thus, like Foucault, carrying "out, in the noblest way, the promiscuous aim of true culture". It is certainly noteworthy that its author has gained the reputation, rare among 'historians', for being a 'prophet'.

In a biography of the author that he wrote in the midst of the Cold War, the American historian Stewart Hughes saw the reading public of Decline divided into two very distinct camps: one hostile and the other enthusiastically receptive. Viewing the book "in the broadest possible perspective," from a position in the very middle of the century, Hughes described it as "a manifestation of an enormous effort of intellectual re-evaluation that has characterized our century." From this point of view, "the passage of time has permitted us to make a judgement: with fifty years of history behind us, with the rise of totalitarianism, the advent of mass culture, the experience of two world wars and the prospect of a third, we are at length in a position to evaluate Spengler as political controversialist, as prophet, and as diagnostician of our time."  

Spengler's morphological 'physiognomy' of history stands between Nietzsche's geneology and Foucault's archaeology: seen in retrospect, Decline appears like a missing link between Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy and Geneology of Morals, and Foucault's Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason

Note: The British Archaeologist Leonard Woolley had not began his excavations of ancient Sumeria at Ur in Iraq until just after Spengler published Decline, and
Tutankhamun's mummy was also discovered by George Herbert's team in the Valley of the Kings shortly after its publication. 

Selected Bibliography:

  • Today and Destiny: Vital Excerpts from The Decline of the West of Oswald Spengler by Edwin Franden Dakin, 1940.
  • Spengler After the Decline (chapter in Prism) by Theodor W. Adorno.
  • Prophet of Decline: Spengler on World History and Politics by John Farrenkopf, 2001.
  • Oswald Spengler by H. Stuart Hughes.
  • Imperium: The Philosophy of History and Politics by Francis Parker Yockey,1948

First temple of Hera, c. 550 BC

Meyers Kleines Konversationslexikon. Fünfte, umgearbeitete und vermehrte Auflage. Bd. 1. Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig und Wien 1892.

Interior of the Pantheon by Giovanni Paolo Panini, 1747

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul.

Mosaic of the Theotokos in the Hagia Sophia

Sainte-Chapelle at Paris

The ceiling fresco of the Church of St Ignazio, in Rome, dissolves the architecture into infinite space, Andrea Pozzo, circa 1685 (The di sotto in sù ceiling panel of the Camera picta, which creates the illusion of an Occulus, is among the earliest fresco's of this kind, circa 1474).

Basilica at Ottobeuren (Bavaria)

  American Progress, John Gast, 1872.

We can see a clear homology between the 'thrust system' in Gothic architecture and long range rockets, so that we can recognize them as expressions of the same culture.

Preface to the revised edition.

A thinker is a person whose part it is to symbolize time according to his vision and understanding. He has no choice; he thinks as he has to think. Truth in the long run is to him the picture of the world which was born at his birth. It is that which he does not invent but rather discovers within himself. It is himself over again: his being expressed in words; the meaning of his personality formed into a doctrine which so far as concerns his life is unalterable, because truth and his life are identical. This symbolism is the one essential, the vessel and the expression of human history. The learned philosophical works that arise out of it are superfluous and only serve to swell the bulk of a professional literature.


 Let no one expect to find everything set forth here. It is but one side of what I see before me, a new outlook on history and the philosophy of destiny, the first indeed of its kind. It is intuitive and depictive through and through, written in a language which seeks to present objects and relations illustratively instead of offering an army of ranked concepts. It addresses itself solely to readers who arc capable of living themselves into the word-sounds and pictures as they read.

 Preface to the First Edition

I am convinced that it is not merely a question of writing one out of several possible and merely logically justifiable philosophies, but of writing the philosophy of our time, one that is to some extent a natural philosophy and is dimly presaged by all. This may be said without presumption; for an idea that is historically essential that does not occur within an epoch but itself makes that epoch is only in a limited sense the property of him to whose lot it falls to parent it. It belongs to our time as a whole and influences all thinkers, without their knowing it... .

Introduction to Vol. 1.

In this book is attempted for the first time the venture of predetermining history, of following the still untravelled stages in the destiny of a Culture, and specifically of the only Culture of our time and on our planet which is actually in the phase of fulfilment-- the West-European-American.

Is there a logic of history? Is there, beyond all the casual and incalculable elements of the separate events, something that we may call a metaphysical structure of historic humanity, something that is essentially independent of the outward forms social, spiritual and political which we see so clearly? Are not these actualities indeed secondary or derived from that something? Does world-history present to the seeing eye certain grand traits, again and again, with sufficient constancy to justify certain conclusions? 

Is it possible to find in life itself... a series of stages which must be traversed, and traversed moreover in an ordered and obligatory sequence? For everything organic the notions of birth, death, youth, age, lifetime are fundamentals- may not these notions, in this sphere also, possess a rigorous meaning which no one has as yet extracted? In short, is all history founded upon general biographic archetypes?


The means whereby to identify dead forms is Mathematical Law. The means whereby to understand living forms is Analogy.

It is, and has always been, a matter of knowledge that the expression-forms of world-history are limited in number, and that eras, epochs, situations, persons are ever repeating themselves true to type. Napoleon has hardly ever been discussed without a side-glance at Caesar and Alexander-- analogies of which, as we shall see, the first is morphologically quite inacceptable and the second is correct-- while Napoleon himself conceived of his situation as akin to Charlemagne's. The French Revolutionary Convention spoke of Carthage when it meant England, and the Jacobins styled themselves Romans. Other such comparisons, of all degrees of soundness and unsoundness, are those of Florence with Athens, Buddha with Christ, primitive Christianity with modern Socialism, the Roman financial magnate of Cresar's time with the Yankee. Petrarch, the first passionate archreologist (and is not archreology itself an expression of the sense that history is repetition?) related himself mentally to Cicero, and but lately Cecil Rhodes, the organizer of British South Africa, who had in his library specially prepared translations of the classical lives of the Caesars, felt himself akin to the Emperor Hadrian. The fated Charles XII of Sweden used to carry Quintus Cuttius's life of Alexander in his pocket, and to copy that conqueror was his deliberate purpose.

Still, all this was only fragmentary and arbitrary, and usually implied rather a momentary inclination to poetical or ingenious expressions than a really deep sense of historical forms.
Thus in the case of [Leopold von] Ranke, a master of artistic analogy, we find that... his oft-quoted analogy between the Hellenic city-states and the Renaissance republics very little [morphological significance], while the deeper truth in his comparison of Alcibiades and Napoleon is accidental. and Napoleon is accidental. Unlike the strict mathematician, who finds inner relationships between two groups of differential equations where the layman sees nothing but dissimilarities of outward form, Ranke and others draw their historical analogies with a Plutarchian, popular-romantic, touch, and aim merely at presenting comparable scenes on the world-stage.
It is easy to see that, at bottom, it is neither a principle nor a sense of historic necessity, but simple inclination, that governs the choice of the tableaux. From any technique of analogies we are far distant. They throng up (to-day more than ever) without scheme or unities, and if they do hit upon something which is true-- in the essential sense of the word that remains to be determined-- it is thanks to luck, more rarely to instinct, never to a principle. In this region no one hitherto has set himself to work out a method, nor has had the slightest inkling that there is here a root, in fact the only root, from which can come a broad solution of the problems of History.
Analogies, in so far as they laid bare the organic structure of history, might be a blessing to historical thought. Their technique, developing under the influence of a comprehensive idea, would surely eventuate in inevitable conclusions and logical mastery. But as hitherto understood and practised they have been a curse, for they have enabled the historians to follow their own tastes, instead of soberly realizing that their first and hardest task was concerned with the symbolism of history and its analogies, and, in consequence, the problem has till now not even been comprehended, let alone solved.


Thus our theme, which originally comprised only the limited problem of present-day civilization, broadens itself into a new philosophy-- the philosophy of the future, so far as the metaphysically-exhausted soil of the West can bear such, and in any case the only philosophy which is within the possibilities of the West-European mind in its next stages. It expands into the conception of a morphology of world history, of the world-as-history in contrast to the morphology of the world-as-nature that hitherto has been almost the only theme of philosophy. And it reviews once again the forms and movements of the world in their depths and final significance, but this time according to an entirely different ordering which groups them, not in an ensemble picture inclusive of everything known, but in a picture of life, and presents them not as things-become, but as things-becoming.
The world-as-history, conceived, viewed and given form from out of its opposite the world-as-nature here is a new aspect of human existence on this earth.

 What concerns us is not what the historical facts which appear at this or that time are, per se, but what they signify, what they point to, by appearing. Present-day historians think they are doing a work of supererogation in bringing in religious and social, or still more art-history, details to "illustrate" the political sense of an epoch. But the decisive factor-- decisive, that is, in so far as visible history is the expression, sign and embodiment of soul-- they forget. I have not hitherto found one who has carefully considered the morphological relationship that inwardly binds together the expression-forms of all branches of a Culture, who has gone beyond politics to grasp the ultimate and fundamental ideas of Greeks, Arabians, Indians and Westerners in mathematics, the meaning of their early ornamentation, the basic forms of their architecture, philosophies, dramas and lyrics, their choice and development of great arts, the detail of their craftsmanship and choice of materials let alone appreciated the decisive importance of these matters for the form-problems of history. Who amongst them realizes that between the Differential Calculus and the dynastic principle of politics in the age of Louis XIV, between the Classical city-state and the Euclidean geometry, between the space-perspective of Western oil-painting and the conquest of space by railroad, telephone and long-range weapon, between contrapuntal music and credit economics, there are deep uniformities? Yet, viewed from this morphological standpoint, even the humdrum facts of politics assume a symbolic and even a metaphysical character, and what has perhaps been impossible hitherto things such as the Egyptian administrative system, the Classical coinage, analytical geometry, the cheque, the Suez Canal, the book-printing of the Chinese, the Prussian Army, and the Roman road-engineering can, as symbols, be made uniformly understandable and appreciable.

That there is, besides a necessity of cause and effect—which I may call the logic of space—another necessity, an organic necessity in life, that of Destiny—the logic of time is a fact of the deepest inward certainty, a fact which suffuses the whole of mythological religions and artistic thought and constitutes the essence and kernel of all history (in contradistinction to nature) but is unapproachable through the cognition-forms which the "Critique of Pure Reason" investigates. This fact still awaits its theoretical formulation. As Galileo says in a famous passage of his Saggzatore, philosophy, as Nature's great book, is written "in mathematical language." We await, to-day, the philosopher who will tell us in what language history is written and how it is to be read.
Mathematics and the principle of Causality lead to a naturalistic, Chronology and the idea of Destiny to a historical ordering of the phenomenal world.


Man, thus, has before him two possibilities of world-formation. But it must be noted, at the very outset, that these possibilities are not necessarily actualities, and if we are to enquire into the sense of all history we must begin by solving a question which has never yet been put, viz., for whom is there History? The question is seemingly paradoxical, for history is obviously for everyone to this extent, that every man, with his whole existence and consciousness, is a part of history. But it makes a great difference whether anyone lives under the constant impression that his life is an element in a far wider life-course that goes on for hundreds and thousands of years, or conceives of himself as something rounded off and self-contained. For the latter type of consciousness there is certaintly no world-history, no world-as-history. But how if the self-consciousness of a whole nation, how if a whole Culture rests on this ahistoric spirit? How must actuality appear to it? The world? Life? Consider the Classical Culture. In the world-consciousness of the Hellenes all experience, not merely the personal but the common past, was immediately transmuted into a timeless, immobile, mythically-fashioned background for the particular momentary present; ...to Cesar there seemed at the least nothing preposterous in claiming descent from Venus.
Such a spiritual condition it is practically impossible for us men of the West, with a sense of time-distances so strong that we habitually and unquestioningly speak of so many years before or after Christ, to reproduce in ourselves.

But the Classical culture possessed no memory, no organ of history in this special sense. The memory of the Classical man-- so to call it, though it is somewhat arbitrary to apply to alien souls a notion derived from our own-- is something different, since past and future, as arraying perspectives in the working consciousness, are absent and the "pure Present," which so often roused Goethe's admiration in every product of the Classical life and in sculpture particularly, fills that life with an intensity that to us is perfectly unknown.
This pure Present, whose greatest symbol is the Doric column, in itself predicates the negation of time (of direction). For Herodotus and Sophocles, as for Themistocles or a Roman consul, the past is subtilized instantly into an impression that is timeless and changeless, polar and not periodic in structure- in the last analysis, of such stuff as myths are made of- whereas for our world-sense and our inner eye the past is a definitely periodic and purposeful organism of centuries or millennia.
But it is just this background which gives the life, whether it be the Classical or the Western life, its special colouring. What the Greek called Kosmos was the image of a world that is not continuous but complete. ...although Classical man was well acquainted with the strict chronology and almanac-reckoning of the Babylonians and especially the Egyptians, and therefore with that eternity-sense and disregard of the present-as-such which revealed itself in their broadly-conceived operations of astronomy and their exact measurements of big time-intervals, none of this ever became intimately a part of him. What his philosophers occasionally told him on the subject they had heard, not experienced, and what a few brilliant minds in the Asiatic-Greek cities (such as Hipparchus and Aristarchus) discovered was rejected alike by the Stoic and by the Aristotelian, and outside a small professional circle not even noticed. Neither Plato nor Aristotle had an observatory. In the last years of Pericles, the Athenian people passed a decree by which all who propagated astronomical theories were made liable to impeachment. This last was an act of the deepest symbolic significance, expressive of the determination of the Classical soul to banish distance, in every aspect, from its world-consciousness.

 In the Indian Culture we have the perfectly ahistoric soul. Its decisive expression is the Brahman Nirvana. There is no pure Indian astronomy, no calendar, and therefore no history so far as history is the track of a conscious spiritual evolution. Of the visible course of their Culture, which as regards its organic phase came to an end with the rise of Buddhism, we know even less than we do of Classical history, rich though it must have been in great events between the 12th and 8th centuries. And this is not surprising, since it was in dream-shapes and mythological figures that both came to be fixed. It is a full millennium after Buddha, about 500 A.D., when Ceylon first produces something remotely resembling historical work, the "Mahavansa."
The world-consciousness of Indian man was so ahistorically built that it could not even treat the appearance of a book written by a single author as an event determinate in time. Instead of an organic series of writings by specific persons, there came into being gradually a vague mass of texts into which everyone inserted what he pleased, and notions such as those of intellectual individualism, intellectual evolution, intellectual epochs, played no part in the matter. It is in this anonymous form that we possess the Indian philosophy which is at the same time all the Indian history that we have and it is instructive to compare with it the philosophy-history of the West, which is a perfectly definite structure made up of individual books and personalities.
Indian man forgot everything, but Egyptian man forgot nothing. Hence, while the art of portraiture which is biography in the kernel was unknown in India, in Egypt it was practically the artist's only theme.
The Egyptian soul, conspicuously historical in its texture and impelled with primitive passion towards the infinite, perceived past and future as its whole world, and the present (which is identical with waking consciousness) appeared to him simply as the narrow common frontier of two immeasurable stretches. [...] The Egyptian mummy is a symbol of the first importance. The body of the dead man was made everlasting, just as his personality, his "Ka," was immortalized through the portrait-statuettes, which were often made in many copies and to which it was conceived to be attached by a transcendental likeness.

There is a deep relation between the attitude that is taken towards the historic past and the conception that is formed of death, and this relation is expressed in the disposal of the dead. The Egyptian denied mortality, the Classical man affirmed it in the whole symbolism of his Culture. The Egyptians embalmed even their history in chronological dates and figures.

In opposition to this mighty group of Egyptian life-symbols, we meet at the threshold of the Classical Culture the custom, typifying the ease with which it could forget every piece of its inward and outward past, of burning the dead. 

After the destruction of Athens by the Persians, all the older art-works were thrown on the dustheap (whence we are now extracting them), and we do not hear that anyone in Hellas ever troubled himself about the ruins of Mycenx or Phaistos for the purpose of ascertaining historical facts. Men read Homer but never thought of excavating the hill of Troy as Schliemann did; for what they wanted was myth, not history. The works of Aschylus and those of the pre-Socratic philosophers were already partially lost in the Hellenistic period. [...] In the West, on the contrary, the piety inherent in and peculiar to the Culture manifested itself, five centuries before Schliemann, in Petrarch the fine collector of antiquities, coins and manuscripts, the very type of historically-sensitive man, viewing the distant past and scanning the distant prospect, living in his time, yet essentially not of it. The soul of the collector is intelligible only by having regard to his conception of Time. [...] In the Hellenistic period, objects were indeed collected and displayed everywhere, but they were curiosities of mythological appeal (as described by Pausanias) as to which questions of date or purpose simply did not arise and this too in the very presence of Egypt, which even by the time of the great Thuthmosis had been transformed into one vast museum of strict tradition.

Amongst the Western peoples, it was the Germans who discovered the mechanical clock, the dread symbol of the flow of time, and the chimes of countless clock towers that echo day and night over West Europe are perhaps the most wonderful expression of which a historical world-feeling is capable. 1 [1 It was about 1000 A.D. and therefore contemporaneously with the beginning of the Romanesque style and the Crusades the first symptoms of a new Soul that Abbot Gerbert (Pope Sylvester II), the friend of the Emperor Otto III, invented the mechanism of the chiming wheel-clock. In Germany too, the first tower-clocks made their appearance, about 1100, and the pocket watch somewhat later. Observe the significant association of time measurement with the edifices of religion.] In the timeless countrysides and cities of the Classical world, we find nothing of the sort. Till the epoch of Pericles, the time of day was estimated- merely by the length of shadow, and it was only from that of Aristotle that the word [Greek Text] received the (Babylonian) significance of ''hour''; prior to that there was no exact subdivision of the day. In Babylon and Egypt water-clocks and sun-dials were discovered in the very early stages, yet in Athens it was left to Plato to introduce a practically useful form of clepsydra, and this was merely a minor adjunct of everyday utility which could not have influenced the Classical life-feeling in the smallest degree.

We men of the Western Culture are, with our historical sense, an exception and not a rule. World-history is our world picture and not all mankind's. Indian and Classical man formed no image of a world in progress, and perhaps when in due course the civilization of the West is extinquished, there will never again be a Culture and a human type in which "world-history" is so potent a form of the waking consciousness.


Thanks to the subdivision of history into "Ancient," "Mediaeval" and "Modern"... we have failed to perceive the true position in the general history of higher mankind, of the little part-world which has developed on West-European soil from the time of the German-Roman Empire... . [...] ...the expedient of shifting the initial point of "modern history" from the Crusades to the Renaissance, or from the Renaissance to the beginning of the 19th century, only goes to show that the scheme per se is regarded as unshakably sound.

The ground of West Europe is treated as a steady pole, a unique patch chosen on the surface of the sphere for no better reason, it seems, than because we live on it-- and great historians of millennial duration and mighty far away Cultures are made to revolve around this pole in all modesty. It is a quaintly conceived system of sun and planets! We select a single bit of ground as the natural centre of the historical system, and make it the central sun. From it all the events of history receive their real light, from it their importance is judged in perspective. But it is in our own West-European conceit alone that this phantom "world-history," which a breath of scepticism would dissipate, is acted out.

The most appropriate designation for this current West-European scheme of history, in which the great Cultures are made to follow orbits round us as the presumed centre of all world-happenings, is the Ptolemaic system of history. The system that is put forward in this work in place of it I regard as the Copernican discovery in the historical sphere, in that it admits no sort of privilaged position... . 


The scheme "ancient-medieval-modern" in its first form was a creation of the Magian world-sense.

The historical change of period wears the characteristic dress of the religious "Redemption."

It was at least implied if not stated in so many words, that here ['on Western soil'], beyond the ancient and the mediaeval, something definitive was beginning, a Third Kingdom in which, somewhere, there was to be fulfilment and culmination... .

On the very threshold of the Western Culture we meet the great Joachim of Floris (c.1145-1202), the first thinker of the Hegelian stamp who shattered the dualistic world-form of Augustine [i.e., the City of God against the Pagans], and with his essentially Gothic intellect stated the new Christianity of his time in the form of a third term to the religions of the Old and New Testaments, expressing them respectively as the Age of the Father, the Age of the Son and the Age of the Holy Ghost. His teaching moved the best of the Franciscans and the Dominicans, Dante, Thomas Aquinas, in their inmost souls and awakened a world-outlook which slowly but surely took entire possession of the historical sense of our Culture.

No one, looking at the oak, with its millennial life, dare say that it is at this moment, now, about to start on its true and proper course.

I see, in place of that empty figment of one linear history..., the drama of a number of mighty Cultures, each springing with primitive strength from the soil of a mother-region to which it remains firmly bound throughout its whole life-cycle; each stamping its material, its mankind, in its own image... . [...] I see world-history as a picture of endless formations and transformations, of the marvellous waxing and waning of organic forms. The professional historian, on the countrary, sees it as a sort of tapeworm industriously adding on to itself one epoch after another.


To-day we think in continents, and it is only our philosophers and historians who have not realized that we do so. Of what significance to us, then, are conceptions and purviews that they put before us as universally valid, when in truth their furthest horizon does not extend beyond the intellectual atmosphere of Western Man?
Examine, from this point of view, our best books. When Plato speaks of humanity, he means the Hellenes in contrast to the barbarians, which is entirely consonant with the ahistorical mode of the Classical life and thought, and his premisses take him to conclusions that for Greeks were complete and significant. When, however, Kant philosophizes, say on ethical ideas, he maintains the validity of his these for men of all times and places.

Is not their ['Schopenhauer, Comte, Feuerbach, Hebbel or Strindberg'] whole psychology, for all its intention of world-wide validity, one of purely West-European significance?


In opposition to all these arbitary and narrow schemes... into which history is forced, I put forward the natural, the "Copernican," form of the historical process which lies deep in the essence of that process and reveals itself only to an eye perfectly free from prepossession.
Such an eye was Goethe's. That which Goethe called Living Nature is exactly that which we are calling here world history, world-as-history. Goethe, who as artist portrayed the life and development, always the life and development, of his figures, the thing-becoming and not the thing-become, hated Mathematics. For him, the world-as-machanism stood opposed to the world-as-organism... . As naturalist, every line he wrote was meant to display the image of the thing-becoming, the "impressed-form" living and developing.

And just as he followed out the development of the plant-form from the leaf, the birth of the vertebrate type, the process of the geological strata-- the Destiny in nature and not the Causality-- so here we shall develop the form-language of human history, its periodic structure, its organic logic out of the profusion of all the challenging details.


The transition from Culture to Civilization was accomplished for the classical world in the fourth, for the Western in the nineteenth century. From these periods onward the great intellectual decisions take place, no longer all over the world where not a hamlet is too small to be unimportant, but in three or four world-cities that have absorbed into themselves the whole content of History, while the old wide landscape of the Culture, become merely provincial, serves only to feed the cities with what remains of its higher mankind. World-city and province-- the two basic ideas of every civilization-- bring up a wholly new form-problem of History, the very problem that we are living through today with hardly the remotest conception of its immensity. In place of a world, there is a city, a point, in which the whole life of broad regions is collecting while the rest dries up. In place of a type-true people, born of and grown on the soil, there is a new sort of nomad, cohering unstably in fluid masses, the parasitical city dweller, traditionless, utterly matter-of-fact, religionless, clever, unfruitful, deeply contemptuous of the countryman and especially that highest form of countryman, the country gentleman. This is a very great stride towards the inorganic, towards the end... .
The world-city means cosmopolitanism in place of "home"... To the world-city belongs not a folk but a mob. Its uncomprehending hostility to all the traditions representative of the Culture (nobility, church, privileges, dynasties, convention in art and limits of knowledge in science), the keen and cold intelligence that confounds the wisdom of the peasant, the new-fashioned naturalism that in relation to all matters of sex and society goes back far to quite primitive instincts and conditions, the reappearance of the panem et circenses in the form of wage-disputes and sports stadia-- all these things betoken the definite closing down of the Culture and the opening of a quite new phas of human existence-- anti-provincial, late, futureless, but quite inevitable.
This is what has to be viewed, and viewed not with the eyes of the partisan, the ideologue, the up-to-date moralist, not from this or that "standpoint," but in a high, time-free perspective embracing whole millennia of historical world-forms, if we are really to comprehend the great crisis of the present.


France and England have already taken the step and Germany is beginning to do so. After Syracuse, Athens, and Alexandria comes Rome. After Madrid, Paris, London come Berlin and New York. It is the destiny of whole regions that lie outside the radiation-circle of one of these cities... to become "provinces."

But just as these cities overcame the country-side..., so in turn the world-city overcame them. [...] The world-city means cosmopolitanism in place of "home"... . [...] To the world-city belongs not a folk but a mass. 


Considered in itself, the Roman world-dominion was a negative phenomenon, being the result not of a surplus of energy on the one side-- that the Romans had never had since Zama
[at the conclusion of the second Punic War in 202 B.C., when Scipio Africanus defeated Carthage]-- but of a deficiency of resistance on the other. [...] To maintain the heroic posture for centuries on end is beyond the power of any people.
Here, then, I lay it down that Imperialism... is to be taken as the typical symbol of the passing away. Imperialism is Civilization unadulterated. In this phenomenal form the destiny of the West is now irrevocably set. [...] ...thus I see in Cecil Rhodes the first man of a new age. He stands for the political style of a far-ranging, Western, Teutonic and especially German future, and his phrase "expansion is everything" is the Napoleonic reassertion of the indwelling tendency of every Civilization that has fully ripened-- Roman, Arab or Chinese. It is not a matter of choice-- it is not the conscious will of individuals, or even that of whole classes or peoples that decides. The expansive tendency is a doom, something daemonic and immense, which grips, forces into service, and uses up the late mankind of the world-city stage, will-nilly, aware or unaware. [...] Hard as the half-developed Socialism of today is fighting against expansion, one day it will become arch-expansionist with all the vehemence of destiny.

Rhodes is to be regarded as the first precursor of a Western type of Caesars, whose day is to come though yet distant.

He who does not understand that this outcome is obligatory and insusceptible of modification...; he who is obsessed with the idealism of a provincial and would pursue the ways of life of past ages-- must forgo all desire to comprehend history, to live through history or to make history.
Thus regarded, the Imperium Romanum appears no longer as an isolated phenomenon, but as the normal product of a strict and energetic, megalopolitan, predominantly practical spirituality, as typical of a final and irreversible condition which has occurred often enough though it has only been identified as such in this instance.
Let it be realized, then:

That the 19th and 20th centuries, hitherto looked on as the highest point of an ascending straight line of world-history, are in reality a stage of life which may be observed in every Culture that has ripened to its limit... .

The future of the West is not a limitless tending upwards and onwards for all time towards our presents ideals, but a single phenomenon of history, strictly limited and defined as to form and duration, which covers a few centuries and can be viewed and, in essentials, calculated from available precedents.


This high plane of contemplation once attained, the rest is easy. To this single idea one can refer, and by it one can solve, without straining or forcing, all those separate problems of religion, art-history, epistemology, ethics, politics, economics with which the modern intellect has so passionately-- and so vainly-- busied itself for decades.
This idea is one of those truths that have only to be expressed with full clarity to become indisputable. [...] It is capable of entirely transforming the world-outlook of one who fully understands it, i.e., makes it intimately his own. It immensely deepens the world-picture natural and necessary to us in that, already trained to regard world-historical evolution as an organic unit seen backwards from our standpoint in the present, we are enabled by its aid to follow the broad outlines into the future-- a privalige of dream-calculation till now permitted only to the physicist. It is, I repeat, in effect the substitution of a Copernican for a Ptolemaic aspect of history, that is, an immeasurable widening of horizons.


All genuine historical work is philosophy, unless it is mere ant-industry. But the operations of the systematic philosopher are subject to constant and serious error through his assuming the permanence of his results. He overlooks the fact that every thought lives in a historical world and is therefore involved in the common destiny of mortality. He supposes that higher thought possesses an everlasting and unalterable objectiveness (Gegenstand).

There are no eternal truths. Every philosophy is the expression of its own and only its own time, and... no two ages possess the same philosophic intentions. [...] The immortality of thoughts-become is an illusion... .

For me, therefore, the test of value to be applied to a thinker is his eye for the great facts of his own time. Only this can settle whether he is merely a clever architect of systems and principles, versed in definitions and analyses, or whether it is the very soul of his time that speaks in his works and his intuitions. 

A doctrine that does not attack and affect the life of the period in its inmost depths... had better not be taught.

A century of purely extensive effectiveness, excluding big artistic and metaphysical production-- let us say frankly an irreligious time which coincides exactly with the idea of the world-city-- is a time of decline.

cont. p 45


In 1911, I proposed to myself to put together some broad considerations on the political phenomena of the day and their possible developments. At that time the World-War appeared to me both as imminent and also as the inevitable outward manifestation of the historical crisis, and my endeavour was to comprehend it from an examination of the spirit of the preceeding centuries-- not years. In the course of this originally small task, the conviction forced itself on me that for an effective understanding of the epoch the area to be taken into the foundation-plan must be very greatly enlarged, and that in an investigation of this sort, if the results were to be fundamentally conclusive and necessary results, it was impossible to restrict one's self to a single epoch... . It became evident that a political problem could not be comprehended by means of politics themselves and that, frequently, important factors at work in the depths could only be grasped through their artistic manifestations or even distantly seen in the form of scientific or purely philosophical ideas. Even the politico-social analysis of the last decades of the 19th century-- a period of tense quiet between two immense and outstanding events: the one which, expressed in the Revolution and Napoleon, had fixed the picture of West-European actuality for a century and another [event] of at least equal significance that was visibly and ever more rapidly approaching-- was found in the last resort to be imposible without bringing  in all the great problems of Being in all their aspects. For, in the historical as in the natural world-picture, there is found nothing, however small, that does not embody in itself the entire sum of fundamental tendencies. And thus the original theme came to be immensely widened. A vast number of unexpected (and in the main entirely novel) questions and interrelations presented themselves.

Thereafter I saw the present-- the approaching World-War-- in a quite other light. It was.... a historical change of phase occurring within a great historical organism... . The mark of the great crisis is its innumerable questionings and probings. [...] It is my belief that every one of these questions was really aimed in the same direction as every other, viz., towards that one Riddle of History that had never yet emerged with sufficient distinctness in the human consciousness. The tasks before me were not, as supposed, infinitely numerous-- they were one and the same task. Everyone had an inkling that this was so, but no one from his own narrow standpoint had seen the single and comprehensive solution. And yet it had been in the air since Nietzsche... . 

Above all, there discovered itself the opposition of History and Nature through which alone it is possible to grasp the essence of the former. ... history... is a second Cosmos different in structure and complexion, entirely neglected by Metaphysics in favour of the first. [...] ...History was seen as Nature (in the objective sense of the physicist) and treated accordingly, and it is to this that we must ascribe the baneful mistake of applying the principles of causality, of law, of system.... to the picture of happenings. [...] The habits of the scientific researcher were eagerly taken as a model, and if, from time to time, some student asked what Gothic, or Islam, or the Polis was, no one inquired why such symbols of something living inevitably appeared just then, and there, in that form, and for that space of time. Historians were content, whenever they met one of the innumerable similarities between widely discrete historical phenomena, simply to register it, adding some clever remarks as to the marvels of coincidence, dubbing Rhodes the "Venice of Antiquity" and Napoleon the "modern Alexander," or the like; yet it was just these cases, in which the destiny-problem came to the fore as the true problem of history (viz., the problem of time), that needed to be treated with all possible seriousness... in order to find out what strangely-constituted necessity, so completely alien to the causal, was at work.

And thus in the end I came to see the solution clearly before me in immense outlines... . Thus, from an almost accidental occasion of beginning, there has arisen the present work, which is put forward as the provisional expression of a new world-picture.

If, then, the narrower theme is an analysis of the Decline of that West-European Culture which is now spread over the entire globe, yet the object in view is the development of a philosophy..., viz., the method of comparative morphology in world-history.

Chapter III

The Problem of World-History

Physiognomic and Systematic


All modes of comprehending the world may, in the last analysis, be described as Morphology. The Morphology of the mechanical and the extended, a science which discovers and orders nature-laws and causal relations, is called Systematic. The Morphology of the organic, of history and life and all that bears the sign of direction and destiny, is called Physiognomic.

In the West, the Systematic mode of treating the world reached and passed its culminating-point during the last century, while the great days of Physiognomic have still to come. 

Descriptive, creative, Physiognomic is the art of portraiture transferred to the spiritual domain. Don Quixote, Werther, Julian Sorel, are portraits of an epoch, Faust the portrait of a whole Culture. ...a real portrait in the Rembrandt sense of the word is physionomic, that is, history captured in a moment. 

Reason, system and comphrension kill as they "cognize." That which is cognized becomes a rigid object, capable of measurement and subdivision. Intuitive vision, on the other hand, vivifies and incorporates the details in a living inwardly-felt unity. Poetry and historical study are kin. [...] The systematic spirit, narrow and withdrawn ("abs-tract") from the sensual, is... linked with the city, into whcih its life is more and more herded, it comes and goes with the city.

...we find that mathematically-controlled cognition relates always (and the purer it is, the more directly) to a continuous present. [...] It is one of the tacit, but none the less firm, presuppositions of nature-research that "Nature" is the same for every consciousness and for all times.


Countless shapes that emerge and vanish, pile up and melt again, a thousand-hued glittering tumult, it seems, of perfectly wilful chance-- such is the picture of world-history when first it deploys before our inner eye. 


A boundless mass of human Being, flowing in a stream without banks; up-stream, a dark past wherein our time-sense loses all powers of definition and restless or uneasy fancy conjures up geological periods to hide away an eternally unsolvable riddle; down-stream, a future even so dark and timeless-- such is the groundwork of the Faustian picture of human history.

Over the expanse of the water passes the endless uniform wave-train of the generations. Here and there bright shafts of light broaden out, everywhere dancing flashes confuse and disturb the clear mirror, changing, sparking, vanishing. These are what we call the clans, tribes, peoples, races which unify a series of generations within this or that limited area of the historical surface. [...] ...and the phenomenon subsides again into the ruck of the generations.

But over this surface, too, the great Cultures accomplish their majestic wave-cycles. They appear suddenly, swell in splendid lines, flatten again and vanish, and the face of the waters is once more a sleeping waste.
A Culture is born in the moment when a great soul awakens out of the proto-sprituality (dem urseelenhaften Zustande) of ever-childish humanity... . It blooms on the soil of an exactly-definable landscape, to which plant-wise it remains bound. It dies when this soul has actualized the full sum of its possibliities in the shape of peoples, languages, dogmas, arts, states, sciences, and reverts into the proto-soul. [...] The aim once attained... the Culture suddenly hardens, it mortifies, its blood congeals, its force breaks down, and it becomes Civilization... . As such they may, like a worn out giant of the primeval forest, thrust their decaying branches towards the sky for hundreds or thousands of years... . It was thus that the Classical Civilization rose gigantic, in the Imperial age, with a false semblance of youth and strength and fullness, and robbed the young Arabian Culture of the East of light and air.
This-- the inward and outward fulfilment, the finality, that awaits every living Culture-- is the purport of all the historic "declines," amongst them that decline of the Classical which we know so well and fully, and another decline, entirely comparable to it in course and duration, which will occupy the first centuries of the coming millennium but is heralded already and sensible in and around us to-day-- the decline of the West. Every Culture passes through the age-phases of the individual man. Each has its childhood, youth, manhood and old age. It is a young and trembling soul, heavy with misgivings, that reveals itself in the morning of Romanseque and Gothic [note: the term 'gothic' was originally a slanderous term used by the italian artists of the 15th and 16th century to describe this style which originated beyond the alps and whose influence reached into Italy so that it threatened to invade the country like the Goths invaded Rome]. It fills the Faustian landscape from the Provence of the troubadours to the Hildesheim cathedral of Bishop Bernward [see here]. The spring wind blows over it. "In the works of the old-German architecture," says Goethe, "one sees the blossoming of an extraordinary state. Anyone immediately confronted with such a blossoming can do no more than wonder; but one who can see into the secret inner life of the plant..., who can observe how the bud expands, little by little, sees the thing with quite other eyes and knows what he is seeing." [...] ...in the grey dawn of Civilization, the fire in the Soul dies down. The dwindling powers rise to one more, half-successful, effort of creation, and produce the Classicism that is common to all dying Cultures. The soul thinks once again, and in Romanticism looks back piteously to its childhood; then finally, weary, reluctant, cold, it loses its desire to be, and, as in Imperial Rome, wishes itself out of the overlong daylight and back in the darkness of protomysticism, in the womb of the mother, in the grave... . The spell of a "second religiousness" comes upon it, and Late-Classical man turns to the practice of the cults of Mithras, of Isis, of the Sun-- those very cults into which a soul just born in the East [i.e., Magian] has been pouring a new wine of dreams and fears and loneliness.



...every individual being that has any sort of importance recapitulates, of intrinsic necessity, all the epochs of the Culture to which it belongs. In each one of us, at that decisive moment when he begins to know that he is an ego, the inner life wakens just where and just how that of the Culture wakened long ago. Each of us men of the West, in his child's day-dreams and child's play, lives again its Gothic-- the cathedrals, the castles, the hero-sagas, the crusader's "Dieu le veult," the soul's oath of young Parzival.

Biology employs the term homology of organs to signify morphological equivalence in contradistinction to the term analogy which relates to functional equivalence. This important... notion was conceived by Goethe... and put into strict scientific shape by Owen; this notion also we shall incorporate in our historical method.
It is known that for every part of the bone-structure of the human head an exactly corresponding part is found in all vertebrated animals right down to the fish, and that the pectoral fins of fish and the feet, wings and hands of terrestrial vertebrates are homologous organs, even though they have lost every trace of similiarity. [...] ...the trained and deepened morphological insight that is required to establish such distinctions is an utterly different thing from the present method of historical research. [...]  More and more clearly as we go on, we shall realize what immense views will offer themselves to the historical eye as soon as the rigorous morphological method has been understood and cultivated. To name but a few examples, homologous forms are: Classical sculpture and West European orchestration, the Fourth Dynasty pyramids and the Gothic cathedrals... . [...] For us, "Wagner is the resume of modernity," as Nietzsche rightly saw; and the equivalent that logically must exist in the Classical modernity we find in Pergamene art ["Hellenistic Baroque"].

The application of the "homology" principle to historical phenomena brings with it an entirely new connotation for the word "contemporary."

Seen from this angle, history offers possibilities far beyond the ambitions of all previous research, which has contented itself in the main with arranging the facts of the past so far as these were known... . 

Chapter IV
The Problem of World-History

The Idea of Destiny and the Principle of Causality


There is an organic logic, an instinctive, dream-sure logic of all existence as opposed to the logic of the inorganic... -- and no systematist, no Aristotle or Kant, has known how to deal with it.

Causality is the reasonable, the law-bound, the describable, the badge of our whole waking and reasoning existence. But destiny is the word for an inner certainty that is not describable. [...] The one requires us to distinguish and in distinguishing to dissect and destroy, whereas the other is creative through and through, and thus destiny is related to life and causality to death.
In the Destiny-idea the soul reveals its world-longing, its desire to rise into the light, to accomplish and actualize its vocation. To no man is it entirely alien, and not before one has become the unanchored "late" man of the megalopolis is original vision quite overpowered by matter-of-fact feeling and mechanizing thought. Even then, in some intense hour, the lost vision comes back to one with terrible clearness, shattering in a moment all the causality of the world's surface. For the world as a system of causal connexions is not only a "late" but also a highly rarefied conception and only the energetic intellects of high Cultures are capable of possessing it-- or perhaps we should say, devising it-- with conviction. [...] The phsiognomic flair which enables one to read a whole life in a face or to sum up whole peoples from the picture of an epoch-- and to do so without deliberate effort or "system"-- is utterly remote from all "cause and effect."
He who comprehends the light-world that is before his eyes not physiognomically but systematically,... must necessarily in the end come to believe that every living thing can be understood by reference to cause and effect-- that there is no secret and no inner directedness. [...] The stiff mask of causality is lifted by mere ceasing to think. Suddenly, Time is no more a riddle, a notion, a "form" or "dimension" but becomes an inner certainty, destiny itself; and in its directedness, its irreversibility, its livingness, is disclosed the very meaning of the historical world-picture. Destiny and Causality are related as Time and Space.
In the two possible world-forms then-- History and Nature, the physiognomy of all becoming and the system of all things become-- destiny or causality prevails. Between them there is all the difference between a feeling of life and a method of knowing. Each of them is the starting-point of a complete and self-contained, but not of a unique world. Yet, after all, just as the become is founded upon a becoming, so the knowledge of cause and effect is founded upon the sure feeling of a destiny. Causality is-- so to say-- destiny become, destiny made inorganic and modelled in reason-forms. Destiny itself (passed over in silence by Kant and every other builder of rational world-systems because with their armoury of abstractions they could not touch life) stands beyond and outside all comprehended Nature. Nevertheless, being itself the original, it alone gives the stiff dead principle of cause-and-effect the opportunity to figure in the later scenes of a culture-drama, alive and historical, as the incarnation of tyrannical thinking.

If history is that kind of world-order in which all the become is fitted to the becoming, then the products of scientific work must inter alia be so handled; and, in fact, for the historical eye there is only a history of physics.

Now, Causality has nothing whatever to do with Time. To the world of to-day, made up of Kantians who know not how Kantian they are, this must seem an outrageous paradox. [...] It is of the essence of the extended that it overcomes directedness, and of Space that it contradicts Time, and yet the latter, as the more fundamental, precedes and underlies the former. Destiny claims the same precedence; we begin with the idea of Destiny, and only later, when our waking-consciousness looks fearfully for a spell that will bind in the sense-world and overcome the death that cannot be evaded, do we conceive causality as an anti-fate, and make it create another world to protect us from and console us for this. And as the web of cause and effect gradually spreads over the visible surfaces there is formed a convincing picture of timeless duration... . [...] Teleology... is a misdireted attempt to deal mechanically... with life itself... an inverted causality. Teleology is a carciture of the Destiny-idea... . 


The problem of Time, like that of Destiny, has been completely misunderstood by all thinkers who have confined themselves to the systematic of the Become. In Kant's celebrated theory there is not one word about its character of directedness. [...] Everything living... has "life," direction, impulse, will, a movement-quality (Bewegtheit) that is most intimately allied to yearning and has not the smallest element in common with the "motion" (Bewegung) of the Physicists. The living is indivisible and irreversible, once and uniquely occuring, and its course is entirely indeterminable by mechanics.

...the characteristic of extension-- limit and causality-- is really wizard's gear wherewith [we] attempt to conjure and bind alien powers... . ...if all law is a fetter which our world-dread hurries to fix upon the incrowding sensuous,... so also the invention of a time that is knowable and spatially representable within causality is a later act of this same self-preservation, an attempt to bind by the force of notion the tormenting inward riddle that is doubly tormenting to the intellect that has attained power only to find itself defied. Always a subtle hatred underlies the intellectual process by which anything is forced into the domain and form-world of measure and law. The living is killed by being introduced into space, for space is dead and makes dead.

The dread mystery of Time, life itself,... must be spellbound and, by the magic of comprehensibility, neutralized.

One has only to substitute, in any philosophical or physical treatise that one pleases, this word "Destiny" for the word "time" and one will instantly see how understanding loses its way when language has emancipated it from sensation, and how impossible the group "time and space" is.

Vis-a-vis the Where and How, the When forms a world of its own as distinct as is metaphysics from physics. [...] "Where there is no scheme, there is no philosophy" is the objection in principle-- unacknowledged though it may be-- that all professional philosophers have against the "intuitives," to whom inwardly they feel themselves superior. That is why Kant crossly describes the Platonic style of thinking "as the art of spending good words in babble", and why even to-day the lecture-room philosopher has not a word to say about Goethe's philosophy. [...] ... Time either finds no place in the system at all, or is made its victim. 


Time is a counter-conception (Gegenbegriff) to Space, arising out of it, just as the notion (as distinct from the fact) of Life arises only in opposition to thought [i.e., 'arising out of it]... . [...] ...guided by language, the understanding, incapable of fitting a sure inward subjective certainty of Destiny into its form-world, created "time" out of space as its opposite. 


Every Culture possesses a wholly individual way of looking at and comprehending the world-as-Nature; or (what comes to the same thing) it has its own peculiar "Nature" which no other sort of man can possess in exactly the same form. But in a far greater degree still, every Culture... possesses a specific and peculiar sort of history-- and it is in the picture of this and the style of this that the general and the personal, the inner and the outer, the world-historical and the biographical becoming, are immediately perceived, felt and lived. Thus the autobiographical tendency of Western man-- revealed even in Gothic times in the symbol of auricular confession-- is utterly alien to Classical man; while his intense historical awareness is in complete contrast to the almost dreamy unconsciousness of the Indian. And when Magian man-- primitive Christian or ripe scholar of Islam-- uses the words "world-history," what is it that he sees before him?

The historical environment of another is a part of his essence, and no such other can be understood without the knowledge of his time-sense, his destiny-idea... .

Classical man's existence... was wholly contained in the instant. [...] For the true Classical, archaeology did not exist, nor did its spiritual inversion, astrology. The Oracle and the Sibyl, like the Etruscan-Roman "haruspices" and "augurs," did not foretell any distant future but merely gave indications on particular questions of immediate bearing. No time-reckoning entered intimately into every day life (for the Olympiad sequence was a mere literary expedient)... . [...] Immediately behind his proper present, the Classical historian sees a background that is already destitute of temporal and therefore of inward order. [...] Caesar's reform of the calender may almost be regarded as a deed of emancipation from the Classical life-feeling. But it must not be forgotten that Caesar also imagined a renunciation of Rome and a transformation of the City-State into an empire which was to be dynastic-- marked with the badge of duration-- and to have its centre of gravity in Alexandria, which in fact is the [Eastern] birthplace of his calendar. His assassination [at the hands of Brutus] seems to us a last outburst of the anti-duration feeling that was incarnate in the Polis and the Urbs Roma.

The hot-blooded pageantry, palace-orgies, circus-battles of Nero or Caligula-- Tacitus is a true Roman in describing only these and ignoring the smooth progress of life in the distant provinces-- are final and flamboyant expressions of the Euclidean world-feeling that deified the body and the present.
The Indians also have no sort  of time-reckoning... and no clocks, and therefore no history, no life memories, no care. What the conspicuously historical West calls "Indian history" achieved itself without the smallest consciousness of what it was doing [authors note: The Indian history of our books is a Western reconstruction from texts and monuments (abstraction from 'mythology')]. The millennium of the Indian Culture between the Vedas and Buddha seems like the stirrings of a sleeper; here life was actually a dream. From all this our Western Culture is unimaginably remote. And, indeed, man has never... been so awake and aware, so deeply sensible of time and conscious of direction and fate and movement as he has been in the West. Western history was willed and Indian history happened.

Another symbol [of the 'time-sense' of a Culture], as deeply significant and as little understood as the symbol of the clock, is that of the funeral customs which all great Cultures have consecrated by ritual and by art. The grand style in India begins with tombtemples, in the Classical world with funerary urns, in Egypt with pyramids, in early Christianity with catacombs and sarcophagi. [...] Classical man, obedient to his deep unconscious life-feeling, picked upon burning, an act of annihilation in which the Euclidean, the here-and-now, type of existence was powerfully expressed. He willed to have no history,... and therefore he destroyed that which no longer possessed a present, the body of a Pericles, a Caesar, a Sophocles, a Phidias. [...] And be it noted that the Doric-Homeric spring, and above all the "Illiad," invested this act of burning with all the vivid feeling of a new-born symbol... .

The Egyptians, who preserved their past in memorials of stone and
hieroglyph so purposefully that we, four thousand years after them, can determine the order of their kings' reigns, so thoroughly eternalized their bodies that today the great Pharaohs lie in our museums, recognizable in every lineament, a symbol of grim triumph -while of Dorian kings not even the names have survived. For our own part, we know the exact birthdays and deathdays of almost every great man since Dante, and, moreover, we see nothing strange in the fact.

And these museums themselves, in which we assemble everything that is left of the corporeally-sensible past! Are not they a symbol of the highest rank? Are they not intended to conserve in mummy the entire .. body of cultural development?


Only the outstanding man feels behind the commonplace unities of the history-stirred surface a deep logic of becoming. This logic, manifesting itself in the idea of Destiny, leads him to regard the less significant collocations of the day and the surface as mere incidents. 


He who is blind to... the world as Divina Commedia or drama for a god, can only find a senseless turmoil of incidents, and here we use the word in its most trivial sense. So it has been with Kant and most other systematists of thought. But the professional and inartistic historical research too, with its collecting and arranging of mere data, amounts for all its ingenuity to little more than the giving of a cachet to the banal-incidental. Only the insight that can penetrate into the metaphysical is capable of experiencing in data symbols of that which happened, and so of elevating an Incident into a Destiny. And he who is to himself a Destiny (like Napoleon) does not need this insight, since between himself as a fact and the other facts there is a harmony of metaphysical rhythm which gives his decisions their dreamlike certainty.

Napoleon had in his graver moments a strong feeling for the deep logic of world-becoming, and in such moments could divine to what extent he was, and to what extent he had, a destiny. "I feel myself driven towards an end that I do not know. As soon as I shall have reached it, as soon as I shall become unnecessary, an atom will suffice to shatter me. Till then, not all the forces of mankind can do anything against me," he said at the beginning of the Russian Campaign. [...] Supposing that he himself, as "empirical person," had fallen at Marengo-- then that which he signified would have been actualized in some other form. A melody, in the hands of a great musician, is capable of a wealth of variations; it can be entirely transformed so far as the simple listener is concerned without altering itself-- which is quite another matter-- fundamentally. The epoch of German national union accomplished itself through the person of Bismark, that of the Wars of Freedom through broad and almost nameless events; but either theme, to use the language of music, could have been "worked out" in other ways. [...] Goethe might-- possibly-- have died young, but not his "idea."

[Editors note: Hegel, on seeing Napoleon riding out of Jena on reconnaissance, famously said that he saw him as the very personification of the 'world-spirit', as a paradigmic example of the 'spirit of history']

If in respect of the Western soul we can regard incident as a minor order of Destiny, in respect of the Classical soul it is just the reverse. Destiny is incident become immense... . [...] Consider Oedipus... : that which happened to him was wholly extrinsic, was neither brought about nor conditioned by anything subjective to himself, and could just as well have happened to anyone else. This is the very form of the Classical myth. Compare with it the necessity-- inherent in and governed by the man's whole existence and the relation of that existence to Time-- that resides in the destiny of Othello, of Don Quixote, of Werther. It is... the difference of situation-tragedy and character-tragedy. [...] Astrology, in the form in which from Gothic to Baroque the Western soul knew it-- was dominated by it even in denying it-- was the attempt to master one's whole future life-course; the Faustian horoscope..., presupposes a steady and purposeful direction in the existence that has yet to be accomplished. But the Classical oracle, always consulted for the individual case, is the genuine symbol of the meaningless incident and the moment... . [...]  As the Classical soul did not genuinely live through history, it possessed no genuine feeling for a logic of Destiny. [...] Was there one single Greek who possessed the notion of a historical evolution towards this or that or any aim?


[The] French revolution might have been represented by some other event of different form... . But its "idea,"-- which... was the transition from Culture to Civilization, the victory of the inorganic megalopolis over the organic countryside...-- was necessary, and the moment of its occurrence was also necessary. To describe such a moment we shall use the term (long blurred, or misused as a synonym for period) epoch. When we say an event is epoch-making we mean that it marks in the course of a Culture a necessary and fateful turning-point. The merely incidental event, a crystallization-form of the historical surface, may be represented by other appropriate incidents, but the epoch is necessary and predeterminate.

The tragic in Napoleon's life-- which still awaits discovery by a poet great enough to comprehend it and shape it-- was that he, who rose into effective being by fighting British policy and the British spirit which that policy so eminently represented, completed by that very fighting the continental victory of this spirit, which thereupon became strong enough, in the guise of "liberated nations," to overpower him and to send him to St. Helena to die. [...] It was not Napoleon who formed the idea, but the idea that formed Napoleon... . His Empire was a creation of French blood but of English style.

At one time it falls to the Spanish spirit to outline, at another to the British or the French to remould, the world-embracing colonial system. A "United States of Europe," actualized through Napoleon as founder of a romantic and popular military monarchy, is the analogue of the Realm of the Diadochi [the territory conquered by Alexander]; actualized as a 21'st Century economic organism..., it is the counterpart of the Imperium Romanum. These are incidentals, but they are in the picture of history. But Napoleon's victories and defeats..., his Imperial dignity, his fall, the Grande Nation, the episodic liberation of Italy (in 1796, as in 1859, essentially no more than a change of political costume for a people long since become insignificant [except as 'mythic figures']), the destruction of the Gothic ruin of the Roman-German Empire, are mere surface phenomena, behind which is marching the great logic of genuine and invisible History, and it was in the sense of this logic that the West, having fulfilled its French-formed Culture in the ancien regime, closed it off with the English Civilization.

Anyone who has absorbed these ideas will have no difficulty in understanding how the causality principle is bound to have a fatal effect upon the capacity for genuinely experiencing History when, at last, it attains its rigid form in the "late" condition of a Culture to which it is proper and in which it is able to tyrannize over the world-picture. [...] The more historically men tried to think, the more they forgot that in this domain they ought not to think. In forcing the rigid scheme of a spatial and anti-temporal relation of cause and effect upon something alive, they disfigured the visible face of becoming with the construction-lines of a physical nature-picture, and, habituated to their own late, megalopolitan and causally-thinking milieu, they were unconscious of the fundamental absurdity of a science that sought to understand an organic becoming by methodically misunderstanding it as the machinary of the thing-become.

...in these schemes of old age the feeling of Destiny has died, and with it the young reckless courage that, self-forgetful and big with a future, presses on to meet a dark decision.
For only youth has a future, and is Future, that enigmatic synonym of directional Time and of Destiny. Destiny is always young. He who replaces it by a mere chain of causes and effects, sees even in the not-yet-actualized something, as it were, old and past-- direction is wanting. But he who lives towards a something in the superabundant flow of things need not concern himself with aims and abilities, for he feels that he himself is the meaning of what is to happen. This was the faith in the Star that never left Caesar nor Napoleon nor the great doers of another kind; and this it is that lies deepest of all-- youthful melancholy notwithstanding-- in every childhood and in every young clan, people, Culture..., who are young however white their hair, younger even than the most juvenile of those who look to a timeless utilitarianism.

...within the sphere of Nature, although two like experiments, conformable to law, have the like results, yet each of these experiments is a historical event possessing a date and not recurring. And within that of History, the dates or data of the past... form a rigid web. 

What historical investigation really is, namely pure Physiognomic, cannot be better illustrated than by the course of Goethe's nature-studies. He works upon mineralogy, and at once his views fit themselves together into a conspectus of an earth-history in which his beloved granite signifies nearly the same as that which I call the proto-human signifies in man's history [Editors note: i.e., see section VII of Chapter III The Problem of World-History I Physiognomic and Systematic]. He investigates well-known plants, and the prime phenomenon of metamorphosis, the original form of the history of all plant existence, reveals itself... . His studies of ossature, based entirely on the contemplation of life, lead him to the discovery of the "os intermaxillare"... .

...in the civilized man the tragic world-feeling succumbs to the mechanizing intellect. History and Nature within ourselves stand opposed to one another as life is to death, as ever-becoming time to ever-become space. In the waking consciousness, becoming and become struggle for control of the world-picture, and the highest and maturest forms of both sorts... are seen, in the case of the Classical soul, in the opposition of Plato and Aristotle, and, in the case of our Western, in that of Goethe and Kant-- the pure physiognomy of the world contemplated by the soul of an eternal child, and its pure system comprehended by the reason of an eternal greybeard.

Herein, then, I see the last great task of Western philosophy, the only one which still remains in store for the aged wisdom of the Faustian Culture, the preordained issue, it seems, of our centuries of spiritual evolution. No Culture is at liberty to choose the path and conduct of its thought, but here for the first time a Culture can foresee the way that destiny has chosen for it.
Before my eyes there seems to emerge, as a vision, a hitherto unimagined mode of superlative historical research that is truly Western... a comphrensive Physiognomic of all existence, a morphology of becoming for all humanity... . This... view... in... its scope far transcends the scheme of the systematist, presupposes the eye of an artist,... who can feel the whole sensible and apprehensible environment dissolve into a deep infinity of mysterious relationships. So Dante felt, and so Goethe felt. To bring up, out of the web of world-happening, a millennium of organic culture-history as an entity and person, and to grasp the conditions of its inmost spirituality-- such is the aim. Just as one penetrates the lineaments of a Rembrandt portrait or a Caesar-bust, so the new art will contemplate and understand the grand, fateful lines in the visage of a Culture as a superlative human individuality [i.e., a physiognomy of history implies a kind of 'personification' of history. In this connection, see Jung's personification, in a geneological being, of the 'unconscious', in the chapter Postulates of Analytical Psychology in his Modern Man in Search of a Soul].

There is a wondrous music of the spheres which wills to be heard and which... our deepest spirits will hear. The physiognomic of world-happening will become the last Faustian philosophy.

Chapter V

The Symbolism of the World-Picture and the Space-Problem


The notion of a world-history of physiognomic type expands itself therefore into the wider idea of an all-embracing symbolism. [...] We both live and know when we are awake, but, in addition, we live when mind and senses are asleep. Though night may close every eye, the blood does not sleep. [...] ...the one and only means of rendering [the] incomprehensible comprehensible must be a kind of metaphysics which regards everything whatsoever as having significance as a symbol.

The supposedly single, independent and external world that each believes to be common to all [i.e., Heraclitus] is really an ever-new, uniquely-occuring and non-recurring experience in the existence of each.
A whole series of grades of consciousness leads up from the root-beginnings of obscure childish intuition, in which there is still no clear world for a soul or self-conscious soul within a world, to the highly intellectualized states of which only the men of fully-ripened civilizations are capable. 

...every physicist-- Greek, Arabian or German-- has dissected "Nature" into ultimate elements, and how is it that they have not all discovered the same? Because every one of them has had his own Nature, though... every one believed that he had it in common with all the rest. [...] Nature is a function of the particular Culture.


Kant believed that he had decided the great question of whether this a priori element was pre-existent or obtained by experience, by his celebrated formula that Space is the form of perception which underlies all world impressions. But the "world" of the careless child and the dreamer undeniably possess this form in an insecure and hesitant way, and it is only the tense, practical, technical treatment of the world-around... that lets sensuous self-extension stiffen into rational tridmensionality. And it is only the city-man of matured Cultures that really lives in this glaring wakefulness, and only for his thought that there is a Space wholly divorced from sensuous life, "absolute," dead and alien to Time; and it exists not as a form of the intuitively-perceived but as a form of the rationally-comprehended.

It is the Western world-feeling that has produced the idea of a limitless universe of space-- a space of infinite star-systems and distances that far transcends all optical possibilities... . [Editors note: western-- Faustian-- astronomy can be seen as solipsistic, so that the picture of individual star-systems separated by vast space can be seen as a reflection in the cosmos of 'interpersonal psychology', and the idea of the 'alien' as a symbol of  ontological 'otherness' (themes which Carl Jung and Terrence Mckenna would later take up)]


The outcome... of Gauss's discovery, which completely altered the course of modern mathematics, was the statement that there are severally equally valid structures of three-dimensional extension. [...] Mathematics... concerns itself with systems that are entirely emancipated from life, time and distance, with form-worlds of pure numbers whose validity-- not fact-foundation-- is timeless... . As becoming is the foundation of the become, continuous living history that of fulfilled dead nature, the organic that of the mechanical, destiny that of causal law and the causally-settled, so too direction is the origin of extension. The secret of Life accomplishing itself which is touched upon by the word Time forms the foundation of that which, as accomplished, is understood by (or rather indicated to an inner feeling in us by) the word Space.

If we can describe... causality, as destiny become rigid, we may similarly speak of a spatial depth as a time become rigid. [...] Time gives birth to Space, but Space gives death to Time.
Had Kant been more precise, he would, instead of speaking of the "two forms of perception," have called time the form of perception and space the form of the perceived, and then the connexion of the two would probably have revealed itself to him. The logician, mathematician, or scientist in his moments of intense thought, knows only the Become... . ...space is continuously "becoming." While we gaze into the distance with our senses, it floats around us, but when we are startled, the alert eye sees a tense and rigid space. This space is; the principle of its existing at all is that it is, outside time and detached from it and from life. [...]  But the rigid Space itself is transient too-- at the first relaxation of our intellectual tension it vanishes... and so it is a sign and symbol of the most elemental and powerful symbol, of life itself.

The symbolic experience of depth is what is lacking in the child, who grasps at the moon and knows as yet no meaning in the outer world but, like the soul of primitive man, dawns in a dreamlike continuum of sensation... . [...] But with the soul's awakening, direction, too, first reaches living expression-- Classical expression in steady adherence to the near-present and exclusion of the distant horizons; Chinese, in free hither-and-thither wandering that nevertheless goes to the goal; Egyptian in resolute march down the path once entered. Thus the Destiny-idea manifests itself in every line of a life. [...] ...this symbol is and remains the prime symbol of that life, imparting to it its specific style and the historical form in which it progressively actualizes its inward possibilities. From the specific directedness is derived the specific prime-symbol of extension, namely, for the Classical world-view the near, strictly limited, self-contained Body, for the Western infinitely wide and infinitely profound three-dimensional Space, for the Arabian the world as a Cavern.

Infinite space is the ideal that the Western soul has always striven to find, and to see immediately actualized, in its world-around; and hence it is that the countless space-theories of the last centuries possess... a deep import as symptoms of a world-feeling. [...] How is it that according to our deepest feeling the "world" is nothing but that world-of-space which is the true offspring of our depth-experience, and whose grand emptiness is corroborated byt he star-systems lost in it?

The Classical statue in its splendid bodiliness-- all structure and expressive surfaces and no incorporeal arri'ere-pensee [ulteria motive] whatsoever-- contains without remainder all that Actuality is for the Classical eye. [...] And the [Euclidean-world-]feeling finds its last and noblest expression in the stone body of the Classical temple. The windowless interior is carefully concealed by the array of columns; but outside there is not one truly straight line to be found. Every flight of steps has a slight sweep outward, every step relatively to the next. The pediment, the roof-ridge, the sides are all curved. Every column has a slight swell and none stand truly vertical or truly equidistant from one another. But swell and inclination and distance vary from the corners to the centres of the sides in a carefully toned-off ratio, and so the whole corpus is given a something that swings mysterious about a centre. The curvatures are so fine that to a certain extent they are invisible to the eye and only to be "sensed." But it is just by these means that direction in depth is eliminated. While the Gothic style soars, the Ionic hovers. The interior of the cathedral pulls up with primeval force, but the temple is laid down in majestic rest. All this is equally true as relating to the Faustian and Apollinian Deity, and likewise of the fundamental ideas of the respective physics. To the [Classical] principles of position, material and form we have opposed those of straining movement, force and mass... .


Each of the great Cultures... has arrived at a secret language of world-feeling that is only fully comprehensible by him whose soul belongs to that Culture.

All fundamental words like our mass, substance, material, thing, body, extension... are emblems, obligatory and determined by destiny, that out of the infinite abundance of world-possibilities evoke in the name of the individual Culture those possibilities that alone are significant and therefore necessary for it.

Chapter VI

Apollinian, Faustian and Magian Soul


Henceforth we shall designate the soul of the Classical Culture, which chose the sensuously-present individual body as the ideal type of the extended, by the name (familiarized by Nietzsche) of the Apollonian [see his The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music]. In opposition to it we have the Faustian soul, whose prime-symbol is pure and limitless space, and whose "body" is the Western Culture that blossomed forth with the birth of the Romanesque style in the 10th century in the Northern plain between the Elbe and the Tagus. 

 ...the Faustian soul in the springtime necessarily arrived at an architectural problem which had its centre of gravity in the spatial vaulting-over of vast, and, from porch to choir, dynamically deep, cathedrals. This last expressed its depth-experience. But with it was associated, in opposition to the cavernous Magian expression-space, the element of a soaring into the broad universe. Magian roofing, whether it be cupola or barrel-vault or even the horizontal baulk of a basilica, covers in. Strzygowski has very aptly described the architectural idea of Hagia Sophia as an introverted Gothic striving under a closed outer casing.

Faustian architecture... begins on the grand scale simultaneously with the first stirrings of a new piety (the Cluniac reform, c. 1000)... and proceeds at once to plans of gigantic intention; often enough, as in the case of Speyer, the whole community did not suffice to fill the cathedral [Translators note: English readers may remember that Cobbett ("Rural Rides," passim) was so impressed with the spaciousness of English country churches as to formulate a theory that mediaeval England must have been more populous than modern England is.], and often again it proved impossible to complete the projected scheme. The passionate language of this architecture is that of the poems too. Far apart as may seem the Christian hymnology of the south and the Eddas of the still heathen north, they are alike in the implicit space-endlessness of prosody, rhythmic syntax and imagery. [...] No rhythm ever imagined radiates immensities of space and distance as the old Northern does... .

The accents of the Homeric hexameter are the soft rustle of a leaf in the midday sun...; but the "Stabriem" ['Alliterative verse', "terse, stress-based metric schemes", such as found in the old English Beowulf and Old Norse Voluspa], like "potential energy" in the world-picture of modern physics, creates a tense restraint in the void without limits, distant night-storms above the highest peaks [Editors note: The thermodynamics of isolated systems, black holes, singularities and event-horizons, are all expressions of a Faustian world-feeling]. In its swaying indefiniteness all words and things dissolve themselves-- it is the dynamics, not the statics, of language. The same applies to the grave rhythm of Media vita in morte sumus ['In the midst of life we are in death']. Here is heralded the colour of Rembrandt and the instrumentation of Beethoven-- here infinite solitude is felt as the home of the Faustian soul. What is Valhalla? [...] ...Valhalla is something beyond all sensible actualities floating in remote, dim, Faustian regions. Olympus rests on the homely Greek soil, the Paradise of the Fathers is a magic garden somewhere in the Universe, but Valhalla is nowhere. Lost in the limitless, it appears [as]... the supreme symbol of solitude. Siegfried, Parzeval, Tristan, Hamlet, Faust are the loneliest heroes in all the Cultures.

In the myth of the Holy Grail and its Knights one can feel the inward necessity of the German-Northern Catholicism. In opposition to the Classical sacrifices offered to individual gods in separate temples, there is here the one never-ending sacrifice repeated everywhere and every day. [...] The Cathedral, with its High Alter enclosing the accomplished miracle, is its expression in stone.

The Magian hierarchy of heaven-- angels, saints, persons of the Trinity-- has grown paler and paler, more and more disembodied, in the sphere of the Western pseudomorphosis [see Vol. 2]... . [...[ For the solitude of the Faustian soul agrees not at all with the duality of world powers. [...] ...we may say that the Catholic faith is to the Protestant as an altar-piece is to an oratorio. ...even the Germanic gods and heroes are surrounded by this rebuffing immensity and enigmatic gloom. They are steeped in music and in night, for daylight gives visible bounds and therefore shapes bodily things. Night eliminates body, day soul. Apollo and Athene have no souls. On Olympus rests the eternal light of the transparent southern day, and Apollo's hour is high noon, when great Pan sleeps. But Valhalla is light-less, and even in the Eddas we can trace that deep midnight of Faust's study-broodings, the midnight that is caught in Rembrandt's etchings and absorbs Beethoven's tone colours. No Wotan or Baldur or Freya has "Euclidean" form. Of them, as of the Vedic gods of India, it can be said that they suffer not "any graven image or any likeness whatsoever"; and this impossibility carries an implicit recognition that eternal space, and not the corporeal copy... is the supreme symbol. This is the deep-felt motive that underlies the iconoclastic storms in Islam and Byzantium (both, be it noted, of the 7th century), and the closely similar movement in our Protestant North.


Stone is the great emblem of the Timeless Become; space and death seem bound up in it. "Men have built for the dead," says Bachofen in his autobiography, "before they have built for the living, and even as a perishable wooden structure suffices for the span of time that is given to the living, so the housing of the dead for ever demands the solid stone of the earth. The oldest cult is associated with the stone that marks the place of burial, the oldest temple-building with the tomb-structure, the origins of art and decoration with the grave-ornament. Symbol has created itself in the graves. [...]." The dead strive no more. They are no more Time, but only Space-- something that stays (if indeed it stays at all) but does not ripen towards a Future; a hence it is stone, the abiding stone, that expresses how the dead is mirrored in the waking consciousness of the living. [...] The Egyptian soul saw itself as moving down a narrow and inexorably-prescribed life-path to come at the end before the judges of the dead ("Book of the Dead," cap. 125). That was its Destiny-idea. The Egyptian's existence is that of the traveller who follows one unchanging direction, and the whole form-language of his Culture is a translation into the sensible of this one theme. [...] The sacred way leads from the gate-building on the Nile [recall also the 'Ishtar Gate' of the 'processional way' in Babylon] through passages, halls, arcaded courts and pillared rooms that grow ever narrower and narrower, to the chamber of the dead [as did the processional way in Babylon], and similarly the Sun-temples of the Fifth Dynasty are not "buildings" but a path enclosed by mighty masonary. The reliefs and paintings appear always as rows which with an impressive compulsion lead the beholder in a definite direction. [...] Relief-work is-- in utter contrast to the Classical-- carefully restricted in one plane; in the course of development dated by the Third to the Fifth dynasties it diminishes from the thickness of a finger to that of a sheet of paper, and finally it is sunk in the plane.
A model of the Gate of Ishtar

Temple of Edfu on the Nile.
Deeply sunken relief of Thoth in Granite at the back of a statue of Ramsus II seated on his throne

There is, however, another Culture that, different as it most fundamentally is from the Egyptian, yet found a closely-related prime symbol. This is the Chinese, with its intensely directional principal of the Tao ['Way']. But whereas the Egyptian treads to the end a way that is prescribed for him with an inexorable necessity, the Chinaman wanders through his world, consequently, he is conducted to his god or his ancestral tomb not by ravines of stone, between faultless smooth walls, but by friendly Nature herself. [...] Whereas the Egyptian architecture dominates the landscape, the Chinese espouses it [Editors note: recall what Jung would later say about the different relationship which can be seen between the Europeans, on the one hand, and the 'primitive', on the other, to the 'land': whereas Europeans sit on top of it the primitive lives within its spell]. But in both cases it is direction in depth that maintains the becoming of space as a continuously-present experience. 


Nothing has injured the history of the great architectures so much as the fact that it has been regarded ,as the history of architectural techniques instead of as that of architectural ideas which took their technical expression-means as and where they found them. [...] Whether the groin and the flying buttress and the squinch-cupola were imagined specially for the great architectures or were expedients that lay more or less ready to hand and were taken into use, is for art-history a matter of as little importance as the question of whether, technically, stringed instruments originated in Arabia or in Celtic Britain. It may be that the Doric column was, as a matter of workmanship, borrowed from the Egyptian temples of the New Empire, or the late-Roman domical construction from the 'Etruscans, or the Florentine court from the North-Mrican Moors. Nevertheless, the Doric peripteros, the Pantheon, and the Palazzo Farnese belong to wholly different worlds-- they subserve the artistic expression of the prime-symbol in three different Cultures.


 The ranked columns of the Egyptians carried the roof of a hall. The Greek in borrowing the motive invested it with a meaning proper to himself-- he turned the architectural type inside out like a glove. The outer column-sets are, in a sense, relics of a denied interior. 

In the Magian interior "the window is merely a negative component, a utility-form in no wise yet developed into an art-form-- to put it crudely, nothing but a hole in the wall." [...] The window as architecture, on the other hand, is peculiar to the Faustian soul and the most significant symbol of its depth-experience. In it can be felt the will to emerge from the interior into the boundless. The same will that is immanent in contrapuntal music was native to these vaultings. The incorporeal world of this music was and remained that of the first Gothic, and even when, much later, polyphonic music rose to such heights as those of the Matthew Passion, the Eroica, and Tristan and Parsifal, it became of inward necessity cathedral-like and returned to its home, the stone language of the Crusade-time. To get rid of every trace of Classical corporeality, there was brought to bear the full force of a deeply significant Ornamentation, which defies the delimiting power of stone with its weirdly impressive transformations of vegetal, animal and human bodies (St. Pierre in Moissac), which dissolves all its lines into melodies and variations on a theme, all its facades into many-voiced fugues, and all the bodiliness of its statuary into a music of drapery-folds. It is this spirituality that gave their deep meaning to gigantic glass-expanses of our cathedral-windows with their polychrome, translucent and therefore wholly bodiless, painting-- an art that has never and nowhere repeated itself and forms the completest contrast that can be imagined to the Classical fresco. It is perhaps in the Sainte-Chapelle at Paris that this emancipation from bodiliness is most evident. Here the stone practically vanishes in the gleam of the glass.

Sainte-Chapelle at Paris

Whereas the fresco-painting is co-material with the wall on and with which it has grown and its colour is effective as material, here we have colours dependent on no carrying surface but as free in space as organ notes, and shapes poised in the infinite. Compare with the Faustian spirit of these churches-- almost wall-less, loftily vaulted, irradiated with many-coloured light, aspiring from nave to choir-- the Arabian (that is, the Early-Christian Byzantine) cupola-church. The pendentive cupola, that seems to float on high above the basilica or the octagon, was indeed also a victory over the principle of natural gravity which the Classical expressed in architrave and column; it, too, was a defiance of architectural body, of "exterior." [...] An ingeniously confusing interpenetration of spherical and polygonal forms; a load so placed upon a stone drum that it seems to hover weightless on high, yet closing the interior without outlet; all structural lines concealed; vague light admitted, through a small opening in the heart of the dome but only the more inexorably to emphasize the walling-in-- such are the characters that we see in the masterpieces of this art, S. Vitale in Ravenna, Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey.

Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy.


The phenomenon of the great style, then, is an emanation from the essence of the Macrocosm, from the prime-symbol of a great culture.

The Narmer Palette ('Bull tablet').

The bull tablet of the First [or even earlier] Dynasty of Egypt is not yet "Egyptian." Not till the Third Dynasty do the works acquire a style-- but then they do so suddenly and very definitely ['Old Kingdom']. Similarly the Carolingian period stands "between-styles." We see different forms touched on and explored, but nothing of inward necessary expression. [...] For the whole of West Europe the period 850-950 is almost a blank.

In the Faustian West, this awakening happened shortly before A.D. 1000. In one moment, the Romanesque style was there.

The prime symbol of the Way came into being suddenly with the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty (2930 B.C.). [...] Spatial depth as stiffened Time,... dimensions of length and breadth become an escorting plane which restricts and prescribes the Way of destiny. The Egyptian flat-relief... appears with similar suddenness about the beginning of the Firth Dynasty. [Authors note: The Fourth Dynasty, that of the strict Pyramid style, B.C. 2930-2750 (Cheops, Chephren), corresponds to the Romanesque (980-1100), the Fifth Dynasty (2750-2625, Sahu-re) to the early Gothic (1100-1230), and the Sixth Dynasty, prime of the archaic portraiture (2625-2475, Phiops [Pepi] I and II), to the mature Gothic of 1230-1400.]
 The grandeur of this style appears to us as rigid and unchanging. [...] But, vice versa, we cannot boubt that to an Egyptian the Faustian style (which is our style, from earliest Romanesque to Rococo and Empire) would with its unresting persistent search..., appear far more uniform that we can imagine. It follows, we must not forget, from the conception of style that we are working on here, that Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo are only stages of one and the same style, in which it is naturally the variable that we and the constant that men of other eyes remark. [...] In peasant art, Gothic and Baroque have been identical, and the streets of old towns with their pure harmony of all sorts of gables and facades (wherein definite attributions to Romanesque or Gothic Renaissance or Baroque or Rococo are often quite impossible) show that the family resemblance between the members is far greater than they themselves realize. 
The Egyptian style was purely architectural... . It is the only one in which Ornamentation as a decorative supplement to architecture is entirely absent. [...] In the Ionic phase, the centre of gravity of the Classical style shifted from architecture to an independent plastic art [statue]; in that of the Baroque the style of the West passed into music, whose form-language in its turn ruled the entire building art of the 18th Century; in the Arabian world, after Justinian and Chosroes-Nushirvan, Arabesque dissolved all the forms of architecture, painting and sculpture into style-impressions that nowadays we should consider as craft-art. But in Egypt the sovereignty of architecture remained unchallenged... . In the chambers of the pyramid-temple of the Fourth Dynasty (Pyramid of Chephren [Khafre]) there are unadorned angular pillars. In the buildings of the Fifth (Pyramid of Sahu-re) the plant-column makes its appearance. 

Plant columns in the courtyard of the Pyramid of Sahure, Abusir, 5th Dynasty (Old Kingdom).

Lotus and papyrus branches turned into stone arise gigantic out of a pavement of transparent alabaster that represents water, enclosed by purple walls. The ceiling is adorned with birds and stars. The sacred way from the gate-buildings to the tomb-chamber, the picture of life, is a stream-- it is the Nile itself become one with the prime-symbol of direction. The spirit of the mother-landscape unites with the soul that has sprung from it.


We are now able to see the organism in a great style-course. Here, as in so many other matters, Goethe was the first to whom vision came. In his "Wincklemann" he says of Velleius Paterculus: "with his standpoint, it was not given to him to see all art as a living thing ([Greek text]) that must have an inconspicuous beginning, a slow growth, a brilliant moment of fulfilment and a gradual decline like every other organic being, though it is presented in a set of individuals." This sentence contains the entire morphology of art-history. Styles do not follow one another like waves or pulse-beats. It is not the personality or will or brain of the artist that makes the style, but the style that makes the type of the artist. The style, like the Culture, is a prime phenomenon in the strictest Goethian sense, be it the style of art or religion or thought, or the style of life itself. It is, as "Nature" is, an ever-new experience of waking man, his alter ego and mirror-image in the world-around. And therefore in the general historical picture of a Culture there can be but one style, the style of the Culture. The error has lain in treating mere style-phases-- Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Rococo, Empire-- as if they were styles on the same level as units of quite another order such as the Egyptian, the Chinese (or even a "prehistoric") style. Gothic and Baroque are simply the youth and age of one and the same vessel of forms, the style of the West as ripening and ripened. [...] ...we have classed any and every form-domain that makes a strong impression upon us as a "style," and it need hardly be said that our insight has been led astray still further by the Ancient-Mediaeval-Modern scheme. 

The task before art-history is to write the comparative biographies of the great styles, all of which as organisms of the same genus possess structurally cognate life histories.


...Spring seeks to express its spirituality in a new ornamentation and, above all, in religious architecture as the sublime form of that ornamentation. But of all this rich form-world the only part that (till recently) has been taken into account has been the Western edge of it, which consequently has been assumed to be the true home and habitat of Magian style-history. In reality... what we find there is only an irradiation from outside the Eastern border of the Empire. [...] ...the totality of these religions-- from Armenia to Sothern Arabia and Axum, and from Persia to Byzantium and Alexandria-- possess a broad uniformity of artistic expression that overrides the contradiction of detail. All these religions, the Christian, the Jewish, the Persian, the Manichaean, the Syncretic, possessed cult-buildings and (at any rate in their script) an Ornamentation of the first rank; and however different the items of their dogmas, they are all pervaded by an homogeneous religiousness and express it in a homogeneous symbolism of depth-experience. There is something in the basilicas of Christianity, Hellenistic, Hebrew and Baal-cults, and in the Mithraeum, the Mazdaist fire-temple and the Mosque, that tells of a like spirituality: it is the Cavern-feeling.

When and where the various possibilities of dome, cupola, barrel-vaulting, rib-vaulting, came into existence as technical methods is, as we have already said, a matter of no significance. What is of decisive importance is the fact that about the time of Christ's birth and the rise of the new world-feeling, the new space-symbolism must have begun to make use of these forms and to develop them further in expressiveness. It will very likely come to be shown that the fire-temples and synagogues of Mesopotamia... were originally cupola-buildings. Certainly the pagan marna-temple at Gaza was so, and long before Pauline Christianity took possession of these forms under Constantine, builders of Eastern origin had introduced them, as novelties to please the taste of the Megalopolitans, into all parts of the Roman Empire. In Rome itself, Apollodorus of Damascus was employed under Trajan for the vaulting of the temple of "Venus and Rome," and the domed chambers of the Baths of Caracalla and the so-called "Minerva Medica" of Gallienus's time were built by Syrians. But the masterpiece, the earliest of all mosques, is the Pantheon as rebuilt by Hadrian. Here, without a doubt, the emperor was imitating, for the satisfaction of his own taste, cult-buildings that he had seen in the East. 
The architecture of the central-dome, in which the Magian world-feeling achieved its purest expression, extended beyond the limits of the Roman Empire. For the Nestorian Christianity that extended from Armenia even into China it was the only form, as it was also for the Manichaeans and the Mazdaists, and it also impressed itself victoriously upon the Basilica of the West when the Pseudomorphosis began to crumble and the last cults of Syncretism to die out. In Southern France... the form of the East was domesticated. Under Justinian, the interpenetration of the two produced the domical basilica of Byzantium and Ravenna. The pure basilica was pushed into the Germanic West, there to be transformed by the energy of the Faustian depth-impulse into the cathedral. The domed basilica, again, spread from Byzantium and Armenia into Russia. [...] But in the Arabian world, Islam, the heir of Monophysite and Nestorian Christianity and of the Jews and the Persians, carried the development through to the end. When it turned Hagia Sophia into a mosque it only resumed possession of an old property.

[Cont. p. 212]

...the Arabian soul was cheated of its maturity-- like a young tree that is hindered and stunted in its growth by a fallen old giant of the forest. Here there was no brilliant instant felt and experienced as such, like that of ours in which, simultaneously with the Crusades, the wooden beams of the Cathedral roof locked themselves into rib-vaulting and an interior was made to actualize and fulfil the idea of infinite space.  The political creation of Diocletian was shattered in its glory upon the fact that, standing as he did on Classical ground, he had to accept the whole mass of the administrative tradition of Urbs Roma; this sufficed to reduce his work to a mere reform of obsolete conditions. And yet he was the first of the Caliphs. With him, the idea of the Arabian State emerges clearly into the light. It is Diocletian's dispensation, together with that of the Sassanids which preceded it somewhat and served in all respects as its model, that gives us the first notion of the ideal that ought to have gone on to fulfilment here. [...] To this very day we admire as last creations of the Classical-- because we cannot or will not regard them otherwise-- the thought of Plotinus and Marcus Aurelius, the cults of Isis, Mithras and the Sun-God, the Diophantine mathematics and, lastly, the whole of the art which streamed towards us from the Eastern marches of the Roman Empire and for which Antioch and Alexandria were merely points d' appui
This alone is sufficient to explain the intense vehemence with which the Arabian Culture, when released at length from artistic as from other fetters, flung itself upon all the lands that had inwardly belonged to it for centuries past. It is the sign of a soul that feels itself in a hurry, that notes in fear the first symptoms of old age before it has had youth. This emancipation of Magian mankind is without a parallel. Syria is conquered, or rather delivered, in 634. Damascus falls in 637, Ctesiphon in 637. In 641 Egypt and India are reached, in 647 Carthage, in 676 Samarkand, in 710 Spain. And in 732 the Arabs stood before Paris [Editors note: Leopold von Ranke said "Poitiers was the turning point of one of the most important epochs in the history of the world]. Into these few years was compressed the whole sum of saved-up passions, postponed hopes, reserved deeds, that in the slow maturing of other Cultures suffice to fill the history of centuries. The Crusades before Jerusalem, the Hohenstaufen in Sicily, the Hansa in the Baltic, the Teutonic Knights in the Slavonic East, the Spaniards in America, the Portuguese in the East Indies, the Empire of Charles V on which the sun never set, the beginning of England's colonial power under Cromwell-- the equivalent of all this was shot out in one discharge that carried the Arabs to Spain and France, India and Turkestan. 


To make the form-world of the arts available as a means of penetrating the spirituality of entire Cultures-- by handling it in a thoroughly physiognomic and symbolic spirit-- is an undertaking that has not hitherto got beyond speculations of which the inadequacy is obvious. We are hardly as yet aware that there may be a psychology of the metaphysical bases of all great architectures.

Consider mosaic. In Hellenic times it was made up of pieces of marble, it was opaque and corporeal-Euclidean (e.g., the famous Battle of Issus at Naples), and it adorned the floor. But with the awakening of the Arabian soul it came to be built up of pieces of glass and set in fused gold, and it simply covered the walls and roofs of the domed basilica. This Early-Arabian Mosaic-picturing corresponds exactly, as to phase, with the glass-picturing of Gothic cathedrals, both being "early" arts ancillary to religious architectures. The one by letting in the light enlarges the church-space into world-space, while the other transforms it into the magic, gold-shimmering sphere which bears men away from earthly actuality into the visions of Plotinus, Origen, the Manichaeans, the Gnostics and the Fathers, and the Apocalyptic poems.
Consider, again, the beautiful notion of uniting the round arch and the column; this again is a Syrian, if not a North-Arabian, creation of the third (or [equivalent as to phase] "high Gothic") century. The revolutionary importance of this motive, which is specifically Magian, has never in the least degree been recognized; on the contrary, it has always been assumed to be Classical, and for most of us indeed it is even representatively Classical. The Egyptians ignored any deep relation between the roof and the column; the latter was for them a plant-column, and represented not stoutness but growth. Classical man, in his turn, for whom the monolithic column was the mightiest symbol of Euclidean existence-- all body, all unity, all steadiness-- connected it, in the strictest proportions of vertical and horizontal, of strength and load, with his architrave. But here, in this union of arch and column which the Renaissance in its tragiocomic deludeness admired as expressly Classical (though it was a notion that the Classical neither possessed nor could possess), the bodily principle of load and inertia is rejected and the arch is made to spring clear and open out of the slender column. The idea actualized here is at once a liberation from all earth-gravity and a capture of space, and between this element and that of the dome which soars free but yet encloses the great "cavern," there is the deep relation of like meaning. The one and the other are eminently and powerfully Magian, and they come to their logical fulfilment in the "Rococo" stage of Moorish mosques and castles, wherein ethereally delicate columns-- often growing out of, rather than based on, the ground-- seem to be empowered by some secret magic to carry a whole world of innumerable notched arcs, gleaming ornaments, stalactites, and vaultings saturated with colours. The full importance of this basic form of Arabian architecture may be expressed by saying that the combination of column and architrave is the Classical, that of column and round arch the Arabian, and that of pillar and pointed arch the Faustian Leitmotiv.
Take, further, the history of the Acanthus motive. In the form in which it appears, for example, on the Monument of Lysicrates at Athens, it is one of the most distinctive in Classical ornamentation. It has body, it is and remains individual, and its structure is capable of being taken in at one glance. But already it appears heavier and richer in the ornament of the Imperial Fora (Nerva's, Trajan's) and that of the temple of Mars Ultor; the organic disposition has become so complicated that, as a rule, it requires to be studied, and the tendency to fill up the surfaces appears. In Byzantine art... the acanthus leaf was broken up into endless tendril-work which (as in Hagia Sophia) is disposed quite inorganically over whole surfaces. To the Classical motive are added the old-Aramaean vine and palm leaves, which have already played a part in Jewish ornamentation. The interlaced borders of "Late-Roman" mosaic pavements and sarcophagus-edges, and even geometrical plane-patterns are introduced, and finally, throughout the Persian-Anatolian world, mobility and bizarrerie culminate in the Arabesque. This is the genuine Magian motive-- anti-plastic to the last degree, hostile to the pictorial and the bodily alike. Itself bodiless, it disembodies the object over which its endless richness of web is drawn.

Choragic Monument of Lysicrates. From Stuart and Revett's The Antiquities of Athens, 1762.

Corinthian Capital from the Temple of Mars Ultor. From Hector d'Espouy's Fragments Antiques (1905)

Capital from Hagia Sophia with Acanthus tendril work.

The Green Man in the Bamberg Cathedral is foliated with Acanthus leaf (early 13th century).

Chapter VII
Music and Plastic
The Arts of Form

The distance separating two kinds of painting can be infinitely greater than that separating the painting and the music of a period. Considered in relation to a statue of Myron, the art of a Poussin landscape is the same as that of a contemporary chamber-cantata; that of Rembrandt as that of the organ works of Buxtehude, Pachelbel and Bach; that of Guardi as that of the Mozart opera-- the inner form-language is so nearly identical that the difference between optical and acoustic means is negligible.

The first act of the learned pedant has always been to partition the infinitely wide domain [of art] into provinces determined by perfectly superficial criteria of medium and technique and to endow these provinces with eternal validity and immutable(!) form-principles. Thus he separated "Music" and "Painting," "Music" and "Drama," "Painting" and "Sculpture." And then he proceeded to define "the" art of Painting, "the" art of Scultpure, and so on. But in fact the technical form-language is no more than the mask of the real work. Style is... something inaccessible to art-reason, a revelation of the metaphysical order, a mysterious "must," a Destiny.

To classify the arts according to the character of the sense-impression, then, is to pervert the problem of form in its very enunciation.

If an art has boundaries at all-- boundaries of its soul-become-form-- they are historical and not technical or physiological boundaries [authors note: Our pedantic method has given us an art-history that excludes music-history... .]. [...] Every individual art-- Chinese landscape or Egyptian plastic or Gothic counterpoint-- is once existent, and departs with its soul and its symbolism never to return.


What the creation of a masterpiece means for an individual artist... that the creation of a species of art, comprehended as such, means for the life-history of a Culture. It is epochal. Apart from the merest externals, each such art is an individual organism without predecessor or successor.

Hitherto it has been supposed... that the several "arts" specified in the conventional classification-scheme (the validity of which is assumed) are all possible at all times and places, and the absence of one or another of them in particular cases is attributed to the accidental lack of creative personalities or impelling circumstances or discriminating patrons to guide "art" on its "way."

I have already, in the earliest pages of this work, exposed the shallowness of the notion of a linear progression of "mankind" through the stages of "ancient," "medieval" and "modern," a notion that has made us blind to the true history and structure of higher Cultures. The history of art is a conspicuous case in point.  [...] Static times were described as "natural pauses," it was called "decline" when some great art in reality died, and "renaissance" where an eye really free from prepossessions would have seen another art being born in another landscape to express another humanity. Even today we are still taught that the Renaissance was a rebirth of the Classical. And the conclusion was drawn that it is possible and right to take up arts that are found weak or even dead... and set them going again by conscious reformation-program or forced "revival."
And yet it is precisely in this problem of the end, the impressively sudden end, of a great art-- the end of the Attic drama in Euripides, of Florentine sculpture with Michelangelo, of instrumental music in Liszt, Wagner and Bruckner-- that the organic character of these arts is most evident. If we look closely enough we shall have no difficulty in convincing ourselves that no one art of any greatness has ever been "reborn."
Of the Pyramid style nothing passed over into the Doric. Nothing connects the Classical temple with the basilica of the Middle East, for the mere taking over of the Classical column as a structural member, though to a superficial observer it seems a fact of the first importance, weighs no more in reality than Goethe's employment of the old mythology in the "Classical Walpurgis Night" scene of "Faust." [...] ...everything of the plastic that had sprung up in the shade of Gothic cathedrals at Chartres, Reims, Bamberg, Naumburg, in the Nurnberg of Peter Vischer and the Florence of Verrocchio, vanished before the oil-painting of Venice and the instrumental music of Baroque.


We have, with a wonderful blindness, assumed this kind of sculpture [as exemplified by Polycletus and Phidias] as both authoritative and universally possible, as in fact, "the art of sculpture." We have written its history as one concerned with all peoples and periods, and even today our sculptors, under the influence of unproved Renaissance doctrines, speak of the naked human body as the noblest and most genuine oject of "the" art of sculpture. Yet in reality this statue-art, the art of the naked body standing free upon its footing and appreciable from all sides alike, existed in the Classical and the Classical only, for it was that Culture alone which quite decisively refused to transcend sense-limits... . The Egyptian statue is always meant to be seen from the front-- it is a variant of plane-relief. And the seemingly Classically-conceived statue of the Renaissance... are nothing but a semi-Gothic reminiscence.
The evolution of this rigorously non-spatial art occupies the three centuries from 650 to 350, a period extending from the completion of the Doric and the simultaneous apperance of a tendency to free the figures from the Egyptian limitation of frontalness [authors note: The struggle to fix the problem is visible in the series of "Apollo-figures."] to the coming of the Hellenistic and its illusion-painting which closed-off the grand style. This sculpture will never be rightly appreciated until it is regarded as the last and highest Classical, as springing, from a plane art, first obeying and then overcoming the fresco. [...] Relief, like fresco, is tied to the bodily wall. All this sculpture right down to Myron may be considered as relief detached from the plane. In the end, the figure is treated as a self-contained body apart from the mass of the building, but it remains essentially a silhouette in front of a wall [authors note: Most of the works are pediment-groups or metopes. But even the Apollo-figures and the "Maidens" of the Acropolis could not have stood free.]. ...the practice of polychroming the marble [was] unknown to the Renaissance..., which would have felt it as barbaric [authors note: The decisive preference of the white stone is itself significance of the opposition of Renaissance to Classical feeling.]. 


The corresponding state of Western art occupies the three centuries 1500-1800, between the end of late Gothic and the decay of Rococo which marks the end of the great Faustian style. In this period, conformably to the persistent growth into consciousness of the will to spatial transcendence, it is instrumental music that develops into the ruling art. [...] Music becomes itself absolute: it is music that (quite unconsciously again) dominates both painting and architecture in the 18th Century. And, ever more and more decisively, sculpture fades out from among the deeper possibilities of this form-world.
What distinguishes painting as it was before, from painting as it was after, the shift from Florence to Venice-- or, to put it more definitely, what separates the painting of Raphael and that of Titian as two entirely distinct arts-- is that the plastic spirit of the one associates painting with relief, while the music spirit of the other works in a technique of visible brush-strokes and atmospheric depth-effects that is akin to the chromatic of string and wind choruses. It is an opposition and not a transition that we have before us, and the recognition of the fact is vital to our understanding of the organism of these arts. Here, if anywhere, we have to guard against the abstract hypothesis of "eternal art-laws." [...] Draped figures were built up as cathedrals were. Their folds were an ornamentation of extreme sincerity and severe expressiveness. To criticize their "stiffness" from a naturalistic-imitative point of view is to miss the point entirely.

....Chinese music [is incomprehensible to us]: ...according to educated Chinese, we are never able to distinguish gay from grave [authors note: In the same way the whole of Russian music appears to us infinitely mournful, but real Russians assure us that it is not at all so for themselves.]. Vice versa, to the Chinese all the music of the West without distinction is march-music. Such is the impression that the rhythmic dynamic of our life makes upon the accentless Tao of the Chinese soul, and, indeed, the impression that our entire Culture makes upon an alien humanity-- the directional energy of our church-naves and our storeyed facades, the depth-perspectives of our pictures, the march of our tragedy and narrative, not to mention our technics and the whole course of our private and public life. We ourselves have accent in our blood and therefore do not notice it. But when our rhythm is juxtaposed with that of an alien life, we find the discordance intolerable.
Arabian music, again, is quite another world.

Out of all this wealth [of Arabian music], the Faustian soul borrowed only some few church-forms and, moreover, in borrowing them [just as with the Basilica type], it instantly transformed them root and branch... . Melodic accent and beat produced the "march," and polyphony (like the rime of contemporary poetry) the image of endless pace. [...] West Europe has an ornamental music of the grand style (corresponding to the full plastic of the Classical) which is associated with the achitectural history of the cathedral, which is closely akin to Scholasticism and Mysticism, and which finds its laws in the motherland of high Gothic between Seine and Scheldt. Counterpoint developed simultaneously with the flying-buttress system, and its source was the "Romanesque" style of the Fauxbourdon [developed in Burgundy in the 15th century] and the Discant [developed by the Notre Dame school of Polyphony in the 12-13th centuries] with their simple parallel and contrary motion. It is an architecture of human voices and, like the statuary-group and the glass-paintings, is only conceivable in the setting of these stone vaultings. With them it is a high art of space, of that space to which Nocolas of Oresme, Bishop of Lisieux, gave mathematical meaning by the introduction of co-ordinates [authors note: Note that Oresme was a contemporary of Machault and Philippe de Vitry, in whose generation the rules and prohibitions of strict counterpoint were definitely established.]. This is the genuine "rinascita" and "reformatio" as Joachim of Floris saw it at the end of the 12th Century-- the birth of a new soul mirrored in the form-language of a new art. 
Along with this there came into being in castle and village a secular imitative music, that of troubadours, Minnesanger and minstrels.

Thus, musically as otherwise, the castle and the cathedral are distinct.

About 1560 the empire of the human voice comes to an end in the a cappella style of Palestrina and Orlando Lasso (both d. 1594). Its powers could no longer express the passionate drive into the infinite, and it made way for the chorus of instruments, wind and string. [...] The music of the Gothic is architectural and vocal, that of the Baroque pictorial and instrumental.

Thenceforward, the great task was to extend the tone-corpus into the infinite, or rather to resolve it into an infinite space of tone.

And thus was reached the great, immensely dynamic, form in which music-- now completely bodiless-- was raised by Corelli and Handel and Bach to be the ruling art of the West. When Newton and Leibniz, about 1670, discovered the Infinitesimal Calculus, the fugal style was fulfilled. [...] Certain it is that the violin is the noblest of all instruments that the Faustian soul has imagined and trained for the expression of its last secrets, and certain it is, too, that it is in string quartets and violin sonatas that it has experienced its most transcendent and most holy moments of full illumination. Here, in chamber-music, Western art as a whole reaches its highest point. Here our prime symbol of endless space is expressed as completely as the Spearman of Ploycletus expresses that of intense bodiliness. When one of those ineffably yearning violin-melodies wanders through the spaces expanded around it by the orchestration of Tartini or Nardini, Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven, we know ourselves in the presence of an art beside which that of the Acropolis is alone worthy to be set.
With this, the Faustian music becomes dominant among the Faustian arts. It banishes the plastic of the statue and tolerates only the minor art... of porcelain... . Whereas the statuary of Gothic is through-and-through architectural ornamentation, human espalier-work, that of the Rococo remarkably exemplifies the pseudo-plastic that results from entire subjection to the form-language of music, and shows to what a degree a technique governing the presented foreground can be in contradiction with the real expression-language that is hidden behind it. Compare Coysevox's (1686) crouching Venus in the Louvre with its Classical prototype in the Vatican-- in the one plastic is understudying music, in the other plastic is itself. Terms like "staccato," "accelerando," "andante" and "allegro" best describe the kind of movements that we have here, the flow of the lines, the fluidity in the being of the stone itself which like the porcelain has more or less lost its fine compactness. [...] ...since [the 18th Century], have we not acquired the habit of speaking of colour-tones or tone-colours? And do not the very words imply a recognition of a final homogeneity between the two arts, superficially dissimilar as they are?

But music did not stop there; it transmuted also the architecture of Bernini's Baroque into accord with its own spirit, and made of it Rococo, a style of transcendent ornamentation upon which lights (or rather "tones") play to dissolve ceilings, walls and everything else constructional and actual into polyphonies and harmonies, with architectural trills and cadences and runs to complete the identification of the form-language of these halls and galleries with that of the music imagined for them. Dresden and Vienna are the homes of this late and soon-extinguished fairyland of visible chamber music, of curved furniture and mirror-halls, and shepherdesses in verse and porcelain. It is the final brilliant autumn with which the Western soul completes the expression of its high style. And in the Vienna of the Congress-time it faded and died."

Cont. p 232

Chapter VIII
Music and Plastic
Act and Portrait


...the Classical plastic art, after liberating the form completely from the actual or imagined back-wall and setting it up in the open, free and unrelated, to be seen as a body among bodies, moved on logically till the naked body became its only subject. And, moreover, it is unlike every other kind of sculpture recorded in art-history in that its treatment of the bounding surfaces of this body is anatomically convincing.

It was a strictly metaphysical reason, the need of a supreme life-symbol for themselves, that brought the later Hellenes to this art... . It is not true that this language of the outer surface is the completest, or the most natural, or even the most obvious mode of representing the human being. Quite the contrary. [...] No Egyptian or Chinese sculpture ever dreamed of using external anatomy to express his meaning. In Gothic image-work a language of the muscles is unheard of. The human tracery that clothes the mighty Gothic framework with a web of countless figures and reliefs (Chartres cathedral has more than ten thousand such) is not merely ornament; as early as about 1200 it is employed for the expression of schemes and purposes far grander than even the grandest of Classical plastic. For these masses of figures constitute a tragic unit. Here, by the North even earlier than by Dante, the historical feeling of the Faustian soul... is intensified to the tragic fullness of a world-drama. That which Joachim of Floris, at this very time, was seeing in his Apulian cell-- the picture of the world, not as Cosmos, but as a Divine History and succession of three world-ages-- the craftsmen were expressing at Reims, Amiens and Paris in serial presentation of it from the Fall to the Last Judgement. Each of the scenes, each of the great symbolic figures, had its significant place in the sacred edifice, each its role in the immense world-poem. Then, too, each individual man came to feel how his life-course was fitted as ornament in the plan of Divine history... . [Editors note: see Male's Gothic Image]

The Western portraiture... begins to wake out of the stone from about 1200 and it has become completely music in the 17th century. [...] ...a self-portrait is a historical confession.

...the Gothic draped figure... denies the intrinsic importance of body. ...by treating the clothing in a purely ornamental fashion, reinforces the expressiveness of head and hands... . The fall of draperies was meant in Athens to reveal the sense of the body, in the North to conceal it; in the one case the fabric becomes body, in the other it becomes music.


The opposition of Apollinian and Faustian ideals of Humanity may now be stated concisely. [...] The Statue is rooted in the ground, Music (and the Western portrait is music, soul woven of colour-tones) invades and pervades space without limit. The fresco-painting is tied to the wall, trained on it, but the oil-painting, the "picture" on canvas or board or other table, is free from limitations of place. The Apollinian form-language reveals only the become, the Faustian shows above all a becoming.

...in the religious art of the West, the representation of Motherhood is the noblest of all tasks. As Gothic dawns, the Theotokos of the Byzantine changes into the Mater Dolorosa, the Mother of God. [...] The whole panorama of early Gothic mankind is pervaded by something maternal, something caring and patient, and Germanic-Catholic Christianity-- when it had ripened into full consciousness of itself and in one impulse settled its sacraments and created its Gothic Style-- placed not the suffering Redeemer but the suffering Mother in the centre of the world-picture. About 1250, in the great epic of statuary of Reims Cathedral, the principal place in the centre of the main porch, which in the cathedrals of Paris and Amiens was still that of Christ, was assigned to the Madonna.... .

As against these types, the imagination of the Greeks conceived goddesses who are either Amazons like Athene or hetaerae like Aphrodite. [...] Think of the masterpieces of this art, the three mighty female bodies of the East Pediment of the Parthenon, and compare with them that noblest image of a mother, Raphael's Sistine Madonna. In the latter, all bodiliness has disappeared. She is all distance and space. The Helen of the "Iliad," compared with Kriemhild, the motherly comrade of Siegfried, is a courtesan, while Antigone and Clytaemnestra are Amazons. How strangely even Aeschylus passes over in silence the mother-tragic in Clytaemnestra! The figure of Medea is nothing less than the mythic inverse of the Faustian "Mater Dolorosa"... . 

The three figures from the East Pediment of the Parthenon

The porch of Maidens

[gap, section III]

Between fresco-technique and oil-painting there is a subtle opposition. [...] ...the character of the Renaissance as a protest against the Faustian spirit of the west betrays itself. [...] Logically... the entire art of the Renaissance should be wanting in the physiognomic traits. And yet the strong undercurrent of Faustian art-will kept alive... in the instincts of the great masters themselves, a Gothic tradition that was never interrupted. Nay, the physiognomic of Gothic art even made itself master of the Southern nude body, alien as this element was. [...] The reclining nude figures of Michelangelo in the Medici chapel are wholly and entirely the visage and the utterance of a soul. [...] There is not and there cannot be... any genuine Renaissance portraiture... . In architecture, little as the new work was Apollinian in spirit, it was possible to create anti-Gothically, but in portraiture-- no. It was too specifically Faustian a symbol. [...] Michelangelo's heads are allegories in the style of dawning Baroque, and their resemblance even to Hellenistic work is only superficial.

It is well worth noting that this overcoming of, or at least this desire to overcome, the Gothic Portrait with the Classical Act-- the deeply historical and biographical form by the completely ahistoric-- appears simultaneously with, and in association with, a decline in the capacity for self-examination and artistic confession in the Goethian sense. The true Renaissance man did not know what spiritual development meant. he managed to live entirely outwardly... . [...] Between Dante's "Vita Nuova" and Michelangelo's sonnets there is no poetic confession, no self-portrait of the high order. The Renaissance artist and humanist is the one single type of Western man for whom the word "loneliness" remained unmeaning. His life accomplished its course in the light of a courtly existence. His feelings and impressions were all public, and he had neither secret discontents nor reserves, while the life of the great contemporary Netherlanders, on the country, moved on in the shadows of their works. 


The Renaissance was born of defiance, and therefore it lacked depth, width and sureness of creative instinct. [...] ...the fact that the individual arts were forced to become satellites of a Classicist sculpture could not in the last analysis alter the essence of them, and could only impoverish their store of inward possibilities. [...] The men of the inwardness of Memling
or the power of Grunewald such conditions as those of the Tuscan form-world would have been fatal. They could not have developed their strength in and through it, but only against it. [...] In Gothic, and again in Baroque, an entirely great artist was fulfilling his art in deepening and completing its language, but in Renaissance he was necessarily destroying it.
So it was in the case of Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo, the only really great men of Italy after Dante. Is it not curious that between the masters of the Gothic-- who were nothing but silent workers in their art and yet achieved the very highest that could be achieved within its convention and its field-- and the Venetians and Dutch of 1600-- who again were purely workers-- there should be these three men who were not "sculptors" or "painters" but thinkers, and thinkers who of necessity busied themselves not merely with all the available means of artistic expression but with a thousand other things besides, ever restless and dissatisfied, in their effort to get at the real essence and aim of their being? Does it not mean-- that in the Renaissance they could not "find themselves"? Each in his own fashion, each under his own tragic illusion, these three giants strove to be "Classical" in the Medicean sense; and yet it was they themselves who in one and another way... shattered the dream. In them the misguided soul is finding its way back to its Faustian starting-points. [...] In all their work one feels a secret music, in all their forms the movement-quality and the tending into distances and depths. [...] Raphael thawed the Florentine fresco, and Michelangelo the statue, and Leonardo dreamed already of Rembrandt and Bach. The higher and more conscientious the effort to actualize the ideas of the age, the more intangible it became.
Gothic and Baroque, however, are something that is, while Renaissance is only an ideal, unattainable like all ideals, that floats over the will of the period. Giotto is a Gothic, and Titian is a Baroque, artist. Michelangelo would be a Renaissance artist, but fails. [...] Even as soon as 1520 the beautiful proportion, the pure rule-- that is, the conscious Classical-- are felt as frigid and formal.

As Petrarch was the first, so Michelangelo was the last Florentine who gave himself up passionately to the Antique. But it was no longer an entire devotion. The Franciscan Christianity of Fra Angelico, with its subtle gentleness and its quiet, reflective piety-- to which the Southern refinement of ripe Renaissance work owes far more than has been supposed-- came now to its end. The majestic spirit of the Counter-Reformation, massive, animated, gorgeous, lives already in Michelangelo. There is something in Renaissance work which at the time passed for being "Classical" but is really only a deliberately noble dress for the Christian-German world-feeling; as we have already mentioned, the combination of round-arch and pillar, that favourite Florentine motive, was of Syrian origin. But compare the pseudo-Corinthian column of the 15th Century with the columns of a real Roman ruin-- remembering that these ruins were known and on the spot! Michelangelo alone would tolerate no half-and-half. [...] The one half of his nature drew him towards the Classical and therefore to sculpture-- we all know the effect produced upon him by the recently-discovered Laoccon. No man ever made a more honest effort than he did to find a way with the chisel into a buried world. ....the element which Goethe meant to render when he brought Helena into the Second Part of Faust, the Apollinian world in all its powerful sensuous corporal presence-- that was what Michelangelo was striving with all his might to capture and to fix in artistic being when he was painting the Sistine ceiling. Every resources of fresco-- the big contours, the vast surfaces, the immense nearness of naked shapes, the materiality of colour-- was here for the last time strained to the utmost to liberate the paganism, the high-Renaissance paganism, that was in him. But his second soul, the soul of Gothic-Christian Dante and of the music of great expanses, is pulling in the opposite sense; his scheme for the ensemble is manifestly metaphysical in spirit.
His was the last effort, repeated again and again... . But the Euclidean material failed him. His attitude to it was not that of a Greek. [...] For Phidias, marble is the cosmic stuff that is crying for form. The story of Pygmalion and Galatea [editors note: found in Ovid's Metamorphosis] expresses the very essence of that art. But for Michelangelo marble was the foe to be subdued, the prison out of which he must deliver his idea as Siegfried delivered Burnhilde [

Brynhildr]. [...] There is no other artist of the West whose relation to the stone has been that of Michelangelo-- at once so intimate and so violently masterful. It is his symbol of Death. In it dwells the hostile principle that his daemonic nature is always striving to overpower... . He is the one sculpture of his age who dealt only with marble. 

Rondanini Pietà, Michelangelo, 1552-1564 (left incomplete at his death)

In full old age, when he was producing only wild fragments like the Rondanini Madonna and hardly cutting his figures out of the rough at all, the musical tendency of his artistry broke through. In the end the impulse towards contrapuntal form was no longer to be repressed and, dissatisfied through and through with the art upon which he had spent his life, yet dominated still by the unquenchable will to self-expression, he shattered the canon of Renaissance architecture and created the Roman Baroque.

With Michelangelo the history of Western sculpture is at an end.

Leonardo speaks another language. In essentials his spirit reached forward into the following century, and he was in nowise bound, as Michelangelo was bound by every tie of heart, to the Tuscan ideal. [...] His much-admired sfumato is the first sign of the repudiation of corporeal bounds, in the name of space, and as such it is the starting point of Impressionism. [...] Raphael's paintings fall into planes in which he disposes his well-ordered groups, and he closes off the whole with a well-proportioned background. But Leonardo knows only one space, wide and eternal, and his figures, as it were, float therein.

The Marriage of the Virgin, Raphael, oil 1504.
Sfumato on the Mona Lisa

Leonardo was a discoverer through-and-through... . Brush, chisel, dissecting-knife, pencil for calculating and compasses for drawing-- all were for him of equal importance. [...] He was the first... who set his mind to work on aviation. To fly, to free one's self from earth, to lose one's self in the expanse of the universe-- is not this ambition Faustian in the highest degree? Is it not in fact the fulfillment of our dreams? Has it never been observed how the Christian legend became in Western painting a glorious transfiguration of this motive? All the pictured ascents into heaven and falls into hell, the divine figures floating above the clouds, the blissful detachment of angels and saints, the insistent emphasis upon freedom from earth's heaviness, are emblems of soul-flight, peculiar to the art of the Faustian, utterly remote from that of the Byzantine.


The transformation of Renaissance fresco-painting into Venetian oil-painting is a matter of spiritual history. [...] In almost every picture from Masaccio's "Peter and the Tribute Money"..., through the soaring background that Piero della Francesca gave to the figures of Fredrigo and Battista of Urbino, to Perugino's "Christ Giving the Keys," the fresco manner is contending with the invasive new form, though Raphael's artistic development in the course of his work on the Vatican "stanze" is almost the only case in which we can see comprehensively the change that is going on [note: see 'On the Form of the Soul', VIII] [...] One painted oils on the bare wall, and thereby condemned his work to perish (Leonardo's "Last Supper"). Another painted pictures as if they were wall-frescos (Michelangelo).

Peter and the Tribute Money, Masaccio, fresco, 1420's

Piero della Francesca, Portraits of Federico da Montefeltro and His Wife Battista Sforza, Tempera painting, 1466.
Perugino, Christ Giving the Keys, fresco, 1482.

The Last Supper, Leonardo, 1498 (as it appeared in 1975, before the recent major restoration)

The Parnassus and School of Athens, Raphael, fresco

The Four Cardinal Virtues and Theological Disputation (opposite corner), Raphael, fresco

In the light of this, we can at last understand that gigantic effort of Leonardo, the cartoon of the "Adoration of the Magi" in the Uffizi. It is the grandest piece of artistic daring in the Renaissance. Nothing like it was even imagined till Rembrandt. Transcending all optical measures, everything then called drawing, outline, composition and grouping, he pushes fearlessly on to challenge eternal space; everything bodily floats like the planets in the Copernican system and the tones of a Bach organ-fugue in the dimness of old churches. In the technical possibilities of the time, so dynamic an image of distance could only remain a torso.

Adoration of the Magi, Leonardo

In the Sistine Madonna, which is the very summation of the Renaissance, Raphael causes the outline to draw into itself the entire content of the work. It is the last grand line of Western art. [...] Have you ever noticed the little dawn-cloudlets, transforming themselves into baby heads, that surround the soaring central figure?-- these are the multitudes of the unborn that the Madonna is drawing into Life. [...] His very line-- that drawing-character that at first sight seems so Classical-- is something that floats in space, supernal, Beethoven-like. 

Rapheal's Sistine Madonna

Leonardo is already over the frontier. The Adoration of the Magi is already music. It is not a casual but a deeply significant circumstance that in this work, as also in his St. Jerome, he did not go beyond the brown underpainting, the "Rembrandt" stage, the atmospheric brown of the following century. For him, entire fullness and clearness of intention was attained with the work in that state, and one step into the domain of colour (for that domain was still under the metaphysical limitations of the fresco style) would have destroyed  the soul of what he had created. Feeling, in all its depth, the symbolism of which oil-painting was later to be the vehicle, he was afraid of the fresco "slickness" (Fertigkeit) that must have ruined his idea. [...] ...it was reserved for the Venetians, who stood outside the Florentine conventions, to achieve what he strove for here, to fashion a colour-world subserving space instead of things.


When the Renaissance-- its last illusion-- closes, the Western soul has come to the ripe consciousness of its own strength and possibilities.

Oil-painting and instrumental music, the arts of space, are now entering into their kingdom. [...] The period 1550-1650 belongs as completely to oil-painting as fresco and vase-painting belong to the 6th Century B.C. [...] About 1670, just when Newton and Leibniz were discovering the Differential Calculus, oil-painting had reached the limit of its possibilities. Its last great masters were dead or dying-- Velasquez 1660, Poussin 1665, Franz Hals 1666, Rembrandt 1669, Vermeer 1675, Murillo, Ruysdael and Claude Lorrain 1682-- and one has only to name the few successors of any importance (Watteau, Hogarth, Tiepolo) to feel at once the descent, the end, of an art. [...] Henceforth... music is the Faustian art... . 


There is a word, "Impressionism," which only came into general use in Manet's time (and then, originally, as a word of contempt like Baroque and Rococo [and 'Gothic']) but very happily summarizes the special quality of the Faustian way of art that has evolved from oil-painting. [...] Does it not signify the tendency-- the deeply-necessary tendency of a waking consciousness to feel pure endless space as the supreme and unqualified actuality, and all sense-images as secondary and conditional actualities "within it"? [...] Does not Kant's formula "space as a priori form of perception" sound like a slogan for the whole movement that began with Leonardo? Impressionism is the inverse of the Euclidean world-feeling. It tries to get as far as possible from the language of plastic and as near as possible to that of music. The effect that is made upon us by things that receive and reflect light is made not because the things are there but as though they "in themselves" are not there. The things are not even bodies, but light-resistances in space, and their illusive density is to be unmasked by the brush-stroke. What is received and rendered is the impression of such resistances... . And with this impression, under its influence, he feels an endless movement-quality in the sensuous element that is in utter contrast to the statuesque "Ataraxia" ['tranquility', see Pyrrho and Epicurus] of the fresco. Therefore, there was not and could not be any Hellenic impressionism; if there is one art that must exclude it on principle, it is Classical sculpture.
Impressionism is the comprehensive expression of a world-feeling... .

Be the artist painter or musician, his art consists in creating with a few strokes or spots or tones an image of inexhaustible content, a mircocosm meet [sic] for the eyes or ears of Faustian man; that is, in laying the actuality of infinite space under enchantment by fleeting and incorporeal indications of something objective which, so to say, forces that actuality to become phenomenal. [...] Every point or stroke of colour, every scarce-audible tone releases some surprising charm and continually feeds the imagination with fresh elements of space-creating energy. In Masaccio and Piero della Francesca [see below] we have actual bodies bathed in air. Then Leonardo, the first, discovers the transitions of atmospheric light and dark, the soft edges, the outlines that merge in the depth, the domains of light and shade in which the individual figures are inseparably involved. Finally, in Rembrandt, objects dissolve into mere coloured impressions, and forms lose their specific humanness and become collocations of strokes and patches that tell as elements of a passionate depth-rhythm. Distance, so treated, comes to signify Future, for what Impressionism seizes and holds is by hypothesis a unique and never recurring instant, not a landscape in being but a fleeing moment of the history thereof. 

Montefeltro Altarpiece by Piero della Francesca, painting, 1474.

St. John the Baptist by Leonardo, oil-painting on walnut wood, 1516.

Cont. p 288

What is practised as art today-- be it music after Wagner or painting after Cezanne, Leibl and Menzel-- is impotence and falsehood. Look where one will, can one find the great personalities that would justify the claim that there is still an art of determinate necessity? Look where one will, can one find the self-evident necessary task that awaits such an artist? We go through all the exhibitions, the concerts, the theatres, and find only industrious cobblers and noisy fools, who delight to produce something for the market, something that will "catch on" with a public for whom art and music and drama have long ceased to be spiritual necessities. At what a level of inward and outward dignity stand today that which is called art and those who are called artists! In the shareholders' meeting of any limited company, or in the technical staff  of any first-rate engineering works there is more intelligence, taste, character and capacity than in the whole music and painting of present-day Europe. There have always been, for one great artist, a hundred superfluities who pracised art, but so long as a great tradition... endured even these achieved something worthy. We can forgive this hundred for existing, for in the ensemble of the tradition they were the footing for the individual great man. But today we have only these superfluities, and ten thousand of them, working art "for a living"... . One thing is quite certain, that today every single art-school could be shut down without art being affected in the slightest.

Chapter IX

Soul-Image and Life-Feeling

On the Form of the Soul


...everything that our present-day psychologist has to tell us... relates to the present condition of the Western soul, and not, as hitherto gratuitously assumed, to "the human soul" at large.
A soul-image is never anything but the image of one quite definite soul.

The best judge of men in the Western world goes wrong when he tries to understand a Japanese, and vica versa. But the man of learning goes equally wrong when he tries to translate basic words of Arabic or Greek by basic words of his own tongue. "Nephesh" is not "animus" and "atman" is not "soul," and what we consistently discover under our label "will" Classical man did not find in his soul-picture at all.

Thinking, feeling, willing-- no Western psychologist can step outside this trinity...; even in the controversies of Gothic thinkers concerning the primacy of will or reason it already emerges that the question is one of a relation between forces. [...] Directional energy, denied in the Classical and also in the Indian soul-image (where all is settled and rounded), is emphatically affirmed in the Faustian...; and yet, precisely because this affirmation cannot but involve the element of time, thought, which is alien to Time, finds itself commited to self-contradictions.

The hall-mark of the Magian soul-image is a strict dualism of two mysterious substances, Spirit and Soul. ...we may illustrate [the "Magian" soul-image] by contrasting the physics of Democritus and the physics of Galileo with Alchemy and the Philosopher's Stone. On this specifically Middle-Eastern soul-image rests, of inward necessity, all the psychology and particularly the theology with which the "Gothic" springtime of the Arabian Culture (0-300 A.D.) is filled. The Gospel of St. John belongs thereto, and the writings of the Gnostics, the Early Fathers, the Neoplatonists, the Manichaeans, and the dogmatic texts in the Talmud and the Avesta; so, too, does the tired spirit of the Imperium Romanum, now expressed only in religiousity and drawing the little life that is in its philosophy from the young East, Syria, and Persia.

This Magian soul-image received its rigorously scientific completion in the schools of Bagdad and Basra. [...] There is no link between the idea of the Philosopher's Stone (which is implicit in Spinoza's idea of Deity as "causa sui") and the causal necessity of our Nature-picture. 


...['the basic problem of Gothic philosophy' is]
the conflict concerning the primacy of will or reason... . It is this myth of the mind-- which under ever-changing guises accompanies our philosophy throughout its course-- that distinquishes it so sharply from every other. The rationalism of late Baroque [and the men of the enlightenment were certainly the heirs of medieval scholasticism], in all the pride of the self-assured city-spirit, decided in favour [--unlike the Schoolmen of Gothic times--] of the greater power of the Goddess Reason (Kant, the Jacobins [most symbolically in Culte de la Raison, who enthroned the Goddess of Reason in the Notre Dame, Paris, during the so called Fête de la Raison]); but almost immediately thereafter the 19th century (Nietzsche above all) went back to the stronger formula Voluntas superior intellectu ["will is higher than thought”]. Schopenhauer, the last of the great systematists, has brought it down to the formula "World as Will and Idea," and it is only his [Western] ethic and not his [Eastern] metaphysic [owing, as it does, a great deal to the Upanishads] that decides against the Will. [Editors note: here it is worth mentioning the solution Hegel arrived at for this problem, which amounts to an identification of Will and Reason in 'Spirit.'] 
Here we begin to see by direct light the deep foundations and meaning of philosophizing with a Culture. For what we see here is the Faustian soul trying in labour of many centuries to paint a self-portrait, and one, moreover, that is in intimate concordance with its world-portrait.

Will and thought in the soul-image corresponds to Direction and Extension,... Destiny and Causality in the image of the outer world.

What "God" is for us, God as Breadth of the world, the Universal Power, the ever-present doer and provider , that also... is "Will." [...] ...the word "God" in antithesis to "world" has always... implied exactly what is implied in the word "will" with respect to soul, viz., the power that moves all that is within its domain. Thought no sooner leaves Religion for Science that we get the double myth of concepts, in physics and psychology. The concepts "force," "mass," [in physics,] "will," "passion" [in psychology] rests not on objective experience but on a [Faustian] life-feeling. 


Hitherto the pretension of each and every morale to universal validity has obscured the fact that every Culture... possesses a moral constitution proper to itself. There are as many morales as there are Cultures. Nietzsche was the first to have an inkling of this; but he never came anywhere near to a really objective morphology of morale "beyond good" (all good) "and evil" (all evil). He evaluated Classical, Indian, Christian and Renaissance morale by his own criteria instead of understanding the style of them as a symbol. [...] However, it appears that we are only now ripe enough for such a study.

The antique drama is a piece of plastic, a group of pathetic scenes conceived as reliefs, a pageant of gigantic marionettes disposed against the definitive plane of the back-wall [authors note: The evolution of ideals of stage-presentation in the minds of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides successively is perhaps comparable with that of sculptural style which we see in the pediments of Aegina, of Olympia and of the Parthenon.] Presentation is entirely that of grandly imagined gestures... . The technique of Western drama aims at just the opposite-- unbroken movement and strict exclusion of flat static movements. [...] What might not have come out of Baroque drama had it remained under the impression of the knightly epic and the Gothic Easter-play and Mystery, in the near neighbourhood of Oratorios and Passions, without ever hearing of the Greek theatre! A tragedy issuing from the spirit of contrapuntal music, free of limitations proper to plastic... : that was what was possible, and that was what did not happend; and it is only to the fortunate circumstance that the whole of the fresco-art of Hellas has been lost that we owe the inward freedom of our oil-painting.  


The music of the 18th Century is a music of the darkness and the inner eye, and the plastic of Athens is an art of cloudless day.

The Classical vase-painting and fresco-- though the fact has never been remarked-- has no time-of-day. No shadow indicates the state of the sun, no heaven shows the stars. There is neither morning nor evening, neither spring nor autumn, but pure timeless brightness. For equally obvious reason our oil-painting developed in the opposite direction, towards an imaginary darkness, also independent of time-of-day, which forms the characteristic atmosphere of the Faustian soul-space. [...] In fact, steady brightness and steady twilight are the respective hall-marks of the Classical and the Western, alike in painting and in drama; and may we not also describe Euclidean geometry as a mathematic of the day and Analysis as a mathematic of the night?

We inwardly need a drama of perspectives and wide backgrounds, a stage that shakes off sensuous limitations and draws the whole world into itself. In Shakespeare, who was born when Michaelangelo died and ceased to write when Rembrandt came into the world, dramatic infinity, the passionate overthrow of all static limitations, attained the maximum. His woods, seas, alleys, gardens, battlefields lie in the afar, the unbounded. [...] The mad Lear between fool and reckless outcast on the heath, in the night and the storm, the unutterably lonely ego lost in space-- here is the Faustian life-feeling! From such a scene as this it is but a step to the inwardly seen and inwardly felt landscapes of the almost contemporary Venetian music; for on the Elizabethan stage the whole thing was merely indicated, and it was the inner eye that out of a few hints fashioned for itself an image of the world in which the scenes... played themselves out. Such scenes the Greek stage could not have handled at all. The Greek scene is never a landscape; in general, it is nothing, and at best it may be described as a basis for movable statues. The figures are everything, in drama, as in fresco. 


Every high creator in Western history has in reality aimed, from first to last, at something which only the few could comprehend. [...] What does it mean, that no German philosopher worth mentioning can be understood by the man in the street, and that the combination of simplicity with majesty that is Homer's is simply not to be found in any Western language? [...] We find everywhere in the Western what we find nowhere in the Classical-- the exclusive form.

Consider our sciences too. Every one of them, without exception, has besides its elementary groundwork certain "higher" regions that are inaccessible to the layman [or lay scientist for that matter]-- symbols, these also, of our will-to-infinity and directional energy. 


The eyes of the statues and portraits in the Constantinian style are big and staring and very definitely directed. [...] The Classical sculptor had fashioned the eyes as blind, but now the pupils are bored, the eye, unnaturally enlarged, looks into the space that in Attic art it had not acknowledged as existing. 

Consider, now, Western painting as it was after Leonardo... . [...] The full Faustian life-feeling, the passion of the third dimension, takes hold of the form of the picture, the painted plane, and transforms it in an unheard-of way. The picture no longer stands for itself, not looks at the spectator, but takes him into its sphere [i.e., Velázquez Las Meninas (1656)].

The Classical thinker takes the earth-sphere, upon which he stands and which... is enveloped in a fixed celestial sphere, as the complete and given world... .

Compare with this the convulsive vehemence with which the discovery of Copernicus... drove through the soul of the West... . [...] Here, too, is the meaning of the characteristically Faustian discovery of the telescope which, penetrating into spaces hidden from the naked eye and inaccessible to the will-to-power, widens the universe that we possess. 

[Gap. 331]

The solar system of Copernicus, already explanded by Giordano Bruno to a thousand such systems, grew immeasurably wider in the Baroque Age; and to-day we "know" that the sum of all the solar systems, about 35,000,000, constitutes a closed... stellar system which forms an ellipsoid of rotation and has its equator approximately along the band of the Milky Way. Swarms of solar systems traverse this space, like flights of migrant birds, with the same velocity and direction. [...] At night, the starry heavens give us at the same moment impressions that originated 3,700 years apart in time, for that is the distance in light-years from the extreme outer limit to the earth
[i.e., the most distant star visible to the naked eye, Iota-2 Scorpii, is 3,700 light-years away, so that our unaided view of space yields us a vision which is 3,700 years old]. In the picture of history as it unfolds before us here, this period [3,700 years] corresponds to a duration covering the whole Classical and Magian ages and going back to the zenith of the Egytpian Culture in the XIIth Dynasty [i.e., Middle Kingdom].


...there are some discoveries that have all the pathos of a great and necessary symbol and reveal depths within, and there are others that are merely play of intellect.

The discoveries of Columbus and Vasco da Gama extended the geographical horizon without limit, and the world-sea came into the same relation with land as that of the universe of space with earth. [...] Thenceforward the history of the Western Culture has a planetary character. [Editors note: see the reference to the specificity to treating of the 'history of the planet' in Foucault's lectures 'Security, Territory, Population']

The bent of the Faustian Culture... was overpoweringly towards extension... . [...] It ended by transforming the entire surface of the globe into a single colonial and economic system.

If, in fine, we look at it all together-- the expansion of the Copernican world-picture into that aspect of stellar space that we possess to-day; the development of Columbus's discovery into a worldwide command of the earth's surface by the West; the perspective of oil-painting and of tragedy-scene; the sublimed home-feeling; the passion of our Civilization for swift transit, the conquest of the air, the exploration of the Polar regions and the climbing of almost impossible mountain-peaks-- we see, emerging everywhere the prime-symbol of the Faustian soul, Limitless Space.

Chapter X
Soul-Image and Life-Feeling

Buddhism, Stoicism, Socialism


There are as many morales as there are Cultures, no more and no fewer. [...] Each Culture possesses its own standards, the validity of which begins and ends with it. There is no general morale of humanity. 

We are no more capable of converting a man to a morale alien to his being than the Renaissance was capable of reviving the Classical or of making anything but a Southernized Gothic, an anti-Gothic, out of Apollonian motives. 

...a morale, like a sculpture, a music, a painting-art, is a self-contained form-world expressing a life-feeling... . It is ever true within its historical circle, ever untrue outside it.



Each Culture... has its own mode of spiritual extinction, which is that which follows of necessity from its life as a whole. And hence Buddhism, Stoicism and Socialism are morphologically equivalent as end-phenomena. 


As to the living representatives of these new and purely intellectual creations... we cannot be in any doubt. They are the fluid megalopolitan Populace, the rootless city-mass (GREEK TEXT, as Athens called it) that has replaced the People, the Culture-folk that was sprung from the soil and peasantlike even when it lived in towns. They are the market-place loungers of Alexandria and Rome, the newspaper-readers of our own corresponding time; the "educated" man who then and now makes a cult of intellectual mediocrity and a church of advertisement; the man of the theatres and places of amusement, of sport and "best-sellers." It is this late-appearing mass and not "mankind" that is the object of Stoic and Socialist propaganda... . 
Correspondingly, there is a characteristic form of public effect, the Diatribe. First observed as a Hellenistic phenomenon, it is an efficient form in all Civilizations. Dialectical, practical and plebian through and through, it replaces the old meaningful and far-ranging Creation of the great man by the unrestrained Agitation of the small and shrewd, ideas by aims, symbols by programs. [...] Quantity replaces quality, spreading replaces deepening. We must not confuse this hurried and shallow activity with the Faustian will-to-power. All it means is that creative inner life is at an end and intellectual existence can only be kept up materially, by outward effect in the space of the City. Diatribe belongs necessarily to the "religion of the irreligious" and is the characteristic form that the "cure of souls" takes therein. It appears as... the classical rhetoric, and the Western journalism. It appeals not the best but to the most... . It substitutes for the old thoughtfulness an intellectual male-prostitution by speech and writing, which fills and dominates the halls and market-places of the megalopolis.

[p. 360]


Let us, once more, review Socialism (independently of the economic movement of the same name) as the Faustian example of Civilization-ethics. Its friends regard it as the form of the future, its enemies as a sign of downfall, and both are equally right.We are all Socialists, wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly.

Similarly, and equally necessarily, all Classical men of the Late period were Stoics unawares. The whole Roman people, as a body, has a Stoic soul. [...] The Latin language of the last centuries before Christ was the mightiest of Stoic-creations.


It remains, now, to say a word as to the morphology of a history of philosophy.
There is no such thing as Philosophy "in itself." Every Culture has its own philosophy, which is a part of its total symbolic expression and forms with its posing of problems and methods of thought an intellectual ornamentation that is closely related to that of architecture and the arts of form. From the high and distant standpoint it matters very little what "truths" thinkers have managed to formulate in words within their respective schools, for, here as in every great art, it is the schools, conventions and repertory of forms that are the basic elements. Infinitely more important than the answers are the questions-- the choice of them, the inner form of them.

The Classical and the Faustian Cultures, and equally the Indian and the Chinese, have each their proper ways of asking, and further, in each case, all the great questions have been posed at the very outset.

In every Culture, thought mounts to a climax, setting the questions at the outset and answering them with every increasing force of intellectual expression-- and, as we have said before, ornamental significance-- until exhausted; and then it passes into a decline in which the problems of knowing are in every respect stale repetitions of no significance. There is a metaphysical period, originally of a religious and finally of a rationalistic cast-- in which thought and life still contain something of chaos, an unexploited und that enables them effectively to create-- and an ethical period in which life itself, now become megalopolitan, appears to call for inquirey and hs to turn the still available remainder of philosophical creative-power on to its own conduct and maintenance. In the one period life reveals itself, the other has life as its object.

The world-city has definitely overcome the land, and now its spirit fashions a theory proper to itself,... soulless. Henceforward, we might with some justice replace the word "soul" by the word "brain." And, since in the Western "brain" the will to power, the tyrannical set towards the Future and purpose to organize everybody and everything, demands practical expression, ethics, as it loses touch more and more with its metaphysical past, steadily assumes a social-ethical and social-economic character.

The attention that the Stoic gave to his own body, the Westerner devotes to the body social. [...] Socialism is political economy converted into the ethical and, moreover, the imperative mood.

To choose his material at will is not given to the philosopher, neither is the material of philosophy always and everywhere the same. There are no eternal questions, but only questions arising out of the feelings of a particular being and posed by it [for it]. [...] Each epoch has its own [philosophy], important for itself and for no other epoch. It is the mark of the born philosopher that he sees his epoch and his theme with a sure eye.

Consequently, the distinctive philosophy of the 19th Century is only Ethics and social critique in the productive sense-- nothing more. [...] All ['the lecture-room philosophers and systematics'] have done for us is, so to write and rewrite the history of philosophy (and what history!-- collections of dates and "results") that no one to-day knows what the history of philosophy is or what it might be.
Thanks to this, the deep organic unity in the thought of this epoch has never yet been perceived. 

Chapter XI

Faustian and Apollonian Nature-Knowledge


Helmholtz observed, in a lecture of 1869 that has become famous, that "the final aim of Natural Science is to discover the motions underlying all alteration, and the motive force thereof; that is, to resolve itself into Mechanics." [Editors note: the paradigm here is astronomy: understood from Ptolemy right up until Copernicus as the art of 'preserving appearances', that is, the creation of a hypothetical mechanism based on a prime symbol (the perfect circle of Aristotle's book on the Heavens) to account for observed phenomenon, built upon them and projected behind them (so that Newton could describe a 'clockwork universe')] What this resolution into mechanics means is... -- if we bear in mind the opposition of becoming and become, form and law, image and notion-- the referring of the seen Nature-picture to the imagined picture of a single numerically and structurally measurable Order. The specific tendency of all Western mechanics is towards an intellectual conquest by measurement.

For most people, indeed, "mechanics" appears as the self-evident synthesis of Nature-impressions.

Modern physics, as a science, is an immense system of indices in the form of names and numbers whereby we are enabled to work with Nature as with a machine. [...] But as a piece of history.... physics is.... methods and results alike an expression and actualization of a Culture, an organic and evolving element in the essence of that Culture, and every one of its results is a symbol. That which physics... thinks it finds in its methods and in its results was already there, underlying and implicit in, the choice and manner of its search. Its discoveries, in virtue of their imagined content (as distinguished from their printable formulae), have been of a purely mythic nature, even in minds so prudent as those of J.B. Mayer, Faraday and Hertz


The pure mechanics that the physicist has set before himself as the end-form to which it is his task (and the purpose of all this imagination-machinery) to reduce Nature, presupposes a dogma-- namely, the religious world-picture of the Gothic centuries [editors note: recall the contemporary invention of the mechanical clock, which would become the symbol of the 'mechanistic universe']. For it is from this world-picture that the physics peculiar to the Western intellect is derived. There is no science that is without unconscious presuppositions of this kind, over which the researcher has no control and which can be traced back to the earliest days of the awakening Culture. There is no Natural science without a precedent Religion. In this point there is no distinction between the Catholic and the Materialistic views of the world... . Even atheistic science has religion; modern mechanics exactly reproduces the contemplatives of Faith.

When... man has come to the urban stage of his career, his self-assurance begins to look upon critical science, in contrast to the more primitive religion of the country-side, as the superior attitude towards things, and, holding as he thinks the only key to real knowledge, to explain religion itself empirically and psychologically-- in other words, to "conquer" it with the rest.

There is no justification for assigning to this intellectual form-world the primacy over others. Every critical science, like every myth and every religious belief, rests upon an inner certitude. [...] Any reproach, therefore, levelled by Natural science at Religion is a boomerang. We are presumptuous and no less in supposing that we can ever set up "The Truth" in the place of "anthropomorphic" conceptions, for no other conceptions but these exist at all. Every idea that is possible at all is a mirror of the being of its author
. The statement that "man created God in his own image," valid for every historical religion, is not less valid for every physical theory, however firm its reputed basis of fact. Classical scientists conceived of light as consisting in corporal particles proceeding from the source of light to the eye of the beholder. For the Arabian thought [and that of Medieval European theories of Optics],... the colours and forms of things were evidenced without the intervention of a medium, being brought in a magic and "spiritual" way to the seeing-power which was conceived as substantial and resident in the eyeball [i.e, the 'being of light' and the 'faculty of vision' were not yet distinct elements]. 


...in the known there can be no reappearance of living time. For this has already passed into the known, into constant "existence," as Depth, and hence duration (i.e., timelessness) and extension are identical. Only the knowing possess the mark of direction. The application of the word "time" to the imaginary and measureable time-dimension of physics is a mistake.


 History is eternal becoming and therefore eternal future; Nature is become and therefore eternally past. And here a strange inversion  seems to have taken place-- the Becoming has lost its priority over the Become. When the intellect looks back from its sphere, the Become, the aspect of life is reversed, the idea of Destiny which carries aim and future in it having turned into the mechanical principle of cause-and-effect of which the centre of gravity lies in the past. The spatially-experienced is promoted to rank above the temporal living, and time is replaced by a length in a spatial world-system. ...the human understanding imports [i.e., reintroduces] life as a process into the inorganic space of its imagination.

Newton no doubt rejected the metaphysical element in his famous saying "hypothesis non fingo" ['I feign no hypothesis'] but all the same he was metaphysical through and through in the founding of his mechanics [a point which William Whewell made in the 19th century]. Force is the mechanical Nature-picture of western man... . The primary ideas of this physics stood firm long before the first physicist was born, for they lay in the earliest religious world-consciousness of our Culture.


The alchemist or philosopher of the Arabian Culture, too, assumes a necessity within his world-cavern that is utterly and completely different from the necessity of dynamics. There is no causal nexus of law-form but only one cause, God, immediately underlying every effect. To believe in Nature-laws would, from this standpoint, be to doubt the almightiness of God.


The character of the Faustian cathedral is that of the forest. The mighty elevation of the nave above the flanking aisles, in contrast to the flat roof of the basilica; the transformation of the columns, which with base and capital had been set as self-contained individuals in space, into pillars and clustered-pillars that grow up out of the earth and spread on high into an infinite subdivision and interlacing of lines and branches; the giant windows by which the wall is dissolved and the interior filled with mysterious light-- these are the architectural actualizing of a world-feeling that had found the first of all its symbols in the high forest of the Northern plains, the deciduous forest with its mysterious tracery, its whispering of ever-mobile foliage over men's heads, its branches straining through the trunks to be free of earth.

[Editors note: from Emile Male's The Gothic Image:

On entering the cathedral it is the sublimity of the great vertical lines which first affects his soul. [...] The cathedral like the plain or the forest has atmosphere and perfume, splendour, and twilight, and gloom. The great rose-window behind which sinks the western sun, seems in the evening hours to be the sun itself about to vanish at the edge of a marvellous forest.]

Cathedral and organ form a symbolic unity like temple and statue. The history of organ-building, one of the most profound and moving chapters of our musical history, is a history of a longing for the forest, a longing to speak in the language of that true temple of Western God-fearing. From the verse of Wolfram von Eschenbach to the music of "Tristan" this longing has borne fruit unceasingly. Orchestra-tone strove tirelessly in the 18th Century towards a nearer kingship with the organ-tone. The [German] word "schwebend" [levitate, hovering, suspended, pending?]-- meaningless as applied to Classical things-- is important alike in the theory of music, in oil-painting, in architecture and in the dynamic physics of the Baroque. Stand in a high wood of mighty stems while the storm is tearing above, and you will comprehend instantly the full meaning of the concept of a force which moves mass.
Out of such a primary feeling in the existence that has become thoughtful there arises, then, an idea of the Divine immanent in the world-around, and this idea becomes steadily more definite. The thoughful percipient takes in the imperssion of motion in outer Nature. He feels about him an almost indescribable alien life of unknown powers, and traces the origin of these effects to "numina," to The Other, inasmuch as this Other also possesses Life.


In the first generations of the Imperial age, the antique polytheism gradually dissolved... into the Magian monotheism.

Hitherto, names had been the designations of so many gods different in body and locality, now they are titles of the One whom every man has in mind.
The Magian monotheism reveals itself in all the religious creations that flooded the Empire from the East... . The importation of these figures [i.e., Alexandrian Isis, Mithras, Baalath] no longer increases as in Classical times the number of concrete gods. On the contrary, they absorb the old gods into themselves, and do so in such a way as to deprive them more and more of picturable shape. Alchemy is replacing statics. Correspondingly, instead of the image we more and more find symbols... coming to the front. In Constantine's "in hoc signo vinces" ['by this sign conquer', refering to Constantine's vision of the cross in the face of a 'war without quarter', at the very gates of Rome itself, and in which the very fate of the Capital was in jepordy] scarcely an echo of the Classical remains. Already there is setting in that aversion to human representation that ended in the Islamic and Byzantine prohibitions of images.

The gods of the subject lands and peoples were accorded recognized places of worship, with priesthood and ritual, in Rome, and were themselves associated as perfectly definite individuals with the older gods. But from that point the Magian spirit began to gain ground... . The god-figures as such, as bodies, vanished from the consciousness of men, to make way for a transcendental god-feeling which no longer depended on sense-evidences; and the usages, festivals and legends melted into one another. When in 217 Caracalla put an end to all sacral-legal distinctions between Roman and foreign deities, and Isis, absorbing all older female numina, became actually the first goddess of Rome (and thereby the most dangerous opponent of Christianity and the most obnoxious target for the hatred of the Fathers), then Rome became a piece of the East, a religious diocese of Syria. Then the Baals of Doliche, Petra, Palmyra and Edessa began to melt into the monotheism of Sol, who became and remined (till his representative Licinius fell before Constantine) God of the Empire. By now, the question was not between Classical and Magian-- Christianity was in so little danger from the old gods that it could offer them a sort of sympathy-- but it was, which of the Magian religions should dictate religious form to the world of the Classical Empire?


Atheism, rightly understood, is the necessary expression of a spirituality that has accomplished itself and exhausted its religious possibilities, and is declining into the inorganic. It is entirely compatible with a living wistful desire for real religiousness [authors note: Diagoras, who was condemned to death by the Athenians for his "godless" writings, left behind him deeply pious dithyrambs. Read, too, Hebbel's diaries and his letters to Elise. He "did not believe in God," but he prayed.] [...] Atheism comes not with the evening of the Culture but with the dawn of the Civilization. It belongs to the great city, to the "educated man" of the great city who acquires mechanistically what his forefathers the creators of the Culture had lived organically. In respect of the Classical feeling of God, Aristotle is an atheist unawares. The Hellenistic-Roman Stoicism is atheistic like the Socialism of Western and the Buddhism of Indian modernity, reverently though they may and do use the word "God."

There is no religiousness that is without an atheistic opposition belonging uniquely to itself and directed uniquely against itself. Men continue to experience the outer world that extends around them as a cosmos of well-ordered bodies or a world-cavern or efficient space, as the case may be [Apollonian, Magian, Faustian, respectively], but they no longer livingly experience the sacred causality in it. They only learn to know it in a profane causality that is, or is desired to be, inclusively mechanical. There are atheisms of Classical, Arabian and Western kinds and these differ from one another in meaning and in matter.

The refusal to perform sacrifice before the image of the Emperor was made a penal offence. All these were measures against "atheism," in the Classical sense of the word, manifested in theoretical or practical contempt of the visible cult.


The Late Renaissance imagined that it had revived the Archimedean physics just as it believed that it was continuing the Classical sculpture. But in the one case as in the other it was merely preparing for the forms of the Baroque, and doing so out of the spirit of the Gothic.

...the Faustian Nature-feeling... required forms of its very own for the expression of its world-knowledge.


...Western physics is drawing near to the limit of its possibilities. At bottom, its mission as a historical phenomenon has been to transform the Faustian Nature-feeling into an intellectual knowledge, the faith-forms of springtime into the machine-forms of exact science. [...] Up to the end of the 19th Century ever step was in the direction of an inward fulfilment, an increasing purity, rigour and fullness of the dynamic Nature-picture-- and then, that which has brought it to an optimum of theoretical clarity, suddenly becomes a solvent. This is not happening intentionally-- the high intelligences of modern physics are, in fact, unconscious that it is happening at all-- but from an inherent historical necessity.

The moment is at hand now, when the possibility of a self-contained and self-consistent mechanics will be given up for good.


From our stand-point of to-day, the gently-sloping route of decline is clearly visible.
This too, the power of looking ahead to inevitable Destiny, is part of the historical capacity that is the peculiar endowment of the Faustian. [...] Before us there stands a last spiritual crisis that will involve all Europe and America. What its course will be, Late Hellenism tells us. The tyranny of the Reason-- of which we are not conscious, for we are ourselves its apex... . Its most distinct expression is the cult of exact sciences, of dialectic [polemics?], of demonstration, of causality.

In this very century, I prophesy... a new element of inwardness will arise to overthrow the will-to-victory of science. [...] ...from Skepsis there is a path to "second religiousness"... .

There has still to be written a morphology of the exact sciences, which shall discover how all laws, concepts and theories inwardly hang together as forms and what they have meant as such in the life-course of the Faustian Culture. The re-treatment of theoretical physics, of chemistry, of mathematics as a sum of symbols-- this will be the definitive conquest of the mechanical world-aspect by an intuitive, once more religious, world-outlook, a last master-effort of physiognomic to break down even systematic and to absorb it, as expression and symbol, into its own domain. [...] We shall inquire whence came these forms that were prescribed for the Faustian spirit, why they had to come to our kind of humanity particularly and exclusively, and what deep meaning there is in the fact that the numbers that we have won became phenomenal in just this picture-like disguise. And, be it said, we have to-day hardly yet an inkling of how much in our reputedly objective values and experiences is only disguise, only image and expression.

The aim to which all this is striving, and which in particular every Nature-researcher feels in himself as an impulse, is the achievement of a pure numerical transcendence, the complete and inclusive conquest of the visible apparent and its replacement by a language of imagery unintelligible to the layman and impossible of sensuous realization-- but a language that the great Faustian symbol of Infinite space endows with the dignity of inward necessity. [...] ...the World as Nature and System, has deepened itself until it is a pure sphere of functional numbers [editors note: recall what Terence Mckenna-- himself a 'numbers mystic'-- would later say about the results of modern physics: "You cant conceptualize [them] except in some enormously complicated mathematical phase space"]. [...] The less anthropomorphic science believes itself to be, the more anthropomorphic it is. One by one it gets rid of the separate human traits in the Nature-picture, only to find at the end that the supposed pure Nature which it holds in its hand is-- humanity itself, pure and complete. Out of the Gothic soul grew up, till it overshadowed the religious world-picture, the spirit of the City, the alter ego of irreligious Nature-science. But now, in the sunset of the scientific epoch and the rise of victorious Skepsis [editors note: see authors introduction, section xv, for clarification of the meaning of Skepsis here, i.e., as it relates to the very project of a 'historical morphology'], the clouds dissolve and the quiet landscape of the mourning reappears in all distinctness.
The final issue to which the Faustian wisdom tends-- though it is only in the highest moments that it has seen it-- is the dissolution of all knowledge [not into the pure mechanics that Helmoltz envisaged but] into a vast system of morphological relationships. [Modern] Dynamics and Analysis are in respect of meaning, form-language and substance, identical with Romanesque ornament, Gothic cathedrals, Christian-German dogma and the dynastic state. One and the same world-feeling speaks in all of them. They were born with, and they aged with, the Faustian Culture, and they present that Culture... as a historical drama. [...] An infinitesimal music of the boundless world-space-- that is the deep unresting longing of this soul, as the orderly statuesque and Euclidean Cosmos was the satisfaction of the Classical. That-- formulated by a logical necessity of Faustian reason as a dynamic-imperative causality, then developed into a dictatorial, hard-working, world-transforming science-- is the grand legacy of the Faustian soul to the souls of Cultures yet to be, a bequest of immensely transcendent forms that the heirs will possibly ignore. And then, weary after its striving, the Western science returns to its spiritual home.