Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Oswald Spengler, fully Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler

German Historian and Philosopher known for his book, "The Decline of the West"

"Ever act alters the soul of the doer."

"Hatred… requires respect for one’s opponent; acknowledgment of equal rank is a part of it. One despises beings of lower rank."

"Renunciation of world politics offers no protection from its consequences."

"A culture is born when a great soul awakens, stands out of the mental state of perpetual childhood primary human form of the formless end, limit output and decay of the infinite and duration. It grows on the ground of a landscape exactly definable, which it remains bound as a plant. A culture dies when the soul has made the entire amount of its ability, in the form of peoples, languages, religious doctrines, arts, sciences, and thus it returns to the primary psychic state. "

"Every Socialist outbreak only blazes new paths for Capitalism. "

"For the Age has itself become vulgar, and most people have no idea to what extent they are themselves tainted. The bad manners of all parliaments, the general tendency to connive at a rather shady business transaction if it promises to bring in money without work, jazz and Negro dances as the spiritual outlet in all circles of society, women painted like prostitutes, the efforts of writers to win popularity by ridiculing in their novels and plays the correctness of well-bred people, and the bad taste shown even by the nobility and old princely families in throwing off every kind of social restraint and time-honored custom: all of these go to prove that it is now the vulgar mob that gives the tone. "

"Formerly no one was allowed to think freely now it is permitted, but no one is capable of it any more. Now people want to think only what they are supposed to want to think, and this they consider freedom."

"Socialism is nothing but the capitalism of the lower classes"

"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."

"History is direction—but Nature is extension—ergo, everyone gets eaten by a bear. "

"If few can stand a long war without deterioration of soul, none can stand a long peace."

"I maintain that many an inventor, many a diplomat, many a financier is a sounder philosopher than all those who practice the dull craft of experimental psychology."

"Optimism is cowardice. "

"Long ago the country bore the country-town and nourished it with her best blood. Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, till it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country. "

"One day the last portrait of Rembrandt and the last bar of Mozart will have ceased to be — though possibly a colored canvas and a sheet of notes will remain — because the last eye and the last ear accessible to their message will have gone."

"Philosophy, the love of Wisdom, is at the very bottom defense against the incomprehensible. "

"It is the Late city that first defies the land, contradicts Nature in the lines of its silhouette, denies all Nature. It wants to be something different from and higher than Nature. These high-pitched gables, these Baroque cupolas, spires, and pinnacles, neither are, nor desire to be, related with anything in Nature. And then begins the gigantic megalopolis, the city-as-world, which suffers nothing beside itself and sets about annihilating the country picture."

"The mathematic, then, is an art. As such it has its styles and style periods. It is not, as the layman and the philosopher (who is in this matter a layman too) imagine, substantially unalterable, but subject like every art to unnoticed changes form epoch to epoch. The development of the great arts ought never to be treated without an (assuredly not unprofitable) side-glance at contemporary mathematics."

"The reality of history, fails any ideology. "

"The press today is an army with carefully organized weapons, the journalists its officers, the readers its soldiers. But, as in every army, the soldier obeys blindly, and the war aims and operating plans change without his knowledge. The reader neither knows nor is supposed to know the purposes for which he is used and the role he is to play. There is no more appalling caricature of freedom of thought. Formerly no one was allowed to think freely; now it is permitted, but no one is capable of it any more. Now people want to think only what they are supposed to want to think, and this they consider freedom."

"There is no proletarian, not even a Communist movement, that has not operated in the interests of money, and for the time being permitted by money - and that without the idealists among its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact. "

"We are born into this time and must bravely follow the path to the destined end. There is no other way. Our duty is to hold on to the lost position, without hope, without rescue, like that Roman soldier whose bones were found in front of a door in Pompeii, who, during the eruption of Vesuvius, died at his post because they forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one thing that cannot be taken from a man. "

"To-day we live so cowed under the bombardment of this intellectual artillery (the media) that hardly anyone can attain to the inward detachment that is required for a clear view of the monstrous drama. The will-to-power operating under a pure democratic disguise has finished off its masterpiece so well that the object's sense of freedom is actually flattered by the most thorough-going enslavement that has ever existed. "

"Tension without cosmic pulsation to animate it is the transition to nothingness. "

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

"Through money, democracy becomes its own destroyer, after money has destroyed intellect. "

"This is our purpose: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us; to live in such a way that we may be proud of ourselves; to act in such a way that some part of us lives on."

"What is truth? For the multitude, that which it continually reads and hears. "

"All world-improvers are Socialists. And consequently there are no Classical world-improvers."

"Christian theology is the grandmother of Bolshevism."

"Diodorus tells the story of a deposed pharaoh who lived in Rome, in a squalid apartment on one floor situated somewhere high up in a certain building."

"Animals and primitive men are neither perverse nor licentious. Their Eros is in rhythmic harmony with the universe... Only civilization has made a problem of eroticism, converted it into unrestrained greed."

"Every Greek has a train of Don Quixote, every Roman one of Sancho Panza - what they were otherwise, behind resigns."

"Goethe's form-fulfilment and Darwin's evolution, are in as complete opposition as destiny to causality."

"Marxism is the capitalism of the working class."

"Now the giant city sucks the country dry, insatiably and incessantly demanding and devouring fresh streams of men, until it wearies and dies in the midst of an almost uninhabited waste of country.""

"Pacifism means letting the non-pacifists have control ... Pacifism will remain an ideal, war a fact. If the white races are resolved never to wage war again, the colored will act differently and become rulers of the world."

"One cannot learn how to be creative by reading Marx. Either one is creative or one is not."

"I maintain, then, that scientific psychology (and, it may be added, the psychology of the same kind that we all unconsciously practice when we try to figure to ourselves the stirrings of our own or others' souls) has, in its inability to discover or even to approach the essence of the soul, simply added one more to the symbols that collectively make up the Macrocosm of the culture-man. Like everything else that is no longer becoming but become, it has put a mechanism in place of an organism. We miss in its picture that which fills our feeling of life (and should surely be soul if anything is) the Destiny-quality, the necessary directedness of existence, the possibility that life in its course actualizes. I do not believe that the word Destiny figures in any psychological system whatsoever ? and we know that nothing in the world could be more remote from actual life-experience and knowledge of men than a system without such elements. Associations, apperceptions, affections, motives, thought, feeling, will ? all are dead mechanisms, the mere topography"

"In reality, money, like number and law, is a category of thought."

"In history it is not idealism, goodness or morality that reign -- their kingdom is not of this world -- but rather resolve, energy, presence of mind, and practical ability. One cannot erase this fact with laments and moral judgments. That is the way man is; that is the way life is; that is way history is."

"In the form of democracy, money has won."

"Little as we know about the events of the future, one thing is certain: the moving forces of the future will be none other than those of the past -- the will of the stronger, healthy instincts, race, will to property, and power."

"Man makes history; woman is history. The reproduction of the species is feminine: it runs steadily and quietly through all species, animal or human, through all short-lived cultures. It is primary, unchanging, everlasting, maternal, plantlike, and cultureless. If we look back we find that it is synonymous with life itself."

"The question of whether world peace will ever be possible can only be answered by someone familiar with world history. To be familiar with world history means, however, to know human beings as they have been and always will be. There is a vast difference, which most people will never comprehend, between viewing future history as it will be and viewing it as one might like it to be. Peace is a desire, war is a fact; and history has never paid heed to human desires and ideals."

"Talk of world peace is heard today only among the white peoples, and not among the much more numerous colored races. This is a perilous state of affairs. When individual thinkers and idealists talk of peace, as they have done since time immemorial, the effect is negligible. But when whole peoples become pacifistic it is a symptom of senility. Strong and unspent races are not pacifistic. To adopt such a position is to abandon the future, for the pacifist ideal is a terminal condition that is contrary to the basic facts of existence. As long as man continues to evolve, there will be wars..."

"Suddenly all those individuals who yesterday felt that "we" meant only their families, their professions, or perhaps their communities, become men of the nation. Their emotions and thoughts, their egos, that "something" within them, all are transformed: they have become historical."

"The common man wants nothing of life but health, longevity, amusement, comfort -- "happiness." He who does not despise this should turn his eyes from world history, for it contains nothing of the sort. The best that history has created is great suffering."

"Politics and trade in developed form -- the art of achieving material successes over an opponent by means of intellectual superiority -- are both a replacement of war by other means."

"The individual's life is of importance to none besides himself: the point is whether he wishes to escape from history or give his life for it. History recks nothing of human logic"