“The so-called 'Left-Hand Path' - that of Kaulas, Siddhas and Viras - combines the... Tantric worldview with a doctrine of the Übermensch which would put Nietzsche to shame... The Vira - which is to say: the 'heroic' man of Tantrism - seeks to sever all bonds, to overcome all duality between good and evil, honor and shame, virtue and guilt. Tantrism is the supreme path of the absolute absence of law - of shvecchacarī, a word meaning 'he whose law is his own will'." ― Julius Evola, The Path of Cinnabar.

“It is necessary to have “watchers” at hand who will bear witness to the values of Tradition in ever more uncompromising and firm ways, as the anti-traditional forces grow in strength. Even though these values cannot be achieved, it does not mean that they amount to mere “ideas.” These are measures…. Let people of our time talk about these things with condescension as if they were anachronistic and anti-historical; we know that this is an alibi for their defeat. Let us leave modern men to their “truths” and let us only be concerned about one thing: to keep standing amid a world of ruins.” ― Julius Evola, Revolt Against the Modern World: Politics, Religion, and Social Order in the Kali Yuga.

“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 died at his post during the eruption of Vesuvius because someone forgot to relieve him. That is greatness. That is what it means to be a thoroughbred. The honorable end is the one that can not be taken from a man.” ― Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics: A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Will Durant on the Decay of Civilization

From The Story of Civilization by Will Durant.

The two greatest problems in history are how to account for the rise of Rome, and how to account for her fall. We may come nearer to understanding them if we remember that the fall of Rome, like her rise, had not one cause but many, and was not an event but a process spread over 300 years. Some nations have not lasted as long as Rome fell.

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.

Christian writers were keenly appreciative of this decay. Tertullian, about 200, heralded with pleasure the end of an era - as probably a prelude to the destruction of the pagan world. Cyprian, towards 250, answering the charge that Christians were the source of the Empire's misfortunes, attributed them to natural causes: "You must know that the world has grown old, and does not remain in its former vigor. It bears witness to its own decline. The rainfall and the sun's warmth are both diminishing; the metals nearly exhausted; the husbandman is failing in the fields."

Barbarian inroads, and centuries of mining the richer veins, had doubtless lowered Rome's supply of the precious metals. In central and southern Italy deforestation, erosion, and the neglect of irrigation canals by a diminishing peasantry and a disordered government had left Italy poorer than before. The cause, however, was no inherent exhaustion of the soil, no change in climate, but the negligence and sterility of harassed and discouraged men.

Biological factors were more fundamental. A serious decline of population appears in the west after Hadrian. It has been questioned, but the mass importation of barbarians into the Empire by Aurelius, Valentinian, Aurelian, Probus, and Constantine leaves little room for doubt. Aurelius, to replenish his army, enrolled slaves, gladiators, policemen, criminals; either the crisis was greater, or the free population less, than before; and the slave population had certainly fallen. So many farms had been abandoned, above all in Italy, that Pertinax offered them gratis to anyone who would till them. A law of Septimus Severus speaks of a shortage of men. In Greece the depopulation had been going on for centuries. In Alexandria, which had boasted of its numbers, Bishop Dionysius calculated that the population had in his time (250) been halved. He mourned to "see the human race diminishing and constantly wasting away." Only the barbarians and the Orientals were increasing, outside the Empire and within.

What had caused this fall in population? Above all, family limitation. Practiced first by the educated classes, it had now seeped down to a proletariat named for its fertility; by A.D. 100 it had reached the agricultural classes, by the third century it had overrun the western provinces, and was lowering manpower in Gaul. Though branded a crime, infanticide flourished as poverty grew. Sexual excess may have reduced human fertility; the avoidance or deferment of marriage had a like effect, and the making of eunuchs increased as Oriental customs flowed into the West.

Second only to family limitation as a cause of lessened population, were the slaughters of pestilence, revolution, and war. Epidemics of major proportions decimated the population under Aurelius, Gallienus, and Constantine. In the plague of 260-265 almost every family in the Empire was attacked; in Rome, we are told, there were 5000 deaths every day for many weeks. The holocausts of war and revolution, and perhaps the operation of contraception, abortion, and infanticide, had a dysgenic as well as a numerical effect: the ablest men married latest, bred least, and died soonest. The dole weakened the poor, luxury weakened the rich; and a long peace deprived all classes in the peninsula of the martial qualities and arts. The Germans who were now peopling north Italy and filling the army were physically and morally superior to the surviving native stock; if time had allowed a leisurely assimilation they might have absorbed the classic culture and reinvigorated the Italian blood. But time was not so generous. The rapidly breeding Germans could not understand the classic culture, did not accept it, did not transmit it; the rapidly breeding Orientals were mostly of a mind to destroy that culture; the Romans possessing it, sacrificed it to the comforts of sterility. Rome was conquered not by barbarian invasion from without, but by barbarian multiplication within.

Moral decay contributed to the dissolution. The virile character that had been formed by arduous simplicities and a supporting faith relaxed in the sunshine of wealth and the freedom of unbelief; men had now, in the middle and upper classes, the means to yield to temptation, and only expediency to restrain them. Urban congestion multiplied contacts and frustrated surveillance; immigration brought together a hundred cultures whose differences rubbed themselves out into indifference. Moral and esthetic standards were lowered by the magnetism of the mass; and sex ran riot in freedom while political liberty decayed.

The greatest of historians (Edward Gibbon) held that Christianity was the chief cause of Rome's fall. For this religion had destroyed the old faith that had given moral character to the Roman soul and stability to the Roman state. It had declared war upon the classic culture - upon science, philosophy, literature, and art. It had brought an enfeebling Oriental mysticism into the realistic stoicism of Roman life; it had turned men's thoughts from the tasks of this world to an enervating preparation for some cosmic catastrophe, and had lured them into seeking individual salvation through asceticism and prayer, rather than collective salvation through devotion to the state. It had disrupted the unity of the Empire while soldier emperors were struggling to preserve it; it had discouraged its adherents from holding office, or rendering military service; it had preached an ethic of nonresistance and peace when the survival of the Empire had demanded a will to war. Christ's victory had been Rome's death.

There is some truth in this hard indictment. Christianity unwillingly shared in the chaos of creeds that helped produce that medley of mores which moderately contributed to Rome's collapse. But the growth of Christianity was more an effect than a cause of Rome's decay. The breakup of the old religion had begun long before Christ; there were more vigorous attacks upon it in Ennius and Lucretius than in any author after them. Moral disintegration had begun with the Roman conquest of Greece, and had culminated under Nero; thereafter Roman morals improved, and the ethical influence of Christianity upon Roman life was largely a wholesome one. It was because Rome was already dying that Christianity grew so rapidly. Men lost faith in the state not because Christianity held them aloof, but because the state defended wealth against poverty, fought to capture slaves, taxed toil to support luxury, and failed to protect its people from famine, pestilence, invasion, and destruction; forgivably they turned from Caesar preaching war to Christ teaching peace, from incredible brutality to unprecedented charity, from a life without hope or dignity to a faith that consoled their poverty and honored their humanity. Rome was not destroyed by Christianity, any more than be barbarian invasion; it was an empty shell when Christianity rose to influence and invasion came.

The political causes of decay were rooted in one fact - that increasing despotism destroyed the citizen's civic sense and dried up statesmanship at its source. Powerless to express his political will except by violence, the Roman lost interest in government and became absorbed in his business, his amusements, his legion, or his individual salvation. Patriotism and the pagan religion had been bound together, and now together decayed.

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