The essential source of values for Western Civilization is the Western Christian Church,42
principally the Roman Catholics. Before there was manmade law, there
was Church law. The beginnings of a civil and criminal justice system
have their roots in the Bible of the Western Christian Church. This is
only natural because the kings claimed a divine right to rule, which
right would have to be confirmed by the Christian Church, and the
Church had no particular wish to set up a justice system of its own.43
Thus, many of the "crimes" defined by the law, even in modern times,
are also defined as criminal in the Christian Bible (at least in the
As Will and Ariel Durant eloquently point out, religion is inextricable entwined with the political rulers because a people without some faith in an eventual spiritual reward will tend to overthrow their rulers when their material well-being is in some way lacking.44 On the other hand, the religious leaders expect the political leaders to enforce their religious values through the machinery of the civil law. Even primitive tribes have this sort of dichotomy in their leadership, such as an Indian Chief and his Medicine Man. Thus, it is not at all surprising that the Christian "Right" is actively pushing a political agenda. The real surprise is that it has taken this long for them to use their mass appeal as a base for a political force.45
It is always easy to postulate an inheritance of values from a prior civilization, such as the classical Greco-Roman civilization. Western Civilization, which was founded on the ruins of the Roman Empire, clearly owes a debt to the Greco-Roman, or so-called "Classical" Civilization, for much of what we hold dear today.46 However, as Spengler clearly points out, many of the parallels are more clearly seen as characteristics of all civilizations than they are as direct inheritances from them to us. Like the metaphysical soul of each individual, the equivalent "soul" for each civilization is unique. Christianity had cult status in the late Roman Empire, and many learned historians believe that the downfall of Rome can be traced, in part, to a conversion to Christianity, which necessarily involved the renunciation of the very gods which had made Rome great. So, even though Christianity got its start several centuries before the fall of Rome, we can hardly be said to have inherited Christianity from the Roman Empire.47 The political systems of each historical period are clearly cyclical in nature,48 so it can hardly be said that we "inherited" the political systems of Rome. Similar statements could be advanced with respect to economic systems and many other attributes of each civilization.
It is not the purpose of this book to take a position as to which historian is or is not correct on theories of inheritance. It seems obvious that mankind always inherits, to some degree, the accomplishments of his predecessors on this planet. That some of those very accomplishments are forgotten, only to be rediscovered much later, is merely tragic, to the extent which the memory of that forgotten accomplishment could have prevented some loss which we subsequently suffered through. It also seems obvious, as Spengler first asserted, that civilizations are born, go through a childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age, and a death. Western Civilization is the only really "live" civilization left on this planet, and it is in advanced old age. In spite of that, Spengler felt that Western Civilization would linger on for at least several more centuries, gradually declining by anyone's standards. It is for that reason that he titled his work The Decline of the West. However, while his work provides a road map for the West's decline, it also provides a similar road map for the birth of a new culture to take the place of the West.
It is towards this new culture, to follow Western Civilization, that this book is really pointed. The flaws with our present culture are truly fundamental, having their roots in the shared values we have inherited from our ancestors. We cannot "solve" the associated problems by mere tweaking around the edges, which is essentially what the Christian "Right" proposes. We must intelligently select an entirely new value system and nurture it into fullness to supplant the values of Western Civilization. That implies totally new religious organizations, educational institutions, social and economic systems which will gradually take over from those which we have inherited from our ancestors.
founders of Western Civilization took the writings of Aristotle from
Classical Civilization and practically canonized their creator. The
Greek city-state of Aristotle's time became the model for the feudal
city-states of Western Civilization with one very important exception:
a return to a monarchy (appropriate to the earliest stages of almost
all civilizations) as opposed to instituting a democracy (only
appropriate to the later stages of a civilization, after the franchised
populace is sufficiently educated). This gave a tremendous "jump-start"
to Western Civilization because it was able to begin its social
development at practically the same place where Aristotle left off.
However, the Roman Catholic Church acted as a gigantic brake on this
same social development, so the net result was that Western
Civilization languished in the so-called "Dark Ages" for over five
hundred years. You see, from the earliest days of the Roman Catholic
Church, it was a fundamental viewpoint that the Second Coming of Jesus
Christ was due "any day now," so the church discouraged practically all
forms of development, pending his arrival.
Fortunately, however, the idea of preserving our cultural heritage from previous civilizations took hold, and many of the writings of the ancients were preserved through all of these centuries of strife.49 Eventually, we became more than mere preservationists. More modern times saw the invention of the science of Archeology, and several related fields, which were each associated with the investigation of, and in some cases, even the reconstruction of, numerous ancient civilizations. Thus, an eroded pile of stones in the jungles of southern Mexico finally yielded up some secrets of the Myan civilization which flourished there many centuries before Western Civilization arrived on the scene.
By the time that Toynbee sat down to conclude his definitive history of all of mankind, we had at least some knowledge of more than two dozen civilizations which had flourished in various locations throughout the world, and each is now properly a predecessor of Western Civilization. It is exactly because writers such as Spengler, Toynbee, and the Durants have attempted these massively comprehensive histories of our predecessors that Western Civilization can be said to have truly attempted to assimilate all of the culture of mankind.
However, due to the long ago origins of Western Civilization, and the fact that the "Great Soul" of Western Civilization was long dead before our investigation of our other predecessor civilizations, other than the Classical Civilization of Greece and Rome, was completed, true assimilation of those other civilizations into Western Civilization is not possible. It remains for some future civilization to try to unite all of mankind's heritage under a single "Great Idea." But in any case, most of the values which any civilization would be proud to call their own have been held, at one time or another, by our ancestor civilizations. Thus, if we are searching for a new value in any way, we should not ignore this aspect of our heritage.
has a way of transcending the rise and fall of civilizations. If the
words of the great authors of a prior civilization are in any way
discovered by the early founders of a new civilization, there is a very
good chance that the mythology of the former will be transmitted into
the latter. The founders of Western Civilization had two separate and
distinct primary influences: the Christian God and the gods of
Classical (Greco-Roman) civilization. In turn, Western Civilization
caused the Christian God to assume attributes of the Gods of Classical
mythology, even though there is no scriptural foundation for this
occurring. Thus it has come to pass that we of Western Civilization
refer to earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, and other natural disasters as
"acts of God." Our primitive knowledge of nature required us to presume
a supernatural source for such disasters, and the God of Christianity
demanded that there was only the one of him to blame; so be it.
Mythology has its roots in the child's question: "Why?" If we do not know the real answer, we tend to make up an answer which makes at least some sort of sense. Each nature myth has at least some roots in the observable natural phenomena which is being ascribed to the particular god in question. It must be part of the fundamental nature of mankind to supply an answer when even the question does not make sense to our people. So far as we know, every people intelligent enough to have important but unanswerable questions has gone right ahead and derived some sort of answers to those questions, usually ascribing a mythological force to some phenomena which we now know to be of a purely natural origin. Thus is formed the mythology of a people. Superstition and other related practices are a natural consequence of answering this sort of questions with myths. And even when we have been let in on the secret, the myths are so rooted in our culture that they persist through a life force of their own. For example, there still remain many knowledgeable and otherwise intelligent adherents to Astrology, even though such practices should have been exterminated by Christianity, which saw Astrology as nothing more nor less than "witchcraft." How powerful must our inherent desire to believe in such myths be to survive centuries of religious persecution?
Mythology and ignorance walk hand-in-hand. If Astrology is making a comeback in "modern times," this demonstrates a clear failure to educate the mass of our citizens. If science could answer all of the questions of mankind, there would be no need for any mythological answers, and our mythologies would become nothing more than a few chapters in our histories. Accordingly, belief in Astrology and other myths can be seen as a sort of cultural barometer: an increase in the popular belief in myths marks a clear gap in the transmission of our scientific knowledge to the population at large. Conversely, if we would ever reach the point in time where a horoscope feature could not be found in any newspaper, then we would know that scientific knowledge was (almost) universally accepted as "Truth."
But there is simply no denying that mythology is an important part of our heritage from our forefathers, and Christianity cannot be safely ignored. The so-called Christian "Right" is standing there, with its mythology unassailable by logic, because they have brainwashed one another into believing that which cannot be either proved or disproved. A myth of that sort, safely ensconced in an ideal which is unassailable by science, can only be dethroned by the force of pure reason, and the Christians have committed to each other that they will never listen to reason, no matter how persuasive are the words. And even though each generation must be brainwashed anew, that proves to be remarkably easy when even the schools can be perverted to at least leave the minds of the young empty, to be filled by the parents with an unassailable Christian mythology.
42 Up until the Protestant Reformation of the Fifteenth Century, this would be the Roman Catholic Church. Now, this term includes all forms of Christianity which are derived in some way from the Roman Catholic Church. The so-called "Orthodox" Christian Churches have never been involved with Western Civilization.
43 The function of the Inquisition was to prosecute heresy. The roots of the Inquisition are essentially political, in that at some point in time the Church decided not to entrust the prosecution of this crime to the civil justice system. More recently, heresy has been decriminalized in the civil justice system and is now subject only to prosecution in ecclesiastic courts, which courts have only the power of expulsion from the particular church in question.
44 See The Lessons of History, 1968, Chapter VII.
45 The cynical among us would attribute this delay to a desire to shear the flock (of money) before setting out to shear the population in general, once the monetary resources of the ardent followers were no longer sufficient to sustain the growth in a luxurious lifestyle which many of those religious leaders demanded.
46 This inheritance is discussed at greater length in its own sub-section of Book IV, Section A.
47 And there are many who hold that the Roman Catholic Church which emerged from the so-called "Dark Ages" after the fall of Rome is in no way a relative of the actual Christian Church of the First Century a. d. The Roman Catholic Church has pretty much buried the true history of the centuries between the crucifixion of Christ and the emergence of an identifiable Papacy in Rome with a clearly defined order of succession.
48 For example, the formation of feudal kingdoms at an early stage and democratic elections of a legislative body at a later stage are clearly political systems which were used at those stages by both the Classical Civilization and Western Civilization.
49 If there is one event in all of history over which all mankind should weep, I believe it is the destruction of the library in Alexandria, Egypt, which contained uncounted treasures in the form of copies of so many writings of the great scholars of Classical Civilization. The destruction occurred in two stages. The main museum and library were destroyed during a civil war in the third century, a. d. The remaining books were burned by the Christians in 391 a. d., the first of several well-known spates of book burning initiated by fanatical Christians.
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