Oswald Spengler continues:
[The plant is something cosmic; the animal has an additional quality, it is a microcosm in relation to a microcosm. All that is cosmic bears the trademark of periodicity. It has beat-rhythm. Everything microcosmic possesses polarity. We talk of tense thought, but all wakeful states are in their nature tension—subject and object, I and You. To become aware of the cosmic beat we call “to feel;” microcosmic tensions we call perceptions. The ambiguity of the word Sinnlichkeit—sensitive faculty, sensuousness—has obscured the difference between the plant and the animal sides of life; the former [plant] always bears the mark of periodicity, beat: the latter [animal] consists in tensions, polarity of light and object illuminated, of cognition and that which it cognized. We use the word “touch” quite generally of contacts: to “establish” means to fix the position of something relatively to its surroundings. All senses are positive. The blood is for us the symbol of the living. The blood of ancestors flows through the chain of generations and binds them in a great linkage of destiny, beat and time.
The word “consciousness” is ambiguous; it contains the meaning Being (“Dasein”) and Waking-consciousness (Wachsein). Being possesses beat and direction; waking-consciousness is tension and extension. The plant exists without waking-consciousness.
The opposite pole of the eye is light. The picture of life is taken in through the light world of the eye. In man’s waking-consciousness nothing disturbs the lordship of the eye. The idea of an invisible God is the highest expression of human transcendence. Where the boundaries of the light world are lies the beyond. Music is the only art whose means lie outside the light world. Hence it can take us beyond the tyranny of light. Even in the higher animals there are differences between mere sensations and understanding sensation. The development of language brought about the emancipation of understanding from sensation. Understanding detached from sensation is called thought.
This is a challenging passage, and it’s my amateur sense that Spengler’s German thinking makes this passage particularly difficult, because I think his distinction between “being” and “waking-consciousness” is better understood as the difference between “existence” in the physical sense, and “being” in the metaphysical sense.
In any event, here’s my thinking on this passage: that the waking-consciousness we possess (the ability to perceive of ourselves as creatures in time) is the same consciousness that suggests the likelihood of a “somethingness” to life rather than a “nothingness;” in short, the likelihood of meaning.