When human history began

I’m sharing a third and final Spengler passage that I’ll offer today without commentary, and that ties together the first two excerpts:

The development of theoretical thought within the human waking-consciousness gives rise to a kind of activity that makes inevitable a fresh conflict—that between Being (existence) and Waking-Being (waking-consciousness). The animal microcosm, in which existence and consciousness are joined in a self-evident unit of living, knows of consciousness only as the servant of existence. The animal “lives” simply and does not reflect upon life. Owing, however, to the unconditional monarchy of the eye, life is presented as the life of a visible entity in the light; understanding, then, when it becomes interlocked with speech, promptly forms a concept of thought and with it a counter-concept of life, and in the end it distinguishes life as it is from that which might be. Instead of straight, uncomplicated living, we have the antithesis represented in the phrase “thought and action.” That which is not possible at all in the beasts becomes in every man not merely a possibility but a fact, and in the end an alternative. The entire history of mature humanity with all its phenomena has been formed by it, and the higher the form that a Culture takes, the more fully this opposition dominates the significant moments of its conscious being.

[Human waking-consciousness consists of sensation and understanding and to that extent is equivalent to “ascertainment.” It thus encounters the epistemological problem. Waking-consciousness is synonymous with the existence of oppositions; whereas the world of tensions is necessarily rigid and dead, namely “eternal truth,” something beyond all time, something that is a state, the actual world of waking-consciousness is full of changes. Rest and movement, duration and change, become and becoming, are oppositions denoting something that in its very nature “passeth all understanding” and must therefore from the point of view of the understanding contain an absurdity. If the will to know breaks down on the problem of motion, it may well be because life’s purpose has at that point been achieved. In spite of this, and indeed because of this, the motion problem remains the centre of gravity of all higher thought.]

The problem of motion touches, at once and immediately, the secrets of existence, which are alien to the waking-consciousness and yet inexorably press upon it. In posing motion as a problem we affirm our will to comprehend the incomprehensible, the when and wherefore, Destiny, blood, all that our intuitive processes touch in our depths. Born to see, we strive to set it before our eyes in the light, so that we may in the literal sense grasp it, assure ourselves of it as of something tangible.

For this is the decisive fact, of which the observer is unconscious—his whole effort of seeking is aimed not at life, but at the seeing of life, and not at death, but at the seeing of death.

That we do not merely live but know about “living” is a consequence of our bodily existence in the light. But the beast knows only life, not death. Were we pure plantlike beings, we should die unconscious of dying, for to feel death and to die would be identical. But animals, even though they hear the death-cry, see the dead body, and scent putrefaction, behold death without comprehending it. Only when understanding has become, through language, detached from visual awareness and pure, does death appear to man as the great enigma of the light-world about him.

Then, and only then, life becomes the short span of time between birth and death, and it is in relation to death that that other great mystery of generation arises also. Only then does the diffuse animal fear of everything become the definite human fear of death. It is this that makes the love of man and woman, the love of mother and child, the tree of the generations, the family, the people, and so at last world-history itself the infinitely deep facts and problems of destiny that they are.