“Those who talk too much about race no longer have it in them.” —Oswald Spengler
Recently I spent a good deal of time re-reading the great Oswald Spengler: for general enlightenment, but also with an eye to criticizing his teachings about race, which seemed at first reading confused, bizarre, and dangerous. Much to my surprise, however, I have come to see much sense and truth in Spengler’s views.
Although Spengler speaks dismissively of Darwinism, he does not deny that race is a biological phenomenon. For Spengler, races are extended families, people who share the same “blood” (i.e., genes). Spengler even speaks of a race as a vast collective body of individuals through which the same genes circulate.
But Spengler denies that biology is all there is to race. Race, it turns out, has both psychological and cultural aspects as well.
Like Darwinists, Spengler believes that biological races are mutable. They change over time. According to Spengler, the principal force that shapes races is “landscape,” i.e., environment. This is consistent with the biological view that a distinct race emerges when a human population is isolated and subjected to unique environmental conditions. These conditions select for certain genetic variations. These variations then spread throughout the entire population through inbreeding. (If there are barriers to breeding between different parts of the population, then multiple new races or subraces will emerge.)
Where Spengler departs from sound biology is his belief that landscape can shape a population independent of genetic change, and that different races, when placed in the same landscape, will converge in their traits without genetic blending. Spengler even refers to Franz Boas’s false and probably fraudulent claims that in America, the offspring of different European racial stocks had convergent biological traits that were products of environment alone. But none of Spengler’s conclusions about race depend on these false assumptions, which can be excised without changing his overall viewpoint.
What is “psychological” race? Spengler often speaks of “having race” and being “of race.” But having race is not merely having certain genes. It is a matter of having a certain feeling: a primitive, vital urge to propagate oneself. It is the drive to immortalize oneself through one’s progeny. In The Hour of Decision, Spengler writes:
A woman of race does not desire to be a “companion” or a “lover,” but a mother; and not the mother of one child, to serve as a toy and distraction, but of many: the instinct of a strong race speaks in the pride that large families inspire, in the feeling that barrenness is the hardest curse that can befall a woman and through her the race. Out of this instinct arises the primitive jealousy which leads one woman to take away from another the man whom she covets as the father of her children. The more intellectual jealousy of the great cities . . . betrays the waning of the race urge to permanence; and that instinct for permanence cannot be reawakened by speeches and writing. . . . A man wants stout sons who will perpetuate his name and his deeds beyond his death into the future and enhance them, just as he has done himself through feeling himself heir to the calling and works of his ancestors. That is the Nordic idea of immortality. These peoples have known no other and desired none. It is the source of that tremendous yearning for fame, the wish to live on among posterity through one’s work, to see one’s name perpetuated on monuments or at the least held in honourable memory. (Oswald Spengler, The Hour of Decision, Part One: Germany and World-Historical Evolution, trans. Charles Francis Atkinson [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1934], 220–21)
This feeling of race is not “racial consciousness,” i.e., awareness of belonging to a certain race. The feeling of race is forward-looking. Racial consciousness is backwards-looking. The feeling of race impels us to create new life. Racial consciousness is merely awareness of life that has already been created, the life handed down to us. The feeling of race is the stirring of the same creative force in ourselves.
Race and Culture
How, then, is race also “cultural”? If a race is a collective body that exists and propagates itself through individual bodies, a culture is a collective mind that exists in and through individual minds, propagating itself by means of language.
Race shapes and limits culture. But once culture arises, it turns back on and reshapes its racial substratum in the light of ideas that are not dictated by biology. These ideas include conceptions of beauty and fitness that guide mate selection, myths and religious beliefs that regulate sexual behavior, moral ideals that promote the propagation of certain types, etc.
Cultural selection may be eugenic, dysgenic, or both, but if exercised over a long enough period of time, it can produce human populations as varied as different breeds of dog.
Spengler puts great stock in the mutability of races.
He denies what might be called “race Platonism,” namely the idea that races are immutable kinds that are more or less well-instantiated by particular individuals. For Spengler, a race is just a collection of individuals with common blood. If a race can be likened to a collective organism, this organism does not exist over and above its individual members. Instead it exists only in and through them.
Spengler also denies what can be called “race Traditionalism,” the idea that in the distant past, a godlike super-race existed, which has since declined because of miscegenation with inferior races or spiritual transgressions or both.
Race Platonism sees every concrete, living organism as an imperfect reflection of its ideal archetype. Race Traditionalism sees all change as degeneration. Both views see change as metaphysically inferior to timeless perfection, and the Traditionalists think that as time rolls on, things usually go from bad to worse.
But if race Platonism and race Traditionalism are false, then change is not necessarily a bad thing. Life is constant change, and stasis—even frozen perfection—is death.
In Spengler’s view, a race just is a constantly changing group of individuals who share the same genetic traits at any given point in time. But these traits are not timeless and permanent either. (That would be just a sneaky, immanent form of Platonism, i.e., Aristotelianism.) Genetic traits also change over time. This means that if we go far enough back in our family trees, we will find people quite unlike ourselves.
The unity of a race, therefore, is ultimately not defined by the persistence of something that remains unchanged in time, but merely the continuity of an ever-changing process, one of the strands of the ever-changing process that is nature itself.
What is race preservation? Most race preservationists will answer that it consists of maintaining a certain set of genes. This is, for instance, the core of Frank Salter’s concept of Ethnic Genetic Interests.
But if Spengler’s view of race is correct, then this is tantamount to the demand that time stop. It is tantamount to taking a snapshot of a moving process and demanding that no further change take place.
Yet if a race is a constantly changing collective organism, then the demand to “preserve” it at a certain arbitrarily chosen moment is actually the demand to kill it. It is analogous to “preserving” a bird at the height of its beauty—by shooting it and taking it to the taxidermist.
Every generation of a race is shaped in part by the conscious and unconscious choices of its forbears. Each new generation will be slightly different, and when we compare our remote ancestors and our remote descendants, they will hardly resemble one another.
At one end of the family tree, there will be the ape-like primitives of 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the other end, there might be something like the macro-cephalic, telepathic “butt heads” of the original Star Trek series. But they will still be “one” race, one extended family.
Allowing that story to unfold is the only genuine form of race preservation that is possible.
The false race preservationist, however, decides that his generation—or some previous generation—is the “right” generation to preserve. Then he seeks to hold onto—or “get back” to—a particular genetic snapshot or cross-section of the race’s life.
All generations before that point were not just shaped by previous generations, they also shaped subsequent generations. But the race preservationist decides that from a certain point on, every generation will be made by previous generations. But they will not be allowed to make future generations in their turn. They will no longer be agents of change, but merely agents of preservation.
Who are they to change anything?
Racial Purism as Decadence
Spengler regards such a mindset as decadent. Consider the following passage from The Hour of Decision:
. . . in speaking of race, it is not intended in the sense in which it is the fashion among anti-Semites in Europe and America to use it today: Darwinistically, materially. Race purity is a grotesque word in view of the fact that for centuries all stocks and species have been mixed, and that warlike—that is, healthy—generations with a future before them have from time immemorial always welcomed a stranger into the family if he had “race,” to whatever race it was he belonged. Those who talk too much about race no longer have it in them. What is needed is not a pure race, but a strong one, which has a nation within it.
This manifests itself above all in self-evident elemental fecundity, in an abundance of children, which historical life can consume without ever exhausting the supply. God is, in the familiar words of Frederick the Great, always on the side of the big battalions, and now if ever this shows itself. The millions who fell in the World War were the pick of all the white world had in the way of race, but the test of race is the speed with which it can replace itself. A Russian once said to me: “The Russian woman will make good in ten years what we sacrificed in the Revolution.” That is the right instinct. Such races are irresistible. (The Hour of Decision, 219–20)
Following Nietzsche, Spengler holds that positive values and a healthy culture are the products of “ascending life.” Negative values and a decadent culture are products of declining life.
Ascending life is active, conscious of what it can do, of its power to change the future. Declining life is passive, conscious of what has been done to it and cannot be undone.
Ascending life is vital and life-giving. Declining life is devitalized and devitalizing.
Ascending life is forward-looking and hopeful; it creates and embraces change; it pursues gain rather than avoids loss; it is motivated by love and passion, not fear; it is warlike, willing to risk life for higher gains.
Declining life is backwards-looking, fearful of the future, fearful of change, fearful of loss, fearful of risk and conflict, conservative, stinking of senility, hemmed by shrinking horizons, chilled by looming death.
Ascending life is aware of the past, but selectively so: it remembers what is empowering and forgets what is not. When the past becomes restrictive, it sloughs it off like a snake discards an old skin.
Declining life is less selective. It has a long memory, brooding over old mistakes and picking at old wounds. Declining life is defined by the past, which it carries as an ever-growing burden, like a snail adding to its lifeless shell even as its living substance wanes, until finally it is crushed under the dead weight.
According to Spengler, when the healthy man thinks of race, he is less concerned with the race we have been than the race we will become. He may feel grateful to his ancestors for the positive gifts—the strengths—they have bequeathed him. He gives no thought to their mistakes and imperfections, even those that mark him. It is enough to be aware that they were not perfect, that there is room for improvement. And a healthy man thinks that he can make improvements. He thinks that he can bequeath more to his progeny than his ancestors bequeathed to him.
Thus the healthy man “of race” is not concerned with racial purity—defined as the preservation of a certain set of gene frequencies, whether his own or his ancestors’. He is pleased with the good traits he has received, and he would like to pass them on. But, as Spengler says, he is more concerned with strong sons than pure ones, and he would not hesitate to breed with an outsider if he thought this would improve his progeny.
For Spengler, a concern with racial purity is a sign of racial decadence, of a lack of racial vitality. The racial purist looks to the past, not the future, because he does not have the vitality in him necessary to create a future. He is defined by the past and feels that he does not have the power or the right to change it, only to repeat it (or talk about repeating it, and urge others to repeat it).
As Spengler writes, “Those who talk too much about race no longer have it in them.” This means that the people who talk the most about reproduction do it the least. And, Spengler might add, that is a good thing. Let the sapless branches rattle in the wind all they want, as long as they spare us their shriveled fruit.
White Nationalism: A Degenerate Movement?
Racial purists often claim that their intellectual opposition to miscegenation is merely a healthy “instinct.” They also claim that there is something biologically sick about the instincts of miscegenators.
Spengler thinks that the exact opposite is true. He would predict that those who intellectually oppose miscegenation and advocate racial purity and preservation would be, on average, less virile, less fecund, and less mentally and physically healthy than the average person, including the average miscegenator.
Based on ten years of experience in the American white nationalist movement, I have to say that Spengler’s prediction is absolutely correct. White nationalism in America is an overwhelmingly degenerate movement, and I do not exempt myself from this judgment.
But what does this mean, exactly? It means merely that, from the point of view of biological vitality, a white man who preaches racial purity but has no children is less healthy than a white man who chooses to have children with a non-white woman.
It does not mean that the white nationalist is wrong in his convictions about biology and politics. It does not mean that, from a eugenic point of view, whites have anything to gain from mixing with other races. (As a matter of fact, I think we do not.)
Decadent people can be right, and healthy people can be wrong.
But there is a lot more to politics than simply being right.
And from the point of view of practical politics, we white nationalists need to take a good hard look at ourselves. Can such a degenerate movement win?
Should it win? For the sake of all that is holy, shouldn’t we want to keep nostalgia-addled kooks away from any power over the future of life, lest they murder and mummify the race in their quest to preserve its purity?
Vitalizing White Nationalism?
What would a vital white nationalism look like?
This is where Spengler’s views of how culture shapes race come in. I also take inspiration from Michael O’Meara’s essays on myth and politics in his Toward the White Republic and Alex Kurtagic’s “Learning from the Right” and related essays.
White nationalists love sobering facts, so let’s begin with one. The white nationalist movement, which seeks the salvation of nature’s fairest and most talented race, is less capable of motivating real world activity than Star Trek, a silly but entertaining set of movies and TV shows about multiracial and miscegenating liberals who live in Tupperware, dress in pajamas, and fly around the galaxy preaching high-minded, hypocritical twaddle about tolerance and pluralism and diversity.
Even if we correct for the differences in the size of audiences, Trekkies accomplish more in the real world than an equal number of white nationalists.
Why is that? It has nothing to do with idealism. Both movements are highly idealistic. It has everything to do with animal vitality. For all its silliness, there is something about Star Trek that motivates human action and creativity—that taps into pure animal vitality—better than white nationalism.
Present-day white nationalism is conservative: backward looking, devitalized, decadent, and gloomy. Star Trek is progressive: forward-looking, optimistic, and hopeful. (Nauseatingly so.)
With this in mind, ask yourself who is more likely to preserve the white race: (1) the present white nationalist movement, or (2) a group of kooks who, taking Tolkien as their bible, decide that through eugenics, they are going to mold every successive generation of their progeny closer to the archetype of the elves: the fairest and wisest race?
The elves have it. Why? Because, kooky though it may be, creating a race of elves far better captures the imagination and mobilizes human vitality than dark predictions about the rising tide of color.
A vital white nationalist movement would be a utopian, progressivist, eugenicist mythical-cultural phenomenon. It would not be founded on empirical studies of how race influences culture. It would not propagate itself through academic conferences and policy studies. It would be founded on a grand culture-creating, race-shaping myth, propagated through art and religion, that enthralls and mobilizes a whole people. (No, I don’t have one handy.)
It would be less concerned about the race we were or the race we are than about the race we can become. It would not brood over whether the Finns or Armenians or Sicilians are white enough. It would not obsess over the odd Jew or Amerindian in someone’s ancestry, as long as he or she makes a net contribution to the coming race. (No, this is not special pleading on my part.) Besides, eventually, we will be able to just edit out undesirable genetic code, although I hope we will be more concerned with the perfections we can write in.
Most importantly, a vital white nationalist movement should require its leaders to lead by example, by marrying wisely and fruitfully. No, the movement should not and cannot turn away talented people who have the misfortune of being unwilling or unable to reproduce. But the movement should definitely have a hierarchy, and anyone who wants to rise to the top needs to do more than talk about a future for white children. He needs to contribute white children to the future.
From The Occidental Observer, July 10, 2010