Translated by Greg Johnson
Part 2 of 2, Part 1 here
The War Chariot
Spengler reserved his sympathy for the culture-amoeba of Turan, whose bearers were characterized by the love of adventure, implacable will power, a taste for violence, and freedom from vain sentimentality. They are “men of facts.” The various peoples of Turan were not bound by blood ties or a common language. Spengler does not utilize archaeological and linguistic research aiming to find the original fatherland of the Indo-Europeans or at reconstituting the source language of all the current Indo-European idioms: the bond which links the people of Turan is technical; it is the use of the war chariot.
In a lecture given in Munich on February 6th, 1934 entitled “Der Streitwagen und the Seine Bedeutung für den Gang der Weltgeschichte” (“The War Chariot and its Significance for the Course of World History”), Spengler explains why this weapon constitutes the key to understanding the history of the second millennium BCE It is, he says, the first complex weapon: One needs a war chariot (with 2 wheels and not a less mobile carriage with 4 wheels), a domesticated and harnessed animal, a meticulously trained warrior who will henceforth strike his enemies from above. With the war chariot is born a type of new man. The chariot is a revolutionary invention on the military plane, but also the formative principle of a new humanity. The warriors became professional because the techniques they had to handle were complex, and they came together as a caste of those who love risk and adventure; they made war the meaning of their life.
The arrival of these castes of impetuous “charioteers” upset very ancient orders: the Achaeans invaded Greece and settled in Mycenae; the Hyksos burst into Egypt. To the East, the Kassites descended on Babylon. In India, the Aryans bore down on the subcontinent, “destroyed the cities,” and settled on the ruins of the civilization of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. In China, the Zhou arrived from the north, mounted on their chariots, like the Hyksos and their Greek counterparts.
From 1,200 BCE, warlike princes reigned in China, in India, and in the ancient world of the Mediterranean. The Hyksos and Kassites conquered two older civilizations of the South. Then three new civilizations carried by “dominating charioteers” emerged: the Greco-Roman, the Aryan civilization of India, and the Chinese civilization resulting from Zhou. These new civilizations, whose princes came from North, Turan, are “more virile and energetic that those born on banks of the Nile and Euphrates.” According to Spengler, however, these warlike charioteers sadly succumbed to the seductions of the softening South.
A Common Heroic Substrate
The theory of the rough simultaneity of the invasions of Greece, Egypt, India, and China was shared by Spengler and the sinologist Gustav Haloun. Both held that there is a common substrate, warlike and chariot-borne, of Mediterranean, Indian, and Chinese civilizations. It is a “heroic” civilization, as shown by the weapons of Turan. They are different from those of Atlantis. In addition to the chariot, they are the sword and the axe, which imply duels between combatants, whereas in Atlantis, the weapons are the bow and arrow, that Spengler judges “vile” because they make it possible to avoid direct physical confrontation with the adversary, “to look him right in the eyes.”
In Greek mythology, Spengler claims, the bow and arrows are remnants of earlier, pre-Hellenic influences: Apollo the archer originated in Asia Minor; Artemis is Libyan, as is Hercules. The javelin is also “telamon” [= Atlantid] while the jousting lance is “Turanic.” To understand these distant times, the study of the weapons is more instructive than that of kitchen utensils or jewels, Spengler concludes.
The Turanic soul also derives from a particular climate and a hostile landscape. Man must fight unceasingly against the elements, thus becomes harder, colder, more wintry. Man is not only the product of a “genealogical chain,” but equally of a “landscape.” Climatic rigor develops “moral strength.” The tropics soften the character, bringing us closer to a nature perceived as more matriarchal, supporting female values.
Spengler’s late writings and correspondence thus show that his views changed after the publication of The Decline of the West, where he valorized Faustian civilization to the detriment primarily of ancient civilization. His focus on the “chariot” gives a new dimension to his vision of history: the Greeks, the Romans, the Indo-Aryans, and the Chinese found favor in his eyes.
In The Decline of the West the mummification of the Pharaohs was considered as the Egyptian expression of a will to duration, which he opposed to the oblivion implied by Indian cremation. Later, he disdained “telamon” mummification as an obsession with the beyond, indicating an incapacity to face terrestrial life. “Turanic” cremation, on the other hand, indicates a will to focus one’s powers on real life.
A Change of Optics Dictated by Circumstances?
Spengler’s polycentric, relativistic, non-Eurocentric, non-evolutionist conception of history in The Decline of the West fascinated researchers and anthropologists outside the circles of the German right, particularly Alfred Kroeber and Ruth Benedict. His emphasis on the major historical role of castes of charioteers gives his late work a more warlike, violent, mobile dimension than revealed in Decline.
Can one attribute this change of perspective to the situation of a vanquished Germany, which sought to ally itself with the young USSR (from a Eurasian-Turanian perspective?), with India in revolt against Great Britain (that he formerly included in “Faustian civilization,” to which he then gave much less importance), with China of the “great warlords,” sometimes armed and aided by German officers?
Did Spengler, by the means of his lecture on the charioteers, seek to give a common mythology to German, Russian, Chinese, Mongolian, and Indian officers or revolutionaries in order to forge a forthcoming brotherhood of arms, just as the Russian “Eurasianists” tried to give the newborn Soviet Russia a similar mythology, implying the reconciliation of Turco-Turanians and Slavs? Is the radical valorization of the “Turanic” chariot charge is an echo of the worship of “the assault” found in “soldatic nationalism,” especially of the Jünger brothers and Schauwecker?
Lastly, why didn’t Spengler write anything on the Scythians, a people of intrepid warriors, masters of equestrian techniques, who fascinated the Russians and undoubtedly, among them, the theorists of the Eurasiansm? Finally, is the de-emphasis on racial factors in late Spengler due to a rancorous feeling toward the English cousins who had betrayed Germanic solidarity? Was it to promote a new mythology, in which the equestrian people of the continent, which include all ethnic groups (Mongolian Turco-Turanians, descendants of the Scythians, Cossacks and Germanic Uhlans), were to combine their efforts against the corrupt civilizations of the West and the South and against the Anglo-Saxon thalassocracies?
Don’t the obvious parallels between the emphasis on the war chariot and certain theses in Man and Technics amount to a concession to the reigning futuristic ideology, insofar as Spengler gives a technical rather than a religious explanation of the Turanian culture-amoeba? These are topics that the history of ideas will have to clarify in-depth.
Source: Nouvelles de Synergies européennes, no. 21, 1996.