Re-thinking Spengler Part 10: The USA (Universal State of America)

I said in the last post that the creation of the USA was a victory of Rebel Priests and Rebel Commanders that seemed to have no precedent in history. And, yet, the United States has now become the Universal State of Faustian civilisation. The contradiction between these two facts seems to me to be at the heart of why the US is the Unconscious Empire. In this post, I’ll try to explain how this came about.

The birth of the United States takes place in the phase of Toynbee’s cycle where the Creative Minority becomes the Dominant Minority and the Internal Proletariat is formed. A useful way to put these concepts into concrete terms is to compare the histories of the United States and Australia. Both nations were born out of the Internal Proletariat of Britain and Europe.

Everybody knows Australia was founded as a convict colony. What is less well-known is that the establishment of the first convict colony at Sydney was directly motivated by the American Revolution. Britain had too many criminals and not enough prisons to house them. In other words, it had an Internal Proletariat that its Dominant Minority didn’t know what to do with. One of the solutions was to send them overseas and make them someone else’s problem. The practice of sending them to America started in 1718 when the British parliament passed what was called the Transportation Act.

Everybody also knows that the US engaged in chattel slavery beginning in the mid-18th century. Fewer people know that a system of slavery was already in place beforehand. It was known as indentured servitude. The main difference between indentured servitude and chattel slavery is that the former has a time limit at which the slave/servant is given back their freedom.

The Native American population had been placed into indentured servitude by the Spanish, French and the British from the beginning of colonialism. But indentured servitude was also the main way for poor Europeans to get to America. The deal was that somebody would pay for the cost of your trip and when you arrived you had to work for them for a fixed period, usually 7 years.

Somewhere between one-half and two-thirds of the Europeans who emigrated to America in the 18th century did so by indenturing themselves. The deal was sweetened by the fact that most of them became eligible at the end of their 7 years for generous land grants of about 30 acres with a supply of provisions that would set them up to be able to till the land and make a life for themselves as free men. This system created the large pool of labour that was needed to grow the colonies.

The Transportation Act of 1718 allowed the British to send its criminals to America by placing them in indentured servitude under the normal contract conditions. This was a relatively cheap way for the British government to solve its prison overcrowding (Internal Proletariat) problem. The scheme was despised in America, including by Benjamin Franklin, and was one of the many grievances that would eventually lead to war.

When war finally broke out in 1775, the convict shipments ended and British prisons began to overflow again. At the time, the British government expected to win the war. Therefore, they instituted a stopgap measure to solve the overcrowding problem by temporarily housing excess criminals in barges with the goal of resuming shipment to America once the war was won.

A floating prison

Joseph Banks

In 1779, with the outcome of the war with America still undecided, the prison barges were now overfull too and the problem of what to do with all these criminals arose again. Joseph Banks, the botanist who had accompanied Captain Cook on his voyages, came up with the idea to set up a convict colony in Australia as a way to solve the prison overcrowding problem.

(Random fun fact about Banks: he refused to travel on a later voyage with Cook because the Captain would only allow him to bring one fiddler on board to play music after dinner. Banks had demanded two).

In 1786, with America now independent and no longer willing to accept the criminals of Britain, the British decided to implement Banks’ suggestion. Preparations were made to send the first convicts to Australia. They arrived in what is now Sydney on January 20, 1788. The convicts were placed in exactly the same kind of indentured servitude that was in place in America with terms dependent on the severity of their crime. One of the early governors of Australia, Lachlan Macquarie, also copied the American system by giving land grants to emancipated convicts but this was overturned later as the British government felt it was against the spirit of a penal colony which was supposed to deter would-be criminals.

What was going on here was the Dominant Minority of Britain, which was unable to solve the problem of crime and poverty among the Internal Proletariat it had created, decided to send them elsewhere by either voluntary or compulsory means. This was not a new tactic in history. The Greeks and the Romans had followed the same path. Indentured servitude was more like the slavery of Greece while chattel slavery become predominant later in Rome and was a part of what caused the Roman Empire to fall. History seemed to be repeating.

But here is an important point to understand: the history and fall of Rome was well known at the time among the educated classes in Europe and was front and centre in the minds of the founding fathers who created the United States. It was widely acknowledged that Europe had become tyrannical and cruel and America was explicitly seen as a chance at a fresh start. Furthermore, the men of the Enlightenment had an understanding of the cyclical nature of civilisation.

Two centuries before Spengler and Toynbee, the French historian, Charles Rollin, had already done a comparative history of numerous civilisations and had analysed their rise and fall as a cycle. Lord Chesterfield, in one of his famous letters, recommended to his son to read Rollin in order to understand that history was cyclical and overcome the bias that was dominant at that time of thinking that the ancient world was great and the modern world sucked. Spengler was still complaining about this problem two centuries later.

Charles Rollin

The big difference between Spengler and Rollin was that Rollin saw the fall of civilisation as a moral failing that he framed in religious terminology. We can summarise him in secular terms this way: if all past civilisations were patriarchies, and if all past civilisations had gone to their doom by what amounted to an inherent flaw in patriarchy, then it followed that we should be able to prevent a similar fate by getting rid of the patriarchy, or at least fixing the flaws in it.

Even if you disagreed with Rollin’s specific analysis, what was implied by his idea was that history could be changed. We could learn what went wrong in the past and ensure we didn’t do the same thing again. This was the belief that motivated Enlightenment thinkers like Chesterfield and also the founders of the United States. For them, the Popes and Kings were just like the tyrants who led Rome to its destruction. The rebellion against the patriarchy was partly motivated by a desire to avoid the fate of Rome.

But there’s a second thread to the founding of the US and that was the Puritan invocation of Jewish history via the Bible. In this way, the US was built on the same Classical-Magian symbiosis that had founded Faustian civilisation in the first place. But it’s even more interesting than that because, as we have already seen in this series of posts, the Jews were the Internal Proletariat in the Classical civilisation. The Bible is, in large part, the story of a historical Internal Proletariat.

Thus, what we have in the founding of the United States is the Internal Proletariat of Britain invoking the lessons of the Internal Proletariat of the Roman Empire (the Jews via the Bible) and then synthesising these with a study of the Creative Minority of Rome that preceded its decadent phase (the Roman Republic). The founding of the United States was the attempt to learn from and avoid a repeat of history.  

What makes the founding fathers of the USA special is that they made such an attempt. What makes the USA tragic is that they ended up becoming the Universal State of the Faustian anyway. Part of the reason is that they misdiagnosed the problem.

Tyranny might have been the normal form of the Universal States of past civilisations and the problems of tyranny might very well have been what brought down those civilisations. But Faustian civilisation was a different beast. The rule of kings and popes was only a pseudomorphosis. It was the Classical-Magian pseudomorphosis inherited from the dying days of the Roman Empire. The real Faustian only began to show itself in the industrial revolution with the emergence of modern banking.

The USA has ended up becoming the Universal State of the Faustian after all and we can trace the pathway to that outcome through the bitter enmity between two of the founding fathers: Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.

I’m going to gloss over all the nitty gritty here; the personality flaws, the hypocrisies, the obvious problems in the views of each and all the others nuances. What is important here is the two different stories that have become associated with each man which represent two visions for what the USA should be.

The Jefferson Story was that America should become a self-sufficient land of yeoman farmers. This followed the sentiment that was widespread at the time that the nascent US needed to completely disconnect from the corruption of old Europe. Yeoman farmers would be just like the serfs of old, only they would get to keep more of the fruits of their labour and select their own government. Note that this vision is practically the direct opposite of a proletariat and so Jefferson, although he wouldn’t have thought about it this way, had outlined a vision to overcome the main problem of the time i.e. the existence of the Internal Proletariat.

The Hamilton Story was the America should become a nation just like Britain. By doing so, it would take its place alongside the countries of Europe by becoming a competitor (or, better yet, a victor) in the world of commerce, finance and international politics. To do this, America needed to create its own elite. It was for this reason that Hamilton recommended life terms for parliament. Only a permanent body, he said, could keep the imprudence of democracy in check.

Jefferson was the idealist who thought that all people could be raised up to be exemplars of Enlightenment through education. Hamilton was the hard-nosed realist who had a pessimistic view of human nature and thought democracy was a bad idea. In this way, Hamilton was the direct successor to the kings and popes of old.

The irony is that Hamilton was a member of the Internal Proletariat while Jefferson was from the nobility. Hamilton’s story is eerily similar to Napoleon’s and Hitler’s. He was born on the edge of Empire (in the British West Indies). He was a tenacious, passionate and ambitious outsider who raised himself up to political power through service in the army.

In Hamilton we see the pattern that was repeated in France and Germany of the Internal Proletariat rising to a position of political power and pushing for a Universal State. I have already pointed out how strange this is historically, since it amounts to the Internal Proletariat doing the work that the Dominant Minority should be doing.

In the Classical world, Julius Caesar filled this role. He was a member of the elite whose challenge to the decadent structures of Rome created the conditions by which Augustus came to power. It was Caesar who forged the new system of monarchy which marked the final phase of the Classical civilisation. Although he wasn’t acting alone, it’s nevertheless true that Caesar in large part created the Universal State of the Classical Civilisation.

If history was repeating, it should have been Jefferson who created the Universal State of Faustian civilisation since he came from the nobility and was very Caesar-like in the scope of his abilities and his political influence. But Jefferson was not pushing for the Universal State. He was arguing against it.

It was Hamilton who was pushing in the direction which led to a Universal State. What a synchronicity then that Abigail Adams, John Adams’ wife, had warned her husband that Hamilton was a dangerous man “ambitious as Julius Caesar and a subtle intriguer”. Thus, Hamilton equates to Caesar. It was his influence which led the US to become the Universal State of the Faustian.

Given the Biblical nature of the birth of the United States, it wouldn’t be too far wrong to say that Hamilton was Cain to Jefferson’s Abel. The Jeffersonian vision was informed by an Enlightenment understanding of the cyclical nature of history and an optimistic view of human nature implied by the philosophy of Rousseau. It desired a country populated by self-sufficient, full engaged and empowered citizens in a nation that would be similarly self-sufficient and independent.

The Hamiltonian vision amounted to recreating the conditions of a European nation state in America with the Internal Proletariat kept in check by a Dominant Minority. This wasn’t just theory either. Hamilton put this vision into action very early on.

In 1794, Hamilton was the Secretary of the Treasury and needed to raise revenue to pay off debts. He decided to introduce an excise on whiskey that he knew would be unpopular. The excise triggered the Whiskey Rebellion during which Hamilton personally accompanied a huge contingent of federal troops to put down the rebels. All this only two decades after the Boston Tea Party. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss

Of course, Hamilton didn’t have it all his own way and Jefferson himself would become president some years later. The tension between the Jeffersonian and the Hamiltonian visions is still present in modern America. But the reality is that Hamilton won. It’s yet another synchronicity that the musical Hamilton would become popular with the deep state and its political allies during the Trump presidency. The modern deep state, the international banking and corporate interests as well as the public bureaucracy, are the direct successors to Hamilton.  

Naturally, Hamilton was also a banker. He founded the Bank of New York. In the decades that followed the creation of the USA, the industrial revolution and its banking system slowly but surely took over the real political power in the world. Britain had muscled out Holland and other competitors for control of the international banking system in the 19th century. In the years that followed WW2, America took over the reins.

This was all done behind closed doors at conferences where men in suits agreed upon the rules of the new system. The US was in the box seat since the most important countries at the table owed it huge war debts. An associate representing the Bank of England said of the Bretton Woods agreement that it was the worst thing to happen to Britain except for the war itself. The keys to the British Empire had been handed to the US. With France and Germany in ruins, the Universal State of the Faustian civilisation was less created by the United States than handed to it on a silver platter.

Isn’t it ironic that the Faustian is named after a man who did a deal with the devil. The devil’s pact the USA made at the end of WW2 was to betray the foundations of its republic. Although, in fairness, all other nation states were faced with the same dilemma. Industrial capitalism simply was not compatible with the concept of the nation state. The nation state is predicated on independence. Industrial capitalism is predicated on interdependence. The tension between these still dominates our politics.

If there was a symbolic battle in the USA between Jefferson and Hamilton, it was lost at the end of WW2. The reason why that victory was not made overt was because the Jeffersonian dream in various guises is still supported by a large share of the American public. The other reason is because the Universal State of the Faustian civilisation is not an empire. It has no emperors and only minimal exoteric form at all. Its power lies in the management of systems and the control of access to those systems. Just ask the Canadian truckers (internal proletariat) and the Russians (external proletariat) who have had their bank accounts frozen in the last year or so.

Interestingly, the financial aspects of this system were exactly predicted by Spengler.

“Capitalism comes into existence only with the world-city existence of a Civilisation, and it is confined to the very small ring of those who represent this existence by their persons and intelligence, its opposite is the provincial economy.”

Jefferson’s vision was the provincial economy. Therefore, it was the opposite of the Faustian. His vision would have required America to completely disconnect from Europe, but that was never really possible. Thus, Hamilton won the day and, with him, the Internal Proletariat of Faustian civilisation rose to the position of Dominant Minority and did what the old Dominant Minority of Popes and Kings had been unable to do: create a Universal State.

All posts in this series:-
Re-thinking Spengler Part 1: Morphological Thinking
Re-thinking Spengler Part 2: The Psychology of Pseudomorphosis
Re-thinking Spengler Part 3: The Problem of the Magian
Re-thinking Spengler Part 4: Bourgeoisie vs Romantics
Re-thinking Spengler Part 5: On Elitism
Re-thinking Spengler Part 6: Rogue Priests and Rebel Commanders
Re-thinking Spengler Part 7: A Pop Culture Interlude
Re-thinking Spengler Part 8: Kings and Commoners
Re-thinking Spengler Part 9: Escape from the Tyrannical Father
Re-thinking Spengler Part 10: The USA (Universal State of America)
Re-thinking Spengler Final

Re-thinking Spengler Part 9: Escape from the Tyrannical Father

Gallus Sallustius Crispus, known in English as Sallust, is the earliest known Roman historian who wrote in Latin. Now, it may simply be the case that the works of the other Roman historians have not survived for posterity. But there is another explanation for why Sallust might really have been the first and we find it in the opening pages of one of his own works, The Jugurthine War.


Before he gets into the history itself, Sallust writes what amounts to an apology. He anticipates that his fellow Romans will accuse him of “idleness”. Why, Sallustius, we can imagine them saying, did you waste your time writing history when you could have been making it? The short version of Sallust’s answer was that Roman public life had become corrupted and it was no longer a domain for the virtuous. This was the time of the Roman civil wars and Sallust had been on the side of Julius Caesar before the latter’s assassination.


Being active in public life at that time was dangerous and it would only get more dangerous in the centuries that followed. Consider the fate of another great scholar of Rome, Cicero. After the death of Caesar, Cicero remained active in public life and managed to get himself on the wrong side of Marcus Antonius (Mark Antony) who subsequently sent some men around to remove Cicero’s head, stick it on a pole and display it on a speaker’s rostrum; a very meta allusion to Cicero’s famous skills as an orator.

Having your head chopped off was probably the best way to go in those days given that other popular ways to dispatch of a political enemy included feeding them to a pack of hungry lions while a leering mob cheered on. One area that Rome continued to innovate on in its declining years was cruelty. In any case, Sallust’s “idleness” would certainly have been motivated by an instinct of self-preservation. He withdrew from public life to write histories and build magnificent gardens.

But the fact that Sallust felt the need to apologise for doing scholarship also tells us an awful lot about life in ancient Rome. This was a culture of deeds and action, not words. Rome never had any kind of public education system and private education was mostly tailored to practical pursuits. The Romans even renounced some aspects of Greek culture like music and athletics. Valour in war was the way to create one’s reputation. Anything else was “idleness”.

All this is in stark contrast to Faustian (European) culture which, as I have pointed out numerous times in this series, was built on the Classical-Magian symbiosis and inherited a scholarly tradition built around books. In this post, I want to talk about the huge turning point in Faustian culture that occurred with the birth of the United States of America and it is, therefore, very fitting that it was a book that is often credited with giving rise to the concept of the USA as a nation: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

Paine had only been in America a couple of years when he wrote Common Sense and it’s possibly because of this that he hadn’t yet become accultured to the very provincial nature of society at that time. Most people were tightly attached to the colony they lived in and there had not yet developed a substantial American public discourse with a unifying character. That’s what Paine provided. His book become a best seller and, more importantly, it sold in all colonies. It got the public thinking about the possibilities of America as a political and cultural entity.

Although it’s a dirty word these days, we could accurately call Common Sense a work of propaganda. Propaganda had been in the control of the church right from the start of Faustian culture. It was arguably the church’s main source of power over the provincial kings of Europe. The fact that Paine, born to a working class family and a man who had not distinguished himself much in life up until that point, could become a famous propagandist tells us a huge amount about how life had changed following the Reformation and particularly how that change was manifesting in the early colonies of America. Propaganda had been democratised.

But the reason written propaganda could work at all was because so many of the colonists knew how to read and the reason they knew how to read was because learning to read the Bible for yourself had become a crucial component in Protestantism generally but specifically in Puritanism, of which there were many exponents in early America. Paine uses this fact for rhetorical purposes by cherry picking a few biblical references in Common Sense. These would have appealed mostly to men like himself, the working class. The influence of the Bible was so strong that many Puritans even considered themselves descendants of the tribes of Israel, giving rise to the idea of America as the Promised Land.

There’s much that could be said about all this and its continuation of Magian concepts that are still with us to this day like millenarianism (the notion of climate apocalypse and its use in propaganda is very Magian). The aspect I want to focus on relates to a concept I mentioned in the last post – the divine right of kings. Paine spends the first part of his book addressing this issue. The USA was, to a very large extent, founded on an explicit rejection of the divine right of kings.

John Locke

To understand this better and see why this was such a huge turning point we need to introduce the philosopher who was an inspiration to Paine and people like him – John Locke.

In the first part of his work, Two Treatises on Government, Locke deals with the question of the divine right of kings by debunking the arguments raised by Sir Robert Filmer who had earlier written a work called Patriarcha, or the Natural Power of Kings. In that book, Filmer had argued that the power of kings was descended from the biblical Adam.

We don’t need to worry about any of the details of the arguments here. The very fact that Filmer felt the need to defend the divine right of kings presupposed that it was a concept under threat. Locke had little trouble pointing out the logical problems with Filmer’s argument and then went on to outline his alternative concepts, including the one that still gets used to this day – the social contract.

The reason why the divine right of kings had been called into question was because the Pope had been a key player in the divine right of kings from the start of Faustian culture. But the Reformation had gotten rid of the Pope as an authority in protestant countries. In his absence, scholars like Filmer turned to the Bible itself to look for justification for kingship. The larger problem was that anybody was now free to read and interpret the Bible and so how could you know whose interpretation was right? Philosophers like Locke and Rousseau stepped in to try and fill the void with new concepts like states of nature, social contracts and natural rights.

Spengler differentiates the political from the religious. He calls the former nobility and the latter priesthood. In later culture, the priesthood gives way to the intellect while nobility gives way to money. We can see both of these trends in Paine’s book and in the foundation of the US in general. The rising bourgeoisie wanted to found relations between the USA and Europe on trade (money), not politics. Ideas like social contracts were understandable to the rising merchant class.

Meanwhile, after the Reformation, each person became free to use their own intellect to question old-fashioned ideas like kingship. When they did so, they could find no good reason to obey a king, especially one on the other side of the world. This caused the need to find a new justification for politics using the intellect (a job that used to belong to the priesthood).

The distinction between nobility and priesthood was problematic from the beginning of Faustian culture. The church was always involved in politics and the nobility fought the church. The Renaissance popes, in particular, were not men we would identify with religious archetypes. To take just one example, Pope Alexander VI managed to sire numerous children, including Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia, with different mistresses. That’s the kind of behaviour we would these days expect from a rock star or sports playboy, not a pope.

Pope Leo X looked like a man you didn’t want to mess with

The Reformation was in large part a reaction against exactly this kind of (mis-)behaviour by the church in Rome and the desire to split up church and state was supposed to solve the problem. But that desire brought into question the whole notion of the divine right of kings. With the Pope’s authority no longer recognised, the Bible was turned to for justification. But the problem with the Bible was that you could use it to defend any position. Filmer used it to argue for the divine right of kings. Locke and Paine used to argue against the divine right of kings.

These debates would once have taken place behind closed doors. But now they became public. In any case, the connection between politics and intellect was still maintained. What had changed was the question of obedience. Blind obedience to the Pope and the priesthood had gone. Blind obedience to the King was soon to meet the same fate.

Charles I

When Charles I was placed on trial he appealed to the divine right of kings saying that obedience to the king was grounded in the Bible. Once upon a time, that would have worked. But not anymore. Charles got his head chopped off and when William of Orange came to power decades later it no longer had anything to do with the Bible or the Pope. William was crowned king by the express invitation of the parliament of England.

All this was old news by the time Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense in 1776. He all but assumes the divine right of kings is dead and buried. But the British still had a King and the new question for the American colonists became what is the point of a King at all? This question was made more urgent because George III was still very much involved in politics including the question which the colonists cared most about which was taxation.

Books can and have been written about the complex issues involved in these matters. For our purposes, what is important is that George III was painted as a tyrant and tyranny was still, in the mind of Paine and others like him, tied to Popery.

“And a man hath good reason to believe that there is as much of king-craft, as priest-craft, in withholding the scripture from the public in Popish countries. For monarchy in every instance is the Popery of government.”

The divine rights of kings had always been a kind of joint pact between the Pope and the kings of Europe. It now become a byword for tyranny. When the Reformation got rid of the Pope, it was only a matter of time before the King was next. Just as puritans had demanded the freedom to read and interpret the Bible independent of the Pope, now they demanded the freedom to create their own government independent of the King.

The characterising of the kings of Europe as tyrants was not just a creation of propaganda, of course. The American colonies were full of Europeans who had fled actual persecution. For them the tyranny and the injustice of Europe was not an academic matter but a lived experience. What Paine made them see was that America could become a new kind of country where all the old tyranny was left behind. He found the words that gave expression to the sentiment that was already there.

King George III, who needed money to pay for his war debts and did so by arbitrarily imposing taxes on the colonists, managed to embody the archetype which the colonists were rebelling against: the Tyrannical Father. This reading of the archetypal Father is further evidenced by the fact that familial relations were changing at the same time as the political. The father had previously been the head of the household and was to be obeyed like a king or a pope. But that was now thrown into doubt too. Things were changing at the macrocosmic and the microcosmic level.

Both Locke and Rousseau elucidated new theories of education and child-rearing alongside their political writings. Just as Kings and Popes could no longer demand blind obedience from their subjects, so parents could no longer demand blind obedience from their children. Instead, parents must lead by example. The parent-child relationship was now to be founded on shared values and the job of education was not to fill the child’s mind with facts but to shape that mind to become a fully autonomous and self-sufficient adult capable of reasoning for themselves.

If all this sounds familiar and uncontroversial, it’s because we still live in the world created by these Enlightenment ideas. These same ideas created the nuclear family. They also led to the practice whereby people choose their own spouse rather than have their parents choose for them and a whole host of other concepts we take for granted nowadays.

Locke’s tabula rasa and Rousseau’s state of nature meant that humans were innately good and that the fault of corruption must therefore lay with their upbringing and socialisation. Education suddenly became an issue of religious importance in a way that the Romans and Greeks could never have understood. With the role of the priest and church degraded, it was now up to the parents to provide an education for their children that, by assumption, was crucial in determining the child’s whole life. It was the birth of helicopter parenting. Our modern obsession with education flows directly from these societal changes that happened in the 17th and 18th centuries.

All these issues were front and centre of the debate that led to the American Revolution. Thomas Paine, John Locke, Rousseau and the others were what I call Rebel Priests and they teamed up with the Rebel Commanders who led the battle against the British. And they won. That victory does seem to be genuinely unique in history. At the very least, we look in vain for a similar precedent in the Classical world. On the contrary, the Classical seemed expressly to avoid such an outcome by keeping its Rebel Priests in their place.

Everybody knows what happened to Athens’ most famous thinker (Rebel Priest). He had a run in with a cup of hemlock. Fewer people would know that Plato also got involved with politics. In Syracuse, two disciples of Plato, Dion and Callipus, both had a shot at governing that island on Platonic ideas but they failed and Plato got himself into some trouble over the matter. Alexander the Great might have been a student of Aristotle, but it would be hard to find any Aristotelian principles in his actions. We’ve already seen what happened to Cicero.

On the whole, the ancient world and Rome in particular shows little sign of “mind” playing any role in politics. This would help to explain the lack of change that is a remarkable feature of ancient politics and especially of the decadent period of the Roman Empire. Things just gradually got worse and there is no record of any attempt to change the system or any ideas about what that change might look like. Both Gibbon and Nietzsche blame the arrival of “mind” brought in by the Magian as causing the downfall of Rome. I see it the other way around. The Romans had actively suppressed “mind”. Its arrival was the symptom of a deeper problem.

By contrast, the Faustian has been incredibly dynamic and ideas have always been at the centre of that dynamism. We can see this combination of ideas and power at the birth of the United States. The divine right of kings and popes had disappeared, but the union of power and ideology remained. The USA got rid of the Tyrannical Father and replaced him with the founding fathers. These founding fathers were lawyers, doctors and scientists. They were men of the Enlightenment who wished for and attained the ideals of autonomy, self-sufficiency and independence. They were a community of grown adults managing their own affairs.

I use the word “adults” on purpose here because the idea of growing up was a strong thread in the Enlightenment thought that influenced the American Revolution. Immanuel Kant wrote that “Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity”. The kings and popes had kept the people immature. Now was the time to become adults.

That’s what people believed at the time but it should be pretty clear to us now that something has gone wrong. Perhaps Kant had already identified the problem. Enlightenment was only for the few, he said. The majority would always prefer to be spoon-fed dogma.

If that’s true, then getting rid of kings and popes did not change much at all. It just created a new group of people who sit at the top of society. Ironically, the lawyers, doctors and scientists have ended up becoming priests, whether they wanted to or not. Just like the priests of old, they are fundamentally connected to the power structures of society; money. Thus, the old Faustian intertwining of nobility and priesthood, money and intellect is just as true today as it ever was.

What happens in a society where the Tyrannical Father has been banished but the majority of the public are unable to attain “adulthood” (enlightenment)? Within the psychology of Locke, the public is left defenceless against propaganda. Whatever can be said about Popes and Kings, their propaganda was always overt. You knew who was lying to you. Now we have propaganda that is covert. Strangely enough, this covert propaganda was foreshadowed by Rousseau’s theories on education. But that is a subject for another post.

We can sum up the situation this way: we might have got rid of the Tyrannical Father. But all we achieved was to replace him with the Devouring Mother.

All posts in this series:-
Re-thinking Spengler Part 1: Morphological Thinking
Re-thinking Spengler Part 2: The Psychology of Pseudomorphosis
Re-thinking Spengler Part 3: The Problem of the Magian
Re-thinking Spengler Part 4: Bourgeoisie vs Romantics
Re-thinking Spengler Part 5: On Elitism
Re-thinking Spengler Part 6: Rogue Priests and Rebel Commanders
Re-thinking Spengler Part 7: A Pop Culture Interlude
Re-thinking Spengler Part 8: Kings and Commoners
Re-thinking Spengler Part 9: Escape from the Tyrannical Father
Re-thinking Spengler Part 10: The USA (Universal State of America)
Re-thinking Spengler Final

Re-thinking Spengler Part 8: Kings and Commoners

As Spengler notes in the Decline of the West, the ancient Romans did not so much build an empire as one was given to them. Now, of course, this statement is problematic for reasons I’ve mentioned before on this blog; namely, how can you tell the difference between wanting something and getting it anyway due to circumstances. No doubt, there were some Romans who wanted an empire and yet, if we look at the history, there is evidence that Spengler is right and the empire was handed to Rome, if not forced upon it.

Perhaps the best bit of evidence is the Roman relations with the Greeks. On several occasions, the Romans allied with the Greeks, usually to fight the Macedonians. Each time the Romans withdrew after the fighting in the hope that Greece would provide a buffer between Rome and its enemies in the east. Each time this proved not to be the case. Eventually, the Romans realised that they would have to directly administer Greece in order to prevent endless conflict. And that’s what they did in the 2nd century BC by splitting the area into two protectorates.

Does that story sound familiar? The Romans were the cultural heirs to the Greeks (educated Romans learned Greek as part of their education). Modern day Americans are the cultural heirs to Europe. And just like the Romans got dragged into Greek military conflict in ancient times, so too did the Americans get dragged into conflagrations in Europe in modern times. The US intervened in WW1 with big dreams of spreading democracy around the world and putting the continent on a secure footing. But those dreams fell apart with the Treaty of Versailles which all but guaranteed a second war. Much like the ancient Romans, the Americans had to resign themselves to taking control.

No doubt there were many in positions of power in the US who wanted to pursue imperialism. But there was also significant dissent within America both to involvement in the wars and to imperialism in general. Wasn’t the whole point of America to escape the troubles of the old world? Why not leave the Europeans to sort out their own mess?

The US might not have wanted to become the universal state of Faustian civilisation, but it had little choice in the matter. Letting Europe fail after WW2 would have driven it into the hands of the communists at the same time as significantly weakening the American economy which had become dependent on Europe as a market for its goods and services. The Americans had to save the Europeans just the same way the Romans had to save the Greeks.

In the cycle of civilisation as described by Toynbee and Spengler, both of these events amount to the creation of a universal state. The Roman was the universal state of the Classical culture and was complete at the time when Rome reverted away from a republic and back to a monarchy. The US became the universal state of the Faustian culture when it took control of the international banking system and set the rules of the global economy in the aftermath of WW2.

We can see in the difference between these universal states some differences in the underlying culture. Rome’s universal state was a geographical fact. It was tangibly marked by the presence of Roman legions on its borders which looked outward towards the barbarian wastelands. The US empire might have army bases all around the world, but its power is not localised by geography. It is found in the intangible realm of finance, the flows of resources and goods and the management and control of systems. The Classical world of Rome was extroverted and exoteric. The Faustian world of the US empire is introverted and esoteric.

We can draw out some more distinctions between the Classical and the Faustian by comparing the history of each leading up to the creation of its universal state.

It seems that most of Europe had a tradition of monarchy based on tribal kinship groupings going back millennia before Christ. It is likely that this tradition was shared by both the ancient Romans and Greeks as well as their northern counterparts. However, in the comparison between the Roman monarchy and the early Faustian monarchies which emerged in the aftermath of the Roman empire, we can see a big and important difference between the two cultures.

The Roman, and the Classical in general, was “democratic” by nature. Although the King was a king for life, he was nominated and elected to that role by the people. The plebs did not get to vote, but they were allowed to take part in the proceedings where the patrician class nominated the candidates and cast votes. That’s how it worked in the early days of Rome before what’s called the republican era.

Things were much different in the early days of Faustian culture which was elitist from the start. The Pope in Rome would nominate kings throughout Europe. This practice was justified by the concept of the divine right of kings but here is a key point which differs between the Classical and the Faustian and which grounds my analysis that the Faustian was founded upon a Classical-Magian symbiosis. The concept of the divine rights of kings is originally from the Magian culture. The fact that it got tied up with the cult of Caesar in the decadent phase of the Roman empire is not surprising since that was the time when the Magian religious practices took hold among the Roman proletariat and gradually worked their way throughout the culture.

We talk as if the Roman empire collapsed and disappeared from the face of the earth but that is not true. Its forms continued on for centuries in the eastern Roman empire. But the ideas of late Rome, which included Magian concepts like the divine right of kings, were propagated throughout the empire including the north of Europe. These ideas were then used to found the new Faustian culture.

The reason why Popes were so heavily involved in politics in the early days of the Faustian culture was because of the Magian influence. We see this also in another Magian idea, the notion that the church could levy taxes on the public, which gave the church political and economic clout. Thus, the early church of western Christendom was as much as secular power as a sacred one. It’s for these reasons that I think early western Christendom can rightfully be called a Christian caliphate.

By contrast, the original Roman monarchy was far more egalitarian and democratic than any European monarchy ever was. The details by which that monarchy gave way to the Roman republic are sketchy but the best guess is that it was an aristocratic rebellion to remove a corrupt King which then did away with the idea of a monarch altogether. It seems that this caused little change in the actual structure of the political system. The concept of an elected monarch was replaced by the idea of elected consuls. Perhaps the most important difference was that consuls only held power for one year after which they were not able to serve again for another ten, thereby ensuring that a dodgy leader could not hang around and cause trouble over a long period of time.

We see a similar aristocratic rebellion in Faustian culture with the writing of the Magna Carta which coincided with a baronial rebellion against the English king that also took the form of two military campaigns, both of which were lost by the barons. It’s noteworthy that the Pope took the side of the King in these matters which makes sense as any watering down of the monarchical role would have also reduced the power of the church. The divine rights of the barons doesn’t quite have the same ring to it and the divine right of kings.

The Papal authority was tied up with the divine right of kings but it’s also very important to understand that the church and state were intertwined at all levels in early Faustian culture. Later demands for a separation of church and state only made sense as an opposition to the status quo where church and state were identical. The truth was that in the early days the church played a fundamental role in the exoteric organisation of Faustian society.

Consider that the church was the record keeper of births, deaths and marriages right up til the 19th century in Britain. The church also provided what was essentially a public relations function for the state in the era prior to the printing press. If an official message needed to be promulgated throughout the land, it was sent to the local priest who would read it out with the Sunday sermon. Churches also provided food and shelter to the needy and so were a precursor to the modern welfare state.

The ambiguous nature of this shared power between church and state was the cause of endless conflict between the nobility and the church. But there was another side to the argument which was abstract and intellectual. Thus, alongside the baronial rebellions of aristocrats, there were various rebellions by religious leaders, most of whom wanted the Church to get out of politics. Martin Luther’s 95 theses was just the most famous of a centuries-long series of intellectual challenges to the secular role of the church. Such ideas had a long religious tradition before Enlightenment atheists got hold of them.

In addition to the aristocratic and theological revolts, there were also peasant rebellions and these were motivated by grievances against both church and nobility. Thus, the demands of the peasants in the German Peasant’s War of 1525 included being able to elect and dismiss their own clergy while also stopping the nobility from stealing common land and resources. A peasant revolt in the north of England in 1536 was motivated by the fact that Henry VIII had shut down a number of catholic monasteries which had provided important services to the commoners including food and shelter.

Ultimately, the revolts by the peasantry in Europe achieved little more than getting their ringleaders executed. The church and the state were not in the slightest bit interested in listening to peasants. None other than Martin Luther wrote a pamphlet called Against the Murderous, Thieving Hordes of Peasants wherein he stated that the peasants were doing the devil’s work and anybody who killed them would be assured of God’s good favour. Change “peasant” to “anti-vaxxer” and we can see Luther’s attitude to the general public is still shared by our modern “elites”, however much they might reject the religious terminology.

All this is in stark contrast to the plebeian rebellions in the Roman republic. The foundation of the republic had favoured the patrician class and there followed a long period of centuries where the plebs rebelled for a greater share of the decision making power. As far as we know, and the historical sources on these matters are not thorough enough to know for sure, these rebellions did not take the form of pillaging and looting as they would later in feudal Europe. Rather, the plebs simply went on strike.

The first so-called secession involved the plebs of Rome walking out of the city on mass and taking up camp at the nearby Mons Sacer. As none of the patrician class could possibly be expected to cook their own food or clean the dishes for a couple of days, they were forced to negotiate. This tactic was used numerous times over a period of centuries and each time the plebs won a little more power for themselves.  

The apparent lack of violence during the various pleb revolts in ancient Rome has led some scholars to question the veracity of what happened. But, again, this reflects an underlying cultural difference where Classical society was already more egalitarian and had what appears to be a complete absence of dogma.

Unlike the early Faustian debates, the disputes of the Romans did not appear to have any religious element meaning there was no ideological bickering about abstract principles but demands for practical and tangible results. It’s also true that many Roman plebs were experienced in the arts of war and would have known how to organise themselves for a fight. This, no doubt, gave the patrician class a strong incentive to negotiate rather than try to put down any rebellion.

The Classical presents a challenge to Spengler’s assertion that there is a separate path of nobility and priesthood in any culture. There is no doubt that this has been true for Faustian culture right from the start. But it seems invalid when applied to the Classical world where the priesthood only became relevant during the decadence of the Empire when it was imported from the Magian.

The Roman system was not without its flaws, of course. Carpe diem was how the Romans lived; what Spengler identified as the Classical focus on the present. Having consuls only serve one-year terms fits with this cultural trait. But it also means that the leaders of Roman society were unable to make any long-term plans. By contrast, the early Faustian church-state system did allow for longer term planning and this strength was often cited by those in favour of monarchy as a system of government which was uninfluenced by the fleeting passions of the day.

But maybe the murderous, thieving hordes wouldn’t have been so murderous if the elites had condescended to give them some of what they wanted. The unwillingness to consider the interests of commoners led to a build-up of pressure that needed to find an outlet. That outlet was violent revolution which usually provoked equally violent counter-revolution. The revolutions of the Faustian have always had a strong ideological element. Initially, this was religious ideology. These days its secular ideology. We look back at the religious arguments of early Europe and wonder what all the fuss was about but are the ideological debates of our time any less wacky?

The Romans seemed to lack this altogether and one can’t help but think this is tied in with their absence of dogmatic religion. The Roman system was practical. It was tinkered with over centuries but never overthrown. Even when it transitioned back into monarchy with the elevation of Octavian to Augustus, the change was minor. All the old institutions and roles were still there and everything seemed to work as before.

The transition to Caesarism and then to barbarism also happened gradually over centuries and there appears to have been no effort to overhaul the system no matter how dysfunctional it became. It’s probably true that the average Roman simply didn’t know the difference. They lived in the present and if the present meant that new emperors massacred their rivals in cold blood then that was the way it was and probably always had been.

Looking back from our vantage point, we can see that when Rome took on the role of universal state of the Classical civilisation, this was the death knell for Rome as a body politic. The demands of the universal state were not compatible with the demands of the Roman state.

Looking at the current state of the USA, it’s not hard to see similar pressures at play. The tension between the USA as a republic supposed to represent its own citizens and the requirements of the now global Faustian civilisation is a daily fact of politics. But in order to understand these tensions better we need to map out the rest of the journey that Faustian civilisation took from the Reformation to the end of WW2. We’ll do that in the next post.

All posts in this series:-
Re-thinking Spengler Part 1: Morphological Thinking
Re-thinking Spengler Part 2: The Psychology of Pseudomorphosis
Re-thinking Spengler Part 3: The Problem of the Magian
Re-thinking Spengler Part 4: Bourgeoisie vs Romantics
Re-thinking Spengler Part 5: On Elitism
Re-thinking Spengler Part 6: Rogue Priests and Rebel Commanders
Re-thinking Spengler Part 7: A Pop Culture Interlude
Re-thinking Spengler Part 8: Kings and Commoners
Re-thinking Spengler Part 9: Escape from the Tyrannical Father
Re-thinking Spengler Part 10: The USA (Universal State of America)
Re-thinking Spengler Final

Re-thinking Spengler Part 7: A Pop-Culture Interlude

I thought it might be a bit of fun to take the concepts from the last post and apply them to some well-known movies. It turns out that the notions of civilisational decline through corruption and attempted renewal by the Internal Proletariat are central to the plot of some of the most famous movies and stories. Let’s have a look at half a dozen of the most relevant.

(Note: you’ll need to have read the last post in this series in order to make sense of this one. You can find it here.)


Rebel Priest

Rebel Commander

Dominant Minority

Analysis: Gladiator shows the dynamic where the Dominant Minority comes to power. At the start of the movie, Maximus and Marcus Aurelius are in charge and winning against the barbarians. Although it’s not really true in the historical arc of the Classical civilisation (according to Toynbee and Spengler), for the purposes of the film they are the Creative Minority. Aurelius foresees the coming danger that the Dominant Minority poses and he tells Maximus that he must take power to avert it.

Commodus betrays them both in a coup (very accurate from a historical point of view) and Maximus becomes part of the Internal Proletariat. Eventually, he kills Commodus. The Internal Proletariat wins against the Dominant Minority and the implication is that the Creative Minority is restored to power.

Star Wars

Rebel Priest

Rebel Commander(s)

Dominant Minority

Analysis: This one’s pretty straightforward. The Internal Proletariat is the Rebel Alliance. The Dominant Minority is The Empire. A single man (Palpatine) has usurped power. The Internal Proletariat wants to return things to the way they used to be (a republic). It’s all very Roman.

Terminator 2

Rebel Priest

Rebel Commander

Dominant Minority

Analysis: ok, now it gets more complex and also more modern. Terminator 2 is set in the time prior to where the Dominant Minority has taken control and there is still a chance to avert it. The Dominant Minority is Skynet and its terminators. John Connor is the Rebel Commander in the future, but he’s still just a boy in the movie. His mother plays the Rebel Commander in the present time.
Why is the T-800 the Rebel Priest? Firstly, because he is the messenger warning of the time when the Dominant Minority will take over. Secondly, his journey in the movie is to learn what it is to be human. He is an ex-member of the Dominant Minority who has rebelled and joined the Internal Proletariat. The implication is that the Dominant Minority is not human and this is correct. The Dominant Minority is now the Machine.
The symbolism of machines here works as a metaphor for the overall civilisational dynamic. Machines are not creative and, by definition, cannot be the Creative Minority. But the Terminator movies don’t just capture the dynamic of the Dominant Minority in general. They capture the specifically Faustian version of that dynamic because it is only Faustian culture that has worshipped the Machine. ChatGPT is only the latest, and certainly won’t be the last, object of that worship.

The Matrix

Rebel Priest

Rebel Commander

Dominant Minority

Analysis: with The Matrix we see the issue of technology come to the fore again. But, in this case, the battleground is reality itself. The leaders of the Internal Proletariat are those who have stepped outside of the world of appearance. This process is incredibly painful, as Neo’s initiation shows us. The battle is fought both inside and outside the Matrix as the Dominant Minority also exists outside of that world (the sentinels attacking the ship) as well as inside it (the agents).
I’ll probably need to spend a whole post unpacking the issues raised by the Matrix. In one sense, it is very Magian and even contains explicit reference to Magian religious and cultural symbolism (Trinity, Zion, Nebuchadnezzar). The metaphysics is very Judeo-Christian but we can see a similar pattern in Plato and Buddha, the Rebel Priests of the Classical and the Indic civilisations respectively. This raises a big question: does epistemology (the questioning of appearance) only appear during the decadence of a culture?

Total Recall

Rebel Priest

Rebel Commander

Dominant Minority

Analysis: Total Recall uses the same trick as Terminator in that Schwarzenegger’s character, Quaid, communicates across time. Just like the T-800, Quaid is a former member of the Dominant Minority who has changed teams and joined the Internal Proletariat. The film also shares with The Matrix the fact that the protagonist has an epistemological problem. He must battle within his own mind to figure out what is reality and what is not. And there’s also an explicitly capitalist critique built in since the Dominant Minority of Cohaagen and Richter are immiserating the Internal Proletariat for their own gain.

Lord of the Rings

Rebel Priest

Rebel Commander(s)

Dominant Minority

Analysis: here is another one that probably needs a whole post. The ring that confers invisibility and/or power is an idea that goes back at least to Plato. Invisibility is power in the same way that shapeshifting is power, because you escape the defences of the organism. In the case of society, those defences include the Majority themselves who think they are serving a leader who is just and would presumably fight back if they knew what was really going on.
As far as the story of Lord of the Rings goes, the symbolism is more straightforward. The One Ring was deliberately created by Sauron to gain domination. Therefore, he represents the Dominant Minority. The Shire is the feudal world of early Europe which is not yet immiserated but which is under threat. Thus, Lord of the Rings can be seen as a parallel with the actual history of Faustian culture as the feudal world tried to prevent itself becoming the Internal Proletariat (the German Peasant’s Revolt of 1525 is one of the main examples).
Of course, as we know, the feudal world was destroyed by the princes, kings and rising bourgeoisie who sought centralisation of power.
Note: Wagner’s Ring Cycle is potentially very interesting in this connection since it is one of German romanticism’s attempts to grapple with these issues.

I think these were the main movies/stories which include the concepts of civilisational decline. I’d be interested to hear any others that people can suggest.

All posts in this series:-
Re-thinking Spengler Part 1: Morphological Thinking
Re-thinking Spengler Part 2: The Psychology of Pseudomorphosis
Re-thinking Spengler Part 3: The Problem of the Magian
Re-thinking Spengler Part 4: Bourgeoisie vs Romantics
Re-thinking Spengler Part 5: On Elitism
Re-thinking Spengler Part 6: Rogue Priests and Rebel Commanders
Re-thinking Spengler Part 7: A Pop Culture Interlude
Re-thinking Spengler Part 8: Kings and Commoners
Re-thinking Spengler Part 9: Escape from the Tyrannical Father
Re-thinking Spengler Part 10: The USA (Universal State of America)
Re-thinking Spengler Final

Re-thinking Spengler Part 6: Rogue Priests and Rebel Commanders

There are at least 3 separate kinds of analysis going on in Spengler’s Decline of the West:-

  • The analysis of civilisation as a cycle of growth, peak and decline (the organism metaphor)
  • The analysis of culture as a phenomenology: what does it feel like to be part of the culture and what underlying structure creates this feeling
  • The effects of the cycle on the phenomenology: how does what it feels like to be part of the culture change over time as the culture moves through its cycle. Does it feel different and does its structure change from the growth phase to the decline phase?

Previously, I have called Spengler an esoteric analyst while Toynbee is exoteric. Translated into the terms above, Spengler is mostly concerned with phenomenology and Toynbee is mostly concerned with finding cyclical patterns. In my opinion, Toynbee does a far better job of the cyclical analysis precisely because he leaves out the messy business of phenomenology. He treats culture as a black box and analyses it from an “external” or “objective” position.

Of course, Spengler would argue that it’s not possible to be “objective” and that the culture itself determines our phenomenology. I agree with him and in this post I’m going to map out where Spengler’s analysis fits not just within the Faustian phenomenology but within that culture at a specific time in its cycle. This will finally give me the answer to my hunch that the connection between the romantic movement in the intellectual sphere of the 19th century and the Nazis was not arbitrary. In fact, it is predicted by the phase of the cycle at that time.

Since Toynbee does a better job of analysing the cyclical pattern that cultures go through, I’m going to rely on his terminology and analysis to ground my argument. Here is a summary of the core concepts we will need:

Creative Minority: the ruling class of a society during its growth phase.

Majority: the body of society. For both Spengler and Toynbee, the ruling class is the driver of civilisation while the Majority follows along through mimesis. (I might have disagreed with this prior to 2020 but what we’ve seen in the last three years is all the evidence we’ll ever need that the Majority will do whatever they are told).

Universal State: the institution that politically unites a civilisation. The Roman Empire was the Universal State of the Classical Civilisation.

Dominant Minority: when a civilisation passes its peak and the Universal State is formed, the Creative Minority can no longer come up with innovative new ideas. It turns into a Dominant Minority which rules through force. This normally means military dictatorship.

Internal Proletariat: when the Dominant Minority begins ruling through force, this generates resentment. The Internal Proletariat are united in that resentment. They are members of the culture who still remember what the culture is supposed to stand for but who see that the ruling class no longer represents that vision.

Rebel Elites: the members (or potential members) of the ruling class who have become disillusioned with society and therefore join the Internal Proletariat. The Rebel Elites can be further split into Rebel Commanders, the political and military leaders of the Internal Proletariat, and Rebel Priests, the intellectual and spiritual leaders.

Rebel Majority: the rest of the Internal Proletariat. They will either follow the Rebel Commanders into battle or the Rebel Priests into religion.

We can represent all this diagrammatically as follows:-

During the growth phase of the culture, society is united behind the Creative Minority. Once the peak has been passed, the Creative Minority becomes the Dominant Minority and the Internal Proletariat forms. These transitions are gradual so that most members of the culture would not even realise they are happening at all, like the frog in the boiling water.

Now that we have the concepts, let’s use them to analyse the declining phase of the Classical civilisation (the Roman Empire).

Rome’s process of proletarianisation began with mass slavery which immiserated the existing peasantry and drove large numbers of poor into the city slums. Once the Internal Proletariat was formed, Rebel Commanders appeared and led military insurgencies against the Roman authorities. These were Roman citizens attacking the empire from within.

Because the Classical society had no original priesthood of its own, the Rebel Priests needed to be imported. They came from the cultures that had been brought into the Roman Internal Proletariat through imperialism. This is the story that we all know backwards because it’s the story of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Rebel Priest vs the Dominant Minority with the Majority in the background

Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate is the Rebel Priest standing before the Dominant Minority. Jesus’ disciples are the Rebel Majority while those who stood around and mocked were the Majority still faithful to the Dominant Minority. Later on, Paul of Tarsus (St Paul) would become the most important Rebel Priest who took the story of Jesus and turned it into the Christian Church.

But the story of Jesus was actually the second instance of the Internal Proletariat that was experienced by the Jews. The first instance was when the Jews became the Internal Proletariat of the Syriac civilisation in the period roughly from 1000 BC to about 500 BC. Following the pattern to a tee, there was armed resistance from Jewish Rebel Commanders at that time, but these proved fruitless.

The Rebel Priests had better luck. The Jewish prophets gave birth to a new form of Judaism. We can skip over the details but the important point is that it was this Judaism which Jesus would later rebel against. We can diagram this as follows:

The Syriac Civilisation was then overtaken by the Classical Civilisation which inherited the former’s Internal Proletariat. That Internal Proletariat gave rise to a dizzying number of prophets (Rebel Priests) and would-be religions. In addition, there were still Rebel Commanders willing to take up the fight against the new Dominant Minority. Thus, we see military insurgencies including the Great Jewish Revolt in 66 AD. Once again, the Rebel Commanders were defeated. And, once again, the Rebel Priests gave birth to new religions. Here is the diagram of this:

The early Christians were technically an Internal Proletariat of the already existing Jewish Internal Proletariat. Paul of Tarsus originally fought against the Rebel Priests of the nascent Christian religion but he changed sides on the road to Damascus and became the most important Rebel Priest of the Christian Internal Proletariat. His insistence that the new religion of Christianity should be open to gentiles as well as Jews changed the world.

The reason the Rebel Priests succeed where the Rebel Commanders fail is because, even though the dominant culture is in its decadent phase, it is still a military force to be reckoned with. In fact, its military capability is still improving since the use of force is now the only thing holding society together. The Rebel Commanders have little chance of defeating their military counterparts in the Dominant Minority and the dominant culture continues to atrophy. By the time the barbarians are at the gates, the culture is long dead and just its bones remain.

The Rebel Priests are not constrained by such matters because their domain is the esoteric and the spiritual. Even if they are persecuted by the Dominant Minority such as the Christians were in the Roman Empire, this persecution just creates martyrs and ends up contributing to the growth of the religion. This is why the religion created by the Internal Proletariat can live well past the end of the culture itself and give rise to new cultures such as Christianity did with the Faustian. We might use another metaphor here and call the work of the Rebel Priests the seed of the mature culture that can germinate into new civilisations.

We can summarise the relative success of Rebel Priests and Rebel Commanders as follows. The Rebel Priests eventually come to lead the Internal Proletariat via the new religion:

The Rebel Commanders run out of steam while the Rebel Priests create new religions
The Faustian (western) Internal Proletariat

Now that we know the pattern of the creation of the Internal Proletariat and its two types of leaders, we can superimpose it onto the history of Faustian civilisation and see what it has to show us.

Faustian civilisation begins around the year 1000 AD. At the beginning, it looks very much like a Christian caliphate but quickly settles down into a long period of growth based on feudal society. The formation of the Internal Proletariat begins with the wars of religion in the 16th and 17th centuries which killed and displaced large numbers of people and marked the beginning of the end for the Christian Church as a productive force in the culture. Not coincidentally, this was also the beginning of the ascent of modern materialist science.  

The disillusionment of the Internal Proletariat begins in earnest with the German Peasant’s War of 1525 and reaches new heights with the French Revolution which was a military and ideological rebellion against the Dominant Minority of both Church and State.

The Rebel Priest of the revolution was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau became known as a philosopher. But Rousseau’s likeness to a religious archetype was detected by none other than the King of Prussia, Frederick the Great, who agreed to give protection and shelter to Rousseau. Frederick wrote in a letter that Rousseau should have been born a hermit and likened him to the desert fathers of early Christianity.

The Rebel Priest

Here is a point which is crucial to the analysis I am making here and which Toynbee would not have agreed with because he was fixed on the idea that all Rebel Priests must be actual prophets or founders of religion.

Another Rebel Priest

If we assume that the ideology that led to the French Revolution was a secular religion, then we can say that the proponents of that ideology were Rebel Priests. It seems to me that the tenets of an ideology are identical to the dogma of a religion and so this comparison works. Just like there were many Rebel Priests (prophets) in the Roman Empire, there were many secular religions formed by the Rebel Priests of the 19th century, Marxism being the most famous.

Note that, within this reading, the US Constitution is also a secular religious document and the creation of the USA was also a proletarian rebellion with its own Rebel Commanders (George Washington) and Rebel Priests (Franklin, Jefferson). This makes sense. The USA was populated by the Faustian Internal Proletariat who were escaping the Dominant Minority of Europe. What does it say on the Statue of Liberty? Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. It might as well say Give me your Internal Proletariat.

If this analysis is true, the consequences are revolutionary (pardon the pun). Faustian culture would have been the first that we know of to be successfully challenged in a military sense by its Internal Proletariat. That would be weird enough. But the story takes an even weirder turn because the success in America was not replicated in Europe.

(Note: another way to resolve this would be to say that the Romans were the Internal Proletariat of the Classical world. That makes a lot of sense to me but it is not the analysis that Toynbee gives. This might be an error in Toynbee).

Fittingly, Napoleon became a hero of the romantic artists, especially Byron

If we call Rousseau and the romantic tradition that he inaugurated the Rebel Priests, then we would also expect to see Rebel Commanders appear on the scene. The Rebel Commanders in the United States had won their battle and created a new society. But the French Revolution had failed. Enter (stage left) Napoleon Bonaparte. The Rebel Commander.

Napoleon was born on Corsica to parents who were literally rebels. In fact, it is said that Napoleon’s mother was helping to fight the French while Napoleon was still in the womb. The French won, of course, and the result was that Napoleon became a French citizen. This was incredibly synchronous. Just a few years difference and Napoleon would not have been a French citizen and would likely have become an actual Rebel Commander fighting against the French. Instead, he joined the French army.

Napoleon’s outsider status gave him an inferiority complex (sometimes called the Napoleon Complex). He had to work extra hard to rise through the ranks. He spoke his whole life with a strong accent that was very different from his comrades and certainly nothing like that of the Dominant Minority in France. He rose through the ranks of the French army by winning the admiration and loyalty of his fellow soldiers. And Napoleon was a huge fan of the Poems of Ossian, one of the seminal texts of the romantic movement.

Just to reinforce the historical parallels here, the story of Napoleon is almost identical to the story of the first barbarian to become emperor of Rome in 235 AD, Maximinus Thrax. Maximinus was also born on the periphery of the empire. He barely spoke Latin. He was an outsider but, like Napoleon, he was an outstanding military man who worked his way to the top by winning the fierce loyalty of the soldiery. Also like Napoleon, Maximinus came to power in a military coup.

Maximinus Thrax – literally a giant

There is one important difference between Napoleon and Maximinus. Maximinus arrived on the scene when the Universal State of Rome was already established (and well into decline). Napoleon, on the other hand, was trying to create the Universal State. He was trying to unify Europe. He failed to do so, of course, and the continent was thrown into more than a century of political disarray until another Rebel Commander arrived on the scene with the same intention to finally create a Universal State.

Another Rebel Commander. This one not so good.

The parallels between Hitler, Napoleon and Maximinus are clear to see. Hitler was born outside the German Empire (the 2nd Reich). He spoke with a non-standard accent (combination of Austrian and Bavarian) that marked him out as being an outsider from the Dominant Minority (the Prussians). Hitler was a social outsider too. He tried and failed to become an artist (Rebel Priest) before finding his way into the German military in WW1 through an administrative error (as an Austrian, he should have been disqualified). He was a model soldier who won medals for bravery but would later end up in jail for attempted insurrection. Like Napoleon and Maximinus, he eventually came to power via a coup (the night of the long knives).

In Hitler we see the psychology of the Internal Proletariat on full display. Napoleon might have had an inferiority complex, Hitler had a full blown hatred of the Dominant Minority who he believed, like many of his fellow soldiers, had betrayed him in WW1. The disastrous Treaty of Versailles only reinforced this idea and fueled the rise of the Internal Proletariat in Germany.

Both Napoleon and Hitler were Rebel Commanders from the Internal Proletariat who rose up to become the leaders of their country. They enjoyed popular support from other members of the Internal Proletariat and, partly because of that support and partly because both were pushing for the creation of the Universal State, they were tolerated by members of the Dominant Minority who thought they could manipulate them to achieve their goals and then get rid of them. That’s why most of the Prussian military officers and the German business leaders co-operated with the Nazis.

If Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini and others were the Rebel Commanders, where were the Rebel Priests? The answer is in romanticism but also in the explosion of interest in the occult and the esoteric that took place in the 19th century, including and especially modern psychology.

What the Rebel Priests were fighting was the ideology of the Dominant Minority of the 19th century which was increasingly anti-Christian and anti-religious as the success of science led to the embrace of the philosophy of scientific materialism.

One of the main features of scientific materialism was to remove the observer from a position of importance so that “objectivity” could be achieved. This notion was dominant throughout the 19th century and it wasn’t until Quantum Mechanics that the problems with it became evident from within the dominant paradigm itself. (It’s noteworthy that another Rebel Priest, Nietzsche, had already presaged several of the most important philosophical implications of the quantum revolution).

The removal of the observer in science was the corollary of the trend in general society where industrial capitalism was removing the worker from the skilled autonomy of his job. Just like industrial capitalism creates conditions where any worker can be replaced by any other worker, scientific materialism imagines a situation where any scientist can be replaced by any other. Finally, they can all be replaced by machines, conceptual models and ChatGPT.

These trends drove the increasing proletarianisation of society in intellectual and economic spheres. When Hitler came to power, one third of the German workforce was unemployed. The Rebel Commander had found his Internal Proletariat.

The romantic movement was a pushback against the Dominant Minority in the intellectual sphere. It pushed back by putting the individual front and centre. The Rebel Priests of the romantic movement, Rousseau, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Freud, Jung and more all focused on the individual. Like any reactionary movement, they went too far in their individualism. Their excesses are still with us today in the form of the rampant narcissism bordering on pathological dissociation that we see everywhere around us.

Spengler, of course, belongs to that movement and he shared its shortcomings. His insistence on the individuality of a culture was overblown. But he also gave us a uniquely intricate view of the phenomenology of culture and one that is archetypally Faustian. Note that Spengler, like the other Rebel Priests mentioned above, did all his work outside the institutions of the Dominant Minority even though they were educated inside those institutions. Spengler was an auto-didact who wrote The Decline of the West while unemployed and living on a small pension.

Putting all this together, we can see why romanticism got tied up with the Nazis: they were both born of the Internal Proletariat of Faustian civilisation.

It is, therefore, synchronous that when Spengler met Hitler he criticised him for being “proletarian”. But Spengler himself is proletarian to the extent that he represents a break with the dominant historical scholarship that had existed up until that time. This is not a criticism. Rebel Priests have given us monotheism (some people might say that’s bad). They have given us arguably the greatest book ever written (the Bible). If my analysis is correct, they created the US Constitution. What else will romanticism leave for posterity? That is a question that can’t yet be known as we are still living through it.

One other unique thing they have given us is what I have called the Unconscious Empire. That Empire was born in 1945. The circumstances of that birth are so unique that even Toynbee missed them. It is perhaps the first empire in history that pretends it is not an empire. How very proletarian!

All posts in this series:-
Re-thinking Spengler Part 1: Morphological Thinking
Re-thinking Spengler Part 2: The Psychology of Pseudomorphosis
Re-thinking Spengler Part 3: The Problem of the Magian
Re-thinking Spengler Part 4: Bourgeoisie vs Romantics
Re-thinking Spengler Part 5: On Elitism
Re-thinking Spengler Part 6: Rogue Priests and Rebel Commanders
Re-thinking Spengler Part 7: A Pop Culture Interlude
Re-thinking Spengler Part 8: Kings and Commoners
Re-thinking Spengler Part 9: Escape from the Tyrannical Father
Re-thinking Spengler Part 10: The USA (Universal State of America)
Re-thinking Spengler Final