by Richard C. Cook, …for VT
By “the West” I mean the more or less discernible world civilization rooted in the homelands of the Indo-European peoples.
Over three to four millennia, what linguists call the proto-Indo-European culture expanded from the Black Sea steppes eastward into India, south into Persia, north into Russia and west into Europe, reaching from the Mediterranean Sea across what is today France and Germany, then to the British Isles and north to the far reaches of Scandinavia.
From thence the Indo-Europeans conquered the entire Western Hemisphere plus Australia and New Zealand, and made inroads into Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia.
At certain places, but not everywhere, the culture became a melting pot in combination with many other races, including indigenous inhabitants of conquered lands, but even here the resulting hybrids arguably have similar psychic and spiritual characteristics. One is tempted to refer to the West as the “white man’s” culture, but that is increasingly less so as every year passes.
Whether the West any longer has a future has been asked many times over the past century-and-a-half, particularly after the wars of the 20th century that pitted Western powers against each other. Assuming there has been a relatively coherent civilizing imperative that drove the West to its prominence, has that impulse run out of steam?
So thought German writer Oswald Spengler in his 1918 opus The Decline of the West. Spengler argued, erroneously I would argue, that “a culture blossoms from the soil of a definable landscape and dies when it has exhausted all of its possibilities.” What Spengler failed to appreciate is the infinite capacity of human beings for self-renewal. This is seen in part through the evolution of technology.
Using many variations on Spengler’s thesis, whole industries of popular literature and media production have been founded on the idea that the West is doomed to expire through various combinations of circumstances, including, the machinations of the “deep state”, collapse of morality, financial greed, global warming, resource depletion, pandemics, competition from China, racial injustice, military excess, cybercrime, even extraterrestrial invasion. You name it. Doomsday scenarios are legion.
Yet life goes on. After the Covid collapse, the recovery measures put in place by President Joe Biden within the U.S. are taking effect. Ask any stock investor. Most recently, President Biden traveled to Europe to meet with the G-7, NATO, and Vladimir Putin, where he put on a refreshingly normal display of Western reconciliation in contrast to the dysfunctional displays of his predecessor.
Biden is one of the most underestimated political figures in history and has based his program on demonstrating that the bedrock values of traditional democratic liberalism can lead the West out of its present-day funk. Other leaders of the G-7, especially France’s Macron, loved it.
I personally believe “The Decline of the West” to be a myth. True, there are challenges everywhere, but such is life. It’s in the nature of things that human beings must work and suffer in order to succeed at the goals they have set for themselves. Contrary to “Utopians” of every stripe, there is no free lunch. And there is no greater success story in struggling and winning against all odds than the civilization of the West.
I’d like to mention a few of the fanatical Utopias that wish us to believe that only if their particular one-sided ideology prevails, the world will suddenly become a happy place with no more problems or anxieties. They all believe that their particular interpretation of life and events will lead to “the end of history”, if only people would listen.
Because the core value of the West, since tribal times, has been the individual’s drive, within certain bounds, to personal self-realization, the Utopias have all been thinly disguised attempts by some self-appointed authority to control or deny that imperative. Following is a short list of such Utopias. Note that each mostly benefits the leaders of the in-crowd that controls it.
- Caesaerism—arbitrary rule by authoritarian strongmen.
- Religionism—arbitrary rule by self-appointed religious authorities.
- Apocalypticism—the belief, based on readings of The Book of Revelation, that the world is soon going to end in catastrophic fashion, with only the “elect” being “saved.”
- Communism—enforcement of economic “equality” based on the myth that economic advancement can be achieved by taking from the rich and giving to the poor.
- Egotism—me, me, me, always.
- Chattel Slavery—still a major problem worldwide in the 21st century.
- Racism—claims by one race to special rights due to natural or historical superiority over others.
- Nationalism—claims by one nation to special rights due to natural or historical superiority over others.
- Finance Capitalism—control of the currency by private bankers who lend money at interest leading to economic bankruptcy and runaway inflation.
- Corporatism—not to be confused with legitimate business activities, control of an economy by monopolistic corporate entities. \
- Consumerism—buy, buy, buy, churn the GDP. This includes addictions—to gambling, drugs and alcohol, sex/pornography, medication, TV, the internet, etc. \
- Criminality—vast networks of thievery and murder often appearing as white-collar crime, money laundering, drug dealing, cybercrime, etc.
- Machiavellianism—political dirty tricks elevated to a science.
- Militarism—not to be confused with legitimate defense, the ideology that safety can be assured once the world is conquered by force and/or threats of force.
- Occultism—search for control through psychic powers.
Each of these often-overlapping “-isms” has its own cult of conspirators that seeks to control society by fomenting hatred of selected scapegoats, generating enticement, erecting idols, securing favors and funding from government, and arousing fear and/or greed among the general population. Through the internet the -isms have a field day in spreading their particular narrative.
Obviously, the West contains within its collective psyche tremendous wellsprings of creative energy that have created the potential for opportunity and prosperity. But each of these -isms has made itself a parasite whose adherents have essentially given up on their own higher potential. Love of God and neighbor becomes the last thing in their minds.
Yet each -ism contains enough of a masquerade of truth to captivate the minds of its adherents. This is what makes it so hard to argue with true believers, especially those who have invested their entire lives in building and maintaining castles in the air.
Consequently, their followers should rather be pitied than condemned. Some over time are bound to awaken from their dreams, admittedly at times through the vehicle of personal disaster or enforced restraint.
The combined effect of all this groping in the dark is what Hobbes pithily called, “the war of each against all.”
Added to the chaos is a brand of nihilism, including Soviet Bolshevism, whose underlying goal seems to be to wipe out Western civilization altogether. Stalin was a prime figure here who got halfway across Europe before NATO and the Marshall Plan stopped him. Similar cults exist today for the same purpose. Some believe China to harbor such intentions.
Fortunately, more and more people seem to be inspired at younger and younger ages to see through the pretensions of these -isms and to view dispassionately the errors of their forebears. More and more realize that it is possible to follow a straight and narrow path of good citizenship, self-control, dutiful service, responsible enjoyment of earth’s bounty, and cultivation of compassionate relationships, thereby achieving happiness and peace of mind. Such people are the salt of the earth and the hope of the world.
If you wish to delve deeper, I would offer the suggestion that within the West the core ideal of individual self-realization was spelled out most decisively by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. I am not talking here about the Jesus of standard church-based dogma, the one I venture to say is a highly distorted figure, but the Jesus who remains an elusive enigma even to those who try sincerely to understand what really transpired 2,000 years ago in Palestine.
Such understanding is particularly difficult for English-speaking readers because of the shallowness of scholarship about Jesus in the English-language literature. My own opinion is that to gain the real benefit of studying the life and teachings of Jesus we might look to the Germans.
Today it is essential to search for the roots of Western culture and reaffirm its value. A good historical place to start is with the pan-European movement that built the Gothic cathedrals, a movement that included the Knights Templar and their German counterpart the Teutonic Knights. The latter survived when the Templars were exterminated by the Pope and the French tyrant King Philip IV.
The Papacy and the kingdom of France warmed up for this travesty by annihilating the Cathars of southern France in the early 13th century by means of the Albigensian Crusade.
Eastward, however, in the more loosely organized Holy Roman Empire, religious freedom emerged. I’d ask you to study the German-speaking religious/philosophical teachers going back to the Rhineland mystics of the 14th century, including Meister Eckart, Johann Tauler, and the anonymous “Frankfurter”, the Teutonic Knight who wrote the Theologia Germanica. All are still enlightening reading today. Also read the Grail legends as expressed by such as Wolfram von Eschenbach.
Then move forward through Paracelsus, Luther, Boehme, and Goethe. All this against a background of art and music featuring Durer, Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Strauss, Mendelssohn, and even Wagner, and the philosophy of Kant. You finally arrive at key figures and movements of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Karl Barth. Some, but far from all, of this material exists in English translation. German art, music, and philosophy have become, of course, universal.
It is convenient to dismiss Germany and its history due to the Nazi aberration, but that is a big mistake. Hitler and his covert funders obviously saw an opportunity and ran with it, buoyed by unrepentant Junker militarism. The German rank-and-file paid dearly for going along. But to get an accurate picture of what Germany was trying to arrive at through its profound soul-searching of the 19th and 20th centuries, we have to look not at Hitler, but at figures like Otto Strasser, one of the prophets of today’s united Europe. His brother Gregor Strasser, Hitler’s main competitor for Nazi party leadership, was assassinated by Hitler in 1934. Both Strasser brothers opposed Hitler’s Jew-baiting and militarism while supporting strong indigenous programs of national economic development.
For now I will leave these matters to the reader’s further research. See, for instance, Kill Strasser: A True Story of Nazi Tyranny by One Who Escaped Its Grip by Fred Harding, and Otto Strasser’s own book, Germany Tomorrow, published in Great Britain in 1940.
But I do owe it to readers of this article to give some indication of where to look in modern German literature for a true picture of Jesus and his still-unfolding role in the history of the West and the world. The best source, IMHO, would be the writings of German spiritual master Bô Yin Râ, a figure often cited as an inspiration for the well-known spiritual teacher Eckart Tolle.
Adapted from a review I posted on Amazon: This man who was perhaps the most important spiritual master in the West during the 20th century is almost unknown to English-speaking readers. He was a German artist and author whose spiritual name was Bô Yin Râ. (Birth name Joseph Anton Schneiderfranken, 1876-1943.) He was born near Frankfurt and spent much of his working life in Munich and Saxony, with significant journeys to Italy and Greece. For the last 20 years of his life he resided with his family in Switzerland. During his lifetime he published a 32-volume compendium of spiritual books that he termed Hortus Conclusus, meaning, in his words, a “self-protecting enclosed garden.”
People do not understand how terribly deficient and flawed is our knowledge of spiritual reality. This includes all the world’s religions, including Christianity. What we often see is “the blind leading the blind”, especially among the numerous spiritual cults masquerading as truth. Some of these teachings are relatively harmless, simply rehashes of older belief systems. Others are extremely dangerous when they start playing with unknown or occult forces. Far more individuals are driven insane by such “esoteric” cults pretending to “hidden knowledge” than is generally acknowledged.
Bô Yin Râ is much different from all this. Numerous sections of his books, including one whole volume, deal directly with the person and teachings of Jesus Christ, whom he calls, “Compassion’s Greatest Mediator.” In his book The Wisdom of St. John, Bô Yin Râ makes clear how little is known about Jesus’s actual life and what he was really talking about. He explains how the Gospel of John is an authentic source. But even the Gospel of John has been corrupted by the scribes who wrote the early text as something they either didn’t understand or sought to alter to conform with the official dogmas of the early church. Nevertheless, Bô Yin Râ walks the reader through the text explaining ideas that today are only beginning to be rediscovered.
Thousands of German-speaking people studied Bô Yin Râ in his lifetime and continue to do so today. He was not affiliated with any church or organized religion. Translation of his books into other languages, including English, has begun. Following are some key ideas of Bô Yin Râ drawn, he indicates, from the same source as the teachings of Jesus:
The tremendous spiritual benefits of honest labor.
The inherent holiness of committed monogamous marriage between a man and a woman.
The necessity of learning how to pray.
The availability of hierarchies of spiritual beings who can help us in our quest for eternal life.
The need for unlimited self-confidence in pursuit of one’s spiritual goals.
The need for individual struggle in subduing elements of our being that bind us to our animal nature and place us under the control of what Jesus called “the prince of this world.”
The idea that a just economic system is one that lifts all boats such that even poverty is respectable and sufficient to meet one’s needs.
The idea that human beings, like Jesus, can evolve so as to become sources of radiant cosmic love.
All of these ideas have the appeal of common sense. And it may be that it is common sense that the Germans most have going for them. Let me conclude simply by saying that once we begin to grasp what Bô Yin Râ and his German predecessors are talking about, we can begin to see that the future of the West may be very bright indeed. As any open-minded traveler to today’s Europe can see, this transformation has already begun. Let’s hope it catches on in America too. There are certainly indications that it can.
Richard C. Cook is a retired federal analyst with a 32-year career at the U.S. Civil Service Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Carter White House, NASA, and the U.S. Treasury Department. While at NASA, he testified to the Rogers Commission on the Challenger disaster. Upon retirement he wrote a book entitled, “Challenger Revealed: An Insider’s Account of How the Reagan Administration Caused the Greatest Tragedy of the Space Age.” Since then he has published dozens of articles on economics, space policy, geopolitics, and the link between world affairs and spiritual trends. He has also published a book on monetary affairs: “We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform”. He is a regular contributor to Veterans Today and recently appeared in the new Netflix release: “Challenger: The Final Flight.”