Aphorisms: From the Writings of Oswald Spengler

Even a good idea is worth little when it is expressed by a blockhead.


Man makes history; woman is history. The reproduction of the species is feminine: it runs steadily and quietly through all species, animal or human, through all short-lived cultures. It is primary, unchanging, everlasting, maternal, plantlike, and cultureless. If we look back we find that it is synonymous with life itself.


It doesn’t really matter what one writes into a constitution. The important things is what the collective instinct eventually makes out of it.


Little as we know about the events of the future, one thing is certain: the moving forces of the futures will be none other than those of the past – the will of the stronger, healthy instincts, race, will to property, and power.


The question of whether world peace will ever be possible can only be answered by someone familiar with world history. To be familiar with world history means, however, to know human beings as they have been and always will be. There is a vast difference, which most people will never comprehend, between viewing future history as it will be and viewing it as one might like it to be. Peace is a desire, war is a fact; and history has never paid heed to human desires and ideals …


Talk of world peace is heard today only among the white peoples, and not among the much more numerous colored races. This is a perilous state of affairs. When individual thinkers and idealists talk of peace, as they have done since time immortal, the effect is negligible. But when whole peoples become pacifistic it is a symptom of senility. Strong and unspent races are not pacifistic. To adopt such a position is to abandon the future, for the pacifist ideal is a terminal condition that is contrary to the basic facts of existence. As long as man continues to evolve, there will be wars …


Pacifism means letting the non-pacifists have control … Pacifism will remain an ideal, war a fact. If the white races are resolved never to wage was again, the colored will act differently and become rulers of the world.


Society is based on the inequality of men. This is a fact of nature.


Men are tired money-economy. They hope for salvation from somewhere or other, for some real thing of honor and chivalry, of inward nobility, of unselfishness and duty.


The life of the individual is important to no one but himself; the point is whether he attempts to escape from history or give his life to it. History takes no heed of human logic.


The wealth of birth in primitive populations is a natural phenomenon, the very existence of which no one thinks about, let alone its advantages or disadvantages. Where reasons for questioning the existence of life enter the human consciousness, life itself has already become questionable.


Who would have thought that history lessons and the political education of the people are one and the same?


When a nation rises up to fight for its freedom and honor, it is always a minority that inspires the masses.


Suddenly all those individuals who yesterday felt that “we” meant only their families, their professions, or perhaps their communities, become men of the nation. Their emotions and thought, their egos, that “something” within them, all are transformed: they have become historical.


There has never been a healthy economy without a strong political base, although the theory of materialism teaches quite the opposite.


Enthusiasm is a virtue for followers, a vice for leaders. Intelligence is more important than inspiration.


The great man lives in such a way that his existence is a sacrifice to his idea.


This is our task: to make as meaningful as possible this life that has been bestowed upon us, this reality with which fate has surrounded us; to live in such a way that we be proud of ourselves; to act in such a way that some part of us lives on.


The essence of religion is perhaps most clearly recognized in what it does not tolerate.


The highest virtues attainable are heroism and saintliness: great affirmation or great renunciation.


The hero is indifferent to death and the saint indifferent to life.


The Last Judgment is a beautiful idea. And if we do not believe in it, we should live in such a way that we could pass the test.


Happiness is unexpected, rare, unlikely, brief and blindly appreciated. The less men have brooded about the nature of happiness, or their right to is, the happier they have been.


Animals and primitive men are neither perverse nor licentious. Their Eros is in rhythmic harmony with the universe … Only civilization has made a problem of eroticism, converted it into unrestrained greed.


Life is wealthy enough to waste individuals. Countless seeds, embryos, and children perish, often the best ones. All that matters is that enough remain to keep the species from dying out.


The common man wants nothing of life but health, longevity, amusement, comfort – “happiness.” He who does not despise this should turn his eyes from world history, for it contains nothing of the sort. The best that history has created is great suffering.


In history it is not idealism, goodness or morality that reign – their kingdom is not of this world – but rather resolve, energy, presence of mind, and practical ability. One cannot erase the fact with laments and moral judgments. That is the way man is; that is the way life is; that is the way history is.


From The Journal of Historical Review, March-April 1998 (Vol. 17, No. 2), pages 8-9.