*This is a reproduction of something I posted at the Phora sometime ago. I maintain to this day that if one has not read Spengler, one cannot truly understand history. His was truly exceptional work.*
Der Untergang Des Abendlandes presents what may be the definitive conception of history. In his vision, history is not linear or progressive. Instead he argues that there is a form of life, the High Culture, whose births, lives, and deaths form the cycles of history. Some are separated in space, others are separated in time, but the development of each and every one shares the same process and measure. From their first stirrings to their completions, they span about a thousand years, to end in "civilisation", during which they stagnate, wither, and eventually, disappear.
He tallied eight in all: the Babylonian, the Egyptian, the Chinese, the Indian, the Apollonian, or Classical, the Magian, under which we find the Arabian, the Mexican, with her Aztecs, and, at last, the Faustian, which is ours, and was the only one still in the process of completion in the time of Spengler.
Every one of these cultures has a soul which is expressed in its religion, art, philosophy, science and even politics. For Western Europe, to give an example, the soul is "Faustian", and its image is infinite space, hence perspective painting, differential geometry, Gothic architecture, contrapuntal music, Shakespearean tragedy, Romantic poetry, evolutionary biology, limitless capitalism, space exploration, and so forth. Unfortunately, it also gave rise to the nonsense of absolute and universal progress, and, conversely, the lack of it.
I suppose it is true that this vision is speculative, as Roland says, but it's very compelling in light of the evidence available.