Spengler on Spain

9 posts

Crush The Demoniac

Between the birth dates of these two peoples [Italy & France] came Spain’s outstanding century, dating from the Sack of Rome (1527), when the Spanish spirit conquered the spirit of the Renaissance, to the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), when Spain was finally forced to yield to France. [6] This episode marked the last grand flourishing of the Gothic principle. The Castilian grandee is the last of the feudal knights (Don Quixote, the Spanish Faust!). The Society of Jesus is the final, indeed the only, great institution since the knightly orders established as a weapon against the infidels. The empire founded by the Spanish Habsburgs was the realization of the Hohenstaufen ideal, just as the Council of Trent realized the ideal of the papacy.

With the advent of the Spanish-Gothic spirit of the Baroque, a severe and impressive style of living spread throughout the Western European world. The Spaniard sensed within himself a great mission—not an "ego" but an "id." He was either a soldier or a priest. He served either God or his king. In fact, it was not until the rise of Prussia that such a stringent and submissive ideal was again embraced. Prussians ought to have recognized familiar traits of character in the Duke of Alba, the man with an incomparable sense of duty. The Spanish and the Prussians are the only peoples who rose up against Napoleon. What we call the modern state was created in the Escorial. All the techniques of modern statesmanship had their origin in Madrid: national and dynastic politics on the grand scale, cabinet diplomacy, the use of war as a deliberate and calculated move in the intricate chess game of grand strategy. Bismarck was the last of the Spanish-style statesmen.

In Florence and Paris, border disputes sufficed to satisfy the urge for conquest. Leibniz once suggested to Louis XIV that he overrun Egypt—and the King refused. Columbus sought aid for his expedition in both cities—in vain. Since that time Italian and French political thought has centered on such matters as subduing Pisa, securing the Rhine border, reducing the neighboring country’s territory, and humiliating the enemy. How different these petty concerns are from those of imperial Spain! The Spanish spirit was out to conquer the earth and establish an empire that would never see the setting sun. We need only compare the Spanish conquistadores with the condottieri in Italy. It was the Spaniards who first made the entire globe the object of Western-European political planning. Italy itself became a Spanish province. And it is important to understand the spiritual conflict that led to the Sack of Rome: this action put an end to the Renaissance Church. The Spanish-Gothic mentality, which holds sway even today in the Vatican, rose up at that time against the Renaissance Church and the closely related Reformation churches. Since then the idea of world domination have never been put aside. From that moment on, the spirit of the Italian and French peoples has remained hostile to the Church, though less as a religion institution than as the embodiment of the Spanish concept of universal hegemony. This explains the "Gallic" religious policy pursued by the French kings, by the Revolution, by Napoleon, as well as the anti-clerical attitude of the Italian monarchy. The Church, however, found support in Madrid and Vienna.


The English Peace of Fontainebleau and the Prussian Peace of Hubertusberg, both signed in 1763, brought France’s great century to a close. With a decline of the Latins, the control of Western Europe’s destiny passed into the hands of the Germanic peoples. The birth of the modern English nation occurred in the seventeenth, that of the Prussian nation in the eighteenth century. They are the youngest and the last of the Western peoples. Freshly created from unspoiled humanity, they possess the Faustian will to power and infinity in its purest, most vital form. Compared with them, France and Italy seem small indeed, and their epochs of political success appears as mere interludes in a great historical drama. Only the Spanish, the English, and the Prussians have given European civilization universal ideas: ultramontanism, capitalism, and socialism in a higher sense than the one implied by the word as it is used today.

Niccolo and Donkey
I've said this before. Don Quixote is not the spanish Faust. Don Quixote is a character created by a jew with the purpose of mocking idealism, religion, and tradition. The Quixote is a book about the impossibility of heroism.
President Camacho
But Quixote represents the endless striving towards the unattainable, the desire to grapple with and mold the world in his own image that is characteristic of Faustian man... of course it's presented in a cynical way, but that's part of the genius. That's why it's not only the first "novel" but also the first truly modern comedy, IMO.

You have convinced me.

I can see that reading but it's not mine. Don Quixote is a mediaeval man misplaced in early modernity; he is in this sense a cipher for every traditionalist/conservative/nostalgist. It is about the impossibility of heroism, but in a mournful sense: the impossibility of mediaeval heroism, romance and chivalry in the more cynical culture of the early modern world. From this point of view, Quixote is not an inherently ridiculous character, but only a man out of time.

You can make that reading, but it's clearly not Cervantes'. He fucking hates the Quixote's guts.

Come on, people, it's a book against tradition. It couldn't be clearer. Heroism is portrayed as something ridiculous!

Bob Dylan Roof

DQ is wonderful, but I agree with Cornelio. There's a theory that Francis Bacon is the real author of DQ because of the book's hostile and potentially atheistic subtext, and because the book echoes the English view of Spain at the time. Indeed, the book literally amounts to an obloquy against a dissolute and atavistic Spain.

Additionally, the jewish literary critic Eric Auerbach offers up a philosophical interpretation of the book consonant with Cornelio's reading, which describes the essentially Cartesian (modern-rationalist) psychology of the novel separating the certainty of existence from reality and impugning the authority of books -- a stab at the legitimacy of the Word. The same new psychology crops up in Shakespeare, particularly in Hamlet with the appearance of the ghost, which supports the heterodox theory that Bacon also authored many of the texts attributed to Shakespeare.

I don't see how could Cervantes have created such an obviously sympathetic character - and written about him at such length - if he hated him.

To view the work as a tragedy derived from the conflict between individual heroism and a mocking world is not an uncommon critical reading. I think it's a very shallow reading that just snickers along with all the jokes at DQ's expense, and assumes the author intended the protagonist as a laughing stock. I suspect the author expected the perceptive reader to go just a little deeper, and enquire as to why it is that noble ideals are made to appear ridiculous.

And the Jew thing is most likely spurious, not that it really matters. If it's about a noble soul who is mocked by the world, well, that's a Jewish theme that finds its fullest expression in Christianity.