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In the final act of Faust Part II, the eponymous protagonist confronts the sinister but thoroughly modern spectre of Care (Sorge). She curses him with the loss of his sight: “Throughout its whole existence your human race is blind — now, Faustus, it’s your turn at last.” The magus of the Enlightenment is literally blinded, but clings on to his bright prospect of a new “Eden”. (We should note that this reference to the Garden of Paradise in Genesis is another Biblical metaphor.) Faust’s Eden is a cosmopolitan, capitalist, feminist utopia that has much in common with the bourgeois liberal society, freed from tyranny, bigotry and poverty, that Goethe saw emerging in England and to a lesser extent France at the end of his life. In the final scene, this consummation of Faust’s secular paradise receives a kind of divine blessing from the Mater Gloriosa, a matriarchal manifestation of the “eternal feminine”. The Goethean Faust offers a compelling, though mystical, vision of the destiny of the West, one that incidentally embraces the emerging liberal international order as an integral part of the future of mankind. Yet the curse of blindness is never lifted: humanity is not only weighed down by doubt and despair, but doomed to blunder about in the dark, making the same errors with catastrophic results.

Faust is only one of a number of ancient and modern myths that define man’s struggle to transcend his mortality, from Prometheus to Frankenstein, from Don Quixote to Don Giovanni, from the grand narratives of Marx and Freud to the Brave New World of artificial intelligence and transhumanism. The West is not so much a place as a predicament: humanity’s inescapable and inextinguishable need to imitate the Creator, by remaking nature in our own image. Yet in our ambition to transform our world from a purgatory into a paradise, we sometimes create a hell on earth. The last great retelling of Faust, by Thomas Mann, uses the myth as a metaphor for the tragedy by which high German culture, one of the glories of Western civilisation, came to succumb to the Nazis. This was a Faust story that ended on a far darker note than Goethe’s. The wilful blindness of the German elites to their own and their continent’s impending destruction, was caught by Mann’s narrator, Serenus Zeitblom, who depicts Germany “dragged down by demons, covering one eye and staring into the horror with the other, from despair to desperation”. Some had indeed foreseen Europe’s catastrophe; but many more had been willing to lead it into temptation, and none delivered the Jews from evil.

Since 1945, the fate of the West has rested primarily in American hands, for which the guardians of global peace have been rewarded by their allies with little gratitude and even less solidarity. The West is, however, much more than an alliance. It is a civilisation. What do I mean by this? A community of free nation states, bound together by much more than interests and insecurities common to all, the West is also the culmination of aeons of shared endeavour, and the site of collective memories reaching back deep into the origins of human society. Western civilisation is the cathedral of historical consciousness, the temple of time past and time future, the destination of a journey that began in the land we still call holy, with Abraham and Moses. The Bible, in both its Jewish and Christian versions, is both the repository and summation of this civilisation; its stories still speak to us across the ages in a way that no myth or epic can.

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Eliahu Nov PhD
October 13th, 2017
5:10 AM
Ihave just finished your breath taking article 'The Fate of the West' (Hebrew version, Keren Tiqwa's 'Hashiloach' periodical). Actually, during the years (I am 74) I thought and talked along the same patterns that your article outlined. Your article only enabled me to formulate my beliefs more clearly ond orderly. However, in the present ultimate worldwide havoc situation we now need it is NOT suffice to only publish paperes and essays but to take ACTIVE steps to outline VALID PRACTICAL strategies to turn the clumsy ship to a better direction ie establishing/ organising an INTERNATIONL 'new masons'movementto fight, reveal and conquer the strongholds of both distructive powers in both extremes you elaborated in your article. Real measures must be taken to save the planet . ALL aspects (philosophical, communication, hard & soft scientific , networks, literate etc etc tools) must be discussed and published . Prominent Politicians and proffessionals must be reqruited to lift the flag of 'Re-enlightment' .

August 6th, 2017
11:08 AM
Articulate and compelling. Guarantees to Israel from Europe won't suffice. For every John 23 there is a Pius 12, even today. The ability to be an Anti-smite while occupying the moral high ground is just too attractive to many of today's Christian Europeans. Though they endanger themselves, theirs is the cry of Samson "let me die along with the Philistines". My hope is that reasonable views, such as yours, will prevail in the never ending struggle.

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