The Decline of Western Civilization

Raphael, “The School of Athens”, 1509-1511.
It is no longer a secret, that, Western ciavilization considered as a corporate body, is experiencing a crisis, in fact, a profound malaise. The matter to be resolved, is whether, the civilization that has arisen out of the Old World, the continent of Europe, is in actual decline. Some cite the moral apathy as a symptom of its problem, others its religious apostasy, others again, the crisis of ideology, of ideas. But if one were to look deeper, it would be possible to consider the problem from the point of view of culture; from this perspective, it is properly, a problem of life, of how to reconcile life with art, and nature with art and religion. The great British Catholic historian of culture, Christopher Dawson, argued that, it is possible for a culture to realize technical progress, while at the same time, experiencing a certain cultural decline. The chief symptom of the crisis, then, resides in the regulation of time, and of how, to reconcile human life, with the rhythm of nature. Here, the contrast stands clear, as the Western way of life is eminently artificial, logical, and calculating. The problem that modern man faces, is of how to create a culture that is warm, artistic, and natural. Only by the reconciliation between naturalism and metaphysics, and nature and art, is it possible to ease the neurosis of modern life, the character of an urban culture that tends to increasingly sever its veins to the past and of the patrimony of wisdom of humanity, forming an amorphous society, a Communist one in fact, where the human person disappears behind a number and is merely a consumer in the economy of the totalitarian State.
As such, the modern problem is inherently a Western problem, since it is from its mainspring, that, the modern world has taken its impetus for its enterprise of human development and its technological domination of the natural world. It can be argued, that, Western civilization is reaching the end of its culture cycle, and is soon to be replaced by the preponderance of the Far East in a multi-polar globalism. But the question is not whether the civilization is in decline, for the Western ideal can ultimately be referred to an eternal ideal, a faith in humanism, truth, and nature and the corresponding possibilities latent to realize temporal progress. The question, to assess the cultural life of Western civilization, is whether Western culture, is alive, whether it partakes of vital life, of whether it incorporates the human creature into the artistic life of civilization, converting the homo sapiens into a person that has dignity and spiritual value, and whose spiritual dimension is respected as a transcendent aspect of the human nature. A culture succeeds, to the degree that it makes life worth while, to the extent that it is able to ease the tension of life. For all its high level of civilization and development, it cannot be put to silence the fact that there exists a certain dissatisfaction with modern life, evident in fact, in the self-destructive attitude of private interest and in fact, the general malaise of preponderant drug use, a reflection in that regard, of the absence of spiritual life that is the character of modern life. For all its unprogressive character, medieval life succeeded in its fusion of faith with life, in its capacity to granting a certain purpose to human life, society was conceived, as an incarnation of a more permanent spiritual reality, of an eternal society, the City of God, that transcended the possibilities of nature and infused purpose into human history. It is this incarnational aspect, that is sorely lacking in the modern conception of life. It can be stated, quite certainly, the neurosis of modern life, its stress, derives from the separation of nature from life; in the erection of the artificial life, the mechanistic society emerges where naturalism increasingly empties history of its purpose and metaphysics of its reality.
The programme of the Renaissance of culture, thus, centers on the spiritual re-discovery of nature, possible only in the union between science and religious wisdom, in the collaboration between naturalism and metaphysics, in the reconciliation between nature and art. In this concert of reality, this theatre of life, the school of Christianity figures as a real force for humanism, for the edification of a culture that respects the whole of man, and the ecology of nature. Christianity, places man as the head of Creation, and reveals nature as a book, a sacramental, that reflects the “invisible attributes” of God (Romans 1:20). The Western dilemma, is a human problem, that demands novel creative thinking, a ressourcement of human imagination and a renewed appreciation for nature colored with a religious outlook, demanding in fact, a need to look past our disaffection for religion. It can be stated in the affirmative, that, Western civilization is near the term of its culture life cycle, though, history appears at the mercy of mysterious powers that direct temporal life, presenting the opportunity for novelty and cultural change. The adoption of nature as the rhythm of social life, of culture, offers the opportunity to revitalize culture, forming a work of art, for that fact.

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