Farewell to European History; Or, the Conquest of Nihilism

Farewell to European History; Or, the Conquest of Nihilism

Farewell to European History; Or, the Conquest of Nihilism

Farewell to European History; Or, the Conquest of Nihilism

Excerpt

For anyone endowed with historical perspective it must be clear that the catastrophe we have lived through and are still living through sets us at the end of History as we know it, that is to say, history as moulded by the civilization of the West.

As has been explained in my Kulturgeschichte als Kultursoziologie, ever since the scientific and technological discoveries of modern times we have been living no longer on our dear, familiar old earth of wide-open spaces and infinite variety, but on a new star which in some remarkable manner combines the old geometrical extension with foreshortenings and shrinkings and permanent world-contacts, thus completely altering all life upon it. Formerly we used to hear some six months after the event, that "they were having a war far away in Turkey"; now, every day, we are immediately involved by ear in the struggles of nations for power, their world-spanning battles, their plans and actions, all in running tempo. Everything that is done, no matter where, is served up to us piping hot a moment later wherever we may happen to be, as though it were going on in the same town, almost in the same room. In short, we live in a world made great and small at once by the conquest of space.

Similarly, it was one thing to take the brave harmonies, the colours, the worlds of heat and energy, the physics and chemistry of an earlier day with their far-ranging influence, naively and innocently as the only things that mattered in the practical business of life. But it is quite another to know, as scientists first and then as laymen, that these things are only an infinitesimal part of the countless forces flashing through the immensity of the cosmos, ourselves living in their radiant energy and making use of it--factors in the form of rays, waves, quanta perpetually changing into sound, heat and light, into invisible acoustic and optical phantoms which can pierce and see through every cloud, every barrier, and put us in touch with hitherto unsuspected correspondences in the universe. We now know that the "solid matter" we come up against is nothing less than a mask, a continual disguising of energy, inaccessible to us in its very nature and hiding from us all the mysterious electric, magnetic, radio-

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