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33

 

burned the Library and killed the ancient civilization." (T. Mommsen: The Provinces of the Roman Empire.—London, 1909, Vol. II, p. 271).

 

The chapter on "Knowledge and Imagination"—an explanatory communication from Meher Baba—is most illuminating and the book, though suffering from an overdose of quotes, has a great merit in the aptly chosen title, which immediately draws the attention of the reader to the challenges of our changing and ominous times. The author says justly that "if we want to prevent global destruction . . . there must be one world, or none."

 

Yes, indeed! Order or chaos? This question has preoccupied many a great mind for several generations. Already in 1840, Kierkegaard, a Danish philosopher, prophesied "the total bankruptcy" towards which Europe was heading. And so did Nietzsche, who foresaw many dangers threatening the 20th Century.

 

In his voluminous work, the great Russian writer, Dostoyevsky, deplored the disintegration of the Western culture and saw the only cure in "pan-humanity"—a new supreme, universal understanding which would transcend all the discords and tragedies of life.

 

Another original thinker and writer, Constantine Leontyev, completely unknown abroad, propounded the theory of the wave-cycles of cultures and civilizations. A culture, he said, is a period of a rich and complex process of florescence, developed from primary simplicity. When the time of bloom is over, it is transformed into civilization, which is the period of drab uniformity, in other words, of senility and death. In the leveling tendencies of the 19th Century he saw the death of the spirit, of the creative power so vastly different from the Europe of the Renaissance of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, from the Europe of the Middle Ages with its religious ecstasy forever caught in the Gothic cathedrals, its troubadours, its traditions of chivalry. And he spoke with dismay of the "noisy, rattling train of the West" speeding into the abyss.

 

Every period of history is marked by a distinctive character—the Germans call it Zeitgeist —the spirit of the time—when certain ideas seem to float in the air and register in the minds of those who, so to say, are attuned to the same wavelength. Thus in 1912, 27 years after Constantine Leontyev, a young man, an obscure teacher in Bavaria, wrote a book which determined his fame at once. The name of the young man was Oswald Spengler, the

 

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