Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sparkling Spengler!

"Meet Mr. Spengler"
(Image for Asia Times Online)

His apercus, anyway. Take this one:
So much for the Americans of the left and the right: they do not know, and they cannot learn.
This one surfaces in his article that I linked to a few blog entries back. In that article, Spengler was decrying the lack of theological insight among both the critics and the defenders of Islam among non-Muslims on the right and the left (rather than the right and left generally).

But Spengler is particularly rough with the neoconservatives, perhaps because he feels closer to them:

Irving Kristol, the "godfather of neo-conservatism", once told me that he had wanted to learn German so that he might read Rosenzweig. If Kristol, the best (and perhaps the only really keen) mind among the neo-conservatives, had done so, we all might have been spared a great deal of embarrassment. As things stand, the United States is condemned to trample about the Middle East until sufficient grief and loss wake them up.
As one can infer from this snippet, Spengler doesn't have high hopes for American success in its attempt to democratize Iraq. From Franz Rosenzweig, Spengler seems to have drawn his own theological -- or better, soteriological -- insight about the role of jihad in Islam:

Western policy toward the Muslim world appears stupid and clumsy because its theological foundations are flawed. It is not what it is, nor what it was, but rather what it does that defines a religion: How does a faith address the paramount concern of human mortality, and what action does it require of its adherents? I addressed these issues under the title Jihad, the Lord's Supper, and eternal life (September 19), explaining that jihad does for Muslims precisely what Communion does for Christians. It is not a doctrine but a sacrament, that is, a holy act that transforms the actor.
I think that this remark about the sacramental nature of jihad for Muslims makes sense of its significance, and it's similar to a point that I made in some previous posts. Actually, Bin Laden made the point for me:

He [i.e., Muhammad] also said : "a martyr privileges are guaranteed by Allah; forgiveness with the first gush of his blood, he will be shown his seat in paradise, he will be decorated with the jewels of belief (Imaan), married off to the beautiful ones, protected from the test in the grave, assured security in the day of judgement, crowned with the crown of dignity, a ruby of which is better than this whole world (Duniah) and its' entire content, wedded to seventy two of the pure Houries (beautiful ones of Paradise) and his intercession on the behalf of seventy of his relatives will be accepted". Narrated by Ahmad and AtTirmithi (with the correct and trustworthy reference).
I followed that up with another post -- located here, for those who might be interested. The comments to both posts are worth perusing, particularly Erdal's, which are especially instructive due to his expertise on Islam.

Then, there is my post on Abu Yahya al-Libi, who states his view on the 'sacrament' of jihad:

"this form of worship [i.e. jihad] can only exist through the blood of those who sacrifice their souls for [Islam]..."
Why do many (or at least some) Muslims think like this about jihad? Spengler tells us to go to Rosenzweig for the answer:

[We] would do well to take a couple of days off with a copy of Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption.
Spengler (perhaps drawing upon Rosenzweig?) has a lot more to say about human sacrifice and salvation in an earlier article, "Jihad, the Lord's Supper, and eternal life":

Jihad also is a form of human sacrifice. He who serves Allah so faithfully as to die in the violent propagation of Islam goes straight to paradise, there to enjoy virgins....

We are too comfortable, too clean, too squeamish, too modern to descend into the terrible space where birth, death and immortality are decided. We forget that we cannot have eternal life unless we are ready to give up this one -- and this the Muslim knows only through what we should call the sacrament of jihad. Through jihad, the Muslim does almost precisely what the Christian does at the Lord's Supper. It is the sacrifice of Jesus that grants immortal life to all Christians, that is, those who become one with Jesus by eating his flesh and drinking his blood so that the sacrifice also is theirs....

Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross to give all men eternal life, on condition that they take part in his sacrifice, either through the physical communion of the Catholic Church or the empathetic Communion of Protestantism. From a Muslim vantage point, the extreme of divine humility embodied in Jesus' sacrifice is beyond reason. Allah, by contrast, deals with those who submit to him after the calculation of an earthly despot. He demands that all Muslims sacrifice themselves by becoming warriors and, if necessary, laying their lives down in the perpetual war against the enemies of Islam.
Pretty uncompromising views on Spengler's part. Spengler elsewhere acknowledges that not all Muslims think this way, but he does believe that Islam itself is essentially this -- and yes, he does believe in essences.

Spengler is sparkling, but is he right?



At 10:04 PM, Blogger Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

I love reading Spengler, but seldom agree with him.

Here's a link a commenter left on by blog today that asks, Who is Spengler?

At 4:22 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Iosue, I love reading him, too. His style is inimitable -- just the right balance of cynicism and ideals expressing with light irony and broad erudition a vision saved from being tragic by grace of being, apparently, Christian.

My impression is that he's drawn to Catholicism but is not quite Catholic. What's your opinion?

I've wondered who he really is, but there's something better about enjoying the mystery.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The writer of the linked Bin Laden biography is obviously a devout Muslim and great admirer:

"In Sudan, his business grew to a level even bigger than it ever was in the Middle East, as he began to assist the country in building its infrastructure. An assassination attempt was made on him in Sudan, but he escaped with minimal injuries - Alhamdulillaah."

I wouldn't exactly classify the linked text as an unauthorized biography.

"My impression is that he's drawn to Catholicism but is not quite Catholic. What's your opinion?

I've wondered who he really is, but there's something better about enjoying the mystery."

Since he avoided using the whole word Yahweh, I presumed he was an observant Jew. His writing seems to give equal weight to Judaism and Christianity in contrasting Judeo-Christianity, something Christians don't often do.

This sentence from the AT article sounds like it was written by a Jewish person who respects Christianity:

"What distinguishes Allah from YHWH and (in Christian belief) his son Jesus is love."

If he is indeed Christian (Protestant or Catholic), then perhaps he had a Jewish parent.

At 8:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"His writing seems to give equal weight to Judaism and Christianity in contrasting Judeo-Christianity, something Christians don't often do."

I left out a few key words. The corrected sentence appears below:

"His writing seems to give equal weight to Judaism and Christianity in contrasting Judeo-Christianity with Islam, something Christians don't often do.

At 9:08 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sonagi, did you find that link to the Bin Laden biography on my blog entry? I've searched fruitlessly for it.

Interestingly, I believe that I've read (in The Looming Tower) that Bin Laden's business fared poorly in Sudan and that he's not a very good businessman.

But I don't recall for certain.

Anyway, from a reading of his various articles, my impression is that 'Spengler' is some sort of Christian, but I'm not certain what sort.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

Yes, I also feel he's drawn to Catholicism, but at the same time he rejects its focus on teh "sensual" for lack of a better word. He seems classically Lutheran.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

He may indeed be Lutheran, given his familiarity with the German language and German scholarship, but he seems awfully postitive toward Judaism to be a strict Lutheran, for Lutheran doctrine has often emphasized grace to the exclusion of works -- and has thus had a somewhat negative view of "the Law" (misunderstanding Paul, in my opinion).

But what do I know...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The link is found in "made the point" as in "Bin Laden made the point..."

At 9:53 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Sonagi. Now, I see what you're referring to.

The article praising Bin Laden is included among the readings on Islam collected by John C. Lamoreaux for his course at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas. Lamoreaux didn't write it, just used it as an example -- of Islamist thought, I presume.

The biographical portion of the text does not state who wrote it, but it serves as introduction to Bin Laden's Declaration of War.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


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