Lawrence Brown’s The Might of the West

Lawrence Brown's long-lost milestone in the Spenglerian tradition of historionomy is dug up and astutely reviewed by the Good Count.

Most if not all good Europeans of our time have read or at least are familiar with the cyclical, cultural-organic philosophy of history developed by Oswald Spengler in his masterpiece The Decline of the West. They will also probably know of Francis Yockey’s further development of this model in Imperium. Strangely though, this work we are discussing, The Might of the West, published in 1963 by another American Spenglerian, is little read and talked about today, despite having received a rave review by Virginia Kirkus when it was first published — indeed, this reviewer has been unable to ascertain whether or not the author, Lawrence Brown, is alive or deceased, nor any biographical information on him besides the brief mention on the book cover that Brown is a journalist and an engineer. Brown and his work do not deserve the obscurity which they have fallen into, and The Might of the West is well worth a read if you can find a rare copy of it.

Taking Spengler as his point of departure, Brown’s work focuses on the question “What makes the West special, sets it apart from other cultures, in other words what is the West’s soul?” His answer is that Western-ness is a worldview in which the universe is logical and orderly wherein all occurrences follow set laws and patterns that can be known and observed; and this worldview is what connects all of Western thought from mediaeval scholastic theology to modern physics. After having read Brown’s 550 pages of small-print text, I came to agree with his conclusion by following the sequence of his argument. His first chapter is a re-telling of the Spenglerian thesis — though dense, Brown’s writing style is typically American: to the point, professional and scientific. For those more accustomed to flowery German prose in which Spengler indulges, Brown’s style will come as somewhat of a relief in terms of clarity and comprehension. From this very first chapter, the reader will find it an easy matter to follow and grasp what the author is proposing.

In the second and third chapters, Brown explores the other 7 civilizations that preceeded the West (namely Egyptian, Assyrian-Babylonian, Indian, Chinese, Native-American, Greco-Roman and Levantine), showing their defining features and their utter alien-ness to the Western spirit. In regards to the Greco-Roman civilization, this might seem strikingly odd and counter-intuitive. However, Brown’s line of reasoning, following Spengler, is very persuasive: that this society which prised the immediate, the sensual, the pleasurable, the superficial, bears little in common with we whose values are forward-thinking, chaste, self-sacrificing and deep. It is in regard to the Levant that Brown is perhaps most controversial — he proposes that the Jews, Moslems, and Orthodox Christians form a common civilizational culture, sharing core values of fatalism, belief in magic, occult knowledge as the only means of understanding the universe, a coming end of the world, and religious belief as the determinant of nationality.

Brown takes some length to describe what he perceives as the original teachings of Jesus and places them in the context of this culture, to show that Jesus’s beliefs are not truly part of the West at all, but have been only a misunderstood veneer over our traditional rational thinking. Christians will understandably find this hard to bear. Likewise though, non-Christians may not like Brown’s description of how the Frankish peoples, in the process of creating what would become the West, over the course of the 5th through the 8th centuries transformed Levantine orthodoxy into what is now known as Roman Catholicism, a purely Western belief system that was the foundation of Western culture and identity until the Reformation. Even while seeing Catholicism ultimately as a failure due to its inability to combine successfully the thinking of the Western soul and Biblical tradition, Brown admires it — especially the philosophical attempts of St Thomas Aquinas to systematise all rational and Biblical knowledge into one logical philosophical system — and believes the Reformation was a decline and a break of the former religious unity of the West. Likewise the Renaissance, with its abandoning of the Western spirit for an imitation of the dead Greco-Roman tradition was also a decline. After having outlined what is Western and what is not, Brown ends his work rather abruptly by simply stating in a few sentences that the French Revolution, democracy, socialism and the build-up and results of the world wars are a result of Western man’s abandoning the Western soul. Since the rest of the book proceeded at a steady pace that kept up attention without sacrificing any facts, the ending was disappointing. The dust jacket states that Brown was intending to write a series of books, none of which was ever published after this one. It would be intriguing to know why Brown ceased his work after a spectacular start with The Might of the West, but for the time being at least, this reviewer will have to keep guessing.

All in all, The Might of the West is a very important read because it will serve as an aid for the modern Westerner, divorced from his heritage, to discover what his ancestors believed and thought and why the bright world they created a thousand years ago became the chaos it is today. Brown cannot be boxed into any of the categories of pseudo-philosophical, trash-mongering, political writings that exist today, which will make reading him with an objective mindset an enlightening, enriching and thought-provoking experience.

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