An excerpt from, “The Meaning of History: Reflections on Spengler, Toynbee, and Kant” (PDF) By Henry Kissinger, Harvard, 1950, Pg. 26 – 28:
Yet out of this unfolding of seeming inevitability, there appears to emerge a feeling of humility, a recognition by man of his limits. “Know thyself” – was the motto of the oracle of Delphi. This was not meant psycho-analytically but implied: “Know that you are a man and not God.” From the acceptance of limits derives the feeling of reverence which sees history not merely as an ordeal, or mankind as a tool but as a deep fulfillment. This feeling of humility, this acknowledgment that one is Man and not God, has as its full implication the concept of tolerance, the very basis for the dignity of the moral personality of the individual.
And yet a last dilemma emerges. Even though our contemplation of history may yield as its deepest meaning a feeling of limits as the basis of the ultimate moral personality of man, we are still faced with the fact that no civilization has yet been permanent, no longing completely fulfilled, no answer ever gone unchallenged. It is a difficult question and one must not reply dogmatically.
It is not easy to define what degree of permanence what hope of apocalyptic fulfillment a value or an attitude requires. Perhaps the experience of living offers a clue. We know we must die and yet live with a sense of eternity. We can never prove that our action, even a second ago, was really freely willed and yet entertain no doubt of our freedom as each new situation arises. Despite the limits of our life, we know that our actions are irrevocable and that even inactivity posits an absolute relation. We can live this dilemma only by a measure of acceptance and despite the knowledge of the transitoriness of our lot, with a mode of permanence.
This acceptance is not a kismetic resignation but an active recognition of limits, which enables man to face and transcend the majesty of the flow of history and the directness of life. This is the profounder meaning of Goethe’s poem that Spengler chose as the theme of his philosophy:
In the Endless, self-repeating
flows for evermore the same.
Myriad arches, springing, meeting,
hold at rest the mighty frame.
Streams from all things love of living,
grandest star and humblest clod.
All the straining, all the striving
is eternal peace in God.
Video Title: Henry Kissinger: Passing of a Global Elite Architect – Jay Dyer. Source: Jay Dyer. Date Published: December 3, 2023.
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