The ethos of the West has been described as Faustian, and to understand the West and its future, it is important to understand why it is called the Faustian civilization.
Western civilization is affiliated to the Hellenic: From the Greeks derive, as Nietzsche, Heidegger and many others have realized, the values which created and gave inspiration to our civilization. The legal system, for instance, derives from Roman Law whose own inspiration was the Greeks. In art, the debt is even clearer: For example, the Renaissance in Europe was Hellenic in character and it is no coincidence that artists like Raphael (1483-1520) captured the classical splendour of the body in painting just as Michelangelo (1475-1564) did in sculpture.
Western art at its best is classical insofar as it represents that physical splendour, that purity and nobility associated with the Greeks. Yet this is not to say that the ethos or spirit of the West is a copy, an imitation of the Hellenic. Far from it. For the spirit of the West makes itself most manifest in two areas-indeed, one can go so far as to say that these two areas identify the ethos of the West. They are science, and practical application of science as technology.
Western science is essentially the search for truth, and its method lies in finding ways of discovering that truth by observing the patterns and processes of Nature. Thus, for science, truth is what is observed, not what is presupposed or assumed by belief, as in religion. In this respect for facts lies, perhaps, the greatest liberation any civilization has ever known.
Technology rests on science-and science as we know it in the West depends for its existence on a certain political freedom. Only when the West, through people like Galileo, broke the dogmatic chains of the Church was free experiment, and thus science, possible. Science, with its emphasis on experiment and fact, freed the Western civilizations from superstition and tyranny of ideas, and it is no coincidence that the greatest achievements of science occurred when the dogmatic authority of the Church no longer rules men's lives.
The search for truth which created modern science derives, however, from another trait perculiar to the West: The desire for exploration. Western civilization is characterized by this desire for exploration. Other civilizations have conquered, for power or wealth, but no other civilization, except our own, has explored the world (and latterly the planets and space itself) purely out of curiosity. This burning desire to know what is over the sea, and under it, this energy is, above everything else, the ethos of the West.
No other civilization has produced men who climbed the highest mountain just "Because it is there;" no other civilization has produced men who sailed across great oceans just to see what was on the other side, and no other civilization has produced men who ran, swam, climbed, cycled, or walked over a measured distance as fast as they could just to see if they could do it.
But perhaps the greatest and surely the most notable expression of this truly Faustian will-to-knowledge is space-travel, particularly the manned flights to the moon. Space-travel exemplifies the West as nothing else-not art, not even science itself can, because space-travel successfully combines the three elements that are so ineluctably Western: Science, technology, and the desire to know.
If we need a symbol to represent our Western civilization-to-express its quintessence-it is the spacecraft.
- From "Vindex: The Destiny of the West" by D. Myatt