A lecture given in Nuremberg, December 2nd, 1907. Translated from a shorthand report unrevised by the lecturer and published by kind permission of Frau Marie Steiner. In German, Die okkulte Wahrheiten alter Mythen und Sagen. All rights reserved by the Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, Dornach, Switzerland.
Thanks to an anonymous donation, this lecture has been made available.
Richard Wagner and Mysticism
By RUDOLF STEINER
A lecture given in Nuremberg, December 2nd, 1907. Translated from a shorthand report unrevised by the lecturer and published by kind permission of Frau Marie Steiner. All rights reserved by the Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, Dornach, Switzerland.
It is not the aim of Spiritual Science merely to satisfy curiosity or a greed for knowledge but to be a spiritual impulse penetrating deeply into the culture of the present and immediate future. It will begin to dawn upon us that this is indeed the mission of Spiritual Science when we realise that its impulse has already made itself felt in the form either of clear or vague premonitions, in various domains of modern life. To-day we shall consider how an impulse akin to that of Spiritual Science lived in one of the greatest artists of our time. In speaking of Richard Wagner, I certainly do not mean to imply that he was fully conscious of this impulse. It is so meaningless when people say: You tell us all kinds of things about Richard Wagner, but we could prove to you that he never thought of them in connection with himself. Such an objection is so patent that even those who think as we do could raise it. I am not suggesting for a moment that the impulse of which we shall speak lived in Richard Wagner in the form of definite ideas. Whether or not one is justified in speaking of it, is quite another matter. Detailed evidence in support of this point would lead us too far, but a comparison will show that our method of approach is fully justified. Does a botanist not think about a plant and try to discover the laws underlying its growth and life? Is not this the very thing that helps him to understand its nature? And will anyone deny him the right to speak about the plant from this aspect just because the plant itself is not conscious of these laws? There is no need to reiterate the generalisation that an artist creates unconsciously. The point at issue is that the laws which help us to understand the achievements of an artist need not be consciously realised by him any more than the laws of growth are consciously realised by the plant. I say this at the outset in order to clear away the above-mentioned objection.
Another stumbling-block which may crop up now-a-days, is connected with the word Mysticism itself. Quite recently it happened that somebody used the word among a small group of people, whereupon a would-be learned gentleman remarked: Goethe was really a Mystic, for he admitted that very much remains obscure and nebulous in the sphere of human knowledge. He showed by this remark that he associated Mysticism with all ideas about which there is something nebulous and vague. But true Mystics have never done this. Precisely to-day we hear it said in academic circles: To such and such a point clear cognition can attain; from that point onwards, however, we grope blindly among the secrets of Nature with vague feelings, and Mysticism begins. But the opposite is the case! The true Mystic enters a world of the greatest possible clarity a world where ideas shine into the depths of existence with a light as radiant and clear as that of the sun. And when people speak of obscure feelings and premonitions this simply means that they have never taken the trouble to understand the nature of Mysticism. In the first centuries of Christendom the word Mathesis was not used because this kind of experience was thought to be akin to mathematics but because it was known that the ideas and conceptions of a Mystic can be as lucid and clear as mathematical concepts. Men must have patience to find their bearings in the domain of true Mysticism, and it is purely in this sense that the word will be used here in connection with the name of Richard Wagner.
And now let us speak of what is really the fundamental conviction of everyone who is a true student of Spiritual Science. It is that behind the physical world of sense there is an invisible world into which man can penetrate. This, too, is the attitude of Mysticism. Did Wagner himself ever express this conviction? Most certainly he did! And the significant thing is that he expressed it from the musician's point of view, indicating thereby that to him music or art was far more than a mere adjunct to existence, was indeed the most essential element of life. He speaks in a wonderful way about symphonic music. He regarded symphonic music as a veritable revelation from another world, a revelation by which the threads of existence are elucidated far better than by logic. And from his own experience he knew that the convictions which arise in a man when he listens to the speech of symphonic music are so firmly rooted in his being that no intellectual judgment can prevail against them. Such words as these were not uttered at random; they were indications of a deep and profound theory of knowledge.
And now let us see whether we can explain these words of Wagner in the light of the conviction that is characteristic of Mysticism. Again and again we find Mystics describing the nature and mode of their knowledge in definite terms. They say: In the act of knowledge, man uses his intellect when he endeavours to understand the laws of the natural and spiritual worlds. But there is a higher mode of knowledge. Indeed, the true Mystic realises that this higher kind of knowledge is much more reliable than any intellectual judgment. Curiously enough it is invariably characterised by an image which is, however, more than an image. Those who really know what they are talking about, speak of music. The Music of the Spheres spoken of in the old Pythagorean Schools was no mere figure of speech, in spite of what superficial philosophy may say. The Music of the Spheres is a reality, for there is a region of the spiritual world in which its melodies and tones can be heard. We are surrounded by worlds of spirit, just as a blind man is surrounded by the world of colour which he does not see. But if a successful operation is performed upon his eyes, colour and light are revealed to him. It is possible for the faculty of spiritual sight to awaken in a man. When his higher senses open, the higher world will emerge out of the darkness. To the surrounding spiritual world that lies near us, we give the name of the astral world, or world of light, while a higher, purely spiritual world is designated as that of the Music of the Spheres. It is a real world into which man can enter through a higher birth. Initiates speak openly of this world. We are reminded here of certain words of Goethe, albeit they are generally thought to be mere fantasy. Indeed our interpretation of these words will be put down as inartistic because of the current opinion that so far as intelligence and reason are concerned, a poet must necessarily be vague and indefinite. But a poet as great as Goethe does not use phrases; and if there were no deeper underlying truth, he would be using a phrase when he writes:
The sun with many a sister-sphere
These words are either an indication of deeper truth or mere phraseology, for the physical sun does not sing. It is unthinkable that a poet with Goethe's deep insight would use such an image without reason. As an Initiate, Goethe knew that there is indeed a world of spiritual sound and he retains the image.
To Richard Wagner the tones of outer music were an expression, a revelation of an inner music, of spiritual sounds and harmonies which pervade the created universe. He felt the reality of this music and stated it in words. On another occasion he said something similar in connection with instrumental music (Eine Pilgerfahrt zu Beethoven): The primal organs of creation and of nature are represented in the instruments. What these instruments express can never be defined in clear, hard-and-fast terms, for once again they convey to us those archetypal moods arising from chaos in the first days of creation, when as yet there was no human being to receive them into his heart.
Such words must not be analysed by the intellect. We should rather try to live into their mood and atmosphere and then we shall begin to realise how deeply Wagner's soul was steeped in Mysticism. To a certain extent Wagner was aware of his particular mission in art. He was not one of those artists who think they must out with everything that happens to be living in their soul. He wanted to realise his destined place in evolution and he looked back to a far remote past when as yet art had not divided into separate branches.
Here we reach a point which was constantly in Richard Wagner's mind when he realised his mission, a point too, upon which Nietzsche meditated deeply, and tried to characterise in The Birth of Tragedy. We shall not, however, go into what Nietzsche says, because we are here concerned with Mysticism as such, and Mysticism can tell us more about Richard Wagner than Nietzsche was able to do. The study of Mysticism carries us back to very early stages in the evolution of humanity to the Mysteries. What were the Mysteries?
Among all the ancient peoples there were Mystery-centres. These centres were temples as well as institutes of learning and they existed in Egypt, Chaldea, Greece and many other regions. As centres alike of religion, science and art, they were the source of new impulses in the culture of the peoples.
And now let us briefly consider the nature of the Mysteries. What were the experiences of those to whom the hidden teachings were revealed after certain trials and tests had been undergone? They were able to realise the union of religion, art and science which in the course of later evolution were destined to separate into three domains. The great riddles of the universe were presented to those who were admitted to the rites enacted in the Mysteries. The rites and ceremonies were connected with the secrets of spiritual forces from higher worlds living in the minerals and plants, reaching a stage of greater perfection in the animal and finally to self-consciousness in the human being. The whole evolution of the World-Spirit was presented in the form of ritual to the eyes of the spectators. And what they saw with their eyes, they also heard with their ears. Wisdom was presented to them through colour, light and sound and to such men the laws of the universe were not the abstract conceptions they have become to-day. Cosmic laws were presented in a garb of beauty and art arose. Truth was expressed in the form of art, in such a way that men's hearts and souls were attuned to piety and devotion. External history knows nothing of these things and indeed repudiates them. But that matters not. Just as in the ancient Mysteries, religion, science and art were one, so were the arts which later on broke off along their several paths. Music and dramatic representation were part of one whole, and when Wagner looked back to primeval times he realised that although the arts had once been indissolubly united, they had been forced into divergence as a result of the inevitable course taken by evolution. He believed that the time had now come for a re-union of the arts, and with his great gifts set himself the task of bringing about this re-union in what he termed an all-comprehensive work of art. He felt that all true works of art are pervaded by a mood of sanctity and are therefore verily acts of religious worship. He felt too, that streams which had hitherto been separated were coming together in his spirit, there to give birth to his musical dramas. To him, there were two supreme artists: Shakespeare and Beethoven. He saw in Shakespeare the dramatist who, with marvellous inner certainty, staged human action as it unfolds in outer happenings. He saw in Beethoven the artist who was able to express with the same inner certainty experiences which arise in the depths of the heart but do not pass over into deed. And then he asked himself: Is this not evidence of a severance that has taken place in human nature in the course of the development of art? Man's inner and outer life is directed and controlled by himself; he is aware of desires and passions which rise up and die down again within him and he expresses in action what he feels and experiences in his inner being. But a cleft arose in art. Richard Wagner found passages in Shakespeare's plays which gave him the impression: There is something at this point which had perforce to remain unexpressed, for between this action and that action there is something in the human heart which acts as a mediator, something that cannot pass over into this kind of dramatic art. Again, when human feeling would fain express itself in a symphonic whole, it is doomed to inner congestion if a musician must limit himself to tones. In Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Wagner felt that the whole soul of the composer is pressing outwards and as it becomes articulate is striving to unite that which in human nature is in reality one and undivided but has been separated in art. Wagner felt that his own particular mission lay in this same direction, and out of this feeling was born his idea of a comprehensive work of art in which the inner life of a human being could express itself outwardly in action. That which cannot be expressed dramatically, must be contained in the music. That which the music cannot express must be contained in the drama. Richard Wagner was striving to synthesise the achievement of Shakespeare on the one side and of Beethoven on the other. This was the idea underlying all his work an idea that had arisen from profound insight into the mysteries of human nature. Herein he felt his call.
A way into the inner depths of human nature was thus opened up for art. Richard Wagner could not be a dramatist of everyday life, for he felt that it must once again be possible, as it was in the Mysteries, for the deepest and most sacred experiences to be expressed in art. When he tells us in his own words that symphonic music is a revelation of an unknown world, that the instruments represent primal organs of creation, we can well understand why in his musical dramas he feels it necessary to express much more than the physical part of man's being. Towering above this physical man is the higher man. This higher man surrounds the physical body like a halo and is much more deeply connected with the sources of life than can be expressed in outer life. It was just because Richard Wagner's aim was to give expression to the higher nature of the human being that he could not draw his characters from everyday life. And so he turned to the myths, for the myths portray Beings far greater than physical man can ever be. It is quite natural that Wagner's stage characters should be mythological figures, for he was thus able to express cosmic laws and the deeds of Beings belonging to an unknown world through the dramatic action and the music albeit in a form not always understood. I can only give a few examples here, for to enter into every detail would lead too far. But it is everywhere apparent that in the depths of his being, Richard Wagner was connected with the teachings of Spiritual Science.
Now what does Mysticism tell us with regard to the relation of one human being to another? To outer eyes, men stand there, side by side; in the physical world they work upon each other when they speak together or when one becomes dependent on another. But there are also much deeper relationships between them. The soul living in the one man has a deep, inner relationship with the soul living in the other. The laws manifested on the surface of things are the most unimportant of all. The deep laws which underlie the soul are spun from the one man to the other. Spiritual Science reveals these laws, and, as an artist, Richard Wagner recognised and knew of their existence. Therefore he uses themes in which he is able to show that laws far deeper than the outer eye can perceive are working between one character and another.
This urge to reveal the mysterious connections of life is apparent in one of Wagner's earliest works. Do we not feel that something is happening invisibly between the Dutchman and Senta, and are we not reminded of another mysterious influence in the medieval legend entitled Der arme Heinrich, when miracles of healing follow the sacrifice of a virgin? Such images as these are the expressions of truth deeper than the superficial doctrines of conventional erudition. There is a deep reality in a sacrifice made by one being for the sake of another. These mystic threads unfathomable by the superficial intellect express one aspect of the universal soul, albeit this universal soul must be thought of as a reality, not as a vague abstraction. Wagner is expressing a profound truth when he uses the image of one human being sacrificing himself for another.
I shall here repeat certain teachings of Spiritual Science which will help you to understand these things. We know that the world evolves and that in the course of its evolution certain beings are continually destined to be thrust down. There is a law of which we learn in Spiritual Science, namely, that every stage of higher evolution is connected with a fall. Later on, compensation is made, but for every saint, a sinner must arise. Strange as this may appear it is nevertheless true, because the necessary equilibrium has to be maintained. Every ascent involves a descent and this implies that at a later stage, the powers of the being who has ascended in evolution must be used for the redemption of the other. If there were no such co-operation between beings, there would be no evolution. Thus is the flux of evolution maintained. And a picture of one human being sacrificing himself for another reminds us of the mysterious link that is created by the ascent of the one and the descent of the other. Such truths can only be expressed with the greatest delicacy. Richard Wagner realised and understood the mysterious thread that binds soul to soul, and when we study the fundamental features of his works we find that the mystical life is the source of them all.
And now when we turn to his most famous work the Nibelung we shall see out of what depths of spiritual scientific wisdom it was created. But first we must consider certain things which are explained by Spiritual Science, however contradictory they may be of the views of modern science.
Our remote ancestors lived in a region lying to the West of Europe, between Africa and America. Science itself is gradually beginning to admit the existence of a continent there in the far past a continent to which we give the name of Atlantis. Atlantis was the home of our ancient forefathers whose form was very unlike our own. As I say, science is already beginning to speak of old Atlantis. An article on Atlantis appeared in a magazine entitled Kosmos, issued under the direction of Haeckel. True, it only spoke of animals and plants and omitted all mention of human beings, but Spiritual Science is able to speak with greater clarity of what natural science is only now beginning to surmise.
In old Atlantis, the atmosphere was quite different from the atmosphere around us to-day. There was no division of water and the sun's rays in the air. The air was permeated with vapours and clouds. Sun and moon were only seen through a rainbow-haze. Moreover man's life of soul was entirely different. He lived in a far more intimate relationship with Nature, with stone, plant and animal. Everything was immersed in cloud-masses. In very truth the Spirit of God brooded over the face of the waters! The wisdom that lived on among the descendants of the Atlanteans was possessed in abundance by the Atlanteans themselves. They understood all that was living in Nature around them; the rippling brooks were not inarticulate but the actual expression of Nature's wisdom. Wisdom streamed into the men of Atlantis from everything in their environment, for those ancient forefathers of ours were possessed of dull, instinctive clairvoyance. Instead of objects in space, colour-phenomena arose before them. They were endowed with clairvoyant powers. Wisdom was there in the mists and clouds and they perceived it with these powers. Such things can, of course, only be indicated here in the briefest outline. As evolution proceeded, the mists condensed into water, the air grew clearer and clearer, and man began, very gradually, to develop the kind of consciousness he has to-day. He was shut off from outer Nature and became a self-contained being. When all men live in close connection with Nature, wisdom is uniform among them, for they live and breathe in a sphere of wisdom. This gives rise to brotherhood, for each man perceives the same wisdom, each man lives in the soul of the other. When the cloud-masses condensed into water, man emerged with the beginnings of Ego-consciousness; the central core of his being was felt to lie within himself, and, when he met another Ego-being, he began to make claims on him. Brotherhood gave way to the struggle for existence.
Legends and myths are not the phantasies they are said to be by erudite professors. What are legends and myths, in reality? They represent the last echo of the ancient clairvoyant experiences of men. It is nonsense to say that the myths are merely records of struggles between one people and another. Learned professors speak of the poetic folk-phantasy, but it is they who are indulging in phantasy when they say that the Gods were simply poetical allusions to clouds. That is the kind of nonsense we are expected to believe! But even nowadays it is quite easy to understand the real origin of myths. The legend of the Noonday Woman is still familiar in many regions. This legend is to the effect that when labourers stay out in the fields at noon and fall asleep instead of returning to their homes, a figure of a woman appears and puts a question to them. If they cannot answer within a given time, the woman slays them. This is obviously a dream which comes to a man because he is sleeping out of doors with the full heat of the sun pouring down upon him. Dreams are the last vestige of ancient clairvoyant consciousness. The example given indicates that legends do indeed originate from dreams. And the same is true of the Germanic myths. For the most part these are myths which originated among the last stragglers of the Atlanteans. The old Germanic peoples looked back to the ages when their forefathers lived away yonder in the West and wandered towards the East in the times when the mists of Atlantis (Nebel-land) were condensing and giving rise to the floods now spoken of as the Deluge, when the air was becoming pure and clear and waking consciousness beginning to develop. The ancient Germanic peoples looked back to the Land of Mists, to Nifelheim. They knew that they had left Nifelheim and had passed into a different world, but they also knew that certain Spiritual Beings had remained behind at the spiritual level of those times. And they said that such Beings had retained the characteristics and qualities of Nifelheim while sending their influences down into a later age, that they were Spirits because they did not live a physical existence.
We can never understand such marvellous interweavings by reference to pedantic text-books. We must rather have an eye to the interweaving of phantasy and clairvoyant faculties, of legend and myth. Nor should we divest these ancient legends of the magic dew upon them.
The ancient Germanic peoples looked back to the time when the mists of Nifelheim were condensing, and they conceived the idea that the water from these same mists was now contained in the rivers in the North of Central Europe. It seemed to them that the waters of the Rhine had flowed out of the mists of old Atlantis. In those ancient times wisdom came to men from the rippling of brooks and the gushing of springs. It was a wisdom that was common to all, a wisdom from which the element of egoism was entirely absent. Now the age-old symbol of a wisdom that is common to all is gold. This gold was brought over from Nifelheim. What became of the gold? It became a possession of the human Ego. The universal Wisdom, once bestowed by Nature herself now became a wisdom flowing from the Ego into human deeds and confronting them as a separate independent power in each individual. Man had built a Ring around himself and the Ring changed brotherhood into the struggle for existence among human kind. The element of wisdom common to all men in earlier times lived in water, and the last vestige of this water flowed in the Rhine.
Now just as human beings have developed Ego-consciousness, so too must the Nibelungen. The Nibelungen knew that they possessed the old universal wisdom and they now forged the Ring which thence-forward surrounded them as the Rising of Egoism. This shows, albeit in brief outline, how true realities stream into the world of phantasy and imagination. Gold represents the remaining vestige of the ancient wisdom flowing through the mists; the wisdom-filled Ego builds the Ring which gives rise to the struggle for existence. Such is the deeper truth underlying the myth of the Nibelungen.
This was a theme which Richard Wagner could reproduce in the form of dramatic action and in the tones of a music expressing the invisible world behind the world of sense. And so he wrote a modern version of the Nibelung myth and in his picture of this whole process of evolution we feel how the new Gods who rule over mankind have come forth from the ancient Gods.
And now think once again of old Atlantis. Clouds and mists, wisdom sounding from all creation. As time went on, the Gods could no longer work through a wisdom possessed uniformly by all men; they could work only by means of commandments and decrees. When Wotan, one of the new Gods has to fulfil his covenant to deliver up Freia, since he himself is now entering into the sphere of Ego-wisdom symbolised by the Ring, a figure personifying ancient, primordial consciousness appears before him a personification of the Earth-consciousness wherein all men were enveloped in the days of Atlantis.
This consciousness is represented in the figure of Erda:
My musing is the ruling of wisdom;
A great cosmological truth is contained in these words, for all things were created by this wisdom as it lived in the springs and brooks, rustled in the leaves and swept through the wind. It was this all-embracing consciousness out of which individual consciousness was born and it was verily sovereign wisdom.
This wisdom was mirrored in the ancient clairvoyant faculties of man, in an age when his consciousness was not confined within the boundaries of his skin. Consciousness flowed through all things. One could not say: here is Ego-consciousness and there is Ego-consciousness.
All that the depths conceal,
All is known to Erda in this consciousness. And so step by step, we can see how through his intuition Wagner was able to draw upon amounts of primordial wisdom and express this in the Nibelung myth.
And now let us consider the time of transition from the old phase of evolution to the new. Again let it be repeated, however, that Richard Wagner's achievement was not the outcome of any conscious realisation on his part. The old Atlanteans were possessed of a consciousness of brotherhood in the truest sense of the word. This was followed by the transition to Ego-consciousness. And now think of the beginning of the Rhinegold. Is not the coming of this Ego-consciousness expressed in the opening notes themselves, in the long E flat on the organ? Do we not feel here that individual consciousness is emerging from the ocean of consciousness universal? In motif after motif we find Richard Wagner expressing in the tones of music a world that stands behind the physical world, using the instruments verily as if they were the primal organs of Nature.
And now, if we turn to Lohengrin, what do we find? Lohengrin is the emissary of the Holy Grail. He comes from the citadel of the Initiates, where a higher wisdom has its home. The legend of Lohengrin is connected with a universal tradition which indicates that the Initiates send down their influences into human life. We must always turn to legends for enlightenment in regard to significant turning-points in evolution, for the truths they contain are deeper than those recorded in history. Legends show us how the forces and influences of Initiates intervene in the course of history and they are not to be regarded as accounts of happenings in the outer world.
The time of transition from the universal clairvoyant consciousness to individualised Ego-consciousness was of the greatest significance, and we find it set forth in the Lohengrin myth. It is an age when the new spirit emerges from the old. Two Spirits of an Age confront one another. Elsa, the feminine principle, represents the soul who is striving for the highest. Conventional interpretations of Goethe's words in the Chorus Mysticus at the end of his Faust are terribly banal, whereas in reality they emanate from the very depths of Mysticism:
The Eternal Feminine leads us upwards and on.
The human soul must be quickened by those mighty events through which new principles find their way into evolution. What enters thus into evolution is represented in the Initiates who come from mysterious lands. Spiritual Science speaks of advanced individualities and again and again one is asked: Why do these individualities not reveal themselves? But if they were to do so, the world would enquire about their civic name and rank. This is of no significance in regard to one who is working from spiritual worlds, for the position of an Initiate whose mission is to proclaim the mysteries of existence is so sublime that to ask about his birth, name, rank or calling, is meaningless. To put such questions shows such a lack of understanding of his mission that parting is inevitable.
Ne'er shalt thou ask
These words of Lohengrin might be spoken by all those whose consciousness transcends that of the everyday world, when they are questioned about their name and rank. This is one of the notes struck in Lohengrin, where the clear, true influences of Mysticism are apparent in music and drama alike.
Now there is a certain profound mystery bound up with humanity and it is depicted symbolically in a myth. When at the beginning of our evolution Lucifer fell from the ranks of those Spirits who guide humanity, a precious stone dropped from his crown. This stone was the cup from which Christ Jesus drank with His disciples at the Last Supper and in which the Blood flowing on Golgotha was received. The cup passed to Joseph of Arimathea who brought it to the West. After many wanderings it came into the hands of Titurel through whom the Citadel of the Grail was founded. The cup was guarded by the holy love-lance, and the legend says that all who looked upon it took something of the Eternal into themselves.
And now let us think of the mystery contained in this myth as a parallelism of the progress of human evolution, as indeed it is known to be by those who understand the mysteries of the Grail. In the earlier phases of evolution on the earth, all love was bound up with the blood. Men were united by the blood-relationship. Marriage took place between those who were united by the blood-tie. The point of time from whence onwards marriage took place between those who were not of the same kith and kin marked an important turning-point in the life of the peoples. Consciousness of this truth is expressed in many sagas and myths. To begin with, as we have said, love was bound up with blood-kinship and later on, the circle within which human beings were joined by marriage grew wider and wider. This was the one stream in evolution: love that is dependent upon uniformity of flesh and blood.
But later on, a different principle began to hold sway the principle of individual independence. In the age preceding that of Christendom these two streams were present: the stream expressed in love bound up with the blood-tie, and the principle of independence, freedom. The former represented the power of Jehovah, whose name means I am the I am, and the latter the Luciferic principle of independence. Christianity was to bring into the world a love that is independent of blood-kinship. The words of Christ are to be interpreted thus: He who forsakes not father and mother that is to say, he who cannot substitute for a love that is bound up with flesh and blood, a love that flows from soul to soul, from brother to sister, from a man to all men he cannot be my disciple.
A stone falls from Lucifer's crown and this stone becomes the holy cup wherein the Christ-Principle is united with the Lucifer-Principle. Knowledge of this mighty impulse developed the power of the Ego in the Knights of the Grail. And to those who were pupils in the Mysteries of the Holy Grail the following teaching was given: (I will give in simple dialogue form what the pupils of the Grail were made to realise step by step. Many people will say: This is unheard of! None the less it is truth but truth that will be subjected to the same fate as those emissaries who were sent from civilised States to the courts of barbarians as Voltaire relates. First, unworthy treatment and then, afterwards, recognition and acknowledgment.) This, then, was said to the pupils of the Grail: Look at the plant. Its flower may not be compared with the human head. The flower, with its male and female organs of fertilisation, corresponds to the sexual system in man. It is the root of the plant that corresponds to the human head. Darwin himself once rightly compared the root of the plant with the head of man. The human being is a plant reversed. He has accomplished the complete turn. In chastity and purity the plant stretches out its calyx towards the light, receiving its rays, receiving the holy love-lance, the kiss which ripened the fruit. The animal has turned only half-way. The plant, whose head bores into the earth, the animal with its spine in the horizontal direction, and the human being with his upright posture and his upward gaze these together form the cross. To the pupils of the Grail it was further said: Verily, Plato spoke truly when he said that the World-Soul lies crucified in the Body of the World. The World-Soul, the soul pervading plant, animal and man, lives in bodies which, together, represent the cross. This is the original signification of the cross All other interpretations are meaningless.
In what sense has man accomplished the complete turn? According to the insight of true Mysticism, the plant has the consciousness of sleeping man. When he is asleep, the human being is, in a sense, like a plant. He has acquired the consciousness that is his to-day by having permeated the pure plant-body with desires, with the body of passions. Thereby he has risen higher on the path to self-consciousness. But this has been achieved at the cost of permeating pure plant-substance with desire.
The pupils of the Grail were told of a state to which man would attain in the future. Possessed of clear, alert consciousness, his being would be purified, the substance of his body would become as pure and chaste as that of the plant, and his organs of reproduction transformed. The idea living in the minds of the Knights of the Grail was that the man of the future will have powers of reproduction not filled with the element of desire but as chaste and pure as the calyx which turns towards the love-lance the rays of the sun. The Grail Ideal will be fulfilled when man brings forth his like with the purity and chastity of the plant, when he brings forth his own image in the higher calyx and becomes a creator in the Spirit. This ideal was known as the Holy Grail the transformed reproductive organs which bring forth the human being as purely and as chastely as the word is brought forth to-day by the waves of air working through the larynx.
And now let us see how this sublime ideal lived on the heart and soul of Richard Wagner. In the year 1857, on Good Friday, he was standing on the balcony of the summer-house at the Villa Wesendonck and as he looked out over the landscape he saw the budding of the early spring flowers. The sight of the young plants revealed to him the mystery of the Holy Grail, the mystery of the coming-to-birth of all that is implicit in the image of the Holy Grail. All this he felt in connection with Good Friday and in the mood that fell upon him the first idea of Parsifal was born. Many things happened in the intervening period but the feeling remained in him and out of it he created the figure of Parsifal the figure in whom knowledge is sublimated to feeling, the figure who having suffered for others, becomes a knower through compassion. And the Amfortas-mystery portrays how human nature in the course of evolution has been wounded by the lance of defiled love.
Such, then, is the mystery of the Holy Grail. It must be approached with the greatest delicacy; we should try to get at the whole mood and feeling and let the ideas in their totality stand before our souls. Wherever we look we find that as an artist and as a human being, Richard Wagner's achievements were based upon Mysticism. So clear, so full of mystical feeling was his realisation of his mission that he said to himself: The art which is living in me as an ideal must at the same time be divine worship. He realised that the three streams (religion, science, art) converge into one another and he desired to be a representative of this re-union. Out of his insight was born that feeling which though mystical in essence is yet clear as daylight and which lived in all the great masters. It lived, too, in Goethe who wrote: The man who overcomes himself breaks that power which binds all beings. When this urge to give freedom to the Ego, to penetrate into world-mysteries pulsates through all a man's forces and faculties, then he is a Mystic in every domain of life. No matter whether his activities in the outer world are connected with religion, science or art he works through to the point of unification. Goethe was trying to express this mystery of man as a whole and complete being, when he clothed the secret of his own soul in the words: He who has science and art has religion too. He who has not these twain, let him think he has religion!