19th of May, 1905.
The same element
which gave birth to egoism, to a love which is selfish, now gives birth
to a new feeling, high above everything that is entangled in the physical
sphere. Wisdom withdraws in order to give birth to love out of that
part of the elements which is still chaste and virgin. This love is
the Christ, the Christian principle. Unselfish love opposed to
selfish love, this is the great process of evolution which must take
place through the mysterious involution-process of death, the
destruction of physical matter. The contrasts of life and death are
drawn by Wagner in sharp outlines.
The wood of the
Cross symbolizes life which has withered away, and upon this Cross hangs
the new everlasting Life which will give rise to a new epoch.
A new spiritual
life proceeds out of the Twilight of the Gods. Richard Wagner's longing,
to set forth the Christ principle in all its depth, after his
description of the four phases of northern life, appears in his
Parsifal. This is the fifth phase. Because Wagner felt so deeply the
tragic note contained in the northern world conception of evolution
he also felt it incumbent upon him to set forth the glorification of
The deeper we
penetrate into Richard Wagner's work, the more we shall find in it
cosmic-mystical problems, and riddles of life.
It is very
significant that after having described the whole primordial age of the
Germanic peoples in the four phases of the Ring of the Nibelungs, Richard
Wagner created an eminently Christian drama, the work with which he
closed his life: Parsifal. We must penetrate into Richard Wagner's
personality if we wish to understand what lives in Parsifal.
Wagner, the character of Jesus of Nazareth was beginning to take on a
definite shape ever since his fortieth year. At first he intended to
create an entirely different work of art, by setting forth the
infinite love for the whole of mankind which lived in Jesus of
Nazareth. He conceived the fundamental idea of this drama when he was
fifty, and it was to be entitled, “The Victor”. This work
shows us the deep world-conception which was the source of the poet's
intuitions. The contents of the drama is briefly as follows
Arnanda, a youth
of the noble Brahmin caste, is loved passionately by Prakriti, a Chandala
maiden, that is, of a lower, despised caste. He renounces this love
and becomes a disciple of Buddha. According to Wagner's idea, the
Chandala maiden was the reincarnation of a woman belonging to
the highest Brahmin caste, who had haughtily spurned the love of a
Chandala youth, and whose karmic punishment it is to be born
again within the Chandala caste. When she has reached a point in her
development enabling her to renounce her love, she also becomes a
disciple of Buddha.
therefore, that Wagner grasped the problem of karma in all its depth,
out of the true spirit of Buddhism; when he was about fifty years old
he had developed to the extent of being able to create a drama of such
deep moral force and earnestness as “The Victor”. All these
thoughts then flow together in his Parsifal, but at the same time the
Christ-problem stands in the centre of the drama. Out of Parsifal
streams the whole profundity of this medieval problem.
von Eschenbach was the first one to give a poetical shape to the mystery
of Parsifal. In him we find the same theme, created out of the deepest
substance of the Middle Ages. In the highest minds of the Middle Ages
who were imbued with spiritual life lived something which the initiated
named the exaltation of love. Before and after, there were
Minnesingers, minstrels of love. But there was a great difference
between what was formerly understood as love in the Germanic
countries, and what arose later on in Christianity as purified
illustrated and handed down to us in “Armer Heinrich”
(“Poor Henry”). Hartmann von der Aue's “Poor Henry”
is filled with the spiritual life which the crusaders brought back from
the Orient. Let us place before us briefly the, contents of
“Poor Henry”: A Swabian knight who has always
been fortunate in life is suddenly struck by an incurable
disease, which can only be healed through the sacrifice and death of
a pure virgin. A virgin is found who is willing to sacrifice herself.
They go to Salerno to a celebrated physician. At the last moment,
however, Henry regrets the sacrifice and does not wish to
accept it. The virgin remains alive. Henry regains his health after
all, and they get married.
Here we have,
therefore, a pure virgin and her sacrifice on behalf of a man who has only
lived a life of pleasure and who is saved through her sacrifice. A mystery
lies, concealed in this. From the standpoint of the Middle Ages,
Minnesinging was looked upon as something which had been handed down
from the four phases of ancient Germanic life, as contained in the
sagas which Wagner placed before us in his Tetralogy. Love based on
the life of the senses was considered at that time as something which
had been overcome; love was to rise again spiritually, linked up with
the feeling of renunciation.
In order to
realise what took place, we must collect all the factors which reconstruct
for us the expression, the physiognomy of that past period. And then we
shall be able to understand what induced Wagner to set forth this
Germanic races had a legend which we can trace throughout history, one of
the root-legends which can also be found in a somewhat different form in
Italy and in other countries. Let us place before you, the outline of
this legend: A man has learnt to know the pleasures and joys of this
world, and penetrates into a kind of subterranean cavern. There he
meets a woman of exceeding great charm and attraction. He experiences
the joys of paradise, nevertheless he longs to return to the earth.
Finally he comes out of the mountain and returns to life. —
This is a legend which we can find everywhere in Europe, and it
appears to us very clearly in Tannhäuser. If we study this
legend we shall find that it is, to begin with, the
personification of love in the Germanic countries before the
great turning point of the times. Life in the world outside is
renounced for a retirement in the cavern to the joys brought by the
old kind of love, by the goddess Venus.
In this form
the legend has no real point of issue, no possibility of looking up to
something higher. It arose before love underwent the already mentioned
transformation. Later on, in the early times of Christianity
when love began to take on a spiritual form, people sought to throw a
glaring light on these earlier periods and on this paradise in the
cave of Venus, as a contrast to the other paradise which they had
At this point
we must consider our fifth root-race. When the floods had buried Atlantis,
the sub-races of the fifth root-race gradually emerged: the Indian,
the Median-Persian, the Assyrian-Babylonian-Semitic, the Graeco-Latin
races. When the Roman culture began to flow off, our fifth sub-race
emerged, the Germanic races in which we now live and which have a
special significance for Christian Europe.
Not that Wagner
was aware of all these things, but he possessed an unerring feeling for the
world-situation and felt what tasks were incumbent upon the races; he
felt it just as clearly as if he had known spiritual science.
You know that
every one of these races was inspired by great initiates. The fifth root-race
arose out of the ancient Semitic races. A trace of this origin still
lives in all the sub-races which have so far constituted the fifth
root-race. You know that after the destruction of Atlantis by the
great flood the peoples who had emigrated and had thus been preserved
from destruction were led by Manu, a divine guide, into Asia, into
the desert of Gobi. Cultural influences went out from there to India,
Persia, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and even to our own
History can no
longer trace the first semitic streams of influence upon human civilisation
when contemplating the ancient Aryan civilisation. This influence
appears more clearly only in the third sub-race, in the
Egyptian-Semitic-Babylonian peoples. The people of Israel even derive
their name from it. Christianity itself may be led back, as a fourth
influence, to a semitic impulse. If we continue studying the
development of these influences we shall find the semitic
impulse in the Moorish culture which penetrated into Spain, and
spread over the whole of Europe influencing even Christian monks.
Thus the primal
semitic impulse reaches as far as the fifth sub-race.
We see the
impulses of one great stream penetrate five times into the earliest
civilisations. We have one great spiritual stream coming from the South,
which is met by another stream arising in the North, which penetrates into
four phases of the early northern civilisation and develops until it meets
the first stream, thus flowing together with it. A childlike,
unworldly nation dwelt in northern Europe and these early
inhabitants underwent the influence of the stream of culture
coming from the South at the turning point of the 12th and 13th
century. This new culture penetrated into these regions like a
spiritual current of air. Wolfram von Eschenbach was entirely under
the influence of this spiritual current.
civilisation is symbolized in the legend of Tannhäuser, which also
contains an impulse from the South. Everywhere we come across something
which may be designated as a semitic impulse.
There was one
thing, however, which was, felt very strongly: namely, that the Germanic
races were a last link in this chain of development and that
something entirely new would arise, preparing something
completely different within the sixth sub-race: the higher
mission of Christianity. The Germanic peoples longed for this new
form of Christianity: a Christianity was to be called into life which
had nothing to do with what had been taken over from the South. A
contrast arose between Rome and Jerusalem; “Rome on the one
side and Jerusalem on the other” was the battle-cry under which
the crusaders fought. The idea that Jerusalem must be the centre was
Jerusalem, rather then a physical one, was borne in mind: Jerusalem as a
spiritual centre, and at the same time as an outpost of the future.
It was felt that
the fifth sub-race had to serve still another purpose, that it had to fulfil
a special task. The old impulses had ceased, something entirely new was
to come, a new spiral curve in the civilisation of the world began.
What had come from the South was only an attempt; the kernel was now
to be peeled out of its skins. At the turn of the Middle Ages it was
felt that something old, which had been experienced as a boon, was
setting and had come to an end, and that the longing for something
new contained a new impulse which was gradually coming into life.
These were the feelings which lived particularly in the strong
personality of Wolfram von Eschenbach.
the new period. Imagine this feeling rising up anew in a period of decadence,
and then you will find in it something of what lived in Wagner. Many
things had in the meantime taken place which were formerly
experienced as decay of the race. Richard Wagner felt this
particularly strongly ever since his conscious life began. The chaos
which surrounds us to such a great extent to-day, the chaos in which
the masses waste away through sickness, contain both the symptoms of
decay and of a new life.
The misery of
the great masses of European people, whose spiritual life remains hidden
in darkness, who are cut away from education and culture, has never
been experienced more deeply than by Richard Wagner, and for this
reason he became a revolutionary in the year 1848, for the following
thought weighed heavily on his heart: It lies within our power to
help in accelerating the downward course of the wheel, or in
guiding it up again.
This is the
idea of Bayreuth. The events of 1848 were only an insignificant symptom
of the coming spiritual movement. If we grasp this, we shall be able to
understand how Richard Wagner came to his race-problem, dealt with in
his prose-writings. He expresses himself more or less as
follows: In Asia, in the Hindoo race, we may find something of the
primordial force of the Aryan race. Some of the strong spiritual
forces of the Aryan race exist for a chosen few, for the Brahmin
caste. The lower castes are excluded, but a high spiritual standpoint
is reached by the Brahmins. Then we may find in the North a more
childlike race (thus Wagner continues), which has passed
through the four stages of evolution within the race itself. These
people delight in hunting; killing is a joy to them, but this
pleasure in taking away life is a symptom of decadence. It is a
deep, occult fact that life is strangely connected with knowledge,
with the development of man in the direction of higher
spiritual knowledge. Everything man doer, in the way of cruelty or of
destruction of life takes away from him the pure spiritual forces.
For this reason, those who increase the forces of egoism, who tread
the black path, must destroy life. (In Mabel Collin's
“Flita”, the story of a woman dealing in black magic,
Flita destroys unborn existences, because she needs life in
order to maintain her power.)
There is a deep
connection between the taking away of life and the life of man. In the
eternal course of evolution this is a lesson which must be learnt and
experienced. But it is another matter if during a certain period of
evolution people take away life in a naïve way. Once upon a time
the act of killing made man feel his own strength. This may be said
of the ancient Germanic races, the hunting peoples. Ever since
Christianity has appeared, it is a mortal sin to kill, and killing is
now a symptom of decadence in a race.
This was the
foundation of the view which induced Wagner to become a strict vegetarian.
In his opinion, the only way in which a race may grow in strength is through
a nourishment which does not imply killing.
The feeling that
a new impulse had to come produced in Wagner also his ideas concerning
the influence of the Jews upon our present civilisation.
He was not
anti-semitic in the present, odious way, but he felt that Judaism as such
had finished to play its role, and that the semitic impulses must die
out. This gave rise to his call for emancipation from these impulses.
A powerful spiritual direction made him feel that something new must
replace earlier influences. This is connected with his ideas
about the Germanic races. He made a clear distinction between the
development of the soul and of the race. This distinction must be
made by saying: We were all incarnated in the Atlantean race. Whereas
the souls have risen higher, the races have degenerated. Every step
we ascend is connected with a descent. For every man who grows more
noble-minded there is one who sinks down lower. There is a difference
between the soul dwelling within the race-body and the race-body
itself. The more a human being resembles the race to which he
belongs, the more he loves what is transient and is connected with
the qualities of his race, the more he will degenerate with the race.
The more he emancipates himself, lifting himself out of the
peculiarities of his race, the more his soul will have the
possibility to incarnate more highly. Richard Wagner knows that
in fighting against the Semitic element we should not fight against
the souls who are incarnated within the race, but only against the
race as such, which has finished to play its role. Wagner thus makes
a distinction between the descending evolution of the race and
the ascending evolution of souls. He felt the necessity of this
ascending evolution just as keenly as a medieval soul, just as keenly
as Wolfram von Eschenbach, or Hartmann von der Aue.
We must consider
once more what is contained in the fact that in “Armer Heinrich”
(Poor Henry) Henry is healed by a pure virgin. Henry has
lived, to begin with, a life of the senses, his Ego is born out of
his race. This “Ego” begins to all as soon as it begins
to hear the higher call, the call meant for humanity in general. The
soul grows ill because it connects itself with something which is
only rooted in the race: with a form of love which is rooted in the
race. Now this lower kind of love living within the race must develop
into a higher form of love. What lives within the race must be
redeemed by something higher, by the higher, purer soul that is ready
to sacrifice herself for the striving soul of man.
You know that the
soul consists of a male and a female part, and that the impressions of the
senses which enter the soul push this soul-element into the background.
Feminine draws us along!” (“Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns
hinan!” Goethe, Faust II). Salvation means that sense-life must
be overcome. We find this redemption also in “Tristan and
expression for the overcoming of sense-life is “Parsifal”. He
is the representative of a new Christianity. He becomes the King of the
Holy Grail because he redeems what has once been held in the bondage of
the senses and thus brings into the world a new principle of love.
What lies at the foundation of Parsifal? What is the meaning of
the Holy Grail? The earliest legend which appears at the
turning-point of the Middle Ages tells us that the Holy Grail is the
cup which was used by Jesus Christ at the Lord's Supper, the cup in
which he offered the bread and the. wine and in which Joseph of
Arimataea caught up the blood streaming out of Christ's wound. The
spear which caused this wound and the chalice were born up by angels,
who held it suspended in the air until Titurel found them and built
upon Montsalvat (which means: the Mountain of Salvation) a castle in
which he could guard these treasures. Twelve knights gathered
together to serve the Holy Grail. The Holy Grail had the power to
avert the danger of death from these knights and to supply them with
everything they needed for their life. Whenever they looked
upon it they acquired new spiritual strength.
On the one side,
we have the temple of the Holy Grail with its knights, and on the other,
the Magic Castle of Klingsor with his knights, who are, in reality, the
enemies of the knighthood of the Holy Grail. We are confronted with
two forms of Christianity. One kind is represented by the knights of
the Holy Grail and the other by Klingsor. Klingsor is the man who has
mutilated himself in order not to fall a prey to the senses. But he
has not overcome his desires, he has only taken away the possibility
to satisfy them. Thus he lives in a sensual sphere. The maidens of
the magic castle serve him, and everything belonging to the sphere of
desires is at his disposal. Kundry is the real temptress in this
kingdom: she attracts everyone who approaches Klingsor into the
sphere of sensual love. Klingsor has not destroyed desire, but only
the organ of desire. He personifies the form of Christianity which
comes from the South and introduced an ascetic life; it eliminated a
sensual life, but it could not destroy desire; it could protect
against the tempting powers of Kundry. A higher element was perceived
in the power of a spirituality which rises above sensual life into
the sphere of purified love, not through compulsion, but through a
higher, spiritual knowledge.
the knights of the Holy Grail strive after this, but they do not succeed
in establishing this kingdom So long as the true spiritual force is
lacking, Amfortas yields to the temptations of Kundry. The higher
spirituality personified in Amfortas falls a prey to the lower
Thus we are
confronted with two phenomena. On the one hand, Christianity which has become
ascetic and is unable to reach a higher spiritual knowledge; and on the other
hand, the spiritual knighthood which falls a prey to Klingsor's
temptation until the redeemer appears who vanquishes Klingsor.
Amfortas is wounded and loses the sacred spear; he must guard the
Holy Grail as a sorrow-laden king. This higher Christianity is
therefore diseased and suffering; it must guard the mysteries of
Christianity in sorrow until a new saviour appears. And this saviour
appears in Parsifal.
first learn his lesson, he passes through tests; he then becomes purified
and finally attains spiritual power, the feeling of the great oneness of
all existence. Richard Wagner thus unconsciously comes to great
occult truths. First of all to compassion. Parsifal at first passes
through a scale of experiences which fill him with compassion for our
older brothers, the animals. In his violent desire to embrace
knighthood he has abandoned his mother Herzeleide, who has died
of a broken heart. He has battled and killed. The dying glance of an
animal then taught him what it means: “to kill”.
The second stage
consists in rising above desire, without killing desire from outside.
So he reaches
the sanctuary of the Grail, but he does not as yet understand his task. He
learns his lesson through life, He falls into temptation through Kundry,
but he stands the test. Just when he is about to fall, he rises above
desire; a new pure love shines forth within him like a rising
up which we already discovered in the Twilight of the Gods: “Incarnatus
est de spiritum sanctum ex Maria Virgine”, born of the Spirit
through the Virgin, (the higher love, which is not filled with
The human being
must awaken within him a soul which purifies everything transmitted by
the senses. because virgin substance, virgin matter, will give birth
to the Ego of the Christ. The lower female element in the human soul
dies and will be replaced by a higher female element which
lifts him up to the Spirit.
A higher virgin
power faces the seducing Kundry. Kundry, the other female element pertaining
to sex which draws man down, which seeks to draw him down, must be
already lived once as Herodias who asked for the head of John the Baptist,
Herodias, the mother of Ahasver. The force which cannot find peace
and seeks everywhere a sensual love, this force takes on the form of
a love which must first be purified, undergo a transformation, like
Kundry. Emancipation from a love dependent on the senses — this
is the mystery which Richard Wagner has woven into his Parsifal.
permeates all the works of Richard Wagner. Even in his “Flying
Dutchman” the intuitive force of his nature leads him to the
same problem, for in this work we find that a virgin is willing to
sacrifice herself for the Dutchman, thus redeeming him from his long
wanderings. And the same problem is contained in
“Tannhäuser”. The singer's contest on the Wartburg
is set forth as a contest between the singer of the old sensual love,
Heinrich von Ofterdingen, and Wolfram von Eschenbach, who is
the representative of the new, spiritual Christianity. He
overcomes Heinrich von Ofterdingen, who has called in the aid
of Klingsor from Hungary, but Wolfram overcomes both. Now we
are able to understand Tristan more deeply, because we know
that what lives in him is not the killing of love, but the overcoming
of the race, or the purification of love.
rose from Schopenhauer's “Denial of the Will” to a purification
of the will.
expressed this purification in his “Meistersingers”, where
Hans Sachs' feelings toward Eve undergo a purification when he seeks to
win her for himself. This is expressed not so much in the text, as in the
All this has
streamed together in his Parsifal. Richard Wagner looked back upon the
ancient ideal of the Brahmins, and perceived with sorrow the symptoms of
decay in the present race. He wished to give rise to a new impulse
born out of art. In his Festivals at Bayreuth he had in mind to
redeem the race by giving it a new spiritual content.
This was the
spirit which prompted Nietzsche, so long as he was connected with Wagner,
to write about “Dyonisian Art”. He felt that these Festivals
contained something of the spirit of the ancient Mysteries. The
Mysteries had contributed to the development of the human race up to
the fourth sub-race. In the Mystery-temple of Dyonisos it was
possible to experience this uplifting impulse, and in the North, the
initiates, the druids, spoke of the twilight of the gods out of which
a new race would come forth, would have to come forth.
with its task of introducing Christianity, stands in the very midst of
these ideas. Sorrowfully the Greek disciple of the Mysteries spoke of
the man “who would come to fulfil the Mysteries”.
saw the time approaching when Christianity, developing out of the fifth
sub-race, would have to be fulfilled. He brought faith also to those
“who could not see”. A time will come when the God of the
Mysteries will rise again from the human into the divine sphere. The
twilight of the gods of the ancient northern saga shows us this ascent,
in the gods' journey to Walhalla along the rainbow-bridge. The time
draws near and must be fulfilled when Christianity begins to speak
its own characteristic language, when “those who believed will
be able to see again”. Bayreuth thus shows us two
currents of civilisation: The renewal of the Mysteries of Greece, and
a new Christianity — thus uniting what had become severed.
and all those who surrounded him felt this, and Edouard Schuré had
the same feeling about this art. He saw in it the prologue introducing
the union of what had become severed in the past.
and science were united in the ancient primordial drama: then came the
division and three separate currents began to flow out of the one source
contained within the Greek Mysteries.
owes its development to the fact that it went its own separate way. In
the course of time a “religious” element arose for the soul,
an “artistic” one for the senses, and a
“scientific” one for the understanding.
inevitable, for perfection could be reached only if man unfolded every
one of his capacities separately until they attained the highest point
If religion is
led toward the highest form of Christianity, it is willing to become
reunited with art and science. Art — poetry, painting, sculpture
and music — will reach the summit if it becomes permeated
with true religion. And science, which has reached its full
development in the modern period, has really given the impulse for
the reunion of these three currents.
one of the first who felt the impulse leading to a reunion of art, science
and religion, has offered this to humanity as a new gift.
He felt that
Christianity is again called upon to unite everything. And he poured this
new Christianity into his Parsifal.
The Good Friday
music, expressing Wagner's own Good Friday feelings, re-echoes in our ear
as if it were the great current of a new civilisation. The Good Friday
experience revealed to him that the individual development of the
soul and the development of the race must go separate ways, that the
souls must be lifted up and saved, that it is our task to awaken the
soul to new life, in spite of the tragic fate connecting the body
with the race, with the forces which are doomed to decay.
To fill the
world with tones pointing to a new future, this is what Richard Wagner
wished to set forth at Bayreuth, this is the newly rising star which
he pointed out to us. At least a small part of humanity should
listen to the tones of the future age.
life-work ends with apocalyptic words, the apocalypse which he wished
to proclaim to his period, as a true prophet who knew that a new age
would dawn very soon:
Gesichte, die ich sehe,
Will ich Euch künden!”
visions I see
let me proclaim to you!”