Wagner Reclaimed: A Review of “The Ring of Truth” by Roger Scruton, Part 2

Brenton Sanderson

A scene from Neil Armfield’s 2016 Melbourne production of The Ring

Go to Part 1.

“Sarcasm and satire run riot on the stage”

Productions of The Ring in the modern era have invariably sought to satirize the drama to subvert the message Wagner attempts to convey. Scruton observes that, notwithstanding the increasingly tiresome preoccupation with dissecting the tetralogy for anti-Jewish and proto-fascistic themes and images (and counteracting them), The Ring is also, on a more basic level, problematic for opera producers because its “world of sacred passions and heroic actions offends against the sceptical and cynical temper of our times. The fault, however, lies not in Wagner’s tetralogy, but in the closed imagination of those who are so often invited to produce it.”[1]

The template for modern productions was set with the Bayreuth production of 1976, when Pierre Boulez sanitized the music, and Patrice Chereau satirized the text. Scruton notes that:

Since that ground-breaking venture, The Ring has been regarded as an opportunity to deconstruct not only Wagner but the whole conception of the human condition that glows so warmly in his music. The Ring is deliberately stripped of its legendary atmosphere and primordial setting, and everything is brought down to the quotidian level, jettisoning the mythical aspect of the story, so as to give us only half of what it means. The symbols of cosmic agency — spear, sword, ring — when wielded by scruffy humans on abandoned city lots, appear like toys in the hands of lunatics. The opera-goer will therefore very seldom be granted the full experience of Wagner’s masterpiece.[2]

This certainly describes the Ring I attended in Melbourne in 2016. While the soloists and the orchestra were excellent, Neil Armfield’s postmodernist, Eurotrash-inspired production detracted from the power of the music and drama. Following established precedent, Armfield set much of the action in a space akin to an industrial wasteland. He lampooned the heroic forging scene by setting it in a tawdry apartment replete with fluorescent lighting, microwave, bar fridge and bunk beds. Fafner (meant to have transformed himself into a dragon) was depicted as a transvestite-like figure smearing make-up on his face and later appearing naked on the stage (see the lead photograph).

Productions like these deliberately sabotage Wagner’s attempt to engage his audiences at the emotional level of religion. They let “sarcasm and satire run riot on the stage, not because they have anything to prove or say in the shadow of this unsurpassably noble music, but because nobility has become intolerable. The producer strives to distract the audience from Wagner’s message, and to mock every heroic gesture, lest the point of the drama should finally come home.”[3]

The philosophy and meaning of The Ring

Schopenhauer is often singled out as the most important intellectual influence on Wagner, since it was his reading and rereading of Schopenhauer that helped to crystallise the pessimistic vision of Wagner’s later years. Prior to his encounter with Schopenhauer, however, it was Fichte, Hegel and Feuerbach who most shaped Wagner’s worldview, and Scruton observes how Fichte’s notion of the self, the Young Hegelian critique of capitalism, Feuerbach’s repudiation of religion, and Schopenhauer’s theory of the will all left traces in his musical dramas.

The Ring was first conceived when Hegel and the Young Hegelians were setting the agenda for German philosophy. During the 1849 revolution in Dresden, as he kept watch from the Frauenkirche on behalf of the revolutionaries, Wagner was discovered deeply immersed in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. In Scruton’s assessment, The Ring is predominately a post-Hegelian, rather than a Schopenhauerian, work — with Wagner having fully absorbed the Hegelian idea of Selbstbestimmung, where the free, morally responsible individual emerges from the condition of nature.

G.W.F. Hegel

A famous passage in The Phenomenology of Spirit describes the transition from a “life-and-death struggle” in the state of nature to the acceptance of universal moral law. Through his enslavement the slave acquires a consciousness of himself as an agent (inner freedom), while his enslaver gradually loses that consciousness and with it his sense of agency. The slave eventually rises up and binds his oppressor and the roles are repeatedly reversed until the moment when each party sees the other as an end instead of a means, recognizing that freedom is their shared condition and thus accepting the governance of a universal moral law. This process, where freedom and mutual respect emerge from the condition of slavery, exemplifies the Hegelian “dialectic”: the emergence from opposition of a new condition that transcends and resolves the conflict. Scruton observes how:

The Ring tells the story of Siegfried’s quest for freedom and individuality through contests with a dwarf, a dragon, a god and the woman who teaches him fear. … The reverberations of Hegel’s argument can be felt not only in that central story but throughout the Ring cycle: in the self-torment of Alberich, who has forsworn love for the sake of power; in the dark underworld of Nibelheim, whose subjugated people are instruments of a will that they cannot influence; in the tragedy of Die Walküre, in which two human beings win through to freedom only to find that the god who planned this can no longer permit it. And Hegel’s account of law and its indispensable presence in the life of the free being is embodied in the character of Wotan, king of the gods.[4]

Hegel, who was an admirer of Napoleon, had a strong belief in the historical importance of heroes. In his Philosophy of History, published posthumously in 1834, he argued that it was largely through the intervention of heroes like Julius Caesar and Napoleon that history changed and new worlds came into being. Scruton notes that Wagner was reading this very work when he began the poem of The Ring, and “at first conceived the work as the story of just such a hero, Siegfried, who was to usher in the new world of human freedom after the downfall of the gods.”[5]

An “attempt to salvage the kernel of religion”

Scruton’s central thesis in The Ring of Truth is that Wagner conceived the tetralogy as a quasi-religious parable to provide modern people, who had lost their faith in the divine order, with “a vision of the ideal, achieved with no help from the gods, a vision in which art takes the place of religion in expressing and fulfilling our deepest spiritual longings.”[6] Scruton bases this on the statements of Wagner himself who, for example, once famously declared the goal of art should be “the presentation of religion in a lively form.” Wagner endeavoured to offer his audiences a post-Christian folk metaphysics that recaptures what religion means in a world without religion.

While Wagner was not in a conventional sense a religious believer, Scruton claims that “he took a profoundly religious view of the human condition” and aimed in all his mature works to “give credibility to the thought that we are rescued by our ideals, despite their purely human origin, and also because of it.”[7] In his essay “Art and Religion” from 1880, Wagner argued that: “It is reserved to art to salvage the kernel of religion, inasmuch as the mythical images which religion would wish to be believed as true are apprehended in art for their symbolic value, and through ideal representation of those symbols art reveals the concealed deep truth within them.”[8]

In his post-religious conception of the role of art, Wagner was influenced by the German post-Hegelian philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach’s critique of religion as laid out in his 1843 book Principles for the Philosophy of the Future. Borrowing the concept of the “fetish” from Kant, Feuerbach argued that religion is a form of fetishism in which people attribute their virtue, freedom and happiness to an unreal spiritual realm. Through religion we make our virtue into an object and then worship it as our master. The consequence, he insisted, is that we are alienated from ourselves and separated from our fulfilment. Religion deprives us of our powers by investing them in unreal objects, and gives us an excuse to be morally inferior to our own fictions. The result is to alienate believers from the moral qualities they need to live fully and freely in society. Religion was, in Feuerbach’s assessment, a manifestation of man’s self-enslavement.

Ludwig Feuerbach

While never fully embracing Feuerbach’s prescriptions for the ideal society, Scruton notes that Wagner “half accepted Feuerbach’s vision of a new political order, in which human beings would be liberated by scientific knowledge from the enslavement imposed by the old religion and the old forms of political authority.”[9] While accepting that religion alienated people from their true nature, Wagner differed from Feuerbach in regarding “the sacred, the spiritual and the sacrificial as fundamental aspects of the human condition, and necessary to our fulfilment.”[10] Wagner saw his art as expressing and completing these “religious” emotions in a post-Christian West.

Central to Wagner’s “sacred” view of the human condition is his vision of the importance of love in the life of the individual and how it is emphasized in moments of sacrifice. Sacrifice pervades The Ring with Siegfried prepared as a sacrifice from the beginning and killed at the most “religious” moment of the drama. In the final immolation, the gods themselves are burned on the altars raised to them. For Wagner, it is “in the unity of love and death, in the willing acceptance of death for love’s sake, and in the renunciation of self for the other that we glimpse the meaning of human life. We understand that life lived in a spirit of sacrifice is worthwhile despite the enormous cost of it.”[11]

The Ring is Wagner’s affirmative answer to the question of whether the tragic experience, first consecrated by the ancient Greeks, can still speak to us in a world without religion. For Scruton, Wagner showed a deep philosophical awareness of what is at stake for modern people living beyond the death of their gods, and what it means to live with an enhanced awareness of our own contingency — of being thrown down in the world without an explanation and to hunger for meaning.

Wagner as psychological anthropologist    

When Wagner composed the libretto for what would eventually become The Ring, “he was a Feuerbachian”; the religion within it is the work of “an anthropologist rather than a priest.” Wagner created the supernatural beings of The Ring on Feuerbach’s model as personified features of human psychology, both good and bad, and symbols of our spiritual need. In responding to them, we respond to what is deep in ourselves. The gods, goblins, giants, demi-gods and primeval forces are symbols that owe their nature and meaning to the feelings that we discover in ourselves. They correspond to “potencies” in human nature. In The Ring Wagner offers us believable and gripping characters that crystallize and immortalize “the hopes and fears that govern us.”[12] Scruton observes how Wagner was among the very few in whose “remarkable mind the scientific and poetic outlooks converged.” He prefigured evolutionary psychology in recognizing that “our minds are shaped by adaptations that belong to an era of which we retain no consciousness.”[13]

While strongly influenced by Feuerbach, The Ring is also a culmination of the secularizing tendencies of the Enlightenment in general and its new scientific approach to the gods of Greece and Rome which “explored religion as a natural phenomenon, a pre-scientific residue in the human psyche, to be understood for what it says about us, rather than for the truth or otherwise of its doctrines.” Scruton notes how, paradoxically, the Enlightenment, which scorned “rational theology” as a feeble refuge from science, fostered new respect for myth, as a genuine alternative to science — “a pre-scientific vision of the world that revealed its own truths in its own way, touching on things that lie deep in the human psyche and which science has yet to explore.” Scruton observes:

Writers and philosophers of the Enlightenment were largely agreed that myths are not merely fictions. They represent another way of conceiving the world, and one that is directly connected with the religious way of life. Myths are not literally true; but they are not false either. They symbolize human passions and states of character, elevated to a sphere beyond the reach of chance events. By seeing their own nature symbolized and purified in mythic form, ordinary people were able the better to understand their fate. Hence, myths formed a kind of spiritual bequest, a language of symbols through which the adherents of the ancient religions could both understand the permanent features of the human condition and also rehearse their membership of the tribe, the community, the Volk that included them. That, roughly, was the view of the myth propagated by Herder, and in one way or another it was to influence anthropologists throughout the nineteenth century.[14]

The German intellectual Johann Gottfried Herder had proposed medieval Germany as a cultural icon to replace the hitherto adopted classical Greek ideal. He believed that in myth we find an older, purer, less conscious expression of man’s religious need or, as Scruton puts it, “magical-realist summaries of the actual world, in which the moral possibilities are personified and made flesh.”[15]

Wagner also owed a huge debt to the brothers Grimm who collected the fairy tales of the German-speaking lands, and explored the history of their language. In the work of Jacob Grimm “philology, etymology, and the study of myth were combined with the search for pagan residues interred beneath the soil of German literature.” Grimm influenced the whole course of German thought during Wagner’s youth, and famously inspired new and scholarly editions of medieval literature — including the stories of Tristan, Tannhauser, Lohengrin and Parsifal, along with that of Siegfried as recounted in the medieval Nibelungenlied. These stories, which Wagner used as primary material for his opera librettos, “persuaded him that he could rise free of the present moment and explore what is permanent and universal in the German experience.”[16]

Scruton notes that, like Grimm, Wagner thought he was discovering an older form of knowledge, one “implanted in the unconscious memory of the Germans and preserved in their language and in the stories of dimly remembered heroes.” For Wagner, therefore, the gods and goblins of the Ring cycle were not simply representatives of religion and its place in the human psyche, they were also “ancestral voices, speaking of values and aspirations that the German people had to repossess as their own, if they were to emerge as a unified nation.”[17]

The birth of aesthetics and the cult of Beethoven         

Scruton charts the emergence in Europe of aesthetics as an intellectual discipline and how this impacted on Wagner. Kant’s Critique of Judgement made the aesthetic experience central to the life of the mind — a conception of art that was to exert, through Schiller and Schelling, a far-reaching influence over philosophers, poets, painters and composers during the early decades of the nineteenth century. It was posited that there is a unique form of knowledge contained in, and obtainable from, art which cannot be expressed in words. Art offered a portal through “the empirical veil to the transcendent core of things, so as to present, in sensory form, the wholeness and unity that cannot be grasped by the intellect.”[18]

On the basis of this new aesthetics, Romantic thinkers of the early nineteenth century assigned a redemptive role to the arts, where “the sense of wholeness and harmony that had disappeared with the loss of the religious” could be retrieved through art. The idealist philosophers connected aesthetic experience “with the secret meaning of things, with the infinite, the absolute, the transcendental, the ineffable.” For Schopenhauer, aesthetic experience offered the only respite from pain that accompanied the ceaseless striving of the human will, a “Sabbath of the penal servitude of willing.” Schopenhauer ascribed the highest place to music in the aesthetic pantheon since it offers us non-conceptual knowledge and “attains its ends entirely from its own resources.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

It is only through music that the inner essence of the world, which he conceived as “will” (conceived more broadly than just human will) is made directly present to the mind. Music acts on the will directly, raising and altering the passions without the intermediary of conceptual thought, and presents subjective awareness in objective form.[19]  Scruton:

Schopenhauer’s importance for Wagner did not only derive from his intriguing metaphysics and his ethic of renunciation. Schopenhauer was the only post-Kantian who regarded music as a test case for his philosophy, and his theories confirmed Wagner’s conception of a drama that would unfold entirely through the inner feelings of the characters. These feelings, hinted at in words, would acquire their full reality and elaboration in music. Developing under its own intrinsic momentum, the music would guide the listener through subjective regions that were otherwise inaccessible to the outside observer, creating a drama of inner emotion framed by only the sparsest gestures on the stage — gestures which, for this very reason, would become so saturated with meaning as to reach the limits of their expressive power.[20]    

Scruton notes how the diffusion of these ideas through European culture occurred at a time “when music was coming newly into the cultural foreground with the Beethoven cult, with rise in Germany of academic musicology and with the theory, which was later to dominate musical thinking, that “absolute music” — music without a text or an explicit subject matter — is the true paradigm of the art.” Wagner assimilated and built upon the “Beethoven cult” which regarded purely instrumental music as offering a special pathway to human self-understanding. In his 1860 essay “Music of the Future” he contended that: “Beethoven matured the symphonic artwork to so engrossing a breadth of form, and filled that form with so manifold and enthralling a melodic content, that we stand today before the Beethovenian symphony as before the landmark of an entirely new period in the history of universal Art; for through it there came into the world a phenomenon not even remotely approached by anything the art of any age or any people has to show us.”[21]

Beethoven, Wagner observed, had taken purely instrumental music to its expressive limits and had consequently returned to human voice in his ninth symphony. The only path forward was the Gesamtkunstwerk in which all the resources of the arts — poetry, music, architecture and drama — were combined in the presentation of a single idea. This would revolutionize opera which had hitherto been a muddied concoction of “music, drama and verse in which the action is constantly interrupted for the sake of some aria or ballet which forms no organic part of the whole.”

Within Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk, the words were to be subordinate to the music and would “emerge at the end of it, erupting in a new way from demands that originate in the music itself.” As Scruton evocatively summarizes it, “The poem, brilliant though it is as a piece of storytelling, is conceived in another way from traditional opera libretti. The words are not set to music: they are foam on the musical surface, the bursting into light of the dark movements beneath them.”[22] Wagner’s operatic dialogue and versification “would permit the music to convey the deep subjective truths that are being symbolized in the drama.”[23] Wagner’s works are therefore “more than mere dramas: they are revelations, attempts to penetrate to the mysterious core of human existence.”[24]


Scruton has done an admirable job in The Ring of Truth of clearing a path through the accumulated intellectual detritus of the last half-century which impedes a full understanding and appreciation of Wagner’s great masterpiece. He analyses the drama, music, symbolism and philosophy of The Ring on the basis of the actual evidence and eschews the usual preoccupation with speculating about what the tetralogy reveals about its “anti-Semitic” creator’s supposed moral failings. In doing so, he enters a plea on behalf of a work that is more travestied than any other in the operatic repertoire, but whose vision is nevertheless as important to the times in which we live as it was to those of its creator.

The post-Christian West has, in recent decades, undergone a disastrous realignment of its public morality to accord with the Jewish intellectual movements Kevin MacDonald examined in The Culture of Critique. Richard Wagner would be absolutely disgusted with the state of contemporary Germany, Europe, and of the West in general. He pessimistically anticipated our current plight and its Jewish ethno-political foundations when, in a late essay, he pessimistically forecast that “we Germans will go under before them, and perhaps I am the last German who knows how to stand up as an art-loving man against the Judaism that is already gaining control of everything.”[25] In Judaism in Music he had declared himself “unable to decide” whether “the downfall of our culture can be arrested by a violent ejection of the destructive foreign [Jewish] element” since “that would require forces with whose existence I am unacquainted.”

Wagner’s injunction in The Ring to abjure materialism and find meaning through sacrifice is a message that should resonate with today’s Alt-Right. Wagner insisted in The Ring that a life lived in a spirit of sacrifice is worthwhile despite the enormous cost of it. Nothing is worthier of greater sacrifice than safeguarding the biological survival of one’s own race. In his own life Wagner had the fortitude (in defiance of his pecuniary self-interest) to identify and publicly oppose those forces that were contrary to his own ethnic interests. In his intellectual integrity alone Richard Wagner is one of the most inspiring figures our race has produced.

[1] Roger Scruton, The Ring of Truth: The Wisdom of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung (London: Allen Lane, 2016), 5.

[2] Ibid., 6

[3] Roger Scruton, Modern Culture (London: Continuum, 2000), 69.

[4] Scruton, The Ring of Truth, Ibid., 21; 22.

[5] Ibid., 20.

[6] Ibid., 8.

[7] Ibid., 7.

[8] Ibid., 40.

[9] Ibid., 45.

[10] Ibid., 41.

[11] Ibid., 40.

[12] Ibid., 71.

[13] Ibid., 36.

[14] Ibid., 31.

[15] Ibid., 33.

[16] Ibid., 26.

[17] Ibid., 32.

[18] Ibid., 49.

[19] Ibid., 51.

[20] Ibid., 50.

[21] Ibid., 52.

[22] Ibid., 53.

[23] Ibid., 52.

[24] Ibid., 34.

[25] Richard Wagner, “Religion and Art,” trans. By William Ashton Ellis, In: Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, Vol. 6 (London: 1897; repr. 1966), 211-52.

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17 Comments to "Wagner Reclaimed: A Review of “The Ring of Truth” by Roger Scruton, Part 2"

  1. May 2, 2017 - 8:45 am | Permalink

    My audible reading, during Yule, of The Ring Cycle, Act I by Melvin Gorham to my disabled wife. This interpretation of The Ring Cycle is set in the 21st century and is based on a view of pre-JudeoChristian northern European culture of individual* integrity.

    The tragedy of northern Europe is vaguely reflected in Nietzsche’s notion of the chasm distinguishing “Man” from “Superman”. It is above this chasm that White Nationalism* is hovering and into which it may fall if it continues to attack “individualism” as stigmatized by the so-called “libertarian” whose brains have been eaten and replaced by a Jewish intellectual homunculus that sits in his otherwise vacuous cranial cavity like a Cymothoa exigua.

    *Nation has two, fundamentally-conflicting, senses: 1) The “leviathan” nation state, 2) People united by consanguinity and congeniality. Gorham has made this distinction himself, but uses the word “nation” in the first sense in his description of a post-nuclear holocaust setting for his narrative of the archetypes.

    Gorham endorses a codification of northern Europe’s culture of individual integrity that evolved the individualistic predisposition of northern Europeans. I call this “The State of Nature“.

  2. Karen T's Gravatar Karen T
    May 2, 2017 - 11:53 am | Permalink

    Brenton Sanderson, your wonderful essay inspired me to order The Ring of Truth. My husband has the Ring Cycle DVD set staged at the Met and directed by Brian Large and while I’ve never been able to sit through it, preferring to look through Arthur Rackham’s illustrated Wagners Ring while listening to Beethoven, he on the other hand will likely never read Roger Scruton’s book.
    The Jewish criticism’s in part 1, for example “proselytizing and collective narcissism, amoral, virulent racist, arrogant, filled with the gospels of the superman” (two Jewish boys created the Superman hero) coming as it did from Jews steeped in psychoanalysis, was mind-boggling enough to pour oneself a stiff drink. They transferred to Wagner traits attributed to themselves as a race through the centuries.
    Alfred Rosenberg wrote “Wagner fought against a completely plebenianized world and triumphed,” which probably explains his demonization as a plebenianized world is their goal.

  3. Pierre de Craon's Gravatar Pierre de Craon
    May 2, 2017 - 12:02 pm | Permalink

    (Mod. Note: Thanks, Pierre. Both typos should now read correctly, as you suggested.)

  4. May 2, 2017 - 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Modern productions and stagecraft are usually in the hands of Jewish interests. So in a time where a high, collective JQ is the norm (as in post 9-11 America and Western world) it would be a foregone conclusion that production and stagecraft will attempt to satirize and subvert Wagner’s opera.

    In the 1990’s, where the masses were completely in thrall (to the Nibelungen spel of ‘anti-Semitism’ ), it was possible to stage ‘The forging scene’ at the Met in the beating heart of Jew Yawk without any hint of satire.

    Siegfried. Act 1 Scene 3 ‘Hoho! Hohei! Schmiede mein Hammer.

    Those days are gone. A post 9-11 audience would ‘get’ this scene in exactly the same way that 19th century Germans got it. Today we would say that Fafner has ‘the bad guy’ script.

    The Nibelung (Dwarf) Mime is virtually a Brother’s Grimm caricature of the Jew. He whines, he plots, he lies, he has withheld from Siegfried the knowledge of his (true) father and his sword Nothung (Gramr). Above all else, Mime needs to manipulate Siegfried into reforging Nothung to kill his enemy, the Dragon Fafner, so Mime can get the ring of power from the dragon’s hoard, etc.

    There is no way a modern American audience will fail to appreciate Siegfried in the role of a ZOG. Material like this can only be conserved in a place like Bayreuth where trustees of Wagner’s legacy have control of the stagecraft.

    But In the Norse, Fafner (Fafnir) was a chthonic power. He was a Nibelung, a son of the king of the Nibelungen. He shape shifts into a dragon.

    This is a deeper matter and fundamentally more interesting than Wagner’s treatment of the Norse dragon. The Norse mythology lends itself to its original expression in the saga (sung narration) and runesinging more than stage production where the skild exercises complete control of the subject matter.

  5. David Ashton's Gravatar David Ashton
    May 2, 2017 - 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Prolific philosopher, anticommunist activist, gifted composer and sometime farmer, Roger Scruton has been providential. His Wagner study outranks observers as varied as (say) Nietzsche, Jung, Weininger, Magee, Taylor, Paul Rose or Eric Bentley.

    Scruton and I are near contemporaries, attending excellent grammar schools founded in the 16th century; fortunately his has survived in Buckinghamshire, whereas mine was broken by “comprehensive education” and multicultural immigration in Waltham Forest. In our school libraries we independently discovered Oswald Spengler; a formative influence on us both. We also rebelled against the “68 rebels” from the outset.

    Many famous writers and artists have been “accused” of “antisemitism” and/or “fascism”. Their creative work should not be evaluated on that basis. Their views on Jews, integral or marginal, should not just be “excused”, or “explained away”, but analyzed objectively on their intrinsic merits or demerits.

    Of course, magnificent music, poetry and architecture can be enjoyed without sharing the ideology that inspired them; e.g. the Requiem Mass compositions in European high culture can be appreciated without belief in Atonement theology or even Gospel historicity. For my taste, “Tristan und Isolde” and the “Death & Funeral of Siegfried” are superlative achievements – and still deeply significant in our own time.

    For TOO readers with the stomach for primary research into Jewish studies, I recommend Steven Beller’s essay on Herzl & Wagner in Nancy Harrowitz (ed) “Tainted Greatness: Antisemitism & Cultural Heroes” (1994). Oswald Mosley’s “Wagner & Shaw” can be accessed on-line afterwards to palliate any mental indigestion.

  6. m's Gravatar m
    May 2, 2017 - 3:45 pm | Permalink

    “…Richard Wagner is one of the most inspiring figures our race has produced.”

    It would be better to say that Wagner’s art is one of the most inspiring gifts we have. The man? I’m not so sure. One must always be wary of elevating any particular man simply because of his art. Artists tend to be unable to explain what they are up to, and usually their explanations range from naïve to banal. In fact, oftentimes artists have no idea what they are even doing. Wagner was different, in that he had a good idea of what he was up to and could pretty much explain it, but you can only take him so far. In good measure he was, to use his sometimes antagonist’s words, all too human. Really, apart from his art, how “inspiring” was he as a man?

    Wagner’s “philosophy” was schematic and mostly borrowed, not particularly original. His prose overly mannered and intellectualist. His early leftist politics were fairly unremarkable, and contemporary with the radicalism of the times. Certainly he understood racial problems, and was aware of the Jewish question, but back then everyone more or less understood that. And folks continued to understand it until about the time after the Second World War, when the Question became against the law in Europe, and impossible to discuss in American “polite” society. So in all of it, Wagner was not exceptional. If he couldn’t compose, he’d be at most a minor footnote in history, but most likely not known at all. How inspiring is that?

    That said, I don’t want to take anything away from his art, since I hold him as one of the four giants of Western music. But I am not a Wagnerite. Apart from strictly aesthetic consideration, Wagner is important in order to: a) show how degenerate and uninspired modern art has become; and b) to make Jewish artists uncomfortable (although the record and opera companies don’t mind making a profit off his works, even as they sully his name as much as is possible).

    Against the cult of the artist it is sometimes helpful to explore earlier aesthetic conceptions, especially those from classical Greece, where art was viewed as essentially spiritual, and, accordingly, artistic creations were understood as inspired. The gods (however they were taken) were given credit for something that no human, and no materialism, could ever produce. Today, of course, all this is mostly forgotten, or if it is remembered and stated out loud, it makes one look ridiculous in the eyes of modern, “scientific” men. However that is, when attempting to understand the genesis of high art, it probably never hurts to recall some opening lines of our famous poet…one anonymous, and one who took no credit for his creation (because it was always understood how creation ultimately flows from higher spirit):

    Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
    of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
    the wanderer, harried for years on end…

    • Gilbert Huntly's Gravatar Gilbert Huntly
      May 2, 2017 - 10:59 pm | Permalink

      Excellent comment, m! Often, when considering the persons and biographies of “artists” (be they poet or painter or philosopher), they in no way reflect the nobility of their creations. “Spiritual” is the only realm of beginnings whence their opus is inspired…

    • Brenton Sanderson's Gravatar Brenton Sanderson
      May 2, 2017 - 11:21 pm | Permalink

      Great points though I think Wagner deserves more credit than you’re willing to give him for his public stance (and prescience) on the JQ. Yes Wagner’s attitude was not uncommon in mid-nineteenth Germany, but few (if any)individuals of his stature and profile were willing to take such a public stance and not retreat in the face of sustained attack. Wagner noted how his views were “met by the utmost indignation of Jews and Germans alike; it became quite dangerous to breathe the word ‘Jew’ with a doubtful accent.” That, despite the fierce backlash, he never retreated an inch speaks to his intellectual integrity. His life and career would have been a lot smoother without Judaism in Music – certainly up to the point where King Ludwig II arrived on the scene.

    • Karen T's Gravatar Karen T
      May 3, 2017 - 5:54 am | Permalink

      A man who would have his beloved Newfoundland dog buried at his feet must have been well-disposed, and as noble and good as his music.

  7. Seraphim's Gravatar Seraphim
    May 2, 2017 - 5:47 pm | Permalink

    We must not overlook the fascination of the Wagners with Thomas Carlyle. Wagner “remained forever impressed by Thomas Carlyle’s book ‘On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History’, published in England in 1841and in German translation in 1853, and he often remarked it to Cosima” (Eva Rieger, Richard Wagner’s Women). Both of them read and reread Thomas Carlyle many times.

  8. Occidental Fan's Gravatar Occidental Fan
    May 3, 2017 - 1:40 am | Permalink

    Excellent and educative stuff. Like Andrew Joyce, Brenton Sanderson is a consistently good and intelligent writer for the Occidental Observer.

  9. AngloBilly's Gravatar AngloBilly
    May 3, 2017 - 10:07 am | Permalink

    A great essay. I wonder if the recent popularity of the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies is because Tolkien’s characters and stories evoke some of the same deep emotions and yearnings that Wagner’s works did.

  10. May 3, 2017 - 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Nietzsche, Hegel and Feuerbach did not individually or collectively demonstrate any basis for ‘a universal moral law’ to which the free and morally responsible hero or superhero may be subject.

    The ubermensch is basically his own god, deciding for himself what is good and evil. And this, of necessity, brings him into conflict with other ubermenschen who are also their own gods and g_ds deciding for themselves (and their subjects) what is good and evil.

    Such ideas are in competition and always will be. Nietzsche goes right into this in “The Birth of Tragedy” and “The Genealogy of Morals”.

    The Socttish poet Robbie Burns wrote some canny verses for such gods and g_ds engaged in ‘heroic strife famed afar’ – such as the Jacobite resistance to the forces of The Crown of the Judaic Supremacy. Here it should be remembered that The Crown settled by force of arms the Parliamentarian debts to the Synagogue of Mulheim and its Amersterdamsee Wisselbank for their Glorious Revolution 1642. All estates of three nations were forfeit to The Crown when three nations of tenants had to kiss King Willie’s loof in the War of the Succession 1688 A.D. as memorialised on the 6 counties flag of Ulster.

    Written against those who fought for King James II – here it is: :
    “What is Right and what is Wrang by the law, by the law”
    What is Right and what is Wrang, by the law?
    What is Right and what is Wrang
    A short sword and a lang
    A weak arm and a strang for to draw”

    For post Christian revolutionary forces such as Cromwell’s which have overthrown the Christian nation state, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ upon which laws of government may be based. But there is debt to the Synagogue and war and a settlement and a Jew bank on top of it.

    • Curmudgeon's Gravatar Curmudgeon
      May 4, 2017 - 6:06 am | Permalink

      Cromwell was a Puritan, and therefore not a Christian, as most of us would understand Christianity.

    • T. J.'s Gravatar T. J.
      May 4, 2017 - 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Universal Moral Law- whatever makes Whites feel good.

  11. Pierre de Craon's Gravatar Pierre de Craon
    May 3, 2017 - 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Earlier in this thread, Lynda wrote the following:

    … in a time where a high, collective JQ is the norm (as in post 9-11 America and Western world) it would be a foregone conclusion that production and stagecraft will attempt to satirize and subvert Wagner’s opera. …

    Material like this [a full and proper understanding of the character Siegfried?] can only be conserved in a place like Bayreuth where trustees of Wagner’s legacy have control of the stagecraft.

    It pains me to say that this analysis falls at the first hurdle: that of historicity. The satirization and subversion of Wagner’s legacy—music, drama, use of myth, mythic aspirations, the whole kit and caboodle—began in the very first season (1951) of the so-called new Bayreuth, when the composer’s grandson Wieland Wagner, then all of 34, single-handedly created the Dirigentenoper approach to opera production that is now regarded by the (((Establishment press))) as the only artistically legitimate one in existence. Each new production of his was ever more predictably “Freudian” than the one that preceded it. “Profundity,” then as now, was taken to inhere in beating the audience senseless with stage images so plainly phallic, mammary, or vaginal that one would need to be younger than the age of reason to miss them. The only thing he missed out on was full-frontal nudity—but only because he and his brother Wolfgang and the directors and designers who hung onto them for dear life (and prosperity) agreed that the world, in its prudery, was not quite yet “ready” for such displays.

    When Wieland was not going full-bore Freud, he was substituting contemporary clichés for those of Grandpa’s era. A notable example of this was found in the Tristan production of the early 1960s, whose closing image—Isolde walking off the stage alive after finishing her Liebestod—was greeted by the breathless Semite critics of the grander broadsheets as nothing short of a Damascus road event. Of course, since the idea of dying for love was considered too laughable a notion for an adult to entertain in 1962, had Wieland stuck doggedly to Grandpa’s wishes and let Isolde expire atop the body of her beloved, he would have made a far, far bolder “statement” than the utterly predictable one he did make. But would the dear Jews of the cultural establishment, our moral and intellectual guides and leaders, have applauded Wieland for genuine insight for doing so? Hardly!

    No one I know of has written of the current state of Wagnerian affairs as cogently as the British scholar-critic Tully Potter. What follows is an extract from his lead editorial for the Summer 2004 issue of the now sadly expired music journal Classic Record Collector:

    A new Ring cycle has opened in London but I shall not be among those present. My reason has to do with an old cliché—when cartoonists invoke Wagner, they depict a well-endowed lady in a horned helmet shrieking her head off. My problem is that I am now 61 and I have never seen a horned helmet. I have seen an outer-space Ring, a capitalist Ring and a Ring with Rhinemaidens writhing on a sofa. But a Ring as Wagner envisaged it I have yet to see; and as word has reached me that no horned helmets are on display at the Coliseum, the ENO Ring will have to do without me.

    When I returned to England in 1966 after 18 years in South Africa, Covent Garden was still using the production of La bohème that Caruso and Melba had sung in; and it was fine. Since then we have seen the rise of the ‘director’, and the opera world has gone mad. I shall probably never have another chance to see Mathis der Maler, and my one opportunity was ruined by a certain Peter Sellars (not the comedian, alas) whose staging was puerility personified. I do not wish to see a Freudian Rusalka, a political Fidelio, a New York or pornographic Rigoletto, a Don Giovanni set in steel tubing, a Brighton Mikado, a Stalinist From the House of the Dead or a Pelléas in a room rather than a forest. At any time only one or two directors of genius are at work in opera, so the odds are that I shall have the ‘concept’ of a talentless twerp inflicted on me when I go to the theatre. Any intelligent person could make the sort of connection that these directors seem determined to thrust under our noses, but most of us would not bother.

    As it happens, I would like to see more of my taxes spent on supporting music and the other arts. Yet I object when my money is dished out to arrogant, often musically ignorant upstarts to do what they like, regardless of a composer’s intentions, and to make a mockery of the artistic freedom that great artists fought for. Many directors forget that in every audience, there are those who have never seen the work before, and whose mental image will be permanently affected by what they see. Also, that many of us do not want violence done to our inner picture of the work.

    It struck me as a tragedy that the worldwide TV audience was introduced to the Ring through the oddball Chéreau interpretation. Most productions are done for a tired coterie of critics—one of my colleagues actually raved about that Mathis—and opera groupies with the time and money to travel the world collecting new productions. Some of us are lucky if we get to the opera once in a while, and then what do we see? Thank goodness for recordings!

  12. Vehmgericht's Gravatar Vehmgericht
    May 5, 2017 - 7:22 pm | Permalink

    This is a wonderful piece putting the point most eloquently.

    The scourge of quasi-Marxist director-led ‘interpretations’ of the Master’s incomparable Gesamtkünstwerke has dissuaded me (a fanatical Wagnerian from the age of ten) from attending anything other than concert performances for many years.

    As the article rightly points out they are intended to deform and desecrate the Aryan Mythos so powerfully evoked through Wagner’s poetry, music and drama. They are also utterly redundant as Wagner specified costume and stage directions in considerable detail, even inventing many new effects. Thus with modern technology a reasonably faithful interpretation should be possible, especially at Bayreuth, which has become the fons et origo of such nonsense.

    How ironic that these frequently Judaic directors merely exemplify Wagner’s notorious written animus — one might say even Beckmesser had better taste and Alberich nobler intentions.

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