Universal Brotherhood – May 1898

RICHARD WAGNER'S MUSIC DRAMAS: VIII-3 — Basil Crump

VIII. — PARSIFAL.

(Continued.)

Verily that body, so desecrated by Materialism and man himself, is the temple of the Holy Grail, the Adytum of the grandest, nay, of all the mysteries of nature in our solar universe. — H. P. Blavatsky.

The name of Hall the second is the Hall of LEARNING. In it thy soul will find the blossoms of life, but under every flower a serpent coiled . . Stop not the fragrance of its stupefying blossoms to inhale. . . This Hall is dangerous in its perfidious beauty, is needed but for thy probation. Beware, Disciple, lest dazzled by illusive radiance thy soul should linger and be caught in its deceptive light. — Voice of the Silence.

In the second Act we are transported to the evil and delusive realm of the black magican Klingsor. The stormy Prelude prepares us for the weird and terrible scene which is to follow. Klingsor perceives the approach of Parsifal, and prepares himself to employ his most subtle arts to lure his victim to destruction; for well he knows that the "Pure Simple" is his most dangerous enemy. When the curtain rises the magician is seen in the tower of the Castle of Perdition surrounded by necromantic appliances. He is watching the progress of events in his magic mirror; on his head is the red turban which has always been the distinguishing mark of evil sorcerers. (1) He now causes a cloud of bluish vapor to arise and calls with imperious gestures on Kundry, who is to be his chief instrument of allurement. Notice that he conjures her by the names of some of her past incarnations:

Arise! Arise! Come to me!
Thy master calls thee, nameless one!
Eternal she-devil! Rose of Hell!
Herodias thou wert, and what beside?
Gundryggia there! Kundry here!

As the wretched one rises in her ethereal or astral form in the vapor she utters a piercing shriek of pain and terror, and calls for sleep or death rather than she shall be forced to such devilish work. But Klingsor tells her that she is obliged to obey his will because she has no influence over him. "Ha!" she cries with a mocking laugh, "Art thou chaste?" Enraged, but terrified, for the shaft strikes home, he mutters darkly: "Terrible extremity! Can the torment of irrepressible longing, the fiendish impulse of terrific desire, which I forced to silence within me, loudly laugh and mock me through thee the Devil's Bride? Beware! One man already has repented of his scorn and contempt, that proud one, strong in holiness, who once spurned me, his race succumbed to me, unredeemed shall the pious guardian pine: and soon — I sometimes dream — I shall be guarding the Grail myself."

But already the young hero is at the walls, and Kundry is hastily dismissed to her work while the sorcerer watches with uncanny glee the prowess of Parsifal, as right and left he strikes down the guardians of the ramparts who bar his way. For this awful incarnation of selfishness cares not who — even of his own retinue — is destroyed, so long as he himself prevails and gains his end. Parsifal now stands on the wall looking with wonder at the garden of flowers, in which numbers of young maidens are running about bewailing the wounding of their lovers. Their distress, however, changes to merriment when they discover that this handsome youth does not wish to harm them. Quickly decking themselves as flowers they cluster around him seeking eagerly for his favor and caresses. They are the personifications of the sensual appetites which are fostered by indulgence: "If you do not love and caress us, we shall wither and die," they cry. This garden is the Hall of Learning referred to in the extract from the Voice of the Silence which heads this article.

This is Parsifal's first contact with the temptations of the senses, but while admiring these beautiful appearances he is not attracted by them, and quickly grows impatient of their attentions. He is about to escape from them when a voice calls from a bower of flowers: "Parsifal! Stay!" It is the first time he has heard his name since his mother uttered it in sleep. The maidens leave him, and he stands face to face with the temptation which lured Amfortas to his fall. Kundry, transformed into a woman of extraordinary beauty, is seen reclining on a floral couch: " 'Twas thee I called," she repeats, "foolish pure one, 'Falparsi' thou pure foolish one, 'Parsifal.'" This vision only fills the youth with "a strange foreboding"; but Kundry at once begins her work by speaking to him in most pathetic accents of Herzeleide, his mother, and her tender love for him. She thus enchains his sympathy and introduces her theme in its most innocent and pure form: "I saw the child upon its mother's breast, its first lisp laughs still in my ear; how the heartbroken Herzeleide laughed too, when the delight of her eyes shouted in response to her sorrow! Tenderly nestled among soft mosses, she kissed the lovely babe sweetly to sleep; its slumber was guarded by the fear and trouble of a mother's yearning; the hot dew of a mother's tears awoke it in the morning." Accompanying all this is the sorrowful motive of Herzeleide:

notes1

Once again the painful recital of his mother's grief and death plunges Parsifal in self-reproachful distress, as it had done in the first Act. Kundry then cunningly offers him as consolation, from herself, the love which Herzeleide bore to Gamuret his father, and twining her arms around his neck she at length imprints a kiss upon his lips. But instead of falling a victim to her charms, as Amfortas did, Parsifal starts up in horror and clutches his heart, crying, "Amfortas! — The wound! — The wound! — It burns in my heart. — Oh! Wail! Wail! Terrible Wail! It cries to me from the depths of my heart. . . Oh! — Torture of love! How all things vibrate, heave and throb in sinful lust! . . (Rising into a state of complete exaltation and terribly quiet.) My eyes as in a trance, are fixed on the Sacred Cup; — -the Holy Mood glows; the divine and most gentle rapture of redemption palpitates through every soul far and wide: only here in my heart the torment will not abate." Kundry, whose amazement has changed to passionate admiration, attempts to renew her caresses; but in them all Parsifal sees only the causes of the downfall of Amfortas, and, rising to his feet, he thrusts her from him with horror.

Foiled in this direction, Kundry instantly tries yet another device: He is the Redeemer she has sought through the ages and whom she once mocked as he hung upon the Cross. Can he not feel for her sufferings? "Oh! — Didst thou but know the curse, which through sleeping and waking, through death and life, pain and laughter tortures me, ever steeled to fresh suffering, unendingly through my existence! . . . Let me be united with thee but for one hour, and then, though God and the world cast me off, in thee I shall be saved and redeemed!"

"For evermore thou wouldst be damned with me," replies Parsifal, "were I to forget my mission for one hour in the embrace of thine arms! For thy salvation also am I sent, if thou dost refrain from desire. The consolation which shall end thy suffering, is not drawn from the fountain whence that suffering flows; salvation will never come to thee until that fountain is dried up within thee." (2)

"Was it my kiss then which revealed the world so clearly to thee?" pursues Kundry, wildly. "Then would the embrace of all my love make thee a God." "Love and redemption thou shalt have," replies the Chosen One, "if thou showest me the way to Amfortas," and with these words we hear the splendid motive of Parsifal as Hero:

notes2

Enraged at the defeat of all her arts, Kundry curses Parsifal's path and calls on Klingsor to wound him with the Lance. May he wander through the world and never find the path he seeks. Klingsor now appears on the Castle wall and aims the Lance at Parsifal, but instead of striking him it remains poised over his head. Grasping it, he makes the sign of the Cross with it, saying: "With this sign I exorcise thy magic: as I trust that this shall close the wound which thou hast inflicted with it, so may it overthrow thy illusory splendor in sorrow and ruins!" With a loud crash the castle falls to pieces and the magnificent garden becomes once more a desert waste strewn with faded flowers, while Kundry falls to the earth with a loud cry. The last sounds from the orchestra are the wail of disappointed desire and the heartrending cry of the wounded Amfortas. I here give the former motive; the latter appeared in the previous article:

notes3 

Thus has the Sacred Lance, the weapon of the Will, which was lost through yielding to desire, been regained from the clutch of self by purity and selflessness. But immediate redemption cannot be obtained. In the wanderings which the divine hero has to undergo, in his search for Amfortas, Wagner clearly shows us that the results of sin have to be worked out ere the Temple of the Grail is finally attained, the burning wound is healed, and the Redeemer-King is set upon his throne.

(To be continued.)

FOOTNOTES:

1. Since Wagner's death Klingsor's turban has been altered in color to white, and those of the Grail Knights from white to red! Frau Wagner has thus completely reversed the symbology intended and has shown her entire ignorance of Wagner's mystical use of color. It is indeed high time that the performance of mystery-dramas — as of old-was under the control of occultists who know what they are about. The sorcerers of the East are called "Red Caps." (return to text)

2. In Light on the Path the following passage was condemned by Madame Blavatsky as an error of the writer's (not the author's): "Seek it (the way) by testing all experience, by utilizing the senses. . . .The true teaching is here given by Parsifal and in the Voice of the Silence by Madame Blavatsky as follows: "Do not believe that lust can ever be killed out if stratified or satiated, for this is an abomination inspired by Mara (the Great Ensnarer, corresponding to Klingsor. It is by feeding vice that it expands and waxes strong, like to the worm that fattens on the blossom's heart." (return to text)


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