Universal Brotherhood – May 1899

RICHARD WAGNER'S PROSE WORKS: III — Basil Crump

Vol. I. (Continued.)

THE ARTWORK OF THE FUTURE

There is one Eternal Law in Nature, one that always tends to adjust contraries, and to produce final harmony. It is owing to this Law of spiritual development superseding the physical and purely intellectual, that mankind will become freed from its false Gods, and find itself finally Self-redeemed." — H. P. BLAVATSKY

In the opening pages of this lengthy essay Wagner lays down a philosophical basis which is practically identical with that of Schopenhauer. This is worthy of especial note since many writers have spoken of the influence exerted by the Frankfort thinker upon Wagner's later creations. Mr. Ellis points out that at the period of writing this essay and for long after, Wagner, in common with the world at large, was unaware even of Schopenhauer's existence. The only difference is that Wagner employs the term "Necessity" where Schopenhauer uses "Will." It is, however, perfectly true that later on a perusal of the great philosopher's works was of great assistance to Wagner. This he gratefully and with delightful modesty acknowledges in his letters to August Roeckel. These letters are deeply interesting; they are now published in English and should be read by all who wish to understand Wagner fully. He there states that, while Schopenhauer's main principles were not new to him, yet his arguments had satisfied the purely intellectual part of his mind and brought it into agreement with his artistic intuition.

I

MAN AND ART IN GENERAL

The various chapters of this essay are divided into a number of sub-heads. By employing these and giving the chief points under each it will be comparatively easy to give a clear idea of the whole scheme.

NATURE, MAN, AND ART

"As Man stands to Nature, so stands Art to Man." Nature's development is based not on Caprice, but Necessity. "Man only recognizes Nature's Necessity by observing the harmonious connection of all her phenomena." In man Nature passed over into conscious life (i.e., self-conscious as distinguished from instinctual animal life). Then man erred, "when he set the cause of Nature's workings outside the bounds of Nature's self," and invented the anthropomorphic God. Through Error comes Knowledge, by which man will learn his community, with Nature, and perceive "the same Necessity in all the elements and lives around him." If, then, Man is "the portraiture in brief of Nature" then the portrayal of his Life, "the impress of this life's Necessity and Truth, is — Art.

"Man will never be that which he can and should be, until his Life is a true mirror of Nature, a conscious following of the only real Necessity, the inner natural necessity. . . For as Man only then becomes free, when he gains the glad consciousness of his one-ness with Nature; so does Art only then gain freedom, when she has no more to blush for her affinity with actual life." The same truth is very beautifully expressed in H. P. Blavatsky's translation of a very ancient scripture, The Voice of the Silence — "Help Nature and work on with her; and Nature will regard thee as one of her creators and make obeisance. And she will open wide before thee the portals of her secret chambers, lay bare before thy gaze the treasures hidden in the very depths of her pure virgin bosom."

Under the second heading, "Life, Science and Art," there is nothing particular to note; we will therefore pass on to the third.

THE FOLK AND ART

From the "Folk" Wagner drew his inspiration — the mythical subject-matter for his dramas. He here defines it as "the epitome of all those men who feel a common and collective WANT," a vital force which is destined to redeem mere intellect from "actual insanity;" a force which is the eternal enemy of luxury, egoism, and all that poisons truest Art.

THE FOLK AS CONDITIONING THE ARTWORK

In Wagner's view the Folk is also the real originator; the inventor of Speech, Religion, the State; and here he says, "it became for me my art-instructor; where, after many a battle between the hope within and the blank despair without, I won a dauntless faith in the assurance of the Future."

The remainder of the chapter is occupied with a consideration of the present-day elements which are antagonistic to Art, such as fashions and mannerisms. In the Grecian Artwork we have the outlines for the Art of the Future, which must not, like it, be based on a national, but a Universal Religion — the Religion of Universal Brotherhood.

II.

ARTISTIC MAN, AND ART AS DERIVED DIRECTLY FROM HIM

Having enunciated the principle of Universal Brotherhood as the foundation of future Art. Wagner now proceeds to analyze the art-forces of the Drama, and to show how they have been dissevered and misused.

"Man's nature is twofold, an outer and an inner. The senses to which he offers himself as a subject for Art are those of Vision and of Hearing; to the eye appeals the outer man, the inner to the ear . . . and the more distinctly can the outer man express the inner, the higher does he show his rank as an artistic being.

"But the inner man can only find direct communication through the ear, and that by means of his voice's Tone. Tone is the immediate utterance of feeling and has its physical seat within the Heart, whence start and whither flow the waves of life-blood. Through the sense of hearing, Tone urges forth from the feeling of one heart to the feeling of its fellow."

This gives us a clue to the immense power of the human voice — rightly used; it is the moulder and vehicle of mental pictures which cannot be fully imparted by the outer means of gesture, facial expression, or even the magnetic glance of the most living of all the physical organs — the eyes, the "windows of the soul."

"Speech is the condensation of the element of Voice, and the Word is the crystallized measure of Tone." Speech is the utterance of the Intellectual-man who is seeking for clearness of comprehension in "sifting the universal;" but in a splendid passage, somewhat involved for the general reader, Wagner shows that when the orator "from out the egoism of his narrowed and conditioned personal sensations finds himself again amid the wide communion of all-embracing world-emotions," he feels the urgent need of Tone and dramatic gesture. "For where it is a question of giving utterance ... to the highest and the truest that man can ever utter, there above all must man display himself in his entirety; and this whole man is the man of understanding united with the man of heart and the man of body — but neither of these parts for self alone."

These universal emotions lead him to the cognizance of "Man as a species and an integral factor in the totality of Nature; and, in presence of this great, all-mastering phenomenon, his pride [of Intellect] breaks down. He now can only will the universal, true, and unconditional; he yields himself, not to a love for this or that particular object, but to wide Love itself. Thus does the egoist become a communist, the unit all, the man God, the art-variety Art."

Since Wagner uses this word "Love" constantly throughout his writings and poems, it is important to bear in mind the above definition. He always employs it in that universal sense, unless he states otherwise. It was the great keynote of his life as we shall see again and again in the course of our journey through these volumes; it caused him to revolt from the condition of modern art; drove him to carve out with heroic courage the path in which artists of the coming centuries will follow; and led him at last to the Temple of the Holy Grail.

THE THREE VARIETIES OF HUMANISTIC ART, IN THEIR ORIGINAL UNION

"The three chief artistic faculties of the entire man have once, and of their own spontaneous impulse, evolved to a trinitarian utterance of human Art; and this was in the primal, earliest manifested artwork, the Lyric, and its later, more conscious, loftiest completion, the Drama."

These three chief elements are Dance, Tone, and Poetry; three Graces; and, of course, by Dance is meant here that grace of movement which originated in the rhythmical choric dances of the ancient Mysteries.

In speaking of this loving trinity of sister Arts "so mutually bound up in each other's life, of body and of spirit," Wagner once more returns to his main theme of Love in its highest aspect. The definition of Brotherhood and Self-sacrifice is very fine:

"The solitary unit is unfree, because confined and fettered in un-Love, the associate is free, because unfettered and unconfined through Love. . . . The Life-need of man's life-needs is the need of Love. As the conditions of natural human life are contained in the love-bond of subordinated nature forces, which craved for their agreement, their redemption, their adoption into the higher principle, Man; so does man find his agreement, his redemption, his appeasement, likewise in something higher, and this higher thing is the human race, the fellowship of man, for there is but one thing higher than man's self, and that is Men. But man can only gain the stilling of his life-need through Giving, through Giving of himself to other men, and in its highest climax, to all the world of human beings. . . .

"It is a sorry misconception of Freedom — that of the being who would fain be free in loneliness. The impulse to loose oneself from commonalty, to be free and independent for individual self alone, can only lead to the direct antithesis of the state so arbitrarily striven after: namely to utmost lack of self-dependence."

The section closes with a denunciation of that Egoism "which has brought such immeasurable woe into the world and so lamentable a mutilation and insincerity into Art." In the next the Art of Dance is considered, and we shall plunge into the very structure of the Drama.

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