Written by Vladimir Moss


     The shift in German politics from the liberalism of 1848 to the conservatism of Bismarck's era can be seen in the writings of the famous composer Richard Wagner. But Wagner’s progress was much more than simply the cooling of his youthful revolutionary ardour. The views of his maturity were if anything more revolutionary - although in a quite different, non-socialist direction.

     Wagner’s youthful faith was in the socialist revolution. Thus in the revolutionary year of 1848, after the Frankfurt Parliament’s failure to enlist the support of Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia, he wrote The Revolution, in which he said: “I will destroy every evil that has power over mankind. I will destroy the domination of one over another, of the dead over the living; I will shatter the power of the mighty, of the law and of property. Man’s sole master shall be his own will, his only law his own desire, his only property his own strength, for only the free man is holy and there is nothing higher than he. Let there be an end to the evil that gives one man power over millions… since all are equal I shall destroy every dominion of one over another.”[1]

     Here we see not only the influence of the revolution, but also of the concept of Will, even before his meeting with Schopenhauer, together with the embryo of a Will to Power such as we find later in Nietzsche, who greatly admired Wagner (until he thought that he had sold out to the bourgeoisie in his later years).

     The collapse of the 1848 revolution forced Wagner into exile from his native Germany for many years.  Nevertheless, he never completely shook off his early faith, but combined it in an original way with other ideas: anti-capitalism with anti-communism, and republicanism with monarchism.

     Thus his early anti-capitalism found expression also in his later music dramas. One of leitmotifs of these dramas was the corrupting power of money. For example, his most famous work, the four-opera Ring cycle, describes how money, symbolized by a golden ring possessed by Alberich and sought by the hero, Siegfried, is incompatible with true love and happiness.

     The contemporary symbol of the love of money gone wild was London, and in 1877, during a trip down the Thames in a steamer, as A.N. Wilson writes, “Wagner said, 'This is Alberich's dream come true - Nibelheim, world dominion, activity, work, everywhere the oppressive feeling of steam and fog.'...

     "One of the most disturbing novels of the 1870s was Trollope's The Way We Live Now - disturbing because genial, comic Anthony Trollope, who had so consistently amused his public with tales of country-house gossip and cathedral-feuds, chose to depict an England extremely vulgarised, sold to Mammon, dominated by money-worship.... Professor Polhemus, an American scholar quoted by Trollope's biographer James Pope-Hennessy, makes the point that Trollope saw the same truth as Marx and Engels - 'a world where there is no other bond between man and man but crude self-interest and callous cash-payment', a world that 'has degraded personal dignity to the level of exchange-value', creating 'exploitation that is open, unashamed, direct and brutal'. Professor Polhemus points out that, while Karl Marx was an optimist, Trollope's later years were suffused with pessimism and gloom.

     "The Way we Live Now was published the year before the opening of the Bayreuth Festival Playhouse and the first complete performance of Wagner's Ring. As Bernard Shaw reminded 'The Perfect Wagnerite' in 1898, 'the Ring, with all its gods and giants and dwarfs, its water-maidens and Valkyries, its wishing-cap, magic ring, enchanted sword, and miraculous treasure is a drama of today, and not of a remote and fabulous antiquity. It could not have been written before the second half of the nineteenth century, because it deals with events which were only then consummating themselves.'

     "Shaw rightly saw Alberich the dwarf, amassing power through his possession of the ring, and forcing the Niebelungs to mine his gold, as the type of capitalism. 'You can see the process for yourself in every civilized country today, where millions of people toil in want and disease to heap up more wealth for our Alberichs, laying up nothing for themselves, except sometimes agonizing disease and the certainty of premature death.'

     "No allegory of any work is exhausted by drawing too punctilious a match between symbol and signified. The audience to Wagner's musical drama is caught up in an experience which is profound in itself, and to say Alberich = the Big Capitalist or that the befriending of Alberich by Loki and Wotan = the Church and the Law embracing the power of capital is too narrow and too specific an account of what stands as a universal work of art. Shaw was right, however, to say that Wagner's masterpiece was rooted in its time. What is suggested in the final opera of the cycle is a universal collapse - the Gods themselves hurtling towards self-destruction. As the 'storm-clouds of the nineteenth century' - John Ruskin's phrase - gather, we sense impending disaster in many of the great art-works of the period."[2]



    Wagner managed to combine anti-capitalism with anti-communism, and republicanism with monarchism. In his celebrated "Fatherland Club Speech", delivered on June 14, 1848 in Dresden, Wagner declared that his aim is that the "demoniac idea of Money vanish from us, with all its loathsome retinue of open and secret usury, paper-juggling, percentage and bankers' speculations. That will be the full emancipation of the human race; that will be the fulfilment of Christ's pure teaching, which enviously they hide from us behind parading dogmas, invented to bind the simple world of raw barbarians, to prepare them for a development towards whose higher consummation we now must march in lucid consciousness. Or does this smack to you of Communism? Are ye foolish or ill-disposed enough to declare the necessary redemption of the human race from the flattest, most demoralising servitude to vulgarest matter, synonymous with carrying out the most preposterous and senseless doctrine, that of Communism? Can ye not see that this doctrine of a mathematically equal division of property and earnings is simply an unreasoning attempt to solve that problem, at any rate dimly apprehended, and an attempt whose sheer impossibility itself proclaims it stillborn? But would ye denounce therewith the task itself [i.e. the removal of the power of money] for reprehensible and insane, as that doctrine of a surety [i.e. Communism] is? Have a care! The outcome of three-and-thirty years of unruffled peace shews you Human Society in such a state of dislocation and impoverishment, that, at end of all those years, ye have on every hand the awful spectacle of pallid Hunger! Look to it, or e'er it be too late! Give no alms, but acknowledge a right, a God-given right of Man, lest ye live to see the day when outraged Nature will gird herself for a battle of brute force, whose savage shout of victory were of a truth that Communism; and though the radical impossibility of its continuance should yield it but the briefest spell of reign, that short-lived reign would yet have sufficed to root up every trace, perchance for many an age to come, of the achievements of two thousand years of civilisation. Think ye, I threaten? Nay, I warn!"[3]

     It was a prophetic warning, published in the same year as The Communist Manifesto and directed precisely against it. And in his zeal that his warning about the coming of Communism should be fulfilled, Wagner called for the preservation of the Monarchy in Saxony. Only he argued that his idea of monarchy was not in opposition to the Republic, but in union with it.

     He called for "the King to be the first and sterlingest Republican of all. And who is more called to be the truest, faithfulest Republican, than just the Prince? RESPUBLICA means: the affairs of the nation. What individual can be more destined that the Prince, to belong with all his feelings, all his thoughts and actions, entirely to the Folk's affairs? Once persuaded of his glorious calling, what could move him to belittle himself, to cast in his lot with one exclusive smaller section of his Folk? However warmly each of us may respond to feelings for the good of all, so pure a Republican as the Prince can he never be, for his cares are undivided: their eye is single to the One, the Whole; whilst each of us must needs divided and parcel out his cares, to meet the wants of everyday."[4]

     Here Wagner is expressing one of the key ideas of Orthodox Christian monarchism: that only the king is able to transcend individual and party political factionalism and self-interest, and labour for the nation as a whole. In this sense the king is the guarantee of the freedom of his people rather than its destroyer; for only he can preserve the freedom of individuals and parties from encroachment from other individuals and parties. And so "if he is the genuine free Father of his Folk, then with a single high-hearted resolve he can plant peace where war was unavoidable."[5]

     At the same time, Wagner claims, he is a Republican. But the Republic will be proclaimed by - the King! "Not we, will proclaim the republic, no! this prince, the noblest, worthiest King, let him speak out: -

     "'I declare Saxony a Free State.'

     "And let the earliest law of this Free State, the edict giving it the fairest surety of endurance, be:- 'The highest executive power rests in the Royal House of Wettin, and descends therein from generation to generation, by right of primogeniture.'

     "The oath which we swear to this State and this edict, will never be broken: not because we have sworn it (how many an oath is sworn in the unthinking joy of taking office!) but because we have sworn it in full assurance that through this proclamation, through that law, a new era of undying happiness has dawned, of utmost benefit, of most determinant presage, not alone for Saxony, no! for Germany, for Europe. He who thus boldly has expressed his enthusiasm, believes with all his heart that never was he more loyal to the oath he, too, has sworn his King, than when he penned these lines today."[6]

     All this may seem like the height of romantic fantasy - and Wagner was nothing if not a romantic. However, his idea of a "People's Monarchy" as essential to the spiritual well-being of Germany did not leave him; and if he did not find it in Saxony, he appeared to have found it for a time in Ludwig II of Bavaria some 16 years later. Moreover, already in 1848 he was quite clear that he did not mean by a "People's Monarchy" a kind of compromise between Monarchy and Republicanism in the form of an English-style "constitutional monarchy": "Now would this have brought about the downfall of the Monarchy? Ay! But it would have published the emancipation of the Kinghood. Dupe not yourselves, ye who want a 'Constitutional Monarchy upon the broadest democratic basis.' As regards the latter (the basis), ye either are dishonest, or, if in earnest, ye are slowly torturing your artificial Monarchy to death. Each step forward, upon that democratic basis, is a fresh encroachment on the power of the Mon-arch, i.e. the sole ruler; the principle itself is the completest mockery of Monarchy, which is conceivable only as actual alone-ruling: each advance of Constitutionalism is a humiliation to the ruler, for it is a vote of want-of-confidence in the monarch. How shall love and confidence prevail, amid this constant, this often so unworthily manoeuvred contest twixt two opposing principles? The very existence of the monarch, as such, is embittered by shame and mortification. Let us therefore redeem him from this miserable half-life; let us have done altogether with Monarchism, since Sole-rule is made impossible by just the principle of Folk's rule (Democracy): but let us, on the contrary, emancipate the Kinghood in its fullest, its own peculiar meaning! At head of the Free State (the republic) the hereditary King will be exactly what he should be, in the noblest meaning of his title [Fürst]: the First of the Folk, the Freest of the Free! Would not this be alike the fairest commentary upon Christ's saying: 'And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall he be servant of all'? Inasmuch as he serves the freedom of all, in his person he raises the concept of Freedom itself to the loftiest, to a God-implanted consciousness.

     "The farther back we search among Germanic nations for the Kinghood's meaning, the more intimately will it fit this new-won meaning."[7]

     Wagner returned to this subject in 1864, in an article entitled "On State and Religion" written at the request of his patron, King Ludwig II. If in 1848, the year of revolution, he had been concerned to show that kingship was compatible with freedom, here he links freedom with stability, which is the main aim of the State.

     "For it constitutes withal the unconscious aim in every higher human effort to get beyond the primal need: namely to reach a freer evolution of spiritual attributes, which is always cramped so long as hindrances forestall the satisfaction of that first root-need. Everyone thus strives by nature for stability, for maintenance of quiet: ensured can it only be, however, when the maintenance of existing conditions is not the preponderant interest of one party only. Hence it is in the truest interest of all parties, and thus of the State itself, that the interest in its abidingness should not be left to a single party. There must consequently be given a possibility of constantly relieving the suffering interests of less favoured parties.

     "The embodied voucher for this fundamental law is the Monarch. In no State is there a weightier law than that which centres on stability in the supreme hereditary power of one particular family, unconnected and un-commingling with any other lineage in that State. Never yet has there been a Constitution in which, after the downfall of such families and abrogation of the Kingly power, some substitution or periphrasis has not necessarily, and for the most part necessitously, reconstructed a power of similar kind. It therefore is established as the most essential principle of the State; and as in it resides the warrant of stability, so in the person of the King the State attains its true ideal.

     "For, as the King on the one hand gives assurance of the State's solidity, on the other his loftiest interest soars high beyond the State. Personally he has naught in common with the interests of parties, but his sole concern is that the conflict of these interests should be adjusted, precisely for the safety of the whole. His sphere is therefore equity, and where this is unattainable, the exercise of grace (Gnade). Thus, as against the party interests, he is the representative of purely-human interests, and in the eyes of the party-seeking citizen he therefore occupies in truth a position well-nigh superhuman. To him is consequently accorded a reverence such as the highest citizen would never dream of distantly demanding for himself."[8]

     The subject relates to the King through the self-sacrificing emotion of patriotism. In a democracy, on the other hand, the position of the King is taken by public opinion, the veneration of which is far more problematic, leading as it does to "the most deplorable imbroglios, into acts the most injurious to Quiet".[9]

     "The reason lies in the scarcely exaggerable weakness of the average human intellect, as also in the infinitely diverse shades and grades of perceptive-faculty in the units who, taken all together, create the so-called public opinion. Genuine respect for this 'public opinion' is founded on the sure and certain observation that no one is more accurately aware of the community's true immediate life-needs, nor can better devise the means for their satisfaction, than the community itself: it would be strange indeed, were man more faultily organised in this respect than the dumb animal. Nevertheless we often are driven to the opposite view, if we remark how even for this, for the correct perception of its nearest, commonest needs, the ordinary human understanding does not suffice - not, at least, to the extent of jointly satisfying them in the spirit of true fellowship: the presence of beggars in our midst, and even at times of starving fellow-creatures, shews how weak the commonest human sense must be at bottom. So here already we have evidence of the great difficulty it must cost to bring true reason into the joint determinings of Man: though the cause may well reside in the boundless egoism of each single unit."[10]

     Another problem with public opinion is that it has an extremely unreliable "pretended vice-regent" in the press. The press is made out to be "the sublimation of public spirit, of practical human intellect, the indubitable guarantee of manhood's constant progress."

     But in fact "it is at all times havable for gold or profit." In fact, "there exists no form of injustice, of onesidedness and narrowness of heart, that does not find expression in the pronouncements of 'public opinion', and - what adds to the hatefulness of the thing - forever with a passionateness that masquerades as the warmth of genuine patriotism, but has its true and constant origin in the most self-seeking of all human motives. Whoso would learn this accurately, has but to run counter to 'public opinion', or indeed to defy it: he will find himself brought face to face with the most implacable tyrant; and no one is more driven to suffer from its despotism, than the Monarch, for very reason that he is the representative of that selfsame Patriotism whose noxious counterfeit steps up to him, as 'public opinion', with the boast of being identical in kind.

     "Matters strictly pertaining to the interest of the King, which in truth can only be that of purest patriotism, are cut and dried by his unworthy substitute, this Public Opinion, in the interest of the vulgar egoism of the mass; and the necessitation to yield to its requirements, notwithstanding, becomes the earliest source of that higher form of suffering which the King alone can personally experience as his own.” [11]

     Ordinary men pursue definite, practical aims associated with their particular, lowly station in life. But "the King desires the Ideal, he wishes justice and humanity; nay, wished he them not, wished he naught but what the simple burgher or party-leader wants, - the very claims made on him by his office, claims that allow him nothing but an ideal interest, by making a traitor to the idea he represents, would plunge him into those sufferings which have inspired tragic poets from all time to paint their pictures of the vanity of human life and strife. True justice and humanity are ideals irrealisable: to be bound to strive for them, nay, to recognise an unsilenceable summons to their carrying out, is to be condemned to misery. What the thoroughly noble, truly kingly individual directly feels of this, in time is given also to the individual unqualified for knowledge of his tragic task, and solely placed by Nature's dispensation on the throne, to learn in some uncommon fashion reserved for kings alone& The highly fit, however, is summoned to drink the full, deep cup of life's true tragedy in his exalted station. Should his construction of the Patriotic ideal be passionate and ambitious, he becomes a warrior-chief and conqueror, and thereby courts the portion of the violent, the faithlessness of Fortune; but should his nature be noble-minded, full of human pity, more deeply and more bitterly than every other is he called to see the futility of all endeavours for true, for perfect justice."[12]

     "To him more deeply and more inwardly than is possible to the State-citizen, as such, is it therefore given to feel that in Man there dwells an infinitely deeper, more capacious need than the State and its ideal can ever satisfy. Wherefore as it was Patriotism that raised the burgher to the highest height by him attainable, it is Religion alone that can bear the King to the stricter dignity of manhood."[13]

     Therefore just as Monarchy is more purely disinterested, more truly solicitous of the needs - the deepest as well as the more temporary needs - of all its citizens, than "Franco-Judaico-German Democracy"[14], so through this very necessity of having to rise above individual, partial, lower interests and needs, it ascends into the realm of religion. And, we should add, receives its strength and confirmation and sanctification from religion. In this Wagner, paradoxically, is not far from the Orthodox Christian conception of true kingship…


     However, the word “Judaico” bring us to the most notorious part of Wagner’s political philosophy, his views on the Jews. These arose in part from his views on good and bad art, from a contrast between “good” Greek and “bad” Jewish art.

     Like Nietzsche, Wagner took Greek art as his ideal. Thus in 1849 he wrote: “It is our task to make out of Greek art the completely human art; to remove from it the conditions under which it was precisely a Greek and not a completely human art; to widen the garb of religion, in which alone it was communal Greek art, after the removal of which, as a selfish individual art species, it could not longer fulfill the need of the community, but only that of luxury – however beautiful! – to widen this garb of the specifically Greek religion to the bond of the religion of the future – that of universality – in order to form for ourselves a true conception of the artwork of the future.”[15]

     Paradoxically, however, while extolling universality in art, Wagner believed it had to be rooted in the soil of a national culture. Hence his violent aversion to Judaism in Music – the title of his notorious article of 1850. “Jews, says Wagner, have no ‘national’ culture, so the art they produce is superficial – it has no grounding in racial ‘soil’ and is therefore far as removed from holy Greek art as can be imagined. Jews could be acceptable, not simply by being ‘assimilated’ into a vibrant national culture (as many of them were attempting to do in the Germany of the latter half of the nineteenth century) but by being purged, ‘redeemed’ of their ‘Jewishness’.”[16]

      Wagner’s views on Jewry became steadily more radical. Indeed, German anti-semitism can be said to have begun in earnest with Wagner, who, as Paul Johnson writes, "advocated the Untergang (downfall) of the Jews. 'I regard the Jewish race as the born enemy of pure humanity and everything that is noble in it; it is certain 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 getting control of everything.' He wrote this in Religion and Art (1881),… Wagner was particularly influential in intensifying anti-Semitism, especially among the middle and upper classes, not only because of his personal standing but because he repeatedly advanced the argument - with innumerable examples - that the Jews were progressively 'taking over' the citadel of German culture, especially its music. Even their so-called 'geniuses', he insisted - men like Giacomo Meyerbeer, Mendelssohn or Heine himself - were not truly creative, and meanwhile a host of Jewish middlemen were taking over the critical press, publishing, theatres and operas, art galleries and agencies. It was Wagner's writings which provoked the furious outpourings of Eugen Dühring, who throughout the 1880s published a succession of widely read racial attacks on the Jew: the 'Jewish question', he declared, should be 'solved' by 'killing and extirpation'."[17]

     The term "Antisemitism" was coined at this time. Thus Daniel Pipes writes: "Antisemitism, a term coined in 1879 with the founding in Berlin of the Antisemitenliga (Antisemitic League), is a form of anti-Jewish hatred that differs in several ways from what came before: (1) it changes the emphasis from religion to race, (2) it transforms dislike into fear, (3) it turns a bias into an all-encompassing ideology, even way of life, and (4) it replaces the episodic persecution of Jews with a permanent one. Antisemitism moved Jew hatred from the realm of emotions to that of political activism, from defensive to offensive, and from life's sidelines to its core. It also changed the depiction of Jews from heretics into malevolently powerful figures."[18]

     Antisemitism came, according to Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "in the 70s from conservative and clerical circles, who demanded that German Jews be restricted in their rights and further immigration be forbidden. From the end of the 70s this movement 'also took hold of the intellectual circles of society'. It was expressed and brought to its most generalized formulations by the prominent Prussian historian Henrich von Trietschke: 'The present agitation has correctly caught the mood of society, which considers the Jews to be our national misfortune', 'the Jews can never be fused with the West European peoples' and express their hatred for Germanism. After him came Eugen During (who is so well known for his quarrel with Marx and Engels): 'The Jewish question is simple a racial question, and the Jews are not only foreign to us, they are innately and unalterably a corrupt race'. Then came the philosopher Eduard Hartmann. - In the political sphere this movement led in 1882 to the First International Anti-Jewish Congress (in Dresden), which accepted a 'Manifesto to the governments and peoples of the Christian states, who are perishing from Jewry', and demanding the expulsion of the Jews from Germany. - But by the 90s the anti-Jewish parties had weakened and suffered a series of political defeats."[19]

     Wagner’s later music-dramas, staged in a specially constructed theatre in Bayreuth, provided the kind of “Jew-purged” art that he demanded; they propagated, in Richard Evans’ words, “heroic figures from Nordic legend [that] were to serve as model leaders for the German future” – that is, models of Aryan purity with no admixture of Semitism. But even as early as Judaism in Music he was arguing “that the ‘Jewish spirit’ was inimical to musical profundity. His remedy was for the complete assimilation of Jews into German culture, and the replacement of Jewish religion, indeed all religion, by secular aesthetic impulses of the sort he poured into his own music-dramas. But towards the end of his life his views took on an increasingly racist tome under the influence of his second wife, Cosima, daughter of the composer Franz Liszt. By the end of the 1870s she was recording in her diaries that Wagner, whose outlook on civilization was distinctly pessimistic by this time, had read Wilhelm Marr’s anti-semitic tract of 1873 and broadly agreed with it. As a consequence of this shift in his position, Wagner no longer desired the assimilation of the Jews into German society, but their expulsion from it. In 1881, discussing Lessing’s classic play Nathan the Wise and a disastrous fire in the Vienna Ring Theatre, in which more than four hundred people, many of them Jewish, had died, Cosima noted that her husband said ‘In a vehement quip that all Jews should burn in a performance of Nathan’.

     “After Wagner’s death, his widow turned Bayreuth into a kind of shrine, at which a band of dedicated followers would cultivate the dead Master’s sacred memory. The views of the circle she gathered round her at Bayreuth were rabidly anti-Semitic. The Wagner circle did its best to interpret the composer’s operas as pitting Nordic heroes against Jewish villains, although his music was of course capable of being interpreted in many other ways as well…”[20]



     However, it was not in his political views, but in his religion, that the real influence and significance of Wagner’s world-view is to be found. Wagner tried to make a religion out of his art. Christianity was undergoing a profound crisis throughout Europe, and Wagner found the substitute in his own operas. As he wrote in his 1880 essay, “Religion and Art”, “While the priest stakes everything on the religious allegories being accepted as matters of fact, the artist has no concern at all with such a thing, since he freely and openly gives out his work as his own invention.” And again: “One could say that at the point when religion becomes artificial it is for art to salvage the essence of religion by construing the mythical symbols, which religion wants us to believe to be literal truth in terms of their figurative value, so as to let us see their profound hidden truth through idealist representation. Whereas the priest is concerned only that the religious allegories should be regarded as factual truths, this is of no concern to the artist, since he presents his work frankly and openly as his invention.”

     As Douglas Murray writes, Wagner followed Schopenhauer and Feuerbach in supposing that religion was simply the expression of our innermost desires. “The role of art, he believed, was to ‘save the spirit of religion’. And what he was attempting to speak to, in his music and essays was the source of that other-worldly, subconscious voice that speaks to us, asks questions and seeks answers. From Tannhauser right through to Parsifal, Wagner’s ambition… was to create a kind of religion which could stand up on its own and sustain itself…”[21] As such, of course, it was a false religion. Even the pseudo-Christian Parsifal with its Holy Grail and emphasis on love and compassion, is an imitation of Christianity rather than the real thing. And yet it was sufficiently redolent of the faith that the Nazis pronounced it “ideologically unacceptable” in 1933 and banned it completely in 1939.[22]

     It is intriguing to compare Wagner’s attitude to art and religion to that of another contemporary great artist, Lev Tolstoy… Now Tolstoy devoted a whole chapter of his What is Art? to a rejection of Wagner’s music. Rosamund Barrett writes: “Tolstoy had more or less built an entire artistic and religious edifice on the foundation of one aspect of Christianity (the Sermon on the Mount), and although he can be forgiven for not reading Wagner’s ponderous aesthetic writings, here was a classic case of him willfully refusing to consider all the dimensions of a structure in his path that did not conform to his specifications in the rush to tear it down. Although Wagner and Tolstoy were in certain important respects poles apart (the composer’s bombast and love of luxury spring to mind), there are also some intriguing parallels between them. Under the influence of Schopenhauer both formulated a religious vision based on a highly idiosyncratic theology of redemptive love which had little in common with traditional Christianity. Redemption can be attained only by renouncing eros and practicing compassion or agape, the word for love used in the New Testament: such are the lessons of Wagner’s last work Parsifal and all of Tolstoy’s late works from The Death of Ivan Ilyich onwards. Only love can redeem mankind and bring about a state where human beings can be at peace with themselves and with each other. Thomas Mann was quite correct when he wrote in 1933 that the pattern of Tolstoy’s artistic career was identical to that of Wagner, for in both cases, everything in their later oeuvre was prefigured in their earlier works. For all its enthralling narrative, for example, War and Peace is ultimately about sin (separation from God, and the absence of human relatedness) and redemption (the restoration of love), as can be seen by following Natasha Rostova’s spiritual journey.

     “Mann’s comparison of the consistency of Wagner’s artistic evolution with that of Tolstoy is instructive, for both Wagner and Tolstoy came to distinguish the simple religion of love and compassion for the poor and oppressed that Jesus Christ had founded from the deforming edifice of the Christian Church (it is striking that they both made a serious study of Renan’s Life of Jesus in 1878). They both wished to revive the spiritual essence of Christianity by removing its superstitious elements and the Old Testament notion of a vengeful God in order to create a purer and more practical religion. And the pacifism and vegetarianism both espoused in their final years went hand in hand with their views on the regeneration of society and a corresponding desire to simplify their aesthetic style. Before he died in 1883, Wagner came to see vegetarians and anti-vivisectionists as the harbingers of cultural renewal, and, ever the Romantic idealist, he hoped that through the medium of religious art (specifically music, his kind of music) a culture of compassion would replace the contemporary ‘civilisation’ of power and aggression. Tolstoy came to the same conclusions, but naturally the religious art he had in mind was primarily the verbal kind. Both Wagner and Tolstoy were anxious for the rest of the world to gain insight into Jesus’ radical idea that responding to violence with more violence can only lead to the further desecration of nature…”[23]

     Let us look more closely at the content of Wagner’s religion. According to Denis de Rougemont, it was a revival, in a romantic, nineteenth-century mode, of the ancient religion of Manichaeism or Catharism. Its main tenet consisted in the assertion that matter and the created universe is evil, and that salvation is to be found only in a complete renunciation of all desire for the created – in a word, in death. This religion was thoroughly integrated into his music, especially Tristan und Isolde and Gotterdammerung. And it found political expression in the destruction of the Third Reich in 1945…

     That Wagner considered the “true religion” to be a form of Manichaeism or Catharism is revealed in the following: “Religion, of its very essence, is radically divergent from the State. The religions that have come into the world have been high and pure in direct ratio as they seceded from the State, and in themselves entirely upheaved it. We find State and Religion in complete alliance only where each still stands upon its lowest step of evolution and significance. The primitive Nature-religion subserves no ends but those which Patriotism provides for in the adult State: hence with the full development of patriotic spirit the ancient Nature-religion has always lost its meaning for the State. So long as it flourishes, however, so long do men subsume by their gods their highest practical interest of State; the tribal god is the representative of the tribesman’s solidarity; the remaining Nature-gods become Penates, protectors of the home, the town, the fields and flocks. Only in the wholly adult State, where these religions have paled before the full-fledged patriotic duty, and are sinking into inessential forms and ceremonies; only where ‘Fate’ has shown itself to be Political Necessity – could true Religion step into the world. Its basis is a feeling of the unblessedness of human being, of the State’s profound inadequacy to still the purely-human need. Its inmost kernel is denial of the world – i.e. recognition of the world as a fleeting and dreamlike state reposing merely on illusion – and struggle for Redemption from it, prepared for by renunciation, attained by Faith.”[24]

     In 1854 Wagner read Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation for the first time. “Unlike most German philosophers of the nineteenth century,” writes Stephen Johnson, Schopenhauer “was as fine a writer as he was a thinker, and this would have been part of the attraction. It was, however, Schopenhauer’s vision that turned Wagner’s thinking upside down – yet with it went a peculiar sense of recognition. There was so much in this book that reflected what Wagner already felt, even he had not articulated it consciously. This may seem strange, since Schopenhauer is often presented as philosophy’s great pessimist, and Wagner’s revolutionary theory and talk of the future had been determinedly, if not always convincingly, optimistic. On one crucial point, though Schopenhauer, the Young Germans and Wagner all agreed: the world as it stood was a terrible place. Injustice prevailed; mindless cruelty and pointless suffering were rife. The Young Germans had believed that the world could, indeed would, be changed. Surely the great philosopher Hegel had shown for all time that history itself was an unstoppable process of change for the better? Schopenhauer laughed that idea to scorn. If there were an underlying process it was the ‘Will’: the blind, naked craving for life that lay at the heart of nature  - in today’s less metaphysically inclined age it might be called ‘the selfish gene’. For Schopenhauer there was no satisfying this craving: it attempts to fulfill itself only created more suffering – for others and, ultimately, for itself. The only way out of suffering was the path undertaken by saints of all the world’s religions: renunciation, reflecting the Will back on itself, saying ‘no’… Here was another possible answer to Wagner’s old yearning for personal redemption and political revolution: forget Utopia, and turn instead toward Nirvana.

     “There was another highly relevant message for Wagner in Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. In his Zurich essays, particularly Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft, Wagner had put forward his idea of an ideal synthesis of the arts, all mutually subservient: the word he used in that essay was Gesamtkunstwerk – the ‘total/unified work of art’ – though it is worth noting that this is his only recorded use of that now-famous term.

     “For Schopenhauer, music was supreme. Through music one could achieve an almost mystical awareness of that blind craving urge within us all and stand outside it in contemplation. Music was in itself a means towards redemption. During his childhood in Danzig (now Gdansk), Schopenhauer had heard how a cellist returning home one night was cornered by a pack of slavering bloodhounds that had escaped from a nearby warehouse. In a kind of inspired desperation the cellist had played to them. The dogs quietened down and began to listen, and the cellist was saved. Schopenhauer was enthralled by the story – and so was Wagner. He saw that his dramatic ideals would have to change. Music would not be subservient to the other arts. It had a special role to play. ‘I must confess to having arrived at a clear understanding of my own works of art through the help of another.’”[25]

     However, the philosopher had a direct and powerful influence on the composer, not only in his retrospective Vorstellung, but also on the future manifestations of his Wille in his music - and especially on Tristan and Isolde, which was completed in 1865.

     “This would be a tale of two lovers, their desire for one another expressed in music in which sensuous beauty would combine with aching sadness. It would be desire stripped of comforting illusions, a longing that in the end could only find fulfillment in death. Musically this would be expressed by the poignant yearning motif that opens the Tristan Prelude. The motif is founded on a single unresolved dissonance: a dissonance that finds its true tonal resolution only in the final bars of the opera – namely after the death of both lovers. And yet Wagner’s paradoxical nature declares itself even here. Evidently he had not yet renounced hope of erotic fulfillment through his relationship with Mathilde Wesendonck: the two were spending more and more time in each other’s company, despite the immediate proximity of both Otto [Mathilde’s husband] and Minna [Wagner’s wife]. Some years later, in a letter to Mathilde of December 1858, Wagner said that he had to correct ‘friend Schopenhauer’. There was another way ‘leading to the perfect appeasement of the Will’: a simpler and more direct way than Schopenhauerian renunciation, by which he meant the love that ‘has its roots in sex’. But only a year after this he was writing to another woman friend: ‘Lovingly I turn my eyes toward the land Nirvana. Yet Nirvana always becomes Tristan again.’ Wagner could be accused of simply wanting to have his cake and eat it: to cling to the comforting idea of renunciation while retaining the possibility that he might fulfill his desires after all.

     “The greatness of Tristan und Isolde lies partly in the way that Wagner explores this painful paradox to the full in his music, even if he could never satisfactorily resolve it in words.”[26]

     Denis de Rougemont develops this thesis in an illuminating way. First, he traces the origin of this religion, in western history, to the emergence of the heresy of Catharism (otherwise known as Albigensianism) in Southern France in the early twelfth century. The Catharist heretics deliberately cultivated a kind of refined eroticism, but not for overtly sexual or political ends – on the contrary, both sexual intercourse and war were considered to be evil, insofar as the whole created world was considered to be the work of the evil demiurge, - but in order to escape this world entirely and unite with the Light beyond the grave.

     This love of passionate Love (Eros - which could, however, just as well be called Thanatos). received expression in the poetry of the Troubadors and a “myth” expressed in such early romances as Tristan and Lancelot, in which, under the guise of an adulterous passion for an unattainable married lady, with whom union was not possible, and not even desired in this life, but only after death, the Catharist’s striving for union with the uncreated Light was represented.

     The “sacred” symbolic poetry of the troubadors, writes de Rougemont, soon degenerated, in the later Middle Ages and Renaissance, into profane love poetry and tragic dramas (Romeo and Juliet, Phèdre) and the first romantic novels, which instead of symbolizing an essentially religious and other-worldly ideal in the form of courtly love, represented unmistakably profane love under the guise of an irresistible, “divine” passion and with no taboo on sexual consummation. This was, of course, a complete reversal of the original intent of the myth. By the eighteenth century in France, even the “divinity” of this passion had been discarded, and in figures such as Don Juan or the Marquis de Sade only its supposed irresistibility and undoubted incompatibility with conventional Christian morality remained.

     However, towards the end of the eighteenth century two events served to resurrect the original myth: the rise of German romanticism and the French revolution. German romanticism once again represented eros as a divine passion that could not be fulfilled in this life, but only in and through death.[27]

     The most important representative of this thinking was Richard Wagner, who combined it with romanticism, nationalism and a kind of pseudo-Christianity in a peculiarly toxic and powerful mixture. As George L. Mosse writes, “the soul was all-important to him, but he came increasingly to view this soul in terms of Christian love. Lohengrin, Parsifal, and the Flying Dutchman were heroes who had striven for self-realization, a goal only attained through integration with a higher purpose, through Christian love. Indeed, he took as his motto that ‘all understanding is possible only through love’. Wagner, however, shared that pessimism about life so prevalent at the end of the century. True integration through love with a higher purpose could only be achieved in eternity. In this life there was only frustration; death was necessary for self-realization. With the earlier Romantics such a death as that of the young Werther was a tragedy, but with Wagner death became a logical necessity for self-fulfilment. It was the only way to escape human frailties. Thus the Dutchman was doomed from the start. Tannhauser, an embodiment of human frailty, atoned through Elizabeth’s and his own death, while Brunhilde movingly sings of Siegfried’s ‘shining love, laughing death’. The very fact that the human frailties condemned were the very ones Nietzsche found necessary for life – lust and joy – illuminates the contrast between Dionysian man and Wagner’s hero.

     “Renunciation of human desires,” writes Mosse, “was Wagner’s theme. Parsifal possessed titanic powers for resisting temptation, and Lohengrin, in the end, had to renounce earthly happiness.. Not only must man fight his inner desires to attain self-realization but the temptation of outward riches and power as well. For Wagner, as for the Romantics in general, materialistic man had lost his ‘soul’. Power itself was derided – ‘they hurry to their end who boast of such great strength’. Siegfried, symbolic of the man of power in the capitalistic epoch, lusted after power and riches, that is, the ring and the gold. But he was doomed, for he who possessed the ring and the gold was forever deprived of love. Brunhilde, realizing the nature of Siegfried’s dilemma, saw clearly that only in eternity would he become a true hero once more. Death was the answer. Love and power cannot be married, for love means renunciation of power and riches, as well as of human desires…

     “Romanticism in Wagner had lost its earthly element… It had adopted the Christian element within early romanticism and exalted it as an overriding principle. Where the early Romantics saw a constant conflict between human emotions and the environment, Wagner envisioned a solution to the frustrations of this world. Sentiment had become sentimentalized into chivalrous love; a comforting conclusion to the storms and stresses of the world had been gained. Wagner’s Christianity, however, was combined with a romantic vision of the past. It was harnessed to the old Germanic legends of the Nibelungenlied. The heroes who knew the true Christian love were the epic figures of Germanic myth. In his essay What is German (1865-78) Wagner wrote that to be German was to understand Christianity as a religion of the soul and not of dogma. The characters of the Nibelungen saga could show modern Germans the real meaning of Christianity.

     “Nationalism, the vision of the past, and Christian sacrifice through love were intermingled in these musical dramas. No wonder Wagner’s son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, believed that the prophet of a German, as opposed to an Oriental, Christianity had arrived. The emphasis on the hero meant stressing the leadership principle within Wagner’s dramatic framework. Though this hero differed from both Werther and the superman, he had one thing in common with the preoccupation with vice at the end of the century. He derived his strength from his unnatural birth; he was selected in opposition to both human and Divine law. For example, Brunhilde was the child of a union of God and earth, while Siegfried sprang from an incestuous relationship. But this unlawful strength was not used to overcome convention but to reaffirm Christian love and sacrifice. Wagner’s romanticism had, after all, become conventional. His chivalric love, his Germanic religion of the soul, was far from the revolutionary Wagner who had mounted the barricades of Dresden in 1848. This kind of romanticism did not intend a transformation of values. Vice stood at the beginning of the hero’s career but not at the end of it…

     “Wagner’s romanticism was one the middle classes could understand. It was not disturbingly revolutionary but soothingly moral. It catered to nationalism and to the longing for group identification. Above all, it put forward a leadership idea: the hero as the redeemer of his people…”[28]

     Wagner’s death-wishing romanticism reached its climax in Tristan und Isolde, in which the original myth is represented in something like its original religious force - and in music of an originality and power that transformed the later history of opera and music in general.

     According to De Rougemont, “Tristan is far more profoundly and indisputably Manichaean than the Divine Comedy is Thomist…

     “The drama opens with a monumental evocation of the powers that rule the world of day – the hate and pride, and the barbarous and sometimes even criminal violence, of feudal honour. Isolde wishes to avenge the affront she has suffered. The potion she gives to Tristan is intended to brIng about his death, but a death disallowed by Love, a death in accordance with the laws of day and of revenge – brutal, accidental, and devoid of mystical significance. The highest Minne, however, causes Brengain to make a mistake that can preserve Love. For the death-potion she substitutes the drink of initiation. Hence the one embrace which conjoins Tristan and Isolde as soon as they have drunk is the solitary kiss of the Catharist sacrament, the consolamentum of the Pure! From that moment the laws of day, hate, honour, and revenge, lose all power over their hearts. The initiated pair enter the nocturnal world of ecstatic release. And day, coming back with the royal procession and its discordant flourish of trumpets, is unable to recapture them. At the end of the ordeal which it compels them to undergo – this is their passion [“passion” derives from passio, meaning “suffering] – they have already foreseen the other death, the death that will alone fulfill their love.

     “The second act is the passion song of souls imprisoned in material forms. When every obstacle has been overcome, and the lovers are alone together in the dark, carnal desire still stands between them. They are together, and yet they are two. The ‘und’ of Tristan und Isolde is there to indicate their duality as creatures. Here music alone can convey the certitude and substance of their twin nostalgia for one-ness; music alone can harmonize the plaint of the two voices, and make of it a single plaint in which there is already being sounded the reality of an ineffable other world of expectation. This is why the leitmotif of the love duet is already that of death.

     “Once again day returns. The treacherous Melot wounds Tristan. But by now passion has triumphed. It wrests away the apparent victory of day. The wound through which life flows out is passion’s pledge of a supreme recovery – that recovery of which the dying Isolde sings once she has cast herself upon Tristan’s corpse in an ecstasy of the ‘highest bliss of being’.

     “Initiation, passion, fatal fulfillment – the three mystic moments to which Wagner, with a genius for simplification, saw that he could reduce the three acts of the drama, express the profound significance of the myth, a significance kept out of sight even in the medieval legends by a host of epic and picturesque detail. Nevertheless, the art form adopted by Wagner renews the possibility of ‘misunderstanding’. The story of Tristan had now to be in the form of an opera… Even as the transgression of the rules of chaste love by the legendary lovers turned the poetic lay of the troubadors into the novel – so the powers of day, when brought forward in the first act, introduce struggle and duration, the elements of drama. But a play does not allow everything to be stated, for the religion of passion is ‘in essence lyrical’. Hence music alone is equal to conveying the transcendental interaction, the wildly contradictory and contrapuntal character of the passion of Darkness, which is the summons to uncreated Light.”[29]

     It will be immediately apparent that the love of death is related to the revolutionary passion, even if for the revolutionaries the accent is on “death” rather than “love”, and even if there is no literal belief in a life beyond the grave. And in the French revolution, according to de Rougemont, there took place a transference of the myth into the realm of war, with the Nation in the place of the woman who can be united with only in death.

     “At the end of the eighteenth century, there occurred the magnification of all that the Tristan myth, and later its literary substitutes, had been intended to contain. The middle-class nineteenth century witnessed the spread into the profane mind of a ‘death instinct’ which had long been repressed in the unconscious, or else directed at its source into the channels of an aristocratic art. And when the framework of society burst – under a pressure exerted from quite another quarter – the content of the myth poured out over everyday life. We were unable to understand this diluted elevation of love. We supposed it to be a new springtime of instinct, a revival of dionysiac forces which a so-called Christianity had persecuted…”[30]

     “From a strictly military standpoint, what novelty was contributed by the Revolution? ‘An outburst of passion never before equalled’, is the answer given by Foch. According to him, the heresy of the old school had been to seek to make war into an exact science when it is really a terrible and passionate drama. Everybody knows, of course, that an explosion of sentimentality preceded and accompanied the Revolution, an event passionate far more than – in the strict sense of the word – political. With the murder of the king – a deed which in a primitive society would have had a sacred and ritualistic significance – the violence that had long been pinned down by the classical formality of warfare became once again something at once horrifying and alluring. It was the cult and blood-spilling mystery that gave rise to a new form of community – the Nation. And a Nation requires that passion shall be transferred to the level of the people as a whole. Actually, it is easier to feel that this happened then than to give an account of it. Every passion, it may be objected, presupposes the existence of two beings, and it is therefore difficult to see, if passion was taken over by a Nation, to whom the Nation then addressed itself. Let us remember, however, that the passion of love is at bottom narcissism, the lover’s self-magnification, far more than it is a relation with the beloved. Tristan wanted the branding of love more than he wanted the possession of Iseult. For he believed that the intense and devouring flame of passion would make him divine; and, as Wagner grasped, the equal of the world.

Eyes with joy are blinded…

I myself am the world.

Passion requires that the self shall become greater than all things, as solitary and powerful as God. Without knowing it, passion also requires that beyond its apotheosis death shall indeed be the end of all things.

     “And nationalist ardour too is a self-elevation, a narcissistic love on the part of the collective Self… And what does the national passion require? The elevation of collective might can only lead to the following dilemma: either the triumph of imperialism – of the ambition to become the equal of the whole world – or the people next door strongly object, and there ensues war. Now it is to be noticed that a nation undergoing the early surges of its passion seldom recoils from war, even if that war must be hopeless. A nation thus unconsciously expresses a readiness to court the risk of death, and even to meet death, rather than surrender its passion. ‘Liberty or death’, the Jacobins yelled, at a time when the forces of the enemy seemed to be twenty times as strong as their own, and when therefore ‘liberty’ and ‘death’ were words very near to having one and the same meaning.

     “Thus Nation and War are connected as Love and Death are connected. And from this point onwards nationalism has been the predominant factor in war. ‘Whoever writes upon strategy and tactics should confine himself to expounding a national strategy and tactics, for these alone can be of use to the nation for whom he writes.’ Thus General von der Goltz, a follower of Clausewitz. And Clausewitz constantly asserted that the Prussian theology of war must be based on the experience gained in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic campaigns. The Battle of Valmy was a victory of passion over ‘exact science’. It was to the cry of ‘Long live the Nation!’ that the sans-culottes repulsed an allied army still bent on consolidating operations on ‘classic’ lines. It will be recalled that Goethe, after witnessing the battle, said: ‘On this field and on this day a new era begins in the history of the world.’ To this famous pronouncement Foch adds: ‘Truly enough a new era had begun, the era of national wars that are fought under no restraints whatever, because a nation throws all its resources into the struggle, because the aim of these wars is not to safeguard some dynastic claim, but to defeat or propagate philosophical ideas and intangible advantages, because these wars are staked upon feelings and passions, elemental forces never enlisted before.’”[31]

     Of course, the readiness to die in battle for one’s nation did not begin only with the French Revolution. But the sheer ferocity of French revolutionary nationalism needs explanation. Whether de Rougemont’s explanation - in terms of a revival of the passion propelling the Catharist heresy that had lain latent in western civilization since its suppression in the thirteenth century - is convincing cannot be determined here. What we can say, however, is that insofar as this passion is directed as much against fellow-countrymen as against citizens of other nations, it cannot be said to be purely nationalistic. It would be more accurate to say that aggressive nationalism is a phase or aspect of the revolutionary passion as such, that aspect which it presents in relation to other nations.

     Thus the revolution first presents itself to the people of its own nation in an internationalist form – the slogans of the “freedom, equality and brotherhood” of all people, the principles of universal human rights, etc. Then, having captured the collective of the nation by destroying or neutralizing those members of it that refuse to be possessed by its revolutionary spirit, it proceeds to the nationalist phase of its expression. The revolution is now the work of la grande nation; and all nations that do not want to submit to this Nation must be conquered or destroyed. For, as Metropolitan Anastasy writes: “The nation, this collective organism, is just as inclined to deify itself as the individual man. The madness of pride grows in this case in the same progression, as every passion becomes inflamed in society, being refracted in thousands and millions of souls.”[32]

     The word “possessed” indicates the true nature of this passion – a demonic force that possesses men, which uses human passions but is different from them. De Rougement is right to emphasize the boundlessness of the passion, its egoism and its orientation, ultimately, to self-annihilation and death. But this mystical, religious nature of the passion, combined with its blasphemy, reveals its non-human, satanic origin – and the inadequacy of purely psychological explanations such as Berlin’s “collective humiliation”. It follows that nationalist passion, as opposed to healthy patriotism, cannot be assuaged by political or military success, as hunger is assuaged by food or thirst by drink. For satanic egoism and self-deification know no bounds, and only grow with success. Nationalism can only be tamed by the instilling of the true faith into the national organism. Then national consciousness, instead of being distorted and inflamed in the passion of nationalism, will be transformed into the pure flame of patriotism, which loves the nation, not for its own sake, but as being the bearer of a higher principle, the principle of true religion…

June 2/15, 2017.




[1] Wagner, in Stephen Johnson, Wagner. His Life and Music, London: Naxos, 2007, p. 60.

[2] Wilson, op. cit., pp. 413-414, 415.

[3] Wagner, "What Relation bear Republican Endeavours to the Kingship?" in Art and Politics, London and Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996, pp. 139-140.

[4] Wagner, op. cit., p. 141.

[5]Wagner, op. cit., p. 142.

[6] Wagner, op. cit., pp. 142-143.

[7] Wagner, op. cit., p. 143.

[8]Wagner, "On State and Religion", op. cit., pp. 11-13.

[9] Wagner, "On State and Religion", op. cit., p. 18.

[10]Wagner, "On State and Religion", op. cit., p. 18.

[11] Wagner, "On State and Religion", op. cit., pp. 20, 20-21.

[12] Wagner, "On State and Religion", op. cit., pp. 22-23. We remember the great speech of the king in Shakespeare's Henry V (IV.1): Upon the king! Let us our lives, our souls,/ Our debts, our careful wives,/  Our children, and our sins lay on the king!/ We must bear all. O hard condition!/ Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath/ Of every fool, whose sense no more can feel/ But his own wringing. What infinite heart's ease/ Must kings neglect that private men enjoy!

[13] Wagner, "On State and Religion", op. cit., pp. 23-24.

[14] Wagner, "What is German?", op. cit., p. 166.

[15] Wagner, “The Artwork of the Future”, in Stephen Johnson, op. cit., p. 63.

[16] Stephen Johnson, op. cit., p. 69.

[17] Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews, London: Phoenix, 1995, p. 394.

[18] Pipes, Conspiracy, New York: The Free Press, 1997, p. 27.

[19] Solzhenitsyn, Dvesti let vmeste (Two hundred years together),Moscow, 2002, pp. 315-316.

[20] Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich, London: Penguin, 2004, pp. 32-33.

[21] Murray, “Is the West’s Loss of Faith Terminal?”, Standpoint, May, 2015, p. 30.

[22] Johnson, op. cit., p. 123.

[23] Bartlett, Tolstoy. A Russian Life, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011, pp. 373-374.

[24] Wagner, “On State and Religion”, in Art and Politics, p. 24.

[25] Johnson, op. cit., pp. 76-78. For example: "Only now," he said, "did I understand my Wotan" (in J.W. Burrow, The Crisis of Reason: European Thought, 1848-1914, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000, p. 29).

[26] Johnson, op. cit., pp. 78-79. We do not know whether Wagner and Mathilde consummated their passion. But we do know that he and his second wife Cosima had a daughter whom they called Isolde (Johnson, op. cit., p. 95).

[27] As Constantine the Serbian poet says in Rebecca West’s Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2006, p. 385): “The French make love for the sake of life; and so, like living, it often falls to something less than itself, to a little trivial round. The Germans make love for the sake of death; as they like to put off their civilian clothes and put on uniform, because there is more chance of being killed, so they like to step out of the safe casual relations of society and let loose the destructive forces of sex. So it was with Werther and Elective Affinities, and so it was in the years after the [First World] war, when they were so promiscuous that sex meant nothing at all…” (my italics (V.M.).

[28] Mosse, op. cit., pp. 238-239.

[29] De Rougemont, Love in the Western World, New York: Pantheon Books, 1956, pp. 137, 236-237.

[30] De Rougemont, op. cit., pp. 247-249.

[31] De Rougemont, op. cit., pp. 270-272.

[32] Metropolitan Anastasy (Gribanovsky), Besedy s sobstvennym serdtsem (Conversations with my own heart), Jordanville, 1998, p. 33.

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