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Richard Wagner in the Light of Anthroposophy
GA 92

Lecture III

12 May 1905, Berlin

Higher consciousness must first be born out of the all-embracing consciousness of the earth. This takes place through Wotan's union with Erda; Brunhilde is born out of this union. She still possesses something of a wide and deep world-consciousness. To begin with, however, this consciousness withdraws to some extent. Wotan also begets Siegmund and Sieglinde with an earthly woman. They represent the two sexes of the soul, the male soul and the female soul. It is not possible for one to live without the other. The female soul, Sieglinde, is captured by Hunding. The soul must now submit to the physical brain. Siegmund, the soul imprisoned within the body, now begins to go astray. The soul is not strong enough to approach the Divine; the gods renounce Siegmund and his sword is shattered by Wotan's spear.

The guidance must now be left to the human Self which is active entirely in the sphere of the senses: to Hagen, the son of Alberich. The lower earthly forces begin to play the chief role. All the powers conspire against the union of the male and female soul-element: even Wotan must help Fricka against Siegmund on account of Hunding. Fricka represent the male-female soul upon a higher stage. She urges Wotan to sever the connection between male and female soul upon the earthly plane.

Upon a cosmic plane the male and female soul-elements are united, but upon the earth the blood and the senses influence human life. This is deeply indicated in the love between brother and sister, the forbidden element. If the original chasteness is to maintain its rule, Siegmund and Sieglinde, the physical element, must die. Sieglinde is doomed to be killed by Brunhilde, the all-encompassing consciousness, if the whole evolution of the earth is not to be obstructed. Brunhilde, however, helps her and gives her Grane, her horse, which bears the human being through the events of the earth. Brunhilde withdraws into exile. Flaming fire surrounds her rock. Clairvoyant consciousness is now surrounded by the fire through which the human being must first pass in order to become purified, if he wishes to reach once more the all-encompassing consciousness and to experience the catharsis.


Sieglinde, the female soul-element, gives birth to Siegfried, the human consciousness which must again rise to higher worlds. He grows up secretly, guarded by Mime. He must overcome the lower nature, the dragon, in order to obtain power. He also overcomes Mime. Who is “Mime”? Mime can bestow something which renders invisible, the tarn-cap, the outcome of a power which remains invisible to ordinary human beings. The tarn-cap is the symbol of magicians, both of the white and of the black order. Even a magician of the black path may walk about invisibly in our midst. Mime is one who can bestow the tarn-cap which he has obtained out of the black forces of the earth. He strives to turn Siegfried into a black magician, but Siegfried rebels. He has killed the dragon, has taken up a drop of its blood, the symbol of passions, and is thus able to understand the speech of the birds (of the earthly world of the senses). He is able to tread the path of the higher initiates and is shown the path leading to Brunhilde, the all-embracing consciousness.

We have so far considered three phases of northern evolution. First of all the dwarf, then the giants, and now the human being. The Valkyria belongs to the second phase, and in Siegfried the human being itself is born. Imprisoned within his body he must find his way back again to the pure, white wisdom.

The Twilight of the Gods.

The fourth part of the Twilight of the Gods expresses that in the northern world the human being has not yet reached maturity and has not attained a complete initiation. Siegfried still possesses one vulnerable spot, where Christ bore the Cross. Siegfried cannot as yet take the Cross upon himself. This symbolizes in a profound way what the peoples of the North still lacked, and it also shows that Christianity was still a necessity for them. Siegfried cannot unite himself with Brunhilde. He is the human soul born out of a mortal woman, out of the union of Siegmund and Sieglinde. Brunhilde has remained virgin; she is the higher consciousness.

In the last phase, knowledge must be reached because man is not as yet able to unite himself with virgin wisdom. Consequently his impulse toward higher knowledge takes on the farm of desire. This is the last stage which must be conquered. The fact that Siegfried wishes to become united with Brunhilde in earthly passion leads to an exchange of possessions; she gives him the horse and he gives her the ring. Until the union with the higher Self has been reached, the ring, symbolizing coercion from outside, does not lose its power.

The human being dives down into lower consciousness, he is struck with blindness. Siegfried forgets Brunhilde and weds Gudrun, the lower consciousness. He even agrees to court Brunhilde for another unworthy man. This signifies that during the last phase, before Christianity arises, the human being follows the dark path of d falls prey once more to dark powers. The unrighteous union of Brunhilde with Gunther is the cause of Siegfried's ruin. He must incur death through the lower powers in the nets of which he has become entangled. (Hagen.)

The last phase approaches; the Norns appear once more. It is the phase in which the all-embracing consciousness is lost:

“Zu End ewiges Wissen!
Der Welt melden
Weise nichts mehr.
Hinab zur Mutter, hinab!”

(“Ended is wisdom eternal!

The world nothing more

Hears from the Wise!

Descend to the Mother, below!”)

The higher wisdom which was formerly given to the sons of the gods is lost upon the earth, it returns to the Eternal. Humanity must now rely upon itself

Tristan and Isolde.

One who has a deeper vision, like Wagner, will discover that the Tristan theme is able to give a clearer insight into the problem connected with the dual aspect of sex.

The male and female elements are important only upon the physical plane. Tristan has the deep longing to be whole and undivided, to reach perfect harmony and a consciousness which is no longer male or female. This note of longing re-echoing throughout the drama may be expressed as follows: Tristan does not wish any longer to be merely Tristan, merely “I”, but he wishes to take up within him Isolde, so that in him live Isolde and Tristan.

The two have lost every consciousness of a division. This re-echoes in the final verses of the poem expressing redemption from a separate, divided form of existence:

“In des Wonnemeeres
wogendem Schwall,
In der Duftwellen
tönendem Schell,
In des Welt-Atems
wehendem All,
höchste Lust!”

(“In the blissful ocean's
rising and fall,
In the tidal's fragrant
resonant call,
In the world's breath, wherein
stirreth the All,
to drown, and
sink down,
highest bliss!”)

These words are born out of a deeper knowledge. The surging ocean of bliss is the astral world, and Devachan is the sphere resounding in fragrant tones. The life-principle is the breath of the world; everything must be contained within it. To be no longer severed and divided in the sphere of consciousness, but to “drown and sink down” unconsciously into an undifferentiated element — this is highest bliss. Within earthly life it is indeed highest bliss to overcome it, to overcome sense-life through spiritual life. Desire seeking to destroy what pertains to the earth still takes on the form of desire. Nevertheless it is a noble form of desire if the element of desire contained in this aspiration is overcome. This is the problem which Wagner tries to solve in his “Tristan and Isolde”. All these thoughts did not live consciously or abstractly in Wagner; they were thoughts contained in the myth itself.

It is not necessary for an artist to have these thoughts in an abstract form. Just as a plant grows in accordance with laws of which it knows nothing, so the cosmic forces within myths have a life of their own; these are forces which are also active within the human being and they penetrate into a work of art.

Wagner's Siegfried is still entangled in the earthly element; he must perish in it. Brunhilde realizes the relationship of facts and understands what is at stake. So she yields the ring to the Daughters of the Rhine, to an element which has not penetrated into the working influences of this world.

The whole evolution of the world goes back to the originally virgin substance. The older northern world conception is replaced by another one which does not appeal any longer to what pertains to the external world of the senses, but to what has remained virgin — to the soul.

Brunhilde, who has become involved in the external world of the senses through her union with Siegfried rides into the fire, and love is born out of it. The whole tragedy of this thought is deeply felt by the peoples of the north, because they realise that what they were once able to understand begins to perish.

Love is born out of the Spirit, out of the sea of fire, the originally virgin substance.

“Incarnatus est per Sanctum Spiritum ex Maria Virgine!”