Index of Articles. Parsifal by Richard Wagner. (Version for all current popular browsers)
The primary articles of this web...
Index of Articles. Parsifal by Richard Wagner. (Version for all current popular browsers)
Parzival and Parsifal
The Woundi...
Index of Articles. Parsifal by Richard Wagner. (Version for all current popular browsers)
Articles -
Interpretation
Parsif...
Index of Articles. Parsifal by Richard Wagner. (Version for all current popular browsers)
Articles - Reactions
Nietzsche o...
Parsifal Synopsis: Top
Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Synopsis
he scene is laid first in the
domain and in the castle ...
Parsifal Synopsis: Top
This page last updated (non-CSS message) 14/04/02 18:36:34.
http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/story0.ht...
The Ghost in the Machine - A Cautionary Tale
The Ghost in the
Machine–A Cautionary
Tale
by Neil Kurtzman
q "Wait," I said,...
The Ghost in the Machine - A Cautionary Tale
stereo and went about my usual Saturday night activities.
On Sunday, I stayed...
The Ghost in the Machine - A Cautionary Tale
the house. It was even on the house’s intercom. I had destroyed the car too l...
The Ghost in the Machine - A Cautionary Tale
Two years or so have passed since I last showed signs of the first act of Par...
Wagner's Sources for Parsifal
Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Wagner's sources for Parsifal
Wagner's Sources
Wagner's G...
Wagner's Sources for Parsifal
Left: The Holy Spear of Antioch carried by
bishop Adhemar of Le Puy into battle
against the ...
Wagner's Sources for Parsifal
anonymous Perlesvaus, or both.
inally, there are other works which appear to have provided i...
Wagner's Sources for Parsifal
the extant Second and Third Continuations. The original version was probably
written in para...
Wagner's Sources for Parsifal
are one and the same. The last point to note was made by Jessie Weston in her book From Ritu...
J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1
Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Jessie L. Weston
Jes...
J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1
The Grail Castle
he keynote of the drama is struck in t...
J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1
ut in the process
of development
which the legend
has u...
J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1
he old knight Gurnemanz, who is so prominent in the dra...
J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1
Amfortas and the Fisher King
he Fisher-King, the wounde...
J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1
e not infrequently meet with the statement, in print, t...
J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1
Left: The Grail Temple, Bayreuth 1882. After the
design...
The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear
Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Spear
The Wounding and Healing Holy
Spear
1. The Bl...
The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear
reunited with the Grail. By doing so, Parsifal achieves the twofold resolution of the ...
The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear
Right: the Spear of Destiny, to be seen in the Hofberg museum in
Vienna. This is one o...
The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear
Telephus the holy spear is able both to wound (even to destroy) and to heal the wound ...
The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear
expressed his idea of community. This has led some to suggest that Parsifal is fundame...
The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear
the virtues of wisdom and compassion (which are prominent in Vajrayana as they were in...
Parsifal and Greek Myth: the wounding and healing of Telephus, the sin and redemption of Prometheus
Monsalvat: the Parsifa...
Parsifal and Greek Myth: the wounding and healing of Telephus, the sin and redemption of Prometheus
hurt is not to be expl...
Parsifal and Greek Myth: the wounding and healing of Telephus, the sin and redemption of Prometheus
On being entrusted wit...
Parsifal and Greek Myth: the wounding and healing of Telephus, the sin and redemption of Prometheus
1871]
Prometheus and t...
Swans and Geese
Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Swans and Geese
Swans and Geese: Wagner's Wildfowl
The Goose of Monsalv...
Swans and Geese
here is another episode in Wolfram's Parzival that involves a goose, a real one this time. But before we
c...
Swans and Geese
evadatta, cousin to the future Buddha, with an arrow shoots a goose (Sanskrit: hamsa), which falls down in...
Swans and Geese
When the hen saw him whirl around, dead on the field,
with bloodstained body, she cried out bitterly...
Va...
Swans and Geese
Moral, section 19, 1839.]
ere, in Arthur Schopenhauer's assertion that animals had rights, and indeed righ...
Swans and Geese
n Wieland Wagner's interpretation of Parsifal, the spiritual hero progressed from the realm of mother
and ...
Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal
Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Buddhism
Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal
1. Wagner and Budd...
Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal
Schopenhauer's philosophy regarded the will (to live) as fundamental, and advocated the deni...
Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal
he misinterpretation of the Buddhist state of nirvana as "das Nichts" led to an association ...
Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal
ere, it should be noted, Guy Welbon is one of many commentators on Wagner's later dramas who...
Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal
agner never completed his Buddhist drama Die Sieger. The most likely reason for him not deve...
Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal
[Letter to Mathilde Wesendonk, 5 October 1858, Wesendonk-Briefe 108-10, tr. Spencer and
Mill...
Richard Wagner's Parsifal: An Anthology of Articles
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Richard Wagner's Parsifal: An Anthology of Articles

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This is a rich anthology of cross-referenced articles on the subject of this allegorical medieval figure providing a comprehensive source for researchers... "These articles and associated notes present many different approaches to Wagner's Parsifal. The ideas and views presented have been collected by [the editor] from a wide range of sources over the last decade, to which… have [been] added some ideas [original to the editor], written down over the same period..."

Richard Wagner's Parsifal: An Anthology of Articles

  1. 1. Index of Articles. Parsifal by Richard Wagner. (Version for all current popular browsers) The primary articles of this web site, together with selected external links, are listed below. If you want to read more about any topic, then try clicking on the "right- hand" icon at the top of any page. This icon will usually take you to an article that explores some aspect of the topic in detail; if none is available, it will take you to the Contents page. There is also navigation at the bottom of each web page. At minimum this navigation consists of one button that will take you to the Home page and one that takes you to the Contents page. These articles and associated notes present many different approaches to Wagner's Parsifal. The ideas and views presented have been collected from a wide range of sources over the last decade, to which I have added some ideas of my own, written down over the same period. Some primary material is included in English translation, including the Prose Draft of 1865 and the Libretto or Poem of 1877. I hope that the result will reveal to the reader some of the many possible perspectives on a work that is rich in symbolism and which contains references and allusions to a wide range of literature from both western and eastern traditions. The reader will find it helpful to read one of the many Wagner biographies to be found in any good library or bookstore (but avoid Gutman). Introductory Material Plot Summary of Parsifal A Cautionary Tale (Neil Kurtzman) Articles - Sources and Contexts Wagner's Sources http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/concommon.htm (1 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:17:15]
  2. 2. Index of Articles. Parsifal by Richard Wagner. (Version for all current popular browsers) Parzival and Parsifal The Wounding and Healing Spear Parsifal and Greek Myth Swans and Geese: Wagner's Wildfowl Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal The Origins of Kundry The Eagle, the Phoenix and the Divine Blood Magic Flowers Articles - Creation Chronology Richard Wagner to Mathilde Wesendonk Wagner's Muse http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/concommon.htm (2 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:17:15]
  3. 3. Index of Articles. Parsifal by Richard Wagner. (Version for all current popular browsers) Articles - Interpretation Parsifal's Progress Sleeping and Waking Good Friday Erlösung dem Erlöser Parsifal and Christianity Articles - References The Prose Draft of Parsifal PARSIFAL - A New English Translation with Commentary Further Reading A Parsifal Discography Parzival in der Gralsburg (Hans Zimmermann) Articles - Performance Parsifal on Stage Adolphe Appia on Parsifal and the Ring Transformation Music The Bells of Monsalvat Parsifal at Covent Garden Bernard Levin on Parsifal Parsifal in its current staging at Bayreuth Syberberg's Parsifal Film Parsifal at Baireuth (M.G. van Rensselaer) Wagner's Parsifal (C.D. Warner) from P. Swinkels' Wagner Library Articles - the Music An Introduction to the Music of Parsifal Leitmotif Guide Prelude to Act 1 Prelude to Act 2 Prelude to Act 3 Meyerbeer's Robert and Wagner's Parsifal http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/concommon.htm (3 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:17:15]
  4. 4. Index of Articles. Parsifal by Richard Wagner. (Version for all current popular browsers) Articles - Reactions Nietzsche on Parsifal G.B. Shaw on Parsifal A Poem by Paul Verlaine Parsifal and the Nazis Lévi-Strauss on Parsifal Thomas Mann on Parsifal An Act of Will Pablo Picasso and Parsifal Franz Stassen (1869-1949) A virtual exhibition including oil paintings inspired by Parsifal We suggest that you adjust the width of your browser window to at least 700 pixels. This page last updated (styles) 05/25/02 16:12:14 (NS6, IE6, Mozilla and Konqueror). http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/concommon.htm (4 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:17:15]
  5. 5. Parsifal Synopsis: Top Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Synopsis he scene is laid first in the domain and in the castle of the guardians of the Grail, Monsalvat, where the countryside resembles the northern mountains of Gothic Spain; afterwards in Klingsor's magic castle on the southern slope of the same mountains which looks towards Moorish Spain. The costume of the Knights and Squires resembles that of the Templars: a white tunic and mantle; instead of the red cross, however, there is a dove flying upwards on scutcheon and mantle. Act 1 - A rock-strewn clearing in a forest, shadowy but not gloomy. Daybreak. Act 2 - Klingsor's magic castle. In the inner keep of a tower which is open to the sky. Act 3 - Flowering meadows at the edge of a forest. It is early on a spring morning. But what happens in Parsifal ? But what is the message of Parsifal ? http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/story0.htm (1 of 2) [26/05/2002 22:17:43]
  6. 6. Parsifal Synopsis: Top This page last updated (non-CSS message) 14/04/02 18:36:34. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/story0.htm (2 of 2) [26/05/2002 22:17:43]
  7. 7. The Ghost in the Machine - A Cautionary Tale The Ghost in the Machine–A Cautionary Tale by Neil Kurtzman q "Wait," I said, unwilling to be narcotized for a week. "Turn on the radio." He did. The first act of "Parsifal" was still on. "God never made a pain that could stand up to that," I said pointing to the radio. It all started a couple of years ago on a Saturday afternoon. I turned on the radio to listen to the weekly Metropolitan Opera broadcast, forgetting that Parsifal was scheduled. Being comfortably settled in a stuffed reclining chair, I was too lazy to turn the radio off. Besides, nothing can put you to sleep faster than Wagner. No sooner had the music started than I conked out. A couple of hours later, I woke up with a terrible toothache. The first act of Parsifal was still oozing from my speakers. I called my dentist who agreed to see me immediately; the weather was too bad for golf, which explained his availability. A few minutes later, I was in his chair after having had enough X-rays to cure two cancers. "Root canal," he said after looking at the films. "You always say that," I opined. He ignored my comment and proceeded to fill a syringe with enough anesthetic to make me numb to the waist. "Wait," I said, unwilling to be narcotized for a week. "Turn on the radio." He did. The first act of Parsifal was still on. "God never made a pain that could stand up to that," I said pointing to the radio. The dental work took an hour. I felt nothing. Wagner’s slow, slower, and slowest tempos had turned my brain to Jell-O. I wondered if I shouldn’t have opted for the anesthetic after all. When I left the dentist’s office, the first act of Parsifal was still coming from my car radio which I always leave on. After entering my house, my jaw started to ache. I turned on my stereo, set the volume as loud as my three amplifiers (1200 watts) and six speakers would allow to get the maximum anesthetic effect that the first act of Parsifal could deliver. It worked. I was immediately numb. Three hours later, the first act of Parsifal still not concluded, I figured I could handle any residual pain sans Wagner. I turned off the http://www.interoz.com/lubbock/lubmag/Kurtzman9709.htm (1 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:18:02]
  8. 8. The Ghost in the Machine - A Cautionary Tale stereo and went about my usual Saturday night activities. On Sunday, I stayed home. Monday morning, I got into my car to drive to work. The radio started up as usual. The first act of Parsifal was still on. Strange, I thought, I don’t remember it being this long. But I really had never paid much attention to the opera, so maybe it was just a little bit longer than the rest of Wagner’s oeuvre. That evening as I drove home, the first act of Parsifal was still coming from my radio. Now I was sure something untoward was afoot. I turned the radio off to allow my brain to clear sufficiently to analyze what had happened. No explanation came to mind. When I entered my house, I was afraid to turn on the radio for fear that the first act of Parsifal might still be on. But eventually, curiosity got the better of me and I turned the thing on. You can imagine my relief when not a trace of Wagner emanated from my speakers. KOHM was in the middle of a Frank Bridge festival. Thus, the problem seemed solved even if I could not explain it. I was halfway to work the next morning when I turned the car radio back on, hoping to miss the end of All Things Considered, when to my amazement, I encountered the first act of Parsifal. It now hit me that my car radio had contracted a persistent infection. I had heard about people being infected by Wagner, but never a machine. What might the cure be? The only thing I could think of was to put the radio at prolonged rest. So I turned it off, planning to keep it inactive for at least a month. Again I was amazed; it wouldn’t go off. Not only would it not quit, but the first act of Parsifal was now coming from every position on the dial. The infection had spread. The only way I could make the thing shut up was to turn off the ignition. That was not a long-term solution, however. In fact, it proved not to be a short-term fix either. When I turned off the ignition upon returning home that night, the first act of Parsifal continued to drone from the car’s speakers. What was I to do now? You could hear lugubrious leitmotifs all over the house. If I moved the car out of the garage onto the street, the neighbors would probably call the police. After a while, my dogs started to howl, the cat ran away, the parrot went permanently mute, and all my tropical fish died. I had to get rid of the car, but who would buy a car that was chronically infected with the first act of Parsifal? After the worst night of my life, I called the National Kidney Foundation. They have a program that accepts used cars as donations. They were really interested when I described my almost new car, until I got to the Parsifal problem. "This type of disease is outside the purview of the NKF," said the foundation’s spokesman. He then hung up the phone before I could beg him to take the car. The only course was euthanasia. I took the car to my vet and had him put it to sleep. It was a total loss. I immediately bought a new car, but only after trying out its radio. To my relief, the Frank Bridge festival was still being broadcast by KOHM. When I got home, I turned on the tv to watch Sesame Street, but the picture tube was dark while the first act of Parsifal snaked from the set’s speaker. The first act of Parsifal was also on every radio and tv in http://www.interoz.com/lubbock/lubmag/Kurtzman9709.htm (2 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:18:02]
  9. 9. The Ghost in the Machine - A Cautionary Tale the house. It was even on the house’s intercom. I had destroyed the car too late to prevent contagion. I turned off every device in the house attached to a speaker and darkened the house. The place was quiet for a few days. I felt comfortable enough to turn the lights on. The calm persisted. At six the next morning, my alarm clock went off as usual, but instead of the electronic beep, I was roused by the first act of Parsifal. Like a string of firecrackers, every speaker in the house took up the first act of Parsifal in a sequence of belching tubas and guttural barks masquerading as singing. I dressed as fast as I could and fled my contaminated house. What was I to do? Burning down your own home is illegal–I think. Before I could ponder my predicament further, the first act of Parsifal came unbidden from the speakers of my new car’s stereo system like quicksand at a Tupperware party. The revelation of Oedipus’s descent was a mere bagatelle compared to the emotion that this sound provoked in my breast. My old car had infected my house, which in turn had infected my new car. I was in an abyss of despair. I abandoned the car in the middle of the road and walked to work. The rest of the day passed like the final recollections of a drowning man. I couldn’t go home knowing what was waiting for me there, so I checked into the cheapest motel I could find hoping that it would not have a radio or a tv in it. Even at $12 a night there was a television set in the room. Of course, I didn’t turn it on. In fact, I unplugged it and left it in the parking lot. I finally fell into a frenzied sleep, seething with primal fear. Then I awoke with a shudder. A sound filled the inside of my head; it was the first act of Parsifal. It was coming from the fillings in my teeth. They were acting like a crystal radio. I had become Parsifal positive. Despite the hour, I called my dentist. He was quite huffy about being disturbed at such a premature time until I told him that Wagner was coming out of my teeth–and not just any Wagner, but the first act of Parsifal. "I’ve heard about cases like yours," he said, "but I never thought I’d see one." "You haven’t seen it yet," I said, hoping to encourage him to prompt action. "Okay," he said, "meet me at my office in 20 minutes." I was there in five. "I’m afraid there’s only one thing that can be done for you." The dentist was gowned and gloved; he wore a lead apron and protective headgear and leggings. He breathed through a portable oxygen apparatus. His office music system played Rossini overtures which he felt would protect the place from the infection. "All your teeth have to come out." "Will that cure me?" "Who knows," he shrugged, "but it’s all science has to offer." http://www.interoz.com/lubbock/lubmag/Kurtzman9709.htm (3 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:18:02]
  10. 10. The Ghost in the Machine - A Cautionary Tale Two years or so have passed since I last showed signs of the first act of Parsifal. I’m toothless, homeless, carless, and on permanent leave from my job. I won’t be allowed back until I’m symptom-free for at least five years. My health insurance has been canceled. My friends and family have abandoned me. I am a shell of a man. Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Wagnerians. http://www.interoz.com/lubbock/lubmag/Kurtzman9709.htm (4 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:18:02]
  11. 11. Wagner's Sources for Parsifal Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Wagner's sources for Parsifal Wagner's Sources Wagner's Grail Studies uring his Dresden years (1843-49) Richard Wagner found many ideas for stage works in medieval literature. Some of those ideas he would develop into operas or music-dramas (such as Lohengrin, the Ring, Die Meistersinger and Parsifal) while others remained no more than possible subjects for musical and dramatic treatment (such as Wieland der Schmied). The starting point for Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, as every Wagnerian surely knows, was a Middle High German epic, the Nibelungenlied. Wagner's studies for the Ring did not end there, however; he proceeded to read other medieval sagas, studies of medieval literature by scholars such as the Grimm brothers and not least the Old Norse Eddas. As far as has been established, Wagner's first contact with the myth of Parsifal was the poem Parzival by Wolfram von Eschenbach, which he read at Marienbad in 1845. The first opera that resulted from his reading of Wolfram was Lohengrin, largely based on the last section of Wolfram's poem. More than a decade later, when Wagner returned to Parzival 1, he found much of it unsatisfactory as the basis of an opera. As with the Ring, Wagner began to explore other versions of the same legend. Of the many versions of the Percevalian myth, at least three were available to him: Wolfram's Parzival, Chrétien's Perceval and the anonymous Peredur. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/sources.htm (1 of 5) [26/05/2002 22:18:41]
  12. 12. Wagner's Sources for Parsifal Left: The Holy Spear of Antioch carried by bishop Adhemar of Le Puy into battle against the Saracens. olfram's work is based on an unfinished poem by Chrétien de Troyes, together with at least two other sources that have not survived. There is some evidence, although only at third hand, that Wagner had read Chrétien's Perceval: The Story of the Grail and its so-called Continuations, in a modern French version, in 1872. (This is mentioned in Du Moulin Eckhart's biography of Cosima, in which he records that Wagner had studied the Grail legend in Wolfram von Eschenbach and Chrétien de Troyes, and now again the remarkable and unique book by Görres, which is more invention than fact, has stimulated his creative processes ..., p.633). hrétien seems to have drawn upon Celtic stories, possibly an early version of Peredur Son of Evrawg; or, alternatively, the tale of Peredur might have been based on an imperfect recollection of Chrétien's poem. This story appeared in the Comte de Villemarque's Contes populaires des anciens Bretons, which Wagner is known to have read while in Paris in 1860. Chrétien's Perceval (or li Contes del Graal or Perceval le Gallois) roughly follows the story of Peredur (or the reverse) up to and including the meeting with the hermit on Good Friday. t seems that the same Celtic stories inspired other writings in which the Grail became a Christian symbol. This variation was also adopted by some of the authors who attempted to complete Chrétien's unfinished poem. Wagner may have found this interpretation, which he claimed for his own, there or possibly in a summary of another work: Robert de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie. This poem tells the story of Joseph and his family, guardians of the Christian Grail; its first part is based on the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus. There are two sequels, the poems Merlin and Perceval, the second of these either not written by de Boron or completed by another hand. Although there is no evidence that Wagner had any direct knowledge of de Boron, whose works were rediscovered in the early 19th century and first published in modern French in 1841, there is some internal evidence in Wagner's treatment of the story that he knew either de Boron, or the http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/sources.htm (2 of 5) [26/05/2002 22:18:41]
  13. 13. Wagner's Sources for Parsifal anonymous Perlesvaus, or both. inally, there are other works which appear to have provided ideas for Wagner's poem, which do not belong to the same tradition: two of these are the medieval Roman d'Alexandre and the 19th century novel, Le juif errant. In a separate article the author intends to discuss the influence of the Buddhist literature of northern India on the text of Parsifal, with particular reference to two incidents in the opera that derive from these sources. agner was reticent about his sources, even dismissive of the influence of Wolfram. He told Cosima that Wolfram's text had nothing to do with it; when he read the epic, he first said to himself that nothing could be done with it, but a few things stuck in my mind - the Good Friday, the wild appearance of Condrie. That is all it was. In particular, he found the Question an unsatisfactory element of the plot. But Wolfram was without doubt important as a stimulus for his thinking and further reading. A Note on Wagner's Bayreuth Library agner's Bayreuth library as preserved at Haus Wahnfried appears to contain only one text of Chrétien's Perceval. If it is the edition that Wagner studied in 1872, then several interesting points can be noted. The book is Ch. Potvin's Perceval le Gallois and consists of six volumes, published between 1866 and 1871, containing the following: q Vol. i: Perlesvaus. q Vol. ii: Perceval, believed to be entirely by Chrétien de Troyes. q Vol. iii: The First Continuation, an anonymous story about Gawain. There are several versions of this continuation. Although it is not present in the manuscript translated by Potvin, two of the manuscripts contain an interpolation that tells the same story as de Boron's Joseph d'Arimathie, although in much less detail. q Vol. iv: The Second Continuation, by one Gautier or Wauchier de Denain. According to Jessie L. Weston, the First and Second Continuations are not so much a completion of Chrétien, as a retelling of a Grail story in which Gawain, not Perceval, is the hero. Weston believed the original of this story to have been composed by a Welsh poet, Bleheris, Blihis or Bréri. The original ending was not included in the manuscript translated by Potvin, but it has survived in a single manuscript. q Vol. v: Gerbert de Montreuil's Continuation, incomplete. The ending of this Continuation may have been discarded and lost; it now forms a bridge between http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/sources.htm (3 of 5) [26/05/2002 22:18:41]
  14. 14. Wagner's Sources for Parsifal the extant Second and Third Continuations. The original version was probably written in parallel with and independently of: q Vol. vi: The Third Continuation, by Manessier, apparently derived in part from Perlesvaus and from the Quest of the Holy Grail. he first point to note is that Lucy Beckett was wrong in her assertion that the Continuations were not differentiated in the text Wagner would have read; they were published in separate volumes, and the change in style from volume ii to volume iii (since the First Continuation has the character of an oral recitation) would have been fairly obvious. But Beckett is correct when she writes that the First Continuation identifies the bleeding spear with that of Longinus, while the Second says that the cup contains the blood of Christ; important because neither of these features appear in Perceval . This interpretation of the Grail is also found in other versions of the story: for example, in Perlesvaus. uch more importantly, Wagner's bookshelf contains volume i, Perlesvaus. Although this account of the Grail legend has many parallels with Wolfram's poem (for example, in the emphasis on healing the Grail king -- the theme of the Waste Land is missing), it differs from the latter (and from Chrétien) in two important respects: the Grail king is not physically wounded, but has fallen into languishment, i.e. he is spiritually disabled; and there is a unique emphasis on the failure of the Quester. Both elements may be detected in Wagner's poem. s noted in the accompanying article on Kundry, an interesting feature of Perlesvaus (also present in Peredur) is that the Grail-bearer and the Loathly Damsel (or High Messenger) http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/sources.htm (4 of 5) [26/05/2002 22:18:41]
  15. 15. Wagner's Sources for Parsifal are one and the same. The last point to note was made by Jessie Weston in her book From Ritual to Romance. In the manuscript translated by Potvin, the First Continuation states that the Grail- bearer weeps piteously. t is tempting to conclude that Wagner's version of the story was influenced by his reading of the first volume of Potvin. Unfortunately, however, that volume was not published until 1866, and we have Wagner's Prose Draft of 1865 which contains all of the elements mentioned above. If Wagner was familiar with Perlesvaus in 1865, it must have been as a result of reading secondary sources such as San-Marte's Parzival-study. Footnote 1: In his autobiography Mein Leben (My Life) Wagner wrote: ... I suddenly said to myself that this was Good Friday and recalled how meaningful this had seemed to me in Wolfram's Parzival. Ever since that stay in Marienbad, where I had conceived Die Meistersinger and Lohengrin, I had not taken another look at that poem; now its ideality came to me in overwhelming form, and from the idea of Good Friday I quickly sketched out an entire drama in three acts.. So Wagner had not looked at Parzival since 1845, nor is there any evidence that he had read any other Grail romances during the intervening twelve years. What it was that Wagner sketched out in the inspiration of a spring morning in 1857 is the subject of a paper that is shortly to be published elsewhere. Here it is sufficient to note that Wagner only returned to Parzival two years later, after Mathilde Wesendonk had sent him a new, modern German translation of Wolfram's poem. This page last updated (non-css message) 05/03/02 06:33:29. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/sources.htm (5 of 5) [26/05/2002 22:18:41]
  16. 16. J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1 Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Jessie L. Weston Jessie L. Weston on Parsifal Introduction he name of Jessie L. Weston is familiar to scholars of European literature on account of her studies of medieval literature in relation to Celtic and Germanic mythology, and in particular for her books and articles about the Grail legend. In Legends of the Wagner Drama Weston discussed the relation between various Wagner dramas and those medieval poems and sagas on which, in her view, Wagner had based his dramas. In her treatment of Parsifal, extracts from which follow below, Weston compares and contrasts the action of Wagner's drama with the poem Parzival of the German poet-knight Wolfram von Eschenbach and with the earlier Perceval or Li Conte del Graal of the French poet Chrêtien de Troyes, together with other, lesser poems of the same period. Weston is perceptive in identifying the elements of these sources that were adopted and adapted by Wagner. She also indicates where Wagner has deviated from the story as told by Wolfram for purposes of his own that Weston does not attempt to explain. Weston's interpretation of Parsifal has been (and continues to be) highly influential for the understanding of Wagner's last drama throughout the English- speaking world. Quotations from Wolfram's poem were taken from Miss Weston's own English translation. Parsifal Extracts from Weston's Legends of the Wagner Drama 1. The Grail Castle 2. Titurel and Gurnemanz 3. Wagner's Treatment of the Legend 4. Amfortas and the Fisher King 5. The Bleeding Lance 6. The Swan Episode 7. Departure from the Castle 8. Klingsor 9. Kondrie, Orgeluse, Herodias 10. The Magic Garden 11. Philosophical and Mystical Conception of the Hero 12. The Good Friday Episode - Trevrezent 13. The Healing of Amfortas 14. Concluding Remarks http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/weston.htm (1 of 7) [26/05/2002 22:19:22]
  17. 17. J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1 The Grail Castle he keynote of the drama is struck in the peace of the opening scene; the repose of the Grail watchers, the solemn call to prayer from the castle, and the rising sun flashing the lake mists in the background. Wagner has followed his source [i.e. Wolfram] in placing the mysterious castle in the midst of a forest, and representing its discovery as a task in which both human skill and energy are unavailing. Both in the poem and in the drama the guidance must come from above; and the fact that Wagner apparently considers the guiding power to be the Grail itself, while Wolfram believes the guidance to come directly and immediately from God, is apparently due to the more definitely Christian character ascribed to the Grail by the dramatist. he name of the castle, Monsalvat, is of course derived from the Monsalväsch of the Parzival (a name peculiar to the legend), where the derivation appears to be 'Mont Sauvage', from the wild and lonely character of the surrounding district, a feature emphasised in the poem; but some scholars would explain the terms rather as signifying Mount of Healing (or Salvation), a rendering to which Wagner, from the form given to the name, seems to incline. s to its locality Wolfram is by no means explicit: he certainly never says it is in Northern Spain, where Wagner places it; according to his statements it was within thirty- six hours' ride from Nantes. Writers later than Wolfram, however, do locate the Grail Castle in Spain, and the idea seems to have originated with the writer of Der jüngere Titurel, a poem which deals very fully with the Grail and its guardians, and, long attributed to Wolfram, is now known to be the work of a certain Albert von Scharffenburg, a very inferior poet. his location of the Grail Castle in Spain is of course favoured by those scholars who regard the Grail myth as of Oriental origin, and the Spanish Moors the medium of communication to Europe; but as a matter of fact there is practically no evidence to connect the Grail with Spain, saving the statement, which Wolfram refers, and probably correctly, to his French source, that the legend of the Grail was originally found in an Arabic manuscript at Toledo. The truth of this statement may be gauged by the fact that the same manuscript is stated to have contained the story of Parzival, the Aryan-Celtic origin of which is beyond doubt. It is much more in accordance with the general indications of the legend to believe that the poets imagined the castle to be situated in the north-west of France. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/weston.htm (2 of 7) [26/05/2002 22:19:22]
  18. 18. J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1 ut in the process of development which the legend has undergone, the nature of the castle to which the hero pays at first an abortive, and afterwards a successful, visit has passed through various transformations. At first it probably symbolised the abode of the departed, and was as such identical with the castle of Brynhild which figures in the Thidreksaga [the saga of Dietrich von Bern] and the Nibelungenlied; and the hero's task was to break the spell of death or slumber binding the inhabitants. In the performance of this task certain talismans not infrequently played an important part; gradually these talismans became Christianised; and now in the Grail legends we have two castles -- one, that of the Grail, the other, retaining its pre-Christian character, being known by varying names, the Castle of Maidens, the Château Merveil, or as here, Klingsor's Castle. Such a bespelled castle is undoubtedly an original and essential feature of the Perceval story. Titurel and Gurnemanz he Parzival gives no account of the building of Monsalväsch, such as Wagner puts into the mouth of Gurnemanz, but simply speaks of Titurel as being first king and ruler of the Grail and its knights; but elsewhere Wolfram is more explicit. Among the works which the poet-knight has left are poems, or songs, dealing with the loves of Sigune and Schionatulander, four in all, but critics are doubtful whether more than the first two can be rightly ascribed to Wolfram. In the first of these poems, which are classed together under the name of Titurel, we find the old king, oppressed with the infirmities of age, resigning his kingdom to his son Frimutel, and telling him that he received the Grail from the hands of angels, that he was the first mortal to whose charge it was committed, and that the rules for the order of Grail knights were found on the mystic stone. There is no mention of the Spear here, nor of the building of Monsalväsch, the reason probably being that both castle and weapon were older than the Grail myth, and the writer accepted them as he found them. t is doubtful whether the Titurel preceded or followed the Parzival; probably the latter, and Wolfram's intention was to fill up lacunæ in the history of Sigune, who plays an important part in the Parzival. Its statements agree with those of the more important work, and a common source is evidently at the root of both. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/weston.htm (3 of 7) [26/05/2002 22:19:22]
  19. 19. J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1 he old knight Gurnemanz, who is so prominent in the drama, is also a characteristic figure in the original Perceval legend, where his office is to instruct the hero in knightly customs and bearing -- instruction of which he has much need. The Welsh (Peredur) version represents this character as identical with the Fisher- King, and as uncle to the hero; but he is, as a rule, distinct from both, and the relationship of uncle rather pertains to the Hermit, also an essential character of the legend, whose office it is to direct the hero's spiritual development, whereas the old knight's teaching is directed rather to his outward bearing (combined in the case of Gurnemanz of Graharz with a good deal of ethical teaching). n Chrêtien's poem the name of the knight is Gonemans de Gelbort; Gerbert, one of Chrêtien's continuators, calls him Gornumant, of which form Gurnemanz is obviously the German rendering. It will be seen that in the drama Wagner has united the characters of these two instructors in the person of his rather didactic old knight: the Gurnemanz of the First Act answering to Gurnemanz of Graharz, who appears in the Third Book of the poem and not again, though he is frequently alluded to as a model of knightly wisdom, skill and courtesy; the Gurnemanz of the Third Act answering to the Hermit Trevrezent, who in the Ninth Book of the poem unfolds to Parzival the mystery of the Grail, and restores him to faith in God. Family Tree of Parzival, according to Wolfram von Eschenbach Wagner's Treatment of the Legend nd here it may be well to remark that Wagner's treatment of the Perceval legend differs in some essential characters from his treatment of the other legends he has dramatised; he has handled it with far more freedom and boldness, and, while adhering faithfully to the spirit of the original, he has recast the incidents with great gain to the dramatic form, and in more than one detail with a happy insistence on what was probably an original feature of the legend. The result of this treatment has been that, though the story of Parzival is really longer and more full of incident that is that of Siegfried, the salient points are so happily brought out, and the balance of the whole is so well preserved, that, though treated in one drama instead of in two, it in no way suffers from compression. It is a new rendering of an old myth ... http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/weston.htm (4 of 7) [26/05/2002 22:19:22]
  20. 20. J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1 Amfortas and the Fisher King he Fisher-King, the wounded lord of the Grail, appears in every version of the Grail myth; in the English Sir Percyvelle, in which the Grail does not appear, alone is he missing. Belonging to that part of the Perceval legend which has been most strongly and directly affected by the development of the Grail myth, the character of the wounded king has now become so closely associated with the Christian talisman, that even when the earlier form of the legend has become obscured, and Perceval himself has ceased to be par excellence the hero of the quest, the wounded king, the Rich Fisher (varying names for the same character), still retains his connection with the object of that quest. s a rule the king is represented [in the romances] as an old man; that Anfortas, in the Parzival, appears in the prime of life and manly beauty is due to the youth-bestowing properties of the Grail; Trevrezent, the Hermit, who is spoken of throughout as an aged man, is Anfortas' younger brother. In his representation of the Grail king, Wagner has, on the whole, followed the indications of his source; one generation has been dropped out, and Amfortas appears as Titurel's son, and not his grandson, thus heightening the tragic effect of the king's refusal to unveil the Grail; and the relationship between himself and Parsifal no longer exists. The distinctive feature of Wolfram's version, and that which has given Wagner the hint for the colouring 'motif' of his drama, lies in the fact that he represents Anfortas as wounded in punishment for an unlawful love; in other versions the king is wounded in battle, or accidentally, by handling a mysterious sword destined for the use of another. This change, thoroughly in harmony with the high spiritual and ethical treatment which raises Wolfram's version of the legend so immeasurably above those of the French poets, has been utilised by Wagner to the great benefit of the character of Amfortas, which in the drama possesses a significance altogether lacking in the legend. hy Wagner changed the name of the king from Anfortas to Amfortas does not appear: the original form is supposed to have been derived from the French Enfertez = the sick man, with Provençal ending -as; names derived from Provençal French being a marked feature in Wolfram's poem. The Bleeding Lance n his account of the weapon with which the king has been wounded Wagner departs boldly from his source, and from what was almost certainly the oldest form of the story. For we are here confronted with what was evidently one of the original features of the legend; in most of the earlier forms, e.g. in Chrêtien, in Peredur, and in the [prose] Perceval, we find a bleeding Lance accompanied by another talisman, which latter is eventually identified with the Grail. The Spear is in Chrêtien the subject of a longer digression and explanation than is the Grail itself; and while Perceval goes in quest of the Grail, and to ask the question which will heal the wounded king, Gawain goes in search of the Spear... http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/weston.htm (5 of 7) [26/05/2002 22:19:22]
  21. 21. J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1 e not infrequently meet with the statement, in print, that it was Chrêtien de Troyes who first identified the Spear with the Spear of Longinus, and the Grail with the vessel of the Last Supper; but both these statements are incorrect. True, the Spear is so spoken of in the introduction to Chrêtien's poem, and Spear and Grail are alike Christian symbols in the minds of Chrêtien's continuators; but the introduction is no less the work of a hand other than Chrêtien's, than is the continuation (or, to be more correct, continuations), and he himself gives no account of the origin of either. he fact seems to be that the Spear was, as Wolfram represents, the weapon with which the king was wounded; and although Wagner has radically changed the character of the weapon, yet in representing the Spear, rather than the Grail, as the object of the hero's quest, and the animating motive the desire of healing the maimed king, he is probably reproducing with fidelity original features of the story. No one can quarrel with Wagner for having represented both Spear and Grail under the more fully developed Christian character in which they are most familiar to us; the fact that he has done so bears out the contention advanced above, that in the Parsifal Wagner has been singularly happy in emphasising the spiritual significance of the legend without detriment to its original form. The Swan Episode he episode of the swan, with which the hero makes his entry upon the scene, was doubtless suggested by a beautiful passage in the poem, where Wolfram depicts the child Parzival as slaying the birds in pure thoughtlessness, and then overwhelmed with remorse for the harm he has unwittingly done: But when the feathered songster of the woods at his feet lay dead, In wonder and dumb amazement he bowed down his golden head, And in childish wrath and sorrow tore the locks of his sunny hair; ... and his heart was with sorrow filled, And the ready tears of childhood flowed forth from their fountains free As he ran to his mother, weeping, and bowed him beside her knee. "What aileth thee, child?" quoth the mother, "but now wast thou gay and glad"; But childlike, he gave no answer, scarce wist he what made him sad! he identification of the swan as the bird of the Grail is a later feature, due to the connection with the myth of the swan-knight, who, in the latest forms of the story, became identified with Lohengrin, Parzival's son, and appointed heir to the Grail kingdom. The bird of the Grail is, more correctly, the dove, the badge of the Grail knights in the poem as in the drama; but Wolfram alone knows of this feature, and we cannot consider it part of the original legend... http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/weston.htm (6 of 7) [26/05/2002 22:19:22]
  22. 22. J.L.Weston on Wagner's 'Parsifal' and its Medieval Sources: part 1 Left: The Grail Temple, Bayreuth 1882. After the design by Paul von Joukowsky. ©Cologne Theatre Museum. Departure from the Castle n the legend Parzival is not, as in the drama, driven from the hall with contumely but awakes in the morning to find himself alone in the castle, all the inhabitants having vanished; and it is as he rides forth from the castle that an unseen hand raises the drawbridge, and the voice of one unseen pours mockery upon him for his failure to ask the mystic question: Goose that thou art, ride onward, to the sun's hate hast thou been born! Thy mouth hadst thou thought to open, of these wonders hadst asked thine host, Great fame had been thine. But I tell thee, now hast thou this fair chance lost! - words in which we find the source of Gurnemanz's taunt, cast by Wagner in a more homely and proverbial form. The whole incident has an unmistakable 'folk-lore' flavour about it, though perhaps it is more common [in folk-tales] to find that not the folk alone, but castle or palace itself, has vanished, and the hero awakes to find himself lying on bare ground. This page last updated (split into two pages) 27/04/02 15:21:31. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/weston.htm (7 of 7) [26/05/2002 22:19:22]
  23. 23. The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Spear The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear 1. The Bleeding Lance of the Grail Romances 2. Wagner and the Spear 3. The Meaning of the Spear 4. The Sceptre and the Bell The Bleeding Lance of the Grail Romances he mysteriously bleeding lance originated in Wagner's medieval sources. It appears not only in the romances of Chrétien and Wolfram but also in other versions of the Grail story. A variant of the story that might have either inspired or been inspired by Chrétien was preserved in the Welsh Mabinogion and later appeared in the Comte de Villemarque's collection Contes populaires des anciens Bretons: this story has the title, Peredur son of Evrawg: hen Peredur sat to one side of his uncle and they talked. He saw two lads entering the hall and then leaving for a chamber: they carried a spear of incalculable size with three streams of blood running from the socket to the floor. When everyone saw the lads coming in this way they set up a crying and lamentation that was not easy for anyone to bear, but the man did not interrupt his conversation with Peredur; he did not explain what this meant, nor did Peredur ask him. his is recognisably another version of the Grail story as it appears in Chrétien's unfinished romance; which contributed to Wolfram's tale of Parzival. This in its turn was used by Richard Wagner to make a new synthesis, in which (eventually) the hero was renamed as Parsifal. Unlike the medieval questers Wagner's hero first has to recover the spear (although he does not know the nature of this mission, or even that he has one, until he experiences Kundry's kiss) and then to return it to Monsalvat; so that it can be used to heal Amfortas, after which it is http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/spear.htm (1 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:19:42]
  24. 24. The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear reunited with the Grail. By doing so, Parsifal achieves the twofold resolution of the drama: Amfortas is healed and relieved of his duties and the mystic union of the two relics enables the regeneration of the community. Left: A holy lance was discovered in Antioch cathedral during the First Crusade. Wagner and the Spear his new synthesis was not arrived at overnight. Between Wagner's first encounter with Wolfram's poem and the completion of his own poem in 1877, there elapsed three decades. According to his autobiography Mein Leben the inspiration for Parsifal arrived on Good Friday1 in 1857, when Wagner made a sketch (or scenario) that has been lost. At this stage it is unlikely that either the Grail or the spear (as I have discussed elsewhere) played an important role in the story. At the end of August 1865 Wagner developed his scenario into a detailed Prose Draft. It is clear that Wagner struggled with the incorporation of the spear. As with the Grail, there were possibilities to choose between, or combine from, different traditions. There was the bleeding spear of the Celtic legends; also the spear of Longinus which had pierced the side of the Saviour on the Cross and the spear of Achilles that had both wounded and healed Telephus. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/spear.htm (2 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:19:42]
  25. 25. The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear Right: the Spear of Destiny, to be seen in the Hofberg museum in Vienna. This is one of several spearheads that have been claimed as the spear of Longinus. s the pagan Grail had been made into a Christian symbol by medieval writers, Wagner realised that he could make the pagan, bleeding spear into a Christian symbol, drawing a parallel between the wound suffered by Christ and the wound of Anfortas. This identification also led Wagner to think about the pure blood of Christ and the impure blood of Anfortas (later Amfortas). At least some of these ideas occurred to Wagner while he was working on his first Prose Draft; where however there is no suggestion that the spear that belongs with the Grail is the same spear that pierced the side of Christ. But a couple of days later, Wagner noted in his diary: As a relic, the spear goes with the cup; in this is preserved the blood that the spear made to flow from the Redeemer's thigh. The two are complementary. agner considered two alternatives: in the first, the spear is carried by Anfortas in his ill- fated assault on Klingsor, and won from him. In the second, the Grail Knights had not yet gained the spear; Klingsor had found it first. In either case it is a holy relic that belongs with the Grail, and which is used by Klingsor to wound Anfortas (or so it seems, at least). As we know, it was the first of these alternatives that Wagner chose, at some time between 1865 and 1877. The recovery of the spear became an important element of the story, replacing the Question motif of the medieval romances and linking together all three acts of Wagner's drama. Finally (perhaps as late as February 1877) Wagner made the identification of the spear wielded by Klingsor with the magic weapon of Márá and his story was complete. The Meaning of the Spear There has been much speculation about the symbolism of the spear (as there has been about that other relic, the Grail) in Wagner's drama. For Klaus Stichweh (Wissendes Mitleid, in the Bayreuth Festival programme for 1977) the spear symbolises (only) the sin of Amfortas; this overlooks Wagner's explicit connection of the spear with the suffering of Christ. For Carl Dahlhaus (in Richard Wagner's Music Dramas) the spear was to be interpreted as a symbol of compassion, "the reversal of the will" as Schopenhauer understood it. These interpretations are unsatisfactory because they fail to account for the dual nature of the spear. Like the spear of Achilles in the Greek myth of http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/spear.htm (3 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:19:42]
  26. 26. The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear Telephus the holy spear is able both to wound (even to destroy) and to heal the wound that it made. The intention of the person who wields the spear would seem to be important here. The question naturally arises of whether the spear is an active or passive element. In particular, at the end of the second act. Does the destruction of Klingsor's domain (that of world-spanning illusion, Weltenwahn) result from Klingsor's use of the spear in an attempt to destroy Parsifal, rather than from an action of his intended victim? If so, why then did the relic not destroy Klingsor when he used it to wound Amfortas? Was that wound caused, not by Klingsor, but by the spear itself when Amfortas tried to use it as a weapon? If so, it is consistent that another attack with the spear backfires on Klingsor. Wagner's stage directions suggest that Parsifal, in another flash of insight, realises the power of the spear and it is by his action (in making the sign of the Cross) that Klingsor's domain (and not just the sorcerer himself) is destroyed. Ulrike Kienzle (in Das Weltüberwindungswerk) identifies the spear with Schopenhauer's concept of "eternal justice" (der ewigen Gerechtigkeit). It is as an instrument of eternal justice that the spear wounds Amfortas when he tries to use it as a weapon, rather than guarding it as a relic. In Schopenhauerian terms, his attempt to injure another, while deluded by the veil of Maya, results only in an increase in his own suffering. The aggressor bites only his own flesh; tormentor and tormented are one. When Klingsor becomes the aggressor, in this interpretation, then his aggression turns back on himself. As a result then, for Parsifal at least, the veil of Maya (the Weltenwahn of the Upanishads) is rent from top to bottom. The Sceptre and the Bell As noted above, Wagner wrote that the Grail and the spear were complementary. Not only in Parsifal but in other treatments of the legend, it was suggested by J.L. Weston, these relics are sexual symbols. She argued that the spear was a masculine element and the cup was a feminine element. Sometimes, of course, a cigar is just a cigar, but in the case of Parsifal there does seem to be a sexual sub-text. At one level we see a community that is exclusively male and which, until the final scene in which an exception is made for Kundry, excludes women from its holy place, the Grail Temple. This parallels the situation of Prakriti in Die Sieger who is finally admitted into the monastic community by the Buddha, the Victoriously Perfect, whose compassion for the Chandala girl opens the gate to the final stage of his enlightenment. These subtexts come together in the final scene of Parsifal when the spiritual hero, whose compassion for the penitent Kundry has opened the gate to the final stage of his enlightenment, brings together the Grail and the spear. Shortly before he died Richard Wagner told Cosima that he did not need to write Die Sieger (it was now too late, in any case) because in Parsifal he had http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/spear.htm (4 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:19:42]
  27. 27. The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear expressed his idea of community. This has led some to suggest that Parsifal is fundamentally misogynistic. Yet, in the last paragraph that Wagner wrote, he returned to the subject of the Buddha's admission of women into his community and called it a beautiful feature of the legend. So perhaps, just as Prakriti was the first of many sisters to become a Buddhist nun, so is Kundry the first of many women who will be called to the service of the Grail, thus bringing a healthy balance to Monsalvat. A second meaning that can be assigned to the reunification of the two relics and symbols relates to Wagner's aesthetic theories. The spear can be interpreted as the masculine element of poetry and the Grail as the feminine element of music. The blood that (in the final text although not in the 1865 draft) flows from the tip of the spear and falls into the cup represents the insemination of music by poetry in order to create the art-work. This metaphor was employed by Wagner in his treatise Opera and Drama of 1851: ... that in which understanding is akin to feeling is the purely human, that which constitutes the essence of the human species as such. In this purely human are nurtured both the manly and the womanly, which become the human being for the first time when united through love. The necessary impetus of the poetic understanding in writing poetry is therefore love, -- and specifically the love of man for woman; yet not the frivolous, carnal love in which man only seeks to satisfy his appetite, but the deep yearning to know himself redeemed from his egoism through his sharing in the rapture of the loving woman; and this yearning is the creative moment of understanding. The necessary donation, the poetic seed that only in the most ardent transports of love can be produced by his noblest forces -- this procreative seed is the poetic intent (die dichterische Absicht) which brings to the glorious, loving woman, music, the matter that she must bear. This metaphor can be found in several of Wagner's works. In the conclusion of Parsifal it can be considered as one of the meanings that are carried by the reunion of the two relics. Wagner's last music-drama is not only about sex, however, nor even about the union of poetry and music in the art-work. It is also, or so many commentators have claimed, about religion. On the religious or spiritual plane the central theme of the drama is Parsifal's progress towards total enlightenment. The reunion of the two holy relics after one of them is returned to the desecrated sanctuary by Parsifal can be seen as a metaphor for this final enlightenment, in the following way. As discussed in a separate article, Wagner was interested in Buddhism. One of the three major branches of Buddhism and the last of the three to emerge is the form with highly developed rituals, which is known both as Tantrayana and Vajrayana. The second of these names indicates the importance of a ritual object called (in Sanskrit) a vajra. In Tibet, where this became the dominant form of Buddhism, it is called rdo rje. It is a sceptre with five closed prongs at each end. In Buddhist legend, the origin of the sceptre was the thunderbolt wielded by the Vedic god Indra (which parallels the weapon of the thunder- god in other pantheons, such as Thor, Wagner's Donner). The legend tells of how the Buddha took a thunderbolt from Indra (presumably a metal statue) and bent the prongs until they were closed. The sceptre is symmetric and the two ends respectively symbolise http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/spear.htm (5 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:19:42]
  28. 28. The Wounding and Healing Holy Spear the virtues of wisdom and compassion (which are prominent in Vajrayana as they were in Mahayana Buddhism, from which Vajrayana developed). Thus the sceptre symbolises the indissoluble union of wisdom and compassion. In its entirety it symbolises the active, masculine aspect of enlightenment often equated with skillful means, great compassion, or bliss. The complement to the ritual sceptre is the bell (ghanta in Sanskrit, dril bu in Tibetan), which is regarded as a feminine symbol and which represents the perfection of wisdom. In Buddhist temple rituals the masculine sceptre and the feminine bell are used together. When united these ritual objects symbolise enlightenment; which might be another meaning of the ritual objects that are brought together in the temple at Monsalvat. q The spear as a magic symbol q The wounding and healing of Telephus Footnote 1: Although, as Wagner later admitted, it was not on Good Friday that his inspiration arrived; but a spring morning soon after Richard and Minna moved into der Asyl, the cottage beside the Wesendonck Villa, on 28 April 1857. This page last updated (non-css message) 03/05/02 06:33:17. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/spear.htm (6 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:19:42]
  29. 29. Parsifal and Greek Myth: the wounding and healing of Telephus, the sin and redemption of Prometheus Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Greek myth Parsifal and Greek Myth Wagner and Ancient Greece agner was fascinated by classical Greece. In particular, he was interested in two aspects of the ancient Greek culture: firstly in the social and religious role of the Greek theatre, and secondly in the myths that had provided the content of Greek poetry and drama. Myths were, as Wagner expressed it in Oper und Drama, true for all time. It was the task of the poet to create art from the inexhaustible content of myth. n 1849 Wagner sketched his own drama on the subject of Achilles (WWV 81). It was probably while reading about this hero of the Trojan War, that Wagner encountered the story of Achilles and Telephus. Achilles and Telephus elephus, son of Heracles and Auge, was a king in Asia Minor. After nearly making the same mistake as Oedipus, of marrying his own mother, Telephus married a daughter of King Priam. As an ally of the Trojans, his kingdom was attacked by the Greeks (or Achaeans) and in the fighting, Telephus was wounded in the thigh by the spear of Achilles. After the Greeks had withdrawn, Telephus' wound would not heal. he Greeks had no leader who could show them the way to Troy. But Telephus, because his wound was unhealed, and [the oracle of] Apollo had told him that he would be cured when the one who wounded him should turn physician, came from Mysia to Argos, clad in rags, and begged the help of Achilles, promising to show the course to steer for Troy. So Achilles healed him by scraping off the rust of his Pelian spear. Accordingly, on being healed, Telephus showed the course to steer, and the accuracy of his information was confirmed by Calchas by means of his own art of divination. [Apollodorus, tr. Sir James George Frazer] razer notes that the spear was the famous one which Chiron the Centaur had bestowed on Peleus, the father of Achilles. The shaft was cut from an ash-tree on Mount Pelion, and none of the Greeks at Troy, except Achilles, could wield it. The healing of Telephus's wound by Achilles was the subject of a play by Sophocles, called The Assembly of the Achaeans, and one by Euripides called Telephus. Aristophanes ridiculed the rags and tatters in which Telephus appeared on the stage in Euripides's play. The cure of a wound by an application to it of rust from the weapon which inflicted the http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/grkmyths.htm (1 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:20:08]
  30. 30. Parsifal and Greek Myth: the wounding and healing of Telephus, the sin and redemption of Prometheus hurt is not to be explained, as Pliny supposed, by any medicinal property inherent in rust as such, else the rust from any weapon would serve the purpose. It is clearly a folklore remedy based on the principle of sympathetic magic. t is almost certainly the myth of Achilles and Telephus to which Goethe refers in his poem Torquato Tasso: The poet tells us of a spear which yet Might cure the wound that it itself had dealt If friendly hand were but to place it there. The Spear that Heals his myth provided an important element in Wagner's Parsifal. When reading the medieval Grail romances, in which a number of different spears appeared, it would seem that Wagner recalled the wound of Telephus. He might even have seen the reference to a spear that relieved the pain of Anfortas, although it did not heal him, in Wolfram's Parzival, as a remnant of the almost forgotten myth. By the time he wrote his Prose Draft in August 1865, Wagner had decided to make the spear that caused the wound into the instrument with which the enlightened fool would heal the wound. He was still uncertain, however, about how to deal with the magic weapon. Had it been given to Titurel at the same time as the Grail, or had Klingsor found it for himself? 2 Sept. What to do about the blood-stained lance? -- The poem says the lance is supposed to have been produced at the same time as the Grail, and clinging to the tip was a drop of blood. -- Anyway, this is the one which has caused Anfortas' wound: but how does this hang together? Great confusion here. As a relic, the lance goes with the Grail; in this is preserved the blood that the lance made to flow from the Saviour's thigh. The two are complementary. -- So, either this: The lance has been entrusted to the knights at the same time as the Grail. When trouble presses hard it is even borne into battle by the Keeper of the Grail. Anfortas, in order to break Klingsor's magic, which is so fatal to the knights, has taken it from the altar and set off with it against the arch-foe. Succumbing to seduction, he let shield and spear fall, the sacred weapon was stolen from him and used to wound him as he turned to flee. (Perhaps Klingsor is anxious to have Anfortas in his power alive, he commands the lance to be used against him, knowing that it wounds but does not kill. Why?) The healing and deliverance of Anfortas is now logically only possible if the lance is rescued from impious hands and reunited with the Grail. Or this: http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/grkmyths.htm (2 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:20:08]
  31. 31. Parsifal and Greek Myth: the wounding and healing of Telephus, the sin and redemption of Prometheus On being entrusted with the Grail, the knights were also promised the lance: only it must first be won by hard fighting. Were it one day to be united with the Grail, then nothing again could assail the knights. Klingsor has found this lance and is keeping it, partly because of its powerful magic -- it is capable of wounding even the godliest of men if any fault attach to him -- and partly to withhold it from the community of the Grail, who by winning it would become invincible. Anfortas has now gone forth to deprive Klingsor of this lance: seduced by love, he is wounded by Klingsor's hurling the lance at him. -- The continuation now remains the same: it must come into the knights' possession. -- Klingsor hurls the spear at Parzival; he catches it; he knows about it, knows its power, its significance. [Diary entry in the Brown Book] Prometheus - the Redeemer Unbound The Theft of Fire, by Christian Griepenkerl. Prometheus steals fire from Zeus. n 28 February 1877, Richard gave Cosima to read the second Prose Draft of Parsifal, which he had just completed. She recorded her reactions in her diary: This is bliss, this is solace, this is sublimity and devotion! -- The Redeemer unbound! rometheus, like Amfortas and Telephus, had a wound that would not heal. As punishment for Prometheus giving fire to man, Zeus had him chained up in the Caucasian mountains. Every day, an eagle came to Prometheus and bit him in the liver, which grew again every night. In his Prometheus trilogy, of which only Prometheus Bound has survived, Aeschylus developed him into the creator and saviour of mankind. Although he gave them fire, Prometheus took away their knowledge of the future. In the next part of the trilogy, Prometheus Unbound, Zeus allowed Prometheus to be freed. Heracles shot the eagle and freed the titan from his chains. R. says to me, "Prometheus' words, 'I took knowledge away from Man' came to my mind and gave me a profound insight; knowledge, seeing ahead, is in fact a divine attribute, and man with this divine attribute is a piteous object, he is like Brahma before the Maya spread before him the veil of ignorance, of deception; the divine privilege is the saddest thing of all." [Cosima's Diaries, entry for 29 November http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/grkmyths.htm (3 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:20:08]
  32. 32. Parsifal and Greek Myth: the wounding and healing of Telephus, the sin and redemption of Prometheus 1871] Prometheus and the Eagle, by Rubens. rometheus, unbound, appeared on the title page of the first edition of Friedrich Nietzsche's first book. The ideas presented in that book, The Birth of Tragedy, were either ideas that originated with Wagner, or which Nietzsche developed during and after conversations with Wagner. Nietzsche contrasted the myth of Prometheus with the Biblical myth of the Fall. Prometheus, a male character, committed sacrilege by stealing from divine nature. His was an active sin. Eve, a female character, allowed herself to be deceived. Hers was a passive sin. To Nietzsche's observations might be added, that through Eve's fault mankind gained the knowledge of good and evil, whereas through Prometheus' actions mankind lost the knowledge of the future. n Wagner's letter to King Ludwig of 7 September 1865, he suggests (but with considerable caution) that Adam-Eve-Christ might be compared to Amfortas-Kundry- Parsifal. The analogy is certainly not an exact one. It seems that Amfortas' sin was an active sin, like that of Prometheus, and he too was punished with an unhealing wound. Kundry is not tempted, as was Eve, but rather she is a temptress. The common theme is knowledge. One day there arrives a young man whose distinguishing characteristic is his lack of knowledge. Parsifal lacks even the knowledge of good and evil; perhaps he represents pre-fallen, paradisical human, still in a state of dreaming innocence? This page last updated (layout) 12/05/02 14:16:39. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/grkmyths.htm (4 of 4) [26/05/2002 22:20:08]
  33. 33. Swans and Geese Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Swans and Geese Swans and Geese: Wagner's Wildfowl The Goose of Monsalvat t the end of the first act of Wagner's Parsifal, the knight Gurnemanz notices that the young fool is still standing in the hall. It is obvious that he does not understand what he has seen and heard there. Dort hinaus, deine Wege zu! Doch rät dir Gurnemanz: lass du hier künftig die Schwäne in Ruh' und suche dir, Gänser, die Gans! Off with you, be on your way! Take some advice from Gurnemanz: In future leave our swans in peace, go seek -- you gander -- for geese! here is a certain irony in these words. Gurnemanz sends the young man, whom he thinks is nothing but a fool, on his way. Gurnemanz does not realise that he has changed the direction of the young fool's life, or that the way that the fool will find, will in the end lead him both to wisdom and back to Gurnemanz. In the next act, the young gander will find a (metaphorical) flock of geese. he mention of geese is a subtle reference to Wagner's medieval sources. It is well-known that Wagner first encountered the story about the young fool who stumbles upon the Grail Castle in a poem by Wolfram von Eschenbach. Wolfram's primary source was an unfinished poem by Chrétien de Troyes, Perceval or The Story of the Grail. have described, in another article, Perceval's visit to the Grail Castle. The young lad awakes in the castle, now deserted. He bangs on doors and shouts, but nobody appears. Then he goes out into the courtyard, and finds his horse saddled, his lance and shield leaning against the wall. As he rides out through the gate and on to the drawbridge, it begins to rise. Horse and rider jump to the bank, and he looks back to see who raised the bridge. Seeing nobody, he calls out, but there is no reply. olfram expands on the story. A page who had remained hidden pulled the cable so sharply that the end all but toppled [Parzival's] horse into the moat. Parzival looked back in hope of learning more. 'Damn you, wherever the sun lights on your path!' shouted the page. 'You silly goose!' agner's scene also has a voice whose owner is unseen, but it is heard by Gurnemanz and not by the young fool. After Gurnemanz has pushed Parsifal out of the door and slammed it shut behind him, he walks across the stage and, as he does so, a voice is heard from up above. Durch Mitleid wissend, der reine Tor (Made wise through compassion, the pure fool); the words of the prophecy, once delivered to Amfortas. To which a heavenly choir adds, Selig im Glauben! (Blessed in faith). http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/wildfowl.htm (1 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:20:41]
  34. 34. Swans and Geese here is another episode in Wolfram's Parzival that involves a goose, a real one this time. But before we consider whether that episode has any relevance to Wagner's Parsifal, we need to consider a different bird. The Beloved Swan n episode in Parsifal that has puzzled commentators, is the shooting of the swan in the first act. There is no direct parallel in Wolfram, although it has been suggested by Lucy Beckett that two passages in Parzival could have inspired this scene. Firstly, in Wolfram's account of Parzival's boyhood: ut when he had shot a bird that had been singing full throat but a moment before, he would burst into tears and, clutching at his hair, wreak vengeance on his own head. uch later, in Parzival's wanderings, he comes across a goose that has been wounded by King Arthur's falcon. Three drops of blood fall on the snow; the red on white reminds Parzival of his distant wife, Condwiramurs. In contemplation of the blood on the snow, he falls into a trance. Amfortas Bathing, oil painting by Franz Stassen. ere is the episode of the swan in Wagner's Prose Draft: hile the King is bathing in the sacred lake, a wild swan circles over his head: suddenly it falls, wounded by an arrow; shouts from the lake: general indignation, who dares kill an animal on this sacred spot? The swan flutters nearer and drops bleeding to the ground. Parzival emerges from the forest, bow in hand: Gurnemans stops him. The young man confesses to the deed. To the violent reproaches of the old man he has no reply. Gurnemans, reproaching him with the wickedness of his act, reminds him of the sanctity of the forest stirring so silently around him, asks whether he has not found all the creatures tame, gentle and harmless. What had the swan, seeking its mate, done to him? Was he not sorry for the poor bird that now lay, with bloodstained feathers, dying at his feet? etc.,- Parzival, who has been standing riveted to the spot, bursts into tears and stammers, 'I don't know!' he connection with the first of the two passages in Wolfram seems to be much closer than the second, which does not seem relevant. Even so, there is quite a difference between Wolfram's brief episode and the more complex scene at the lakeside. Carl Suneson has suggested that two passages in Indian literature could have contributed to Wagner's episode. The first of these, from mulasarvastivada, is related to Mathilde Wesendonck's poem about the wounded swan: http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/wildfowl.htm (2 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:20:41]
  35. 35. Swans and Geese evadatta, cousin to the future Buddha, with an arrow shoots a goose (Sanskrit: hamsa), which falls down in the vicinity of the future Buddha. The latter sharply reproaches Devadatta, heals the goose and refuses to accept Devadatta's demand that it should be given up to him, on the argument that he has a better claim to the goose than Devadatta could have, on account of the merit he had acquired in countless incarnations. [Carl Suneson, Richard Wagner och den indiska tankevärlden, 1985] uneson also points out that, in the 19th century, it was common for the word hamsa to be mistranslated as swan (Schwan) rather than goose (Gans). One possible source for Wagner was an article in German, written in 1851 by Anton Schiefner, in which he had translated from a Tibetan text of 1734 (the Sanskrit text not being available in the west until half a century later). Schiefner's articles on Buddhism were among those recommended in the 1854 edition of Arthur Schopenhauer's Über den Willen in der Natur. Parsifal Act 1 in the 1989 Bayreuth production by Wolfgang Wagner. Parsifal: William Pell, Gurnemanz: Hans Sotin. ©Bayreuther Festspiele. second possible, perhaps stronger, candidate for an Indian inspiration is an incident in the epic Ramayana, which Wagner was reading with great enthusiasm a few days before writing the 1865 Prose Draft. Combined with the first passage in Wolfram, this is a credible basis for what Wagner wrote in that draft. The poet Valmiki is witness to the shooting of a krauñca bird by a hunter: It was in this (the forest's) vicinity that the venerable one saw a lively singing krauñca-pair who flew without fear. In his sight a hunter, filled with wickedness and an abode of enmity, killed one of the pair, the male. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/wildfowl.htm (3 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:20:41]
  36. 36. Swans and Geese When the hen saw him whirl around, dead on the field, with bloodstained body, she cried out bitterly... Valmiki cried out in compassion: "O, hunter! May you never find peace in all eternity, after you slew one of that krauñca-pair who were drunk with love." [Ramayana, from the Swedish text translated from Sanskrit by Carl Suneson in Richard Wagner och den indiska tankevärlden, 1985] Mother and Son agner's abhorrence for any act of cruelty to an animal, and his sympathy for their dumb suffering, was something that he discovered was shared by Arthur Schopenhauer (as it was by his beloved Mathilde Wesendonck). In Arthur Schopenhauer's ethics, Wagner found a rational basis for his instinctive belief in the rights of animals. Both men rejected the Christian attitude to animals, taken from the Old Testament, that they had been given to man to use as he wished, as part of nature entrusted to man's stewardship by the Creator God. Also the modern, philosophical view introduced by Descartes, in which animals were only machines. he moral incentive advanced by me as the genuine, is further confirmed by the fact that the animals are also taken under its protection. In other European systems of morality they are badly provided for, which is most inexcusable. They are said to have no rights, and there is the erroneous idea that our behaviour to them is without moral significance, or, as it is said in the language of that morality, there are no duties to animals. All this is revoltingly crude, a barbarism of the West, the source of which is to be found in Judaism. In philosophy it rests, despite all evidence to the contrary, on the assumed total difference between man and animal. We all know that such difference was expressed most effectively and strikingly by Descartes, as a necessary consequence of his errors... And so we must remind the Western, Judaized despiser of animals and idolater of the faculty of reason that, just as he was suckled by his mother, so was the dog by his. Even Kant fell into this mistake of his contemporaries and countrymen; this I have already censured. The morality of Christianity has no consideration for animals, a defect that is better admitted than perpetuated. This is the more surprising since, in other respects, that morality shows the closest agreement with that of Brahmanism and Buddhism, being merely less strongly expressed, and not carried through to its very end. Therefore we can scarcely doubt that, like the idea of a god become man (avatar), the Christian morality originates from India and may have come to Judaea by way of Egypt, so that Christianity would be a reflected splendour of the primordial light of India from the ruins of Egypt; but unfortunately it fell on Jewish soil. [Arthur Schopenhauer, Über die Grundlage der http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/wildfowl.htm (4 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:20:41]
  37. 37. Swans and Geese Moral, section 19, 1839.] ere, in Arthur Schopenhauer's assertion that animals had rights, and indeed rights equal to those of human beings, Wagner found a morality consistent with his own instincts. He accepted Schopenhauer's argument that the origins of Christianity were in the religions of India, which had reached Judaea in the centuries before Christ; and that there the teaching that animals had rights had been rejected, in favour of the Old Testament teaching in which animals were objects with no more rights than those of rocks. In the western world, as Wagner expressed it, the Pentateuch had won the day (An Open Letter to Herr Ernst von Weber, PW VI, p 202). Wagner's concern for animals, together with the advice of his doctors, eventually led him to become a sympathiser with, if not actually a practitioner of, vegetarianism. nce Wagner had been seized by enthusiasm for the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer, an enthusiasm that unusually for Wagner was long-lived, he not only sought out and read everything that the philosopher had published, but also other books that he had recommended. This included books on Buddhism, where Wagner read about the Buddhist attitude to animals, including of course birds. Here again he encountered something that Schopenhauer had mentioned, the idea of reincarnation. The respect of the Buddhist for animals was a natural consequence of the belief that he could be reborn as an animal and that the animal could be reborn as a human, or even divine, being. t is not difficult to find hints of a belief in reincarnation in Wagner's later works, and expressed in his writings. In 1858 Wagner wrote to Mathilde Wesendonck that he had come to believe in reincarnation, although it is not clear which of the different doctrines he had accepted. In his projected Buddhist drama Die Sieger (The Victors), the Buddha Shakyamuni was to reveal that the Chandala girl Prakriti was atoning for guilt in her previous lives; which is the way Gurnemanz describes Kundry in the first act of Parsifal. When Parsifal arrives, he tells Gurnemanz that he has had many names, but forgotten them all. This could be read as an awareness that he has lived previous lives, of which the details have been forgotten. n a book about her friend Richard Wagner, written in 1882, Judith Gautier wrote about the scene in which Siegfried rests under a Linden tree and listens to the Forest Bird: l'oiseau lui parle, en effet; ne serait- ce pas là l'âme de sa mère? (indeed, the bird speaks to him; would this not be the soul of his mother?) Which is reminiscent of a letter that Wagner wrote to his own mother in September 1846, in which he writes that he thinks of her during country walks, listening to a dear forest bird. In the poem of Der junge Siegfried, in fact, there are lines that Wagner did not set to music in the drama that he later called Siegfried. In the scene to which Judith refers, young Siegfried hears the bird and sings, Mich dünkt, meine mutter singt zu mir! (I think my mother is singing to me!). This suggests that, as early as 1851 and therefore before Wagner had encountered either Schopenhauer or Buddhism, he was thinking in terms of a transmigration of souls, by which Sieglinde became a bird that watched over and helped her son, Siegfried. n Parsifal the bird is a swan, which also provides a musical connection (see number 33 in the leitmotif catalogue) between Parsifal and his son Lohengrin. In 1860, in another letter to Mathilde Wesendonck, Wagner had written about the relationships between characters in Lohengrin, Parsifal and Die Sieger: Only the deeply wise idea of the transmigration of souls could show me the consoling point at which all creatures will finally reach the same level of redemption. Lohengrin might be a reincarnation of his father Parsifal (an odd suggestion, since the text of the Grail Narration in Lohengrin suggests that Parsifal is then still alive), while the all- too-human Elsa could reach the karmic level of Lohengrin through a series of rebirths. Given this preoccupation with the idea of reincarnation, it is tempting to speculate that Herzeleide, Parsifal's mother, might have been reincarnated as the swan. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/wildfowl.htm (5 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:20:41]
  38. 38. Swans and Geese n Wieland Wagner's interpretation of Parsifal, the spiritual hero progressed from the realm of mother and matter, symbolised by the swan, to the realm of father and spirit, symbolised by the dove. In this interpretation the incident with the swan can be seen as the starting point of Parsifal's journey and the descending dove as the end of that journey. In Wieland's famous Bayreuth production (1951- 1973), however, the dove was omitted. Perhaps because this symbol suggests a parallel between Parsifal and Christ, one that Richard Wagner repeatedly denied had been his intention. This page last updated (non-css message) 05/03/02 06:31:12. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/wildfowl.htm (6 of 6) [26/05/2002 22:20:41]
  39. 39. Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal Monsalvat: the Parsifal homepage | Buddhism Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal 1. Wagner and Buddhism 2. Parsifal and Indian Literature 3. Wagnerian Buddhism in Parsifal Wagner and Buddhism ith any other composers of opera, one would naturally regard exotic settings or other exotic elements as colouring. Not so with Wagner. For Richard Wagner, opera (or more properly, music-drama) was a medium for the communication of aesthetic and philosophical ideas. Even before his encounter with the philosophy of Schopenhauer, according to the Indologist Carl Suneson, Wagner had shown an interest in oriental thought and literature. This interest was stimulated by the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer and continued until the end of Wagner's life. On the evening before he died, Wagner expressed a wish to emigrate to the Buddhist island of Ceylon. agner was introduced to Buddhism first in Schopenhauer's books, and then, in late 1855 or early 1856, by Eugène Burnouf's Introduction à l'historie du buddhisme indien. This book was in large part based on Mahayana Buddhist texts that had been sent to Paris from Nepal in 1837. Later he read, with some irritation, Carl Friedrich Köppen's Die Religion des Buddha und ihre Entstehung. An unedifying book, was Wagner's verdict. But to Bernouf's book, Wagner was to return repeatedly during the rest of his life. Wagner's interest in Indian literature might also have been encouraged by conversations with his brother-in - law, Hermann Brockhaus, who edited and partially translated the compilation of Hindu stories, Kathasaritsagara. Richard Guhr, 'Trias der Wende' (Trinity of Transition). © Richard- Wagner- Gendenkstätte. Schopenhauer and Nirvana chopenhauer believed that he had found parallels between his pessimistic philosophy and Buddhism. With the availability of older Buddhist texts, and better translations, in the West, together with 150 years of scholarship, we can now see that Schopenhauer misunderstood many aspects of Buddhism. In particular, his identification of the Buddhist state of existence nirvana with non-being (das relatives Nichts) was quite wrong and misled Schopenhauer's followers, including Richard Wagner. nirvana is intrinsically undefinable and inexpressible, but is still a dharma and as such a "something"; so it cannot be regarded as non-being or nothingness. Of course Schopenhauer and his contemporaries cannot really be blamed for this mistake, because the Pali texts that fully expounded the philosophy of dharma (factors or variables of existence that apply, or which have particular values, at each instant) were not translated into western languages before the end of the century. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/india.htm (1 of 10) [26/05/2002 22:21:22]
  40. 40. Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal Schopenhauer's philosophy regarded the will (to live) as fundamental, and advocated the denial of the will-to-live as the path of deliverance. Wagner accepted these ideas and sought to express them in his dramas Tristan und Isolde, Die Sieger and Parsifal. he true geniuses and the true saints of all ages ... tell us that they have seen only suffering and felt only fellow-suffering (Mitleid). In other words, they have recognized the normal condition of all living things and seen the cruel, eternally contradictory nature of the will to live, which is common to all living things and which, in eternal self-mutilation, is blindly self- regarding; the apalling cruelty of this will, which even in sexual love wills only its own reproduction, first appeared here reflected in that particular cognitive organ which, in its normal state, recognized itself as having been created by the will and therefore as being subservient to it; and so, in its abnormal, sympathetic state, it developed to the point of seeking lasting and, finally, permanent freedom from its shameful servitude, a freedom which it ultimately achieved only by means of a complete denial of the will to live. his act of denying the will is the true action of the saint: that it is ultimately accomplished only in a total end to individual consciousness -- for there is no other consciousness except that which is personal and individual -- was lost sight of by the naïve saints of Christianity, confused, as they were, by Jewish dogma, and they were able to deceive their confused imagination by seeing that longed-for state as a perpetual continuation of a new state of life freed from nature, without our judgement as to the moral significance of their renunciation being impaired in the process, since in truth they were striving only to achieve the destruction of their own individuality, i.e. their existence. This most profound of all instincts finds purer and more meaningful expression in the oldest and most sacred religion known to man, in Brahmin teaching, and especially in its final transfiguration in Buddhism, where it achieves its most perfect form. Admittedly, [Brahminism] puts forth a myth in which the world is created by God; but it does not praise this act as a boon, but presents it as a sin committed by Brahma for which the latter atones by transforming himself into the world and by taking upon himself the immense sufferings of the world; he is redeemed in those saints who, by totally denying the will to live, pass over into nirvana, i.e. the land of non- being, as a result of their consuming sympathy for all that suffers. The Buddha was just such a saint; according to his doctrine of metempsychosis, every living creature will be reborn in the shape of that being to which he caused pain, however pure his life might otherwise have been, so that he himself may learn to know pain; his suffering soul continues to migrate in this way, and he himself continues to be reborn until such time as he causes no more pain to any living creature in the course of some new incarnation but, out of fellow-suffering (Mitleid), completely denies himself and his own will to live. [Letter to Franz Liszt, 7 June 1855, Liszt-Briefe II 73-80, tr. Spencer and Millington] he extract above is from a letter Wagner wrote in 1855 from London, where he had been sick and had spent his convalescence reading Adolf Holtzmann's Indiske Sagen1, and before he read Burnouf. There is undoubtedly some confusion (initially on the part of Schopenhauer; Wagner is paraphrasing the account of the doctrine of transmigation given in chapter 63 of The World as Will and Representation) here between the Buddhist teaching that Schopenhauer referred to as palingenesis and the Hindu (Brahmin) belief in metempsychosis. Schopenhauer only understood the Buddhist doctrine of palingenesis after reading the Manual of Buddhism, as he explained in the third (1858) edition of his World as Will and Representation. The essential difference is that Buddhism does not recognise the existence of an individual soul that could be reincarnated2. This confusion did not prevent Wagner (before reading that third edition), in a letter to Mathilde Wesendonk, declaring a belief in reincarnation (Seelenwanderung). n general, it appears that Schopenhauer at first misunderstood the Buddhist teachings and their relationship to those of Hinduism (Brahminism), in particular the best-known Hindu school, vedanta. As a result of dharma theory not being available, false connections were made between Buddhism and Hinduism (Brahminism), such as the identification of the Buddhist nirvana with the vedantic Brahman, and the Schopenhauerian concept of the will- to-live was used to interpret both concepts. Later scholarship has shown this to be inaccurate: in theistic Brahminism, deliverance (moksa) consists of absorption into the supreme being Brahman; in atheistic Buddhism, deliverance consists of translation to the state of being called nirvana. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/india.htm (2 of 10) [26/05/2002 22:21:22]
  41. 41. Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal he misinterpretation of the Buddhist state of nirvana as "das Nichts" led to an association with the romantic concept of death-wish. The suicide of two lovers, which touches me, brings from R. the remark: "It is in fact the highest affirmation of the will -- they would rather not live than not find satisfaction. Why do they not defy all the obstacles? This shows that the tendency toward suicides is something pre-ordained; here one could call it a deep insight, in the sense approximately of: What help would it be to us to overcome all obstacles? For such cases there should be convents, such as the Buddhists have, in which complete resignation as well as complete togetherness would be possible. But our civilization offers nothing." [Cosima's Diaries, 11 May 1873]. It is not surprising that Buddhism came to be regarded in the West as a pessimistic religion (which is quite the opposite of Buddhism in reality), so that Nietzsche could write, Er schmeichelt jedem nihilistischen (-buddhistischen) Instinkte ... [Der Fall Wagner], as though nihilism and Buddhism were almost synonymous. Mathilde agner became increasingly preoccupied with Buddhist philosophy and literature during the 1850s, one of the most difficult periods in his life. It might be that he sought an authentic, true religion. In the relatively late texts of Buddhist literature that were available to him, Wagner thought that he could discern an ancient and authentic teaching. It seems that during this period he had turned away from Christianity, which for Wagner had been corrupted by Jewish influences. He even speculated that the roots of Christianity might have been in eastern teachings that had reached the Near East during the third century before Christ. uring these years Wagner's marriage to Minna Planer had become intolerable to him. Then he met a woman who shared his interests and was eager to discuss his ideas. This was Mathilde, the wife of his patron Otto Wesendonk. Mathilde had interests of her own: she was a passionate opponent of vivisection (today, we would call her an "animal-rights activist") and a poet. Recently W. Osthoff has drawn attention to her poem about Buddha and the wounded swan, which he regards as significant in relation to the swan incident in Parsifal (Richard Wagners Buddha Project 'Die Sieger': Seine ideellen und strukturellen Spuren in 'Ring' und 'Parsifal'). The Ring, Tristan and Die Sieger nly with the greatest caution should one attempt to stipulate Indian models for Wagner's works, of course with the exception of Die Sieger, which is entirely derived from an Indian source of inspiration. [Carl Suneson, Richard Wagner och den indiska tankevärlden, 1985] his drama was to be based on an avadana (a tale of heroic and miraculous acts performed by the Buddha in any of his incarnations) from the collection Divya vadana, called Sardulakarna vadana. From some of Richard Wagner's letters to Mathilde Wesendonk, the reader might form the impression that Wagner was well on the way to completing the poem of Die Sieger (The Victors). By 16 May 1856 he had written a short prose sketch, but then the project seems to have stalled. Wagner's attention turned back to Siegfried, to Götterdämmerung and forward to a new project, Tristan und Isolde. s an independent composition, [The Victors] progressed no further than that sketch. Asked about the work two decades later, Wagner responded that its essence had been pressed into his Parsifal. It it not altogether clear, however, what essence he had in mind. Suggestions have also been made that certain passages in Die Götterdämmerung [sic], Tristan and Parsifal were originally noted for the Buddhist opera. [Guy R. Welbon, The Buddhist Nirvana and its Western Interpreters, 1968, p.178] http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/india.htm (3 of 10) [26/05/2002 22:21:22]
  42. 42. Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal ere, it should be noted, Guy Welbon is one of many commentators on Wagner's later dramas who notes that the essence of Die Sieger was adapted for Parsifal but is unable to define exactly what it is that Wagner carried over from the drama that was not completed to the one that he did complete. Welbon goes on to make an important observation: ore important than an attempt to find Buddhist scenes in parts of the other operas will be the effort to identify a pervasive influence traceable to his conception of Buddhism. And one must be prepared to look for this musically as well as dramatically. [Guy R. Welbon, The Buddhist Nirvana and its Western Interpreters, 1968, p.178] nder the influence of Indian thought, Wagner yet again changed the ending of Götterdämmerung, that is, the valedictory oration given by Brünnhilde before she ascends the funeral pyre. In the existing text, she declared that now she knew everything, which could be taken to mean that the Rhinedaughters had explained to her about the ring and the potion that Hagen had given to Siegfried. But now, in the 1856 version, her knowledge was to be expanded: now she declared that she became die Wissende, which, Carl Suneson suggested, we are to interpret in the Buddhist sense of a Bodhisattva. Den neuen Heilsweg y the end of autumn in 1854, Wagner had swallowed Schopenhauer's material whole, not excluding the latter's bitter tirades against those who had ignored him. It is clear, however, that Wagner had by no means digested all that Schopenhauer said. He appropriated a major idea -- denial of the will -- and affixed it to his own lebensphilosophie... [Guy R. Welbon, The Buddhist Nirvana and its Western Interpreters, 1968, p.175] agner's admiration for Schopenhauer did not prevent him from attempting to correct the philosopher: During recent weeks I have been slowly rereading friend Schopenhauer's principal work, and this time it has inspired me, quite extraordinarily, to expand and -- in certain details -- even to correct his system. The subject is uncommonly important, and it must, I think, have been reserved for a man of my own particular nature, at this particular period of his life, to gain insights here of a kind that could never have disclosed themselves to anyone else. It is a question, you see, of pointing out the path to salvation, which has not been recognized by any philosopher, and especially not by Sch., but which involves a total pacification of the will through love, and not through any abstract human love, but a love engendered on the basis of sexual love, i.e. the attraction between man and woman... [R. Wagner to M. Wesendonk, 1 December 1858, tr. Spencer and Millington] ow it is clear -- if, indeed, it has not been so all along -- that the Buddha of [Die Sieger] is Schopenhauer and Ananda, Wagner. Prakriti could be taken as Mathilde, of course; but I suspect that the so-called affair with Mathilde was as much a creative projection of Wagner's imagination as Prakriti or Isolde. Perhaps, in fact, Mathilde is the least real of all. [Guy R. Welbon, The Buddhist Nirvana and its Western Interpreters, 1968, p.181] http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/india.htm (4 of 10) [26/05/2002 22:21:22]
  43. 43. Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal agner never completed his Buddhist drama Die Sieger. The most likely reason for him not developing his scenario into a drama was the failure of his related attempt to correct the philosophy of Schopenhauer so that it would accomodate the possibility of a total pacification of the will through love. In other words: Wagner was forced to abandon the idea of redemption through love, one that is found through many of his earlier operas. In the interpretation of App the corresponding idea that appears in the post-Schopenhauer dramas of Tristan and Parsifal is that of redemption from love, where love is identified with mankind's fundamental desire (Grundverlangen). Parsifal and Indian Literature "Parsifal" is in my opinion, of Wagner's completed music-dramas, that in which the Indian influence is most demonstrable. [Carl Suneson, Richard Wagner och den indiska tankevärlden, 1985] Left: Act 2 of Parsifal in Friedrich's production for Bayreuth 1983. ©Bayreuther Festspiele. Parsifal Beneath the Bodhi Tree nyone who encounters Wagner's Parsifal, previously knowing Wolfram's MHG epic poem Parzival, will most likely be puzzled by the second act of the music-drama. (The drama and the poem have been compared by Jessie Weston). The magician who lives in a tower of the castle has a similar name to the castrated sorcerer Clinschor who, in Wolfram's poem, controls the Castle of Maidens. In this castle, however, the maidens are not imprisoned princesses, but nymphomaniac vegetation. Wagner's magician, Klingsor, has apparently castrated himself; whereas Wolfram's Clinschor suffered this indignity at the hands of an outraged husband. He has in his power the seductive Kundry, whose double nature is not shared by Wolfram's Condrie (although there are two Condries in the epic poem: one of them is a sorceress and the other one Gawain's sister, a captive of Clinschor). Kundry encounters Parsifal, who resists her, and in this episode, Kundry has been related to Wolfram's Orgeluse; but Wolfram makes no connection between Kundry and Orgeluse. o there are points of contact, but also significant differences, as Wagner himself acknowledged, between the drama Parsifal and the epic Parzival. In particular, the action of the second act of the music-drama is not closely related to Wolfram's epic. Approaching this act of the music-drama from an Indological perspective, a consistently Buddhist theme can be detected at the level of deep structure. Also in surface details there are several points of contact with the life of the Buddha, suggesting that here Wagner is portraying his hero as a Bodhisattva or even as an incarnation of the Buddha or as another Buddha. This apparently radical interpretation is, as we shall see, well supported both by internal evidence and Wagner's own writings. Here is Wagner's description of his intended treatment of the Buddha in the opera that never was, Die Sieger. he difficulty here was to make the Buddha himself - a figure totally liberated and above all passion - suitable for dramatic and, more especially, musical treatment. But I have now solved the problem by having him reach one last remaining stage in his development whereby he is seen to acquire a new insight, which - like every insight - is conveyed not by abstract associations of ideas but by intuitive emotional experience, in other words, by a process of shock and agitation suffered by his inner self; as a result, this insight reveals him in his final progress towards a state of supreme enlightenment. http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/india.htm (5 of 10) [26/05/2002 22:21:22]
  44. 44. Wagner, Buddhism and Parsifal [Letter to Mathilde Wesendonk, 5 October 1858, Wesendonk-Briefe 108-10, tr. Spencer and Millington] his is, of course, exactly what happens to Parsifal! In his case, the shock that induces Welthellsicht is Kundry's kiss. As with Brünnhilde (see above), it may have been Wagner's original intention that the knowledge imparted to Parsifal was limited; in this case, to understanding what he had seen at the Grail Castle; an understanding gained by Parsifal himself experiencing the same seduction that had been the downfall of Amfortas. Then Wagner's scheme became greatly expanded, as it had been with both Brünnhilde and the Buddha, so that Parsifal was now to be granted, through Kundry's kiss, the hidden knowledge or vidya. So war es mein Kuss, der welthellsichtig dich machte? Mein volles Liebes Umfangen lässt dich dann Gottheit erlangen. Die Welt erlöse, ist dies dein Amt; schuf dich zum Gott die Stunde, für sie lass mich ewig dann verdammt, nie heile mir die Wunde! So was it my kiss that gave you world-perception? Then the full embrace of my loving surely will raise you to godhead! Redeem the world, if that's your mission; let me make you a god, for just an hour, rather than leave me to eternal damnation, my wound never to be healed! [Kundry in Act 2 of Parsifal] his suggests that Parsifal is a Bodhisattva in the Buddhist tradition, one who attains vidya, knowledge, and pragnyáma, wisdom. The Bodhisattva stands on the edge of nirvana. Pragnyáma is one of the sankháro-khando, categories of discrimination. Another of these is karuná, pity or compassion, that which desires the destruction of the sorrow of the afflicted. One of the virtues (páramitá) of the Bodhisattva is prajná páramitá, the virtue preceding from wisdom, in which that wisdom is imparted to others. There is a kind of wisdom called chintá-pragnyáwa, which is received by intuitive perception, and not from information communicated by another. It is possessed in an eminent degree by the Bodhisats; but the wisdom that discovers the four great truths is received only by the Pasé-Buddhas and the supreme Buddhas in their last birth. [Spence Hardy, Manual of Buddhism] http://home.c2i.net/monsalvat/india.htm (6 of 10) [26/05/2002 22:21:22]

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