Richard Wagner was born on May 22 1813. He was known as a raging narcissist, an antisemite, and an unfaithful man. He railed against Jews, failed to pay back money, cheated on his wife, and stirred up political hatred, now as then.
He is my favorite composer.
Why? I’ve tormented myself with this question for years, especially as a feminist and an anti racist. How- and why- did such a foul man create such sublime music?
I have a theory. People, at birth, are at one with goodness and Goddess/God. As we grow and are “educated” by society and experience life we are drawn away from this spirit and this state of truth and neutrality. We become alienated from it and the further alienated we are, the more “evil” (unbalanced, biased, untruthful, morally unhealthy) we are said to become. Thus, the further journey such individuals must make to reach God/dess again. But when such massively alienated individuals do make this journey, the sheer distance they must travel makes their soul and its journey all the more magnificent.
Some individuals make this journey in the most obvious sense, via religious or spiritual quests. Others make it through life pursuits such as mathematics, art, writing, inventing, philosophy, heroism, love…and music. This is especially true- this tendency to go back to Spirit via indirect or subtle means, and back doors- since society likes to hide this alienation.
Wagner, at least so it seems, was a severely alienated man, a greedy, womanizing, racist, backstabber who used people around him as fuel to feed what he thought of as his great genius (he was right on this last point).
Wagner’s music is his journey back to the God/dess.
People who are the most evil and ungodly have the longest but most grand journey to take back to the Truth. This is why we hear so often of a wicked famous person whose works we cannot help but praise and juxtapose with his or her actions. Wagner’s music was representative of this journey from the profane back to the Goddess/God. It seems the more horrible he was the more enlightening his music, and the more conscious and blatant his odiousness the more subconscious and mysterious his journey back. The most awake dream the deepest.
Material progress is often associated with alienation from God/dess. Much of the evilness of the 19th Century came from the alienation of society from eternal truths and concerns. People often associate materialism with the masculine and spirituality with the feminine.
Wagner himself made note of the importance of “the feminine in the human” and lamented the loss of what society considered female virtues. “A human being is both man and woman: it is only when the two are united that the real human being exists… But when nowadays we talk of a human being, such heartless blockheads are we that we only think of man,” he once said.
He saw the feminine as a necessary and humanizing antidote to the destructiveness of the masculine impulse of his era. Perhaps he was even describing a war going on within himself, as in all humans. Even his famous dreadful antisemitism may have had a peculiar positive element, in that he perceived materialistic and worldly (masculine) Jewish interlopers as rapists of the spirit of his nation and people (feminine).
Was Wagner a prodigal son who returned through music?
Listen and decide.
(from Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin)
Elsa’s Dream (from Lohengrin)