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Religious Experience in the Work of Richard Wagner

Religious Experience in the Work of Richard Wagner

Marcel Hébert
Edited by C. J. T. Talar
C. J. T. Talar
Elizabeth Emery
Foreword by Stephen Schloesser
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    Religious Experience in the Work of Richard Wagner
    Book Description:

    Philosopher Marcel Hébert developed his Religious Experience in the Work of Richard Wagner (1895) from this background of sustained popular interest in Wagner, an interest that had intensified with the return of his operas to the Paris stage. Newspaper debates about the impact of Wagner's ideas on French society often stressed the links between Wagner and religion. These debates inspired works like Hébert's, intended to explain the complex myth and allegory in Wagner's work and to elucidate it for a new generation of French spectators.

    eISBN: 978-0-8132-2742-9
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xx)
    Stephen Schloesser

    This translation of Marcel Hébert’sLe Sentiment religieux dans l’œuvre de Richard Wagner(1895) provides a welcome pendant to the same translators’ earlier volume,The Modernist as Philosopher: Selected Writings of Marcel Hébert(2011).¹ C. J. T. Talar had already begun reacquainting us with Hébert inBy Those Who Knew Them: French Modernists Left, Right, and Center(2008) andThe Reception of Pragmatism in France and the Rise of Roman Catholic Modernism,1890–1914 (2009).² The present volume provides yet another primary source of Hébert in English translation in order to fill out this much-neglected figure of the Roman Catholic...

    (pp. xxi-xliv)
    C. J. T. Talar and Elizabeth Emery

    Marcel Hébert (1851–1916) was raised in a family environment of exemplary piety conducive to a religious vocation. However, his fragile health, aggravated by the rigors of a seminary regime, for a time seemed to preclude its realization. Indeed, a combination of Hébert’s independent study of philosophy, which shortened his initial formation at seminary, and accommodation made during his years of theology made ordination to the priesthood in June of 1876 possible. He left seminary a convinced Thomist, but Hébert’s philosophical position altered appreciably after being encouraged to study modern philosophy, especially the work of Immanuel Kant, over the next...

    (pp. xlv-xlvi)
    C. J. T. Talar and Elizabeth Emery
    (pp. xlvii-xlviii)
  7. Religious Experience in the Work of Richard Wagner

    • Preface
      (pp. 3-4)

      The study we published last year was entitledTrois moments de la pensée de Richard Wagner. In it, we said and repeated that classifications of this kind are largely artificial and that the various phases in the evolution of a great artist’s thought are indivisibly united.¹ We have not always been understood. Some interpreted these three phases in a mathematical sense; they considered them mutually exclusive. On the contrary, we gave this term its philosophical meaning, seeking to emphasize the dominance of specific intentions [sentiments] in specific periods.

      Let us dispense with the titles and explanations that give rise to...

    • 1 Richard Wagner’s Ideal
      (pp. 5-10)

      Others more expert in artistic matters will give appropriate credit to Richard Wagner’s musical genius, his uncanny ability to grasp and translate the most minute resonances and movements of the soul, to embody feelings and characteristics in unforgettable themes that, like living beings, modify, develop, intermingle, structuring and adapting themselves to various circumstances. Wagner is a creator, a fact disputed only by those who examine his work through the lens of their own prejudice and ignorance.

      So rich a nature, however, presents itself through numerous and varied forms. Wagner the artist is also a philosopher. Indeed, Wagner was unendingly preoccupied...

    • 2 Art and Philosophy
      (pp. 11-16)

      In an appendix attached to Houston Chamberlain’s interesting workDrame wagnérien, cited earlier, the author vigorously refutes the notion that Wagner’s works contain a philosophy.

      He asks whether looking for philosophy in a work of art is not confusingabstractionwithintuition. And he cites a fine passage from Schopenhauer beginning with the words “Abstract notions, however useful for life and however serviceable, necessary and productive for science, are eternally sterile for art.” Earlier, at the beginning of his remarkable article, “Tristan and Isolde,” Chamberlain cited Liszt: “Wagner is really too much a poet to dream of making philosophical proofs...

    • 3 Outline of the Drama Jesus of Nazareth
      (pp. 17-36)

      We shall not discuss works prior to the critical period of 1848–49:¹ “The day I made a conscious decision to give up my idea of a drama about Frederick Barbarossa,” said Wagner, “I entered a new and decisive period in my evolution as an artist and as a man. It was a period of conscious artistic will (heading) in a completely new direction. I had chosen (this path) driven by an unconscious need; as artist and as man, I thenceforth advanced on it toward a new world.”²

      If the outlineJesus of Nazarethis not in theGesammelte Schriften...

    • 4 The Ring of the Nibelung or Tetralogy
      (pp. 37-59)

      Siegfried’s Death,¹ a completely revised poem in three acts, was turned into the magnificent dramaThe Ring of the Nibelung, the text² of which was printed in 1853 and shared with just a few friends.³

      This date is important. It was, in fact, on June 14, 1848, that Wagner delivered his famous speech to members of the “Fatherland Society.”⁴ A year later, at the beginning of May, the Dresden uprising broke out. Precisely what part had Wagner played? That task may be left to his biographers.⁵

      What is beyond all discussion is the enthusiasm with which he welcomed the reformist...

    • 5 Tristan and Isolde
      (pp. 60-70)

      During the interval between the drafting and the musical composition ofTwilight of the Gods, Wagner added to the initial text some words designed, he said, to give the final verses a more expressive form; they were pronounced by Brünnhilde as she prepared to throw herself on the funeral pyre:

      I shall no longer direct my flight

      Toward the feasts of Valhalla.

      Do you know where I am going?

      I leave the world-of-desire;

      I flee forever this world-of-illusion;

      I close behind me the gates

      Of eternal becoming.

      She who has become clear-sighted,

      Set free from (the necessity of) rebirth,


    • 6 Parsifal
      (pp. 71-89)

      “The heart,” said Pascal, “loves universal being naturally and itself naturally, in proportion to its commitment.”

      Does Pascal mean to speak of nature as it or as itbecomesunder the influence of the Ideal, with effort and sacrifice?

      In Brünnhilde, pure, absolutely disinterested love seems to spring up spontaneously from the soul of nature. How rare is this spontaneity! How often, on the contrary, one needs energy and cleverness to devise superior attractions that counterbalance the rough and violent instincts that draw us toward sensible pleasure!

      As for Parsifal,¹ he moves in a mystical milieu, a supernatural atmosphere. “No...

    • 7 “The Letter Kills, It Is the Spirit That Gives Life”: 2 CORINTHIANS 3:6
      (pp. 90-100)

      Wagner could have begun the treatise “Religion and Art” summarized earlier with this text from the apostle rather than using Schiller’s fine words.¹

      Indeed, as of “Religion and Art,” he no longer limits himself, as before, to theexternalmanifestations of Christianity; these manifestations, which can only reach their full potentialforandthroughhuman nature, are necessarily marred by numerous imperfections. He seeks to penetrate the heart of things, to grasp the divineIdeathrough its incomplete expressions. His ambition is to extract, to isolate the “ideal content” of dogmas and rites in order to present it to human...

    (pp. 101-114)
    Abbé Arthur Mugnier
    (pp. 115-124)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 125-128)