Not the Monthly Post

The Nibelung’s Ring: Prelude

(Theme music:  “Vorspiel” from Das Rheingold)

Some years ago, back when I was blogging on The Archdruid Report, I mentioned in passing that if I ever got tired of having a large readership, I would do a series of posts on Richard Wagner’s opera cycle The Nibelung’s Ring. That was partly a joke, but only partly, and for various reasons I’ve decided to go ahead with it now, without regard for its effect on my views-per-page.  In more senses than one, we live in Wagnerian times; the blend of genuine creative genius and pompous self-serving bombast that defines Wagner’s art and life also typifies Western industrial society to a much greater extent than most of its inmates like to think. The sense of fallen greatness and impending doom that runs all through The Nibelung’s Ring is tolerably easy to hear in the background music of our time, for that matter.

From the graphic novel adaptation by P. Craig Russell. How many operas do you know that have graphic novel adaptations?

For those of my readers who have no notion of what I’m talking about, The Nibelung’s RingThe Ring for short—is a series of four connected operas written by the German composer and librettist Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The titles in English are The Rhinegold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried, and The Twilight of the Gods.  Taken together, they form the single most gargantuan creative work in the Western tradition: a symphonic composition for full orchestra that takes over fourteen and a half hours to perform, plus a dramatic poem on the same sprawling scale, plus all the theatrical details necessary to perform the whole thing as an operatic drama over four nights.

That’s just the most obvious measure of The Ring’s sheer scale as a cultural artifact. As some of my readers will know and others will have guessed from the titles, Wagner based his drama on Germanic mythology and legend.  He drew the plot of his operas from two versions of the same ancient story—the Nibelungenlied (“Song of the Nibelings”) from medieval Germany, and the Volsungasaga (“Saga of the Volsungs”) from medieval Iceland, both of them based on the same cluster of bloodstained events from the last years of the Roman Empire.

A modern performance of L’Orfeo. It’s carrying its age well.

Borrowing old legends for operatic use was nothing new in his time. The oldest opera that survives intact, Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (which premiered in 1607), was based on Greek mythology, and plenty of other composers followed in Monteverdi’s footsteps before Wagner began work. The usual approach, however, was to find a neat story, get someone to write it in verse, put it to music, and there you have it. That wasn’t Wagner’s approach.  He wrote all his own librettos—that’s what you call the words to an opera—and he prepared for the task of writing and composing The Ring by plunging into the whole world of ancient Germanic myth and legend, reading the original texts obsessively and devouring every scrap of scholarly literature on the subject he could beg, borrow, or steal. As a result, just for starters, anybody who knows the Eddas and goes to see The Ring will catch plenty of references to Old Norse literature all through the operas.

Friedrich Nietzsche. He was profoundly influenced by Wagner.

That wasn’t the only thing that went into The Ring, however. Wagner—we’ll be getting to his loathsome side shortly, okay? First, though, I want to talk about some of the reasons why The Ring is worth the attention I’m going to be giving it here. Wagner, as I was saying, was unique among great composers in that he wasn’t primarily influenced by music. The two most important influences on these four operas were philosophers, not musicians.  Most people know that Wagner and Friedrich Nietzsche were good friends, as indeed they were, but Nietzsche didn’t influence Wagner; Wagner influenced Nietzsche, and even after the friendship blew itself apart Nietzsche admitted repeatedly in his letters that his years as Wagner’s friend and intellectual confidante were among the most important intellectual experiences of his life. Coming from one of the most influential philosophers in modern history, that’s saying something.

Wagner’s primary philosophical influences, rather, came from two other men.  Ludwig Feuerbach, whom next to nobody remembers these days but whose thought pervades our culture, was the philosophical star that guided Wagner in his younger days, when he wrote the librettos for the four operas and began to draft the musical ideas that would frame them. You know all about Feuerbach’s thought even if you’ve never read a word he wrote. You know the Sixties notion that if the young could only cast off the burden of a corrupt and fossilized society, and embrace free love and peace and togetherness instead, a new and golden age of the world would dawn and everything would be wonderful forever? Feuerbach invented that.

Ludwig Feuerbach. Give him some love beads and a tie-dyed shirt and he’d be at home on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in 1966.

Nowadays you can get a belly laugh from generations younger than mine by playing “The Age of Aquarius” from the hippie musical Hair, which is among the most giddy modern evocations of that vision of a better tomorrow.  I can still remember when many people believed devoutly in it.  Back in 1841, when Feuerbach introduced it, it hadn’t yet been disproved cataclysmically over and over again, and so it was an even more potent vision.  It sounded convincing to a lot of young radicals, including Wagner.

Yet it was the profoundly different thought of Arthur Schopenhauer that shone the light that guided Wagner in his later years, when he composed the music for the four operas. The tensions between these two philosophers thus run through all four operas, and that’s significant in more than a musical sense. Feuerbach was among other things a political philosopher and an optimist, who believed with all his heart that a marvelous new world was at hand; Schopenhauer was a pessimist who rejected the idea that political change could alter the human condition. Despite the usual clichés, Wagner was all the way over on the political left for his entire life—yes, we’ll get to that too in a bit—and the decades he devoted to working on The Ring were also the period in which he had his own political beliefs challenged to their core by events. What makes this fascinating is that he wove that challenge and his own profound ambivalence about its resolution into his music.

Arthur Schopenhauer. Among other things, he’s the only major Western philosopher to take Asian philosophy seriously.

In The Ring, as a result, Wagner attempted to trace out in symbolic terms the entire history of Western civilization from its dawn to its twilight. Each opera plays a different role in that vast project. The Rhinegold sets out the basic problem, using the gods, dwarves, and giants of Germanic mythology as stand-ins for social classes and philosophical principles.  The Valkyrie and the first two-thirds of Siegfried sum up all of Western history prior to Wagner’s time. The final act of Siegfried and the beginning of The Twilight of the Gods sets out what happened in Wagner’s own time, and the rest of the final opera is a prophecy of what comes next.

Does this seem like one of those vast, overblown analyses that critics like to pile on creative works? A case can certainly be made that it’s vast and overblown, but it’s not the invention of a critic. Wagner himself wrote about what The Ring meant, by the ream. He put his changing conceptions of the work into three full-length books and vast numbers of letters. Being Wagner, he wrote constantly, and his letters are always all about himself, his work, his ideas, and—well, this is the point where we have to pick up the other side of Richard Wagner.

Richard Wagner, equally exceptional as genius and jerk.

The fact of the matter is that for all his genius, he was a miserable excuse for a human being. He seems to have been born for the purpose of proving once and for all that it’s possible to be, at the same time, one of the world’s greatest creative artists and one of the world’s greatest jerks. He had an extraordinary intellect, perfectly capable of keeping up with the latest trends in folklore studies, philosophy, political economy, and music, but he never once seems to have thought to apply even the smallest scrap of his remarkable mind to his hopelessly dysfunctional habits, his sneering bigotries, or his fantastically abusive treatment of everyone around him.

This is a guy who liked a lifestyle that he wasn’t able to afford until he finally found an eccentric king who would hand over the money without asking for receipts.  Until then, Wagner’s response was to borrow money from anybody who would lend it, including his closest friends, and then get furiously angry with them if they asked him to keep his end of the deal and repay it. He did that so often and so relentlessly that he spent years sneaking across national borders to stay ahead of the police who were trying to arrest him and make him pay his debts. The rest of his behavior was of a piece with that. If you were Wagner’s friend, you had to accept the fact that it was going to be all about Wagner, all the time, and the only role he would allow you to take was that of adoring worshipper at the shrine of Richard Wagner.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, contemplating his own divinity.

Now admittedly this was even more common among celebrities in his time than in ours. It was a common occupational disease of nineteenth-century European intellectuals to think that they and their ideas were really, truly the vital turning point of all of human history. Wagner never quite went as far as Charles Fourier, the inventor of socialism, who believed that the oceans would quite literally turn to lemonade as soon as everyone accepted the supposedly self-evident truth of his political philosophy. Nor, for that matter, did he quite equal G.W.F. Hegel, who insisted that in him, the Absolute—the ultimate divine essence of everything—had for the first time come to self-awareness. Though Wagner never quite achieved that level of cosmic chutzpah, he still had an ego vast enough to make Donald Trump look humble and meek.

This is why we know exactly what Wagner had in mind when he composed The Ring. He was so convinced that his every thought and interest and momentary enthusiasm was of overriding importance to everyone in the world that he wrote all his thoughts down in letters and essays and books, so that not one golden word that dropped from his lips would be lost to posterity. That makes him a paradise for biographers, and for that unusual sort of critic who bothers to learn something about the artist he or she is critiquing. You don’t have to wonder what Wagner thought about anything. He poured it out.  To the horror of his wife, who tried to manage his public image, and his friends, he had no capacity to self-censor his speech or his writing; if he thought it, he said it, usually in print and tolerably often in the most public venue he could possibly find. If people took offense, why, to Wagner that just showed how wrong they were.

What gave his more than gyroscopic self-centeredness a bitter edge, though, is that he was nasty about it. To him, his talent was so obvious and his music so important that he quickly came to the conclusion that the only reason people didn’t value those as highly as he did was because there was a conspiracy working night and day to keep him down. Did I mention that he was paranoid?  He was paranoid, and so he was constantly giving uneasy looks at everyone around him to see whether maybe they would let slip some detail that showed that they, too, had joined the sinister plot against him.

Giacomo Meyerbeer, a much nicer person than Wagner. Nobody performs his operas any more — they were popular, but they weren’t that good.

He was viciously antisemitic, by the way, and also viciously anti-French. Both those prejudices were well established in Germany in his time, but he took both of them personally, for reasons that unfold from the points already noted. It so happened that when he was a young composer trying to hit the big time, the most influential opera composer in the world was Giacomo Meyerbeer, who happened to be Jewish. It also happened that at that same time, Jews still dominated the moneylending trade in much of Europe. So there was Wagner, convinced that he was so much better than Meyerbeer that only some kind of conspiracy could explain the fact that Meyerbeer was rich and famous while Wagner was not, and likewise convinced that only some kind of conspiracy could explain the fact that the moneylenders from whom he borrowed to prop up his extravagant lifestyle wanted him to pay them back. Saliva-flecked rants about sinister Jewish plots followed as the night the day.

His hatred of the French had similar roots. As a young man he went to Paris, convinced that everyone would instantly recognize how much better his operas were than anyone else’s. I’m sure you can imagine what Parisian composers, journalists, and opera critics thought of that. He never forgave them for failing to grovel at his feet.

All this is impossible to avoid when dealing with Wagner. You can read all about it in any of dozens of biographies of the man. The next thing we have to deal with, though, comes from the fact that Wagner had a pasty-faced Austrian fanboy who was born most of a decade after the composer died. Yes, this is where Adolf Hitler comes into the picture.

Never judge an artist by the behavior of his fans.

Hitler was a crazed Wagner fan from boyhood on. According to August Kubizek, one of his few friends in childhood, it was after seeing a performance of Wagner’s very early opera Rienzi that Hitler suddenly announced that one of these days he was going to go into politics. It didn’t help that once Hitler had made the transition from down-and-out painter to capable soldier to political activist to Chancellor of Germany, Winifred Wagner—the English-born widow of Richard Wagner’s son Siegfried—fell crazy in love with the Führer. She desperately wanted to marry him.  He wouldn’t pop the question, which is a long and murky story in itself, but all the way through the Twelve-Year Reich Hitler was guaranteed a warm welcome and all the abject groveling he could desire from the Wagner household and operatic institution at Bayreuth.

The result is that a lot of people assume as a matter of course that Wagner must have been a Nazi, or a proto-Nazi, or at least that a lot of Nazis loved Wagner’s operas so he can at least be tarred with guilt by association. Au contraire, most of the Nazis had no time for opera—Hitler’s failed attempts to get his underlings to go to Wagner’s operas were a constant source of jokes within the Nazi Party—and as for Wagner, he was on the opposite end of the political spectrum. He was, by the standards of his time, a screaming blue-haired leftist in his youth.  In his later years he retained the same ideals but became convinced by hard experience that they could not be realized through political action.

Mikhail Bahunin, Wagner’s best bud in the 1840s counterculture.

Wagner’s ultra-leftist radicalism has been obscured enough by clueless commentators that it’s worth stressing. Most people who know anything about anarchism know about Mikhail Bakunin; for the rest of you, he was the single most influential anarchist theorist and activist in the nineteenth century.  He and Richard Wagner were close friends, and they fought side by side on the barricades during the failed European revolutions of 1848-1849. Wagner’s involvement in one of those uprisings was central enough that after they crumpled, he had to flee across the border into Switzerland with a price on his head.

What makes Wagner’s politics obscure for most modern people is that his ideas were profoundly shaped by the forgotten world of pre-Marxist socialism. Marxists have been very concerned to keep that world forgotten, since it offers alternatives to the grim totalitarian state that emerges any time Marxism is applied in practice. Proponents of systems of political economy anywhere to the right of Marxism have been just as interested in keeping those alternatives forgotten, since that makes it easy for them to point to the ghastly failures of Marxism as a way to pummel their opponents on the left. It’s all very convenient for both sides.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean that pre-Marxist socialism works any better than the Marxist kind.  Here again, as Wagner discovered in the wake of 1848-1849 and as many of us discovered in the wake of the Sixties, the notions that Feuerbach and the many other ideologists of that movement championed don’t happen to be viable in the real world. There’s a crucial difference, however. Pre-Marxist socialism failed because, when put into practice, it simply doesn’t function at all; Marxist socialism failed because, when put into practice, it turns into a gray bureaucratic tyranny that maintains its power through prison camps and mass graves. There are good reasons for both these patterns of repeated failure.  We’ll be talking about some of that as we proceed, not least because in The Ring, Wagner pointed out the most important point of failure for the radicalism he knew.

It didn’t happen in a peaceful way, either.

But there’s more to The Ring than political economy, and more to Wagner than an epic jerk who also happened to be a brilliant creative artist. There’s a very real sense in which Richard Wagner is the triple-distilled, charcoal-filtered essence of the Europe of his age, the zenith of European global empire—the largest empire in the history of the planet, and one of the most cruel and rapacious.  In his restless creative genius, his extraordinary insights into everything but himself, his fantastic arrogance, and the bullying brutality with which he treated the people around him, he makes a fine poster child for the entire European project.  The Nibelung’s Ring, in turn, makes a sustained attempt—the most significant attempt in the history of Western art—to grasp the trajectory of that project in its entirety and project it forward into the future that, in Wagner’s time, it was busy making for itself.

It doesn’t end well. That was the thing that Wagner took years to come to terms with, the thing that nearly made him abandon The Ring once he had finished the operatic presentation of the past and had to deal with the present and future.  The glorious vision of a future of free spirits and free love that he’d picked up from Feuerbach, from Bakunin, and from the bubbling cauldron of the European counterculture that gave birth to the failed 1848-1849 revolutions, the dream that guided the first half of his life—that was where he originally intended The Ring to end.  It took him many years and many periods of clinical depression, in which he repeatedly considered suicide, to get to the point of letting his own intuitions tell him that it wasn’t going to happen.

Parsifal in Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages. You won’t find many other operas in there, either.

As for what he thought was going to happen instead, well, we’ll get to that. It’s made more complex by the fact that he wrote a fifth opera, Parsifal—the last thing he ever composed, and arguably his best opera—which picked up the themes of The Ring, reprised them in new forms, and brought the whole saga to an end he hadn’t even begun to imagine when he first started work on The Ring.  The parallels are exact enough that it’s not going too far to see Parsifal as the fifth opera of The Nibelung’s Ring.  That, too, we’ll get to in due time.

There’s a lot of ground to cover before we get there, though.  Two weeks from now we’ll talk about the legends and myths that gave Wagner the raw material for his operas, the historical events that gave rise to them, and the tremendous impact for good and evil those legends had when they surfaced again in Wagner’s time. Stay tuned.


I have just been reminded that this month has five Wednesdays, and by tradition, my readers get to propose and vote on the topic for the fifth Wednesday post. What do you want to read about? Inquiring Druids want to know.


  1. I’ve never seen or listened to the Ring Cycle, but if it ever shows up in a convenient venue, this essay has gotten me interested! One of our kids loves opera, so we’d both go…I will wait two weeks with bated breath for the next installment…So far, I think Don Giovanni is the greatest opera, but perhaps this will change my mind!

  2. Long time reader who knows nothing about this subject and I’m on the edge of my seat! I can’t wait to hear about the end buddy foresaw for Western civilization instead of free live and free stuff. I love all the background too.

  3. Wherever socialism of the pre-Marxist variety has been tried, it does not work? Are you referring to various intentional communities of the 19thC? I know of no country in which socialism which was not the Marxist flavor has been tried, unless one means the Scandinavian social democracies. Those have been quite successful, or so I understand

    I draw line at reading anything written by Wagner himself–I won’t presume to criticize, although I am not a fan of his music on purely auditory grounds–but I have put a hold on the Nibelungenlied at the public library. I think I was a teenager when I read it last, so after half a century, memory fails.

  4. Wow… and cursing the fact that I’d have to hear it live, through a hearing loop, to hear it at all. Thanks for this, and for the LOL comment about Wagner’s ego making Trump look humble.. For background, the Penguin Classic’s “The Saga of the Volsungs” with notes and maps as well as the Eddas makes good reading.

    Novelist Steve Stirling had Odin, in a dream, tell a young fated hero “Fact becomes history; history becomes legend; legend becomes myth; Myth turns again to the beginning and creates itself.”
    (“The Scourge of God, Chapter 10, p. 240) That cycle rings a bell here, IMO

  5. It seems that Feuerbach’s ideas may also be driving the woke movement. But instead of peace and free-love ushering in utopia, it is. now the stomping out of all restraints on any real or imagined sexual orientation that will usher in utopia.
    I think that a few in power in the woke movement are aware of this also. One of the last vestiges of the free-love hippy movement of the 60’s is the rainbow family. A loose association of Neo-hippies that gathers each year at some annotated forest campsite to relive the 60’s. This has usually been viewed as harmless by the authorities. In fact once back in the 80’s the rainbow family had its gathering at the same time and adjacent to the annual gathering of Earth First ( The Round River Rendezvous), with nary a peep from the authorities even though it was ( gasp) during the Reagan administration. Such a collection of anti-authoritarians today would cause the vapors in the administrative class and bring down the ire of the national security state.
    But this years rainbow family gathering has been canceled by the forest service with threats of massive fines and jail for refuseniks. They also got the local native tribe to denounce the poor hippys. I personally think that if they let them stay around it makes it painful obvious where the LGBTQ movement stole its flag from, and what a blatant ripoff the whole thing is of the 60’s.

  6. > “You know the Sixties notion that if the young could only cast off the burden of a corrupt and fossilized society, and embrace free love and peace and togetherness instead, a new and golden age of the world would dawn and everything would be wonderful forever? “

    If humans mated on their own level and monogamously it could happen… But female hypergamy instincts and male harem-building instincts will forever make it impossible. It’s right there in the beginning with the Adam and Eve story in many different cultures. Sigh, I’m starting to think Evola was right about a few things.

  7. When I was 4 years old or so, PBS was running the entire Ring Cycle on simulcast from the Metropolitan Opera (I think?). I was completely fascinated–the music, the costumes, the DRAGON, I mean what’s not to love? I couldn’t yet read so every time the subtitles changed I demanded that my father tell me what was happening.

    Of course, I begged to stay up to watch the whole thing. My poor parents relented, telling each other that, “Oh, she’ll get bored and fall asleep any minute now.”

    Nope. I stayed up for the entire thing, well past midnight, waking my father out of his doze whenever a new subtitle popped up.

    As the kids say these days, I’m so here for this!

  8. Dear John Michael,
    If you thought that an analysis of Wagner’s ring cycle from someone who really understood the mythology behind it would alienate your readers, I think you might be very much mistaken! There’s a reason that as much (possibly more) has been written about Wagner than any other composer in history. Admittedly, listening to 5 or 6 hours of the ring cycle complete with recitative would have me clawing at my face (the 3.5 hours of Tannhauser is Way more listenable in my humble opinion), but there is seriously no-one I would rather have a full analysis from than you. I am eagerly awaiting anything else you have to say about him, and I expect to re-read your posting here many times.

  9. Well I’m just fascinated; unusually (for me) I’m tempted to give the whole thing a try – all 14 hours of it. I lived in Munich for many years and of course the landscape is littered with leftover palaces built by the king you mentioned (Ludwig II) which pretty much bankrupted Bavaria. I wonder what left winger Wagner felt about bankrolled by the most unlikely king of the era?

  10. Fascinating stuff, JMG. Looking forward to your sequel-articles. One thing that surprised me a lot when I watched the Ring cycle (on DVD): the very small extent to which part 4, Twilight of the Gods, is actually about the gods; despite the opera’s title, it seems to be almost entirely about the mortal characters, centreing on the betrayal of Siegfried by Hagen. That puts it on my varied list of artistic “deceptions” (no adverse criticism implied).

  11. i suspect the capacity to be simultaneously both a creative genius and an epic jerk isn’t limited to Wagner. In fact, the one might be a prerequisite for the other. Might lend itself to a discussion of what “pacts’ with daemons do to even the best-intentioned will, or perhaps more appropriate, something about polarity magic.

    Not an opera fan myself, but look forward to the read.


  12. And I now have the music stuck in my head for the day.
    My impressions of Wagner are set within the Music History II framework, so I’m curious to hear what he got up to outside of being a jerk (yes, that was covered), orchestrally extravagent, and pushing the vocalists towards the human limits.

  13. Wagner’s self-centeredness extended to the requirements he made of the musicians. The orchestras required to play his music are huge, often requiring special instrumentation and hiring a whole bunch of extra people, some of them with rare instruments. The wagnerian tuba is a giant super deep french horn that I understand didn’t exist until Wagner wrote music that demanded it exist. At the very least his operas popularized a near non-existant instrument and created a literature for it. They’re still rare instruments, and the need for them and other uncommon instruments or simply more players makes Wagner’s music expensive to put on, just from an orchestral perspective. It also makes them less often played than they would otherwise be, because of the resources required to do it properly.

    I know less about the vocal requirements for singing his operas, but there’s an operatic fach called wagnerian soprano. They are really loud, and can go on for hours without losing their voice. They’re also rare and hard to find. And you need those for his music, too.

    I guess if you’re Richard Wagner, you can get away with making those sorts of demands. Most composers music simply doesn’t get performed if they make those sorts of demands.

  14. Excellent! As a life long opera lover with a strong dislike for Wagner, I enjoyed reading this post and the ideas your expressed about Wagner and his times. I look forward to your next post on the subject.

  15. Woohoo! The threat became a promise became a reality…..not “someday” but now, today. And how appropriate—how fated, even—that the series begins on the usual Ecosophian day, Wotan’s Day. Every Wednesday we crack open our internets to see what’s happening in the Greerosphere, and today this is happening. Beautiful.

    Do you have any preferred recordings, audio or video? I’m especially fond of the von Karajan cycle with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. And that bizarre “moving-stage” one from The Met is available on DVD. It’s an outstanding curio, uses its gimmick rather nicely, and features fine performances from Bryn Terfel and the rest.

  16. Well, I guess you know I’m not a fan of Wagner. But at least he’s not the most turgid composer of the last three centuries: that award goes to Anton Bruckner.

  17. Pyrrhus, glad to hear it. I’ve seen the whole Ring cycle twice, and played it on CD more times than I can count; I’d like to see it again sometime soon. As for Don Giovanni, well, Mozart’s the one opera composer I can listen to as often as Wagner; I’m more of a Magic Flute fan, but won’t turn down any of them.

    Merle, jeez — I try to go so far out than my readers won’t follow, and somehow it never works. 😉

    Mary, the average lifespan of an intentional community, then as now, is about two years. That means, by the way, that half of them don’t even make it that long. Those that survived in the 19th century, as now, do it by discarding the Feuerbachian theory and ad-libbing something that will actually work. Social democracy, btw, is post-Marxist, not pre-Marxist, and it works about as well as capitalist democracy. As for attempts to enact a pre-Marxist socialist utopia — why, there were quite a few such attempts, and we’ll be talking about them as we proceed.

    Patricia M, you can get through the discussion that follows without listening to the music at all, but there’s plenty of it available online or in recorded form. The comment about Trump’s ego wasn’t meant as a joke, btw. He’s got a big ego, but it’s nothing like the kind cultivated by 19th century European intellectuals!

    Clay, it’s an old story, and one that Wagner talked about in the first scene of The Rhinegold: when people give up on love and seek power instead, their behavior becomes very predictable. That’s what lies behind the woke business, of course, and they’re doing a fine imitation of Alberich. More on this as we proceed!

    Jason, mating habits are far from the only issue involved here, but we’ll get to the rest of it in due time. As for Evola, nah, he just failed in a different way.

    Catriona, delighted to hear this! I had to wait for the Seattle Opera to start putting on its own Ring cycle, whereupon I cleaned out my savings account (without my parents’ permission) to get tickets, and took the bus up to the Seattle Opera to four matinee performances. It was utterly worth it.

    Davie, well, I hope you enjoy it. You can always listen to The Ring in shorter snippets — I’ve found that works surprisingly well.

    Andy, we’ll get to that! Wagner was acutely aware of the irony.

    Robert G, the movement from a mythic setting of gods, giants, and dwarfs to a realistic setting that was basically modern Europe in faux-medieval drag was central to the structure of the whole cycle; we’ll be exploring that in great detail. Despite appearances, it really is the gods that crash and burn at the end of the fourth opera.

    Fra’ Lupo, geniuses seem to vary in their jerkiness, so I don’t think it’s required.

    BoysMom, why, stay tuned. 😉

    Pygmycory, Wagner’s vocal parts are some of the most difficult in the operatic repertory, so you’re not wrong. He expected the impossible from just about everyone, including himself. The astonishing thing is that fairly often, he got it.

    Marlene, well, I’m a longtime Wagner (and Mozart) fan who doesn’t like a lot of other operas, so I suspect we’re going to have some interesting conversations.

    Math, I can’t help you on video because I don’t do video. In terms of audio recordings, I know it’s considered passé, but I still have a soft spot for the classic Georg Solti/Vienna Philharmonic version, though von Karajan’s is certainly very good. I haven’t listened to a wide enough range of audio versions to be able to offer a more general array of options!

    Phutatorius, funny. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that I like Bruckner.

  18. @Clay Dennis: I was reading about the Rainbow Family getting canceled this year. What a shame. A lot of disinformation about them IMO in the articles I saw. I went to the national Rainbow Gathering in Arizona in 1998. It was a fantastic experience for an 18 year old. I had a good time, if a bit of trouble sleeping sometimes from the incessant drum circles. In fact the drum circles might have been the most obnoxious part of the gathering, but also fun too. Anyway, I did see in that week people getting along, feeding each other, and from what I heard people always stayed behind to clean up the mess, which wasn’t that messy anyway compared to the litter I see on a daily basis in my home town. Anyway, they’ve gotten a bad rep unfortunately and seem to be getting cracked down on harder and harder. I think I went at the right time. I’ll miss those hippies who greeted me with a warm “Welcome Home.”

  19. Ho baby! If we had to fasten our seatbelts for Fortune and Levi, this is going to require a five point harness and a helmet with a tether! Let’s go!

  20. The first two things that came into my head when I saw this week’s title were Anna Russell’s delightful sendup of the Ring (which is nonetheless a good synopsis) and Siegfried’s funeral music, which never fails to send chills up my spine. Very much looking forward to this!

  21. @Phutatorious: Agreed on Bruckner… I should maybe listen to some recordings, but whenever I’ve heard it live I felt bad for the orchestra. A flautist I know had a similar feeling. I’ll have to ask our friend who played viola his thoughts on Bruckner.

    But hey, if you’re up for it, since you are a fan of Samuel R. Delany, or at least Dhalgren, I was going to re-read his essay “Wagner/Artaud” as part of my tangential study along with this series of essays. Perhaps you’d like to join me on this quest? It is collected in his essay tome “Longer Views” (and perhaps elsewhere). Delany participated in staging a performance of “Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg” and contrasts his experience seeing and participating in Wagner with Antonin Artaud’s very different ideas about theater. I understand if you have your own reading agenda. (I usually do!)

  22. Nice try, JMG, but I ain’t going anywhere.
    You are the best history teacher and explainer that I have found to date.
    Thanks, for this one.

  23. Hi John, essays like this remind me that, to the extent reading can offer, we can get a first-rate liberal arts education from your body of work. Happy Fourth, as we approach the quarter-millennium mark.

  24. I had no idea he was a deadbeat. Maybe he was paranoid because he had so many creditors chasing after him? Although as they say, if someone is really out to get you, you’re not being paranoid, are you?

    I dunno. Is it any less of being a deadbeat to spin fantasies about companies to get ZIRP cheap capital? At least he left a legacy behind, albeit dubiously funded. 100 years from now, nobody will remember any of these billionaire CEOs. Because they’ll leave nothing of note behind.

    The biographies of Hitler noted his love of opera when he was young. Spent all his time at the opera house, they said. If’n it wasn’t Wagner, my guess it would’ve been someone else he would’ve been a fan of.

  25. John, thanks for this essay. It’s interesting that Wagner was friends with Bakunin. I didn’t know that. But I haven’t been boning up on anarchist philosophy that much recently, though I do find it interesting. Alexander Berkman (author of the ABC of Anarchism) renounced the Soviet system after he was deported back to Russia following his jail time for an attempted assassination. I always liked groups like Crass who combined their anarchism with nonviolence and peace. Dial House is still going, though its not a community-per-se, just a house with a house’s worth of people living in it. They still keep their open door policy to anyone who wishes to come. Penny Rimbaud teaches tai chi to people as a method of non-violence. I’ve often thought that small groups like this, instead of embracing socialism per se, could exist if they instead organized around some kind of monastic principle. The texts of Chuang Tzu might be better for that than the others, and Peter Kropotkin’s ideas on mutual aid might find some kind of home in a new fangled bohemian monasticism.

    I’ll be curious to see how all of this reaches into where we are today…

    Question: Did Feuerbach have an influence on the wandervogel movement? If so, there is the direct line of transmission between the proto-hippies in Germany and their latter day Haight Ashbury impersonators.

  26. Well you have just inspired my plans. I read this post and went on to the website of the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and just happened to see that they are doing an entire Ring Cycle on August 1-6. I won’t be able to make the whole thing, but I am going to take the high-speed train in from Moscow on the sixth to catch the final one — Gotterdammerung — conducted by Valery Gergiev.

    The Mariinsky version is pretty good. It doesn’t intentionally undermine it with out-of-place avant-garde elements or modernized and sterile sets as is often the case in the West. I think it was Roger Scruton who said that the cultural elite of the West almost never dare to mount a fully authentic non-jaded production of the Ring Cycle.

  27. Well! That was absolutely brilliant. I’ve been following you since the Archdruid Report and was fortunate enough to hear you storytelling at an Age of Limits conference in Pennsylvania many years ago. However, sometimes you really get on my nerves for some reason or another…but I keep coming back. Why? Because of pieces like this! Who else in the English speaking world delivers such entertaining and thought provoking pieces like this? That would be you and you alone. When you come back to the subject, I hope you share the “page views” numbers with us. I bet it’s top ten.

  28. Thank you JMG,
    For the short time I have been reading and enjoying you (past year or two) I am beginning to feel like this is a wonderfully curated course in the history of ideas, of wide ranging and intriguing ideas. Always looking forward to the Wednesday post and my next JMG book.
    I chuckled a little as I saw the image of Feuerbach and to my wild imagination it resembled an arch druid I recall seeing an image of some where around here. 🙂

  29. Good day to you Mr. Greer and to the rest of the fine folks here!

    Since this month has five Wednesdays, I would like to propose a topic for the fifth Wednesday:

    The Rise and Fall (and Future) of the Roman Catholic Church.

    Now about today’s blog post, I must say that this subject really peaked my interest; I’m, as the kids say, “hyped”. I share the feeling of the rest of the people here, that is, I’m excited to see the next part, and can’t wait(I can). What I’m most looking forward is to read about Wagner’s period of disillusion and then how he got out of it.

  30. Ah JMG, another curve ball. I would not have guessed that such an interesting contrast could be made jumping from an egomaniac composer to opera to socialists to Marxists to Nazis and around the mulberry bush could be so fun. Looking forward to the next post.

    Now, on to Youtube to find the electrically distorted version of this ring of which you speak.

  31. Thank you John for embarking on this project. I like Wagner’s music and find him an excellent example of how deeply flawed human being can make great art.

    I look forward to further installments in this series

  32. I knew you were a man of excellent taste, JMG, and now I have conclusive proof.
    Some resources for you if you’ve not read them yet. Best overall book on the Ring, sadly unfinished, is I Saw the World End, by Deryk Cooke. I know a guy who wrote his thesis before he know of that book and I’ve talked with him about finishing it.
    shaw’s bookWagner Nights tries to reduce Wagner to politics. It’s good for Das Rheingold but not much further. Donington’s The Ring and its Symbols is a Jungian examination of the Ring as psychodrama. Useful, interesting, but Procrustean as he cuts off part of the work to fit his theory.

    I loved The Tristan Chord by Bryan Magee, about Wagner and Philosophy. Anecdote from that in a moment. You might also like WagnerWritesfrom Paris, a collection of what the young man was doing after fleeing Russia. I got the distinct sense from it that Wagner’s distaste for Meyerbeer was rooted in the fact that a LOT of musicians were supported by Meyerbeer but he gave Wagner no money. I suspect that Meyerbeer’s money bought compositional work from those supported musicians and Wagner wouldn’t play.
    I did not get much of value from Alex Ross’ Wagnerism. And I still have to admit to not having read Opera and Drama, by the master himself. What one book do you recommend to people to study in the area?

    Now, an anecdote from Magee about Wagner. an older Jewish man loaned Wagner money. when he went to collect it, Wagner told him that the Jews had been ripping off Germans for years and he wasn’t going to pay and that this was payback for Jewish perfidy. When asked if he was upset the man replied: “There are many men who borrow money and do not pay it back. Many of those men outrage the morals of society. many of those men steal men’s wives and defile their daughters. But only one of them wrote Tristan und Isolde.”

  33. Brilliant, thank you for this. Am happily staying tuned for more.
    Yogaandthetarot Jill C

  34. Thank you for writing this. I have listened to The Ring (I own a copy on CD bought in the 1980s), but I’ve been unable to approach it again for 25 years partly because of all the loathsome politics that surrounds it. But, if you’r right, I was wrong – much of the awfulness has been retconned onto it. I will try to listen to it again. I may not be able to overcome the other reason I gave it up: Mahler. But I will try.

    I’m looking forward to your next installments.

  35. Wagner’s opera Rienzi is based on an historical novel by the same name, written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Rienzi was a popular Roman leader of the 14th Century. Rienzi led a revolt that was successful for a while, but it all came tumbling down in the end. The novel is a great read!

  36. I have limited exposure to Wagner’s operas but during this series I’ll note that Neptune was discovered in 1846 (a little over 30 years from Wagner’s birth date) along with the influence of recently discovered Uranus (roughly 30 years before Wagner’s birth) and I’ll be looking to see how much influence the planets had on the famous operas.

  37. “There’s a very real sense in which Richard Wagner is the triple-distilled, charcoal-filtered essence of the Europe of his age, the zenith of European global empire—the largest empire in the history of the planet, and one of the most cruel and rapacious. ”

    From where do you draw this idea? As far as empires go, the European one is probably one of the ones from which the colonized derived the most benefit, as evidenced by their unprecedented population explosions.

  38. Wow! This is gonna be great!
    Thank you and I sure hope that somewhere along the line, you mention Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd’s version of Wagner, introducing his music to millions.
    Would he have been horrified or thrilled?

  39. Thank you for writing this! I am a long time fan of The Ring and Parsifal Both, and I agree with you about the Solti recording of the Ring – and yes, I love Bruckner too. I’m kind of surprised more of your fan base isn’t aware of the Ring – it makes for a great accompaniment to Spengler.

    I assume you’re familiar with Bryan Magee’s writing on Wagner – he is that rare bird who is an opera devotee and professional philosopher who has written on Schopenhauer.

    I hate to break it to you, but last I checked the myth of the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius still has a stranglehold on a lot of modern astrologers – if they can just manage to agree on the date of the Precession of the Equinoxes so they will know when Golden Future Age will finally arrive.

    I look forward to the rest of this series.

  40. Gman, as far as Empires go European fell in between the Golden Horde and Rome, on one side, and say the Persians or Chinese on the other. Judging from population explosion in third world is a poor sole metric for measuring rapine and cruelty.

  41. Dear gods, the Age of Aquarius is a gold mine of unintentional comedy! I’d never listened to it before, but I am so glad I did: it is a masterpiece, but not for any of the reasons intended (which amusingly enough, actually is kind of fitting for Aquarius).

    Something I find quite fascinating is that Wagner could have thought that his operas could end on anything but a disastrous note. It’s hardwired into the Germanic myths he was using for his inspiration; and frankly trying to remove Ragnarok seems to me to be removing such a core element that I don’t see how he could have thought he could do it. Then again, if he is functioning in any sense as the embodiment of the Europe of his day, this would also make a great deal of sense, as they were careening towards disaster and plenty of people who could sense the future seemed to be aware of this quite early on….

  42. I’ve listened to the whole thing at least dozens of times, your idea of shedding readers by invoking Wagner’s Ring Cycle will fail horribly here! The mention of Wagner’s Ring Cycle and the Nazis brings to mind also Fritz Lang’s 1924 Silent film “Die Niebelungen” (which also has a great soundtrack). There is an interview in which Lang describes being summoned to Josef Goebbels’ office and his subsequent fleeing the country that is spine tingling. Come to think of it, some of his other films, “Metropolis” and the “Dr. Mabuse” films seem closely related to many of the themes of your work. Thanks so much, I look forward to every Wednesday.

  43. JMG, you’re an inspiration to me. How you manage to be cultured without being elitist…that’s quite a tricky turn for humans. Because of you I’m contemplating cold and hot composting as an earth version of nigredo!! Keep on and ignore the static! Happy fourth and may the Hobbits rebuild the Shire, even if they learn about Wagner.

  44. Many years ago there was a Berkeley DJ who played the entire ring cycle with no breaks in the program. At the end of 14+ hours, he came on the air and said: “That was pretty good. Let’s hear it again.” And off it went again for another 14 hours. True story. I’m a fan of Puccini. Wow.

  45. Hi JMG,
    I’m really looking forward to these posts, I have not seen Wagner’s opera but love the music. I watched Fritz Lang’s ( same director as Metropolis) 1924 silent film Die Nibelungen which is based off the same source of the Nibelungenlied but I understand there are a lot of differences.

    As someone previously mentioned, it’s fascinating to see how Wagner’s patron, King Ludwig II of Bavaria’s Neuschwanstein Castle was decorated with references to Wagner’s operas based on old Teutonic folk lore. Their passions (madness? )were intertwined and their frustrations with the changing world and the longing for what was. I guess they don’t call it the romantic period for nothing.

  46. Roldy, now that’s a combination. I had somehow managed to miss Russell’s synopsis; it’s actually pretty good!

    Mac, you’re most welcome.

    Greg, I do my best.

    Other Owen, ZIRP is one of the many things Wagner was talking about.

    Justin, Feuerbach’s legacy reaches far. Monasticism is of course the one form of voluntary community that works pretty reliably. As for your question, good! Yes, Feuerbach was the inspiration of the whole Wandervogel movement, directly and indirectly.

    Cloven, oh, I envy you! Have a great time. You’re right about western elites and the Ring — and for good reason.

    Thomas, I’ll take a look at the page views once this post finishes its time at the top of the stack.

    Hankshaw, he certainly had a decent beard. 😉

    Rafael, good heavens, I’d almost forgotten that! Okay, this post is also now open for nominations and votes for the fifth Wednesday post.

    Drhooves, I do my best to keep my readers off balance.

    RaymondR, you’re most welcome.

    Thomas S., I have Cooke’s book on my shelf, and certainly agree about Magee’s The Tristan Chord. As for Shaw, do you mean The Perfect Wagnerite? That’s more significant than it looks, since Shaw knew the same movements that shaped Wagner’s political and economic thought; it’s profoundly flawed, but the nature of that flaw — well, we’ll get to that. I don’t have a single book to recommend, which is part of why I’m doing these posts.

    Jill and Mary, glad to hear it.

    Tfb, take your time getting back into it. It’s a very thick soup, and the more you know about the ingredients the more meaningful it is.

    Jim, there’s a fine irony in the fact that this was the tale that inspired Hitler!

    Scotty, I’d also recommend checking out Ceres, which was discovered and considered to be a planet in 1801, then downgraded to asteroid status in the 1850s.

    Gman, ah, the rose-colored glasses of empire! I recommend looking into the Spanish conquest of the Americas, or the history of the Belgian Congo, or the simple fact that India was the richest country in the world in 1600 and one of the poorest in 1900, just for starters. The population explosions didn’t hit their stride, btw, until European empires were overthrown — in 1925 there were only 2 billion people on the planet, compared to 8 billion today.

    Teresa, I’d have included a link to “What’s Opera, Doc?” except that YouTube won’t let me watch anything these days since I use an ad blocker. “Wid my speaw and magic hew-met!” is one of the great lines in opera.

    Charlie, yes, I like Magee’s work a lot. As for the age of Aquarius, that’s just sad. Aquarius is ruled by the malefic planet Uranus in modern astrology and by the even more malefic planet Saturn in traditional astrology — good indications right there that it’s going to be a very rough time indeed.

    Taylor, oh, I know. Try to imagine, though, what it was like to live in a time when it didn’t seem comic — when, in fact, it looked as though the dream was really, truly about to happen. As for Wagner, he wanted to end the cycle with the downfall of the old, corrupt order and the dawning of a bright, hopeful new age, inspired by stanzas 59-64 of the Voluspa…but that’s not how it turned out.

    Dylan, hmm! I haven’t seen the Lange film. I’ll have to see if I can remedy that, or at least take in its soundtrack.

    Celadon, anyone who lets exposure to high culture make them elitist hasn’t learned what culture has to teach. It was one of the marks of the old-fashioned gentleman that he could be perfectly at ease with people of every social class, whether tipping back beers in a rural pub with farmers or taking in high opera surrounded by the absurdly rich.

    Mr. Pheel, oh, for the days when DJs could get away with that!

    Sean, people call Ludwig II crazy. Given that he supported composers and built wonderful architecture, instead of investing in war and smokestacks, I tend to think a little more of his kind of craziness would be a good thing. You’re the second person to mention the Lang film to me today, btw — hmm. I’ll take note of that.

  47. I’ve been interested in the Ring Cycle for years. I’ve never seen it performed, but have done some reading on it, and Wagner, and have listened to it a couple of times. I’m looking forward to seeing where you go with this series of posts.

  48. Funny that Hegel thought that in him the Absolute realized self awareness for the first time. The Hindus beat him by a few thousand years.

  49. Allow me to join the throng of commenters who heartily agree that we won’t be so easily scared off by your Wagnerian (both literally and figuratively) series ahead of us. Thank you for seriously doing this. I’m looking forward to the entire series eagerly!

  50. In one of your previous posts I think you mentioned that about 30 seconds of ancient Roman music survives. So I wonder, once the woke contingent have ruled and had their way and a large body of art works have been stuck down the Orwellian memory hole (you know, that odious white supremacism and patriarchy and all that), what remains, say, a thousand years from now. I wonder if Wagner, or maybe fragments of his music, will make it through the current cull or the inevitable degradation that comes with time.

    I know, impossible to tell, but there’s some hope I think, that if we’re too daft to at least try to preserve the best of what western civilization produced, that non-western people just might.

    I’ve watched, for example, spectacularly talented Korean and Japanese classical musicians. Maybe enough people in those cultures developed a taste for what we now revile or no longer appreciate.

  51. JMG,
    You mention the concept of the old fashioned gentleman, which I have been thinking about lately. It seems that one of the goals of the current woke craze is the complete cancelation of the concept of a gentleman. Not just the part with the so-called male supremacy, but nearly all of the values and behaviors that were considered gentlemanly ( or gentlemanly)
    I think one of the reasons that the US, as on industrial and political entity works so poorly now, and we seem to accomplish so little, is that we have abandoned these gentlemanly values. The ability to study philosophy and Opera while being comfortable on the factory floor or the threshing barn is very important in having a useful managerial class ( as opposed to the useless twits we have now.) Dealing with others with politeness and good manners yields results that are rare in todays world of put-downs and trash talk.
    We have developed a culture where it is admired to be rich and famous while still being the most crass sort of Vulgarian.
    I would guess this is the way of empires as they slip down the slope to collapse. Perhaps it is a coping strategy to equip future leaders with the skills needed to be bandits, or warlords , which become the dominant type of leader in the post empirical age.

  52. Fra Lupo, you have perhaps heard of one Robert Johnson? He didn’t live long enough, alas, to attain jerk status, that being an attribute of age, but went to the crossroads to make a deal to be best bluesman in the delta, or so the legend goes

    JMG, I am wondering if socialists before Marx thought government should own the factories and farms, that being , IIRC, your definition of socialism.

    Wagner married Lizt’s daughter, from an affair with Countess someone or other. All the 19thC composers knew each other. Brahms was a notorious sponge who tended to show up at the Schumans or other friends home and remain for months.

  53. Hi John Michael,

    The currents in which he swam, subsumed him, and frankly speaking (please excuse the pun!), swept him away.

    I must say, that map is a sobering reminder of history. The wind has changed and blows ill to some directions, and there is a burden to that map which will be paid, in full.

    For a laugh, as I was reading your fine essay (where are the barbarians you promised? 🙂 ) the words ‘hashtag no filters’, kept popping into my mind. That dude would be hard work. Curious to see where you take us.



  54. Late, I hope you enjoy the posts.

    Enjoyer, granted, but Hegel — and in fact everyone in Western philosophy except Schopenhauer and a few much more recent exceptions — liked to pretend that the extraordinarily rich traditions of Indian and Chinese philosophy never existed.

    VOG, glad to hear it.

    Smith, Wagner’s work is almost certain to be lost, because it’s far and away the most resource-intensive work of art in human history. It’s not enough to preserve the sheet music; you have to preserve the living tradition of classical instrumental music performance and the living tradition of operatic vocal music, because those dots on paper can only communicate a very small part of the whole phenomenon of operatic music. Recordings might help, but only if they’re in a medium that will last for centuries and be replayable on relatively simple technological equipment. Asian classical music, rich and complex as it is, has the huge advantage of being played on relatively simple instruments, and not too many of them! Thus it’s worth reflecting on the fact that you and I live in that relatively brief window of human history in which it will be possible to enjoy this vast and fragile work of art.

    Clay, we’re not yet at the point when it’ll be possible to revive the ideal of the gentleman and have it picked up by more than a tiny fringe. It’s possible that we’ll be there within a few years, however, and I have some plans. By the way, “post empirical age” is either a brilliant pun or an even funnier malapropism!

    Mary, pre-Marxist socialism embraced that bad idea if it went so far as to have any constructive plans at all. You’ll find that in Fourier, for example.

    Chris, I spoke too soon. The barbarians show up two weeks from now, when we talk about the historical events on which The Ring is ultimately based. As for your hashtag, well, yes. Wagner would have out-trolled the trolliest internet troll in the history of trolldom.

    BeardTree, thank you for this!

  55. Mary Bennett #53: “Brahms was a notorious sponge who tended to show up at the Schumans or other friends home and remain for months.” It makes him sound like a leftover hippie. Who wrote it ????? By his middle and later years, Brahms had done quite well financially via his composing and his virtuoso performing on piano. He helped out younger composers, like Dvorak, and died leaving a substantial legacy. Unfortunately it ended up going to some shoestring relatives — in Chicago, of all places. (per Jan Swafford).

    @Justin P Moore: re the Delaney thing, I’ll look into it. I’ve been trying to appreciate Mahler. I have the boxed set of his 9+ symphonies conducted by Leonard Bernstein. There are some lovely movements, especially the end of his ninth symphony. But all in all Mahler is a bumpy ride.

  56. I look forward to this series of essays on The Ring. In terms of potential 5th week topics, I wonder if other commenters would be interested in a discussion of The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse, a book you recommended a while back. I recently finished it and would like to hear the thoughts of others. I found the fictional space he created to be unique, and a powerful background that lets the ideas in the novel come to the fore and permeate. The Three Lives at the end was also amazing. I do see why Tolkien became an empire and Hesse more or less faded away after the 70s. Both the more nuanced outlook and the sparseness of the settings are franchise killers.

  57. Synchronicity city: my husband and I visited the Amanda Colonies in Iowa last week, the longest lasting commune in the US. It lasted for 80 years, from the 1850s to the 1930s. It’s evening and I’m tired, but I’ll write more about the Amanda Colonies in the next day or two, after a good sleep.

    Fifth Wednesday vote: Jung and occultism.

  58. In 1978, when I was Stationed in Bad Tölz, recovering from various and sundry maladies caused by SE Asia, I was offered a ticket to Bayrueth and was able to watch Siegfried. Let’s be clear here, I knew nothing about opera. I had to dress in Class A uniform and was firmly instructed that if I were to go, I was to stay for the entire performance.

    It was great. Considering that at the time I mostly listened to the Allman Brothers and the Doors, I found the music incredibly complelling. I had no clue whatsoever what was happening on the stage, but for the most part I closed my eyes and just let the music wash over me.

    Then when I got back to the Kaserne, a West Point educated Major asked me what I thought and when I explained that I liked it, he went off on a tirade. How could I possibly like something written by that horrible of a person?

    I never got that line of reasoning. A musician being an ***hole, my experience with musicians in my life leads me to believe that it isn’t an isolated occurrence.

    My father used to always use the phrase, “a man of parts”. That way of thinking now appears to be horribly passé. But I think that I will continue ignoring the judgements and just enjoy the music. I ordered a used copy of Solti to accompany your upcoming series.

  59. My favourite book by Joachim Fernau is “Disteln für Hagen: Bestandsaufnahme der deutschen Seele”, which as its name suggests discusses Hagen from the Nibelungenlied (not Wagner’s Ring Cycle version) as a stand-in for the German mindset.

  60. Hi John!
    I just realized today was Wednesday and time to see what you were up to. Philosophy is something which was not covered, at all, in the US public school systems of the 60’s and 70’s. Or, at least, I never heard mention of anything beyond the mere word and, perhaps, a nod to Plato and Socrates. So, I thought it was a waste of time (how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, and all that) until I encountered Ayn Rand and, much later, you.
    So, while I wait eagerly for this on-going series of essays, I have a couple of questions:

    (1) Other than your own writings, through the years, what might you recommend for us philosophically naive readers to read to fill our vast ignorance of the subject and to (I think you would want this) convince us of its practicality and usefulness? Yeah, I know (or, at least, I have read) that philosophy gave birth to logic, economics, and politics (not sure that the latter two, however, at all make the case of how useful philosophy has been to humanity). But is there an overview of the whole thing, which might help us a little?
    (2) In this essay you fling around the words “left” and “right”, in a political sense, a lot. As you doubtless recall, I’ve pointed out that liberals don’t liberate and conservatives generally don’t conserve. Or, at least, not in my country and my lifetime. What EXACTLY do you mean by these two terms? I don’t so much want to argue with you. I simply want to understand your definitions so I can understand your point when you talk about Wagner being far left (while hating the Jews and being mean to people in general) while others were far right. To me, the only axis which makes clear sense is the liberty vs. authoritarian axis. the rest of it all seems like nonsense; I have a hard time distinguishing how far left is any different, at all, than far right, beyond the particulars of who gets looted and whacked first. I think that the terms “left” and “right”, at least in the US at this point, are pure noise, and using them in an essay without EXACTLY defining them is not a good start to conveying meaning.


  61. I’ve got everyone’s fifth Wednesday votes tabulated. Thank you.

    Ariel, thanks for this.

    SLClaire, the Amana colonies are a fine example, not least because of the way that they transformed themselves over time from religious communities to suburbs.

    Degringolade, please do ignore the judgments. We’ll talk a little later about where those come from.

    KAN, interesting. In terms of the opera, Germans seem to fall into Hagen-, Gunter-, and Gutrune-categories.

    Gnat, I wish I knew of a good general introduction to philosophy. I got into it, as usual for me, by a weirdly sideways route, via occult writers who referenced enough Neoplatonism to send me to Plotinus. As for “left” and “right,” I notice that many people, like you, seem to want to make them correspond to some kind of abstract principles. They’re not abstract principles — they’re tribal affiliations. Look at the people who call themselves one or the other, and draw your own conclusions.

  62. JMG,

    Fascinating article! I had no idea Hitler actually had contact with Wagner’s family. Quite the lucky fanboy, no? I admit Wagner is not a subject I am quite familiar with, although when you mentioned Schopenhauer, it put a smile to my face as that is probably the only philosopher from that era that I relate to ever since I was a wee young lad. Not that I dislike the others, but Schopenhauer had this graceful rebellious side to him that reminded me of my own dissatisfaction with society. Interestingly enough, I am not quite fond of pessimists as I find that most of them become neurotics, yet I still hold Schopenhauer in high regard.

    As for the Wednesday post, you mentioned in The King in Orange that it’s likely that a great culture could emerge in South America. I was wondering why exactly you thought that and if maybe you could write about it in more detail? Also, maybe you could take the opportunity to elaborate a little bit more on occult traditions in South America, as you had mentioned it before as well. I do hope that my continent grows to greatness but I can’t imagine it will be Brazil, but rather the Spanish-speaking countries westward of the continent. Us Brazilians tend to be quite depressive — the kind of depression that’s often camouflaged by jest and laughter and perhaps plenty of alcohol and intoxicants. I can’t imagine any lusophone nation will ever reach greatness in the near future, to say nothing of my own country, but I do hope I am wrong. It makes me all the more curious to know what you think!

  63. Hello John Michael,
    Proposed fifth Wednesday topic:
    The exclusion of the life force from the worldview of Western science.
    Live from Tidal Reach,
    Christine Clifford

  64. What a a great prelude this is — and you don’t stay on the writerly equivalent of E flat for very long. I’ver read oodles of stuff on Wagner — not only the usual books (we agree on Magee!) but all kinds of liner notes; program notes. This has to be one of the best summaries I have ever encountered.

    I have only one quibble: you wrote “he wasn’t primarily influenced by music”. I don’t quite know what to make of this comment. He claimed in later life that attending a performance of Fidelio was what convinced him to become a composer (he did attend the performance but he had probably made the decision earlier — he was always very anxious to place himself directly in the musical line of descent from Beethoven — Wagner’s Christ to Beethoven’s John the Baptist as it were. Whatever; in his teens he carried around with him the score of the Beethoven 7th and Don Giovanni and when asked about his religious beliefs, said “I believe in God, Mozart, and Beethoven.”

    When he realized in his late teens that his technical command of music was insufficient for his ambitions, he went to Bach’s direct successor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig who agreed to take him on as a pupil on the condition that he do nothing but counterpoint exercises for a year. (The lessons obviously sunk in– the penultimate scene of Act 2 of Die Meistersinger is one of the supreme examples of contrapuntal genius in all of post-Bach music; a giant double fugue. If Cosima’s diaries are to be believed — and on this they are probably accurate — they devoted many evenings to taking apart this or that fugue from the Well Tempered Klavier.)

    But yes, I suppose it accurate to say that his first ambition was to get certain ideas across and came to believe that music was the only way he could do that.

    I rub my hands in anticipation of the essays to come!

  65. @JMG, Ha! Haven’t lost me yet! Looking forward to much more on this! I ought to sit down and listen to Wagner some time.
    @Clay Dennis, So that’s what happened to the rainbow! It used to be such a lovely symbol of universal inclusivity and hope, and at some point morphed into one of coercion. When asked as a child what I wanted to be, I said, “A hippy.” I was too late, but it pleases me that a little of it remained as late as last year, when the blue meanies finally managed to shut it down.

    About a decade ago, some Japanese documentary on the ’60s played “Age of Aquariaus.” It brought me back to that world again. What a time we had! I believed then that we were all going to space too. I came to my senses regarding space some time before the Challenger disaster. The other day I read somewhere, quoting as closely as I can recall, “Always speak pessimistically, and you will be hailed as a prophet.” I have other cause to grieve again today–we lost our kitty, the one that once was a bullsnake. I hope his soul will quickly reestablish his spiritual connections. I suppose we are all grieving for one thing or one person or another these days.

  66. @Mary Bennet (#53), indeed, the blues are a more familiar form for me. While I’ve nothing to judge regarding Mr. Johnson’s character and acts, JMG makes a fair point. Perhaps we here who must live in the world have made our bargains with our particular spirits, and all fallen short, to one degree or another.


  67. “got tired of having a large readership”
    I hate to break it to you, but discussing 19 century German authors, or philosophers is like stepping on a nail, and then finding out why it really sucks to have dropped a nail gun at the same time… (‘True lies’ movie scene)

    “Sixties notion that if the young could only cast off the burden of a corrupt and fossilized society, and embrace free love and peace and togetherness instead, a new and golden age of the world would dawn and everything would be wonderful forever”
    I tend to ponder that those nefarious activities were engineered, and that even such a small dosage was so society-breaking that the perpetrators had to put the cap back on the bottle for another time. Or my preconceptions of that era could be completely off.
    So I am wondering if they wish to bring back this particular medicine, and if that is even possible anymore.
    Certainly after the ‘woke x trans’ crowd leaves the scene, the perverts will need a new narrative for ‘cultural creativity and experimentation’. One cannot shudder enough: ‘Minor attracted persons x For the children!’

    I think we have gone to a dark place in history, where people worship dystopias instead of utopias.

    For 5th Wednesday vote: analysis and thoughts on ‘Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why’, by Laurence Gonzales.

  68. I look forward to reading how this round of essays on The Nibelung’s Ring unfolds! Arthur Schopenhauer continues to make cameos in your essays, as well as in other odd corners of the online occult community.
    For the fifth Wednesday’s topic, could I modestly suggest a treatment of astrology in the 1930s and 1940s? I have heard that the inaccurate predictions of peace during the 30s caused astrology’s popularity to dim again until the 1960s. Yet astrology also played a role in the maneuvering of the Allies and the Axis during the war as well (which I think you touched on his posts some time ago). I think this might also be a timely topic for this year’s presidential election….

  69. Re: The wandervogel thing = sweet. From Feurerbach to Nature Boy isn’t so far a ride.

    I will be listening along to the operas as I read along to these posts.

    @Phutatorious: I have not systematically gone through Mahler. Just a few here and there. I wish you luck in the journey, bumpy as it may be.

  70. I have a couple of ideas for a fifth Wednesday topic that I’d like to put forward for the commentariat’s consideration:

    One potential fifth Wednesday topic I brought up a few posts back. How would you see a near-term American Civil War playing out, if at all? There’s no obvious Mason Dixon line to fight over this time.

    My guess is it would be rural versus urban, which is how I believe how Mao fought Chiang Kai-shek, and which is also how the American voting map breaks down every presidential election.

    The other idea I had for a fifth Wednesday topic is to explore if there is a connection between Marxism and thaumaturgy. Or if Marx was a thumaturgist. I’m a bit out of my element here, but hopefully you can understand why I wonder if there’s a connection between the two.

    The Marxist ideologies must have the greatest marketing strategy in the history of ideas. They have proven disastrous time and time again, yet keep cropping up as the next great idea, or the thing that “was never tried properly in the first place.”

    It causes me to wonder: what magic do these ideologies (Marxism, communism, socialism, etc.) possess that allows them to continue to crop up in the popular imagination?

  71. Once again I’ve tabulated everyone’s votes.

    Thomas, one of these days I’ll have to return to talking about Schopenhauer, to develop the point that that he was wrong to say that all his work was the expression of a single thought. It was the expression of two thoughts, because his pessimism and the cascade of value judgments that come from it are separate from, and can be left aside from, his vision of the world as will and the cascade of philosophical implications that come from it. More on this another time.

    Tag, I’d give ample stress to that word “primarily.” Of course Wagner was influenced by music — Beethoven was of course the influence he liked to discuss the most, though Mozart was also huge, and though I don’t have the background in mid-19th century music to be sure I’d be astonished if he wasn’t au courant with just about everything that was going on in the musical scene of his time. He was also powerfully influenced by political thought, folklore studies, a solid knowledge of ancient Greek drama, and much more — but I would argue that philosophy actually had a deeper impact on him even than music. Thus, “primarily.”

    Patricia O, given how popular Western classical music is in east Asia these days, you might be able to take in a live performance sometime.

    Frog, thank you.

    Eruption, remember that pendulums don’t just swing one way. Are you at all familiar with the way that the sexual license of the Regency period gave rise to the sexual puritanism of the first half of the Victorian period? I expect to see a reprise of that.

    Procrastes, my forthcoming book on mundane astrology discusses the most notorious of those, the insistence by C.E.O. Carter in the spring of 1939 that there would not be war in Europe for the next year — and digs up the ugly reason why he made that disastrous claim. I’m glad to hear that Schopenhauer is getting some attention!

    Justin, yep, and then from there to John Denver and dogs wearing bandanas is even less of a leap. It was a bit of a shock to realize how much of the backdrop of my early life was a product of German Romanticism!

    Blue Sun, nope — you only get one vote per Fifth Wednesday contest. Which one of those would you like to nominate this time?

  72. @Justin Patrick Moore: I needed to internalize everything of Wagner before I came to appreciate Mahler. Probably because Mahler was the supreme interpreter of the Master and put a lot of him into his own music. You cannot listen to Mahler’s 7th symphony without hearing Die Meistersinger.

    @JMG, yes, the perfect Wagnerite is Shaw. Wagner Nights is a more interesting book in the vein of Alex Ross’ Wagnerism. The two books cross in my poor addled mind. Shaw was eager for the critique of capitalism obvious in Das Rheingold as the Tarnhelm represents the way capital can oppress the worker unseen.

    If Heath Lees comes to lecture in Providence, you must see him live. You have my email; I’d happily send you my 4DVD set of his very lively recounting of the ring. He’s funny, insightful, and a good musician. He’s also in his 80s; like Segovia, a man who continually renews himself.

    It’s obvious to me now that Wagner will not survive in a time without fossil fuels. A sadder but a wiser man I’ll wake the morrow morn.

  73. blue sun @ 74 the best explanation oof the appeal of communism which I have seen came from the Yugoslavian, Milovan Djilas. He wrote and I think this was back when he was still Tito’s 2nd in command, VP so to speak. Djilas wrote that communism gave backwards–his word or Serbo-Croation equivalent–countries the means of rapid industrialization. Rapid industrialization meant your country could have a modern army and hope to be able to defend itself. The communist method involved mobilization of the whole society, hence one-party rule and totalitarian control of daily life. We might want to remember that the various pre WWII monarchies in Eastern Europe had not been able to defend their subjects from the Nazis, so those populations might well have believed that communism, with an alliance with the victorious Soviet Union, could defend them.

  74. As to the introduction to philosophy, My college “core” philosophy class started with this,

    Then hit a very small part of Plato, then Kant, then Utiltarianism, and ended up at existentialism.

    Poking around on line I found this,

    Which brings up obvious point of raiding used bookstores for philosophy 101 textbooks.

    Project Gutenberg has a virtual stack if you have a tablet or laptop.

  75. Just want to say thank you, JMG, for resolutely writing about whatever you want to write about. It’s always honest and interesting, even if (sometimes particularly if) it isn’t something that I had an active interest in before. Count me as another reader who finds herself interested!

  76. Interesting stuff, and what a great opportunity to see some Wagner operas. Alas there are none being played in my area, but online video will suffice for now.

    As for the fifth Wednesday. Last year in September you offered that “One of these days, when I’m ready to have a very large number of people melt down completely, I plan on doing a post about Hitler as archetype, …”
    Ecosophia link
    In November we voted on it, and lost to a wonderful theme
    Case Study of Chinese collapse resilience
    But the stars may have come around right this time, so I propose to raise the “Hitler as archetype” once again.

    Best regards,

  77. “the average lifespan of an intentional community, then as now, is about two years.”

    I like that there is Twin Oaks Community, founded in 1967 and still going. The secret? Completely giving up on practically all their ideals. They are pretty much only a commune in name. It is a very useful thing, to see the gap between the ideal and the actual sustainable. A great lesson.

    Also “You can always listen to The Ring in shorter snippets — I’ve found that works surprisingly well.”

    Why not do the hip modern thing like the audiobook folks and just set the playback speed to 300%. I think there was some music in it… 😀 I will not look that up as I fear that might actually be a thing.

  78. I too would vote for The Rise and Fall (and Future) of the Roman Catholic Church as a 5th Wednesday topic as well. I’ll look forward to the rest of these Wagner essays.

  79. I’m sure that these posts will be informative and fascinating. And, while I’ve never studied Wagner, so I don’t know where his operas are going to lead us, I have a feeling that his resolution is going to be both prescient and unwelcome.

    To quote Han Solo, I have a bad feeling about this.

  80. Very pleased to see you start this series, and looking forward to the rest!

    I don’t think you need to be a jerk to be a genius, but I do wonder if anyone could have embarked on such an ambitious project (…I mean The Nibelung’s Ring, not the post series) without being an extreme egomaniac. After all, the effort and expense would hardly seem justified unless Wagner truly thought it was this important for everyone to know what he thought.

  81. I enjoy these looks into esoteric historical figures and their work very much. Since you’ve been writing about music recently,I wonder if you read Ted Gioia’s substack? He’s been releasing his latest book about musical history there and this one is about the magical origins of musical traditions. I’d love to read your thoughts on it.

  82. “one of these days I’ll have to return to talking about Schopenhauer”

    You know what? After some thought, I nominate Schopenhauer for the fifth Wednesday post. I haven’t yet managed to dive into him, even though I long found what little I know of his ideas fascinating and resonant. I’d definitely want to see what you have to say about him, sooner or later.

  83. For the fifth Wednesday I would like to propose “getting out of Dodge.”

    But, before I do, first I would to know if you think that it is practicle. I do want to know what you think, but I don’t want to encourage people to vote for it if it isn’t a workable subject for a post. So a quick 2-3 sentences on whether this is something that you could give sage about, or is it too chaotic and contingent to give general counsel would be appreciated.

    So here’s the context. My brother called me today to ask me about leaving the country. (That’s why I’m anonymous today, no posting family details on the interwebs) He’s worried that the US government might not survive this election. He wanted to know if I agreed, what the odds were, what signs to look for if TS was about to HTF. Where to go, how to get there, when to go, etc.

    We had a good talk. I’m going to think things over and call him back a little more prepared and with more context. For what it is worth, he is ahead of the curve. House is paid off. He cooks from scratch. He knows ecology, organic farming, carpentry, weatherizing, insulating, and earthquake proofing houses, building green houses, rocket stoves, composting toilets, first aid, roughing it in the wild, etc. But he doesn’t live in the hinterlands or an agricultural community or a medium sized city near farmland, he lives in an overpopulated suburb of a huge metropolis.

    He’s risk averse. He would rather lose the nest egg than see the wife and kids in harms way. But, the wife is going to take some convincing. She has a well paid, cushy, PMC job. (Their not rich though, paid of the mortgage a month or two ago) It’s remote and she could probably do it from abroad, but she’s also a dyed in the wool, solid blue team, I don’t want to hear your reasonable arguement, never Trumper. She also understands ecology, systems theory, peak oil, and what not, but has an ideological blind spot in all things political.

    So, my question, the maybe proposed topic for this fifth Wednesday, is how to time getting out of Dodge. When is it time to pull up stakes, sell everything for peanuts, and buy a one way ticket to somewhere else for the whole family before it’s too late. My brother would greatly appreciate anything that you have to say on the matter.

  84. What on earth gave you the idea that you could chase away your readers by writing a series of posts on Wagner?


  85. Mr. Greer

    I was surprised as well since it hasn’t passed much time since we had a month with five Wednesdays.
    Is it possible for the Open Post to start with a list of all the proposed topics?
    Will the Wagner saga get one or two posts per month?

  86. My fifth Wednesday vote is for „mystery initiations“ in the past and present (and if you feel so inclined, also in the future… 😉 ).


  87. Here’s another old Archdruid Report reader who’s happy to see you making good on your threat. 🙂 Opera isn’t my wheelhouse at all, but Wager and his Cycle are more than interesting enough in themselves as cultural phenomena, and it’s great to have your guidance as someone who only has a superficial pop culture familiarity with them. So yes, I’m along for the ride for sure. Maybe I’ll even make a point to check out some of the music.

    Since you said a few weeks back your consider yourself an American patriot in spite of everything, I’d also like to wish you and the other Americans here who celebrate it a happy Fourth of July from this European.

    You said in a reply upthread: “Thus it’s worth reflecting on the fact that you and I live in that relatively brief window of human history in which it will be possible to enjoy this vast and fragile work of art.”

    This is also something I’ve thought about in the context of video games. I know you’re not a fan of them, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge there’s a lot of trash in that medium. Still, I also think they’re a unique cultural expression that has a certain appeal of its own, and it’s strange to think the small window in which it can exist probably overlaps more or less with my own life (if I’m lucky enough to live out my expected lifespan). Whether we’re talking about Wagner or video games, it’s sobering to consider all the things that will be lost. And now I want to see a deindustrial story where a cult of Wagner or something tries to keep his operas going through the centuries through to the ecotechnic age…at least they can theoretically be performed without electricity or computer technology, even if it’s a long shot.

    One final note re. Youtube: I know you don’t care to use it much anyway, but if you (or other readers) do want to use it without ads, I’ve found the uBlock Origin adblocker gets rid of them all with no fuss. At least until Google manages to upgrade their countermeasures.

    @Patricia Ormsby #68

    My condolences for the loss of your kitty. I know all too well how painful it can be to lose them.

  88. Hi John Michael,

    🙂 Mr Wagner clearly had some issues! Genius is a curse in that it unbalances a person, and so they end up losing perspective mostly because the excellence is very narrow and limited in scope. I’d be curious as to your views on that? One can only hope that the dude spent a long time in between reflecting on his poor behaviour? He had it coming man. A polymath would have an easier time as they’re over a wider variety of subjects.

    Hope you can work in that most excellent of Robert E Howard quotes! 🙂



  89. You might be interested that Loriot wrote a very good analysis of the Ring.
    It is available with his comments and with Music-samples of the most important part of the Ring. If you can understand German, this is a brilliant shortcut to get used to this opera.
    Search for “loriot ring des nibelungen cd”
    Translation from that book-store:
    “Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelung” is one of the most famous stage plays of all time.
    It is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive. At the beginning of the 1980s, Loriot, himself a great admirer of the opera cycle, came up with the plan to condense the entire work into one evening and to provide the audience with explanatory introductory texts to help them understand the complex plot. Vicco von Bülow wrote the texts himself – in his inimitably humorous way. Years later, in the 1992/93 season, “Wagner’s Ring in One Evening” was premiered in Mannheim. The evening was a great success and was continued in a CD edition by Deutsche Grammophon, which itself became a classic and is now available in a new edition with a revised sound and design.”

  90. Hey JMG

    I got to say, you have introduced Wagner extremely well. I honestly think that you could talk about any classic work of art or literature and explain it in some way that makes people become aware of massive amounts of meaning and relevance hidden within it. If you could no longer write about Occultism or Decline I would not be surprised if you could easily just write critical commentary on classic novels or art and get just as much interest and income as before.

    Also, for the 5th wednesday topic, I would be quite interested in your thoughts on the “Gentleman”, and what relevance being one has for the present and future.

  91. For the 5th Wednesday post I would like to recommend Dion Fortune’s The Magical Battle of Great Britain.

    There is so much in that relevant to today, plus Fortune was not shy in making predictions and admitting when they went wrong. Finally, there is an element of “what was it all for?” that one invariably has to ask as one treads water in the toxic toilet bowl of modern culture and politics.

  92. JMG: Not my original suggestion, but I’ll vote for BlueSun’s (2) “what magic do these ideologies (Marxism, communism, socialism, etc.) possess that allows them to continue to crop up in the popular imagination?”

  93. Hi, I will vote for why Western science turned away from studying life force. Thanks, Drew C

  94. Wer here
    Interesing topic right here. I must confess that I’ve never listened to any opera from Wagner. Most people where I live know only some of his symphonies from mobile phone ringtones.
    Althought that description of his character had me aghst really? Can you be a genius and a piece of work like that?
    There is something about works of literature about cursed objects that everybody is obssesed about and it causes disasters. Not a fan of all of Tolkien works, but he had this theme in his work about the Silmarils that in my opinion was better than LOTR. The desire for power and mastery (The ring of nibelung and the Silmarils) causing people to destroy themselfs and the rejection of that curse being the only thing that can save them. There is an uncomfortable thing about people that become so obssesed with power that they become so full of evil and lies.
    There is so little thing nowadays in popular culture that dabbles in this sort of thing, nowadays only so brainless stories about dragons, Hollywood wizards (not operating mages), idiotic superhero flicks. Where everybody is either purely good or stupid(evil) there are not consequences of actions etc.
    A story we in really bad times ahead should hear (Bad news here in my country- the number of people living in Poland in desperate poverty just doubled over the course of the last 14 mounths- noby talks about that noby is trying to reverse course…
    Stay Safe everyone Wer

  95. As others have said, you will not be losing a reader here, although I may not comment all that frequently on this topic of which I know exactly nothing. 🙂

    The outline you’ve sketched out here is fascinating, and amazingly topical, and I may even venture to dip a toe into the music sometime.

    I only venture to post the following question here because this phrasing (JMG #47) is rather intriguing – “Monasticism is of course the one form of voluntary community that works pretty reliably.”

    It spurs my curiosity as to whether there are (in your view) different forms of “INvoluntary community” and whether some of them can be said to work more or less reliably than one another?

  96. Interesting synchronicity! An opera singer friend was raving last week about a new production of the Ring he’s enjoying these days.

    I’m curious about the ‘rebellious youth’ archetype that Wagner apparently embodied. It seems a peculiarity of Faustian culture, or at least tolerance for it seems unusually high in Faustian culture, so a poster child embodying it isn’t surprising. If one takes as a given that ‘entering infinity’ is the great mystery of Faustian culture, then a willingness to leave the confines of the family’s home is probably more of a feature than a bug. But there’s a big difference between setting out from home with the intent to possibly return and rejecting home. Is the downright celebration of rebellion against the last generation some kind of hangover or pseudomorphosis from a previous culture? Leaving home in the magian culture usually has negative connotations after all…

  97. @Gnat, The textbook we used in college for Intro to Philosophy was Classics of Philosophy 2nd Edition, by Louis P. Pojman. I cannot speak to whether it is the best, but I started reading it for pleasure recently, after taking the course over a decade ago, since we barely read any of it in the course. It is quite comprehensive. Part of my reason for picking it up at this time, was due to watching several videos on YouTube that tied Greek heroes in with Nietzsche and Machiavelli. If you are interested in that topic, check out this video

  98. My vote is for an article about the ongoing Heathen renaissance. In a post-truth world where men can apparently ‘chest feed’, I’ve long suspected that many will choose instead to self-identify as ‘vikings’, and therefore neo-viking militias lie just over the horizon. As JMG has suggested I’ll be waiting for them with drinking horns full of delicious home made beer.

  99. I also vote for what is the appeal of the totalitarian ideologies, socialism, communism and national socialism, magical or otherwise, although I would be very interested in the occult aspects.

  100. Preliminary note 1: again, I’ve gotten everyone’s votes tabulated.

    Preliminary note 2: for some reason, I’m once again starting to field random questions unrelated to the theme of the post. Those get deleted, as noted in the text box above the comment window. Please save your random questions for the 4th Wednesday open post!

    With that said, on to the comments…

    Thomas, if he ever comes to Providence I’ll check him out. I’ve been rereading Shaw’s The Perfect Wagnerite in preparation for these posts, and comparing his argument to Wagner’s own writings; I’d argue that it’s not just The Rhinegold that he gets right. He goes off the track at the beginning of The Twilight of the Gods precisely because he wasn’t willing to follow Wagner’s logic through to its inevitable conclusion — so, in a very Shavian fashion, he assumed that he was smarter than Wagner and used handwaving to make up for the lack of deep thought.

    OtterGirl, thanks for this.

    Marko, I figured the pasty-faced Austrian fanboy would come up again sometime soon!

    Michael, there are other examples, but it’s always the same sort of thing. The only intentional communities that can maintain their essential focus for the long term are monasteries, and then only if they maintain their tradition of celibacy.

    Team10tim, stay tuned.

    Daniil, well, as a counterexample there’s Tolkien, who was a grumpy old git but managed to dodge the egomania, and spent his entire life creating a legendarium that nearly rivals the Ring cycle in terms of sheer scale.

    Joel, no, I’ve neglected him recently — I’ll remedy that.

    Daniil, so noted, but be aware that I’m going to give an entire post to Schopenhauer and his influence on Wagner.

    Anon, it’s on the list. I have opinions about it, of course.

    BK, because most people roll their eyes and say, “Why are you interested in that Nazi?” when Wagner comes up.

    Rafael, it’ll be two posts a month — we have a lot of stuff to get through — and no, I’ll just be announcing the winner of the fifth Wednesday contest.

    Kim, thank you for this. There are a lot of cultural forms that won’t survive long, and I know a lot of people enjoy video games. It’s occurred to me also that the piano, as an instrument, has a very limited shelf life — you can’t have one without a steel frame and high-tension wire strings, lots of them, and those will be unaffordable and unsafe once energy supplies become too intermittent. Simpler instruments have a better future — which doesn’t change the fact that I love piano music.

    Chris, as the joke goes, Wagner didn’t have issues, he had whole subscriptions. His karma must have been very, very strange.

    B3rnhard, thanks for this. My German may not be up to it but I may just give it a try. The “one evening” version sounds interesting!

    J.L.Mc12, if the academic industry in the US hadn’t been circling the drain when I finished my degree, I might have gone for a professorship in the history of ideas, and had a lot of fun with that. Are you by any chance familiar with Kenneth Clark, author of The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form? Some of his books, including that one, are major faves of mine, with their skillful blend of history, art criticism, and social insight.

    Wer, not only can you be a genius and a jerk, but quite a few people do both. Look into Pablo Picasso’s biography sometime! Sorry to hear about conditions in Poland — my understanding is that this is happening in a lot of places, unfortunately.

    Clark, duly noted and thank you.

    Scotlyn, all other forms of community are more or less involuntary — that is to say, the people there didn’t up and decide to form a community. Many of them may have been born there, or moved there to find work, or because that’s where they could find a house they could afford. Since they weren’t the product of somebody’s abstract theory (aka brain fart), they quite often work quite well. I don’t happen to have a taxonomy of them handy, though.

    Christopher, that pattern — what I call “rebel without a clue syndrome” — is the inevitable product of our myth of progress. If what’s old is always outdated and waiting to be discarded, then zooming off into a supposedly better future and never coming back is the way to go, right?

  101. JMG, you wrote:
    “Schopenhauer was a pessimist who rejected the idea that political change could alter the human condition.”
    Well, I like more Schopenhauer than Feuerbach, IMHO…except for his nasty msogyny. Ahem…
    However, I vote for Schopenhauer for the fifth Wednesday post. It’s a very interesting thinker.
    Wagner was openly anti-Semitic, but I agree with John: Wagner was a leftist too, even Bakunin barricade comrade. Let’s tell to the Israelis, because maybe you all know that Wagner operas and music as a whole are (unofficially) banned in Israel because of the composer antisemitism…
    Now, I’m going to link my favourite part of Wagner “The Ring”-The Twilight of the Gods-:
    Siegfried Funeral March

  102. Interesting post, but I’m not sure what to make of it yet. For the 5th Wednesday post, I would like to vote for Jung and occultism.

  103. “be aware that I’m going to give an entire post to Schopenhauer and his influence on Wagner.”

    Then if it is not too late to change my vote, I’ll switch to blue sun’s “appeal of socialism” question. I have some thoughts on the subject myself, and it’d be interesting to compare notes.

  104. One comment about geniuses, jerks, and all the rest, taken from the same mythology:

    “No one is so flawless as to have no faults,
    Nor so wicked as to have no worth;
    Fair and foul are found
    Blended within their breasts.”

    Simonides of Keos said the same thing back in the dawn of the Greek Renaissance,
    “….but I will always love and honor one who does nothing dishonorable by choice.
    against Necessity, even gods fight in vain.”

    And from heartland America, “Ain’t nobody even been perfect except Jesus his own self.”

  105. Ha! Took me a while before I checked why I was being called pasty faced. 🙈My bad.
    Funny that it has nothing to do with Wagner. I think you said everything that is to say about the fanboy aspect in the above article. But the suggestion for a fifth Wednesday vote reminded me of the November voting round, and I thought I’d throw a bone out and see if it goes the distance this time.

  106. Could you speak more as to why it would be an inevitable outcome of believing in the myth of progress? Because as someone who actually does, that is neither intuitive nor logical. If I believe progress is a real metaphysical force worthy of veneration, that implies honoring the progress that happened in the past as well.

    In fact, the more similar I am to the unhinged fundamentalist who believes, as you often put it, in ‘a straight line from the caves to the stars’, the less willing I should be to discard anything that came before. If I simply believe that alignment with what Plato called ‘the Good’ confers a slight Darwinian advantage, that would still leave room for plenty of evolutionary dead ends. The more monomaniacal a belief in progress becomes, the more sever the heresy of rejecting the progress of the past should be, no?

  107. I do hope you post readership numbers before and after this Wagner series. I don’t think you’ll lose as much readership as you expect– though our engagement might go down, since many of us don’t much feel qualified to comment on opera. I for one am curious to see what the delta ends up being.

    To be honest I think you could carry the lot of us through a multi-part series on the dread ‘JQ’– actually, now that I think of it, a JMG version of “200 Years Together” focused on the USA would no doubt be an excellent read. It is understandable if you’re not interested enough in that 2% of the population to take up the project, but if you ever want your name spread far and wide via accusations of both antisemitism and Zionism, that’s the book to pen.

    Just writing about Wagner might be enough to get some overly sensitive souls to condemn you for antisemitism. Where, I wonder, does this contagion theory of ideas come from? It’s a pretty normal viewpoint these days to declare that Wagner was a jerk, and Hitler liked Wagner, so therefore if you like Wagner you must be a jerk who likes Hitler. There’s no logical connection in that “therefore” that I can see, but that’s the thought process of Cancel Culture. If it’s not logic, what motivates such thinking?

  108. Once again, all votes have been tabulated.

    Patricia M, granted!

    Christopher, you’d think so, wouldn’t you? Yet I’ve found consistently that most of the really devout true believers in progress I’ve met insist that everything that belongs to the past is irrelevant at best and evil at worst. To them, “going back” is the ultimate sin, and having any respect for the past is right next to it.

    Tyler, I’d honestly be more likely to discuss, oh, I don’t know, the Laotian question, or the Breton question, or the Sikh question, or the Mordvin question, or perhaps why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings. Middle Eastern ethnic monotheisms just don’t interest me that much, and — well, I know this is going to enrage philosemites and antisemites to an equal degree, but I don’t see why Jewish people should be any more important or interesting or worth fussing over than any other dispersed ethnoreligious group with a small and politically contested homeland, of which there are of course quite a few.

    As for the thought process of cancel culture, it’s not a thought process — that is to say, there’s no actual thinking involved, just the usual primate grunts and hoots that constitute so much of human (non)communication. An astonishing amount of what passes for thought these days, and in every age, can be translated as “Warm fuzzy! Like, like!” or “Cold prickly! Hate, hate!” without any loss of actual meaning.

  109. Tyler A, I don’t happen to be a fan of Wagner, my preferences in opera being verismo, bel canto and baroque, but there is no shortage of people who not only attend The Ring but also put up the money to fund productions. I have read about retired, I suppose they must be, wealthy who travel from one Ring production to another. I guess they could be called ringheads.

    Anonymous today, I can of course speak only for myself, but I belong to this North American soil. I am not willing to hand a country or a continent over to a pack of shallow and superficial greed heads. Incidentally, I saw this morning a comment from a well known conservative commentator about how we have come to the end of, among other phenomena this guy doesn’t like, I quote, these are not my words, “fat is beautiful.” My first thought was sauce for the gander, this particular fellow being hardly in youthful, ripped shape. And then I thought about the late Mrs. Greer, not to mention the very many plump women with fine characters whom I have known over the years.

  110. Dear JMG,

    You wrote “if I ever got tired of having a large readership…” Well, your writing made me take the occult seriously when all I’d been allowed to think about it was either ‘crackpot superstition’ or ‘evilly evil demonolatry’. If I didn’t go away then, you’ll have to try harder to chase me out 😉

    Thanks to my questionable musical education at the conservatory as a kid, I’m as clueless about opera as I am about magic, but I’m looking forward to the following posts in this series!

    Happy 4th of July!

  111. Dear JMG:

    I cast my hat in the ring for Marko’s Hitler as Archtype. Everything that comes up in international politics seems to be interpreted by Western politicians as the next Hitler wanting to conquer Europe, the world, whatever. Interestingly, a Russian could look at the West like that: every move brings more of Europe or Asia into their control.

    The fact that Wagner has abuse heaped on him as a Nazi these days is odd; especially after the Canadian parliament applauded a real Nazi soldier, and there are plenty of Nazi wannabes in the Ukraine.

    And as an aside: why do I keep hearing the phrase “Kill the waaaaabit; Kill the Waaaabit” in my head?


  112. I’m not sure whether ‘you’ in your first sentence refers to ‘a reasonable person’ or ‘a believer in progress’ – but of course, when a faith has the dubious privilege of being the state religion, the overlap tends to be considerable.

    It’s why there’s such a disconnect between what a reasonable believer would expect and what we’ve both observed in people like Wagner that I find interesting. My own theory is pseudomorphosis, but I don’t really understand the concept well enough to test the hypothesis.

  113. Greetings all!
    I vote for: The exclusion of the life force from the worldview of Western science.
    This is a fascinating post. I have listened to Wagner’s music many times and was always stuck by its grandiose but ultimately tragic endings. I never realised his Nibelungs could be seen as an over-arching metaphor for modern western civilisation. It seems he could well have been some sort of visionary…

  114. Hmm… if I may respectfully disagree, to say that Wagner was “influenced” by music misses something. Like all great composers, he saw and conceived of the world through music; as music. (“Deeds of music made visible” — that’s how he himself described what he was doing. Note how the idea of the primeval world came to him in a dream — an unending E flat chord; the breakthrough that allowed him to start work on the Ring.). What set him apart from his greatest forebears was, as you so rightly note, his immersion in philosophy and myth. But I don’t see him as someone like Kant — just finding music the best means to give shape to his philosophical notions — rather as akin to Bach who used the Christian religion to form his musical instincts (and became “the Fifth Evangelist” in the process.) But God had died — or at least was on His sickbed — when Wagner reached artistic maturity, so it was first Feurbach and then — most importantly — Schopenhauer — who gave him the framework to make visible his deeds of music. As for influences, Berlioz and Bellini were as important as the Holy Trinity (Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven) — it was from Berlioz that he learned how the orchestra could tell a story (he was stunned on attending a performance of Romeo et Juliette as a young man) and from Bellini’s example he fashioned his characteristic “endless melody.” (To be fair, Wagner always spoke of Bellini with reverence,). It was Shaw, I think, who noted how the plot of Gotterdammerung follows the basic outline of the plot of Norma up to and including the final conflagration. Alas (?), in his later years, Wagner became an ardent German nationalist and thus tended to downplay his debt to non-German composers.

  115. I would love to see you circle back around to discussing how firearms will lead to a different, less centralized political economy than the calvary of the last dark age. You brought that up previously and lots of people misunderstood your point. I think that would be an interesting 5th Wednesday post, so there is my vote.

    Besides, it will also help you research that war game you talked about making.

  116. “As for “left” and “right,” I notice that many people, like you, seem to want to make them correspond to some kind of abstract principles. They’re not abstract principles — they’re tribal affiliations.”

    I nominate a deeper dive into this topic for a 5th Wed post.

  117. @Gnat #63 re: Introduction to Philosophy

    Not a single book, and it has a more practical focus on implications for ethics, politics, and economics, but Tree of Woe’s series of recommended reading (which begins here: is very good.

    Maybe not all that comprehensive, but Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy hits on a few key western philosophers and discusses what their way of looking at the world can do for your life – a practical takeaway for each, basically. I haven’t read it in years, but I enjoyed it when I did.

    Cheers, and good luck digging in,

  118. Could you pull a Wagner, and give us a bit more deep background on why you’ve decided to cover this NOW (that is, if doing so won’t spoil future segments)? This feels like an important exploration, and weirdly timely. Is it because we’re experiencing The Twilight of the Gods?

    Fascinating stuff. Thanks for the great read (and looking forward to the next installment.)

  119. JMG

    I am really looking forward to this series. It will be fun. My vote for the fifth Friday is the fan-boy with the political movement and its hold on the west’s imagination. I have been voting for this one for awhile maybe it will win finally

  120. As an enthusiast of 19th century culture and intellectual history in general, and of German Romanticism and its children in particular, this cycle of posts will definitely not drive me away. Funny enough, I was a big fan of Feuerbach in my college days, when I was still an atheist. Albeit, I was having doubts about atheism even then, but his idea of worldly humanism replacing oppressive organized religion was appealing in those young and idealistic days. In general, that historical period provided an awful lot of food for thought for a young and undisciplined mind. I also spent untold hours listening to the orchestral works from that time, rented from the library of course, including those of the subject of this post. This post invokes a nostalgic mood that has been pervasive this year anyway.

    But what I wonder is, what happened, what changed in recent history, that makes our host want to shed his large audience?

  121. Today is Independence Day in the USA. Happy 248th Birthday, America. And speaking of Ragnarok , we’re deep into the fourth Fourth Turning in the nation’s history. That’s how many lifetimes? Four very long lifetimes. Oh, well, the Soviet Union only lasted 80 years. That’s one long lifetime. So this is a very appropriate *day*on which to discuss opera commemorating the great-great-grandmother of all collapses. “Kill da wabbit, kill da wabbit!” (Insert “Ride of the Valkyries” here. )

  122. Hey JMG

    I have heard the name but I have never read anything by him. I’ll try and remedy that. I could definitely see that he is an Influence on you based on your description.

    Also, on the subject of the Genius-yet-jerk I recall quite a few people like that in Desmond Morris’ biography-compilation “lives of the surrealists”, of which Andre Breton is the most notable.

  123. I haven’t listened/watched this opera yet, though, honestly, I’m not into opera. Considering my interests though, it seems as though I should make time for it at some point.

    Side note – do you think a massive ego can be a result of genius? Or does it somehow accentuate genius, as in, because Wagner thought so highly of himself, he caused other people to think so highly of himself… I also know very brilliant people who don’t believe in themselves enough to make it on a large scale, and a healthy dose of ego might do them good.
    And of course, astrologically, having powerful planets in the first house can make one a powerhouse as well as a bit self absorbed. Sun there would do that…. and in fact, a cursory look at his birth chart gives him Sun and Venus in the first house, I don’t know how accurate that is but, it is interesting.

  124. Once again, everyone’s votes have been tabulated.

    Hispalensis, every time I go way out onto the fringes my readers seem eager to follow me. Maybe I should just get used to it. 😉

    Cugel, one of the great lines in opera!

    Christopher, that’s a reasonable supposition. For my part, I suspect that a lot of believers in progress are not-really-ex-Christians who have plopped the great god Progress in place of Jehovah, and so they’re necessarily flailing around for a kingdom of Satan and all his minions and find it in the past.

    Tag, of course you may disagree. I’m more into philosophy than music, and it’s quite possible that I’m focusing on my interests here. That said, I calls ’em as I sees ’em.

    Doug, I don’t have any grand reason for doing it now. Partly it felt like time to go off on a tangent, partly I expect to be heartily bored by chatter about the US elections and so wanted to discuss something else instead, and partly I’ve been playing a lot of Wagner music on my CD player of late so it came to mind readily.

    Deneb, I get uncomfortable when I’m too popular. It suggests to me that I’m not taking enough risks or talking about things that are important enough.

    Patricia M, that definitely seems to be the theme song of this sequence of posts!

    J.L.Mc12, a good point!

    Isaac, a very good question which I don’t have the natal astrology chops to answer. You’ve inspired me to locate Wagner’s horoscope, though.

  125. I sat through many of those 4 hr Wagner operas at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires as a 9 or 10 yr old. My father was a musician and Wagner fan. I still like his music but in homeopathic doses only. A highlights here and there, overtures, not the whole enchilada.

    The Magic Flute that you mention is also my favorite, Mozart, in German, and a lovely story. Wagner is so dark. A poster here mentions J Evola (autocorrect suggests “evil” as I type, and for once is not wrong) and I think that’s correct in this context, another repugnant ***hole. Wagner, at least, left some grand music. I struggle to find a single Evola idea that’s not vomit-inducing,

    Looking forward to the rest of the series. Bravo.

  126. Richard Wagner was what my parents would call a ‘pompous ***’. Yes, I suppose he was a genius who took opera and orchestral music to their extreme limits. Not a fan of his music; never have been. However, I do consider the Bugs Bunny cartoon “What’s Opera Doc”? to be the high-water mark of the Looney Toons / Merry Melodies opus ( – so, that is saying something, and 3 ½ minutes of Wagner is about as much as I can stomach. His use of brass instruments is impressive, however – I’ll give him that much. I’d put him in the bottom decile in my list of Western composers (ranked from most to least favourite) just above the insufferable and insipid Hayden. I guess this is one of the few things that I have in common with the French. I understand that Debussy’s piano piece Golliwog’s Cakewalk mocks Wagner’s bombast (there is a twice repeated passage of long chromatic notes followed by light brief chords like laughter – “tee-hee-hee… tee-hee-hee”).

    In my high school musical history course, each student had to choose a late 19th century (Romantic Period) composer to research and do a class presentation. I chose Edvard Grieg. Interestingly, NOBODY chose Wagner!

    Even so, you can’t get rid of me that easily, JMG! 

    Ancient myth and broad arcs of history with some socio-political-intellectual ‘life and times’ thrown in? Now, you’re talking my language! I thoroughly look forward to the series. By the way, the phrase “gyroscopic self-centeredness” made me smile. Can’t say I’ve encountered it before. Fits Wagner like a glove!

  127. Genius comes in varied forms and the genius world of Looney Tunes – Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Daffy Duck and the rest of the gang is close to my heart. What about a 14 hour marathon viewing of them! now that’s culture I could get into. A high point of 20th century American culture? Could be argued it was.

  128. Mary Bennet #115:
    People who travel from one Wagner opera to another “Ringheads”: LOL!
    “I saw this morning a comment from a well known conservative commentator about how we have come to the end of, among other phenomena this guy doesn’t like, I quote, these are not my words, ‘fat is beautiful’.” Ironically, I’ve seen conservatives call for a return to “traditional beauty standards” or “classic beauty” which to them seems to mean thinness. Have they ever looked through a book on the history of art in the Western world? Rubens, Botticelli, Renoir… Even the Venus de Milo is probably a healthy size 12. The women in the aforementioned artists’ paintings usually look contented; they’re not scowling at the viewer like the models in the ads in Vogue magazine.
    (Sorry for the off-topic comment; then again, since Wagnerian sopranos have traditionally often been larger women, perhaps it’s actually on topic!)

  129. At this link is the full list of all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared at and, as well as in the comments of the prayer list posts. Please feel free to add any or all of the requests to your own prayers.

    If I missed anybody, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom a relevant person holds power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below and, if you don’t mind so that there is an easy place for us to communicate if necessary, in the comments of the current complete list.

    * * *
    This week I would like to bring special attention to the following prayer requests.

    May Ian, who has recently been diagnosed with Diastolic Heart Failure, be healed and restored to full health quickly and completely.

    Regarding Princess Cutekitten’s recently renewed problems with mortgage servicers causing her difficulties, may the situation resolve in the best way possible.

    May MindWinds’ dad, Clem, be blessed and healed after his fall and consequent head injury.

    May Jeff H’s cat Tuxy, who ran off from their new home in June, be safely returned home to Jeff’s family.

    May Jennifer have a safe and healthy pregnancy, may the delivery go smoothly, and may her baby be born healthy and blessed.

    May Ecosophian, whose cat Cheesecake (picture)ran away on Wednesday 6/12, be safely reunited with Cheesecake; and may Cheesecake be protected and guided on his journey home.

    May Kyle’s friend Amanda, who though in her early thirties is undergoing various difficult treatments for brain cancer, make a full recovery; and may her body and spirit heal with grace.

    May Jennifer’s father Robert, who passed away on May 29th, be blessed and soothed, and may his soul be helped to its ultimate destiny and greatest good.

    Tyler A’s wife Monika’s pregnancy is high risk, and has now successfully entered the third trimester; may Monika and baby Isabelle both be blessed with good health and a smooth delivery.

    May Jennifer’s mother Nancy G. in SW Missouri is still recovering from various troubles including brain surgery for hydrocephaly; may she be healed, regain her mobility, and be encouraged with loving energy.

    May Erika, who recently lost her partner James and has been dealing with major knee problems (and who senses a connection between the two), be healed in both broken heart and broken knee, and be able to dance in the sun once more.

    May Doug Y of Geauga County, Ohio be supported and healed as he makes his way through the diagnosis and treatment process for prostate cancer.

    May Ms. Krieger’s hometown of Norwalk, Connecticut recover quickly and fully from the gasoline tanker fire that destroyed an overpass and shut down interstate 95 on May 2. May the anger and fire that has made driving in the area so fraught cool down in a way that benefits all beings. May all people, animals, and other beings around the highway, the adjacent river and the harbor be protected and blessed, and may the natural environment improve to the benefit of all. (update)

    May Christina, who passed away on 5/8, experience a peaceful repose; may the minor child she leaves behind be cared for, and the needs of all affected me met; and may her family be comforted in this difficult time.

    May Frank Rudolf Hartman of Altadena California (picture), who is receiving chemotherapy, be completely cured of the lymphoma that is afflicting him, and may he return to full health.

    May Just Another Green Rage Monster‘s father, who is dealing with Stage 4 Lymphoma, and mother, who is primary caregiver, be blessed, protected and healed.

    Lp9’s hometown, East Palestine, Ohio, for the safety and welfare of their people, animals and all living beings in and around East Palestine, and to improve the natural environment there to the benefit of all.

    * * *
    Guidelines for how long prayer requests stay on the list, how to word requests, how to be added to the weekly email list, how to improve the chances of your prayer being answered, and several other common questions and issues, are to be found at the Ecosophia Prayer List FAQ.

    If there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  130. Dear JMG and fellow commenters:

    Reading this post again, it strikes me how many “far out” ideas, great philosophers and thinkers (Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer , and many more), came from what is now known as Germany in the 19th C. To extend this a bit, how many diplomats, politicians, and military men who have to be classified as “formidably competent” (Helmut von Moltke, Otto von Bismarck, I won’t go on to avoid boredom).

    Now German politicians and officials are lucky if they can manage two coherent sentences! Twilight of the Gods, indeed!


  131. I apologize for the belated PS; I haven’t heard of any great German thinkers, philosophers, or other intellectuals, either, so it’s not just the government and bureaucracy that are second-rate!


  132. With regards to the extra post, it would be fascinating to expound upon the lives of monasteries.. be it European or Asiatic .. the ACTUAL monks, and how they lived life.. as opposed to the rather modern connotation, that of being totally selfless as ascetics, without sinful thought and/or deed. In otherwords: how they expressed their own humanity, absent the (various) hypocritical pooba Church strictures.

  133. Following on from the last Magic Monday, my vote for the fifth Wednesday post is for a dive into the physical, etheric and astral bodies and the the mental sheath; identifying your polarities for each, what this means, and how these bodies interact and anything else jmg thinks is important in rrlation to the topic!

  134. Well, Bugs Bunny is the archetypical trickster! Wagner gritting his teeth and snarling in Valhalla while Bugs laughs. And opera fans enjoy a good chortle themselves.
    And Elmer Fudd as the stereotypical Hero – “Handsome. Brave. Clueless.”

    And now back to the dead serious business of four-hour operas. (Hold my beer while I brave the long lines at Ladies.) As the Poet Laureate of Florida noted, “If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

    And BTW, I do appreciate the saga, and in fact, just finished a reread of the paperback classics.

  135. Hi John Michael,

    That’s very funny! I can almost hear it now: Yes, he has enough issues to concentrate the efforts of an entire symposium of psychologists!

    Off topic, the land of stuff appears to be dumping Electric Vehicles down under due to tariffs imposed by the US and Euro zone (I believe you can get one for about AU$40k drive away now), but even that doesn’t appear to have halted the sales slide: Hybrid sales are outstripping EVs, sounding alarm for emissions reductions. I believe such machines are not a like for like replacement with petrol powered vehicles, and I genuinely wonder how the electricity grid will cope with having too many of these things hanging off the system? A mystery. Incidentally, in some states down here (you may have missed this), they’re charging grid-tied solar power systems to export power to the grid during periods of peak supply. I get why that has come to be.

    Dude, people sometimes tell me to just add some more panels, but the thing is, the more panels you add to a system, the more likely that the system may pop. Every little increase in capacity just adds complexity – and every component has an upper limit. Nobody wants to see smoke with these systems.



  136. @JMG,
    Fair enough on both points. For the record, I had no illusions you’d actually be tempted to write about YHWH’s Chosen people– and generally I’d have no interest in hearing more about them, which is why I brought it up. What else can drive people away like rambling about da joos? Not rambling about Opera, that’s my bet.

    @Mary Bennett,
    Of course Wagner has his fans! (I’d never heard of “ringheads” before, though, so thanks.) I do know that I used to travel in circles where appreciation for Wagner (along with a great many other things) would have to be spoken in hushed tones, with glances over the shoulder, less someone accuse you of cryptofascism. Christians by no means have a monopoly on busybody moralizing!

  137. Well then.

    First thing on Wednesday mornings, I wait impatiently for your post. This week, I can say that 99% I know nothing about.

    I have heard of Richard Wagner, and have heard “of” his music but I wouldn’t know his tunes if I fell over them.

    I have heard of Hitler liking Wagner’s music.

    That Wagner was a leftist and an arsehole I did not know. I have met two such monumental arseholes, having personally spent time around them. I can’t name names cuz they are minor-ly famous but one was a male professor and writer, while the other a female tapestry artist.

    I shall make it my business in the next week to find out about the graphic novel version(s) of the said operas—comics are my speed. I also want to know more about ‘listening’ of some of Wagner’s CDs. I am not particularly interested in videos of the operas, just the sounds. And I didn’t know that there is a Looney Tunes connection to Wagner. I looked on UTub and watched a couple video clips—absolutely hilarious. People at Diznay Studs in the 1930s were nuts, and we 1960s kids were the beneficiaries. I look forward to your next installment in two weeks. I am also curious what next Wednesday’s subject is gonna be.

    I love music, but am ignorant of details of music. In public school, I was one of many students who fell by the wayside and no-one noticed what I didn’t know. I got lost trying to understand the ways of music, and eventually I gave up and had to let it go. Music was nothing anyone cared for me to know.

    Germans, there in Germany, are known for music more than any other European ethnicity. It is their thing. Learning about Wagner’s music will help me feel the ancient chords of my German ancestry on the level of marrow. My matrilineal line is Palatine German along the Rhine River—my various German lineages have been tortuously difficult to research genealogically. I don’t even know much history of Germany.

    As for gays co-opting rainbows. I saw a rainbow the other day, and cringed. Rainbows bring to mind congealed semen. Thanks a lot, gays.
    Gays, FU. After I am dead and gone, the correlation between rainbows and gays better be dead and gone too. Gays ruined rainbows for me. It also occurred to me that I can’t use rainbow colors in weavings. Tragic.

    I read The King in Orange. In four years, Biten has created the debacle in Ukraine. What was he thinking? Nonsense, cuz his brain is located in outer space. I want to see the USA gone from Ukraine—just leave. What the F business is it of the USA to be mucking around in Russia’s backyard? Ukraine is a civil war and let the locals sort it out. If Russia was in the Bahamas, I am sure that the US govmint would not be nearly as patient as Russians—Russians have been the model of restraint there. The USA should get the hell out. If Orangish can cozy up to Puttin, good. Biten sure has f___ed things up there.

    Occasionally, I fall into steamrolling over others, as similar to Wagner being an arse. I don’t know why it happens. Others have to smack me upside the head to get my head out of that space.

    > bored by chatter about the US elections

    Yep, me too, I am bored, partly cuz nobody is making sense. The world has been turned inside out. I have tuned out. July month 1. August month 2. September 3. October 4. Oh God(s), four months. Shoot me now. I am seriously considering voting for Tramp, although I would have to do it clandestinely. I would have to give no clue before, and no confession after. I would have to stay mum forever. I have spoken of this to my husband, where he thoughtlessly mouths/raves the usual arguments, hinting that if I were to do so, he starts divorce proceedings. On the other hand, I do feel that Tramp came within an inch of sinking the country the last time. Neither Tramp or Biten are worthy of my vote. I might just stay home and let others decide. Tramp is mentally ill, and Biten can hardly walk. What is going on? Why are the parties pushing these two down our throats? Is there no-one else?

    Marko, I am with you. 5th Wednesday Hitler. JMG, I need to witness a good meltdown. August 1st-ish sounds like a good week to do some verbal-meltin’. Melt us down but good. Sling mud too. I am so bored, I wouldn’t mind a splat in the face💩.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨👵🏼🙊
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  138. Polecat #139: “With regards to the extra post, it would be fascinating to expound upon the lives of monasteries.. be it European or Asiatic .. the ACTUAL monks, and how they lived life.. as opposed to the rather modern connotation, that of being totally selfless as ascetics, without sinful thought and/or deed.”
    You may be familiar with “Carmina Burana,” a musical setting of poems dating from the Middle Ages, found in a monastery in Germany: Several of them are drinking songs, bawdy songs, or songs about gambling, and most were written by monks. Also, Irish monks sometimes scribbled secular notes and poems in the margins of the sacred manuscripts they copied; here’s a poem a medieval Irish monk wrote about his cat: Thomas Cahill’s book “How the Irish Saved Civilization” goes into more detail about that.

  139. Once again, I’ve gotten everyone’s votes tabulated. 20 potential themes have been proposed, btw, and only five of them have more than one vote. This is shaping up to be the kind of contest in which six or seven votes could win. If anyone who’s already voted wants to change their vote, just mention what you’d voted for previously, so I don’t have to go paging back through a hundred-odd comments to find yours!

    Florida, Evola’s an intriguing figure in his own way, but not an original thinker at all — like most Traditionalists, he pieced together his Tradition out of borrowings from European intellectual pop culture, and then backdated it to the dawn of time in much the same way that Wiccans did a few decades ago. (If you know your way around Weininger, Bachofen, the more hysterical end of Nietzsche, and the first generation or so of Theosophically influenced European occultists, nothing in Evola will strike you as novel.) I’d say he was like Wagner, but without the talent.

    Ron, that Debussy piece is a delight — but then there’s his opera Pelleas et Melisande, which takes the musical territory opened up by Wagner’s late operas and does something very lovely with them.

    BeardTree, funny. I’ll leave you to fourteen hours of Looney Tunes, then. 😉

    Quin, thanks for this as always,

    Cugel, it’s not at all uncommon for nations, especially little nations like Germany, to accomplish astonishing things for a century or two and then collapse in exhaustion afterwards. At least we’ve got the results!

    Patricia M, when the Seattle Opera set out to build a new opera house, the single most common request they fielded from their patrons was more stalls in the ladies’ room. I think they did it, too.

    Chris, EVs were a fad, nothing more. My guess is that in twenty years or so they’ll be prized by collectors, but that’s about it. I’m not surprised about the “just add more panels” idiocy — people who don’t have to deal with hardware directly are impressively clueless about it.

    Tyler, fair enough. I thought it was probably a good idea to clarify the point, though.

    Northwind, I’m sure you know the wedding march that small boys love to parody as “Here comes the bride, short, fat, and wide!” Wagner wrote that — it’s the wedding march from Lohengrin. If somebody played you “The Ride of the Valkyries” I bet you’d recognize that, too. You should certainly find the Bugs Bunny piece “What’s Opera, Doc?” and watch it — every single bar of music in it is from Wagner. Beyond that, a lot of people like to start with one of those CDs that has the high points of the Ring cycle — your local public library probably has one.

  140. As I mentioned in my previous comment, my husband Mike and I visited Amana, the largest of the seven Amana Colonies in Iowa, last week. The Amana Society that built and maintained the Colonies from the 1850s from the 1930s is the longest lived communal society to date in the US. Due to the elders’ loss of spiritual and secular authority combined with a decrease in the social isolation of the Colonies and the loss of income from farm sales during the Depression, the adult members of the Society voted overwhelmingly to end the communal Society in 1932. JMG’s characterization of current-day Amana as a suburb is fair. It survives on the tourist trade and on jobs in nearby cities like Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

    For those of you who want to know more, I posted what I gleaned about the history of the Amana Colonies to my Dreamwidth site:
    Taking a close look at this pre-Marxian communal society might help to better understand some of the factors that can make communal living attractive and some of the factors that lead to its decline.

  141. 🐈‍⬛For those who had mishaps regarding your kitties the last month or so. I was a cat rescuer for 35 years, particularly rescuing elder breeder moms, so I know how difficult losing a domestic cat is, losing meaning any number of ways gone, through death, running off, and other things I can’t think of. The not-knoiwing. May each person involved and each cat involved be reunited, heart mended. Cat, in your mind, hold his/her paw and say sweet nothings of calm—surround her with cushiness. Person, in you mind, hold her/his hand and meow sweeting nothings of calm—surround him with the tickling of your whiskers. May you rest, and intuit where the other is🖖🏼.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨👵🏼🐈
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  142. As someone who spent one whole day listening to the Solti Ring (to which one of the café regulars suggested that I should have listened to one release a day – that each part of The Ring was meant to be pondered over during the following day), I’m looking forward to this. I’d also be interested in your thoughts, having put some thinking towards these works myself.

    As for Ms. Russel’s synopsis of The Ring, I only have an issue with her ending. In short, with every character dead (MAYBE except Albreich), we’re nowhere near where we started.

  143. Physiognomy never lies — Wagner looks the part of some pompous, arrogant movie villain, albeit one with immense talent. If only he knew his work would still be famous and well-regarded over a century later… I can just imagine his gloating, guffawing response.

    Jason #6: Hypergamy and harems both have eugenic effects, and play an important role in keeping the human gene pool healthy. I could go on a long spiel about this, but I decided it’s venturing too far off-topic, so I’ll keep it short: monogamy has an important role to play, but so does eugenic promiscuity; they need to be balanced.

    Cugel #137: Keep in mind, Germany has been under occupation since its defeat in WWII, first under US and Soviet dominion, now under the yoke of GAEmerica. The destruction of Nordstream by the US (through UK/NATO proxies) was a clear reminder of who’s really sovereign, since that act of brazen vandalism prevented Germany/EU from cutting a side deal with Russia, keeping them economically dependent on the US. It’s not surprising that a subjugated nation would have their creative fires go out.

  144. JMG said:
    “because most people roll their eyes and say, “Why are you interested in that Nazi?” when Wagner comes up”

    Wow, that bad? I mostly get the reaction that it’s ugly music, or -even worse- opera.
    Most people know there is some sort of connection with the nazis and that wagner was an antisemite, but I never heard that as a reason to dislike his music.

    For me, he’s one of those giants I know very little about, apart from liking his music. So, this series is very welcome!


  145. Dear Mr Greer

    You think these Wagner posts may not be popular. I think you could be wrong. It looks to me as if you are about to take a deep dive into the mythological soul of Faustian civilisation. Civilisations are founded on myths and analysing those myths will lead to greater self understanding. After all if was the myth of Faust that gave Spenglar the image for understanding Western Civilisation. I am not an opera Buff, but as someone who is interested in the decline of our civilisation, this is something I could find interesting. I think there could be a book in this.


  146. I quickly read up a summary of the four works. The curse on the ring aside, the idea that it will grant absolute power but take away the ability to love is a very curious one. It reminds me of the sixth chapter of Elipas Levi’s work, where he mentions that the mage can have power but must refrain from “love”.

    There are seven races here, if I can count right. They are Gods, Giants, Dwarfs, Rhinemaidens (who may be human, but I can’t tell), Valkyrie (who may be Gods, again I cannot tell), Humans and Demigods (like Siegfried).

    I can’t wait to see where this series goes. I will be eagerly waiting next month! Thank you, JMG, for giving us another enticing topic.

  147. When I was at school in the former tripartite German educational system as a Gymnasiastin (grammar school) lasting from year 5 to year 13 while learning English, Latin and French with the final (demanding) examination of Abitur enabling for university studies, school encouraged us to attend opera and drama performances in the only theater nearby. Many of us students used to play flutes, violins, trumpets, piano etc. and attending opera performances was as ‘in’ as listening to the Beatles, Jazz and American Folklore music.
    I became and still am an opera fan. As for Wagner I listened and watched Lohengrin a very long time ago and Siegfried in 2012 in Berlin. Even though I am not a Wagner fan, I must admit that he is a magician of tones. Knowing that some parts of his operas are a strong challenge to the musicians of the orchestra, especially to the female singers on stage and also to the audience, I was hovering above cloud number 9 for three whole days and nights after the Siegfried performance. The singer of Siegfried’s role, the Canadian Lance Ryan, was an absolutely brilliant, Heldentenor. Moreover, the orchestra was conducted by Daniel Barenboim and the whole production was international cooperation of contributors from the Americas, European countries and Israel. The whole production was absolutely perfect. Operas on stage are valuable, but not necessarily so for films or videos. Nevertheless, arts unite, create pleasure and peace over time and space.
    Nevertheless, I would like to mention an exception, a most felicitous and amusing video production of “Covid fan tutte” in 2020, based on Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, performed on stage in the Finnish language, but taken by with English subtitles. For a few months it was available on youtube, but soon disappeared with the remark it was a private video. I do not believe this because is located in Brussels, though information who they are is not being given.
    Later on I read a book about the Wagner Clan, written by an Englishman, saying that Wagner’s descendants still pull all the strings behind the Bayreuther Festspiele taking place for 6 days at the end of July. They are an event for (political) celebrities and/or upper class people only, probably neither having a clue about (classical) music nor about Wagner’s intentions.

    Cheers to all of you and keep chins up.

  148. I’m pretty sure that I am the only William Gaddis fan who frequents this site. However, early on in his novel “JR” there is a class of sixth graders attempting to put on a performance of Das Rheingold at the Jewish Community Center in Massapequa, NY. (Of course some of the kids are only participating in order to get out of gym class…. ) It’s humor of a labored sort. References to a certain obscene letter penned by Mozart to his cousin also appear frequently in that long, challenging novel about greed, chaos and music.

  149. JMG, I’ll join Marko in voting for a post about Hitler as archetype for the 5th post in July. What better time for a ‘meltdown’ than in mid-summer? 😊

  150. I guess the other thing I take away from all of this, is there was a time when being left-wing and being antisemitic were orthogonal traits, not related to each other. You definitely get the feeling back then that some of these things that are considered taboo now (don’t you dare talk about certain people or certain things), were just commonplace attitudes that were considered not that special to have. I’m sure Wagner wasn’t the only person complaining about They Who Must Not Be Named back then.

    In any case now, they are somewhat linear. If someone is left-wing, you can be reasonably sure they are prosemitic as well. Although with all the Palestinian protests, it looks like the double pendulum may be moving back to where it was all those years ago. Then again, who knows?

  151. JMG #146: “Florida, Evola’s an intriguing figure in his own way, but not an original thinker at all”
    John, you’re wright. IMHO; J. Evola is a Nieztschean boy in steroids with Traditionalist clothes. Maybe you know already what I’m going to tell you, but there’s some letters between Evola and…R. Guénon (Traditionalist “par excellence”). Oh my G.! Two big Egos arguing between them by mail! That correspondence has no waste…

  152. Ah, last month’s meditations about the nature of curses now appear serendipitously relevant. Of course it’s too early in the discussion to be speculating about what the Rheingold and the Ring might symbolize (let’s see, something that’s harmlessly sequestered away in its natural state but when claimed and focused yields power and ruin… nah, doesn’t ring any technological, political, or magical bells at all) or about Alberich’s role in that transformation.

    I will be so bold as to suggest for those who haven’t read it, our host’s 2012 Archdruid Report post Night Thoughts in Hagsgate would be worthwhile preparatory reading for the topic to come.

  153. JMG, my vote for the fifth Wednesday post is for a dive into the physical, etheric and astral bodies and the the mental sheath. Thanks!

  154. >Wagner wrote that — it’s the wedding march from Lohengrin

    Well, I wonder what people used to play at weddings before Wagner came along then? Gotta give the guy credit for leaving a deep cultural mark. I guess you can be a deadbeat and not be worthless.

    Although I wonder. It could’ve been due to technological limitations of his era. These days, he’d probably be happily grifting on Kickstarter or one of those clones instead of ripping off friends and family.

  155. re – your reply to me #105

    Ok, I think my mind immediately went to involuntary communities such as prisons. Not only do people not choose to be there, but additionally there is no option to voluntarily leave if you don’t like it.

    So, now I have the beginning of a typology that I might just spend a bit of time working on… 🙂

    For example, there are communities that are voluntary to enter, but not to leave (eg certain cults, the military)
    There are communities that are not voluntary to enter, but are voluntary to leave (eg families, neighbourhoods, countries, social classes).

    The thing is that this line of thinking was entirely stimulated by encountering your unusual phrasing “voluntary community” when your more habitual phrasing is “intentional community” which never struck me as having any intriguing ambiguity.

    So… now I shall go and think some more…

    🙂 🙂

  156. My earlier vote (for an article about the ‘Heathen renaissance’) is likely going to be partially covered by this series on Wagner’s work, so please change my vote to ‘the exclusion of the life force from Western thought’.

  157. >If Russia was in the Bahamas

    They have quietly made port calls in Cuba though. I think that’s close enough to The Bahamas. And the response from the establishment was rather quiet as well. Almost like how when things start getting real, the viciousness counterintuitively starts to go away.

    However the derangement is still there. So stay tuned. Who wants to fight and die for Joe Biden?

  158. Speaking of monasticism… John, are you going to cover Wagner’s unfinished opera, Die Sieger? One of the composers I wrote about in my book, Jonathan Harvey, wrote an opera called Wagner’s Dream that uses elements from Wagner’s unfinished piece. I hadn’t been familiar with this Harvey work when I wrote my text, but it looks interesting.

    According to Wikipedia:
    “The story tells of the love of the outcast chandala Prakriti for the monk Ananda. Although both are ostracized by the other monks, Buddha permits their chaste union and allows Prakriti to join the monastic community. Wagner Dream intersperses the Prakriti/Ananda story with the events surrounding Wagner’s death in Venice. As Wagner dies from a heart attack, he recalls the opera he never completed. Whilst the “Indian” roles are all sung, the members of the Wagner household, including his wife Cosima and the soprano Carrie Pringle (with whom it has been alleged that Wagner had his last love affair) are spoken roles.”

    And a review of it here:
    “The Buddha is able to explain Prakriti’s actions via references to her previous lives, but there is dissent when it is suggested that Prakriti join the previously male-only Buddhist order, mainly from the Old Brahmin. The Buddha accepts her; the action shifts back to Wagner’s time; the worlds collide though when it is Vairachana that guides him towards the next life (the dying Wagner himself had been seeing the characters throughout — none of the people around him, Cosima, the Doctor and so on, could).”

    Anyway, hope you and everyone else here are well. I hope everyone in the US had a good Fourth of July, and those elsewhere, a good Thursday. It rained here, heavy thunderstorms at times that would then steam back up into massive humidity. The annual parade in my neighborhood was good as usual, with some, shall we say, interesting groups going down the road, showcasing a movement from people who might have once been radicals aligning with theocratic governments elsewhere in the world.

  159. Hm, pseudomorphosis… Christians in denial… those seem similar if I squint hard enough. Pseudomorphosis as fashion-conscious intellectuals aping the latest philosophical trend without internalizing it perhaps…

    It’s funny – at first glance, Decline and Stagnation seem like much better adversaries for Progress, though I can see why someone who’s at their core still aggressively monotheistic would have a hard time acknowledging something like that. But that’s also true of the Christian devil, and most Christians seem to manage. I quite like the Zoroastrian conception of a good and an evil god who both claim to be the good god, where the magus’s task is not so much getting the good god to like him as discerning which of them he’s talking to. The Christian devil does seem a lot more like that than the adversaries of the Old Testament, rival tribe’s gods hawking inferior covenants.

    Makes me wonder what a healthy hamartiology for Progress would look like. The future you don’t want but might be moving towards seems the straightforward answer, but perhaps locating it in the past helps it act as a thrust-block to get to the future you do want?.. I never did understand the thrust-block concept very well, I think it’s tough for Buddhists in particular to wrap our minds around.

    My vote is for gunpowder and decentralization, I’ve encountered the idea before but I’d love to read your take on it.

  160. This is very interesting, and I look forward to other posts. As someone who shares your liking of Mozart and Wagner’s operas and not that many others, I wonder how you feel about ussorgsky’s opera, Boris. I think it is utterly musically great myself, and somehow has a natural fit (or complement) to the Wagnerian operas, maybe because they were both so centered on the state of human groups’ souls.

  161. @JMG – bless the Seattle Opera! The Santa Fe Opera, an hour’s drive from Albuquerque once you got outside the city limits, should have done the same. Or maybe they have by now. I don’t think they ever did Das Rheingold, though that’s probably wise. Open-air opera houses and high desert rainstorms do not mix. Thanks for that. Will also look up the graphic novel, though I detest the graphic novel convention of having all the womens’ skirts slip to to the hips. In medieval setting, yet.

    @Yavanna – another Irish manuscript had a bawdier note speculating on who would bed Sweet Aideen. Caricatures were also very common marginalia.

  162. The Other Owen @ 163: “Well, I wonder what people used to play at weddings before Wagner came along then?” Well, they played Mendelssohn — and still do!

  163. @The Other Owen #158

    “In any case now, they are somewhat linear. If someone is left-wing, you can be reasonably sure they are prosemitic as well.”

    Is that the case in the States? In Germany, at least among the people who are making their voice heard e.g. in the media, the general trend is conservative right = pro-Israel, left = pro-Palestinian.


  164. Once again, everybody’s votes have been tabulated.

    SLClaire, thanks for this.

    Donald, well, there’s that!

    Xcalibur/djs, nah, he wouldn’t gloat — it would never have occurred to him that his works wouldn’t be famous most of two centuries after his time. He would just nod, and then start snarling about the awful things they were doing to his operas at Bayreuth.

    BK, I’ve heard that reaction tolerably often. That’s why I started off this series the way I did, pointing out that (a) yes, Wagner was a nasty piece of work, (b) but he was a hardcore leftist, and (c) his association with the Nazis has been overinflated. I still expect to see driveby trolls ranting about Nazis when we get to later posts.

    Jasmine, well, here’s hoping. We’re also going to be taking a deep dive into the roots of some of the most basic assumptions of Western thought, and I expect some awkward scenes as that proceeds.

    Rajarshi, thanks for this. The Rhinemaidens are water spirits, not humans; the Valkyries are Wotan’s daughters by the earth goddess Erda, so they’re gods; and Siegfried and his parents are half-human and half-god, so not really a separate race. (Spoiler alert: they also don’t last long.) So we’ve got the four nonhuman races, gods, giants, dwarfs, and nature spirits, and — as we’ll see — all of these, in Wagner’s view, are reflections of certain potentials in the human spirit.

    Gisela, thanks for this also. I’ve been told that the little gold ring lapel pin worn by people who make big donations to the Bayreuth festival is called, by others, the “golden sphincter.” It seems appropriate.

    Phutatorius, I have no idea. Any other Gaddis fans around?

    Other Owen, the whole range of questions around race and ethnicity were orthogonal to the left-right axis in politics until after the Second World War, when Soviet propagandists found it expedient to target the US for its treatment of its black population as a way to compete with the West for influence in Africa. Before then, antisemitism and other forms of ethnic prejudice were just as common on the left as on the right — the racism of the early US labor union movement, for example, is well documented. As you’ve noted, we seem to be swinging back the other way — have you seen those little charts for figuring out how privileged you are, circulated by wokesters, which assign Jews a higher score than any other ethnic group?

    Chuaquin, yes, I’ve read them. I keep an eye on the Traditionalist scene, and things like that are among the entertainments that result.

    Walt, good. Wagner was being more general and a little more abstract than that, but it applies tolerably well!

    Other Owen, Lohengrin premiered in 1850. Back then, weddings outside the aristocracy were much more low-key events — they very often took place at the church door rather than inside the church; there was no music for the ceremony, though this was more than made up afterwards, when there was a big party with local musicians playing dance music. Here’s Pieter Bruegel’s painting of a wedding party — notice the two guys with bagpipes over on the left.

    Scotlyn, by all means!

    Justin, no, I wasn’t planning on it. I’ll doubtless reference it when we get to Parsifal, but only in passing. Harvey’s opera sounds at least interesting; how Wagnerian is the music?

    Christopher, oh, they’re comparable, but Spengler meant pseudomorphosis in a very different sense. In his view it was the adoption of some other culture’s forms as a framework for one’s own culture’s forces. It’s distinct from the inevitable Age of Reason pseudosecular religion in drag.

    Michael, I haven’t had the chance to see it yet; such passages that I’ve heard strike me as very good, but I’ll have to refrain from judgment until I have the chance to take in the whole thing.

    Patricia M, it caused quite a stir when they actually did that. I don’t think anyone was expecting it.

  165. @Yavanna (#145):

    And one of the Carmina Burana [#54+55, “Amara tanit tyri”] is in all probability a magic spell. During the Middle Ages many monasteries seem to have been hotbeds of ceremonial magic.

  166. 5th Wednesday: This is maybe a little bit more meta than what you usually write, but I would be interested in an overview of your research process when you dive into obscure topics. How do you find your sources, what does your note-taking process look like, the best way to get access to academic sources, etc.

    I don’t have anything to add on the Wagner but I’m looking forward to expanding my musical experience and knowledge with this series. Count me as another that isn’t scared away.

  167. >have you seen those little charts for figuring out how privileged you are, circulated by wokesters, which assign Jews a higher score than any other ethnic group

    No, but please do share. Sharing is caring. And checking your privilege is extra-special.

  168. About German opera, an early German composer, contemporary and friend of J.S. Bach, was George Phillip Telemann. He was as a composer not perhaps of the very first rank, but his music is listenable, accessible and not without sophistication. Not musical wallpaper. I think he was at his best as composer of vocal music. His enormous output included some 35-50 operas, of which we have the complete scores of nine. Performances of some of these can be found on You Tube. I agree with contributor Aurelian, see his most recent substack, that the revival and performance of early European music is a bright spot in contemporary culture.

  169. It’s likely you’ve read David Goldman’s (Asia Times’ “Spengler”) many essays on Wagner over the years. Although he’s totally different, I read him as possibly the only other living member of an undefined (possibly undefinable) category of authors you’re probably both aware of, if not intuitively attracted to. There are many apparent agreements but also huge differences, yet it’s something else — the perspective of someone who seems to believe they stand outside history within a subterranean tradition that secretly flows through or alongside all others, at least in the West.

    It’s not so bad or unusual as a tendency, but it can go a bit too far at times and lead an author into the all-seeing godlike mentality you ascribe to Hegel and Wagner. The mathematization of space in the 17th century sometimes called “Cartesianism” is often named as the source of this tendency in western intellectual life, which Milton brought into literature. Without all that there would be no Wagner, and it’s also a movement deeply embedded in the political and economic events of European confessionalization, nation formation, and internecine competition and conflict. I wonder if you’ve reflected on anything like this in writing I’m not aware of — have you?

    Voegelin seems to have been on this train but got off and ended up paying a lot more attention to Asia; you make a similar nod to the larger world-historical scene in this essay. I know you know all this (and Voegelin), so I am ever more deeply curious about your thoughts on him, on non-Western traditions. I hope you will get around to writing about him too.

  170. I haven’t listened to the whole opera yet, but it does have tonal features and intersperses elements from Wagner’s sketch. I haven’t yet listened to enough Wagner to know how Wagnerian it sounds yet either. That said, Harvey has some wonderful and beautiful choral music. He could work across idioms from traditional to avant-garde. His piece “I love the Lord” is one of the most played, being a Christmas chorister piece. I really enjoyed his Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, for eight-channel tape and voice, but that one probably isn’t to your taste. The other thing I like about Harvey is one of the composer-as-mystic types he explored Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism in his works, and I appreciate that nod towards universalism. In music, this universalism was expressed by being able to do full blown electronic pieces, or tonal orchestral works and chamber pieces, and be comfortable moving between these. I hope that helps.

  171. I have difficulty seeing Wagner as being on the opposite end of the political spectrum as Hitler. Hitler came up through the socialist ranks, and his only real innovation in socialism was to base it rather clumsily on race rather than class lines. Hitler was as much of a screaming blue-haired leftist as Wagner, with the toxic emphasis on race that only really flowered during the latter half of the 19th century.
    Have you ever written about Bakunin? My limited experience of him was that, among leftist theorists, he was one of the only ones who entertained a system that stood any chance of working in practice, though a rather remote one at best. It’s flaw to me is that it seems to be based on the notion that widely dispersed communities of small, independent collectives would all function in a largely cooperative way overall, sharing the same non-hierarchical structures and never, say, falling under the sway of local strongmen and making war on each other in the name of empire-building. In short, a denial of human nature, like all leftist thought.

  172. excalibur @ 150 (if I may, I can save this for open post), if you think harems have a eugenic, by which I gather you meant healthful, effect on society, I strongly recommend you watch Kurosawa’s film Sanjuro. After that, look into the history of the last century of the Ottoman Empire. Anyone who is horrified, as I think most of us are, by the sight of a U.S. president being controlled by a pack of self serving handlers, might want to contemplate on the effects of a Sultan being manipulated by harem intrigues. I believe one of the attractions of early Christianity was that Christ roundly denounced any sexual activity outside of marriage. We tend to forget how revolutionary this was at the time. For women, it means every married woman gets her own household, wherein she will not be subordinate to First Wife or Elder Sister.

  173. Other Owen @ 158 “If someone is left-wing, you can be reasonably sure they are prosemitic as well.” Not lately. Lefties, or progressives, as they like to call themselves, are furious over AIPAC intervention taking down some of their own. Donna Edwards, Nina Turner, Jamal Bowman are just some who have been successfully targeted by out of their districts deluges of AIPAC money. They have a point. DWA and the Justice Democrats worked long and hard to ID and promote responsible leftists for elected offices. These folks have a point of view just as do you and others and they also deserve some representation.

  174. All votes have again been tabulated.

    Other Owen, that’s interesting. I just spent ten minutes online trying to find one, and they’ve been taken down. Hmm…

    Mary, Telemann’s a fave of mine — that’s among the reasons why I had Brecken Kendall playing some of his pieces in one of the novels where she appears.

    Dan, but I don’t consider myself to be standing outside history. My viewpoints are emphatically those of a person of my background and generation, looking at the world from the rather odd standpoint of an American who has a good deal of exposure to European high culture but knows perfectly well that it’s a veneer over a very different cultural substrate. (The other Spengler, Oswald, had some useful things to say along these lines in his discussion of pseudomorphoses.) I also grew up with a lot of exposure to Japanese (and more generally east Asian) culture, which makes an interesting bit of counterpoint with the classic European culture I enjoy. As for Eric Voegelin, it’s been quite a while since I read him and he didn’t make as deep an impression on me as, say, Oswald Spengler or Giambattista Vico. I’ll consider a post on him someday, but I’ll have to reread him first.

    Justin, interesting. I’ll keep my eyes open for a performance.

    Mandrake, well, there’s that! I’ve argued at some length that Hitler, and fascism generally, are centrist phenomena, borrowing elements from left and right equally. As for Bakunin, yes, his notion of what comes after the revolution was the standard pre-Marxist vision — you can also see it portrayed, for example, in William Morris’s News From Nowhere — and as guaranteed to fail as the rest of that vision. If you want to use the label “human nature” for the fact that in any group, there will always be some people who are willing to use force to get what they want, I won’t argue too loudly.

  175. Any insights, occult or otherwise, about why it is that when some people, like Wagner, start thinking exclusively about themselves, people around also do, even if in wholly negative terms? I have had that experience sufficiently often with different people in different contexts that I suspect there is a consciousness mechanism at play.

  176. I loved this fascinating post. Thanks JMG!
    My vote for the 5th Wednesday is Individualism vs. Socialism — as social constructs and their political ramifications.

  177. In spite of the elitism that is supposed to opera composers, Wagner has become a real pop culture icon. I won’t discover nothing if I remember the famous scene in ‘Apocalypse Now’ with the helicopters and the ‘Walkyrie’ deafening the ‘Charlies’…
    However, I found some years ago that “Wagnerian connection” in the less likely place. I don’t know if you like industrial metal or you dislike it, but in late ’90s and this XXIeth century there’s a German rock band, whose name (of course) is RAMMSTEIN.
    Well, in an interview some years ago, they said they liked a lot Wagner, because his music was like their own music, “violent, aggresive and strong”(sic). I don’t have the link to that interview, but I remember that supposed Wagnerism in these industrial heavy metal people.
    I doubt if Rammstein folks have ever listen the Ring in full mode…who knows it?

  178. >Other Owen, that’s interesting. I just spent ten minutes online trying to find one, and they’ve been taken down

    Piece of advice. If you think something is sufficiently – spicy – on the internet, don’t just save the link, screencap it, save the htmls, etc. Screencapping is easiest tho. Waybacks sometimes work, although if it’s sufficiently spicy enough, pressure will be applied (from where I wonder) and whaddayaknow, the Wayback has forgotten it. Oops. Spicy things have a way of getting toned down or suppressed.

    The world must be bland, after all. Blandness ueber alles.

    >Lefties, or progressives, as they like to call themselves, are furious over AIPAC intervention

    The world is truly changing. Or maybe it isn’t changing but that you’ve become aware of a certain facet of it that you didn’t know was there?

  179. If you’re still taking votes for fifth Wednesday, I’d like to add one for decentralization and gunpowder. It’s always a treat to see you sketch out details of the deindustrial future.

  180. @The Other Owen (#165):

    Not only in Cuba, but in Venezuela (La Guaira, near Caracas), too. That is about as close as you can get on the South American mainland to Washington, DC: about 3300 km on a great circle route.

    And the naval group visiting La Guaira just happens to be commanded by a very high-ranked vice-admiral; it also includes a nuclear submarine with a very high missile load (with nuclear warhead capability). A hypersonic missile such as a Sarmat, launched by that submarine, would reach DC in much less that 10 minutes.

    See Andrei Martyanov at:

    This amounts to pointing a loaded AR-45 at a potential aggressor — us! — to discourage him. Things are suddenly getting “real.” Alas!

    I only hope that the people behind the scenes in DC are less foolish than the visible front-men appear to be these days, and that they appreciate the seriousness of this new development.

  181. thx for the essay! I am listening to the opera soon! One of his movements, ride of the valkyries, was in apocalypse now (the 1979 movie).

    my vote : Jung and occultism — as you covered the basics of Jung here

    …..and Jimmy Dore the comedian is talking to Joe Rogan about this on the latest JRE podcast (this HAS to be a synchronicity) 🙂

  182. Not very apropos of Wagner, but huh, I just re-watched “What’s Opera, Doc?” after it having been years since seeing it, and I was struck by how much the scenery style reminded me of Eyvind Earle (best known for the backgrounds in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and a lot of New Yorker cartoons). I wonder if there was an influence there, or some link with opera I wasn’t aware of (other than maybe opera = snooty, New Yorker Cartoons = snooty, therefore New Yorker Cartoons = opera). Anyway, I just bring it up because after growing up and learning a bit about art, I re-watched Sleeping Beauty and was struck by how very visually good it was, and I learned about Eyvind Earle’s role and art when he was cited as a major influence on the style of the Vikingy fantasy computer game “Banner Saga” (which is absolutely gorgeous, and a decent turn-based tactical battle game with a story that features some pretty tough decisions for the player to make, for anyone who cares for video games).


  183. Dear Mr. Greer – My vote for fourth Wednesday is food in the time of decline. Growing it, preparing it … older cookbooks when you can’t get more modern ingredients. Lew

  184. Thanks for this essay! Wagner’s music is too drawn-out for my taste (I don’t like 10 minute Bach arias or 10 minute Led Zeppelin songs, either), but the ideas behind the Ring cycle promise to be even more interesting than I had expected. For example, I used to see the Wagner memorial in Leipzig when I lived there, but I always thought he had been exiled from Saxony simply for being an (all-) German nationalist. His connection with Bakunin was entirely new to me.

    On fifth Wednesday, I vote for the exclusion of the life force from Western thought.

  185. Oh, and I forgot to mention in my earlier comment: for fifth Wednesday, I’ll vote for the exclusion of the life force from Western thought.


  186. All votes have again been tabulated.

    Viking, oh, most people have very little capacity for independent thought; they think what the people around them think. If one of the people around them is a flaming egotist, they think about him all the time, too.

    Chuaquin, he really does provide the unmentioned soundtrack for our era.

    Degringolade, start with Das Rheingold. Download the free text of the first two operas from Project Gutenberg, with the delectable Arthur Rackham illustrations —

    — which has the complete lyrics in English translation. That way you can follow along and know what you’re listening to. Give it a few listens, and then go on. It’s best taken a bit at a time.

    Patricia M, I doubt they give the obvious answer, which is that economists are usually wrong. 😉

    Anon, and well past its sell-by date!

    Joker, thanks for this.

    Random, in that general vicinity but not close. The version I saw had simple pluses and minuses — +5 for this, -5 for that.

    Aldarion, he was one of the three leaders of the 1849 uprising in Saxony; Bakunin was one of the others. His fans more recently have tended to downplay that .

  187. For fifth Wednesday, I’ll vote for the exclusion of the life force from Western thought (though I really want to vote for something way out of left field for you, which is really hard to come up with!).

    Personally, I’ve always preferred Verdi, oddly enough. Wagner just struck me as something you needed to know music theory or something to really get (or be a snob who wants to stand out from the hoi polloi, or both).

  188. “Marxists have been very concerned to keep that world forgotten, since it offers alternatives to the grim totalitarian state that emerges any time Marxism is applied in practice.”

    I wouldn’t say this is correct. Many Marxists have written (usually – but not always – appreciatively) about pre-Marxian socialism. To give one example, Fredric Jameson writes sympathetically about utopian socialists in the essay collection “Archaeologies of the Future.” It comes to mind in particular because the essay “Fourier, or, Ontology and Utopia” is far more generous to Charles Fourier than the dismissive comment made in passing about him and his “oceans of lemonade” above.

    Frankly, I hardly ever see figures like Fourier, Saint-Simon, and Owen mentioned positively or negatively *except* in books by Marxists and former Marxists. The only exceptions I can think of are intellectual historians (Isaiah Berlin notably made Saint-Simon one of his “enemies of human liberty”) and others on the left, but the latter is not as common as Marxists writing about them, in part because Marx’s relegation of these figures to the “utopian socialism” of the past made them important for later Marxists by making them part of Marxism’s own history, both as prehistory and as resources to draw upon.

    I would guess that you judged what Marxists all thought mainly or entirely from the Manifesto, albeit more for an unrelated reason: because Feuerbach, whom you regard as more or less forgotten, is also well-remembered within Marxism, but what he’s remembered for there is his critique of Hegel (who gets rough treatment in your essay on the basis of nothing more than what Heidegger called *Gerede*) and the influence of his “anthropological” re-interpretation of Hegel on Marx’s earlier writings. For that reason, he later becomes important within Marxism, sometimes as a target of polemic; the controversy over humanism and Althusser’s anti-humanist critique of the Feuerbach and the “Feuerbachian” early Marx (partly as proxies for Marxist humanism) had lasting ramifications for many of the individuals later identified with postmodernism.

    Regardless, it doesn’t make much sense to complain about Marxists wanting the older forms of socialism forgotten because they offer alternatives, then in the next paragraph declaring that these alternatives are impracticable and any such project is impossible unless it’s some variation on a strawman of “actually existing socialism,” given that you essentially validate the supposed malign neglect of “Marxists” as such toward these figures. If anything, your rejection is even more arbitrarily dismissive than any writer in that tradition, out of a reflexive anti-utopianism whose inflections, antipathies, and evasions come across like a hangover from Cold War liberalism.

  189. Here is an amazing resource for anyone interested in music, even for those who not yet interested. David Hurwitz saw the Covid assault descend upon us and made thousands of videos about music to help us get through it—and he continues. It is extraordinary that he seems to recall every recording and performance he has experienced in his decades of intense listening.

    His spiritual conceptions are somewhat stunted so he makes a great counterpoint to JMG.

    Here is one of his many videos on Wagner.

  190. JMG, re: your answer to Viking…

    I.e. the people around a flaming egotist who don’t constantly think about him either have some more capacity for independent thought, or they have a very strong program of their own going on, e.g. are themselves flaming egotists.

    I wonder if there is a lesson there for the current state of our policits and society… 😉


  191. JMG #173: Lol, I’ll admit, you probably have a better read on Wagner than I do.

    Mary Bennett #182: Anything can be corrupted and subverted, and the last century of the Ottoman Empire was a time of decline. To be clear, I wasn’t referring to polygamy in the Mormon sense, which I find distasteful (along with Mormon culture in general). Rather, I meant for harems (varied & exclusive sexual access) to be reserved for those males who earned the right to seed their DNA this way through superior genetics and merit. Can problems happen? Of course, but female hypergamy can also lead to trouble, especially in its optimal form of forming relationships with beta males while cuckolding them with alphas. The fact remains, however, that both harems and hypergamy, the ultimate male and female strategies respectively, tend to disseminate (literally) high quality DNA. Personally I think this should be balanced against the obvious benefits of stable family formation, not merely nuclear families, but extended clans. However, this is all going off on a tangent, and I’m trying to keep this short. Anyway, I’m familiar with Kurosawa’s excellent work, but I haven’t seen Sanjuro yet, will have to check it out.

  192. >I only hope that the people behind the scenes in DC are less foolish than the visible front-men appear to be

    Nah, they’re just as deranged. In a different sort of way but still, foamin’ and fleckin’.

  193. I would like to add my vote for the fifth post. You have mentioned in the past that humanity’s task, in comparison to the Lords of Flame, Lords of Form, and Lords of Mind’s task, is sociology. You mentioned recently that it is Freedom. The two are obviously connected, and no doubt encompass the flip side of both, which is responsibility.

    If it is not too premature to write an essay on this topic, I would love to hear about the evolution of your thoughts, why you think Freedom is our task, and what Freedom must be won from? Would this be a continuation of the path of separation of Mind from Form and Form from Flame, which is freedom from the universal mind? You probably have something else in mind, and I would love to hear your thoughts about it.

  194. >IF economists say the economy is strong, then why do so many of us feel like we’re living in a downturn?

    Economists tend to be ideologically rigid, which binds their thinking. And they also take what the Bureau of Humor and Goalseeking says at face value as well. Those two things almost guarantee they have no real grasp on reality.

    Your own lyin’ eyes are all you got in this era. Look around you, ask shopkeepers what they think, etc. Locally, I’ve never seen so much development and growth. Then again, if you have an interest in one of the few deck chairs above water on the Titanic, that’s your whole world and everybody is desperate to get to your deck chair, you have to conclude that everything is great. Except you zoom out and you realize you’re on – the Titanic.

    Here’s two data points on CA. Livermore. Nice, clean, lots of new construction, although I did notice most of those commercial buildings were empty, no tenants. But a Lambo buzzed by me, so someone’s doing well enough to at least swing the payments. For the moment. Nice and asian, I would characterize it in 2024. Then you land in Bakersfield. Where everything is scrubby and dusty and the hotel clerk has a tatoo of the methamphetamine molecule on his arm. Definitely nobody was celebrating the meth molecule in Livermore. And you take a walk around the corner to the local sandwich shop and it doesn’t get much better. Some young lady was obsessed with Psalm 23, because she had it tattooed on her arm. Definitely no Lambos buzzing around here.

    I’d say what kind of economy you see is really really dependent on where you live, and that aggregate data (even if it isn’t being pushed and tweaked to meet some goal) doesn’t really tell you a good story about what’s happening.

  195. I had the pleasure of seeing some Ring Cycle at the Chicago Lyric maybe late 70s. Didn’t know what I was hearing, very young so many thanks for this posting. 5th Wed anything Jung (at heart).

  196. Hello Mr. Greer,

    I’ve not been keeping up with the tallies at all for a 5th Wednesday topic but, for whatever it’s worth, I’d like to learn about why the life force has been excluded from Western thought. I’ve been learning a lot about the life force recently, so it’d be very appropo for me personally.

    Thank you!

  197. Once again, all votes have been tabulated.

    Doubtful, yes, I figured I’d get a Marxist denunciation out of this. Since you clearly haven’t been reading me, you probably don’t know that I’ve discussed Fourier’s ideas at length here already. If you want to hang around, you’ll find that there are good reasons to talk about pre-Marxist socialism in this context; the mere fact that no socialist system works for long, and most don’t work at all, doesn’t keep socialism from being an important thread in the history of Western culture, and in particular a potent influence on the theme of these posts. I had to chuckle about your grumblings about “reflexive anti-Utopianism;” there’s nothing that shows socialism’s heredity as a fundamentalist Christian heresy more perfectly than the insistence of so many socialists that, despite the unrelieved moonscape of socialist flops and failures over the last two hundred years, all the utopian socialist schemes that fizzled and all the Marxist socialist regimes that marched in lockstep into bloodsoaked tyranny, someday soon your secular version of the Second Coming really will happen and cosmic citric acid, or its equivalent, will surely descend from the skies.

    Moserian, many thanks for this!

    Milkyway, no doubt. 😉

    Darrell, I know the feeling.

    Bruno, and thanks for this also.

  198. Wagner is not my cup of tea but your writing about him certainly is. Thanks for this series.
    For the fifth Wednesday, I vote for the exclusion of the life force from Western thought.

  199. Another surprising Wagnerian vision in pop culture: there’s a Japanese manga/animé-OAV- loosely based in The RIng cycle. I’m talking about one of the “Captain Harlock” stories. If you don’t know it yet, It’s about a space pirate whose adventures lead him and his fellows mainly against the “Amazons”, alien matriarchal evil species.
    However, in the Ring adaptation, enemies are others…
    Space opera mixed with Wagner mythology…a tour de force that I’ve watched some years ago…and I liked it.

  200. The Pilgrims of Plymouth Rock fame initially worked their patch of land communally. Wasn’t working that well despite their shared ideals, small group size, and being bonded through shared hardships, so they divided things up by families. Much more productivity happened.
    The anarchist-syndicalists of Spain before 1940 were non-marxist socialists and had some on the ground practical success but they fell into the trap of persecuting and killing – especially Catholic clergy and devout Catholics. Got defeated by fascists in a nasty on both sides civil war, though the tradition and memory still persists in Spain, especially around Barcelona.

  201. @Of Doubtful Provenance (#205) on “reflexive anti-utopianism”:

    I’ll have you know that my passionate anti-utopianism is not reflexive at all. It is the slow result of life-long exposure to my fellow humans.

    As a professor at a liberal Ivy-league university which has always close ties to the darker and seamier side of the US government, I have seen humanity at its very worst — and, rarely, at its very best — for more than half a century now. In the course of all those years, I have become slowly, but very deeply, convinced that here is no way our species would ever tolerate living in any sort of functioning utopia. It would rather commit collective suicide than change itself in the ways neeeded to build such an unbearable future.

    Late in life I disovered that Immanuel Kant once wrote, Aus so krummen Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz gerades gezimmert werden (1784). Loosely translated, this says, “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.” Wise words from a wise man!

  202. Dear JMG…I just attempted to login to your mundane astrology account, which I thought I had subscribed to for a year— and it had my account info, but wouldn’t allow me to login..It also wouldn’t allow me to sign up again..Perhaps I accidentally signed up for a. month, or something…If that’s the case, please fix it so I can sign up for a year,,,Thanks

  203. @xcalibur/djs (#209):

    What criteria would you propose using to determine whose genetics or merit are “superior” or “high quality”? I do not see any way to objectively determine this. And, frankly, I am somewhat inclined to see any such effort as self-serving pseudo-objectivity — or, to be blunt, as BS.

  204. Uh, why is everyone voting for the EX-clusion of the life force from western thought? Have’nt we had enough of that already? Shouldn’t we be voting for the IN-clusion of the life force in western thought? ; ) ; ) ; )

    Good topic!

  205. JMG #184

    > William Morris

    The name Willam Morris I know, but not in the context you use. I know of William Morris, the British textile artist (home furnishings like curtains, rugs, and throw pillows), late 1800s. I said ‘Nah, can’t be the same guy.’ There has to be several William Morris’. There are roughly ten men by that name in Wiki. So I looked up the book you mentioned that he wrote, which told led me to that it *IS* the same guy. William Morris (1834-1896).

    Gustav Stickley collaborated with William Morris in the Arts & Crafts movement. Morris’ fabric design influence went hand in hand with Stickley’s furniture. Morris’ color palette was earth tones in dusty colors.

    I have been reading about Gustav Stickley’s work, and biographies about him. My husband and I decided that when he gets his woodworking up and running (he already built his workshop), what furniture (and small pieces) he builds will primarily be Stickley reproductions of from Stickley’s heyday: simple, honest, mostly straight lines with the occasional curve—timeless designs. Hubbie created about a hundred stain samples/mixtures to see if we could come up with a quick and easy stain that we could undeniably label “Mission brown.” Mission brown is a rich, medium brown, with layered depth. We came pretty darn close merely using stock stain mixtures. Among the lot, we created three stains (Mission brown, plus two lighter browns), which are now trade secrets.

    The book you mention of Morris’ has a theme of utopia, which I am not into.

    > Schopenhauer was a pessimist who rejected the idea that political change could alter the human condition.

    I would be in Schopenhauer’s camp cuz I believe humans, at best, are forever 51% bad and 49% good and, overall, haven’t been able to overcome be 51% good, nor are they exhibiting any such thing now, nor will they in the future.

    Humans have not learned that Power must be tempered with Compassion.

    Individuals are able to learn to practice compassion, but humans collectively, no, it won’t happen.

    I found it interesting we are referring to the same William Morris. I never would have thought it. In our corner of the world, hubbie and I aim to revive the look and utility of Stickley’s wonderful furniture, piece by piece, assuming we have that many years.

    Stickley never recovered from the demise of the Arts & Crafts movement just prior to World War I. He spent his last twenty-odd years experimenting with stain colors.

    As an aside, I found I am related to Stickley’s wife Eda through her Osterhoudt line. Eda was also related to a Bonawitz (which I have not researched to see if any relation to Isaac Bonewitz). Usually with that rare a surname, everyone is related. I saw you and Isaac giving a fascinating talk at Pema Osel Ling Buddhist center, Santa Cruz County, California, druidgrove (exact name escapes me “danaan”) in summer 2009 a year before Isaac died.

    💨Northwind Grandma💨👵🏼🪑🪟
    Dane County, Wisconsin, USA

  206. Speaking of Marxism, socialism and intentional communities, I came across an odd version of the intentional community, I will dub the ” Hillary Commune.” I was at a 4th of July party put on by an old co-worker of my wife. There I met a couple a couple of folks who had retired from being loyal Dem apparatchiks in the City of Portland Government. As a living solution for their golden years a dozen or so of them had gotten together and built a ” cohousing complex.” They seemed to miss the memo and their co-housing operation consisted of all the same age retired people so the diversity of ages, and economic situations that can potentially make co-housing work was missing.
    But the striking point was this line from one of them. ” It is very eye opening to go from a situation where you have to worry about what is good for you, and instead worry about what is good for the group.” To illustrate this they were very proud of how they had “locked down” the co-housing complex during Covid even though that meant several of the members became delusioned when they were prevented from seeing their children and grandchildren. They seemed smug about how these folks were not a good fit and it was fine they sold their shares and moved on.
    So the reason I call it a Hillary Commune is that it seems that its main purpose was so people who retired from jobs bossing people around could continue to boss other people around well in to old age.

  207. Change of Vote Request.

    I see no takers for my initial 5th Wednesday proposal prompted by curiosity about “right” and “left” as tribal identities.

    As it happens, I share Myriam’s curiosity (#211) in relation to the snippets you have posted here and there, but only very lately, on our swarm’s current undertaking developing the overarching theme of Freedom.

    So, please change my vote, accordingly.

    Thank you. 🙂

  208. I put both topics out there in case others were interested. As for myself, my vote this month is for the question of the Marxist ideologies’ perennial appeal.

  209. JMG,

    Thanks for this. You have officially done the impossible and made me curious about opera, Wagner and Mozart in particular. Given my poor white trash upbringing, it has never been a subject I even considered being interested in. My tastes normally run from Tim Mcgraw to Metallica, plus a bit of Beethoven, but I am going to have to discover this for myself. It’s a shame that in modern life, we are too busy living in our culture to actually know it.
    No wonder we’ve lost our way .

  210. I don’t know much about opera or Wagner, though like others, I watched plenty of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and the gang over the years. I always loved the opera spoofs, though, as a kid, I knew nothing about Wagner, classical music, or opera. Looking back, one realizes how smart and clever all those cartoons were. Beats that D company by miles.

    Flight of the Valkyries in Apocalypse Now was the first time I actually had heard of Wagner. In recent years, I’ve heard some Wagner pieces on our local (LA area) classical music radio station and do enjoy the big bombastic brass, better than most of the other, um, syrupy Romance era artists. (Apologies to Romance era fans.)

    Anyway, looking forward to the series, though I hope it doesn’t detract too much or long from all your other subject matter. I am grateful for the breadth and variety of topics you write about so well. Great fun.

    Fifth Wednesday vote: I’ll throw my vote in with the Hitler as archetype crowd; seems like it would fit in quite well with Wagner.

    Thanks again for all you do.

  211. Count my vote in for “exclusion of life force from Western thought”

  212. Once again, all votes have been counted; Scotlyn, your change of vote has been registered.

    Chuaquin, hmm! Interesting. It’s been a very long time since I read it, but I seem to recall a lot of Wagnerian themes in Jack Katz’s legendary underground graphic novel The First Kingdom, with the hero Tundran a stand-in for Siegfried and the gods of Helleas Voran having as much of Valhalla as of Olympus in them. So Wagnerian space opera makes perfect sense.

    BeardTree, quite a few Christian groups have been inspired by the collective-ownership bit in the Acts of the Apostles to try the same thing. It can work, but only when there’s very strict religious leadership and everyone is content with poverty — here again, monasticism is the archetype. As for syndicalism, it can also work, though democratic syndicalism tends to do a better job than the anarchist type.

    Pyrrhus, hmm! I have nothing to do with the day-to-day function of the sites — please contact whichever of the two companies, Patreon or SubscribeStar, you’re using. They should be able to help you get the glitch out of the way.

    Northwind, yes, it’s the same William Morris. The guy was a fantastically creative person, practically a force of nature. Did you know that when he got old and his health was failing, so he had to give up the more strenuous sort of art, he invented modern fantasy fiction just to give himself something to do? It’s true; The Wood Beyond the World, the first of his four fantasy novels, was the first modern novel to take place in an imaginary country full of magic and medieval derring-do. As for Isaac, ah, you were at that event — my last west coast pagan event, thank the gods. I hope you enjoyed it.

    Clay, that’s too funny. It’s not surprising, though — retreating into intentional communities is one way that failed political movements cope.

    BobinOK, if you like Beethoven, Wagner isn’t too far of a jump — he was a serious Beethoven fan. You might also like Beethoven’s one opera, Fidelio — a fine lively piece of work, and very listenable. Oh, and “What’s Opera, Doc.” And other things we’ll be getting to…

    Will1000, we’re going to be spending a while with Wagner, several months at least, but I’m sure the world will get along without me just fine in the meantime.

  213. for BobInOk and Will1000, about opera, it might help if you realize that opera was popular entertainment. It was soap operas set to music. One of my complaints about Wagner is his over intellectualization of what was a perfectly good kind of entertainment for everyone. You might consider beginning with Carmen and Tosca, both of which are tragedies, no puppies and rainbows sentimentalism here. Both have famous, excellent tunes, us buffs call them arias, but ‘tunes’ will do, and both require a good orchestra and great singers. Think Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin level of singing and Lee Hazlewood/ Billy Short level of conducting and arranging. For a fun, nearly perfect romantic comedy, try Fille de Regiment, which also requires fantastic singing from both principals.

    excalibur/djs, I would like to see some examples of those assertions you are making. Just because a person asserts something like hypergamy is the ultimate female strategy does not make that statement true nor has it been established merely because no one challenged it. Among the women I have known, I have seen many different strategies. Some ladies wanted fun and excitement but no permanent partner, others wanted a lifetime soulmate, and still others wanted to be left alone. I also fail to see how the accident of being born into an upper class family makes a man a superior being who deserves all the available females. You might try asking ladies of your acquaintance how many of them would trade lives of adult independence for being kept in secluded luxury, knowing that the successful claimant to the throne would likely have all his siblings killed.

  214. Hello JMG, I appreciated the post and will spend some time listening to a bit of Wagner (my own upbringing and musical tastes are pretty similar to BobinOK’s, but I can play at being cultured for a few months).

    There are a lot of topics I’d like to see you write about for the 5th Wednesday but I’m going to vote for more on the Lords of Freedom.

  215. @Robert Mathiesen #223 – right on! People who carry on about “superior genetics” generally have a very narrow view thereof. The best statement of what that means in practice is Leslie Fish’s “Better than who?” Which notes “I have these talents, you have others,” etc, and concludes “So it’s better to say we’re all born equal and leave the rest to the Gods.” (She’s Heathen.) Plus -how many people in this world have what seem like undesirable conditions – yes, including various “mental illnesses” and oddball brain wiring” and offsetting special gifts? Well, I don’t have to prove anything along those lines to this crowd. Anyway, bravo!

    @JMG: Thanks for the Project Gutenberg link. Will also try to get the graphic novel of Rheingold in print.

    @JMG – For 5th Wednesday, I vote for the Decline and Fall (or future of) the Catholic Church. And OT: but FYI: the Southern Baptist Convention – the largest denomination in the United States -has firmly and publicly set its face against the Christian Nationalist Movement and in favor of freedom of religion. Data Point from down here: I know of a few former Methodists who, back in 2019, started attending Baptist services because, as one old woman said, “We’re here to worship God, not to play kindergarten games.” However, the local United Methodist Church is going strong 5 years later, so we may be talking a temporary and local aberration such as a pastor who didn’t work out.

  216. Chuaquin,
    Funny you should mention Rammstein as they are the modern day equivalent of Wagner. They get accused of being Nazis when they are in fact on the left. They also are massively popular but with very problematic behaviours – in their case using fans as sex toys. I found this article

    “It was a nice idea by conductor Marcel Mandos to bring together music by Wagner and Rammstein in one concert. […] The two sold-out concerts in February of this year had to be cancelled. Rammstein did not want to be associated with Wagner because of his anti-Semitism.”

    JMG, I vote for the Austrian fanboy as archetype. He really has done a number on the collective imagination of Western civilisation.

  217. Here’s a longtime classical music listener’s question about Wagner. Oddly, classical music stations rarely or never play full Wagner operas. They are just too long. Yes, you get some highlights, some of the famous parts. We even played a band arrangement of the Love-Death from Tristan & Isolde way back in high school. I’ve listened to some complete operas; Mozart, Verdi, Bellini. And I have two sets of the complete “I Puritani” by Bellini, obviously my favorite. I’ve heard bits and pieces of Richard Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier.” It includes long sections of recitatif which, to me, are not at all musical. So my question about Wagner’s “Ring” is, does the complete production have long sections of recitatif?

  218. Looking forward to this series, even though in purely musical terms I never liked Wagner very much. But he sure had a talent for sniffing out the myths shaping Faustian civilisation! In a nice little synchronicity, the Plato reading group I frequent has just discussed the passage about the Ring of Gyges (Republic II.359a-360d). Also, I live within walking distance of the Rhine, and there are local legends about Siegfried having killed Fafner just across the river.

    My vote for the fifth Wednesday (or should I say ‘Wotan’s day’?) topic goes to the life force and its exclusion from Western thought.

  219. I have one question which I hope is not too tangential, since you announced we would accompany Wagner’s change of political opinions over the course of the Ring cycle.

    At #64 you responded to gnat: ‘As for “left” and “right,” I notice that many people, like you, seem to want to make them correspond to some kind of abstract principles. They’re not abstract principles — they’re tribal affiliations. Look at the people who call themselves one or the other, and draw your own conclusions.’

    It’s been a while that I asked here a question along these lines: The word “left” is being used in several different and often conflicting meanings (e.g. pro-LGBT, pro-nationalization of industries, pro-immigration, pro-welfare state, in favor of higher minimum wage etc.). Is there some core meaning of this word, or does it come down simply to “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”?

    At the time, I received answers from yourself and from a commenter who has meanwhile gone away (a born Mormon with an interest in composing classical music). As far as I recall, one (or both) of you told me that “left” stood for a claim to be universalist, while “right” recognized the priority of supporting one’s own family, one’s own nationality etc. over other claims.

    Now I don’t remember if it was you who gave that suggestion. Do you in fact consider that there is some content to the words “left” and “right”, or is your response to gnat above your only definition?

    My own attempt at a definition is that a leftist politician is somebody who both calls himself a leftist (a tribal affiliation) and improves the relative prosperity of the poorer half of the population. A leftist non-politician would be somebody who votes for and supports such politics.

    It seems to me that it is easy, in any case, to call the young Wagner a leftist, since he was friends with Bakunin and admired Proudhon, who in turn admired the radical phase of the French Revolution; and since he apparently favoured some form of expropriation (I hope to learn more about that in the next essay). Of course, that doesn’t mean I sympathize with him. On the other hand, it makes no sense to me to call Hitler “leftist” since he continually (except, in part, from 1939 to 1941) attacked socialists and especially Bolsheviki as his main enemies, while mingling with conservative donors and politicians. His war preparations reduced unemployment, and his government instituted some workers’ benefits, while at the same time maintaining and reinforcing the position of the rich, so I see some merit in your paradoxical definition of Hitler as centrist.

  220. Clay Dennis @226..

    So, the Co-Housings of the KAREN’S*. Sounds like quite the horror.. and since the City of Portland be surrounded by a variety of undulating terrain, might as well have the double feature ..with ‘The Hillaries have Eyes’.. no? ‘;]

    *and yes, Shame on ‘THEM!’ .. let’s hope they don’t pupate any more, uh .. ‘like members’..

    OK, enough of the tacky movie references.

  221. JMG you predicted this – a conversation I saw quoted on a Substack. It’s from a conversation between two prominent – at least on the web- Eastern Orthodox Christians.

    “I mention to Pageau that an Orthodox friend at a booming parish in the American South tells me that they are swamped by young converts coming out of neo- paganism— and that this presents a huge challenge to clergy unprepared for it. . . . . . . . . . . .
    ‘Priests and pastors are going to have to deal with it, because people have been living in that world,” he replies. “You are going to have people come to your church and say that they want to be Christian, and they have been worshiping Odin and sacrificing animals. You are going to have people who have taken massive amounts of psychedelics and had encounters with beings that have ruined them. Those are the kinds of people who are going to be coming to the church— and we aren’t ready for it.’ “

  222. @Anonymous Today

    > So here’s the context. My brother called me today to ask me about leaving the country. (That’s why I’m anonymous today, no posting family details on the interwebs) He’s worried that the US government might not survive this election.

    This notion (also of preppers) has always been bizarre to my european sentiment. It’s all about the indidividual saving themselves or their immediately family. Never about fighting against the ill, or helping a wider community survive.

    This is even more eggregious in the context of things like “nuclear war”. Like, what exactly is the plan? To survive like a cockroach? If millions of my people are struct, I’m standing with them. I’m not even considering going alone anymore than I would take a lifeboat off of the Titanic for myself and left the boat and others to die.

  223. @John Micahel Greer “Before then, antisemitism and other forms of ethnic prejudice were just as common on the left as on the right — the racism of the early US labor union movement, for example, is well documented.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure the importance of the soviet influence in this, or the idea that “antisemitism and other forms of ethnic prejudice were just as common on the left as on the right”.

    Especially since a hell of a lot of leftist leaders and thinkers, as well as a good chunk of union leaders, were Jewish themselves.

    And there’s a long history of left-leaning fighting against Jim Crow, and seggregation, and such before the Second World War, including by unions, all the way back to the late 19th century (the Knight of Labor, the AFL and others for example). But backtracking on that or making compromises (like separate black union sections, or downplaying the black issue) were also a tactical necessity at the time – especially in the South. In any case, unions made strides in black inclusivity way beyond WWII and general society.

    It’s perhaps more accurate to say that the “early labor union” membership reflected the division of opinion towards race in the general population, but on the less racist side. If the general sentiment was 20%-80%, in the unions it could be 40%-60% (numbers pulled out of rear end, just trying to convey the idea of a not necessarily perfectly englightened on race issues, but still skewing to the less-racy).

  224. I’m so excited for the Wagner series! And, as far as the 5th Wednesday goes, I want the Hitler essay – as others have said he fits in nicely with Wagner anyway.

  225. Don’t know much about Wagner, so this post makes me realise that Nietzsche’s two main influences were both epic jerks (Schopenhauer and Wagner). Nietzsche seems to have borrowed the jerk tone, especially in his later writings, but I always had the feeling he was doing it ironically. I vaguely recall a passage where he talks about how young men can be sucked in by that kind of thing. Perhaps that was an autobiographical insight.

    As for Bugs Bunny opera cartoons, surely the Rabbit of Seville is the best – (although I admit to liking Rossini a lot more than Wagner).

  226. Ari, glad to hear you’re giving it a try. Wagner was wildly popular entertainment back in the day — the Ring was the Star Wars of its generation.

    Patricia M, I’m delighted to hear it. Yay for the Southern Baptists, in fact.

    Phutatorius, not exactly. Wagner didn’t do the standard segmental operatic structure of arias, group pieces, and choral pieces separated by recitative — he did entire operas as musical units, with much of the singing somewhere between recitative and aria, sometimes veering one way and sometimes the other.

    Robert, I’ve wondered for a long time whether the Ring of Gyges was in there somewhere in the heredity of Wagner’s ring.

    Aldarion, I’ve come to see the labels “left” and “right” as purely tribal in nature. One of these days, when I really want to upset people, I’ll do a post on that awkward label “national socialist” and show how very centrist it was.

    BeardTree, yep. They’d better brace themselves, because it’s going to be a flood.

    European, au contraire, I’m quite sure of it. Did you know that the single most influential European antisemitic writer at the turn of the last century, Otto Weininger, was Jewish? Or that the Knights of Labor actively fought against the admission of black workers into factories? The world was much, much more complicated then than current morality plays like to claim.

    Simon, I don’t see Schopenhauer as an epic jerk. An epic grouch, I’ll grant you!

  227. Please add my vote to the tally for an essay on the Austrian Mustache Man. It would indeed be a fine fit for your series on Wagner, IMHO.

  228. John Michael Greer replied, in post #216:

    “I had to chuckle about your grumblings about “reflexive anti-Utopianism;” there’s nothing that shows socialism’s heredity as a fundamentalist Christian heresy more perfectly than the insistence of so many socialists that, despite the unrelieved moonscape of socialist flops and failures over the last two hundred years, all the utopian socialist schemes that fizzled and all the Marxist socialist regimes that marched in lockstep into bloodsoaked tyranny, someday soon your secular version of the Second Coming really will happen and cosmic citric acid, or its equivalent, will surely descend from the skies.”

    JMG, I cannot tell you how hard this made me laugh! Along with your amazing breadth of knowledge, and intellectual acumen, you have a wonderful(ly biting) sense of humor.

    Aside from that aside, I have literally nothing I can add to this discussion of Wagner and his Ring Cycle, although I have read your post and every subsequent comment with great interest. You are the Carl Sagan of philosophy and the liberal arts, minus his grandiose pomposity.

  229. Schopenhauer, kant, at Alia, and not to forget folks from long ago e.g., gerard manly Hopkins etc et Al… thank you sir for stirring up the pot in my recollections and encouraging me to step forward and pay attention again even though I would prefer to figure out how to deal with the last decade of my life as I got old Somewhere along this line

  230. Mr. Greer, thank you for a fascinating introduction to what promises to be a wild ride through the past, present and future of the European civilisation, all through the lens of Wagner. I confess to not knowing anything about his music besides the blatant rip-off that is the Star Wars soundtrack, a gap in my education that I intend to remedy during the course of this series.

    I would like to understand more about the threads of thought that form the philosophical pattern of the Ring cycle as compared to that of Europe itself. From the introductory essay, I gather that Wagner’s Nibelung world draws on Nordic mythology, Feuerbach and Schopenhauer. Feuerbach’s thought appears to be ultimately derived from Christianity, whereas Schopenhauer was strongly influenced by Hinduistic and Buddhist philosophy. As far as I gather, the mainstream view of the European civilisation is that its core consists of Hellenistic philosophy melded with Judeo-Christian religion. Eastern philosophies and Nordic mythologies are not generally seen as key formative influences on Europe. How well does the mix of ideas that influenced Wagner the most correspond to traditions that formed the European civilisation as it is? And how well does his Nibelung Ring model of Europe describe the real thing?

    For the fifth Wednesday topic, a vote for me on the factors that led to the exclusion of life force as a legitimate subject for Western science.

    Many greetings!

  231. >Christian groups have been inspired by the collective-ownership bit in the Acts of the Apostles to try the same thing. It can work, but only when there’s very strict religious leadership and everyone is content with poverty

    I suspect even then, there was a very distinct upper bound of how many people could do it without it blowing apart. That’s my criticism of all those collectivist schemes – they don’t scale and they are incredibly vulnerable to bad actors. Add too many people or the wrong kind, and BOOM. The Soviet Union managed to hold together for longer than most of those schemes but I would also mention something about Russian brutality and autism.

    But I could see a system where small groups of collectives participated in a larger market based economy. I think that could work without blowing itself apart.

  232. “National Socialist” or Nazi, a post on how centrist it was in aspects? – yes, for any lie to succeed there has to be truth mixed into it as part of the package.
    I love the Marxist saying “from each according to their ability to each according to their need” may happen in a family or clan level, a good neighborly village or a smallish church/synagogue/mosque/religious group. – The small face to face tribe level, even then a challenge due to the vagaries of human nature but scaling up through centralized control and enforcement – ouch results in practice.

  233. Again, I’ve got everyone’s votes tabulated. For what it’s worth, the exclusion of the life force from the Western worldview, Jung and occultism, and Hitler as archetype have pulled out far ahead of the others. If any of you whose nominations didn’t make that cut want to change your vote, you may, but please tell me what you voted for previously.

    Alan, glad you enjoyed it. I could be dull, but why bother? 😉

    Soko, we’ll get to all of these things as this cycle of posts continues.

    Other Owen, sure. Most families have collective ownership of goods and work together on the socialist principle of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.” You can scale that up somewhat beyond the family level, but even in families you have to have some kind of arrangement for who makes the final decision and who can punish those who won’t obey those decisions. The bigger such a scheme becomes the more authoritarian the leadership gets and the more brutal the punishments become, or the whole system falls apart — and even so, you can’t take it that far.

    (Hmm. It occurs to me that one of the keys to the appeal of socialism might be that it covertly claims to allow people to revert to childhood and nestle back down in a world that’s just one big cozy family. Among other things, that would explain the fairytale quality of so much socialist rhetoric. I can so easily imagine Mommy sitting the kids down before bedtime, opening their favorite storybook, and reading aloud: “Once upon a time, there was a big, bad Capitalist…”)

    BeardTree, that I’ll grant, so long as you add that every political system whatsoever must be founded on some mixture of truth and lies.

  234. “Aldarion, I’ve come to see the labels “left” and “right” as purely tribal in nature.”

    “…there’s nothing that shows socialism’s heredity as a fundamentalist Christian heresy more perfectly than the insistence of so many socialists that, despite the unrelieved moonscape of socialist flops and failures over the last two hundred years, all the utopian socialist schemes that fizzled and all the Marxist socialist regimes that marched in lockstep into bloodsoaked tyranny, someday soon your secular version of the Second Coming really will happen….”

    In a roundabout way this has been very helpful to me. A few posts ago in the midst of a wee rant, I realised that not only am I a fundamentalist Christian heretic (by birth), I am also a socialist heretic (by tribal affiliation)… And part of my heresy, in both cases, consists in being willing and able to befriend and be counseled by people from other tribes. 😉

    It seems that, once one can take a good, objective look at one’s connections and affiliations, then one can proceed to “individuate” – but not before.

    There is much to think on here… and apologies for digression.

    Getting back to the post, with its mention of lemonade oceans, I have to say, that particular aspiration seems not at all unlike Midas’s aspiration to acquire the golden “touch”… which is to say, beware what you wish for… as you may get it… 😉

  235. I vote for the Austrian corporal with the moustache and how he’s become the archetype of Absolute Evil in our culture.

  236. JMG, Are you familiar with the two so called ,” Rock Opera’s” by The Who? I had never thought of it before, but both, : Quadrophenia and Tommy seem much more Wagnarian than Verdi or Pucini. They are certainly heavy and pompous, but I am not not familiar enough with the Ring to say that with any authority.
    If so that is another way beyond bugs bunny and “Apocalypse Now” that Wagner has had an effect on modern culture.

  237. I’m going to put in my vote for old uncle H.
    BTW, whatever actually happened to the hippies that they all gave it up? Why isn’t that really a thing anymore? It seems like it should be.

  238. Dang JMG, you messed up again trying to ditch the lot of us, sorry it didn’t work out! I carry the same sentiment as other readers, love the subject and direction. Thank you.

  239. Wonderful essay, as always. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series. For the fifth Wednesday I’d also like to cast my vote for The Rise and Fall (and Future) of the Roman Catholic Church. I think would be especially relevant given the recent excommunication of Archbishop Vigano.

  240. I’d like to vote for “Hitler as archetype” for the 5th Wednesday topic.

  241. JMG #233:
    I didn’t know there’s a graphic novel named “The First Kingdom” about Wagnerian/Nordic mythology, too. I’m taking note now…
    Rammstein guys are synonymous of controversy, because of their “cool-bad-boys” life style. thank you for the link.
    Do you remember the Boorman`s ‘Excalibur’ movie? In its ending minutes and the end credits, there’s an explicit -emphatic- Wagnerian soundtrack; here’s the reference:

  242. JMG my vote for the 5th Wed this month is the factors that led to the exclusion of life force as a legitimate subject for Western science.

    Thanks Tom

  243. @JMG – I’ll now vote for Jung and Occultism.

    Previously I nominated Fortune’s Magical Battle of Britain as a topic. I’ll nominate it again next time.

  244. Everyone’s votes have been tabulated. At this point, Hitler and the life force are tied. This inspires two thoughts: first, that “Hitler and the Life Force” sounds like a rock band in an alternative timeline; second, that whichever one wins, there are very good reasons why I’m going to have to mention the other in the resulting post.

    Scotlyn, if anything I’ve written has got you and others thinking, then it’s accomplished its purpose.

    Clay, hmm! Yes, I am — more so with Tommy than with Quadrophenia, but yes to both. I’m also familiar with some other works in the same genre: Jesus Christ Superstar and Pink Floyd’s The Wall come to mind, and I’d say both of those have a strong Wagnerian quality as well, so your point stands.

    Synthase, oddly enough, I’ll be talking about that later in this sequence of posts, because the same thing happened to the European radical scene of the 1840s.

    Sheila, I can only try. 😉

    Chuaquin, The First Kingdom isn’t strictly Wagnerian or Nordic, but it’s strongly influenced by those as well as Greek mythology. It’s a very strange, lurid, intensely personal underground comic epic.

  245. As much as I’d personally be more interested in and prefer the other two topics under close contention, my vote for this month’s fifth Wednesday post is the discussion of Adolf Hitler.

    I’d like that one to be finally written so we can stop having to contend with it for all the other interesting topics that have also been roiling around here and it’s just going to keep coming up until it gets its day in the sun anyway. I agree that getting it out of the way early on in the Wagner series is probably a good way to let that energy go. Unless you want it to build up for some reason! 🙂

  246. Re: @Scotlyn 105 & 227 and @miriyam 211
    I know I’m late (as usual, relative to this forum these days…) but I wanted to note that perhaps the theme suggested in 105 of left and right, tribal identity and political theory is not an entirely different theme from the responsibility to articulate a sociology of Freedom in this time. I’m quite interested in the trajectories of the left and right and the possibility of their disintegration into a new axis of measurement centered on autonomy. Like 30 years ago the right’s appearance of ‘freedom-loving’ was a sham based when it came to imposition of corporate authority on other local people— dropping a foreign industrial corridor from Puebla to Panama against the wishes of locals would be a classic example, freedom for me (everywhere) but not for thee (even at home). Similarly I interpret like bitchy HOA-like small town yard policing to be a project of ‘order’ from the right. But now the so-called ‘progressive’ left is also all about enforcing policies against local wishes, this time supposedly for the protection of minority classes. So, a Freedom-producing sociology has to address the control urges of ‘both sides’ which are both draped in a false flag of faux-Freedom.

  247. If I may, I will change my vote to the inclusion of the life force in western thought… but uf we have to discuss why it has been excluded first, I understand.

    Any Scriabin fans lurking around here?

    I will be looking forward to a discussion, hopefully, if Wagner’s conception of the gesamkuntswerk as we proceed.

  248. Hello JMG,
    I would be very interested in a post about Józef Maria Hoene-Wroński.
    But since I just read #255 above I will instead vote for “the exclusion of the life force from the Western worldview.”

  249. JMG,
    No worries. Upon re-reading the essay, I’m sure your Wagner series will be full of all kinds of fascinating ins and outs, ups and downs, involving a Wagnerian cast of characters and intrigue – always enlightening. Grateful to be a part of this commentariat and partake in the whole wonderful journey. I’ve learned a lot from you and so many of the commenters. I’m staying for the long haul.

    Thank you for your perspective, helps to make things relatable. I will look into your recommendations. I expect that I’ve heard excerpts of those on our classic radio station. Hopefully, can find some worthwhile quality recordings.

    Salud to all.

  250. Hello! I have little to say about Wagner, or opera in general, but looking forward to the series nonetheless. As for 5th Wednesday, please add my vote for removal of the Life Force concept from Western worldview.

  251. Clay, hmm! Yes, I am — more so with Tommy than with Quadrophenia, but yes to both. I’m also familiar with some other works in the same genre: Jesus Christ Superstar and Pink Floyd’s The Wall come to mind, and I’d say both of those have a strong Wagnerian quality as well, so your point stands.

    I went saw Jesus Christ Superstar a couple of months ago, and I question whether it pulled from opera at all.

  252. “the Marxist saying “from each according to their ability to each according to their need””

    The part that gets left out is the problem. Who determines my ability? Who decides what I need? A bureaucrat 2000 miles away who lives in a big city in a completely different climate zone?

    As to fifth Wednesday, I’m going to go with Hitler too. The Japanese did truly horrible things with just as much enthusiasm, but they have gotten a pass, even Unit 731. Why? Was it solely because the Japanese did not target a certain religion?

    The life force issue is interesting too, but the short answer to that question is that modern science can’t measure it, so it’s not interesting. Robert Pirsig wrote a book about how unmeasurable things don’t fair well in a technological society. The Non-overlapping Magisteria of Steven Gould makes basically the same point.

  253. JMG,

    if the two topic are so tied (Hitler’s rancid magnetic chain and supression of vital force) I’ll vote for post on either.
    If only one needs to win, I’ll vote for supression of the magnetic fluid by “serious” and “scientific” society.


  254. Another thing I ought to have brought up earlier in the week: speaking of graphic novels, Alex Alice is a French artist who wanted to make an animated adaptation of The Ring, but alas, he only ever had the chance to make this lovely trailer, for those who do videos:

    When he lost the chance to make the film, he went ahead and produced a three-part graphic novel adaptation instead, which is gorgeous, but I haven’t had a chance to read yet. Unfortunately, it’s a bit hard to track down reasonably-priced copies, and I didn’t get mine until earlier this year. They’re called Siegfried, Valkyrie, and Ragnarok.


  255. Please add my vote for Life force (erased by) the West, perhaps adding in ideas about reviving life force.

    In light of right and left, here is an article that addresses it from a leftist standpoint:

    Anti-war and anti-monopoly, pro-environment/labor seem to be on opposite sides these days, as well as tyranny by regulations vs tyranny by monopoly/oligopoly. Maybe also via the courts, with enforcement favoring those who can buy the best lawyers and judges…

  256. I have just finished reading the translated librettos for Rheingold and Valkyrie, which you linked to above on the Gutenberg site.

    I must say that the dialogue between Brunhilde and Wotan at the end of Valkyrie is a very extended reflection on one of your common themes – the divided will.

    I have just found the follow on librettos for Siegfried and Twilight of the Gods, here, if anyone else is following along this way:

  257. European Reader, thank you for your words to Anonymous and your advice about getting oneself and family out of trouble, screw everybody else – a recurring topic in this comment section, it seems.
    I feel the same way and this actually informs even how I feel about migration and solidarity with popular struggles; as a general rule I am much more inclined to want to help people fighting for freedom on their own land, than refugees.

  258. All votes have once again been counted.

    Will1000, we’ll be covering some fairly odd territory as we proceed. I hope you enjoy it.

    Tlong0038, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion!

    Siliconguy, and that’s exactly where socialism breaks down. Utopian socialism generally assumes that everyone will just up and turn out to have the right mix of abilities and needs — Fourier made that a formal principle of his system, which is why all those hundreds of Fourierist communes failed so dismally. Marxist socialism assigns those determinations to bureaucratic apparatchiks, without ever considering the possibility that human ignorance, arrogance, and greed will inevitably get into the game, which is why Marxist regimes fail so dismally.

    Jeff, hmm! I’ll keep my eye open for those.

    Gardener, thanks for this.

    Scotlyn, it is indeed. I’m fairly sure it was that part of that opera that clued in all those late 19th and early 20th century occultists to that problem.

  259. @European Reader (#244):

    Very well said! American that I am, I see this issue as you do, and I think many of my age-mates in the Silent Generation do so, too. We will stand, live or die, with our fellows rather than run to save ourselves.

    For me this is the greatest of all the obvious differences between Silents and Boomers: putting others first vs. putting oneself first. And I never could understand, at the time, how that difference developed. [Now, in retrospect, I think it was connected with the very obvious change, at the same time, from regarding ourselves as “citizens” to regarding ourselves as “consumers”; and I blame that on the rise of TV asdvertising. We Silent-Generation folks mostly had no TVs in our homes when we were children.]

    In my 8th grade Latin class at Berkeley, on the last day of class our teacher, Mrs. McCurdy, took the time to read aloud to her class Thomas Babington Macaulay’s long poem, “Horatius at the Bridge.” I was particularly struck by Horatius’s words when the enemy was at the very gates of Rome:

    Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
    “To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;
    And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
    For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods,

    “And for the tender mother who dandled him to rest,
    And for the wife who nurses his baby at her breast,
    And for the holy maidens who feed the eternal flame,
    To save them from false Sextus, that wrought the deed of shame?

    “Hew down the bridge, Sir Consul, with all the speed ye may!
    I, with two more to help me, will hold the foe in play.
    In yon strait path, a thousand may well be stopped by three:
    Now, who will stand on either hand and keep the bridge with me?”

    [Two other Romans volunteer to stand with him …]

    For Romans in Rome’s quarrel spared neither land nor gold,
    Nor son nor wife, nor limb nor life, in the brave days of old.

    Then none was for a party; then all were for the state;
    Then the great man helped the poor, and the poor man loved the great.
    Then lands were fairly portioned; then spoils were fairly sold:
    The Romans were like brothers in the brave days of old.

    Now Roman is to Roman more hateful than a foe,
    And the Tribunes beard the high, and the Fathers grind the low.
    As we wax hot in faction, in battle we wax cold:
    Wherefore men fight not as they fought in the brave days of old.

    After school let out, I actually stopped by a used book store on my way home and bought a copy of Macaulay’s Lays of Ancient Rome for myself. Over the next week or two I committed the whole poem to memory, all 70 stanzas of it. I still remember most of it word for word, and could easily restore my memory of the rest by rereading the poem a couple of times.

    Thank you, Mrs. McCurdy!

  260. I will change my vote from the Lords of Freedom to Hitler as an archetype.

  261. Siliconguy, about Japanese getting a pass for their wartime record, I agree that what you said is part of the reason. It has been written, IDK where, but in more than one place, that a Jewish businessman made a deal with Hitler that in return for a specified some of money, Adolph would permit the emigration of Jews from Germany. The overjoyed go-between travelled to Switzerland to raise the ransom only, or so the story goes, to be told by various Jewish members of the banking fraternity, Rothchilds were mentioned by name, that the plan was to let the Nazis persecute the “little Jews”. Their suffering would persuade the Western Democracies to allow Jewish settlement of Palestine. In fairness, I doubt anyone anticipated the full horror of what was about to happen.
    Our host has more than once referred to American upper classes believing themselves to be Europeans. I think that right after WWII, there was shocked sentiment throughout upper class USA about how could Our People do such things. Don’t forget how virulently racist American society was in the mid-20thC. Atrocities unthinkable, or so it had been believed, to a civilized European were only to be expected from Asians.

  262. Siliconguy #275
    ““the Marxist saying “from each according to their ability to each according to their need”
    The part that gets left out is the problem. Who determines my ability? Who decides what I need? A bureaucrat 2000 miles away who lives in a big city in a completely different climate zone?”

    Here is an article showing that this saying has long roots, some of which are biblical… (which may be a point in favour of JMG’s theory that socialism is a fundamentalist Christian heresy)… but it also contains a fascinating factoid which I had not previously been aware of. Apparently, a large number of Americans believe that “from each according to their ability to each according to their need” is enshrined in the US Constitution.

    That said, when we take the phrase entirely out of the domain of theory, and also out of the prescriptive domain of “ought”, and actually look at the practices described by this short phrase. we can see that such practices are continually in operation, in the real world, in appropriate circumstances and contexts all of us might find ourselves in from time to time. Even canny business owners are quite aware of the efficiency of the practice described by this phrase, as David Graeber has pointed out, because “if you really care about getting something done, the most efficient way to go about it is obviously to allocate tasks by ability and give people whatever they need to do them.”

    Trying to turn practice into theory, and theory into prescription is where it all goes south… so… personally I’ll stay well away from that. 😉

  263. @V.O.G #268,

    “I’d like that one to be finally written so we can stop having to contend with it for all the other interesting topics that have also been roiling around here and it’s just going to keep coming up until it gets its day in the sun anyway.”

    lol! Following this week’s comments and especially the contest about the fifth Wed post, I was struck by the random thought that if Hitler hadn’t existed, somebody would have had to invent him – otherwise there’d be a huge, gaping Hitler-sized hole that would, somehow, need to be filled. 😉

    I’m wondering what exactly that hole is, and why it needs to be filled so badly…

    Milkyway, who’ll stick with her vote for “mystery initiations” just because! 😛

  264. >allow people to revert to childhood and nestle back down in a world that’s just one big cozy family

    Or perhaps it appeals to people who have the intellectual and emotional development of a child? I’m not sure what logical fallacy it is, but it’s the one that goes “It works at the small scale, so it will work at the large scale too”. There don’t seem to be a whole lot of people that can grasp that if you scale something up, you can sometimes get something very very different than what you started with.

    Like you start with a happy family and you scale it up and you get secret police and mass graves.

  265. >The part that gets left out is the problem. Who determines my ability? Who decides what I need? A bureaucrat 2000 miles away who lives in a big city in a completely different climate zone?

    You get the idea that Marx was a big idea man, the details were for someone else to work out. The details were beneath him. Although you would think with a book of the heft of Das Kapital, he’d focus a little bit on the details. In any case, I bet if you were to ask him about these details, he would start getting very angry at you and shout at you to shut up. Probably while hitting you over the head with Das Kapital, I’m guessing.

    The Soviet Union answered some of your questions. Gosplan decided some of these things. And they were about as good at it as you suspect.

  266. JMG,

    I dunno, pushing your landlady down the stairs qualifies for entry into the Jerk Club in my book.

    By the way, I know you don’t watch movies, so I’m guessing you haven’t seen The Big Lebowski, but it has a very Wagnerian scene in the middle with the Dude’s love interest, Maude, dressed as a valkyrie –

    The film also has a subtle tip of the hat to Schopenhauer in the characters of the German nihilists who, even though they are nihilists, still spend the whole movie trying to get ze money.

  267. For sure. I’ve been reading ADR, Galabes, Ecosophia, Dreamwidth, and a bunch of your books since 2012 and we’ve covered lots of odd territory over the years. So, I’m game. I appreciate how you put everything into the context, currents, and influences of the time including such things as astrology, numerology, geomancy, etc. You recognize it all and give it fair treatment. Wagner, Spengler, and others weren’t just out there in isolated vacuums, they were part of the “conversation” interacting with all of the stuff around them. Just as we are today, though most people don’t seem to recognize the mélange we are part of.

  268. Casting a vote for Hitler as archetype.
    The question of antisemitism is the US is currently complicated by the Fundamentalist Christian support of the state of Israel, not because they like Jews but because their beliefs re the End Times and Second Coming of Christ require the Jews to be in the Holy Land. It’s complicated, I won’t try to explain it. Very little based on Revelations makes sense. Politically the image of the Israelis has gone from the plucky, hard-working, underdogs celebrated in the film _Exodus_ to being seen by the modern left as the imperialist oppressors of the Palestinians. I suspect that right wing support for Israel is part of the reason for that from the leftist point of view.

    Much antisemitism, as JMG remarks re Wagner is economically based; hating the money lenders whenever they can be identified as a distinct group is common. Black economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out that this role is given to other ethnic minorities in other parts of the world–the East Indians in parts of Africa, the overseas Chinese in SW Asia, Armenians in Turkey, and so on. Of course, with Jews in Christian areas the matter of religion is a major part of the mix. But take any minority with skills and work habits different from the people they settle among, have them resist intermarriage and maintain tight communities and some level of dislike and distrust is likely to result. More so if the ruling class has some motive for favoring the minority and playing it off against the larger population as the British did in Africa and other colonies.

    There is another American commune that had a relatively long life and survives in altered form. Steve Gaskin’s The Farm endured in its original collective form from 1971-1983. At that point members were required to become self-supporting rather than relying on the pooled communal income. There are still residents on the original land and several successful enterprises including publishing, midwifery classes, tofu production. The peak membership was around 1600, now around 200 with some former members continuing to live and work in the surrounding area. I suspect that one thing that helped keep The Farm from exploding like many similar efforts was Gaskin’s emphasis on stable, monogamous marriages rather than the shifting, polygamous arrangements that some “spiritual leaders” ended up with. Oneida community is an early example and the 60s produced too many to list.


  269. All votes have again been tabulated.

    Robert M. (if I may), the Boomers — myself among them — got to see just how ruthlessly that sort of rhetoric was exploited by the ruling elite to send young men to die uselessly in Vietnam, just for starters. The same thing happened in Europe over the course of the 20th century’s great wars. May I match poem for poem, and suggest as a counterargument, Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est”?

    Scotlyn, thanks for this. As an ideal, ““from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” is a fine one, and as I already noted, it’s something that goes on all the time in any family that isn’t hopelessly dysfunctional. The attempt to turn an ideal into a mandate, here as elsewhere, is what lets the trouble in.

    Other Owen, the problem is that most people think that way. Issues of scale are notoriously hard for our species to grasp — which is why we’re in most of the problems we face just now.

    Simon, it was a little more complex than that. Schopenhauer was autistic — his entire life reeks of it — and hypersensitive to noise, as many of us autists are. His landlady and a couple of her friends got in the habit of gathering on the landing outside his door to gossip. He asked them to stop. They wouldn’t. Rinse and repeat, and a fight happened, and yes, he shoved her down the stairs. Autists do things like that when they lose it. As for The Big Lebowski, no, I haven’t seen it, but this is like the third time it’s been mentioned to me in the last few weeks — the other two times had to do with the faux-religion of Dudeism, which is based on that film…

    Rita, the Farm’s an interesting case. Gaskin wasn’t into stable monogamous marriages all along — if you read accounts from visitors in the 1970s, of which I’ve seen several, there was a period of experimentation with group marriages — but they seem to have gotten over it.

  270. Hi John Michael,

    You know man, after ten years of weekly writing, an epiphany hit me super hard: People are basically illiterate when it comes to energy. And so yes, I agree with both of your fine points and observations. The thing is though, realisation dawned on me that it ain’t my place to educate people about this stuff. They have to learn the hard way, and wow, it will be one tough school where expectations will flounder. But it ain’t my job to burst that bubble.

    So then, as you do, and I do as well, I enjoy the art of writing. What to do? Well stick to other more practical topics, and we’re doing heaps around here on that front so there’s always something to write about and show. Plus there is always nature magic! 😉 Did you hit a similar point when you shut down the old ADR blog?

    Anywhoo, our only heat fuel is firewood. There ain’t no other option here, and so we take that task very seriously. Plus I took a very super cool photo of the night sky here with the stars and the Milky Way. You get more stars down under due to lower levels of light pollution: Walking Under Stars.

    For those who prefer video, you miss out on the night sky photo, but we’re now producing short sharp punchy weekly videos of the stuff we’re doing down here. Splitting and moving locally sourced firewood Ep 2.

    Something for everyone!



  271. @JMG (#294):

    Of course you may, always, to any comment of mine, and I’ll always be glad for your response.

    Owen’s poem is powerful indeed. I’ve read it before, and it’s a hard read. And the vile DC swamp-dwellers who launched all those greedy, exploitive wars, from Vietnam onward (and before), ought — if ever there were such a thing as real justice anywhere to be found in this vale of wrath and tears in which we must spend our lives — to have paid with their own lives for their lethal machinations.

    However, Macaulay’s poem, as I understand it, focuses on the well-being of the whole Roman citizenry, not the survival of the Roman government or any of its functionaries. In a part of the poem that I didn’t quote, the government of Rome, in the person of the Consuls, is utterly clueless, helpless in the face of impending doom. It is one plebian Roman soldier, and he alone of all the Romans, who sees what might save the day, and is willing to spend his own life doing it.

    So if by “patria” one means one’s government and its functionaries, then Owen rightly gives the lie to the old Latin saying, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

    If, however, “patria” refers to the whole body of one’s fellow citizens and the land on which they and their ancestors have lived, and emphatically not to the government over them, then I do hold that dulce et decorum est pro patria mori “it is sweet and fittting to die for one’s fellow citizens.”

  272. 1) I’m voting for the Austrian pseudo-vegan (turns out he had digestive issues and his gut couldn’t handle meats, much to his consternation), though I have a suggestion: if the vote stays extremely close, you may want the winner to get this 5th Wednesday’s essay and save the next 5th Wednesday’s essay for the other item.

    As for Naziism remaining The Icon of Evil(tm) we know and signpost whatever we wish to villainize others with, I can think of two reasons:

    1) Were there a Jewish outpost in the Antarctic, chances are there would have been plans for an Eizengruppen unit created specifically to hunt them down for the camps. The Japanese weren’t about to do that, even in occupied Beijing.
    2) The Nazis were ready to invade the world, including America. There were plans, and given how outlandish much of the pre-Russian Invasion plans had been beforehand one had to take it all seriously.

  273. As I type I’m having a go at The Ring by a Dutch orchestra brought to us via youtube. It’s at the 52 minute mark. I figured there’s no point just reading about The Ring, this being about as futile as reading about swimming.

    Deep, dark and serious is this stuff like other German fare, at least to my ears, like it’s a rainy and cold November night and we’re on the brink of war. I thought I’d need the stamina of a canal horse to get through this, but not so, the first couple minutes were slow going, but now it’s picked up. Not as melodious and effervescent as Italian compositions but this music has strong bones. Who said that, I think it was Gimli in LOTR.

    Absurdly enough what comes to mind is me and my idiot friends in university getting stoned while listening to guys like Debussy and Satie and Ravel and Jimi Hendrix. My buddy had PSB speakers which were great for classical while I had JBL which were better for rock. The university police were slack about drug use, there was a fellow in residence who sold the stuff for cheap ie 20 bucks an ounce for garden variety weed and 30 bucks an ounce for what he insisted was premium bud. Me being as credulous as can be bought the more expensive dope. Stupid or what? I found him online, he’s now a retiree having spent his life in government service.

    Nobody is more ludicrously pretentious than a university student and we were no exception. Besides making you hungry, THC gives you superhuman speed and coordination (or so it seemed) such that you are unbeatable in ping pong and it makes you extremely silly. What did we discuss? I don’t recall a whole lot, being quite impaired at the time, just that our talks were profound and intense. What I do remember was talking about which variety of mind altering substance goes best with what composer.

    We decided that music in general is better appreciated while smoking a joint, but Debussy especially while enjoying hash oil. Why hash oil? I can’t remember. So what goes best with Wagner? I don’t know and I haven’t imbibed for decades. My future wife put an end to these druggy frolics insisting that I had a choice to make, her or these degenerate practices. So I picked sex over drugs.

  274. Hi JMG,

    I’d like to change my vote from “Jung and occultism” to “the exclusion of the life force”. Thanks!

  275. About “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs
    As far as I know, no society run by a communist party claimed to be a communist society. They said that they were socialist (at best) and that communism was the goal. Pretty much all recognized that that goal was at least decades away. This was not just putting off the goal in order to preserve political power. It was always recognized that full communism (from each etc.) could only work in a society of abundance and that industrialization was the path to abundance.
    Based on what I have read in Graeber, I think that from each according to his abilities from each according to his needs can be scaled up in situations in which needs are bounded. No native of the northeastern North American forests needed to deprive anyone else of what they needed in order to buy a landed estate in the country or a peerage for their elder son or a fancier car. It also helps if the society makes it impossible to use wealth to force someone else to comply with one’s wishes.
    The Communist Manifesto was written by Marx in the heat of the 1848 European Spring (so to speak). It was intended as a clarion call – in more modern terms, a stadium anthem – not a detailed practical map. As Marx became more political, he did write about possible political solutions in some detail, but not in Das Kapital. His political writings are more general for the very good reason that after the collapse of the 1848 European Spring, any post-capitalist revolution was a distant goal.
    These people were not the idiots that a century of propaganda makes it easy to believe that they were. They made mistakes and one can quite fairly disagree with them utterly, but if one’s analysis suggests that they took the path that they took because they were idiots (or demons), there is a reasonable chance that one has not actually engaged with them or their history.
    I’m surprised that no one has mentioned it but Feuerbach was a huge influence on Young Marx and other Young Hegelians. The single largest influence on Marx with the possible exception of Hegel. (Though some of Hegel’s influence on Marx was via Feuerbach.) That Young Marx had almost no impact on any of the actual communist/socialist revolutions. The texts Marx wrote in those days were mostly lost and not recovered until the Soviets issued the collection in the 1930s of every last thing Marx ever wrote. (“Jenny, make sure the maid picks up some tobacco when she does the shopping.”)
    The Young Marx has been influential in various new lefts and some new communisms and in non-orthodox developments in Yugoslavia socialism in the 1970s.
    By the way, in considering how various actual Marxist societies developed, it is worth taking into account that most all of the major cases emerged in societies wracked by war and civil war and faced severe external threats during their formative years. Not saying that that excuses or even explains everything, but it was a major factor.

  276. Our esteemed host is correct that left and right in the US these days are largely tribal. But since each of these tribes is disproportionately based in different parts of society, there is some residual content to their disagreements.
    The left is those folks who may raise the banner of freedom but are incapable of defending it against the bureaucracies. They just can’t quite make themselves break with the bureaucracies. The right is those folks who may raise the banner of freedom but are incapable of defending it against the large monopolist corporations. They just can’t quite make themselves break with the large monopolist corporations. (Fascinating to watch Tucker Carlson cross that line on occasion, then fall back again.) The left on its best days can recognize certain problems with certain bureaucracies but cannot see (admit?) the problems inherent in bureaucracies per se. The right on its best days can recognize certain problems with certain monopolist corporation but cannot see (admit?) the problems inherent in monopolist corporations per se.
    The left is also vulnerable to the claims of those seen as oppressed while the right is vulnerable to the claims of Christian fundamentalisms. Though it may be that neither side is as captive as the other one makes it out to be. The parallels between the fantasies that each side has about the other fascinate me. (“They are ruthless well-organized and subordinate everything to their (bad) goals but we are naive and squabbling.”)
    Note that universities now are dominated by bureaucracies (not faculty) and function largely as training ground for aspiring bureaucrats. The media are an area of contestation that above all supports the existing two-party duopoly. The intense bias against Trump is because he was seen as a threat to the entire cosy operation. Now he has also become just so convenient for avoiding real issues. In that sense, he functions for most media in the same manner as the hut dweller from Linz. (That is what the name means. “Peasant” would also be a reasonable translation.)
    As far apart as “the loss of the notion of life force from Western thought” and our modern Morgoth might appear at the start, as you have pointed out, there is an intertwining of the two concepts. Might it be useful to cover both in a single essay and if that makes the essay too large, spread it out over two 5th Wednesdays? (Though the next one is not until October.) If nothing else, I selfishly would love to see your considerable talent take a shot at it.

  277. Synthase (#259)
    I think the hippies originally comprised two very different sets of folks: the dysfunctional and the hyper-functional. The hyper-functional at least started out able to experiment with sex and drugs and stay more or less intact. The dysfunctional could not. With time (and drugs), functionality decreased, creativity decreased, the appeal of the whole thing decreased. “The Summer of Love” in San Francisco and the bad scene it turned into could be seen as the pivot point.
    Hyper-functional folks went to different scenes (back to the land, various hippie-ish enclaves, various new spiritualities and psychotherapies), leaving mostly the already dysfunctional, who by themselves were not capable of sustaining a scene.
    Also, the hyper-functional (in the sense of those able to play by the rules so well that they could play with the rules; mostly pretty well educated, so mostly from non-poverty backgrounds) could play at being hippies, could “turn on, tune in, drop out” precisely because dropping back in was easy.
    Dropping out became a much less inviting proposition once the ability to drop back in came into question. Part of that was demographic (jobs for the educated were quite plentiful for pre-boomers and early boomers as the largest bulge of boomers entered university; those jobs dried up and also competition increased as that largest bulge of boomers left university and tried to enter the job market. The academic job market collapsed outside of STEM fields.) Another part was the end of the long period of rising widespread prosperity and the start of crises. The oil shock of 1973 made this clear if it wasn’t already.

  278. Robert Mathiesen #223, Mary Bennett #234, Patricia Matthews #236

    First of all, sexual selection (ie who you’re attracted to) is inherently eugenic, selecting for fitness. This is something we try to avoid, but it’s true. But, as is said here, it’s hard to pin this down without being too arbitrary, or without losing valuable gifts alongside the detriments of mutation/recombination. Certainly, any sort of eugenic program would have to proceed with caution, and focus on weeding out the worst conditions, while encouraging the best. However, I think this is theoretically viable, especially in moderation. This should not be conflated with royal families, who despite their blue-blooded monikers, often became unfit through inbreeding! I think there should be meritocracy along with eugenics, since after all, that’s how our in-built selection mechanism works. Not that I’m laying down policy or anything — the main point is to explain that there are evolutionary reasons for sexual strategy & selection, which includes their high-status, peak forms: harems for males (varied & exclusive sexual access) and hypergamy for females (choosing from the best).

    As for hypergamy, I didn’t mean to stereotype women, or claim they’re all interested in the same thing, far from it. However, in a Darwinian sense, obtaining fit genes from alpha males while relying on beta male support is the fittest female strategy, which explains why that behavior pattern keeps emerging — it’s a eugenic instinct. Since puberty, I noticed all this screeching about women choosing “assholes” over “nice guys”, and it took me awhile to finally figure it out. Aside from the fact that “nice guys” are often not so nice (ie manipulators seeking sex), my theory of female hypergamy perfectly explains this perennial issue, since its rooted in evolution. If anything, this should promote understanding between the sexes, since we’re all influenced by instincts.

    Genetics are a recipe, rather than a blueprint, it gets complex. However, there are fit and unfit genes, and we see this most clearly in inbreeding depression vs heterosis/hybrid vigor. Of course I’m simplifying a bit, but still, eugenics/dysgenics are real. One of my first red-pills was watching old film footage from around the WWII era, and noticing how people back then were not only better dressed & mannered, but were fitter, healthier, had better posture, and were better-looking overall. There was a noticeable lack of people being fat/weird/ugly/etc. I don’t mean to be cruel, but I also think there should be a balance between herd morality vs social Darwinism — too much either way is a bad idea. As always, the middle path!

  279. Regarding #255: Emmanuel Todd argued in The Explanation of Ideology that Bolshevism won in places where the traditional family model was already (more than elsewhere) communal.

  280. Robert Mathieson and JMG, As I recall, Lars Porsena told his own troops as Horatio was swimming away that he was a better man than any of them, and they weren’t to shoot or throw spears at him as he was swimming.
    I am your same age, Robert.
    Our senior high school English teacher had us memorize the first verse/stanza of Kipling’s Ballad of East and West, which she said, and I agree, was the most misquoted line in the English language. I memorized the whole poem.
    East is east and west is west
    And never the twain shall meet
    till earth and sky stand presently at God’s great judgement seat.
    But there is neither east nor west,
    Border, nor breed, nor birth,
    When two strong men stand face to face,
    Though they come from the ends of the earth.
    Kipling was certainly a product of his times, but he can’t be blamed for the racism that first line was used to justify in my youth.

  281. Aaand, I will change my vote from the appeal of socialism to the exclusion of the life force from the worldview of Western science.

  282. @Robert Mathiesen @296
    In the past the blood of countless young men has been shed for lands that nobody remembers any more and for peoples that, for the most part, were unworthy of their sacrifice. To give up one’s life out of simple humanity to save a drowning child is unquestionably a noble act, but to do so for such abstract and fleeting notions as ‘nation’ and ‘citizenry’ is nonsensical, in my view. One can change one’s homeland and citizenship with relative ease.

  283. “Scotlyn, thanks for this. As an ideal, ““from each according to their ability, to each according to their need” is a fine one…”

    I suppose my real point is that this phrase is about as “ideal” as my lunchbox, or my garden spade. Which is to say that as a social practice, it can be extremely useful and practical, and like any tool, it “works” well when used to accomplish the jobs in which it has been tried and tested in, and “works” badly when applied to other jobs where other tools might do better. It is a *useful* practice in the right time and place. And that is all.

    So, the point that I am strugging a bit to convey is that even calling it an “ideal” is the beginning of trouble… IMHO. 😉

  284. It seems to me that the Ring Cycle by Wagner indeed contains in a nutshell the essence of what Western civilization is about, which can be seen, for example, in the way the current crisis of Western civilization has something Wagnerian to it; it will be interesting to see what the following decades bring.

    For a Fifth Wednesday post, I cast my vote for the obsession of the Western world with Hitler.

  285. Jeff Russell 278:
    Thanks for the Wagnerian link! I’ve enjoyed it so much…

  286. @JMG and Robert M; and Robert M and I are contemporaries:

    You’re both right in different ways. The flip-flop from citizen to consumer was real, and big;; and Vietnam gave the lie to any thoughts of “dulce et decorum” in the minds of those who were there. Wilfred Owens was right about that, WWI being western Europe’s Vietnam. I see a likeness between the two wars and the veterans of each; and each was followed by a decade of sex, drugs, wild music, and revolt against convention. Followed by something that shocked them out of it – The Crash of ’29, and the Carter Years malaise that made Reagan look like a good bet to a lot of people. And yet, when the nation’s survival is at stake, Horatio at the bridge, and “there the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shots that were heard ’round the world,” and the English muddling through in the Blitz come to the fore.

    I guess it boils down to my mom’s old saying, “There is a time and a place for everything.”

  287. Hi John Michael,

    How about a vote for an analysis of The Big Lebowski and dudeism in general? If that’s unacceptable, I second Lewis’s vote for the topic of the future of food. For the life of me, I just can’t comprehend the obsession with that Austrian bloke. He caused a lot of drama, and failed utterly and lost everything. What’s interesting about that? Oh well, what will be, will be.

    It’s raining here, and looks set to continue doing so most days for the rest of the month. Yikes! How’s your summer going?



  288. Getting back to Wagner and his music – that piece, Vorspiel, reminds me a lot of the first movement of Beethoven’s 6th.

    I dunno. I’d call it the sound of the 19th c. At least it’s not wub wub wub, which seems to be the sound of the 21st.

  289. I’d like to say on the socialism topic here, that there’s more stuff than utopist socialists on the one hand and “scientist” socialism (Marxism) in the Left, on the other hand. I want to remember you all that there’s is a socialdemocrat tendence in the Left since the Ferdinand Lassalle times:
    I think social-democrats aren’t perfect, but they have managed to rule some European countries during years and decades quite well; at least before they had surrendered to the Woke siren song, some years ago.

  290. Re: Justin Patrick Moore #270:

    “Any Scriabin fans lurking around here?”

    I will be visiting a performance of ‘Le poème de l’Extase’ together with parts of Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ later this year in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw.


  291. Oof. What a tough choice for 5th Wed. I’ll vote “exclusion of the life force from the Western worldview” as it seems to be the most actionable topic.
    –Lunar Apprentice

  292. When people mention Rammstein in connection with Wagner, I can’t help talking about Laibach., as they were very much an inspiration for Rammstein and are one of my favorite bands.

    They did a concert with a symphonic orchestra and called it VOLKSWAGNER, but Laibach being Laibach they pulled Wagner into the jazz world of Miles Davis and Sun Ra.

    They’ve been around for 40 years or so, and they are most famous for their cover versions of hit songs, which are often quite hilarious, but also show a song in a completely different light. Take for example their version of Queen’s ‘One Vision’, which became ‘Geburt einer Nation’…


  293. @xcalibur/djs (#303):

    You are deeply mistaken if you think that for everyone fitness increases sexual attractiveness. I am one of the exceptions. If anything, strongly marked physical fitness in a woman is a real turn-off for me. The quality of a woman’s mind and her character count for far more than almost any physical feature she may chance to exhibit. Nor do I think I am a rare exception among men in this respect.

    Also, back in the WW2 era — which I am old enough to remember personally — there were very strong social conventions that prohibited the ugly, the deformed and/or the disabled from appearing in public places; some cities even passed laws making it a criminal offense for such people to be out in public. (I expect a few of these laws are still on the books here and there, though not enforced.)

    You do make a good point, however, in noting that the number of less-than-fit people seems to markedly have increased over the last few decades. Military recruiters have noted this as a national problem with young men.

  294. @Stephen Pearson (#306):

    Good on your teacher! Kipling seems to have been an admirable person for his times.

  295. @Tengu (#308) wrote:

    “One can change one’s homeland and citizenship with relative ease.”

    Maybe you (and your generation) can. I (and many of mine) cannot, not without enormous psychological discomfort, even trauma.

    I think part of the difference between your generation and mine is simply connection or disconnection with one’s own ancestors.

    Starting in the 1990s I began to ask my students at Brown, when the conversation between us veered toward their families, whether they happened to know the first and last names of all four of their grandparents. Only one single student, out of dozens, knew the names of all four of her grandparents! About half of the students did not know the first and last name of even one of their grandparents!!!

    I was utterly flabbergasted to see this! Growing up, I could name all four of mine, and knew the two living ones fairly well. And I even knew the names of a few of my grandparents’ parents and grandparents in turn, and where they had lived, and even a little about their more distant ancestors in turn. And I am fairly sure that the same was true of many of my schoolmates. None of us were from privileged backgrounds, or distinguished families. This sort of knowledge was just routine for us, back in the Silent Generation.

    There are times when I feel like a bemused and deeply puzzled alien visitor to this modern world in which I now live.

  296. @Patricia Mathews (#312):

    Well said!

    (And at least one of those “embattled farmers” during the War for Independence was my own direct ancestor, Isaac Cushman, not in Massachusetts, but way up in the wilds of Vermont. He died “in the army” and no one living knows where on the march-route he was buried in an unmarked grave.)

  297. Put me down for “exclusion of the life force” If that is the top choice I think part of the discussion would be how was that concept present in European thought before the exclusion. One example I think would be the viriditas concept of Hildegard of Bingen.From what I know it seems the life force concept in European thought was not as systematized and clear and specific as the qi concept in China. Did it have a variety of names in European culture or was it divided up under the name of various forces and influences?

  298. xcalibur/djs #303

    “Of course I’m simplifying a bit, but still, eugenics/dysgenics are real. One of my first red-pills was watching old film footage from around the WWII era, and noticing how people back then were not only better dressed & mannered, but were fitter, healthier, had better posture, and were better-looking overall. There was a noticeable lack of people being fat/weird/ugly/etc.”

    Hmmm, now I’m wondering what contribution your red pill experience tells you that a eugenics/dysgenics process could make in the space of a mere two or three generations to changes in the dress, manners, fitness, health, posture, and appearance of the people you see walking around?

    Versus, say, a vastly increased toxic burden in food, air and water?

  299. Chris at Fernglade #313
    I am with you on the topic of Hitler. I just don’t get the fascination. However, as you said que sera sera.

  300. Would someone please explain what is ‘Dudeism’?

    I brought The Nibelungenlied home from the library. It is the Everyman’s edition, translation appears to be recent enough that it avoids the usual anachronisms, such as ‘damsels’ for girls, and such. I think it will be a delight. While the rest of you are swimming (drowning?) in Wagnerian sturm und drang I will be enjoying such felicities as:

    “The old stories tell us of great heroes, joy and misery, feast and lament, and the clash of brave warriors. All this you may hear now, if you will.”

    Excalibur, I do wish you would learn some logic. Assertion, while it may indeed be a useful propaganda technique, is not proof. No matter how many times or how loudly the assertion is made, it remains essentially your opinion. To which you are entitled, but there are reasons why none of our opinions get to have the status of scientifically proven or even established fact. Whomever it was who told you otherwise lied to you. As for ‘eugenics’, you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Among other details you seem to have forgotten, is the undoubted fact that throughout history, in many times and places, marriages were arranged by the two families. Eugenics, however defined, had nothing to do with it. Mariages were arranged for advantage to the participating families, useful alliances, the keeping together of family estates, and similar non-biological motives. Upper class ancient Romans even ordered couples to divorce, because alliances had changed. Julius Caesar, married four times, was on one occasion so ordered and refused.

    About girls preferring a**h***s over nice guys, sexual charisma in men is like extreme beauty in women. It is what it is, and many if not most of us have our sadder but wiser tales to tell about former entrancements.

  301. I’m gonna vote for “the exclusion of the life force in western thought.” The etheric plane as a whole has been difficult for me to wrap my head around.

  302. Mr. Greer, like Steve #261, a vote for chatting about the RCC one of these 5th Wednesdays. The RCC appears to be a bit of a hornets’ nest with internal controversy at this point in time, nothing new, but very curious where (and which factions) may end up in the future. Presently studying Latin, the Rosary, the TLM, Fatima, and recent history of Vatican II and the Bogus Ordo (words of an 86yr old Traditional Catholic bringing me up to speed).

  303. I couldn’t respond before now, and because it is late in the comment cycle I’ll just say that a) like other readers, I am also looking forward to this series of posts on Wagner’s The Nibelung’s Ring, and b) I’d like to throw in a vote for the exclusion of the life force from the viewpoint of Western science and culture.

  304. @Chris at Fernglade #313, @JillN #325: Agreed…

    @BK: Too cool! The CSO here hasn’t preformed Scriabin that I’ve been aware of, or able to go to… but I’d really like to see it live, preferably along with light-organ accompaniment. I was reading about this other cat, Nikolay Obukhov recently too, and his “croix sonore” modeled after a Rose Cross is pretty darn dope. It’s be nice to see these dudes revitalized in the repertoire.

  305. This morning’s news item from my University seems relevant to the emergence of the “second religiosity” in the USA. Three faculty have been giving a course on C S Lewis’s novels that show his religious development from irreligion through occultism to Christianity.

    I can’t imagine this sort of course being allowed at Brown twenty-five years ago. (And it’s even a University Course, which were originally quite free-wheeling when they were introduced back in the late ’60s, but by 2000 were required to fit within the subject-matter of the professor’s department. Now University Courses seem to be free-wheeling again: the faculty teaching this one are all in the Medical School.)

  306. Once again, I’ve noted down everybody’s votes.

    Chris, nah, I shut down The Archdruid Report and started this blog instead because it was becoming impossible for me to use Blogger, the site that hosted the earlier blog, because of their increasingly intrusive security features and increasingly dysfunctional site softward. I changed the name because I’d stepped down as Grand Archdruid of AODA so didn’t want to keep using the label. You’ll notice that the last few years of ADR weren’t talking that much about energy any more…

    Robert, granted, but that’s only meaningful when we’re talking about an external threat, and the citizenry facing it can honestly make the sort of claim Macauley did about collective unity in “the brave days of old.” Now? The threats that matter most are internal; each faction of the politically engaged citizenry is convinced that one or more of the other factions is the threat that must be countered, while remaining purposefully blind to their own hefty contributions to the crisis. In a society in that condition, Horatian attitudes just get people killed uselessly. That’s why my generation and the generations after mine ditched them, and why they probably won’t come back while our current society endures — just as they evaporated in Rome once Rome stopped being a compact city-state struggling for survival and became a sprawling, arrogant empire whose leaders exploited their own citizens nearly as savagely as they did the peoples they conquered.

    Smith, strong bones indeed. I’m not at all surprised that it brings Debussy and Ravel to mind — like every classical composer after Wagner’s time, they were strongly influenced by him, to the extent that they had to consciously reject him to do their own thing.

    Jessica, you might want to look up the wars of conquest the Hodenosaunee carried out against their neighbors. Graeber was pushing a very specific agenda; his is a voice worth hearing, but it also deserves thoughtful criticism and the presentation of the opposing views he dismissed so curtly. As for Feuerbach and the Hegelian movement generally, why, we’ll get to that. Your distinction between left and right seems reasonable, btw; as for the confluence of the life force and Hitler, that wouldn’t require two posts — it would require a book, and not a small one. I’ll consider it when current projects wind up.

    Scotlyn, only on a small scale. Once you try to apply it on a large scale it becomes tyranny. Your lunchbox is a good equivalent: sized to hold one lunch, it’s useful and convenient — but what if somebody insisted that all the lunches in the county had to be packed inside a single vast lunchbox, so you had to go there, line up, and hand over a ticket to a government functionary to get your food?

    Booklover, good. That’s exactly the point I’ll be making as we proceed.

    Chris, I’ve never watched the movie, so I don’t know that I could do much with it. Our summer is entirely normal — it’s 81°F outside right now and humid.

    Other Owen, Wagner would have been pleased by both those remarks; he adored Beethoven, and the 19th century equivalent of “wub wub wub” annoyed the bejesus out of him.

    Chuaquin, I’ve noted repeatedly that social democracy is a different kettle of fish. That and democratic syndicalism both work tolerably well; they do it by plugging in representative democracy in place of the failed models of governance (or lack thereof) that other socialist systems use.

    BeardTree, we’ll be talking about viriditas, if that one wins (and it’s well ahead at this point), and much more. The concept of spiritus, to give it its medieval and Renaissance name, was in fact well developed in European culture — which makes its suppression later on all the more interesting.

    Mary, you can visit the official Dudeism website at for a full explanation. In the meantime, by all means enjoy the Nibelungenlied!

    Sheila, thank you! “Bogus Ordo” is a keeper.

    Robert M, hmm! Definitely a straw in the wind.

  307. @JMG (#334):

    I completely agree: Horatian attitudes are long past their pull-date, have become lethal, and are never going to return to this USA. “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great nations are almost always bad nations.” — Lord Acton, with “nations” put in for “men.”

    And your newest astrological post, on the conjunction with Algol in six days, feels spot-on to me. But we shall see …

    I expect that the 250th anniversary of our Declaration of Independence is probably going to be a only damp squib of a celebratory firework:
    “The rocket’s weak glare, the bombs fizzling in air,
    Gave lie to the myth that our flag still flew there.”

  308. Now I find Zizek has an essay on Wagner and Rammstein gets mentioned.

    Initially Laibach influenced Rammstein as they got started first but then it switched. Laibach covered two Rammstein songs and did them well. It’s also weird that a Slovenian band would sing in German but it’s probably a better language for pop rock tbh.


    The cover below changed the lyrics from “Ohne dich kann ich nicht sein” (roughly: “without you I cannot exist”), to “Ohne mich kannst du nicht sein” (roughly: “Without me you cannot exist”) as if saying that without Laibach there would be no Rammstein.

    Ohne Dich:

  309. Robert M (and Tengu), I have often wondered if the lack of attachment to one’s place of birth/growing up was an American thing (excluding Native Americans of course). I’m European and we are definitely not like that. We have very strong identities and for us even moving to a nearby city, and of course a lot of us do move a lot, is still a big deal. Language diversity is a factor, but not the only one.
    You say it’s a generational thing… I find it shocking that people would even exist who don’t know who their grandparents are! Unless they came from a war-torn country or had some other major trauma.

    I am way on the other extreme of the spectrum – not only do I feel a strong attachment to land, history, and community, but I am immediately suspicious of those that don’t. Of course, it takes all sorts to make a world, but you have to be loyal to something that isn’t just yourself or your closest family members…
    Humans are social animals, and if we weren’t ready to die for others, we would not have achieved anything as a species. Of course not all causes are worth dying for, but the freedom, prosperity, knowledge, etc, we enjoy, definitely cost someone their life – and many gave it willingly.

  310. >I can’t help talking about Laibach

    They also did the soundtrack for Iron Sky and Iron Sky 2.

    >and the 19th century equivalent of “wub wub wub” annoyed the bejesus out of him

    Except in the 21st c, wub wub wub is all there is. There’s no Wagner now.

  311. On the subject of patriotism in poetry, there is the famous (in Russia, anyway) line from Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem, which in the English translations I’ve seen is conveyed very beautifully but IMHO in a way that unduly complicates the simple language of the original. My own artless and unpoetic literal translation would be:

    I was then with my people
    In the place where my people, alas, was.

    (That “place” being the bloody peak of Stalin’s rule.)

    The topic also brings to mind another, lesser-known poem, Semyon Lipkin’s Technician-Intendant, a semi-autobiographical account of the Red Army’s great retreat in 1941. It is written in second-person, addressed to the young army technician as he observes all the solidities of Soviet rule (of which Lipkin was also very critical, there and elsewhere) dissolve amid a seemingly irreversible military catastrophe. The lines that keep coming back to me go like this (again, amateur and literal translation mine):

    And here is the strange thing: it was just then,
    When you saw this land without rulers,
    Just then,
    When you saw it only at night,
    Only in starless, terrible, primordial nights,
    Just then,
    When the people’s obedience of many years
    Had ominously changed to dark hostility, –
    It was just then that you first felt,
    That this land is Russia,
    And that you are Russia,
    And that you without Russia are nothing,
    And some mad, drunken, doomed
    Death-betrothed happiness of freedom
    Entered your being
    And became your being
    And you wanted to cry from this new happiness
    And to kiss the unkind Cossack land, –
    How unkind it was to us indeed!

    For my part, I once judged those who left my country quite severely. I don’t do that anymore – everyone has their reasons for doing so. The patriotic sentiment I cite above is near and dear to me, but if someone doesn’t feel it, that can’t be helped, just like someone not feeling like they have anything in common with their birth family can’t be helped. One might say that they are shirking an objective duty before society, but even if that might be true in some cases, our society has lost so much of its integrity and cohesion over the 20th century that I can’t really blame other people for not thinking about it. They’re not breaking a social contract unprovoked. I might judge our emigres for a bunch of other things, but not for emigration alone.

    Personally, I haven’t limped over to the draft station yet and don’t plan to while I do not believe that 1) we are in truly existential danger and 2) my physically unfit self would be of real value for national survival. On the other hand, I also haven’t left, and don’t intend to do so either unless it were truly necessary for someone else’s sake. I suppose that puts my personal outlook nearer to Robert Mathiesen’s position. Leaving for me is not literally unthinkable, but it is not an option I would willingly choose myself. But I’m not sure if this is generational – I know people of my (1990-ish birth) generation who wish they had somewhere else to go and also those who (independently of political opinions) have definitely decided to stay. Our elders are similarly split. The late Soviet Union killed all sense of patriotism for good in some (I think there’s definitely less of it in Union-born generations than in the Empire-born Akhmatova and Lipkin), but not in everyone.

  312. Well, exactly! Exactly!

    But let us not let the obvious fact that my lunchbox or garden spade are not much use for a whole country’s lunch, or a whole nation’s garden, obscure the fact that these ARE useful tools, no more and no less, and are NOT “ideals” whether good, bad or indifferent.

    There are many tools in that toolbox, and each one can be picked up and laid down, depending on the job at hand… and this toolbox of different types of what might be called “social faculties” – ALL of it – appears to belong so thoroughly to our species that we rarely find ourselves unable to make use of any of them to perform some service or other.

  313. OK John. I can’t complain about your opinion about social democracy. And I like democratic syndicalism too, like you.

  314. >Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem

    I guess that’s the Russian equivalent of Lee Greenwood?

  315. For the other Wilfred Owen fans out there, Penny Rimbaud of Crass did a wonderful album of his poetry called “What Passing Bells”, here:

    Don’t let the word Crass scare you off. Rimbaud had always been a huge jazz fan and the music here that accompanies the music could be described as jazz piano and classical, as is his recitation -tinged with Shakespearean drama.

    Also of potential interest is the new book: Muse of Fire :World War I as seen through the lives of the soldier poets /Michael Korda. It include Owen, Robert Graves (that guy again) , Alan Seeger, Isaac Rosenberg, and Siegfried Sassoon.
    His epic narrative begins with Rupert Brooke, “the handsomest young man in England” and perhaps its most famous young poet in the halcyon days of the Edwardian Age, and ends five years later with Wilfred Owen, killed in action at twenty-five, only one week before the armistice. With bitter irony, Owen’s mother received the telegram informing her of his death on November 11, just as church bells tolled to celebrate the war’s end. Korda’s dramatic account, which includes anecdotes from his own family history, not only brings to life the soldier poets but paints an unforgettable picture of life and death in the trenches, and the sacrifice of an entire generation. His cast of characters includes the young American poet Alan Seeger, who was killed in action as a private in the French Foreign Legion; Isaac Rosenberg, whose parents had fled czarist anti-Semitic persecution and who was killed in action at the age of twenty-eight before his fame as a poet and a painter was recognized; Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon, whose friendship and friendly rivalry endured through long, complicated private lives; and, finally, Owen, whose fame came only posthumously and whose poetry remains some of the most savage and heartbreaking to emerge from the cataclysmic war”

  316. @Gaia Barachetti #337
    ‘I feel a strong attachment to land, history and community’. In the scale of things these are meaningless designations, and in time all of them will be lost and forgotten. In your past lives how many times have you died in horrible agony for a cause, an ideal, a nation or a leader that nobody even remembers? It might seem supremely important at the time, but after you’re dead you’ll just feel stupid and regretful. I’d only take up arms to defend my clan and my faith, and only if they were directly threatened. War is a death machine that consumes human lives and it’s best avoided.

  317. Re: Patriotism vs expatriation

    I moved from the U.S. to New Zealand 25 years ago, and I am now a “dual citizen.”

    I left for a number of reasons. First, the political atmosphere began to seriously darken in the Clinton years, with the dysfunctions of the ruling class becoming publicly evident for the first time. That, however, was not enough to induce me to leave.

    My main motivation for leaving was the increasing hysterization of society as a whole. I first noticed this in the early 1980’s, with the McMartin daycare case in California. All of a sudden, any male who worked with children was under suspicion of being a paedophile, unless proven innocent. The fact that the whole thing was ultimately revealed to be a scam and a hoax, only made things worse in my sight. Scores of innocent lives were shattered due to these wild, hysterical and false accusations.

    As the 1990’s progressed, the collective hysteria only seemed to increase. My Asperger’s Syndrome put me at a potentially fatal disadvantage here. It seemed that the list of “forbidden topics” for conversation exponentially increased, and seemed to change without warning. I had several instances in which I was engaging in what I thought was a rational discussion, only to have my interlocutor explode in rage because of some statement I made. On a couple of occasions, I thought that my physical safety was in danger.

    I was not afraid of my government so much as I was afraid of my fellow citizens. They all seemed to me like so many head of spooked cattle, ready to stampede in unpredictable directions.

    In the last 5 years of my life in the States, I lived in a remote mountaintop vacation home, 5 miles from my nearest neighbour, and 20 miles from the nearest town. I commuted to the city for work. That was the only place I felt safe.

    When I landed in NZ, it took me quite a while to “decompress” from all of this. In general, New Zealanders are not a hysterical people, and don’t go off on collective stampedes.. The main fault here is different. In “Godzone,” when times are bad, people snitch on each other, which happened a LOT during the COVID madness. I feel that I can defend against that better than I can against mass psychosis.

    So, in my case, I just felt so alienated from other Americans that I no longer considered myself to be “one of them.” I often wonder if I left America, or if America effectively “expelled” and “ejected” me, like some foreign organism it couldn’t tolerate. In America, I always felt like some kind of “space alien” from childhood onward. I do not feel that so much here, despite my ASD.

    So, there is my story. Take it for what it is worth. …..

  318. JMG, The Hodenosaunee would certainly be baffled by the Ukrainians and their approach to the war with Russia. I am somewhat familiar with the 5 nations having lived in the finger lakes and been a lifelong student of Lacrosse. But up till recently I had not realized that they primarily went to war to rebuild their population.
    They essentially captured immigrants to replace tribal members lost to other wars or disease. So the Europeans were often puzzled when the Mohawks or Seneca would quickly withdraw and disappear when a battle was not going their way. From time to time they would battle to enlarge hunting grounds but they primarily did it to replace population.
    So the Ukrainians depleting the population of their country battling the Russians to the last man would make no sense to the natives of upstate NY.

  319. @ Gaia Baracetti (#331), who wrote:

    “I find it shocking that people would even exist who don’t know who their grandparents are!”

    I was deeply shocked, too, to see this. And almost all of them were students with relatively well-off and comfortable parents (as often divorced as still married to one another).

  320. @The Other Owen (#343):

    Lee Greenwood? No, not hardly. Akhmatova’s “Requiem” is a modern equivalent in its power for Russians to some of the most powerful Psalms of David.

  321. @Tengu–I think you overestimate the ease of moving out of the US. Most nations to which one would wish to emigrate require some evidence of needed skills, education or money to invest to before one can acquire permanent resident status. And, unless one is moving to an Anglophone nation there is the question of learning a new language–not easy for adults. There are also nations with a strong, and perhaps deserved, distaste for American habits and manners. Some are not afraid to display it. My grandson reported that in Japan he encountered small shop owners who would “greet” him with “no gaijin, no gaijin” and usher him out. So, unless one is satisfied with settling in tourist heavy areas or with becoming part of an expatriate community there are potential conflicts. And, what about children, if any. Would you really be comfortable with your offspring growing up as Foreignese, or in your heart of hearts would you still think of the US as the Mother County to which they might return if things improved?


  322. Topic for the fifth Wednesday post. The unmentionable reality that there might be two Kings in Orange ..
    Black Tuna and Hand

  323. Tengu, we are saying the same thing, then. I wasn’t talking about dying for the sake of it or because one loves the king. War IS awful and it should only be the very last resort against aggression or unbearable tyranny.
    This discussion started with someone asking how their brother could save his own and his family’s butt, some people pushed back against this selfish plan, and I’m one of them. Of course people have always done so, and in some cases it might be the best course of action, but overall if communities, however defined, never had anyone ready to die to defend them, humans would probably not even exist! We would certainly not be here writing to each other from prosperous, free countries someone died for. I’m grateful to those people.
    As for everyone and everything being forgotten in the future, of course, but so will you and I and your clan and faith and the writer’s brother and his family and the Earth will be swallowed by the Sun… but we are alive now.

  324. Clay, since Native American tribes lost their land and most of their members and became a tiny minority on their own continent, I wouldn’t point to them as an example of how to fight and why. Of course, they were brave and strong and it wasn’t their fault and what they did might have made sense to them based on past experience, but fighting to preserve collective freedom and independence is a better strategy in a lot of cases than raids against an organized force clearly intent on taking over your land and subjugate or exterminate you.
    Maybe Americans don’t understand this kind of existential fight because no one is trying to conquer the US militarily, but a lot of people around the world do.
    Every people fighting in the world right now is hoping they don’t go the way of the American Indians. They are an example of what you don’t want to happen to you and your people. You might never recover from it.

  325. Re: Justin #332:
    ” I was reading about this other cat, Nikolay Obukhov recently too, and his “croix sonore” modeled after a Rose Cross is pretty darn dope”

    Thanks, I’ll check him out!


  326. @Tengu #345 While I can nearly agree with most of what you say, I must ask: why do you set apart faith and clan? Do you think that those things will not be forgotten in time and will not seem just as meaningless to someone outside them? Besides, (nearly?) everything we know and love in life is temporary; I don’t think that makes it less important.

    It also occurs to me that we may mean different things by nations. To me my nation (or rather, country) rather is like an extended clan. I could change it in theory, more easily than most since I know English and have a dual citizenship, but that’d be throwing away myself. Causes and leaders can have their uses, though it’d be a mistake to devote oneself too much to them rather than their purpose. (But defending your clan, say, is a cause, and defence often does require someone to take charge.) Agreed on ideals, though; they would be harmless enough, but their promotion as something inherently ennobling and worthy is IMHO one of modern Western civilisation’s worst cultural pathologies.

    @Clay Dennis #347, they would not be alone. Ukraine has been committed to a 19th century European nationalist outlook coupled with WW2-era moral absolutism that brooks no outcome except total victory. On the one hand, it is hard for me to judge them for fighting in a war that can be credibly seen as existential (never mind the tangled path to how it got that way). On the other hand, at this rate, there will be little left of their country and many lives will be lost needlessly. Most cultures throughout history would’ve acknowledged that sometimes it’s better to accept a bad peace with someone you have cause to hate, to save what could be saved.

    @Robert Mathiesen #321 I didn’t read that right the first time, perhaps because it seemed too incredible. It seemed to me that you meant great-grandparents. How can people not know their grandparents by name? In Russia it would be unthinkable, even now, outside of some very unusual circumstances.

  327. Re: Bridge #336
    “Initially Laibach influenced Rammstein as they got started first but then it switched”

    No, but for that you have to understand Laibach a bit. They are more an art collective than a band and have their own philosophy, which I don’t claim to understand. They also have a strong sense of humor and like to play with people’s minds.

    When Rammstein became famous and people could see it was obvious they were influenced by Laibach (nothing wrong with that), they said it was the other way around because Rammstein came first (which is not true). They called themselves ‘retro-garde somethingsomething’ (as opposed to avant-garde) , I believe.

    It’s impossible for me to explain Laibach in a short comment (I couldn’t even do that in a book..), but that they often sing in German also has a reason and it’s not that it’s better for pop/rock. If that was the case they would have chosen English, don’t you think?

    They are much deeper than most people give them credit for.

    Re: The other Owen #338;
    “They also did the soundtrack for Iron Sky and Iron Sky 2”

    Yeah, these people are quite prolific. They also did a (quite heavy) album with interpretations of the writing of Nietzsche and another one with reinterpretations of Bach’s ‘Die Kunst der Fuge’, to name a few things 🙂


  328. Hey John, did you make up the phrase “Election Fraud is American as Apple Pie”? I know the second half of that is common, but your writings have been the only place I encountered that exact phrase… until late yesterday afternoon when my copy of the newest issue of County Highway arrived on the front porch. That was the title of one of the cover stories and it goes into the history of election fraud here in the U.S.

  329. >Akhmatova’s “Requiem” is a modern equivalent in its power for Russians to some of the most powerful Psalms of David.

    I wonder if young women in Russia have it tatooed on their arms, like that lady in Bakersfield with Psalm 23. Asking the really important questions, I know =)

  330. @Daniil Adamov (#339):

    Thank you for calling Semyon Lipkin’s work to my attention. I am going to find and read it.

  331. Mary Bennett #327: Of course these are my personal views, I never said otherwise. The fact that I’m making these claims is neither proof nor refutation. And of course, arranged marriages were common — I’m not arguing for harems/hypergamy as the dominant mode at all, and normal family formation has much to recommend it. I’m simply trying to explain the presence and influence of those more extreme sexual strategies. As for the last point, yes, attraction to fitness can overcome common sense at times, that much we can agree on.

    Scotlyn #324: A very good point! The corn syrup in our food supply, lifestyles, etc all play a role, and are just as important as genetic stock. I’ve been focusing on nature, but I didn’t mean to deny nurture.

    Robert Mathiesen #319: You seem to misunderstand my use of the word “fitness”, here it’s used in a Darwinian sense. Meaning, mental/personal qualities we’re drawn to can also be a kind of fitness! I didn’t mean having a muscular build, which most would agree is not the feminine ideal. Darwinian fitness doesn’t just mean the strongest, smartest, or fastest (although it can be), it just means the best sorts of adaptations. One example is larger breasts, which we tend to prefer, since they provide more milk for offspring. It might feel strange to turn the scientific lens on oneself that way, but it can be done, and it doesn’t require narrow-minded materialism either.
    Anyway, you make a good point about laws preventing abnormal people from being in public back then, certainly that would skew perception. I’m not denying that they existed, I’m not idolizing the past, but people really did look better in general. It’s not just about abnormality, but also obesity, fitness, health, and so on.

    #335: On the bright side, the US will in fact make it 250 years. That’s a very respectable run in historical terms, not far behind the Tokugawa Shogunate/Edo Period of Japan, or the Qing Dynasty of China. America was a very worthwhile experiment, and its impending collapse doesn’t take away from that, no more than the Fall of Rome canceled out that abundant legacy. Our successes and failures will offer many lessons to future generations, and we accomplished quite a bit. Liberalism may be a failed ideology, but that too has its good points, which can be plucked out of the wreckage (eg legal protections in the Bill of Rights); the same can be said for Marxism, which failed more quickly than Liberalism, but still offers valuable insights on class conflict, commodity fetishism, material/economic history, and so on.

  332. The comments on war poetry have been deeply moving, and thanks for all of this. We didn’t see much come out of Vietnam, but as someone whose name and context I’ve forgotten pointed out, those who would have been poets earlier were songwriters decades later, and there as many a moving and many a bitter song written about that war, and sung. I’ve lost total track of hat the equivalent is today, but it’ll probably be out there.

    Last night’s and today’s musings were on the similarity of mas movements per Eric Hoffer, and the climaxes of ages of chaos or stasis. And yes, this has a bearing on Decline and Fall, a very strong one.
    First, an flash of intuition showed me a structural resemblance between Twilight’s Last Gleaming and “Evita.”. I noticed, also, in both cases, the cynical observations of a journalist held the story together.

    Evita Peron was the kind of charismatic figure who starts mass movements or revolutions, like Julius Caesar and many another coming at the climax of a crisis or a period of stasis and deadlock. On her death, Juan Peron proved a weak leader who couldn’t hold anything together, unlike Julius Caesar. What mattered -what has always mattered – seems to be that when such a figure is succeeded by someone who can hold things together, there is some kind of a recovery – and those successors have always seemed to be strategic thinkers par excellence. Julius was followed by Augustus, whose long-range nation-building lasted his entire lifetime and carried over into the early years of Tiberius. Vespasian, another who strategic gifts were a matter of record, put a sudden end to the century of Julio-Claudian insanity. In my day, the post 1929-WWII recovery had Eisenhower’s name written all over it, though Truman was a strong transitional figure. And in our time, Vladimir Putin as all the earmarks of being another such a one.

    In Rome, Julius was preceded by two tried-and-failed rabblerousers, Catalina and Clodius, for the populists; his foes were Crassus and Pompey. I’m beginning to see Trump, as he is now, as one who will need an Augustus or a Vespasian to hold the nation together, if there are any one the scene, and the sooner, the better, if we have any hope at all of riding this one gracefully. Otherwise, it’s “not with a bang, but a whimper.”

    Robert Mathisen may back me up on this: the recovery period after WWII has Eisenhower’s name on it, and he was a strategist par excellence.

  333. Hello there, from a long time reader first time commentor. I have to say that as an amateur musician, I was fascinated by your article on musical magic – I tried to comment but got on that train too late. I honestly had never heard of the different modes – all I’ve ever known were the major and minor scales. So, does the ring cycle make use of the various modes, or remain trapped in the modern western system of scaling?

    I would like to sugfest that for the 5th wednesday, you elaborate further on the use of music in magic, and practical ways of tuning instruments and dividing scales to acheive these various modes, and what their mystical effects are. Or, if that’s a bit too much, a link to any additional resources that might help me retune my bass and place my fingers on the steings up in ways other than the neat, even frets on the neck, would be appreciated.

    I will leave you with a suggestion for an album that was recently released that Is supect might be making use of the various modes. Its called Chakra, by the band Quanta, and the seven songs correspond to the seven chakras, which I am fairly certain translate into the seven planetary energies and seven modes very directly – though I would like to hear your take on how they translate, to see if it matches my own. Anyway, here’s the link, enjoy.

    Ps. If you want to watch youtube ad free, download brave browser and watch it on there. It blocks all ads and scrambles your ip address to make it harder to be tracked. Kind of an effective counter to the various attempts to enchant your attention. Thanks for everything you do. You’re a light of guidance in a very dark world, a breath of fresh air in a midden heap.

  334. ” There are various theories about their origins in occult teachings, and various ways of categorizing them. ”

    That gave me a chuckle. I would have said “nearly infinite” 🙂

    I know you’re not supposed to armchair diagnose people with psychiatric disorders, but Wagner sounds a bit like a case of narcissistic personality disorder. (I have a minor in psychology , which is the worst amount of psychological training you can possibly have, it’s like having anti-information, so definitely don’t take me as an authority on mental health, haha) I’d be interested in reading commentary on his works from a psychological perspective.

    That said, there is a long history of individuals who exhibited a striking combination of madness and genius, he may fall into that category.

    Jessi Thompson

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