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«Richard Wagner/Arthur Schopenhauer or addendum to Unconscious Language Geo Savulescu translation; Miruna Voican Abstract. Richard Wagner’s prose ...»

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Richard Wagner/Arthur Schopenhauer or addendum to Unconscious Language

Geo Savulescu

translation; Miruna Voican

Abstract. Richard Wagner’s prose works represent a help in understanding my study, The

Language of Unconscious1. In Oper und Drama, Wagner clearly alludes to the language of

music which advocates the poetic language (through words) and writes that the novelty which it

enunciates is the unconscious and its function in the artistic expression, namely Drama.

KEYWORDS: Unconscious Language, Richard Wagner, Arthur Schopenhauer, Lucian Blaga, Musical Drama, Philosophy.

I I must admit that, in 2006, when I wrote out the last draft of The Language of Unconscious, I had some trouble offering examples from the music area, which plays the most important role in this type of interpersonal communication.

I consider myself a music lover, yet the music recordings, the scores full of musical symbols – they do not sound to me as they do for any musician. I need music artists who are able to bring to life this artistic expression. In regard to opera, the area which Wagner was interested in, this type of communication seemed much more complex, as the poetic word has to lead both the musical expression and that of the movement. I have to admit that I was surprised to find that an artist like Wagner discussed so clearly, about the value of unconscious for the human spirituality, as I am going to try to show. Between 1851- 1852, when the Romanticism was at its height, Wagner had already ideas characteristic of the XXth century. Much later, Freud would talk about unconscious and bring it to the psychiatric clinic. Blaga will wait for the beginning of the XXth century to write and publish the Philosophy of Style (1924), his first philosophic writing, where he enunciates the philosophic idea of an unconscious which contains spirituality in itself.

We know from Alma Mahler’s diary that Freud had no interest in music whatsoever2, and he had by no means read the writings of Wagner, which those who had no interest in music saw them to be only texts written by a musician for musicians, and Blaga was one of the latter. As for musicians, they read them as prose linked to the music composed by Wagner. The only person


 Savulescu, Geo, Lucian Blaga, filosofia prin metafore**, Vremea Publishing Press, 2012  Mahler walking in Leida with Freud, whom he asked for help in order to save his marriage with Alma. We find out that Freud did not listen to music.   1      who was aware of Wagner’s writings was the translator who translated them into English, William Ashton Ellis3, who adverted to the readears in a foot note that the texts should be read carefully by psychologists. Those who have read them, and here I refer to musicians, did not understand the importance they carried for philosophy and psychology, and those who should have read them did not do it. Blaga rediscovered the value of unconscious related to spirituality in 1924 and between 1943-1945.

Let us provide an applied analysis on the text to support our point of view. It is common knowledge that Richard Wagner was a great musician who also wrote prose besides the dramatic poems in his operas, which are now gathered in eight consistent volumes4. This summer, as I had time and a consistent bookcase, I read some of his texts, including a remarkable text, Meine Leben. I read My Life, as well as the rest of the prose in English translation. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Wagner is easy and pleasant to read, even in translation, and it is sometimes even thrilling. It is interesting that I had, back home in Bucharest, Oper und Drama translated into Romanian, and I had intended for a long time to read it, yet I happened to postpone its reading on many occasions. This time I disposed only of the texts translated into English.

I started reading and I found out from My Life that, while was studying in a gymnasium, Wagner, in his teenage years, read the Greek tragedians, the dramas written by Shakespeare and by his contemporaries, Goethe, Schiller and others, that he enjoyed the English interpretation of Shakespeare, that he read at least some of the works of the ancient philosophers, Kant’s The Critique of Pure Reason, that he had tried to read the work of Hegel which did not appealed to him and did not continue, that he read Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Idea and Parerga and Paralipomena of the same author, and he also read the works of Feuerbach.

–  –  –

As I consider the present text to be an important addendum to Unconscious Language 5, it seems necessary to say a few words about the first chapter of this book.

On the basis of Lucian Blaga’s point of view, I have built the language of unconscious, which is the language of arts, of poetry, of music, of painting, of architecture, of dance, through metaphors, colors, volumes and spatial situations, by the movement of body and limbs. It is a


Richard Wagner’s Prose Works, vol II (Opera and Drama), translated by William Ashton Ellis, Broude Bropthers, New York, 1966, reprinted from the 1893 London edition, Routledge & Kegan Paul ltd.    Marter Luther King Jr. Library, San Jose,CA. USA.  Savulescu, Geo, op.cit. 


language that we deliver to those who read, listen or watch without wanting or thinking about these processes too much. Reading poems, listening to music, watching some paintings or some buildings, watching dancers – all these are conscious actions, but they contain something ineffable, sometimes very hard to explain, they have a content, an unconscious action which affects our soul, our heart. Even the action of walking on the street, the tone, the rhythm or the melody of your voice that allows you to be recognized, and even the smallest gestures that characterize you- all these can represent a type of language. This is the unconscious language which I studied and written on back in 2006.

It happened – but what does to happen mean? - that last summer6 I read, as I mentioned above, My Life, written by Richard Wagner. That was a starting point for the eight prose volumes written by Richard Wagner. From the second volume I read Opera and Drama, translated into English, as I mentioned earlier. This has also been a happy occurrence… So I read the book in English and I must admit I was amazed. Of course, the book was influenced by Schopenhauer but it gained on Schopenhauer’s ideas. The author writes: ”... he who wants to believe that new things, which he said in the end, would be simply a hypothesys and they have nothing in common with the experience and with the nature of the debated matter, that would not understand me be even if he wants to. The novelty, in case we haven’t already defined it, is nothing more than the unconscious- regarding the nature of this problem- which has grown to be conscious for me as an artist who thinks, as I understood the organic link of that which until now has been only expressed separatedly by artists. That is to say I have foud nothing new, but that real yet unknown link until now.” 7 Had I not read this fragment, I could not be able to understand how close the mind of Blaga was to that of Richard Wagner, how close was to the discovery of a unconscious of spirituality, very close, and this is precisely what Wagner discusses.


 Between April and June 2013, an early summer, that’s how summers are in California..   Op. Cit. Chapter VII, p. 351. 

–  –  –

Opera and Drama, vol II, III, 351.

Let us not forget that doctor Freud talked about the human unconscious less than fifty years ago since the publishing of Wagner’s books, where he analysed the dreams of his patients; Blaga writes The Philosophy of Style at near seventy years distance and now there are more than 150 years since the publishing of these memorable books.

Let us discuss it further. Richard Wagner, in Opera and Drama, uses many time the concept of Tonsprache, as the opposite of Wortsprache in order to explain the unconscious language of

–  –  –

music and even that of poetry. In the third part of Chapter V, Wagner writes: ”The orchestra indisputably possesses a faculty of speech, and the creations of modern Instrumental-music have disclosed it to us. In the Symphonies of Beethoven we have seen this faculty develop to a height whence it felt thrust on to speak out That which, by its very nature, it can not speak out” and he ends the paragraph by writing on the great problem of the uspeakable.

Wagner was interested, as he himself confesses, in the irrefutable capacity of the orchestra to communicate this unspeakable with which we meet in the natural language, too, both verbally and in writing. Wagner uses many times the concepts of Sprachvermögen, Aussprechen, Auszusprechen in this first paragraph in order to impose the idea that orchestra, a symphony, communicate, they clearly deliver a message if the one who composed it managed to do this: ”...

and that is shewn plainly enough by the Instruments of the orchestra themselves, whereof each for itself, and infinitely more richly in its changeful union with other instruments, speaks out quite clearly and intelligibly.8”


 Richard Wagner, Opera and  Drama, Vol.II, p, 317 London Kegan Paul Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd, 1900. 

–  –  –

O.and D., III, 327 O.and D., III, 324 Regarding the unspeakable, Wagner writes very inteligibly here ”that Unspeakable which the Orchestra can express with greatest definition, and indeed, in union with another thing unspeakable, - with Gesture.”. In a foot note on the same page he writes:”... that which, looked at from the standpoint of our human intellect, is the Unspeakable. That this Unspeakable is not a thing unutterable per se, but merely unutterable through the organ of our Understanding”9. In order to understand some words that seem fathomless we can apeal either to tonal speaking or to the gesture. This is what drama accomplishes in an opera, if it is helped by gestures and costumes, as I mentioned earlier.


 Op. Cit. Pg.249.  

–  –  –

Wagner also tells us something extraordinary: ”Music cannot think: but she can materialize thoughts, i.e. she can give forth their emotional contents as no longer merely recollected, but made present. This she can only do, whatever, when her own manifestment is conditioned by a Poetic Aim, and when this latter, again, reveals itself as no mere thing of thought, but a thing expounded in the first place by the organ of the Understanding, namely Word-speech.” He did not differentiate the updated thought from the memory of thought. The empty place of the updated thought is taken over and it brings into present the old thought. This point of view is remarkable and unique in the European mentality connected with grammar and logic, which the translator also emphasises in a foot note.

I am under the impression that the problem of negation is not adequately looked into in our grammar and logic. In the Indian culture, Apoha10 is this empty place left by an object which used to be there but is not anymore. In the same way that an indefinite negation is not possible.

That is why Wagner, as a musician, talks about a thought which can be brought back in the memory by a song which evokes it. A certain thought and a certain song.

A unique Word-Speech and a unique Tone-speech, both has to be as close as it is possible so as they can marry, they can help each other in the artistic expression, in order that they can be understood by the spectators. (Opera and Drama, III, 329) I feel that it is necessary for a sensitive matter to be discussed. The great thinkers of humanity were, of course, especially attracted to the


form of the thought. Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, built on the abstract notions in order for them to succeed to communicate to us that which was very hard to communicate, using the simplest words of a natural language.

Yet there had been also thinkers who were anchored in science, especially Physics (here the link with Mathematics is obvious), almost all the best contemporary physicists in Astrophysics or in Physics of Microparticle also had a preoccupation with Philosophy; Sextus Empiricus and Karl Jaspers were doctors, Blaga was a poet, his first published books were books of poems, his first philosophic writing was The Philosophy of Style, and style remained the cornerstone of his entire philosophy.

We talk about the height of the music when we talk about Richard Wagner, yet his theories exceed far and away his purely musical preoccupation; when talking about music he puts forward some matters which, as I am going to show, are of utmost importance for the physiological and philosophical thinking.


Sergiu Al- George, Limba cultură în gândirea indiană, Paralela 45 Publishing Press, Bucharest, 2005,. see also Scerbatsky, Fyodor, Buddhist Logic. 


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