In previous posts on the feminine principle we noted that, in Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde, Life was linked with desire, and Love with death, and further that man can be redeemed only by and through woman. The theme in that opera is that love cannot be fulfilled in earthly terms. It was suggested that the Romantic ideal was a combination of love, sacrifice, and union through the transcending of the human personality, of individuality itself.
The above thoughts were completed by stating that in his mature years Wagner described Tristan as a kind of pilgrimage, an expression of how to reach out beyond the world and the pull of sexual desire to the pure realm of the spirit, and that most modern interpretations of the opera have by-passed any spiritual dimension contained in that work.
Symbolism is all important, and not only in art and literature but in all realms, for language is itself a system of symbols – every word is a symbol. The pairs ‘life-desire’ and ‘love-death’ are amenable to a more positive, and real, interpretation. As presented it must have caused puzzlement in some of the readers of this blog: love related to death? The context, however, supplied the spiritual keys, as most must have noticed.
Indeed, it is light that is related to life, as well as to love and knowledge or understanding (these three being One, inseparable of one another and not simply parts of a whole). But ‘darkness’ (and ‘night’) can also have a positive meaning, which should be obvious. Underneath, a correspondence is outlined, not needing of any more words:
Joy — Peace — Light
Sorrow — War — Darkness
Knowledge — Being — Beauty (the beloved’s Face)
Ignorance — Non-being — Desire (the beloved’s Tresses)
If this causes some puzzlement (‘the tresses’), I must reveal that it is taken – and modified – from a Sufi source. Equaly, wine is similar not only to the pleasure in seeing the beloved’s tresses, but to the contemplation of their divine Essence – needs one say this?