ichard Wagner did not think highly of mainstream religion, especially the teachings of "priests and parsons" from the
established Christian churches. In religion, as in other subjects, Wagner read widely and took particular interest in books that had been written by anyone outside
of the mainstream. Therefore it is not surprising that he was intrigued by those writings of Meister Eckhart that became available in his lifetime,
notably with the publication of Eckhart's German works in 1857 by Franz Pfeiffer. Wagner had read about Eckhart in books by Schopenhauer and Görres respectively,
both of whom saw Eckhart as a mystic working outside of the religious mainstream. Schopenhauer wrote (in WWR) about mystics and ascetics who were sometime able to
arrive at the truth by working outwards from their inner being; while philosophers could reach the same conclusions by working inwards, from the external world. In
this respect, he claimed, his philosophy was unique in its agreement with the conclusions of mystics and ascetics. Even before Wagner had discovered the philosophy
of Schopenhauer, in which he found praise of Sufi mysticism, he had already discovered the poems of Hafiz.
[Cosima's Diaries, entry for Thursday, 23 September 1875. Tr. Geoffrey Skelton]
In the evening R. opens Meister Eckhart, some sentences occupy our thoughts completely, seeing and
hearing, seeing bringing the realization that through knowledge one is bound to attain ignorance — so profound: "here I feel myself at home", says R.
he German Dominican, philosopher and theologian Johannes Eckhart, variously known to history as Meister Eckhart or
Eckhart von Hochheim, taught what has been called a mystic pantheism that was to influence later religious mysticism and speculative philosophy. Joseph Görres (in
his book Die christliche Mystic, The Christian Mystics, 1836-42) called Eckhart
a miraculous, almost mythological Christian figure, half-shrouded in
mist. Two years before his death, Eckhart was accused of heresy but died before the proceedings had been completed. It is sometimes said that Eckhart was
condemned by the Church authorities but it would be more accurate to say only that some propositions in his teaching were condemned. Perhaps as a result of this,
many of his works were lost or mislaid. Interest in Eckhart's teachings developed in the nineteenth century and was fed by Pfeiffer's publication of the German
works. These sermons and other vernacular writings were interpreted as revealing Eckhart as a lone mystic who had not been understood in his own time: for example,
the title of Georg Lasson's study, published in 1868, is Meister Eckhart der Mystiker (Meister Eckhart the Mystic). By describing him in this way, Lasson
and other commentators implied that he stood outside of the Scholastic tradition, which they regarded as in opposition to mysticism. Only later, with the rediscovery
(by Heinrich Denifle in Erfurt and in Cusa) of Eckhart's substantial Latin works, did a more complete and rather different picture of Eckhart begin to appear.
Denifle published some parts of the Latin works already in 1886.
more of his writings were published, it became clear that Eckhart was a Scholastic in the same tradition as Thomas
Aquinas, Albertus Magnus and Dietrich of Freiberg. Although Eckhart took some bold departures from it, his philosophy developed from the mainstream Christian
tradition. His approach was unusual mainly in its reliance upon reason rather than on scripture. On the more complete basis of the Latin works in addition to the
German works, it becomes difficult to keep applying the label of "mystic" to Eckhart. Recently Kurt Flasch, who calls Meister Eckhart a philosopher of Christianity,
has stated that the concept of "mysticism" has no value in discussions of Eckhart. As Schopenhauer noted, Luther spoke approvingly of Eckhart's (German) writings but
this should not be taken to mean that Eckhart was some kind of early Protestant: indeed, many of his doctrines are incompatible with those of Luther. There have been
attempts both by Protestants and by Catholics to claim Eckhart for their own. During the Nazi era there was even an attempt, in the writings of Josef Quint, to claim
Eckhart for National Socialism.
chopenhauer's claim (in WWR vol.2 ch.48) that
... we find generally that Shakyamuni [Buddha] and Meister Eckhart
teach the same thing is one that we should take with a good pinch of salt. There are points of contact between teachings of the Buddha and of Eckhart
respectively but on closer examination their concepts are quite different. In particular, whereas Buddha taught that there is no self, for Eckhart there definitely
is a self and that is the problem: he taught that we have to let go (much of Eckhart's philosophy is about "letting go" or detachment) of our self, so that God can
take its place.
[Richard Wagner to August Röckel, 12 September 1852. Tr. Spencer and Millington.]
I would also like to introduce to a poet whom I have recently recognized to be the greatest of all
poets: it is the Persian poet "Hafiz", whose poems now exist in a most enjoyable German adaptation by Daumer. Familiarity with this poet has filled me with a very
real sense of terror: we with our pompous European intellectual culture must stand abashed in the presence of this product of the Orient, with its self-assured and
sublime tranquillity of mind ...
[Richard Wagner to Theodor Uhlig, September 1852.]
This Persian "Hafiz" is the greatest poet who ever lived and wrote poetry.
[Arthur Schopenhauer, WWR in the translation by E.F.J. Payne, vol.2 ch.48 p.612]
The Sufis are the Gnostics of Islam; hence also Sadi describes them by an expression that is translated
by "full of insight". Theism ... places the primary source of existence outside us, as an object. All mysticism, and so Sufism also, at the various stages of its
initiation, draws this source gradually back into ourselves as the subject, and the adept at last recognizes with wonder and delight that he himself is it. We find
this course of events expressed by Meister Eckhart, the father of German mysticism, [as] a precept for the perfect ascetic "that he seek not God outside himself"
[Hafiz translated by Gertrude Bell, 1897.]
The waves run high, night is clouded with fears,
And eddying whirlpools clash and roar;
How shall my drowning voice strike their ears
Whose light-freighted vessels have reached the shore?
I sought mine own; the unsparing years
Have brought me mine own, a dishonoured name.
What cloak shall cover my misery o'er
When each jesting mouth has rehearsed my shame!
Oh Hafiz, seeking an end to strife,
Hold fast in thy mind what the wise have writ:
"If at last thou attain the desire of thy life,
Cast the world aside, yea, abandon it!"
he Sufi poet Hafiz (Hafez, Hafis), or Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muhammad Hāfez, is widely regarded as the greatest of
Persian mystical poets. He lived and died at Shiraz. The ghazals of Hafiz are sweet poems on sensuous subjects: wine, flowers, beautiful women, with
esoteric meanings beneath what appear, on the surface, to be love poems. Wagner discovered this poet in 1852 while he was working on the poem of Das