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Twilight of the Gods: Page 1001
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‘There is the next mile-stone for you, in the History of Mankind! That universal Burning-up, as in hell-fire, of Human Shams. The oath of twenty-five Million men, which has since become that of all men whatsoever, ‘Rather than live longer under lies, we will die!’ – that is the New Act in World-History. (…) This is the truly celestial-infernal Event: … . (…) For it is withal the breaking-out of universal mankind into Anarchy, into the faith and practice of No-Government, -- that is to say … into unappeasable revolt against Sham-Governors and Sham-Teachers, -- which I do charitably define to be a Search, most unconscious, yet in deadly earnest, for true Governors and Teachers. … When the Spontaneous Combustion breaks out; and, many-coloured, with loud noises, envelopes the whole world in anarchic flame for long hundreds of years … .” [817W-{1-3/72} Introduction to ‘Art and Revolution,’ ‘The Artwork of the Future,’ and ‘Opera and Drama’: PW Vol. I, p. 23]

We may see Wagner’s reminiscences of the Russian anarchist Bakunin’s apocalyptic vision of old Europe and its culture in flames, set by the revolution, as found in Wagner’s autobiography Mein Leben, in the light of Wagner’s remarks about Carlyle’s universal combustion, which would burn up all human shams.

But in the course of his career Wagner gradually expanded what had originally been a purely socio-historical concept of revolution, in which an old and tired order would make way for a new one with greater justice, tolerance, freedom, and happiness, into a quasi-scientific understanding of the cyclic nature of evolution (of both species, and culture), a philosophic development which eventually incorporated the entire cosmos.

In the following extract, for instance, Wagner suggested that modern cultural decadence will culminate, vaguely, in some disaster whose consequence will be a return to nature, though Wagner here does not describe the historical mechanism through which this will occur:

“… he [Wagner] discusses the similarity between the present world situation and the fall of the Roman Empire, when national virtues also ceased to flourish, Christianity having torn down the national barriers; now the Jews are completing this work. ‘At best,’ says R., ‘I anticipate a return to a kind of state of Nature, for the Jews will also meet their doom.’ “ [949W-{11/5/78}CD Vol. II, p.190]

It is implicit in Wagner’s thesis that civilization will return to a sort of state of nature after some sort of general conflagration and cultural catastrophe: something like what I have described as the end of human consciousness, and a restoration of preconscious animal instinct (which I take to be a primary meaning of Bruennhilde’s restoration of the Ring to the Rhinedaughters), will occur after civilization has reached its nadir of degradation.

On one occasion Wagner synthesized his otherwise purely metaphysical concept of an eternal return of the Ring cycle with his earlier theory of social revolution. In this instance, history must repeat itself, ending each time in cultural collapse, until man learns to distribute wealth equally:

“If people cannot understand how to guard against the old (barbaric) abuses – such as unequal possession etc., history will have to begin from the beginning again in order to teach us anew and still more forcibly.” [1101W-{10/23/81} BB, p. 201]

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