Against the mythos, ethos, and pathos of Judaism and Christianity, I contrast those funky, funky Germans and Austrians.
Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Schubert, Carl Maria von Weber, Schumann, Hölderlin, Heine, Kleist, Jean Paul, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Schelling, Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, the Brothers Grimm, Nietzsche, Wagner, Mahler, Schoenberg, Freud, Walser, Hofmannsthal, Rilke, Benjamin, Hesse, Mann, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Werner Herzog, W.G. Sebald.
I'll lump in some others, such as: the German-Swiss Paul Klee, the Bohemian Kafka (who wrote and maybe thought in German), and the Polish Bruno Schulz (who translated Kafka and thereby was, I'm sure, infected with Germanic Weltanschauug and Weltschmerz). I will hazard to suggest that the German sense-of-things trickled into the soul of Coleridge (via Lessing and Kant, as well as the scenic landscapes around Ratzeburg and Göttingen) and insinuated a darker, deeper tonality into English Romanticism. The British writer George MacDonald was influenced by the German imagination. Perhaps the spiritual-aesthetic shadow of Germanic being spread even to Edvard Munch, over in Norway -- I've felt it in his palette.
(It's incumbent on me, at this point, to mention the phenomenon of Nazism. But I don't want to go into it. Those thuggish butchers and their delusional followers have been seen by some scholars as the natural extension of German culture in general. But I'm not persuaded that Wagner and Nietzsche caused such barbarism.)
And then there's this unusual fellow:
"The more poetic, the more real."
"The more poetic, the more real."
|Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg|
Even though some of our Germans dallied with Christianity to a certain degree, they could not be contained within the claustrophobia of a theistic category. With Judaism and then Christianity, we have a construct of Creator-Messiah-The End. In other words, a drawn-out, foregone conclusion about reality and Being.
The Judeo-Christian milieu, from Moses to Aquinas, is autistic and obsessive-compulsive. It wants to box in reality, impose order and narrative, mark strident time, leave no loose ends.
That just ain't gonna fly with the German soul, which prefers the ambiguous and the labyrinthine. It requires a pathological-hysterical opening onto the infinite, ever-weird Mysterium. Being for them, in general, is not about Jehovah or Jesus; it's about the Unsayable lurking within the beauty of nightmare and the melancholy of ecstasy.
Does it have something to do with Paganism & Nature? There might be a little Harz Mountains and Black Forest mixed into it. But it's something farther-fetched, subtler, and more unusual than the Volk.
German Romanticism -- early, late, modern, and postmodern -- is a different and shadowed response to "Let there be light." It's a preference for or instinctive allegiance to imagination, dream, and textures of the abyss behind substance and process.
Novalis's Blue Flower........
What is it? What's this all about?
The Blue Flower is the symbolic essence of sought-after Mathilde, in the novel Heinrich Von Ofterdingen. And Mathilde represents the sought-after meaning of beauty, poetry and being.
In this never-completed book, Henry travels the worlds of pondering, fairy tales, and actual geography. This is the story of an awakening into mystical spirit and mythical vision -- into the "supreme realism."
The Blue Flower blooms within Schubert's Trio No. 2 in E-flat major. It becomes an implicit apparition blossoming above Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde. The "gods" of Hölderlin and Heidegger are garlanded with its petals. Kant's and Schopenhauer's noumenal is scented with its unknowable blueness. Freud's Eros and Uncanny are forms of its pistil and stamen. The "ecstatic truth" of Herzog is hallucinated from its pollen. A tinted dew remains upon the melancholy of Sebald's wanderings.
The Blue Flower is a perennial. It continues to flourish outside the walls of ruins and within the depths of haunted poems.