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The Metaphysics of Tragedy


Leopold Ziegler

6,157 words

Leopold Ziegler (1881-1958) was a German philosopher who was steeped in the philosophy of the Will of Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and in the philosophy of the Unconscious of the Schopenhauerian philosopher, Eduard von Hartmann (1842-1906). Already as a secondary school student at the Technische Hochschule in Karlsruhe, Ziegler was introduced to the doctrines of Hartmann by the philosopher Arthur Drews (1865-1935), and in 1910 he wrote a work on his philosophy entitled Das Weltbild Hartmanns: Eine Beurteilung. He obtained his doctorate in 1905 from the University of Jena, but was unable to take up an academic career on account of his poor health.

Ziegler contributed to the Neoconservative movement of the Weimar Republic through his two works entitled Das heilige Reich der Deutschen (1925) and Der europäische Geist (1929). He was also a friend of the influential Neoconservative thinker Edgar Julius Jung (1894-1934)[1] [2] as well as of Franz von Papen (1879-1969), who served as Chancellor of Germany in 1932 and Vice-Chancellor, under Hitler, from 1933 to 1934. Ziegler’s other works on political philosophy include Volk, Staat und Persönlichkeit (1917) and Von Platons Staatheit zum christlichen Staat (1948), while his interest in religious philosophy is evidenced in works such as Gestaltwandel der Götter (1920), Überlieferung (1936), and Menschwerdung (1944).

However, it is his very first publication from 1902 that presents one of the most perceptive theories of the metaphysics of tragedy. Inspired by the philosophical systems of Schopenhauer and Hartmann and the tragic operas of Richard Wagner, Ziegler’s Metaphysics of Tragedy not only fathoms the ultimate metaphysical basis of tragedy but also reveals the true nature of a tragic hero and a spiritual genius.

The tragic guilt

Ziegler begins by distinguishing ancient tragedy from modern in that the former is based on Fate, while the latter is on Character. Fate is what Schelling, in his Philosophie der Kunst, had called Necessity, which must be overcome by the Freedom of the tragic subject:

That an innocent person becomes guilty through an act of Fate is, as I said, in itself the highest misfortune imaginable. But that this guiltless guilty person voluntarily accepts punishment is the sublime in tragedy; hereby Freedom reveals its highest identity with Necessity.[2] [3]

Ziegler deepens this Schellingian understanding of the identification of Freedom with Necessity by revealing how the tragic hero’s guilt is due to the immanence of Fate in the tragic human microcosm. The guilt of the tragic hero is indeed not a moral guilt — dependent on choice — but a tragic guilt, which is inevitable. This guilt is produced entirely by the intensity of the will of the tragic subject, a quality that distinguishes him from other normal human beings. Thus the saying that “character is destiny” is pre-eminently true of the tragic hero.

As an example of tragic guilt that is not moral guilt, Ziegler points to the case of Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin. It is Elsa’s intense devotion to Lohengrin that makes her infringe the command placed on her by the latter not to attempt to discover his identity. Similarly, the loving kindness of King Lear or the childish trust of Othello become, in their exaggerated development, the causes of tragic downfalls. Tragic heroes or heroines share this intensity of the will with great religious figures such as Luther, Giordano Bruno, and Savonarola. In all these cases, it is the overextended will that is responsible for the disharmony of a tragic life since such a will conflicts with the directions of other wills.

The tragic death

The voluntary choices made by the tragic hero mark him as a “guilty” person, whether he be morally guilty or not, and must be punished by his death. Not all deaths are tragic, however, but only that of a tragic hero, since it is connected logically with the conflict that arises out of his “guilt”:

If life represents itself to us as a sum of conflicts of the will which signify as such the conditio sine qua non of tragedy, now death must be causally and logically connected with the conflict if it should rise to tragedy.

And again:

But if the relation between the subjectively tragic will and the objectively intervening omnipotence is a completely alogical one — if, in other words, there exists no relation between the two facts — one can no longer speak of a tragic death.


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A tragic death too must, strictly speaking, occur at the moment of the climax of the tragedy when the recognition of the tragic hero’s conflict is complete. However, most tragedies follow natural life, where life is often prolonged after the climactic moment, and this Naturalistic tendency in tragic composition leads to a delayed catastrophe. Yet, every stage in a tragic hero’s career is marked by the logicality of an unconscious immanent fate that can be resolved only through the final negation of the will itself.

The tragic man is, in his identification of his individual will with the universal, much like the genius[3] [6]

because both eo ipso necessarily obey objective goals, indeed can do nothing but satisfy supraindividual goals. Whereas Providence leaves the moral man a small latitude within which he may move freely, this possibility is taken away from the tragic man as well as from the genius. The life of both is a strict obedience with regard to the immanent law that realizes its goals through their individual actions and deeds.

The essence of tragedy, according to Ziegler, consists in the realization of the will as an idea that negates the will. Ziegler thus follows Eduard von Hartmann’s doctrine of the intimate connection between Will and Idea in the Unconscious.[4] [7] The final negation of the will occurs because the guilt of the tragic hero contains an unconscious impulse towards its atonement that results in the negation of his phenomenal life:

That the tragic man had to have a guilt is beyond the intellectual capacity of the man, who stands here perplexed at the borders of the thinkable, the logical — but that this guilt conceals ideally the possibility, even the logical necessity, of its overcoming is the service of the unconscious idea of the tragic will. One and the same act of the will of the tragic man entangles him in the tragic necessity of the conflict and prepares the atonement and resolution of the same. The moment when man loses his freedom phenomenally decides the entire further course of his life, which is dedicated to the reacquisition of freedom through the removal of phenomenality. All that happens through the unconscious idea of the final goal.

A perfect tragedy also cannot depend on external causes for the death of the hero, as in the case of Hamlet’s death through a poisoned rapier when his tragic dilemma is his inability to find a solution to the wickedness of his family and, by extension, of men in general. As Ziegler declares:

I think that tragedy will always be purest where it abandons every external intervention and represents the destruction as a logical overcoming of the will by itself.

The tragedy of the macrocosmic Will

The inextricable relation of Will to Idea in Hartmann’s and Ziegler’s philosophy implies that tragic guilt is present not only in individual wills but in the universal Will itself and in its natural evolution. The tragic will’s assertion of itself entails the destruction of itself, but this is part of the plan of the divine law that pervades the entire universe at every stage of the Will’s operation. As Ziegler points out:

It is a tragic victory when a life-form, whether it be as an individual or as a species, has accomplished its allotted work by asserting its relative right within the total sum of other individuals and other species through the sacrifice of its existence. Tragic for the reason that the high point of the achieved maturity coincides with the limits of logicality and justification of life — for this moment is the beginning of the dissolution and overcoming. And tragic also because the actual will itself knows about the overstepped limit because its force, once unchained, acts continuously with blind necessity — to the end. The revolution and overextension are a means for the world-spirit to implement the intended raising of consciousness — and to this extent one can say that the laws of evolution are of a tragic nature.

The universal tragic Will is in fact forced to realize itself as an Idea that is forced to negate the Will itself: “the will, which indeed can do nothing but realize the principle that negates it, that is, negate itself.” If there is a universal will that does not wish its negation, it can only be attributed to an alogical will, or a will that is “without imagination, ideas, reason, a blind, dumb, absolutely undetermined, absolutely empty, will.” Ziegler calls this original Will God, though it would be better to have called it Nature.

Ziegler does not have the conception of the Absolute Self that Karl August von Eschenmayer, for example,[5] [8] had maintained in his system by distinguishing the World-Soul (which is the same as Schopenhauer’s Will or the driving force that moves between spirit and matter as Reason and Nature) from the transcendent Spirit (or the noumenal Self that constitutes the essence of Schopenhauer’s Will as “thing-in-itself”).[6] [9] By identifying the Will in Nature with God, Ziegler is forced to consider the deity guilty of the natural vicissitudes of this Will:

This random original will is the tragic guilt of God divested of all accidents and particularities insofar as it is macrocosmic. All possible interpretations of tragic guilt in tragedy are traced back to it. In every tragic event it emerges anew in its randomness, every tragic guilt of a man is the repetition of that first guilt of God.

However, even if Ziegler does not distinguish between the God and Nature sufficiently, he does distinguish between the self as the subject of consciousness and the soul. The subject of tragic action, he points out, is not the conscious self:

In the self there is no fate to be encountered, the self cannot realize anything, the self can never conflict with objective directions of the will, the self is not the producer of tragedy; all functions fall beyond our self, beyond our consciousness. If there should be a tragedy there must also be an immanent fate, then we must postulate a creative and active principle that nourishes our consciousness, for in the self we encounter nothing but passive ideas: The world is my idea.

The incomparable excellence of tragedy as an art-form is that it forces us to recognize that the basis of tragedy is indeed not the self, or ego — which has to be negated — but the soul that surpasses it (because it is indeed part of the World-Soul of Eschenmayer and the Will of Schopenhauer):

The fact of tragedy forces us to postulate a real bearer of our consciousness that is not identical with it; it forces us to go beyond the world of mere consciousness and to deny our self in favor of the immanent reality of the tragic will. We are never this will but we are indeed a product of its functions; it is nothing but the metaphysical substratum that lies at the basis of our passive thought; it is the capacity of our spontaneity, of our world of thoughts, always abstracted as its real prius and yet the principle of our life and our action; the immanent fate is therefore nothing but our soul. It is the immanent unity of active will and the idea of the tragic final goal.

The tragic action is not a passive one since it entails the deliberate destruction of the self by the tragic hero now impelled by a consciousness higher than his own intellectual one:

But even now, when the self has atoned for its responsibility, the objection cannot be raised that it watches the actions and deeds of fate like a passive marionette, for the will of fate is always the will of the tragic man; it is also, as unconscious will, the realization of his self. It is nothing less than an alien being that has taken possession of him; it is the real correlative of the self itself that the latter cannot escape and whose constitution it atones for through the extinction of its selfness.

Ziegler gives the examples of Wagner’s tragic characters — Tannhäuser, Elsa, Isolde, Tristan, and even Wotan — who all go to their end conscious of having fulfilled their destiny. The fulfilment of the Destiny of a tragic hero is the fulfilment of the immanent Fate within the tragic subject as part of a purposeful Providence, for “the administration of a purposeful Providence [is] recognized in the tragically unconscious soul just as in the decisions of the moral consciousness.”

The impossibility of tragedy in Nature

However, even though the tragic will is ultimately a universal one, not all of the universal phenomena are tragic. We may remember that Schopenhauer had presented the sublime in Nature as having an effect similar to the tragic in human lives:

Our pleasure in the tragedy belongs not to the feeling of the beautiful, but to that of the sublime; it is, in fact, the highest degree of this feeling. For, just as at the sight of the sublime in nature we turn away from the interest of the will in order to behave in a purely perceptive way, so in the catastrophe we turn away from the will-to-live itself.[7] [10]

However, Ziegler takes care to emphasize that only men can be tragic, because only they have distinct personalities:

the tragic will postulates human personality. Only here, in the heightened and comprehensive activity of human consciousness, do the unconscious individual functions of the Absolute undergo that individual differentiation that stamps every human personality as something completely incomparable. Of course, even here as everywhere, the immanent producer is unconscious, but its productions are regulated, changed, or suppressed according to the stipulations of consciousness. And even when man has once again lost this capacity for the modification of his unconscious decisions, as this is the case precisely with the tragic man, it is still his nature, his fate, his soul that acts and not the instinct of his species.

Nature below the level of human consciousness of the self lacks personality and, consequently, the ability to be tragic:

All stages of objectification below man lack the characteristic of personality. The instinct that alone rules here is, as E. von Hartmann says, characterized by the fact that it “acts purposefully without consciousness of the purpose.” But therewith is drawn the borderline between animal individuality and human personality. Personality distinguishes itself from the lower objectifications by the ability to act purposefully in a conscious way; indeed, this ability is therefore rightly human “freedom.” Through the ability to weigh motives and counter-motives according to their logicality and purposefulness, man has achieved the possibility of escaping from the compulsion of his species, from the necessary decisions of his racial instinct and of substituting in their place the individual goals of his individual consciousness.

Both animals and tragic men act outside the moral sphere, but the animal is sub-moral, whereas the tragic man is supramoral:

The tragedy of the animal instinct is always in a certain sense sub-tragic because the animal has never possessed the capacity of conscious determination; man indeed becomes tragic through the fact that he has lost it again.

The consequence of this abandonment of human morality is the acquisition of tragic guilt on the part of the tragic hero:

Therefore the animal is, in the highest sense of the word, innocent — the tragic man, in spite of his lack of freedom, is guilty insofar as his uncommonly heightened intensity of will necessarily signifies an abandonment of the human moral sphere.

In other words:

the actual field of the tragic remains limited to the type of the tragic man because only here the overextension of the will considered as a loss of human freedom appears as guilt, whereas in all other stages of objectification one can indeed speak of overextension of the will but never in this synthetic sense as individual guilt.

However, the tragic hero does not always become aware of the guilt of his deliberate actions, believing as he does that he is in fact ever moving towards a positive, higher goal. He is not fully aware that his subjective will has now turned against the objective harmony of the phenomenal world.

Tragedy as Redemption


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We have seen that the eminence of the tragic hero as well as of great spiritual men is due to the intensity of their will that forces them to realize the aims of the Will of the universe immanent in them. These aims are not, as Carlyle had maintained in his doctrine of hero-worship,[8] [13] merely the several ideals that propel the various historic periods forwards, but rather the secret aim of the cosmos itself to return to God.

Since all tragic events are discerned as being part of a purposeful Providence, it is clear that the tragedy of the entire universe moves inexorably towards its own redemption. Redemption itself can be understood only as a longing for a return to the state prior to all individuation, and prior to all manifestation, a return to the supreme unity of the One. The secret motivation of this longing is the essence of Love itself:

And still more do all barriers fall away when we trace back the actual streaming of the will of the entire universe to its simplest denomination — as the love of the individual being split from the One, the Absolute, to be united once again with it and in this way to atone for the tragic guilt of essential alienation — through Love.

 Ziegler pauses to examine the curious mixture of pain and pleasure in the spectators’ enjoyment of a tragedy. Indeed, this mixture was at the base of the Eleusinian mysteries that gave rise to the tragic drama. The pain arises from the necessity of the tragic hero’s having to abandon phenomenal life as we know it. The pleasure felt on observing a tragedy arises from the fact that our intuition glimpses beyond the immanent will the transcendent being. There is in us a voice that understands this as logical, because we are

organized in such a way that we could free ourselves, in spite of our will to life, from ourselves and understand tragic death as the symbol of the victory of the logical over the alogical.

This pleasure therefore arises from the teleological significance of death

because it was completely an immanently logical necessity, and it is this logicality that elevates us, and for whose sake tragedy leaves far, far behind all sadness, all oppressive fatalism and gloom.

The metaphysical pessimism exhibited by all tragedy is thus compensated by the positive nature of the demand for the world’s redemption, for a recognition of the world’s moral meaning. Indeed, the need to abjure the world is evident also in Brāhmanism and Buddhism, just as it is in German idealistic philosophy:

Everywhere the knowledge that breaks through of the guilty divine “base” is the introduction to individual rebirth through which man acknowledges the ideally perfected redemption and reunification with God; everywhere the goal of the world reaches its peak in the advancing power of redemption.

The guilt that is to be redeemed is, of course, not a moral or a personal one since it is a part of the guilt of the entire universal creation:

This primeval and inherited guilt, however, is nothing but the natural desire of the will immanent in us to overstep its limits at the cost of other objectifications of the will. In ethical terms: the inherited religious guilt is egoism. But this guilt is inextricably interwoven with our life; we can never flee from it, for the will is indeed the real base of our existence. The Pauline words are eminently true for the will: “for we live and move and have our being in him.”[9] [14] Now, the moment that really illuminates the essential guilt of our existence can be called rebirth. On it is the possibility of a redemption dependent, with it is this possibility given.

This redemption is at the same time a redemption of God himself:[10] [15]

Insofar as the basis of human guilt is therefore nothing but the change of condition in God, the former is to be called a divine dichotomy, as a dichotomy between his being and his manifestation, which should-not-be. To this extent therefore the redemption of man from his guilt is the redemption of God from his dichotomous state. Man’s mission is therefore finally the redemption of God; by denying his will he abjures the realization of the divine will, by freeing himself from the oppressive curse to be a being at the cost of the divine Being, he frees even God from the same for having abandoned this being enclosed-in-itself. The essence of the God-man and of religion is therefore mysticism, that is, belief in the reunification with the divine being.

However, in religion, the result of such a redemption is the blessed transformation of man, whereas in a tragedy it is his necessary death. Also, the religious man works throughout his life for a conscious negation of his self, whereas the tragic man is unaware of the working of immanent fate in his will and resembles the religious man only in his resolution to choose death rather than life in the resolution of his tragic conflict. But the tragic death is always an integral part of the universal redemption that is the goal of the universal Will:

Insofar as the immanent fate expiated by the tragic death is only a functional splinter of the unconscious fate of the cosmos, that is, identical to the metaphysical real base of all individuals, one can also say that the immanent fate plays an analogous role in tragedy to God in religion. Thus here, too, in tragedy one can justifiably speak of a redemption of the world-spirit, at least of that part of it that had become immanent in the tragic man.

Ziegler pauses to examine the conduct of the Dionysiac mysteries that Nietzsche too had focused on in his Geburt der Tragödie. He agrees that the Bacchantes were rather like Indian yogis who immersed themselves in divine ecstasy to seek union with God. However, he points out Nietzsche’s error in believing that these ecstatic performances were intended for the achievement of personal immortality or for a participation in the eternal pleasure in Becoming of the creative God. Ziegler refutes this false philosophy of tragedy:

We, who do not believe that the justification of life is its eternity, who are convinced that the pleasure of no creature balances the displeasure of all others, and who do not believe in any metaphysical pleasure but indeed in a divine suffering, will also not share Nietzsche’s opinion that the nature of mysticism and tragedy is the consolation of indestructibility. That the mystic thinks that God is holy is indeed incidental; the principal thing is that he is convinced of his empirical unholiness. What is to be observed in Greek mysticism and in tragedy is not the belief in the transcendental holiness of God but the deep longing to seek to forget the earthly unholiness in the unio mystica on the one hand and, on the other, the immersion into the tragic symbol of the suffering of the world through whose voluntary assumption of this suffering the original redemption from it is prepared (Prometheus).

The Christian belief in the immortality of the soul too renders tragedy impossible, since death is thereby robbed of its painful tragic effect.[11] [16] Strangely, Ziegler thinks that Protestantism permitted the flourishing of tragedy, such as Shakespeare’s after the Catholic Middle Ages, since it focused once again on the reality and joy of life. But this is to ignore the fact that Shakespeare himself may have been a Catholic, and his major tragedies are also not set in Protestant times. Besides, the Puritans, the radical Protestant sect, were even opposed to theatrical productions, which they banned in 1642 after the first English Civil War.

Further, Ziegler suggests that the personal conception of the deity in Christianity (which derives from the Judaic) makes it impossible that a perfectly good God would stand in need of a redemption. Thus, a worldview that “seeks to do justice to the nature of tragedy must necessarily be Pantheistic, that is, the belief in an unconsciously immanent absolute principle that can become tragic fate.” However, he seems to recognize that there is indeed a basis for a Christian tragic worldview in the story of the Fall of Man:

But if Christianity wanted a tragedy it would have to transfer it to a time before birth (which is suggested also in the Fall of Man), since the transition from pre-existence to existence plays the role of a catastrophe; the consequence of tragic guilt would then be not death but life.

As evidence of the passion of the originally guilty universal Will, Ziegler erroneously gives the example of Christ’s crucifixion:

This unfortunate dissatisfaction is the Christ who is crucified in every man, who is overcome in a twofold manner: ideally, every day and hour in the constant, bitter battle against motivation,[12] [17] in real life through death.

Ziegler forgets that Christ’s death on the cross is that of the “second Adam,” who expiates the Fall of the first. This is the significance of Paul’s words, in 1 Corinthians 15 [18]:22, that “as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.” The first Adam corresponds, indeed, to the manifest Brahman, called Purusha (the first cosmic manifestation of the divine Soul, Ātman as a macroanthropos)[13] [19] in Brāhmanism, whereas the unmanifest Brahman is the ineffable transcendent Self, or God.

Another prohibition of the metaphysics of tragedy is the use of a wise man as a tragic hero since he, as a moral man, will naturally avoid all conflicts productive of tragedy. As Ziegler elaborates:

The moral man recognizes it as his eminent duty to conserve his life so long as this is necessary for the realization of objective goals; the moral consciousness demands the maintenance of life unperturbed even if the measure of personal suffering has apparently gone beyond those limits where man may continue to live. The wise man recognizes the value of life merely in its indirectness; in itself worthless and without a goal, it is necessary for the execution of the work that is being performed.

But tragic death must necessarily be an unfree effect of the immanent fate in the individual will. Here, the evolution of human consciousness itself independently of the Unconscious steadily works against the development of the tragic sense:

But Nature has endowed the majority of men in such a way that they do not listen clearly to the voices of the unconscious. Nature directs itself in its entire evolutionary process to breaking the absolute power of the unconscious will and placing the conscious decision of man in the place of the decision of Fate — Nature therefore clearly works in a quite definite way against the extension and generalization of tragedy just as it makes the birth of genius through the heightening of consciousness difficult. The entire evolution curbs the field of tragedy more and more . . .

However, the revival of tragedy cannot occur through a return to instinctual life that reverses all the slow accomplishments of evolution. Thus, Nietzsche was certainly wrong in stressing the instinctual life as a superhuman goal. Rather, the tragic process can henceforth only be realized in the macrocosm itself:

Indeed, the progressing evolution signifies an increasing reduction of all individual tragedy, as we have seen, in that it increasingly curbs and restricts the conditio sine qua non, the absolute rule of the immanent fate, but even thereby it reshapes the entire course of the natural and spiritual evolution so much more strikingly into a cosmic tragedy.


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Ziegler’s negation of the universal will is reminiscent of that of Eduard von Hartmann, who, unlike Schopenhauer, did not consider individual renunciation sufficient to put an end to the problem of the world, for this, according to Hartmann, cannot hinder the universal Will from continuing to perpetuate itself through pain in the various manifestations of Nature. Rather, the ultimate hope consists in what he calls an eventual “cosmic-universal negation of will.”[14] [22] This grandiose ethical aim of Hartmann’s metaphysics appears less extravagant in Ziegler’s metaphysics, which focuses on the “redemptive” import of the negation of the cosmic will as well as of that of the tragic hero:

This act of world redemption may be called the tragedy par excellence, as the essence of tragedy, for here the tragic hero is the cosmos in its totality of the directions of the will conflicting with one another; the immanent fate is the entire fullness of the will immanent in the world; and the overcoming teleology is the totality of all logical relations in its discharge into the finality of the absolute goal of the world that encompasses all of them: the destruction of the tragic guilt of the metaphysical will. The tragic subject which, during the world process, suffered in and was released from countless individual existences frees itself now from the necessity of individualization and raises the small individual tragedies into a single tragedy of the universe.

Indeed, every heroic death is an anticipation of the macrocosmic tragedy. The latter, however, can be appreciated only through an intensification of the religious mentality:

The increasing process of becoming conscious of this cosmotragic process will go hand-in-hand with the increase of religious consciousness that is announced in an ever more intensive conception of the problem of redemption. Only the increasing understanding of this paves the way for the knowledge that tragedy, too, is nothing but one of those dark paths to redemption that our fate — God — asked us to take.

Moreover, since the negation of the will to individuation in the cosmic process is nothing but a longing to return to the One, tragedy itself is essentially nothing but the Love that impels man and the world back to God:

Tragedy, then, is that which in the final analysis impels all the activities of the world — Love and its will, which is the same everywhere — to find in God the peace of the world that has been overcome.

Tragedy and worldview

One interesting aspect of Ziegler’s metaphysical study is its association of tragedy with worldview in general, for

the sole and exclusive possibility of observing the objective play of endlessly complicated world processes and to produce it from itself in simplified lines is possessed by drama and, most eminently, tragedy. In it, therefore, the relations to the worldview will be more striking and clearer than in the plastic or lyrical arts.

Tragedy reflects the current worldview of the people producing it:

the unconsciously implicit laws of tragedy are themselves a worldview; they are in no way formal rules, but the reverse: The form of tragedy is such a one that has been crystallized gradually out of the residue of quite definite thought connections. Every great deviation, every new synthesis in human worldview, has at first had a reaction quite unconsciously on the formation of tragedy.

The tragic worldview, as well as the tragic art, is best represented in the modern world by the Germans:

It is obviously based in our nature that we have felt, above all things, the tragedy of life. Not without reason could we be called the purely tragic people, for the sense of the inviolable law of the evil of existence is quite differently developed in our worldview than among the Greeks. The deep melancholy of tragedy is extended to the finest ramifications of our intellectual life and does not easily allow a work of our genius arise that is not affected by this gloomy seriousness. Of all human types, the German has conceived himself as the tragic, for a consuming fire of self-destruction burns in all his ideas and works. The old significance of our mythology according to which the earthly heroes recognize their calling to go down along with their guilty gods is revived in each of our great men. The German has always recognized his idea and his mission as destiny and fate. Loyalty, which Houston Stewart Chamberlain so finely celebrates as a fundamental feature of our character, is a tragic one, for it is the voluntary-necessary devotion till destruction. This devotion is necessary because it is nothing but an affirmation of our character, and voluntary because it recognizes in this the natural law to obey which is elevated to a duty.

It was the Germanic peoples who, in Shakespeare, established the modern tragedy of character as opposed to the Greek tragedies of Fate. But it was the philosophy of Schopenhauer that inspired the lofty tragedy of Richard Wagner, focused on the need for redemption:

the tragedy of R. Wagner differentiates itself specifically from antique and Shakespearean tragedy through the conception of tragic death as redemption. Is it now a coincidence that this idea of redemption is not only the punctum saliens of the entire Schopenhauerian metaphysics, but has today once again found in the philosophy of E. von Hartmann perhaps its most energetic and greatest expression?

It is true that the modern age of Darwinistic science and Marxist politics denies the metaphysical pessimism that is associated with the religious sensibility:

By denying metaphysical pessimism and the belief in teleology, in the same way one has buried the spring itself that drives all the gears: religion.

And so the revival of the tragic sense can only occur with the renewal of religion, as Wagner insisted:

The theoretical impossibility of our age to raise itself up to an understanding of tragedy, which is constantly confused with pathos, and its practical inability to create a tragedy are therefore only the purely logical consequences of its religious indifference. The solution of the problem of tragedy is linked to the solution of the religious, and R. Wagner is fully right when he hopes for a regenerative new creation of tragedy only from a renewal and reformation of religious conditions.

The hope of such a regeneration of religion lies, therefore, in a consolidation of the Schopenhauerian worldview:

One will perhaps later date from the emergence of Schopenhauer the blooming of a new, purely Aryan religion of redemption and celebrate his genius as the reawakened spirit of our Germanic religious metaphysics, and one will then have to consider that at the same moment a new tragedy arose that represents as high a developmental phase of tragedy as the Schopenhauerian metaphysics does that of religious consciousness. And again, it is not a coincidence that there arose only among us Germans the beginning of a new tragedy, the only people in the world that, in the midst of an unexampled coarsening and degeneration of all thought, still possesses enough power of metaphysical formation to perfect, in Eduard von Hartmann, the synthesis of all mythical and metaphysical ideas from the Upanishads and Plotinus to Schelling and Schopenhauer.

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[1] [24] Ziegler wrote a monograph on Jung called Edgar Julius Jung: Denkmal und Vermächtnis (1955).

[2] [25] Schelling, “Von der Tragödie,” in Philosophie der Kunst.

[3] [26] From the examples that Ziegler gives of geniuses (see above), it may be taken for granted that he means primarily spiritual geniuses.

[4] [27] For a more detailed study of the philosophy of Hartmann, see, for instance, Alexander Jacob, De Naturae Natura: A Study of Idealistic Conceptions of Nature and the Unconscious (London: Arktos, 2011), Ch. IX.

[5] [28] See Alexander Jacob, op. cit., Ch. VI.

[6] [29] For Schopenhauer’s metaphysics, see Alexander Jacob, op. cit., Ch. IX.

[7] [30] Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, Vol. II, Ch. 37 (tr. E. F. J. Payne).

[8] [31] See Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes, Hero-Worship and the Heroic in History (1841).

[9] [32] Acts 17:28.

[10] [33] We are reminded of the final scene of Wagner’s Parsifal with its moving affirmations of “Erlösung dem Erlöser (Redemption to the Redeemer).”

[11] [34] Cf., in this context, Miguel de Unamuno, Del sentimiento trágico de la vida (The Tragic Sense of Life), (1912): “And here, facing this supreme religious sacrifice, we reach the summit of the tragedy, the very heart of it — the sacrifice of our own individual consciousness upon the altar of the perfected Human Consciousness, of the Divine Consciousness. But is there really a tragedy? . . . if we could succeed in understanding and feeling that we were going to enrich Christ, should we hesitate for a moment in surrendering ourselves utterly to Him?” (Ch. X)

[12] [35] The word Ziegler uses is Bereitschaft, which seems to refer to the Bereitschaftspotential (readiness potential), or readiness for movement that precedes voluntary movement in the body.

[13] [36] For a detailed study of the ancient Indo-Europeans’ cosmogony, see Alexander Jacob, Ātman: A Reconstruction of the Solar Cosmology of the Indo-Europeans (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 2005). The “Fall” of this First Man is what leads to the passion of Osiris/Dionysus/Christ in the “underworld” and the consequent rise of the Sun into our universe.

[14] [37] E. von Hartmann, Philosophie des Unbewussten, Sec. C, Ch. 14.