“One might say that where Religion becomes artificial, it is reserved for Art to save the
spirit of religion by recognizing the figurative value of the mythic symbols which the former
would have us believe in their literal sense, and revealing their deep and hidden truth through
an ideal presentation. Whilst the priest stakes everything on the religious allegories being
accepted as matters of fact, the artist has no concern at all with such a thing, since he freely
and openly gives out his work as his own invention. But Religion has sunk into an artificial
life, when she finds herself compelled to keep on adding to the edifice of her dogmatic
symbols, and thus conceals the one divinely True in her beneath an ever growing heap of
incredibilities commended to belief. Feeling this, she has always sought the aid of Art; who
on her side has remained incapable of higher evolution so long as she must present that
alleged reality of the symbol to the senses of the worshipper in form of fetishes and idols,—
whereas she could only fulfill her true vocation when, by an ideal presentment of the allegoric
figure, she led to apprehension of its inner kernel, the truth ineffably divine.
To see our way clear in this, we should have most carefully to test the origin of religions.
These we must certainly deem the more divine, the simpler proves to be their inmost kernel.
Now, the deepest basis of every true religion we find in recognition of the frailty of this
world, and the consequent charge to free ourselves therefrom.”
- Richard Wagner (From the essay: “Religion and Art”)
The true tragedy of popular religion comes in the betrayal of that which truly serves us spiritually for the worship of the superficial. Richard Wagner argues that art can never achieve its fullest potential while working towards the aim of religious ambition, for it’s very place is at a distance from the divine (to support the material rituals of popular demand). While the “inmost kernel” is the essential teachings of the philosophy, art is wrongly used to prop up all that which men place between themselves and this inner truth. Instead, the use of artistic expression must be used as an aid in achieving spiritual truth. While the notion of religion can not accurately be spoken about on the whole, the term, for this purpose, refers to man’s tendency to turn towards superficiality as a way of escaping the responsibility of true inward reflection. In the last sentence of this paragraph Wagner proposes that while the “deepest basis of every true religion” is meant for the understanding of the worlds illusory nature, the popular beliefs often contradict these original philosophical inquiries by placing importance on rituals and material miracles. The move towards spiritual sincerity is in the ripening of the self for the joining of the whole. Our art is our beginning to this.