"When religion becomes artificial, art has a duty to rescue it. Art can show that the symbols which religions would have us believe literally true are actually figurative. Art can idealize those symbols, and so reveal the profound truths they contain."
This brings to light to me some of the muddled thought of the 19th century.
I've been struggling with Brahms' German Requiem, which falls into a similar time period as Wagner's life, because I learned to love this piece and the text is scripture throughout except for a quote from the apocrypha. -- Yet, the Requiem contains no references to Christ, at all, except there are some words of his quoted. When you wade through the forest of biblical quotes you find no Messiah in the piece.
This made me sad and angry. -- But an "enlightened" acquaintance of mine said to me: "But Brahms was an artist."
This made no sense to me in this context, but in speaking with mystics and reading this Wagner quote, I see now, how they see the world. Because they have lost their faith, they can now work and play with the "symbols" to their heart's content and be the "profound" ones. At the heart of it all is a denial of a historical Christ, historical scriptures, of sin and redemption, death and resurrection. In their place steps the imagination which becomes now the essence of spirituality, and myth which now becomes the essence of reality. All the while it is religion which has become "aritificial." --Nifty.
It comes to me now that "sterile" and "artificial" are words that can be wielded just in the same way as "shallow", "profane" and "imbecilic", against which I have railed previously. It's a way to shout down your opponent, when you have no decent argument . They can be used in various ways, but they are also used in this fallacious and arrogant way.