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[A version of this article appeared in Theory and Practice: Journal of the Music Theory Society of New York State 17 (1992): 103-118.]
In 1911, the same year that saw the publication of Schoenberg's Harmonielehre,
the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky published his Concerning the
Spiritual in Art. At one
point in his book, Kandinsky writes the following:
Shades of colour [die Töne der
Farben], like those of sound, are
of a much finer texture and awake in the soul emotions too fine to be
in words. Certainly each tone
[jeder Ton] will find some probable expression in words, but it will
always be incomplete, and that part which the word fails to express will
not be unimportant but rather the very kernel of its existence [das
Wesentliche in demselben]. (Kandinsky , 41)
As Jelena Hahl-Koch  has documented, Schoenberg agreed with
much of what Kandinsky writes in Concerning the Spiritual in Art,
and with regard to Kandinsky's discussion of music, Schoenberg writes to
Kandinsky on 14 December 1911 that
I have still not read all of your book, only two thirds of it. Nevertheless, I must already write to you that I like it
extraordinarily, particularly what you say about about color in comparison
to musical timbre. That is in
accord with my own perceptions. (Hahl-Koch , 38)
The importance of the Kandinsky-Schoenberg relationship for the
interpretation of Schoenberg's thought will be further explored later in
this study. For present
purposes one may note Schoenberg seems in this instance to agree with
Kandinsky's position--or at least he does not specifically object--that
what is most fundamental to the musical experience, "the very kernel of its existence," will always escape a precise verbal description.
Further, the fact that this ultimate musical essence seems to be
beyond verbal characterization is not viewed as problematical, but rather
it is viewed as crucial to the nature of music.
If we turn now to Schoenberg's own writing on music, one could
assert that if any component has at once occupied a central place in
Schoenberg's thought and also eluded every attempt at precise verbal
characterization, is it certainly the musikalische Gedanke.
The problem in understanding Schoenberg's meaning arises first
because he sometimes used different terms when he appears to have had a
single concept in mind, and second because he sometimes reused a single
term when he had different concepts in mind.
It is clear that Schoenberg himself despaired at his lack of
success in defining the musikalische Gedanke.
At one point in the Gedanke manuscript, Schoenberg gives up an
attempt to define the Gedanke and comments:
I thought that I'd be able to state this clearly today.
I had it so clearly in mind but I must still wait.
Perhaps though I shall come to it yet [7 April 1929]. (Goehr 1977,
Schoenberg's own failure to bring this notion to precise formulation, it
may come as no surprise that this elusive component has given rise to
various interpretations in the Schoenberg secondary literature; Charlotte
Cross (1980), Rudolf Stephan (1982), Patricia Carpenter (1983), Alexander
Goehr (1985), Severine Neff (1990), and Claire Boge (1990) for example,
have each offered different readings.
This study will suggest that while the musikalische Gedanke
must be understood as the ultimate point of arrival in Schoenberg's
musical thought, it is by its very nature beyond any complete or precise
verbal description. That does
not mean that it is beyond our understanding, but only that any verbal
characterization will necessarily be incomplete.
This interpretation argues that Schoenberg's thinking was
influenced, in part, by philosophical perspectives that would today be
labeled occult; I believe that understanding these occult ideas sheds
considerable light on the nature of the musikalische Gedanke.
It is true that Schoenberg's musikalische Gedanke can be
understood partly in the context of Schopenhauer's "aesthetics of
But an understanding of both Emanuel Swedenborg's ideas, as they
are represented in the "philosophical" novels by Honoré de
Balzac, and Rudolf Steiner's interpretation of Johann Wolfgang von
Goethe's scientific writing leads to a fuller recovery of Schoenberg's
meaning. Interpreted in this
intellectual context, it should become clear why the Gedanke
eludes, and even should be expected to elude, precise verbal
characterization. In order to
establish a foundation for this interpretation of Schoenberg's thought, we
need to look first into the mystical worlds of Emanuel Swedenborg and
Emanuel Swedenborg was born in Stockholm on 29 January 1688.
Until the age of 57, there is nothing in Swedenborg's life that
indicates a tendency toward mysticism; he was educated at Uppsala
University where he majored in philosophy, graduating in 1709.
He went on to hold a government office as a member of the Swedish
Board of Mines. Swedenborg
was an active scientist and philosopher, and in the period between 1720
and 1745 he wrote twenty volumes' worth of books and essays, many of which
were published during this time. In
1745, however, things changed drastically for Swedenborg.
After having had a number of strange visions and dreams, he had an
experience in which he believed that he had been visited by a spirit.
According to Swedenborg this spirit told him that God needed a
human to serve as a means of further revealing himself to mankind and
Swedenborg was the one "called" to this mission.
In the period between his vision of 1745 and his death in 1772,
Swedenborg wrote a virtual library of theological books, including the Arcana
Coelestia in twelve volumes, and the Apocalypse Explained in
Swedenborg's theological writings drew the attention of a number of
figures in late-eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe; his
writings, for example, drew criticism from the young Immanuel Kant and
praise from Goethe.
His theory of correspondences especially exerted a strong influence
over a number of nineteenth-century writers.
Swedenborg taught that every object in the material world
corresponds with an object in the spiritual world:
whole natural world corresponds to the spiritual world--not just the
natural world in general, but actually in details.
So anything in the natural world that occurs from the spiritual
world is called a correspondent. It is vital to understand that the natural world emerges and
endures from the spiritual world, just like an effect from the cause that
produces it. (, 81)
For Swedenborg, the Bible must be interpreted according to his system of
correspondences between particular physical images and their spiritual
correspondents. According to
literary critic Anna Balakian (1967, 12-28), this doctrine of
correspondences was picked up, and in a certain sense transformed, by the
nineteenth-century symbolist writers beginning with Baudelaire.
Most important to the study of Schoenberg's thought is the fact
that Honoré de Balzac came under the influence of Swedenborg's writings.
V. S. Pritchett (1973, 41) reports that Balzac was probably exposed
to the mystic author through his mother's interest in Swedenborg.
However Balzac came to Swedenborg's thought, his ideas played a
decisive role in Balzac's "philosophical novels," and especially
in his Séraphita. Balzac
seemed to be intrigued by Swedenborg's idea that there exists a series of
finer worlds than ours. These
worlds exist, more or less, "between the atoms" of our coarse
physical reality. These worlds, or heavens, are populated by disembodied souls,
or angels. Swedenborg
insisted that he was able to speak with these souls and that they were the
source of his spiritual knowledge.
In Séraphita, the main character is an androgynous being,
Séraphita/Séraphitus, who appears to two young lovers, to the man
(Wilfred) as a woman and to the woman (Minna) as a man.
In the final chapter, entitled "The Assumption,"
Séraphita/Séraphitus ascends into heaven and the young couple are treated
to a glimpse into this higher realm, an experience that almost overpowers
them in its strength. Balzac's
fascination with the possibility of glimpsing into a higher spiritual
realm is not limited to this novel however.
In Louis Lambert, a story important to Balzac scholars
because it is in part autobiographical, Lambert becomes so engrossed in
viewing the higher spiritual realm that by the end of the story he is no
longer able to communicate with the physical world; his living body is
stuck in the physical realm while his mind (or spirit) is firmly fastened
on the higher spiritual world.
Balzac's philosophical stories were not without influence in the
late nineteenth century. Art historian Dore Ashton (1991) describes how Balzac's
"The Unknown Masterpiece" played important roles in the lives of
Cezanne, Rilke, and Picasso. Again
in this story we meet Balzac's fascination with the ability to see into
other worlds. The old master
painter Frenhofer paints a portrait that he believes is his greatest
achievement, but when his friends finally talk the old master into showing
it to them, they find that it is only blotches of color, except that in
one corner they can discern a marvelous rendering of a woman's foot.
The old painter is furious at his friends' lack of comprehension
and throws them out of the studio. Clearly
the master is able to see something that the others cannot.
Balzac's story "Gambara" presents a similar situation to
that of Frenhofer, but in this tale the main character is not a painter
but rather a composer. An Italian living in Paris, Gambara is considered eccentric
because he composes music that nobody is able to understand; his listeners
find the music too dissonant and therefore incomprehensible.
If Frenhofer anticipates the abstract painter, Gambara as well
could be seen to prefigure the atonal composer.
Gambara "hears" into a world that others are unaware of.
At the end of the story Gambara states his case in such a manner
that he could almost be mistaken for Schoenberg:
music is good. But as soon as
music transcends feeling and becomes an idea [l'idee], only persons of
genius should be hearers, for they alone are capable of responding to it!
It is my misfortune that I have heard the chorus of angels, and
believed that men could understand those strains. (, 391)
We know that Schoenberg held both Balzac and Swedenborg in very
high regard as early as 1911. In his essay on Franz Liszt he writes
Great men's effect, if any, on life is infinitely slight.
If one observes what Plato, Christ, Kant, Swedenborg, Schopenhauer,
Balzac and others thought, and compares it with what people now believe .
. . then one doubts whether progress exists. (Schoenberg 1975, 446)
Schoenberg actually studied Swedenborg directly is difficult to determine.
Schoenberg does list one volume of Swedenborg in his library but it
is unannotated (Steuermann 1979, 218).
Balzac, however, refers to the Swedish mystic throughout Séraphita;
the third chapter especially describes Swedenborg and his philosophy in
some detail. It is therefore
possible that Schoenberg took his basic knowledge of Swedenborg from
It is certain that Schoenberg read and admired many of Balzac's
novels and Stuckenschmidt (1974, 234-5) describes how especially
taken Schoenberg was with Séraphita.
A letter from Berg (1987, 135-36) also suggests that Schoenberg was
very fond of Louis Lambert.
Schoenberg considered setting the assumption chapter of
in the early stages of Die Jakobsleiter and even considered
combining it with August Strindberg's "Jacob Wrestling" from Legends
(Stuckenschmidt 1974, 235). Strindberg's
story was written very much under the influence of Swedenborg's philosophy
and so the combination of these two texts is not as unlikely as it might
seem at first.
As far as Schoenberg's feeling for Strindberg's writing is
concerned, the composer felt such a strong artistic affinity with the
Swedish writer that he may even have mused over the fact that the names
Arnold Schoenberg and August Strindberg are very similar (Schoenberg 1986,
Karl Wörner (1965) was perhaps the first to note the strong
influence of Swedenborg's thought on Schoenberg's final version of the Jakobsleiter
text. Wörner also notes that
Swedenborg's thought plays a crucial role in Schoenberg's notion of the
"unity of musical space" (p. 338)
The influence of Swedenborg and Balzac is indeed acknowledged by
Schoenberg in the famous "Composition with Twelve Tones" essay
(1975, 223). Though our post-World-War-II
sensibilities may be embarrassed by such occult philosophy as that of
Swedenborg, one is forced to note how unembarassed Schoenberg was to
acknowledge such an intellectual debt.
And indeed, Schoenberg seems to have sustained his fascination with
such ideas in as much as he still held out hope of finishing Die
Jakobsleiter until the end of his life.
The claim for the existence of alternative planes of existence also plays a major
role in Rudolf Steiner's interpretation of Goethe's scientific writings.
Steiner was born in Hungary in 1861.
In 1879 Steiner came to the Technische Hochschule in Vienna where
he studied German literature with Karl Julius Schöer.
Schöer recommended Steiner for the task of editing the scientific
writings for the Kürschner edition of Goethe's work, and in the period
between 1884 and 1891 Steiner edited volumes 33 through 36, providing
Thus already at the age of twenty-three Steiner was making a name
for himself as a leading young scholar of Goethean science.
Steiner then edited a portion of the scientific works for the
prestigious Weimar edition of Goethe's work, a project that had him
working at the Goethe archive in Weimar in the 1890's.
For most of the 1880's, though, Steiner was in Vienna.
In 1888 he delivered a lecture to the Vienna Goethe Society
entitled "Goethe as the Father of a New Science of Aesthetics."
By the turn of the century he had published, in addition to the
Vienna lecture and his extensive commentaries for Kürschner, two more
books on Goethe, The Science of Knowing: Outline of an Epistemology
Implicit in the Goethean World View , and Goethe's World View
Steiner's interpretation of Goethe is distinctive in that Steiner
insists that Goethe advocated a kind of super-sensory seeing.
When Goethe spoke of the Urpflanze, the Urtier, or
the Urphänomen, Steiner insisted that Goethe meant that those
things really exist as things that one can learn to see.
In sharp contrast to Kantian epistemology, Goethe's Urpflanze,
for example, is not an image
that one holds in the mind while viewing some plant.
For Steiner it really exists "out there":
Goethe's basic conviction was that something can be seen in the
plant and in the animal that is not accessible to mere sense observation. What the bodily eye can observe about the organism seems to
Goethe to be only the result of the living whole of developmental laws
working through one another and accessible to the spiritual eye alone.
What he saw about the plant and the animal with his spiritual eye
is what he described. (Steiner , 77)
interprets Goethe as advocating that scientists need to cultivate the
ability to see with the "geistige Auge."
In fact, Steiner seems to say, true empirical observation requires
the subject to penetrate the obvious physical reality to see into the
finer realm of true reality.
While it is true that Steiner, after 1900 or so, went on to become
the leader first of German theosophists and then of his own Anthroposophic
Society, in these early years in Vienna and Weimar he was considered to be
a kind of "rising young star" of Goethe scholarship.
In fact, considering his fast rise and his residence in Vienna
during most of the 1880's, it may not be too much to assume that those in
Vienna who came to Goethe's scientific work, especially
non-specialists, would have almost certainly have come into contact
with Steiner's interpretations.
In the late 1880's, Steiner was a friend of Friedrich Eckstein
(Webb 1985, 62). According to
historian William McGrath (1974, 93-99), Eckstein seems to have been
involved in any number of interesting movements in Vienna starting in the
1870's and extending into the 1930's.
In the 1870's and 80's Eckstein was a devout Wagnerian, at one
point making a pilgrimage to Bayreuth on foot and in sandals.
When Wagner made the turn to vegetarianism, Eckstein and those
around him quickly followed suit. Eckstein also headed up a group of Pythagoreans that dressed
in all cotton gowns year round, sporting shoulder-length hair and long
beards. Eckstein was active
in the so-called Pernersdorfer circle, a group that followed the writings
of Wagner and Nietzsche and included, among others, Viktor Adler, Gustav
Mahler, and at one time, Hugo Wolf.
According to occult historian James Webb (1985, 44-45; 62), Steiner
was a frequent visitor at the Café Griensteidl, where the Wagnerians,
vegetarians, Pythagoreans, poets, and artists went to converse and often
times, argue. In fact,
Steiner developed a reputation for constantly disagreeing with any
position taken by Hermann Bahr. All
this suggests that in the Vienna of the 1890's where Schoenberg was a
young developing intellectual, Rudolf Steiner was probably a name that
arose often in connection with Goethe's scientific writings.
By the time Steiner became head of the German branch of the
Theosophical Society in 1902, the Viennese occult community was already
Steiner developed a substantial occult following throughout the
German speaking countries and in 1913 formed his own Anthroposophical
Society. While Steiner's
views before 1900 were still within the bounds of legitimate scholarship,
his views after that time are unquestionably occult. Steiner argued, for example, that there exist an astral and a
causal plane of existence that are finer than our coarse physical plane
and that one can learn to see into these higher realms. With this marked occult turn of mind come the notions of the
human aura, out-of-body experiences, telepathy, and ancient lost cultures
that possessed the ultimate truths of existence.
Despite making this move away from established belief systems,
Steiner continued to maintain that much of what he was now teaching was
founded upon Goethe's science, and especially Goethe's Farbenlehre.
Because he was well versed in German philosophy and literature,
Steiner was able to argue that many of his ideas were merely extensions of
the great German intellectual tradition.
This gave many of Steiner's ideas a kind of seriousness and level of
intellectual discourse that is exceptional in occult writings.
It seems, then, that Steiner's influence in the German occult
community can hardly be underestimated.
This helps account for the sudden interest in Goethe's scientific
writing among German artists around the turn of the century and after.
Karlheinz Essl (1989, 16) has suggested that Webern was exposed to
Goethe's Farbenlehre by the followers of Rudolph Steiner.
The present author has argued that many of the key ideas in Josef
Matthias Hauer's theories bear a striking resemblance to Steiner's Goethe
interpretations (Covach 1990, 83-103).
The German occultists had a good part of their world view invested
in Steiner's brand of Goethean science.
It seems likely that these people would have promoted Steiner's
views such that artists coming into contact with Goethe's writings could
have gotten the Steinerian slant on Goethe simply in cafe conversation;
and this is especially likely in Vienna, where Steiner had a personal
history going back to the 1880's.
Most important to our study is the case of Wassily Kandinsky.
Through examining documentary evidence in the Kandinsky estate, art
historian Sixten Ringbom (1970) has been able to demonstrate that, during
the period surrounding the writing of Concerning the Spiritual in Art,
Kandinsky studied the writings of Rudolf Steiner very closely, especially
Steiner's Goethe writings.
Ringbom asserts that Kandinsky's abstract painting developed in
an attempt to portray the higher spiritual realm in painting; perhaps like
the painter Frenhofer in Balzac's novel, Kandinsky was attempting to
portray a higher reality behind the physical one.
That Kandinsky's period of involvement with Steiner's writings and
the beginnings of his friendship with Schoenberg overlap is very
suggestive. As was mentioned
above, Schoenberg found much in Kandinsky's book to agree with, stating in
"The Relationship to the Text" that
". . . with great joy I read Kandinsky's
Concerning the Spiritual
in Art, in which the road for painting is pointed out (1975, 145)."
wonders, considering Schoenberg's involvement both with the Blaue Reiter
group generally and with Kandinsky in particular, whether discussions of
Steiner's Goethe writings ever arose.
". . . with great joy I read Kandinsky's
Concerning the Spiritual
in Art, in which the road for painting is pointed out (1975, 145)."
wonders, considering Schoenberg's involvement both with the Blaue Reiter
group generally and with Kandinsky in particular, whether discussions of
Steiner's Goethe writings ever arose.
The 1924 Schoenberg 50th birthday Festschrift includes an article
by Walter Klein (1924) entitled "Schoenberg as Theosophist."
While it is not clear why this brief article was included in the
collection, it is perhaps more significant that it was not excluded;
or if Schoenberg or members of his circle found Klein's arguments truly
misguided, why does such a statement not appear in one of the letters?
Karl Wörner (1965, 253-57) has suggested that Schoenberg's Die
Jakobsleiter text resembles in many ways Rudolf Steiner's Mystery
Dramas, works that were performed in Vienna in the years before war broke
out in 1914. In any event, it
is certainly possible that Schoenberg got the essence of Steiner's views
from his life-long friend Oskar Adler, a man who was certainly no stranger
to occult ideas.
It is certain that Schoenberg knew and admired Swedenborg's
writings, even if he got much of it through Balzac's novels.
Schoenberg's knowledge of Goethe's scientific writings probably
came to him through occult channels; in this regard it is important to
note, as Severine Neff (forthcoming) has demonstrated, that Goethean
science was central to Schoenberg's own music-theoretical formulations. While
attempts to interpret Schoenberg within the context of the fin-de-siècle
Viennese intellectual discourse have tended to stress the influence of
figures like Schopenhauer, Karl Kraus, and Adolf Loos, I believe that this
context must be opened up to include figures like Steiner, Swedenborg, and
the occult community generally.
But even if these points are conceded, one might ask, what does all
this have to do with Schoenberg's music?
It is certainly possible that Schoenberg would have read and
admired any number of occult books and continued to compose music
relatively unaffected by all this. It
seems clear that some of Schoenberg's texts show the influence of occult
ideas, especially Die Jakobsleiter and Die glückliche Hand
(one might even add Moses and Aron).
But how could all this have influenced Schoenberg's musical
To address that question, let us return to the proposition that the
musikalische Gedanke is impossible to capture in words.
In a 1946 essay, "New Music, Outmoded Music, Style and
Idea," Schoenberg writes
I myself consider the totality of the a piece as the idea [Gedanke]:
the idea which its creator wanted to present.
But because of the lack of better terms I am forced to define the
term idea in the following manner: . . . (1975, 123)
one notes the words "lack of better terms." Earlier in the same essay Schoenberg writes
I would like to proceed now to my self-appointed task of discussing
what seems to me to be most important in a work of art--the Idea. (121)
these two statements, one might interpret Schoenberg as asserting that
while the idea is the most important facet of a work of art, it cannot be
accurately characterized in language.
If this is true, then how does one come to be aware of the idea in
the first place? In 1922
Schoenberg writes the following in the Gedanke manuscript:
Science is concerned to present its ideas conclusively and in such
a way that no question remains unanswered.
Art on the other hand is satisfied with what is many sided, and the
Idea rises up unambiguously from this, without having to be directly
defined. A window remains open through which intuition may enter. (Goehr
There is an implicit point-of-view in this statement that ties it
to occult thought generally. Science
concerns the world of physical things and the accurate verbal descriptions
of those things: science is rational.
Art is the world of spiritual things where accurate verbal
descriptions are impossible: art is perceived super-rationally, or intuitively.
Going back to his essay "The Relationship to the Text," which it
should be remembered appeared in the Kandinsky's Der Blaue Reiter,
Schoenberg can be found extolling intuition as the ultimate mode of
For Schoenberg, the composer, through intuition, first sees the
work whole, and all the rest is just a painstaking working out of details.
But if the idea is perceived intuitively, where exactly does it
reside? Schoenberg gives us a
very good clue in his 1941 essay, "Composition with Twelve
Tones." In discussing
inverted and retrograde motives in Beethoven's Op. 135, he tells us that
Whether or not this device was used consciously by Beethoven does
not matter at all. From my
own experience I know that it can also be a subconsciously received gift
from the Supreme Commander. (1975, 222)
then goes on to discuss the hidden connections between the two principal
themes of his First Chamber Symphony.
He immediately follows that with the well-known reference to
But the validity of this form of thinking is also demonstrated by
the previously stated law of the unity of musical space, best formulated
as follows: the unity of musical space depends upon an absolute and
unitary perception. In
this space, as in Swedenborg's heaven (described in Balzac's Séraphita)
there is no absolute down, no right or left, forward or backward. (223)
When one begins to put together the notions of intuitive
perception, Swedenborg's heaven, subconscious gifts from the Supreme
Commander, and, as he writes at the beginning of the "Twelve
Tone" essay, references to divine creation, it seems that if the all
important Gedanke resides anywhere, it must reside in some other,
or even higher realm than the physical one.
In fact, it is quite possible that Schoenberg thought of the musikalische
Gedanke as residing in a spiritual realm above the physical one, a
higher realm closed off to rational-verbal thought and accessible only to
intuitive perception. Through
intuition, the composer is able to glimpse into this higher realm where
time and space are radically transformed.
A work of art as it ends up being composed out in the physical
realm amounts to a kind of laying out in material time and space of
something that is essentially non-physical.
But the listener, in the act of hearing the piece, in effect
retraces the steps of the composing genius and can be transported to a
state of higher consciousness; one is transported to a state in which one
can perceive the musikalische Gedanke.
That Schoenberg could have believed that music has such a power is
attributable to Schopenhauer's "metaphysics of music." For Schopenhauer, only
music is able to provide an unmediated perception of the
"thing-in-itself," the Will.
For Schopenhauer, music constitutes a kind of alternate world to
the physical one, and could, he suggests, even exist in the absence of the
It is well known that Schoenberg admired Schopenhauer's writing,
and Pamela White (1985) has established that Schoenberg studied
Schopenhauer's work very closely. Thus it seems not so unlikely that he would have attributed a
very high level of significance to the ability of music to transcend
physical reality and rational thought.
Of course, there is no way to determine conclusively whether such
an interpretation of the musikalische Gedanke is entirely accurate.
Schoenberg's remarks are scatterred across many essays and
fragments, some of which are still unpublished, and these writings span
almost forty years' time. Each
remark must be read in its own context and it seems that no possible
fitting together of the puzzle pieces that make up Schoenberg's literary
legacy will ever create a systematic whole; and this situation is not
likely to change much even if new puzzle pieces are put forward.
For these reasons, it is most useful to view Schoenberg's remarks
as commentaries on issues within the discourse of the fin-de-siècle
Viennese intellectual and artistic environment in which Schoenberg lived
and thought. By determining those issues that Schoenberg addresses in each
instance and noting the intellectual position he assumes, it is possible
to let this interaction inform and thereby enrich our interpretations.
The occult component is certainly only one source of influence on Schoenberg's thought, though this study asserts that it is an important one. Ultimately one would desire to compare and inform this interpretation with the interpretive writings of, for example, Alexander Ringer and Carl Dahlhaus. Still, considering Schoenberg's enthsiasm for Balzac's novels, one cannot help thinking of him as a kind of latter-day Louis Lambert, with his body stuck in the physical, and his mind firmly fastened on the spiritual.
earlier version of the present study was presented at the Music Theory
Society of New York State / Arnold Schoenberg Institute Conference at
Columbia University, 5 October 1991.
one cannot be entirely certain that Schoenberg was referring to the
specific remarks of Kandinsky quoted here--though they do occur
between two-thirds and three-quarters of the way through Kandinsky's
book (p. 74 out of 104 in the 1912 edition)--one need only look to
Schoenberg's essay "Das Verhaeltnis zum Text" of 1912 to
find Schoenberg discussing the essence of music in much the same terms
as Kandinsky. In this
essay, written for inclusion in the Kandinsky/Marc Der Blaue Reiter
, Schoenberg cites Arthur Schopenhauer's assertion that
"the composer reveals the inmost essence of the world and utters
the most profound wisdom in a language that his reason does not
understand" (Schoenberg 1975, 142).
Schoenberg remarks that while the philosopher understands the
composer's vision, Schopenhauer nevertheless
himself later when he tries to translate details of this language which
the reason does not understand into our terms.
It must be clear to him that in this translation into the terms
of human language, which is abstraction, reduction to the
recognizable, the essential, the language of the world, which ought
perhaps to remain incomprehensible and only perceptible, is lost. (Schoenberg
a slightly different translation see Kandinsky and Marc
, 91-92; for the original in German version see
Schoenberg 1976, 3-6.
point is made by Carl Dahlhaus (1987, 128-29) and examined by the
present author in Covach 1991 (33-34). For
a thorough discussion of Schoenberg's terminology, see Neff
(forthcoming) and Cross (1980).
 . See Dahlhaus 
(42-46) for an outline of Schopenhauer's "aesthetics of absolute
music," Dahlhaus  for a tracing of the "idea of
absolute music," and Dahlhaus 1987 (81-93) for an interpretation
of the place of Schoenberg's thought within that tradition.
 The biographical
information presented here and in the remainder of this paragraph is
drawn from Synnestvedt 1984, 15-35, and is corroborated by Spalding
 It is perhaps interesting
that Swedenborg's father, Jesper, was professor of theology at Uppsala
University and later became Bishop of Skara (Synnestvedt 1984, 16;
Spalding 1956, 15).
 According to Max Morris
(1899, 503; cited in Benz 1938, 156), Goethe's enthusiasm for
Swedenborg's writings can be found in his review of a book by J. C.
Lavater (Goethe ), in which he recommends Swedenborg to Lavater
as the "worthiest seer of our age" ("gewürdigsten Seher
unsrer Zeiten"); and in a letter to Lavater dated 14 November
1781 (Goethe , 371-74) in which Goethe voices his admiration for
Swedenborg. For an
interpretation of Swedenborg's influence on Goethe's Faust, see
Morris 1899 and Gollwitzer 1968.
Kant's criticism of Swedenborg is the main focus of his Träume eines Geistersehers, erläurtert durch Träume der Metaphysik of 1766. For a discussion of the Kant-Swedenborg relationship, see John Manolesco's commentary and appendices in Kant . For early twentieth-century reactions to the claims of Swedenborg followers, see Paul Carus's 1902 discussion in Kant , 188-195; and Cassirer , 77-92. For a discussion of Swedenborg's influence on 18th- and 19th-century German thought, see Benz 1941.
 While citing Swedenborg's
influence on Baudelaire, Balakian (1967, 29-53) does not consider
Baudelaire himself to have been a symbolist.
 Herbert J. Hunt (1959) states that Balzac had only read Swedenborg "at second hand" (52). Dore Ashton (1991, 25) cites Andre Maurois' claim that Balzac knew Swedenborg only from a French outline of his writings. Ashton then cites the contradictory claim of Theophile Gautier that "Balzac's phenomenal reading capacity allowed him to absorb his mother's entire set of the voluminous works of Swedenborg in a few days" (25).
 In discussing a skeptical attitude to the possibility of knowing what heaven is like, Swedenborg
remarks as follows:
To prevent so negative an attitude (which is particularly prevalent among people with much worldly wisdom) from infecting and corrupting people of simple heart and simple faith, it has been made possible for me to be right with angels and to talk with them person to person. I have also been allowed to see what heaven is like and then what hell is like . . . . (1758, 27)
 In his chapter, "The
Incommunicable Vision," F. W. J. Hemmings (1967, 3-18), considers
these two stories together with a third, "Massimilla Doni." Hemmings considers these stories to be closely related to Louis
Lambert, and points out that Balzac himself referred to Gambara as
"that Louis Lambert of Music" (13).
Jacques Barzun (1951, 262; cited in Hunt 1959, 143) believes that certain passages in "Gambara" were influenced in part by Hector Berlioz's music reviews. Barzun even speculates that Berlioz could have conspired with Balzac in some of the details of Gambara's fictitious opera. For a discussion of the influence of Jacques Strunz and J. Fr. Fétis on Balzac's musical descriptions, see Hunt 1959, 142-146.
 There are three passages
in Séraphita that explicitly state the nature of time and space
. . in fact, to the spirit, time and space are not.
Distance and duration are proportions proper to matter; and
spirit and matter have nothing in common. (Balzac , 143)
the spirit was in the infinite, and they did not know that in the
infinite time and space are not, that they were divided from him by
gulfs, though apparently so near. (148)
. . in short, everything was at once sonorous, diaphanous, and
mobile; so that, everything existing in everything else, extension
knew no limits, and the angels could traverse it everywhere to the
utmost depths of the infinite. (151)
In Swedenborg's conception of heaven, time does not exist as an external, physical measure (the movement of the Earth); and space is not a measure of physical distances. There are measures of time and distance however, and these depend upon "spiritual states." Thus, while the natures of time and space in heaven are vastly different, succession in time (events) and arrangement in space (location) are maintained. See Swedenborg 1758, 129-32 and 145-148.
 There are two other
philosophical novels in which certain details correspond to details in
Berg's work and suggest that Berg may have known them.
The Wild Ass's Skin describes a scene after a drunken
orgy; the main character, Raphael, is telling his life's story to a
friend while the remainder of the party has fallen into a drunken
slumber. As the two men
fall asleep Balzac describes the snore-filled room as follows:
“Soon the two friends added their snores to the music that echoed
through the various rooms. A
concert without an audience!” One
is reminded of Act II, scene 5 of Wozzeck where the soldiers' snores
constitute a concert with an audience.
In The Quest of the Absolute, a chemist named Balthazar
Claes ruins his family fortune by his single-minded pursuit to
discover the common substance from which all chemical elements are
derived. As Hemmings
(1967, 20) points out, Claes' fanatical pursuit and the debt he builds
up are clearly autobiographical.
Thus, identifying the name--BALthaZAr Claes--reveals this facet
of the work. Besides the
character of the theory-driven scientist--a character type that
plays a major role in both the Büchner- and Wedekind-based opera
libretti--one is reminded of the three musical figures in the Chamber
Concerto that spell out ArnolD SCHoenBErG, Anton WEBErn, and AlBAn
BErG (see Jarman 1979, 74).
With regard to Berg's awareness of matters occult, see Douglas Jarman's (1991, 19) brief discussion of occult currents in the Schoenberg circle. Jarman prefaces an earlier discussion of numerology in Berg's Violin Concerto (Jarman 1982, 5-6) with an examination of the influence of Wilhelm Fliess's theories within the context of fin-de-siècle Vienna. Also focusing on turn-of-the-century occultism and music, a recent study by David Paul Goldman (1991) reviews the issues surrounding possible occult influences in the music of Claude Debussy.
 For a thorough discussion of the impact of both Balzac's Séraphita and Swedenborg's writings on Strindberg (especially with regard to "Jacob Wrestles"), see Brandell 1974, pp. 98-159.
 Schoenberg (, 16)
once made the following entry in one of his diaries:
On the 28th, in the Berliner Tageblatt: Strindberg's thank-you for birthday wishes. Could have been [written] by me. Exactly my sentiments and experiences . . . .
 McDermott 1984 provides Steiner's 1907 "Autobiographical Sketch" (13-23) and a Steiner chronology (25-33). Most of the biographical information that follows is drawn from those pages. See also Hemleben  and Steiner .
 Steiner's commentary from the Kürschner edition are collected and translated in Steiner 1988.
 For more detailed support of this claim, see Covach 1990, 83-103.
 It is perhaps not surprising that the first president of the Vienna Theosophical Society was Eckstein (Webb 1985, 75).
 Webb (1985, 62-66) offers an interested account of Steiner's turn from the world of mainstream scholarship to the "occult underground."
 Steiner discusses his philosophical studies in his "Autobiographical Sketch" (McDermott 1984, 13-23). In his preface to his early occult study, Theosophy: An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and Destination of Man , Steiner opens with a discussion of Fichte's philosophy (xvii), and Chapter One takes up a discussion of Goethe (1). This is typical of Steiner's practice of setting out his own philosophical ideas against a background of "legitimate philosophy."
 Geoffrey Ahern (1984,
31-49) provides an interesting survey and profile of the current
Anthroposophical Society membership in North America and Europe.
 For a survey of occult ideas in twentieth-century European painting in general, see Ringbom 1966 and Lipsey 1988.
 See Ringer 1990, 188-89
for a discussion of Adler's possible influence on Schoenberg with
regard to number mysticism.
 Two standard studies of fin-de-siècle Vienna are Janik and Toulmin 1973 and Schorske 1980.
 For a discussion of the possible occult sources in Die Jakobsleiter, see Wörner 1965, Christensen 1979, and Lessem 1979; for a discussion of Die glückliche Hand, see Hahl-Koch ; and for a discussion of Moses und Aron see White 1985.
 The history of the role that science (materialism) plays in the occult literature of nineteenth-century Europe is a topic too broad to be traced here. James Webb (1988, 5-13) offers the view that occultism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries amounts to what he terms a "flight from reason." Colin Wilson (1971, 121-41) also explores the occult-science dialectic.
 In discussing his path to
abstract painting, Kandinsky (; Herbert 1964, 27) describes the
shattering of his faith in science as follows:
A scientific event cleared my way of one of the greatest impediments. This was the further division of the atom. The crumbling of the atom was to my soul like the crumbling of the whole world. Suddenly the heaviest walls toppled. Suddenly everything became uncertain, tottering and weak. I would not have been surprised if a stone had dissolved in the air in front of me and become invisible.
 In a diary entry dated 28
November 1923, Schoenberg describes having heard his deceased wife's
voice call out to him three or four times.
He characterizes the first cries as "indeliberately
fast" ("ohne Berechtung schnell," though "Berechtnung"
is illegible in the manuscript).
This he explains is obviously the result of the fact that those
from the "realm of the dead" find it difficult to adapt to
our way of doing things one after another.
Presumably the dead live outside of time as we know it in the
physical realm. Here one notes Swedenborg's conception of heavenly time
exerting a definite influence in Schoenberg's thinking (Schoenberg
 In addition to Dahlhaus  cited above (fn. 14), see Magee 1983, 177-88, for a discussion of Schopenhauer's musical aesthetics. Magee's discussion of the influence of Schopenhauer's philosophy on Richard Wagner (326-78) is very informative.
. . . music, since it passes over the Ideas, is also quite independent of the phenomenal world, positively ignores it, and, to a certain extent, could still exist even if there were no world at all, which cannot be said of the other arts. (I: 257)
 I have elsewhere (Covach 1991b) offered an interpretation of Schoenberg's thought that places the occult component within a context that also takes aspects of Dahlhaus's interpretation into account.