From Arcadia to Elysium in The Magic Flute and Weimar Classicism

The Plan of Salvation and Eighteenth-Century Views of Moral Progression



The painful sighs are now past.
Elysium’s joyful banquets
Drown the slightest moan—
Elysium’s life is
Eternal rapture, eternal flight;
Through laughing meadows a brook pipes its tune.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Here faithful couples embrace each other,
Kiss on the velvet green sward
As the soothing west wind caresses them;
Here love is crowned,
Safe from death’s merciless blow
It celebrates an eternal wedding feast.

—Friedrich Schiller1

Presumably, many people gloss over the aphorism that life is a journey—indeed, for Latter-day Saints, an “eternal journey”2—as cliché. But this aphorism encapsulates profound theological, philosophical, moral, and even teleological implications that should indeed interest most people. The journey metaphor connotes progress and ascension, indicating beginning, purpose, and end to mortal existence. True, moving linearly from point A to point B—metaphorically ascending a ladder or climbing a steep mountain3—fittingly illustrates the progress inherent in this eternal journey. But a cyclical understanding of this progression—spiraling upward from one state of being to another—also captures and perhaps even enriches the sense of mankind’s journey.

What, then, is the nature of this cyclical journey? Where does it begin and end? What is its purpose? In many cases, religion seeks to answer these questions for sincere disciples who desire meaning in and a satisfactory end to life’s journey. For example, in the Latter-day Saint plan of salvation, each individual begins life’s cyclical journey in a state of innocence in the presence of God, progresses through mortal existence as a sojourner on Earth, and relies on the grace of Jesus Christ while individually striving to become “perfect”4 in order to return into the presence of God. Those who return to God’s presence will do so as exalted, sentient beings; they will have become like God in many ways, such as knowing good from evil and choosing the good for its own sake.

Similarly, eighteenth-century aesthetic theory investigated the nature of existence, albeit from the perspective of aesthetic and moral development. In this context, eighteenth-century thinkers in Austria and Germany also explored human life as a journey. They emphasized moral progression in ways that unwittingly anticipate Latter-day Saint views of human existence and progression. For example, when Mozart and Schikaneder worked together on The Magic Flute in 1791, they imbued their magnum opus with symbolic meaning that essentially allegorized the nature of life’s journey. Their dramatization of moral progression not only constitutes the substance of this opera as the initiates endure arduous trials in their search for truth, but the concept of moral progression also occupies center stage in the nearly contemporaneous German literary movement of Weimar Classicism (1795–1805) through Friedrich Schiller’s aesthetic philosophy.

In contrast to the rather traditional linear depiction of progress in life’s journey found in The Magic Flute, Schiller examines progression from point A to point B more as a cyclical moral change of state within the individual than as a physical change of location. That is, Weimar Classicism traces humanity’s aesthetic and moral progression metaphorically from a paradisiacal but naive Arcadia5 through an educative cycle in search of maturity, truth, and improvement with the goal of one day returning to paradise. For those who have achieved an elevated level of moral awareness, this paradise will no longer be that naive Arcadia but rather a conscious Elysium.6 This Schillerian perspective not only enriches interpretations of the initiates’ progression in the The Magic Flute’s ritual journey but can also contribute to our understanding of the individual’s ascension in the “eternal journey of man”7 in the Latter-day Saint plan of salvation.

Mormons, Masonry, and The Magic Flute

Many Latter-day Saints might be surprised to learn that they are more familiar with Mozart’s Magic Flute than they might have thought. The melody to the opera’s beautiful and profound Aria 7, Papageno and Pamina’s “Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen,” was put to words in “Though in the Outward Church Below,” a hymn included in Latter-day Saint hymnals from the beginning of the Church until 1985.8 Also, Papageno’s silly Aria 20, “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen,” has been used for the Latter-day Saint children’s Primary song “I Pledge Myself to Love the Right.”9

But more importantly, Latter-day Saints will likely resonate with the opera’s essence: “the struggle between Good and Evil, and a young man’s and young woman’s progress toward self-knowledge, enlightenment and marriage.”10 Furthermore, Latter-day Saints may be interested to learn that the ethical principles expressed in the opera, “the quest for wisdom, truth, and true human happiness”11—Enlightenment principles with which many Latter-day Saints will feel intimately comfortable—are also shared by German and Austrian Freemasonry of the late eighteenth century.12 Mozart was an active Freemason since 1784 in the Vienna Lodge Zur Wohltätigkeit (Beneficence), and Schikaneder had been involved in the Regensburg Lodge Zu den drei Schlüsseln (The Three Keys) in Bavaria during 1788 before moving to Vienna in 1789.

In addition, because all of Mozart’s works contain a “productive power” that seems to renew itself in every generation—as observed in 1828 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,13 one of the architects of Weimar Classicism—modern interpretations of The Magic Flute can “productively” inform Latter-day Saint notions of eternal progression in the plan of salvation. Read in this way, Masonic principles of moral education through individual initiative, the triumph of good over evil—of light over darkness—as encoded in The Magic Flute, may simultaneously illuminate the Prophet Joseph Smith’s own attraction to Freemasonry in Nauvoo.

Goethe, Mozart, Schikaneder, and many other Enlightenment figures were Freemasons. Perhaps Joseph Smith understood that Latter-day Saint doctrines and Freemasonry were not exclusive of each other. To the contrary, “both emphasize morality, sacrifice, consecration, and service, and both condemn selfishness, sin, and greed.”14 Furthermore, both the Latter-day Saint temple ceremony and the rites of Freemasonry focus on the allegorical portrayal of progression. The temple ceremony contains “a model setting forth the pattern of human life on earth and the divine plan of which it is part,” and the rites of Freemasonry portray “life’s states—youth, manhood, and old age—each with its associated burdens and challenges, followed by death and hoped-for immortality.”15 In fact, the similarities in these allegorical teachings prompted Joseph Smith to suggest “that the endowment and Freemasonry in part emanated from the same ancient spring.”16 Progression with perfection as the ultimate goal constitutes a common element in Latter-day Saint temple theology and enlightened principles of Freemasonry.

Discussing some of the ancient sources that may relate to Latter-day Saint temples, Hugh Nibley examines some apocryphal New Testament–period writings that, like the aesthetic theory of Weimar Classicism, can actually support the view of the plan of salvation as cyclical, rather than simply as lineal ascent as in The Magic Flute. But the plan of salvation cannot be a two-dimensional circle, because although cyclical, it would not be progressive. As Nibley points out, the writer of the apocryphal Gospel of Philip understood the inadequacy of a two-dimensional view of progress by equating “the false progress of this world” with an “ass turning a wheel, going around and around, turning the wheel and getting nowhere at all.”17 Viewed from above, the cycle or journey of the plan of salvation might indeed appear two dimensional, both beginning and ending in the presence of God; but one could also view it as the three-dimensional cross section of a spiral staircase in which the cycle of eternal existence appears to spiral upwards, beginning on a certain plane—in the presence of God during the premortal life—and spiraling through the life cycle to end on a higher plane, ideally again in the presence of God, but this time in an exalted state of being. “Until Christ opened the way, it was impossible to go from one level to another. He is the great opener of the way because he gave us the plan by which we can progress. He is the way” (Gospel of Philip 768:17–22).18

Similarly, in the Latter-day Saint plan of salvation, the Atonement of Jesus Christ enables such progression. To put this in the allegorical terms of Weimar Classicism, then, Adam is in the Garden of Eden, or the naive innocence of Arcadia, and Jesus Christ, “the last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45), is in the glory of the celestial kingdom, or a conscious Elysium: “the first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47). Indeed, to universalize this notion, “for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). Through an emphasis on becoming, or on progressing from one moral state of being to another, Weimar Classicism’s allegorical progression both contributes to a Latter-day Saint understanding of the plan of salvation and enhances interpretations of Mozart and Schikaneder’s Magic Flute.

The Magic Flute in Austria and the nearly contemporaneous literary/aesthetic movement of Weimar Classicism in Germany both share a common ancestor: Christoff Martin Wieland (1733–1813).19 Wieland, a Freemason, brought with him to Weimar in 1772 an education reflecting general trends of the broader European Enlightenment. Wieland’s philosophy appears to have been influenced by the thought of the Earl of Shaftesbury, an English Freemason, and the German jurist Pufendorf, among others. Educated by John Locke, Shaftesbury used common-sense toleration and a “rational deism” as a compromise between atheism and orthodoxy.20 By combining Pufendorf’s emphasis on natural law and natural religion with Shaftesbury’s religious moderation, Wieland taught reason and free discussion as guides to truth.21 Essentially, Shaftesbury’s approach greatly influenced Wieland’s concept of Bildung, “of man making himself.”22 Both Mozart and Schikaneder were familiar with Wieland’s literary achievements—particularly his Oberon (1780). “Mozart owned a copy of the Wieland poem, and Schikaneder was so conscious of his indebtedness to Wieland (though not specifically for Oberon) that he remembered him in his will of 17 December 1803.”23 In any event, Wieland’s humanistic ideas surface in the Masonic educative progression of The Magic Flute and later—in a modified form—are central to the “beautiful soul” of Weimar Classicism.

Wieland’s philosophy of Bildung, or moral education, which informed both The Magic Flute and perhaps more heavily Weimar Classicism, reflected the principles of eighteenth-century German Freemasonry. According to the eighteenth-century Freemason Johann Gottlieb Fichte, disciple of Kant and professor of philosophy at the University of Jena in the principality of Weimar, the purpose of genuine, humanitarian German Freemasonry was the moral “education of the whole man.”24

Eighteenth-century “German Freemasonry” focused on the humanitarian project of moral education and avoided political involvement. In contrast, “romance” Freemasonry—at home in France, Italy, and Spain—was politically liberal and mystical, a quality perceived as corrupt by German adherents of the movement.25 Specifically, “Fichte assumes that alongside the open training of men for their special work in society,” Freemasonry “[has] supplied the deficiencies of the one-sided training in society and sought to train men as such and not as followers of some particular calling.”26 This education of the whole man meant equipping him for success in his quest for truth, the achievement of which constituted Freemasonry’s ultimate goal. Moreover, in his lectures on Freemasonry,27 Fichte appreciated the role of allegorical drama in this educative process, finding that the instruction necessary for achieving this ultimate goal of truth “may be carried on by myths and allegories and symbols.”28

In Vienna, the scientist and Freemason Ignaz von Born—contemporary and Masonic brother of Mozart—similarly identified man’s quest for truth and wisdom as defining Austrian Freemasonry in his seminal article “On the Mysteries of the Egyptians” (“Ueber die Mysterien der Aegyptier”) of 1784. Of the purpose of Masonry, von Born writes, “Is not truth, wisdom and the advancement of the bliss of the entire human race the actual end goal of our Brotherhood?”29 Furthermore, asks von Born,

Does a more exalted or nobler purpose exist than to expand our knowledge through reciprocal instruction, to show all who have entered into our circle the straight way to perfection on the path of virtue, and as brothers to bring them back if they stray, to encourage each other daily to perform virtuous deeds, to do all that is good, and to prevent all that is evil?30

Von Born’s essay not only summarizes many principles of eighteenth-century Austrian Freemasonry, including the quest for truth and virtue, but its doctrines also perhaps affected the writing of The Magic Flute directly through Mozart and Schikaneder’s association with Ignaz von Born.31 As the head of the lodge Zur wahren Eintracht (True Concord), Ignaz von Born may have given them the idea to glorify ideals of pure humanity in the opera—to display the victory of light over darkness in the Masonic sense of enlightenment.32

The Masonic nature of The Magic Flute is beyond dispute.33 A defining characteristic of Masonic allegorical fiction during the eighteenth century revolves around the fraternity’s educative focus: “Freemasonic allegory often has Minerva leading the Mason along an educational path.”34 In addition to Wieland’s works, The Magic Flute owes a debt to other earlier works with Masonic ties involving ritual education, including Abbé Jean Terrasson’s Sethos (1730), which—similar to Fichte’s view of Freemasonry—“aims to depict the ‘entire life’ of the hero.”35 In fact, “any post-1730 work of fiction that describes a ritual education owes at least an indirect debt to Terrasson’s novel.”36

With its emphasis on ritual education, then, it is not surprising that The Magic Flute is “the most famous work of art based in part on Sethos, . . . reproduc[ing] the trials by fire, water, and air administered by a priestly secret society.”37 These trials in the opera facilitate Tamino’s initiation out of his initial naive, superstitious position into a state of moral awareness and reason. Much as Wieland presented a humanistic philosophy of man making himself, Fichte envisioned oral, allegorical Masonic instruction, and von Born insisted upon the obtainment of truth and virtue through fraternal assistance in the lodge, Tamino and Papageno begin their own allegorical journey as they embark on their quest for truth in the opera.

Moral Education in The Magic Flute

Ironically, Tamino and Papageno’s journey for truth begins with a lie. Observing Tamino’s reaction to the portrait of her daughter, the Queen of Night decides to use him as her instrument in regaining her deceased husband’s “sevenfold circle of the sun,” without which she has diminished power (2.8).38 But it is not until the middle of the second act that the Queen reveals in a conversation with Pamina, her daughter, that her husband was formerly an initiate together with Sarastro in the brotherhood and that Sarastro now wears the sevenfold circle of the sun around his neck. The Queen initially veils this true nature of things in assigning a quest to Tamino to rescue her daughter from Sarastro, who the Queen’s servants claim is a “powerful, evil Demon” (1.5). Furthermore, Tamino leaves his audience with the Queen with the false impression that she mourns for her daughter when she really only cares about regaining her power (1.6). Thus, Tamino embarks on his journey because of the Queen’s lie.

By contrast, Papageno the bird catcher, Tamino’s companion in this allegorical—educative—journey, begins his quest with his own lie, declaring that he has killed the serpent that Tamino had confronted before fainting, and is immediately punished as the Three Ladies padlock his lips for lying (1.2–3). Foreshadowing the larger moral teaching of the opera’s quest for truth, the Three Ladies, Tamino, and Papageno decry the vice of lying in song: “If all liars received such a lock on their mouths, instead of hate, slander, and black gall, there would be love and brotherhood” (Bekämen doch die Lügner alle / Ein solches Schloß vor ihren Mund: / Statt Haß, Verleumdung, schwarzer Galle / Bestünde Lieb und Bruderbund) (1.8). But since, as Locke posits, truth has the tendency to find its own way into the hearts of men,39 the untrue premises of Tamino’s search cannot long stand.

Through his own educational experience Tamino learns the true nature of Sarastro’s brotherhood of initiates and discerns the Queen’s lie. The truth begins to dawn on Tamino when he stands in front of three temples prominently positioned in Sarastro’s realm. In No. 8 Finale, “This course leads you to your goal” (Zum Ziele führt dich diese Bahn), the Three Boys admonish him to be “steadfast, tolerant, and discreet” (standhaft, duldsam, und verschwiegen), in order to achieve his objective. Noting the Boys’ words and his surroundings, Tamino asks himself, “Is this place the seat of the gods?” (Ist dies der Sitz der Götter hier?), and concludes, “But both gates and pillars show that wisdom and work and the arts tarry here. Where activity reigns and slothfulness yields, vice cannot easily come to power. I venture courageously to enter the gates” (Doch zeigen die Pforten, es zeigen die Säulen, / Daß Klugheit und Arbeit und Künste hier weilen. / Wo Tätigkeit thronet und Müßiggang weicht, / Erhält seine Herrschaft das Laster nicht leicht. / Ich wage mich mutig zur Pforte hinein) (1.15).

Although a voice prevents Tamino from entering either the Temple of Reason or the Temple of Nature, while standing at the door of the Temple of Wisdom, he begins to perceive through such reasoning that Sarastro rules there. In the meantime, Papageno, while separated from Tamino, has found Pamina. Seeing the simple good in Papageno, his “feeling heart” (gefühlvolles Herz), Pamina begins Aria 7, “For men who can feel love” (Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen), an ode to universal, binding love. Of unifying love Pamina sings, “Its lofty goal most clearly shows that nothing is more noble than woman and man. Man and woman and woman and man together approach divinity” (Ihr hoher Zweck zeigt deutlich an: / Nichts Edlers sei, als Weib und Mann. / Mann und Weib und Weib und Mann / Reichen an die Gottheit an) (1.14, Aria 7). These lines foreshadow the end of the perfecting educative journey on which Tamino will soon embark in order to become an initiate in Sarastro’s brotherhood: he must be united with Pamina to become complete.

By the time Tamino meets Sarastro, the audience has already experienced Sarastro’s wisdom and moderation in ruling his realm (compare 1.18).40 After meeting Sarastro, Tamino begins to take some initiative, agreeing to become an initiate, and he is led with Papageno into the “Prüfungstempel” (Temple of Trials) while the choir lauds the power of virtue and righteousness to make a heaven on earth and mortals like gods (1.19). Of Tamino’s submission to the initiation ritual, Sarastro states, “This young man desires to tear his dark veil from his face and peer into the sanctuary of the greatest light” (dieser Jüngling will seinen nächtlichen Schleier von sich reißen, und ins Heiligtum des größten Lichtes blicken); in response to the Speaker’s concern that Tamino’s status as a prince might hinder him in his moral education—“He is a prince!” (Er ist Prinz!)—Sarastro replies simply, “More than that—he is a man!” (Noch mehr—er ist Mensch!) (2.1).

Tamino’s personal quest for truth constitutes the opera’s particular focus. Furthermore, in his comment to the Speaker, Sarastro reveals his brotherhood’s broader mission: “And you, friend! Whom through us the gods have appointed to be a defender of the truth—fulfill your holy office and teach them both through your wisdom mankind’s duty, teach them to recognize the power of the gods” (Und du, Freund! den die Götter durch uns zum Verteidiger der Wahrheit bestimmten—vollziehe dein heiliges Amt, und lehre durch deine Weisheit beide, was Pflicht der Menschheit sei, lehre sie die Macht der Götter erkennen) (2.1). This admonition reflects the purpose of Freemasonry—its ultimate search for truth.41 Thus the opera takes on both a particular and universal allegorical focus.

At this point, Tamino’s initiation trials begin. Although the entire opera is an allegorical process, this section contains perhaps the more didactic, Masonic content. Tamino and Papageno face three trials: silence (2.3–6, 13–19) and fire and water (2.28). Meanwhile, Pamina encounters her mother, the Queen of Night, and informs her that Tamino will become an initiate. In response, the Queen of Night unveils her true nature as the embodiment of darkness and evil in Aria 14, singing, “Hell’s vengeance burns within my heart; death and despair are aflame all around me!” (Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, / Tod und Verzweifelung flammet um mich her!) (2.8); but Pamina passes a trial of her own in rejecting her mother’s command to kill Sarastro (2.9). Pamina is then led to Tamino by his playing of the flute during his trial of silence, but to her dismay he does not speak to her, thus passing his own test (2.18–21).

Papageno, on the other hand, fails his test of silence miserably, forfeiting his chance of becoming an initiate, although he will still gain the wife, Papagena, whom he seeks (2.23, 29), and thus united with his love will also finish the journey on a higher plane, or state of being, than he began. As Tamino prepares to embark on his next two trials, of fire and water, Pamina is allowed to join him in passing these tests, and they enter the temple together: “What joy to see each other again. We enter the temple gladly hand in hand. A woman that does not dread night and death is worthy and will be initiated” (Welch Glück, wenn wir uns wiedersehn. / Froh Hand in Hand im Tempel gehn. / Ein Weib, das Nacht und Tod nicht scheut, / Ist würdig, und wird eingeweiht) (2.28).

After their moral education in these rituals and with each other as companions, they have internalized the flute’s power in their hearts.42 This fulfils the Three Boys’ prophesy in Finale 21,

Soon the sun will parade on its golden path
To announce the morning—
Soon superstition will disappear
And the wise man will conquer!
Oh lovely peace, descend here
And return into the hearts of men.
Then the earth will be a kingdom of heaven
And mortals will resemble gods. (2.26)

[Bald prangt, den Morgen zu verkünden,
Die Sonn auf goldner Bahn—
Bald soll der Aberglaube schwinden,
Bald siegt der weise Mann!—
O holde Ruhe, steig hernieder,
Kehr in der Menschen Herzen wieder.
Dann ist die Erd ein Himmelreich
Und Sterbliche den Göttern gleich.

Tamino began his quest in a naive, superstitious state; now he and Pamina have been steadfast in their trials and have gained further light and knowledge. Their change of state can represent progression from a naive Arcadia to conscious Elysium; they are now “complete”—together they “approach divinity” (Aria 7, 1.14).

Cyclical Aesthetic and Moral Progression in Weimar Classicism

The Magic Flute very capably depicts moral education as the initiates progress from ignorance to illumination through their various trials. Shortly after The Magic Flute’s debut, the German poet and aesthetic theorist Friedrich Schiller added perspective to this type of educative process by noting its inherently cyclical nature. This insightful approach adds value to interpretations of the progress inherent in moral education, whether looking backwards to The Magic Flute and Freemasonry’s penchant for allegorical moral education or looking ahead to the peculiar emphasis that Latter-day Saints put on allegorical drama in moral education.

Schiller’s philosophical and aesthetic theory expressly revolved around the relationship between Arcadia and Elysium in both the universal progression of mankind and in the individual’s quest for perfection. His ideas lend depth to Tamino’s and Pamina’s own allegorical quest in The Magic Flute. He discusses Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden as the greatest event in the history of mankind, opening the way not only for mankind to progress, but also by implication for individuals in a cyclical journey toward perfection. This perspective of moral progression is particularly informative for Latter-day Saints.

Conjecturing that before the Fall Adam and Eve were perfect in the sense that they were perfectly—or completely—acted upon by nature, like animals, Schiller proclaims that

this Fall of mankind from instinct, which indeed brought moral evil into the creation but only to make the moral good possible, is without objection the happiest and the greatest event in the history of humanity. Man’s freedom stems from this moment; here is where the first cornerstone was laid for his morality.43

The Fall enabled mankind’s progression because through it, Adam and Eve first became capable of exercising their reason while striving for the moral good:

Philosophers are correct in naming it a giant step for humanity because through it man became an agent unto himself, having hitherto been a slave of his natural appetites; man went from being an automaton to a moral being, and with this step he first mounted the ladder which is to lead him to self-mastery after the course of many millennia.44

Although referring in this passage to humanity’s progress as ascension on a ladder, Schiller also began to view it as a progressive cycle spiraling from a starting point in the perfect, although naive and innocent, Arcadia to a higher plane of perfection in a morally aware Elysium. The upward cycle of progression helps us understand the concept of “a higher plane of perfection,” which at first glance seems like a contradiction in terms. But Schiller adamantly propounds this conception: Arcadia and Elysium are lower and higher states of perfection with regards to humanity’s moral maturity. Essentially, Schiller is suggesting a notion of perfection within progressive spheres. Thus the upwardly spiraling cycle illuminates each successive sphere of progression as a sort of landing on an ascending spiral staircase. Moral cognizance is key:

Man was to learn to find again through reason the state of innocence which he had lost, and to return again—this time as a free, rational intellect—to that state which he left as a plant and as a mere creature of instinct. From a paradise of ignorance and servitude he was to work his way up—even if it took many long millennia—to a paradise of knowledge and freedom; that is, to a paradise where he would obey the moral law within his own breast just as unflinchingly as he had obeyed instinct in the beginning.45

Metaphorically speaking, then, “man went . . . from being a happy instrument to an unhappy artist.”46 Much as Tamino in The Magic Flute received a moral education before unification with Pamina, the resulting “artist” must be morally and aesthetically educated to become complete.

With a view toward attaining this completion, the conscious program of Weimar Classicism as a literary movement was an effort “to reconcile particular and general, sense and reason, experience and necessary truth, man’s particularities and his generic character.”47 More specifically, Schiller seeks “to restore man’s unity and wholeness, which has been torn apart by the duality of reason and sensuality,”48 through aesthetic education analogous to Tamino’s initiation in The Magic Flute. In the terms of Weimar Classicism, the desired result is a schöne Seele (beautiful soul), or a new moral state of being in which the moral law has been internalized so fully that the individual naturally conforms to it in all of its actions.49 This moral state constitutes Schiller’s “higher paradise”—Elysium—in his lecture about Adam and Eve: attainment of it means that the individual has consciously and completely—perfectly—internalized and chosen to abide by moral laws and has thus become a being whose actions are naturally moral. Essentially, achieving this state of being will fulfill the Three Boys’ prophecy in The Magic Flute that “the earth will be a kingdom of heaven and mortals will resemble gods” (2.26), and the individual, like Tamino, will enter an Elysean existence, having established peace in his or her heart.

The importance of becoming distinguishes the ideal towards which humanity and the individual are striving—Elysium—from the natural harmony in Arcadia. This component of moral choice—possible because of man’s Fall and resultant entrance into human society, or culture—renders Elysium a more desirable, even divine, state of being. Presence in Elysium will be deserved, whereas the “perfection” of those in Arcadia “is not something they have deserved, since it is not the result of a decision on their part. What distinguishes us from them is exactly what they lack [for divinity]. We are free and what they are is necessary; we [change], they remain one.”50 People should be motivated through aesthetic, moral education to approach Elysium rather than passively to look back to Arcadia.51 In this sense, Arcadia and Elysium could even occupy the same physical location: the individual approaching Elysium comes full circle but in doing so has progressed by spiraling up to a higher moral state of being. Tamino and Pamina—united after their initiation trials—experience just such a quickening as they “approach divinity,” even though they physically may remain in the same temple. Thus, if “the human being who now can no longer return to Arcadia52 can be led “to Elyseum,” then there may indeed be completion to such an allegorical cycle. And The Magic Flute depicts such completion poignantly through Tamino and Pamina’s ultimate marriage to each other, which is also a necessary factor in the Latter-day Saint plan of salvation to attain perfection in the educative cycle.


The theme of allegorical moral education runs through Freemasonry, through eighteenth-century German and Austrian aesthetic thought, and also, in a notably similar way, through Latter-day Saint doctrines of progression in the plan of salvation, although no direct, definitive links between any of these expressions have been shown or suggested in this study. Weimar Classicism’s contribution to the notion of allegorical progression is its perspective of cyclical progression from one state of being to another. The Magic Flute provides an allegory of moral progression from a naive, superstitious state of being—Schiller’s metaphorical Arcadia—to a higher existence of moral awareness and intelligence—Schiller’s ideal Elysium—through tests and trials that prove the initiate’s righteousness and virtue. Perfection, or completion, is finally attained through marriage with another who has also overcome.

These concepts can be particularly meaningful for Latter-day Saints with their understanding of the plan of salvation and their use of allegorical drama in the temple to teach it. In all of these perspectives of progression, the individual is not alone in life’s journey, but rather is led by a mentor. In The Magic Flute, the speaker guides the initiates through their trials; in Schiller’s aesthetic philosophy, the poet or artist leads the way. For Latter-day Saints, however, the ultimate and essential mentor in this process is the Lord Jesus Christ. In Latter-day Saint theology, Christ’s Atonement is necessary for entrance into Elysium, to incorporate that term from Schiller’s analytical framework. That is, “perfection” or “completion” as an end goal of this cyclical existence is impossible for Latter-day Saints without the Atonement. But, as with Papageno in The Magic Flute, individual unwillingness to internalize the moral laws and obey the commandments—to attain a condition of harmony with God’s law out of individual volition—similarly precludes entrance into a Schillerian Elysium despite the indispensability of Christ’s mediation.

The element of individual initiative, rather than the necessity of Christ’s mediation, is the central feature of both the Freemasonic perspective of The Magic Flute and the aesthetic approach of Weimar Classicism. Both require individual action and deplore passivity or slothfulness. Tamino first begins realizing Sarastro’s true nature when he notices that Sarastro’s realm is a place of intelligence, work, and art: “Where activity reigns and slothfulness yields, vice cannot easily come to power” (1.15). This attitude reigns in Weimar Classicism as well, for example in Goethe’s Faust I, where Faust sets the conditions of wagering his very soul with Mephistopheles by saying, “Should I ever lay satisfied on a bed of sloth / then let me be done for then and there!” (Werd’ ich beruhigt je mich auf ein Faulbett legen, / so sei es gleich um mich getan!) (Faust, 1692).

Precisely because Faust does not become passive in this way—or content in a personal Arcadia—he gains salvation. This teaching is also allegorical: “Faust’s continued ascension is symbolic of man’s striving to attain [godly attributes] eventually in their perfect form and incorporate them as his own.”53 Like Adam and Eve or Tamino and Pamina, Faust can also represent all mankind in his journey,54 teaching the importance of continued striving for Elysium.

Not surprisingly, the Freemason Wieland’s works influenced the creation of The Magic Flute, and Mozart and Schikaneder’s opera subsequently greatly influenced Goethe. In fact, Goethe began, but never finished, a sequel to The Magic Flute55 that shifted the philosophical focus of the drama to the polarity between activity and passivity—expansion and concentration—in which action or movement is seen as life itself, and inaction or passivity is death.56 This development, if it had been fully realized by Goethe, would have thrown the factor of individual initiative in this process of moral education into bold relief.

Finally, Elder Russell M. Nelson points out the central place in Latter-day Saint thought of individual initiative, in addition to reliance on Christ’s grace, in this progressive cycle. Comparing the individual’s initiative in internalizing “fundamentals”—divine, moral, and social laws—to a spinning top that creates forces providing lift outward and upward, Elder Nelson teaches, “How can one’s personal progress approach that of the Lord’s hopes for us [in 3 Ne. 27:27]? It is by exercising individual initiative upwards and outwards, while remaining within the limits of the fundamental bounds and conditions we have discussed.”57 Because Tamino followed through with his initiation, he was endowed with intelligence and completion. In an allegorical sense he chose to leave Arcadia and strive for Elysium. Similarly, for Latter-day Saints, “life is not intended to be lived in an idyllic Eden.”58 So it was with Adam and Eve, and so it is for all in life’s eternal journey toward perfection.

About the author(s)

John B. Fowles earned his JD at the J. Reuben Clark Law School of Brigham Young University, where he served as Lead Articles editor of the BYU Law Review. He received his MSt with Distinction in European Literature from the University of Oxford, where he was a member of St. Edmund Hall.


1. Friedrich Schiller, “Elysium,” trans. Michèle Lester, Schubert Schiller-Lieder, vol. 1, in Deutsche Schubert-Lied-Edition, prod. and ed. Pauline Heister (Naxos: NHN International, 2001). For the original German text of the poem, see Friedrich Schiller, “Elysium,” in Schiller’s Sämtliche Werke, Säkularausgabe, 16 vols. (Stuttgart und Berlin: J.G. Cotta’sche Buchhandlung, 1905), 1:238–39.

2. For example, see Gordon B. Hinckley, “We Walk by Faith,” Ensign 32 (May 2002): 73.

3. See, for example, Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore, Ye Must Press Forward (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977), 87.

4. Compare Matthew 5:48 and 3 Nephi 12:48.

5. In a literal sense, Arcadia is a geographical region of Greece, “a mountainous area in central Peloponnesus approaching the sea only in the south-west, near Phigalia.” N. G. L. Hammond and H. H. Scullard, eds., The Oxford Classical Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon, 1970), 94. But Arcadia came to represent mankind’s primeval childhood for eighteenth-century aesthetic theorists—a place of naive and innocent shepherds enjoying an existence of Homeric totality in which they lived in perfect harmony. Embedded in the neoclassical intellectual milieu of the day, these theorists idealized classical civilization and saw in the Greeks man at one with himself. In a certain sense, then, Arcadia was a type of Eden where man was in a state of innocent perfection that was a product of man’s unity with himself and nature. Particularly Friedrich Schiller, one of the architects of Weimar Classicism (1795–1805, the aesthetic movement that created a German classical literature), employed the metaphor of Arcadia to represent humanity’s initial state of naive innocence, which was lost through man’s entrance into society, but whose natural harmony is constantly sought again, in his essay “On Naive and Sentimental Poetry” (1795), discussed in more detail below. Friedrich von Schiller, “Naïve and Sentimental Poetry” and “On the Sublime”: Two Essays, trans. Julius A. Elias (New York: Frederick Ungar, 1966), 81–190.

6. In Greek mythology, Elysium, or Elyseum, was “the place where those favoured by the gods . . . enjoy after death a full and pleasant life.” Sir Paul Harvey, comp. and ed., The Oxford Companion to Classical Literature (Oxford: Clarendon, 1940), 157. It is a place where “there is no snow, no winter storms and no rain, but rather the Zephyr blows softly there from over the ocean for eternity to cool those who come there.” D. Friedrich Lübker, ed., Reallexikon des classischen Alterthums für Gymnasien (Leipzig: B. G. Teubner, 1860), 296 (All translations from German or Spanish in this article are my own unless otherwise noted in the citation).

Eighteenth-century aesthetic theorists, particularly Schiller, used the concept of Elysium metaphorically to represent the end goal for which humanity was collectively striving, where mankind might regain the lost Arcadian harmony through personal moral choices. But it is not a Rousseauian return to the natural harmony experienced in Arcadia. Rather, Elysium is a higher state of perfection than Arcadia, because perfection in Arcadia resulted simply from mankind’s naive, natural—but therefore undeserved—totality, whereas the perfection attained in the metaphorical Elysium is deserved as the end product of choices in moral development. Reaching Elysium signifies a state of being in which the moral law has been so fully internalized that an individual simply will never act against it: totality is thus restored, but this time it is by choice, not ignorant nature.

7. Gordon B. Hinckley, First Presidency Christmas Fireside, 2002, as quoted in Sarah Jane Weaver, “‘We Join in Singing Praises to the Son of God,’” Church News, published by Deseret News, December 7, 2002, 3.

8. Anonymous, “Though in the Outward Church Below,” Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1972), 102.

9. Children’s Songbook of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989), 161.

10. Peter Branscombe, “Die Zauberflöte: A Lofty Sequel and Some Lowly Parodies,” Publications of the English Goethe Society 48 (1978): 21.

11. Bernhard Paumgartner, Mozart (Freiburg i. Br.: Atlantis, 1967), 448.

12. Scott Abbott identifies German Freemasonry as “the Enlightenment institution par excellence.” Scott Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry: Freemasonry and the German Novel (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991), 18.

13. Wallace Wood, trans., Conversations with Eckermann, Being Appreciations and Criticisms on Many Subjects by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (New York: M. Walter Dunne, 1901), 248 (March 11, 1828): “For what is genius but that productive power by which deeds arise that can display themselves before God and nature, and are therefore permanent, and produce results. All Mozart’s works are of this kind; there lies in them a productive power which operates upon generation after generation, and still is not wasted or consumed.”

14. Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Freemasonry and the Temple,” in Daniel H. Ludlow, ed., Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1992), 2:529.

15. Godfrey, “Freemasonry and the Temple,” 2:528.

16. Godfrey, “Freemasonry and the Temple,” 2:529. But “resemblances between the two rituals are limited to a small proportion of actions and words; indeed, some find that the Latter-day Saint endowment has more similarities with the Pyramid texts and the Coptic documents than with Freemasonry.” Godfrey, “Freemasonry and the Temple,” 2:529.

17. Hugh Nibley, “Apocryphal Writings and Teachings of the Dead Sea Scrolls,” in Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, ed. Don E. Norton, vol. 12 in The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1992), 294.

18. Quoted in Nibley, “Apocryphal Writings,” 294 (Nibley’s additions in square brackets omitted).

19. Wieland was part of the Weimar scene for over twenty years before Goethe and Schiller combined forces in 1794 to create Weimar Classicism, or German High Classicism; that is, when the Duchess Anna Amalia invited Wieland to Weimar in 1772 to tutor her son, Karl August, she began solidifying the foundation for the establishment of German classicism in that location. Nicholas Boyle, Goethe, The Poet and the Age, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991), 1:37.

20. W. H. Bruford, Culture and Society in Classical Weimar, 1775–1806 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), 29–30.

21. Bruford, Culture and Society in Classical Weimar, 31.

22. Bruford, Culture and Society in Classical Weimar, 37. For instance, Shaftesbury’s book of 1711, Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, etc., presents an aesthetic program focused on “the Greeks [as] the best guides he knew to the good life for a cultivated man” (36).

23. Peter Branscombe, W. A. Mozart, Die Zauberflöte (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 28. In pertinent part, the will provided, “I bequeath to the famous poet Herr Wieland in Weimar, as author of Tschinnistan [the other Wieland work to influence The Magic Flute], 300 Gulden”—which sum, in the event of Weiland’s predeceasing him, was to be paid to “Herr Schiller, our German Schaekspair [sic], who wrote Kabale und Liebe, for which bequest however Herr Schiller is requested to write a theatrical work and send it to every theatre in Germany.”

Schikaneder was well aware of the Weimar writers: “the leading names of the theatre of the time also occur [as authors of works performed in Schikaneder’s Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna]: Lessing, Schiller and Goethe, Iffland, Schröder and Kotzebue.” Branscombe, W. A. Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, 143.

24. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Philosophie der Maurerei, ed. Wilhelm Filtner (Leipzig: Felix Meiner, 1923), 17, quoted in Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry, 19.

25. For example, Professor Abbott points out that Thomas Mann’s rather negative depiction of Freemasonry as political and mystical in The Magic Mountain (1924) elicited a response accusing him of being uninformed about the “‘genuine,’ humanitarian Masonry (nonpolitical and nonmystical) which had attracted the likes of Goethe, Herder, Fichte, and Mozart.” Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry, 147. Another response assumed “that Thomas Mann used only Romance sources. He did not know English or German Freemasonry.” Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry, 147.

26. Melvin Maynard Johnson, ed. and intro., Masonic Addresses and Writings of Roscoe Pound (Richmond, Virginia: Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply, 1953), 128.

27. The lawyer and Freemason Roscoe Pound paraphrased and commented on Fichte’s lectures, which were originally published in the Masonic journal Eleusinien des 19. Jahrhunderts, 1802–1803 (Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry, 189 n. 6), in Pound’s own Masonic addresses and writings, as collected by Melvin Maynard Johnson in Masonic Addresses and Writings of Roscoe Pound.

28. Johnson, Masonic Addresses and Writings of Roscoe Pound, 128.

29. I[gnaz] v[on] B[orn] M[eister] v[om] St[uhl], “Ueber die Mysterien der Aegyptier,” Journal für Freymaurer 1, no. 1 (1784): 130 (German orthography as in original source). (Ist Wahrheit, Weisheit und die Beförderung der Glückseligkeit des ganzen Menschengeschlechts nicht auch der eigentliche Endzweck unsrer Verbindung?) The German original has been included in parentheses throughout for comparison.

30. von Born, “Ueber die Mysterien der Aegyptier,” 130. (Und kann wohl auch ein erhabnerer edlerer Endzweck seyn, als unsre Kenntnisse durch wechselseitige Mittheilung zu erweitern, jedem, der sich an unsern Kreis schließt, auf dem Pfade der Tugend den geraden Weg zur Vollkommenheit zu zeigen, ihn, wenn er auf Abwege geräth, brüderlich zurückzubringen, uns täglich zur Ausübung tugendhafter Handlungen aufzumuntern, alles Gute auszuüben, alles Böse zu verhindern?)

31. Branscombe, W. A. Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, 20–25.

32. Paumgartner, Mozart, 448. Eighteenth-century Freemasons worked to achieve a state of enlightenment as their end goal in the educative process of their fraternity: “In French orations masters and brothers were routinely described and complimented as éclairé; in Dutch, as verlichte; in German, as aufgeklärt. In Britain one of the principle duties of a lodge was to ‘initiate the unenlightened.’ Genevan masons described themselves as ‘true children of the light.’” Margaret C. Jacob, Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth-Century Europe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 145.

34. Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry, 33: “Fénelon’s Aventures de Télémaque (1699), describing the educational adventures of Télémaque under the guidance of Minerva (disguised as Mentor), is generally considered the first novel with Masonic ties.”

35. Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry, 34.

36. Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry, 34.

37. Abbott, Fictions of Freemasonry, 35.

38. All references to the text of The Magic Flute are given parenthetically in the text.

39. John Locke, A Letter concerning Toleration [1689], ed. and intro. James H. Tully (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1983), 46: “For Truth certainly would do well enough, if she were once left to shift for her self. She is not taught by Laws, nor has she any need of Force to procure her entrance into the minds of men. If Truth makes not her way into the Understanding by her own Light she will be but the weaker for any borrowed force Violence can add to her.”

40. Sarastro indicates to Pamina that he holds her for her own benefit, hinting that she is better off away from her mother’s dark influence.

41. Albert G. Mackey, “Truth,” in An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and Its Kindred Sciences Comprising the Whole Range of Arts, Sciences and Literature as Connected with the Institution, new and rev. ed. by William J. Hughan and Edward L. Hawkins, 2 vols. (New York: Masonic History, 1925), 2:805.

42. Paumgartner, Mozart, 452: “But in the pit of fire Tamino is saved from danger through unwavering faith in truth and love: the pure sound of the flute has become a symbol of his soul” (In der Feuerhöhle aber wird Tamino durch unerschütterlichen Glauben an Wahrheit und Liebe aus der Gefahr gerettet: der reine Ton der Flöte ist zum Symbol seiner Seele geworden).

43. Friedrich Schiller, “Etwas über die erste Menschengesellschaft nach dem Leitfaden der mosaischen Urkunde” (Something about the First Human Society according to the Guide of the Mosaic Document), in Schiller’s Sämtliche Werke, 13:26. (Dieser Abfall des Menschen vom Instinkte, der das moralische Übel zwar in die Schöpfung brachte, aber nur um das moralische Gute darin möglich zu machen, ist ohne Widerspruch die glücklichste und größte Begebenheit in der Meschengeschichte; von diesem Augenblick her schreibt sich seine Freiheit, hier wurde zu seiner Moralität der erste entfernte Grundstein gelegt.)

44. Schiller, “Etwas über die erste Menschengesellschaft,” 13:26–27. (Der Philosoph hat Recht, es einen Riesenschritt der Menschheit zu nennen, denn der Mensch wurde dadurch aus einem Sklaven des Naturtriebes ein freihandelndes Geschöpf, aus einem Automat ein sittliches Wesen, und mit diesem Schritt trat er zuerst auf die Leiter, die ihn nach Verlauf von vielen Jahrtausenden zur Selbstherrschaft führen wird.)

45. Schiller, “Etwas über die erste Menschengesellschaft,” 13:25 (bold added, italics in original). (Er sollte den Stand der Unschuld, den er jetzt verlor, wieder aufsuchen lernen durch seine Vernunft und als ein freier vernünftiger Geist dahin zurück kommen, wovon er als Pflanze und als eine Kreatur des Instinktes ausgegangen war; aus einem Paradies der Unwissenheit und Knechtschaft sollte er sich, wär’ es auch nach späten Jahrtausenden, zu einem Paradies der Erkenntnis und der Freiheit hinauf arbeiten, einem solchen nämlich, wo er dem moralischen Gesetze in seiner Brust ebenso unwandelbar gehorchen würde, als er anfangs dem Instinkte gedient hatte.)

46. Schiller, “Etwas über die erste Menschengesellschaft,” 13:26. (der Mensch wurde . . . aus einem glücklichen Instrumente ein unglücklicher Künstler.)

47. T. J. Reed, The Classical Centre: Goethe and Weimar, 1775–1832 (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1980), 75.

48. Dieter Borchmeyer, Weimarer Klassik: Portrait einer Epoche (Weinheim: Beltz Athenäum, 1994), 239. (den Menschen, der durch den Dualismus von Vernunft und Sinnlichkeit zerrissen ist, als Einheit und Ganzheit wiederherzustellen.)

49. This sounds very Kantian for a reason: Schiller used Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1981) and other philosophical writings as a springboard for his own aesthetic philosophy of completion in the “beautiful soul” in his essay “On Grace and Dignity” (Über die Anmut und Würde, 1793). But Schiller surpasses a mere harmonization of the famous Kantian dualism within the moral subject between Pflicht (duty) and Neigung (inclination). Indeed, Schiller breaks free from the Kantian paradigm because his own aesthetic ideal actually constitutes a natural “inclination to duty.” Emil Carl Wilm, The Philosophy of Schiller in Its Historical Relations (Bristol: Thoemmes Press, 1994, reprint of 1912 edition), 127.

50. Friedrich Schiller, “On Naive and Sentimental Poetry” (Über naive und Sentimentalische Dichtung), trans. Daniel O. Dahlstrom, in Friedrich Schiller, Essays, ed. Walter Hinderer and Daniel O. Dahlstrom, The German Library: Vol. 17 (New York: Continuum, 1993), 232. “Change” has been substituted in square brackets for Dahlstrom’s curious use of “alter” in this passage. “Aber ihre Vollkommenheit ist nicht ihr Verdienst, weil sie nicht das Werk ihrer Wahl ist. was uns von ihnen untersheidet, ist gerade das, was ihnen selbst zur Göttlichkeit fehlt. Wir sind frei, und sie sind notwendig; wir wechseln, sie bleiben eins.” Schiller, “Über naive und Sentimentalische Dichtung,” 2:541.

51. Gerhard Kaiser touches on this participatory role of aesthetics in his collection of Schiller lectures and studies from 1966 to 1977. See, for example, Gerhard Kaiser, Von Arkadien nach Elysium. Schiller-Studien (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1978), 9, 206–17.

52. Schiller, “On Naive and Sentimental Poetry,” 232.

53. Hans-Wilhelm Kelling, “Thoughts about Goethe’s Religious Convictions,” in Literature and Belief 20, no. 2, Goethe and Religion, ed. Paul E. Kerry (2000): 115.

54. Kelling, “Thoughts about Goethe’s Religious Convictions,” 115–16.

56. Dieter Borchmeyer, Goethe, Mozart, und Die Zauberflöte (Göttingen: Vandenhoek und Ruprecht, 1994), 22–23.

57. Russell M. Nelson, “Fundamentals and Initiatives,” in Life in the Law: Answering God’s Interrogatories, ed. Galen L. Fletcher and Jane H. Wise (Provo, Utah: J. Reuben Clark Law Society and Brigham Young University Press, 2002), 53.

58. Neal A. Maxwell, Not My Will, but Thine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), 8.

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