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Whitehead, C.C. (1978). Mozart's The Magic Flute: a Paradigm for Separation and Initiation. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 5:105-121.

(1978). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 5:105-121

Mozart's The Magic Flute: a Paradigm for Separation and Initiation

Clay C. Whitehead


A review of the libretto of Mozart's The Magic Flute is presented and the famous possibility that the plot was altered during its creation is noted. The Masonic origin of the work is then considered which leads to a review of some ancient mystery cults. Linkages are established between the initiation ceremonies of the ancient cults, the rites of the Masons, and the plot of the opera which is seen to be a camouflaged Masonic initiation.

Portions of the myths of Isis, Dionysus, Orpheus, Demeter and others are considered. Using psychohistorical examination, an evolutionary tradition of ancient mystery mythology may be discerned which portrays the projections of a struggle for patriarchal ascendancy. Psychoanalytic myth analysis further reveals that this mystical mythology focuses on the problems of ambivalence, separation and differentiation. It is suggested that this mythology of separation deserves equal footing with the oedipal mythology of competition in modern psychoanalytic perspective.

A detailed psychoanalytic symbol analysis of The Magic Flute provides strong evidence against theories of plot alteration. Multiple layers of meaning are discerned in the libretto. The superficial 'fairy opera' conceals a Masonic initiation. The initiation, in turn, contains a tertiary residue of mystery mythology. Psychoanalytically orientated symbol analysis reveals a wonderfully complex and powerful quaternary level. This level illustrates oedipal as well as separation/individuation issues and reflects the triumph of benevolent maturational and patriarchal trends over regressive and matriarchal strivings.

The profound impact of the mystical tradition upon Western culture is noted and connexions are suggested with the 'scientific romanticism' of Freud and psychoanalysis.

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