Grieg - Peer Gynt Suite - The Death of Åse (Åses død)
Type of Spiritual Experience
Peer Gynt is a five-act play in verse by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen. It was first performed in Christiania (now Oslo) on 24 February 1876, with original music composed by Edvard Grieg that includes some of today's most recognized classical pieces, In the Hall of the Mountain King and Morning Mood. It was published in German translation in 1881, in English in 1892, and in French in 1896.
Peer Gynt was written in Danish—the common written language of Denmark and Norway in Ibsen's lifetime. The play is loosely based on Per Gynt, a Norwegian fairy tale.
Peer Gynt is an allegory of the spiritual path. The symbolism here is complex as:
1. Trolls - There is an important spiritual theme in Peer Gynt – what distinguishes spiritual man from materialistic beast. And the answer is the ego. A materialistic beast [a troll] is ego led, a spiritual man has crushed his ego and is seeking to ‘know himself’. The troll king for example asks: What is the difference between troll and man?
The answer given by the Old Man of the Mountain is:
"Out there, where sky shines, humans say: 'To thyself be true.' In here, trolls say: 'Be true to yourself and to hell with the world.'"
2. Masculine and feminine - Solveig is a symbol of the feminine - that with which his masculine must merge in order for him to progress spiritually, but "an elderly-appearing woman in green garments appears with a limping boy at her side".
The Old Man is a symbol of the old you before any rebirth experience. In this case, however, the Old man is replaced by an Old woman. Either way the Old person should be accompanied by a child - meaning the new you.
If you see the child juxtaposed with an Old Man, then you are seeing the transition from the old you to the new you, or as Cirlot put it ‘the stage of life when the old man, transformed, acquires a new simplicity….. hence the conception of the child as the mystic centre’.
But Peer Gynt has totally failed by believing he must be like the trolls to succeed, as such his spiritual efforts are a total failure - he has conceived a monster - a half-human brat .
3. The clock - if you reference the picture of the spiritual path you will see that those who succeed enter it at 9 to proceed to midnight, but Peer has clearly failed entirely and must thus go round the entire clock - "Go roundabout, Peer". The path of reincarnation. Endless cycles of being born over and over until you get it right.
A description of the experience
"Peer Gynt - Incidental Music (1998 Digital Remaster): 5. Death of Åse" by Ilse Hollweg/Beecham Choral Society/Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Thomas Beecham
As an outlaw, Peer struggles to build his own cottage in the hills. Solveig turns up and insists on living with him. She has made her choice, she says, and there will be no return for her. Peer is delighted and welcomes her, but as she enters the cabin, an elderly-appearing woman in green garments appears with a limping boy at her side.
This is the green-clad woman from the mountain hall, and her half-human brat is the child begotten by Peer from his mind during his stay there. She has cursed Peer by forcing him to remember her and all his previous sins, when facing Solveig. Peer hears a ghostly voice saying,
"Go roundabout, Peer", and decides to leave. He tells Solveig he has something heavy to fetch. He returns in time for his mother's death, and then sets off overseas.