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Part 5: Review: Berthold Hoeckner on "Lohengrin" 8/94

PostPosted: Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:45 pm
by alberich00
[PH] And here I introduced my thesis, that Ortrud’s accusation that Lohengrin is a fraud (since he’s taken by the folk as having been sent by God, when, in Wagner’s Feuerbachian world-view, there is no God, but only artistic magic which, in religious belief, makes the mistake of staking an insupportable claim to be truth, when in fact it is self-deception), is the plain but bitter truth: Lohengrin is a fraud, just as religious faith is a fraud. According to both Feuerbach and Wagner the Folk unconsciously invented the gods and thus deceived themselves unwittingly, and it is from consciousness of this sin that Elsa, as Lohengrin’s unconscious mind, offers him redemption. She can offer Lohengrin redemption since she effectively offers Wagner’s revolutionary music-dramas as a substitute for dying religious faith, music dramas which, unlike religious faith, will stake no claim to be truth, which might be refuted, but can make us feel ‘as if’ we have transcended the real world and are redeemed:


[PHt]
[PH: IF LOHENGRIN IS A FRAUD, ELSA CAN REDEEM LOHENGRIN FROM SUFFERING PUNISHMENT FOR HIS SIN, BY SHARING KNOWLEDGE OF HIS SECRET AND HELPING HIM KEEP IT]

[P. 18] “And what of Lohengrin’s innocence! Elsa seems to assume that Lohengrin has a noble origin, but suppose he doesn’t! That is, suppose the redemption Lohengrin offers is a fraud, as Frederick and Ortrud say. If this were so then Elsa could offer Lohengrin redemption by keeping this sin (NOTH) secret.”

[PH] And here in 8/93 I introduced my notion that through repression of self-knowledge into his unconscious mind, Elsa, Lohengrin could redeem himself from the terrible truth, the knowledge, which he can’t afford to expose to the world, or even to himself:

[PHaa]
[PH: IN ELSA’S OFFER TO SHARE WITH LOHENGRIN THE BURDEN OF KEEPING THE SECRET OF HIS IDENTITY AND ORIGIN, ONLY IF HE PERMITS HER TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS SECRET, SHE IS ACTUALLY OFFERING TO REDEEM ILLUSION, OR WAHN (SELF-DECEPTION), FROM THE BITTER TRUTH]

[PH] [P. 22] “But is it enough to substitute a preferred image of the world for an abhorrent but true one? What is to become of our knowledge of nature’s truth, which in conscious contact with our metaphysical pretensions necessarily forces them to escape into the purely subjective, non-conceptual world of ‘feeling’ in which Lohengrin feels safest? In Elsa’s offer to redeem Lohengrin we’ll find our answer!“

[PH] Here I introduced my notion that Lohengrin must protect not only himself from consciousness of the bitter truth, but also the Folk, the public, the audience for his religio-artistic magic, who depend upon religious and/or artistic self-deception for their happiness:


[PHhh]
[PH: LOHENGRIN WOULD ALSO BE COMMITTING A TERRIBLE SIN IF HE ALLOWED THE SELF-DECEPTION, OR WAHN, HE PERPETUATES, AND UPON WHICH THE FOLK DEPEND FOR THEIR HAPPINESS, TO REACH THE LIGHT OF DAY]

[PH] [P. 27] “Lohengrin’s third sin is this: assuming he’s committed to redeeming our unwitting hypocrisy from the knowledge which might expose it, that he feels bound to console us with illusion (Wahn) for the knowledge (NOTH) Eve gave Adam, is it not an unforgivable sin to expose the very hypocrisy he perpetuates? Lohengrin and his breed (other Grail knights) had made us so emotionally dependent upon this self-deception (Wahn) for our happiness, that to expose the truth (NOTH) might bring us unbearable pain (NOTH), or open in us an irredeemable, ‘unhealing’ wound (NOTH).”

[PH] Here I introduced the idea that Lohengrin is too conscious of the hypocrisy and contradiction implicit in religious faith’s prohibition on freedom of inquiry, which is the basis of scientific thought’s quest for objective knowledge of nature and man. That is, Lohengrin’s mere fear of the truth, fear of exposure, is Wagner’s metaphor for the Achilles heel that would eventually be found out by modern science and destroy religious belief. However, as I noted in my paper, secular art doesn’t suffer religion’s disadvantage in this respect: it can make us feel “as if” we are redeemed from the bitterness of the real world, without staking religious belief’s insupportable claim to be truth, since art, as Wagner says, confesses itself a fiction, or game, and in music is freed entirely from the question about what is truth, and what is illusion, since music is non-conceptual:


[PHmm]
[PH: LOHENGRIN IS TOO CONSCIOUS THAT HE FEARS THE TRUTH, THAT HE DEPENDS UPON DECEPTION, AND EVEN SELF-DECEPTION]

[P. 29] “Doesn’t it seem that the redemption Lohengrin offered was inadequate because he was too conscious? Of what was he too conscious? Why, of having committed his three sins! He’s too conscious of having ‘killed’ his mother, nature. He’s too conscious of his hypocritical need to break his own law by seeking out the world he’d disavowed. For these reasons he’s also too conscious to protect the Folk’s consoling Wahn from Ortrud’s NOTH, and may also have exposed the secret of his [P. 30] status as a perjurer to them. Because he depended on self-deception but was becoming too conscious of this shameful truth, was he not also too conscious of being dependent on fear of the truth, of needing a prohibition on knowledge? Might we not call exposure of these humiliating truths his ‘shameful NOTH’?”

[PH] And last but not least my 8/93 paper introduced my most far-reaching conclusion, that Elsa, Lohengrin’s unconscious mind, can hold for him his secret, keeping this secret even from him, so that he may remain unconscious of it, and thereby redeem him from the truth he fears; it is this which links Elsa to the heroines of Wagner’s subsequent music-dramas, Bruennhilde, Isolde, Eva, and Kundry, all of whom know for the hero what he can’t afford to know, fatal self-knowledge:


[PHjj]
[PH: ELSA CAN ATONE THE SIN OF BREACHING LOHENGRIN’S INJUNCTION THAT SHE HAVE UNQUESTIONING FAITH IN HIM, BY KNOWING LOHENGRIN’S SECRET, HIS FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE, FOR HIM, SO THAT HE MIGHT REMAIN UNCONSCIOUS OF IT, AND THUS FIND REDEMPTION FROM THE FATAL TRUTH]

[PH] [P. 27] “Can Elsa atone a sin she herself called irredeemable ('He who doubts his mission will never recover from disaster' (LOH Act 2 Sc 4))? Lohengrin thinks she can, but she must be separated [P. 28] from him to atone. It seems Lohengrin is ‘too conscious’ of his own identity to redeem others or obtain redemption for himself, since the redemption he offers depends on a prohibition on making his own self-knowledge public (conscious). Lohengrin needs to be able to break the Grail knights’ taboo on sexual union without risking making this shameful NOTH conscious, even for himself. He needs, in other words, to add one special condition to Elsa’s offer to share his NOTH in love’s night. What is it? How can Elsa atone? How else than by fulfilling her offer to keep his secret in the strictest sense, by knowing it for him, so he need not know it!

In view of his need to keep his self-deception, his true identity as a hypocrite, a secret even from himself, wouldn’t it be a great advantage for Lohengrin to cease to be conscious of who he is, to become a divine ‘fool’, and thus to regain his own lost innocence by letting Elsa take on the burden of his guilt? This can be done if Elsa conceals even from him his ‘conceptual’ knowledge of who he is, his NOTH. Elsa can thus redeem him from himself, and redeem the redeemer.“

[PH] The significance of this is very far-reaching: for instance, Siegfried tells Fafner that he, Siegfried, still doesn’t know who he is, but Bruennhilde tells Siegfried she is his own self, and that what he doesn’t know she knows for him; Isolde keeps the secret of Tristan’s true identity (which even he doesn’t fully grasp until his Act III monologue) in silence; Eva knows for Walther the true source of his inspiration, which Sachs (like Wotan) confesses to Eva in his Act II cobbling song, but which Walther doesn’t understand; and finally, Parsifal doesn’t remember his true identity or name, but Kundry holds this knowledge for Parsifal.

[PH] In the following passages Hoeckner shows how Wagner ultimately abandons Lohengrin in favor of Elsa, who made him a revolutionary, and implicitly, this symbolizes Wagner’s transition from traditional opera composer to creator of revolutionary music-dramas, in which poetry and music share a wholly loving, trusting union:


16. BH: ELSA’S BREACH OF LOHENGRIN’S DEMAND FOR UNQUESTIONING FAITH ALLOWED WAGNER TO GRASP WOMAN, PURELY HUMAN LOVE, AND MADE HIM A REVOLUTIONARY (I.E., THE AUTHOR OF REVOLUTIONARY MUSIC-DRAMAS)

[#] [BH] [P. 246] “However, while androgyny is undoubtedly the basis for the mutual attraction between Lohengrin and Elsa, a more [P. 247] pressing question is why this attraction proves to be fatal. Wagner’s identification with Lohengrin is only one half of the picture. More important is his identification with the other half: Elsa. In fact, In ‘A Communication’ Wagner finally shifts from his identification with Lohengrin to an emphatic plea for an understanding of Elsa:

‘Through the capability of this ‘unconscious consciousness,’ such as I myself now felt along with Lohengrin, I also came to an increasingly deep understanding of the nature of woman. Through this capability I succeeded in so completely transferring myself to this female nature that I came to a complete agreement with its utterance by my loving Elsa. I was forced to find her so justified in the final outburst of her jealousy that I learnt to fully understand the purely human nature of love precisely from this outburst.’

[#] [BH] [P. 248] Thus by turning Elsa into his ‘discovery’ of the ‘woman,’ as his other self, Wagner could abandon Lohengrin – and move beyond ‘Lohengrin’ – because of the failed relationship between man and woman, poetry and music. This, he claimed, helped him

‘to trace more certainly true womanhood, which should one day bring to me and all the world redemption, after male egoism, even in its noblest form, had self-destructively broken down before her. Elsa, the woman … made me a total revolutionary.’ “

[PH] Of course, in 8/93 I presented my own version of the hypothesis that Elsa’s example was Wagner’s inspiration in making his transition from opera composer to revolutionary music-dramatist, with the difference that I was able to draw upon the single most fertile line from “A Communication to my Friends,” that Elsa showed Wagner the way to Siegfried, and was also able to make much more of Wagner’s identification of Elsa as Lohengrin’s unconscious mind, and demonstrate its links to Wagner’s other music-dramas, and even to “Tannhaeuser”:


[PHa]
[PH: ELSA TAUGHT WAGNER HOW TO UNEARTH HIS SIEGFRIED]

[#] [P. 1] “When Wagner summed up his artistic life prior to embarking on the completion of THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG, he spoke of Siegfried in the following terms:

‘Elsa showed me the way to this man: to me he was the masculine embodiment of the eternally and uniquely creative instinct … , of the human being in the fullness of the highest inborn power, and worthy of the most unequivocal love.’ (6-8/51 ‘Eine Mitteilung an meine Freunde’; Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen; p. 328)

What did Wagner mean? It’s well known he felt he’d achieved a revolution in accommodating words, action, and music in LOHENGRIN, which first bore fruit in his attempts to design a text for music in SIEGFRIED’S DEATH. Did he mean something more? In this paper we’ll examine evidence that Wagner also achieved a decisive ‘conceptual’ revolution in his subsequent operas through a new understanding of Elsa’s words and actions.”

[PH] When I wrote my 8/93 paper, I was also struck by the obvious conceptual correspondence between Elsa’s insistence on breaching Lohengrin’s demand for unquestioning faith, and Eve’s breach of God’s injunction not to eat the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. I strongly suspected this conceptual link might be very significant in interpreting Elsa’s behavior, and also in understanding Wagner’s expressed admiration for her breach of faith in his “A Communication to my Friends,” and interpreted “Lohengrin” accordingly. It hadn’t escaped me that not only is Eva in “Mastersingers” self-evidently modeled on Eve in Paradise, but that Wagner had also identified Kundry with Eve. This link evidently did not resonate with Hoeckner. It was only long after I’d written this paper that I discovered in Feuerbach’s “Thoughts on Death and Immortality” that Feuerbach praised Eve as the woman who had figuratively liberated mankind from religious faith (in which man alienated his ideal self from his real self by calling the ideal self an inaccessible and almost incomprehensible god), so that man could pursue his natural skills in science and secular art. Thus, I realized, Wagner had construed Eve, and therefore Elsa, as a muse for his revolutionary art, which would offer man redemption from the terrible, objective truth, in his revolutionary music-dramas, in feeling. The following passages from my paper follow some of the potential implications of this link between Eve and Elsa, particularly the idea that, since Wagner clearly agreed with Feuerbach that it was man’s unique consciousness of death and pain as a philosophic problem that inspired the earliest fully human beings to unconsciously invent the gods as a way both of explaining man’s existential anguish, and also offering ways to redeem himself from this anguish, that Lohengrin could be construed as a fraud, an invention of man’s collective unconscious, a fact which, if known consciously, would destroy him, and that furthermore, Elsa could offer him redemption from this fate by helping him keep this fatal secret. Also, I suggested below that Elsa’s – that is to say, Eve’s – sin in giving mankind fatal knowledge was Lohengrin’s true, but hidden, source of inspiration, which prompted him to offer Elsa redemption from the charge of fratricide (Eve had figuratively committed fratricide in sharing the fruit of forbidden knowledge, which introduced pain and death into the world, with her brother Adam, represented in “Lohengrin” cryptically by Elsa’s brother Godfrey):


[PHg]
[PH: ORTRUD TEMPTS ELSA TO OBTAIN FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE, AS THE SERPENT TEMPTED EVE TO OBTAIN KNOWLEDGE GOD HAD FORBIDDEN]

[P. 5] “Is Ortrud’s accusation true? Is Lohengrin a fraud posing as Godsent? Only Elsa has a right to know. Ortrud comes to Elsa like The Serpent, tempting her to seek knowledge the godlike Lohengrin has forbidden. But whether this knowledge is of Lohengrin’s godhead, or of his fraud, is open to question.”


[PHm]
[PH: ELSA’S SIN, I.E., EVE’S SIN, IN GIVING MAN FORBIDDEN KNOWLEDGE, WHICH EXILED MAN FROM PARADISE, IS THE SECRET SOURCE OF LOHENGRIN’S INSPIRATION IN COMING TO EARTH TO REDEEM MAN FROM TRUTH THROUGH ILLUSION (WAHN), THE SELF-DECEPTION OF RELIGIOUS FAITH]

[P. 13] “The morning after Ortrud gains admittance to Elsa’s mind, she and Frederick confront Elsa at the Minster:

LOHENGRIN Act 2 Scene 4

‘Ortrud: Can you name him? Can you tell us if his lineage and nobility are proved? Whence came he across the waters to you, when and whither goes he again from you? Ha, no! it would mean great distress (NOTH) for him, so the clever hero forbade the question! …. This innocence of your hero, how quickly it would be tarnished were he forced to show the source of magic through which he wields such power here! If you don’t dare to ask him this, we’ll justly believe that even you hesitate through fear, lest his innocence be disproved!’

[P. 14] But Ortrud suggested that revealing Lohengrin’s true identity will show the true origin of his magic, his inspiration. Since Elsa’s NOTH and Lohengrin’s NOTH seem to be identical, is it possible Elsa’s sin is Lohengrin’s true source of inspiration? No wonder Frederick said that only by getting rid of her brother Godfrey (i.e., giving us fatal knowledge) could Elsa reject Fredericks’ hand in order to wed her secret lover Lohengrin! For it was only by virtue of the pain (NOTH) such knowledge brought that we felt a need for redemption from the world, a need for Lohengrin, in the first place. Elsa’s guilt may have inspired Lohengrin to redeem Godfrey (ourselves) by taking this knowledge away, and restoring innocence. Similarly, it was only through Eve’s temptation and Adam’s fall that Christ could offer us redemption. Elsa’s remorse for giving Godfrey fatal knowledge may thus have been the true cause of Lohengrin’s coming.

Lohengrin has taken Godfrey’s place next to Elsa as if Lohengrin came into the world to face that knowledge Elsa gave Godfrey, so Godfrey need not face it. Lohengrin would thus, like Christ, face man’s hell so man can see heaven. Lohengrin will, indeed, later affirm Godfrey was under the Grail’s protection while Lohengrin remained with Elsa (LOH Act 3 Sc 3). Aren’t we then compelled to confront a disturbing question? Is the true source of Lohengrin’s inspiration actually our hell, our inability to accept our true nature and natural limits, and not heaven?”