Part 9: Review: Berthold Hoeckner on "Lohengrin" 8/94

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Part 9: Review: Berthold Hoeckner on "Lohengrin" 8/94

Postby alberich00 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:02 pm

[PH] My following observations delineating the importance of understanding that Wagner’s Elsa is a metaphor for Eve in the Garden of Eden, who broke God’s injunction against eating the fruit of forbidden (divine) knowledge, convey something which seemed to be entirely missing from Hoeckner’s assessment of “Lohengrin.” Because of his omission he missed a number of other clues which might have revealed to him more of Wagner’s allegorical logic and the key to grasping its development in Wagner’s subsequent mature music-dramas:


[PHi]
[PH: EVE’S GIVING ADAM THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT OF DIVINE KNOWLEDGE, HER BREACHING OF GOD’S DEMAND FOR ABSOLUTE FAITH, WHICH COMPELLED GOD TO BANISH MAN FROM HIS SPIRITUAL PARADISE, AND FORCE MAN TO TRAVEL A LONG ROAD TO RESTORE WHAT WAS LOST, WAS A KEY METAPHOR WHICH GUIDED WAGNER IN HIS CHARACTERIZATION OF ELSA AS LOHENGRIN’S ULTIMATE, BUT HIDDEN, SOURCE OF INSPIRATION; FOR IT WAS MAN’S ACQUISITION OF CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS INEVITABLE MORTALITY WHICH INSPIRED HIM UNCONSCIOUSLY TO INVENT GOD AND THE REDEMPTIVE REMEDY OF IMMORTALITY]

[PH] [P. 7] “Eve was described in the GENESIS creation myth as both innocent and as she who gave Adam (ourselves) the knowledge through which we lost our innocence. The Serpent tempted her to obtain knowledge God had forbidden us to have: knowing good and evil, we would become like God. However, once we lost our innocence through Eve, instead of becoming like God, we foresaw our death and were ashamed of our animal nature. The knowledge the Serpent promised would give us divine power, in fact made us aware of our natural mortality. ‘Innocence’ had betrayed us!

What if the reverse of this was the truer case? Is it possible this knowledge of our mortality inspired in our imagination a longing for divine power, even if in actuality it was beyond reach? Maybe through this knowledge, this ‘consciousness’ of our natural self, we became aware both of our mortal plight (NOTH), and of a longing for redemption from our sinful, mortal nature in a return to the paradise from which our acquisition of knowledge had banished us.”

[PH] And here in 8/93 I presented the notion that the secret of Lohengrin’s identity and origin is that what we call God and Heaven are merely human inventions, and since man himself originates in nature, God and Heaven, as products of natural man's imagination, also have a natural origin. For this reason it is self-evident that the primal Folk who invented the gods must have done so unconsciously and involuntarily, as in dreaming, and the Folk who perpetuate religious belief through conviction must remain under this unconscious spell. I only discovered later that Feuerbach himself had long ago described religious belief as a collective, waking dream:


[PHk]
[PH: SINCE LOHENGRIN’S ORIGIN IS NATURAL, NOT DIVINE, AND THIS IS THE SECRET HE MUST MAINTAIN, KEEPING IT A SECRET EVEN FROM HIMSELF, IT IS CLEAR FROM THIS THAT THE FOLK, MANKIND, MUST HAVE UNCONSCIOUSLY INVENTED THE GODS]

[P. 11] “In reality … the paradise we thought we had lost through sin wasn’t a spiritual realm freed from nature, but rather the general unconsciousness or instinctiveness, the life of ‘feeling’, we once shared with all animals. But could we afford to admit this? Wouldn’t we prefer to propose the existence of a realm outside of nature freed from the pain of life in it? If we needed to deceive ourselves about this, wouldn’t mother nature, and our animal nature, once innocent, seem to us abhorrent? Wouldn’t we renounce and disavow them in favor of our beloved spirit realm? After all, in this imagined paradise we’d enjoy life’s bliss without paying nature’s price.

But there was a difficulty! In order to propose the real [P. 12] existence of our paradise, even though we’d invented it, wouldn’t we have to be ‘unconscious’ of having invented it? In a word, we couldn’t very well be conscious of lying to ourselves, could we! This paradise, this ‘magic’, could only have been created by our unconscious mind, where those dreams are born for whose creation our conscious mind can’t take credit. Such is the dream-realm Lohengrin shares with Elsa.

(…)

Doesn’t it therefore seem plausible that Lohengrin is a metaphor for the world of religion and art which satisfies man’s desire for what ‘ought’ to be, or ‘feeling’? Having renounced Ortrud’s real world and power, perhaps he has only magical, or illusory power, but no real power.”

[PH] My following insight from my 8/93 paper, that Elsa’s offer to share with Lohengrin the knowledge of his true origin and identity, in order to protect him from the danger to which he’d be subject if his secret were exposed to the world (and to himself), is the basis for Wagner’s revolutionary thought that Elsa can know for Lohengrin his secret, so he need not suffer the burden of knowing it himself, and need not fear exposure of the truth, and that this gave birth to Wagner’s characterization of Bruennhilde as Wotan’s will, who hears his confession, is entirely missing from Hoeckner’s 8/94 chapter:


[PHjj]
[PH: ELSA CAN ATONE FOR DESTROYING RELIGIOUS FAITH BY KNOWING THE SECRET OF LOHENGRIN’S IDENTITY AND ORIGIN (I.E., THAT HE, AND ALL WE CALL THE DIVINE, IS A PRODUCT SOLELY OF HUMAN IMAGINATION, AND THEREFORE A PRODUCT OF NATURE, FROM WHICH HUMANITY SPRANG) FOR HIM, SO HE NEED NOT KNOW IT HIMSELF]

[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] In the following passage Hoeckner describes Lohengrin as a projection of Elsa’s fantasy, a product of the unconsciously inspired artistic imagination, in much the same way I did in my 8/93 paper, in which I stated that Elsa’s and the Folk’s longing for Lohengrin, for the redemption he offers, virtually brought him (i.e., a metaphor for man’s religious longing for transcendent value) into being. However, Hoeckner differed from me in describing Elsa’s and the Folk’s creation of Lohengrin out of their imagination as representing a failed effort to produce the music-drama, whereas I construed it merely as a metaphor for the collective and unconscious process through which the folk invented God and his revelations. Hoeckner also notes that Lohengrin’s longing for Elsa is a longing for utmost physical reality, as Wagner put it, which expresses the notion, again described in detail in my paper, that what man looks for in his paradise of redemption from the real world of suffering and death, is merely the bliss of natural life artificially divorced from its necessary bond with death and pain:


26. BH: ELSA INVENTS LOHENGRIN; WAGNER: LOVE IS UTMOST PHYSICAL REALITY

[#] [BH] [P. 258] “The creation of myth through human imagination raises the question as to whether Lohengrin is a projection of Elsa’s phantasy. Indeed, in terms of ‘The Artwork of the Future,’ Elsa’s emotion would not only be ‘unconscious,’ ‘involuntary,’ and ‘necessary’ but also ‘creative.’ Therefore, in ‘A Communication,’ Wagner claimed that through the ‘unconscious consciousness’ he came to understand fully the ‘purely human nature of love’ from the woman’s perspective: Elsa, ‘amid the ecstasy of adoration,’ will [P. 259] founder, ‘if she cannot fully embrace the loved one’ … :

‘What then is the inmost characteristic of this human nature, to which the longing for the furthest distance turns back for its only possible satisfaction? It is the necessity of love; and the essence of this love, in its truest utterance, is the desire for utmost physical reality.’

[PH] As readers can see in the following extract from my 8/93 paper, this concept that what man seeks in heaven is actually a covertly physical desire posing as transcendent, was laid out by me there in considerable detail:


[PHy]
[PH: DOES GOD OR GOD’S REDEEMER NEED REDEMPTION? YES, LOHENGRIN CAN ONLY FIND HAPPINESS IN A RESTORATION OF THE EARTHLY, WHICH IS PRECISELY WHAT THE RELIGIOUSLY FAITHFUL RENOUNCE IN ORDER TO MAKE THEMSELVES WORTHY OF REDEMPTION IN HEAVEN]

[P. 20] “Were Elsa’s suspicions true? Did Lohengrin need redemption through her as much as she needed redemption through him? What could the chaste Grail realm, where no mortal footsteps tread, need? What could God need that only mortal woman can provide? Could God need redemption? Could the redeemer need redemption? Lohengrin thinks so! He even implied he must flee lest this very question, this doubt, lead to irredeemable consequences. For he’s subtly revealed the hidden cause for his prohibition on knowledge, and in so doing answered our questions: in order to redeem us, a chaste Grail knight has broken his vow of celibacy. Is there any doubt? Let’s ask Wagner:

'Lohengrin: … The Grail’s chaste service did my heart disown. But having turned from God in love’s excess, atonement and remorse must I endure, for ah! the shameful sin must I confess of deeming woman’s love divinely pure!' (3/30/46 Letter to Hermann Franck; ‘Selected Letters of Richard Wagner; p. 131)

Having quoted here from part of the LOHENGRIN text he didn’t set to music, Wagner goes on to say that 'I think it should be sufficient for the audience to deduce from what Lohengrin says that the bonds of earthly love are, strictly speaking, unbecoming for a knight of the Grail.' So it would be indelicate [P. 21] for a knight of the Grail to publicly reveal he’s broken his oath of celibacy. In other words, it’s okay to sin if you don’t tell! For Lohengrin, questions of sin versus purity seem to depend on our knowledge or ignorance, as Ortrud said.

How can Lohengrin break his vow of celibacy? Wagner says:

'Renunciation, repudiation of the will, the oath of chastity separate the knight of the Grail from the world of appearances. The knight is permitted to break his oath through the condition he imposes on the woman – for, if a woman could so overcome a natural propensity as not to ask, she would be worthy of admission to the Grail. It is the possibility of this salvation which permits the knight to marry.' (3/1/70 ‘Cosima Wagner’s Diaries’; Vol. I, p. 194)

It seems as if Wagner’s confirming our suspicion: apparently it’s okay for a celibate knight of the Grail to have sexual union if no one finds out about it. But what do we have here: sexual union with the will in nature, the world of appearances? Sexual union as here described is eminently metaphysical, a union with mother nature herself. Here again we seem to find support for our contention that Ortrud and Elsa are both ‘nature’ as grasped distinctly by Frederick or Lohengrin.“

[PH] Readers can’t help thinking, having read the preceding passage from my 8/93 paper, that Lohengrin, in demanding of Elsa that she not ask him to share with her knowledge of his true identity and origin, is artificially striving to turn back the clock to the moment in paradise when Eve allegedly had the choice not to break God’s injunction against eating the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. But, as in all fairy tales, such injunctions are always broken, as otherwise there would be no tale to tell (If I remember right Robert Donington said something like this in his study of the 'Ring').

[PH] And here is where in my 8/93 paper I discussed the point Hoeckner adduced above, that Wagner described love as a longing for utmost physical reality:


[PHgg]
[PH: WAGNER: LOVE IS THE LONGING FOR UTMOST PHYSICAL REALITY]

[PH] [P. 26] “For Lohengrin to fulfill his promise to bring redemption to us, he mustn’t admit involvement in this hypocrisy [PH: his need to smuggle the earthly, which he’d allegedly renounced, into the heavenly], even to himself. For it’s manifest that for this paradise to be meaningful one’s conscious mind must be able to enjoy it: it must have real substance, which comes from this world:

' … What then is the real essence of this human nature to which desire returns from its most distant roamings to its sole possible fulfillment? It is the necessity (NOTH) of love, and the essence of this love in its truest expression is the longing for utmost physical reality, for enjoyment by all the senses … .' (6-8/51 ‘Eine Mitteilung an meine Freunde’; Gesammelte Schriften und Dichtungen; p. 290)

But to admit this would bring Lohengrin, and those he redeems, unconsolable woe (NOTH). Had he accepted Elsa’s offer to share his secret, perhaps he could have fertilized the Grail’s wasteland without having to expose his secret hypocrisy (Wahn).

Concerning our need for this hypocrisy, Wagner said:

' … indeed, my dearest Franz, there is a considerable difficulty with this “paradise” … . This act of denying the will is the true action of the saint: that it is ultimately accomplished only in a total end to individual consciousness – for there is no other consciousness except that which is personal and individual – was lost sight of by the naïve saints of Christianity, confused, as they were, by Jewish dogma, and they were able to deceive their confused imagination by seeing that longed-for state as a perpetual continuation of a new state of life freed from nature … .' [P. 27] (6/7/55 Letter to Franz Liszt; ‘Selected Letters of Richard Wagner; p. 343, 346)”


27. BH: WAGNER/FEUERBACH: ELSA PROJECTS LOHENGRIN AS HER GOD-LOVER

[#] [BH] [P. 268] "Taken together, these connections between Elsa’s vision, her prayer, and the forbidden question emphasize that it is she who – in Feuerbach-Wagnerian terms – projects Lohengrin as her God-lover. In Ab, her key of unconditional love, she is already ‘unconsciously conscious’ of his origin: ‘softly, almost unconsciously’ [P. 269] … she answers Lohengrin’s demand by affirming that she will not ask that which [PH: : she?] might already feel: ‘Never, my lord, will this question occur to me!’ … .
Before Lohengrin is willing to declare his love, however, he repeats his command in A, the key of his wondrous appearance, demanding Elsa’s affirmation on his terms … . Prohibition, however, is incompatible with trust. This incompatibility between Elsa’s unconditional devotion and Lohengrin’s conditional affection may be reflected in the abrupt move back to A through a German sixth chord. Furthermore, the imbalance in their relationship is all too evident when he calls her by name for the third time: ‘Elsa, did you hear me?’ Elsa, on the other hand, can only address him with substitute names, which do not denote essence but function and – paradoxically – invoke the divine aura that Lohengrin tries to hide from her for the sake of love: my savior, lord, protector, angel, redeemer: ‘as you will shield me in my plight, so will I keep to your command!’ Thus the marriage contract is based on inequality, exchanging, as it were her pledge of faith for her former plight of distress. Therefore, her pledge of faith is doomed to turn back into another plight of distress, which will drive her to ask, ‘Whence have you come?’ "

[PH] Hoeckner has suggested that Elsa’s longing gave birth to Lohengrin in a Feuerbachian sense. My personal take on this question in my 8/93 paper was that Lohengrin’s ultimate, hidden source of inspiration for appearing on earth in answer to Elsa’s prayer, is Elsa’s figurative sin of which she is guilty in her status as a metaphor for Eve, that Elsa is the archetypal woman who brings that original sin into the world for which religious faith (Lohengrin) offers the antidote, just as Christ’s offer of redemption to humankind was prompted by Eve’s sin, which exiled mankind from paradise, prompting man’s unending longing to restore what was lost. In my interpretation Eve is in turn construed as Wagner’s metaphor for the natural evolutionary process through which man evolved from animal ancestors to the point that the animal, man, could reflect on the inevitability of his death, could foresee his death, and that this gave birth, through man’s gift of imagination, to religious belief in gods, i.e., produced Lohengrin:


[PHm]
[PH: ELSA’S SIN IS LOHENGRIN’S SECRET SOURCE OF INSPIRATION IN OFFERING TO REDEEM MAN FROM THE BITTER TRUTH, THROUGH WAHN, SELF-DECEPTION]

[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?"
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