Review 'The Wagner Experience' "Valk" Part 9

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Review 'The Wagner Experience' "Valk" Part 9

Postby alberich00 » Wed Apr 01, 2015 11:27 am

Here is part 9 of my review of Paul Dawson-Bowing's 2013 book "The Wagner Experience," covering chapter Fifteen on "Die Walkuere"

P. 221-223: DB here merely fills us in on what is already self-evident from the libretto texts of "Rhinegold" and "Valkyrie" concerning Wotan's activities since he gave the Ring to the Giants near the end of "Rhinegold." I reproduce a part of DB's narrative retelling here so I can fill gaps in from the perspective of my own interpretation: DB: "He [Wotan] ... made the appalling mistake of not returning the Ring to the Rhinemaidens so that it could again be pure beauty forever. Instead Wotan had used it to pay for Valhalla, the fortress from which he now reigns over the world. Even this power was not enough to allay the anxiety that started to gnaw at his spirit once Erda had risen from her subterranean realms and issued her warning. It was a double warning, first that he must instantly give up the Ring to avoid immediate destruction, and second, that everything, including Wotan, must ultimately come to an end. His anxiety to learn more had led him down to the depths to seek her out. He had worked his full charisma on her; and in response to the love which he stirred, she opened to him both her store of prophetic wisdom and her body, conceiving and bearing him the first of nine Valkyrie daughters, Bruennhilde. Bruennhilde and her sisters now do him tremendous service towards the security of Valhalla by carrying out another of his grand ideas, to assemble a host of heroes."

PH: Though I have explained the implications of some of this content for my own interpretation in my review of the chapter on "Rhinegold," a few words here will be helpful. In my book posted here at I have explained that since Alberich's Ring represents human consciousness itself, a gift of the natural process of evolution, Wotan would be defeating his purpose to give it back to the Rhinedaughters, whose possession of it represents that period of evolutionary history when man was still evolving from animal ancestors into man and was therefore still preconscious. Wotan simply wants to secure conscious civilization, predicated on religious faith, without suffering from anticipating that man's conscious acquisition of knowledge will threaten that faith. In this sense, as Donington intuited, Wotan's wish to preserve the gods (himself) from Alberich's threat represents a sort of artificial restoration of preconscious innocence, through religion and (later) secular art. Erda, as Wagner's metaphor for Mother Nature and her inexorable laws (the real equivalent to the mythical notion of fate), holds that hoard of knowledge which, once conscious, will overthrow the gods by overthrowing religious faith. But Wotan's sexual union with her is figurative. The product of this union, Bruennhilde, is Mother Nature's gift to man of that unconscious mind through which, in man's collective dreaming, he can offer himself temporarily an antidote to the ever more conscious truth, in inspired religious belief and art. Bruennhilde and the other Valkyries are man's muses who inspire mankind's culture heroes to produce religious myths and art as a sort of veil of Maya (or illusion) through which man can hide from himself the bitter truth of his mortal existence and substitute consoling illusion in its place.

P. 222-223: DB: "These heroes take on immortality and form an ever-growing host which could defeat any force of arms; but there still remains the unsolved problem of Alberich and the possibility that he might recover the Ring. His original curse, forswearing love, would uniquely enable him to wield the Ring's full power. With it he could turn Valhalla's heroes against Valhalla and Wotan himself. It is therefore imperative that Wotan regain the Ring, this time taking it from Fafner, the one remaining giant. (...) Wotan may not play the ruffian again and wrest the Ring from Fafner by force, because it was payment for Valhalla in full accordance with a contract engraved on Wotan's spear. If Wotan were to violate his own contract, the spear would be deprived of its strange power, and all his authority and godhead would melt away. That is his dilemma, as he explains to Bruennhilde in 'Die Walkuere' Act II. It is through his treaties that he is lord, but it is to his treaties that he is a slave. After much pondering, Wotan had devised a way out, or so he believes. If he could create a hero, a being who was not part of Wotan's circle, such a hero would be able to carry out the theft of the Ring from Fafner in his place. An independent hero could regain it without Wotan needing to violate the laws and contracts on his spear, and it could then return forever to the Rhinemaidens."

PH: In my interpretation Wotan's immortal heroes in Valhalla represent mankind's legacy of now deceased culture heroes whose inspiration lives on in the various religious faiths and associated works of mythological art in which man posits his gods', and therefore his own, transcendent value, even though, unbeknownst to man, these are expressions of unconscious self-deceit. However, Wotan knows the day may come when Alberich, who represents mankind's potential for objective, scientific consciousness (which depends for its power on the elimination of anything which stands in the way of the acquisition of objective knowledge and its power, namely, religious beliefs and associated systems of ethics predicated on self-sacrifice and belief in an immortal soul), will regain control over man's consciousness (the Ring), and Wotan, as the virtual embodiment of religious faith (as the highest god) can't himself participate in his own suicide by having any further contact with the now tabooed, forbidden knowledge of the truth represented by Alberich's hoard (of knowledge) which is now kept hidden from view by mankind's fear of it (Fafner). The problem for Wotan, religious faith, is how it can live on once we live in a secular, scientific world (one in which Alberich has access to the Ring and its power). The answer is that religion can live on in feeling, or music, not in indefensible claims to truth, which must be ceded to Alberich or his progeny Hagen. Siegfried, as the secular artist-hero who is independent from any dependence on religious faith (the gods and their divine law), will have the freedom to confront the Ring and Hoard, using the third component of Alberich's power, the Tarnhelm (imagination now in the service of religious and artistic self-deceit, instead of in service to acquisition of objective knowledge and its power), to exploit Alberich's power unconsciously as the primary source material for Siegfried's own unconscious artistic inspiration. Bruennhilde, as daughter of Erda (Mother Nature, whose knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, Wotan sinned against in taking possession of the Ring, or human mind, in order to hide from, instead of face, the truth), and as recipient of Wotan's secret confession of the truth he can't bear to confront consciously, holds this knowledge for Siegfried, this source of existential fear, so that Siegfried can obtain the inspiration from it to produce that secular art in which religion lives on as feeling rather than as thought.

PH: There is no intent in this, on Wotan's part or Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's part, to return the Ring to the Rhinedaughters. The Ring's power is essential to the inspiration Siegfried needs. The idea is that he can sublimate its dangerous power temporarily, through his art, to make his audience feel "as if" they are redeemed. The notion of restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters will not come to Wotan's mind until, as Wagner said himself, Wotan sees that Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's bid for redemption will also fail, as his own bid failed.

P. 223-233: PH: DB continues primarily to paraphrase the libretto of "The Valkyrie," with occasional musical/motival details, reminding us, among other things, of what was already self-evident, that, for instance, Siegmund, in his treatment of Sieglinde, the woman (and unknown to him at first, also his twin sister), and another anonymous woman whom he tried (futilely) to save from an arranged marriage, is socially enlightened in a way that most of the other characters are not.

P. 223: DB says here something worthy of remark: DB: "In some ways it seems peculiar that Wagner gave such emphasis to the incestuous aspect of their [Siegmund's and Sieglinde's] relationship. ... the outstanding characteristic of Siegmund and Sieglinde and their romance is a weird innocence. This pair does not belong to the further shores of eroticism where bored roués aim to stir their jaded appetites with something ever more off limits, such as incest. Instead we are nearer to the world of first beginnings which we met in 'Das Rheingold,' this time the first beginnings of romantic love, conveyed with an accuracy and brilliance beyond any other representation in art."

PH: Many are familiar with Wagner's writings from the 1850's about King Oedipus and his unwitting, unconscious incest with his mother, which Wagner declared was natural given their ignorance of their crime, and undoubtedly Wagner was partly referencing this Greek tragedy in his depiction of Siegmund's and Sieglinde's sibling incest. The primary difference from the Greek original is that Siegmund and Sieglinde only embrace each other in loving, sexual union once they realize they are brother and sister. Some have interpreted this, and Siegmund's remark near the end of Act 1 that they should now let the Waelsung blood flourish, as hinting at Wagner's alleged longing for racial purity in the hero-line, so to speak. But I suspect it's more accurate to see Wagner here offering us his own version of the classic and universal origin myth in which a twin-pair, brother and sister, embrace to give birth to the human race, a myth found all over, and which may also be a basis for the notion found in several bronze-age or chiefdom-level civilizations such as ancient Egypt, Peru, and Hawaii, that the royal couple are to be brother and sister, effectively placing the royal couple in mythical time in a way forbidden to other members of the society. Anthropologists have long regarded the incest taboo as universal due to its role in compelling people to marry outside their family in order to create the social bonds crucial for the structuring of a working society. There may also of course be some kind of a distant awareness of the genetic complications which might ensue, which are however reinterpreted along mythical lines.

P. 234-235: PH: DB closes his discussion of "The Valkyrie" Act Two with some more speculation about the alleged influence of Wagner's feelings for his own sisters, and for his first wife Minna, on Siegmund's and Sieglinde's expression of tender passion for each other.

P. 236: PH: DB starts off his discussion of Act Two with more unenlightening paraphrasing of the libretto text, and offers here one of the most egregious examples of bad editing prior to going into print I've found in this book: DB: "He [Wotan] summons Bruennhilde to saddle Siegmund, ready for his fight with Hunding." There are too many errors in this book of this kind to pass for mere typos. This book needed a further edit.

P. 238: DB paraphrases Wotan's debate with Fricka re his proclamation that Siegmund is a free agent, Fricka retorting that mortal men, the product and bond-slaves of the gods, can't have free will.

PH: Wagner, on the few occasions when he discussed it, said he did not believe in free will. What he seems to have believed in is character. A personality is either comparatively free and independent of custom and social mores, or not, by nature, but can't transcend that nature. Here's a concise way of putting it: a person who has an identity as this person, is this person, and not somebody else. This means that, given any conceivable situation, a given person will act as that person would act in that situation, but not precisely as somebody else would have acted. There is no absolute freedom, which would be equivalent to chaos. Rather, a person can be, or seem, free, with respect to a given situation. If a person acts other than they would naturally act in a given situation, their change in behavior clearly has been coerced by some other influence than themselves. But part of what Wagner (or Wotan) is really getting at is Feuerbach's notion that human beings must no longer alienate themselves from that part of themselves which heretofore they have called Godhead, or the gods, but must take responsibility for it.

P. 240-242: Here DB utterly misses what for me was the single most important clue to grasping the conceptual unity of Wagner's life's work, the significance of Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde as Wagner's metaphor for repression of thoughts too unbearable to think consciously, and their sublimation into feeling/music, representing also the failure of religious faith as thought and its survival as feeling in secular art. Here's my extended transcript of DB's take on this most important scene, after Wotan has exploded in despair at his wife Fricka's success in compelling him to collaborate with her in destroying his hero Siegmund, to whom Wotan had looked to redeem the gods from Alberich's curse on his Ring: DB: "... he [Wotan] tells Bruennhilde that '... I am the saddest of all beings!' Bruennhilde is horrified, as the impulsive, incoherent music of her response makes clear: 'Father, father, tell me what is it, you are frightening your child to the depths. Just trust in me, I am so true; See, Bruennhilde begs you.' (...) She kneels with her head affectionately on his knee, and he strokes her hair as he looks into her eyes with an unseeing gaze. Thinking aloud, he asks; 'If I spoke it openly would not I lose then the mastering power of my will?' to which she answers; 'It's only Wotan's will itself that you address when you reveal to me your will. What am I if not your will?' Wotan assents in muffled tones; 'What I never say aloud then shall always remain as unspoken; I only commune with myself when speaking with you.' Bruennhilde as already mentioned is his eldest daughter, his conscience, and his better self, but she is also increasingly a woman in her own right, as Wotan was later to accept, and with overwhelming difficulty. [new para] One of the most magnetic scenes ever conceived in any form of art now follows. There are the same muted colors as before but the tonality slides down a semitone into A major, more inward than ever, and Wagner's double basses take us down a falling scale to the innermost depths of Wotan's soul. He begins to give expression to thoughts that he can hardly bear to think. His words come in a muffled, secretive tumble, summarizing the history and his grievous mistakes from the very beginning of 'Das Rheingold,' half eager to get it all explained, half not wanting to hear it, as if speaking it made it more real.' " [PH: And so on].

PH: DB shows in his response to the fact and circumstances of Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde that he doesn't suspect what is actually at stake, and which is the first clue which gave me entre into what I describe as the coherent allegorical logic of the "Ring" libretto, which links it conceptually with all of Wagner's other canonical operas and music-dramas. Had DB pursued further his remark: "He [Wotan] begins to give expression to thoughts that he can hardly bear to think," he might have guessed that Wotan in fact can't think these thoughts consciously, and that in confessing them to Bruennhilde he is actually repressing his hoard of unbearable knowledge into his unconscious mind. Note that Bruennhilde calls herself Wotan's Will, and that in S.3.1 Wotan, in consigning Bruennhilde's mother Erda (Mother Nature) and her knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, to oblivion (in this way sinning against all that was, is, and will be, as Alberich said), Wotan is able to do this by repressing this knowledge. Thus, in S.3.1, Wotan tells Erda that her knowledge wanes before his "Will," i.e., it wanes before Bruennhilde, who holds this knowledge for Wotan's reincarnation as Siegfried, so that Siegfried will be protected from consciousness of that knowledge which Wotan so feared that he couldn't bear to think it aloud, i.e., consciously. Thus Bruennhilde will tell Siegfried in S.3.3 that what he doesn't know, she knows for him. Thus it is that Siegfried is the hero who is heroic, fearless, precisely because he doesn't know who he is (as he tells Fafner). And of course, anyone familiar with my paper on the relationship of "Lohengrin" to the "Ring," "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," knows that Wagner found the basis for this concept that Bruennhilde is Wotan's unconscious mind, in his character Elsa, who offers to help Lohengrin protect the secret of his true identity which, if exposed to view, might bring him peril, by sharing this secret knowledge with him. The big transformation which occurred in the transition from "Lohengrin" to the "Ring" was that the heroine in the "Ring" doesn't merely share the hero's secret self-knowledge, but actually holds it for him so he need not suffer from consciousness of it. DB, and, so far as I know, all the other mainstream Wagner scholars evidently have missed this entirely, yet it holds the key to solving a large number of the great conundrums in Wagner scholarship, as I hope and believe my online book posted here at has demonstrated.

P. 243: DB: "Only one being can encompass the deed [PH: of taking Alberich's Ring back from Fafner so that Alberich can't regain its power, which Wotan is barred from doing by his own divine law], a hero acting on his own and outside the sphere of the gods, but all that Wotan creates turns out to be replicas of himself. His creations are no more free agents than he is. Bruennhilde does not understand; Siegmund, she points out, has been deliberately brought up as an outsider and acts entirely on his own. Wotan tells her that Siegmund's upbringing and his very independence were all created and devised by himself [i.e., by Wotan]. How could he possibly have hoped to deceive himself?"

PH: It is often asked how Siegmund fails as a hero. He doesn't fail in himself. He fails because Wotan acknowledges Siegmund's apparent independence of spirit is actually a product of the very religious tradition into which Siegmund was born, which places a high value on standing for ethical principle and self-sacrifice in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds (as Wagner himself said at one point, saying that religion lives on in single men's conscience). A hero or God-on-earth like Jesus Christ stands, for instance, against the social structure and expectations of his time, just as Buddha was a rebel against the Hindu concept of caste. Since Wotan has now come, at least unconsciously, to acknowledge himself as tainted by egoism and fear, even in the highest reaches of his longing for redemption, anyone else complicit, even unconsciously, in Wotan's longing is equally tainted, even if they are unaware of it. But the artist-hero will seem, at first sight, to be more completely independent of the old religious worldview because he will express himself in feeling rather than in thought or ethical action, and feeling can't be contradicted, only thought. If, however, the forbidden thought which is the unconscious basis of sublimated feeling rises to consciousness, this then could contradict feeling. This eventuality will provide the basis for the plot of "Twilight of the Gods," in which the artist-hero unwittingly betrays himself.

P. 243-244: DB: "Bruennhilde still cannot take it in; is he taking back victory from Siegmund? Wotan breaks out again; he has handled Alberich's Ring; its curse now haunts him. ... he says that he must destroy his own son, Siegmund, who has gone through so much and is now destined to endure betrayal and abandonment by his own father. In a fit of self-hatred he calls down ruin on the gods, all is vanity, nothing; there is only one thing he seeks: 'The end - the end!' In a calmer moment, he reflects that this, the end for him, is in any case the sole object of Alberich's actions. Erda had warned him that when 'the darksome foe of love (Alberich) produced a son, the doom of the gods would not delay for long; and he has recently heard that Alberich had purchased the sexual services of a woman whose womb now bears 'the fruit of hatred'. His self-loathing returns as he gives a blessing that is also an imprecation to this 'Nibelung-son'; let him inherit the gods' glory in all its empty charade, and let him enjoy it to the dregs."

PH: DB seems to make nothing more out of this than is self-evident from Wagner's libretto, which he has been paraphrasing. In my interpretation Wotan, the embodiment of man's religious faith, has accepted that Alberich will ultimately prevail over the gods. Alberich's son Hagen I take as Wagner's metaphor for the cynical, secular, scientific age, which indeed has been a threat to religious faith for some time. The point here is that over time humankind's inevitable advancement in knowledge, man's increase of his hoard of knowledge of himself and his world eventually, as Feuerbach said, replaces all that man had once attributed to the supernatural, with the natural, and this spells the gods' twilight. However, Wotan will have an unexpected escape hatch, for a time, in secular art, particularly the art of music, in which mankind's inherent metaphysical longing lives on as feeling, as we learn unexpectedly in DB's following paraphrase of Wagner's libretto.

P. 244: DB: "Bruennhilde still cannot trust herself to understand; what is he asking her to do? Wotan answers blankly that she must fight for Fricka and her values. He uses the music of Hunding's '... (Sacred is my hearth)' to explain this, and here Wagner somehow transforms it from power and menace to weariness and bitterness. What Fricka has chosen, Wotan now chooses. His own will means nothing. He cannot will a free spirit into existence, and she must fight for Fricka's vassal."

PH: Many would wonder why, if Wotan has acknowledged to Bruennhilde that the gods are doomed, he nonetheless orders her to obey divine law and punish Siegmund in Hunding's behalf. The answer is that though Wotan can acknowledge to Bruennhilde unconsciously that religious faith is predestined to be destroyed by the very human race who originally unconsciously and unwittingly invented it, nonetheless for the time being it lives on and must be honored by those who still believe in it, who have not yet become conscious that it is self-deceit. But the big issue here is that without realizing it Wotan is prescribing for himself a temporary cure. He asks what use his will can be to him now, for he can't will a free spirit into existence. Since Bruennhilde is his will, and he has repressed knowledge of this conundrum into her, his unconscious mind, in his confession, Bruennhilde's use to him is precisely that through her, the womb of his wishes, he can have his free hero, because Bruennhilde, having been figuratively inseminated with her father Wotan's seed (of his need for a free hero) through his confession of his unbearable hoard of knowledge to her, figuratively gives birth to Siegfried, the hero Wotan longed for, who will do Wotan's will without being aware of Wotan's influence. For Wotan has planted the seed in Bruennhilde which gives birth to Siegfried, the hero who will be fearless precisely because he doesn't know who he is. Siegfried is the artist-hero who will become Wotan's true heir, just as secular art is a sort of reincarnation of religious faith, minus its indefensible claims to the power of truth (which is why Siegfried will possess Alberich's Ring yet not make "use" of its power to bring truth to consciousness). Thus, instead of having to make Hagen Wotan's sole heir, Siegfried the artist-hero will compete with Hagen (the embodiment of the modern scientific worldview which has no place for man's illusion of transcendent value) for power in the modern world. Siegfried, in his love for his future muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde, will temporarily be Wotan's heir, and temporarily redeem religion from destruction by science (Hagen), in feeling, or music.

P. 245-254: PH: DB mostly paraphrases Wagner's libretto, with a few musical illustrations. DB: [Wotan:] " 'Listen to me! Nobody knew my innermost thinking as she did. She carried out what my will had designed; but she broke the bond between us by defying my designs. She turned against me the very intentions that I had devised.' "

PH: Wotan's primary complaint against Bruennhilde is that though he made her repository for his secret knowledge, which even he can't stand to contemplate consciously, i.e., his admission that his bid for redemption is futile, she openly fought for his bid for redemption by helping Siegmund when Wotan in his innermost mind knew this to be futile. The point is, Bruennhilde can only help redeem the gods (i.e., man's religious longing for transcendent value) from the threat represented by Hagen (the inevitable victory of the scientific, secular worldview over that of religious belief), by subliminally inspiring the future artist-hero Siegfried's redemptive art, an art in which it is crucial that its original, true source of unconscious inspiration (Wotan's confession) remains unconscious and hidden. So, Wotan accuses Bruennhilde of acting openly in behalf of his bid for redemption in the face of the fact that she knows his innermost thinking, and that such open warfare against the inevitable is futile. Wotan can only be helped by the artist-hero who is entirely independent from, and unconscious of, Wotan's conscious yet futile bid for redemption, yet will act upon it unconsciously, thanks to inheriting Wotan's confession from Bruennhilde, who will hold this secret for Siegfried and pass it on subliminally. Thus we find Wotan's and Bruennhilde's following interchange most interesting:

P. 255: DB: [Bruennhilde to Wotan:] " 'You are really taking from me everything you once gave me?' she asks in anguish, but Wotan has worse to come. 'Not I, but the man who takes you and dominates you; he will take it from you; I shall lay you down asleep and defenseless, and you will be there for the taking by the first man to find you.' "

PH: Of course, in the end Bruennhilde persuades Wotan to surround her sleeping body with Loge's ring of fire so only a fearless hero, namely, Siegmund's and Sieglinde's son Siegfried, will win her. Siegfried won't merely be inheriting Bruennhilde's horse Grane or armor, and he won't merely be taking from her her virginity. He is going to fall heir to Wotan's secret confession, because Bruennhilde is Wotan's repository for it, and Siegfried will win Bruennhilde's love. This is surely one one of the reasons, perhaps the only reason, that Bruennhilde asks whether Wotan is taking everything from her, and he answers that the hero who wins her will take it from her. One thing Wotan is taking is Bruennhilde's godhood, her immortality, her divinity, but Siegfried will in a sense inherit this from Wotan in taking possession of Bruennhilde, because Wotan has imparted to her his divine (yet fearful) knowledge, so to speak. It is precisely for this reason that Siegfried fears to wake the sleeping Bruennhilde, because he has an intimation of the fearful knowledge she will share with him, the knowledge which was so fearful that Wotan, as he said, couldn't bear to contemplate it aloud, in words, in sharing it with Bruennhilde.

PH: For those who are dubious, read the libretto text for T.P.B (the second part of the "Twilight" Prelude in which Siegfried and Bruennhilde wake, and then sing their goodbyes, as Bruennhilde inspires Siegfried to undertake new adventures), and you will see that Bruennhilde tells Siegfried she taught him what the gods [Wotan] taught her, a hoard of knowledge, knowledge of which Siegfried, as he himself says, remains oblivious. This is because it is unconscious knowledge. This is also why Bruennhilde calls Siegfried the "Hoard of the World." Siegfried falls heir to that hoard of knowledge of the world, Erda's knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, which Wotan learned from Erda (i.e., which mankind, throughout history, learns through his intercourse with Mother Nature, i.e., the real world), and which Wotan in turn imparted to Bruennhilde. Furthermore, after Siegfried betrays Bruennhilde in "Twilight," Bruennhilde will complain in T.2.5 that she gave all her knowledge to Siegfried, who now casts her away (i.e., unwittingly allows that repressed knowledge to rise to consciousness, when Siegfried should have been the guardian who kept it secret, even from himself, by leaving it safely with Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind).

P. 258: DB repeats Wotan's explanation to Bruennhilde of why he must break off all relations with her: "So you did what I so eagerly wanted to do, but what twofold necessity made impossible. You thought it so easy to come by the bliss of love while I was in turmoil ... . In the misery of my powerlessness, I even turned against myself. I was overcome with the terrible desire to end my sorrows in the wreckage of everything, including myself and my world; and that was just when you were wreathed about with intoxicating sensations. (...) Well, let your light-heartedness lead you now, because you have broken with me. I must avoid you for as long as I live."

PH: Readers of my essay "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," posted in one version here in this discussion forum in the archive (at an earlier date), and in another more detailed version at, will know that Wotan's punishment of Bruennhilde by complete separation is based upon Lohengrin's complete separation from Elsa who, according to Lohengrin, broke faith. But Elsa's breach of faith, as Wagner said himself, was the crucial revolutionary step necessary for Wagner's transition from traditional romantic opera to his revolutionary music-dramas. What seemed an apparent breach of faith was actually a premonition of Lohengrin's sole means of redemption from the eventuality that his secret identity would some day be revealed, i.e., that he is a mortal posing as divine, as having transcendent value, unwittingly and unconsciously. Elsa was actually offering to be the sole repository of this knowledge so that Lohengrin would be protected from the danger of being conscious of it. Elsa was in effect offering Lohengrin a transition from religious faith (predestined in the modern, doubting, secular, scientific world to decline) to art, which can survive, at least for a time, even in the face of the bitter truth, because art makes us feel "as if" we have transcendent value, without making religious faith's indefensible claim to the truth of this assertion. In other words, the sole means of redemption for religious feeling, man's longing for transcendent value, is to give up proclaiming it consciously as a belief system, a faith, in favor of affirming it feelingly in art. Bruennhilde's breach of Wotan's trust has precisely the same meaning. The difference between Lohengrin and Wotan is that, whereas Lohengrin refused to share his secret, divine knowledge and "Noth" (Need/anguish) with Elsa except under duress (instead of love), Wotan acquiesces in Bruennhilde's desire that he confess his secret, divine "Noth" to her. Thus Wotan's word/drama/history has full, loving union with Bruennhilde's redemptive feeling (music), to create the ultimate redemptive artwork, the music drama, and give birth to the music-dramatist Siegfried.

PH: Wotan was filled with consternation where Bruennhilde enjoyed bliss precisely because religious faith makes indefensible claims to the power of truth which are predestined to be undermined by the very humans who unwittingly and unconsciously invented religious belief in the first place, a fact from which Wotan suffers unbearably at the onset of the modern age of secularity and science, but from which, according to Wagner's allegory (based on Feuerbach's own formula), secular art, particularly music, may be freed, since art not only acknowledges openly that it is an illusion where any claim to factuality might be in question, but in music particularly art doesn't even stake a claim to truth or falsehood, but is pure feeling, which by its very nature isn't subject to contradiction. Thus Bruennhilde can live on in bliss while Wotan is consigned to terrible two-faced "Noth" (misery). It is Wotan's too great consciousness which is in desperate need of healing through Wotan's unconscious mind, Bruennhilde. Similarly, the secular, mortal artist-hero Siegfried must be wholly independent of religion in the art he will create through his muse Bruennhilde's loving inspiration. The main point about the art they create together is that it will produce the blissful feeling of transcendent value, a feeling like religious man's notion of a restoration of lost paradise, without any reference to religious faith.

P. 259: PH: DB, without evidently any notion that Wagner is setting up a Feuerbachian distinction between the old religious faith and the new secular art which falls heir to religious man's old longings, offers the following fairly astute analysis of what is at stake for Wotan here: DB: "Bruennhilde has made Wotan aware in some distant corner of his psyche that the Waelsungs and all that they signify could be a potential threat. (...) ... the freedom of spirit that the Waelsungs enjoy is a new element erupting into his world and challenging it; and it is entirely beyond his control. This spirit of independence might even lead to a new order, a viable alternative to his sovereignty."

P. 260-261: DB paraphrases the part of Wagner's libretto after Wotan has finally acquiesced in Bruennhilde's desperate plea that if Wotan is going to punish her by totally separating from her and leaving her vulnerable to be won by any man who finds her asleep, that he surround her rocky peak with Loge's fire to ward off any but a fearless hero, namely, Siegfried: DB: "His [Wotan's] reason for dealing with her so relentlessly was, as we saw, that he was once more caught by the systems of law and ordinance by which he rules the world. It would fall to bits, if he did not uphold it. But now he has come to a decision not to uphold it. (...) He has decided to overturn Bruennhilde's punishment, turning it into a blessing for her and an act of self-sacrifice for him. It will ensure that his sovereignty will fade and end. (...) 'For one man alone shall win you as bride, one freer than I, the god!' "

PH: The point is that the secular artist Siegfried will be free from the need to defend religious faith's false claims to the power of truth in the face of the inevitability that they will be contradicted and overthrown by scientific, secular thinking, because, as a secular artist, Siegfried can express man's longing for transcendent value without proclaiming this value as a fact. Wotan's self-sacrifice, as the God of gods, in favor of mortal man, is, if you will, a new twist on the notion of God's self-sacrifice in his incarnation as Christ on earth, for man's sake. Here, God agrees to disappear from man's conscious life, so man won't be troubled any longer by man's wound that will never heal, i.e., won't be troubled by the need to posit transcendence as a fact, a need which in modern times has grown more and more desperate yet futile. What Siegfried will be freed from is religious faith, and its hidden egotism (Mime) fear of knowledge (Fafner), so that Siegfried is free in turn to wed his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde.

P. 264: PH: Here DB displays his regard for at least one stream of Feuerbachian thought in the "Ring": DB: "Siegfried will fulfill for Wotan what Siegmund could not, but Wotan does not expect Siegfried to do it for his sake. He does not expect Siegfried to reinstate the gods, but to initiate the new age of man."

P. 265: DB: "Where Wotan is remarkable and presents a constructive lesson is in his ability to change. Even at first, he gives Bruennhilde a hearing, and goes on listening when she says things he does not want to hear. It seems as if nothing is happening, and yet he is changing. The ice is quietly melting, and suddenly it breaks and he accepts Bruennhilde's new freedom. He does more than accept; he affirms and promotes it."

PH: I have full sympathy for this statement. Of course, in my interpretation, since Wotan is, effectively, all men/women, through all of human history, it is his very nature to be at once both conservative and revolutionary, to accept change while nonetheless fighting against it.

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