Feuerbach's influence on "Lohengrin" Part 2

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: Justin Jeffrey, alberich00

Feuerbach's influence on "Lohengrin" Part 2

Postby alberich00 » Wed Jun 17, 2015 6:54 am

Feuerbach's influence on "Lohengrin" Part 2:

[Page 11]

7A) “Alberich: [to Wotan] Be on your guard, you haughty god! If ever I sinned, I sinned freely against myself: but you, you immortal, will sin against all that was, is and shall be [the real world which is bound by time and space] – if you brazenly wrest the ring from me now!”

Erda, Mother Nature, later confirms Alberich’s accusation that Wotan sins against her and her objective knowledge of the truth which her daughters the Norns spin - knowledge of all that was, is, and will be - by taking the ring from Alberich and keeping it for himself:

(7B) “Erda: How all things were, I know; how all things are, how all things will be, I see as well ... . (...) All things that are – end. A day of darkness dawns for the gods: I counsel you, shun the ring!”

When Alberich says he sinned against himself, he is saying that in order to obtain that objective knowledge of the outer world which gives us humans true power, he had to renounce love, our subjective feeling. The god Wotan, on the contrary, sins against the outer world, Mother Nature’s objective reality, by turning inward to find consolation and refuge from the bitter truth in subjective feeling. Though Wotan like Alberich enjoys the power of objective thought, Wotan unlike Alberich wishes to condition his thought through feeling. Thus, as Wotan later explains to Bruennhilde during his confession, even in his power he still wished to preserve love. As Feuerbach says, religion is based on the power of thought, or imagination, that is conditioned by feeling, the longing to escape the constraints of our bodies and the outer world and flatter feeling without limit:

(7C) [eoc98] “The divine being [Wotan] is the pure subjectivity of man, freed from all else, from everything objective [Erda’s knowledge] ... - his most subjective, inmost self.”

Where Wotan, in spite of his power, wishes to restore lost love, to condition the power of his thought with subjective feeling, Alberich has renounced love, the influence of subjective feeling, for the sake of the power which only objective understanding of man’s animal nature, and Mother Nature’s laws, can give us.

(8) THE SECRET OF WOTAN’S (I.E., GOD’S) TRUE IDENTITY: WHY WOTAN CALLS HIMSELF “LIGHT-ALBERICH”

Feuerbach provides us what I believe are potent clues to the thinking which underlay Wagner’s conception of Wotan – who calls himself “Light-Alberich” – and of the true nature of Wotan’s relationship with Alberich. Central to this reading is the notion that Alberich is more primal and primary than Wotan, because he stands for the bitter truth, and Wotan is derivative, entirely dependent on Alberich’s forging of the gold into a Ring to construct the gods’ divine, heavenly abode Valhalla. This is because Wotan’s waking-dream Valhalla was actually inspired by the desire to find a refuge from the anguish, or “Noth”, which Alberich’s forging of the ring of human consciousness introduced into the world.

[Page 12]

Feuerbach’s thesis is that our invention of god is the product of our misery and our egoism: [ppf48] “... god is derived only from man ... . This is shown with particular clarity ... in the Neo-Platonists’ determination of god as the self-sufficient and blissful being, for where else than in the pains and needs of man does this being who is without pain and without needs have its ground and origin? With the lack of need and pain, the imagination and feeling of bliss also collapse. (...) Only in man’s wretchedness does god have his birthplace.” And Feuerbach more bluntly describes religious faith as founded squarely on human egoism: [ler49] “... to the horror of hypocritical theologians and philosophical fantasts, I use the word egoism to designate the ground and essence of religion.” [ler300] “... it is not generally recognized that egoism alone is the secret of faith as distinct from love ... .” In other words, God the Father, Wotan, is an expression of Alberich’s ring power, Alberich’s egoism, and the gods’ abode Valhalla is a product of man’s dissatisfaction with the real world, as expressed perhaps in Alberich’s inability to find love in the world. Alberich’s frustrated quest to find love is the cause of that “Noth” (anguish) which prompted Alberich to forge the ring of power to compensate himself.

This is implicit in the fact that during the transition from Scene One to Scene Two of "The Rhinegold," the Ring motif transforms into the Valhalla Motif. In order to grasp the full implications of this motival transformation, it is crucial to recall that Alberich alone, not Wotan, was able to so completely renounce love that he could forge his ring from the Rhinegold. Therefore the precondition for the construction of Valhalla by the giants Fafner and Fasolt, in accordance – as Wotan says – with Wotan’s will and as imagined in his dream – was Alberich’s forging of the Ring.

Wotan’s – the gods’ – dependence on Alberich is also implicit in the fact that while Wotan calls himself Light-Alberich, Alberich never calls himself Dark-Wotan. Evidently Alberich, in some sense, is not only more primal than Wotan, but subsumes Wotan, and thus subsumes the gods.

The dependence of the gods upon Alberich’s forging of the Rhinegold into his ring – the symbol for our uniquely human gift of reflective, symbolic thought – is also implicit in the following startling passage from Wagner’s essay of 1848-1849, "The Wibelungen." In this study for the "Ring" Wagner links the worlds of "Lohengrin" and the "Ring" in his remarkable thesis that the Nibelung Hoard, representing earthly (i.e., Erda-based) power, was sublimated into the Holy Grail, the symbol for the transcendent world of the spirit:

(8A) “There’s a legend that a knight of the Grail [Lohengrin] appeared at the Nibelungs’ seat, but vanished when asked forbidden tidings of his origin. The legend of the Grail arises as the Kaiserdom becomes more ideal and the Nibelung’s Hoard loses in material worth; the spiritual ascension of the Hoard [say, Alberich’s Ring and its motif] into the Grail [perhaps the gods’ heavenly abode Valhalla, i.e., the gods themselves] was accomplished in the German conscience. The quest of the Grail henceforth replaces the struggle for the Nibelung Hoard.” (6-8/48 "The Wibelungen," revised summer of 1849; PW VII, 292-294)

[Page 13]

So, it is as if Feuerbach and Wagner are telling us that the egoistic desire to satisfy primal physical needs was the precondition, the ultimate source of inspiration, for our involuntary invention of the gods who satisfy those needs in an ideal sense. Feuerbach tells us that [ler156] the doctrine that god is not only a spiritual being but also a physical being “... originated with certain older mystics, notably Jakob Boehme, who was born in 1575 ... .” He was “A shoemaker by trade. (...) He distinguished positive and negative attributes in God, light or fire and darkness, good and evil, ... love and wrath, in short, spirit and matter, soul and body. (...) ... all of us are materialists [say, Nibelungs?] before we become idealists [the gods of Valhalla, or the Waelsung heroes?], we all serve the body, the lower needs and senses, before we rise to spiritual needs and sensibilities.”

And, clinching the point, Feuerbach adds that: [ler294-295] “... the first definition of “god” ... is simply that a god is what man requires for his existence, and specifically for his physical existence, which is the foundation of his spiritual existence, so that a god is a physical being; ... man’s first god is need [perhaps “Noth”?], and specifically physical need ... . (...) The first and oldest God, the god before and behind the ethical and spiritual God [Wotan?] is the physical God [Alberich?]... .”

Evidently Feuerbach’s thinking on this subject made a decisive impact on Wagner, who wrote: “The quintessence of ... life, at last in “Wuotan” (Zeus) found expression as the chiefest God, the Father ... . Though his nature marked him as the highest god, ... yet he was nowise an historically older god, but sprang into existence from man’s later, higher consciousness of self; consequently he is more abstract than the older Nature-god [think here perhaps of Alberich’s alliance with Erda, Mother Nature], whilst the latter is more corporeal and, so to phrase it, more personally inborn in man.” (6-8/48 "The Wibelungen"; revised in the summer of 1849; PW VII; 275)

What Feuerbach has to say on this subject of the true origin of our concept “God”, in the very nature of our mind (i.e., Alberich’s Ring), of our thought, is instructive:

(8B) [ler97] “... reason [Alberich], not yet disciplined by observation of the world, regards itself uncritically as the essence of the world [the ring seems to promise him omnipotent power], ... [which] leads necessarily to the idea of divinity [Wotan, or Light-Alberich].”

(8C) [eoc35] “... the understanding [Alberich, forger of the Ring] ... is the superhuman, ... the impersonal power in man. Only through the understanding has man the power of exalting himself to general ideas ..., of distinguishing the object from the impressions which it produces on his feelings ... [in other words, Alberich renounces subjective love in exchange for the power of objective thought]. ... science ... is the practical proof, because it is the product of this truly infinite and divine reality.”

It can, I think, plausibly be asserted that Dark-Alberich and Light-Alberich (Wotan) represent, respectively, the objective and subjective aspects of our human mind – i.e., Alberich’s Ring and its power – which we have demonized by calling it Satan, or [Page 14] idealized by calling it God, as the case may be. But the real world is always regarded as belonging to the Devil, and the spiritual world to God. As both Wagner and Wotan suggested, the world belongs to Alberich. Feuerbach put it this way:

(8D) [eoc268] “Love is the subjective reality of the species [Wotan], as reason [Alberich] is its objective reality.”

And finally, apropos of the contrast between Light and Dark Alberich, in arguing his case that man’s mind is a product of nature, and God in turn a product of man’s mind (the very idealization of our mind through our projection of its virtues on to a being of our imagination), Feuerbach says that:

(8E) ([eoc87] “... it is self-contradictory that the impure should proceed from the pure, darkness from light. How ... can we remove these obvious difficulties in the way of assigning a divine origin to nature? Only by positing this impurity, this darkness in god, in distinguishing in god himself a principle of light and a principle of darkness. In other words, we can only explain the origin of darkness by renouncing the idea of origin, and presupposing darkness as existing from the beginning. ... spirit without nature is an unreal abstraction; consciousness develops itself only out of nature.”

(9) HOW WOTAN’S JOURNEY INTO THE BOWELS OF THE EARTH (ERDA – “ERDE NABELNEST”, OR NIBELHEIM) TO OBTAIN ERDA’S KNOWLEDGE, AND HIS WANDERINGS OVER THE SURFACE OF MOTHER EARTH (ERDA) IN QUEST OF KNOWLEDGE, FULFILL ALBERICH’S CURSE ON THE RING

The hoard of objective, scientific knowledge man acquires over time, through which he will eventually undermine his own religious beliefs, and overthrow the rule of gods, in favor of a truer undertanding of the world he lives in and his own animal nature, is based on man’s – i.e. Alberich’s – objective understanding of Mother Nature and of himself. And this truer understanding, freed from the shackles of religious belief which Feuerbach regarded as man’s sin against our true mother, Nature, will restore Mother Nature’s rights which have been trampled underfoot by religious world-renunciation. As Feuerbach suggested:

(9A) [eoc286-7] “To reason [say, Alberich] alone belongs the great work of the resurrection and restoration of all things and beings – universal redemption and reconciliation.”

Alberich’s authentic power stems from the fact that by amassing his hoard of the earth’s treasury of knowledge, he taps into the objective, latent power of nature herself, which sleeps in her until man awakes it. While Feuerbach said that God’s primary attribute is power, he also quoted [ler274] the great philosopher of science, Bacon, as saying that knowledge is power. The implication of this is that Alberich – who represents cold, hard, objective reason unfettered by the consolations of feeling - is in alliance with Mother Nature, Erda, as she is known to us through objective understanding. It is through her – [Page 15] i.e., Erda’s – foreknowledge that Wotan learns of the inevitability of the gods’ destruction by Alberich’s curse.

But it is the essence of Alberich’s curse that through Wotan’s very efforts to escape its consequences, Wotan will fulfill it. For he who dispossesses Alberich of the ring which is rightfully his alone, for which he alone was willing to pay the price, is predestined to follow Alberich’s footsteps in renouncing love for the sake of the power inhering in the ring – the power inhering in our human mind - and its gradual accumulation of a hoard of knowledge in the course of history. And this accumulation of a hoard of objective knowledge, by man himself, will culminate in his overthrow of the gods who ruled his heart for millennia. For Feuerbach, this decisive historical moment is the hinge upon which world history turns: [eoc270] "The necessary turning point of history is ... the open confession that the consciousness of god is nothing else than the consciousness of the species ... .”:

(9B) [eoc 336]. “Christians worship the human individual as the supreme being, as god. Not indeed consciously, for it is the unconsciousness of this fact which constitutes the illusion of the religious principle. (...) The history of Christianity has had for its grand result the unveiling of this mystery – the ... recognition of theology as anthropology.” [i.e. our acknowledgment that we mortal humans involuntarily and unconsciously created our gods, taking products of our imagination for realities. Thus, God did not create us in his image, but rather, we created him in our image]

It may surprise some to learn that Wotan (Light-Alberich) continues to amass Alberich’s hoard of knowledge of the real world, or Erda, after Wotan has dispossessed Alberich of his ring, Tarnhelm, and hoard. To understand this we need to consider Feuerbach’s scientific definition of god:

(9C) [ppf17] “... man’s conception of god is the human individual’s conception of his own species, [and] god as the total of all ... perfections is nothing other than the total of the attributes of the species – dispersed among men and realizing themselves in the course of world history.”

According to Feuerbach, a primary perfection of the human species, which realizes itself through our history, is the gradual accumulation of a hoard of knowledge of ourselves and of Nature based on our historical experience of the world:

(9D) [eoc152] “My knowledge, my will, is limited, but my limit is not the limit of another man, to say nothing of mankind; ... what is impossible, inconceivable to one age, is to the coming age conceivable and possible. (...) The most striking proofs of this are presented by the history of philosophy and science.”

The god Wotan, understood in Feuerbach’s sense as Wagner’s metaphor for historical man, accumulates Alberich’s hoard of knowledge of the earth by visiting Erda. As he himself says in Scene Four of The Rhinegold, Wotan goes down to Erda to obtain knowledge from her of all that Alberich would teach Wotan to fear, and hopefully also to [Page 16] obtain knowledge from Erda of how Wotan can forget the fear she taught him. And Wotan continues to acquire a hoard of knowledge of the earth, or Erda, by wandering over the surface of the earth as the Wanderer who seeks knowledge.

Wotan’s travels in quest of knowledge of that truth which both Alberich and Erda have taught Wotan to fear, that truth which will extirpate the gods’ place in our heart, is a product of Alberich’s curse on the Ring: the Ring is Wagner’s metaphor for the nature of our human mind, and it is the nature of our mind to acquire knowledge and correct our errors about ourselves and our world, such as the errors of superstition and religious belief, over the course of time. For Alberich declared in his curse that those who dispossess him of the ring, i.e., those religious folk who have most to lose in acknowledging the truth of this objective knowledge, will seek the ring’s (i.e., truth’s) power but find instead only fear and dismay.

Religious man, for instance, stakes a claim on the truth by claiming to possess the truth, but were he ever to possess the actual truth which he proudly claims to seek, he would undermine the very reason he had sought the truth in the first place, since in religious belief man is not seeking the truth at all, but rather, emotional satisfaction. As Feuerbach said: [ler204] “... although in theory the theists place truth above good cheer, in practice the power to provide consolation is their sole criterion of truth or untruth; they reject a doctrine as untrue because it provides no consolation, because it is not as comforting and comfortable, as flattering to human egoism, as the opposite doctrine, which derives nature from a personal being who guides the course of nature in accordance with the prayers and desires of man.”

It is this desire to flatter feeling (i.e., love) at the expence of truth (power) that is the basis of Alberich’s accusation that Wotan doesn’t deserve to wield the power of Alberich’s ring, the full power available to us through the conscious acquisition of knowledge, because Wotan isn’t willing to pay its (the truth’s) price. Thus, if Wotan takes the power of the ring (the power of the mind) away from Alberich to support the gods’ self-delusions, Wotan will be sinning against reality - Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and shall be – itself. Feuerbach summed up the contrast I’ve drawn here between Alberich and Wotan, and the nature of Wotan’s crime against the truth, in the following succinct formulation: [eoc188] “I would rather be a devil [Alberich] in alliance with truth, than an angel [Wotan, the Light-Elf] in alliance with falsehood.”

This explains, I think, why Wotan seeks two entirely different types of knowledge from Erda. On the one hand, as she is leaving him to meditate in fear on the fate she foretold, he tells her that: “If care and fear must consume me, then I must seize you and find out everything.” On the other hand, after witnessing a graphic illustration of the power of the Ring curse in Fafner’s murder of his brother Fasolt (a blunt illustration of the unbearable truth that power and egoism trump love), Wotan changes his mind and says instead: “Care and fear fetter my thoughts – how I shall end them Erda shall teach me: to her I must descend.” Their daughter Bruennhilde is, of course, the product of Wotan’s desire to learn from her mother Erda both objective knowledge of what he fears, and how to forget the fear Erda taught him. I believe we will find that these two kinds of knowledge are the [Page 17] objective knowledge and subjective feeling (i.e., aesthetic intuition) we discussed earlier, which express the contrast between the power of thought, and love.

Summing up our argument in this first half of this essay, we can say that the transcendent Christian God, and belief in the gods in general, is under threat by Ortrud and Alberich, respectively, and that this threat is a metaphor for Wagner’s concern that belief in divinity and all the human sentiments and ideals bound up with the idea of divinity are under threat by scientific knowledge, which exposes the human and natural basis for all that we call divinity.

In the second half of this essay which follows, I will describe how Elsa’s and Bruennhilde’s breach of Lohengrin’s and Wotan’s trust provides the only possible redemption from the fated doom of religious faith.

(10) HOW ELSA, REINTERPRETED AS LOHENGRIN’S UNCONSCIOUS MIND, OFFERS TO KEEP THE SECRET OF DIVINITY’S ORIGIN IN NATURE AND THUS PRESERVE LOHENGRIN FROM HARM

Sensing that Lohengrin’s wellbeing will be under threat if his secret is exposed to the world (a far cry from what we normally would consider the basis of “faith”), and thereby concurring with Ortrud’s accusation against Lohengrin to this extent, Elsa offers to help Lohengrin keep his secret if he will share that secret with her:

(10A) “Elsa: [to Lohengrin] As you found me gravely accused, oh that I knew you also in distress (“Noth”). That bravely I might bear troubles, I wish I knew of dangers threatening you! Would the secret which you conceal from all the world be of this kind? Perhaps disaster would await you if it became known to all the world? Oh were it thus and I allowed to know it, if I had it in my power, no threats could tear it from me ... ! (...) Let me share your secret that I may clearly see who you are! (...) Say without regret whence you came, that the power of silence be proved in me!” (Act III, Scene 2; GS II, 103)

Lohengrin’s secret which Elsa wishes to learn and to keep safe, is that Lohengrin is not of divine, but rather, of natural origin, a mortal human, as suggested by Feuerbach’s following observation:

(10B) [ler320-22] “... the god of Christian monotheism is a withered, dried-out god in whom all traces of his origin in nature is effaced; there he stands like a creation out of nothing; on pain of the rod he even forbids the inevitable question [as Lohengrin forbids inquiry into his origin and true identity]: ‘What did God do before he created the world?’ or more correctly: ‘What was he before nature?’ In other words, he makes a secret of his physical origin, hiding it behind a metaphysical abstraction.”

Elsa’s offer to help protect Lohengrin from danger by sharing with him the burden of knowing his identity, and preserving his dangerous secret, provides the hinge on which [Page 18] Wagner’s transformation from a romantic opera composer of such works as "The Flying Dutchman," "Tannhaeuser," and "Lohengrin," into the creator of the revolutionary music- drama - consummated most completely in the "Ring" - turns.

In view of the fact that, according to Feuerbach, Ortrud, and Alberich, religious belief is historically fated to fall before the skepticism of modern scientific inquiry, in what sense could Elsa keep Lohengrin’s secret, since her very insistence he share his secret with her will ultimately breach religious faith and compel him to withdraw from the world? It seems, in other words, as if Elsa’s insistence on asking Lohengrin the fateful question regarding his true origin and identity constitutes collaboration with Ortrud’s and Frederick’s conspiracy to expose Lohengrin’s fraud.

Wagner provides the key in his essay "A Communication to My Friends" of 1851. Here, Wagner describes Elsa as Lohengrin’s unconscious, involuntary mind, in whom his conscious ego seeks redemption, redemption specifically from conscious knowledge:

(10C) “In Elsa I saw from the outset the antithesis to Lohengrin that I was looking for – not, of course, an opposite in the absolute sense but rather the other half of his own being [Note that Bruennhilde describes herself to Wotan as “one half of yourself”]. Elsa is the unconscious, the instinct in which the conscious, purposive element in Lohengrin’s character seeks to redeem itself.” (A Communication to my Friends: GS IV, 301; PW I, 346-347)

The implication of this fact, that Elsa can be considered a metaphor for Lohengrin’s own unconscious mind, is that Elsa is potentially the repository or storehouse for knowledge which Lohengrin himself possesses, but of which he remains, and perhaps must remain, unconscious. That is, through her offer to share and to keep his secret he can possess a secret which remains, so far as his conscious mind is concerned, unknown even to him. Perhaps this is the gift, the true redemption, which Elsa is offering to him. If Lohengrin is the unwitting, unconscious perpetrator of a fraud which it would be dangerous even for him to acknowledge, if Lohengrin is deceiving himself, Elsa could redeem him from the danger of exposing this knowledge to both himself and others by keeping it a secret in the most inward sense, a secret of which even he remains unconscious.

This concept that Elsa is Lohengrin’s own unconscious mind reveals not only the underlying similarity of the plots of "Lohengrin" and the "Ring," it also contains the secret underlying their crucial distinction, i.e., the distinction between Wagner’s romantic operas and his revolutionary music-dramas.

Taking into account our Ortrud-inspired thesis that what we call divine is merely a product of our very human and very natural desires which merely pose as divine, i.e., which our imagination falsely posits as divine, and that this knowledge is fated to rise from the silent depths to the light of full consciousness, Lohengrin can obtain redemption through Elsa, his unconscious mind, by committing the secret of his natural origin - which undermines religious faith - to her. He can do this also by making her guardian of the bitter knowledge that man’s religious longing for redemption from reality is futile. [Page 19] In this way she can become the muse for Lohengrin’s (i.e., religion’s) heir, the unconsciously inspired secular artist, who falls heir to religious feeling, religious longing for redemption from reality, when religious thought in the form of faith, belief, and dogma, must fall before the skepticism of modern science. As Bruennhilde tells Siegfried, what Wotan thought, she felt. The redemption of dying religious faith by art is, I believe, the key to both "Lohengrin" and the "Ring." I believe also that this is the true foundation of Wagner’s concept of redemption by love.

Before proceeding on to portion (11) of this essay, I interpolate at this juncture some concepts from my chapter on "Lohengrin" in the first draft of my comprehensive study of Wagner’s ten canonical artworks, "The Wound that Will Never Heal," in order to explain more completely what may lie behind Elsa’s apparent collaboration with the villains of "Lohengrin," Ortrud and Frederick. There are two primary clues to this mystery. The first is the poet Charles Baudelaire’s accurate description of Wagner’s Elsa as “the eternal Eve.” Clearly, Elsa’s curiosity, her breach of Lohengrin’s trust, which forces the divine Lohengrin to banish her from his presence, and compels Lohengrin to withdraw from mankind, bears a striking similarity to Eve’s breach of God the Father’s injunction that neither she nor Adam should ever eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. It was Eve’s breach of God’s injunction which according to the "Book of Genesis" inspired God to banish Adam and Eve (i.e., mortal man) from paradise, where they had not known death, fear, or shame, i.e., they had not known “Noth”.

One can’t help noting also a curious similarity in the situation Eve creates by breaching faith to obtain divine - but prohibited - knowledge, and our contemporary situation in which man’s historical acquisition of scientific knowledge has eroded religious faith. This latter situation is like a second “Fall”. It is this second “Fall” of which Elsa stands guilty by forcing Lohengrin to share with her (and with the world) the secret of his true identity and origin.

Here we find our second clue to the mystery of Elsa’s collaboration with Ortrud’s conspiracy to subvert faith in a transcendent god. The key is Elsa’s remark to Lohengrin during their night of love, quoted above, that “As you found me gravely accused [of fratricide, i.e., of killing her brother Godfrey], oh that I knew you also in distress (“Noth”).” Elsa, in other words, is suggesting that her alleged crime of fratricide is in some sense equivalent to the crime of which Ortrud accuses Lohengrin, the crime of fraud, of being natural in origin yet posing as divine.

For, if we acknowledge that Eve may be the basis for Wagner’s characterization of Elsa, some extraordinary consequences follow from pursuing this metaphor to its ultimate conclusion. I am suggesting that it is possible that, just as Lohengrin may actually be guilty of the crime of fraud of which Ortrud accuses him, Elsa also may in some sense be guilty of the crime against her brother Godfrey of which Ortrud accuses her. For Elsa’s relationship with her brother Godfrey may be Wagner’s metaphor for Eve’s relationship with her brother (and perhaps, lover?) Adam. In this case Ortrud’s accusation that Elsa killed her brother Godfrey is not literally true, but only figuratively true, since, by sharing with her brother Adam the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, Eve is supposed to [Page 20] have introduced death, fear, and shame into the world. Perhaps the nature of Elsa’s crime is that she shared this fatal knowledge with Godfrey, a crime which prompted Lohengrin to offer her and her brother Godfrey – as Christ offers all the heirs of Eve’s original sin - redemption, the restoration of lost innocence. There is of course no direct evidence for any of this reading in the actual libretto of "Lohengrin," so we can only speculate on what Wagner may have had in mind, but there is a vast quantity of circumstantial evidence in the libretto, and highly suggestive documentary evidence in Wagner’s relevant writings and recorded remarks, which point in this direction.

To grasp this concept, however, we need only consider that Eve’s breach of God’s injunction against the acquisition of divine, forbidden knowledge was the necessary precondition, or source of inspiration, for the redemption from original sin which Christ the savior is supposed to have offered mortal man. In other words, if we understand religious belief as merely a product of man’s artistic imagination, as Feuerbach did, then those byproducts of the power of our mind (i.e., of Alberich’s ring) such as our ability to foresee our inevitable death, and the fear of death which is foresight’s consequence, can be considered the muse which inspired us to create those gods who in our imagination are capable of redeeming us from death and from fear. It is precisely this promise of actual redemption from the real world which Feuerbach proclaims a fraud perpetrated by man against himself. Similarly, in Wagner’s view, modern science’s erosion of religious faith is the precondition for the redemption Wagner offers secular man, Wagner’s substitute for lost religious faith, his music-dramas. I will revisit this problem in the final pages of this essay.

One last helpful suggestion before returning to our main argument is that in my much more detailed discussion of "Lohengrin" in the first draft of my book "The Wound that Will Never Heal," I propose that Frederick’s collaboration with his wife Ortrud to undermine faith in Lohengrin provided Wagner with a prototype for his far more developed concept that Alberich, the proponent of the bitter truth, is the champion of Erda’s – i.e., Mother Nature’s – objective reality, and thus is figuratively speaking the father of modern science, represented in the "Ring" by Alberich’s son Hagen.

In that chapter the pagan Ortrud’s banishment by the Christian hero Lohengrin’s magical spell is construed as a metaphor for Christianity’s renunciation of Mother Nature (Erda), and its necessary censorship of scientific inquiry. As Feuerbach said: [eoc219] “The heathen philosophers busied themselves with the natural origin of things. But the Christian religious consciousness abhorred this idea as heathen, irreligious, and substituted the practical or subjective idea of creation which is nothing else than a prohibition to conceive things as having arisen in a natural way, an interdict on all physical science.” Frederick’s collaboration with Ortrud to restore her lost power – i.e., restore the rights of Mother Nature - by eliminating the Christian usurpers’ artistic spell (which creates the Folk’s bond of loyalty with Lohengrin since he offers them emotional consolation), is discussed in the light of its possible influence on Wagner’s conception that Alberich is in alliance with Erda – in the sense of affirming objective knowledge of Mother Nature - to overthrow the gods of Valhalla.
alberich00
Site Admin
 
Posts: 396
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:03 am

Return to General Discussion

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron