Part 3: Scruton's critique of my book, & my response

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Part 3: Scruton's critique of my book, & my response

Postby alberich00 » Fri Jul 29, 2016 8:46 am

PH: In interpreting the "Ring" I did not take some sort of code book and apply a code to translate things that mean one thing on the surface, into their esoteric equivalent, in order to decipher and reveal their hidden meaning. Rather, for a period from 1971 until 2009 (38 years), I methodically went through the entire "Ring" libretto and music, from beginning to end, over and over and over again, writing down as I proceeded all the questions that occurred to me, and attempted to solve them one at a time, questions such as the long-term dramatic implications of the transformation of the Ring Motif #19ab into the first segment of the Valhalla Motif #20ab, or why it is that, long after Bruennhilde tells Wotan in V.2.2 that she is his “will,” in S.3.1 Wotan tells Erda that Erda’s wisdom wanes before his “will,” or why, for instance, Bruennhilde inherits the Dragon/Serpent Motif #48 (otherwise shared by Alberich and Fafner), a motif identifiable with Fear, when in S.3.3 at the height of her love duet with Siegfried she asks Siegfried if he fears her. I did this with every single motival and dramatic conundrum, virtually hundreds of them, until a clear pattern, a clear musico-dramatic scheme began to emerge. This clear pattern of meaning suggested other questions, other lines of inquiry. Subsequently I rediscovered the thread of consistent, unified dramatic and conceptual meaning I had discovered in my close study of the libretto and music, in Wagner’s writings and recorded remarks, particularly in those writings and remarks which I later discovered were virtual paraphrases of passages from Ludwig Feuerbach’s four books which Wagner is known to have read prior to writing the libretto of the "Ring." Suddenly I could see that Wagner's canonical romantic operas which preceded Wagner's "Ring" were actually crucial in Wagner's development of the master-myth and allegory I had discovered in the "Ring," that the "Ring" was their inevitable culmination, and that Wagner's other mature music-dramas, completed after Wagner had authored the "Ring" libretto in the cases of "Tristan" and "Mastersingers," and after Wagner had completed the entirety of the "Ring," words and music, in the case of "Parsifal," made total sense allegorically within the conceptual framework of Wagner's "Ring." My insistence on grasping Wagner's "Ring" in its conceptual unity, in other words, granted me a unique entre, through my discovery of the meaning of Wagner's allegorical language, into the breadth and depth of Wagner's art, which opened up to me an almost entirely new path to discovery of its many secrets, and a solution to numerous conundrums which had previously resisted attempts at exegesis.

RS: (…)

RS: P. 184-200: “As the gods disappear they receive the blessing once bestowed on the Valkyrie [Dr. Scruton is referring here to Motif #90 from his list, which is Motif #93 in Dr. Allen Dunning’s list from http://www.wagnerheim.com, the melody to which Sieglinde praised Bruennhilde’s intervention in the cause of the Waelsungs and of the as-yet unborn Siegfried in V.3.1, and which is only heard once more, in the finale of "Twilight of the Gods."]. It was bestowed by a mortal woman, from whom everything had been taken away, save love. And Wagner leaves us with a mystery: why does this blessing save the world?

RS: When he first began work on the 'Ring' cycle Wagner was persuaded of a particular view of this mystery, which is that the humans can take the world from the gods, and make a better show of running it - not ruling, but sharing. Like Feuerbach, the Wagner of the 1849 revolution saw the future of humanity as one of emancipation from servitude. Human beings, according to the Feuerbachian conception, are living organisms, and in their original state were a part of the order of nature, subject to the laws that govern all things in a condition of mutuality and equilibrium. But in the course of time man acquired language, and with it consciousness of himself and his condition. This birth of consciousness was the original sin, the departure from the natural order, which must be paid for.”

PH: This is of course one of opening gambits in my interpretation of Wagner’s "Ring," the notion that Alberich’s forging of the Ring (and Wotan’s related breaking off the holiest branch of the World Ash to make his spear of Authority and Law) is actually Wagner’s metaphor for man’s evolutionary acquisition of consciousness, the true cause of what religious faith describes as man’s Fall. My reading here was greatly influenced by Robert Donington’s Jungian interpretation, though I differ with Donington on dozens of other issues. In my interpretation it is Wotan’s theft of Alberich’s Ring of consciousness, for the sake of sustaining the consoling illusions we call the gods, that is Wotan’s sin against all that was, is, and will be (i.e., religious man’s sin against Erda’s, Mother Nature’s, knowledge of the truth, the real world of time and space and causation and the coherence of Nature, of all that was, is, and will be, in denying reality for the sake of consoling illusion, belief in the supernatural such as immortality, which transgresses against Erda’s natural law that all that is must end). It is this sin that Alberich’s curse on his Ring will punish, the sin of religious, pessimistic world-denial.

RS: “With consciousness came freedom, personhood and the lust for power. Science and technology enable human beings to turn the natural order in their own direction, to manufacture goods and materials through which to satisfy their needs. Their appetite for power brings about the money economy and the trade in labour. The original equilibrium gives way to a competitive world in which people strive for possessions. Order can no longer be maintained by the laws of nature, since organic life, acted on by the new forms of envy and covetousness, is riven by conflict. Only through law can men now live in harmony, and law demands sovereignty. Through sovereignty, humans can guarantee their agreements; but they also create a dominating power. This power must inculcate the belief in its legitimacy, and is aided in this by religion, through which we accept illusory rewards in return for earthly obedience.”

PH: Dr. Scruton’s paragraph above is only partly a reflection of my interpretation (there is no precise foundation in my interpretation, for instance, for Dr. Scruton's remark: "Order can no longer be maintained by the laws of nature, since organic life, acted on by the new forms of envy and covetousness, is riven by conflict."), but it is more or less an accurate description of a small part of it.

RS: “Wagner’s writings of this period, and his deep study of the old mythologies, added a new twist to the Feuerbachian story. Religion, Wagner argued, is not a tissue of illusions: concealed within the myths are deep truths about the human condition, and religion owes its power to these truths, some of which I spell out in Chapter 7. In religion truth enters our consciousness through the back door, and we are thereby guided through life to our advantage. However, consciousness works always against the religious doctrines, sowing the seeds of doubt and undermining the divine authority. In these circumstances it is given to art to rescue the deep truths about our condition, to present them in symbolic form, and so to bring about a new order in the human soul, free from illusion but true to the distinctiveness and sacredness of the human condition.”

PH: The paragraph, above, is again only reflective in part of my interpretation. Feuerbach did not merely say that religion is a tissue of illusions. He stated that religious belief was a natural and inevitable outgrowth of the very nature of the symbolic human mind, through which, prior to the objective, reflective age of science, when man in his infancy involuntarily created and believed in the religious myths, collectively dreaming them into existence, man came to see his symbols for things as being prior to, autonomous from, and even as the source of, those things, thus transforming what is actually subjective, into an illusion of objective reality. In this way man unconsciously projected the nature of his own mind (which is a product of nature) onto figments of man’s imagination, allegedly transcendent gods who represent man’s ideal of his own nature. The notion that “... consciousness works always against the religious doctrines, sowing the seeds of doubt and undermining the divine authority” is central to my interpretation, in which I conflate Alberich’s amassing of a hoard of treasure from the earth (i.e., from Erda, from man’s experience of Mother Nature, the world: Mime calls Nibelheim Earth’s - i.e., Erda’s - "Navel-Nest") with Wotan’s amassing of a hoard of knowledge of the world (Erda), by not only wandering the earth (Erda) seeking a hoard of knowledge of the bitter truth and how to redeem himself from it, but also by going specifically to Erda herself (the World-Spirit, so to speak) to seek knowledge (and plants the seed in Erda - created out of Wotan's fear of the end Erda foresaw - which gives birth to Bruennhilde. The seed which gives birth to Bruennhilde is not only Wotan’s fear of the twilight of the gods which Erda foresaw, but also Wotan’s longing for redemption from this fated doom - or at least from being conscious of it, since he can’t actually escape it - in a free hero).

PH: With respect to Bruennhilde’s birth, I note here that Wagner once said, while discussing the subject of reincarnation, that Nature (Erda) and God (Wotan) are like two parallel lines which merge, become one, outside of time and space. Note that Bruennhilde, Erda’s and Wotan’s daughter, is the product of the merging of Nature and God. Wagner in his writings equated Bruennhilde with music, and Siegfried with the poet-dramatist (though Wagner's writings from the early 1850's don't directly confirm that the man he speaks of as the poet-dramatist, or the woman he speaks of as music, can be identified as Siegfried and Bruennhilde, Cosima Wagner later confirmed that Wagner associated them), and said that their union would create the redemptive music-drama. Wagner also stated that his musical motifs are very fit to represent the concept of reincarnation musico-dramatically, because his motifs of remembrance and foreboding make present, in the here and now, things that are distant in time (past and future) and space (these could include things long forgotten, repressed, or never even known to the subject). When Bruennhilde alludes to Wotan's confession to her during Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love-duet in S.3.3, for instance, Siegfried tells her that he can't grasp such faraway (Fernen) things, but that he can see and feel only her. That is Wagner's metaphor for the fact that, at any single moment in the dramatic action of the "Ring," Wagner can employ musical motifs to bring virtually the entire "Ring" (i.e., Wotan's confession) into mind in a flash of intuition, to make its distant breadth and depth present, here and now, as feeling. This Wagner called “The Wonder,” and for him it offered a secular substitute for religious man’s belief in transcendence, the supernatural, and even subjective (not actual) redemption of man from the natural limits of time and space and mortality. This could convey the notion of reincarnation dramatically because, as Wagner said when discussing his dramatic scenario for his prospective but never completed Buddhist music-drama "The Victors," the Buddha (like Wagner’s orchestra) knows for the dramatic characters of the story what they don’t know, their past lives. Thus Wagner's orchestra could make their past lives present for us, even if the characters on stage can't remember them. Since Wagner told King Ludwig II that Wotan virtually lives on in Siegfried as the artist lives on in his work of art, in which the original artist can be forgotten, we can construe Siegfried as Wotan, reborn, minus conscious knowledge of his original identity as Wotan, knowledge to which Bruennhilde alludes as she tells Siegfried (who tells Fafner: I don’t yet know who I am) that what he doesn’t know she knows for him, as we hear the Fate Motif #87. Wotan’s making Siegfried his heir in S.3.1 is Wagner’s metaphor for the eventual dying of religious faith and its living on, as feeling rather than as theology, in art, specifically the art of music. As Wagner said, when God (Wotan) had to leave us (leave Bruennhilde and renounce involvement in the world), he left us (Siegfried), in remembrance of him, music (Bruennhilde).

RS: “There is strong evidence that Wagner originally conceived the story of Siegfried in this way and, as Paul Heise shows, it is possible to develop a far-reaching interpretation of the cycle in its finished form from Feuerbachian premises. In a world turned away from its original order by personhood and the consciousness of self, subjected to the tyranny of property and exchange, kept in order nevertheless by the law maintained by religion, there is a fatal flaw. Resentment broods in the heart of things: life, governed by the rule of property, is increasingly loveless, and the blissful vision of immortality on which our acquiescence depends is eaten away by the worm of science. Meanwhile our true freedom, promised by that original sin of consciousness, has been stolen from us by the powers that maintain things in being. Only the free hero, who forges his own future, can cast off the chains that bind humanity - the chains of religious illusion, of property and the money economy.

RS: This hero, who begins from nothing, must also be an artist. He is the spirit of poetry itself, producing a new form of consciousness in which freedom prevails over law and truth over illusion. This artist-hero cannot create a new world by his own efforts, however, any more than the poet can carry the whole burden of the new work of art that is to tell the hero’s story. Only through the free union between man and woman, between hero and heroine, in a love in which self-giving is the ruling principle, can the new world be born. Just as poetry stands in need of music to create the art-work of the future, so does the hero stand in need of the loving bride, who has come down from the world of religious illusion into the sphere of mortals, there to unite with him in the action that will liberate the world.”

PH: Wagner borrowed Feuerbach’s concept that religious feeling can live on in art, particularly music, when religious belief and faith as a concept can’t sustain itself in the face of the scientific secularization of the modern world, from a number of passages in Feuerbach’s books (all published before or by 1848, when Wagner began working up dramatic scenarios which he would incorporate into his "Ring" libretto), particularly Feuerbach’s statement that great secular art is distinct from religious belief in the sense that, though both are poetry, or fiction, religion demands of the faithful that its fictions be acknowledged as objectively true, whereas the secular artist is free to confess his art a fiction, or, as Wagner also put it, a game of play. This means that the artist is freed from religious faith's claim to the power of truth, a claim which will eventually undermine faith because it is predicated on illusion, but doesn't recognize this fact. And Feuerbach elsewhere added that when we can no longer believe in God, God takes refuge in human feeling, which Feuerbach identified with music. It is very much in this sense that the alleged God Wotan, in confessing to Bruennhilde that the Valhallan gods aren’t really gods because they are predestined by Mother Nature, Erda, through Alberich’s curse on his Ring (and through Alberich’s son Hagen specifically, the instrument of Alberich’s punishment of Wotan and his proxies for his religious sin against all that was, is, and will be), to destruction, transforms his fearful thought into feeling, or redemptive music, the language of Wotan’s unconscious mind, which is what Bruennhilde represents allegorically. This is what Bruennhilde means when she tells Siegfried that what Wotan thought (i.e., his confession to her of his fear of the end and of his seemingly futile desire for a free hero who would redeem the gods from their fate), she felt, and that what she felt was just her love for Siegfried, set to the Motif #134. This is the very motif we first heard in S.3.1 when Wotan proclaimed that he no longer feared the gods’ doom which Erda had prophesied, since Wotan can make Siegfried his heir to the world, who is freed from Alberich’s curse (thanks to Bruennhilde), and since Bruennhilde upon waking for Siegfried will redeem the world (i.e, inspire the artist-hero Siegfried to create a work of art in which he, and mankind, can feel redeemed from the limits of time and space and causation). In this way religious feeling lives on in secular art when religion as faith must die.

PH: The musical motif in which Wagner embodied this concept, borrowed from Feuerbach, that religious feeling can live on in secular art and in music (Bruennhilde) in particular, that dying faith (the god Wotan renouncing any further involvement in the world) lives on in secular art (the artist-hero Siegfried’s loving union with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde), is #134, sometimes known as the “World-Inheritance Motif. In my interpretation it is known as the Motif of Unconscious Artistic Inspiration. Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s S.3.3 love duet, and also their love duet in T.P, is Wagner’s metaphor for Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse Bruennhilde, who inspires him subliminally with the fearful hoard of fateful knowledge, or runes, which Wotan imparted to Bruennhilde in his confession. In this way Bruennhilde can both teach Siegfried fear and, through loving union with him, grant him the privilege of forgetting his fear, just as Wotan sought from Erda total knowledge of what she'd taught him to fear, and also the means to forget this fear. Wagner said the sounding of this motif should sound like the proclamation of a “new religion.” And Feuerbach described the secular substitutes for dying religious belief, man’s faith in his own self and his independence as found in secular art and science and in his courageous self-sufficiency in renouncing religious illusion, as a new religion. #134 is also, by the way, the only motif from his "Ring" that Wagner himself specifically described as a redemption motif. We can therefore substitute the formula 'redemption by art,' for 'redemption by love.' #93, with which the "Ring" concludes (introduced in V.3.1 when Bruennhilde had told Sieglinde to live on for the sake of her as yet unborn child, and Bruennhilde named him Siegfried, and Sieglinde praised Bruennhilde’s intervention in the Waelsungs' behalf) Wagner called “The Glorification of Bruennhilde,” and “a theme of praise for heroes.” An extremely important distinction to which my allegorical approach draws attention is the distinction between this redemption through art (which depends upon Siegfried staying true to his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration by never betraying her, and therefore never betraying her secret hoard of knowledge to the light of day), and the entirely different, nihilistic redemption which can only be achieved by restoring the Ring of consciousness (which gave birth to the gods and Valhalla) to the Rhine of preconscious existence. The proof of this is that Wagner wrote to August Roeckel that Wotan does not contemplate restoring the Ring to the Rhine (in "Twilight of the Gods") until Siegfried has failed, which occurs after he comes under the influence of Hagen's potion.

RS: “However, that story is moving in a direction that Feuerbach would not have countenanced. Feuerbach saw the liberation of mankind as a political event, a total transformation of the social and economic order, in which we would win through to freedom as the scales of religious illusion fall from our eyes. Wagner was already seeing that liberation occurs, if at all, only in the individual soul, and that it is not achieved alone but through loving union with another. Moreover, the liberation that comes from love also threatens the love that causes it. This is the sorry lesson of Siegfried’s fall - his journey down from the exalted height where he and Bruennhilde enjoyed their eternal moment, into the world of machinations and deals symbolized by the drink of forgetting.”

PH: It can be argued that Wagner represents his renunciation of hope for a political revolution in Wotan's tortured decision to give up hope for redemption through Siegmund the social revolutionary, and that his turn inward in acknowledgment that "... liberation occurs, if at all, only in the individual soul, and that it is not achieved alone but through loving union with another," can be found in the artist-hero Siegfried's loving union with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde.

PH: My interpretation of the "Ring" demonstrates that though Feuerbach provided Wagner with the conceptual superstructure around which to organize the various ancient Teutonic, ancient Greek, and Biblical influences on the "Ring" plot, Wagner construed what Feuerbach described as a joyous embrace of modern science and art, freed from the stranglehold of religious illusion, as having tragic consequences, which Wagner dramatized in "Twilight of the Gods," formerly known as "Siegfried's Death." When Bruennhilde in T.P tells Siegfried that the point of her love for Siegfried is to inspire him to undertake new adventures, these adventures allegorically are Siegfried's creation of redemptive works of art for a public in the outer world, in the waking world outside of Siegfried's subjective experience of unconscious artistic inspiration, which is represented by his loving union with his muse Bruennhilde within the protective ring of Loge's fire (self-deceit and illusion, the veil of Maya) on their mountaintop. Siegfried’s only heroic adventure which Bruennhilde's loving union with Siegfried inspired him to undertake, which Wagner dramatized in the "Ring," is his singing the song of his heroic life, the narrative about how he came to grasp the meaning of the Woodbird's song which Hagen (who represents Alberich's curse on his Ring of consciousness, the curse that man is predestined to make conscious what should have remained unconscious, to reveal forbidden things which should have remained concealed) prompts him to narrate for the Gibichungs. This is his last and greatest adventure, because the narrative of how he came to grasp the Woodbird's song is actually Wagner's play-within-the-play, Wagner's metaphor for the performance of his own "Ring" before his audience, mankind (i.e., us, Wagner's audience, represented by the Gunther and the Gibichungs). In his final artwork Siegfried unearths the hidden programme of music, the secret source of inspiration for his musical motifs, by making conscious the formerly unconscious meaning of the Woodbird's song. As Wagner put it in different terms, thanks to his musical motifs he granted his audience an entre into his profoundest secret, a secret unknown even to him (remember that Bruennhilde knows for Siegfried what he doesn't know, and thus protects him from Wotan's wounds of consciousness).
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Re: Part 3: Scruton's critique of my book, & my response

Postby alberich00 » Fri Oct 28, 2016 12:09 pm

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Re: Part 3: Scruton's critique of my book, & my response

Postby alberich00 » Sat Jan 28, 2017 11:57 am

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