Part Three: Review of "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire."

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: Justin Jeffrey, alberich00

Part Three: Review of "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire."

Postby alberich00 » Mon May 28, 2012 1:26 pm

(33) [MB - P. 151-153] ... one may doubt whether an 'original Valhalla' ever really existed. (Nota bene, those who would restore an unmediated, 'authentic' "Ring.") Reality would seem to remain with Nature, which is not to say that it is coterminous with her. (...) Wagner achieves what Stirner had argued would arise from looking 'to the bottom of anything ... By bringing the essence into prominence one degrades the hitherto misapprehended appearance to a bare semblance, a deception.' This he characterised - and castigated - as a truly religious deed; the entrance into the realm of 'essences, spooks, and ghosts' is also Wagner's commentary upon the entrance into Valhalla. But for Wagner as well as Feuerbach, 'the essence of theology is the transcendent, i.e., the essence of man is posited outside man.' The 'infinite in religion and philosophy is, and never was anything different from a finite or a determinate of some kind, but mystified.' (...)
(...) The realisation of the human content of religion, in Feuerbach's terms, or the germs of a new beginning for Wotan, in Wagner's, require the abandonment of an external other-worldly form - Valhalla. (...) Valhalla is not simply a fantasy but a fantastical, parasitical reflection of social, political, and economic reality. (...)
Theology, which, for the student of Feuerbach's "Principles," includes and culminates in Hegel's idealism, is the fundamental agent of alienation. (...) Love, the essence of religion, is perverted and denied by its transferral to a transcendent deity; yet religion itself could represent a higher, Schopenhauerian form of illusion.

[PH] Following Feuerbach's lead, Berry states that Wotan's religious world is actually the mystified real world, Nature itself, and love, which has been alienated (by being posited as divine and transcendent rather than human in origin and nature). Without using the term (smuggling), Berry is borrowing Feuerbach's concept that in positing a divine realm, which is actually imaginatively composed of elements drawn from the real world and from human egoism and thought, which man's collective imagination or dreaming involuntarily selects and constructs, man is actually smuggling the real world and his body and its impulses into his allegedly transcendent paradise and transfigured persona or soul. This notion has been central to my prior writings on Wagner from 1983 onward: I deduced it from Wagner's "Ring" long before I had read the passages in Feuerbach's writings in which he expressed this concept long before Wagner employed it in his "Ring" libretto.

(34) [MB - P. 154-156] ... the gods, supported yet betrayed by their warped (il-)legalism, reject the claims of the Rhinemaidens, the giants, and the Nibelungs. This even though the gods, not their subjects, inhabit and perpetuate the phantasmagorical world of Valhalla, that 'new-found splendour' which denies the primal splendour of the Rhinegold and the World-ash. (...)
... we should remember that even Alberich wants to take over Valhalla - perhaps, in New Labour parlance, to 're-brand' it - but certainly not to demolish it. He is definitely not the agent of Wagner's "Revolution," threatening to 'destroy every illusion that rules over men.'

[PH] In his observation that though the gods reject the Rhinedaughters', the Giants', and Alberich's claims, Alberich desires only to rule Valhalla (presumably to exploit religion too as a means to control his fellow men, or Nibelungs), not to destroy Valhalla, Berry is in my view flatly wrong. A centerpiece of my interpretation since 1983 is that collective man's capacity, over time, for attaining to an ever more objective consciousness of the world and of his place in it, which is what in my view Alberich and his son and their ambition represent, can only freely express itself if it wholly discredits man's subjective view of himself and his world, by debunking religious faith, and discrediting man's propensity to seek value in religious faith's heir, secular art, once religious faith is on the wane. In other words, with religious belief on the rocks (as Alberich describes it to Hagen during their T.2.1 meeting of the minds, when Alberich tells Hagen that though Wotan is on the rocks he still hopes to attain redemption through his proxy Siegfried), the scientific consciousness, to complete its task of eliminating man''s consoling illusions in order to clear the decks for a total victory of the objective mind, must expose inspired secular art as merely covert religion. This in my interpretation is the essential plot of the "Ring," and also, I might add, of "Lohengrin" and "Tristan and Isolde" (in these two instances, however, much more difficult to discern in isolation, but easy to discern in light of their conceptual links with the "Ring," considered as Wagner's master-myth from which all specific Wagnerian myths are drawn).

(35) [MB - P. 157] Given Wagner's hesitance over revolution's provenance - from above or below? - it comes as no surprise to see Wotan tentatively adopting the role of Revolution, if only out of desperation. The chief of the gods himself toys with the idea of a humane criticism, the slaying of false idols, considering
Goetzen- or Goetterdaemmerung in order to enthrone a new, Feuerbachian, Volsung religion of love. (...) For one sympathetic to (proto-) Schopenhauerian Christianity, Christ himself offered a precedent. The legalism of the Church was now to be overcome as Christ had overcome that of Judaism. 'While the Old Testament made the world and man the work of a God,' Schopenhauer writes, 'the New saw itself compelled to represent the God as becoming man, in order to teach that holiness and salvation from the misery of the world can come only from the world itself.' This metaphysical twist to the 'second Reformation', emphasizing Wotan at the expense of Siegfried, will be developed in a subsequent context ... .

[PH] Berry suggests that the "Ring"'s division into the part in which Wotan strives to create a revolution from above (by inspiring Siegmund directly to rebel against the gods' laws, by bringing Siegmund up from his youth to that end), and into the part in which Wotan strives to create a revolution (or let a revolution occur) from below, in Siegfried's free spirit, parallels the distinction between the Old and New Testaments. This, in a much more elaborate variation, has been central to my interpretation of the "Ring" since I copyrighted my first comprehensive (though woefully incomplete and semi-literate) study of the "Ring" and its systematic conceptual relationship to Wagner's three other mature music-dramas, "The Doctrine of the Ring," in 1983. My variation on this theme is that in my view Wagner contrasts the first half of the "Ring," Wotan's half, which comprises all of "Rhinegold" and "Valkyrie," with the second half of the "Ring," comprising "Siegfried" and "Twilight of the Gods," Siegfried's half, on the basis that Wotan's half represents the epoch of religious faith, and Siegfried's half the more recent period during which secularity began to win out over religion, and secular art (Siegfried's province, as wooer of the muse of art, Bruennhilde) fell heir to religion's former role of providing us consoling illusions, while science (Hagen) took over religion's former role as our explanation of the world and pointed the way to our objective understanding of our own nature, history, and destiny, in a world bound by natural, as opposed to divine, law. In this sense Wotan's half of the "Ring" corresponds with the Old Testament (divine law), and Siegfried's half with the New Testament (love/human freedom).

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(36) [MB - P. 258-162] Valhalla must uphold traditional belief, for the gods' immortality depends on it.
"Das Rheingold" ... sows the seeds for the rest of the cycle, contrasting the eternal Rhine with the illusory immortality of Valhalla's folie de grandeur. The Prelude's primordial Rhine motif ... already prefigures Erda's foretelling of Goetterdaemmerung ... , the ultimate fate of any hubristic attempt to defy Nature. It might be difficult to ascertain whether, in the long term, man or Nature is to be the measure of all things, but the gods should already be discounted. (...) Freia's golden apples, we learn from Fafner, confer upon the gods 'never-ending youth, unto eternity'. Yet, should they lose Freia, 'pallid and infirm, their bloom shall wither, old and weak shall they fade away'. The cunning giant divines that the gods' need for Freia - not in her guise as goddess of love, but as goddess of youth - represents their fatal weakness. (...)
It is worth reiterating that Wotan resolves to ransom Freia, not out of love, but in order to avert the fear and shame of death.
(...) What is fervently desired acquires, in classical Feuerbachian fashion, a 'reality' of its own, proceeding to dominate mankind. The same could be said of the immortality promised by Freia's golden apples. 'For the hereafter,' Feuerbach explains, 'is nothing but the mistaken, misconceived, and misinterpreted real world,' whose illusory shadow alienated man has come to take for the world itself."

[PH] Berry proclaims here that the twilight of the gods is the fate of mortals who, in their hubris, have sought to deny nature and conquer fear through the illusory promise of immortal life. This concept has been central to all my copyrighted work since 1983. It seems strange that Berry, having said this, doesn't seem to grasp that it is precisely Alberich and his son/proxy Hagen who become the agents of Nature's (Erda's) revenge on the gods who have denied her reality, her truth, her knowledge of all that was is and will be, by exposing the gods' (religious belief's) illusions, and that therefore Alberich's curse on Wotan's attempt to co-opt the Ring's power is Alberich's curse on religious man's hubris. For it is Alberich who accuses Wotan and the gods of committing this sin against Nature when he states they will sin against all that was, is and will be (Erda's world, the real world of matter/energy, time and space), if the gods co-opt Alberich's Ring and its power (i.e., if religious man exploits the power of thought, of imagination, to suppress man's natural ability to accumulate objective knowledge of the real world, in order to invent another world which, though imaginary, is regarded by religious man as truth, while the substantial, objective world is consigned to the status of illusion). Alberich alone has the right to wield the Ring's power precisely because he affirms the knowledge, the truth, that Wotan and the gods deny. Alberich cursed his Ring (the Ring of consciousness, the power of man's reflective thought) precisely in order to punish this sin.

The notion that Wotan redeems Freia not as goddess of love but for the sake of her status as the goddess who confers the gift of immortality also has long been a feature of my interpretation. Though both Berry and Nattiez noted this distinction, neither seem to have grasped one of its major implications, which is that the two giants are distinguished from each other on the same basis, and that this fact reveals to us the logic behind their claim on Freia: Fasolt, as the amorous Giant, claims Freia as goddess of love alone, while Fafner, the purely selfish giant who represents man's lonely self-preservation instinct (and the fear of death it engenders), claims Freia solely as goddess of immortality, which is the imagination's antidote to fear of the end. Wagner expresses this fact not only in the Giants' distinct personalities but also motivally, in that, whenever Fasolt expresses his longing for Freia, we hear motifs associated solely with love, whereas the Motif of Freia's Golden Apples of immortality is heard when Fafner expresses his feelings/thoughts about Freia.

(37) [MB - P. 162-163] The ground has been prepared for Erda's epiphany. 'Yield, Wotan, yield!' she warns Wotan, 'Flee the ring's curse.' Yet this initial warning runs deeper than a rejection of capital, or even of temporal power. The crux of her warning lies in her oracular pronouncement: 'All that is, - ends.' As Wagner explains to Roeckel, 'the essence of change is the essence of reality, whereas only what is imagined,' such as Valhalla, 'is changelessly unending'. He continues:

Only what changes if real: to be real, to live - what this means is to be created, to grow, to bloom, to wither and to die; without the necessity of death,
there is no possibility of life ... to be consumed by truth is to abandon oneself as a sentient human being to total reality: to experience procreation,
growth, bloom - withering and decay, to apprehend them unreservedly, in joy and in sorrow, and to choose to live - and die - a life of happiness and

Acceptance of the truth of Nature is imperative, yet it takes Erda's surprise appearance to initiate Wotan's process of conversion. Inability to die is a perennial curse in Wagner, from the Dutchman to Amfortas. One must accept death not out of despair - although that may be a starting point - but as a dialectical necessity.

[PH] Berry affirms here what has long been an essential feature of my interpretation, that Erda's warning to Wotan to shun the ring has a deeper motive than a mere warning to avoid the dangers of capitalism and property, that the gods (i.e. man, who invented the gods) must learn to die (as Wagner put it to Roeckel). So Berry is saying, in effect, what I have long said, that Erda's statement to Wotan is a warning to avoid the hubris of striving for transcendence of nature in religious belief, and it goes without saying that Alberich and his proxy Hagen, as the primary agents of the twilight of the gods (i.e., twilight of belief in the gods) which Erda foretells, are the primary agents who will punish religious man's hubris by exposing it as illusory. It is odd, I think, that Berry hasn't gone so far and doesn't seem to grasp this deep connection between Erda (whom Wotan in S.3.1 dismisses as the mother of fear in having foretold the gods' demise) and Alberich. I believe the primary reason for this is that Berry has trapped himself by following Shaw in positing Alberich as the agent of capitalistic exploitation of labor, and can't make the stretch to grasp Alberich's far broader and more universal significance.

Berry also notes that the inability to die is central to several of Wagner's other operas and music-dramas. I have long described this (what Kant described as man's ineradicable need to posit a metaphysical basis for the phenomenal world, which is autonomous from that world) as the wound that will never heal, because man's metaphysical bent is inherently incapable of being satisfied. It is partly on the basis of this unifying factor that I was not only able to propose (and support) what I believe to be the first plausible global interpretation of the "Ring," but also to disclose the allegorical logic which links all of Wagner's canonical works, from the "Dutchman" to "Parsifal," to each other.

(38) [MB - P. 164-165] Erda's subsequent words can appear rather puzzling. 'A day of darkness dawns for the gods,' she tells Wotan. I counsel you, shun the ring!' Why, though, should this matter, if the gods are in any case to perish? A clue lies in the words omitted from Wagner's final version. Having forecast the day of darkness, that is of death, Erda was originally to counsel: 'But shamefully shall your noble race come to an end, should you do not rid yourself of the ring!' [Presumably Berry meant to eliminate "do" in "should you [do ] not rid yourself of the ring!]. Wotan can at least insure that the gods should die with dignity, accepting change and thus having rendered life possible.

[PH] Berry references Wagner's omission of words from Erda's warning to flee the ring and its curse, which would, had he included them, have indicated that the gods will come to their "unless" Wotan relinquishes Alberich's Ring (to the Giants). I long ago noted that Wagner changed Erda's warning from one in which she states that the gods will suffer a shameful end "unless" they shun the Ring, to one in which they will come to an end whether they shun the ring or not. I noted Wagner's changing of this passage to its current form in my 1996 book on "The Rhinegold," but I didn't - unlike Berry - place any emphasis on the notion that the gods could at least avoid a shameful end if they shun Alberich's Ring. While I have discussed in my own research that it is true that a possible source for Wagner's original version of Erda's warning stemmed from Feuerbach's remark that the God ought in honor to step down from the high place he holds in religious belief, for the sake of his own honor and dignity, so that he can at least bring an end to man's illusions honorably (implicitly in this way avoiding a shameful end), Berry doesn't cite this extract from Feuerbach as a basis for his interpretation. In my interpretation, when Erda suggests to Wotan that he shun the Ring in spite of the fact that in doing so he can't alter his fate, and that the gods' twilight is predestined, she is in fact suggesting merely that by shunning the Ring of conscious thought he can cease to be conscious of the objective knowledge of the truth which, once acknowledged consciously, would bring about the twilight of man's belief in the gods. Possession of the Ring means possession of the bitter truth. It is through Wotan's daughter by Erda, Bruennhilde, the collective unconscious and muse of inspiration for Siegfried's art, that man can temporarily escape consciousness of the bitter truth which Alberich, were he to possess the Ring, would force man to acknowledge consciously. Thus Bruennhilde offers redemption from the Ring curse (allows him to shun it temporarily) apriori by hearing Wotan's confession (i.e., bearing the "seed" of Wotan's hope of being reborn as a free hero) and thereby allowing Wotan to repress his abhorrent self-knowledge (his certainty that the twilight of the gods is inevitable) in her, his unconscious mind, so that Bruennhilde can can figuratively give birth to the hero Siegfried, the hero who is fearless because he doesn't know who he is (since Bruennhilde, as the repository for Wotan's secret knowledge, holds this knowledge for Siegfried and protects him from the fatal consequences of becoming conscious of it, thereby redeeming him from Wotan's fear of the end).

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(39) [MB - P. 165] The ring, through Erda's warning, thus acquires associations of a lust for immortality. In Wotan's case, love has for a time not simply waned; it has almost been annihilated. His decision to ransom Freia is based upon his fear of death, not upon his capacity for love, a capacity which, according to Feuerbach, represents - life and death. In the final version of the Erda scene, the music is left to hint at this: everything must come to an end, and thus the wisdom of Erda's motif ... , derived from Nature herself, is followed by its inversion, the motif of Goetterdaemmerung ... . Life is nothing without mortality, and acceptance of mortality: unachievable until the rejection of Valhalla and the ring.
Fricka, unlike her consort, never comes to appreciate this, speaking with horror, in "Die Walkuere," of the prospect that the rule of the 'eternal gods' might come to an end ... . (...) The same is true of the other 'immortals'. Waltraute informs us, during her Goetterdaemmerung narration, that, as Wotan prepares for the end in Valhalla, refusing to partake of Freia's apples, the lesser gods sit in emergency session, in a council of 'fear'. That fear of the end, of which Wagner speaks to Roeckel, is no nearer conquest at their twilight than upon Freia's return. The ring's original owner provides less an alternative than a more extreme case, for Nibelheim represents as powerful a lust for immortality as Valhalla. Indeed, Alberich wishes to utilise Nibelung industrial resources in order to storm and to possess Wotan's 'eternal' fortress; he has, moreover, renounced love more fully than Wotan has.

[PH] Berry states that the power offered by Alberich's ring includes man's quest for immortality, and noted elsewhere Fafner's remark to Fasolt that the Nibelung Hoard, like Freia's golden apples, can also confer immortality. But in my interpretation alone is the basis for this examined in any detail, for I have shown how Alberich's Ring-power, construed as the power of the human mind, gave birth automatically to the concept of godhead and transcendence, and its concomitant, immortality, and backed up this reading with several extracts from Feuerbach. In other words, the uniquely human mind, and particularly the mind of men and women of genius, seeks to complete what nature, what experience of the world, presents to man as incomplete, and therefore symbolically conscious man, capable of extrapolating generalizations drawn from his experience and imaginative ruminations of potentialities arising from his experience, inevitably posits the possibility of infinite continuance of a given life, since he at any rate seeks, within life, to perpetuate it as long as possible, and in his imagination conceives of infinite life as the solution to the problem of death, which offers assuagement of the fear of death.

Berry also notes that after Wotan's so-called Schopenhauerian conversion Wotan refuses any longer to eat Freia's golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal (similar in this regard to Amfortas, who has been so sickened holding fast to the Grail as religion's promise to man of immortality and transcendence, in the face of the bitter truth, that what has heretofore given him and others bliss, has now become his bane, his too-great-consciousness of the wound that will never heal). Here I believe Berry has gotten it wrong, because the resignation Wotan expresses to Erda in S.3.1 is predicated on his expectation that he, the representative of man's religious impulse to deny the real world, will be reborn in the ever-young artist-hero Siegfried, who, thanks to Bruennhilde's redemptive love, is protected from the Ring curse, in the sense that Siegfried is protected from suffering the wounds of Wotan's paralyzing consciousness. I'll deal with this at greater length later.

(40) [MB - P. 165-167] When Wotan is forced to sacrifice Siegmund and Sieglinde upon Fricka's altar of immortality, his words of despair - 'God's distress! Wrath without end! Eternal sorrow' - refer to much more than his personal predicament. They cast into relief the antinomy of immortality and life, and its manifold victims. When, in punishment for Bruennhilde's defiance, Wotan's kiss relieves her of divinity, objectively he offers her the promise, rather than the sentence, of life.
(...) Siegmund's actions render him the most truly heroic character in the "Ring" and that rejection of Valhalla constitutes his most heroic deed. Fricka's myopic vision of immortality has already compelled Wotan to sacrifice his Volsung offspring and their mutual love. Now Siegmund refuses to follow Bruennhilde to the 'eternal home for fallen heroes, unless Sieglinde should follow. (...) Feuerbach provides a precedent:

Once in heaven, this earth
would become for you the beautiful hereafter,
you would gladly give up immortality
for this time,
and, in the land of death, you
would long to leave the tiresome angelic state
to become a loving human
once again on this earth.
And if the whole world wished to be divine,
and to go to heaven -
which I cannot believe,
for there still are some brave men -
I would stay outside,
I would not go in.

Astonished, Bruennhilde asks Siegmund if he cares so little for 'eternal bliss'; the Volsung is choosing love and death over the immortal joys of Valhalla.

[PH] Berry observes that Wotan's anguish (his two-faced "Noth," as he describes it to Bruennhilde in V.3.3), is being torn between the claims of Fricka, who stands for religious faith and the promise to heroes of immortality, and Siegmund's Feuerbach-inspired rejection of Valhalla and its transcendence for the sake of his earthly/mortal love for Sieglinde. it's long been part of the received wisdom of Wagner scholarship that Siegmund's refusal to bow to fate, and his refusal to enter the divine realm of Valhalla as an immortal, if he can't bring his mortal sister Sieglinde there to share life with him, is an expression of Wagner's Feuerbach-inspired critique of religion and of Christianity in particular. In my interpretation Siegmund's heroism and love express the first of Feuerbach's alternatives to the religious illusion and its futile promise of immortality, namely, the figurative immortality of great, heroic deeds, which are long remembered and extolled by subsequent generations. On this I think Berry and I can agree (though he doesn't cite Feuerbach on this particular point). But in my interpretation Siegfried dramatizes what Wagner in "Mein Leben" describes as Feuerbach's other alternative to religious man's belief in the transcendent realm of spirit, namely, inspired secular art. The iconic artworks which stand the test of time are, like great deeds of men and women recorded in history, figuratively immortal. But for reasons unknown Berry doesn't follow Nattiez's (and my) lead in construing Siegfried as the revolutionary artist-hero (though Berry hints at this in a couple of instances), but sees Siegfried instead rather as another social revolutionary like Siegmund, except that the charismatic Siegfried is unconscious of his true role (it is in this department that I believe Berry gets himself into trouble). I employed the Feuerbach extract Berry quoted above to make a point similar to that which Berry makes here, in my illustration of the allegorical logic behind Wagner's "Tannhaeuser" (Tannhaeuser's complaint that he can't abide the insufferable immortality of bliss Venus's love offers him, stating that instead he seeks pain and death in the real world bound by time and space) and "Lohengrin." Since at least the early 2000's I've been arguing that Lohengrin's coming down to the earthly realm from the divine-like Grail realm in order to redeem Elsa is actually motivated by a Feuerbach-inspired need to escape the meaninglessness of the abstract, imagined Grail Realm in order to restore what is missing from it, the earthly and mortal, through a loving sexual union with Elsa (a union that a Grail knight sworn to celibacy should have avoided, as Wagner himself said).

There is also a problem in identifying self-sacrificing love and higher sexual love with mortality and with Erda's realm, in which everything changes and all things come to an end. The problem is that on this assumption all love and goodness will come to an end too, even for the single individual. But what is more, it is precisely because of the mutability and changeability of mortal human beings that they invented a divine being as the source of moral life in the first place. In other words, if human beings are merely products of nature, and subject to natural law and animal instinct, then egoism will always trump self-sacrifice and love when put to a true test. Mere bravery in the face of death is not a true test, because bravery might after all be merely symptomatic of a lack of imagination. What I mean is, it's one thing to seek one's own oblivion to save another, without any concrete idea of, or feeling for, the fact of death. But it's quite another thing to suffer endless torture of unimaginable extremes for the sake of another (Pain is fear of death in a concrete rather than abstract, imagined form), or to have one's mind manipulated by electrodes or drugs to think and feel and do the opposite of one's more heroic and sublime impulses (Dr. Jose Delgado, who wrote of his experiments employing electrodes to alter human feelings, thoughts, and behavior, stated that those who experienced this experienced it not as some mechanical external coercion, as in the instance of somebody else pushing one's fist into the face of a third party, an instance which would remove any feeling of guilt on the part of the party with the fist, but rather from within, as if these feelings, thoughts, and actions were generated by oneself. In other words, in theory - I say theory because I don't know if the following experiment has been done - , one could implant an electrode in the brain, say, an area involved in generating aggression or hate, of one half of a loving couple and stimulate that person's brain to the point that he or she would be enraged with their other half and beat them). That is precisely why, even today, even secular humans are fond of describing love as a mystery. This is just a way for secular folks, who long for transcendent value, to smuggle the notion of the divine back into lives which now lack it. Let me confess at this point that I am one of those who feel that if it could be conclusively demonstrated that that all of our highest feelings and thoughts and ideals were subject to merely mechanical alteration in this way, that this would constitute an irreparable loss to what we have always considered a pillar of humane life, and really, an unbearable loss. This is precisely Wotan's feeling as he confesses his unbearable thoughts about the primacy of his own and others' egoism to Bruennhilde in V.2.2.

In any case, it is precisely because Wotan became convinced that Siegmund is merely a product of the training he received by Wotan in the higher morality of self-sacrifice, and standing up for one's freedom and independence, that he forsook Siegmund. Wotan, as Wagner's metaphor for collective humanity, or humanity in history, during man's religio-mythic phase, having seen through his own alleged heroism and love to the egoism which lies behind it, assumes that Siegmund, who represents a subset of collective humanity, that minority known as heroic social revolutionaries, suffers the same weaknesses as the collective body of humanity of which he is a part.

Signing off at 2:33pm on 5/30/12.

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(41) [MB - P. 173-176] The will-to-power colours the actions of every character in the "Ring," to devastating effect. Revolution, as we shall see in the following chapter, will be attempted by two heroes, one courageous and the other fearless; neither is interested in power, yet both will ultimately be caught in its snares. Particular forms of power and its exercise - economic, political, religious - have been examined above, but Wagner has much to say on the will-to-power itself. (...) Whilst Wagner owes much to previous and contemporary thinkers, there is something quite original to his conception of the will-to-power, from which Nietzsche would draw - even if this debt remained largely unacknowledged.
When Alberich moves towards theft of the gold, he provides the first example in the "Ring" of the Freudian process outlined by Marcuse:

As the scientific rationality of Western civilisation began to bear its full fruit, it became increasingly conscious of its psychical implications. The ego
which undertook the rational transformation of the human and natural environment revealed itself as an essentially aggressive, offensive subject, whose
thoughts and action were designed for mastering objects. It was a subject against an object .... [an] apriori antagonistic experience ... Nature ... [was]
'given' to the ego as something that had to be fought, conquered, and even violated - such was the precondition for self-preservation and development.

As Adorno and Horkheimer argued in more historical terms:

The 'unshakeable confidence in the possibility of world domination' which Freud anachronistically ascribes to magic, corresponds to realistic world
domination only in terms of a more skilled science. The replacement of the milieu-bound practices of the medicine man by all-inclusive industrial
technology required first of all the autonomy of ideas in regard to objects that was achieved in the reality-adjusted ego.

This is the 'world-inheritance', the 'measureless might', of which Wellgunde tells, to be acquired through conversion of gold into capital and, more specifically, the ring ... , whose motif we hear for the first time. But, according to Horkheimer's observation of the wake of another lawless tyranny, 'the totalitarian attempt to subdue Nature reduced the ego, the human subject, to a mere tool of repression.' In 1951, Furtwaengler noted the similarity between Alberich's acquisition of this world-inheritance and Nietzsche's battle with Wagner, which was also 'the battle of the modern intellect against the man of imagination'. Furtwaengler's elucidation is both neo-Romantic and Schopehauerian:

The will to power of the intellect [is] the most profound fundamental reason, as Nietzsche himself finally admits. In order to achieve this, the
imagination, joy in life, must be anathematized - as prefigured by Wagner in Alberich, in a way that can never be marvelled at enough. Wagner equates
imagination with the goddess of love. (...) Although he [Nietzsche] was not insensitive to the power of Wagner's imagination, he nevertheless had to
sacrifice this whole imaginative world to his intellectual hunger for power. The will to power ... in this intellectualized world leads to the authoritarian
state and finally to the atom bomb ...

Alberich's obsession with the ring and its 'measureless might' will persist throughout the cycle, until his final reappearance, in which he has Hagen liturgically pledge its reclamation from Siegfried. Divested of any last vestige of humanity, utterly uncomprehending of the claims of love or Romantic imagination, Alberich has become 'a mere tool of repression' - and has bequeathed that deadly inheritance to his son, whose motto is 'hate the happy'.

[PH] At this point Berry makes me feel very much at home. I have been examining the "Ring" from more or less this perspective since I typed up my first thoughts about it in an essay I entitled "In Honor of Claude Levi-Strauss: The significance of Richard Wagner," copyrighted at the Library of Congress in 1981. Berry notes that the Will-to-Power as dramatized in the "Ring" is an idea to which Wagner made original contributions (I agree) and that it influenced Nietzsche (again, I agree). When Berry goes on to suggest that a primary expression of the Will-to-Power in the "Ring" is scientific and technological man's capacity to conquer nature through the application of objective knowledge, I agree with him again. So far as I know I was the first to build an entire interpretation of the "Ring" on this premise. I have, of course, credited both Donington and Cooke with having provided seminal suggestions trending towards this thesis which they did not, however, systematically follow up. Berry also quotes an extract from Wilhelm Furtwaengler (1951) which trends in the same direction, namely, that Alberich's war with Wotan is a metaphor for the war between the modern man of intellect and the man of imagination, which is another way of saying the war between science and religion/art. Though I have read some things written by Furtwaengler about Wagner I can't recall these passages, so this is a real contribution to my knowledge. I look forward to reading in detail Berry's source so that I can see how extensively Furtwaengler develops this thesis, which seems in some essentials to resemble my own more recent work. How wonderful that Furtwaengler, who is my idea of a conductor who literally is possessed by the spirit of Wagner as he conducts the "Ring" and "Tristan," should have anticipated this key aspect of my thesis!

By the way, the extract from Marcuse which Berry quoted above sounds very like an extract from Feuerbach which I included in Appendix II, my anthology of the writings of Feuerbach (and Wagner), which I employed in "The Wound That Will Never Heal" to make a similar point about the allegorical logic behind Wagner's depiction of Alberich's quest for power through acquiring knowledge of Nature, and forcing her hand.

Signing off at 5:12pm on 5/30/12.

Signing on at 10:30pm on 6/4/12:

The ubiquity of the will-to-power is confirmed in the transition to the second scene of "Das Rheingold." Wagner described the 'art of transition' as his 'most delicate and profound art'; herein lies valuable evidence. (...) Melody, harmony, rhythm and sonority work together to transform the motif of Alberich's ring [#19] into that of Wotan's Valhalla [#20a], demonstrating and rendering more dramatically concrete what Wagner had analysed in Beethoven as 'the act of giving birth to melody'. (...) Darkened river and celestial mists, chromatic ring and diatonic Valhalla, Schwarz-Alberich and Licht-Alberich: all are related dialectically in the pursuit of power. (...)
This fate is prefigured in the opening exchange of "Das Rheingold"'s second scene. 'What remains dear and sacred to hearts such as yours, when you men lust after power?' Fricka asks her consort. The domestic bliss she had in mind during Valhalla's construction is to be replaced by Wotan's 'dominion and power,' yet, as Wotan reminds her, her attempt to ensconce him in such dubious bliss was but another form of will-to-power: 'Was such lust unknown to Fricka when she herself besought the building?' Between her accusation and his counter-accusation, we hear a phrase suggesting both Valhalla and the ring, which one might be tempted to term ... , as a theme in itself, 'the ubiquity of power' ... .
Something more should be said about Wotan. His craving for power increases through fear of being supplanted by Alberich. (...) It robs him of his humanity ... . (...) Closer to the moment of possession - of theft - Wotan appears further dehumanised. Alberich has shown how much the power of the ring means to him, by declaring he would rather lose his life than the ring. 'I demand the ring,' Wotan proclaims nevertheless, continuing chillingly: 'With your life, do what you will!' It is 'one of the most powerfully hideous passages in world drama,' all the more shocking given that 'Wotan's [physical] appearance is not dwarfish but palpably godlike.' [Berry quoted Robert Donington here] (...) Wotan thus threatens to become Alberich.

[PH] Berry notes Cooke's observation that Alberich's Ring Motif #19 develops in R.1-2 into the first segment of the Valhalla Motif, #20a, and that there is a hybrid of these two motifs which Berry calls "The ubituity of power." Though Berry cites this motival transformation which is so central to my interpretation, he seems not to have drawn the conclusions which follow from it. One of these is that, at least according to the motival genealogy, a case can be made for my thesis that Alberich's Ring, and therefore Alberich's act of forging the Ring (of human consciousness) is the foundation of the gods' divine realm, i.e., the foundation of man's religious beliefs in a transcendent realm of being (man having reified his unique gift of symbolic consciousness and called it God), and that therefore Alberich's termination of the golden age of preconscious innocence in R.1 preceded Wotan's breaking of a branch off of the World-Ash to make his spear of divine authority/law, preceded Wotan's making of a contract with the Giants to build Valhalla, and preceded the gods in general, because it is a precondition of their existence. There is no way we can calculate the amount of time from the end of R.1 until the opening of R.2, as the gods 'wake.' I drew strong support for this thesis in both Feuerbach's writings and in Wagner's writings and recorded remarks.

(43) [MB - P. 183] As Alberich's curse foretells: 'The ring's master [shall be] the ring's slave.' All willing, in Schopenhauer's words,

springs from lack, from deficiency, and thus from suffering. Fulfilment brings this to an end, yet for one wish that is fulfilled there remain at least ten
that are denied. Further, desiring lasts a long time, demands and requests go on to infinity, fulfilment is short and meted out sparingly.

This is what makes Siegfried so different. Never looking towards tomorrow, his desires and satisfaction are always momentary. 'The Nibelungs are slaves to him,' Hagen tells Gunther, referring to the Volsung's possession of the ring. But Siegfried is indifferent to his potential lordship, neglecting to employ the ring's powers.

[PH] Berry identifies the power-lust for the Ring, the Curse Alberich put on it, with Schopenhauer's unassuageable will, a comparison I've been making in all my copyrighted work since at least the 1990's. Berry notes that Siegfried is free from this power-lust because he only lives in the present, but Berry never guesses that Siegfried's unconsciousness of self and freedom from fear aren't (as he suggests later) disadvantages, but are in fact the foundation of his status as Wotan's pre-fallen hero of redemption, for Wotan - God-the-Father - had to repress his intolerable self-knowledge by storing it in his unconscious repository for knowledge, Bruennhilde, during his confession to her, in order to give birth, figuratively, through his wish-womb Bruennhilde, to the artist-hero and savior Siegfried. Siegfried lives solely in the moment because Bruennhilde holds for him (as she says herself in S.3.3 and T.P.2), Wotan's hoard of knowledge (knowledge which we can deduce is of his corrupt past and the fearful future Erda predicted), and thereby protects Siegfried from suffering the curse of consciousness, the suffering, the fear of the end, which Wotan knows in contemplating the gods' inevitable twilight.

As Berry noted elsewhere in his book, Cosima recorded Wagner's observation that Siegfried lives entirely in the present, and as such is the finest gift (Berry wrote "giver") of the will. Berry failed to recall when citing this passage (though he did recall elsewhere in his book, without comparing these two passages to draw their inevitable conclusion) that Bruennhilde calls herself Wotan's Will, and therefore Wagner was telling Cosima that Siegfried is the finest gift of Bruennhilde, who figuratively gave birth to that other "self" whom Wotan wished for, but couldn't create. And of course secular art, which unlike religious faith stakes no claim to the power of truth (since a false claim to this power can be contradicted by science, as both Feuerbach and Wagner noted), need not fear contradiction of the false claims made by the religiously faithful, and in fact can only come into its full being with the end of that faith (thus Wotan passes his torch onto Siegfried, and no longer strives - directly - to interfere in the world's affairs), since it provides the only alternative when science holds sway. That is why, in a sense, Siegfried independence of the gods, and capacity to offer mankind redemption from Alberich's curse on the Ring, the curse of too great consciousness, depends upon their (religious faith's) destruction, in which religious feeling can live on in artistic expression, when religion as thought, as a belief, must end.

(44) [MB - P. 185] Alberich's fear that Siegfried will be immune to the curse is unfounded. Hagen's overriding desire for possession, which destroys the union of Siegfried and Bruennhilde and leads directly to the tragedy of Siegfried's death, will only be broken at the very end, when, in his moment of realisation, he shouts: 'Stay away from the ring!' - the final words of the cycle.

[PH] Berry states that Alberich's fear that Siegfried is somehow freed from Alberich's curse on his ring is wrong, because Siegfried succumbs to that curse, and Berry goes on to say that the curse is only broken - even for Hagen - when Hagen plunges into the Rhine warning everyone away from it. Though it is possible that Berry is correct, nonetheless I believe he has misconstrued Hagen's warning. I feel certain that Hagen chases after the Ring and warns everyone away from it so Hagen can retrieve it himself, staying true to himself to the end, since his father Alberich had warned Hagen in T.2.1 that if the Ring is ever returned to the Rhinedaughters no cunning will ever restore it to Alberich. Hagen's last moment, in fact, expresses his panic that the Rhinedaughters may thwart his ambition to regain the Ring to accomplish Alberich's ends.

(45) [MB - P. 186-187] The Romantic idea of immortality through love had been present in Wagner's work from his very first opera, "Die Feen," onwards. It colours "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tristan" most obviously, but plays a part in every subsequent drama. Love, as he read in Feuerbach, was the true hereafter. And to the Young German Wagner of "Das Liebesverbot" and "Tannhaeuser," it was clear that, Tannhaeuser's failure notwithstanding, love was not to be understood in courtly terms, but as something far more sensual. Yet the problems presented by the very idea of transcendence also looms large. As the 'true socialist' Rudolph Matthaei had written in "Rheinische Jaehrbucher: 'When the edifice of the old order crumbled into dust, the human heart and its hopes took refuge in the world beyond, to which it transferred its happiness and gratification. ... Can ... [man] once again greet the earth with rejoicing as the land of his hopes, his dreams, his happiness?'
The 'task of the modern era,' we learn at the beginning of the [Feuerbach's] "Principles of the Philosophy of the Future," was the realisation and humanisation of God,' a process whose religious form was embodied in Protestantism:

The God who is man, the human God, namely, Christ - only this is the God of Protestantism. Protestantism is no longer concerned, as Catholicism is,
about what God is in Himself, but about what He is for man; it has, therefore, no longer a speculative or contemplative tendency, as is the case in
Catholicism. It is no longer theology; it is essentially Christology, that is religious anthropology.'

[PH] Berry suggests that Feuerbach taught Wagner that love is the true hereafter (the only true immortality), but a sensual, mortal hereafter. He goes on to cite Schopenhauer's and Feuerbach's remarks that love of Jesus represents man's recognition that God is mortal man. For reasons that are somewhat unclear to me Berry seems to construe Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love solely at face value, as love between the sexes, and though Wagner obviously intended that we experience their love that way (in the theater), he also enriched their love with an immense allegorical apparatus suggesting that we are, at least subliminally, to construe that love between the sexes, the loving union of hero with heroine, as a metaphor for the unconscious inspiration of the artist-hero Siegfried by his muse, his unconscious mind and repository of Wotan's secret hoard of intolerable knowledge, Bruennhilde. Wagner developed this concept in the plot of "Tannhaeuser," in which Venus and Elizabeth stand to the artist-hero Tannhaeuser as unconscious muse of inspiration (Tannhaeuser forgets his experiences in Venusberg after each visit in which he has obtained his inspiration through Venus's love), and conscious ideal of inspiration, respectively. Wagner further developed this concept in "Lohengrin," in which Elsa plays the role of unconscious mind and potential repository of the forbidden knowledge of Lohengrin's identity and origin (this secret being Feuerbach's insight that what is called the Grail, the transcendent realm, is merely the earthly transformed by the imagination, as Wagner transforms the Ring into Valhalla, and thus smuggled, into the divine), as Wagner himself suggested in "A Communication to My Friends," an idea I presented in detail in my article "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," published by Stewart Spencer in the 5/95 issue of the scholarly journal of The Wagner Society (UK), WAGNER.

(46) [MB - P. 187-189] The motif associated with the cipher-like Freia ... only engages our sympathy for the plight of the goddess of love, only stands as but a weak counterpoise to the power games of Wotan and Fafner. It never suggests the reality, the humanity of love. Indeed, the motif was long associated with her flight from the giants until Deryck Cooke pointed to its true significance. Despite its derivation from the second part of Freia's motif, the solo 'cello song of human love, the love between a social and political outcast and a marital victim of Hunding's bourgeois brutality, thus comes to us as something new, extolling the vernal freshness of the Volsung's mutual love.
(...) Freia's representation as goddess of love, by contrast, is conceptual. Indeed, with the possible exception of Fasolt's tenderness towards Freia, any 'love' espied during the "Ring"'s preliminary evening is conceptual, akin to Wagner and Feuerbach's 'absolute' philosophy.
When Sieglinde escapes the drugged Hunding to bid Siegmund himself escape, he tells her: 'Your coming brings me salvation [Heil]!' Quite what that salvation might entail remains as yet unclear, but it indicates a religious conception of love. Might Wagner be succumbing, as Lukacs would reproach Hess for having done, 'to the very weakest, most idealistic aspect of Feuerbach's work'?

Signing off momentarily at 11:47am on 6/4/12.

Signing back on at 4:10pm on 6/4/12.

[PH] Berry says that the love represented by the goddess of Love (and Immortality), Freia, stands for a conceptual love from above, while the love of Siegmund and Sieglinde is a love which originates spontaneously from below, a new religion of love. According to Wagner's motival genealogy this can't be entirely accurate, since Cooke demonstrated (as Berry noted) that the second segment of Freia's Motif, Dunning's #25, is the basis for the Definitive Love Motif of the "Ring" via a series of transformations of #25 into #39, #40, and on into #64b. The reasoning behind this genealogy is surely identical to the reasoning according to which Wagner developed Siegmund's Motif, #62, from the embryonic form of Wotan's Spear Motif #21. The explanation, in my interpretation, is that since Wotan represents all men in time and space, throughout history (but with special emphasis on the mytho-religious period of human history, which constitutes the greatest bulk of human history), he subsumes not only the common men and craven men of the "Ring," but also the heroes and heroines, and the gods who are Feuerbachian projections of man's ideals onto beings of the imagination. Therefore Siegmund's derivation from Wotan is Wagner's metaphor for teachings handed down in each cultural tradition which express the notion that there is generally a place reserved in even the most traditional societies for liminal individuals who in some sense stand outside of their societies' general frame of reference, yet provide some sort of redemptive service which can only be provided from without. We find this of course in the reclusive shamans of many traditional hunting societies: the shamans justify their creativity, their comparative freedom, by attributing it to spirits who possess them. Witness Christ running off into the desert to keep his own counsel (but always in touch with his father, God). This is, I suppose, how the concept of individual conscience in conflict with society arose and came to be valued.

End of Part Three; Edited/Revised by Paul Heise on 6/21/12
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