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The Ring of the Nibelung
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after the first provocative chapter on The Rhinegold, and occasional world-class insights in subsequent chapters, becomes ever more arbitrary and divorced from the actual dynamics of the plot, as he tries to force Jungian categories on everything in the Ring, until by the end of his book this has reached the point of absurdity. Donington’s fatal mistake, it seems to me, was his failure to grasp that the Ring is an allegory of human history. Donington instead construed the Ring as an allegory of the maturation of the “self” from a psychological standpoint only. This gave him entre into some of the Ring’s secrets - such as the fact that Wotan, as a symbol for humanity itself, the “self” which is maturing in the course of the drama [Donington, P. 67], subsumes all the other protagonists of the Ring - but blinded him to many others.

However, since Donington provided me the initial spark of inspiration for my own lifetime of labor to grasp Wagner’s Ring and his other artworks, I must pay tribute to him here at the outset. First, he gave me the idea for the title of my book, The Wound That Will Never Heal. Donington’s seminal idea, that so influenced my own work, was that the Nibelung dwarf Alberich must become creative in order to compensate himself for his inherent incapacity to find normal contentment, what Donington calls “the wound in the psyche,” the price man pays for his acquisition of the gift of consciousness (Alberich’s forging of his Ring). [Donington: P. 82] This was the seed which gave birth to my central idea, that Alberich’s curse on his Ring represents the price we humans pay for our gift of reflective consciousness, that we are inherently incapable of accepting the world as it is, which inspires us to compensate ourselves for its deficiencies psychologically through religious faith and art, and practically through science, technology, and politics.

A brief reckoning of some of Donington’s other contributions will illustrate my debt to him. I have mentioned Donington’s crucial insight that Wotan, a symbol for man himself, subsumes all the other characters in the Ring. This led Donington to suggest that Bruennhilde represents specifically Wotan’s unconscious desire [Donington: P. 164], that Mime represents Siegfried’s fear [Donington, P. 176-177], that Wotan’s contest of knowledge with Mime can only be understood if we recognize them as the same character [Donington: P. 180], and that Dark-Alberich is Wotan’s (Light-Alberich’s) Jungian shadow [Donington: P. 63]. Each of these enlightening ideas have been my springboards to further discoveries along these lines. Especially helpful with respect to my endeavor to grasp Wotan’s character and fate was Donington’s remark that our “fate” is actually one with our true character, [Donington: P. 235] a sentiment I subsequently discovered was expressed by Wagner’s mentor Ludwig Feuerbach.

On the subject of religion and art as an evasion of truth, Donington provided four insights which have been very helpful to me in my quest to plumb the depths of the Ring. He noted, for instance, that a great artist half reveals and half conceals the truth, concealing it because the full light of the truth would be insupportable. [Donington: P. 15] Yet he went on to say that if illusion is the disease, the truth, no matter how bitter, heals. [Donington: P. 262] These insights were immensely helpful to me in my effort to understand Wotan, though Donington did not specifically apply them to Wotan. Equally helpful were his observations that both religion and art reflect man’s infantilism, his longing to return to the womb, and that art allows man to play with reality and enjoy its benefits symbolically without suffering the consequences which would follow if man engaged in actual life [Donington: P. 247]. These astute observations were helpful when I began to see Siegfried as an artist-hero in whom Wotan, representing man’s religious impulse, sought redemption from truth.

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