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The Ring of the Nibelung
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But there was another difficulty. In order to propose the real existence of our paradise, even though we had invented it, we would have to be unconscious of having invented it. In a word, we could not sustain our self-delusion if we were conscious of lying to ourselves. This paradise, this “magic,” could only have been created involuntarily and unwittingly by our unconscious mind, where those dreams are born for whose creation our conscious mind cannot take credit. But there is yet another problem: since we are a product of Mother Nature, yet have unconsciously invented this transcendent paradise, a realm of supernatural gods, as a reaction against our mother’s bitter truths, this unbearable knowledge of the bitter truth (“Noth”) might one day (as if in vengeance) rise to consciousness in us and destroy our illusion (“Wahn”) - so necessary for our psychological and emotional well-being - that our paradise is autonomous and free from Mother Nature’s claims. We would then have to acknowledge that we had been deceiving ourselves and had invented the transcendent world as embodied by the concepts of god, redemption, immortality, and free will. What is more, we would have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that all that we longed for in paradise was merely the product of our natural, physical desires and fears, transformed by our imagination, our gift of thought, into something so sublime it seemed not of this world. We had, in other words, smuggled the mundane into the sublime, the real into the allegedly transcendent ideal.

Since it was inevitable that in the course of world history collective man would accumulate a hoard of objective knowledge of himself and his true place in nature which would eventually overthrow his illusory religious myths, this raised the question whether man’s evidently inherent need to posit his own transcendent value could somehow live on in the face of this advancement of scientific and practical knowledge. Since religious thought, unlike scientific thought, caters to man’s feelings, his fears and desires, but also stakes a claim to the truth, and the power of truth, which religious faith cannot sustain in the face of scientific fact, the possibility arose that man’s metaphysical longings could live on as pure feeling without staking a claim to the power of truth. Art, without attachment to religious ideology, does not – in this unlike religious belief - stake a claim to the truth. Religion stakes a claim to the truth which is indefensible, but the secular artist openly admits that his art is fiction, or is a game, a kind of play. And the art of music in particular has the advantage over the other arts in another respect, because, being non-conceptual, it plays no part in the mind’s debate over truth and falsehood, offering itself to us as feeling purified of thought. While science would inevitably replace religious belief in providing man with an explanation of his true origin and place in nature, secular art, and particularly the art of music, could satisfy man’s need for the oceanic feeling of oneness with the “All” which religious faith had once provided, without suffering from religious belief’s vulnerability to contradiction by the truth.

Would such a secular art, the consummation of feeling and love, be invulnerable to the curse of that paralyzing consciousness of the truth, which is the inevitable consequence of man’s quest for the power which only objective knowledge can bring? Or would scientific inquiry ultimately make even art its object of knowledge, and expose this seemingly spontaneous, autonomous, and allegedly non-rational and non-practical form of expression as nothing more than covert religious faith, a new religion? Must music, to which our faith in the supernatural had retreated when our gods could no longer sustain themselves as a concept in the face of our advancement in knowledge, ultimately reveal its hidden programme? If so, how will we live?

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