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The Rhinegold: Page 134
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Wotan: Well I remember what they demanded who built the stronghold for me there; [[ #21: ]] through a contract I tamed their forward breed (:#21), bidding them build the lordly hall. (#21:) It stands there – thanks to the giants (:#21) – as for the payment, give it no thought.

Cooke noted that The Valhalla Motif actually has five distinct segments, which we will designate #20abcde, but the fact that Alberich’s Ring of power effectively gives birth to Valhalla by transforming into #20’s first segment, #20a, has implications which will guide us throughout our analysis of the allegorical logic at work in the Ring plot.

The point of this musical genealogy is that, if we grant that Alberich’s forging of his Ring represents man’s acquisition (through evolution) of full symbolic consciousness, our study of human history shows us that the first form of human speculation on the origin, nature, meaning, and destiny of human life, was religious mythology: ergo, Alberich’s Ring, the symbol for the human mind, gives birth to the heavenly realm of the gods, Valhalla, which is to say, man’s imagination, his gift for abstract thought, for creating symbols for things which are not identical with the things they represent, and which automatically grow more autonomous from their original source of inspiration in man’s actual experience of the world, gives birth to man’s belief in religious mythology.

There is a vast body of speculation in Wagner’s writings, and in those of Feuerbach which influenced him, on the mechanism through which the human mind’s gift of abstraction and imagination gave birth to man’s earliest thoughts on his origin and nature in religious mythology, some of which we will examine here. The first question which arises is how it came about that newly evolved man came to posit a supernatural realm of being which transcended the natural limitations of physical existence. Feuerbach locates this propensity in the mind’s tendency to extrapolate from limited experience to posit limitless possibilities. In the following extract he describes how the natural tendency of the human mind to try to close gaps left by experience, to perfect what nature presents to us as imperfect, gave birth to the belief in a transcendent realm peopled by beings like ourselves but who are, however, distinct from mortal man in not being subject to our physical limitations:

[P. 262] “ … from man’s desire to know everything, from his infinite thirst for knowledge, which is not and cannot be satisfied here below, from man’s infinite striving for happiness, which no earthly possession or good fortune can satisfy, from his yearning for perfect morality, sullied by no sensuous drives, don’t Christians … infer the necessity and reality of an infinite life and existence for man, not limited to the time of a man’s life span or the space of this earth, unfettered by the body or by death? (…)

(…) But what does this infinity of the divine attributes reveal? Nothing but the infinity or unlimitedness of human desires, of the human imagination and faculty of abstraction, of man’s power or [P. 263] ability to abstract the universal from the individual and particular … .” [300F-LER: p. 262-263]

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