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The Rhinegold: Page 137
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the Ring Motif #19 (the Ring which only Alberich is willing to pay the price to forge) into the first segment of the Valhalla Motif, #20a.

And of course, man’s unique gift of abstract, symbolic thought, the capacity to abbreviate experience with symbols which is the basis for learning, gave man a power over his environment and other life forms which was unique, so that we can well say, as Feuerbach did (emulating Bacon) that knowledge is power:

“In divine omnipotence, man merely fulfills his desire to be able to do everything, a desire that is related to, or a consequence of, the desire to know everything; for, as Bacon said, knowledge is power … .[308F-LER: p. 274]

Thus the Rhinedaughters told Alberich that if he can forge a Ring from the Rhinegold he will control the world. And, as Feuerbach said, this capacity of the human mind to acquire power through the acquisition of knowledge is God’s [i.e., Wotan’s] first predicate:

[P. 104] “Power is the first predicate of the Godhead or rather, it is the first god. (…) [P. 105] The theists themselves expressly distinguish God’s power from His will and reason. But what is this power distinguished from will and reason if not the power of nature?” [220F-LER: p. 104-105]

Again, we see how, and why, Alberich’s Ring (#19) gives birth to the realm of the gods, Valhalla (#20a). The essential point here is that the mundane, the concrete, the physical, nature’s objective actuality, gives birth to man, who in turn – thanks to his imagination, itself a product of evolution – invents the supernatural.

Wagner, thanks to Feuerbach’s critique of religion, was very clear-sighted on the subject of man’s evolution from animal forebears at the very time he was writing the libretto for his Ring, the late 1840’s, quite a number of years before he first read Darwin. In our extract below (again, first brought to my attention by Cooke) Wagner provides a Feuerbachian disquisition on the evolution of human consciousness from animal forebears, and how man’s first form of thought, the error in religious mythology, grew out of his newfound gift of abstract, symbolic thought:

“From the moment when Man perceived the difference between himself and Nature, and thus commenced his own development as man, by breaking loose from the unconsciousness of natural animal life and passing over into conscious life, -- when he thus looked Nature in the face and from the first feelings of his dependence on her, thereby aroused, evolved the faculty of Thought, --- from that moment did Error begin, as the earliest utterance of consciousness. But Error is the mother of Knowledge; and the history of the birth of Knowledge out of Error is the history of the human race, from the myths of primal ages down to the present day. Man erred, from the time when he set the cause of Nature’s workings outside the bounds of Nature’s self, and for the physical phenomena subsumed a super-physical, anthropomorphic, and arbitrary cause … . Knowledge consists in the laying of this error, in fathoming the Necessity of phenomena whose underlying basis had appeared to us Caprice. Through this knowledge does Nature grow conscious of herself; and … by Man himself, who only through discriminating between himself and Nature has attained that point where he can apprehend her, by making her his ‘object.’ But this distinction is merged once more, when Man

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