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The Rhinegold: Page 184
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which in this case is in the service of religious belief. The essence of religious illusions is that man, to believe in them, must believe that they are not illusions, but truth. And this is only possible if religious man consigns the actual truth, i.e., any truth which would undermine his belief that his consoling illusions are in fact the truth, to oblivion, or to the status of an illusion. What Loge does to lure the Giants into building Valhalla, is that he convinces them (the lower instincts) that Freia, who represents the illusory religious promise of transcendent love and immortality, will satisfy them even more completely than reality ever could. But within the real world, though not within the supernatural world we imagine, love is always contingent, not transcendent, and human life is limited by mortality. So religion’s offer of transcendent love and immortality to assuage our basic animal instincts infinitely seems even more substantial, more real, than what can be obtained on earth within natural limits.

But religious man cannot afford to admit that the redemption man seeks in paradise actually satisfies man’s earthly needs, since this would suggest that it was our earthly needs which gave birth, through man’s heightened imaginative powers, to the belief we can find redemption from all that troubles us on earth, in paradise. Thus, Wotan has to lure the Giants into creating Valhalla, the heavenly paradise, on the promise of a satisfaction even greater than real life can offer, embodied in the goddess Freia. But Wotan at the same time must deny the Giants’ rightful claim to Freia, by buying them off. Were the Giants to openly stake their claim to Freia, were Fafner, for instance, to actually fulfill his threat to deprive the gods of Freia and her golden apples of sorrowless youth eternal, Freia would herself be exposed as nothing more than the product of loathsome egoism (a natural object of longing for the Giants), deluded by the artistic imagination (Loge) into believing in the possibility of infinite satisfaction. Therefore the Giants can only obtain satisfaction from the illusion Freia represents, if they stake their claim to her subliminally. Thus Wotan offers them the true source of power, the Rhinegold (i.e., Alberich’s Ring), in order that they will renounce their open claim to Freia, so that the true link between them (our selfish animal impulses) and Freia (the false religious promise of transcendent value and immortal life) can be denied. Wotan is striving to insure that the real can’t stake a claim in the transcendent ideal.

These subtle machinations are the foundation of religious man’s (or, more specifically, Christian man’s) hypocrisy. Feuerbach notes that the Christian is bound to deny nature (Wotan denies the Giants their due for building Valhalla), yet satisfy nature secretly (he persuades them to accept the Rhinegold in lieu of Freia). [See 165F] Here again, we find the basis of religious morality is the renunciation of the ego here on earth for its fuller satisfaction in heaven:

“Why does man deny himself in religion? In order to gain the favor of his gods who grant him everything he desires. (…) Thus man does not practice self-abnegation for its own sake … . Self-abnegation is only a form, a means, of self-affirmation, of self-love.” [206F-LER: p. 67]

“It is not to be denied that the assurance of eternal salvation, the forgiveness of sins, the sense of favour and release from all punishment, inclines man to do good. … he becomes indifferent to the good things of this world; no envy, no avarice, no ambition, no sensual desire, can enslave him … . But in him good works do not proceed from essentially virtuous dispositions. (…) No! he does good not for the sake of goodness itself, not for the sake of man, but for the sake of God; - out of gratitude to God, who has done all for him … . The idea of virtue is here the idea of compensatory sacrifice.” [137F-EOC: p. 262]

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