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The Rhinegold: Page 221
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but what if a thief crept upon you, asleep, and slyly snatched it away – how would you ward yourself then in your wisdom (:#19 varis; #42 varis)? (#35?)

As Loge celebrates the invincibility of Alberich’s power we hear a new motif combination of #20b (the second segment of the Valhalla Motif) and #33b (one of Loge’s motifs), a compound motif generally known as the “Arrogance of Power.” [Dunning did not list this motif among his 178, but we will, without however giving it a special number for identification, until a definitive list of motifs, properly numbered, has been chosen.] At its inception here Loge is effectively suggesting that through the Ring’s power Alberich will eventually take possession of and rule the entire solar system (read cosmos), which on the face of it is not so surprising in view of mankind’s scientific and technological advancements since Wagner’s time, which include space travel, the potential for colonization and exploitation of other planets and other heavenly bodies, and scientific knowledge which now reaches the outermost limits of the cosmos. Of course Loge’s hyperbolic flattery is motivated only by his wish to lure Alberich into lowering his guard so the gods can co-opt his Ring power and prevent him from exercising it to overthrow them. But, taking Loge again at his word, the interesting point here is that the scientific mind’s ambition knows no limits, just as the power of the “God” of monotheism (which is the real subject of Wagner’s critique of Wotan, in spite of the fact that he is presented in the Ring as merely the ruler of a polytheistic heaven and earth) knows no limits. Both science and religion are in this sense the same, that they ultimately embrace the entire cosmos, though obviously, as Feuerbach put it, the scientist, who acknowledges his own finitude, looks upon his scientific activity as an imperfect and endless process which always strives for perfection and completion, whereas the God of our imagination is perfect and whole by definition, and his mind embraces all things at once:

[P. 15] “The difference between God’s knowledge or thought, which as an archetype precedes the objects and creates them, and man’s knowledge, which follows the objects as their copy, is nothing but the difference between apriori, or speculative, knowledge and a posteriori, or empirical, knowledge. (…)

[P. 16] But this divine knowledge, which is only an imaginary conception and a fantasy in theology, became rational and real knowledge in the knowledge of the natural sciences gained through the telescope and microscope.” [176F-PPF: p. 15-16]

However, Loge notes that Alberich’s quest for power, having left so many of his fellow Nibelungs disadvantaged and oppressed, leaves him vulnerable to theft during sleep. Perhaps the Nibelungs’ oppression stems more from the objective, ugly view of their own nature which Alberich compels them to acknowledge, than from any literal physical suffering he causes, a view which Wotan, with the help of Loge’s artistic cunning, could amend if man granted religion power over his mind, and abhorred objective reason.

As so often in Wagner, this passage has both a conventional meaning and an allegorical import of far greater scope. For we must remember always not only that Wotan is Light-Alberich, i.e., in some sense identical with Alberich, but that, while Wotan and the other gods slept, Alberich’s Ring (#19) gave birth musically to the gods’ abode Valhalla (#20a). And the point of interest here is that Wotan dreamed Valhalla into existence while the Giants (man’s instinctive drives), newly empowered by Alberich’s forging of his Ring (the birth of human consciousness), actually built

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