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The Rhinegold: Page 225
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The Serpent or Dragon Motif introduced definitively here, #48, is within the family of motifs which includes Loge’s #35, the Tarnhelm #42, the Tarnhelm’s Transformations #43, perhaps the Wanderer Motif #112, and Hagen’s Potion #154. Since #48 is emblematic of that existential fear which is the price which comes with the gift of human consciousness (the Ring), and represents also the fear of truth, it is this fear of truth which Loge - in this case employing the Tarnhelm for a purpose antithetical to Alberich’s use of it - redeems the gods from, by employing Alberich’s own Tarnhelm to take Alberich prisoner, and thereby co-opt the power of his Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard, so that Alberich cannot restore his lost power and harm the gods. And of course it is religious faith’s (Wotan’s) fear of the truth, in the form of Fafner the Serpent, which will in future prohibit man access to the sources of Alberich’s power, by guarding the cave in which it is deposited, Envy-Cave (“Neidhoehle”).

But Alberich had not quite anticipated the wonders which man’s gift for self-deceit (another of the Ring’s powers) could perform. He had not foreseen that through the imagination (Tarnhelm), which is a product of man’s gift for abstraction, generalization, abbreviation, symbolism, and language in general, man can for the longest time delude himself, transforming illusion into truth, and consigning the objective truth to oblivion. For man comes to take his symbols for things, for the things themselves, and believes, wrongly, that the operations of his imagination upon these symbols which represent actual experience, are actual and real, when instead man in his imagination (under the sway of feeling) moves further and further away from the truth, the actual. And this is the wonder of which Loge speaks, that through the imagination man can will the miraculous, even if in reality the miraculous remains an impossibility. However, even if what the imagination at the behest of man’s feelings of fear and desire (Fafner and Fasolt) conceives, is unreal and impossible, nonetheless the feelings which gave birth to this false conception are very real indeed.

For the Tarnhelm, the imagination, serves not only Alberich’s objective scientific inquiry, i.e., to imagine forms or laws in nature as they are, objectively, but also to manipulate reality to create illusions under the sway of emotion. Thus Feuerbach noted that both abstraction (the Ring’s power) and the related imagination (the Tarnhelm) make man look beyond the sensual world of actuality for a non-sensual creator, i.e., a godhead autonomous from Mother Nature and her laws:

[P. 174] “ … it is the human faculty of [P. 175] abstraction and the related imagination (for it is only thanks to his imagination that man hypostatizes abstract, universal concepts and comes to conceive of them as entities, as Ideas) that lead him to look outside the sensuous world and to derive it from a non-sensuous, abstract being.” [258F-LER: p. 175]

Through the imagination (the Tarnhelm) man transforms objective natural phenomena into human forms who are believed to transcend nature, the gods, for, as Feuerbach says, faith, religious belief, is the product of imagination:

[P. 177] “But what is it that transforms a natural phenomenon into a human being? The imagination. (…)

[P. 178] Christians designate the theoretical religious faculty by the word faith or belief. (…) But on closer scrutiny the words mean nothing other than imagination.” [259F-LER: p. 177-178]

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