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The Valkyrie: Page 305
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compassion for others (according to Feuerbach), in the sense that these religious beliefs influenced man to establish moral values which survive the decline of those very religious beliefs which may have prompted their creation in the first place. Wotan’s secret intervention in his son Siegmund’s behalf represents religious man’s impulse to restore man’s allegedly pristine, pre-fallen innocence, and to redeem society from the corrupting influence of expedience and fear (the longing for quiet and security at all costs). Siegmund is heir to religious man’s (Wotan’s) longing for redemption from corrupt society – a society predicated on fear of the new, habit, possessions, property, etc. - through personal conscience, the basis for that sympathy for other individual mens’ plight which is the essence of moral heroism. This religious influence, the value placed on actions done for the sheer beauty of them, without thought of material profit to the doer, is also a factor in the lives of creative individuals, especially in the arts. In both instances, i.e., the moral hero (say, Siegmund), and the artist-hero (Siegmund’s son Siegfried), the immediate source of inspiration is felt, not conceptually conscious, is in other words seemingly spontaneous and instinctive rather than an obvious product of calculated egoistic advantage.

Feuerbach, though so often emphasizing egoism as the fundamental motive behind all human behavior, including man’s invention of the gods, nonetheless proclaimed the morality of self-sacrifice to be not only the essence of Christianity (once one purifies Christianity of its egoistic obsession with man’s transcendent value and the longing for immortality), but as man’s spontaneous instinct, which represents what is truest and best in Christian faith:

“… out of the heart, … the inward impulse to do good, to live and die for man, … out of the human nature, therefore, as it reveals itself through the heart, has sprung what is best, what is true in Christianity – its essence purified from theological dogmas and contradictions. [64F-EOC: p. 60]

And Wagner’s explanation of “purely human” sentiment and its distinction from the morality of the general public (“Public Opinion”) in our extract below echoes Feuerbach’s formulation:

“[Wagner stated that Creon, King of Thebes in Sophocles’s Oedipus the King, grasped] … the essence of Public Opinion; seeing its kernel to be nothing but Wont, Care, and dislike of Innovation. The ethical view (sittliche Anschauung) of the nature of Society … lost its power in exact degree as the Purely-human, which inspired it, came into conflict with the strongest social interest, that of absolute Wont, i.e. of joint self-seeking [as embodied, for instance, in social contract Wotan engraved on his Spear of divine authority]. Wherever this ethical conscience fell into conflict with the practice of society, it severed from the latter and established itself apart, as Religion; whereas practical society shaped itself into the State.” [504W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 186]

According to both Feuerbach’s and Wagner’s viewpoints expressed in these extracts, love is an expression of natural necessity, an animal instinct which is the basis for the mutual affection of lovers, family, friends. But Feuerbach has also declared that when put to the test by overwhelming physical need or duress, all such other-directed sentiments fall by the wayside as the all-powerful selfish ego takes over. This is of course the whole point of Alberich’s assertion in R.3 that in the long run, by virtue of his gradual accumulation of his hoard (of objective knowledge), all men will renounce love for power’s sake as he has, which is to say, all men will acknowledge that their own self-interest is ultimately more important to them than love of others. This is in fact the basis of one

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