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The Valkyrie: Page 318
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to Alberich’s plan, or manufacturing Wotan’s spear of divine authority, or dreaming Valhalla into existence, or, most importantly, re-forging Nothung for Siegfried, is, among the Ring’s protagonists, the truest embodiment of what Feuerbach describes above as that “will and consciousness” which produces “only mechanical things.” This explains why Siegfried, in S.1.1, will easily break every single sword which Mime makes for Siegfried. And as for Alberich’s quest to amass power through the acquisition of conscious knowledge (i.e., through his, and Light- Alberich’s – Wotan’s – accumulation of the Hoard), this reflects the natural necessity, the inevitability, of the evolution from unconscious feeling to conscious thought, which Wagner himself described (in a passage previously cited) as natural necessity.

 And last, to bring our argument back to Siegmund, the moral hero, again, we can explain his inheritance of Wotan’s sword, i.e., of Wotan’s grand idea for redemption from Alberich’s curse of consciousness, with the aid of Feuerbach’s following observation. Wagner saw moral nobility and authentic artistic inspiration as being most alike in this sense, that according to Wagner neither the truly noble human spirit, nor the authentically inspired artist, do what they do with any ulterior motive, with any view in mind except the joy and goodness of doing. According to both Feuerbach and Wagner, they “must” do it. Here’s what Feuerbach had to say:

“The works of the poet, of the philosopher, can be regarded in the light of merit only as considered externally . They are works of genius – inevitable products: the poet must bring forth poetry, the philosopher must philosophise. They have the highest satisfaction in the activity of creation, apart from any collateral or ulterior purpose. And it is just so with a truly noble moral action. To the man of noble feeling, the noble action is natural: … he must do it. (…) Meritoriousness always involves the notion that a thing is done, so to speak, out of luxury, not out of necessity.” [169F-EOC: p. 321]

And here Wagner expresses his complete concurrence with Feuerbach’s viewpoint, that the morally good, and the good in art, stem from the noble man’s and the artist’s innermost, authentic identity, his true nature, not from external concerns like profit or fear, but rather, from love in the sense which Feuerbach gave it in our extract 168F cited above:

[P. 66] “How is the man to proceed, who feels bound to appeal to this naïve receptivity [of the German public], when experience tells him that it is the very thing the majority of playwrights also count on and exploit in favour of the bad? (…) [Wagner adds that the artist who abjures the advice to exploit the lowest instincts of his potential audience,] … having neither an interest nor a pleasure in duping the public, would therefore probably do better – for so long as he is granted the leisure to belong entirely to himself – to leave the public altogether out of view; the less he thinks of this, and devotes himself entirely to his work, as from the depths of his own soul will there arise for him an Ideal Public … .

Thus is born … what alone we can [P. 67] term the Good in art. ‘Tis exactly like the Morally good, for this, as well, can spring from no intention, no concern.” [922W-{3-7/78} “Public and Popularity:” PW Vol. VI, p. 66-67]

Thanks to this brief consideration of the symbolism of Siegmund’s sword Nothung as the embodiment of Feuerbach’s natural necessity and Wotan’s grand idea for the restoration of lost innocence, we can now grasp Siegmund’s special function in the Ring as one of the two Waelsung heroes (his son Siegfried being the other) who wield Wotan’s sword. Siegmund represents Wotan’s

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