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The Valkyrie: Page 334
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[Footnote:] The phrase, ‘to overcome oneself,’ ‘to transcend oneself,’ finds its explanation in other idioms, such as ‘to outdo oneself.’ Can an individual really outdo himself? Isn’t that which enables me to outdo myself simply my own individual energy and predisposition, which has been released and developed on this particular occasion? But most people mistake phrases for reality.” [348F-LER: p. 348]

In other words, there is no free will, whether fear of God is the motive for action, or spontaneous expression of instinct or character or soul is. The real question is whether the ultimate ground of man’s impulses and/or conscious motives is divine or natural, and if natural, whether the cause is inherent nature, or nurture, or both.

A new and extremely important motif, #81, often called the “Motif of Wotan’s Frustration,” is introduced here in association with Fricka’s critique of mortal man’s freedom of will, and is heard repeatedly as her accusation that Wotan alone is behind all of Siegmund’s allegedly free and heroic acts, starts to have its depressing effect upon Wotan’s morale. Wotan slowly acknowledges the truth that his moral/social conscience, Fricka, has proclaimed, that Siegmund’s love and heroism, his ideal qualities, are all due to Wotan’s influence, since Wotan brought him up to exercise his individual judgment and conscience, and constantly interfered to insure that Siegmund would learn this lesson properly. Siegmund’s upbringing by Wotan is a metaphor for Feuerbach’s suggestion, which Wagner paraphrased, that man’s former religious beliefs left man a legacy of heroic, altruistic morality when man’s belief in gods started to decline. [See 64F] Even secular societies, even allegedly atheist societies (such as the Communists of Russia and China) represent themselves as humanitarian, not merely utilitarian, or worse, tyrannical.

Wagner echoed Feuerbach in his following observation, previously cited:

“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. 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]

#81, significantly enough, is according to Deryck Cooke derived, through a process of transformation, from the Spear Motif #21 Embryo, that spear whose laws Wotan desires that his Waelsung heroes will break in order to redeem the gods from Alberich’s threat. All future recurrences of #81 will bring to mind, at least subliminally, both Wotan’s need for a free hero and his recognition of the futility of seeking such a hero, because Wotan acknowledges that all such heroes are merely products of Wotan’s loathsome egoism, and therefore inspired by it rather than by spontaneous, free inclination. The #21 Embryo is of course also, ironically, the basis of Siegmund’s personal motif #62. This is of course a motival expression of Wotan’s new conviction that in Siegmund he has not found a hero truly free of Wotan’s own craven, corrosive influence. Siegmund will die at the hands of that spear of authority wielded by Wotan which Wotan brought Siegmund up to break. And, in a sense, Siegmund’s son Siegfried will die from this cause also.

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