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The Valkyrie: Page 343
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What Schopenhauer is describing here is a process of repression of thought, of unbearable knowledge, into the unconscious, a repository where it can be securely stored without troubling the conscious mind, and its sublimation into other thoughts, influenced by feeling, which can safely reach consciousness. This seems to be precisely what Wotan is doing in making his confession to Bruennhilde, whom he describes as a part of his own self, effectively his own unconscious mind. Presumably the knowledge he imparts to her, which he tells no one in words, leaving it forever unspoken, remains unconscious for him, since he imparts it only to his unconscious mind. We can’t help being reminded of Wagner’s first metaphor for Wotan’s unconscious inspiration, by virtue of which Wotan’s (i.e., Light-Alberich’s) unremembered nightmare, Alberich’s forging of the Ring (the human mind), gave birth to Valhalla (#20a) and its gods, who slept and then dreamt Valhalla into existence, a mere waking allegory whose original source, Alberich’s Ring, remains repressed. The whole point of The Rhinegold is that it dramatizes how the gods (man’s religious belief) could be established in a safe refuge without having to acknowledge their debt to their creator, Erda (Mother Nature), the Giants (man’s instincts of self-preservation and sexual desire), or Alberich (who forged the Ring of human consciousness which made man’s invention of the gods possible).

Wotan, as not only a figure for “Godhead,” but also as a metaphor for Feuerbach’s interpretation of godhead as the collective human spirit of historical man, has a higher, more all-embracing consciousness than is given to any one man, and to this degree represents a higher man who can see, and feel, what other men can’t see or feel. He’s had a revelation of the full tragic significance of existence, which he describes here as “Goetternoth,” or Gods’ need, Gods’ anguish.

In the two following extracts Wagner provides descriptions of what we might call the universal, tragic consciousness of the human species as such, represented in the Ring by Wotan, and in Wagner’s much earlier romantic opera The Flying Dutchman by the Dutchman himself. The Dutchman’s “unmeasured sorrows of the damned” are comparable to Wotan’s existential suffering from fear of Alberich’s curse on the Ring, Wotan’s unhealing wound, and in both instances the hero looks for redemption from this suffering to the woman, Senta in the Dutchman’s case, and Bruennhilde in Wotan’s:

“What draws him [the Dutchman] with such might – it is a woman’s look, which, full of sad sublimity and godlike fellow-feeling, thrusts through to him! A heart has opened its unending depths to the unmeasured sorrows of the damned: for him must it make offering, to end alike his sorrows and its life.” [600W-{5/53} Explanatory Program: The Flying Hollander Overture: PW Vol. III, p. 229]

And Wotan’s similar state of existential paralysis is well described by Wagner in our extract below, which describes the universal, tragic consciousness of the higher man:

“Now the great, the truly noble spirit is distinguished from the common organisation of everyday by this; to it every, often the seemingly most trivial, incident of life and world-intercourse is capable of swiftly displaying its widest correlation with the essential root-phenomena of all existence, thus of showing Life and the World themselves in their true, their terribly earnest meaning. The naïve, ordinary man – accustomed merely to seize the outmost side of such events, the side of practical service for the moment’s need – when once this awful earnestness suddenly reveals itself to him through an unaccustomed juncture, falls into such consternation that self-

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