A+ a-
Wagnerheim Logo
Wagnerheim Bookmark System
The Valkyrie: Page 345
Go back a page
345
Go forward a page

redemption, after Man-Hood’s egoism [i.e., conscious, intentional thought], even in its noblest form, had shivered into self-crushed dust before her [Wotan unloads the burden of his conscious thought by confessing it to Bruennhilde]. Elsa, the Woman, … - that most positive expression of the purest instinct of the senses, -- made me a Revolutionary at one blow. She was the Spirit of the [P. 348] Folk, for whose redeeming hand I too, as artist-man, was longing. –  But this treasure trove [Hoard? i.e., ‘Hort’?] of Knowledge lay hid, at first, within the silence of my lonely heart: only slowly did it ripen into loud avowal!” [573W-{6-8/51} A Communication To My Friends: PW Vol. I, p. 346-348]

Wagner has clearly described Elsa not only as Lohengrin’s unconscious mind, but has also suggested in the passage above that had Lohengrin shared the unspoken secret of his “Noth,” his true identity and origin with her, she would have become the agent of universal redemption. Considering that I have described Wotan not only as Godhead but as a metaphor for Feuerbach’s notion of God as collective, historical man, i.e., the Folk who involuntarily and unconsciously invented the gods, it is also significant that Wagner describes Elsa (and embryonic Bruennhilde) as the “Spirit of the Folk.” Bruennhilde is, in other words, not just a single man’s unconscious mind, but the collective unconscious of mankind (Wotan). What is more, the fact that Alberich’s forging of his Ring (#19) is the unconscious source of inspiration for Wotan’s waking dream Valhalla, and that Bruennhilde is established during his confession as his unconscious mind, surely suggests that Bruennhilde (like her mother Erda) will have a special role to play in redeeming Wotan from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, not in the sense of saving the gods from their fated demise, but rather, in redeeming them (that is to say, redeeming the men who believe in the gods) from the sufferings (“Noth”) of consciousness. Wotan’s Bruennhilde becomes a refuge from dread and dismay, much like Valhalla did.

Wagner fully establishes this conceptual link between the plots of Lohengrin and the Ring in his following decisive comparison between the two works, in which he makes it clear that the Ring, in which Wotan acquiesced in Bruennhilde’s request that he share his unspoken secret, the “Noth” which ails him, with her, resolves the difficulty presented in Lohengrin by Lohengrin’s refusal to share the secret of his true identity and origin with her. Wotan, thanks to his acquiescence in Bruennhilde’s request, in other words, obtains through Bruennhilde redemption from the dangers of consciousness, which Lohengrin does not:

“ … I remain convinced that my Lohengrin … symbolizes the most profoundly tragic situation of the present day, namely man’s desire to descend from the most intellectual heights [Wotan’s repression of his hoard of unbearable knowledge] to the depths of love [into his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde], the longing to be understood instinctively [to let feeling, music, replace thought], a longing which modern reality cannot yet satisfy.”

(…) This is where my art must come to the rescue: and the work of art that I had no choice but to conceive in this sense is none other than my Nibelung poem.” [612W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 306] [See also 686W]

One can’t help speculating that Wagner’s characterization of both Elsa and Bruennhilde as Lohengrin’s and Wotan’s unconscious minds, respectively, may owe something to Feuerbach’s following remark about religious man’s tendency to retreat from the bitterness of objective

Go back a page
345
Go forward a page
© 2011 Paul Heise. All rights reserved. Website by Mindvision.