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The Valkyrie: Page 435
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her, and join him in sexual union, is Wagner’s metaphor for the fact that his secular art, unlike the religious longing for transcendence from which it sprang, does not renounce the real world and the body for the sake of immortality, but replaces that belief in actual transcendence with merely the feeling of transcendence, produced through means acknowledged to be natural and palpable. The artist’s muse must join him in sexual union to inspire him, just as the secular artist embraces the earth, Erda, rather than renouncing her.

In the spirit of Feuerbach, Wagner captured the contradiction at the root of religious man’s propensity to deny bodily impulse, and sex, for the sake of an allegedly sexless life in heaven, in the following critique of Christianity’s emphasis on the importance of chastity in renouncing the things of this world, in order to make oneself worthy of entry into the realm of spirit:

“… we decide that the excesses to which the insistence on chastity led constituted a terrible feature; they were due to the impossibility of realizing something felt to lie deep within the human character, the desire to set oneself outside nature and yet to go on living.” [948W-{11/3/78}CD Vol. II, p. 188]

This is an example of what Feuerbach criticized as “smuggling,” the fact that religious man smuggles into heaven the very earthly things which he allegedly must renounce in order to be worthy of admission there. I can’t resist mentioning that if one examines closely V.2.4, when Bruennhilde advertises the blessings of Valhalla to Siegmund, as she describes the Valkyries who will greet him there as wish-maidens, we hear several repetitions of #24, the first of Freia’s two motifs which express her status as goddess of transcendent love, a motif often associated specifically with sensual love. Clearly Wagner is implying that the Valkyries’ alleged status as virgin muses of inspiration is bogus, that in fact the bliss Freia offers man in Valhalla is not a divine sentiment but rather an earthly feeling which has been smuggled into heaven.

By sacrificing his once chaste, celibate Valkyrie daughter Bruennhilde to become spouse to the artist-hero, and taking from Bruennhilde her divinity so that as a mortal woman she can love Siegfried completely, Wotan imparts his divinity as feeling, not as belief or dogma, to his artist-hero Siegfried, whose conscious mind will be freed from religion’s conceptual contradictions.

But it is not merely that Wotan will deprive Bruennhilde of her divinity so that the artist-hero who wins her can take away the chastity that naturally follows from belief in divinity. When Bruennhilde asks Wotan if he will take away from her all he gave her, and he responds that the hero who wakes and wins her will take it, he is also speaking specifically of his unspoken secret which she, his unconscious mind, guards, the hoard of forbidden knowledge he confessed to her, knowledge he obtained from her mother Erda. Siegfried, upon waking Bruennhilde, will not only inherit the essence of religious faith, its feeling of transcendent bliss, but also the hoard of fatal knowledge which the faithful have had to suppress in order to believe in the gods. And as an inspired artist he will take aesthetic, not objective, possession of this knowledge, thus redeeming it from its terrors.

Two new motifs are introduced here. #94 is associated with Wotan’s intent to punish Bruennhilde for her disobedience, for giving aid to Wotan’s mortal hero Siegmund, by putting her to sleep, shelterless, on this mountaintop, vulnerable to being won by any man who chances upon her and

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