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Siegfried: Page 495
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Nature], and for the physical phenomena subsumed a super-physical, anthropomorphic, and arbitrary cause; when he took the endless harmony of her unconscious, instinctive energy [i.e., nature as known to us instinctively, through feeling, or love] for the arbitrary demeanour of disconnected finite forces [as science, i.e., Alberich does in striving to grasp nature objectively through concepts]. Knowledge consists in the laying of this error, in fathoming the Necessity of phenomena whose underlying basis had appeared to us Caprice. [Wagner is guilty of a contradiction here, because he is using the word “knowledge” in two distinct ways: (1) Aesthetic intuition of the world through feeling, or music, in which we feel ourselves one with the world, and (2) scientific understanding of the laws of nature, natural necessity in its objective sense, which makes of nature an object of knowledge, distinct from us, the subject, as per below:]

Through this knowledge does Nature [Erda] grow conscious of herself; and verily by Man himself [Alberich, and Wotan], who only through discriminating between himself and Nature has attained that point where he can apprehend her, by making her his ‘object.’ [This is represented by the objective knowledge Alberich and Wotan obtain from Erda.] But this distinction is merged once more when Man recognises the essence of Nature as his very own [Wotan knows Erda, Nature, sympathetically, feelingly, and musically, through their daughter Bruennhilde], and perceives the same Necessity in all the elements and lives around him, and therefore in his own existence no less [P. 71] than in Nature’s being; thus not only recognising the mutual bond of union between all natural phenomena, but also his own community with Nature.” [414W-{9-12/49} The Artwork of the Future: PW Vol. I, p. 70]

Wagner has spelled out in his somewhat muddled discussion above the distinction between the two kinds of knowledge Wotan obtains during his world-wanderings. On the one hand, Wotan obtains from Erda the objective knowledge of the world, the truth, which Alberich would force the gods to acknowledge, and which taught Wotan fear, and on the other hand Wotan seeks subjective, intuitive knowledge from Erda, of how he might consign this objective knowledge to the oblivion of unconsciousness, in order to forget the fear objective knowledge taught him. This aesthetic intuition Wotan obtains from their daughter Bruennhilde, in whom Wotan knows Erda sympathetically, rather than as a threat. This is the kind of redemptive knowledge Wotan speaks of in our passage from the Ring above, when he tells Mime he has obtained knowledge of how to save men from the “Noth” that gnaws at their hearts. It is precisely this knowledge of man’s means to redemption which least interests Mime.

In the next extract, Wagner clarifies that the natural, evolutionary path of science is from religion to nature, replacing spiritual explanations of the world with natural ones (keeping in mind that while Alberich affirms Erda’s objective knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, Wotan sins against Erda’s objective reality by co-opting Alberich’s Ring in order to preserve belief in the gods from the threat represented by objective truth):

“Whilst Man involuntarily moulds his Life according to the notions he has gathered from his arbitrary views of Nature, and embalms their intuitive expression in Religion: these notions become for him in Science the subject of conscious, intentional review and scrutiny. The path of Science lies from error to knowledge, from fancy {‘Vorstellung’) to reality, from Religion to Nature.” [417W-{9-12/49} The Artwork of the Future: PW Vol. I, p. 72]

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