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Siegfried: Page 543
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would overthrow the gods and thereby (even if this were not Alberich’s intent) grant man free access to the truth, come what may. Thus Feuerbach tells us (in a passage previously cited) that:

“It is not to Christian faith, not to Christian love (i.e., love limited by faith); no! it is to doubt of Christian faith, to the victory of religious scepticism, to free-thinkers, to heretics, that we owe tolerance, freedom of opinion. It was the heretics, persecuted by the Christian Church, who alone fought for freedom of conscience.” [171F-EOC: p. 323]

Of course, Alberich’s motive is not in any sense humane or tolerant, but tolerance for other viewpoints than those of religious faith, and freedom of conscience and thought, are the practical result of Alberich’s recognition that the only key to worldly power is possession of the objective truth. The reason for this is that all religious traditions that posit the supernatural (and all religions, by definition, do) are equally false. Furthermore, any received wisdom, tradition, behavioral norm, custom, or faith, which is predicated on anything other than honor towards the truth is by definition unfree and vulnerable to the truth.

But Wotan surprises Alberich by declaring that he doesn’t have competition for the Ring’s power (i.e., to determine what truth is) in mind at all, but rather, Wotan has merely come to Envy-Cave to observe, not to act. We can’t help being reminded of the analogous situation in Act Three of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, when Hans Sachs makes his dubious promise to Beckmesser that Sachs has no intention of singing in the song-contest, no intention of seeking Eva’s hand in marriage, when in point of fact Sachs is preparing his proxy hero, the music-dramatist Walther von Stolzing (analogous to Wotan’s chosen hero Siegfried) to win the song contest and with it, Eva’s (i.e. the muse Bruennhilde’s) hand. This is one of the most important passages in the Ring, for in saying this Wotan is asserting that he is willing to pass the torch from religious belief - which made practical, active promises to man which were supposed to be fulfilled in reality, and staked an indefensible claim to truth - to art, in which man takes aesthetic possession of the terrible world without actively striving to alter it, without staking a claim on reality or the power of truth. Art’s victory over the world is psychological, subjective and emotional, not objective and actual, causing a change only in the individual’s perception, not in the natural world which exists outside of pure subjectivity (and this includes man’s own, egoistic nature, insofar as he is a product of nature):

“Our morning conversation turns to perception and its freedom from sin; yesterday R. … [said] that the best thing one could do was to occupy oneself with art, but not in the service of any great power; he comes back to this and says that art is the transfiguration of perception, just as religion is the transfiguration of the Will [i.e., of the Schopenhauerian “Will,” which is man’s inherent egoism].” [1060W-{1/30/81} CD Vol. II, p. 610]

We observe a work of art, and contemplate it, but do not act. Christian faith, like many other religious traditions, unlike art, promises that the real world’s laws can be altered by the supernatural through miracles, which includes Christianity’s promise that through Christ selfish man can be reborn a selfless, spiritual being redeemed from his physical limitations.

In admitting that he has resigned himself to pure subjectivism, and will no longer attempt to interfere with the ways of the real world, Wotan is also admitting that Alberich owns the real world, and Wotan, the representative of man’s religious impulse, has given up any hope of fighting

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