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Siegfried: Page 620
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These two trios of sisters are clearly contrasted with each other here. Furthermore, Bruennhilde, to whom Siegfried will give his Ring, will be for him a surrogate Rhine, a surrogate for the Rhinedaughters (preconscious instinct). Loge told Wotan on no less than five occasions during The Rhinegold that Wotan should restore Alberich’s Ring to them. In T.P.2 Siegfried will figuratively do what Loge warned Wotan he must do, when Siegfried gives Alberich’s Ring to Bruennhilde, telling her to keep the Ring’s power (including of course the ability of conscious thought to cause harm) safe. In so doing it will be as if Siegfried had restored the Ring to the Rhinedaughters so they could dissolve the Ring in the Rhine River, ending the curse, as indeed they do in the finale of Twilight of the Gods. In this way, Erda’s fearful knowledge can temporarily go back to sleep, and dream. At the end of this scene Wotan will in fact invite Erda to do this very thing.

Erda asks Wotan why he troubles her about knowledge when he could obtain it from her daughters the Norns, in whom it wakes as natural law, the very source of objective knowledge for science. But this objective knowledge of what he fears is not at all what Wotan seeks from Erda. Shortly after Wotan declared in R.4 that he would descend to her depths to learn from her the full meaning of the fear her prophecy had inspired in him, obviously in order to learn whether there could be any means of escape from the gods’ shameful fate she foretold, he quickly amended this intention after seeing the first fruits of Alberich’s curse on the Ring, Fafner’s murder of his brother Fasolt. This gave Wotan a shock: the implication was that in the natural course of things self-interest always trumps love and altruism. Wotan found this knowledge intolerable, especially its ultimate consequence, that the gods, representing mankind’s longing to transcend the laws of nature and the natural instinct of self-preservation in order to attain a higher, spiritual existence, were doomed to destruction by the truth. So, in response, Wotan then declared that he would go down to Erda to learn from her how to overcome his care, i.e., how to forget his fear, since he could not overcome its cause, the truth.

Wotan tells Erda that he refuses to seek knowledge from her daughters the Norns because they weave their rope of fate according to the world (which, we must remember, belongs to Alberich), and cannot alter the fate they spin (embodied here by #19, the Ring Motif, combined with a #3 or #53 variant which represents the Norns’ spinning), while Wotan requires knowledge of how to stop a rolling wheel (the wheel of fate, or natural law). Yet Wotan just finished telling Alberich that one can alter nothing, and that Wotan leaves Alberich heir to the world in which one can alter nothing, in which there is no spiritual transcendence of natural law nor any supernatural conquest of egoistic human instinct, and therefore no transcendent love, but only contingent love, love which can always be betrayed by circumstance. We will examine this seeming contradiction in greater detail shortly, but suffice it to say that Wotan’s present remarks to Erda are merely a rhetorical recitation of concerns which have actually long ceased to belabor Wotan, because he hopes to live on, freed from Alberich’s curse of consciousness, in the love Siegfried and Bruennhilde will share, i.e., he hopes that religious faith in the gods will live on transmuted into secular art secure from refutation by objective knowledge of the real world. In any case, Wotan contradicts his former proposition to Alberich in Erda’s presence, and seems now to be seeking a miracle, a “Wonder,” which can break the bonds of natural law, and conquer man’s subjection to the primal self-preservation instinct, the source of fear itself. Secular art lives only because religious faith is being replaced by the secular, scientific world-view, and because secular art makes no claim on the truth, does not, like religion, strive to alter the very nature of the objective world in order to make it correspond with what we feel it ought to be (though artistic creativity does bespeak some kind of ultimate dissatisfaction with

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