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Siegfried: Page 621
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things as they are). Secular art alters the real world only symbolically, and thus acknowledges its powerlessness. Its power is purely subjective, psychological, emotional.

Wotan’s request of Erda, that she tell him how he can alter his fate, alter reality, is therefore a rhetorical question, but it is a question which Wotan, religious man, once actually posed with conviction. Wagner described what religious man once sought in the following extract:

[P. 215] “If by a miracle we mean an incident that sets aside the laws of Nature; and if, after ripe deliberation, we recognise these laws as founded on our own power of perception, and bound inextricably with the functions of our brain [Wagner refers here to the Kantian, or Schopenhauerian, concept of apriori knowledge, that our minds automatically reconstruct the raw data of our experience of the objective world according to certain rules of thought, which allow us to navigate rationally within the real world, but which nonetheless are only imputed to the natural world for convenience’ sake]: then belief in miracles must be comprehensible to us as an almost necessary consequence of the reversal of the ‘will to live,’ in defiance of all Nature. To the natural man this reversal of the Will is certainly itself the greatest miracle, for it implies an abrogation of the laws of Nature; that which has effected it must consequently be far above Nature, and of superhuman power, since he finds that union with it is longed for as the only object worth endeavour. It is this Other that Jesus told his poor of, as the ‘Kingdom of [P. 216] God,’ in opposition to the ‘kingdom of the world.’ “ [1021W-{6-8/80} Religion and Art: PW Vol. VI, p. 215-216]

But Wotan has long ceased to hope for redemption from Alberich’s curse through supernatural means. Wotan, collective man, had posited the supernatural only to address needs and desires which are physical in origin, not supernatural. So, barring that, Wotan wishes at least to “feel” as if immutable natural law, and the invincible natural instinct of self-preservation, has been overcome. It is this second alternative, in which feeling substitutes for thought, which will produce inspired art as the “new religion,” secular man’s substitute for lost faith in the gods.

#19 is heard prominently as both Wotan and Erda speak of the Norns' spinning. The meaning is clear: the power Alberich obtains through his Ring (#19) is the power we gain through knowledge, Erda’s knowledge, of the objective world and its law, the objective world bound by time, space, and causality, which the Norns spin. When Wotan complains that the Norns can’t make or mend this fate we hear #37, often called the “Loveless Motif” because it is a segment of #18, the motif first associated with Woglinde’s statement that only he who renounces love can forge the Ring and obtain its power. The point is simply this: the power which man amasses through the advancement of scientific knowledge is amoral, and undermines man’s belief that human value and love is transcendent, declaring rather that it is a physical phenomenon which can be altered or even subverted by physical means. In fact, the more one can constrain subjectivism (including of course all passionate endorsement of the illusion of the supernatural), the profounder and more all-encompassing will be the knowledge and the power to be obtained from it. The world, understood objectively, in full waking (Norn) consciousness, is loveless. It is this unbearable truth which the Norns can’t alter or mend, but which Wotan desperately longs either to transcend supernaturally (by stopping the rolling wheel of natural necessity) or, if this is impossible, to forget in an aesthetic oblivion of inspired art.

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