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Siegfried: Page 727
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sexual union with her. But Wotan, as he himself suggested, also went down to Erda for another reason, to overcome his care and fear. Wotan satisfied these two wishes through Erda, and the product was Bruennhilde, who, like Erda, teaches the hero subliminally the true meaning of his existential fear, and also how to end his fear, in this latter case through inspired art. I quoted earlier a passage from Wagner’s Opera and Drama in which Wagner said that in music man unconsciously refers nature (i.e., Erda, who teaches man fear) to himself so that he can see in nature a sympathetic being (Bruennhilde, through whose love Siegfried can forget the fear which Bruennhilde taught him).

The extracts which follow provide further evidence for our reading of Bruennhilde as a metaphor for the unconscious and its language, music, through whom Siegfried is freed from conscious knowledge of man’s terrible history and nature, and the fear it engenders, and enjoys the ecstasy of unconscious artistic inspiration, which is the entire subject of S.3.3:

“Judged by the standards of a wise man, I must straightway seem criminal, simply because I know so much and so many things … . But this, in turn, gives me my characteristic ability to leap over abysses which the wisest of men are not even aware of. That is why I am a poet, and – what’s worse – a musician. Just consider my music, with its delicate, oh so delicate, mysteriously flowing humours penetrating the most subtle pores of feeling to reach the very marrow of life, where it overwhelms everything that looks like sagacity [Erda’s wisdom wanes before Wotan’s will, Bruennhilde] and the self-interested powers of self-preservation [existential fear], sweeping away all that belongs to the delusive madness of personality [Siegfried and Bruennhilde, merged, lose their separate identities in their ecstatic embrace, and Bruennhilde is, after all, Siegfried’s unconscious mind] and leaving only that wondrously sublime sigh with which we confess to our sense of powerlessness [Siegfried and Bruennhilde have to give up Alberich’s and Wotan’s claim to the Ring’s power to enjoy this bliss of aesthetic intuition, Wagnerian redemption by love.]: how shall I be a wise man when it is only in such a state of raving madness that I am totally at home?” [671W-{8/24/59}Letter to Mathilde Wesendonck: SLRW, p. 460]

[P. 152] “… seeing how fond people are of ascribing to Music, particularly of the passionate and stirring type, a simply pathologic character, it may surprise them to discover … [P. 153] how delicate and purely ideal is her actual sphere, since the material terror of reality [Wotan’s fear and self-loathing, imparted to Bruennhilde during his confession] can find no place therein, albeit the soul of all things real in it alone finds pure expression [Wotan’s confession has been sublimated into musical motifs by Bruennhilde].” [800W-{3-6/71} The Destiny of Opera: PW Vol. V, p. 152-153]

“Here the only aesthetic term to use, is the Sublime: for here the operation of the Radiant at once transcends all pleasure in the Beautiful, and leaves it far behind. Each challenge of self-vaunting Reason [Erda’s wisdom, her objective knowledge as known to Alberich] is hushed forthwith by the Magic mastering our whole nature [Erda’s wisdom wanes before Wotan’s will, Bruennhilde]; knowledge pleads confession of its error, and the transport of that avowal bids our deepest soul to shout for joy … .” [778W-{9-12/70} Beethoven: PW Vol. V, p. 93]

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