It begins, significantly, with motif #138, the chord - based upon #53 - to which Siegfried woke Bruennhilde in S.3.3. #53 is the motif representing Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, and that whatever “is” will come to an end. And this chord eventually transforms into #87, the motif representing the fate the Norns spin. Their “Spinning Motif” is based on a diminished inversion of #3, the motif first associated with the River Rhine’s motion. Twilight Of The Gods opens with #138, in all probability, because it recounts the tragic consequences (or, as some would say, the redemptive consequences) which follow from Siegfried’s waking Bruennhilde, man’s collective unconscious, namely, his inadvertent sharing of her secret, Wotan’s unspoken secret, with all those common men who were never meant to be privy to the religious mysteries. This of course is the secret of how man involuntarily invented the gods, and how virtually all of man’s higher, allegedly transcendent values were originally predicated upon self-deception. Bruennhilde has awoken for Siegfried, never to sleep again: man’s unconscious hoard of forbidden knowledge is about to rise, as Alberich threatened, from her silent depths to the light of day. #87’s presence here, the motif representing the fate the Norns spin, reminds us that this tragic fate is inevitable.
But we must also remember that Wotan told Erda that when her daughter waked, she would do that deed which will redeem the world, and that there are two distinct redemptive deeds which Bruennhilde performs. The first is to inspire Siegfried to produce redemptive deeds of art which reconcile mortal man to life within the real world, which makes him feel that he has risen above its concerns. But this secular art, in which man’s religious longing for transcendent value lives on as feeling, perpetuates Wotan’s original sin against his mother, Nature (Bruennhilde’s mother Erda), which Alberich’s curse punishes. So the second and final redemptive act, wholly distinct from the first, is to cease to commit the religious sin of world-renunciation in both religion and art, and acknowledge the bitter truths of nature. Only when man ceases to posit his transcendent value, and therefore ceases to look for life’s meaning in the illusory realm of spirit, and in all other imaginative alternatives to reality, can the unhealing wound be healed. In other words, only when Mother Nature’s (Erda’s) rightful claim upon us, and her truth, have been acknowledged, can Alberich’s curse end. But if man can’t bear to live within the confines of the real world, there is still a third alternative, redemptive only in a perverse sense, and that is the end of all human consciousness, which was the cause of the unhealing wound in the first place. This was “Das Ende” which Wotan - in his nihilistic despair, unable to accept the bitter truth, yet unable any longer to sustain the consoling illusions which he had substituted for the truth - told Bruennhilde he fervently desired at the end of his confession in V.2.2. Wagner will present all three of these possibilities as actualities in the course of Twilight of the Gods.
As we gradually become aware of the Norns spinning their rope of fate, they are posing the question whether the gleam they see yonder is the dawn of day, or merely Loge’s fire which still burns protectively round Bruennhilde’s mountaintop home: