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Twilight of the Gods: Page 916
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Gunther: (sighing deeply: #164?; #170?:) Must this be Siegfried’s end?

 

Hagen: (#170/#164:) His death will serve us all (:#170/#164).

What Bruennhilde wants Siegfried to atone for are two distinct sins which, in fact, are mutually antithetical. Alberich’s curse on his Ring was meant to punish Wotan and Wotan’s proxies and agents for the sin of denying Mother Nature’s truth, the hubristic sin of predicating life’s value on the illusion that man can transcend natural law and redeem himself from his subjection to egoistic animal impulse. Wotan’s recognition that not only he, not only Siegmund and Sieglinde, but his proxies Siegfried and Bruennhilde, must be punished to atone for Wotan’s primal commission of this original sin, is embodied in Motif #164. But Bruennhilde’s very identity, her status as muse for the artist-hero’s redemptive artworks, and therefore her loving bond with Siegfried, is bound up with Wotan’s commission of this sin, because Bruennhilde and her artist-hero husband Siegfried have perpetuated it. If the artist-hero and/or his audience ever betrayed this secret to the light of day, then Bruennhilde, the hero’s unconscious mind, would forever wake and lose her status as the hero’s muse, because the secret which it was her sole purpose to keep, has been exposed to the light of day. In other words, Siegfried and Bruennhilde have been committed by Wotan to the perpetuation of his original sin, the denial of truth, so Siegfried’s unwitting revelation of the truth to his audience (Gunther) betrays Bruennhilde’s function as his unconscious source of artistic inspiration. Bruennhilde is therefore asking Siegfried to atone, first, for the sin of betraying the secret she kept (i.e. for betraying her function as the muse who inspired Siegfried unwittingly to perpetuate Wotan’s sin against all that was, is, and will be), and secondly, to atone for Wotan’s sin in needing to keep this secret, to deny this truth, in the first place. And Siegfried the secular artist-hero, as heir to the heroes of religious belief such as Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, and Buddha, must atone retroactively for mankind’s sin of positing transcendence of nature as the meaning of life.

With Siegfried’s death, i.e., with science’s discrediting of the belief in man’s transcendent value, the last refuge of man’s religious illusion of transcendence (the new Valhalla as Wotan’s refuge from dread and dismay) will have fallen, and Hagen can offer man (Gunther) the only alternative philosophy, of living for the power which objective knowledge of the truth, and the scientific mastery of man and nature, grants those sufficiently ruthless to take advantage of it. That is why Hagen has now suggested to Gunther that he can draw great advantage from Siegfried’s death, which will place the full objective power of the Ring in Gunther’s hands. Gunther, in spite of his sentimental attachment to the consolations of self-deception which Siegfried had granted him, now is reconciled, however reluctantly (reminding us of Fasolt’s reluctance to give up Freia’s love) to the power which Hagen’s knowledge can bring, for the simple reason that egoism was behind even man’s dependence on illusion in the first place. And now Hagen is offering Gunther not just psychological consolation, but actual, concrete power, without the burden of trying futilely to sustain an illusion which, in any case, was predestined to be exposed and destroyed by just this power. Of course, Gunther, resigned to accepting life in Hagen’s more bracing, but less satisfactory world, fails to grasp that in a world whose highest value is the acquisition of power, neither he nor anyone else can guarantee their own well-being, since no individual human being has any metaphysical status or dignity, but only a value equal to that of a mote of dust. One’s value, in this world, is a function of one’s power to acquire and hold it. And of course this is part of what

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