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Twilight of the Gods: Page 934
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with great vehemence, as if he were telling me the basic conviction of his life.” [996W-{11/25/79}CD Vol. II, p. 401]

[P. 308] “… my hero should not leave behind the impression of a totally unconscious [P. 309] individual: on the contrary, in Siegfried I have tried to depict what I understand to be the most perfect human being, whose highest consciousness expresses itself in the fact that all consciousness manifests itself solely in the most immediate vitality and action: the enormous significance I attach to this consciousness – which can almost never be stated in words [think here of Wotan’s remark to Bruennhilde during his V.2.2 confession: “What in words I reveal to no one, let it stay unspoken forever: with myself I commune when I speak with you.”] – will become clear … from Siegfried’s scene with the Rhine-daughters; here we learn that Siegfried is infinitely wise, for he knows the highest truth, that death is better than a life of fear: he, too, knows all about the ring, but pays no heed to its power, because he has better things to do; he keeps it simply as a token of the fact that he has not learned the meaning of fear. You will admit that all the splendour of the gods must inevitably grow pale in the presence of this man.” [620W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 308-309]

“I am not so out of touch with nature as you suppose, even though I myself am no longer in a position to have scientific dealings with it [Erda, when her knowledge of all that was, is, and will be is known to us consciously, objectively, as Alberich knows it, and as Wotan knows it when he wears Alberich’s Ring of consciousness]. It is only when nature [Erda] is expected to replace real life – love [the loving union of Erda’s daughter Bruennhilde with Siegfried, Wagner’s metaphor for inspired art] – that I ignore it. In this respect I resemble Bruennhilde [or Siegfried] with the ring. I would rather perish or be denied all enjoyment than renounce my belief.” [624W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 312]

This was the great question of all questions in Wagner’s life, and the primary theme underlying all of Wagner’s significant repertory operas from The Flying Dutchman through Parsifal: does man have transcendent value, or does he not? Is man wholly subject to egoistic impulses, or is there something in man – such as Wagner’s notion of the God-in-man – which is autonomous and free in relation to the primary animal impulses of self-preservation and sexual reproduction? Does man, in other words, partake of, participate in, originate in, or have a stake in, a supernatural or metaphysical realm of being? Is his consciousness, in its highest development, the self-consciousness of the all, the cosmos, and if so, in what sense does man transcend his very being, and why would he wish to do so? If, on the one hand, he is purely a product of natural impulses and forces, why has he, in the various religions, based so much of his sense of life’s value on renunciation of his natural limits, and defiance of his natural egoistic impulses? And if, on the other hand, he does indeed have a supernatural, divine spark in some sense, which is presumably the foundation of his occasional manifestation of altruistic impulse, why is he so universally troubled when this possibility is brought into question?

Wagner seems to have believed that if men (or at least certain women and men) are capable of conquering their egoistic instincts, then there is something more in the cosmos than mere natural law, something supernatural which can guide human action. But Wagner’s intellectual conscience - informed first by the atheist Feuerbach, and later by the atheist Schopenhauer - would not allow him the cheap consolation of belief in a supernatural creator god, or redemption in heaven, or

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