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Twilight of the Gods: Page 935
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immortality, or free will. For Wagner, this supernatural element in man would remain a mystery which he could not grasp, but posited theoretically on the basis of man’s evidently inherent metaphysical impulse (a la Kant) to defy his egoistic instincts and the trap of natural law. If, on the other hand, Feuerbach is correct, that all human action, even action dedicated to self-sacrifice for the sake of others, and to redemption from our natural limitations, is ultimately motivated by self-interest (which Feuerbach doesn’t quite say in so many words, but which is implicit in his philosophy), and that if put to rigorous test this fact will proclaim itself without any doubt, then all the great ideals of heroism and love and compassion which man holds to be the best, are illusions predestined to be exposed as such in the fullness of time by man himself, in his historical search for the truth. That is what is at stake as Siegfried declares his freedom of spirit to the Rhinedaughters, who even now have risen from preconscious innocence to a melancholy, worldly wisdom worthy of Erda, who represents nature becoming conscious of itself in man.

Furthermore, and this is no small matter, the fact that both Bruennhilde and Siegfried resist restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, for the sake of love, strongly suggests that for Wagner the redemption by love which Wotan proclaimed to Erda in S.3.1 - which did not involve restoration of the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, but was wholly predicated on Wotan’s hope that Siegfried’s loving union with Bruennhilde would, of itself, redeem gods and world from Alberich’s curse - is wholly distinct from the redemption from the Ring curse which can only be attained through the Ring’s restoration to the Rhinedaughters and its dissolution in the Rhine. Since the redemption through love which Wotan believed would be brought about through the love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde is Wagner’s metaphor for the redemption of man’s religious impulse (the gods) in secular art, particularly his special art, the music-drama, clearly Wagner believed that his own personal attempt at redemption of man from the ravages of reductive science was destined to failure in the face of the truth, and that the only escape would be a return to animal preconsciousness, i.e., to a stage of evolution prior to the birth of consciousness (prior to consciousness of this irresolvable contradiction between “is” and “ought,” between truth and value), prior to the Fall.

One could argue, of course, that the Rhinedaughters are merely asking Siegfried to restore the Ring to them rhetorically, and that they know in advance that the Ring can be restored to them solely through the martyrdom of both Siegfried and Bruennhilde. On this view, Siegfried and Bruennhilde prove themselves worthy to redeem the world from the Ring curse by refusing to give it up out of fear (as Wotan did in the face of Erda’s prophecy of a shameful end for the gods), and holding on to it for the sake of love, an act of heroic martyrdom which presumably neutralizes the power of Alberich’s curse. A key problem with this thesis, however, is that they have both already betrayed their love.

The death of Siegfried is the death of inspired secular art, which is the inevitable result that follows from the artist and his audience becoming too conscious of the formerly hidden inner processes of artistic inspiration, so that the unconscious inspiration which was the basis of all former religious revelation, and authentic art, is no longer available. In this case man wakes, forever barred from returning to the dreaming which characterized the earlier, mytho-poetic phase of the evolution of culture. This catastrophic attainment of irrevocably objective consciousness is dramatized in Tristan's inability to bear the light of the sun of consciousness of self in Tristan and Isolde, Act Three. It is this irrevocable fall from grace which the Rhinedaughters foretell will occur this very day, if Siegfried does not restore the Ring of human consciousness to the Rhine.

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