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The Ring of the Nibelung
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consciously) is Wagner’s metaphor for religious man’s repression of a hoard of unbearable, objective knowledge into man’s collective unconscious, and hope to redeem himself from this knowledge of the bitter truth by replacing it with consoling illusion.

(7) Siegfried’s loving union with Bruennhilde is Wagner’s metaphor for unconscious artistic inspiration of Wotan’s (religious faith’s) heir, the music-dramatist Siegfried, by his muse, his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde, who knows for Siegfried what he does not and can’t afford to know, Wotan’s hoard of unbearable knowledge, the true source of Siegfried’s art.

(8) When Wotan tells Erda he no longer fears the twilight of the gods she foresaw, but that he now gladly embraces it because his heirs Siegfried and Bruennhilde will redeem the world from Alberich’s curse on his ring, this is Wagner’s metaphor for his Feuerbach-inspired concept that when religious faith (the gods) could no longer be sustained in the face of science’s advancement in knowledge (Erda’s knowledge), religious faith could live on, reborn as pure feeling, in secular art, and most perfectly in the non-conceptual art of music.

(9) Siegfried’s betrayal of his lover, muse, and unconscious mind Bruennhilde, under Hagen’s influence, by unwittingly and involuntarily giving her away to his blood-brother Gunther, is Wagner’s metaphor for the fact that in his own Ring Wagner has betrayed the hitherto secret process of religious revelation and unconscious artistic inspiration to his audience through his musical motifs. This is dramatized in Siegfried’s public performance of the story of his life, how he came to understand the meaning of birdsong, at Hagen’s behest.

(10) Wagner’s creative advance from author and composer of romantic operas (such as The Flying Dutchman, Tannhaeuser, and Lohengrin), in which his music had not yet attained an organic relationship to the development of the plot, to the revolutionary music-dramas (the Ring, Tristan and Isolde, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, and Parsifal), in which Wagner’s music, and the musical motifs, develop in an organic association with the drama, is metaphorically dramatized in a crucial distinction between the plot of Lohengrin, the last of the romantic operas, and the Ring, the first of the music-dramas. This distinction is the following: where Lohengrin refuses Elsa’s request to share with him the secret of his true identity and origin, so that she can help him preserve this secret in order to protect him from the “Noth” (anguish) she supposes he would suffer if his secret was revealed, Wotan acquiesces in Bruennhilde’s desire that he confess to her what ails him, the unspoken secret of his divine “Noth” (“goetternoth”). In the latter instance drama (Wotan’s confession of world-history) and music (Bruennhilde’s redemptive love) attain complete organic union.

(11) Wagner’s three romantic operas (The Flying Dutchman, Tannhaeuser, and Lohengrin), and his mature music-dramas (the four-part The Ring of the Nibelung, Tristan and Isolde, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, and Parsifal), can best be construed as a single work of art in continuous development, the Ring being the overall frame of reference for Wagner’s other artworks.

A key purpose of the present study of the Ring is not only to demonstrate that it can best be grasped as a unified whole if we approach it as an allegory along the lines of interpretation outlined in my

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