P. 317: DB writes that Gunther is concerned "... how to inveigle Siegfried into visiting them. Hagen says it will happen automatically as Siegfried makes his way through the world, and on cue the sound of Siegfried's horn comes up from the river."
PH: Wagner here makes a subtle allusion to his notion of the artistic "Wonder" which is produced by his musical motifs of foreboding and reminiscence. Wagner had stated that through these motifs which in a moment can link together the widest possible spread of events in time and space, the problem of the dramatic unity of time and space is solved. But we can carry this argument further by noting that in the "Ring" Wagner set out, uniquely among all his operas and music-dramas, to create an allegory of the entirety of human world history, from the beginning to perhaps the end. If we accept my take on Gibichung Hall as Wagner's cryptic metaphor for the modern world (in spite of its legendary and mythological trappings), in which the modern secular scientific skeptical spirit has started to erode religion, it was inevitable that the music-dramatist Wagner would, in the course of creating a musico-dramatic allegory of world history, eventually take up that subject, and portray it as he did in Gibichung Hall and its denizens.
P. 317-318: DB: "Siegfried's attention is taken up with Gunther's formalized welcome, declaring him a partner in all that he has and is. (...) Siegfried says that he possesses nothing which he can share in return, but that his sword and his courage are always available. Hagen queries this, saying he had understood that Siegfried owned the entire hoard of the Nibelungs. Siegfried agrees and explains that he had quite forgotten it because it meant so little. 'So you took nothing from it?' cuts in Hagen. 'Only this piece of metalwork,' answers Siegfried, producing the Tarnhelm, 'though not knowing what use it can be. Hagen recognizes it instantly and explains that it is a consummate creation; with it Siegfried can change into anything he likes and wish himself anywhere he wants to be. Hagen presses Siegfried, 'You took nothing else? ' and Siegfried tells him, 'Yes, just a ring which is now in the hands of a wonderful woman,' Hagen comments 'Bruennhilde',' in an aside which the others miss."
PH: Here we have Siegfried denying that the Nibelung hoard has any interest for him (so he left it behind in Fafner's cave), but also admitting that he took the very essence of the Hoard (and as we know, the means to recreate and add to it), the Ring, and the Tarnhelm. In my interpretation, from the point that Siegfried removes the Ring and Tarnhelm, but leaves Alberich's hoard behind, the Ring itself stands as the representative or symbol for that hoard. It is just that Wagner had the dramatic problem of having to get rid of the burdensome hoard when Siegfried takes possession of it aesthetically (with a view to drawing inspiration from it while at the same time insuring its power is unused) instead of practically (with a view to acquisition of objective power). But Siegfried effectively took possession of the hoard and its power not only in taking possession of Alberich's Ring and Tarnhelm thanks to the subliminal instructions from the Woodbird, but also in falling heir to Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde, which Bruennhilde holds for Siegfried, for Wotan possesses a hoard of knowledge imparted to him by Mother Nature, Erda, herself, and it is equivalent to Alberich's hoard of treasure, and it is this which he imparted to Bruennhilde in his confession.
PH: Hagen's description of the Tarnhelm's powers agree with my interpretation of it as that aspect of the conscious mind (Ring) represented by imagination, through which we can manipulate and alter our experience of the world, and think ourselves into any time and place within it. As I have shown, imagination can be employed either to penetrate to the laws of nature (as Alberich does in compelling his fellow Nibelungs to unearth a hoard of treasure from Mother Nature's womb, so to speak, a hoard which I have interpreted as objective knowledge of the world, knowledge which gives us power), or to distort our experience of nature in an inventive way, at the behest of our subjective feelings of fear and desire. Siegfried, just as he did upon emerging from Fafner's cave with the Ring and Tarnhelm, says he does not know their use, in spite of having been given this information by the Woodbird, a fact which indicates that he 'knows' it subliminally, through aesthetic intuition, but not objectively. The Wagnerian "Wonder" which is the ultimate product of Wagner's employment of motifs of foreboding and reminiscence, is a product of imagination. Thus the motifs of Loge's "Transformations," the "Tarnhelm," and Hagen's "Magic Potion" (which DB calls the Motif of "Magic Deceit") are musically related, and Hagen employs his Magic Potion to insure that Siegfried will ultimately remember his true relationship with Bruennhilde at just the right moment, i.e., when Siegfried is explaining his peculiar relationship with music, which is that Siegfried can grasp the meaning of the Woodbird's song, i.e., the conceptual substrate of music and its hidden history, i.e., how it came to be a substitute for dying religious faith in Wagnerian music-drama.
P. 319: DB: "Siegfried now sinks unexpectedly low. He tells Gunther that it should be easy to deceive Bruennhilde because of the Tarnhelm. He can take on Gunther's form with it."
PH: This is a poignant detail of Wagner's allegory. In betraying his true love, and muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde, by giving her away in forced marriage to another man, Gunther, Siegfried the artist-hero is virtually taking the audience for his art into his confidence to know things about himself that may well remain unconscious even for Siegfried, for, as Wagner said, for the authentic artist his art may remain as much a mystery to him as for others. Wagner also said that by virtue of his musical motifs of foreboding and reminiscence he could grant his audience a clairvoyance like that of the original creator, the artist-hero. As at least partially the product of the artist's unconscious mind (Bruennhilde) his art is, in a sense (as Feuerbach put it when describing the nature of human dreaming), both his creation, and not his creation. So Siegfried in becoming Gunther actually places his audience in the privileged position of being able to access the artist-hero's own unconscious mind, i.e., able to access Bruennhilde's secrets. The Tarnhelm is important here because Alberich once said that thanks to the Tarnhelm his possession of the Ring would be rendered invisible, and that in any case because Alberich alone had the courage to renounce love (i.e., renounce transcendent value for the sake of objective, earthly knowledge and power), the Ring ultimately can never be taken away from him. When Wotan takes it away we must remember that Wotan is "Light-Alberich," i.e., both Alberich and Wotan represent two aspects of humanity, i.e., objective and subjective consciousness, respectively. So now, in Siegfried's hands, and under the influence of Hagen (who represents the modern, scientific, secular world into which Siegfried has entered), Siegfried will employ the Tarnhelm not as Loge and Wotan would, to help the gods deceive themselves through religio-artistic imagination, but, though unwittingly in order to penetrate the mystery behind mankind's religio-artistic impulse. For, as Feuerbach said, we have in our hands the means to solve the so-called religious mysteries, because we invented them.
P. 319: DB: "Gunther says that before doing anything else they should swear to be ... blood brothers, an idea which is somehow familiar to Siegfried, although Wagner does not make it clear why he knows what to do. (...) Wagner pushes the ranging associations of leitmotives to their limits when he punctuates their oath with the majestic motive of 'Wotan's Spear'. This has gathered a wealth of associations, a generous nimbus of meanings, ideas and feelings, but none of them seem to relate to these conspirators roaring away in sixths like operatic brigands."
PH: I believe my interpretation can offer a solution. First, Siegfried is making an oath, and Wotan's spear is the guardian of oaths. Second, Wagner condemned oath-taking as a superfluous thing which actually proved the bad-faith of those taking it, because oaths, according to Wagner, are only sworn for fear of the potential bad-faith of the oath-takers. But perhaps more importantly, Siegfried is gradually, throughout "Twilight of the Gods," becoming more conscious of who he really is (in spite of the fact that throughout a portion of "Twilight" Siegfried has forgotten Bruennhilde thanks to Hagen's potion, the purpose of Hagen's potion - when we consider both his original potion and the one he employs as its antidote to make Siegfried recall what the first one made him forget - is to compel Siegfried to expose his true relations with her to the light of day, and to remember who he is, a virtual reincarnation of Wotan (thus Siegfried inherits Wotan's Spear Motif during his oath of blood-brotherhood with Gunther), a servant of the gods (dying religious faith), and this culminates when Hagen administers the potion of remembrance, the antidote to the love-potion of forgetfulness. We must construe both potions together, and since the Potion Motif is closely related to the Tarnhelm Motif and to several of Loge's Motifs, Wagner is suggesting that it is thanks to the Wagnerian "Wonder" of his musical motifs of foreboding and reminiscence that eventually the secret of Siegfried's unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse Bruennhilde will be exposed to the light of day, as indeed it is when Siegfried sings the narrative of how he came to understand the meaning of birdsong in T.3.2.
P. 319: DB: "Siegfried asks Hagen why he took no part [in the blood-brotherhood oath], but accepts Hagen's meaningless explanation that his blood is too meagre and sluggish for oath-making; that it would spoil the process. So soon and so totally has Siegfried lost the second sight conferred by the dragon's blood."
PH: Hagen's blood is that of a Nibelung lineage whose essence is lovelessness, so in this sense he can't take part in a bond of friendship with others. Siegfried's second-sight is ending because the entire plot of "Twilight" concerns how Siegfried died as a formerly unconsciously inspired artist-hero by becoming too conscious of who he is. As Alberich had predicted when confronting Wotan and Loge in Nibelheim in R.3, the day would come when his hoard (of knowledge) rose from the silent depths (of man's unconscious?) to the light of day, and overthrow the gods (and their proxies), and the day would also come when Wotan's heroes actually serve Alberich's purposes (as Siegfried unwittingly serves Hagen).
P. 324; Footnote # 74: DB: "The narrative [Waltraute's narrative re the current situation in Valhalla, for Bruennhilde] creates so much hopelessness, misery and gloom, that Wagner seems rather [to] have lost momentum in composing it. One of his gifts was normally an ability to produce a narrative which described events and situations vividly, but at the same time maintained the atmosphere and situation of the narrator. When Alberich down in Nibelheim described his picture of the gods and their glorious life up on the summits, the musical picture is different from the reality of those summits as Wagner sets them directly before the imagination, in two scenes in front of Valhalla. The music makes it clear that Alberich's description is not the real thing, but in Waltraute's narration the music offers only the dirgelike stillness and gloom of the situation she is describing, and Wagner conveys no sense of two Valkyries on the mountain and no sense of any urgency between them."
PH: I can't imagine what DB means here! I literally don't know what he's talking about re Waltraute's sublime confrontation with Bruennhilde. Wagner creates a wonderful sense of urgency between Waltraute and Bruennhilde both before and after Waltraute's narrative about the gods' and Wotan's current status, and her narrative has the epic power of an almost ritualistic description of the last days of the gods. I can't imagine anyone finding anything to critique here from a musico-dramatic perspective. It may have something to do with DB's prior complaint that he can't grasp why the Wotan who resigned himself to making way for his heirs Siegfried and Bruennhilde in S.3.1-2, becomes the Wotan of gloom and despair described by Waltraute here. I have already explained that Wagner himself accounted for this change in his multi-page letter to August Roeckel in which he stated that Wotan doesn't finally agree to restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters until he realizes Siegfried will fail. Wotan can't become aware of this until long after Siegfried has left Bruennhilde's rocky height and falls under Hagen's spell.
P. 324-325: DB: "Bruennhilde now becomes angry and contemptuous [of Waltraute]; 'Do you know what this is to me? How can you grasp it, you loveless virgin who cannot know what feelings are! This ring means more to me than all the joys of Valhalla and all the glory of the gods. A single glance at it matters far more than their eternal happiness. It is from the Ring that Siegfried's love shines out to me! (...) Get back to your gods, and tell them this; that just as I shall never forego my love, so my love will never forego the Ring. Valhalla's glory can tumble down in ruins first.' "
PH: In my interpretation the loving couple Siegfried and Bruennhilde represent the unconsciously inspired artist-hero, and his realm of secular art which, in the period when religious faith is being eroded by modern, scientific, secular thought, offers dying religious belief and faith a temporary but new lease on life through a form of expression in which we feel that man's old religious longing for transcendent value is being satisfied, without however any conceptual claims being made that this is the truth, that the gods exist and transcend the natural world. Wagner himself said that his art would remain within the earthly realm but make us feel as if we've risen above it, within it. Thus Bruennhilde's and Siegfried's love depends upon possession of Alberich's Ring of earthly power, for it sublimates its terrors into beauty. From another perspective, just as religious faith/belief depended upon the evolution of the human mind (Alberich's Ring, whose motif transforms into the Valhalla Motif), so its heir secular art depends upon it, i.e., upon the Ring. Thus Bruennhilde renounces the gods' alleged eternal happiness, or immortality, and without realizing the implications of what she's saying for the love she shares with Siegfried, confesses that their love demands possession of the Ring, the earthly Ring of Power. Siegfried's secular art is for mortals who have no hope of an afterlife in heaven, and serves to reconcile man to his mortality. We must remember here that Wotan's heavenly realm Valhalla is a musical variation of Alberich's Ring Motif, just as Wagner said that the Nibelung Hoard gave birth, through sublimation, to the Grail.
PH: We must also recall that Feuerbach distinguished religious faith from love in the following way: religious faith, he said, is at base egoism and fear, and love is the antithesis of this. Feuerbach also said that science and secular art would, during the gradual death of religious faith, come into their own as independent human achievements and activities: thus Hagen and Siegfried/Bruennhilde are Wotan's antithetical heirs. Thus Bruennhilde here calls for the end of Valhalla as the means to freeing their love from Waltraute's fearful prophecy of the twilight of the gods. But Siegfried and Bruennhilde are both ultimately heirs to Wotan's own futile bid for transcendent value, and the gods in Valhalla will not go down to destruction until both Siegfried and Bruennhilde do in T.3.3.
PH: So long as Siegfried maintains the integrity of his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, i.e., so long as he doesn't give her away, deliberately or unwittingly, to his audience (Gunther), so long can the Ring's terrors be sublimated by the art their loving union gives birth to, into love and beauty.
P. 326-327: DB describes how Siegfried, disguised by the Tarnhelm as Gunther, penetrates Loge's ring of fire to accost the shocked Bruennhilde: [Bruennhilde:] "Who are you, so terrible before me? Are you human, or are you from the dark hordes of hell?' Siegfried states flatly that he is a Gibichung, and that Gunther is the name of the man whom she must henceforth obey. Bruennhilde totally misinterprets what is happening, and breaks out in wild accusations against Wotan; 'Grim, merciless God. Now I understand your whole idea, how you are condemning me to shame and sorrow.' (...) Siegfried grows more obnoxious by the moment. (...) He adds brutality to boorishness as he grapples and wrestles with her. (...) Siegfried thus completes his frightful personal decline. He behaves like a malignant narcissist: absolutely no remorse; utterly unaffected by Bruennhilde's misery; utterly without compassion. He ends the act by addressing his sword complacently, 'Now, Nothung, bear witness that I 'wooed in fetters,' by which he means he does not instantly possess her person sexually. He does not actually add a literal rape to the assault and battery and the psychological damage which he has already inflicted. (...) This scene seems to be the miscalculation of Wagner's entire existence as a dramatist. It is perplexing that such a genius should have etched out Bruennhilde's dire situation with all the incisive draftsmanship of an Albrecht Duerer and the insight of Shakespeare, without seeing how damaging it would be for Siegfried's position. (...) It is no good saying that these are mythical times when people and standards were different, because Wagner recast his myths into intense psychological dramas that are utterly of the here and now, and his long letter to August Roeckel [PH: the very one in which Wagner explained why Wotan didn't realize he must restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters until after he realized Siegfried would fail] dated 25 January 1854 makes it clear he knew exactly what he was doing. The motivations and sensibilities which he ascribed to Bruennhilde in this scene are so in tune with today's ideas that we relate to her as if she were of today, and it is a mark of Wagner's dramatic immediacy that we quite unthinkingly make estimates of Wagner's characters as if they were familiar individuals, as real as any that we will ever know. How was it possible for Wagner not to see that Siegfried is even less now that 'perfect human being ... ', and even less 'pure love' than in the opera that bears his name, and that he is anything but 'a man who never ceases to love,' as he told Roeckel? Wagner's disaster with Siegfried goes beyond leaving a black hole in 'The Ring,' because Wagner's appropriation by the Nazis resulted in people seeing Siegfried in particular and Wagner in general as emblems of all that is worst in human nature, and this scene and Siegfried's scenes with Mime paved the way for misapprehensions that still continue."
PH: Siegfried, whom Bruennhilde suggests may be (in his disguise as Gunther) from the horde of hell, as an unwitting agent of Hagen, and therefore by extension of Alberich's curse on his Ring, is involuntarily and unwittingly fulfilling Alberich's prediction in R.3 that his hoard would one day rise from the silence of night to overthrow the gods, and that Wotan's own heroes would serve Alberich, for Siegfried, in forcibly joining his muse and true-love Bruennhilde in marriage with his friend (Wagner's audience) Gunther, is also removing Alberich's Ring (now a symbol for both itself and for Alberich's entire hoard of knowledge) from Bruennhilde's protective hands, from the silence of Bruennhilde's womb of night (so to speak), so that Siegfried's art can no longer serve to redeem the artist and mankind (Gunther) from the wound that will never heal. Ripping Alberich's Ring off of Bruennhilde's protective finger is a literal realization of Alberich's prediction that his hoard would some day rise from the silence of night into the light of day, to bring about the twilight of the gods.
PH: DB says that Bruennhilde totally misinterprets the situation in suggesting that Wotan is behind her betrayal. Bruennhilde does not misinterpret the situation. Yes, Wotan had high hopes that through Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's loving union (the creation of inspired art in which religious faith is temporarily redeemed from destruction by science) Wotan and the gods could, after all, avoid making Alberich's son Hagen (science) their heir, and hand the reigns over to the redemptive artist-hero Siegfried as savior instead, but, when Bruennhilde first acted on Wotan's original impulse to seek redemption through his Waelsung hero Siegmund, when Wotan himself had at least unconsciously acknowledged that his bid for redemption of the gods through the Waelsung heroes was doomed to failure, Wotan determined to let Bruennhilde pay the price of standing for a cause which he himself had acknowledged was lost. Well, now Bruennhilde and Siegfried are about to pay that original price. They are destined to succumb to Alberich's curse on the Ring, the curse of consciousness, which entails that all which was once unconscious will rise to consciousness, i.e., that the truth will out, and overthrow all consoling illusions. Siegfried of course unwittingly brings the Ring curse to fulfillment. But in the deepest sense Wotan is behind her betrayal by Siegfried because Wotan was the first of this lineage to depend upon illusion, upon self-deceit, and since Siegfried is Wotan's heir, and also heir to the Ring curse, Siegfried also is the product of deceit, and therefore predestined to be overthrown by the bitter truth. And for this Bruennhilde blames Wotan in the finale to the "Ring," when she says that thanks to Siegfried's bravest act (his killing of Fafner and taking possession of his Ring, the act so desired by Wotan), Siegfried has succumbed to the same curse which destroyed Wotan.
PH: DB notes, correctly, that Siegfried's behavior towards Bruennhilde is brutal and sadistic, which seems out of character. Literalists will point out that Hagen's potion has effected this alteration in Siegfried's otherwise naive or even noble character, but in my interpretation all that Siegfried is, or feels, or does, comes from within, and is a product of his own nature. The point is that even the creation of unconsciously inspired art depends on Alberich's Ring, i.e., is a byproduct of mankind's gift of consciousness, which Wagner portrayed, at its first creation in R.1, as a virtual rape of nature. The point is that Siegfried is an unwitting agent first, of Wotan, since he is Wotan's heir and unwittingly fulfills Wotan's intent (through Bruennhilde's unconscious influence), and primally, and by extension, Siegfried is heir to Alberich's original forging of the Ring of human consciousness, and also of the Ring curse. It was Alberich's Ring's Motif which gave rise to Wotan's Valhalla Motif. The key distinction is that while Alberich (and also, yet reluctantly, Hagen) openly acknowledges egoism as his primary motive, Wotan and the Waelsung heroes are bound by their illusory value system to disavow egoism, while nonetheless at root being inspired by it. Wagner, in other words, may have been more on-point in portraying the egoism which is the hidden root even of Siegfried's apparent nobility, than DB could possibly acknowledge given the limitations of his comparatively undeveloped notion of the meaning of Wagner's "Ring." Siegfried's behavior is meant to horrify us, and it does, but we would be wrong to interpret it as an alien, outside influence. Even Hagen can be construed as representing an impulse hidden within Siegfried's character all along, but now coming to the fore thanks to the preordained trend of history. Let me add that Wagner said more than once that Siegfried in effect becomes a Nibelung in taking possession of the Nibelung's Ring.
PH: When Siegfried employs his sword Nothung (otherwise standing for, among other related things, a phallus, as Bruennhilde describes it later in T.2.3 when she employs it, and its sheath, as a metaphor for Siegfried's alleged sexual relations with her) as the guarantor of his honor toward Gunther, in keeping Siegfried from lying with Bruennhilde in her cave, this has deep resonance not only within the "Ring" but also in its conceptual relations with "Tristan and Isolde" and "Parsifal." When Siegfried had previously had sexual congress with Bruennhilde, we presumed according to my interpretation that Siegfried the artist-hero had successfully engaged in unconscious artistic inspiration in union with his muse Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind. This means that Siegfried remains unconscious of who he is, and can continue to create inspired, redemptive works of art. But if Siegfried no longer has sexual congress with his muse Bruennhilde, this means that he is becoming too conscious to be able to enjoy the benefits of unconscious artistic inspiration. Similarly, when Tristan, after having had healing sexual congress with Isolde (for that is the meaning of the healing, with her mother's arts, that Isolde gave Tristan to alleviate the pain of his wound that will never heal, when she realized he was the killer of her betrothed Morold, yet decided to heal him out of compassion: it is implied she healed him through Wagnerian love, i.e., unconscious artistic inspiration, just as Siegfried could only forget the fear Bruennhilde taught, by having redemptive sexual union with her), later returned to take her hostage in order to hand her over in marriage to his uncle King Marke, this means that Tristan was now becoming too conscious of who he is to be able to enjoy the benefits of Isolde's love. In "Parsifal" Klingsor became so conscious of the truth, i.e., that it is impossible to purge oneself of one's material origin and nature in order to achieve holiness (which after all is the ultimate programme of religious faith, and therefore ultimately of its heir, inspired secular art), that he could no longer have sexual congress with a muse of inspiration. Wagner symbolized this in "Parsifal" in Klingsor's self-castration. Parsifal himself, having seen for himself the true cost of perpetuating the illusion that man can participate in transcendent value, in Klingsor's Magic Garden (Wagner's final appraisal of the nature of his own art, and of inspired art in general), in Amfortas's wound that will never heal (Amfortas, like Marke and Gunther, represents Wagner's audience, whose wound can never heal - the wound caused by futilely striving to solve mankind's existential dilemma, by futilely striving to affirm man's transcendent value in the face of its impossibility), and in Kundry's curse (knowing now that Kundry the muse's salves will be less and less effective at giving us even temporary relief from the wound that will never heal), becomes wholly conscious of who he is (thereby ceasing to be a holy fool), and how he (in his former incarnations as Tristan and Siegfried) had unwittingly (like a fool) perpetuated man's existential dilemma, and decides instead to renounce seeking redemption from Mother Nature altogether, and therefore renounces his potential muse Kundry.
PH: Part of DB's problem grasping what is at stake here is his giving too much credibility to a few selected passages from Wagner's writings and recorded remarks, while ignoring many others which would have, if taken into view as a whole, given him a wider perspective on Wagner's allegorical logic and language. DB is too stuck on Wagner's occasional remarks that in Siegfried he tried to create his vision of the perfect human being. Wagner was actually trying to create a vision of the place of the unconsciously inspired artist-hero in world history, and in "Twilight" offered us a vision of his place in the modern world, in which he is predestined to self-destruction.
P. 327-328: DB: "In fact, Wagner did realize his mistake in one room of his strange and wonderful mind, with its intermittent capacity for compartmentalization. Almost fifteen years before he composed the music of 'Goetterdaemmerung' his imagination was beginning to dwell on a different hero, Parsifal, a different 'glorious human being', as strong and invincible as Siegfried, but with one crucial difference, the capacity for compassion. Compassion became the central virtue of Wagner's final masterpiece. The interesting thing is that Siegfried dents 'The Ring,' but not really; as I explained, 'The Ring' is so immense, marvelous and profound, that even the serious flaws of Siegfried lose significance, if not completely."
PH: DB is taking the easy way out: 'Oh well, Wagner just had a bad day!,' or something like that. I am simply trying to suggest that there is a way of accounting for a great deal in the "Ring" that seems, at first, off-base or off-kilter, by stepping back and looking at it in a different, more comprehensive way. I'm suggesting that my interpretation can help us solve many of these supposed conundrums to which DB draws attention. Here is another example. It is easy to view Parsifal's distinction from Siegfried as stemming from Schopenhauer's influence, so that Parsifal becomes, instead of an exemplar of heroism, an exemplar of holiness, through his Christ-like or Buddha-like compassion for all life. That is certainly a part of what Wagner put into "Parsifal." But given the new perspective of my interpretation, Parsifal's compassion for Amfortas's wound, that will never heal, takes on a somewhat different complexion. It is my contention that Parsifal as artist-hero, having become wholly conscious of who he is (seeing himself in all his former lives as both religious saints or even religion founders like Christ and Buddha, and as secular artist-heroes like Klingsor) thanks to Kundry's transference of the kiss from his mother Herzeleide (Mother Nature, Erda) to him, recognizes in a flash of intuition that he himself, Parsifal, in all of his prior incarnations, has been responsible for perpetuating the sin against all that was, is, and will be, the sin of religious pessimism and world-denial, which secular art fell heir to. Thus Parsifal is a figurative matricide. He recognizes in a flash that his neglect of his mother (religious and artistic man's denial of man's true origin and nature) figuratively killed her, and recognizes that Amfortas's wound, that will never heal, has been exacerbated in modern times when man has become too conscious to enjoy the benefits of unconsciously inspired art which Kundry and the other muses, the Flower-Maidens, used to mate with Grail heroes in order to give birth to, and that therefore Parsifal's past activities (he sees himself in Klingsor as the true image of what modern secular artists are up to on the long view, and in the Grail heroes who have been ensnared in Klingsor's Magic Garden of inspired art) perpetuated and worsened Amfortas's wound, and that Parsifal's foolishness, his lack of awareness of who he is, was the cause of this, and that therefore only if Parsifal renounces having temporary redemption through union with the former muse of unconsciously inspired art, Kundry, can he hope to heal Amfortas's wound and restore Mother Nature to her rights, her innocence. So, on my view, Parsifal's compassion is indeed for mankind and all of nature, but in a sense rather different than the conventional Schopenhauerian view.
PH: A problem left unstated in "Parsifal" but actually self-evident is that Parsifal leaves egoism in place as man's primary motivator, because, in relieving mankind of the burden of positing his transcendent value, which is an illusion, he has accepted Mother Nature with all her consequences, the consequences of natural evolution of species, as the sole ground of value. Parsifal has simply relieved mankind (Amfortas) of striving for a purity, for a transcendent value, which is impossible and futile, because it has been based on false beliefs in transcendent beings and realms. The Grail, once deprived of its mystery and permanently brought out into the light, becomes simply the stuff of life, and the Nibelung Hoard (for Wagner himself said in "The Wibelungs" that the Grail is actually the sublimation of the Nibelung Hoard.
P. 328: DB: "Writing to August Roeckel on 23 August 1856, Wagner also commented that he had not hitherto made clear in 'The Ring' what the nature of love is, 'which in the development of the myth, we find playing the part of destructive genius'. However, the action of 'The Ring' does not bear out the idea of love as a destructive genius, and he wrote these words at a later time when overwhelmed by the influence of Schopenhauer (which is best approached in connection with 'Tristan und Isolde'). What is destructive is love's suppression and the formidable oppositions to it in pathological behavior which it chances to provoke, but these are not of its making. In the earlier letter to August Roeckel already referred to (25 January 1854), Wagner himself had insisted, 'The poison that is fatal to love appears under the guise of the gold stolen from nature and misapplied,' but [it] is the gold that poisons love and makes it destructive and not love itself that is necessarily so. It is only in one instance, in Bruennhilde's rejection of Waltraute's request, that love - her own love - becomes most nearly destructive. Another passage in his same letter makes it clear that love itself was positive and redemptive for Wagner; 'For what is love itself but the eternal feminine?' and 'it is woman, suffering and willing to sacrifice herself, who becomes at last the real conscious redeemer.' "
PH: My interpretation can help solve DB's problem. He is thinking of love merely in its obvious sense as sexual or romantic love between the sexes, whereas it is clear that in Wagner's allegorical mind, from the "Dutchman" onward, the heroine's relationship with the hero is trending more and more, as Wagner's art advances, towards our being able to construe their love as a metaphor for the unconscious artistic inspiration of the artist-hero by his muse. It is well known, for instance, that Wagner in his theoretical writings of the 1850's took the hero as a metaphor for the poetic-dramatist, or the word, and the heroine as a metaphor for music, and their loving union as a metaphor for the music-drama. Furthermore, Wagner in his "A Communication To My Friends" described Elsa as Lohengrin's unconscious mind. Combine these two elements and we have the grounds for my interpretation. Predicating our explanation on this metaphor, Wagner may actually be saying in his 1856 remark to Roeckel that love as unconscious artistic inspiration is ultimately destructive, and this applies not only to the "Ring" but also to "Tristan and Isolde" and "Parsifal." It is destructive in the sense I've described in the past few paragraphs regarding Parsifal's revelation that he in his past lives perpetuated mankind's futile longing for transcendent value in the face of the impossibility of its satisfaction.
PH: Take the Dutchman as an example. The Dutchman takes a page from Wagner's notion of the super-sensitive inspired artist in that, for him, things which others would take in stride or which would not even register, are grasped in their universal tragic significance (as Wagner himself said of the great man, echoing Schopenhauer), and it is for this very reason that the Dutchman can only find redemption (temporary though it may be) in a woman in whom he can drown his existential dilemma, i.e., in music, the language of the unconscious mind. This is the basis for the almost preternatural predetermined sympathy which Senta feels for the Dutchman whom she knows initially only as a work of art, i.e., a folk tale and a painting. But, as the Dutchman himself warned her, should she fail to provide that redemption, she will be condemned like him to eternal damnation on earth, without escape. The ultimate example of love, from the viewpoint of my interpretation, which is destructive, is that of the muse Kundry who entangles the men (religio-artist heroes) to whom she offers this temporary redemption in a futile quest for ultimate redemption which is predestined to destruction, which is why she condemned Amfortas to suffer full, unabated consciousness of the anguish of the wound that will never heal, by offering herself to him. All of her salves offered in penance for her crime of imparting to him forbidden knowledge of the bitter truth, are ineffective, and the hope for them has become a torture (we see in this the influence of the Dutchman, Tannhaeuser, and Wotan, upon Wagner's characterization of Amfortas). The Grail (the alleged object of man's futile longing for transcendent value) has now become the primary source of Amfortas's (mankind's) torture. Parsifal, seeing that now formerly redemptive unconscious artistic inspiration is failing, and has become even more a torture than simply admitting the bitter truth which it was the purpose of religious faith and inspired secular art to repress and sublimate, renounces the muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Kundry, and exposes the mystery of the Grail for all to see, acknowledging it as earthly, and thereby restoring the mother whom Parsifal and his spiritual ancestors (all the other and former knights of the Grail) had previously murdered by perpetuating the myth of man's spiritual nature.
P. 329-330: PH: DB describes the scene in which Alberich confronts his (evidently) dreaming son Hagen (though his eyes remain open) to insure that he will stay the course and wreak revenge on Wotan and his proxies, the Waelsungs: DB: "The music depicts Alberich as wasted away by obsession and hatred, but he still reveals strong feelings for his son, while still seeing him as a means to his ends. Hagen on the other hand makes it plain that he has no love for his father, no affection for his deceased mother for her gift of life, and no liking for himself. (...) Alberich exhorts Hagen to be mindful of the mettle and courage which he inherited from his mother, but Hagen answers somberly that he owes her nothing for succumbing to Alberich's gold; she produced a son who is old before his time, gaunt and pale. He feels only hatred at the sight of anyone happy, and has never known happiness himself. Alberich urges him to nurture his joylessness and hatred ... ."
PH: In Hagen, in my interpretation, Wagner was offering us both a representation of the nature of the modern, secular, scientific, skeptical worldview, and also of its painful consequences, even for those who are its exponents. Hagen's brief complaint to Alberich re his sadness and loneliness, his inability to share the joys of life, even in the midst of the power he hopes to gain, is actually an illustration of a point that Nietzsche made later (though not necessarily thanks to Wagner's direct influence), which was that the Over-Man is not necessarily a happy man, that being in possession of the truth about man is a heroic act for which one must pay a price. Hagen is, in effect, a martyr to the bitter truth. There is a certain honor, however, in preferring the bitter truth, no matter how degrading, to a consoling illusion. Since Siegfried confused his lover Bruennhilde with his mother Sieglinde, and Sieglinde and Bruennhilde both are, in turn, representative of that mother of us all, Mother Nature (Erda), whom Wotan murdered figuratively in positing Godhead as autonomous from Mother Nature (autonomous from death), then it is not too far a stretch to see in Hagen's mother Grimhilde (mother also to the Gibichungs Gunther and Gutrune) a figure representing Mother Nature, Erda, with whom Alberich has a special relationship, because Alberich, in accusing Wotan of committing a crime against all that was, is, and will be (namely, Erda's knowledge of all that was, is, and will be), and saying that in forging the Ring Alberich was only sinning against himself, Alberich is implicitly saying that unlike Wotan and his proxies the Valkyries and Waelsungs, he objectively affirms Mother Nature, Erda. Thus we might understand why Alberich would tell Hagen to be mindful of the mettle and courage he inherited from his mother. And as for Alberich being able to woo Grimhilde through gold into an unloving marriage, which gave birth to Hagen, following my interpretation we see that the Nibelungs' digging the gold hoard out of Erda's, Mother Nature's, womb, can be construed as a figure for mankind's acquisition of knowledge of Nature's essence, its laws, knowledge which grants man power beyond that of any other animal. Hagen, in my interpretation a metaphor for the skeptical scientific spirit which de-mythologizes the world, is the ultimate product of this unloving marriage between man and the cosmos in which he lives. Hagen however confesses that he has paid a high price for this acknowledgment of the lovelessness of Alberich's and Hagen's relations with Mother Nature, whom they know only as she is, and not how idealists would like her to be, which evidently is a necessary condition for happiness. Hagen's sole purpose is to therefore undermine the false consolations enjoyed by Wotan and his proxies. Alberich is in effect prompting the product of his own egoistic nature, Hagen, to get revenge against those religio-artistic humans who throughout most of human history have dispossessed objectively conscious, scientific men of their ability to acquire the natural power which can only come from an objective relationship with Mother Nature, in which man advances his knowledge of himself and of her by force, as it were.
P. 330: DB: "He [Alberich] explains that by slaying Fafner and taking possession of the Ring, Siegfried has acquired its power, so that Valhalla and Nibelungs are both subject to him. However because he does not care for it in the slightest, this makes him immune to its curse. (Alberich is wrong about this). This means that if they are to succeed, they must take active steps to destroy Siegfried. Alberich again becomes concerned that Hagen is asleep, and Hagen answers as if from a dream, that Siegfried is even now a slave to his purposes and is working towards his own destruction. Alberich still gives vent to his obsession, 'the Ring is all that matters, and so have a care. Siegfried loves a wise woman, and if she advises returning it to the Rhinemaidens and they recover it, it is lost forever.' (Is it possible that Alberich is unaware of recent events at Valkyrie's Rock?)"
PH: When Alberich says both Valhalla and Nibelheim bow to Siegfried, within my interpretation what this means is that according to Alberich (the spirit of that objective consciousness which finally came into its own with the birth of the scientific spirit in Europe after the Renaissance (i.e., Alberich's son Hagen was born), mankind is still much too beholden to religio-artistic impulses which thwart scientific man's freedom in seeking the advancement of that objective knowledge which alone gives man earthly power. Therefore Hagen must, in order to fully restore the Ring of consciousness to their use, discredit and thus destroy the exemplars of man's longing for transcendent value. But Siegfried, the artist-hero, is, unbeknownst to himself, unwittingly playing his part in bringing this twilight of the gods to its conclusion, ironically through the very means Siegfried has used (again perhaps unwittingly) to perpetuate man's illusion of transcendent value, his inspired art.
PH: Alberich's expression of fear that if Bruennhilde gives back the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, it will no longer be possible for Alberich or Hagen to win back the Ring, is on one view a prediction of what actually happens at the climax of the "Ring" in T.3.3, when Bruennhilde does restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters through her own self-destruction, and Hagen, remembering his father's words, desperately dives into the Rhine to retrieve it from her, and is presumably drowned (we never learn what became of Alberich himself, but in a sense he represents a permanent aspect of human consciousness, or any reflective consciousness which evolves in the universe). There is, in my interpretation, no way in which man's collective unconscious (Bruennhilde), the womb from which religious belief and inspired art arose, can in any practical sense be supposed capable of returning consciousness to its preconscious stage, which would be the case in our allegorical reading if Bruennhilde restores the Ring to the Rhinedaughters and they dissolve it and its curse of consciousness in the waters of the Rhine. So Wagner is being figurative in at least one, or more, ways. Since water is on one view a figure for music, one possible reading is that only by renouncing drama and composing only music (as Wagner told Liszt he intended to do for the rest of his life after finishing "Parsifal") could religio-artistic man escape science's trend toward reducing all human value to scientific laws. Another meaning is that the finale of the "Ring" may represent an ultimate cosmic annihilation in which mankind takes part, thereby ending human consciousness and cutting off the process of cultural evolution. Wagner once described how as the art of war and science and technology advance, through some unforeseen accident mankind could destroy itself. I need not describe in detail the potential modern scenarios in which this might take place, but suffice it to say that (who knows?) experiments at the Hadron Collider could perhaps (at least to an untutored mind like my own, who only knows the barest essentials of modern physics, as a layman) cause a disturbance which would unbalance the equilibrium of the cosmos, or at least our part of it.
PH: Since I have construed Bruennhilde as humankind's collective unconscious, and Wotan as Wagner metaphor for Feuerbach's God, who actually is collective, historical man, if Bruennhilde wakes forever (as she is said to at the finale), i.e., if all that man's collective unconscious has historically hidden, becomes wholly conscious, perhaps that would coincide chronologically (and perhaps causally?) with the advancement of human knowledge to the point that an accident which previously had been only possible, became not only probable, but necessary. Who knows how man's advancement in knowledge and technology relates to his object of consciousness, Mother Nature! Perhaps we ourselves are agents of nature's laws in some sense. In any case (and I know this is the rawest and most preposterous of long-shots), Alberich may intuit that at a certain point in the advancement of knowledge there is some kind of natural limit that may be reached, beyond which it is not possible (by the very laws of nature themselves; and after all, Bruennhilde is Erda's - Mother Nature's - daughter) to go. For we have to interpret Alberich's strange warning in the broadest sense. Furthermore, even if the Rhinedaughters regained the Ring and dissolved it, and even if we accept my interpretation that this may mean the end of human consciousness itself, theoretically the entire cosmos, Erda's world of was, is, and will be, as a natural consequence of its own laws, could reproduce those conditions which lead inevitably to the evolution of consciousness again, somewhere, and some time.
(EDITED ON 5/9/2015)
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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