Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 15

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 15

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:41 am

[PH: See Quotation from, Pages 331-332]

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 337-338:]

In describing the responsibilities of a king in the following passage, Wagner seems to have captured Wotan’s despair in having to destroy Siegmund for the sake of what seems, at least on the surface, to be the larger social good, but what in fact is just collective egoism:

“[Describing “Public Opinion” as a reflection of “the vulgar egoism of the mass,” Wagner says that:] … the necessitation to yield to its requirements … becomes the earliest source of that higher form of suffering which the King alone can personally experience as his own. If we add hereto the personal sacrifice of private freedom which the monarch has to bring to ‘reasons of State,’ and if we reflect how he alone is in a position to make purely-human considerations … his personal concern, and yet is forced to immolate them upon the altar of the State: then we shall understand why the legends and the poetry of every age have brought the tragedy of human life the plainest and the oftenest to show in just the destiny of Kings. (…) True justice and humanity are ideals irrealisable: to be bound to strive for them, nay, to recognise an unsilenceable summons to their carrying out, is to be condemned to misery.” [700W-{64-2/65} On State and Religion: PW Vol. IV, p. 21-22]

[P. 88] "In 'Die Walkuere,' Bruennhilde is initially unable to comprehend Wotan’s dilemma and righteously attempts to fulfill the god’s plan on her own by intervening to save Siegmund. This transgression, though strictly inconsistent with Hegel’s model of the beautiful soul who shuns action altogether as impure, reflects all the same an idealistic refusal to credit the practical constraints on Wotan’s actions. Wotan upbraids her for her moral arrogance: 'craven and foolish you thought me' (RN 184). Even after her awakening as a human, Bruennhilde is content to remain on the mountaintop, comforted by her idealized vision of the hero and the god’s plan. She has sent Siegfried, Wotan’s heir, into the world to accomplish deeds of heroism, while she remains inviolate on the rock of her faith. But as circumstances would have it, Bruennhilde herself is dragged into the world of action and compromises. There she is forced to learn Wotan’s own bitter lesson, that ideals cannot readily be reconciled to the brutality of real facts. As Siegmund’s death was the catalyst for Wotan’s painful insight into the harsh narrative of Spirit, so Siegfried’s death awakens Bruennhilde to the same realization. (...) As the vulnerable victim of jealous rage, and willing participant in Siegfried’s murder, she ultimately recognizes that she does not have a monopoly on truth. She herself has been caught in the snares of moral inconsistency. (14)(...) And by sweetly rocking Wotan to eternal sleep, Bruennhilde demonstrates an openness to the process of historical succession: although her new secular humanism embodies the antithesis to the thesis of Wotan’s theology, she does not reject Wotan as evil, but gently bids him farewell 'senza rancor.' (16)”

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 440-441:]

Wotan’s retort to Bruennhilde’s point is that he believed that Bruennhilde had understood him (i.e., how he wished to be redeemed) and punished her “knowing defiance.” That is, Bruennhilde should have grasped from Wotan’s confession that the real world now belongs to Alberich, that Wotan had confessed to her, his unconscious mind, that egoism is the basis for society and human history, so that his ideal, his longing for restoration of lost innocence and retreat from conscious thought, can now only be expressed subliminally, unconsciously, in art, not in open challenge to the bitter truth, a fight Alberich will inevitably win. It is not so much that she defied Wotan that has angered him, but rather, the fact that her defiance was “knowing,” i.e., conscious. Wotan is seeking a hero whose defiance of Wotan’s law will be subliminal, not open, public, conscious, active. He is seeking an artist-hero in whose art, a profound form of play, the terrible world can be overcome and redeemed merely aesthetically, through feeling, without actively asserting power in the real world, or staking a claim to the power of truth. Such art must be “powerless” in order to effectively redeem the gods from Alberich’s Ring-power.

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 442-443:]

For an illustration of the depth of Wotan’s self-loathing and anguish, we have to grasp what is at stake for him. If Siegmund, surely the most sympathetic – with the exception of Bruennhilde – and genuinely loving and courageous of all heroes of the Ring, is ultimately nothing more than a puppet of natural law and Wotan’s idiosyncratic training (socialization which values individualistic heroism as proof of man’s transcendent value, part of our religious heritage), then what hope is there? Wotan is convinced that Alberich’s threat to make all the living renounce love as he has, and his prophecy that in the long run all, even the gods, will renounce love for the sake of gold and its power, has more substance than all that Bruennhilde can convey to him of Siegmund’s stand-alone heroism and compassion. He is convinced of this because he knows it is true of himself, and it is Wotan who invented the ideal represented by Siegmund in the first place. So Wotan sees Siegmund as merely a function of Wotan’s own cowardice and self-deceit, and assumes Alberich will win in the end because, as abhorrent as it is to man’s metaphysical impulse and idealism, Alberich’s vulgar materialism and selfishness more closely reflect the truth, the world (Erda), than all of Wotan’s fantasies of transcendent meaning.

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 443-446:]

Given Wotan’s knowledge of the overall historical context in which the Waelsungs and Bruennhilde are fighting to preserve a hope of redemption from the ways of this world, which Wotan has already relinquished in favor of the sheer pride of intellectual honesty toward the truth, however bitter it may be, Wotan now observes bitterly that it is easy for Bruennhilde - who inhabits solely the world of feeling, which need not trouble itself about conceptual contradictions known to the conscious mind - to live for love, which Wotan not only presumes is lost forever, but which he believes never existed nor can exist, given the inherent nature of man and the natural world in which he exists and which has given him birth. In so doing he, ironically, paraphrases the complaint Alberich once made to him, in R.4, that thanks to Alberich’s having already paid the price of “Noth” to possess the power of the Ring, Wotan, if he and the other gods co-opt its power, can draw advantage from Alberich’s sacrifice without paying the price he did:


When Wotan says that, thanks to the exigencies of the “Noth” he was forced to acknowledge, he had to staunch the well-spring of love in his heart for the sake of his love for the world, this is an oblique way of saying two things: (1) that for the sake of social order he had to suppress individual freedom and creativity, and (2) that his motives, like those underlying the social order he has created, were egoistic, predicated on self-interest and fear rather than love or any truly divine sentiments. Wagner stated on many occasions that the true fount of all good in society is the new things which independent individuals bring to it:

“What, then, had this Society become, whose natural moral-sense had been its very basis? The diametrical opposite of this its own foundation: the representative of immorality and hypocrisy. The poison which had palsied it, however, was – use-and-wont. The passion for use-and-wont, for unconditional quiet, betrayed it into stamping down the fount from which it might have ever kept itself in health and freshness; and this fount was the free, the self-determining Individual. [505W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 187-188] [See also 500W and 502W]

Wotan chastises Bruennhilde for the lightness of heart with which she has sided with his ideal of love in the face of facts which contradict it. Wotan’s complaint seems to be modeled after, or inspired by, Alberich’s original complaint that Wotan was seeking to draw bliss from Alberich’s sacrifice of love, his Noth, without paying Alberich’s price. Accordingly, while Wotan contrasts the bitter gall of his Noth with Bruennhilde’s allegedly blissful abandonment to the heady delights of love (#64), we hear echoes of the music which accompanied Alberich’s chastisement of the gods in R.3 for enjoying love and laughter on divine heights while ignoring the dark elves (i.e., the real world) below. Cooke felt that Wotan’s critique of Bruennhilde was unfair because, he said, in her compassionate desire to sacrifice all for the sake of the Waelsungs and Wotan’s ideal, she can hardly be described as enjoying the bliss of love while ignoring the world’s anguish. [Cooke: P. 350-351]

However, Wotan is getting at something else. He’s suggesting that even the compassionate, self-sacrificial love for which Bruennhilde now says she lives, and which is the essence of the love which Siegmund and Sieglinde share, is itself self-delusion which ignores the egoistic basis underlying all human motivation, a bitter truth which Wotan’s inability to defeat Alberich has forced him to acknowledge. Bruennhilde’s and Siegmund’s apparent selflessness, their natural instinct of love, is either an inevitable product of natural law and animal instinct, which also inevitably produces all the supposed evil in the world, or, if the product of learning, of training, remains nonetheless a product of natural law and animal instinct, and therefore not only is not transcendent, but subject to being changed into its direct opposite under certain circumstances. Cooke argues that it is the authenticity of Bruennhilde’s claim upon Wotan’s compassion which finally convinces him to acquiesce in her desire only to be wedded to the free hero he dreamed of, but I would argue instead that Bruennhilde’s appeal represents Wotan’s abhorrence of the only alternative left to him, to live in a world guided by Alberich’s cynical, objective understanding. Wotan would rather die than live in such a world, but Bruennhilde’s decision to stand up for an ideal that Wotan knows in his heart of hearts is a false one, but one which can give his dreams at least a temporary lease on life, is the path Wotan will eventually take to avoid the bitter end.

Out of Wotan’s nihilistic urge to end it all has come Bruennhilde’s one-sided decision to fight for love, i.e., for that ideal which Wotan’s conscious reason tells him he must give up for lost. But Bruennhilde can only freely live for love because she is - as she tells Wotan himself - not wise, i.e., not objectively conscious, but only feels. This is the point Wotan is trying to drive home to her. Were she forced to confront the truth, as he has been, she could not live for love. The recurrence here of #87 [PH: The Fate Motif] reminds us that Wotan cannot help fearing the inevitable, i.e., fated, end of the gods which Bruennhilde’s mother Erda foretold. But Wotan draws an unexpected advantage out of his intent to punish Bruennhilde with exile from Valhalla: by casting her free from the gods, their faith and laws, he frees Bruennhilde to live for love of the Waelsung heroes she has chosen, especially her future lover, the artist-hero Siegfried, and to suffer their fate as well.

[P. 88-89] "Nietzsche read 'Goetterdaemmerung' as enacting the very 'reconciling Yea' that Hegel described. The ancient Greek tragedy of Prometheus – attributed to Aeschylus in the nineteenth century by its German translator, Johann Gustav Droysen, and read by Wagner, who was deeply influenced by the Greek playwright (17) – pitted the bold sacrilegious act of the Titan Prometheus in favor of humanity against the order of the gods. In his analysis, Nietzsche marveled at 'the profoundly Aeschylean demand for justice' which balanced 'the immeasurable suffering of the bold "individual" on the one hand' – read Bruennhilde – and 'the divine predicament and intimation of a twilight of the gods on the other' – read Wotan – and 'the way the power of these two worlds of suffering compels a reconciliation, a metaphysical union.' (18)"

[PH: See Quotation from, Pages 678-679, previously cited]

[P. 89] "Understood in Hegelian terms, ... Bruennhilde’s generosity of spirit marks a frank reconciliation to the necessity – and limits – of the phenomenological world – the 'manifold complexity of all action in this world' – not an escape from that world. Bruennhilde has come to terms with the sins of Wotan. And in doing so, she acknowledges the necessity of historical action and Wotan’s necessary place in the historical progression.

Kitcher and Schacht view Wotan’s struggle not simply as a failure of his vision, but more broadly as the failure of the human endeavor. (20) But Wagner did not intend for Wotan’s project to be dismissed as futile, but instead to be understood as part and parcel of the process of historical progression and emergence of self-consciousness."

[P. 91-92] "This interpretation of Bruennhilde’s act of forgiveness reveals another reason why the I-Thou relationship on the mountaintop cannot succeed. It represents pure idealism protected from the cruel facts of the phenomenal world. (...) ... Siegfried, as the man who sits outside history, who has no comprehension of what the next day will bring, cannot be the vehicle for insights that must be reaped from history itself. (...) It is Bruennhilde, then, who fully puts her idealism to the test in the laboratory of the real world and, although bruised, betrayed, and despairing, comes to self-conscious realization that the wisdom she has won from her struggle reveals a new organizing framework that will guide mankind in the future."

[PH: My allegorical interpretation of Wagner's "Ring" as expounded at is distinguished from Shapiro's reading in a variety of ways, including my thesis that Alberich's Ring Curse of consciousness was intended to punish Wotan's sin in co-opting Alberich's Ring power in order to sustain the rule of the gods (according to Feuerbach, man's illusory religious belief in godhead), since Wotan in co-opting the power Alberich sacrificed love for without having to pay Alberich's price sins against all that was, is, and will be, i.e., sins against Erda's (Mother Nature's) objective knowledge of all that was, is, and will be. This is religious man's sin of world-renunciation, religious man's rejection of the real world of change, of matter and energy which exists in time and space, in favor of the illusory world of supernaturally immortal spirits. Such an understanding of Alberich's Ring Curse plays no role in Shapiro's book, which frankly mostly ignores his curse. It's also my thesis that the redemptive art Siegfried's muse Bruennhilde unconsciously inspires him to create, as Wotan's hoped for heir to dying religious faith, must ultimately succumb to Alberich's Ring Curse of consciousness to which Wotan and the gods succumb, as Bruennhilde herself confesses in her final words in T.3.3 before immolating herself on Siegfried's funeral pyre. It is in this sense that once Siegfried has betrayed his own muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde and the secrets she kept (Wotan's forbidden hoard of runes, or knowledge) to the light of day in "Goetterdaemmerung" by giving her away to another man, Gunther (Wagner's metaphor for the artist-hero Siegfried's audience), and by interpreting the Woodbird's tune (music) conceptually, thus making what heretofore was unconscious rise to consciousness (fulfilling Alberich's threat in R.3 that his hoard of treasure would rise from the silent depths to the light of day and overthrow the gods and their proxies), that Bruennhilde realizes that Wotan's ideals which she sought to salvage were predestined to destruction. So whatever "new organizing framework that will guide mankind in the future" that Bruennhilde sets forth in the finale of the "Ring" would have to incorporate Alberich's hoard of knowledge of all that was, is, and will be (her mother Erda's knowledge, which Alberich affirmed and Wotan sinned against) if Bruennhilde chose to live on rather than leaving his Ring to the Rhinedaughters in her ashes to be dissolved. Bruennhilde goes down with the ship of Wotan's original futile hopes by immolating herself in the discredited Siegfried's funeral pyre (which also consumes Wotan and the gods), and doesn't choose to live on in order to establish the new society her newfound wisdom has allegedly inspired her to visualize. The love Siegfried shared with Bruennhilde, Wagner's metaphor for dying religious faith's heir, unconsciously inspired secular art, is wholly distinct from the redemption Bruennhilde can obtain by letting the Rhinedaughters dissolve the Ring of human consciousness in the Rhine.]

[PH: Quotation from, Page 642:]

The following extract provides proof that Wagner distinguished the redemption offered by the loving union of Siegfried with Bruennhilde, in which Valhalla’s blissful dream can live anew, from the final redemption gained through returning the Ring to the Rhine. Wotan clearly hoped - as he expresses it to Erda here, accompanied by #134 (which Wagner called the Redemption Motif [PH: The so-called World-Inheritance Motif]) - that Siegfried’s love for Bruennhilde, and Bruennhilde’s deed, upon waking for Siegfried, in inspiring him to produce art, would redeem the world:

“ … the pernicious power that poisons love is concentrated in the gold that is stolen from nature and put to ill use, the Nibelung’s ring: the curse that clings to it is not lifted until it is restored to nature and until the gold has been returned to the Rhine. This, too, becomes clear to Wodan only at the very end, once he has reached the final goal of his tragic career; in his lust for power, he had utterly ignored what Loge had so frequently and so movingly warned him of at the beginning of the poem; initially – thanks to Fafner’s deed – he learned to recognize the power of the curse; but not until the ring proves the ruin of Siegfried, too, does he see that only by restoring to the Rhine what had been stolen from its depths can evil be destroyed, and that is why he makes his own longed-for downfall a pre-condition of the extirpation of a most ancient wrong. Experience is everything.“ [616W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 307]

The fact that the love of hero and heroine, though believed by Wotan to be the key to redemption, is totally distinct from the final redemption the Rhinedaughters will offer, is implicit in the fact that both Siegfried and Bruennhilde in Twilight of the Gods will refuse pleas to return the Ring to the Rhine (a refusal which Siegfried makes to the Rhinedaughters themselves) by invoking love, that is to say, art, as an alternative to returning the Ring to the Rhinedaughters. The final redemption the Rhinedaughters offer will be, as Deryck Cooke put it, a metaphysical redemption. [Cooke: P. 247]

[P. 93] "Through Bruennhilde’s own acknowledgement of the imperfection of historical solutions, the ultimate failure of pure idealism to hold sway in a complex human environment, Wagner modeled a new moral attitude that would define the new epoch. (...) Feuerbach adopted as the motto of his philosophy of the future the famous line from a Terrence play, 'Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.' (33) [PH: I am human, and Nothing human is alien to me] This thesis required the utmost clarity about the sensuous reality of man, but, taken seriously, also the utmost charity. The embrace of the whole man – base passions and all – necessitated a new form of judging his actions. (...) Her own outbreak of jealousy and willing participation in Hagen’s conspiracy do not condemn her to ignominy and shame, but in fact permit her to rise to a new plane of nobility and spiritual insight. (34) And her new consciousness implicates a new creed of compassionate forgiveness."

[PH: In fact, as I described at, there's considerable evidence that Bruennhilde doesn't reconcile herself in her forgiveness to the imperfect world she had, according to Shapiro, naively idealized in Wotan's spirit, but in fact joins Siegfried in death in protest against living in a real world bound by Erda's (Mother Nature's) laws, coherence, or fate, and by the truth in Alberich's presumption that all the living are inherently and inescapably egoistic. While it's true that Shapiro posits that the ego-driven individual human can reconcile himself to his mortality and natural limits and engender forgiveness by recognizing that human value consists in species consciousness, this is a mere abstraction and in no way voids the individual egoism underlying all individual or collective human thought, feeling, and action. It's this unbearable truth that consigns Wotan, Siegmund/Sieglinde, and Siegfried/Bruennhilde to oblivion in the face of the victory of Alberich's Ring Curse of consciousness. In committing suicide to share in Siegfried's death and in the twilight of the gods whom she'd futilely tried to redeem, but insuring that Alberich's Ring and its Curse of human consciousness will be dissolved in conjunction with her own self-immolation, Bruennhilde reminds us of those people who have sometimes so despaired of life that they not only wish to commit suicide but also wish to take everything with them when they go. Bruennhilde, after all, like the good Feuerbachian Shapiro supposes her to be, could have chosen to live in order to insure her newfound wisdom established a new society. Suicide is a very un-Feuerbachian act. And as for Bruennhilde's love for Siegfried, its only purpose was to inspire him to create those redemptive works of art in which Wotan's dying religious faith could live on, thereby perpetuating Wotan's sin against all that was, is, and will be (dramatized in Siegfried's figurative cutting of the Norns' rope of fate, an action similar to Wotan's killing the World-Ash tree by cutting off its most sacred branch to make his Spear of Divine Authority). This was the meaning of Siegfried's heroism, and it's this heroism which Bruennhilde extols in her final words before she joins the failed redeemer in death.]

[PH: See Quotation from, Pages 933-935, previously cited, for the full context of the following extract:]

“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]


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.

[PH: In the following quotation from, Wagner tells us that Bruennhilde reconciles us in the end to the crimes and intrigues of humanity, which at first glance appears to support Shapiro's thesis that Bruennhilde's hoard of knowledge which, through her suffering, she bestows on mankind, will reconcile future men to even man's basest passions and engender forgiveness, but this seems to imply that future generations will reconcile to Alberich's Ring of consciousness and no longer seek redemption from its curse. It would follow from this that Alberich's Ring of consciousness wouldn't be dissolved in the Rhine of preconsciousness. As I pointed out in my study of Feuerbach's influence on the libretto of "Parsifal" which has been posted in the discussion forum archive at since 2015, this reconciliation to man's true nature, and ceasing to seek redemption from the real world, is what Parsifal brings to pass in "Parsifal," in which the Holy Grail is understood to be the sublimation of Alberich's Nibelung Hoard (and therefore of his Ring), as Wagner put it in his essay "The Wibelungs" in 1848. In the Good Friday Spell Parsifal reconciles to Mother Nature's actuality, all that was, is, and will be, and thereby heals Amfortas's previously un-healing wound, the embodiment of Alberich's Ring Curse. So Shapiro is on to something, but I think it applies more to "Parsifal" than to the finale of the "Ring" and Bruennhilde's wholly unnecessary suicide.]

[PH: Quotation from, Page 981, previously cited:]

Bruennhilde’s judgment against all the Gibichungs for betraying her, their collective unconscious, is her indictment of mankind for succumbing to the natural necessity that all things that are unconscious will attain consciousness in man. She judges, and yet the crime was inevitable, its inevitability well known to Erda, Bruennhilde’s mother. But Bruennhilde, as a true daughter of Erda, is now reconciled to this supposed crime, and acknowledges the role Bruennhilde herself played, however unwittingly, in perpetrating it. We have Valentina Serova’s following testimony that Wagner more or less conceded this point with respect to his beloved Bruennhilde. He records that Wagner said the following on 7/8/69:

“ ‘… evil always prevails over good. Alberich’s powers are invincible: he is the spirit of evil who pursues his dark ends with a grim, unflinching determination. And he passes on this resolve to his son Hagen. One woman alone, Bruennhilde, is able to redeem the evil through her heroic action and to reconcile us at last to the crimes and intrigues of humanity. Those elements which lend dignity to our faults are concentrated in the arms of this loving woman.’ “ [752W-{7/8/69} Valentina Serova’s reminiscence of a visit to Tribschen on 7/8/69: WR, p. 203]

Gutrune now holds herself in contempt for having let Hagen persuade herself and her brother Gunther to engineer Siegfried’s betrayal of his true love Bruennhilde, a betrayal in which all men are complicit. That we hear #154 (“Hagen’s Potion Motif”) as she blames Hagen for this tragedy reminds us again that it was in the very nature of the Wagnerian Wonder, the miracle of Wagner’s art, to reveal the secret of Wagner’s profoundest aim through the musical motifs, in which the entirety of the drama and all its force is condensed and made available for contemplation through aesthetic intuition, or feeling. Though he betrayed his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde, under Hagen’s influence, it was nonetheless Siegfried himself who revealed the meaning hidden within the Woodbird’s Songs, i.e., the meaning (of man’s existential fear) hidden within Wagner’s musical motifs, within the context of his own authentically inspired artwork, Siegfried’s narrative of how he came to understand the meaning of Birdsong, Wagner’s Ring in miniature, the story relating how Wagner came to be Wagner.

[P. 94] "Accordingly, Feuerbach taught that 'mercy is the justice of sensuous life' (EC 52). In other words, formal legalisms could no longer guide mankind’s organic growth; he was now due on earth the same merciful outlook that man had once projected only as God’s other-worldly justice. Building on Hegel’s insights in the 'Phenomenology,' Feuerbach developed the principle of mercy, explaining that 'the understanding judges only according to the stringency of the law; the heart accommodates itself, is considerate, lenient, relenting…. The law condemns; the heart has compassion even on the sinner … .' (EC 50-2)"

[PH: In my analysis of the Good Friday Spell in my essay "Feuerbach's influence on the libretto of 'Parsifal,' " I noted Gurnemanz's observation that just as God once revealed himself to be mortal man in the Redeemer on the cross, granting mortal man forbearance and forgiveness of his sin of irrevocable egoism, so now man, reconciling himself to Mother Nature's endless change which necessarily includes becoming and perishing, will no longer renounce his true place in nature by trampling it down, which he formerly did when inspired by the religious impulse to renounce the body and the real world which exists in time and space in favor of the illusion of transcendence.]

[P. 94-95] "Wagner too regretted the inevitable friction between 'pure Human Nature' and 'politic-juristic Formalism' (CF 355) and endorsed the 'instinctive forbearance of Love' as the antidote to the 'chilling edicts of moral compacts' (OD 204). (38) (...) Adopting Hegel’s potent image for historical progress, Wagner longed to 'strip off from the phenomena their formal shell, fashioned from the traditions of Juristic Rights,' in order to 'light upon their inward kernel of purely human essence' (CF 355). Wagner dramatized this tension between the juristic demands of human social order and the equitable needs for human forbearance in a number of ways in the 'Ring': First, in his portrait of Siegmund ... . Then, in his portrayal of Wotan. In his first approach to the 'Ring' – 'Siegfried’s Tod' – Wagner externalized the antipodes of nature and civilization in the representative figures of Siegfried and Hagen. As he worked his way back in the 'Ring,' however, he developed the tragic conflict between these two forces into a psychological drama, internalizing the struggle in the character of Wotan. In the story of the tragic god, he captured how the civilized mind is relentlessly bedeviled by the contradictions implicit in the social order. Thus Wotan must attempt to reconcile his goals for the hero engaged in an incestuous liaison with his sister – the call of nature and freedom – and the laws of marriage that he is obligated to enforce – the constraining rules of civilization. Wotan is tormented by the fact that he must yield to Fricka’s invocation of custom’s inviolable dictates. (39) Like Siegmund and Werther, he longs to liberate the condemned individual from the fate that custom has decreed. But as the enforcer of the law, he has no such freedom. Instead, like Captain Vere in 'Billy Budd,' he must reject his compassionate instincts and follow the law. (...) Tellingly, at this moment of deepest Weltschmerz – clear parallels with Werther – when Wotan realizes that he must stand by the law and let his beloved son be killed, Wagner puts into Wotan’s mouth words that echo those of Othello at the height of his despair: 'Farewell, then, imperious pomp! Godly show’s resplendent shame! Let all I raised now fall in ruins!' (41)"

[PH: See Quotation from, Pages 337-338, previously cited]

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 363-365:]

Wotan is paralyzed into inaction because he is hamstrung by consciousness of a contradiction, which cannot be resolved, between religious belief and reality, a contradiction which could be suppressed so long as man remained secure within the mytho-poetic phase of human history, but which will rise to consciousness from the silent depths if Alberich regains control of human consciousness by regaining control over the Ring. Wagner may well have based his conception of Wotan as paralyzed into inaction by virtue of his too great consciousness of the existential dilemma which lies at the root of human existence, on Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

“… ‘Hamlet.’ R. … says that everything in this is agitation, dawning madness, Hamlet the modern man, disintegrated and incapable of action, seeing the world for what it is.” [1062W-{1/31/81} CD Vol. II, p. 612] [See also 1100W]
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