Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 14

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 14

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:44 am

(...) Bruennhilde, her life’s purpose now at an end, 'bequeaths' her wisdom to succeeding generations. Clearly, then, the world was not intended to vanish on Bruennhilde’s pyre. Instead, it will continue to 'blossom' and 'endure' – as a 'world without rulers.' Just as important as the message of love, therefore, is the acknowledgement of a human futurity and the building of a store of collective knowledge that will serve the development of the species. (53) The golden hoard of the Nibelung has now become abstracted or sublated in true Hegelian fashion into a hoard of sacred wisdom. For progress to be achieved, the species must grow in insight from generation to generation. As each generation cedes place to the next, it bequeaths its knowledge to successive eras of man in order that they may rise to new heights."

[P. 74] "As a result of his intellectual inheritance, nineteenth-century man wielded vast powers."


[PH: Though previously cited, I've reproduced all or a portion of the following quotations from www.wagnerheim.com, pages 904-905, and 985-987, complete, to demonstrate my prior claim to the insights Shapiro proposed in the extract from his page 73 quoted above, which I've highlighted. Readers should know that I proposed the identity of Alberich's Hoard of treasure (through which the Ring's owner acquires earthly power), with the Hoard of knowledge Wotan acquires in his world-wanderings and visits to Erda (Earth), with Wotan's confession of his unspoken secret to Bruennhilde, and with the hoard of sacred runes which Bruennhilde told Siegfried in T.P.B the gods (read, Wotan) taught Bruennhilde, which she in turn taught to Siegfried, and which she speaks aloud in her last living words in the finale of "Goetterdaemmerung."]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 904-905:]

The following passage from Wagner’s prose scenario for what later became 'Twilight of the Gods,' namely, 'Siegfried’s Death,' contains striking propositions which make it clear that the runes Wotan taught Bruennhilde during his confession are those Bruennhilde imparts to Siegfried, and more importantly, explains why - now that Siegfried has taken possession of Bruennhilde and her unspoken secret - every coward (i.e., every man not gifted with unconscious artistic inspiration, such as the members of Wagner’s audience) can have her, and last, that Loge’s protective ring of fire (which formerly surrounded Bruennhilde, keeping her unspoken secret, and sustaining the veil of maya within which man has historically hidden this secret) is burning out:

“The Walkueren (drawing nearer and nearer, as the stage grows darker):
Bruennhild! Bruennhild! Long-lost sister!
Gav’st thou away thy godlike might?
Bruennhild: To Siegfried, who gain’d me, I’ve lent it.
The Walkueren:
Gav’st thou away, too, thy holiest lore,’
the runes that once Wotan had taught thee?
Bruennhild:
I taught them to Siegfried, whom love I.
(…)
The Walkueren (still closer):
Bruennhild! Bruennhild! Long-lost sister!
Ev’ry craven now can bend thee,
to cowards an easy booty! –
O burnt but the fire anew round the fell,
from shame the fenceless bride to shelter!
Wotan! All-giver! Ward off the worst!” [382W-{10-11/48} Siegfried’s Death: PW Vol. VIII, p. 16]
 
And the unspoken secret, Wotan’s forbidden hoard of runes, which Siegfried has taken from Bruennhilde, is not merely the key to Siegfried’s own unconscious artistic inspiration, its true source, but it contains the key to all religious revelation, religious mysteries, and unconscious artistic inspiration whatsoever. Whatever value is lost from Siegfried’s art by virtue of exposing its secrets to the light of day, retrospectively devalues all prior religio-artistic imagination going back to the beginning of human life, the origin of human culture. It is this world-historical knowledge that Siegfried holds, without truly knowing it, and which, as Bruennhilde complains, he is glibly giving away. And remarkably, this is actually Wagner’s own - perhaps subliminal - confession, of the ultimate consequence which follows from his creation and public performance of his Ring.

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 985-987:]

Having become wholly self-conscious, wholly awake, and embracing her mother Erda’s objective knowledge, which now includes the previously unspoken secret imparted by Wotan to Bruennhilde, the religious mystery of man’s aesthetic intuition and unconscious inspiration, Bruennhilde emulates her mother Erda, saying she, Bruennhilde, now knows all things (i.e., fate, the necessity of all that has happened, is happening, or will happen). And Bruennhilde therefore now knows what Wotan needs, final rest from his futile quest for redemption, atonement for his sin against all that was, is, and will be, which will also effectively bring about the end of Alberich’s curse on his Ring:

(...)

Bruennhilde, now woken forever, is indistinguishable from Mother Erda (Mother Nature) as she was known objectively to Alberich and Wotan when they were in possession of Alberich’s Ring. We see evidence for this reading in Wagner’s following identification of the wisdom Bruennhilde speaks in the finale of the Ring, not only with Wotan’s hoard of runes (which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde, and which she in turn imparted to Siegfried), but with the Ring’s runes, the ur-law and the Norns’ runes (i.e., Erda’s knowledge, which the Norns spin into their rope of fate):

“Bruennhild: ‘Thou forward hero [Siegfried], how thou held’st me banned! All my rune-lore I bewrayed to thee, a mortal, and so went widowed of my wisdom; thou usedst it not, though trustedst in thyself alone: but now that thou must yield it up through death, my knowledge comes to me again, and this Ring’s runes I rede. The ur-law’s runes, too, know I now, the Norns’ old saying! Hear then, ye mighty Gods, your guilt is quit: thank him, the hero, who took your guilt upon him!‘ “ [380W-{6-8/48} The Nibelungen Myth: PW Vol. VII, p. 310] [See also 385W]

But Bruennhilde’s knowledge now embraces also Wotan’s sin against all that was, is, and will be, all the tricks of self-deception that religious man had employed throughout the millennia to deny and repress Mother Nature’s truth, a formerly unconscious process whose secret has now been exposed, in Bruenhilde herself. We hear the Fate Motif #87 as Bruennhilde describes herself as, effectively, her mother Erda, and we recall hearing it also in S.3.3 when Bruennhilde told Siegfried that what he does not know, she knows for him. Wotan had told Erda that her wisdom waned before his Will, i.e., before his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, and had consigned Erda to sleep forever, so that Erda, dreaming, could behold the twilight of the gods, but now Erda’s cosmic knowledge wakes, becomes consciously objective, in her daughter Bruennhilde, never to be put back to sleep again. Bruennhilde claims that her newly acquired consciousness of all things has granted her knowledge of Wotan’s true need, and his true need is to succumb to Alberich’s curse in a twilight of the gods, so that Alberich’s curse on all those who would co-opt the power of his Ring (i.e., of the human mind) to perpetuate religious self-deception, will be lifted.

[P. 74] "Again and again we see, in his letters to Roeckel and Lizst in the early 1850s, in his speech to the Koenigliche Kapelle in 1848, and in the full Feuerbach ending of 1852, Wagner looking to the future and making the critical conceptual link between the search for knowledge and truth and the advancement of the species. And yet commentators on the 'Ring' reflexively assume that whenever Wagner wrote of 'annihilation' prior to 1854 he was speaking in proto-Schopenhauerian terms of renunciation. (56) (...) But renunciation of the will and the futility of human endeavor had no place in Wagner’s worldview of the early 1850s when he completed the poem of the 'Ring.' Instead, annihilation had an entirely different philosophical meaning to Wagner at the time."

[PH: One of the fundamental distinctions between my previous allegorical interpretation of the "Ring" at www.wagnerheim.com, and Shapiro's more recent interpretation, is that I believe I've demonstrated in considerable detail that Wagner's "Ring" plot, as written prior to the Fall of 1854 when most scholars believe Wagner first became acquainted with Schopenhauer, casts doubt on Feuerbach's enthusiastic world-affirmation. I'm also persuaded that Bruennhilde extols her lover, the artist-hero Siegfried, as the greatest of heroes in the end, in spite of his unwitting betrayal of their love and of Wotan's hope for redemption from Alberich's Ring Curse, and self-immolates in his funeral pyre, because she like Wotan can't bear to live in the world that Alberich's hoard of objective knowledge would force upon human consciousness. In other words, I believe that Wagner dramatized his fear that human endeavor (i.e., man's age-old quest for transcendent value, for what makes life worth living) is futile in the final version of the "Ring" he's handed down to us, but purely from his own conviction prior to his first acquaintance with Schopenhauer's philosophy of world-renunciation. But I also explored to what extent Wagner seems to have reconciled himself to accepting the consequences which follow from man renouncing any further attempt to redeem himself from the objective world (which is a part of what Shapiro conveys in his analysis of what he describes as Bruennhilde's reconciliation with the real, imperfect world in the last words she addresses to mankind in the finale of "Goetterdaemmerung"). At www.wagnerheim.com I briefly discussed how Wagner in "Parsifal" explored this potential reconciliation with the bitter truth which Alberich had threatened to compel all men to acknowledge, and posted in the discussion forum there a lengthy essay about Feuerbach's influence on the libretto of "Parsifal," which can be read in its archive.]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 933-935:]

Now Siegfried proclaims his heroic credo: since the Rhinedaughters threaten him, though (accompanied now by #52 – the portion of Alberich’s Ring curse which proclaimed doom to any one who co-opts Alberich’s Ring-power) the Ring were not worth a whit, the Ring they’ll never wrest from him. Accompanied by #45 (“Power of the Ring”) and a #19 variant (which sounds like Bruennhilde’s “Triumphant” variant of #17), Siegfried shouts that thus he flings life and limb away from him, as he throws an earth clod over his back. In other words, like Bruennhilde, he’s willing to die for love, or, to be more accurate, he’d rather be dead if he was forced to acknowledge that the fundamental motive of his life ... [PH: was] self-preservation rather than love.

Wagner had very strong feelings on this subject, suggesting on several occasions that suicide would be preferable to acknowledging that man’s primary (or sole) motive is self-preservation (fear), as opposed to self-sacrificial love and compassion, which for Wagner was the sole worthy source of inspiration for human action (including the creation of art):

“No people has taken arms against invasions of its inner freedom, its own true essence, as the Germans: there is no comparison for the doggedness with which the German chose his total ruin, rather than accommodate himself to claims quite foreign to his nature. (…) It is the essence of that spirit which we call ‘genius’ in the case of highly-gifted individuals, not to trim its sails to worldly profit. (…) Recollection (Erinnerung) now became for it in truth a self-collection (Er-Innerung); for upon its deepest inner self it drew, to ward itself from the now immoderate outer influences. (…) Yet when its native countenance, its very speech was lost, there remained to the German spirit one last, one undreamt sanctuary wherein to plainly tell itself the story of its heart of hearts. From the Italians the German had adopted Music, also, for his own.” [723W-{9-12/65} What is German?: PW Vol. IV, p. 161-162]

“… R. suddenly quoted Egmont’s words, ‘I set you an example,’ and said this was what made Egmont so significant, this was the German conception of freedom – not to want to go on living when all one could look forward to was fear and the need for circumspection. R. spoke these words with great vehemence, as if he were telling me the basic conviction of his life.” [996W-{11/25/79}CD Vol. II, p. 401]

“… my hero should not leave behind the impression of a totally unconscious 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 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.

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Page 981, previously cited]

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 1003-1005, previously cited]

[P. 77-78] "... in January 1854, while composing the music for the Erda scene in 'Rheingold,' Wagner decided to alter the text, changing Erda’s haunting message from one warning solely of the ring’s curse to one that more clearly articulated the philosophical truth of nature and time: 'All things that are – end.' (76) In this way he returned to a fundamental principle of his revolutionary thought of 1849, seeking to capture in Erda’s wisdom what he originally had conceived almost five years earlier as the prophetic insight of his goddess 'Revolution' – namely nature’s state of constant flux and mutability. As the goddess had declared: 'I am the e’er-rejuvenating, ever-fashioning life'; 'Whatever stands, must fall: such is the everlasting law of Nature, such the condition of Life.' (76) The 1854 letter to Roeckel, written at the same time as this amendment to Erda’s speech, demonstrates Wagner’s intellectual commitment to the theme of unrelenting change, destruction, and renewal: '[T]he remainder of the poem is concerned to show how necessary it is to acknowledge change, variety, multiplicity and the eternal newness of reality and of life.' (79)"

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 259-260, previously cited]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 262-263:]

A crucial point at issue in Erda’s prophecy is that she does not tell Wotan that the gods can escape the fated doom she has foretold, but rather, offers them a suggestion of how they can avoid foreseeing it, how they can redeem themselves from consciousness of it and fear of it (the end), by submerging thinking (the Ring) in feeling (first the Rhinedaughters, now the Giants). This they can do by resorting to the refuge of consoling illusions founded in subjective feeling, called religious faith in earlier times, and art in secular times.

Wagner said it all in his following commentary on the crucial alteration he performed on Erda’s original statement. Initially, Wagner planned to have Erda say that a gloomy day was dawning for the gods unless they yield the Ring to the Giants. But Wagner altered this passage. In his final version, the one we hear in performance, Erda drops this condition, simply stating flatly that a day of darkness dawns for the gods:

“For me my poem [The Ring of the Nibelung] has only the following meaning: … Instead of the words: ‘a gloomy day dawns on the gods: in shame shall end your noble race, if you do not give up the ring!’ I now make Erda say merely: ‘All that is – ends: a gloomy day dawns on the gods: I counsel you, shun the ring!’ – We must learn to die, and to die in the fullest sense of the word: fear of the end is the source of all lovelessness … .” [613W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 306-307]

Remarkably, Erda counsels Wotan to shun the Ring but not with any prospect that by doing so he can change his fate. Our thesis that possessing the Ring means possessing objective consciousness of the truth provides the solution: by relinquishing the Ring to the Giants Wotan can suppress consciousness of the bitter truth by submerging it in his unconscious mind, and sublimate its bitterness into blissful feeling. Thus Wotan can redeem himself from having to foresee the inevitable end of the gods. He can replace truth with an illusion held to be the truth, and prohibit the freedom of inquiry which might contradict this false belief, through the requirement of unquestioning religious faith, sanctioned by fear. It is Fafner, transformed by virtue of the Tarnhelm into a fearsome serpent, who, as the embodiment of faith’s taboo on freedom of thought, will prohibit access to the source of Alberich’s power, his Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard of knowledge. This is how Wotan will fulfill Erda’s intent that he flee the Ring’s curse by shunning it.

We will learn later, in fuller detail, what Wagner means in his commentary on his alteration to Erda’s prophecy, when he says that we must learn to die, and that fear of the end is the source of all lovelessness. At its most obvious, Wagner means that the self-preservation instinct (fear of the end) is selfish and antithetical to love, and that therefore we can only restore the love we have lost because of fear, by overcoming fear of the end, and willing the necessary by resigning ourselves to our mortality. This is at least partly what Wagner tried to convey in his following commentary on Wotan’s fateful decision to will the necessary, the destruction of the gods, in S.3.1:

“ … the remainder of the poem [the Ring] is concerned to show how necessary it is to acknowledge change, variety, multiplicity and the eternal newness of reality and of life, and to yield to that necessity. Wodan rises to the tragic heights of willing his own destruction. This is all that we need to learn from the history of mankind: to will what is necessary and to bring it about ourselves.” [615W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 307]

[P. 78] "Advocates of the Schopenhauerian interpretation of the 'Ring' and Wagner’s allegedly proto-Schopenhauerian frame of mind in the early 1850s also like to point to Wagner’s letter of 1853 to Franz Liszt in which he exclaimed, 'Mark well my new poem – it contains the world’s beginning and its end!' (81) But this bit of hyperbole must be read in context of Wagner’s thinking at the time before one jumps to the conclusion that Wagner had adopted Schopenhauer’s fatalism even before he had ever read a word of the philosopher."

[PH: I suspect that Shapiro suffered from the following disadvantage: he seems not to have noticed what seemed self-evident to me at an early stage in my analysis of Wagner's "Ring," that Wagner expressed his doubts about the alleged wondrousness of Feuerbach's world-affirmation within the plot of the "Ring" prior to Wagner's first acquaintance with Schopenhauer in the Fall of 1854, who, as Wagner said himself, simply gave voice to doubts Wagner already had. My allegorical reading of the "Ring" at www.wagnerheim.com, based as it was almost entirely on my knowledge of Feuerbach's influence on Wagner and on what I construed as Wagner's objections to Feuerbach's philosophy prior to his first acquaintance with Schopenhauer, proves that one can propose a plausible interpretation of the entire "Ring," music and words, which takes account of Wagner's doubts without any appeal to Schopenhauer.]

[P. 78] "Later, when Wagner had finally read Schopenhauer, he was able to articulate to Roeckel exactly what philosophical mindset had first animated his creative efforts.

'My Nibelung poem … had taken shape at a time when, relying upon my conceptions, I had constructed a Hellenistically optimistic world for myself which I held to be entirely realizable if only people wished it to exist…. I believed I could express this idea even more clearly by presenting the whole of the Nibelung myth, and by showing how a whole world of injustice … is destroyed in order – – – to teach us to recognize injustice, root it out and establish a just world in its place.' (82)"

[P. 78-79] "As Wagner himself clarified, he had originally intended the destruction of Valhalla to mark the end of one phase of history and to usher in a new phase that would take the lessons of the past to improve the lot of man. (...) Mankind could not advance without learning from the multiple missteps and errors of its forbears who had created the conditions of the present time. 'Out of error knowledge is born,' Wagner declared in the first pages of 'The Artwork of the Future' (AF 13). The future originally envisioned in 'Goetterdaemmerung,' then, is not the end of the world, nor a pure blank slate renewal of nature, but is human history which necessarily builds on the rubble of the past. (83)"


[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Page 374, previously cited]

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 988-989, previously cited]

[P. 86] "4 Brünnhilde’s Mercy"

[P. 86-87] "In the 'Phenomenology of Spirit,' Hegel introduced the concepts of the 'judging consciousness' and the 'acting consciousness' and explained how the former, priding itself on adherence to a pristine idealism, passes judgment on the 'acting consciousness,' holding it responsible for how action in the real world falls short of the ideal. But over time, in response to the acting consciousness’ confession of inadequacy, the judging conscious, also known as the 'beautiful soul' or the 'universal consciousness,' finally relents and offers forgiveness. (4) (...) Engaging at long last with the confession of the acting consciousness, the beautiful soul finally comes to the realization that action is necessary in the world and cannot be disdained as impure, and goes further in acknowledging the relativism of both the judging and the acting postures. In undergoing this intellectual maturation process, the beautiful soul brings Spirit closer to actualization. (5)"


[PH: That Bruennhilde, in her final words spoken in T.3.3, confesses that she has at last grasped the historical implications of what her father Wotan had confessed to her in V.2.2, and that her efforts to pursue Wotan's original hope for redemption (a hope he confessed the truth had forced him to give up) through his as-yet-unborn free hero Siegfried was predestined to be thwarted by Alberich's Ring Curse, which ultimately destroyed Siegfried and the love she'd shared with him (i.e., dying religious faith's hope for redemption in unconsciously inspired secular art), has long been a central pillar of my evolving allegorical interpretation of Wagner's "Ring." It had been Bruennhilde's duty to keep Wotan's unspoken secret, which he had confessed to her, but Siegfried unwittingly betrayed that forbidden hoard of knowledge to consciousness by giving his muse Bruennhilde and the secrets she'd kept away to Gunther, Wagner's metaphor for the artist-hero Siegfried's audience, and delivered the coup de grace, revealing what should have remained concealed, by making what formerly was unconscious conscious when he fulfilled Hagen's (the instrument of Alberich's Ring Curse of consciousness) request that Siegfried sing to his audience of Gibichungs the story of his heroic life and how he learned the meaning of the Woodbird's song, i.e., how the music-dramatist Wagner became Wagner. Placed in this allegorical context, Shapiro's argument that Bruennhilde in the end confers on mankind the benefit of her hoard of knowledge, which Shapiro elsewhere in his book stated (correctly, though I'd stated it long ago) was the sublation of Alberich's hoard of treasure, takes on an entirely different meaning than that imputed to it by Shapiro.]

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 678-679, previously cited]

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 751-753, previously cited]

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 933-935, previously cited]

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, See Page 981, previously cited]

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 1003-1005, previously cited]

[P. 87-88] Hegel’s allegory of the evolution of consciousness provides a useful framework for interpreting the relationship between Wotan and Bruennhilde. Wotan conceives his 'grandiose idea' for winning back the ring at the end of 'Das Rheingold' as he prepares to cross the rainbow bridge into Valhalla. To Wotan’s credit, this plan for solving his dilemma through the 'fearsome sword' and the Waelsung free agents is creative and forward-looking. (...) As he explains to Fricka, in a phrase uttered in a traditional-style recitative capped by a leitmotif characteristic of the drama of the future: the clarion call of the Sword [PH: #57ab, whose second segment, The Primal Nature Motif #1, is Wagner's symbol for mankind's world-historical, but futile, quest to restore lost innocence]: 'Age old custom is all you can grasp: but my thoughts seek to encompass what’s never yet come to pass.' (...) In his famous monologue in Act II of 'Die Walkuere,' he admits to Bruennhilde his inability to accomplish his plan, thereby enacting the key moment when the 'acting consciousness' confesses the limits of idealism in a world of partial solutions. In his autobiography Wagner identified this theme as the initial spark of inspiration for his opera on Friedrich I and later for his adaptation of the Nibelung mythology: '[the hero’s] dignified resignation at the impossibility of realizing his highest ideals was to lead, while arousing sympathy for the hero as well, to a true insight into the manifold complexity of all action in this world.' (11) While originally conceived as the dramatic message of Barbarossa’s historical struggles with the Lombard League, this philosophical insight ultimately became the theme of Wotan’s mythic struggle."
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