Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 12

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 12

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:49 am

And in the following passage Wagner quite specifically notes that Wotan’s self-destruction gives birth, through his “Will” Bruennhilde, to the redeemer Siegfried:

“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. The final creative product of this supreme, self-destructive will is a fearless human being, one who never ceases to love: Siegfried. – That is all.” [615W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to AugustRoeckel: SLRW, p. 307]

We find the inspiration for Wagner’s understanding of the relationship of Wotan to Siegfried in Feuerbach’s atheistic reinterpretation of the relationship of the Old Testament God to the New Testament Christ, the god of love, in whom the transcendent God of the human imagination ceases to exist, because in Christ man recognizes God as his own idealized self:

“… love is a higher power and truth than deity. Love conquers god [as Wotan in S.3.2 willingly goes into oblivion to make way for his heir Siegfried]. It was love to which god sacrificed his divine majesty. (…) As god has renounced himself out of love, so we, out of love, should renounce god… .” [62F-EOC: p. 53]

[P. 66] "Through the death of the hero in such a drama, the audience would learn the fundamental truth of humankind: 'From the essence of this one human being, revealed in that death, we can grasp the full breadth of all human essence [menschliches Wesens]' (AF 79). (...) In tragedy 'the last, most complete externalization of [the hero’s] personal egoism, the presentation of his complete sublation into the universal is announced by his death, and no arbitrary death but rather a necessary one, one that is determined by his actions from the full force of his being' (AF 79). For Wagner, then, the death of the hero represents not a denial of life or the will, but an affirmation of the universal – a compelling representation in microcosm of nature’s macrocosmic process: not a symbol of individual renunciation, but of a transubstantiation into the new spiritual reality – the eternal life of the species."

[PH: Shapiro elsewhere in his book describes Hagen's influence on Siegfried through his potions as somehow preserving Siegfried's innocence, since Siegfried is wholly unconscious of the fact he's betrayed Bruennhilde, Hagen's first potion having obliterated Siegfried's memory of his true love Bruennhilde and having replaced it with a love for Gutrune. But as Shapiro acknowledges in the passage from his page 66 above, Wagner's view was that Siegfried's tragedy was not only historically necessary but a reflection of Siegfried's true heroic identity, or fate, so to speak. In other words, as I argued at www.wagnerheim.com, the influence of Hagen and his potions on Siegfried reflects Siegfried's own true nature and his inevitable role in history. The Tarnhelm, as I noted in www.wagnerheim.com years ago and as Shapiro notes in his book, for instance, is a symbol for Wagner's concept of religious and artistic Wonder, the latter being distinguished from the former in that unlike religious Wonder, religious man's belief in the supernatural and the miraculous which denies nature's laws and coherence, artistic Wonder doesn't claim to transcend Nature but, within actual life, makes us feel as if we've risen above it. Keeping in mind that in my "Ring" interpretation Loge represents man's (Wotan's) gift of artistic self-deceit (Loge therefore being the archetype for Siegfried), this explains why Loge's Motif #35 gives birth to the two Tarnhelm motifs #42 and #43, and the latter gives birth to Hagen's Potion Motif #154.]

[P. 66-67] "When Bruennhilde relinquishes the ring which had meant everything to her personally she does not perform this act to promote a personal agenda but as a 'world-redeeming deed' that responds to the urgent pleas of the Rhinemaidens. She no longer acts for herself but in the service of the good of humanity. (...) Bruennhilde’s self-annihilation thus becomes a beacon for humanity, teaching a world-historical lesson that is straight out of Feuerbach’s playbook: 'the necessary turning-point in history is therefore the open confession, that the consciousness of God is nothing else than the consciousness of the species; that man can and should raise himself only above the limits of his individuality, and not above the laws, the positive essential conditions of his species' (EC 272). Bruennhilde enacts just this historical turning point. (...) Love of the other is thus superseded 'at the highest level' by an all-embracing love of humanity as a whole. Individual self-consciousness gives way to a new plane of existence – the realization of the World Spirit in Hegel’s system or the Great Being in Comte’s. (19)"

[PH: A key difference between my own allegorical reading of the "Ring" at www.wagnerheim.com and Shapiro's is that I located that historical turning point (in which man substitutes species consciousness for God, and specifically substitutes unconsciously inspired secular art for dying religious faith) in S.3.1, in which Wotan proclaims to Erda his acquiescence in the twilight of the gods because he hopes the soul of man's religious longing for transcendent value and the restoration of lost innocence will live on in the secular art Siegfried's muse, his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, will inspire Siegfried to create, an art which Wotan hopes will neutralize Alberich's Ring Curse of consciousness. Shapiro, on the contrary, locates that historical turning point in the finale of the "Ring," T.3.3, in which Bruennhilde explains the significance of Siegfried's death and the twilight of the gods.]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, on Pages 628-630:]

Wotan now parries Erda’s thrust - her accusation that he is not what he calls himself, a god - brilliantly, by informing her that he no longer fears the end of the gods she once prophesied, because now he wills it. He wills it because, having once, in despair, left Alberich’s son Hagen heir to the world, including all that Wotan despises about himself and the gods (religion), he sees now that the very essence of Valhalla, the promise of sorrow-less youth eternal, freedom from fear, and transcendent love, will now live on as pure feeling unadulterated by refutable claims to truth, in Wotan’s chosen (yet free) heir, the artist-hero Siegfried ... .
(...)

This is the turning point where Wotan, willingly consigning himself and the other gods (overt religious belief) to oblivion (i.e., willing the necessity of the inevitable fate Erda proclaimed to him), leaves the mortal artist-hero Siegfried (and his muse, Bruennhilde) heir to his legacy. Siegfried will, however, not fall heir to the real, loveless (#37) world which Wotan bequeathed to Alberich’s spite (“Neid,” embodied by Alberich’s son Hagen), but to Wotan’s legacy Valhalla (represented here by #20a), so that religious feeling, the heart of religious man’s longing for transcendent value, can live on in the redemptive art Siegfried will produce, minus dogmatic belief in the gods.

This is the Feuerbachian turning point where man, no longer requiring belief in gods to make life livable, acknowledges that the gods were, all along, just the projected ideals of collective, historical man:

“The necessary turning point of history is … the open confession, that the consciousness of God is nothing else than the consciousness of the species; that man can and should raise himself only above the limits of his individuality, and not above the laws, the positive essential conditions of his species; that there is no other essence which man can think, dream of, imagine, feel, believe in, wish for, love and adore as the absolute, than the essence of human nature itself.” [139F-EOC: p. 270]

“ … Christians worship the human individual as the supreme being, as God. Not indeed consciously, for it is the unconsciousness of this fact which constitutes the illusion of the religious principle. (…) Man is the God of Christianity, Anthropology the mystery of Christian theology. The history of Christianity has had for its grand result the unveiling of this mystery – the realisation and recognition of theology as anthropology.” [175F-EOC: p. 336]

Thus man emancipates himself from the gods, his own invention, and takes responsibility for himself:

“ … fortunately for them and for us, the Christians, in conformity with the spirit and character of the Western and especially the Germanic peoples, have asserted autonomous human activity [i.e. individual conscience and freedom of thought] in opposition to the consequences of the religious dogmas and doctrines derived from the Orient.” [254F-LER: p. 168]

And here, Wagner’s explanation of Wotan’s hope that Siegfried, in whom Wotan has subliminally planted his own divinity, will freely assume the gods’ guilt and expiate it, displays its debt to Feuerbach’s notion that men will ultimately emancipate themselves from their delusion of Godhead and take responsibility for themselves without invoking divine authority or intervention:

“… only a free Will, independent of the Gods themselves, and able to assume and expiate itself the burden of all guilt, can loose the spell; and in Man the Gods perceive the faculty of such free-will. In Man they therefore seek to plant their own divinity, to raise his strength so high that, in full knowledge of that strength, he may rid him of the Gods’ protection, to do of his free will what his own mind inspires. So the Gods bring up Man for this high destiny, to be the canceller of their own guilt; and their aim would be attained even if in this human creation they should perforce annul themselves, that is, must part with their immediate influence through freedom of man’s conscience. [377W-{6-8/48} The Nibelungen Myth: PW Vol. VII, p. 302-303]

Wotan doesn’t fear the end Erda foresaw because he (religion) lives on in Siegfried (secular art). Wotan wills his own end because Alberich’s threat to raise his Hoard of knowledge from the silent depths of Nature’s sleep, and man’s unconscious, to the light of day, will inevitably destroy belief in the gods in time, so Wotan is merely willing the necessary. But Wotan believes that the love Siegfried and Bruennhilde share will be invulnerable to Alberich’s curse of consciousness. Wotan, God-the-Father, in other words, wills the inevitable, the death of gods, for the sake of the love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde, which is merely Wagner’s metaphor for the unconscious inspiration of redemptive art, particularly his art, the music-drama:

“… love is a higher power and truth than deity. Love conquers god. It was love [the savior Jesus, a model for Siegfried, and the virgin Mary, a model for Bruennhilde] to which god [God-the-Father Wotan] sacrificed his divine majesty. (…) As god has renounced himself out of love, so we, out of love, should renounce god… .” [62F-EOC: p. 53] [See also 517W]

Wotan adds that the “end” of the gods, which he once resolved to bring about - during his confession to Bruennhilde - in despair at the inevitability that Alberich and his son Hagen would inherit the real world, he now wills with the happy serenity which arises from his confidence that his legacy, Valhalla, will live on freed from Alberich’s curse in the love of Siegfried and Bruennhilde, who will in effect create a new Valhalla, a new religion, of art. This introduces one of the most important motifs in the entire Ring, #134 [PH: The so-called World-Inheritance Motif], which is the closest Wagner comes in the Ring to creating a motif which can genuinely be identified as a “Motif of Redemption,” specifically, a “Motif of Redemption by Love.”

[P. 67-68] "In analyzing Wagner’s philosophical mindset at the time he wrote the 'Ring' libretto, it is important to recognize that there are structural similarities between Young Hegelian theories and those of Schopenhauer. (...) ... love in Feuerbach’s philosophy was not simply an emotional state that reflected the vibrancy of sensual man, but represented a path from blinkered egoism to the truth of the species being. (...) 'Love is nothing else than the self-consciousness of the species as evolved within the difference of sex,' Feuerbach wrote. (EC 159) (23) (...) Accordingly, when Wagner speaks in the early 1850s in terms of breaking through the limits of egoism, annihilating the self, and embracing universalism, one need not conclude that he is speaking in Schopenhauerian terms of the pre-rational undivided force of the will and the call to renunciation. ... once he had become fully acquainted with Schopenhauer’s teachings he started to search for a way to reconcile renunciation with sensualism and the notion of the will with the Young Hegelian conception of the species. It was in Venice, in December 1858, that Wagner thought he had solved the philosophical puzzle and boasted to Mathilde Wesendonck in a grandiose letter that '[t]he result … will inevitably be very important, and fill in the gaps in Schopenhauer’s system in a thorough and satisfactory fashion.' (24)"

[PH: In the following two extracts from www.wagnerheim.com I explored the sometimes surprising similarity of Feuerbach's concepts to those published previously by Schopenhauer.]

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Page 282, previously cited]

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

And as for those who are convinced that Wagner had to depend directly and exclusively on Schopenhauer’s writings (with which – it is generally agreed – he first became familiar in 1854) to find the inspiration for his expression of a pessimistic outlook on the nature of man such as he gives voice to in our extract above, I offer below an observation about the nature of things written by Feuerbach in 1830 which seems almost to be a cryptic reduction of Schopenhauer’s pessimistic outlook into a few brief sentences:

“The birth of one being is another’s death. The drive of self-preservation in nature is also a drive to destruction. … how unfortunate existence and life are for a single being, which cannot exist without opposing and contradicting another being, or how miserably limited and conditioned life is because it can continue only with the limitation and condition that it is a contradiction. … it therefore seems as if it might be … a misfortune to live, to be a living, single being, an individual…. this condition, that life can continue only as contradiction, that every living thing has its mortal enemy, manifests a limit and the finitude of life itself.” [9F-TDI: p. 78]

It sounds as if Feuerbach might in fact have been familiar with the first volume of Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, which Schopenhauer had published prior to 1830, when Feuerbach wrote what appears to be a cryptic reference to Schopenhauer above.

[PH: The following extract from www.wagnerheim.com explores Wagner's attempt to correct Schopenhauer's theory of redemption as a stilling of the Will.]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 723-725:]

So what then does Bruennhilde mean when she says that Godlike composure rages in billows, and the chastest of light flares up with passion? This highly unusual, seemingly contradictory statement expounds what is in fact the basis for one of Wagner’s few significant critiques of Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Schopenhauer believed that redemption was to be found solely in a stilling or quieting of the Will, i.e., of man’s primary instinctive impulses such as fear, self-aggrandizement, and sexual desire, and that this could be obtained through a mystical identification of one’s ego with the “all,” the entire cosmos and everything in it both animate and inanimate. Wagner’s critique was that he found redemption instead not in a stilling or quieting of the Will, but in a heightening of the Will to the point of revelation through sexual love, in which one feels one’s own limited will expanded until it feels itself one with the universal will. We can, however, only make sense of Wagner’s critique of Schopenhauer if we recognize that when he speaks of sexual love he is referring to his metaphor for unconscious inspiration of the artist by his muse, who is his unconscious mind and holds for him man’s repressed hoard of knowledge that the world is inherently and irrevocably loveless. With this in view we can now follow the reasoning of Wagner’s critique as expressed in the extracts below.

We begin with a passage Wagner wrote three years (50-1/51) prior to his first known acquaintance with Schopenhauer’s philosophy in the Fall of 1854. This passage is the conceptual basis of what would later become Wagner’s critique of Schopenhauer’s concept of redemption:

“Nature in her actual reality [Erda’s objective knowledge of all that was, is, and will be] is only seen by the Understanding [Alberich, and Wotan – Light-Alberich - when he wears Alberich’s Ring or knows Erda objectively, without love], which de-composes her into her separatest of parts; if it wants to display to itself these parts in their living organic connexion, then the quiet of the Understanding’s meditation is involuntarily displaced by a more and more highly agitated mood, which at last remains nothing but a mood of Feeling. In this mood, Man unconsciously refers Nature [Erda] once more to himself … . In Feeling’s highest agitation, Man sees in Nature a sympathising being [Erda’s daughter Bruennhilde, i.e., music, through whom Wotan, reborn now as Siegfried, can forget Wotan’s care and fear, which was inspired by Erda’s prophecy] … .” [526W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 218]

We can see here that Wagner considers “quiet” or stilling of the impulses as a state of mind dependent on understanding. But, he says, to grasp the living organic connection of all things this quiet is involuntarily replaced by an “agitated mood” of feeling. Wagner then goes on to suggest that in this way man unconsciously refers nature - as known to us objectively in science (i.e., Erda as understood by Alberich) - to himself so he can see in nature a sympathetic being. We can construe nature (Erda), when it is known to us as a sympathetic being, as Erda’s daughter Bruennhilde, who is Wagner’s metaphor for the unconscious, involuntary mind, and music. This I believe is the meaning underlying Bruennhilde’s remark that “Godlike composure rages in billows; the chastest of light flares up with passion … .” Wagner, not yet familiar with Schopenhauer, nonetheless expressed both in the Ring libretto and in his observation above, what would later become perhaps his most important difference with Schopenhauer. And now we also understand what lies behind Wotan’s leaving the virgin Valkyrie asleep on a mountaintop to be wooed, won and wed by the authentic artist-hero Siegfried, to whom her chastity must be sacrificed. It is only by renouncing the key religious notion of transcendence, whose symbol here is the Valkyrie chastity which denies man’s physical nature, and reaffirming man’s relationship with the real world, in art, that the Wagnerian redemption by love, i.e., redemption by art, can transpire. Religious man’s chastity, a symbol of world-renunciation, is to be replaced by the secular artist’s world-affirmation. Thus Wotan’s nihilistic intent to end it all finds its escape hatch: Wotan’s religious impulse can find a new release on life, in art, without making the preposterous and falsifiable claim to spiritual transcendence. In other words, our means to feel as if we transcend nature, stems from nature.

And here we have the primary passages recording Wagner’s critique of Schopenhauer’s concept of redemption. Note that in this first passage Wagner identifies sexual love’s ecstasy, as a redemptive force, with genius, i.e., artistic inspiration:

“… I have been slowly rereading Schopenhauer’s principal work, and this time it has inspired me, quite extraordinarily, to expand and – in certain details – even to correct his system. The subject is uncommonly important, and it must, I think, have been reserved for a man of my own particular nature, at this particular period of his life, to gain insights here of a kind that could never have disclosed themselves to anyone else. It is a question … of pointing out the path to salvation, which has not been recognized by any philosopher, and especially not by Sch. [Schopenhauer], but which involves a total pacification of the will through love, and not through any abstract human love, but a love engendered on the basis of sexual love, i.e. the attraction between man and woman. (…) The presentation of this argument will take me very deep and very far: it involves a more detailed explanation of the state in which we become capable of recognizing ideas, and of genius in general, which I no longer conceive of as a state in which the intellect is divorced from the will, but rather as an intensification of the individual intellect to the point where it becomes the organ of perception of the genus or species, and thus of the will itself, which is the thing in itself; herein lies the only possible explanation for that marvellous and enthusiastic joy and ecstasy felt by any genius at the highest moments of perception, moments which Sch. seems scarcely to recognize, since he is able to find them only in a state of calm and in the silencing of the individual affects of the will.” [664W-{12/1/58} Letter to Mathilde Wesendonck: SLRW, p. 432]

“We can but take it that the individual will, silenced in the plastic artist through pure beholding, awakes in the musician as the universal Will … . Hence the great difference in the mental state of the concipient musician and the designing artist; hence the radically diverse effects of music and of painting: here profoundest stilling, there utmost excitation of the will. In other words we here have the will imprisoned by the fancy (Wahn) of its difference from the essence of things outside, and unable to lift itself above its barriers save in the purely disinterested beholding of objects; whilst there, in the musician’s case, the will feels one forthwith, above all bounds of individuality: for Hearing has opened it the gate through which the world thrusts home to it, it to the world. This prodigious breaking-down the floodgates of Appearance must necessarily call forth in the inspired musician a state of ecstasy wherewith no other can compare: in it the will perceives itself the almighty Will of all things: it has not mutely to yield place to contemplation, but proclaims itself aloud as conscious World-Idea.” [771W-{9-12/70} Beethoven: PW Vol. V, p. 72]

And here, in one of his most intriguing remarks, Wagner explains why he alone was privileged to grasp the true basis of redemption which Schopenhauer had missed. It was, he says, because he, as both composer and poet of his music-dramas, i.e., as master of both the unconscious and conscious minds, had an insight into inner processes unique to himself:

“… I always hark back to my Schopenhauer, who has led me to the most remarkable trains of thought … in amendment of some of his imperfections. The theme becomes more interesting to me every day, for it is a question here of explications such as I alone can give, since there never was another man who was poet and musician at once in my sense, and therefore to whom an insight into inner processes has become possible such as could be expected of no other.” [665W-{12/8/58} Letter to Mathilde Wesendonck: RWLMW, p. 78] [See also 363W]

With respect to Bruennhilde’s chastity flaring up into passion, we find an excellent explanation in Wagner’s following Feuerbach-inspired critique of Christianity’s emphasis on chastity, which is one of several ways in which Christians proclaim their alleged autonomy from the real world:

“… we decide that the excesses to which the insistence on chastity led constituted a terrible feature; they were due to the impossibility of realizing something felt to lie deep within the human character, the desire to set oneself outside nature and yet to go on living.” [948W-{11/3/78} CD Vol. II, p. 188]

Bruennhilde’s Valkyrie chastity is the product of a religious injunction to deny the body in favor of a life of the spirit, as Wagner describes above. But this was destined to failure because, as Feuerbach pointed out, all human longing to transcend nature and the body stems from nothing more than the self-delusion of man’s abstract, symbolic mind, which imagines it is possible to shed all aspects of life which bring grief, and preserve only those aspects of life which are blissful, in heaven, without any debt to the earth, as if heavenly bliss were a gift from the heavens above rather than a subtle sublimation of earthly, bodily feelings. The mistake was, as Wagner says above, in thinking that man could set himself outside of nature (i.e., commit Wotan’s sin of killing the Mother, Erda), yet go on living eternally. Thus the gods staked the entire meaning of their lives on Freia’s golden apples of sorrow-less youth eternal, but Erda set them straight by warning that all things end, and that a dark day is dawning for the gods. The secular art which is Wotan’s only hope to preserve religious feeling in the face of science’s prospective destruction of religion as a way of understanding the world, will not renounce the world and the body but embrace them, but make us feel as if we are lifted above them. Thus Bruennhilde’s chastity flares up now with passion.

[P. 68-69] "In 'Opera and Drama,' Wagner explained that the 'Going-under of the State,' the dissolution of the political apparatus that had constrained man for centuries, reflected on a political level the love the parent bears towards his children. 'Now, by Love the father knows that he has not as yet experienced enough, but that by the experiences of his child, which in love toward it he makes his own, he may endlessly enrich his being. In the aptitude for rejoicing at the deeds of others … consists the beauty of reposeful age…. It is the giving space to the activity of youth in an element of Love.' (OD 205, 375) (...) Bruennhilde has served her role in seeing through the illusion of the gods’ power. Now it is time for the next generation to take that insight – that 'heirloom' – and develop it further – free from gods and the burdens of defunct belief systems. In his 1854 letter to Roeckel, Wagner not only recognized the need to 'acknowledge change' but also to 'to yield to that necessity.' (27) Bruennhilde’s immolation thus reflects and responds to the highest principles of progress. She willingly withdraws from the stage of history to make way for the new."

[PH: The following two quotations from www.wagnerheim.com describe the "going-under" of the State, i.e., Wotan.]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Page 362:]

Wotan needs a hero freed from these prosaic egoistic motives who not only can, but spontaneously will, breach the contracts predicated on egoism which have trapped Wotan, and in this way free Wotan from the trap he set himself. As Wagner described this redemption below, it is the state’s “going-under”:

“… the Going-under of the State can mean nothing else but the self-realisement of Society’s religious conviction (Bewusstsein) of its purely-human essence. By its very nature, this conviction can be no Dogma stamped upon us from without, i.e. it cannot rest on historical traditions, nor be drilled into us by the State. So long as any one of life’s actions is demanded of us as an outward Duty, so long is the object of that action no object of Religious Conscience; for when we act from the dictates of religious conscience we act from out ourselves, we so act as we cannot act otherwise. But Religious Conscience means a universal conscience (allgemeinsames Bewusstsein); and conscience cannot be universal, until it knows the Unconscious, the Instinctive, the Purely-human, as the only true and necessary thing, and vindicates it by that knowledge.” [513W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 201]

In truth, Wotan, by virtue of confessing the knowledge of his historical trap to Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, and thus repressing it, is in the process of achieving “the Going-under of the State.”

[PH: See the Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Page 375, previously cited]

[PH: In the quotation previously cited from Page 375 above, I described how Wotan figuratively goes under in his confession to Bruennhilde, by repressing his self-knowledge of what Wagner would describe as the egoistic Judaism of his soul, purging it so he can be reborn as the innocent, pre-Fallen Siegfried, who doesn't know who he is because Bruennhilde knows this for him.]

[PH: In the following two extracts from www.wagnerheim.com I explored Wagner's views on what the parent owes his children, what age owes to youth, in the figurative sense applied to world history, and which Wagner applied to Wotan's relationship with Siegfried (and for that matter Hans Sachs's relationship with the artist-hero Walther), to the relationship of the drama/word to music, and to Wagner's own relationship with his most inspired actor-singers, in whom his original inspiration found its living expression.]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 553-555:]

Wotan has acknowledged to Alberich that he loves Siegfried, and that he expresses this love by granting Siegfried his independence, that only in this way can Siegfried actually fulfill Wotan’s wishes. In Opera and Drama Wagner wrote a meditation on the proper relation of age to youth, which as it develops identifies the aged teacher with the poet-dramatist, and the youth with music. This provides a key insight not only into the meaning behind Wotan’s remarks to Alberich about Siegfried’s independence, but also provides enlightenment on our allegorical reading of Siegfried as Wagner’s metaphor for himself, the music-dramatist. Here’s what Wagner says about the relation of age to youth:

“Already-experienced age [Wotan] is able to take … the deeds of youth [Siegfried], by which the latter unconsciously evinces its instinctive thrust, and to survey them in their full conjunction: it [Wotan] thus can vindicate these deeds more completely than their youthful agent [Siegfried], since it knows how to explain and consciously display them [only Wotan, in whom Siegfried is reborn minus consciousness of his true origin, purpose, and destiny, can explain the true motives behind Siegfried’s allegedly spontaneous heroic actions]. In the repose of age [Wotan as mere observer, who does not act] we thus win the ‘moment’ of highest poetic faculty; and only that more youthful man [Siegfried] can make this faculty his own, who wins that repose, i.e. that justness toward the phenomena of Life. –

The loving admonition of the experienced to the inexperienced, of the peaceful to the passionate, of the beholder [Wotan] to the doer [Siegfried], is given the most persuasively and resultfully by bringing faithfully before the instinctive agent his inmost being [Bruennhilde]. He who is possessed with life’s unconscious eagerness, will never be brought by general moral exhortations [the upbringing Wotan gave Siegfried’s father, Siegmund] to a critical knowledge (zur urtheilfaehigen Erkenntniss) of his own being, but this can only succeed entirely when in a likeness [Bruennhilde, in whose still waters Siegfried will see himself mirrored, before he dives into the flood] faithfully held up before him he is able to look upon himself; for right cognisance is re-cognition, just as right conscience is knowledge of our own Unconsciousness. The admonisher [Wotan, who grasps Siegfried’s entire historic context and raison d’être] is the understanding, the experienced-one’s conscious power of view: the thing to be admonished is the feeling [what Wotan thought, Bruennhilde feels, and imparts Wotan’s thought to Siegfried as feeling], the unconscious bent-to-doing of the seeker for experience [Siegfried].” [518W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 206]
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