Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 10

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 10

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:55 am

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 314-315:]

Siegmund’s highest need (“Noth”), is the need of love in a loveless world. This is represented musically on the one hand by the recurrence of #58b, to which Wotan had sung: “Thus I salute the fortress [Valhalla], (#58b) safe from dread and dismay!,” expressing his grand idea of producing a race of heroes who could redeem Valhalla’s gods from their dread and dismay in the face of Alberich’s threat, by restoring lost innocence. This restoration of lost innocence is represented by #57ab (#57a being Erda’s octave drop on “Endet,” and #57b the original pre-fallen nature arpeggio #1). But most importantly this concept is embodied in the otherwise surprising appearance here of #18, the motif first associated with Woglinde’s warning that Alberich must renounce love in order to forge the ring of power. This is not a contradiction: the meaning of its recurrence here is that it is because of Alberich’s renunciation of love that Siegmund and Sieglinde have the highest need (Noth) of love, love that has been lost. As Wagner said, we weren’t aware of our innocence, and did not long to restore it, until we’d lost it, and the history of this longing is the history of man. I reproduce in full this previously cited extract again, because it is extremely important to our present discussion, and especially helpful in solving one of the greatest conundrums in Wagner exegesis, the question why Wagner employed #18 both to dramatize Alberich’s renunciation of love for power, and Siegmund’s renunciation of power for the sake of love:

“The state of Innocence could not come to men’s consciousness until they had lost it. This yearning back thereto, the struggle for its re-attainment, is the soul of the whole movement of civilisation since ever we learnt to know the men of legend and of history. It is the impulse to depart from a generality that seems hostile to us [the world, Erda’s knowledge, as known to us objectively, as Alberich sees the world], to arrive at egoistic satisfaction in ourselves … .“ [Alberich’s egoism being the hidden source of inspiration for man’s invention of the gods - #19>#20a – and for the belief that they offer man redemption from his earthly coils in immortality and transcendent love] [393W-{1-2/49} Jesus of Nazareth; PW Vol. VIII. p. 320]

In the following passage, previously cited, Wagner provides the conceptual justification for our reading of Wagner’s employment of #18 to express Siegmund’s acceptance of the tragic destiny which is the consequence of taking possession of Wotan’s sword Nothung and wedding Siegmund’s sister Sieglinde with it. It is the notion that the Waelsung heroes are in the greatest need of love in the loveless world produced by Alberich’s forging of his Ring and renunciation of love, a loveless world perpetuated in a different way by the gods’ alleged refuge from Alberich’s abhorrent knowledge of the truth, Valhalla (#20a), the sublimation of Alberich’s Ring (#19):

“I have succeeded in viewing natural and historical phenomena with love and with total impartiality as regards their true essence, and I have noticed nothing amiss except for – lovelessness [#18]. – But even this lovelessness I was able to explain as an aberration … which must inevitably lead us away from our state of natural unawareness towards a knowledge of the uniquely beautiful necessity of love; to acquire this knowledge by active striving is the task of world history; but the stage on which this knowledge will one day act out its role is none other than the earth and nature herself [Erda, whose umbilical-nest is Alberich’s Nibelheim, and whose knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, Alberich affirms, and Wotan renounces], which is the seed-bed of all that will lead us to this blissful knowledge.” [597W-{4/13/53}Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 284]

Siegmund has forcibly removed his birthright from Hunding’s house-ash, the sword Wotan left for him, thereby severing the Waelsung race symbolically from all dependence on Wotan’s divine authority embodied in the Spear, which is embodied by the house-ash which sustains Hunding’s habitation and life. This is the spear – as Erda’s daughters the Norns will tell us in T.P - made from the most sacred branch of the once living World-Ash tree, which is now, like the Spear whose removal fatally wounded it, merely dead wood. [PH: I hadn't fully reckoned when I wrote this in 2009 that Wagner's stage directions describe Hunding's House Ash, its central pillar, as a living tree, which somewhat undermines my thesis.]

[PH: Quotation from, Page 505:]

Mime is precisely wrong: he does not need to be wise, but rather, he needs to have a heart, in order to answer the questions Wotan now asks him, the very questions he should have asked Wotan, had Mime acknowledged his need for redemption. This is what Wotan means when he tells Mime that he failed to ask what he needed to know. Specifically, Wotan means that Mime needed to ask how Nothung could be re-forged, and who could do it. For Nothung, whose motif’s second segment, #57b, is the Primal Nature Arpeggio, is the means to redemption, the means to restore lost innocence, the life of feeling before the Fall caused by man’s acquisition of consciousness. As Wagner said, it was the loss of love (i.e., conscious man’s loss of the instinctive life of feeling of his preconscious animal ancestors), and ensuing lovelessness, that inspires historical man to seek restoration of that innocent realm of feeling which is freed from those contradictions of conceptual thought which beset man:

“I have succeeded in viewing natural and historical phenomena with love and with total impartiality as regards their true essence, and I have noticed nothing amiss except for – lovelessness. – But even this lovelessness I was able to explain as an aberration, an aberration which must inevitably lead us away from our state of natural unawareness towards a knowledge of the uniquely beautiful necessity of love; to acquire this knowledge by active striving is the task of world history … .” [597W-{4/13/53} Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 284]

[P. 51-52] "... in the final scene of the 'Ring,' passion, so critical to the education of Spirit, cedes control to reflection and thought which comprehend the universal. 'All human passions extinguished, [Bruennhilde] is now a pure eye of knowledge,' Wagner told Porges in 1876. (57) (...) When Bruennhilde reenters on stage she has inherited her mother Erda’s prophetic mantle. Wagner described her at this moment as an 'ancient German prophetess' and reinforced this association by recalling the rising and falling motifs of birth and death that accompanied Erda’s first appearance in 'Rheingold.' (61)"

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 977-978:]

Bruennhilde, now at peace with all that has happened in the course of the Ring drama, including the tragic part that both she and her lover Siegfried played, often unwittingly, in it, steps forward to judge Wotan and laud her dead husband Siegfried. Here’s how Porges, presumably recording Wagner’s own opinion, described the significance of this moment:

“As Bruennhilde ceremonially strides forward, Hagen picks up his shield from the ground. The scene has the grandeur of antique tragedy; Bruennhilde resembles, as Wagner put it, ‘an ancient German prophetess’. All human passions extinguished, she is now a pure eye of knowledge – and the spirit of love that has taken possession of her, a world-conquering, redeeming love, carries her beyond all fear of death.” [891W-{6-8/76} WRR, p. 143]

And here is what I believe is Wagner’s source of inspiration, a remarkably apt comment by Feuerbach that man’s knowledge of himself and the cosmos expresses the universe’s love for itself:

“… how would it be possible that reason should exhibit the pure nature of things, the original text of the universe, if it were not itself the purest, most original essence? But reason has no partiality for this or that species of things. It embraces with equal interest the whole universe; it interests itself in all things and beings without distinction, without exception; - it bestows the same attention on the worm which human egoism tramples under its feet, as on man … . Reason is the all-embracing, all-compassionating being, the love of the universe to itself.” [151F-EOC: p. 286-287]

[P. 54] "Bruennhilde conquers tragic despair and sets the future in motion with two momentous deeds on behalf of mankind. Her first metaphysical step is to end the reign of the gods. (...) Siegfried’s sword had sent Wotan running back to Valhalla, but did not conclusively end his reign. Wotan, wrought with anxiety, still searches for a solution to his dilemma, continuing to nurture a shred of hope that the ring’s return to the Rhine will free him from the curse. As Waltraute reports of Wotan 'sighing deeply, he closed his eye and, as in a dream, whispered the words: "if she gave back the ring to the deep Rhine’s daughters, from the weight of the curse both god and world would be freed" ' (RN 303–04). Roeckel was confused that the ultimate return of the ring to the Rhine did not automatically save the gods – and it may very well be true that the ring’s release would have redeemed them – but Bruennhilde will not have it so. She recognizes that the gods’ time has come and undertakes to seal their fate – irrespective of what happens to the ring. (...) By recognizing Bruennhilde’s affirmative choice to end the reign of the gods – an act she undertakes before returning the ring to the Rhinemaidens – we can resolve Roeckel’s confusion. (72) Bruennhilde has introduced human agency into history, and fate and the curse have thus been superseded. (73)"

[PH: In my extensive research and thought that went into I found no evidence for Shapiro's thesis that the Gods might have survived if the Ring was restored to the Rhine but for the fact that Bruennhilde decided their existence must terminate. For one thing, Alberich's Ring Motif #19ab transformed into the first two segments of Wotan's and the gods' Valhalla Motif #20ab during the transition from R.1 to R.2. The gods' and Valhalla's existence is a product of and depends on Alberich's Ring's existence. In my allegorical interpretation, the Ring is Wagner's metaphor for man's uniquely symbolic consciousness, the hallmark which distinguishes man from all other animals. And human agency began in the Ring with Alberich and Wotan, both of whom represent Feuerbach's idea of collective, historical man. Even if one is skeptical of this, the mortal, secular Siegmund and Sieglinde undoubtedly act with human agency, since Siegmund renounces the fate Wotan chose for him, to be martyred and join Wotan as an immortal in Valhalla. In other words, Siegmund is already a secularist whose agency is independent of divine law, so to speak.]

[P. 54-55] "Her next main act is to return the ring to the Rhine. Having already broken the curse and its endless cycle of destruction through her own affirmative acts of willing historical change and, as we shall explore in the next chapter, her act of forgiveness, the release of the ring amounts in the end almost to a mere gesture. (...) Only once she has gone through the terrifying trials of jealousy does she come to understand and appreciate the broader world-historical implications of the ring’s (perceived) power and, privileging the world’s universal need over her individual sentimentalism, learn to let the ring go."

[PH: At I believe I demonstrated that Alberich's Ring Curse represents the very historical change, i.e., man's inevitable advancement in knowledge over time, which Wotan, as symbol for historical man during the religious phase of human history (which comes to an end with the birth of modern science, represented by Hagen), is desperate to redeem the gods (i.e., religious belief) from. It's precisely Alberich and his Ring of consciousness which represents the inevitable change, the advancement in knowledge, which Wotan abhors. This explains why Alberich charges Wotan with sinning against all that was, is, and will be, i.e., Erda's (Mother Nature's) essence as change, as the actual world that exists in time and space, if Wotan coopts Alberich's Ring and its power in order to preserve the gods' rule, i.e., to preserve religious faith and its belief in divine immortality, which sins against Erda's law that all that exists must end.]

[P. 55] "Through Bruennhilde’s struggle, Wagner implicitly criticizes Feuerbach’s notion that the I-Thou relationship provides a clear road to universalism. (...) Wagner made this clear to Cosima in September 1871 during an evening drive through the countryside when he commented that 'the love between Siegfried and Bruennhilde … achieves no universal deed of redemption, produces no Fidi [the pet name for their son Siegfried].' (78) It is only through the pain, sorrow, and loss of love that Bruennhilde gains her deeper insight and transforms her parochial erotic attachment to Siegfried into a broader universal love of mankind as a whole. (79) 'Siegfried … as a man, committed entirely to deeds, … knows nothing, he must fall in order that Bruennhilde may rise to the heights of perception,' Wagner told Cosima that evening."

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 995-997:]

We have contradictory evidence in the Wagner documents which allude to this ending. On the one hand, Wagner himself called #93 [PH: which Shapiro has re-christened the Annunciation of Life Motif] his “hymn to heroes,” or “the glorification of Bruennhilde”:

“ ‘I am glad that I kept back Sieglinde’s theme of praise for Bruennhilde, to become as it were a hymn to heroes.’ “[832W-{7/23/72} CD Vol. I, p. 515]

Heinrich Porges, Wagner’s secretary who recorded all of Wagner’s thoughts about the Ring during the rehearsals for its premiere at the newly completed Bayreuth Festpielhaus in 1876, on the other hand, clearly described #93 as representing the banishment of death’s terror (fear), and as a song of redemption which overcomes fate’s power, something Porges says was well known, and presumably an interpretation advocated publicly by Wagner himself:

“Into her ecstatic outcry: ‘O hehrstes Wunder!’ Sieglinde must put all the intensity of which she is capable, she must release a great flood of emotion, enraptured and enrapturing.” [(*) Porges’ Footnote: “It is well known that this supremely lovely melody, banishing the terror of death, is employed at the close of Goetterdaemmerung as the song of redemption that overcomes the power of fate.”]” [872W-{6-8/76} WRR, p. 69]

But we do not have any direct statement from Wagner himself to this effect. Again, the only motif (for which we have documentary evidence that) he ever described as a “redemption motif” was #134 [PH: the so-called World-Inheritance Motif] [See 878W, where Porges describes how Wagner himself described #134 as the “Redemption Theme”], which most of the evidence suggests he identified with his own art, the music-drama, as heir to religious feeling.

It is hard to say how much stock we should place in Cosima’s record of a remark Wagner made on 9/6/71, to the effect that Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love produced no universal deed of redemption, i.e., no child. He added, significantly, that Twilight of the Gods is therefore the most tragic work of all:

“We talk of the love between Siegfried and Bruennhilde, which achieves no universal deed of redemption, produces no Fidi [Wagner’s and Cosima’s son Siegfried]; Goetterdaemmerung is the most tragic work of all, but before that one sees the great happiness arising from the union of two complete beings.” [807W-{9/6/71} CD Vol. I, p. 410]

The difficulty here is that Wagner may have been speaking merely sentimentally about the birth of his child Fidi (nickname for Siegfried). That Bruennhilde’s and Siegfried’s love produces no actual child has no bearing on whether Wagner felt that their love had redeemed the world, but nonetheless it is interesting that he adds that for this reason Twilight of the Gods is the most tragic work. Of course, in The Mastersingers of Nuremberg Wagner employs the concept of Walther’s and Eva’s child as a metaphor for the redemptive work of art which Eva, Walther’s muse, inspires him to create during a dream, and Sachs even baptizes Walther’s inspired mastersong, as if this child is the product of their union, the union of the Poet-Dramatist with his muse of inspiration, music.

But we have to look beyond the Ring at two of Wagner’s other music-dramas, namely Tristan and Isolde, and his final music-drama Parsifal (which can rightly be regarded as Wagner’s attempt at a resolution of the loose ends left in the finale of the Ring), for further evidence that Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love produces no redemption. First, Wagner regarded the plots of Twilight of the Gods and Tristan and Isolde as identical. In both instances, he said, the hero (Siegfried, Tristan), while under a spell, gives his own true love (Bruennhilde, Isolde) away to another man (Gunther, Marke), and thereby dooms himself to a tragic end [see 811W]

The important point here is that Wagner saw Bruennhilde as conceptually identical to Isolde. This fact lends considerable meaning to Wagner’s following fascinating comparison of Isolde with Kundry from Parsifal:

“When there is mention on the train of the Wagnerites’ preference for ‘T. und I.’ even over ‘Parsifal,’ R. says: “Oh, what do they know? One might say that Kundry already experienced Isolde’s Liebestod a hundred times in her various reincarnations.’ “ [1135W-{9/14/82} CD Vol. II, p. 910]

When we consider the question whether Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s love redeems the world, in the light of Wagner’s comment above that Kundry, as the reincarnation of Isolde, experienced Isolde’s Liebestod (final transfiguration – and so-called redemption) hundreds of times in various prior lives, and that Wagner regarded Isolde as identical with Bruennhilde, we realize that Wagner is consigning both Isolde and Bruennhilde to the status of failures, since their reincarnate form Kundry herself fails to redeem the hero Parsifal through her offer to redeem both of them through loving union. [PH: Though it's well known that Wagner identified the "Liebestod" not with Isolde's transfiguration in the finale, but rather with the Prelude to Tristan and Isolde, for the purposes of his comparing Isolde adversely with Kundry Wagner evidently conflated the "Liebestod" and the "transfiguration" in his remark] In fact, Parsifal renounces her love (sexual love, yes, but the sexual love shared by hero and heroine is Wagner’s metaphor for the poet-dramatist’s – the hero’s - unconscious artistic inspiration by the muse, his heroine-lover) altogether, and chooses celibacy rather than consort with her. In point of fact, Bruennhilde, Isolde, and Kundry are identical in being Wagner’s metaphor for the artist-hero’s unconscious mind, his muse of inspiration, and all three fail because, according to Wagner, art in the end fails to resolve or redeem man’s existential dilemma.

[P. 56-57] "The greatest proponent of the Young Hegelian Philosophie der Tat therefore is not the instinctive, physical Siegfried – 'the man committed entirely to deeds' – who acts without understanding by way of the sword. (85) As Wagner makes clear, Nothung is Wotan’s great idea. Instead, it is Bruennhilde who gains insight from passion and pain and uses this knowledge to take the momentous historical step of annihilating the regime of the gods and purging the curse of the ring. Bruennhilde has the capacity to see beyond the intellectual confines of the theological worldview. Her trust in Siegfried had been bound up with a trust in her father’s foresight and power. (...) She concludes that it is not Siegfried who has failed her, but the immortal, all powerful gods. '[N]o one betrayed as he did! Do you know why that was so? Oh you, eternal guardian of oaths! … Behold your eternal guilt!' (RN 348–49). Wotan’s world must therefore be scrapped entirely, along with Carlyle’s other 'adventitious wrappages,' to make way for a new phase of human development."

[PH: A significant, but not necessarily fatal, flaw in Shapiro's "Ring" interpretation is that he has very little to say about Alberich's Ring Curse, never providing a comprehensive theory of its meaning, and only makes a few brief stabs at trying to grasp its implications for the "Ring" as a whole. Shapiro also never explains in sufficient detail how or why Siegfried fails both Wotan and Bruennhilde (though he strongly suggests that Siegfried is corrupted by exposure to the cynical, hypocritical, and self-aggrandizing world known to modern man), or in what manner Siegfried embodies Wotan's theology. My interpretation at, by contrast, explained how Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love, as Wagner's metaphor for unconsciously inspired secular art, distilled the essence of Wotan's theology, man's futile longing for transcendent value, into feeling, thereby perpetuating Wotan's religious sin (of world-renunciation) against all that was, is, and will be, while at the same time transcending the limitations of Wotan's theology. I also explained that Siegfried had already shed Wotan's 'adventitious wrappages' at birth by virtue of Wotan's confessing them in V.2.2 to his unconscious mind and wish-womb Bruennhilde, who metaphysically gives birth to Siegfried, and knows Wotan's 'adventitious wrappages' for Siegfried so he can be spared Wotan's suffering, or "Noth," thus fulfilling Wotan's declaration that the hero who wins Bruennhilde will be freer than Wotan, the god.]

[P. 61] "71 Proudhon, 'What Is Property?,' 217. Even as late as 'Religion and Art,' steeped as it is in Schopenhauer’s ethical teachings, Wagner was still extolling the capacity of mankind to become 'conscious of itself as Will' and deriving from 'that knowledge' the power to 'thenceforth rule its destiny' (RA 244) (emphasis added). Testament to his continuing faith in the Kantian principle of a creative advance inherent in nature, he asserted that the human species’ 'aptitude for Conscious Suffering' was the “last step reached by Nature in the ascending series of her fashionings” (RA 280)."

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 355-356:]

Why, if Bruennhilde’s mother Erda (Nature) prophecies the twilight of the gods, is her daughter Bruennhilde the gods’ redeemer? Wagner’s following remarks suggest that though Mother Nature is the source of all that man abhors as evil, it is also solely through natural means that we can console ourselves for the terrible truths of the world with illusion and ultimately with music, which provides us a sympathetic way of grasping Nature, and offers us redemption:

“[In the following cryptic remark Wagner is taking issue with a male-oriented critique of nature as being “purposelessly formative,” suggesting instead that those who subscribe to this critique are suffering from:] … incomprehension of nature’s true purpose which aims at deliverance from within itself: (Feminine.).” [1126W-{3/21/82 – 4/9/82} BB, p. 204]

In other words, the natural, evolutionary cause of man’s unhealing wound, is also man’s sole source of consolation and healing. Accordingly, Erda, who delivers Wotan’s wound of unbearable foresight of the inevitable end of the gods, the knowledge which Wotan so feared he could not contemplate it consciously, gives birth to Bruennhilde, through whom Wotan can redeem himself from consciousness of Erda’s knowledge and forget his fear. And indeed, Wotan’s heir, the artist-hero Siegfried, will both learn the meaning of Wotan’s fear from Bruennhilde (to whom Wotan has imparted the hoard of knowledge he obtained from her mother Erda), and forget his fear through the consummation of their loving union, i.e., through her unconscious inspiration of his redemptive art.

In Wagner’s remarks below he speaks of what I have described as the unhealing wound, the price of man’s natural, evolutionary gift of consciousness, as the special characteristic of humanity, “its aptitude for Conscious Suffering,” and describes Nature, which he identifies here with Schopenhauer’s concept of the “Will,” as possessing a mysterious capacity for “willing of Redemption,” thereby paraphrasing our extract quoted above:

“… the human species’ bond of union … [is] its aptitude for Conscious Suffering. This faculty we can only regard as the last step reached by Nature in the ascending series of her fashionings; thenceforth she brings no new, no higher species to light, for in it she herself attains her unique freedom, the annulling of the internecine warfare of the Will. The hidden background of this Will, inscrutable in Time and Space, is nowhere manifest to us but in that abrogation; and there it shows itself divine, the willing of Redemption.” [1090W-{6-8/81} Herodom and Christendom – 3rd Supplement to ‘Religion and Art’: PW Vol. VI, p. 280-281]

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 373-374:]

Wagner provides a very detailed description in the passages below of man’s religious impulse to seek freedom from his bondage to the egoistic Will, an impulse which Wotan in the Ring recognizes as inherently incapable of satisfaction:

“Whoever rightly weighs these aptitudes of the human race … must come to the conclusion that the giant force which shaped the world [i.e., Erda’s natural law, and specifically, evolution of species] by testing every means of self-appeasement, from destruction to re-fashioning, had reached its goal in bringing forth this Man; for in him it became conscious of itself as Will [Mother Nature becomes conscious of herself in man, as Erda wakes for both Alberich and Wotan when they possess the Ring of consciousness], and, with that knowledge, could henceforth rule its destiny [they win the Ring’s limitless power]. To feel that horror at himself [Wotan’s self-loathing] so needful for his last redemption, this Man was qualified by just that knowledge, to wit the recognition of himself in every manifestment of the one great Will [Wotan finds universal egoism as an expression of natural necessity, in all that he does]; and the guide to evolution of this faculty was given him by Suffering [Wotan, i.e., man, is the saddest of all living things], since he alone can feel it in the requisite degree.” [1034W-{6-8/80} Religion and Art: PW Vol. VI, p. 244]

And in his following astute meditation on the obstacles, probably insurmountable, of attaining actual transcendence, actual redemption from one’s natural limitations and inherent egoism, Wagner exposes the irresolvable contradiction at the root of Wotan’s futile quest to free himself from himself:

“… the true geniuses and the true saints of all ages … tell us that they have seen only suffering and felt only fellow-suffering. In other words, they have recognized the normal condition of all living things and seen the cruel, eternally contradictory nature of the will to live, which is common to all living things and which, in eternal self-mutilation, is blindly self-regarding; the appalling cruelty of this will, which even in sexual love wills only its own reproduction, first appeared here reflected in that particular cognitive organ [the brain] which, in its normal state [say, among Alberich and his fellow Nibelungs], recognized itself as having been created by the will and therefore as being subservient to it; and so, in its abnormal, sympathetic state [Wotan’s], it developed to the point of seeking lasting and, finally, permanent freedom from its shameful servitude, a freedom which it ultimately achieved only by means of a complete denial of the will to live [Siegfried will kill Fafner, the Giant who embodies the self-preservation instinct, and also religious faith’s fear of knowledge].

This act of denying the will is the true action of the saint: that it is ultimately accomplished only in a total end to individual consciousness [as in the oceanic feeling of oneness we experience when we lose ourselves in music, which gives us the feeling of transcendence without the accomplished fact] – for there is no other consciousness except that which is personal and individual – was lost sight of by the naïve saints of Christianity, confused, as they were, by Jewish dogma, and they were able to deceive their confused imagination by seeing that longed-for state as a perpetual continuation of a new state of life freed from nature … .” [the sorrow-less youth eternal which the taste of Freia’s golden apples grants the gods of Valhalla] [636W-{6/7/55}Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 345-346] [See also635W]

[PH: Quotation from, Page 984:]

And now Bruennhilde delivers her final summation, accompanied by #87 (Fate): “It was I whom the purest man had to betray that a woman might grow wise.” Since Bruennhilde is Siegfried’s and Wotan’s unconscious mind, and the word “wise” is code in the Ring for self-conscious (i.e., too self-conscious to obtain unconscious inspiration), Bruennhilde is echoing what Siegfried meant when he said that Bruennhilde’s eyes are now open forever. Bruennhilde, man’s collective unconscious, has now woken and can never return to unconsciousness. Bruennhilde has become, in effect, indistinguishable from her mother Erda, Erda as known objectively when any human being wears the Ring of consciousness, and is thus the spokesperson for Nature’s bitter truth. The days of involuntary collective dreaming, which once involuntarily produced religious revelation and artistic inspiration, are now over. And this is what Wagner added to Feuerbach’s critique of religion, that the secular art, particularly music, in which Feuerbach admitted that God, man’s religious feeling, had found refuge, would itself someday succumb, of necessity, to the same spirit of scientific inquiry which had inevitably disillusioned man about religious faith. Man’s metaphysical impulse to seek to satisfy impossible demands, his futile quest to posit man’s transcendent value and a supernatural realm of being, in which man could find redemption from bitter reality, was destined to failure. This was the essence of Alberich’s curse on the Ring, that the quest to posit a consoling falsehood would, in the end, be more painful (engender more “Noth”) than acknowledging, and acting on the basis of, the truth.

[P. 63] "3 Bruennhilde’s immolation"

[P. 63] "What remains for Bruennhilde? She has fallen into despair and given herself up to the 'Everlasting No.' Now, in the final scene of the drama she joins Siegfried on the funeral pyre and extinguishes her own life. But this self-immolation is not an act of renunciation consistent with a despairing view of life’s meaninglessness; it represents a symbolic embrace of Carlyle’s 'Everlasting Yea.' "

[PH: At I presented considerable evidence that Bruennhilde chooses to immolate herself on the presumably failed redeemer Siegfried's funeral pyre and wills that that funeral pyre also embrace Wotan and the gods and martyred heroes of Valhalla, and leaves Alberich's Ring to the Rhinedaughters in her ashes so they can dissolve it and its curse in the Rhine, because she can't bear to live in a world which would embrace Alberich's and Wotan's hoard of objective knowledge. However, I also, both at and in my essay on Feuerbach's influence on the libretto of "Parsifal," proposed that in "Parsifal" Wagner explored the possibility of human life after man has entirely renounced his futile bid for transcendent value and to restore lost innocence, and perhaps embraced Alberich's and Wotan's hoard of objective knowledge of Mother Nature, and of man's true identity as a thinking animal who is entirely a product of Nature and entirely subject to her laws. But by committing suttee with her deceased lover Siegfried, and sharing the immolation of the gods, Bruennhilde seems to identify herself more with man's (Wotan's) defunct bid for transcendent value in religion (Wotan and the gods of Valhalla), ethics (the secular social revolutionary Siegmund), and unconsciously inspired art (her loving union, as muse, with the artist-hero Siegfried), than with a new dispensation which according to Shapiro is her bequest (in her hoard of knowledge) to the futurity of the human species.]
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