Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 9

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 9

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:57 am

[P. 45] "But this faith, as we learn, is misplaced, and Siegfried emphatically fails to live up to the destiny envisioned for him. Having drunk Hagen’s potion, Siegfried forgets his loving bond with Bruennhilde and becomes not an instrument of Wotan’s cosmic plan, as Bruennhilde has come to expect, but rather the blind puppet of Hagen’s Machiavellian manipulations. In the encounter with Waltraute, Bruennhilde forcefully defends her love for Siegfried, but the audience, by then privy to the plot of Hagen, already understands that in the scheme of world-historical developments, her argument is specious and naive. Bruennhilde is invoking love as panacea, but the drugged Siegfried is about to prove her assumptions completely wrong. Wagner wanted the audience to “shudder” at this irony (30) and ensured this emotional effect by having Bruennhilde blithely sing the words 'I shall never relinquish love' to a musical phrase that signifies the very opposite – the Renunciation of Love."

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 846-847:]

Bruennhilde screams violently as Siegfried forcefully wrenches the Ring off her finger, just as Alberich screamed in R.4 when her father Wotan forced it off of Alberich’s finger. Strikingly, just after Siegfried takes possession of it we hear a segment of #143, the “Hoard of the World Motif” ... . Siegfried, having woken and won Bruennhilde, is of course the heir to Wotan’s hoard of knowledge, which Wotan repressed into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde during his confession to her. But Siegfried is unconscious of this knowledge and therefore wholly ignorant of the risk entailed in removing it from its safe repository, his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, and making its secrets public. Wagner himself said that Alberich’s Ring is itself the source of Bruennhilde’s strength, which is why she is so spiritually deflated when she can no longer keep its power safe:

“ … if you shudder at the thought that this woman [Bruennhilde] should cling to this accursed ring as a symbol of love, you will feel exactly as I intended you to feel, and herein you will recognize the power of the Nibelung curse raised to its most terrible and most tragic heights: only then will you recognize the need for the whole of the final drama, ‘Siegfried’s Death.’ This is something we must experience for ourselves if we are to be made fully conscious of the evil of gold. Why does Bruennhilde yield so quickly to Siegfried when he comes to her in disguise? Precisely because the latter has torn the ring from her finger, since it was here alone that her whole strength lay.” [622W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 310]

The Ring is the source of Bruennhilde’s strength because her sole purpose is to hold it for the hero (just as she said that what he doesn’t know, #87, she knows for him), both to protect him from the wounds consciousness of it can inflict, and also to employ it to inspire the hero’s art subliminally. Her whole strength lies in the Ring because Alberich's Ring (#19) gave birth to Valhalla and its gods (#20a), that is, man’s abhorrence of the truth gave birth to religion, and the secular art which expresses religious feeling is in turn a sublimation of man’s religious impulse, the longing for transcendent value. Alberich’s Ring and his hoard of knowledge are the true source of all religious revelation and unconscious artistic inspiration, the reason for which Bruennhilde lives. Therefore, once Bruennhilde loses her Ring to Siegfried, disguised as Gunther, she inwardly collapses, wholly deflated, into Siegfried’s arms.

[P. 46] "Just as the spectator of the 'Ring' experiences the symbolic drama of the passing of the god’s hegemony, so Bruennhilde must confront that epochal transition as a personal psychological trauma. The loss of her spiritual moorings, therefore, is crucial to understanding Bruennhilde’s outburst of jealousy and homicidal rage. (...) Her ancient wisdom becomes worthless as she falls into the undertow of human emotions: 'where now is my wisdom against this bewilderment? Where are my runes against this riddle?' (RN 326). In her mind, Bruennhilde has not only been betrayed by Siegfried, but also by her father, Wotan."

[PH: It will be helpful to grasp, in light of my allegorical reading, the full context of Bruennhilde's complaint that she can't call upon her wisdom, her runes, for help, after Siegfried has betrayed her. Motif #150, discussed in the following extract from, is noteworthy for being musically a close relative of Motif #143, first heard in S.3.3 in Bruennhilde's vocal line as she describes Siegfried as the "Hoard of the world." In T.P.B #150 is associated with Bruennhilde's transmission of Wotan's confession of his hoard of forbidden knowledge to Siegfried, who knows it only subliminally and unwittingly prophecies that he will betray Wotan's unspoken secret, Wotan's hoard of knowledge (i.e., runes), to the light of day. And this of course is a theme Wagner used in his orchestral tone poem the "Siegfried Idyll."]

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 678-679:]

In the chapters on The Rhinegold, I have already cited in considerable detail a selection of Wagner’s observations which I offered as evidence that Wagner identified Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde (in V.2.2) with the hoard of runes which Wagner stated on several occasions Bruennhilde imparts to Siegfried. In these extracts Wagner indicated that upon Siegfried’s death, this hoard of knowledge Bruennhilde imparted to Siegfried is revealed to be the Norns’, or Erda’s, or the Ring’s runes, i.e., the unbearably fearful knowledge which Erda taught Wotan during his sojourn with her in the bowels of the earth, that sojourn whose product was their daughter Bruennhilde. Two passages from this selection will suffice for very strong evidence that Wagner did indeed regard this hoard of runes which Bruennhilde taught to Siegfried as Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde:

“Bruennhild: ‘Thou forward hero … [Siegfried]! All my rune-lore I bewrayed to thee, a mortal, and so went widowed of my wisdom; thou usedst it not, thou 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]

And here Wagner confirms that this knowledge which Bruennhilde taught to Siegfried, comprised of the Ring’s runes, the ur-law’s runes (referring here obliquely to Erda, the source of ur-law), and the Norns’ old saying (at an early stage in the writing of the Ring libretto Wagner had the Norns issue a warning about the Ring curse which he later assigned to Erda), were taught to Bruennhilde by Wotan:

“The Walkueren:
Gav’st thou away … thy holiest lore,
the runes that once Wotan had taught thee?
I taught them to Siegfried, whom love I.” [382W-{10-11/48} Siegfried’s Death: PW Vol. VIII, p. 16]

But, most important of all, we have direct evidence from our own Ring text that Bruennhilde taught Siegfried, subliminally, the contents of Wotan’s confession, for in T.P.2 Bruennhilde tells Siegfried: “What gods have taught me I gave to you: a bountiful store [“Hort,” i.e., “Hoard”] of hallowed runes … .” And Siegfried’s response strongly suggests that the knowledge Bruennhilde imparted to him is in some sense subliminal, unconscious knowledge, because, as he says: “You gave me more, o wondrous woman, than I know how to cherish: chide me not if your teaching has left me untaught!” Her knowledge has left Siegfried untaught not merely because he decides not to use it, but because it never rises to consciousness within him. It was precisely in this sense that Siegfried in S.2.3 emerged from Fafner’s cave bearing Alberich’s Ring and Tarnhelm, having already forgotten their use, which the Woodbird had just taught him a moment before he entered Fafner’s cave.

There is one last piece of indirect evidence which actually is quite dramatic. Wagner was greatly influenced in his development of the character Bruennhilde by the play attributed to Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, presumed to be the first part of a Greek trilogy (the other two parts now presumably lost), like Wagner's model for the Ring, The Oresteia. It is part of the received wisdom of Wagner scholarship that Bruennhilde, like Prometheus, has been punished by the greatest of the gods (Wotan/Zeus) for striving to protect the Waelsungs/mortal man from the gods’ punishment, and, in Prometheus’ case at least, for granting mortal man what ought to be the gods’ privilege alone. This privilege is not only access to fire, as is often supposed, but the gift of foresight, or foreknowledge. In Greek, Prometheus means “foreknowledge.” In this latter instance Bruennhilde, being – by virtue of Wotan’s confession to her - the repository of the knowledge of the twilight of the gods which her mother Erda foretold to Wotan, holds foreknowledge of the gods’ end. It is this fearful foreknowledge of the gods’ end, which Wotan repressed into Bruennhilde, which is the hidden source of the fear which overcomes Siegfried just prior to waking Bruennhilde and falling heir to her hoard of knowledge. In Prometheus Bound Prometheus possesses secret knowledge of how the gods of Olympus will meet their doom, knowledge which Zeus tries, and fails, to obtain from Prometheus. Perhaps these considerations explain why Wagner described Prometheus Bound as the most pregnant of tragedies:

“To see the most pregnant of all tragedies, the ‘Prometheus’, came they; in this Titanic masterpiece to see the image of themselves, to read the riddle of their own actions … .” [402W-{6-8/49} Art and Revolution: PW Vol. I, p. 34]

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 751-753:]

This provides the explanation for Bruennhilde’s following comments, also accompanied by #150, that what the gods – i.e., Wotan in his confession – have taught her, she gave to Siegfried, a bountiful hoard (“Hort”) of hallowed runes. (...) Bruennhilde adds, again with #150 sounding, that the maidenly source of all her strength was (now accompanied by #140) taken away by the hero to whom she now bows her head. The source of all her strength, the content of her womb which her prior Valkyrie chastity protected, is that she, the womb of Wotan’s wishes, is the repository for Wotan’s hoard of forbidden knowledge. Since this protection was taken away by Siegfried, the only artist-hero worthy to woo the authentic muse of art, and therefore worthy to access her hoard of forbidden knowledge, Siegfried now has taken over Bruennhilde’s role as guardian of Wotan’s unspoken secret, though Siegfried is wholly unconscious of his new status.

Wagner provides evidence for our reading in his prose draft of Siegfried’s Death, his earliest version of the Twilight of the Gods:
“Bruennhilde: [to Siegfried]
Of all my wisdom must I go lacking,
For all my knowledge to thee had I lent:
What from me thou took’st, thou usedst not, --
To thy mettlesome mood thou trustedst alone!
But now thou’rt gone, hast given it free,
To me my lore cometh back,
The runes of the Ring unravel.
The Norn’s old saying know I now too,
Their meaning can unriddle … .” [385W-{10-11/48} Siegfried’s Death: PW Vol. VIII, p. 50] [See also 381W]

One of the most enlightening aspects of this passage from Siegfried’s Death is that Bruennhilde says, to the now dead Siegfried, that though she lent him her knowledge and wisdom (i.e., Wotan’s hoard of runes), he did not use this conceptual knowledge, but depended instead on his mood, or feelings. And another interesting detail is that by cross-referencing we can identify what Bruennhilde describes above as the “runes of the Ring,” and the “Norn’s old saying” (which is tantamount to Erda’s knowledge, which Erda imparted to Wotan, and he imparted in turn to Bruennhilde in his confession), with the hoard of runes which the gods (and by gods Bruennhilde means Wotan) taught her, and which she gave to Siegfried. But Siegfried does not use this hoard of knowledge. It would be more accurate to say, he is not conscious of the use he makes of this knowledge, because it is his hidden source of inspiration. Similarly, Siegfried will tell Gunther in T.1.1 that he left Alberich’s Hoard of Treasure unused in Fafner’s cave. But in point of fact Siegfried, following the Woodbird’s subliminal directive, took the essence of Alberich’s Hoard of Treasure, the Ring (the power of the human mind) and the Tarnhelm (the imagination). For Dark-Alberich’s and Light-Alberich’s (Wotan’s) Hoard of knowledge is now embodied by Alberich’s Ring, which Siegfried wears on his finger.

On one occasion, Wagner said that Bruennhilde sends Siegfried off to perform new deeds after teaching him secret lore which, interestingly, includes a warning about the deceit and treachery he will meet in the outer world (recalling Mime’s pretended pretext for teaching Siegfried fear):

“ … he [Siegfried] marries her [Bruennhilde] with Alberich’s ring, which he places on her finger. When the longing spurs him to new deeds, she gives him lessons in her secret lore, warns him of the dangers of deceit and treachery: they swear each other vows, and Siegfried speeds forth.” [378W-{6-8/48} The Nibelungen Myth: PW Vol. VII, p. 304]

Clearly, Siegfried is wholly oblivious to any warnings which Bruennhilde has taught him subliminally, because he will fall into every trap the world sets for him from the time he leaves Bruennhilde, until his tragic end in T.3.2.

Bruennhilde, noting (accompanied by #149) [PH: The so-called Bruennhilde as Siegfried's Mortal Wife Motif] that she is bereft of both wisdom and strength, yet rich in love and filled with desire, begs Siegfried not to despise her. But – accompanied now by both #150 and #149 - Siegfried declares that the wondrous Bruennhilde has given him more than he knows how to cherish (i.e., keep, or guard), and he asks her not to chide him if her teaching (now accompanied by #150) has left him untaught. Siegfried has not only unwittingly described himself as the beneficiary of the unconscious artistic inspiration granted him by his lover, the wondrous Bruennhilde, but has given us a premonition of the entire plot of Twilight of the Gods.

That Bruennhilde’s teaching has left him untaught is a consequence of the fact that Bruennhilde, Siegfried’s unconscious mind, influences him subliminally with Wotan’s hoard of secret knowledge (identified moments ago with #150), i.e., she teaches him, but her teaching has left him untaught because he remains unconscious of its true source. Similarly, the Woodbird taught Siegfried the use he could make of both the Tarnhelm and the Ring, yet by the time he’d left Fafner’s cave with these objects in hand he had forgotten their use. Clearly, the Woodbird had taught Siegfried these things subliminally. And of course, Bruennhilde taught Siegfried the meaning of fear, yet through her love he was able to forget his fear. This concept goes right back to Wotan’s relationship with Bruennhilde’s mother Erda, who taught him both the meaning of his fear of the shameful end of the gods she had foreseen, and taught him also how to end his fear (through their child Bruennhilde).

Siegfried unwittingly foretells the entire plot of Twilight of the Gods in his seemingly innocent remark that Bruennhilde gave him more (i.e., access to Wotan’s unspoken secret) than he knows how to cherish (keep, or guard). By virtue of winning Bruennhilde Siegfried has fallen heir not only to the muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, man’s collective unconscious, through which man involuntarily created his religions with their supernatural gods, but he has also fallen heir to the hoard of repressed knowledge of the bitter truth which it is the ultimate purpose of religion to hide and replace with a consoling illusion. Siegfried, the secular music-dramatist (a figure for Wagner himself), is now the sole authentic vessel and guardian of the religious mysteries (i.e., knowledge of those inner processes through which man involuntarily created his gods, inner processes to which Wagner himself claimed to have unique access). But, as Siegfried notes, since he remains unconscious of this secret knowledge, he does not know how to cherish, guard, or keep it. In other words, Siegfried foresees that he may one day innocently betray Wotan’s unspoken secret, his hoard of knowledge, so that it rises, as Alberich foresaw, from the silent depths of man’s collective unconscious Bruennhilde, to the light of conscious day. This notion that Siegfried is destined to betray Wotan’s unspoken secret to the light of day is embodied by #150. We will see dramatic evidence for this in T.2.5, when Bruennhilde, again accompanied by #150, confesses to Gunther and Hagen her anger at Siegfried for having taken her knowledge away and betrayed her.

[P. 49] "Bruennhilde 'triumphs over time' with powerful new insight, announcing that 'it was I whom the purest man had to betray, that a woman might grow wise…. All things, all things … all is clear to me now!' (RN 349)."

[PH: Quotation from, Page 981:]

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

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

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

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 1003-1005:]

Wagner was troubled not only by his inability to hit on a capstone for the Ring drama which would tie up all its loose ends, but troubled also by his final choice of how to end it. It is probable that Wagner completed his final music-drama Parsifal in order to resolve the remaining unresolved problems of the Ring. But more than that, Parsifal actually provides Wagner an alternative ending for the Ring cycle, in which the eternally repeating cycle of world destruction and the cosmos’ rebirth can be broken (at least figuratively) through man’s acceptance of his true nature and acknowledgment of his natural origins, through an embrace of world-affirmation in which he no longer commits the religious crime of world-denial against Mother Nature, but acknowledges his natural status as a mortal and limited creature. In describing this optimistic possibility below Wagner ends with a description of what he regards as its only alternative, a catastrophic end to our world (or perhaps even the cosmos) brought about by mankind’s Promethean, hubristic quest to grasp the nature and laws of all things, which according to Wagner might inadvertently unleash the chaos at the root of energy and matter, and obliterate the whole cosmos, or at least the earth. On this view the Ring’s finale can be construed as a poetic metaphor for the cosmic, destructive chaos set in motion by man’s unrestrained quest for knowledge of the basis of all things, something not depicted in the Ring, but rather, implied symbolically:

“ ‘Do you want to found a new religion?’ – the author of the present essay [Wagner] might be asked. (…) … I grew convinced that Art can only prosper on the basis of true Morals, and thus could but ascribe to it a mission all the higher when I found it altogether one with true Religion. (…) … at last it dawned on me that another, better state of future man – conceived by others as a hideous chaos – might well arise in comely order, if Religion and Art not only were retained therein, but for the first time gained their right acceptance. From this path all violence is quite shut out … . But things may turn out otherwise, should Wisdom more and more recede from rampant violence. (…) … it can but rouse our apprehension, to see the progress of the art-of-war departing from the springs of moral force, and turning more and more to the mechanical: here the rawest forces of the lower Nature-powers are brought into an artificial play, in which, for all arithmetic and mathematics, the blind Will might one day break its leash and take an elemental share. (…) ‘Twere thinkable that all of this, with art and science, valour, point-of-honour, life and chattels, should one day fly into the air through some incalculable accident. When every pledge of peace was thus exploded in the grandest style, it would only need the outbreak of a general famine – already slowly, but infallibly prepared: then should we stand once more where world-Historical development began, and it really might look ‘as if God had made the world that the Devil might take it,’ as our great philosopher [Schopenhauer] found stated in the Judaeo-Christian dogma.” [1038W-{6-8/80} Religion and Art: PW Vol. VI, p. 250-252]

According to this reading, with the scientific mind’s final victory over the mytho-poetic worldview which had guided man throughout all previous human history, the way would be opened to search more deeply into the nature of things than ever before. The ultimate consequence of this freedom to explore the very bonds which hold the cosmos together might be the dissolution, through some incalculable accident caused by scientific experimentation (perhaps in the service of the development of weapons of mass destruction), of our own world, our solar system, or even the entire cosmos.

Finally, Wagner offered the following observations, two to three years after the Ring’s premiere at Bayreuth, which undeniably suggest that Parsifal can be understood as an alternative to the apocalyptic ending of the Ring, and that Parsifal himself can be considered a sort of second coming, or reincarnation, of the artist-hero and hoped-for savior Siegfried, whose redemption will on this occasion actually bear fruit:

“Over coffee he said to me that in fact Siegfried ought to have turned into Parsifal and redeemed Wotan, he should have come upon Wotan (instead of Amfortas) in the course of his wanderings, but there was no antecedent for it, and so it would have to remain as it was.” [964W-{4/29/79}CD Vol. II, p. 299]

“Can one imagine the state of barbarism at which we shall have arrived, if our social system continues for another six-hundred years or so in the footsteps of the declining Roman world-dominion? I believe that the Saviour’s second advent, expected by the earliest Christians in their lifetime, and later cherished as a mystic dogma, might have a meaning for that future date, and perchance amid occurrences not totally unlike those sketched in the Apocalypse. For, in the conceivable event of a relapse of our whole Culture into barbarism, we may take one thing for granted: namely, that our Historical science, our criticism and chemistry of knowledge would also have come to an end [i.e., Hagen will go down to destruction]; whilst it may be hoped, on the contrary, that Theology would by then have come to a final agreement with the Gospels, and the free understanding of Revelation be opened to us without Jehovaistic subtleties – for which event the Saviour promised us his coming back [there is considerable evidence in Parsifal not only that Siegfried has been reincarnated in him, but also that Christ the savior has been as well]. And this would inaugurate a genuine popularisation of the deepest Knowledge. In this or that way to prepare the ground for cure of ills inevitable in the evolution of the human race … might fitly be the mission of a true Art appealing to the Folk itself, to the Folk in its noblest, and at present its ideal sense.” [929W-{3-7/78} Public and Popularity: PW Vol. VI, p. 80-81]

With those observations by Richard Wagner our argument is complete!

The remaining chapters of this book, separate essays on Wagner’s three canonical operas (The Flying Dutchman, Tannhaeuser, and Lohengrin) and three other music-dramas (Tristan and Isolde, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg, and Parsifal), will demonstrate that they are all best understood in the light of their systematic conceptual relationships to Wagner’s The Ring of the Nibelung, the master-myth which subsumes all other myths.

[P. 49] "On April 13, 1853, Wagner wrote to Liszt:

'[T]o acquire this knowledge [of love] by active striving is the task of world history…. The state of lovelessness is the state of suffering for the human race: an abundance of suffering now envelops us … but you see, it is precisely here that we recognize the glorious necessity of love … ; and so, in this way, we acquire a strength of which natural man had no inkling, and this strength – increased to embrace the whole of humanity – will one day lay the foundations for a state on earth when no one need yearn for the other world … .' (43)"

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 284-285:]

Because it is so terribly important to our understanding of the rest of the Ring’s plot, we need to fully grasp the allegorical significance of Wotan’s restless wandering over the earth (“Erde,” or “Erda”), and into the earth (in search of Erda herself), which besets Wotan after the finale of The Rhinegold. Wotan I noted is in quest of two distinct kinds of knowledge, objective knowledge of the world, which he fears, and aesthetic intuition of the world, a subjective way of feeling rather than thinking the world, in which he can find refuge from the terrible truths the first kind of knowledge forces him to confront. I have already cited Wagner’s remark that world history is the account of how man, having risen to consciousness, became aware of his “power,” and, having made nature (Erda) an object of knowledge, sets out to force nature to satisfy his needs. But here, in our following extract, Wagner describes this second kind of knowledge, or aesthetic intuition, which is antithetical to the first kind, the loveless kind which Alberich would impose on the world, thereby making all the living renounce love as he has. Wagner also describes our quest for loving (aesthetic) knowledge of earth (Erda) as the task of world history:

“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 … 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], 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]

In spite of the fact that Wagner also said in a prior citation that world history consists of man’s acquisition of that knowledge of nature as an object of inquiry through which man can satisfy his ever more complex needs, he is not in contradiction with himself in the passage above. If Wotan, Light-Alberich, represents collective, historical man, and his wandering the world in quest of a loving way to grasp nature (Erda) represents our second kind of knowledge, aesthetic intuition, in which we seek redemption from the first kind, then Dark-Alberich’s amassing of his hoard of treasure (a figure for knowledge and the power it engenders) represents the first kind of knowledge, exemplifying Wagner’s reading of history as man’s quest to master nature to satisfy his need. It must be clearly understood then that Alberich (Dark-Alberich) and Wotan (Light-Alberich) are identical, differing only in that their distinct agendas represent the two primary agendas of historical man. In other words, man is in contradiction with himself from the beginning, but Wagner is not contradicting himself in pointing this out. And this contradiction at the heart of human nature has developed into the modern war between science and religion (which includes, according to Wagner, inspired art, in spite of its alleged freedom from religion’s claim to truth).

Wotan’s desperate quest to seek redemption from the very hoard of knowledge of the truth which Wotan himself inevitably amasses throughout his historical experience of the world, is represented by #57 [PH: The Sword Motif #57ab, whose second segment is in essence the Primal Nature Motif #1 with which the "Ring" began, and which represents the pre-fallen state prior to Alberich's forging of his Ring of human consciousness, symbolic of the Fall], which stands for his grand idea of how the gods can redeem themselves from the objective truth, by restoring lost innocence, retreating from thought into feeling, from power into love. Since we will soon be moving on to the next drama of the Ring, The Valkyrie, I cite once more, complete, Wagner’s remark that world history is the record of man’s attempt to restore the innocence he has lost, especially because Wagner confesses here that our very quest to purify ourselves of our egoism in a restoration of paradise is founded on our egoistic desires:

“(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, to arrive at egoistic satisfaction in ourselves …).” [393W-{1-2/49} Jesus of Nazareth: PW Vol. VIII. p. 320]
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