Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 7

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 7

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 12:04 pm

And in our final extract below, Wagner effectively explains why Wotan has left music, Bruennhilde, within the protective ring of Loge’s fire, the veil of Wahn produced through the cunning of man’s artistic imagination, to be woken solely by the music-dramatist Siegfried, in whom Wotan has found rebirth, Siegfried, who in his inspired music-drama will confer on us our “last religion”:

“Our Music he [“the Devil”] shall not thus deal with; for still it is the living god within our bosom. Let us guard it therefore, and ward off all profaning hands. … in it resides our final hope of life itself.

There is something special in our German Music, ay, something divine. (…) We alone know ‘Music’ as herself, and to us she gives the power of all regeneration and new-birth; but only while we hold her holy. (…) … it wakes in us no little pain, to see the downfall of our musical affairs so utterly unheeded; for so our last religion melts away in jugglery. (…) [We:] … put out thereby the last light [Bruennhilde] the German God [Wotan] had left in us to find our way back to him!“ [1000W-{12/25/79} Introduction to the Year 1880: PW Vol. VI, p. 34-35]

[PH: Quotation from, Page 632:]

And finally, Wagner sums up Feuerbach’s argument by ascribing the mind’s highest “power” to science, and the mind’s enjoyment (aesthetic pleasure), or rather, the aesthetic reinterpretation of the objective world known to science, to art:

“Science is the highest power of the human mind; but the enjoyment of this power is art.” [470W-{49-51 (?)} Notes for ‘Artisthood of the Future’ (unfinished); Sketches and Fragments: PW Vol. VIII, p. 350]

[P. 23] "... in his famous letter to Roeckel Wagner indulged in the fantasy that Siegfried, or some form of him, could emerge in later stages of history provided the right conditions were prepared for his return: 'Siegfried is the man of the future whom we desire and long for but who cannot be made by us, since he must create himself on the basis of our own annihilation.' (149) (...) As noted, Wagner at that time [early 1850's] clearly did not believe in a mere return to a utopian pre-historic golden age, but understood that the promise of the future would be the product of an evolutionary process of unfolding human potentialities. And his construct of Siegfried as a primitive consciousness – capable of hewing stones – is fully at odds with any coherent notion of a latter-day human being that would ultimately emerge from the historical process – adept at designing fair edifices. (151) Apart from pure theory, Wagner personally did not relish the idea of a return to man’s origins in the primeval forest. To Theodor Uhlig, a Dresden musician, friend of Wagner, and illegitimate son of the King of Saxony, he protested in 1850, 'Shall we return then to a state of nature ...? God forbid! Man is a social, all-powerful being only through culture. Let us not forget that culture alone grants us the power to enjoy life to the full as only mankind can enjoy it.' (152)"

[PH: Shapiro's difficulty here, in trying to resolve the apparent contradiction between Siegfried as a product of cultural evolution, and Siegfried as a primordial man of nature, was resolved at on the basis that Siegfried is an unconsciously inspired artist-hero, whose covert religious instinct is to restore man's lost innocence. The second segment of Siegfried's re-forged sword Nothung's musical motif #57b (representing Wotan's grand idea for redemption of the gods through a race of mortal heroes) is based on the Primal Nature Motif #1 with which the "Ring" begins, a symbol for the time before the Fall (i.e., before Alberich's forging of his Ring of power, and before Wotan's corresponding making of his Spear of divine authority and law, the social contract, out of the most sacred branch of the World-Ash Tree, a symbol for pre-fallen Nature). So Siegfried is only apparently a spontaneous and non-conceptual pre-fallen man, but is in fact a product of high-culture, the culmination of a lengthy historical process.]

[P. 25-26] "10 Berry, Treacherous Bonds, 231–2. One recent commentator on the 'Ring,' Paul Heise, attempts to reconcile Siegfried’s heroism with his lack of consciousness through an intriguing interpretation of the tetralogy as an allegory of Wagner’s aesthetics and creative process. Heise’s study reads the 'Ring' in light of Wagner’s later thesis for 'Religion and Art' of 1880 that 'where Religion becomes artificial, it is reserved for Art to save the spirit of religion.' According to the allegory, Siegfried is the artist hero who is inspired by the muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, represented by Bruennhilde. In this way, Heise turns on its head the Hegelian approach to the 'Ring,' reading the advance of consciousness in human evolution as a malign influence which degrades the unconscious existential sources of inspiration for true art. Thus Alberich and the ring represent the curse of consciousness, while Siegfried is the hero who struggles to redeem man’s religious impulses through the intuitive power of secular art. While Heise purports to ground his thesis in Feuerbach’s philosophical program, he at the same time asserts that 'there was little Wagner found in Schopenhauer that was not already implicit in the "Ring" drama.' And indeed the final message of bleak futility which Heise identifies in the 'Ring' reflects a reading that is more consistent with the Schopenhauerian agenda than with the Young Hegelian. Paul Brian Heise, 'The Wound That Will Never Heal,'"

[P. 37] "2 Bruennhilde and the Tragedy of Jealousy"

[P. 37] "... it is not the curse of the ring, but Bruennhilde’s uncontrollable outburst of jealousy, that dooms Siegfried as well as her.

Siegfried falls directly into Hagen’s snares at their first encounter, and through the operation of the potion Wagner insulates Siegfried from moral responsibility for his actions. Siegfried is therefore unknowing in his betrayal of Bruennhilde. Bruennhilde, on the other hand, more tragically falls into Hagen’s trap. Seeing Siegfried in Gutrune’s embrace, she is overcome with emotion, and in a jealous rage worthy of Medea conspires with Hagen and Gunther to have Siegfried killed. (...) In her emotional turmoil, her ancient wisdom is rendered obsolete: 'Where now is my wisdom against this bewilderment? Where are my runes against this riddle?' (RN 326). (...) It is Bruennhilde’s moment of sexual jealousy that leads to the tragic demise of the hero."

[P. 38] "Yet despite the musical and textual 'display of brute force,' and the importance that Wagner attached to these scenes, Bruennhilde’s emotional turmoil and her homicidal disclosure have received insufficient attention from commentators. (5) Bruennhilde’s outburst of jealousy warrants further investigation."

[PH: As I explained at, Bruennhilde's jealousy at Siegfried's betrayal of their love for the sake of Gutrune is merely a symptom of the true crisis, that Siegfried has fallen under the influence of Alberich's Ring Curse of consciousness (embodied by Hagen and his two potions), and by involuntarily and unwittingly giving his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde, and Wotan's unspoken secret which she has kept (Wotan's hoard of forbidden knowledge he confessed to her), away to Gunther (Wagner's metaphor for the music-dramatist's audience), Siegfried has betrayed Wotan's unspoken secret to the light of day. In this betrayal Siegfried has fulfilled Alberich's warning to Wotan in R.3 that his Hoard of treasure (knowledge) would rise someday from the silent depths, and also fulfilled Alberich's prophecy that Wotan's own heroes (Siegfried) would serve Alberich in fulfilling this dread intent, and betray Wotan, as Siegfried does under Hagen's influence. Gutrune, as Siegfried's false muse, represents the unconsciously inspired artist's need to display his innermost secrets in a public performance, which is fatal in our modern, scientific, secular, and skeptical age, So in this sense Bruennhilde's jealousy is akin to that of Elsa, but not in the sense that Shapiro has described, because in Elsa's case also her main concern (keeping in mind that Elsa's alleged jealousy doesn't concern a rival for Lohengrin's love) is that Lohengrin grant her the privilege of sharing with her his forbidden knowledge of his true identity and origin, so she can help protect him from the danger ("Noth") and anguish ("Noth") Elsa supposes he will suffer if his secret is exposed. With Lohengrin's refusal Elsa's jealousy (in league with Lohengrin's nemeses Ortrud and Frederick, whose sole intent is to influence Elsa to breach Lohengrin's faith) inspires her to ask the forbidden question. Elsa's collaboration with Ortrud and Frederick corresponds with Bruennhilde's collaboration with Hagen, and for that matter Isolde's implicit collaboration with Melot to avenge herself on Tristan for having abducted her and given her away in marriage to King Marke.]

[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) 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.

[PH: Quotation from Stewart Spencer's translation of the "Ring" from T.2.5, with numbered musical motifs (see Allen Dunning's and Paul Heise's guide at embedded by Allen Dunning & Paul Heise:

"(#164) What demon's art lies (#87 - Fate) hidden here? (#167) (#164) What store of magic (#87 - Fate) stirred this up? (#167) (#87) Where now is my wisdom against this bewilderment? (#87 - Fate) Where are my runes against this riddle? Ah, sorrow! Sorrow! Woe, ah woe! (#134 - World-Inheritance) All my wisdom I gave to him [Siegfried]: (#150) in his power he holds the maid; (#150) in his bonds he holds the booty which, sorrowing for her shame, the rich man exultantly gave away. (#164/#170) Who'll offer me now the sword with which to sever these bonds?"]

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 903-905:]

This passage provides one of the primary clues which grants us entre into the most inward layer of our allegorical reading of the Ring. As Bruennhilde asks what demon’s art lies hidden in Siegfried’s betrayal of their love, we hear [PH: ... ] #164, the motif representing Bruennhilde’s latest tragic interpretation of Wotan’s warning that Bruennhilde would bring about her own punishment in living for love (feeling) while ignoring objective reality. We also hear #87, the “Fate Motif,” which of course represents the knowledge of world history and the gods’ fated end (Wotan’s divine “Noth”) which Mother Erda imparted to Wotan while, at the same time, he planted within her womb the seed of longing for redemption from this knowledge, this truth, that came to birth as their daughter Bruennhilde, the redeemer. One aspect of this fate is that all that remains unconscious is destined, in the natural course of evolution, to rise to consciousness. This is the metaphysical meaning behind Alberich’s sacrifice of love (instinctive feeling) for the sake of power, the power of the reflective human mind (the Ring). We also hear the so-called “Murder Motif” #167, which represents the fact that Alberich and Hagen can only hope to regain the power of the Ring if they murder Siegfried: only with his death can their lost power be restored, because Siegfried is the last refuge of religious feeling (Valhalla) in a scientific, secular world, the last hold-out of the gods against Alberich’s claim to power. However, Siegfried’s death is itself [PH: "..." replaces "is"] a metaphor for the end of unconscious artistic inspiration, the rising to consciousness within Siegfried’s own art of the unspoken secret which Siegfried’s art was originally meant to keep, not expose to the light of day.

Again accompanied by #87 (Fate), Bruennhilde asks where her wisdom has flown, that might have aided her against this bewilderment, and asks where she might find her runes against this riddle. And now it dawns on her. Siegfried, in forcing the Ring from her protective hands, and giving her away to his audience, Gunther and the Gibichungs, has dredged Wotan’s hoard of runes (now embodied by Alberich’s Ring) up from the silent depths of his unconscious (Bruennhilde) to the light of day, exposing man’s shame (the knowledge which is so unbearable that man – Wotan - could not tolerate being conscious of it). And Siegfried has committed this violation of the trust Bruennhilde and he had in each other, by virtue of his unconscious artistic inspiration, which has now become too conscious to offer man redemption. Thus we hear #134 [PH: The so-called World-Inheritance Motif], the motif representing redemption through unconscious artistic inspiration (the true meaning of redemption by love), as Bruennhilde helplessly laments that all her wisdom she gave to Siegfried. Thus, as #150 – the motif representing Wotan’s hoard of runes which Bruennhilde imparted subliminally to Siegfried – sounds in the orchestra, Bruennhilde cries out that in Siegfried’s power he holds her, in his bonds he holds the booty (Wotan’s runes) which, sorrowing for her shame, the rich man Siegfried exultantly gave away. The irony is that Siegfried’s art had to reach its most sublime height of inspiration, to be capable of exposing the formerly unconscious process of this inspiration to his audience. Thus it was that Siegfried was exultant while unwittingly betraying his very own muse of art, giving up her secrets to his audience involuntarily. But Bruennhilde does not realize this yet: she blames Siegfried and meditates vengeance against him for his betrayal of their love.

The emphatic repetition of the Fate Motif #87 in this passage invokes our remembrance of Bruennhilde’s comment to Siegfried in S.3.3, accompanied by #87, that what Siegfried does not know she knows for him. This comment was echoed in T.P.2 when, accompanied by #150, Siegfried told Bruennhilde that she gave him more [PH: Corrected on 4/24/2020: I just discovered that I accidentally wrote in 2009 "... he gave her more ..."] than he knows how to cherish (i.e., keep, or guard), and that she should not blame him if her teaching left him untaught (i.e., left him unconscious of Wotan’s runes, which she imparted to him subliminally). Siegfried, in this way, unwittingly foretold that he would some day betray this knowledge to consciousness, that in the long run he would not keep its secret. And #134 brings to mind Bruennhilde’s remark to Siegfried in S.3.3, accompanied by #134, that Wotan’s thought (i.e., Wotan’s confession of his runes to Bruennhilde) was just the redemptive love which Siegfried and Bruennhilde share, Wagner’s metaphor for unconscious artistic inspiration. This is the true “Redemption by Love – i.e., by Art – Motif,” which Wagner described at its inception as sounding like the herald of a new religion, namely, secular art, in which religious feeling lives on freed from the burden of dogmatic assertions of fact which cannot be sustained in the face of science’s advancement in knowledge, and mankind’s advancement in maturity.

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

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

[P. 38] "For Wagner, however, jealousy could not be so easily erased from the Arcadian landscape. In dismissing 'Goetterdaemmerung' as merely a form of grand opera, Shaw accused Wagner of 'Lohengrinizing.' He could not have been more accurate in his assessment, even as he missed the philosophical import of the connection. In 'Lohengrin,' Elsa is driven to ask Lohengrin’s name – a forbidden condition of their marriage vows – and thus drives him away forever. In 'A Communication,' Wagner described his moment of insight in developing the character of Elsa: 'I grew to find her so justified in the final outburst of her jealousy, that from this very outburst I learnt first to thoroughly understand the purely-human element of love.' Wagner attributed Elsa’s forbidden question to jealousy, and in his view, her inquiry revealed the true essence of love, the authentic expression of a core human emotion. 'This woman … who, by the very outburst of her jealousy, wakes first from out the thrill of worship into the full reality of Love, and by her wreck reveals its essence to him who had not fathomed it as yet' (CF 347). As Wagner came to the realization that the depth of Elsa’s love paradoxically undermined the very foundation of that love, he 'suffered deep and actual grief – often welling into bitter tears – as I saw the tragical necessity of the parting, the unavoidable undoing of this pair of lovers.' Jealousy, then, for Wagner, was not an incidental or adventitious calamity but a fundamental aspect of human attachment. Et in Arcadia ego. (8)

[P. 38-39] "But whereas in 'Lohengrin,' jealousy merely separated the lovers, in 'Goetterdaemmerung,' Wagner – following the lead of his favorite playwright – took a step closer to the abyss and showed how a more dangerous strain of the same emotion – sexual jealousy – leads to murder."

[PH: As I disclosed at, Elsa's jealousy and Bruennhilde's jealousy are not the issue, but merely symptoms. I've already quoted passages from in which I explained Elsa's jealousy as her desire that Lohengrin share with her the forbidden knowledge of his true identity and origin (i.e., that what we've called Godhead, man's quest for transcendent value, symbolized by the Holy Grail, is an illusion), in order that she can help protect him from the danger ("Noth") she believes he would suffer if his secret was ever revealed (i.e., made conscious). The cure (temporary at best) for dying religious faith (Lohengrin's insistence that Elsa have absolute faith in him, and not ask him the forbidden question about his true origin and identity) is its redemption by inspired secular art, particularly the art of music.

Bruennhilde's vengeful rage against Siegfried arises in essence from his having, in giving her away to another man (i.e., to the artist-hero Siegfried's audience), betrayed the secret she kept, Wotan's hoard of sacred runes which he confessed to her. Bruennhilde's collaboration with Siegfried's nemesis Hagen is the natural consequence of Siegfried unwittingly betraying the secret of his own unconscious artistic inspiration to the light of day. Bruennhilde's collaboration with Hagen is modeled on Elsa's collaboration with Ortrud and Frederick to expose Lohengrin's secret to the light of day. Siegfried's betrayal of Wotan's unspoken secret, which Bruennhilde had kept, is dramatized in T.3.2 when, at Hagen's behest, Siegfried explains how he first learned the meaning of birdsong, i.e., how Wagner first divined the secret history of how dying religious faith sought redemption from man's advancement in knowledge in music, the language of the unconscious. Siegfried's sung narrative is Wagner's Hamlet-like play-within-the-play, his metaphor for the performance of his own "Ring," in which his musical motifs, properly interpreted, disclose to his audience the profoundest secret of his formerly unconscious aim, an aim which had remained a mystery even to him.]

[PH: See Quotation from, Pages 344-345, previously cited]

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 448-449:]

When Bruennhilde tells Wotan that she is one half of himself, his ageless part, to remind him that in subjecting her to a shameful punishment he would be shaming himself, this leaves no shadow of doubt that Bruennhilde is describing herself as Wotan’s own unconscious mind, for, as I noted in my discussion of a previous citation [See 448W for the complete citation], Wagner spoke in precisely these terms of Elsa’s relationship to her husband Lohengrin, describing Elsa as the involuntary and unconscious part of Lohengrin. According to Wagner, Lohengrin (like Wotan), wishes to redeem himself from his conscious thought (his intolerable knowledge of contradictions which undermine man’s belief in his divine origin and transcendent value) by retreating to his unconscious and undeliberate half Elsa, just as Wotan retreated to his unconscious mind through his confession to Bruennhilde:

In ‘Elsa’ I saw … my desired antithesis to Lohengrin, … the other half of his being … . Elsa is the unconscious, the undeliberate (Unwillkuerliche), into which Lohengrin’s conscious, deliberate (willkuerliche) being yearns to be redeemed.” [573W-{6-8/51) A Communication To My Friends: PW Vol. I, p. 346]

Wagner praised Feuerbach’s idea that the only true immortality is that of heroic deeds (such as Siegmund’s) and divine works of art (such as those which Bruennhilde will inspire the artist-hero Siegfried to create), and that what we have traditionally called “spirit” (i.e., Valhalla) is actually the product of our “aesthetic perceptions of the tangible world” (i.e., art):

“I found it elevating and consoling to be assured that the sole authentic immortality adheres only to sublime deeds and inspired works of art. (…) The fact that he [Feuerbach] proclaimed what we call “spirit” to lie in our aesthetic perceptions of the tangible world, … was what afforded me such useful support in my conception of a work of art which would be all-embracing while remaining comprehensible to the simplest, purely human power of discernment, that is, of the drama made perfect at the moment of its realization of every artistic intention in ‘the art-work of the future’ [i.e. the Ring] … .” [387W-{?/49} ML:p. 430-431]

Wagner praised Elsa’s breach of faith, her betrayal of her promise not to ask Lohengrin to share with her the unspoken secret of his true identity and origin, in the context of her longing to love Lohengrin and receive love from him, instead of worship him:

“I grew to find her [Elsa] so justified in the final outburst of her jealousy [i.e., her insistence on asking Lohengrin the question he forbade, to learn the secret of his true identity and origin, since she could not wholly trust him without full disclosure] that from this very outburst I learnt first to thoroughly understand the purely-human element of love … . … this woman, who … by the very outburst of her jealousy, wakes first from out the thrill of worship into the full reality of love … .” [573W]-{6-8/51} A Communication To My Friends: PW Vol. I, p. 347]

Thus Wagner’s praise of Elsa for doing what is normally regarded as a crime, breaching faith, and thus renouncing worship of God (or the gods), for the sake of love (feeling), tallies perfectly with his notion, borrowed from Feuerbach, that religious faith as a set of beliefs had to end in order to free the artist from staking a claim on the truth which is indefensible, since the artist offers man the feeling of having transcended the world, without staking a factual claim that the world has actually been transcended. Only in this way could the artist emancipate himself from the contradictions which undermine religious faith, and only in this way can Bruennhilde redeem Wotan (religious faith) by freeing his chosen hero Siegfried from his overt influence. In other words, both Elsa’s breach of Lohengrin’s demand for unquestioning faith, and Bruennhilde’s breach of Wotan’s demand that she keep his unspoken secret without acting upon it in the objective world, are steps towards religious faith’s only means of redemption, of salvaging the essence of religion, the longing for transcendent value, when religious belief (the gods) must pass away in the face of man’s inevitable advancement in knowledge of himself and nature. [See my chapter on Lohengrin for a detailed discussion of Elsa’s breach of Lohengrin’s requirement of faith as the basis for Wagner’s transformation from a composer of traditional romantic operas into the revolutionary creator of the music-drama.]
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