Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 4

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 4

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 12:11 pm

Both Feuerbach and Wagner provide considerable evidence for this reading. Apropos of Wotan’s complaint that only Alberich could produce a truly free hero, Feuerbach notes that only the thinker, that is, the objective scientist, is free and independent:

“Only he who thinks is free and independent.” [52F-EOC: p. 39]

One of the key distinctions of Alberich and Hagen from Wotan and his proxies the Waelsungs and Bruennhilde, is that Alberich and Hagen, in their embrace of lovelessness and objectivity for the sake of power, are isolated and alone, and wish to remain so, whereas Wotan, even in his lust for power, can’t bear to give up love, and Wotan’s proxies live for love, for sympathetic relationships with others. This distinction lends a special significance to Feuerbach’s following, more detailed description of the freedom which belongs especially to the cold, objective thinker:

“To be able to be solitary is a sign of character and thinking power. Solitude is the want of the thinker, society the want of the heart. We can think alone, but we can love only with another. In love we are dependent, for it is the need of another being; we are independent only in the solitary act of thought.” [68F-EOC: p. 66-67]

Wagner will go to great lengths in Twilight of the Gods to present Hagen as an isolated, lonely figure, who has an allergic abhorrence of the passionate self-deceptions to which his half siblings, the Gibichungs Gunther and Gutrune, and even the hero Siegfried, are committed.

And, to clinch our argument that Wotan considers Alberich’s son Hagen free in a sense that neither Wotan nor his proxies can ever be, namely, that they are lying to themselves and neither Alberich nor Hagen, who affirm the real world (affirm Erda’s knowledge), are deceiving themselves, Cosima recorded Wagner’s following definition of freedom:

“ ‘Free’ means ‘true,’ someone who has no need to lie … .” [1057W-{1/22/81} CD Vol. II, p. 605]

While Alberich and Hagen have no need to lie because they accept the one world we have, Wotan’s hero Siegfried will be free only by default: he will have no reason to consciously lie because his self-deception, i.e., his unwitting perpetuation of Wotan’s sin against Mother Nature’s truth, will be unconscious. In other words, he will not be conscious of lying to himself, any more than religious man is until an objective mind like Alberich points it out to him. This is Siegfried’s point of vulnerability, his Achilles heel, as it is Wotan’s, which is why Siegfried, like Wotan before him, will succumb to Alberich’s curse of consciousness, though Wotan supposed that Siegfried’s innocence would make him invulnerable to it.

[P. 14] "Kitcher and Schacht ... point to Siegfried’s cruel coercion of Bruennhilde on the rock as further evidence of his inherent callousness. (98) (...) But it is critical that Siegfried acts in this way only when fully under the power of the tarnhelm, a trophy that originally meant nothing to him and which he only uses at Hagen’s urging. By allowing its wearer to defy the laws of time and space, the tarnhelm manufactures miracles. But as Feuerbach made clear in the 'Essence of Christianity,' miracles represent a corruption of natural law and a false understanding of the world: 'The belief in a special Divine Providence is the characteristic belief of Judaism; belief in Providence is belief in miracle; but belief in miracle exists where Nature is regarded only as an object of arbitrariness, of egoism, which uses Nature only as an instrument of its own will and pleasure…. And all these contradictions of Nature happen for the welfare of Israel' (EC 116). (99) Echoing Feuerbach, Wagner himself wrote that 'the Judaeo-Christian Wonder tore the connexion of natural phenomena asunder, to allow the Divine Will to appear as standing over Nature' (OD 213). As a talisman whose miraculous powers are antithetical to natural law, the tarnhelm encapsulates the worst vices of modern society. By using the tarnhelm to become Gunther, Siegfried dons “the false grotesque face of … state and police culture,” sacrificing his natural strength in exchange for the hypocrisies and lies of deceitful egotistical civilization. Through its sinister magic Siegfried becomes a master of dissembling, further betraying his true self and his “integrity.” And under its malign influence, Siegfried succumbs to the 'monstrous sin of the absolute egoist,' treating other humans as means, not ends-in-themselves."

[PH: The following extracts from explain how Siegfried's employment of Alberich's Tarnhelm in "Goetterdaemmerung" is the natural consequence of his falling heir (as secular artist-hero) to dying religious faith's Wonder. I noted elsewhere in that Alberich's Tarnhelm is the symbol for man's imagination (the foundation of Wagner's religious and artistic "Wonder") a product of Alberich' Ring of consciousness, which not only grants man the ability to discern nature's treasures (i.e., to accumulate a hoard of knowledge from nature which is represented by the Nibelungs mining for the earth's treasure in Nibelheim under the spell of Alberich's Ring and Tarnhelm), but also gives birth to both religious belief and inspired secular art. I also explained how Wagner's musical motifs, symbolized in the "Ring" by the Woodbird's songs which the artist-hero Siegfried alone can understand, are Wagner's secular substitute for dying religious faith in the miraculous, and therefore represent Wagner's unique contribution to that artistic Wonder which in scientific secular times replaces dying religious faith.

My argument at suggests that Shapiro is incorrect when he states that the Tarnhelm represents "... the worst vices of modern society," or that Siegfried in transforming his form into that of Gunther dons the false mask of deceitful and egotistical modern culture. I explained there that Siegfried's employment of the Tarnhelm to transform himself into Gunther so Siegfried can successfully abduct Siegfried's muse Bruennhilde to place her and her secrets in Gunther's hands, and Siegfried's singing the story of how he learned the meaning of the Woodbird's song for his audience of Gunther and the Gibichungs, is Wagner's metaphor for a special property of his musical motifs, that through them he could make his audience fellow-knowers of the profoundest secret of his artistic aim, an aim which Wagner said remained unconscious for himself, the music-dramatist, because it was as much a mystery to him as to his audience. According to my reading it was inevitable that in the course of history, of man's gradual accumulation of a hoard of knowledge of himself and his world, that the secular artist-hero's unconscious artistic inspiration would eventually become conscious. In my interpretation Siegfried's betrayal of Bruennhilde and exploitation of the power of the Tarnhelm to that end are therefore a natural consequence of Siegfried's own artistic nature, and represent the fact that his own redemptive art is itself a product of Alberich's Ring Curse of consciousness. It was thanks to Wotan's ally Loge's ploy (Loge being Wagner's symbol for man's gift of artistic self-deceit), after all, that Wotan was initially able to redeem himself from succumbing to the power of Alberich's Ring by exploiting the Tarnhelm to dispossess Alberich of his Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard, just as Siegfried subsequently won possession of them and thereby unwittingly kept Alberich from regaining them. Siegfried's initial retrieval of Alberich's Ring and Tarnhelm from Fafner's cave, after a taste of the dead Fafner's blood granted Siegfried the ability to understand the Woodbird's song, was in fact inspired by the Woodbird, who can scarcely be described as Hagen's collaborator in destroying Siegfried. There is simply more to this than met Shapiro's eye.]

[PH: See Quotation from, Pages 136-137]

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 146-147:]

Wagner, pace Feuerbach, described religious belief as the product not so much of a single artist, who presumably would be largely conscious of the part his own imagination plays in creating a fictional world (even if he is not conscious of the creative process within him), but of collective humanity, or the Folk, whom we may describe as the artist in the aggregate, in the Folk’s unwitting and involuntary creation of imagined supernatural beings, a world-view predicated on religious belief:

“ … religions spring not from the artist’s brain; their only origin is from the Folk.” [429W-{9-12/49} The Artwork of the Future: PW Vol. I, p. 90]

“ … the Folk must of necessity be the Artist of the future … . … in the days of national blood-brotherhood, which preceded the epoch when the absolute Egoism of the individual was elevated to a religion, -- the days which our historians betoken as those of prehistoric myth and fable, -- the Folk, in truth, was already the only poet, the only artist … .” [441W-{9-12/49} The Artwork of the Future: PW Vol. I, p. 207]

And here is how Wagner said collective or historical man, the Folk, gave birth to the gods. The gods, he says, are the folk’s condensation of the inexhaustible phenomena of nature, and of human life, into an idealized human form, an involuntary act of the imagination which lends this imagined being a supernatural aura:

“Just as the human form is to him [i.e., to man] the most comprehensible, so also will the essence of natural phenomena – which he does not yet know in their reality – become comprehensible only through condensation to a human form. Thus in Mythos all the shaping impulse of the Folk makes toward realising … a broadest grouping of the most manifold phenomena … in the most succinct of shapes. [This process of summarizing the entirety of experience under the form of a figure of the imagination, a god, Wagner further describes as:] … that joint operation of multi-human or omni-natural force and faculty which, conceived as merely the concordant action of human and natural forces in general, is certainly both natural and human, but appears superhuman and supernatural by the very fact that it is ascribed to one imagined individual, represented in the shape of Man. By its faculty of thus using its force of imagination to bring before itself every thinkable reality and actuality, in widest reach but plain, succinct and plastic shaping, the Folk therefore becomes in Mythos the creator of Art … .” [489W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 154-155]

This process by which the variety of human experience is condensed into the form of a god is, by the way, identical to Wagner’s concept of the “Wonder,” by virtue of which he could capture the pillars of a drama, its most essential points, in a small number of highly distinctive and memorable musical motifs, which carry the power of all those things, thematically akin, with which they have been associated in the course of the dramatic performance. I will describe this concept in much greater detail later.

Feuerbach’s following succinct description of the “Wonder,” the imagination’s ability to condense a vast array of experience of the natural and human worlds into the form of gods who appear to us in recognizable, and often human shapes, is clearly the foundation of Wagner’s description of the process whereby the folk create their “Mythos,” as described above:

“Human ignorance is bottomless, and the human imagination knows no bounds; deprived of its foundations by ignorance and of its limits by the imagination, the power of nature becomes divine omnipotence. (…)

(…) In short, an object considered as subject, the essence of nature differentiated from nature and seen as a human being, the essence of man differentiated from man and seen as a not-human being - this is the essence of divinity and religion, the secret of mysticism and speculation, this is the great thauma, the wonder of all wonders, which fills men with the profoundest amazement and rapture.” [338F-LER: p. 320-321]

In the modern world, which is so much more self-conscious than the earliest epochs of human existence, the individual artistic-genius, Wagner says, inherits what once was the collective mythic creativity of the Folk who invented the gods, and in a sense becomes the Folk’s voice. What links the modern, individual genius to the primal Folk who dreamed the various religions into existence is the involuntary, unconscious nature of inspiration, which Wagner describes below as a “force” or “faculty:”

[Wagner attributes:] … the force which we commonly call Genius … [to a certain faculty.]. That which operates so mightily upon this force that it must finally come forth to full productiveness, we have … to regard as the real fashioner and former, … and this is the Art already evolved outside that separate force, the Art which from the artworks of the ancient and the modern world has shaped itself into a universal Substance … . (…) [and speaking of:]  … so-called prehistoric times, the times when Speech, and Myth, and Art were really born … [Wagner says that:] the thing we call Genius was unknown: no one man was a Genius, since all men were it. Only in times like ours, does one know or name these ‘Geniuses’; the sole name that we can find for those artistic forces which … open out new pathways and fill them with their innate life. Yet if we look a little closer, we shall find that these new openings are in no wise arbitrary and private paths, but continuations of a long-since-hewn main causeway; down which, before and with these solitary units, a joint and many-membered force of diverse individualities has poured itself, whose conscious or unconscious instinct has urged it to the abrogation of those forms by fashioning newer moulds of Life and Art.” [559W-{6-8/51} A Communication To My Friends: PW Vol. I, p. 288-289]

[PH: Quotation from, Page 566-567:]

Before we are well embarked on a consideration of S.2.2 we need to examine more closely the link between imagination, for which the Tarnhelm stands (considering it was through the Tarnhelm’s magic that both Alberich and Fafner transformed themselves into a Serpent, whose motival incarnation is #48), and the self-delusion which religious faith encourages. Feuerbach argues that faith expresses imagination’s power to transform reality into something considered to be illusory, and to transform what is illusory into something held to be true:

“Faith is the power of the imagination, which makes the real unreal, and the unreal real: in direct contradiction with the truth of the senses, with the truth of reason.” [132F-EOC: p. 242]

The Tarnhelm, metaphor for the imagination, grants its owner the gift of altering the shape of things and transcending the limits of time and space which constrain our bodies, for the mind can think of things absent in both time and space, i.e., things that are distant in time, such as the past and future, or distant in space, i.e., not here, but elsewhere:

“ … this power of faith or God, unhampered by the laws of nature, is precisely the power of the imagination, to which nothing is impossible. Faith sees the invisible … . And the imagination, as well, is not of things which are seen but of things which are not seen. The imagination concerns itself exclusively with things and beings which are no longer or not yet, or which at least are not present.” [260F-LER: p. 179]

This manipulation of reality - when in the service of religious man’s illusions predicated on existential fear (fear both of concrete threats and of the truth) and on longing for eternal bliss - distorts things utterly, whereas imagination in the service of objective knowledge condenses the essential facts about things widely distributed in time and space into one coherent, unified picture, disclosing the laws behind motion or change, i.e., what remains constant behind the diversity of experience. It was, after all, thanks to the Tarnhelm that Alberich was able to wield his Ring power to spur his fellow Nibelungs to ever greater efforts to dig up the treasures, the essential forms, hidden with nature, i.e., Erda’s Navel-nest (Nibelheim).

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 784-785:]

Gunther and Gutrune having wondered aloud how they might find Siegfried, Hagen, preceded by the motif of Alberich’s Curse on the Ring, #51 (with the sound of Siegfried’s youthful horncall #103 in the background foreshadowing Siegfried’s imminent arrival on the shore of the Rhine), says something seemingly insignificant but in truth quite extraordinary. Hagen says that when Siegfried rides out gaily in search of adventure (i.e., when Siegfried has an impulse to present a newly inspired artwork to his audience), the world becomes a narrow pinewood. Hagen goes on to suggest that given his nature, Siegfried will surely arrive at some point at Gibichung Hall, as indeed he will momentarily. Hagen has not made a random statement. By saying that while engaged in his (artistic) adventures, the entire world becomes a pinewood for Siegfried, Hagen is describing Wagner’s concept of the motival “Wonder,” whereby a huge array of thematically related phenomena, widely disbursed in time and space, become present, here and now, through the sounding of a musical motif which in the course of the drama has been associated with this huge array of seemingly disparate phenomena. In this way, according to Wagner, his musical motifs disclose a heretofore hidden unity underlying these distinct phenomena. Thus the entire world, as known through collective man’s long accumulated hoard of worldly experience, becomes a small pinewood for Siegfried when he is out seeking adventures (i.e., adventures of artistic creation).

I re-present below Feuerbach’s seminal notion of the miracle, which transcends the limits of time and space, followed by Wagner’s key passage describing his concept of the “Wonder,” produced by his musical motifs, an idea clearly influenced profoundly by Feuerbach’s notion of the supernatural miracle:

“If we … turn to miracles, we shall find that they objectify, embody, realize nothing other than the essence of a wish [one of Wotan’s nicknames is “Wunsch,” i.e., wish, and his Valkyrie daughters are “Wish-maidens,” his daughter Bruennhilde the womb of his wishes]. (…) Wishes are not subject to the barriers of space and time; they are unrestricted, unfettered, as free as a god.” [291F-LER: p. 236-237]

“The condensation of the most varied and extended phenomena, where many members harmonise to produce one, single, definite effect; the perspicuous presentation of such a harmony, which to us remains unseizable without the deepest research and widest experience [man’s accumulation of a hoard of knowledge], and fills us with amazement when beheld, -- in art, which can operate only conformably to certain conditions of time and place, this is to be obtained through nothing save the miraculous. Here in poetic fiction the tremendous chain of connection embracing the most heterogeneous phenomena is condensed to an easily-surveyed bond of fewer links [i.e., Wagner’s musical motifs, which capture the essence of phenomena], yet the force and might of the whole great chain is put into these few: and in art this might is miracle.” [478W-{49-51 (?)} Notes for ‘Artisthood of the Future’ (unfinished); Sketches and Fragments: PW Vol. VIII, p. 371]

It is also worth recalling that it is the nature of the Tarnhelm, and therefore also of Hagen’s Potion (whose motif #154 stems from the Tarnhelm Motifs #42 and #43), as symbols for the imagination (deriving ultimately from Loge’s Motif #35), and in Siegfried’s hands representing the imagination in service to artistic creativity, to compress all objects and events widely scattered in time and space, and in this way to make all imaginable things present to the mind, and also to transform the shapes of things creatively. It is this collective artistic imagination, collective involuntary and unconscious myth-making, which Feuerbach described as the birthplace of the gods.

[P. 14-15] "Wagner criticized the ancient Greeks for judging Oedipus as morally responsible for parricide and incest in spite of the fact that his transgressions were committed without knowledge. (OD 182) (...) As an ignorant victim of circumstances, Wagner asserted, Oedipus could not be held individually accountable. But, as Wagner observed, Oedipus is not only condemned by outer society, he internalizes the social condemnation as well. Consumed by guilt he stabs out his eyes ... ' (OD 183). By placing Siegfried in the position of Oedipus of unwittingly committing crimes against society, and yet securing his inner integrity and innocence through the device of the potion, Wagner was correcting the errors and 'misinterpretations' propounded by Greek mythic drama. (100)"

[PH: As I explained at, Siegfried the inspired secular artist-hero is the unwitting, involuntary heir to Wotan's (dying religious faith's) religious sin against all that was, is, and will be, the sin of world-renunciation, expressed in man's longing for redemption from his historically inevitable advancement in that objective knowledge through which man will one day undermine his consoling illusions in religious belief, ethics, and inspired secular art. It's precisely this sin that Alberich designed his Ring Curse of consciousness to punish.]

[PH: See Quotation from, Page 326, previously cited]

[PH: See Quotation from, Pages 413-414, previously cited]

[P. 16-17] "While Siegfried is the 'one who never ceases to love,' (107) Bruennhilde is more akin to Lohengrin. Wagner wrote, 'I remain convinced that my Lohengrin (according to my own conception of it) symbolizes the most profoundly tragic situation of the present day, namely man’s desire to descend from the most intellectual heights to the depths of love, the longing to be understood instinctively, a longing which modern reality cannot yet satisfy.' (108) Having 'descended from the heights' Bruennhilde is initially apprehensive and anxious about giving herself to the exuberant youth. It is no accident that Siegfried must first cut through her outer “wrappage” – an inflexible, constraining “iron coat of armour” – a symbol of the constraints inherited through outdated cultural norms – before Bruennhilde can even contemplate embracing her true womanhood and receiving Siegfried’s love."

[PH: As I've previously pointed out in a variety of essays, lectures, and at, it's actually Wotan who is modeled on Lohengrin in the sense Wagner describes above. Both seek redemption from an excess of consciousness of a fatal truth (that, as Feuerbach said, godhead is an illusion, founded on the collective imagination's involuntary reification of the power of Nature, and the unique nature of the human mind, in a single being) in a woman's sympathy and faith, i.e., metaphorically, in their own unconscious minds. Wagner describes Lohengrin's relationship to Elsa in "A Communication to My Friends" as that of the conscious to the unconscious mind, Lohengrin's conscious mind seeking redemption in his unconscious mind Elsa. In the "Ring," Wotan, who represents collective, historical man during the long epoch when men lived under religious faith, recognizing that religious faith is predestined to die in the face of Alberich's (and Wotan's, Light-Alberich's) gradual acquisition of a hoard of objective knowledge of man and the world, seeks to preserve the soul of religious faith, man's quest for transcendent value and the restoration of lost innocence, in inspired secular art, particularly the secular art of music, which is distinguished from religious faith in that it doesn't stake a claim to the power of truth (Alberich's Ring), which scientific knowledge can refute. While Lohengrin refused Elsa's request that he share with her the forbidden knowledge of his true identity and origin, in their love's night, so she could help protect him from the "Noth" he'd suffer if this knowledge was ever revealed, Wotan acquiesced to Bruennhilde's request that he share with her his divine "Noth," which he tells her he dare not speak aloud lest he lose the grip sustaining his will (i.e., his mind). In this sense Wotan seeks redemption from his intellectual heights by confessing his divine "Noth" to his daughter Bruennhilde, (i.e., repressing his hoard of unbearable knowledge into) his unconscious mind, who will become Siegfried's muse of unconscious artistic inspiration. As I explained in my published essay "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried" (1995), this distinction between Lohengrin's refusal and Wotan's acquiescence is a metaphor for Wagner's transition from being an author and composer of traditional romantic operas, in which, according to Wagner, music and word/drama were only mechanically linked to each other, to the creator of revolutionary music-dramas, in which music and word/drama are conjoined organically in loving union.]

[PH: Quotation from, Page 278:]

As Donner’s storm clears to make way for the stunning appearance of the Rainbow Bridge leading from the meadow to Valhalla, we are introduced to its “Rainbow Bridge Motif” #56, the only instance in which it is heard in the entire Ring. It is also in the Nature Motif Family. It represents in effect the bridge of transition between man’s evolutionary status as an animal, and reflectively conscious man, in the sense that only with the finale of Rhinegold are the foundations of human civilization laid. All the gods and mortal beings of The Rhinegold represent aspects of humanity, of the human psyche and heart, rather than specific beings, or at best represent collective, historical man. The essence of this transition, this collective dreaming which gave birth to civilization founded upon religious faith in the rule of supernatural gods, is that all trace of our true, natural origin in evolution is wiped out and replaced entirely by a false mythological past which is recounted as man’s own past, though it is entirely man’s involuntary invention. All memory of man’s debt to Nature (Erda), to animal instinct (first the Rhinedaughters, and then, with the split of instinct into desire and fear, good and evil, the Giants), and to the power of our conscious human mind (Alberich’s Ring), is forgotten. As Feuerbach put it, using Christianity as his example of religious faith in general, all trace of the Christian God’s origin in nature is effaced by man’s religious mythology, and all intellectual inquiry and curiosity which might reveal this origin is instinctively censored so that the physical origin of what we call the supernatural can never be known:

… the God of Christian monotheism is a withered, dried-out God in whom all traces of His origin in nature is effaced; there He stands like a creation out of nothing; on pain of the rod He even forbids the inevitable question: ‘What did God do before He created the world?’ or more correctly: What was He before nature? In other words, He makes a secret of His physical origin, hiding it behind a metaphysical abstraction.” [341F-LER: p. 321-322]

I will later argue not only that Fafner comes to embody Wotan’s fear of intellectual inquiry into the foundations of Valhalla, as a metaphor for religious faith’s fear of knowledge, but also that this fear is the true motive underlying Lohengrin’s insistence that neither Elsa nor anyone else who seeks redemption from their “Noth” through Lohengrin, inquire after his true identity or origin.

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 344-345:]

The idea that Bruennhilde, Wotan’s daughter, is his unconscious mind, was first developed by Wagner in Lohengrin (though elements of this concept are already found in Senta and Venus, in The Flying Dutchman, and Tannhaeuser, respectively), and expounded in his discussion of the meaning of Lohengrin in A Communication To My Friends. [See my chapter on Lohengrin for a detailed discussion.] Elsa’s request that Lohengrin share with her the secret of his true identity and origin, a secret which, if divulged, she believes would bring him great suffering (“Noth”), and her offer to help Lohengrin keep this secret to protect him from this “Noth,” is the basis for Bruennhilde’s request that Wotan share with her the secret of his divine “Noth,” or anguish, which he dare not speak aloud. Lohengrin refuses Elsa’s request, but Wotan here acquiesces in Bruennhilde’s request that he tell her what gnaws at his heart. Wotan in his confession shares with his daughter Bruennhilde the unspoken secret of his divine “Noth”:

“In ‘Elsa’ I saw, from the commencement, my desired antithesis to Lohengrin, … the other half of his being, -- the antithesis which is included in his general nature and forms the necessarily longed-for complement of his specific man-hood. Elsa is the unconscious, the undeliberate (Unwillkuerliche), into which Lohengrin’s conscious, deliberate (willkuerliche) being yearns to be redeemed … [as Wotan yearns to confess the unspoken secret which troubles him to Bruennhilde]. Through the capability of this ‘unconscious consciousness,’ such as I myself now felt alike with Lohengrin, the nature of Woman also … came to ever clearer understanding in my inner mind. (…) I grew to find her so justified in the final outburst of her jealousy [i.e., Elsa’s insistence that Lohengrin share with her, his wife and lover, the secret of his true identity and origin, so that she could help him keep the secret which she supposes might, if exposed, bring him great suffering – i.e., “Noth”], that from this very outburst I learnt first to thoroughly understand the purely-human element of love … . … this woman, … who, by the very burst of her jealousy, wakes first from out the thrill of worship [religious belief] into the full reality of love [secular art, especially music], … I had found her now: and the random shaft that I had shot towards the treasure dreamt but hitherto unknown, was my own Lohengrin, whom now I must give up as lost; to track more certainly the footsteps of that true Woman-hood, which should one day bring to me and all the world redemption, after Man-Hood’s egoism [i.e., conscious, intentional thought], even in its noblest form, had shivered into self-crushed dust before her [Wotan unloads the burden of his conscious thought by confessing it to Bruennhilde]. Elsa, the Woman, … - that most positive expression of the purest instinct of the senses, -- made me a Revolutionary at one blow. She was the Spirit of the Folk, for whose redeeming hand I too, as artist-man, was longing. –  But this treasure trove [Hoard? i.e., ‘Hort’?] of Knowledge lay hid, at first, within the silence of my lonely heart: only slowly did it ripen into loud avowal!” [573W-{6-8/51} A Communication To My Friends: PW Vol. I, p. 346-348]

Wagner has clearly described Elsa not only as Lohengrin’s unconscious mind, but has also suggested in the passage above that had Lohengrin shared the unspoken secret of his “Noth,” his true identity and origin with her, she would have become the agent of universal redemption. Considering that I have described Wotan not only as Godhead but as a metaphor for Feuerbach’s notion of God as collective, historical man, i.e., the Folk who involuntarily and unconsciously invented the gods, it is also significant that Wagner describes Elsa (and embryonic Bruennhilde) as the “Spirit of the Folk.” Bruennhilde is, in other words, not just a single man’s unconscious mind, but the collective unconscious of mankind (Wotan). What is more, the fact that Alberich’s forging of his Ring (#19) is the unconscious source of inspiration for Wotan’s waking dream Valhalla, and that Bruennhilde is established during his confession as his unconscious mind, surely suggests that Bruennhilde (like her mother Erda) will have a special role to play in redeeming Wotan from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, not in the sense of saving the gods from their fated demise, but rather, in redeeming them (that is to say, redeeming the men who believe in the gods) from the sufferings (“Noth”) of consciousness. Wotan’s Bruennhilde becomes a refuge from dread and dismay, much like Valhalla did.

Wagner fully establishes this conceptual link between the plots of Lohengrin and the Ring in his following decisive comparison between the two works, in which he makes it clear that the Ring, in which Wotan acquiesced in Bruennhilde’s request that he share his unspoken secret, the “Noth” which ails him, with her, resolves the difficulty presented in Lohengrin by Lohengrin’s refusal to share the secret of his true identity and origin with her [PH: Elsa]. Wotan, thanks to his acquiescence in Bruennhilde’s request, in other words, obtains through Bruennhilde redemption from the dangers of consciousness, which Lohengrin does not:

“ … I remain convinced that my Lohengrin … symbolizes the most profoundly tragic situation of the present day, namely man’s desire to descend from the most intellectual heights [Wotan’s repression of his hoard of unbearable knowledge] to the depths of love [into his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde], the longing to be understood instinctively [to let feeling, music, replace thought], a longing which modern reality cannot yet satisfy.”

(…) This is where my art must come to the rescue: and the work of art that I had no choice but to conceive in this sense is none other than my Nibelung poem.” [612W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 306] [See also 686W]
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