Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 3

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 3

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 12:14 pm

[PH: Quotation from Pages 366-367 of]

We must now strive to grasp perhaps the most difficult concept in Wagner’s Ring. It is the following: By virtue of repressing unbearable self-knowledge into his unconscious mind, by confessing the knowledge which Erda taught Wotan to his daughter Bruennhilde, Wotan effectively plants a seed in his wish-womb Bruennhilde with this knowledge. It is this seed, Wotan’s confession of his need for a hero freed from the gods’ corrupting influence, and his conviction that this need can never be met, which figuratively gives birth to his longed-for hero Siegfried. Through this means Wotan is, effectively, reborn in Siegfried, minus consciousness of his true origin and identity. For the essence of Siegfried’s heroism will be that he does not know who he is.

We find a basis for this difficult concept in both Feuerbach and in passages from Wagner’s writings which are clearly influenced by these Feuerbachian meditations. For instance, Feuerbach, describing all that man would have to eliminate from the very definition of man in order to produce a being sufficiently free from the laws of physics and biology to be capable of immortal life, disclosed that one would have to purge man of all that links him to the real world, and that all that would be left in such a theoretically immortal being is substancelessness and nothingness, a complete void of being and historical context, in other words, nothing at all:

“Only when history is nothing, only when the naked individual, the individual who is stripped of all historical elements, of all destiny, determination, purpose, measure, and goal, only when the vain, abstract, meaningless, empty individual is something, and therefore only when nothing is something, … only then is there nothing after death, only if the nothing after death is not also something. Thus those peculiar beings and strange subjects who think that they live only after life do not reflect that they attain and make up nothing at all with their afterlife, that as they [i.e., those who believe in the immortality of the human soul] posit a future life, they negate the actual life.” [20F-TDI: p. 133]

Wagner, clearly heavily influenced here by Feuerbach, describes how - through a similar process of purgation of all of man’s links to his own history and development, a purgation of all things which make man man - it is possible to posit a mythical, purely-human being freed from all implication in the world’s corruption, a timeless, pristine, innocent man, such as Wotan hopes Siegfried will be. It is noteworthy that in our second extract below Wagner actually echoes Feuerbach’s language by describing Siegfried as the “real naked man,” just as Feuerbach critiques the history-less immortal man - which religious belief has conjured from the imagination - as the “naked individual.”

“In the struggle to give the wishes of my heart artistic shape, and in the ardour to discover what thing it was that drew me so resistlessly to the primal source of old home Sagas, I drove step by step into the deeper regions of antiquity, where at last to my delight, and truly in the utmost reaches of old time, I was to light upon the fair young form of Man, in all the freshness of his force. My studies thus bore me, through the legends of the Middle Ages, right down to their foundation in the old-Germanic Mythos; one swathing after another, which the later legendary lore had bound around it, I was able to unloose, and thus at last to gaze upon it in its chastest beauty. What here I saw, was no longer the Figure of conventional history [say, Wotan], whose garment claims our interest more than does the actual shape inside; but the real naked Man [i.e., Siegfried] … . At like time I had sought this human being in History too. Here offered themselves relations, and nothing but relations; the human being I could only see in so far as the relations ordered him: and not as he had power to order them [Wotan, Lord of treaties, trapped by his treaties]. To get to the bottom of these ‘relations,’ whose coercive force compelled the strongest man to squander all his powers on objectless and never-compassed aims, I turned afresh to the soil of Greek antiquity, and here, again, was pointed at the last to Mythos … . … Mythos lead me to this Man alone, as to the involuntary creator of those relations [Wotan], which in their documento-monumental perversion, as the excrescences of History (Geschictes-momente), as traditional fictions and established rights, have at last usurped dominion over Man and ground to dust his freedom.” [574W-{6-8/51} A Communication To My Friends: PW Vol. I, p. 357-358]

“With the conception of ‘Siegfried,’ I had pressed forward to where I saw before me the Human Being in the most natural and blithest fulness of his physical life. No historic garment more, confined his limbs [thanks to the fact that Wotan repressed his knowledge of history into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, who will hold this knowledge for Siegfried and protect him from suffering consciousness of it]; no outwardly-imposed relation hemmed in his movements, which, springing from the inner fount of Joy-in-life, so bore themselves in face of all encounter, that error and bewilderment … might heap themselves around until they threatened to destroy him, without the hero checking for a moment, even in the face of death, the welling outflow of that Inner fount [i.e., Siegfried is fearless, thanks to Bruennhilde holding for him, and protecting him from, Erda’s knowledge, which paralyzed Wotan with existential fear of the end] … . It was ‘Elsa’ who had taught me to unearth this man [since Elsa offered to share with Lohengrin the secret of his identity and origin [PH: Elsa begged Lohengrin to share with her the forbidden knowledge of his true origin and identity], and protect him from the anguish (i.e., “Noth”), which bringing this knowledge up from the silent depths of the unconscious to the light of day might inflict on Lohengrin]: to me, he was the male-embodied spirit of perennial and sole creative instinct (Unwillkuer) [i.e., an unconsciously inspired artist-hero], of the doer of true Deeds, of Manhood in the utmost fulness of its inborn strength and proved loveworthiness.” [579W-{6-8/51} A Communication To My Friends: PW Vol. I, p. 375] [See also 498W]

So it appears that Wagner found his formula for the truly free, fearless, purely-human hero, miraculously disconnected from Wotan’s historical time and context, from the natural necessity or fate, Erda’s knowledge, which her daughters the Norns spin, in Feuerbach’s critique of immortality. But Wagner here adds the most striking point of all, that it was his heroine Elsa, from Lohengrin, who taught him to unearth his de-contextualized Siegfried, a man freed from all natural preconditions and debts.

[P. 7-8] "In developing the character of Siegfried, Wagner reveled in this golden age fantasy of the natural man freed of the fears, anxieties, and ambitions that tormented contemporary members of civil society. The traits associated with Siegfried reflect those that Rousseau assigned to his first men. (...) Such a figure as Siegfried is defined not only by his callowness but also by his lack of self-consciousness. Man in his savage state, Rousseau opined, 'dwells only in the sensation of its present existence, without any idea of the future, however close that might be, and his projects, as limited as his horizons, hardly extend to the end of the day.' (40) (...) Consistent with his prototype, Siegfried 'lives entirely in the present, he is the hero, the finest gift of the will,' as Wagner told his wife. (41) Or as he told Roeckel, 'in Siegfried I have tried to depict what I understand to be the most perfect human being, whose highest consciousness expresses itself in the fact that all consciousness manifests itself solely in the most immediate vitality and action.' (42)"

[PH: Quotation from, Page 597-599:]

Having repressed conscious knowledge of his loathsome motives, his true identity, and his corrupt history, by imparting it to his unconscious mind, Bruennhilde, Wotan has been reborn as Siegfried who, purged of Wotan’s conscious awareness of contradiction, can become a “knower through feeling” as Wagner describes this phenomenon below:

“In presence of the Dramatic Artwork, nothing should remain for the combining Intellect to search for. Everything in it must come to an issue sufficient to set our Feeling at rest thereon; for in the setting-at-rest of this Feeling resides the repose, itself, which brings us an instinctive understanding of Life. In the Drama, we must become knowers through the Feeling. The Understanding tells us: ‘So is it,’ – only when the Feeling has told us: ‘So must it be.’ “ [520W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 208-209]

It is in this sense that the Woodbird has informed him of the use he can make of the Tarnhelm and Ring, allowing Siegfried to remain ignorant (that is to say, unconscious) of their use. This corresponds with what Siegfried will say to Bruennhilde in T.P.2 when he is about to depart from his muse to undertake new adventures (Wagner’s code for: undertake new deeds of art) in the outside world, after receiving inspiration from her. In response to Bruennhilde’s observation that she has imparted to Siegfried the runes the gods (that is to say, Wotan) have imparted to her, Siegfried asks her not to chide him if her teaching has nonetheless left him untaught. Because Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, knows these things for him, Siegfried can grasp them subliminally without knowing them consciously. Thus he does indeed draw inspiration from Alberich’s Ring and Tarnhelm and even Hoard subliminally, and therefore from Wotan’s confession of his dangerous, unspoken secret, without having to pay the conscious price of fear which Alberich’s curse required of the Ring’s owner. This is the ultimate consequence of Froh’s remark in R.2 that thanks to Alberich’s sacrifice of love to win the Ring, the gods can now co-opt its power without paying Alberich’s price. It also explains the ultimate meaning of Wotan’s remark in R.2 that Loge’s cunning draws advantage from the enemy’s envy, for Loge is the archetype for the Waelsung heroes, and for the artist-hero Siegfried in particular.

Thus, thanks to Bruennhilde, Siegfried can live in the present, drawing subliminal inspiration from Alberich’s curse on the Ring without suffering from consciousness of it, while she holds for him, and protects him from, the disturbing knowledge of his venal origins, and fatal future:

“Siegfried lives entirely in the present, he is the hero, the finest gift of the will [i.e., the finest gift of Bruennhilde, who is Wotan’s “Will.”] [820W-{3/12/72} CD Vol. I, p. 466]

“Music cannot think: but she can materialise thoughts, i.e. she can give forth their emotional contents as no longer merely recollected, but made present. (…) … and inasmuch as we thus make our Feeling a living witness to the organic growth of one definite emotion from out another, we give to it the faculty of thinking: nay, we here give it a faculty of higher rank than thinking, to wit, the instinctive knowledge of a thought made real in Emotion.” [542W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 329-330]

And this aesthetic understanding through feeling, which for Wagner is more powerful than objective truth itself (at least subjectively and psychologically), this “Wonder” which the Wagnerian music-drama offers, is Wagner’s substitute for the old religious faith in the supernatural which, in fear of the objective truth, had imprisoned the mind, as he says in his explanation of the artistic “Wonder” (previously cited) below:

“The Wonder in the Poet’s work is distinguished from the Wonder in religious Dogma by this: that it does not, like the latter, upheave the nature of things [i.e., it doesn’t posit the supernatural, miracles], but the rather makes it comprehensible to the Feeling [Wagner’s musical motifs].

The Judaeo-Christian Wonder tore the connexion of natural phenomena asunder, to allow the Divine Will to appear as standing over Nature. In it a broad connexus of things was by no means condensed in favour of their understanding by the instinctive Feeling, but this Wonder was employed entirely for its own sake alone; people demanded it, as the proof of a suprahuman power, from him who gave himself for divine, and in whom they refused to believe till before the bodily eyes of men he had shown himself the lord of Nature, i.e. the arbitrary subverter of the natural order of things. This Wonder was therefore claimed from him one did not hold for authentic in himself and his natural dealings, but whom one proposed to first believe when he should have achieved something unbelievable, something un-understandable. A fundamental denial of the Understanding [Feuerbach’s notion that religious faith takes the mind prisoner] was therefore the thing hypothecated in advance, … whereas an absolute Faith was the thing demanded by the wonder-doer, and granted by the wonder-getter.

Now, for the operation of its message, the poetising intellect has absolutely no concern with Faith [Fafner – Fear], but only with an understanding through the Feeling [What Wotan thought, Bruennhilde feels, and imparts to Siegfried]. It wants to display a great connexus of natural phenomena in an image swiftly understandable [Wagner’s musical motifs, as a substitute for lost religious faith], and this image must therefore be one answering to the phenomena in such a way that the instinctive Feeling may take it up without a struggle, not first be challenged to expound it: whereas the characteristic of the Dogmatic Wonder consists just in this, that, through the obvious impossibility of explaining it, it tyrannously subjugates the Understanding [i.e., takes Alberich and his Ring prisoner] despite the latter’s instinctive search for explanation … . The Dogmatic Wonder is therefore just as unfitted for Art, as the Poetic Wonder is the highest and most necessary product of the artist’s power of beholding and displaying.” [522W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 213-214]

[P. 8] "Having conceived of the natural man freed from the corrupting effects of civilization – the burdens of history – what did Wagner intend to dramatize? In 'A Communication,' Wagner explained how his intentions for 'Siegfried’s Tod' had evolved out of his original plan for a drama based on the reign of the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa. There he had wanted to show the 'giant forces [the hero] strives to master, only to be at last subdued by them' (CF 359). (...) 'As artist, I should have met precisely the same fate in my drama as did its hero: to wit, I should myself have been crushed by the weight of the very relations that I fain would master – i.e. portray–, without ever having brought my purpose to an understanding' (CF 359–60)."

[PH: Quotation from, Page 363:]

Wotan is paralyzed into inaction because he is hamstrung by consciousness of a contradiction, which cannot be resolved, between religious belief and reality, a contradiction which could be suppressed so long as man remained secure within the mytho-poetic phase of human history, but which will rise to consciousness from the silent depths if Alberich regains control of human consciousness by regaining control over the Ring. Wagner may well have based his conception of Wotan as paralyzed into inaction by virtue of his too great consciousness of the existential dilemma which lies at the root of human existence, on Shakespeare’s Hamlet:

“… ‘Hamlet.’ R. … says that everything in this is agitation, dawning madness, Hamlet the modern man, disintegrated and incapable of action, seeing the world for what it is.” [1062W-{1/31/81} CD Vol. II, p. 612] [See also 1100W]

And not only Hamlet, but another of Shakespeare’s tragic heroes, Othello, granted Wagner an insight into the paralyzing effect caused by too great consciousness of the egoism which is presumably at the root of all human behavior, even seemingly at the root of self-sacrificial action, which is presumed to be the antithesis of egoism:

“… he [Wagner] thinks of Othello [think here of Wotan’s despair] and Desdemona, and I remind him of the remark he once made to me – that O. killed Desdemona because he knew she must one day be unfaithful to him. He continues by saying that natural tendencies hold sway over acts of enthusiasm, and once the image had arisen in his mind, even if put there by such a despicable rogue [say, Alberich], life became impossible, everything was finished … .” [978W-{10/1/79} CD Vol. II, p. 373]

By confessing his horrific history of corruption and self-deception to Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, and thus transmuting or distilling the essential elements of the Ring drama into musical motifs, Wotan purges his mind of the burden of conscious thought in order to restore the involuntary unconsciousness which has been lost. By imparting his unbearable thoughts to feeling, it is as if Alberich’s curse of consciousness has been obviated, as if Wotan has regained pristine, childlike innocence. In this way Wotan can figuratively give birth to his ideal hero who is freed from Wotan’s own intolerable consciousness, freed from ulterior motivation and conscious intent and egoism, who acts seemingly only upon the prompting of spontaneous instinct, Siegfried.

[P. 12-13] "Wagner permits a joke about Hagen’s lack of more lyrical sensibilities when it comes time for him to summon Gunther’s vassals to the wedding celebration. Gutrune directs him, 'You, Hagen, lovingly call the menfolk to Gibich’s garth for the wedding!' But incapable of doing anything 'lovingly,' Hagen responds by summoning the vassals with a war cry punctuated by foreboding blasts on his cowhorn: 'Wehe! Wehe! … Waffen! Waffen!' (RN 315). (86) Finally, Hagen’s stark manipulation of the dramatic action with his application of the poison and then its antidote is a concrete manifestation of Iago’s recognized role as the symbolic playwright." (87)

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 875-876:]

Hagen now blows a cowhorn to call the Gibichung clan to the double wedding, as if he is preparing them for war, introducing a new motif #170, a variant of #5, Alberich’s original “Wehe! Wehe!”, which expressed Alberich’s woe when he recognized he could never find love in the real world. Hagen’s call to arms, his call to the double wedding, with “Hoiho! Hoho! set to #170, and its associated music, has a bald vulgarity and brutality which is not consistent with what might be called the beautiful in music, but, as so often in Wagner, the musico-dramatic meaning, with its philosophical resonance, transcends the conventional beauty of music with something awesome and impressive in the deepest and most disturbing sense. Here, for instance, Hagen is actually calling the Gibichungs (a metaphor for modern man, Wagner’s own audience) to witness a world-historical tragedy, the exposure of the final religious mystery - Wotan’s unspoken secret, which he confessed to Bruennhilde - to the public eye of objective consciousness:


As Alberich [PH: I meant to say Hagen] calls the Gibichungs, as if to the fray and battle, though it is merely a double wedding, the dramatic sounding of the “Twilight of the Gods Motif” #54 tells us that the events Hagen has put into motion, including, most importantly, the double (and wholly inappropriate) wedding, are going to bring about the end of the gods, i.e., the end not only of religious belief but of the secular art which fell heir to the religious longing for transcendent value, or feeling, when religion could no longer be sustained as a belief system in the face of mankind’s advancement in objective knowledge. Siegfried the artist-hero, influenced by Hagen (representing man’s natural impulse toward greater consciousness and away from unconsciousness), is going to reveal to his own audience what should have remained concealed from it, the secret of that unconscious inspiration which gave birth to both religious faith and authentically great secular art.

It is a convention of most fairy tales that after a series of hardships and tests, the hero wins his true love and the story ends with their blessed, joyous marriage. Here, Wagner has turned this narrative tradition upside down by making the culminating marriage, which normally resolves the conflicts in the tale, the undoing of the hero and heroine. Siegfried’s unwitting yet reprehensible involvement in forcing Bruennhilde, his muse of inspiration, into an unloving marriage with the coward and hypocrite Gunther, is nothing less than Wagner’s metaphor for his own unwitting and involuntary betrayal of the secret of his unconscious artistic inspiration to his own audience, through his musical motifs. Wagner’s musical motifs link conscious feeling with subliminal, unconscious knowledge, and hold the key to those inner and formerly hidden processes to which Wagner claimed to have unique, privileged access, by virtue of being both the author and composer of his music-dramas. And Siegfried himself is wed to a false muse Gutrune, who evidently is Wagner’s metaphor for the natural impulse of the artist to share the ecstasy of his sacred - and private - inspiration with his audience in a public production, which in this unique case – coming at it does at the culmination of the first (last?) phase of cultural evolution - has tragic consequences.

Another clue to what is at stake in this double marriage is Hagen’s endlessly repeated mantra that “Danger [“Noth”] is here!” This danger Hagen warns of is accompanied by the Twilight of the Gods Motif #54 in its definitive form, so the danger which Siegfried’s betrayal of his muse Bruennhilde brings to man is the potential loss of all the illusions of transcendent value upon which man has staked his life’s meaning. This “Noth” is Wotan’s divine “Noth,” which he confessed to Bruennhilde in V.2.2. The danger (“Noth”) which Hagen has deliberately brought here to Gibichung Hall is the risk that the hoard of knowledge which Siegfried’s muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Bruennhilde, held for him up until now, and from whose wounds she protected him, he himself is unwittingly going to dredge up from the silent depths to the light of day, as Alberich once foresaw (R.3). #170, a variant of #5 (Alberich’s “Wehe! Wehe!”), is the hallmark of Alberich’s revenge on the world for not granting him love, i.e., for his inability to find transcendent meaning in the real world. His revenge consists in denying the consolation of the illusion of transcendent value to those who, unlike him, have staked their life on it. Alberich is unable to evade the truth and won’t let anyone else evade it either: he won’t let Wotan and the gods draw consolation and bliss from that Ring power which it cost Alberich so much “Noth” (anguish) to obtain. Therefore Hagen, the agent of Alberich’s revenge on the gods for denying Mother Nature’s bitter truth, is going to compel all the living to acknowledge the lovelessness of the cosmos and of our fellow human beings, just as he has. Only in this way can he supplant the illusory consolations of religious mythology and man’s bid for transcendent meaning, up till now expressed in loving kindness, heroic altruism, and art, with the chilling power which can only be won through objective knowledge and reason.

Hagen pursues this theme - that in winning Bruennhilde for Gunther Siegfried has introduced “Noth,” danger and anguish, into the Gibichung realm - obsessively. When the Gibichung vassals demand to know what “Noth” (danger) is here, and ask if Gunther is in “Noth” (danger), Hagen answers that Gunther is bringing a fearsome woman, his new wife, home. When the vassals ask whether Gunther has triumphed over the “Noth” (danger), Hagen avers that the dragon-killer (Siegfried) has averted the “Noth” (danger). This “Noth” is the secret, forbidden source of that unconscious artistic inspiration, existential fear, by virtue of which the primal Folk gave unwitting and involuntary birth, in a collective dream, to the gods. This source of allegedly divine inspiration, our universal existential fear, which really comes from within us, is identical to that unconscious inspiration through which the single artist of more modern times produces authentic art. Siegfried, archetype for all secular artist-heroes, all authentically unconsciously inspired artists, and particularly the Wagnerian music-dramatist, had formerly protected his audience (represented by Gunther, and primevally by Wotan) from this “Noth,” confronting it himself subliminally in order to safely draw inspiration from it, so that he could heal himself temporarily from the unhealing wound this knowledge dealt him, and redeem his audience, mankind, from it. But now Siegfried is about to share it – unwittingly - with his audience.

[P. 13] " ... Wagner goes to great lengths to preserve Siegfried’s moral innocence. The potion is a cumbersome plot device indeed – one not seemingly worthy of Wagner’s skills as a dramatist. (88) And yet, it insulates the hero from guilt he has no ability to carry as a pure man of nature. (...) By the device of the drug, Wagner ensures that his hero is not compromised in any moral way by the schemes of Hagen and the Gibichungs. His integrity and honor are preserved. (89) Wagner told Cosima in 1873 that 'there is a veil over him since winning Bruennhilde for Gunther, he is quite unaware.' It is for this reason that Wagner concluded that Siegfried is not a 'tragic figure.' (90)"

[PH: In response to a subsequent passage from Shapiro's book I draw from to explain how Siegfried's lack of self-consciousness is the product of Wotan's having confessed his unspoken secret, his hoard of forbidden knowledge of this true, corrupt history, craven identity, and fearful fate, to his daughter Bruennhilde, in a sort of repression of unbearable self-knowledge into Wotan's unconscious mind. In this manner, having planted a seed in the womb of his wishes Bruennhilde, Wotan is reborn as Siegfried (as Wagner told King Ludwig II in a letter), minus consciousness of his true identity, so that Siegfried unwittingly perpetuates Wotan's original sin against all that was, is, and will be, and eventually is martyred to expiate Wotan's (mankind's) guilt. One of Wagner's models for his unconscious hero Siegfried was of course Oedipus.]

[PH: Quotation from, Page 326:]

The important point here is that, unlike Oedipus and Jocasta (Oedipus’s mother), who freely commit incest only so long as they are unconscious of their crime, but upon learning their true relation to each other condemn themselves, the Waelsung twins self-consciously glory in their sibling incest:

“The hapless pair [i.e. Queen Jocasta of Thebes and her son, Oedipus], whose Conscience (Bewusstsein) stood within the pale of human Society, passed judgment on themselves when they became conscious of their unconscious crime: … . How full of meaning it is, then, that precisely this Oedipus had solved the riddle of the Sphinx! In advance he uttered both his vindication and his own condemnal when he called the kernel of this riddle Man. (…) It is we who have to solve that riddle, to solve it by vindicating the instinct of the Individual [say, Siegmund’s and Sieglinde’s authentic love] from out Society itself [sustained by Hunding’s and Fricka’s unthinking conservatism and false notion of honor]; whose highest, still renewing and re-quickening wealth, that Instinct is.” [502W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 182-183]

Siegmund and Sieglinde glory in their incestuous love and adultery because it is evidently through this means alone that they can preserve in purity the blood of the special Waelsung race which Wotan introduced into the world, blood which will eventually produce the greatest Waelsung hero, Siegfried. But more than that, their conscious, openly displayed breach of one of the oldest and most universal (with rare, special exceptions) social prohibitions, the taboo against incest, exhibits their almost animal-like innocence, their insistence on living for feeling rather than subscribing to learned social norms. Wagner often described genius as by nature pre-fallen and innocent in this sense. The genius maintains the plasticity and adventurousness of childhood long after average adults’ minds and behavior have ossified with little likelihood of future self-development.

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 413-414:]

Wagner’s inspiration for Wotan’s virtual murder of his own son, for the sake of preserving the gods’ rule, is Laius’ attempt to cast his son Oedipus away because of a prophecy that Oedipus would one day murder his father Laius, as found in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King:

“Quiet and order, even at the cost of the most despicable outrage on human nature …, -- at the cost of a conscious, deliberate murder of a child [Oedipus] by its own father [Laius], prompted by the most unfatherly self-regard, -- this Quiet and Order were at any rate more worth considering than the most natural of human sentiments, which bids a father sacrifice himself to his children, not them to him. What, then, had this Society become, whose natural moral-sense had been its very basis? The diametrical opposite of this its own foundation: the representative of immorality and hypocrisy. The poison which had palsied it, however, was – use-and-wont. The passion for use-and-wont, for unconditional quiet, betrayed it into stamping down the fount from which it might have ever kept itself in health and freshness; and this fount was the free, the self-determining Individual. Moreover, in its utmost palsy, Society has only had morality brought back to it, i.e. the truly human morality, by the Individual; by the Individual who, of the instinctive thrust of Nature’s necessity, has lifted up his hand against and morally annulled it.” [505W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 187-188]

And of course, not Siegmund, but his son (and Wotan’s grandson) Siegfried, will one day destroy Wotan’s power by cutting his spear in two with Siegmund’s sword Nothung, which Siegfried has re-forged, thereby carrying this tale full-circle.

[P. 14] "He [PH: Siegfried] has no capacity to discern the malevolence that lies hidden behind Hagen’s mask of hospitality. Wagner would later write of mythic heroes such as Herakles and Siegfried that 'a lie to them was inconceivable, and a free man meant a truthful man' (RA 278)."

[PH: Quotation from, Pages 383-384:]

A large part of Wotan’s catastrophic nihilist urge to self-destruction is his final conclusion that, while he, though loving, could not create a free hero of redemption, Alberich, though loveless, has evidently produced a free hero in his son (Hagen, whom we won’t meet until Twilight of the Gods). Alberich’s son Hagen will be free in a way that Wotan’s Waelsung heroes are not, because Alberich, unlike Wotan and his progeny, is not dependent on self-deception, but accepts the real world as he finds it, and acquires power through the means the world actually presents to him. In other words, he will be free in a limited sense, free from illusion. Alberich has nothing to lose in admitting the truth about the world, so his consciousness is in this sense coherent, unified and single, whereas Wotan, though living in the real world, and a product of the real world, is dissatisfied with the nature of things, so he has invented an “other world” of redemption from this one, Valhalla. This single-minded adherence to one, coherent truth, based on an honorable effort to grasp nature objectively, will be one of the signal characteristics of the coming secular, scientific world order, for which Hagen, Alberich’s proxy, will stand as metaphor. Wotan, on the contrary, as the representative of the dying mytho-poetic world-view, and therefore dependent on consoling illusions, is two-faced and hypocritical in comparison to Alberich, a fact Wotan has now admitted.
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