Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 1

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Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 1

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 12:20 pm

PAUL BRIAN HEISE'S CRITIQUE OF ALEXANDER H. SHAPIRO'S THE CONSOLATIONS OF HISTORY: THEMES OF PROGRESS AND POTENTIAL IN RICHARD WAGNER'S "GOETTERDAMMERUNG"


The Consolations of History: Themes of Progress and Potential in Richard Wagner’s 'Goetterdaemmerung' (Routledge: 2019)

Alexander H. Shapiro

PAUL HEISE'S READER'S GUIDE

In the following manuscript, quotations from Alexander H. Shapiro's book are highlighted in boldface and enclosed within "quotation marks."

[PH: Contemporary commentary by myself, Paul Heise, is preceded by PH, is italicized, is in light print, and is enclosed within brackets.]

Quotations from my allegorical interpretation of Wagner's "Ring" as posted since 2011 at www.wagnerheim.com, and from my study of Ludwig Feuerbach's influence on the libretto of Wagner's "Parsifal" (a lengthy essay based on a lecture I presented to the Boston Wagner Society in 2007, as posted in the discussion forum archive at www.wagnerheim.com), are in light print and without quotation marks or brackets.

[PH: Occasional brief interpolations within Shapiro's text by Paul Heise are preceded by PH, printed in italics, highlighted in boldface, and enclosed within brackets. For instance, [PH: #134] identifies the World-Inheritance Motif.]

[PH: I have quoted extensively from Alexander Shapiro's "Ring" interpretation for three reasons:

(1) Long before Shapiro's book was published in 10/2019, I trod much of the same ground he has covered in essays I copyrighted at the Library of Congress since 1981, and presented my original allegorical reading of Wagner's "Ring" and his other canonical operas and music-dramas in both lectures and in several essays published over the years either online (as at www.wagnerheim.com) or in scholarly journals such as Wagner, the scholarly publication of The Wagner Society, London, or Grane, the scholarly publication of the Wagner Society of Helsinki, translated into Finnish and German. Though Shapiro's book is an important new study of Wagner's "Ring," much of which is new, long ago I distinguished my allegorical 'Ring' interpretation from others by (among many other original insights) demonstrating how it can be construed as an account of how man, over the millennia, eventually accumulated a hoard of objective knowledge of himself and the world sufficient to overthrow his consoling illusions in religious belief, the altruistic ethic of self-sacrifice, and inspired secular art, particularly the art of music. I showed how this allegorical reading could provide a conceptually and musico-dramatically coherent and unified account of the entire "Ring," including the much maligned "Goetterdaemmerung." I also demonstrated that this could be achieved entirely without reference to Schopenhauer by citing Wagner's innumerable paraphrases of Hegel's student Ludwig Feuerbach in Wagner's opera and music-drama librettos, his writings, and his recorded remarks. I highlight these particular insights because they constitute several of the central pillars of Shapiro's own book. It was necessary to quote his book extensively in order to compare corresponding passages from my own, much older online "Ring" interpretation with his, both to demonstrate the priority of my claim to certain insights, and also to underscore where his newer study takes a different path. I believe readers will find it most instructive to read his newer attempt to grasp Wagner's "Ring" in light of my prior efforts.

(2) My prior interpretation of Wagner's "Ring" at www.wagnerheim.com offers potential solutions to a number of problems Shapiro's book poses.

(3) In a few cases my prior interpretation at www.wagnerheim.com corrects some of what I believe are Shapiro's errors.

In the following manuscript I've quoted from my "Ring" study at www.wagnerheim.com extensively to illustrate the most dramatic examples in which my older study anticipated Shapiro's insights, provides solutions to problems he poses, or can offer corrections of possible errors. In all cases of secondary importance I've merely cited the page numbers of passages from www.wagnerheim.com which illustrate my points.

To access these passages at www.wagnerheim.com:
Search for www.wagnerheim.com online;
On the left margin of the Home Page, scroll down to the table of contents and click on "The Rhinegold."
Go up to the address bar and click on wagnerheim.com to highlight it in blue.
Once highlighted in blue, https://www.wagnerheim.com/Page/109 will replace wagnerheim.com. Place your cursor to the right side of 109 and click to get rid of the blue highlighting.
Delete 109 and replace it with the first page of the extract from www.wagnerheim.com which I cited.
Hit Enter, and that page should appear on your screen. If the cited extract is more than one page you can easily move from page to page by clicking on the forward (or, if desired, backward) arrow alongside the burgundy colored page # on the upper right corner of the screen.]



[P. viii] "Acknowledgements"

"I extend my thanks and gratitude first to Barry Millington. He has been a true mentor, and his faith in me and this project has proved vital."


[PH: It's noteworthy that Barry Millington informed me on 1/23/2017 that he'd read a large portion of my allegorical interpretation of Wagner's 'The Ring of the Nibelung,' 'The Wound That Will Never Heal, Volume One,' which has been posted at www.wagnerheim.com since the spring of 2011, thanks to Sir Roger Scruton's sponsorship. This version was copyrighted at the Library of Congress in 2009. His initial critical response to my online book was posted on page 2 in the archive of the discussion forum at www.wagnerheim.com, on 01/25/2017, with Barry Millington's permission (see transcript below). On 03/03/2020, Alexander H. Shapiro informed me by email that he'd read substantial portions of my allegorical 'Ring' study at www.wagnerheim.com prior to writing his new study of the 'Ring.']

[PH: Transcript of Barry Millington's email sent to Paul Brian Heise on January 23, 2017 (I've highlighted key passages in boldface), as presented with his permission in the discussion forum at www.wagnerheim.com on 1/25/2017:]

Dear members of, and visitors to, the wagnerheim.com discussion forum:

Barry Millington, a name too well known to Wagner scholarship to need an introduction, kindly agreed last year to look over my online book on Wagner's "Ring," "The Wound That Will Never Heal," which of course is the primary content of http://www.wagnerheim.com. A few days ago he informed me that he had read large parts (though not all) of my study, and he offers here his first thoughts:

"I can't imagine a more thorough-going exegesis of the Ring ever being undertaken. As you will appreciate, this is not exactly an endorsement of your work, though I certainly find a lot to agree with and admire. I am of course particularly sympathetic to your Feuerbachian approach: there is no doubt in my mind that elements of Feuerbach's philosophy remained with Wagner long after the initial enthusiasm had dissipated. You take this even further: considerably further than anyone else to my knowledge, and I need more time to digest the implications.

The same could be said of much more of it. I have to confess that I began with a sense of scepticism about an approach that promises to establish a conceptual unity in the Ring – a work composed, after all, over a period of a quarter of a century. Conceptual unities and opera (or even music drama) seem to me mutually exclusive categories and this is a conviction that has only increased as a result of exposure to the best Wagner scholarship of the last 30 or 40 years. The kind of conceptual unity you are positing is by no means as confining as I'd feared, though by the same token, I'm still not ready to abandon the conviction that it is the inconsistencies and loose ends of the Ring that make it the intriguing and uniquely potent work it is. Nor am I sure whether I can easily accept some of your allegorical correlations, impressed as I am by your exhaustive references to Wagner's prose writings (which I agree are not taken seriously enough). With at least one of your conclusions I can but concur: that the Ring is 'so all-embracing that it can easily accommodate several layers of interpretation without contradiction'.

The rooting of your argumentation in the musical structure of the score is also commendable: too many people fail to even mention the music when discussing its content.

I hope you're not too disappointed by my failure either totally to endorse your thesis or even to offer a detailed critique. I'm afraid both are beyond me. But I am nevertheless enormously impressed by your achievement, which demonstrates an entirely appropriate commitment and dedication to such a subject.

with all good wishes

Barry

Barry Millington
Editor
The Wagner Journal"


[P. ix] "Preface"

[P. xi] "A number of scholars have already recognized Hegel’s impact on Wagner, but none has attempted to make sense of 'Goetterdaemmerung,' and hence the 'Ring' as a whole, in terms of Hegel’s philosophy of history. (...) I argue that 'Goetterdaemmerung,' and hence the 'Ring' as a whole, achieves coherence when read in terms of contemporary nineteenth-century theories of progress."


[PH: I have proposed, in copyrighted essays (Library of Congress) and lectures since 1983, and particularly at www.wagnerheim.com, that Wagner's 'Ring,' including the much demeaned 'Goetterdaemmeung,' can be grasped as a coherent whole allegorically and conceptually on the basis of a theory of history in which man's inevitable advancement of objective knowledge was predestined to overthrow man's consoling illusions in religious belief, admiration of self-sacrificial compassion, and inspired secular art, particularly the art of music. I set forth my ever evolving thesis in the following important copyrighted studies (and many others): (1) first in my lengthy essay "The Doctrine of the Ring," which I hand distributed to many of the presenters at the 'Wagner in Retrospect: A Centennial Reappraisal' symposium at the Univ. of Illinois, Chicago Circle, in November of 1983; (2) my article "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," published by Stewart Spencer in the May, 1995, issue of Wagner, the scholarly journal of The Wagner Society, London; (3) my lecture "The 'Ring' as a Whole," which I presented to the Wagner Society of Washington, DC (at Funger Hall, George Washington Univ.) on 4/17/2000, a transcript of which was posted in May of 2000 at the WSWDC's website www.wagner-dc.org, until the lecture archive was removed some years later and never restored; (4) and in my major allegorical interpretation of Wagner's "Ring," "The Wound That Will Never Heal, Volume One," which was copyrighted in 2008 at the Library of Congress and then in a revised version in 2009, and which has been posted online at www.wagnerheim.com since the spring of 2011, thanks to the sponsorship of Sir Roger Scruton.

It's noteworthy that up until well past 2000 I'd not yet read any of Feuerbach's four books which demonstrably influenced Wagner in his creation of not only the "Ring'" but of all of his operas and music-dramas from at least "Tannhaeuser" onward, yet I was able to tease out Feuerbach's Hegel-inspired theory of history as an advancement in objective knowledge and consciousness, as a key to grasping the conceptual unity of Wagner's life's work, from a close study of the 'Ring' and Wagner's other operas and music-dramas.]


[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com's Introduction on Page 97:]

(2) The Ring of power Alberich forges is Wagner’s metaphor for the power of the human mind. Accordingly, the products of the Ring’s power are also aspects of the human mind: the Tarnhelm represents imagination, and the Nibelung Hoard represents knowledge (its accumulation increasing the power knowledge gives us).
(3) Alberich’s accumulation of a Hoard of Treasure in the bowels of the earth (Erda) and Wotan’s accumulation of a hoard of knowledge of the earth (Erda) during his world-wandering, are Wagner’s metaphors for man’s gradual acquisition of objective knowledge of himself and nature through experience of the world in the course of history.

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 208-211:]

Wotan’s question to Alberich, what possible use his Hoard could be to him, since nothing can be bought with it in Nibelheim, is more or less the only time in the entire Ring in which Alberich’s treasure is actually spoken of as wealth which can be used to acquire other things of use and value. For after this, and especially later when Wotan gathers what is described as a hoard (“Hort”) of knowledge from Erda by consorting with her in person in the bowels of the earth, or, what is the same thing, gathers knowledge during his wanderings over the earth (“Erde,” or Erda), the hoard takes on a much broader meaning as a metaphor for man’s historical experience of the world (the earth, Erda). This embraces knowledge of both man - i.e., of what is within (Wotan’s self-knowledge) – and of the outer world of nature (Erda). Alberich’s and Wotan’s gradual accumulation of this treasury of knowledge, a natural consequence of man’s power of thought (the Ring), is what grants man actual power. This is one of the most important metaphors in the Ring, for many of the subsequent plot developments depend upon grasping this perhaps difficult concept early on.

The documentary record, in both Feuerbachs’ and Wagner’s writings, is particularly rich in backing up our perhaps counter-intuitive metaphorical reading of Alberich’s and Wotan’s (Light-Alberich’s) hoards. For instance, a basis for Alberich’s insatiable need to accumulate an ever larger and larger hoard can be found in Feuerbach’s remark that man’s desire for knowledge is infinite:

“The desire of knowledge is infinite; reason then is infinite.” [153F-EOC: p. 287]

Having read – following Feuerbach’s lead – Wotan (Light-Alberich) and Alberich as metaphors for collective, historical man instead of individual characters, we can see how Alberich’s and Wotan’s slow accumulation of their respective hoards of treasure and knowledge finds its basis in Feuerbach’s observation that though each individual man’s knowledge and power is limited, collective human knowledge and power is unlimited and infinite, since many contribute and all new knowledge incorporates, and therefore builds on, the old:

“In isolation human power is limited, in combination it is infinite. The knowledge of a single man is limited, but reason, science, is unlimited, for it is a common act of mankind, and it is so, not only because innumerable men co-operate in the construction of science, but also in the more profound sense, that the scientific genius of a particular age comprehends in itself the thinking powers of the preceding age … .” [77F-EOC: p. 83]

As one reads this one can’t help recalling that the Rhinedaughters told Alberich that through the Ring (which in our interpretation represents the human mind, through whose power Alberich is able to accumulate his Hoard of treasure) he could obtain limitless power.

Significantly, Alberich’s Ring does not grant him immediate world-power just by virtue of possessing it. Rather, thanks to the power of the Ring Alberich can compel all men to contribute, over time, to the gradual accumulation of his hoard of treasure which will eventually grant Alberich, i.e. man’s quest for objective knowledge, world domination. This, according to Feuerbach, is the distinction between what religion (Wotan) promises, a hyperbolic, fantastic, allegedly supernaturally infinite satisfaction of all desires and alleviation of all fears, and what man himself, i.e., scientific and technological man, can reasonably and practically gain for himself, from nature, by virtue of his labor:

“ … unlike religious faith or religious imagination, civilization is not all-powerful. No more than nature can make gold out of leather after the manner of God, can civilization, which masters nature only through nature – that is, by natural means, perform miracles.” [276F-LER: p. 208]

After Wotan co-opts Alberich’s Ring-power, the Tarnhelm’s (imagination’s) wonder, and Alberich’s Hoard, Wotan will carry on Alberich’s acquisition of power by obtaining knowledge from Mother Nature (Erda) in the course of his historical experience, as the Wanderer. But Wotan’s acquisition of knowledge will be subject to censorship by religious man’s fear of the truth (Fafner, transformed by the Tarnhelm, like Alberich before him, into a serpent), who, in guarding Alberich’s Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring, will deny man direct access to all those truths which might overthrow the rule of the gods in men’s hearts.

Feuerbach lends support to this concept through his identification of God with the collective experience of historical man, particularly in his acquisition over time of that knowledge which eventually reaches critical mass in the Western World by producing self-consciously objective scientific inquiry. Here, for instance, Feuerbach tells us that what are regarded as attributes of divinity are really metaphors for the attributes of the human species itself, and that history shows that this collective humanity’s knowledge and will is unlimited, the proof being physical science and philosophy:

“All divine attributes … which make God God, are attributes of the species … . My knowledge, my will, is limited; but my limit is not the limit of another man, to say nothing of mankind; what is difficult to me is easy to another; what is impossible, inconceivable, to one age, is to the coming age conceivable and possible. My life is bound to a limited time; not so the life of humanity. The history of mankind consists of nothing else than a continuous and progressive conquest of limits, which at a given time pass for the limits of humanity, and therefore for absolute insurmountable limits. But the future always unveils the fact that the alleged limits of the species were only limits of individuals. The most striking proofs of this are presented by the history of philosophy and of physical science.” [105F-EOC: p. 152-153]

God then can be construed as the totality of perfections belonging to the entire human species, attributes which are disbursed in bits and pieces among real men, this perfection realizing itself in world history:

“[Feuerbach speaks:] … of the truth that man’s conception of God is the human individual’s conception of his own species, that God as the total of all realities or perfections is nothing other than the total of the attributes of the species – dispersed among men and realizing themselves in the course of world history – compendiously combined for the benefit of the limited individual. The domain of the natural sciences is, because of its quantitative size, completely beyond the capacity of the individual man to view and measure. (…) But what the individual man does not know and cannot do all of mankind together knows and can do. Thus, the divine knowledge that knows simultaneously every particular has its reality in the knowledge of the species.” [177F-PPF: p. 17]

I already cited Feuerbach’s remark that man’s invention of the concept of divine omnipotence is testimonial to man’s own desire to know everything, since man acknowledges the truth of Bacon’s assertion that knowledge is power. [See 308F] This power obtained by virtue of man’s gift of conscious thought (the Ring), through acquisition of knowledge of the world, is the power which the Rhinedaughters promised Alberich he could obtain by forging a Ring from the Rhinegold.

It is noteworthy that Feuerbach construed this gradual accumulation of worldly power through the advancement in human knowledge, making what once seemed impossible possible, as secular man’s substitute for the gods’ offer of immortality in the hereafter, a future of ever greater and greater power and wisdom for collective (but not the individual) man:

“Those human desires that are not imaginary and fantastic are fulfilled in the course of history, of the future. Many desires which today remain mere desires will someday be fulfilled; innumerable things which the presumptuous champions of present-day religious dogmas and institutions, present-day social and political conditions, regard as impossible, will one day be reality; innumerable things that today we do not know but would like to know, will be known to our descendants. We must therefore modify our goals and exchange divinity, in which only man’s groundless and gratuitous desires are fulfilled, for the human race or human nature, religion for education, the hereafter in heaven for the hereafter on earth, that is, the historical future, the future of mankind.” [316F-LER: p. 281]

Here, then, is the ultimate reason why Fafner told Fasolt that the immortality the Giants could obtain from the goddess Freia’s golden apples, could also be obtained by commanding Alberich’s Hoard of Treasure.

Stimulated to intense meditation on these matters by Feuerbach, Wagner had much to say on the importance to world history of man’s capacity to master himself and nature by accumulating a hoard of knowledge. We might recall, for instance, the passage from Wagner’s “Art and Climate” I cited previously [See 447W], in which Wagner described how nature eventually left man to fend for himself, and that his growing consciousness of his need made him aware also of his power. Nature thus “… became the object of his observation, inquiry, and dominion.” And Wagner went on to say that the process whereby man forced nature to satisfy “… those needs that waxed with his ever-waxing powers, is the history of Culture.”

[P. xi-xii] "... I also challenge the article of faith that has come to dominate Wagner scholarship, namely that Wagner’s encounter with the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer in 1854 conclusively altered the final message of the 'Ring.' (...) Instead, it is my intention to show ... that the 'Ring' as completed in 1874 is fully consistent with Wagner’s philosophical program of 1848–54 which embraced a sanguine faith in the march of history and the promise of human spiritual and cultural evolution."

[PH: I've long proposed in the copyrighted studies and lectures I mentioned previously, and others, that Wagner's "Ring" can be grasped from beginning to end in light of the theory of history as man's advancement in knowledge, without any appeal to Schopenhauer's influence.]

[PH: Quote from the Introduction to www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 106-107:]

The last major untapped area of research was the work of Ludwig Feuerbach, with which I was familiar only through occasional references in some of the books on Wagner I had acquired over the years. I had already read and vetted virtually everything Friedrich Nietzsche and Arthur Schopenhauer had written, and grasped in some detail Wagner’s influence on Nietzsche, and Schopenhauer’s influence on Wagner. But I felt I could not propose a comprehensive interpretation of Wagner’s Ring until I had thoroughly ascertained the degree and quality of influence of Feuerbach’s writings on Wagner’s operas, music-dramas, writings, and recorded remarks. I acquired and vetted four books by Feuerbach with which Wagner acknowledged being acquainted. As I had done with Wagner’s writings and recorded remarks, I produced a comprehensive chronological anthology of key passages from all four of Feuerbach’s books. This enabled me to make a point by point comparison, matching Feuerbach’s original ideas with what appeared to be Wagner’s paraphrases of them. My book regularly draws upon such matched passages from Feuerbach and Wagner to enhance our allegorical reading. At the back of this book [or in the accompanying compact disk] you will find Appendix II [See pages 1,167-1450], which contains the entire chronological anthology of numbered extracts from Ludwig Feuerbach’s writings, and Richard Wagner’s writings and recorded remarks (a total of 1,151).

Three things quickly became apparent through this comparison of Feuerbach’s work with Wagner’s. (1) Feuerbach must have had a crucial influence on at least the last two of Wagner’s three canonical romantic operas, Tannhaeuser [first version completed 1845] and Lohengrin [completed 1846]. (2) Feuerbach continued to be a major influence on Wagner’s writings, recorded remarks, and most importantly, the librettos of his music-dramas, long after 1854 when Wagner had said he renounced Feuerbach for the sake of Schopenhauer. (3) Most importantly, I could now see in remarkable detail that Feuerbach had a pervasive influence on virtually every scene of the Ring. But what is most impressive is that a study I completed at break-neck speed in 1983 (because I wanted to disseminate it to the Wagner pundits at the “Wagner in Retrospect” Centennial Seminar at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and had little time), entitled The Doctrine of the Ring, which was my first detailed effort to disclose the philosophic unity underlying Wagner’s mature music-dramas, corresponded in extraordinary detail with hundreds of passages from Feuerbach which Wagner had paraphrased in his own writings and recorded remarks. What made this startling is that my 1983 study was based solely upon my knowledge of Wagner’s operas and music-dramas. It was written before I had studied his own writings and recorded remarks in any detail, and long before I had read more than a few passages from Feuerbach. I had, in other words, more or less reconstructed the essential points, and many of the specific details, of Feuerbach’s world-view from my study of Wagner’s Ring. This has been the capstone of my life’s work, and convinces me that I have genuinely discerned several key aspects of the subject of Wagner’s Ring allegory which previously had remained largely obscure.

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 988-989:]

After Wagner had written the entire Ring libretto (1853), with the exception of a few changes made afterward, he discovered Schopenhauer’s philosophy in 1854, and, as is well known, renounced Feuerbach’s materialist, so-called optimistic (i.e., world-affirming) philosophy for the sake of Schopenhauer’s pessimistic philosophy (i.e., a philosophy of world-denial, which owes much to Hindu and Buddhist thought as understood by Schopenhauer through numerous translations). Evidently during the writing of the libretto for the Ring, in which Wagner traced the necessity for Siegfried’s death back to the birth of human consciousness in evolution, Wagner discovered something about the nature of man which disillusioned him about the possibility of predicating a humane civilization upon the materialist truth, objective knowledge of man and nature, that the atheist Feuerbach was preaching. He made a few changes in the Ring libretto but left most of its Feuerbachian content and structure intact. It is generally argued, however, that Schopenhauer’s influence can be found in Wagner’s changing attitude to the music, most of which was not yet written in 1854 when he first read Schopenhauer’s works. It is argued, for instance, that because Schopenhauer insisted that music is the Will, the thing-in-itself, Wagner concluded that the drama and poetry of the Ring is secondary to its music, a pale reflection of it, and that therefore Wagner felt freer to manipulate the music and to employ motifs for purely musical rather than dramatic reasons as his composition progressed. But I would argue that Wagner in the writing of the Ring libretto had already had, long before he read Schopenhauer in 1854, a revelation of the irredeemably egoistic nature of man, especially of the egoism underlying man’s quest for redemption from his egoism, the quest to posit man’s transcendent value, and that there was little Wagner found in Schopenhauer that was not already implicit in the Ring drama, Schopenhauer providing merely philosophic support for Wagner’s own turnabout in attitude toward his material.

Here is what Wagner said about this change in attitude in a justifiably famous and oft-quoted passage from a letter he wrote on 8/23/56 to August Roeckel, with whom he shared his most detailed insights into the creation of his Ring:

“Rarely, I believe, has anyone suffered so remarkable a sense of alienation from self and so great a contradiction between his intuitions and his conceptions as I have done, for I must confess that only now [i.e., after having read Schopenhauer] have I really understood my own works of art (i.e. grasped them conceptually and explained them rationally to myself), and I have done so with the help of another person, who has furnished me with conceptions that are perfectly congruent with my own intuitions. The period during which I worked in obedience to the dictates of my inner intuitions began with the Flying Dutchman; Tannhaeuser and Lohengrin followed, and if there is any single poetic feature underlying these works, it is the high tragedy of renunciation, the well-motivated, ultimately inevitable and uniquely redeeming denial of the will [i.e., man’s religious impulse to break his subjection to egoistic impulse and enslavement to natural law]. It is this profound feature that gives sanction to my poem and to my music, without which they would have no ability to stir us. Now, nothing is more striking in this context than the fact that, in all the conceptions that I held and which were devoted to speculating upon and reaching an understanding of life, I was working in direct opposition to my own underlying intuitions. While, as an artist, my intuitions were of such compelling certainty that all I created was influenced by them, as a philosopher, I was attempting to find a totally contrasting explanation of the world which, though forcibly upheld, was repeatedly – and much to my amazement – undermined by my instinctive and purely objective artistic intuitions. My most striking experience in this respect came, finally, through my Nibelung poem; it had taken shape at a time when, relying upon my conceptions, I had constructed a Hellenistically optimistic [Feuerbachian] world for myself which I held to be entirely realizable if only people wished it to exist, while at the same time seeking somewhat ingeniously to get round the problem why they did not in fact wish it to exist. I recall now having singled out the character of my Siegfried with this particular aim in mind, intending to put forward here the idea of a life free from pain; more than that, I believed I could express this idea even more clearly by presenting the whole of the Nibelung myth, and by showing how a whole world of injustice arises from the first injustice, a world which is destroyed in order - to teach us to recognize injustice, root it out and establish a just world in its place. Well, I scarcely noticed how, in working out this plan, nay, basically even in its very design, I was unconsciously following a quite different, and much more profound, intuition, and that, instead of a single phase in the world’s evolution, what I had glimpsed was the essence of the world itself in all its conceivable phases, and that I had thereby recognized its nothingness, with the result, of course – since I remained faithful to my intuitions rather than to my conceptions - , what emerged was something totally different from what I had originally intended.” [642W-{8/23/56} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 357-358]
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