(18) [MB - P. 83-84] Fafner's ownership of the hoard provides an intermediate stage between Alberich's theft of the gold and the full-blown industrial capitalism of Nibelheim. (That it occurs at a later stage of the "Ring" itself should not perturb; various stages of production coexisted during the nineteenth century, as during any other period of economic history.) Having acquired the treasure through the brutal means of robbery via fratricide, Fafner's sole objective is to keep it, rather than to develop its potential. 'What I lie upon, I own,' he growls, 'leave me to my sleep!' The hoard has become classical 'unemployed property', to use Proudhon's term. Such treasure might accrue interest or dividends, but performs no productive role whatsoever. It represents the most sterile form of accumulation, that of the (Parisian) rentier, and is underlined by Fafner's metamorphosis - via the offices of the Tarnhelm - into a dragon, who never ventures outside his cave. (...) Fafner represents the financial world denounced by Wagner in his speech to the Vaterlandsverein: 'slaves to that inert, unproductive fruit of Nature, that pale metal,' or gold. In a classic example of Feuerbachian inversion, the treasure, object of his fetish, comes to rule over Fafner, and to attribute its qualities to him, thereby widening the gulf between dragon and deity.
Fafner's concomitant greed and sloth are further underscored by the fact that the oisif - to adopt the terminology of Saint-Simonian socialist - will be slain by Siegfried, the most actif character in the drama. His attitude towards the unproductive hoard will be appropriately disinterested. Engels explains that, to Saint-Simon, 'the antagonism between the Third Estate and the privileged classes took the form of an antagonism between 'workers' and 'idlers'. The idlers were not only the old privileged classes, but also all who, without taking any part in production or distribution, lived on their incomes.'
[PH] Berry attempts to explain Fafner's non-use of the powers granted to him by the Ring, Tarnhelm, and Nibelung Hoard, as a metaphor for Proudhon's notion of unemployed capital. But Berry's thesis seems weak to me, not least because I feel it doesn't resonate with the "Ring" as a whole. In my interpretation Fafner is more usefully construed as representing Wotan's (i.e., collective, historical man's) fear of the new, the unwonted, and of anything which will expose to man the bitter truths about his true nature and condition which religious man wishes to deny. Fafner - the self-preservation instinct - is himself that bitter truth. In my interpretation Fafner initially represents the fear of death and will-to-self-preservation (whereas his brother Fasolt represents sexual desire and its concomitant emotions of desire for love of family, etc., so that both Giants, taken together, represent the complementary animal instincts of self-preservation and desire), which ultimately produces (in combination with symbolic consciousness, man's propensity towards abstraction and generalization) an existential fear (such as Mime exhibits), which Feuerbach described on a couple of occasions as a generalized fear without object or specific cause. This existential fear, in my view, is the basis of religious faith's stranglehold on man's desire to accumulate a hoard of objective knowledge of himself and his world, since such knowledge ultimately contradicts man's longing for transcendent value. Fafner represents Wotan's existential fear. Thus Fafner sits on the hoard and keeps everyone (including himself) from accessing its potential power, just as man's various myth-based belief systems have constrained man's freedom of inquiry throughout the ages, due to fear of doubt. Fafner in a sense represents Wotan's own self-doubt, the sticking point of contradiction which Wotan can never escape.
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(19) [MB - P. 88-89] Speaking of the Tarnhelm, Berry states that: He who wears it may even be everywhere at once: 'to keep you on your guard', as Alberich warns the Nibelung host. One is reminded of the omnipresence of the great leader in twentieth-century totalitarianism. (...) And in Goetterdaemmerung, the Tarnhelm's magic will prove to be a crucial tool in Hagen's plot to dupe Siegfried and thereby regain the ring. Modern political myths wish, according to Ernst Cassirer, not so much to demand or to prohibit certain actions, but to change men in order to 'regulate and control their deeds'. The Tarnhelm, like money, or the ring - is a phantasmagoria, in both the original sense of an exhibition of optical illusions, and in the Marxist sense of fetishistic concealment of a commodity's origins in human labour. (...) The Tarnhelm reminds us that the economic imperative of accumulation should not be depersonalised; it should not be decoupled from Wagner's distinctly non-Marxist thesis of an overriding erotic will-to-power. (...) Feuerbach's stress upon 'love' continues to colour Wagner's thinking, albeit in a fashion far more alert to its perversion. Hagen, desperate to regain the power and wealth due to Alberich's son, manipulates Siegfried into believing that Gutrune would be a fair exchange for Bruennhilde; the phantasmagorical potion expresses the commoditisation of 'love'. Siegfried, using the Tarnhelm's magic, violates Bruennhilde in furtherance of Hagen's aim, and the ring Siegfried snatches has bewitched Hagen as much as anyone else.
[PH] Given Alberich's use of it to control his Nibelung slaves, it is easy to see why Berry conceives of the Tarnhelm as representing a technology exploited by totalitarian governments to grant them a ubiquitous instrument of terror to control the masses, an expression of the will-to-power. I too find this interpretation plausible within the immediate context of the great Nibelheim scene, R.3, considered in isolation, but if one surveys the full range of meaning and association of that whole family of musical motifs of which the Tarnhelm Motifs #42 and #43 are a part, which includes Loge's Transformation Motif #35, and Hagen's Potions Motif #154, and if one considers the Tarnhelm's various functions as a whole, it's become clear to me over the years that it represents "imagination" in Wagner's sense, what he calls "the Wonder." It was through imaginative "Wonder" that collective man first unconsciously invented (i.e., collectively dreamed) the gods, by distilling the essence of natural phenomena and human phenomena and calling the result God, or the gods. According to Wagner, this same intellectual gift for generalization and idealization produced his musical motifs, which capture in a moment, by virtue of their association with specific elements in the development of the plot, the very essence of a thematically related array of events, symbols, and ideas. According to Wagner this motival "Wonder" solves the problem of dramatic unity, by making all that is widely disbursed in time and space, accessible here and now in a flash of intuition. This is one major sense in which Alberich (i.e., mankind as a whole) can be everywhere at once, in imagination. The element of threat which Alberich's use of the Tarnhelm engenders is the threat to man's consoling, subjective imagination represented by his objective imagination, i.e., his capacity to distill the bitter truth - but nonetheless the only truth which can give us power - and communicate it on the widest scale.
(20) [MB - P. 105] Mime's 'craft' is starkly opposed to Siegfried's 'art', in much the same way as Beckmesser's 'learned' but arid - and ultimately ridiculous - song will be put to shame by the free invention of Walther von Stolzing. It is worth noting in passing that the would-be revolutionary sword will be forged anarchically, by one outside bourgeois society, not by a former victim of Alberich, as Marx and Engels would doubtless have preferred.
Siegfried cruelly but candidly mocks the master's 'fine tricks' and faint-hearted half-measures, scornfully rejecting some 'paste' that Mime prepared earlier. Mime works, as an animal whose stimulus to activity is need, but Siegfried plays, as an animal whose stimulus is plenitude and vitality. ... Wagner's hero re-forges his own sword, and proves master of a world from which he is not estranged. It is Siegfried who is able and prepared to engage his whole being in unalienated labour; it is Siegfried who is not stymied by a false dichotomy between instinct and intellect - even if his lack of self-consciousness will subsequently assist in his downfall - and it is Siegfried who will truly harness the Promethean, revolutionary gift of fire. Radical action is required, such as could never be envisaged by Mime, who admits:
No expertise can help here:
that I can see clearly:
I have grown old
as cave and wood,
and never have I seen the like!
He will succeed with the sword ... .
Siegfried thus presages Wagner's clarion call in an essay of 1864 for 'equal distribution of labour,' albeit only as a prerequisite for the transformation of one-sidedness of labour into a universal activity, natural to all, which would thereby acquire an 'intrinsically artistic character'. (...) Finally, Siegfried reminds us that Wagner's usage of the verb dichten, similar to the Greek poiein, implies 'artistic' creation in general, as well as poetic composition in particular. The heroism of the Gesamtkunstwerk and its creator themselves protest the modern division of labour."
[PH] Berry distinguishes Siegfried's approach to re-forging his father Siegmund's sword Nothung, as playful art, from Mime's prosaic craftsmanship, an expression of Mime's vulgar need. I first began to develop this distinction in greater detail after methodically reviewing Feuerbach's four books which influenced Wagner in the late 90's and early 2000's, for it was in Feuerbach that Wagner found a deeper conceptual basis for what would become his distinction of Siegfried as inspired artist (and similarly, Walther as inspired artist: Siegfried and Walther "must" do what they do, from innermost need, not due to external compulsion) from Mime the lowly craftsman (similarly, Beckmesser). Wagner's accusation that Jews (what Wagner really means is Philistines, as Liszt once pointed out) can only imitate or mimic (Mime), but not create (an outrageous and absurd accusation which Wagner himself knew to be wholly untrue), has a bearing on this notion. This argument can be found in a version of "The Wound That Will Never Heal" copyrighted at the Library of Congress in 2003, which I emailed it in its entirety to Dr. Tom Seung (Philosophy Dept, Univ. of Texas in Austin), and Dr. John Weinstock (Germanic Studies Dept, Univ. of Texas in Austin), who agreed to archive it. Important to my reading of this distinction are a couple of quotations of Wagner, in which he describes great art as a serious kind of play.
(21) [MB - P. 106] Positivistic acquisition and retention of facts do not equate to wisdom, as Mime has shown when the Wanderer visits during the previous scene. The dwarf could have asked the chief of the gods anything he wished, and acquired mastery or even renunciation of the world. Instead, he sought, and failed, to trick someone far wiser than he, by posing questions to which he already knew the answer.
[PH] In my 2003 version of "The Wound That Will Never Heal," I noted that Wotan the Wanderer's proffer of a contest of knowledge with Mime, who represents Wotan's prosaic, mundane self (as opposed to Siegfried, Wotan's ideal self), is intended to dramatize Mime's inability to obtain that aesthetic or intuitive knowledge necessary to redeem oneself from the prosaic world, which is Mime's sole arena of knowledge and desire/fear. I noted that Mime's inability to re-forge Nothung is based squarely on Wotan's inability to forge the sword which can be wielded successfully by his redeemer-hero (Wotan forged Siegmund's sword for him, though Siegmund proved his worth to possess it when no one else could, yet in the end it broke. It's worth recalling that at one point Wagner considered having Wotan actually find the sword, welded by Nibelungs under Alberich's direction in order to protect Alberich from the Giants, among the items in the Nibelung Hoard after winning it from Alberich. Wagner captures this motivally in the fact that the Embryonic form of Wotan's Spear Motif #21 gives birth to Siegmund's Motif #62). So Siegfried had to forge the sword Nothung (actually, re-forge it) himself. It is the Mime-element in Wotan which precludes his being able to create his free hero directly.
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(22) [MB - P. 109] Alberich's vengeful intention is that those who now serve the state will one day serve him, and thus will the state be transformed into an instrument of capitalist interests. Even his threatening fist possesses the allure of gold, to which the 'eternal revellers', presently scornful of the social upstart, will yield; and even Wotan's apparent victory over Alberich, having stolen the ring, and hoard, serves to render Valhalla seem ever more mercantile [some sort of mistake here: presumably Berry was deciding whether to say "render Valhalla ever more mercantile" or "make Valhalla seem ever more mercantile," but accidentally left both possibilities on the page.]. The greed of Fafner, who not so long ago had been seen as an 'honest' giants labourer, then wins out. Whether a personal victory for Alberich or no, the world appears to be undergoing a transformation into his image. Contact with the dark world of Nibelheim has brought a humiliation that Valhalla and its subjects will never be able to forget. (...)
There would doubtless be further continuity between the rule of the gods and Alberich's tyranny, for the old regime is similarly founded upon force, albeit force of a more 'civilised' nature.
[PH] Berry notes that Valhalla like Nibelheim is ultimately maintained in power through force, though Berry echoes Cooke in distinguishing Alberich's force as lawless, and Wotan's as lawful. But it seems to me that it is not so much that Alberich's use of force is lawless, as that it is based solely on Nature's laws (including the primacy of egoism, self-interest/preservation, as motivator for action), as opposed to man's laws dedicated to maintenance of ordered society. Berry also notes that the Valhallan gods are humiliated by contact with Nibelheim. Obviously Wotan is humiliated by his dependence on the Giants to build Valhalla, humiliated by the Giants' rightful claim to Freia, and humiliated ultimately by the gods' dependence on Alberich's Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring to secure both Freia and Valhalla, and free them from the giants' and Alberich's claims. But the truth is that it's not just a question of contact: the gods and Valhalla are the product of Alberich's "Ring" power. Berry himself acknowledges the importance of Cooke's demonstration that the Ring Motif #19 (which only Alberich could forge) produces the first segment of the Valhalla Motif, #20a, and Berry recognizes that Alberich's (alleged) economic power, and Wotan's political and religious power, ultimately stem from the same will-to-power, but Berry seems not to grasp that Wotan's subjective power is derived from Alberich's primal production of his Ring-power (the power of human thought, which is the source of both religion and science), and is in fact a reaction against it. This I presume is due to the fact that Berry, like many other scholars, assumes (I believe incorrectly) that Wotan's original sin (breaking off the most sacred branch of the World-Ash to make his Spear) predates Alberich's original sin (stealing the Rhinegold and forging the Ring of power).
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(23) [MB - P. 114-115] The Second Norn informs us of developments subsequent to the formation of the state. She sings of Loge:
Wotan subdued [zaehmte] him;
he whispered counsel to the god:
he gnawed and sapped
the runes upon the shaft,
that he might [once again] freely advise.
Then, with the spear's point of force,
Wotan [once again] entranced him,
that his fire might encircle Bruennhilde's rock.
We thus hear tell of Wotan's efforts coercively to perpetuate his rule and to stifle the creativity of others. The importance is clearly illustrated of Loge's dual role as god both of fire and of what we might call, with Bauer in mind, critical knowledge. Though Wotan has managed to tame the fire which, one day, will bring his kingdom to an end, Loge continually threatens to break free, both to inspire the creativity of others and to destroy. Destruction, as Bakunin always insisted, is a creative passion.
[PH] Berry echoes Cooke in describing Loge as Wagner's metaphor for critical knowledge, but in all my previous copyrighted research from 1983 onward I've provided what I believe is persuasive evidence that Loge represents artistic creativity, the artistic imagination, in the service initially of man's self-delusion in religious belief (the gods of Valhalla), and later in secular art. I've made what I feel is a strong case for describing Loge as the archetype of the artist-hero who redeems man from the truth (i.e., from the giants' and Alberich's claims), an archetype incarnate in Siegfried who, like Loge before him, temporarily redeems man (or man's delusions, such as the gods) from Alberich's threat to overthrow man's subjective illusions with the power of objective (Erda's) truth. Thus it is that Alberich accuses Wotan of sinning against Erda's objective knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, just before he launches his curse on his Ring in R.4.
(24) [MB - P. 120-121] Seizing Alberich and tearing the ring from his finger, Wotan declares that Alberich's 'chattering' confers no right of possession. (...) Alberich delivers a furious and truthful warning towards the soi-disant guardian of contracts and treaties:
You upbraid me, you thief,
for the wrong
you so dearly desired?
If a crime I committed,
it was but a crime committed freely against myself:
but against everything, which was,
is and ever shall be,
will you, immortal one, transgress,
if you brazenly wrest the ring from me!
In Stirner's words, 'the state's behaviour is violence, and it calls its violence "law"; that of the individual, "crime".' (...)
Alberich deludes himself in the claim that he only ever sinned against himself; the Rhinemaidens and still more so the Nibelungs would have proved telling witnesses at his day of judgment.
[PH] Berry doesn't grasp the momentous implication of Alberich's accusation, that while he sins only against himself in stealing the Rhinegold and forging his Ring of power (though Alberich did pay the price for this, by renouncing love), Wotan will sin against all that was, is and will be (the objective world known to Erda, Mother Nature, who has become conscious of herself in collective man, i.e., in Wotan), if he deprives Alberich of his Ring (who alone deserves to wield the Ring's full power because he alone can tolerate consciousness of the knowledge of the bitter truth) in order to redeem the self-deluded gods (i.e., self-deluded men who believe in gods) from the giants' claims and Alberich's threat. Alberich sins against himself in the sense of sinning against man's subjective self, his feeling self, for the sake of obtaining the objective world-power which can be obtained only by acquiring, accumulating, and acknowledging objective knowledge of ourselves and the real world (Erda). But Wotan, by affirming his subjective self of feeling (which Feuerbach describes as the God of man rather than the God of nature), and denying the objective world (represented by Erda and her knowledge of all that was, is, and will be), thus commits the sin of world-denial which Nietzsche called pessimism, or religious nihilism. Berry like Cooke states that Alberich is wrong in saying he sins only against himself, because, they state, he did in fact sin against the Rhinedaughters and his fellow Nibelungs and others, but that is only because neither Berry nor Cooke grasp(ed) the allegorical significance of Alberich's acquisition of Ring power as the power of the human mind, though both authors have hinted at this concept in their books. Alberich represents objective man (Feuerbach's god of Nature), as Wotan represents subjective man (Feuerbach's god of Man), and as such Alberich is confessing that in sinning against himself he has sinned against man as a whole, for, in being objectively truthful, rather than idealistic, he denigrates man to the level of an egoistic beast, for the sake of acquiring that objective hoard of knowledge of Mother Nature's bitter truths which is the sole source of real, worldly power. This explains why in Alberich's view, man is a craven Nibelung dwarf, while Wotan in contrast idealizes man and therefore imagines a Siegmund or Siegfried.
(25) [MB - P. 121-122] What ... might be pleaded in mitigation of Wotan's legal system? Not a great deal, would be the short answer. Yet Wotan's power is not in practice wholly unlimited ... . His plan, as brokenly he admits to Bruennhilde - 'I counsel myself when I speak with you,' - had been to keep legally in check a host of heroes in Valhalla to resist Alberich's pending attack. This he could never have done through force alone, but through the 'treacherous bonds of troubled contracts'. (...)
(...) There remains a chasm between Wotan and the lawless chaos of National Socialism - Alberich's method. Wotan refuses to let Donner's hammer fall upon the giants, as it had done in the "Prose Edda."
(...) As Wagner writes in his 1848 prose sketch, the purpose of the gods' 'higher world is moral [sittlich] consciousness: but they are tainted by the very injustice they hunt down'. From the oppressed 'depths of Nibelheim their guilt echoes threateningly'. Nowhere does that guilt echo more strongly than in Wotan's soul.
[PH] I discussed above the sense in which Wotan's power is lawfully exercised (human law) and Alberich's (natural law, which human law is often deliberately designed to contradict, as in Christian morality which resists the dog-eat-dog example of our fellow animals and animal ancestors, and in the belief in transcendence resists the scientific assumption that all that exists is bound by natural law) is not, and also discussed previously how Wotan's moral order isn't merely tainted by injustice (as if by something alien to it, which has infected it), but is in fact drawn from the same source as Alberich's power, the power of his Ring being construed as the power of the human mind, which gives birth not only to our conscious knowledge of the bitter truths which contradict our ideals, but also gives birth to our ideals and the beliefs in transcendent value which sustain them.
With respect to Berry's quotation from Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde above, in which Wotan says he is counseling himself when speaking with her, Berry seems to have entirely overlooked one of the key pillars which has sustained my "Ring" interpretation since 1983, which is that Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde (he tells her, more or less, that in speaking to her he is speaking to himself) is Wagner's metaphor for Wotan's (collective, historical man's) repression of unbearable self-knowledge into his unconscious mind (the collective unconscious). It is by virtue of Wotan's repressing his oppressive hoard of unbearable knowledge of himself, his history, and his world, into his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, that Bruennhilde becomes the muse of unconscious artistic inspiration for the artist-hero Siegfried, who can safely tap Wotan's hoard of forbidden knowledge which Erda imparted to him, as Siegfried's source of inspiration for creating an artistic sublimation of its horrors, without suffering from consciousness of the wound this knowledge would inflict were it conscious for him (as it had begun to be for Wotan).
(26) [MB - P. 126-127] Referring to the Motif of Wotan's Frustration, #81, Berry states: Next heard, tellingly, in counterpoint with Alberich's Curse [#51], we appreciate that the crime of Wotan's theft will never be forgotten. Having acquired this network of associations, 'Wotan's Frustration' [#81] leads us into the second scene, at whose opening it proves still more persuasive. It is when man deliberates upon his past actions, as Wagner read in Schopenhauer whilst setting the music to "Die Walkuere," that his existence becomes 'so very much more harrowing than the animal's'. Inverted [#82], 'Wotan's Frustration [#81] increases the 'intensity' of 'Wotan's expression and gestures', culminating in his lengthy confession to Bruennhilde - alternatively, the state's lengthy confession of its historical error. (...) The dialectical tragedy outlined is retold in almost unbearable intensity, its crux revealed in the words: 'I. lord of contracts, am now a slave to those contracts'. He cannot create a free man, only 'slaves', 'for the free man must create himself'. Wotan's attempts to halt the destruction of the state and to stem the progress of Alberich's ring of capital have multiplied the contradictions he faces.
[PH] Berry notes that Wotan confesses the State's and human history's errors to Bruennhilde, but here he misses his biggest opportunity to grasp one of the most important keys to the allegorical logic of the "Ring." Berry doesn't see that by confessing collective, historical man's corrupt history and craven identity and dependence upon self-delusion to Bruennhilde, who identifies herself as Wotan's Will (thereby inspiring Wotan to say that in speaking to her he is speaking only to himself, and that what he says to her will remain forever unspoken, by which he means that his secret will be kept by music per se, and specifically by the musical motifs of the "Ring"), Wotan is actually repressing abhorrent self-knowledge, of all that Wotan abhorred (Ekel) in himself, into the womb of his wishes, Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, who thereby figuratively gives birth to Siegfried (Siegfried will of course in S.3.3 confuse Bruennhilde with his mother who died giving him birth, and Bruennhilde will, unlike Siegfried's blood mother Sieglinde, choose Siegfried's name), the hero who, unlike Wotan, doesn't know who he is. It is by virtue of Siegfried's self-ignorance, protected as he is from knowing his true identity and back-history by Bruennhilde, who holds this knowledge for him and thus protects him from the fear which paralyzed Wotan (as Hamlet was paralyzed into inaction by having become too conscious of the bitter truth about man, as Wagner suggested), that Siegfried is able to act where Wotan was not. As she says in S.3.3, what Siegfried doesn't know (his true identity, history, and fate, the fearful end Erda predicted), Bruennhilde knows for him, thereby protecting Siegfried from suffering Alberich's curse of consciousness, the Ring curse (the curse which follows naturally from man's possession of the gift of reflective, symbolic consciousness).
(27) [MB - P. 127] The stage is set for Wotan 'rising in bitter anger' to deliver his political 'blessing' to Alberich's son:
That which most disgusts me,
I grant as your inheritance:
godhead's vain lustre:
may your envy lustfully gnaw it away!
Wotan now desires but one thing: 'the end'.
[PH] Berry notes that Wotan - in his despair expressed through his confession to Bruennhilde in V.2.2 - makes Alberich's prospective son Hagen heir to all that disgusts Wotan, heir to godhead itself (which in my interpretation is equivalent to saying that formerly religious man confesses to his rival, scientific man, that religious man has been self-deluded throughout all prior human history, and will therefore consign his false beliefs to oblivion in the face of scientific man's inevitable victory over faith). But Berry is unable to construe Hagen's allegorical role in the "Ring" because he doesn't see that Hagen and Siegfried represent what Feuerbach described as the two heirs of dying religious faith (the Valhallan gods' rule), namely, natural science (objective thought), and art (especially music, for according to both Feuerbach and Wagner, the dying or dead god is reborn in human feeling, or music), respectively. Berry doesn't grasp that Wotan makes Hagen his heir initially because he foresees accurately that the gods, religious faith, will die in the face of Alberich's (and now Wotan's) ongoing accumulation of a hoard of objective knowledge from Mother Nature, Erda, and sees no alternative. But there is an alternative: in order to free art from its religious shackles (religion's fateful stake upon the power of truth, which scientific man can employ against religious belief by disclosing both the internal contradictions in belief, and also its contradiction by objective knowledge), to free Siegfried from the gods' rule, Wotan must jettison all that he now loathes in religious faith, sacrifice its prosaic, egoistic nature (embodied by the Mime-element in Wotan's character), its fear of the truth, to Alberich and his son Hagen, in order that Siegfried can create redemptive art which is freed from religious faith's indefensible claim to the truth (i.e., to the objective power of the Ring, whose power Siegfried never directly wields, and only indirectly by employing the Tarnhelm to disguise himself as Gunther). As both Feuerbach and Wagner noted, when faith as a concept fails in the face of secular, scientific thought, God can live on (at least for awhile) as feeling (music), which stakes no claim to the truth (to the power of the Ring).
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(28) [MB - P. 128-129] Valhalla itself deserves consideration as the fortress of the gods' power. The portrayal of modern civilisation in Wagner's late, pacifistic 'regeneration writings', as directed with increasing obsession towards war and violence, has its roots in the darker side to Wotan's castle in the sky. Yet whilst the depiction of Valhalla is by no means flattering, neither is it so wholly negative as that of law. Wotan's initial dream has something rather visionary about it; whilst his words are not particularly noble, the music of his dreams, centred upon the Valhalla motif [#20], most certainly is, with none of the inflated grandiosity that will disfigure the empirical reality of the fortress. The god even goes so far as to express approval for 'change and renewal', although these thoughts refer primarily to further conquests, political and amorous.
Berry notes Wotan's remark to Fricka in R.2 that though he agrees to use the gods' new fortress as his base of operations (she had appealed to the notion that its domestic charms would induce Wotan to stop wandering and betraying her through, as she complains later, his desire for change), he longs for change and must conquer the outside (objective) world as well. Berry associates Wotan's need for change with both political and sexual conquests. But Wotan isn't just seeking political and sexual conquests, or, at any rate, we must understand the full scope of what appear to be Wotan's political and sexual conquests. Berry doesn't seem to grasp that Wotan isn't seeking political conquests in the conventional meaning of that idea (as collective, historical man as a whole, the Feuerbachian God, Wotan has, by nature, as much power of that type as he can obtain through any particular political conquest), or sexual conquests in the conventional sense (his mating with Erda, Mother Nature, in his quest for knowledge both of the objective truth, and of the means to escape and forget the truth - Fate - and the fear it engenders, is of course a merely sexual metaphor for something other than love between the sexes, which is his desire to be redeemed from the truth. One must recall here the Dutchman's notion that he doesn't seek merely love through Senta, but redemption. Similarly, in his sexual liaison with the unnamed mother to Siegmund and Sieglinde, Wotan intends to give birth to that race of heroes to whom he looks for redemption. In both instances, i.e., with respect to Wotan's desire both for political and sexual conquests, he is having a premonition of his world-wandering, man's collective, historical experience, in which he will advance in knowledge of both himself and his world (Erda), accumulating that Hoard of knowledge which will ultimately give birth to Hagen, man's scientific consciousness of himself and his world, and to Siegfried, the artist who instinctively strives to redeem mankind from that product of his conquest of the outside world, objective knowledge and the curse of consciousness. Wotan's desire for change and renewal can be understood as representing the role mankind's cultural evolution (religion/science/art/politics/etc.) plays in following the historical trajectory originally mapped out by biological or somatic evolution, an evolution which, in effect, becomes conscious of itself in man.
(29) [MB - P. 137] Wotan's spear is required once again during the fourth scene [of "Rhinegold"] to prevent the hotheaded god [Donner] from striking Fafner. (...) In the words of 'Opera and Drama':
... sages and lawgivers, who claimed the practice of self-restraint through reflection, did not for one moment reflect that they had enslaved others,
whom they cut off from the very possibility of exercising that virtue, and yet these latter were, in truth, the only ones who in reality restrained
themselves for the sake of others, because they were forced to do so. The self-restraint of this ruling and reflecting aristocracy to each other consisted
only in the shrewd calculation of egoism, which counselled segregation from and payment of no heed to others ... ."
[PH] Berry speaks of the contradiction that Wotan's spear of authority and law wields force, motivated only by egoism. Feuerbach noted that it is actually man's private egoism, when considered in the context of the collectivity of all men, which produces the morally good, without the necessity of invoking God as a guarantor of selfless obedience to law. In my 1996 book on "Rhinegold" and the 2003 version of "The Wound That Will Never Heal," I noted this contradiction, and in fact referenced the passage from "Opera and Drama" reproduced here. I described it as what Wagner calls elsewhere the prudence of egoism.
(30) [MB - P. 147-149] Valhalla is not only a stronghold of political power, but a sacerdotal fortress ... . (...) Alluding to Wotan's awakening from his dream to see and greet the newly built abode of the gods, Valhalla, Berry says: Yet Wotan's proud edifice is illusory. As Feuerbach had proclaimed, 'Religion is the dream of the human mind,' a dream in which 'we only see real things in the entrancing splendour of imagination and caprice, instead of in the simple daylight of reality and necessity.' It is through the imagination alone that 'man neutralises the opposition between God and the world'."
[PH] Beginning with my "Doctrine of the Ring," copyrighted in 1983, and self-published and distributed to numerous scholars who presented papers at "Wagner in Retrospect," a centennial conference sponsored by the Univ. of Illinois, Chicago, in 11/83, I have explained how the gods' waking up from a dream to find Valhalla completely built by the giants, was Wagner's metaphor for the fact that earliest man must have involuntarily invented his allegedly divinely-created culture, and the gods themselves, in a collective-dreamlike state, which man then, upon fully waking, falsely interpreted as the gods' revelation to man from on high. During my systematic exploration of Feuerbach's writings from 2001-2003, I discovered this very extract (as well as other similar extracts) and employed it to strengthen my interpretation of the transition from R.1 to R2, during which Alberich's Ring Motif #19 is transformed into the first segment of the Valhalla Motif, #20a.
Signing off at 5:16pm on 5/27/12.
Signing on at 11:35pm on 5/27/12:
(31) [MB - P. 148-150] Nowhere is the claim of illusion more persuasive than during the gods' entry into Valhalla, when Loge turns upon the gods' triumphalism. (...) Loge speaks as both a Young Hegelian critic and a harbinger of Bakunin with a distinct tinge of Mephistopheles ... . It is worth quoting the whole of Loge's disdainful soliloquy, in which he refers menacingly to his annihilating role as god of fire:
They hasten to their end,
they who imagine [waehnen] themselves so strong and enduring.
I am almost ashamed to associate myself with them;
I am tempted to transform myself
once again into flickering flames.
To burn those who once tamed me,
rather than to die foolishly with the blind,
even though they be the most divine gods!
I shall think about it: who knows what I shall do?
These words and the chromatic, negating destabilisation of his music with respect to that of the gods make a mockery both of Donner's bravado in clearing the skies and of the alleged 'splendour' of the fortress 'safe from fear and dread', as greeted by Wotan. Wotan's downcast, guilt-laden remark prior to the thunderstorm seems more apposite: 'With an evil toll did I pay for that building!' (...)
Alberich's world of capital may be no better - it may even be worse - but the Nibelung's actions have helped lay bare the illusions of Valhalla ... . The giants return to claim their wages and ransom sits uneasily with the ancien regime of the gods, bringing into question any notion of divine right - or, indeed, of divinity.
[PH] Berry here describes Loge as a Feuerbachian critic of the gods, noting the gods' weakness consists in their dependence on the Giants and on Alberich's ability to expose their illusions. My prior interpretation of Loge differs with Berry's in several respects, the first being that for me Loge is the archetypal artist, the Folk's (collective man's/Wotan's) artistic capacity for self-delusion. Though Loge himself is in-the-know, the fact that he represents mankind's capacity for self-delusion is highlighted by Loge's sporting debates with Wotan as to whether it was Loge, or Wotan himself, who got Wotan into so much trouble. I also noted that, as such, Loge has an inward knowledge of the gods' dependence on self-delusion (i.e., dependence on Loge) which is dangerous even to the gods, and showed how the artist-hero Siegfried is like Loge in this respect, except that, unlike Loge (the archetype for the concept), Siegfried, as representative of actual, historical artist-heroes, is unconscious of his true identity and status as the gods' (religion's) artist-redeemer. Siegfried the artist-hero simply instinctively, spontaneously, does from his own inner need, what the gods need to survive in man's heart as feeling, as opposed to a declared fact. Loge like Siegfried redeems the gods from the truth which is represented by the Giants' legitimate claim to Freia (the Giants' building of Valhalla and claim to Freia as payment for it being Wagner's metaphor for the role that primal human egoism, the instincts of desire - Fasolt - and fear - Fafner - played in man's involuntary invention of religion - Valhalla, with its offer of transcendent meaning or love, and immortality, both together represented by Freia as goddess of both divine love and immortality). Berry elsewhere in his book distinguishes Freia as goddess of love, from Freia as the source of the gods' immortality (her golden apples), a distinction which has been central to my analysis of the "Ring" since 1983. Nattiez also took note of this distinction in his "Wagner Androgyne" from 1990.
In my interpretation Alberich, along with his son/proxy Hagen, does indeed expose the gods' (religion's) illusions, but through mans' (Alberich's and Wotan's - Light-Alberich's) gradual accumulation, over historical time, of a hoard of objective knowledge of the world (Erda, Mother Earth, in whose depths Alberich's Nibelungs mine their hoard of treasure, and in whom, and over whom, in his wanderings, Wotan seeks knowledge). Most of this allegorical apparatus is not referenced by Berry.
(32) [MB - P. 151] Such is the gods' 'new-found splendour', in which Loge sarcastically suggests that the lamenting Rhinemaidens, deprived of their gold, might care instead to bask. Yet, rather than heed his none-too-thinly-veiled warning, the gods chortle and stride across the bridge to Valhalla. (...) The final words of "Das Rheingold" are allotted to the Rhinemaidens, victims of the politico-religious 'war of emancipation with Nature':
Rhinegold! Rhinegold! Pure gold!
If only your lustrous glitter still shone in the depths!
Only in the depths is there harmony and truth:
False [falsch] and cowardly [feig] is the rejoicing above!"
[PH] Berry cites Loge's sarcastic suggestion that the Rhinedaughters, having lost the Rhinegold which formerly brightened the Rhine's depths, now bask instead in the gods' newfound splendor, and that this splendor is Wahn, illusion. Berry, however, fails to note that, in religion (the product of man's capacity for artistic self-deception, or Loge), the animal's preconscious, primal, instinctive innocence (which is part of what the Rhinedaughters' aesthetic joy in the Rhinegold represents) is figuratively restored. For religious man, though endowed with reflective thought, wishes (artificially) to restore the oneness of feeling sans thought, to restore the world's lost music, the music of nature's pre-fallen/pre-conscious paradise, as Wagner put it on several occasions. So in this sense the Rhinedaughters will indeed bask in the gods' newfound splendor. This achieves concrete expression later in the artist-hero Siegfried, in whom the Rhinedaughters' aesthetic joy in the Rhinegold is restored, and in his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde, who will call up several of the Rhinedaughters' musical motifs (in T.P.2), and who will become, as Siegfried's muse, a sort of surrogate Rhine, in whose love Siegfried is temporarily redeemed from the Ring's curse, the curse of consciousness.
End of Part Two; Edited/Revised by Paul Heise on 6/20/12
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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