(47) [MB - P. 190] Berry notes Feuerbach's observation that Faith '... is the opposite of love. Love recognises virtue in sin, truth in error. ... it was faith, not love ... which invented Hell.' (...) It is with a kiss of love that Wotan divests Bruennhilde of her divinity. Henceforth Bruennhilde will no longer be constrained by 'faith'.
[PH] Berry cites Feuerbach's observation that faith is opposite to love. I incorporated this extract in my 2003 anthology of Feuerbach's writings and employed it in the 2003-2004 self-published edition of my book "The Wound That Will Never Heal," but drew rather more comprehensive conclusions from it. Berry astutely suggests that with his kiss Wotan liberates Bruennhilde from religious faith, in liberating her from her godhead. So far, Berry's observations parallel my prior studies on the "Ring," but Berry's failure to grasp Siegfried's allegorical status as Wagner's metaphor for the artist-hero and music-dramatist, central to my interpretation and also to Nattiez's interpretation (it seems strange that Berry cites Nattiez but for some reason doesn't import Nattiez's thesis respecting Siegfried's status as the Poet-Dramatist, and Bruennhilde's status as music, into his own), greatly disadvantages all of his efforts to interpret the last two parts of the "Ring," "Siegfried" and "Twilight of the Gods." Feuerbach gave Berry all the clues he needed to construe Wotan's heirs Hagen and Siegfried as the two heirs to dying religious faith itemized by Feuerbach as science and secular art (respectively), particularly the art of music (God, according to Feuerbach, and echoed by Wagner, finds refuge in feeling, or music, when he - faith - can no longer hold his own in conceptual thought), but Berry only provides the occasional hint that he has grasped this, as in his remark that for Feuerbach the new religion which will replace the old faith in transcendent gods includes "cultural activities." Why he didn't develop this fruitful concept - long central to my own prior copyrighted writings on the "Ring" - further I don't know.
(48) [MB - P. 193] Bruennhilde may have felt intimations of love, but she only knows it through Siegfried. Indeed, any prior compassion, such as her aid for Sieglinde, is explained retrospectively through a premonition of him whom she had loved even before his birth:
O Siegfried! Siegfried!
I always loved you:
to me alone
was Wotan's thought revealed.
The thought that I
could never name,
which I could not think
but only feel
was simply my love for you!
[PH] Berry proposes that Bruennhilde's love for the Volsungs Siegmund and Sieglinde is based solely on her love for their prospective child Siegfried. Berry then quotes from the passage in S.3.3 in which Bruennhilde tells Siegfried that what Wotan thought, she felt, and that thought was only her love for Siegfried. Berry evidently doesn't grasp the allegorical content of this key passage. Wotan's thought is Wotan's confession of his Hoard of runes (as she describes his confession in T.P.2 to Siegfried during their second love-duet) to Bruennhilde, the secret which Wotan tells her will remain forever unspoken (in words, not music), and the essential question proposed by Wotan in his confession to Bruennhilde was, how can I, Wotan, representative of religious faith in the transcendent, a faith which is destined to fail in the face of Alberich's threat to expose the illusions which have sustained the gods, create the free hero who can redeem the gods (religious faith in the gods) from Alberich's threat to undermine man's faith with his ever accumulating Hoard of objective knowledge of the world (Erda's self-knowledge, which includes the necessity for the twilight of the gods), when I, Wotan, always find, with loathing, only my egoistic Nibelung-self (Licht-Alberich) in all that I strive to do to redeem myself and the gods? To fully grasp Wotan's question, we must remember that Wotan himself, like Alberich before him, is, in his role as the Wanderer (i.e., Wagner's metaphor for collective man's historical experience of himself and his world over many millennia) is gathering a hoard of knowledge of the world by wandering over the earth (i.e., Erda). In other words, it is Wotan himself (Light-Alberich) who is gathering that knowledge which eventually will overthrow the illusions upon which the gods' rule depends. Bruennhilde, just prior to Wotan's confession, described herself as his Will, and Wotan later in his confession asks himself what use his Will can be to him, since he can't create a hero (a hero, say, who would be freed from religious faith's vulnerability to contradiction by objective knowledge of man and his world, such as, say, an artist-hero who, unlike religious believers, stakes no claim to the power of truth, but confesses himself an illusionist, or better, expresses himself through music, which stakes no conceptual claims and therefore can't either be refuted by truth or accused of deceit), but only serfs (like Feuerbach, Wotan finds only egoism hidden behind what appeared to be nobility in faith and its offspring).
By storing his loathsome self-knowledge and desperation to be redeemed from it (divine seed) into his unconscious mind and Will and womb of his wishes Bruennhilde, in whom his secret knowledge can remain forever unspoken (in words: i.e., unconscious, emerging in consciousness only as music and musical motifs), Wotan can be reborn, minus his paralyzing conscious knowledge of his true, loathsome identity, in Siegfried, the hero who doesn't know who he is because Bruennhilde holds this knowledge for him and protects him from it. As Wotan tells Erda, Bruennhilde's mother, in S.3.1, Erda's knowledge (of the gods', i.e., faith's, end, ) wanes before his Will, i.e., it wanes before Bruennhilde, in whom Wotan stored it during his confession, so that Siegfried's conscious mind could be freed from Wotan's stumbling block, yet be unconsciously inspired by Wotan's wish, to do his hidden will.
Wagner developed this concept in Elsa's offer to help protect Lohengrin from the "Noth," or anguish, to which she believed he'd become subject were the secret of his true identity and origin (Feuerbach's notion that the true identity and origin of the gods is collective, historical man's unconscious and involuntary dreaming, i.e. myth-making, which gave birth furtively to the worlds' religions and gods) made public and therefore conscious. The secret of "Lohengrin" is that Elsa can redeem Lohengrin from the threat represented by the truth which, if exposed to the light of conscious day, will force him to leave the world (as Wotan must leave the world and no longer 'act' in it after V.3.3), only if he makes her the sole repository for his secret self-knowledge, so that Elsa can keep this secret even from him, in that through her he can possess it (keep his secret) yet be unconscious of both this secret and of the fact that he is guarding it. It is implicit in "Lohengrin" that Godfrey is the expected hero who will possess Lohengrin's forbidden knowledge (through Lohengrin's Ring, which he passes on to Elsa so that Godfrey can some day inherit it, just as Wotan - Light-Alberich - passes on his forbidden self-knowledge to Siegfried via Bruennhilde, and also via Alberich's Ring, which Siegfried wins by virtue of being freed from Wotan's fear of the truth (which, of itself, kills Wotan's fear, incarnate in Fafner's guarding of the Ring, Tarnhelm, and Hoard). Note in this regard how Bruennhilde tells Siegfried that she couldn't name Wotan's thought (Wotan, unlike Lohengrin, accepted Bruennhilde's oblique offer to keep his secret, which prompted him to confess thoughts to her which were intolerable for him to contemplate consciously), just as Lohengrin chastised Elsa for asking him to reveal his secret name to her, so she could help him protect his secret from the world. The solution to Lohengrin's problem, a solution offered by Elsa but rejected by Lohengrin, was discovered by Wotan and Bruennhilde: the solution was that what Wotan thought, his forbidden knowledge, would be felt, not thought, by Bruennhilde, once he had expressed it to her subliminally in unconscious words, by being transformed into music in general, and musical motifs in particular.
Wagner in "A Communication to My Friends" described Elsa as Lohengrin's unconscious mind, the involuntary part of his mind, and as his redeemer. This is how (as I described in my 5/95 essay "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried") Elsa showed Wagner how he could create the artist-hero Siegfried, who is freed from Wotan's corrupt history and purged of consciousness of Wotan's craven motives (which nonetheless inspire Siegfried unconsciously), and freed also from the paralysis owing to Wotan's foresight of a fearful, future doom. Elsa's offer to hold, for Lohengrin, the secret of his identity and true origin, which, Elsa believes, if revealed to the world, would bring "Noth" (existential anguish) down upon Lohengrin, is the basis for Bruennhilde's successful effort to persuade her father Wotan to confide his divine "Noth," the thought he couldn't bear to speak aloud even to himself, to her. Similarly, Lohengrin's exile from the earth is the basis for Wotan's retirement from active involvement in it. The basis for this is that Feuerbach's Eve (the conceptual basis for Elsa, Bruennhilde, Isolde, Eva, and Kundry) had to ask the fateful, forbidden question, in order to free art from religious faith, to create, in other words, the free hero Siegfried.
(49) [MB - P. 194-196] Acquaintance with Schopenhauer did not lead Wagner completely to change his mind about love's revolutionary power. He wrote from Venice to Mathilde Wesendonck:
During recent weeks I have been slowly re-reading friend Schopenhauer's principal Work, and this times it has inspired me, quite extraordinarily, to
expand and - in certain details - even to correct his system. ... it must, I think, have been reserved for a man of my own particular nature, at this
particular period of his life, to gain insights here of a kind that could never have disclosed themselves to anyone else. It is a question ... of pointing out
the path to salvation, which has not been recognised by any philosopher, and especially not by Sch., but which involves a total pacification of the Will
through love, and not through any abstract human love, but a love engendered on the basis of sexual love, i.e. the attraction between man and woman.
Wagner never in fact went further than drafting a letter to Schopenhauer pointing out the philosopher's 'error', but the tension between Feuerbach and Schopenhauer remained creative.
Bruennhilde's sexual awakening is explicitly connected with her loss of divinity and thus with her entrance into society, when she sings:
No god has ever approached me:
heroes could only bow before and
shy away from the virgin:
holy did she depart from Valhalla!
To sever all links with Valhalla, to enter into a human world, she must follow Siegfried's injunction: 'Awaken! Be for me a woman!'
[PH] Berry cites Wagner's famous critique of Schopenhauer's notion that one can attain redemption only by stilling the Will. Wagner's alternative was that true stilling of the Will consisted in the excitation of the Will in authentic sexual love to the point that the individual's will becomes one with the world-will (this concept is of course both verbally and musically expressed by Wagner in Acts Two and Three of "Tristan"). Wagner also noted (in a related passage which Berry omitted) that only an artist with his unique ability to be at once both the author and composer of his artwork (so that he had insight into both the conscious and unconscious aspects of artistic creation simultaneously, granting him the dangerous ability to throw the light of conscious day into the creative unconscious, the womb of night, so to speak) could have made this discovery of Schopenhauer's error. Given the fact that Wagner often used love between a hero and heroine as a metaphor for unconscious artistic inspiration of a poet-dramatist by his unconscious mind and muse music, it's clear that Wagner's critique of Schopenhauer is actually offering Wagner's own unconscious artistic inspiration as the alternative to Schopenhauer's notion that one can be redeemed by stilling one's will.
Wagner captured the essence of this concept once in a remark to Mathilde Wesendonck, that his artistic creativity was like a "marriage of myself to myself." It is curious, given this fact, that Berry shortly after this Schopenhauer citation quoted Bruennhilde's remark to Siegfried that when she left Valhalla she was an inviolate virgin, and that therefore she fears sexual congress with him, since Bruennhilde's ultimate decision to risk everything and have loving union with her artist-hero Siegfried, in order to inspire him to perform heroic deeds of art in the outer world of men/women (Gibichung-land), is actually Wagner's dramatization of what became his critique of Schopenhauer. Wagner's identification of redemption through love with unconscious artistic inspiration pre-dates his first known acquaintance with Schopenhauer in 1854. Note Bruennhilde's ecstatic affirmation to Siegfried, after she's thrown herself with wild abandon into their mutual love: "Godlike composure rages in billows; the chastest of light flares up with passion; heavenly knowledge floods away, love's rejoicing drives it hence." Feuerbach described religious faith's exaltation of chastity as bespeaking its renunciation of the world, which of course Feuerbach regarded as a fraud since Christians subliminally restore to their imagined paradise the bliss of life which could only be produced by a real world which also contained pain and death, i.e. "the end." What Berry has missed is that Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's loving union is Wagner's metaphor for his own unconscious artistic inspiration, which he regarded as an alternative to religiously inspired stilling of the will. Wotan had recognized that he (man) could not still the egoistic Will: no matter where man's imagination sought refuge, even in the most sublime dreams of transcendence and world-denial, man would find his egoistic Will there. Admitting this, Wagner conceived his art as heir to religion, with the difference that it could affirm the real world conceptually yet make its author/composer and his audience "feel" as if they were transcendent and spiritual. This is what Bruennhilde expresses in her ecstatic outpourings to Siegfried in S.3.3.
Note also her remark that heavenly knowledge has flooded away, replaced by love. What she means is that art need no longer place a faith-based taboo on knowledge, since art can freely express feeling without fearing contradictions to faith-based and illusory claims to truth. Similarly, Elsa obliquely offered to save Lohengrin from the necessity of having to openly proclaim a taboo on revealing self-knowledge. By holding it for him he could forget it, and forget his fear of exposure.
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(50) [MB - P. 196-197] Alberich's curse ... , delivered as he grasps the gold, transforms a baleful possibility into devastating reality, referring, in Donington's words, 'poignantly enough to the "renunciation" motive, yet with a harsh twist to it which it did not have before. (...) Even when Siegmund extols to his sister-bride 'holiest love's highest need, yearning desire's consuming need,' the modulation from G major to C Minor and the vocal line itself ... remind us that Alberich's deed will frustrate the Volsungs' love.
[PH] Berry interprets the famous conundrum, that the motif which represents Alberich's renunciation of love for power, #18, is also heard when Siegmund embraces the sacrifice - even unto death - which true love for his sister Sieglinde requires, as illustrating the point that Alberich's renunciation is going to frustrate Siegmund's and Sieglinde's love. I find his interpretation plausible, but I've provided one which I think fits the situation even better. Wagner once stated that the lovelessness of the world instills in man the need of love. Therefore I construe the fact that Siegmund's willingness to embrace the price of love, even his own death, for love's sake, is accompanied by Alberich's renunciation of love motif as illustrating Wagner's statement, that the absence of love in the world bespeaks our desperate "need" for it, which Siegmund expresses. Siegmund feels the holiest need of love in the loveless world represented by Hunding, for whom marriage is mere possession, and whose "Honor Motif" is, according to Cooke, based on the first segment of the Ring Motif, #19a.
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(51) [MB - P. 200-201] 'Wrong marriage,' Wagner maintained in 1882, entailed a combination of physical and moral decline. 'Marriage without mutual affection for the human race,' he continued, 'has been more pernicious than anything else.' (...)
To Bruennhilde, the ring has cruelly become a symbol of love, albeit a love distorted by the fetter of quasi-marital union. Siegfried has, after all, handed the ring to Bruennhilde 'in solemn regard ... of my fidelity,' although it does not take him long to forget that pledge. (...) 'If you shudder,' Wagner tells Roeckel, 'at the thought that this woman should cling to this accursed ring as a symbol of love, you will feel exactly as I intended you to feel, and herein you will recognise the power of the Nibelung curse raised to its most terrible and most tragic heights.' The power of the curse and that of the marital bond conspire to vanquish Wagner's 'purely human' love. Bruennhilde believes that she is married. (...)
The combination of the irksomeness of contract and Siegfried's thirst for new deeds, have led him to look elsewhere, aided and abetted by Hagen's insatiable lust for the power of the ring. Hagen's plotting is aided in turn by Bruennhilde's fatal insistence upon something equivalent to conjugal formalisation. Scorned, she swears vengeance with the sons of Gibich. How differently events might have turned out had they conformed to the practice of Fourier's 'progressive households', in which 'conjugal titles are only conferred after adequate trial has been made ... .
Indeed, marriage in the "Ring" represents a travesty of love. The triviality of Siegfried and Gutrune's pairing is underlined, as Boulez remarks [Nattiez], by the musical recollection of French opera comique, and Auber in particular.
[PH] Berry suggests that Wagner's remark that Bruennhilde's accepting Alberich's Ring, which Siegfried has given to her as the symbol of their love-bond and love-oaths, as the symbol for the love she shares with Siegfried, represents the utmost expression of the ring curse, as evidence that their assumption of a formal marriage, with all that it entails in relation to bourgeois notions of marriage, brings the ring curse to its fulfilment, so to speak. Though I would agree that Wagner's initial conception of the tragedy played out in "Siegfried's Death," the early basis for the eventually four-part "Ring" drama, may owe something to this notion of a critique of marriage as a form of possession (with Siegfried becoming something of a Hunding towards his own true love Bruennhilde by abducting her forcibly for another man, under the seductive spell of the Gibichung high society), Wagner's metaphor of the love of Bruennhilde and Siegfried as representative of the relationship of the poet-dramatist to his muse of inspiration, music and his unconscious mind, and Siegfried's abduction of his muse Bruennhilde to display her and her secrets to his own audience, represented particularly by Gunther and by the Gibichungs in general, is more to the point. Needless to say Wagner's drama gained in depth by his overlaying of one dramatic scheme over another, so I don't deny that there may be several distinct factors at work here, except that I insist that they aren't mutually contradictory but thematically related. One must keep in mind that Siegfried's deposit of his horrific Ring with Bruennhilde is, like Wotan's confession to her, a metaphor for repression into unconsciousness of a fateful truth which threatens to rise to consciousness in Siegfried. Siegfried simply repeats a process inaugurated by Wotan, just as Siegfried's love for his muse Bruennhilde replicates in several respects Wotan's relationship with her mother Erda. Wotan sought both knowledge of the bitter truth from Erda, and (realizing that this truth was unbearable) knowledge of how he might forget this knowledge and end his fear of it (once he realized that he couldn't escape its curse) from her; similarly, Siegfried both learns the meaning of (Wotan's) fear from Bruennhilde, and also is able to forget this fear by virtue of having loving union with her, his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration. It is by virtue of Bruennhilde holding Siegfried's Ring for Siegfried (and thus maintaining the secret contained in that Hoard of Runes, or forbidden knowledge, which Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde), that she can protect him from suffering from Wotan's wounds of too-great-consciousness, from suffering due to Alberich's ring curse.
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(52) [MB - P. 204-207] So much for marriage. Bruennhilde has been violated, abducted, and won as a status symbol, just as Siegfried's mother had been by Hunding. One might, however, have expected better of Siegfried himself. (...)
It is not only a matter of marital disaster. Despite the glorious dawn proclaimed by the Volsungs and, in the first place at least, by Siegfried and Bruennhilde, Wagner ultimately comes to suggest that hopes directed towards the power and agency of love have been misplaced. "Tannhaeuser" had mooted the irreconcilability of two aspects of love: the sensual - Venus and Young Germany - and the metaphysical - Elisabeth and Christianity. (...)
The "Ring" goes further, asking whether the two aspects of love might prove to be forms of power themselves and therefore subject to the same strictures as other manifestations of Liebesgelueste. (...) The love of Siegmund and Sieglinde does not fail, but it is short-lived; its spontaneity is its justification. It is no easier to imagine such love enduring into old age than it is that of Tristan and Isolde, whose nocturnal love is doomed at least as much by itself as by uncomprehending diurnal society.
(...) Either, as in Siegfried's case, the bonds are broken, and the other party - most likely the woman? - is betrayed; or, as in Bruennhilde's, there arises an ill-fated attempt to set in stone something that can only succeed spontaneously, which brings us back to Wotan's carving of runes upon his spear. The treacherous Siegfried overpowers Bruennhilde to win her for Gunther (essentially for Hagen); the obsessive Bruennhilde betrays Siegfried by delivering him to Gunther (and Hagen). Perhaps the only way in which their love might have been perpetuated, at least on earth, would have been to maintain their isolation from society, to remain, as Bruennhilde might well have wished, on her rock ... . Such a course would not so much have doomed as forestalled Siegfried's revolutionary mission. The selfish myopia that prevents channelling of love outside the confines of the sexual union thus proves as disastrous as any other form of power.
These consequences cannot be explained away simply by reference to wedlock, although it certainly plays its part.
[PH] Berry says that Wagner in the "Ring" critiques love as another form of power and possession which, in the case of Siegfried and Bruennhilde, can't survive reality. I have from my earliest writings on this subject suggested that Wagner construes love, and even art, as another form of power (though covert), even in its metaphorical expression in the relationship of artist-hero to his muse of inspiration. This is at least part of what Wagner meant in having Siegfried and Bruennhilde, in the ultimate irony, construe the Ring Siegfried gives to Bruennhilde as their wedding ring, the symbol of their love. Of course, the Ring (and the Hoard of forbidden knowledge it produces) is the ultimate, though hidden, source of both religious and artistic inspiration, in my interpretation. Berry adds that perhaps Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love could survive only if they remained in isolation on Bruennhilde's mountain-top, but that in that case Siegfried couldn't perform his revolutionary mission in the world. Berry is right, but - I think - for the wrong reason. He still assumes that Siegfried is, like his father Siegmund, a social revolutionary, but Siegfried in my book is Wagner's metaphor for the revolutionary artist-hero, and his muse Bruennhilde's love inspires him to go out into the world of men and women (his potential audience, to whom he can only offer artistic redemption if Bruennhilde's love inspires him to do so) to redeem the terrible world to his audience through art, which he attempts but fails to do in the narrative of his life he sings for his Gibichung audience at Hagen's (consciousness's) urging.
Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's loving union in isolation on her mountaintop is Wagner's metaphor for the exclusive and private experience, known only to the authentic artist, of unconscious artistic inspiration. This is the paradise from which, as Wagner put it himself, the authentic artist must descend into the real, corrupt world, in order to present his art to his audience, and give it hope. What Berry got right is that there is the sense, in Wagner, that he valued most his unconscious artistic inspiration (the loving couple in isolation on the mountaintop), and valued only secondarily, as a necessary byproduct/evil, the presentation of his sublime art to an audience. But in this case, Siegfried, Wagner's metaphor for himself, the music-dramatist who created the "Ring," unwittingly and inadvertently revealed the secret of formerly unconscious artistic inspiration in what should have been a redemptive artwork in which that artworks' original source of inspiration would remain concealed. That the artist-heroes Siegfried and Tristan reveal what should have been concealed, by giving the muse of their art, their unconscious mind and its secret, to their audience (allegorically, by giving their true love away to another man, Gunther and Marke respectively), is the cause of the heroine-lover's complaint of betrayal directed against their hero-lover. This unwitting act on the hero's part explains why Bruennhilde collaborates with Siegfried's enemy Hagen to destroy Siegfried. Wagner left his depiction of that successfully redemptive artwork to "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg," for in that artwork the music-dramatist Walther does not reveal to his audience the secret of Sachs's confession to Walther's muse of inspiration Eva, which is the basis for the dream which inspires Walther's victorious mastersong. Sachs's confession to Eva in Act II, a confession which Walther, like Siegfried, doesn't grasp conceptually, is based of course on Wotan's confession to Siegfried's muse of inspiration Bruennhilde. This is the confession which Lohengrin refused to make to his muse-lover Elsa during their night of love. Lohengrin's confession to the general public in the finale maintained his cover story (that he is a knight of the Grail, which is supposedly unknowable, inaccessible to human reason, like the mystery of faith; but, as Feuerbach put it, all these supposed mysteries of faith are invented by man himself, who can in fact access and explain them, if he has the courage), but he, like Wotan, had to leave.
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(53) [MB - P. 211-212] Siegfried's great act is fearlessly to shatter Wotan's 'eternal' spear of state. This enables him to reach Bruennhilde and - apparently - to usher in a Feuerbachian kingdom of love. Bruennhilde then sends him out from the mountain-top into the world, with the words, 'To new deeds [Taten], dear hero; how could I love you - if I did not allow you to do so?'
Feuerbach claimed that purposeful activity, in particular cultural activity, could constitute a new religion, as we witness during Siegfried and Bruennhilde's brief spell of happiness (or brief rule of love). (...) The fearless Siegfried's despatch into the world is equally necessary [Berry is suggesting "equally" with reference to Siegmund's heroic deed in rejecting Valhalla in favor of his love for his sister-bride Sieglinde] for such a 'religion', since the individual aim - Selbsttaetigkeit, in the practised language of the "Communist Manifesto" - must ultimately pertain to mankind, to universality. 'We want to go out into the free world,' Engels had written in connection with Siegfried, into 'the crown of life, the act [Tat].'
[PH] Berry says that by virtue of breaking Wotan's spear and waking and winning the sleeping Bruennhilde as his wife, Siegfried establishes Feuerbach's kingdom of love (which can only be shared by mortals). But Berry fails to register that love between hero and heroine has been a metaphor for unconscious artistic inspiration in all of Wagner's operas and music-dramas since at least "Tannhaeuser," and perhaps even "The Flying Dutchman," as it continues to be in "Tristan, self-evidently in "Mastersingers," and surprisingly, even in "Parsifal." Berry seems to hint at this in his next remark, that Feuerbach's notion of the new religion which will replace the traditional religion of belief in transcendent gods, may include cultural activities (included in Siegfried's mission in the outside world), but Berry doesn't specify them. My previously copyrighted work has incorporated my observation that Feuerbach did specify these cultural activities: Feuerbach suggested that secular art, and science, would be man's substitute for religious faith once man acknowledged consciously that the gods did not create man, but that instead man involuntarily invented the gods. In any case, Berry accurately suggests that Siegfried, while out in the wider world performing heroic deeds, will be in some sense proclaiming this new religion. This concept has long been central to my allegorical interpretation of the "Ring," and can be found in my lecture from 2000, "The 'Ring' as a Whole" (presented in April of 2000 to the Wagner Society of Washington, DC, at Funger Hall, George Washington Univ.) which is posted on this discussion forum. Since at least 1983 the concept that Bruennhilde is the artist-hero Siegfried's muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, and that the true, but hidden, source of Siegfried's inspiration (to go out into the wider world and create redemptive art for his audience, universal man), is Wotan's hoard of forbidden knowledge, which he confessed to Bruennhilde so that it would remain forever unspoken (in words, in thought, but not in feeling, in music), and that Bruennhilde's loving union with Siegfried serves the sole purpose of inspiring him to go out into the world of men/women to present to them the works of art she has inspired, has been at the forefront of my various copyrighted treatises on Wagner's legacy.
In my scheme, it is only in "Mastersingers" that Wagner depicts the artist-hero successfully redeeming his audience from horrific knowledge through an unconsciously inspired artwork, which redeems his audience in the Mastersong he sings in Act III, after Sachs's Act II confession has threatened to reveal its implications (that secular art alone can provide man with the 'feeling' that paradise has been restored, once man has relinquished religious faith that it once existed and can be restored in fact). The Act II riot was caused by two things: (1) Beckmesser's uninspired song could not conceal the bitter truth Sachs had expressed with a consoling illusion, and (2) Sachs's confession to Eva (like Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde), if grasped consciously by Walther's audience, would cause the wholesale erosion of civil society if left unchecked. The citizens of "Nuremberg," at night, are being briefly let into the secret of unconscious artistic inspiration and the transition from religious faith to inspired secular art, by Sachs's playing with fire. But in the "Ring" and "Tristan," the artist-hero unwittingly exposes the secrets which formerly had been held for him - as his true, dangerous, hidden source of artistic inspiration - by his muse, by betraying his muse in giving her away to another man, this other man being Wagner's metaphor for his own audience, to whom he exposed what had through all prior human history remained hidden under the illusions of religious faith and unconsciously inspired art. It is surprising, given Berry's knowledge of Nattiez's "Wagner Androgyne," that Berry seems to be almost entirely heedless of Wagner's employment of Siegfried as his metaphor for the artist-hero, since Wagner's new religion is his own secular art, but there it is. This concept can also be found in my essay "How Elsa Showed Wagner the Way to Siegfried," published by Stewart Spencer in the 5/95 issue of WAGNER, the scholarly journal (now defunct) of The Wagner Society (UK).
(54) [MB - P. 214-215] The C major tonality of the sword motif [#57ab], as it first appears during Wotan's 'great idea' at the end of "Das Rheingold ... , is worth noting. It harks back to the 'natural' simplicity of the Rhinegold in Scene One. (...) Wotan plants the sword for Siegmund ... . Wotan's great idea [#57] is triumphantly sounded as Notung is extracted from the tree. The Volsung's 'sensualist' act of extracting the sword points to the unmistakably sexual element in revolution.
(...) Crucially, Siegfried re-forges the sword, independently of Wotan and in defiance of Mime. Siegfried can accomplish what Wotan appears to wish, on account of the hero's autonomy. Wagner explained to Ludwig II:
Wotan lives on in Siegfried as the artist lives on in his work of art; the freer and the more autonomous the latter's existence and the less trace it bears of
the creative artist - so that through it (the work of art), the artist himself is forgotten, - the more perfectly satisfied does the artist himself feel; and so,
in a certain higher sense, his being forgotten, his disappearance, his death is - the life of the work of art.
The artwork (Siegfried) is therefore rendered capable of artistry. Notung comes to play, in Nattiez's words, 'the same paradigmatic role as Wieland [the Smith]'s wings - that supreme example of the artist's skill, which he succeeds in fashioning when driven on by necessity'. Courage is shown not merely in slaying Fafner, but also in the production of 'a synthesis of dislocated fragments'. Thus necessity [Not] refers to revolution as well as to Siegfried's personal predicament, just as the dislocated fragments pertain both to the sword and society.
[PH] Berry notes, accurately, though without sufficient specificity (he references the Rhinegold rather than the Rhine River), that the Sword Motif #57 harks back to the natural simplicity of "The Rhinegold" Scene One. As Cooke noted, it is mostly based on Motif #1, with which "The Rhinegold" (and thus the whole "Ring Cycle") begins. Berry adds that when Siegmund pulls it out of Hunding's house-tree to display it to Sieglinde it is implicitly a sensual, sexual object. In my copyrighted work for many years I've noted that Siegmund in effect is displaying his phallus to Sieglinde when he extracts Nothung (which is another reason for her ecstatic response), and that Bruennhilde later compares Nothung to Siegfried's phallus, and its sheaf or scabbard to her vagina and womb.
Berry then cites Nattiez's observation that Siegfried's re-forging of the separate pieces (ultimately ground by Siegfried down to splinters) of his father Siegmund's sword into a whole Nothung expresses Wagner's notion that the artwork of the future, his own revolutionary music-dramas, will unify the formerly specialized arts. Having cited this passage from Nattiez, it is a source of wonder that, again, Berry fails repeatedly to grasp the allegorical significance for Siegfried's dramatic trajectory as an artist-hero, right up to and including his demise, a demise engendered by Siegfried's own artistic performance of the story of his life as the artist-hero. Berry has found all that he needs in Nattiez's observations but simply doesn't delineate the consequences for our understanding of the drama which follow from the identification of Siegfried as Wagner's archetype of the artist-hero.
Signing off temporarily at 9:10am on 6/7/12.
Signing on at 9:36am on 6/7/12:
(55) [MB - P. 216] Only a year before his death, Wagner noted:
The first form of Christianity did not worry about the improvement of society as the philosophically instructed jurists of Roman rule did, and as nowadays
seems incumbent on wise rulers: it believed in the complete destruction of this whole civilisation as founded on unkindness and injustice, which, on the
other hand, every law-giver, however wise, must leave intact in its original stock. Anyone to whom it suddenly occurs how all that came about, can also
have nothing more to do with this which has come about: he is obliged wholly to abandon seeking out on the way of improvement that which may lead to
a new genesis.
These words are all the more striking for having been written at a time when the composer is often held to have renounced political concerns for Schopenhauer. In fact, they show us once again that such concerns were at best overlain by metaphysical renunciation, and in some cases remained highly prominent in Wagner's thought. The implication for the "Ring" is clear. Even the 'wisest law-giver', or Wotan, cannot implement revolution; he can merely
tinker, eliciting, for the most part, disastrous results. Wagner has banished his old hesitations about regarding revolution from above. For the early followers of Christ, the figure whose projected drama was sublated into the "Ring," the world of contract and 'injustice' must be completely destroyed.
[PH] I have long employed this passage to make a similar point about Wotan's internal conflict, his need to acknowledge the laws of this world while striving, futilely, to create a transcendent world which would be freed from such conflicts. Wotan must both heed Fricka's insistence that mortal man's faith in, and obedience to, the gods, never be challenged, yet he knows, unconsciously, thanks to Erda's teaching, that the gods (religious faith) are destined to destruction, and so he must somehow encourage heroes to free themselves from this faith so they can distill the essence of religious feeling in morality and art while jettisoning all that in religious faith smacks of fear and egoism.
Wotan's need to crush the very individualism of Siegmund, the very individual in whose personal creative spark alone Wotan can hope to redeem the gods from destruction and/or renew the old religion in a newer incarnation, in order to preserve the gods' rule (or the authority of the State, the collective, if you wish), lest, as Fricka warned, all social restraint and order will be lost, we are seeing play out now in China's latest experiment in striving to set the proper balance between unleashing the vast creative potential of its 1.3 or so billion individuals, and maintaining a unified state and social order. But as we see, with the porous boundaries which are the byproduct of the internet, internal economic development, and international relations and trade and the instant dissemination of ideas, this balance is volatile and ever-shifting.
(56) [MB - P. 218-220] Siegfried is not a dramatic failure; he is portrayed with ruthless realism. Wagner's audience must come to terms with the hero's boorishness, even his ill-treatment of Mime ... . The craftsmanship of an Hephaestus, the beauty of an Apollo, and the military prowess of an Ares: these might be idealised and united in Siegfried, yet the ugly side to his personality is no miscalculation. Only through acceptance of this harsh lesson will the re-forging of a sword of revolution - accomplished with fire - render possible the renewal of the political art of the Greek polis, the artwork of the future.
... Wagner's tendency always veered towards charisma rather than canaille. (...) Stolzing [in "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg"] ... arrives from nowhere - at least so far as Nuremberg is concerned - to rejuvenate a moribund community, cheered on by the populace. Yet, like Wotan in his 'charismatic' dream of Valhalla, he is advised to seek true inspiration in the 'inner world' of dreams. Stirner had written: 'The unique person will work himself forth out of society all right, but society brings forth no unique person.' Wagner was fully aware of this, ensuring that his heroes came from without society. Donington makes an interesting comparison with the mythological cult hero, whose birth and upbringing are not those of other men. This is true for both Siegmund and Siegfried, in addition to various other Wagner heroes, the most extreme example being that of Parsifal, brought up in such ignorance that he cannot even give Gurnemanz his name. Siegmund and Sieglinde, it should be noted, only discover their names and identity in each other, remaining outcasts from bourgeois society. The ancient tradition of the foundling's return is both intensified and subverted, for Wagner's heroes, like Christ, come not to bring peace to a depraved world, but come 'with a sword' to rupture depravity. Both Volsung heroes have been set apart from society, Siegmund by outlawry and Siegfried by seclusion; neither possess a compromising stake in the political world.
[PH] In all likelihood Berry is referencing Warren Darcy, and perhaps also Michael Tanner, among other scholars, when he combats here the popular notion that Siegfried's presence in the "Ring" after Wagner allegedly renounced his hopes for a social and cultural revolution in the face of his growing Schopenhauerian pessimism, is superfluous, for Berry argues instead that Siegfried's presence is nonetheless dramatically coherent. Darcy, for instance, said that Siegfried had become dramatically superfluous once Wagner decided to place Wotan and his eventual resignation at the center of the "Ring," and that Siegfried merely repeats all of Wotan's mistakes. All these scholars make this crucial mistake because they fail to appreciate that Siegfried is Wagner's metaphor for the music-dramatist, who falls heir to religious feeling (the longing for transcendent value) when religious faith can no longer be sustained as a concept. Berry's attempts to grasp the ugliness of Siegfried's treatment of Mime and later of Bruennhilde are in my view poorly motivated and argued: he simply doesn't grasp who Siegfried is, in Wagner's allegorical scheme, in spite of the evidence I've quoted from Berry's book that Siegfried could indeed be construed as Wagner's idea of the archetypal artist. Though Berry hints in his remark above that Siegfried's ruthlessness is somehow a necessary component of the revolutionary renewal of the political art of the Greek polis, the artwork of the future (an insight culled from Nattiez), Berry doesn't follow this up and therefore doesn't grasp Siegfried's loving union with Bruennhilde as Wagner's metaphor for the music-dramatist's unconscious artistic inspiration (i.e., secular art, especially music, as the new religion, an idea expressed in a variety of ways by both Feuerbach and Wagner in their writings), and therefore seems to be wholly at sea in his efforts to construe the significance of Siegfried's words and actions in "Twilight of the Gods" (as I will demonstrate later in this critique).
Berry adds that all of Wagner's charismatic characters come from outside society, and he cites Parsifal as the extreme case, who can't even tell who he himself is, and doesn't remember his name. But my interpretation explains this in each and every relevant Wagnerian instance. After Elsa offered to share with Lohengrin the secret knowledge of his true identity and origin, in order to protect him from suffering the consequences (the "Noth", or danger) of revealing this dangerous knowledge to the world, Wagner looked inward and realized that his heroine-muse could best redeem the artist-hero and protect him from Wotan's danger, the danger of an excess of conscious self-knowledge, by keeping this secret even from the hero, by keeping it for him so he need not fear its exposure to the light of day. Thus the heroine becomes the hero's unconscious mind and source of inspiration, his womb of night. This is where the idea that Wotan, through his confession to Bruennhilde, represses his loathsome self-knowledge of his true, craven identity, and corrupt history (his divine "Noth") into his unconscious, comes from. Thus Siegfried doesn't know who he is, but Bruennhilde does. Thus Walther doesn't grasp the basis of his unconscious inspiration by his muse Eva, but Eva, who received Sachs's confession of this secret, does. Thus Isolde protects Tristan from the danger of unveiling the secret of his true identity until Tristan, like Siegfried, unwittingly reveals the dangerous contents of his unconscious mind to his audience (in this case, King Marke), by giving his muse (his unconscious mind and its fearful contents) away to Marke. Likewise, Parsifal doesn't know who he is, but Kundry knows for him. Likewise, Venus possesses the secret of the true source of Tannhaeuser's unconscious artistic inspiration, which is not divine but what religious folk would identify with hell, i.e., the earthly, and Tannhaeuser, under a spell brought on by his obliviousness to his surroundings, his fearlessness, when enraptured by inspiration, inadvertently reveals the secret of his true source of artistic inspiration in the Venusberg, an inspiration which heretofore (it being unconscious) he would forget each time he had obtained the inspiration he needed there, and call it instead divine (male, not female, God-the-Father, not Venus) inspiration. Similarly, the Dutchman fears that Senta doesn't fully appreciate the danger entailed in knowing fully who he is, and fears that Senta's offer to redeem him from his - so to speak - unhealing wound, a redemption predestined ultimately to failure (but perhaps temporarily effective), will lead her to share his damnation which knows no redemption. This of course is the position Wotan put Bruennhilde in by making his confession to her: she had to bear not only his sins but the punishment for them. This is all quite rational and systematic, once one grasps who the hero and heroine really are.
(57) [MB - P. 224-225] It is no coincidence that those who bring Feuerbach's gospel to 'a world that did not yet know love' are also those who break the world's oaths, nor that the loveless world's counter-attack is spearheaded - in both senses - by the swearing of further oaths. The malignity of the oath of blood-brotherhood sworn, at Hagen's instigation, by Siegfried and Gunther is underlined by lugubrious tubas and trombones, starkly intoning motifs of the ring's curse [#51] and the spear [#21], thereby combining the worst of Alberich's and Wotan's power-lust. (...) Wagner intends that his audience shed no tears for the oath's transgression. (...) Bruennhilde herself, in the Immolation Scene, grants Siegfried ecstatic absolution in her eulogy.
Never more nobly
Were oaths sworn;
Never more truly
Were treaties kept;
Never more greatly
Did anyone love;
And yet, every oath,
The truest love -
No one betrayed as did he!
This, despite having extolled, in the Prologue, the quasi-marital oaths that bound them together.
[PH] Berry notes that though the Volsungs are placed in the world by Wotan to break his own oath to the Giants (by winning back from Fafner Alberich's Ring, to prevent Alberich from regaining possession of it and destroying - faith in - the gods), this is avenged in Siegfried's betrayal of Wotan's higher purpose when Siegfried swears his own oath of blood-brotherhood with Gunther, accompanied by Wotan's own Spear Motif #21 (ironically, the very spear Siegfried had previously broken) and Alberich's Curse Motif #51. Berry says that Siegfried, while honoring his oath, breaks his love oath to Bruennhilde. It is in "Jesus of Nazareth", I've noted in previously copyrighted papers, that Wagner discusses the contradiction which lies at the root of oath-taking, that it implicitly expresses the lack of faith of the parties to it, by expressing their fear of betrayal. Wagner's critique of oath-taking is related to his critique (presumably Feuerbach-inspired) of free will, for he says in several places that no action is really free, because any action is either the inevitable product of any given person's true identity (in which case it is not free but determined, though inwardly), or it is the result of an artificial outside constraint, in which case it is also not free. In other words, Wagner agreed with both Feuerbach and Schopenhauer that there is no truly free action, because such an action would be random both in respect to the inherent character of the performer of the act, and in respect to the outward circumstances which compelled them, which would make it meaningless. Of course, quantum physicists argue (if I understand them aright) that at its root reality is random (but of course allowing for statistical probabilities, which reintroduce form and determination into the seeming randomness, again if I understand rightly).
End of Part Four; Edited/Revised on 6/22/12
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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