Part Five: Review of "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire."

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Part Five: Review of "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire."

Post by alberich00 » Tue Jun 12, 2012 1:22 pm

(58) [MB - P. 226] Wotan belongs to ... a group of 'high-laced, aged, and experienced people who in their youth were themselves dilettantes in political freedom ... These men now try to hide their physical and spiritual laxity under the veil of that much abused word, "experience".' The impatient Siegfried heeds Bakunin's advice that there is ultimately 'no profit' in 'speaking with these people: they were never serious about freedom ... they are old and are going to die soon bon gre mal gre.' Like Christ, Siegfried heralds 'freedom,' as 'a new religion, the religion of our time,' to quote Heine. The old religion's vacillations and accommodationism must be ruthlessly swept away. Wotan recognises this, at the end of "The Valkyrie - even if later he attempts unsuccessfully to soften the verdict - when he declares that one man alone shall be fit to awaken Bruennhilde, he who is 'freer than I, the god'. To a pre-sentiment - if not quite the first - of the Siegfried motif [#92] ... , and therefore a moment of considerable dramatic, indeed revolutionary, import, he eliminates any alternative contender, foretelling: 'He who fears the point of my spear shall never pass through the fired.' (...) No man from within existing society could possibly fulfil this criterion.

[PH] Berry says that like Jesus, Siegfried heralds a new religion. Wagner got his idea of a new religion to replace the old from, among other writers, Feuerbach, as Berry says, but long before I was even aware of the full scope of Feuerbach's influence on Wagner I grasped that Siegfried's capacity to produce a redemptive art in union with his muse of inspiration, Bruennhilde, would provide the new religion, and that in this sense (as with Walther Von Stolzing), Siegfried could be compared with Jesus, as the New Testament for Christians heralds a new religion, which grew out of Old Testament Judaism. In other words, in my reading, Wagner's secular art stood to the dogmas of orthodox Christian Faith as the New Testament stood to the Old Testament in orthodox Christian theology, and as Wotan, taken as the law-enforcing God-the-Father, stood to the loving savior Siegfried. Though Berry provides some provocative hints throughout his book, he never quite gets down to cases by identifying this new religion with Wagner's art (though one might have thought he would, given his familiarity with Nattiez's thesis). I believe it is because Berry doesn't follow this lead to its natural conclusion that he gets into some trouble reading Siegfried in the parts of his book devoted to "Siegfried" and "Twilight of the Gods."

Berry notes that Wotan, in effect, recognizes Siegfried as the herald of this new religion in the finale of "The Valkyrie" when he says that only one freer than him, the god, will have the courage to penetrate Wotan's ring of protective fire (Loge's secrets) to wake and win Bruennhilde. The basis for Siegfried the artist-hero's being freer than the god Wotan is to be found in Feuerbach's assertion that once art (and science) freed itself from the stranglehold of religious faith and its egoism and fear of the truth, it freed religious feeling (music/Bruennhilde) from religious thought (Wotan) and from religious faith's illusory claim to the power of truth (the Ring), thus freeing religious feeling from all that is prosaic and egoistic (all that is Mime-like) in religion's claims. Wagner echoed this concept in many of his writings, and dramatized it in Siegfried's freedom from Wotan's direct, conscious influence. And Bruennhilde, whom Siegfried is free to win, is the muse of art divorced now from her former bond with religion (Wotan and the gods). This latter concept has been central to my copyrighted work on the "Ring" since 1983.

(59) [MB - P. 227-228] In Act II of "Die Walkuere," brought to his knees by the dialectical contradictions of law, Wotan has already informed Bruennhilde:

Only one man can could do
that which I cannot;
a hero, whom I never
inclined myself to help;
who, independently of the god,
and free of his patronage,
and not at his [the god's] behest,
solely from his [the hero's] own need
and with his own weapon,
might do the deed [Tat],
which I must shun,
and never urged upon him by my counsel,
though it were my wish alone.
He who would fight for me
against the god,
the friendly foe,
how might I find him?
How might I create the free man,
whom I never protected,
who, through his own defiance,
is yet closest to me?

There remain problems, to put it mildly, in the dialectic outlined by Wotan, not least the question as to the 'freedom' of heroes Wotan speaks of creating. Should a similar web of power and law be re-created, the same impasse will be reached. Does an unconscious deed, that Fichtean reine Tathandlung which appears to be necessary for a hero to act independently of Wotan, stand any chance of success? Is Stirner's claim that ' "I", from whom I start, am not a thought, nor do I consist in thinking,' that 'thoughtlessness ... frees me from possession,' a snare rather than a force for liberation? Hess's criticism, that Stirner's 'Unique One' is nothing more than a precocious child, must be borne in mind. How much of a weapon is lack of guile, even armed with a sword, when faced with Wotan and Alberich (the latter via Hagen's proxy)? The objective powers of state and capital are not mere illusions. (...) In Hegelian terms, a crucial question relates to whether what I shall call a 'secondary naivete' is possible, and if so, to whether Wagner's heroes, in particular Siegfried, attain it: tragic irony indeed.

[PH] Berry now discusses Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde (V.2.2), and suggests that Wotan in his confession is brought to his knees by law's (his spear's) contradictions. Wotan tells Bruennhilde he needs a free hero but can't make him. Berry then asks whether unconsciousness can successfully engender a revolution, and quotes Stirner to the effect that thoughtlessness can free one from the dangers of possession. Not having read Stirner myself, I can see how Stirner's concept might, if Wagner read it, have influenced Wagner's evolving conception of Siegfried's autonomy, but there is already much more cogent source material in Feuerbach's writings and in Wagner's obvious paraphrases of them. Berry seems to me to be wholly unable throughout his book to make anything of Siegfried's ignorance of his origin and identity and his related fearlessness (a perusal of virtually any passage in which Berry discusses these subjects proves my point dramatically), but my interpretation of Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde, and how this figuratively gives birth to the artist-hero Siegfried, easily makes sense of virtually dozens of hitherto confusing passages and events in the "Ring," especially those relating to Siegfried's naivete, alleged innocence, unconsciousness, guiltlessness, thoughtlessness, and spontaneously acting upon Wotan's subliminal influence (via Bruennhilde, who represents both Wotan's and Siegfried's unconscious mind and repository of the true source of their inspiration). Wotan said it all in his remark to Siegfried (quoted elsewhere by Berry) that where Siegfried knows nothing he knows how to get his way. Siegfried's ignorance of self is his virtue, not his vice (as Berry suggests repeatedly because, I believe, he doesn't understand it), the very source of his fearlessness and heroism. As Siegfried himself says in T.P.2, he is but Bruennhilde's (his unconscious mind and muse of inspiration) arm, and all his courage is owing to her, in whom he can forget his (i.e., Wotan's) fear.

By the way, apropos of my reading of Siegfried as Wagner's metaphor for himself, the secular artist-hero, heir to dying religious faith, Wagner on more than one occasion described himself, the music-dramatist, as a pre-fallen being.

(60) [MB - P. 228-229] Fricka has lain bare Wotan's self-delusion regarding Siegmund. Siegmund nonetheless attains freedom through his own offices - the only way to do so - in his spontaneous union with Sieglinde and his rejection of Valhalla. He might even be regarded as a greater hero than Siegfried, for he is not unaware of the laws and customs he is transgressing, nor of the price he might pay. However, Notung at this stage remains Wotan's sword - and therefore Siegmund's undoing; the spear of law can yet splinter the created sword. (...) Yet Siegmund may, in his consciousness, still prove capable of acting the part of the Hegelian world-historical individual. As we read in the "Philosophy of History," such a figure need not have consciousness of the general Idea being unfolded. (...)
Siegmund serves, like many a failed revolutionary, as a harbinger for future attempts.

[PH] Berry, perhaps following Cooke's lead, suggests that Siegmund is a greater hero than Siegfried because Siegmund is courageous in the face of his knowledge of death and the price he must pay for his love for Sieglinde, whereas Siegfried is merely ignorant of fear, unable to feel it. Again, I think that Berry doesn't grasp in what sense Siegfried is fearless because he hasn't absorbed Feuerbach's thesis (and Wagner's paraphrases of it) that with the decline of religious faith (in the face of rising secularism and the inevitable accumulation of scientific knowledge of man and nature), inspired secular art falls heir to religious feeling and the longing for transcendent meaning, but discards religious faith's conceptual apparatus and its compromises and contradictions and inability to come to grips with the truth (Wotan's two-sided "Noth"). He describes Siegmund as a failed revolutionary. Of course Wotan, as the allegedly spiritual guarantor of stable society, must back up Fricka's insistence that religious faith in the gods can't even admit the possibility that it is under threat from the truth (and therefore requires mortal protectors), so Wotan must defend Fricka's honor and can't openly and consciously support his social revolutionary Siegmund.

Berry declares Siegmund a failed revolutionary, but initially it appears that he failed not because of any intrinsic failure, but because of outside forces he couldn't control. But Wotan's critique of Siegmund is more to the point, that Siegmund's revolutionary instincts are the product of a received tradition of heroism which is as much a part of our cultural heritage as the more mundane customs and laws which regulate the lives of more common men with common abilities and attributes. Wotan, having come to see himself (Light-Alberich) as an egoist like Alberich, and to loathe himself, traces Siegmund's apparent heroism and love back to Wotan's own loathsome, egoistic motives in seeking redemption. In my interpretation Siegmund, for himself, remains uncompromisingly heroic, and sympathetic, but Wotan (collective, historical man), of whom Siegmund (moral revolutionary heroes) is a subset, sees through Siegmund's heroism and love, that they are products of Wotan's own egoistic legacy and man's futile longing to transcend his egoistic nature (Wotan taught Siegmund his heroism and love and revolutionary fervor in the forest while bringing him up, i.e., instilled in him an individualist's conscience, away from the society of conventional men).

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(61) [MB - P. 229] Bruennhilde's subsequent defiance of Wotan, willing the deed which his unfree will must prevent, is perhaps most impressive of all; whereas the Volsungs have nothing to lose, she sacrifices her divinity. That she thereby gains humanity does not lessen the trauma of a deed which Wotan - let alone the other gods - is never willing to countenance. She has discovered, through Siegmund's love for his sister, her own heart: Feuerbach's truly revolutionary organ. Hitherto 'regarded as a breastwork of theology,' the heart was in fact 'the positively anti-theological principle,' which denied any objective distinction between God and man.

[PH] Berry notes that Bruennhilde discovers her own Feuerbachian-heart in Siegmund's love for Sieglinde, and that this heart (following Feuerbach's argument) denies any distinction between God and man. It is partly in this sense that the alleged God Wotan (actually, Wagner's figure for collective, historical man, i.e., God as Feuerbach defines him) lives on in Siegfried, just as religious feeling lives on in secular art, according to both Feuerbach and Wagner. This thesis has been a feature of my copyrighted work since at least my first detailed attempt to incorporate my Feuerbach anthology into my analysis of the "Ring" in 2003-2004.

(62) [MB - P. 229-233] Siegfried appears to heed this possibility [the heart which denies the distinction between God and man], yet is possessed of a fatal flaw. He is, in Wapnewski's words, 'the rebel without consciousness', and thus quite unlike Siegmund or, indeed, Bruennhilde. Why should, how could, he heed the enigmatic words of an old man - to the Volsung, less enigmatic than nonsensical?

I see, my son,
that whilst you know nothing,
you still know how to get your own way..
With the eye which,
as my other, is missing,
you yourself may glimpse the one
which remains with me to see.

That Siegfried cannot heed these words points to his undoing. (...) For all his 'freedom', Siegfried, as illustrated by the ease with which he falls into Hagen's trap, remains ensnared in the dialectic of law and the state, and thus a successor as much to Wotan's contradictory revolution from above as to Siegmund's conscious rebellion. (...) It is not the case, as Patrick McCreless claims, that Siegfried follows the path from 'brash youth, dependent upon ... Mime, to a free and self-determining individual'. Instead, his predicament resembles what Wagner perceived in Hamlet after he has spoken to the Ghost; neither hero has the ability to act consciously. Hamlet 'lacks restraint, the blinkers which everyone needs in order to be able to act.' The difference is that Hamlet's lack of restraint and his induced want of self-determination, whilst grave and eventually fatal, are still potentially more rectifiable than those of the boy without consciousness. Unblinkered and unconscious, Siegfried can see but cannot hope to understand, and Hagen's evil will not be defeated without being recognised. Unlike Hamlet, Siegfried can act, but that is not nearly enough.
Wagner's hero is not so much opposed to as unaware of those things which Stirner claims exist only for the mind: 'state, emperor, God, morality, order'. Once Wotan's spear has been shattered, or Fafner's lair stormed, that is the end of the matter, with no attempt made at construction. This is preferable to the fear (Furcht) that Siegfried never learns, the fear which has engendered the cunning of Mime, the avarice of Alberich, and Wotan's seeking for immortality. (...) Fearlessness does not, however, constitute conscious rejection. Wagner remarked to Cosima: 'Siegfried lives entirely in the present; he is the hero, the finest giver of the will.' He had written enthusiastically to Roeckel, that, in Siegfried, 'I have tried to depict what I understand as the most perfect human being, whose highest consciousness manifests itself solely in the most immediate vitality and action'. But Wagner the dramatist knows better: consciousness without a past or the ability to acquire one is impossible, or at least insufficient. Stirner might claim: 'The unfree son of the wilderness does not yet feel anything of all the limits that crowd a civilised man: he seems to himself freer than this latter.' (...) Yet Siegfried remains at the level of the brute; therein lies his tragedy and the revolution's.
Fafner accurately assesses Siegfried: 'You bright-eyed boy, who do not know yourself'. This is not in itself a problem, for self-knowledge, as in Parsifal's case, can be acquired. Yet, in Siegfried's case, it never is. Bruennhilde tells him that what he does not know, she will know for him: perfect as an illustration of the Feuerbachian union of 'I' and 'Thou', equally perfect as an illustration of the boy's stunted development. Siegfried's - the revolution's - awakening to consciousness never fully takes place, though there are glimmers. Tasting Fafner's blood enables the hero to understand bird-song, and thus better to relate to Nature. yet the partiality of his awakening, his blindness to politics, is brought into relief by the fullness of Bruennhilde's awakening. Siegfried has merely disregarded Fafner's warning of the ring curse, not overcome it. This has its positive side, in that he does not waste away his life in fear, yet his lack of consciousness means that the curse returns to destroy him, if from without rather than from within. Even to heed the Rhinemaidens' warning, and to return the ring to them, would not be enough, since he would not understand why. On the other hand, Bruennhilde, whilst claiming not to be wise, develops a humanity, a capacity for love, and a consciousness of the vices of the Gibichungs - notwithstanding her brief collaboration - which remain forever beyond Siegfried's capacity.
(...) That Siegfried's head can so easily be turned by Gutrune - or the potion of forgetfulness - is owed both to Hagen's cunning and lust for power and to Siegfried's lack of consciousness. This does not simply constitute a betrayal of Bruennhilde, but also of the Feuerbachian religion of love, which he and his bride had looked set to usher in. (...) The objective forces of state and capital prove more resilient on account of their entrenchment and this fatal weakness of the charismatic revolutionary, whose brute force can be enlisted without much difficulty by his enemy. The insufficiency of Stirner's rebellious egoism, of declaring that it is 'not thinking, but my thoughtlessness ... that frees me from possession,' is, in the face of social reality, readily apparent.
(...) Bakunin insisted that the 'victory of the Jacobins or the Blanquists would mean the death of the revolution,' but would not lack of organisation do so equally? The 'Siegfried problem' reflects this dilemma, Wagner coming to regard his hero as lacking even in tragic status. Cosima notes: 'after lunch, conversation about Siegfried and Bruennhilde, the former not a tragic figure, since he does not become conscious of his position, there is a veil over him since winning Bruennhilde for Gunther, he is quite unaware, though the audience knows. Wotan and Bruennhilde are tragic figures.'


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[PH] Here we have Berry's extensive and, I fear, ill-considered argument that Siegfried's ignorance of self is his fatal flaw. In one sense it is his fatal flaw, in that Wotan's need to repress his self-knowledge in order to protect himself from consciousness of Alberich's knowledge of the fatal truth is a virtual declaration of Alberich's (the bitter truth's) inevitable victory over man's futile longing for transcendent value, and anticipates the defeat of the gods and Volsung heroes by Alberich and Hagen. But that is not the sense in which Berry has meant what he has said. Berry seems not to grasp in what sense Siegfried's ignorance, the product of Bruennhilde's (Siegfried's unconscious mind's) magical protection, which frees Siegfried from suffering Wotan's paralyzing consciousness and fear of the end, is Siegfried's temporary virtue, until Siegfried unwittingly sabotages Bruennhilde's protective magic by giving his true love (and muse of unconscious artistic inspiration) away to another man, Gunther, who represents the artist Siegfried's audience. Berry remarks that Siegfried's inability to grasp what Wotan means when Wotan says that where Siegfried knows nothing, he gets his own way, is a flaw, when in fact it is the source of Siegfried's heroism and role as artist-redeemer. But Siegfried's status as the gods' (religious sentiment's) redeemer is only temporary, because the fatal flaw of all the heroes of religion and art is that they are on the side of illusion instead of truth. But this, I feel, is lost on Berry, who construes Siegfried vaguely as a sort of social revolutionary like his father Siegmund. If this were the case Warren Darcy would be right to claim that Siegfried is dramatically superfluous.

Berry inadvisedly links Siegfried with Hamlet. But Wagner linked Wotan with Hamlet. Like Hamlet, Wotan is so self-conscious of the bitter truth about the way of the world, and human nature, that he's paralyzed into inaction. It is precisely Siegfried's ignorance of Wotan's paralyzing self-knowledge (it being held for him by his muse Bruennhilde, to protect him from it), his seeming innocence (of Wotan's guilt, his consciousness of guilt), which allows him to act spontaneously where Wotan is unable to act at all. Berry notes accurately that Siegfried is unaware of things which exist only for the mind, like State, God, morality, but he fails to grasp that the cause of this was Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde, through which Wotan repressed his intolerable self-knowledge and thereby was reborn as Siegfried, the hero who is a hero precisely because, unlike Wotan, he doesn't know who he is, who is, therefore, Wotan himself minus conscious self-knowledge. There seems to be some confusion in Berry's rendering of Wagner's remark, recorded by Cosima, that Siegfried is the finest gift of the will, and therefore lives only in the present, for Berry says Siegfried is the finest "giver" of the will. As the finest "gift" of the will, i.e., as the finest gift of Bruennhilde, who holds for Siegfried the hoard of paralyzing knowledge of Wotan's awful past and foreboding future (the end), by virtue of letting Wotan make her the repository for his knowledge through his confession to her, it is Bruennhilde's magical protection which allows Siegfried to live in the present, not running from Wotan's past or fearing the doomed future in the twilight of the gods Erda foresaw. Though Berry quoted Bruennhilde's remark that she is Wotan's will, and noted Wotan's remark to Erda that Erda's knowledge wanes before Wotan's will, Berry failed to connect the dots to see that Erda's knowledge wanes before Wotan's Will Bruennhilde, by virtue of Wotan's having stored his fearful self-knowledge in Bruennhilde for safekeeping during his confession.

This has been a pillar of my developing interpretation of the "Ring" since I copyrighted my first effort at a unified interpretation of the "Ring" and Wagner's three other mature music-dramas in 1983, "The Doctrine of the Ring," and distributed it to nearly twenty scholars who presented papers at WAGNER IN RETROSPECT: A CENTENNIAL REAPPRAISAL, a conference sponsored by the Univ. of Illinois, Chicago Campus, in 11/83. Siegfried inherits this hoard of runes of Wotan's knowledge from Bruennhilde as his true but hidden, unconscious, source of artistic inspiration, but remains wholly unconscious of it, as Siegfried tells Bruennhilde in T.P.2. Siegfried lives only in the present, for Wagner said that through the wonder of his musical motifs of reminiscence and foreboding, through which we can feel instead of think (can know the world and ourselves through feeling/music), all time and space become present, here and now, and the problem of dramatic unity is solved. Wagner also stated that by virtue of his musical motifs, which convey to his audience the various characters' underlying motives, his libretto text could retain a naivete unknown to the spoken play. Siegfried is the living embodiment of this naivete. Bruennhilde is of course Wagner's metaphor both for the artist-hero's unconscious mind (his muse by virtue of possessing, for him, the bitter knowledge which, if conscious for him, would paralyze his creativity, but if unconscious, can subliminally and therefore safely influence him), and redemptive music, the source of Wagner's musical motifs.

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[PH] Berry states that Siegfried's taste of Fafner's blood allows him to better understand nature, and leaves the matter at that. Berry seems oblivious to the crucial significance in Wagner's allegorical scheme of Siegfried's ability to grasp the conceptual meaning behind the music of the Woodbird's song (Nattiez evidently was far more cognizant of the allegorical significance of this event), for it is no accident that when Siegfried sings the narrative of the story of his heroic life, under Hagen's influence, in T.3.2, Siegfried recalls the three key things which the Woodbird previously told him, namely, that Siegfried now owns the Nibelung Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring (and what's more, recalls their use, which the Woodbird initially taught him, but which he forgot moments later upon emerging from Fafner's cave with the Ring and Tarnhelm), that Siegfried will be able to see through Mime's covert intent to murder him for the sake of the Nibelung Hoard, and thus save himself, and that Siegfried should seek out the sleeping Bruennhilde within her ring of fire. In my interpretation, Siegfried's recitation of these three notions, i.e., of the original source of inspiration, the programme, of the Woodbird's music (of music in general), in T.3.2, is Wagner's play-within-the-play, his metaphor for his own "Ring" (a la Hamlet's play). It is Wagner's metaphor for his remark that, given his status as both writer and composer of his music-dramas, he had unique insight into the unconscious source of his own artistic inspiration which gave birth to the "Ring" (and by extension to his other inspired works). And it is of the utmost significance that this song of remembrance of Siegfried's past, a past which had partially remained unconscious, brings about his death-stroke, delivered by Hagen. In other words, by giving his muse of unconscious inspiration, Bruennhilde, away to his audience, and thus revealing her forbidden hoard of knowledge both to himself and to his audience, Siegfried lost his status as an unconsciously inspired artist-hero-redeemer. This has been a primary component of my interpretation of the "Ring" since I copyrighted my "The Doctrine of the Ring" at the Library of Congress in 1983.

The Woodbird's song (which as Cooke noted is a variation of Woglinde's Lullaby, #4) is Wagner's metaphor for the unique music of his music-dramas, a lullaby which keeps mankind from fully waking, which helps to restore to him a feeling that paradise, which has been lost, has been regained. This music (like Bruennhilde) protects the artist-hero and his audience from the full impact of the unhealing wound of too much consciousness (think here of Tristan's tortures in the sunlight of unbearable consciousness, removed as he is from the healing love of his muse Isolde, in "Tristan" Act Three). Given these considerations, Berry's offhand remark that Siegfried, by virtue of his taste of the dead Fafner's blood, learns a bit about nature, makes this crucial element of the "Ring" plot seem negligible, a throwaway moment.

Wotan had confessed to Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, his need for a hero who would preempt Alberich's intent to win back his Ring and its power, and overthrow the gods, a hero who would accomplish this without being aware that it is Wotan's fear of the truth which prompts the hero. Bruennhilde, i.e., Wotan's (mankind's) unconscious thought, is Siegfried's secret source of inspiration for all that he does, including his retrieval of the Tarnhelm and Ring from Alberich's Hoard hidden in Fafner's cave, under the Woodbird's (i.e., music's) subliminal inspiration. Note that Siegfried forgets the Tarnhelm's and Ring's use, which the Woodbird had taught him, as soon as he emerges from Fafner's cave with them. The point here is that what the Woodbird taught him it subliminally, through feeling, so that he has, in effect, taken aesthetic, rather than objective (power-driven) possession of the sources of Alberich's power, his Ring and Tarnhelm. Siegfried's amnesia occurs here for the same reason that Siegfried in T.P.2 tells Bruennhilde that he hasn't learned what she taught him ["Chide me not if your teaching left me untaught"] when she imparted to him the hoard of runes which she said she'd learned from the gods (i.e., from Wotan, through his confession). Siegfried remains unconscious of these runes because Bruennhilde holds this knowledge for Siegfried (as Bruennhilde told Siegfried, what he doesn't know she knows for him), and thus protects him from suffering from the consciousness of this hoard of knowledge, which so belabored Wotan that he simply couldn't go on.

Berry notes that Siegfried's ignorance can be corrected by acquiring self-knowledge, as Parsifal does, but Berry doesn't grasp the sense in which this is so. As I argue extensively in my studies of Parsifal (including my paper on Feuerbach's influence on Wagner's libretto for "Parsifal," published online on the website of the Wagner Society of Florida,; click on "resources," and then "texts on Wagner"; I also possess a dvd of a lecture which was the basis for this paper, which I presented to the Wagner Society of Boston, and which was recorded by a local tv station, which I will eventually post here at, Parsifal represents the artist-hero who, having gradually become (like Tristan and Siegfried) too conscious of his formerly unconscious identity (knowledge of himself as the artist-hero who could only be born through his mother, Nature's, death, knowledge held for him previously by his former muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, Kundry, in whom all of Wagner's former heroine-muses are reincarnated) to obtain unconscious artistic inspiration any more (as he did in his prior incarnations, his prior lives), and having grasped in a single moment of intuition the full price mankind (Amfortas, with his unhealing wound) has historically had to pay in order to sustain the illusion of man's transcendent value, Parsifal renounces redemptive art and his former muse of inspiration Kundry, and restores Mother Nature (who, as an artist-hero, he had denied, by perpetuating religion's world-denial in his art) to her rights, thereby ending religious and artistic man's sin against his Mother, Nature, Wotan's sin against all that was, is, and will be. Only in this way can Alberich's curse on his Ring be ended, and the unhealing wound healed.

(63) [MB - P. 233-234] In the narrative section leading towards the funeral music, Siegfried, recounting his deeds, finally appears to attain consciousness of those deeds and of some, at least, of their significance. (...) Siegfried's memory restored and some measure of consciousness attained, the hero is slain by Hagen.. We then hear the motif previously associated with Bruennhilde's awakening ... , indicating that Siegfried and the revolution have at last been permitted similarly to awaken 'to light, to life, and the highest form of existence'. (...) Wagner hereby illustrates a point made in Feuerbach's "Thoughts on Death and Immortality," namely, that 'recollection ... is also the ground of your death; in recollection, your being is glorified and transformed into ideal being, into the being of representation.' Such is a healthy conception of immortality, wherein the hero's finite and compromised individuality is subsumed into the life of immanent Spirit.

[PH] Berry notes that in the process of singing to the Gibichungs in T.3.2 the narrative of his prior life, Siegfried finally seems to gain some consciousness of the significance of his deeds. Berry is correct, up to a point. But Berry doesn't quite grasp the full scope and depth of what is transpiring in Wagner's allegory.
Siegfried's narrative of the story of his heroic life, in the presence of an audience, and instigated by Hagen, is Wagner's metaphor for his production of his own "Ring" before his audience, a Hamlet-like play with the play, and, as in Hamlet, Siegfried's completion of his own story culminates in his doom. The allegorical significance is that Wagner is telling us that his own "Ring," the central work of his life, has betrayed the secret of unconscious artistic inspiration, the last refuge of religion (the gods in Valhalla), to the light of conscious day (having, under Hagen's influence, effectively ripped out of the womb of night Siegfried's own secret, a secret Bruennhilde had kept, just as Isolde had kept the secret of Tristan's true identity until Tristan himself unwittingly exposed it to the light of day by giving his muse of inspiration and temporary healer of the unhealing wound, Isolde, to another man, his audience, Marke). Siegfried exposed all this in a secular, scientific world dominated by Hagens. According to both Feuerbach and Wagner, when religious faith (embodied in Wotan and in his wife Fricka's conscientious tending of the gods' sacred honor) could no longer sustain itself in the world as a concept, it took refuge in feeling, music, but now, Siegfried has unwittingly restored to this music the conceptual apparatus which had been jettisoned (i.e., Wagner, in recounting, in the "Ring," the entire history and pre-history which culminated in his own art, betrayed its secret, the forbidden knowledge formerly hidden in the womb of night, the unconscious, to the light of day, as Alberich predicted his hoard would some day rise up from the silence of night to destroy the gods). The Woodbird's song, whose secret Siegfried alone could access during unconscious artistic inspiration, is Wagner's metaphor for his unique brand of music, and for his musical motifs, which, according to Wagner himself, disclose to his audience the profoundest secret of the poet's hidden intent (even an intent hidden from the poet himself, in his unconscious mind), an intent which Wagner acknowledged remained a mystery even to the authentic artist, Wagner, himself.

(64) [MB - P. 237] Feuerbach's reticence as to the nature of a non-alienating form of religion fused with Wagner's own growing conviction that love could be a force more destructive of than beneficial to societal development. Though preceded by two glorious love-duets, Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's respective entrances into society are conspicuous for their lack of success. Bruennhilde, her flesh become mortal, is left with no knowledge save that of love, which Wagner had initially thought no bad thing. Yet not only is it not enough; it leads her to betrayal every inch as foul as Siegfried's perfidy.

[PH] Berry suggests that in the "Ring" Wagner's Schopenhauerian critique of love (which even Berry admits fails to redeem in the context of the "Ring" drama, though Berry evidently doesn't grasp that for Wagner romantic love between the sexes is Wagner's metaphor for unconscious artistic inspiration) is fused with Feuerbach's reticence about an unalienating form of religion. But Feuerbach wasn't reticent about this: he said quite directly that secular art, and particularly music, would fall heir to religious feeling when religion as an idea, a thought (Wotan's thought, which Bruennhilde could only feel), was declining in the modern, secular, scientific world. This is the meaning of Bruennhilde's remark to Siegfried, which Siegfried doesn't understand but only feels (reminding us of Walther von Stolzing in "Mastersingers" Act II, during Sachs's confession to Eva), that what Wotan thought (Wotan's confession to her), she felt, and that what Wotan thought, and she felt, was merely her love for Siegfried (i.e., that religion, the gods, would be redeemed by finding refuge in feeling/music, in Wagner's music-dramas, and particularly in the "Ring")

Temporarily signing off at 2:39pm on 6/14/12.

Signing on at 4:03pm on 6/14/12:

(65) [MB - P. 238] Feuerbach's blindness to the dark realm of the subconscious, to what Schopenhauer termed 'the obvious imperfection and even burlesque distortion of the most perfect' of the world's phenomena, man, had resulted in a void. The Wagnerian will-to-power fills this void. Alberich's Liebesgelueste prefigured and, subsequently, developed the Schopenhauerian principium individuationis - not to mention its anticipation of Nietzsche. It was not simply a matter of Alberich, Wotan, or even Siegfried having committed crimes; something quite extraordinary would be required to divert any man from his overwhelming inclination to attain and to exercise power, be it economic, political, religious, charismatic, familial or erotic. (...) The will, or Will, must somehow be broken. If revolution had proven unequal to the task of defeating Wotan's desperate 'two-faced necessity', might renunciation transcend its dialectic?
(...) Like the Romantics before him, Wagner's sense of anomie in a disenchanted world, a world yet replete with the anguish of Machtpolitik, led to a quasi-religious conversion. This conversion offered to halt the power-wheel of Ixion when love proved unequal to the task.

[PH] Berry also surprises by declaring that Feuerbach's blindness to the unconscious left a void which Wagner filled with his concept of the will-to-power in economic matters, politics, religious faith, charismatic heroism, family, and eros. This surprises because Feuerbach wasn't at all blind to the unconscious. In fact, Berry should have recalled here that earlier in his book he cited Feuerbach's remark that in religious belief man dreams while waking, reinterpreting the objective world in accordance with subjective, involuntary fantasy. In my copyrighted work from the early 2000's I cite Feuerbach extensively on the subject of man's collective dreaming, his unconscious and involuntary production of religious beliefs and art, and many of those passages have been incorporated into the current version of my book, "The Wound That Will Never Heal," which is posted here at

Berry adds that Wotan turns to his religious (Schopenhauerian) conversion, his denial of his Will, when love and revolution are unable to offer him the redemption he desired. But Berry traces that renunciation to Wotan's second and final confrontation with Erda in S.3.1, which Berry describes as the turning point at which Wotan finally wills his own annihilation. Berry seems to contradict himself in saying at the same time that Wotan has delusional hope in Siegfried and Bruennhilde. What Berry doesn't see is that Wotan is only able to will his and his fellow gods' annihilation, and free himself from his fear of that end which Erda predicted, because he lives on, feelingly, in the love which Siegfried and Bruennhilde share, which is Wagner's metaphor for his revolutionary and secular art, and particularly the redemptive art of his mature music-dramas, in which religion (the gods) can live on minus the encumbrance of its false and indefensible claim to represent truth (a claim to the power of Alberich's Ring).

(66) [MB - P. 240-241] Boulez makes the ... observation that, in the wake of the French Revolution, artists had cast themselves as symbols of redemption:

But as this universal ambition proved illusory, the artist turned inward and began to develop his imagination in the direction suggested by his gifts, though
infecting with his pessimism the society that had rejected him in his role as prophet. After all, it is painfully disenchanting to be obliged to renounce the
idea of reforming the world and to content oneself with 'artistic' reforms, or even [artistic] revolutions.

'It was no fluke,' Dahlhaus writes, 'that Schopenhauer's philosophy should have struck Wagner with such force at the very time when he was composing "Die
Walkuere." His convictions were always inclined to develop out of his works, rather than vice versa. For Wotan to resolve to will but one thing, the end,
took on increasingly metaphysical, as well as political, implications.

[PH] Berry quotes Boulez to the effect that after the French Revolution self-proclaimed artist-redeemers began to turn inward when outward efforts at social and political revolution failed to offer redemption, but doesn't seem to recognize how this insight can be applied to the understanding of Wotan's relationship with his heir, the artist-hero Siegfried, who is not (as Berry claims), a social revolutionary, but a revolutionary artist-hero, who has already turned inward to his unconscious mind and muse, Bruennhilde, for artistic inspiration. It is well known that Wagner himself openly renounced social revolution as a means to redemption in the wake of the suppression of the revolutionary movement in France in the early 1850's (which seemed to seal the doom of the revolutions of 1848-1849 in which Wagner had participated), and stated he would now turn inward to his art.

(67) [MB - P. 242-243] Wagner contrasts the Wanderer with Siegfried, 'who cannot be made by us, since he must create [schaffen] himself on the basis of our own annihilation'. The Wanderer, however, 'resembles us to a tee; he is the sum-total of present day intelligence'. (...) ... that form which 'our own annihilation' is to take already appears to assume a metaphysical, world-renouncing tinge. The political Wotan's punishment for Bruennhilde had been, in her words, 'no longer to act [schaffen] with you,' and would lead, in her reunion with Waltraute, to a doomed, illusory, almost fundamentalist, faith in the power of love. Wotan as the Wanderer will no longer act at all.
Indeed, as the Wanderer tells Alberich: 'I have come to observe, not to act [schaffen].' Schaffen also suggests creation, thereby alluding to Valhalla and the creation of law and the state. These 'creative' spheres no longer appear to interest Wotan. (...) During the second act, the contrast between the Wanderer's noble resignation and Alberich's still insatiable lust for power and revenge, between the god's newly serene music and that of his frenetic foe, is abundantly clear. Alberich still threatens to storm Valhalla and to rule the world. The god claims not to worry: 'Whoever wins the ring shall command it.' Thus it is Alberich who remains utterly in thrall to the ring's true curse, unable to think of anything else. The Wanderer annuls the ring's power by seeing it for the illusion (Schopenhauerian Wahn) that it is.
(...) It is only 'insight into the ground of being,' writes Schopenhauer, which may grant 'true satisfaction and thorough knowledge'. Such insight would produce a man who would no more believe in societal perfection than he would, 'with Homer, set up a whole Olympus [or Valhalla] full of gods to guide the events of time'. Rather, like Wotan, he would embark upon preparations for the end, accepting the inner nature of the world to be 'the crucified Saviour', not the optimistic Creator. Mime, still very much the 'specialist', can no more accept this than forge the sword. As the Wanderer tells him, many are the cases in
which a man 'has imagined [waehnte] himself wise, yet what he needed he did not know'. Mime disdains the opportunity to learn, trying unsuccessfully to outwit his guest.

[PH] Berry observes that Bruennhilde sticks by redemption through love when the Wanderer and observer Wotan (who told Alberich in S.2.1 that he will no longer strive against Alberich for possession of the Ring's power, but now wishes only to observe) has broken his Will. Berry adds that Wotan serenely renounces the Ring's power as merely Wahn, while Alberich's unflagging lust for the Ring's power shows he's still under its curse. Berry is wrong on both counts.
Berry has imported Schopenhauer's metaphysics where it doesn't belong, namely, his assumption that for Wotan the phenomenal world - which is the object of scientific knowledge, and the source of Alberich's Ring-power - is Wahn. For the underlying Feuerbachian assumption of the entire "Ring" is that religious belief and art are Wahn, whereas time, space, matter, energy, and the laws of nature, which are the object of our knowledge, are real. Schopenhauer's concepts have nothing to do with the case and are out of place here.

Long before Wagner read Schopenhauer he spoke of music as having the capacity to make us feel as if we are transcendent, without establishing the fact of transcendence as religious faith strives to do. Siegfried's apparent ability to snap the rope of fate spun by the Norns is merely figurative, a product of his unconscious artistic inspiration, in which he lives in the moment and seems to have escaped the bonds of time, space, matter, and causality (or whatever laws of motion guide the world). Note that the Norns' scene T.P.1 is sandwiched in between the two Siegfried-Bruennhilde love duets of S.3.3 and T.P.2, implying that what occurs in the Norns' scene is a product of the seemingly magical transformations brought about by Siegfried's unconscious artistic inspiration by his muse Bruennhilde, with whom he's in union both before and after (and perhaps even during) the Norns' scene. Siegfried succumbs to Alberich's curse, to his wakening consciousness of the objective truth, in spite of his S.3.3 and T.P.2 ecstasies in loving union with his muse Bruennhilde.

Furthermore, Alberich is not in fact subject to his curse on his Ring in the sense that Wotan and his fellow gods and heroes/heroines are, for Alberich designed his curse specifically to punish religious and artistic world-renunciation (Wotan's sin against Erda's objective knowledge of all that was, is, and will be), or pessimism, i.e., to punish those who would employ Alberich's Ring-power, the power of the human mind and its imagination, to substitute consoling illusion for bitter truth. Following Feuerbach's lead, Wagner presents in Alberich an egoist whose egoism falls within the bounds of the possibility of satisfaction because he only wills the possible (in the sense of what is historically possible for collective humanity, which Wotan represents), whereas Wotan and the gods and heroes will the impossible, the transcendent, which is indeed a Schopenhauerian unassuageable desire, and the true origin of Alberich's curse on the Ring.

No, Wotan does not annihilate his Will in his confrontation with Erda when he tells her that he wills his own demise, since, as Wotan tells Erda, Siegfried is free from Alberich's curse and Bruennhilde will redeem the world. Wotan still claims Alberich's Ring, and its power, through his proxies, the artist-hero Siegfried and his muse of inspiration and unconscious mind Bruennhilde, who must somehow keep the Ring out of Alberich's (conscious thought's) hands, by putting it back to sleep and living within the waking dream of art, and especially music, the last refuge of religious faith. Wotan lives on in them. Berry himself quoted Wagner to the effect that Wotan lives on in Siegfried. He should have realized that in this sense Wotan doesn't at all still his Will. Wotan has simply acknowledged, based on Feuerbach's and Wagner's reasoning, if you will, that religion must die as a concept (in this sense willing renunciation) in order to live on as feeling in secular art (thus restoring the very will-to-power which Wotan had allegedly renounced, a la Wagner's critique of Schopenhauer's concept that redemption can only come through stilling of the Will).

End of Part Five (Part Five of Eight Parts); Edited/Revised on 6/22/12.
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