(68) [MB - P. 243-244] Wagner delayed several years before progressing to Wotan's final step of renunciation. (...) Just as one speaks of a 'Feuerbach ending', albeit discarded, one might speak, for example, of 'Feuerbach peripeteiae'. Both Wotan and Bruennhilde experience Feuerbachian conversions to love, and Siegmund rejects Valhalla. (...) From the Schopenhauerian standpoint, Wotan's renunciation of acting for observing remains crucial. Nevertheless, the first scene of Act III to "Siegfried" should ultimately rank as the principle turning-point. In order to marshal his resources, Wagner felt compelled to put the "Ring" on one side, at times despairing of completion. The intervening years (1857-1869) were not fallow. Schopenhauerian influence fed directly in to "Tristan and Isolde" and "The Mastersingers," increasing the composer's compositional facility and his intellectual preparation for the remainder of the "Ring." Writing to Roeckel, Wagner refers with hostility at as early a stage as 1856 - and also back-dates his unease - to the so-called 'Feuerbach ending' to "Goetterdaemmerung," in which:
Bruennhilde addresses those around her, ... [turning] their attention away from the reprehensibility of ownership to the love which alone brings
happiness; and yet I had (unfortunately!) never really sorted out in my own mind what I meant by this 'love' which, in the course of the myth we saw
appearing as utterly devastating. What blinded me in the case of this one particular passage was the interference of my conceptual meaning. ... it
required a complete revolution in my rational outlook, such as was finally brought about by Schopenhauer.
Wagner's intervening composition prepared the way for the integration of such ideas into the rest of the "Ring." In the same letter to Roeckel, Wagner intimates that, 'in addition to the Nibelung dramas, I have in my head a Tristan and Isolde (love as fearful torment) ... so that it requires a great obstinacy on my part' to persist with the "Ring." "Tristan"'s intervention provided both the apotheosis and the ultimate indictment of romantic love, that of its eponymous lovers proving so awesomely sublime that it could never exist in this world - or, indeed, in any phenomenal world."
[PH] Here Berry asserts that Wotan's renunciation of action in favor of observation leads to the turning point of the "Ring" in S.3.1, during which Wotan allegedly renounces his own will to live and wills his own (and the gods') end. Consequently he ceases to fear the end Erda prophesied, but as I've explained earlier, he can do this only because he (and his will) lives on, reborn, in the art which Siegfried's inspiration by his muse Bruennhilde will produce. Since Berry quoted Wagner's remark to King Ludwig II of Bavaria that Wotan lives on in Siegfried as the artist lives on in his artwork (a concept that has been at the forefront of my developing allegorical reading of the "Ring" since my first copyrighted study of 1983), it's surprising that Berry doesn't grasp the implications of this for Wotan's alleged Schopenhauerian conversion.
Berry adds that Wagner's recognition in the "Ring" that love, rather than being redemptive, is fearful torment, Wagner dramatized in "Tristan and Isolde" during his 12 year break in the composition of the music of the "Ring." That is true, except that, again, by 'love' Wagner means unconscious artistic inspiration. So Wagner's critique of love in the "Ring," in "Tristan," and in "Parsifal" is actually his critique of secular art (as a substitute for dying religious faith, and as an antidote to the poison of objective science), and his own art in particular, as a means of redemption (from the truth). When Parsifal renounces the opportunity to seek redemption in union with his potential muse Kundry (who'd been his actual muse in prior lives as an artist and, previously, religious seer), Wagner is telling us that Parsifal (and therefore Wagner) is renouncing art in general, and his art in particular. Wagner made quite a number of disparaging remarks about his art's value, that it was, in effect, a superficial half-measure in the face of the bitter truth which it obscured, and often complained how his art was an endless torment for him, in his latter years.
(69) [MB - P. 244] "The Mastersingsers" suggested a way in which Schopenhauerian resignation might take a less drastic course, that Wahn might yet prove capable of worldly manipulation in the mitigating hands of a great artist. In "Siegfried," however, the world has been so utterly devastated by power relations that the 'compromises' of Nuremberg no longer seem credible. The canvas is so vast, the weight of history so profound - so Hegelian - that renunciation must take place on a grander, truly cosmic scale.
[PH] Berry has little to say in this book about "Mastersingers," but he does suggest that here Schopenhauerian resignation and Wahn take a less drastic course than in Wagner's other mature music-dramas. It's in "Mastersingers" that Wagner presents his conception of the music-dramatist's (Siegfried's, Tristan's, Parsifal's) paradise, a perfect bond between idealized audience and authentically unconsciously inspired artist-hero, who is not as yet at risk of unwittingly exposing his muse of inspiration's (unconscious mind's) secrets to himself and to his audience. Therefore Walther's mastersong is truly redemptive, but, as Wagner pointed out in "Tristan" and in "Parsifal," the redemption the muse of art can provide her artist and audience is only temporary, a temporarily effective salve on an essentially unhealing wound. Sachs of course parallels Wotan in striving to insure that the muse to whom he has imparted forbidden knowledge (in Wotan's case Bruennhilde, in Sachs's case Eva) only weds the authentically inspired artist-redeemer, who alone has the authentic inspiration to woo his muse, i.e., to be capable of safely accessing the taboo realm of man's collective unconscious, with its dangerous, repressed knowledge of man's true nature, and true place in Nature. Eve in paradise (the imparter of fatal knowledge), of course, is depicted here openly as the archetypal muse for Wagner's art, Walther's muse Eva, for, as Feuerbach suggested, Eve is a metaphor for that reasoning and questioning (think here of Elsa) which exiled us from the preconscious paradise of unquestioning faith, the paradise of preconscious animal instinct, and granted us fully human status (as symbolic beings capable of reflective thought). Authentically inspired art, according to Wagner, artificially restores the feeling of oneness and instinctive spontaneity that our species lost by virtue of acquiring the power of reflective thought (the Ring), thought which grants us power, but is also a stumbling block to instinctive spontaneity.
The subject of Sachs's cobbling-song confession to Eva in "Mastersingers" Act Two (which aids the authentically inspired artist Walther to woo Eva, and simultaneously thwart's the awkwardly inappropriate amorous and artistic ambitions of the uninspired wannabe artist Beckmesser) is that Eve's guilt-ridden responsibility for man's exile from a divine paradise (which Wagner construes as merely an illusory mask for man's true former paradise, the preconscious spontaneity experienced by our animal ancestors and by we ourselves as very young children) forces upon her the responsibility to compensate for this original sin by inspiring Walther's redemptive secular art, which is Wagner's substitute for lost religious faith, his substitute for paradise lost. Klingsor noted that Kundry serves the knights of the Grail to compensate for the unhealing wound she delivered, and Wagner himself compared Kundry with Eve.
(70) [MB - P. 244-246] [Regarding the Prelude to "Siegfried" Act Three, Berry states that:] The opening motif [#83] ... refers us back to Erda's warning of "Goetterdaemmerung; often referred to as 'the need of the gods', the motif locates that need in their twilight of mortality. Adorno discerns that the Goetterdaemmerung motif has an affirmative function, 'which takes the place of that "turning around" or denial of the Will.' The relationship of inversion also
points to the crucial role Erda herself will play in the following scene - a role often misunderstood. (...) The Prelude would be incomplete without the further chromatic distortions of Alberich's ring at its climax, snarling their threats of subversion. The locus classicus of negative renunciation, that of love for power, might yet negate, if not Wotan's conversion, then at least his legacy to Siegfried. The overwhelming impression is of matters being brought to a head, of the imminence and immanence of a world-historical moment - even if, in its apparent rejection or transcendence of world-history, it represents a turn that would have repelled Hegel and his progeny.
Initially, Wotan wishes Erda - or Fate - 'to hold back a running wheel', suggesting reluctance even at this stage to abandon the world of law and coercion. He then, more realistically, asks her in more general terms how to overcome his troubles but, crucially, she is unable to answer. The world must first, however, be fully renounced in political terms. Brief recapitulation of those acts which have brought him thus far are enough to persuade Wotan to do so, with a crucial distinction from his similar resolution in "Die Walkuere." Where once, 'with furious loathing,' he had bequeathed the world to 'the Nibelung's spite,' now, to the triumphant sounding of the 'world-inheritance motif [#134] ... , his legacy will pass to Siegfried, of whose prospects he now sings ecstatically - if with utter delusion. (...) A once despairing resolution is now performed freely, 'in gladness and joy'. (...) ... historical condemnation might still count for something, but the chief of the gods has overcome his metaphysical condemnation. Wotan tells Erda, in terms redolent of both Feuerbach and Schopenhauer, that his transformation means that no longer will he be 'consumed with fear and grief over the end of the gods'. Indeed, he now wills that very end. Those fateful deeds he has committed to avert the shame and fear of death can now be erased, or at least their consequences can be shunned. Freedom now takes a different form from that assumed upon the false dawn of Siegmund's rebellion. The darker side to Wotan's anti-political conversion lies in sealing Siegfried's fate. No one can perform the young hero's conversion for him, yet he will prove unequal to the task himself. Whatever the gods might claim for him, yet he will prove unequal to the task himself. Whatever the god might claim for a 'redeeming world-deed', Siegfried's naivete will preclude its fulfilment.
[PH] Berry states that the Gods' Need Motif #83 signals the necessity to deny the Will, but Berry doesn't grasp that Wotan's apparent denial of the Will and willing of his own end in S.3.1 leads only to a new incarnation of his will in the redemptive art which Siegfried produces under the loving influence of his muse of inspiration, Wotan's Will Bruennhilde. Wotan's so-called Schopenhauerian conversion and resignation and breaking of his will in S.3.1 is merely Wotan's confidence that the ideal of Valhalla, man's longing for transcendent value, will live on in the inspired art which Siegfried's loving union with his muse Bruennhilde will produce, in feeling rather than thought. Wotan's confession of mankind's corrupt history, and acknowledgment of mankind's craven nature, is redeemed, in effect, by music, by being converted into feeling, just as the contents of his confession are transformed into musical motifs. So Wagner in the "Ring," up to and including the finale of "Siegfried," remains firmly on the ground of his future critique of Schopenhauer's concept that one can redeem oneself only by stilling the will, though Wagner wrote the "Siegfried" libretto before he had read any of Schopenhauer's works. Wotan looks to Siegfried's fearlessness and alleged freedom from the Ring curse, and to Bruennhilde's loving act of self-sacrifice, to redeem the world, but that love is Wagner's metaphor for his own unconscious artistic inspiration, which itself is subject to critique in "Twilight of the Gods," "Tristan," and "Parsifal."
Berry suggests that though Alberich's curse may well destroy Wotan's legacy to Siegfried and Siegfried's love, it won't destroy Wotan's Schopenhauerian conversion. However, I note that this conversion (true renunciation) takes place only after Wotan has acknowledged that Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love will fail to redeem gods and world. Wotan's alleged Schopenhauerian conversion is identical with Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love (which alone gave Wotan the confidence to renounce the gods - religious faith - in favor of their heir, the mortal artist-hero and his muse), so Wotan can't attain the one but lose the other: both exist, or die, together. This is why the gods don't actually go down to destruction until Siegfried and Bruennhilde have both betrayed their love, in "Twilight of the Gods." It is because Wotan finally realizes that Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's love is going down to destruction that he dispatches Waltraute to Bruennhilde to seek the only other alternative, a restoration of the Ring to the Rhine, i.e., a nihilistic destruction of the "all" on the grandest, cosmic scale, which is the broadest reading we can give Erda's prophecy (and mere statement of objective fact) that whatever exists will end, that all is transient. The point is, Wotan gives up hope that the love the hero Siegfried and the muse Bruennhilde share, the secular art they will produce as heirs to dying religious faith, can redeem gods and world, and returns to his original intent (before Bruennhilde's rebellion gave him new hope) to end it all, similar in this respect to Tristan's intent to commit suicide until the prospect of loving, redemptive union, or healing, with Isolde, gave him new hope, which in the end merely increased his "Noth" (anguish). Wagner himself told Roeckel that Wotan finally decided the Ring should be returned to the Rhine only after he'd realized that Siegfried (as potential redeemer) would fail, i.e., after "Siegfried."
Berry paraphrases the questions Wotan asks Erda in S.3.1, noting that Wotan seems at first concerned to hold onto his power by asking her how to stop the wheel of fate, and asking Erda how to end his troubles, but Berry asserts Erda can't answer his questions. Berry seems to me to be off base from this point forward (and already has been thanks to his persistent misunderstanding of Siegfried's true nature), for it seems to me that he misses the main point of Wotan's rhetorical questions (and that is the point: they are rhetorical), that Wotan is repeating more or less what he had asked Erda, or told himself he would ask her when he went down to her, in R.4. He wished to ask her, first, why he must live in fear, i.e., for knowledge of the cause of his fear, and therefore of her certainty that the gods' twilight is coming, and therefore also whether there can be any remedy, and second (and this is an entirely distinct question), how he can end his fear. Berry is oblivious to the profound fact that at first Erda suggests that Wotan obtain the answer to his question about his fate from her daughters, the Norns, who spin Erda's (Nature's) knowledge into the web of fate (which is to say, Natural Law), but Wotan refuses to ask them because, as he says, the Norns spin their knowledge according to the world, and can't alter anything. In other words, Erda's suggestion that Wotan consult the truth, objective reality, is objectionable to him, as the representative of man be-spelled by religious faith and art. Wotan's question is rhetorical, because in S.2.1 Wotan as the Wanderer told Alberich that one can alter nothing, and that he leaves the world (in which one can alter nothing) to Alberich. So, since Wotan can't tolerate knowledge of the phenomenal world, in which all is subject to natural law, Erda suggests instead that he ask their daughter Bruennhilde for the kind of knowledge he desires, which is aesthetic intuition, through which he can escape consciousness of his fate (and thus end his fear, at least temporarily), in the art (adventures and heroic deeds) Bruennhilde will inspire Siegfried to undertake. And then, near the end of their confrontation, Wotan announces that Erda's knowledge wanes before his Will. Bruennhilde proclaimed herself Wotan's "Will" in V.2.2 (and Wotan acknowledged her as such), and it is Wotans' will, the womb of his wishes, who converts Wotan's fearful hoard of objective knowledge, the knowledge which grants men worldly power, the knowledge he confessed to her in V.2.2. because he couldn't bear to speak it aloud, consciously, to himself, into the sublime, through music.
Then Berry seems to contradict himself by noting that Wotan is delusional (didn't Berry say Wotan had attained a turning point in willing the renunciation of his own will?) in now depriving Hagen of Wotan's inheritance (for Alberich's son was the heir to whom, in Wotan's bitterness and self-loathing, he originally consigned the world and even Valhalla, while wishing for the end, until Bruennhilde, the muse of art, offered him a new but temporary lease on life, through Siegfried), and granting it instead to Wotan's true heir Siegfried (who, as Berry correctly points out, will fail). Wagner captured the significance of this turning point, in which Wotan joyfully makes Siegfried and Bruennhilde his heirs, hoping they can deprive Alberich and his proxy Hagen of their authentic claim on Alberich's Ring, in his request that if he grant science Jehovah, the world-creator of the Old Testament, as a sacrifice to science (i.e., Wotan and the gods, belief in the gods, must succumb to scientific reduction), Jesus the redeemer (in this case a figure for the artist-hero Siegfried, Wotan's heir) will be freed. In other words, Wotan must sacrifice religious belief, faith, to Alberich and Hagen, in order to free the secular artist Siegfried (who unlike religious believers will not stake a claim to the truth - the Ring - and its power, which would be contradicted by scientific knowledge) to redeem religious feeling, or music, from scientific reduction. Because music is a feeling, not a thought (though much thought, in some sense, goes into creating it), and therefore stakes no claim to truth which can be refuted, and therefore also can't be implicated directly in the sin of self-delusion, it seems innocent of that guilt in world-renunciation (all that was, is, and will be) which Alberich described as Wotan's sin. It was this sin that Alberich's curse on his Ring was intended to punish. However, by tracing music's history back to its source in myth (a la Claude Levi-Strauss), we can see that it is nonetheless implicated in the religious sin of pessimism, or world-renunciation, though that fact be hidden to all but the most discerning eye.
Berry says that the dark side of Wotan's Schopenhauerian conversion is that this seals Siegfried's fate, for Siegfried is unable to undertake that conversion. No, that conversion/renunciation is the direct product of Siegfried's availability to Wotan as an alternative arena for Wotan's still-active will. And Siegfried's fate was sealed at the very beginning of the "Ring" when Siegfried's archetype Loge offered to redeem the gods from the objective truth, i.e., from the Giants' rightful claim to Freia, and from Alberich's threat to overthrow the gods's rule through the Ring's (consciousness of the truth's) power, and Wotan accepted - actually he originated - Loge's offer. From that point onward, Wotan, the gods, Wotan's Volsung heroes, and Bruennhilde, were all dedicated, often unwittingly, to perpetuating Wotan's original sin against all that was, is, and will be, his sin against truth, and were predestined to be sacrificed to Mother Nature as penance for that sin. Thus Siegfried unwittingly describes himself as making that sacrifice, when he tells Gunther and Hagen that the wine of his cup (which contains, and is identified with, his blood and his life) spills to Mother Earth (Erda), just prior to his singing the narrative of his life which culminates in his death through self-knowledge (his remembrance of who he is, incarnate in Hagen's fateful spear-thrust into Siegfried's back, his past).
Berry again misses the point when he asserts that Siegfried's naivete precludes Wotan's hope that Siegfried would perform a world-redeeming deed. That deed is the work(s) of art Siegfried produces, which redeem(s) the terrible world to man, reconciling him to his mortality. Siegfried can only produce that work of art through unconscious artistic inspiration, and Siegfried's naivete is the product of his capacity for unconscious artistic inspiration. Another point Berry misses is that Siegfried's redemption of Valhalla is only temporary. Note that in spite of Bruennhilde's final words in S.3.3, celebrating the end of the gods, the gods don't burn up in Valhalla until both Siegfried and Bruennhilde have betrayed their love-art, thus proving that Valhalla and the gods did indeed live on in their love-art.
Temporarily signing off at 11:42pm on 6/15/12.
Signing on at 8:23am on 6/16/12:
(71) [MB - P. 246-247] Wotan's renunciation possesses another, mystical side: what Schopenhauer terms 'the Will's self-elimination, in other words, resignation'. This, he writes, 'is the ultimate goal, and indeed the innermost nature of all virtue and holiness, and is salvation from the world.' The god will thus save himself not only from the state but from the world itself, from the unquenchable thirst he first attempted to sate at the spring of whispering wisdom. (...) The word 'cheerful' is important: what Wotan had once done through loathing, he now performs in gladness and joy. He bequeaths the world to Siegfried and, more fundamentally, recognises the futility of all power relations. (...)
Writing shortly before his Schopenhauerian epiphany, Wagner told Roeckel that Wotan had risen 'to the heights of willing his own destruction'. (...) This thought, rich with potentialities for Schopenhauerian development, is then immediately connected with revolutionary activism in Wagner's claim that 'this is all we need to learn from the history of mankind: to will what is necessary and to bring it about ourselves'. Yet willing what is necessary becomes an increasingly personal matter. Perhaps the most that Wotan can accomplish is to provide an example, which may lead others towards conversion. Wagner would write eight years later that Christ had done likewise:
... the myth of a Messiah is the most profoundly characteristic of all myths for all our earthly striving. The Jews expected someone who would liberate
them, a Messiah who was supposed to restore the Kingdom of David and bring not only justice but, more especially, greatness, power, and safety from
oppression. Well, everything went as predicted, his birth in Bethlehem, of the line of David, the prophecy of the three wise men, etc., his triumphant
welcome to Jerusalem, palms strewn before him, etc. - there he stood, everyone listened, and he proclaimed to them: 'My kingdom is not of this world!
Renounce your desires, that is the only way to be redeemed and freed!' - Believe me, all our political freedom fighters strike me as being uncannily like
Siegfried 'like the Jews'? That ought to give even the most obsessive purveyors of anti-Semitic interpretations of Wagner's works pause for thought. Wagner's words convey no racialist overtones whatsoever to the unprejudiced reader. As is the case with so many references to the Jews, their presence is illustrative: illustrative of a more profound concern. Breaking of the will is as alien to nineteenth-century freedom fighters as to the Zealots of Palestine - and even to Jesus of Nazareth, as portrayed in Wagner's earlier dramatic sketch. Siegfried's presence will remain, yet it would be as foolish to pretend that it matters as much as it had in 1848-49 as to claim that it matters not at all. For tragedy, as we have witnessed Schopenhauer maintain, held out the possibility of liberation - not political liberation, but metaphysical liberation from the enslaving will-to-live.
[PH] Berry says that Wotan's Schopenhauerian renunciation of the Will saves Wotan from the State and from the World and from his unquenchable thirst for knowledge which he once satisfied by drinking from the Well of Wisdom under the World-Ash. It's remarkable indeed that Berry understands so much yet doesn't see that Wotan redeems himself from State, from World, from Self, by confessing all of this to Bruennhilde, in whom Wotan's secret "Noth" will remain forever unspoken (in words). Wagner spoke truly when he said Wotan's confession is the key moment in the "Ring," the veritable key to the "Ring." But Berry astutely notes that Wotan's allegedly Schopenhauerian conversion predates Wagner's first known familiarity with Schopenhauer in 1854. The problem, I think, is that Berry imprudently imported Schopenhauer's thinking into a key passage from the "Ring" which owes far more to Feuerbach and also to Wagner's own original musings on this subject, than to any sort of anticipation of his first acquaintance with Schopenhauer.
Berry then quotes Wagner to the effect that the political freedom fighters of the time seemed to him like Jews, and Berry asks if we should then construe Siegfried as a Jew, and if we do so construe Siegfried, that this should give pause to anyone seeking to find anti-Semitism inscribed in the "Ring." Let me first say that this is fine so long as we construe Siegfried as a political freedom fighter, which I do not. Also, there are other reasons for identifying Siegfried as a Jew (or, as some would assert, a Nibelung), if by Jews one means Wagner's catchword for his suspicion that all human beings, no matter how seemingly noble, are ultimately guided by egoism. Wagner tried to project this suspicion specifically on to the Jews, as if by doing so he could imagine a race - say, the theoretical Aryan race - allegedly purified of egoism (but of course he knew better), but ultimately he feared all humans of whatever race were insurmountably egoistic. Berry is evidently unfamiliar with my long-standing thesis that the deepest basis of Wagner's anti-Semitism is that it's really a cover or mask for a more profound concern, which is Wagner's fear that egoism might well be both the foundational and also the primary motive underlying all other human motives, and therefore stronger than them, even those motives which seem the antithesis of egoism, including love, compassion, and moral self-sacrifice. The implication of this would be that if brought to a real test, egoism will always conquer love, not just in social/historical/political contexts, but within any given individual, even heroes and saints. Recall here that description of the Ministry of Love (i.e., interrogation/torture center) in "1984," that "There are no martyrs here." Wagner feared that modern science would progress to the point of not only proclaiming this truth but proving it, and that all humane society, all ideals, all poetry, all faith (in transcendent value), would die, leaving the world of men prey to the most powerful predators among them, with no hope of redemption, and in fact no rationale for hoping for redemption more persuasive than egoism itself. It is Wotan's abhorrence of his own insurmountably egoistic nature, the Mime-in-him, which is the true source of Siegfried's instinctive loathing of his foster-father Mime: Siegfried, as Wotan reborn minus consciousness of his true identity, merely expresses Wotan's own self-loathing in Siegfried's loathing of Mime. (In fact, insofar as I understand the full scope and depth of Wagner's thinking, if this terrible thought (about the primacy of egoism in all human feeling, thought, and action) is the truth, it would be the summit of hypocrisy and cowardice to care what sort of destiny lays before man, since, in Wagner's view, man wouldn't be worth redeeming anyway (Of course this sentiment could only be felt by those who, though rationally coming to the conclusion that they are inherently egoistic, are so attached to the old illusions about man's transcendent value that they would rather be dead than acknowledge and act upon this bitter truth. That was Wotan's thought when, in V.2.2, he proclaimed inwardly, to his unconscious mind Bruennhilde, that if Alberich is right to say that any man, and all men (and women), have a price, that he should end it all, leaving the openly avowed egoists heirs to his once idealized world.
Wagner identified Judaism with modern science in the sense that he projected his fear that egoism rules all men, at all times (in spite of contrary appearances, as during acts of seeming altruism and love and compassion and artistic creation), onto the Jews as a cheap means of casting away from himself the unbearable thought that he himself, and his own kind, might be wholly under the sway of egoism. The primary consequence of modern science's favoring objective knowledge of man and his world, over man's subjective desire for transcendent value, was that man would come to see himself as a morally craven Nibelung dwarf, enslaved inwardly by impulses and fears over which he has no control, rather than a divine or divine-like being of transcendent value. Furthermore, the Old Testament, which Wagner identified exclusively with Judaism, seemed to Wagner to have been the product of a mindset which placed fear of God over love of God. Needless to say this was a very simplistic reading of Judaism, which is certainly far richer and varied than that reading of it, but Wagner wished to contrast a God of fear with a saviour guided by love, according to Feuerbach's formula that religious faith equals fear, and that love is the antithesis of faith (and, what is more, love is mortal, and doesn't proclaim its immortality, i.e., its fear of death). This contrast of course helped to give rise to the contrast between what are effectively the two halves of the "Ring," the first half, Wotan's half ("The Rhinegold" and "The Valkyrie") corresponding with Wagner's idea of the Old Testament (the fearful God-the-Father, creator of immutable laws, and taboos) , and the second half, Siegfried's half ("Siegfried" and "Twilight of the Gods") corresponding with the New Testament, which Wagner took to be the testament dedicated to the new God of Love. This God of Love, the saviour, Wagner identified with his archetypal artist-hero, since Wagner believed with Feuerbach that there was no creator God.
A key to understanding the significance of Wotan's confession to the womb of his wishes, Bruennhilde, and thereby bringing Siegfried to birth (God-the-Father inseminating his daughter and unconscious mind, the virgin Bruennhilde, with his idea of a free hero, the saviour of the world, thereby planting the seed which figuratively gives birth to the artist-redeemer Siegfried), is the notion that Wotan thereby represses his loathsome knowledge of his own true nature and history, what might figuratively be described as Wotan's purgation of the Judaism (read here: "egoism") inherent to his own character, to purge what he loathes in himself, to be reborn as a purified and new self, Siegfried, who won't be conscious of his Nibelung-Jewish-egoistic origin. For those who are unfamiliar with my overall interpretation, and are reading this for the first time, let me say that I identify Judaism here with egoism only to illustrate the link between Wagner's private anti-Semitism (based on his delusional imputing of man's inherent egoism exclusively to the Jews, as if egoism were the hallmark of their nature as a people, a religion, an ethnic group, or even a race), which in my view he did not embed in his operas and music-dramas, and his much more
universal and general conclusion, which may be the truth, that mankind as such is guided by egoism in all things, even those behaviors which seem to defy man's egoism and proclaim his spiritual autonomy and capacity for loving self-sacrifice. Let me illustrate: if any human being, no matter how brave, will ultimately succumb to torture or other forms of systematically applied duress or coercion (say, chemicals or electrodes in the brain or re-education or brainwashing) if applied severely enough for long enough, and perform any act his tormentors demand of him, no matter how abhorrent to his convictions, feelings, beliefs, loyalties, loves, ideals, etc., then there is no sense in which one can proclaim that man is free, or is under the guidance of a transcendent soul, in his moral nature or behavior. If this is the truth there is no possible way of spinning it to grant us some sort of furtive and fugitive consolation. Even individual differences in bravery or capacity/propensity for self-sacrificing heroism, if merely the product of differences in physical nature (one's genetic inheritance, which includes the brain and all that it produces) and/or upbringing (which is to say, both nature and nurture), would simply reinforce the point that all humans are the product of, and controlled by, natural laws, which can't be transcended. No, what Wagner sought, what he longed for, but couldn't be sure he could find, was evidence that man's capacity for loving self-sacrifice couldn't be explained away by mundane considerations which would totally undermine the high value we impute to such heroic and morally inspiring actions.
I recall being disturbed as a child by a remark made to a minister of the church by a character in a film (a doctor, I believe), who was trying to persuade the minister that there is no basis for faith in the transcendent, that he knew of a case in which a man, formerly saintly and generous and kind, after being administered some sort of overdose or wrong dose of a drug, committed a horrible sex crime. The point the doctor was making was that this wasn't a mere mechanical forcing of the body of the saintly man to perform an act which he was resisting: the point was that under the influence of the drug he "willed" to commit this crime, for his own pleasure. The doctor then pointed out to the minister that in that case, all of so-called human morality and faith was no more transcendent than a test-tube.
To get back to Berry's earlier assumption that Siegfried is a political freedom fighter, clearly Wagner gave that role to Siegmund, in the sense that Siegmund set out to right what he felt was wrong about the customs, traditions, and rules of his time, whereas Siegfried's revolutionary spirit is more inward, and as I have sought throughout my life to demonstrate, illustrative of Wagner's notion of the archetypal artist-hero. But Berry is right to say that what appears to be anti-Semitism in the "Ring" represents a more profound concern (not that anti-Semitism isn't a profound concern: I'm simply saying that in my view Wagner had something else which to him was more profound hidden behind what appear to be expressions of anti-Semitism in his mature music-dramas). I've been saying this since I first started to self-publish my research on Wagner in 1981.
Berry then echoes Warren Darcy in saying that though Siegfried remains important, it would be foolish to pretend he had the same same significance in the "Ring" (and to Wagner) when Wagner completed the work, as he had when Wagner first conceived of him during the revolutionary period of 1848-1849. But Berry's efforts to somewhat restore Siegfried's dramatic status are quite limp simply because he insists on only seeing in Siegfried a sort of pointless perpetuation of Siegmund's failed effort to change society as a social revolutionary, and even denigrates Siegfried by suggesting that his unconsciousness of his true status and role makes his fearless heroism less meaningful than Siegmund's courage in the face of fear. Had Berry understood just how radically distinct Siegfried the artist-hero was from his father, the social revolutionary Siegmund, and that it is Siegfried's virtue to be unaware of who he is (as Wagner said, for the authentic artist, his art may remain as much a mystery, as for his audience [because he is unconsciously inspired, and therefore depends on his muse of inspiration - Bruennhilde]), Berry could have solved this exegetical conundrum instantly.
Signing off temporarily at 11:20am on 6/16/12.
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(72) [MB - P. 247-248] Prospero's celebrated words spring to mind:
Our revels are now ended. These our actors,
as I foretold you, were all spirits, and
are melted into air, into thin air:
and, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
the cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
the solemn temples, the great globe itself,
yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve
and, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
as dreams are made on, and our little life
is rounded with a sleep.
The insubstantial pageant of the gods' entry into Valhalla now seems more a dream than an object of Loge's criticism. 'Prospero gains his magic powers at
a time of misfortune, gives them up for love of his child, and longs for death - what a moving doctrine in a single picture!' Cosima's - or Wagner's - summation does not stand so very distant from Wotan's arduous path. He gains his powers through exploitation of the weak, gives them up, if not through love of Siegmund, then partly through love of Bruennhilde and partly through guilt from his betrayal of Siegmund. Then he longs for death. 'R. says he can
understand how an army of commentators has gathered around this mysterious work. "I do not understand why Ariel does not follow Prospero," R. says.'
And a couple of years later, whilst expressing reservations about some of the material in 'Hamlet," Wagner reflected once again upon Prospero, 'this most
moving of characters'.' "How superficial ... do all the princes seem, who return to their thrones" he declared, to which Cosima responded, 'Except for
Prospero'. Wotan will soon be rid of his throne, as will the world over which he has ruled.
Berry, as did Wagner, compares Shakespeare's Prospero with Wotan. He quotes Prospero's famous lines to the effect that we are such stuff as dreams are made on (compared with Valhalla's insubstantiality), in order to prepare for a more extensive comparison of Prospero with Wotan. While researching all of Wagner's recorded remarks and writings which might be useful in helping me to grasp his understanding of his own "Ring" and his other artworks, I was also fascinated with some comparisons Wagner made between Wotan and Prospero, not the least of which is the fact that there is a final breaking of the staff (in Wotan's case a spear, in Prospero's case a magic wand) which temporarily gave them power. But because, I believe, my interpretation of the "Ring" is truer to its allegorical logic than is most of Berry's, I was able to see what Berry did not see, as per some further remarks below.
(73) [MB - P. 250-251] Most commentators recognise that Sachs and Walther both represent something of Wagner. Would that they might for Wotan and Siegfried.
[PH] I have to gently smile when I find Berry complaining that while most commentators recognize Wagner in both Sachs and Walther, he wishes they might also find Wagner in Siegfried and Wotan, for this concept (including also a parallel between Lohengrin/Godfrey, Tristan/Marke, Parsifal/Amfortas, and Siegfried/Wotan) has been central to my understanding of the conceptual evolution of Wagner's mature music-dramas since I hand-delivered my earliest (and, sadly, only semi-literate) attempt at expressing my views on the allegorical logic underlying Wagner's canonical operas and music-dramas, entitled "In Dedication to Claude Levi-Strauss," Copyrighted at the Library of Congress in 1981, to the office of Claude Levi-Strauss at the College de France (sadly, or I should say rather, luckily, he was on sabbatical and evidently doing research in Australia at the time of my visit). In fact, this concept was central to my understanding of Wagner even while composing college papers on the subject in the mid-70's. I began systematically to demonstrate the conceptual unity of Wagner's four mature music-dramas (and also eventually incorporating "Lohengrin") in 1981 and have worked on this ever since, eventually expanding my understanding to include not only "Lohengrin" but also "The Flying Dutchman" and "Tannhaeuser," his writings, his recorded remarks, and Feuerbach (while also reading virtually all of the published work of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer for good measure). I only wish Berry had had the opportunity to familiarize himself with my work before he began writing "Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire."
(74) [MB - P. 250-253] Before proceeding, in the concluding chapter, to the final extinction of Wotan's will, something must be said of Erda and of Wotan's rejection of the earth-goddess. (...) Wotan actually rejects the claims of Fate, in a Schopenhauerian (neo-Kantian) conception of radical freedom. (...) Wagner eschews simplistic 'naturalism'. It is true that Erda's "Rheingold" warning of the gods' destruction is fulfilled, but Wotan himself now brings that about. Erda would play Wotan's confessor, inquisitor even, but he has resolved to take on those roles himself. (...) The moment of Classical tragic irony, in which a man's efforts to save himself destroy him, has already been detailed in the "Walkuere" monologue on legal dialectic.
(...) The power-lusting Wotan had seen in Erda something so different from Alberich and himself that he had mistaken her for 'that which eternally is', the noumenon. (...) Erda initiates Wotan's crucial acceptance of mortality. Nonetheless, her knowledge, like that of Gaia and her Delphic Oracle, remains of the phenomenal world. (...)
Erda, then, abides in Wagner's world of representation, with all the shortcomings that entails; she too is such stuff as dreams are made on. Her knowledge ultimately proves as earthbound, as illusory, as power-related, as that earned by Wotan at the Well of Wisdom. 'You are - not what you imagine [waehn'st]!' he warns her, continuing: 'The wisdom of primeval mothers nears its end: your knowledge wanes before my will.' It is akin to Faust rejecting worldly knowledge and thereby trumping the wisdom of the Eternal Mothers - rounding their little lives with a sleep, as Shakespeare would have it. Wotan's 'will' constitutes, in a passage from Schopenhauer quoted above, 'something different that we cannot know positively, but only negatively, as this which does not will life.' 'We have to think away the assistance of the intellect,' Schopenhauer explained elsewhere, 'if we wish to comprehend the true essence of the Will-in-itself, and thus, as far as possible, to penetrate into Nature's inner being.
Erda's primaeval yet phenomenal wisdom wilts in the face of that 'something different'. She sinks away, cowed and defeated - and crucially, Wotan points out, tainted by fear. By contrast, the Wanderer will 'joyfully yield' to one who is eternally young, acting - or, rather, non-acting - as one who has recognised that power and knowledge arise and pass away, but in truth never really were. Wagner lauded to Cosima Prospero's words as he breaks his magic staff: 'He gives up everything, the miracle of knowledge - I have the feeling that I can understand that to mean the achievements of our modern world - for music!'
Siegfried shatters Wotan's spear to similar effect. 'If the Will,' writes Schopenhauer, 'is to a certain extent broken by ... a great and irrevocable denial of Fate, then practically nothing more is desired and the character shows itself as mild, sad, noble, and resigned.' Such words might seem at odds with Wotan's joy in resignation, yet Schopenhauer proceeds to discern in the consequent loosening of bonds 'a secret joy ... "the joy of grief". ... Schopenhauerian conversion is required for Wotan. (...)
Fate in the "Ring" is inextricably bound up with creation - a connexion crucial to idealist treatment of ancient philosophy. Schopenhauer claimed Anaxagoras as his direct antipode, since the Greek had:
... arbitrarily assumed ... an intelligence, a creator of representations, as the first and original thing, from which everything proceeds ... According to
this view, the world had existed earlier in the representation than in itself, whereas with me it is the Will-without-knowledge that is the foundation of the
reality of things.
And we previously saw Wagner explain to Roeckel:
But it is the union of man and woman, in other words, love, that creates (sensually and metaphorically) the human being, and just as the human being
can conceive of nothing more creatively brilliant than his own existence and his own life, so he can never again surpass that act whereby he became
human through love ...
Such had been the Hellenic optimism of Feuerbach's disciple; the 'brilliance' of creation now looked rather less enticing. Wotan's renunciation of creation and knowledge is as vital to Wagner's conception as the gods' abdication of law and custom. Wotan completes Feuerbach's work, rejecting wholesale that which would transcend, spurning the consolations of love-communism upon which Feuerbach had fallen back. Schopenhauer looms large, but to reject Fate is also, in Young Hegelian fashion, to reject the dead hand of the past. Kant's antinomy between freedom and determinism still requires attention. Marx recognised this as early as his doctoral thesis, choosing Epicurus and individual consciousness over Democritus and objective causality. So, after a rather different fashion, does Wagner. Thus will the chief of the gods renounce his idol of Fate, enabling the Norns' rope of destiny, creative, yet restricting and alienating, to snap. Whilst Siegfried's unmediated fearlessness remains fatally entwined with his lack of consciousness, Wotan will truly conquer fear.
[PH] Berry taps into Roger Scruton's territory in his remark that Wotan's rejection of fate constitutes a sort of Schopenhauerian/Kantian declaration of radical freedom. Berry then suggests that the classic tragic irony that the quest to save oneself brings one's doom is found in Wotan's monologue on the trap of legal dialectics (his confession to Bruennhilde in V.2.2), but what Berry seems not to heed is that this classic tragic irony pervades the whole "Ring" plot up to and including the end. All of Wotan's efforts to save himself destroy him, because, in Wagner's thinking, Wotan's very desire for redemption from the truth is inherently unassuageable, so even his so-called Schopenhauerian conversion (which Nietzsche would describe as merely decadent religious nihilism, the sickness - or unhealing wound - which comes of man's futile yet ineradicable effort to affirm his transcendent value) is an expression of the very height of tragic irony. This Wagner brings out fully in the extraordinarily difficult yet nonetheless allegorically logical libretto text of "Parsifal."
Berry now reintroduces his Wagner-inspired meditation on Prospero by stating that though Erda initiates Wotan's acceptance of the gods' mortality, Erda's knowledge is phenomenal (all that was, is, and will be) knowledge and therefore Wahn, the stuff that dreams are made on. Berry may well have been partially influenced here by Wotan's remark to Erda that she should, dreaming, watch his end, for he consigns her to the oblivion of dreaming. But I gather that Berry doesn't grasp the sense in which Wotan consigns Erda, dreaming, to oblivion, in the final moments of S.3.1. Erda, dreaming, is Bruennhilde (Wotan's and Erda's daughter), understood as Siegfried's muse of art, for according to Wagner, in art we transform the phenomenal world into a dream, making the objectively real world seem like Wahn, and make Wahn (art, as described in "The Mastersingers of Nuremberg") seem real and true. But this is only seeming, a delusion caused by our artistically engendered dream-state in which logic is neutralized. It's solely in, and through, Siegfried's redemptive art, that Wotan, Siegfried, and others, can feel as if the Norns' rope of fate has been snapped. This is subjective reality, not objective reality. Berry has, quite simply, smuggled a Schopenhauerian reading into a passage which remains fully informed by Wagner's creative and original reconstruction of Feuerbach's philosophical meditations. In the "Ring," following Feuerbach, time/space/causality is hard reality, and not illusory or the stuff of dreams. It is Alberich and Hagen who continually wake and don't dream. Think here of Elsa's dream of Lohengrin. Think also of the Rhinedaughters' lullaby, in which they futilely attempt to forestall the Fall by singing the world into sleep. Think here of Walther's dream of inspiration.
Berry actually quotes Wotan's remark to Erda that her knowledge wanes before his Will, without (I think, remarkably) however recalling at this point Berry's other references to Bruennhilde as Wotan's Will, and his quotation of Cosima's record of Wagner's remark that Siegfried is the finest gift (Berry wrote "giver" instead of "gift") of the Will, and that Siegfried therefore lives only in the present. Had Berry connected the dots here he might have seen that it is through Wotan's confession to Bruennhilde of the fatal knowledge which he learned from her mother and his lover Erda, that Erda's knowledge wanes before his Will Bruennhilde. These concepts are the bulwark of my interpretation, as they have been for decades. Berry has missed a colossal exegetical opportunity here.
Berry's mistake gather's compound negative interest in his suggestion that Erda slinks away, cowed and defeated and tainted by fear, because Erda and her knowledge will be the victor in the end (T.3.3) when her daughter Bruennhilde, become wise, speaks aloud her mother's wisdom, when all hope of the redemption Wotan had longed for (i.e., all hope of escaping fate, all hope of transcending the natural, objective world) has been lost. Berry's misunderstanding can be seen in his statement that the Wanderer Wotan joyfully yields to the eternally young, realizing that power and knowledge never existed. Again, Berry has inadvisedly imported Schopenhauerian metaphysics into a work whose entire text and music, from beginning to end, represents a synthesis of Wagner's originality with his idiosyncratic reading of the materialist Feuerbach. It is precisely the phenomenal world, our knowledge of it, and the power this knowledge can bring us, which are objectively real in the "Ring," and these pillars of our existence, time/space/causality (all that was, is, and will be), the framework of Erda's knowledge, are precisely what Alberich said Wotan sinned against, and it is this sin which Alberich's curse punishes, and I might add, that Alberich's curse is entirely fulfilled. Wotan in no sense escapes it. Why else would Wotan be in such despair, as described by Waltraute, in "The Twilight of the Gods!" Wotan has entirely lost his joyfulness in the fourth drama of the "Ring" because the original cause of his joy, that Siegfried's and Bruennhilde's art would redeem religious feeling from destruction when Wotan had had to jettison religion's claim to the truth (i.e., to the power of the Ring), has been thwarted by their self-betrayal. It is precisely because Wotan has given up hope that their love will redeem gods and world that he influences Waltraute to seek out Bruennhilde and persuade her to end Alberich's curse by throwing the Ring into the Rhine.
Wagner, at least in the "Ring," does not regard time/space/causality as illusory, apriori knowledge in a Kantian or Schopenhauerian sense, but only in a subjective, artistic sense, because art, as Wagner said himself, can make illusion seem true and actuality seem illusory. In the "Ring," as in "Mastersingers," religion (the gods) and art (the love of Siegfried and his muse Bruennhilde) are Wahn (and note that "Mastersingers" was mostly conceived, and entirely composed, well within Wagner's Schopenhauerian period). When Wotan tells Erda triumphantly that he yields to the eternally young, this is referencing both Bruennhilde's remark to Wotan in V.3.3 that she is what is eternal in him, and also referencing Wagner's observation that it is precisely the great, universal works of art which remain eternally young, when religions die and scientific knowledge keeps on changing with new discoveries and corrections of old paradigms and their replacement with new ones.
Signing off temporarily at 6:11pm on 6/16/12.
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[PH] Now Berry proceeds to Wagner's most important remark about Prospero, that he gives up everything - the miracle of knowledge - which Wagner takes to be the achievements of our modern world, for music, without applying this crucial remark to our deeper understanding of the "Ring." The link between this comment by Wagner about Prospero and Siegfried's breaking of Wotan's spear and waking and winning of Bruennhilde has been an element of my developing allegorical interpretation since I began anthologizing Wagner's and Feuerbach's work around 2000. Wotan had already given up knowledge for the sake of music by confessing his hoard of knowledge (gleaned from Erda, Mother Nature, by virtue of having stolen Alberich's Hoard, Tarnhelm, and Ring, Alberich's Hoard being reinterpreted as his own hoard of objective knowledge gleaned by the Nibelungs under his direction from the bowels of Mother Earth, i.e., Erda, and by virtue of having won her love for the sake of knowledge, and finally by virtue of wandering over the earth, i.e., Erda, in quest of knowledge) to Erda's daughter Bruennhilde, through whom Wotan can hope to satisfy his second desire of Erda, how to forget his fear. Bruennhilde is Wagner's metaphor for collective, historical man's unconscious mind, the artist-hero's unconscious muse of inspiration, and music in particular, the language of the unconscious mind. Prospero breaks his magic wand (sometimes interpreted as Shakespeare's goodbye to the world he had entranced through his art) as Wotan's spear is broken (fulfilling Wotan's wish) by Siegfried, the artist-hero. But in Wotan's case this inaugurates another futile stab at redemption from the truth, in secular art, modern man's substitute for dying religious faith in God(s), and thus God's (religious faith's) last refuge in the modern, scientific world.
Berry is right, however, to identify fate - which Erda's daughters the Norns spin - with the creation, the phenomenal world. Berry is disturbed by the seeming contradiction between Schopenhauer's describing the man who renounces the will and acquiesces in resignation as sad, and the fact that Wotan does this joyfully, and here again Berry doesn't see that for Wotan the secular art (the loving union between the artist-hero Siegfried and his muse of inspiration Bruennhilde) which falls heir to religious feeling (Bruennhilde consigns the gods to oblivion in favor of her newfound love for Siegfried), and to this degree restores and preserves Valhalla, is a new form of world-affirmation (which nonetheless perpetuates religion's world-renunciation, since this affirmation depends upon illusion or at any rate escape from conscious reasoning, and therefore a retreat from man's inevitable accumulation of objective knowledge).
Berry says that Wotan completes Feuerbach's rejection of religious transcendence by spurning in turn the consolation of Feuerbach's kingdom of love-communism (which was to have supplanted dying religion). Again, he fails to see that this kingdom of love is Wagner's metaphor for inspired secular art in general, and Wagner's revolutionary music-dramas in particular, and that Wotan's joyful resignation of power to Siegfried is Wagner's metaphor for religious feeling's survival in what Wagner regarded as its last refuge, his music-dramas. As I've been stating in my copyrighted works since 1983, Siegfried is ultimately implicated in Wotan's (religious man's) crime against Nature, the truth, all that was, is, and will be, and is punished by Alberich's curse, for perpetuating religious pessimism, or world-denial, in the heroic deeds of art, the adventures Siegfried will undertake in the outer world, which he creates under Bruennhilde's inspiration.
Berry says that in the Kantian antinomy of freedom/determinism Wagner chooses the individual, so the Norns' rope snaps. Again, this seeming freedom is felt, not objectively true, not actual, because it's the product of Siegfried's inspired art and the ecstasy of unconscious artistic inspiration symbolized by his loving, ecstatic union with Bruennhilde, his muse and repository of dangerous, yet safely unconscious, knowledge. In this ecstasy of unconscious artistic inspiration Siegfried fulfills Wotan's second desire of Erda, namely, that if Wotan can't alter, can't change the truth (stop the rolling wheel of fate), at least he can cease to be conscious of it and forget his fear, in art.
End of Part Six; Edited/Revised by Paul Heise on 6/23/12.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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