Feuerbach's influence on "Lohengrin" Part 3:
(11) HOW WAGNER’S MUSICAL MOTIFS - THE LANGUAGE OF THE UNCONSCIOUS – PRESERVE THE SECRET OF THE MUSIC-DRAMATIST’S AIM
Musical feeling for Wagner is, of course, the mainspring of all artistic and religious creativity and imagination. Interestingly, and apropos of Elsa’s status as Lohengrin’s unconscious mind, Wagner associates musical composition, in his sense of the term, with unconscious, involuntary artistic inspiration, as we experience it in our own dreams:
(11A) “Where creation passes from consciousness to an unconscious act, i.e., where the poet no longer chooses his esthetic form, but it’s imposed on him by inner vision (Anschauung) of the idea itself ... lies the difference between the poet and musician.” (9-12/70 Beethoven; PW V, 63-64).
Similarly, the dream is clearly our own product, yet we do not feel consciously responsible for its events, which seem like a divine revelation or unconsciously produced artistic creation, welling up from our deepest, most hidden, most secret self. The poet, Wagner says, realizes his aim by keeping it a secret to himself, and thus redeems his ego:
(11B) “The poet can only realize his aim when he keeps it a secret to himself, i.e., when he no longer speaks it in a language wherein alone it could be imparted as an intellectual aim.” (50-1/51 Opera and Drama; PW II, 233-234).
We might say more accurately that thanks to the poet’s unconscious artistic inspiration his aim is kept secret even “from” himself, rather than merely “to” himself. Lohengrin’s true motives, his true aim in returning to earth to find his own redemption in Elsa, may have remained secret even from him.
And what is the language that can keep the poet’s aim secret, as Elsa offers to keep Lohengrin’s secret, if not music? It is, specifically, Wagner’s musical motifs which keep this secret, by taking on the burden of carrying our most tragic thought, our unbearable consciousness of the bitter truth, and sublimating it into feeling, thus temporarily redeeming us from Alberich’s curse of consciousness:
(11C) “The poet’s [Wagner’s] aim is to exhibit characters’ strengthened acts through exposing their motives to feeling [through Wagner’s musical motifs]. Understanding [say, Alberich, or Light-Alberich] is thus driven ... to wed itself with that element [music] which can take the poet’s aim into itself as a fertilising seed, to shape this seed as the redeeming utterance of feeling [love]. (...) The Eternal Womanly draws manly understanding out of its egoism.” (50-1/51 Opera and Drama; PW II; 235-236)
By receiving Wotan’s confession Bruennhilde, Wotan’s unconscious mind and wish-womb, becomes the means whereby his bitter thought is repressed and sublimated into feeling. It is Bruennhilde, the creator of his unconscious language music, who converts his thoughts into Wagner’s musical motifs, thus redeeming them from egoism, redeeming his conscious purposiveness and motivation into involuntary dreaming. In this way she [Page 22] can keep the secret of Wotan’s divine “Noth” (“Goetternoth”), the secret which according to Wotan must remain “forever unspoken”. And what was Wotan’s hidden aim which he confessed to Bruennhilde in the expectation it would remain forever unspoken? It was his acknowledgment that the gods, i.e., man’s religious beliefs, are predestined to destruction, and his hope for a hero freed from those disadvantages which foredoomed the gods’ rule, in whom divinity can in some sense live on:
(11D) “... to me alone was Wotan’s thought revealed. The thought which I could never name, the thought I did not think but only felt ... ! Because that thought ... was but my love for you [i.e., her inspiration of the artist-hero Siegfried’s redemptive art].”
Compare Bruennhilde’s remark with Elsa’s rumination on her inability to name Lohengrin and the similarity of their situations becomes clear: “Elsa: [to Lohengrin] Is this but love? What can I call it - this word, so ineffably delightful as, alas! Your name, which I must never know, by which I can never call my greatest treasure! (...) If only in the seclusion of love’s peace [i.e., unconscious artistic inspiration of the poet by his muse, music] you’d permit me to pronounce it! (...) Alone, when no one is awake, never will the world hear it!” Elsa has, in effect, asked Lohengrin to let her help him maintain his taboo on knowledge by sharing that knowledge with her in sexual union, their “night of love.”
An odd concept perhaps, but sexual love as a metaphor for the exchange of a hidden hoard of knowledge is the very essence of Wotan’s bond with Erda (Mother Nature), since Wotan joins her in sexual union both to learn the full truth about his fearful fate, and also to learn from her how he can forget it, i..e, forget his fear of it. And of course Siegfried will in turn learn from his lover and muse Bruennhilde - the product of Wotan’s union with Erda - the meaning of fear, and through her love’s blessing forget the fear she taught him:
(12) WOTAN’S CONFESSION TO BRUENNHILDE – BASED ON ELSA’S OFFER TO PRESERVE LOHENGRIN FROM HARM BY KEEPING THE SECRET OF HIS IDENTITY AND ORIGIN FOR HIM [I.E., KEEPING IT SECRET EVEN FROM HIM] – IS A METAPHOR FOR REFPRESSION OF UNBEARABLE KNOWLEDGE (THE “SEED” OF THE DRAMATIST’S AIM) INTO THE WOMB OF THE CREATIVE UNCONSCIOUS AND ITS SUBLIMATION INTO INSPIRED ART
The key difference between the plots of "Lohengrin" and the "Ring" is that, where Lohengrin refused to share with his lover and potential redeemer Elsa the secret of his true identity, the burden of his conscious ego, the burden of his guilt which would bring him harm (“Noth”) if it were made known to the world (and perhaps to him), Wotan acquiesces in Bruennhilde’s plea to hear his confession of his divine “Noth”.
Wotan’s divine “Noth” is his tragic acknowledgment that the gods - in punishment for [Page 23] their (i.e., our) hubris in proclaiming their autonomy from Mother Nature (Erda) and her law that all things must end - are predestined to destruction by Alberich’s son Hagen. Hagen is Wagner’s metaphor for modern science, which is born of our collective historical acquisition of a hoard of objective knowledge of ourselves (Wotan) and our world (Erda). It is scientific knowledge which will bring to an end the millennia old dependence of mankind on belief in divine beings.
Through Wotan’s confession to Bruennhilde his conscious ego finds redemption in his unconscious mind by repressing his unbearable thoughts into it, and in this way also Wotan’s aim in seeking redemption from his guilt through the free artist-hero Siegfried is kept a secret:
(12A) “Wotan: O righteous disgrace! O shameful sorrow! Gods’ direst distress (“Goetternoth”)! Gods’ direst need (“Goetternoth”)! (...) Grief neverending! The saddest am I of all living things! Bruennhilde: Father! Father! Tell me what ails you? (...) Confide in me: I’m true to you; see, Bruennhilde begs you. Wotan: If I let it be spoken aloud [i.e., consciously], shall I not loosen my will’s restraining hold? Bruennhilde: To Wotan’s will you speak when you tell me what you will: who am I if not your will? Wotan: What in words I reveal to no one, let it stay unspoken for ever: with myself I commune when I speak with you.”
Wotan’s aim, as confessed to Bruennhilde, is kept a secret specifically from Siegfried, who, thanks to Bruennhilde, will inherit knowledge of Wotan’s aim, his intent and purpose, without becoming conscious of its influence upon him. Wotan’s hoard of unbearable knowledge, acquired from Erda (Mother Nature), and embodied ultimately in Alberich’s ring which Siegfried inherited from the dead Fafner, will be Siegfried’s unconscious source of artistic inspiration. This is another way of saying that Alberich’s curse on his ring is Siegfried’s unconscious source of artistic inspiration, which is one reason that Siegfried will later say that the ring contains the virtue of all of his deeds, i.e., his heroic deeds of art. That Alberich’s ring was also the hidden source of inspiration for Wotan’s waking dream, the gods’ heavenly abode Valhalla, was of course implicit in the fact that the ring motif transforms into the Valhalla Motif, the Valhalla motif being a variant of the ring motif, just as Wotan – Light-Alberich – is himself a reflection of Alberich.
And in this way Wotan’s (i.e., mankind’s) unconscious mind Bruennhilde - the source of that collective dreaming through which the primal Folk involuntarily created the gods, and also the source of the individual artist’s unconscious inspiration - becomes the guardian of those religious mysteries which according to Feuerbach it is the purpose and destiny of science to expose to the light of day:
(12B) [eoc140-141] “Feeling [Bruennhilde] is the dream of nature [her mother Erda]; and there is nothing more blissful, nothing more profound than dreaming. But what is dreaming? The reversing of waking consciousness [Wotan’s redemption from his conscious ego, i.e., redemption from the Alberich in Light-Alberich’s soul]. ... in dreaming, I take the spontaneous action of my own mind for an action upon me [Page 24] from without, my emotions for events, my conceptions and sensations for true existences apart from myself [Wotan speaks to himself when he speaks to Bruennhilde]. (...) It is the same ego, the same being in dreaming as in waking; the only distinction is that in waking, the ego acts on itself; whereas in dreaming it is acted on by itself as by another being. (...) Feeling is a dream with the eyes open; religion the dream of waking consciousness [think here of Wotan’s waking dream Valhalla, the abode of the gods built for them by the giants while they slept, and dreamed]: dreaming is the key to the religious mysteries.”
And Feuerbach provides further evidence not only that Bruennhilde, the god Wotan’s daughter, is also Wotan’s unconscious mind, but also suggests a reason why Wagner conceived of Bruennhilde as Erda’s - Mother Nature’s - daughter:
(12C) [ler310-11] “The object of religion is nature [Erda], which operates independently of man and which he distinguishes from himself. But this nature is more than the phenomena of the outside world; it also includes man’s inner nature [Wotan’s unconscious mind Bruennhilde], which operates independently of his knowledge and his will. This statement brings us to our most crucial point, the true seat and origin of religion. The ultimate secret of religion is the relationship between the conscious and unconscious, the voluntary and involuntary in the same individual. (...) Man with his ego or consciousness stands at the brink of a bottomless abyss; that abyss is his own unconscious being ... .”
(13) HOW WOTAN - BY PLANTING HIS UNCONSCIOUS WISH-WOMB BRUENNHILDE WITH THE “SEED” OF HIS CONFESSION, GOD’S “WORD” - GIVES BIRTH TO WOTAN’S REINCARNATION AS THE INNOCENT ARTIST-HERO AND HOPED-FOR SAVIOR OF THE GODS SIEGFRIED
Wotan confesses to Bruennhilde the entire burden of his corrupt history, the fatal knowledge he obtained from her mother Erda (Nature). The content of Wotan’s confession is the entire historical context from which Wotan’s desired hero must be freed in order to make this hero the free, fearless, naked man of Wotan’s imagination. Erda has foretold that the gods are predestined to destruction by Alberich’s curse through Alberich’s agent and son Hagen. This is just another way of saying that belief in gods is predestined to destruction by the inevitable advancement in scientific knowledge. Wotan’s free hero must therefore no longer be vulnerable to contradiction by the truth; i.e., the hero mustn’t suffer the disadvantage of religious belief, which stakes an indefensible claim on the truth.
Wotan also confesses to Bruennhilde his futile longing to transcend himself, to lose his true nature and take on a new nature (somewhat in the Christian sense of being dead to this life and reborn in the spirit), to create a hero free from all that Wotan loathes in himself, his egoism and fear and guilt:
(13A) “I find with loathing always only myself in all that encompass.”
Therefore Wotan’s hero can only freely perform the act which Wotan himself is unable to do, that act which Wotan hopes will redeem the gods (i.e., religion) from destruction, if the hero is not conscious of Wotan’s influence upon him. Wotan’s hero must do Wotan’s will, i.e, act upon Wotan’s fear of the truth, without becoming conscious that it is Wotan’s fear which motivates him. It is as if by storing knowledge of his loathsome identity and history in his unconscious mind Bruennhilde Wotan could repress his intolerable self-knowledge into his unconscious mind and forget it, thus losing himself and his guilt in her. Another way of understanding this is that Siegfried must wholly sever art, our aesthetic intuition (Bruennhilde), from its tainted roots in religion.
Wotan, godhead, wishes in other words that his unconscious mind Bruennhilde will free him from the baggage of his conscious mind, his egoism, and his corrupt history, so that he can be reborn in innocence as the artist-hero Siegfried, the naked man. Siegfried the artist-hero is Wotan (the embodiment of religious belief), stripped of his historical context and fate. Siegfried is Wotan minus consciousness of his true identity and heritage. It is Bruennhilde’s offer to receive Wotan’s confession of his divine “Noth”, his unspoken secret, which made this possible, since Bruennhilde can now keep Wotan’s secret a secret even from Wotan himself, in his new incarnation as Siegfried.
Since Bruennhilde won Wotan’s agreement to confess the secret of his divine “Noth” to her, the secret which must remain forever unspoken, only after she called herself his “will” and he acknowledged her as such, Wotan’s following remark to Bruennhilde acquires an immense significance:
(13B) “... what use would my own will [Bruennhilde] be to me? I cannot will a free man ... .”
Wotan repeats this question rhetorically when confronting Bruennhilde’s mother Erda for the second and last time in Siegfried Act Three Scene One. Erda had suggested that if Wotan is seeking knowledge he should consult her daughters the Norns, who spin the rope of her knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, i.e., the knowledge of natural law, or fate. Wotan protested that he could not accept the Norns’ knowledge because they spin their rope “... in thrall to the world”, i.e., in thrall to the truth. Since Wotan has renounced reality, renounced the truth, and thus sinned against Mother Nature and her knowledge, Erda suggests that Wotan seek knowledge instead from their daughter Bruennhilde, precisely because if Wotan can’t live with the truth, Bruennhilde can offer him redemption from it. Wotan then asks:
(13C) “What use would it be to question her [Bruennhilde]?”
Bruennhilde’s (Wotan’s will’s) use to Wotan is precisely that through her he can will a free man, Siegfried, the man freed from Wotan’s burden of conscious knowledge, into existence. This is implicit in Wotan’s answer to his own question, as he exultantly tells Erda:
(13D) “The wisdom of primeval mothers draws towards its end: your knowledge (“Wissen”) wanes before my will [Bruennhilde].”
Thanks to Bruennhilde, who holds Siegfried’s knowledge of his true identity, origin, and fate for him, Siegfried’s (i.e., Wotan’s) conscious mind will be freed from all that Wotan loathed about himself, and freed from Wotan’s – religious man’s – fear of truth. It was that fear which originally inspired man to involuntarily invent and worship gods and invest those gods with unquestioning faith.
Siegfried’s heroism, his fearlessness, therefore depends upon Bruennhilde’s gifts. Through her, his unconscious mind which protects him from the wounds of consciousness, Siegfried remains unconscious of his true identity as heir to Wotan’s legacy and fear, because Wotan has bestowed the burden of keeping the secret of his own tragic history and fate upon his daughter Bruennhilde, whom Wotan himself has acknowledged is his creative unconscious:
(13E) “Wotan: [to Bruennhilde’s Valkyrie sisters] No one, as she did, knew my innermost thinking; no one, as she did, watched at the well-spring of my will; she herself was my wish’s life-giving womb.”
Siegfried is freed from Wotan’s knowledge and fear, and is a hero, only because, as he tells Fafner, he doesn’t know who he is:
(13F) “Siegfried: [to Fafner] I still don’t know who I am” (Siegfried, Act II, Scene 2; GS VI, 138)
That Siegfried doesn’t know who he is, and is granted protection from those wounds of consciousness which paralysed Wotan into inaction, Siegfried can thank Bruennhilde, his unconscious mind, who – as she tells Siegfried – knows who he is for him:
(13G) “Bruennhilde: [to Siegfried] Your own self am I, if you but love me in my bliss. What you don’t know I know for you.” (Siegfried, Act III, Scene 3; GS VI, 168).
The related concept, that Bruennhilde protects Siegfried from Wotan’s foreknowledge of his fated end (taught to Wotan by her mother Erda), and thus redeems Siegfried from Wotan’s fear of the end, is dramatically illustrated by Bruennhilde’s confession to Hagen and Guenther that, unbeknownst to Siegfried, her magic protects him only at the front from wounds:
(13H) “Bruennhilde: [to Hagen and Guenther] Not a single art was known to me that did not help to keep his [Siegfried’s] body safe! Unknown to him [i.e., Siegfried was unconscious of the fact that:], he was tamed by my magic spells which ward him now against wounds. Hagen: And so no weapon can harm him? Bruennhilde: In battle, no! Never, I knew, would he yield to a foe, never, fleeing, present his back, so I spared it the spell’s protection.”
In other words, Bruennhilde protects Siegfried only at the front, presumably from Wotan’s foreknowledge of the gods’ inevitable, shameful end, and thus frees Siegfried from Wotan’s paralysing fear. It is noteworthy in this regard that Bruennhilde describes herself to Wotan – who unlike Siegfried does feel fear, and thus figuratively does turn his back to and runs from what he fears – as:
(13I) “She who, in battle, guards Wotan’s back ... .”
(14) THE INFLUENCE OF FEUERBACH’S CONCEPTION OF THE HINDU CREATOR-GOD BRAHMA, AND OF WAGNER’S IDIOSYNCRATIC READING OF AESCHYLUS’ PROMETHEUS BOUND, UPON WAGNER’S CHARACTERIZATION OF BRUENNHILDE AS WOTAN’S UNCONSCIOUS MIND
Lest anyone remains skeptical of this new interpretation of the nature of Bruennhilde’s relationship with her father Wotan and lover Siegfried, consider the following passages from Feuerbach, from Wagner, and from Aeschylus’ "Prometheus Bound." We find here plausible sources for Wagner’s concept that Bruennhilde redeems Wotan by keeping secret, even from him, the intolerable burden of his self-knowledge, and the foreknowledge taught by her mother Erda. That is, we find in these two sources a basis for our reading that, by virtue of storing Wotan’s abhorrent self-knowledge in his unconscious mind Bruennhilde through his confession to her, Wotan is reborn in innocence as the fearless, creative artist-hero Siegfried.
Feuerbach tells us, for instance, that:
(14A) [tdi250] “Maya [illusion, Wahn] once drove away the melancholy of the ancient Brahma [the world-creator God in Hinduism] so that a depressed person [say, Wotan during his confession to Bruennhilde] was changed into a creator of the world.” [i.e., the melancholy and self-destructive Wotan was transformed into the fearless, creative, ever-loving artist-hero Siegfried who takes aesthetic possession of the terrible world – Alberich’s hoard and ring – through his musically inspired art]
The equivalent concept in the "Ring" allegory would be that man’s religious impulse, incarnate in Wotan, is depressed and paralysed into inaction by religious faith’s impotence in the face of Alberich’s ever growing hoard of scientific knowledge which Wotan himself (historical man) has continued to increase. However, if that religious impulse is reborn in the creative artist-hero Siegfried, who unlike Wotan stakes no false claim to the truth (Alberich’s ring) which is subject to contradiction, Siegfried can be freed from religious man’s paralysing fear and freely create redemptive artworks.
Cosima recorded the following remark by Wagner which expresses a virtually identical concept, applied in this case however to Prometheus, whose name, significantly, means “foresight” or “foreknowledge”:
(14B) “Prometheus’s words ‘I took knowledge away from man’ ... gave me a profound insight; knowledge, seeing ahead, is in fact a divine attribute, and man [Page 28] [Wotan] with this divine attribute is a piteous object, he is like Brahma before the Maya [illusion; Wahn] spread before him the veil of ignorance, of deception; the divine privilege is the saddest thing of all.” (CT 11/29/71)
It is noteworthy that Wotan, suffering from the foreknowledge of the gods’ inevitable end taught by Erda, and suffering also from his acknowledgment that any hero who attempts to redeem the gods (i.e., man’s religious impulse) from its predestined destruction will suffer the same fate as the gods, calls himself, just prior to his confession to Bruennhilde, “the saddest ... of all living things.”
Just to be certain I wasn’t reading too much into Wagner’s remark about Prometheus, I checked the following relevant passage from an English translation of "Prometheus Bound":
(14C) “Prometheus: Through me mankind ceased to foresee death. Leader of the Chorus: What remedy could heal that sad disease? Prometheus: Blind hopes I made to dwell in them. Leader of the Chorus: O merciful boon to mortals.”
Here we find, again, that just as Erda taught Wotan fear by granting him foreknowledge of his end, yet granted Wotan freedom from the very fear she taught by bearing Wotan’s daughter Bruennhilde (evidently in answer to Wotan’s hope to learn from Erda how he can end his fear), so Prometheus, who like Erda grants man the divine gift of foresight, also redeems man from the fear inherent in foresight of the end, by inspiring blind hopes. These blind hopes are equivalent to Feuerbach’s veil of Maya, self-deception, illusion, which blind man to the terrible truth. This veil of Maya is, in Wagner’s thought-world, the religious beliefs and artworks which man’s anguish and fear of the truth inspires his imagination to create. In the Ring this veil of Maya or Wahn is represented by Loge’s cunning and Loge’s protective ring of fire around Bruennhilde. Only the inspired music-dramatist can gain privileged access to the terrible truth hidden within the unconscious behind the veil of Maya, the veil of self-deceit and ignorance.
(15) WOTAN’S PUNISHMENT OF – AND SEPARATION FROM – BRUENNHILDE, IS BASED UPON LOHENGRIN’S PUNISHMENT OF – AND SEPARATION FROM - ELSA
We’ll conclude with a consideration of the implications of Lohengrin’s farewell to Elsa, in the light of its apparent influence on Wagner’s conception of Wotan’s farewell to Bruennhilde. As all veteran Wagnerians know, almost the entire third act of "The Valkyrie" is taken up with Bruennhilde’s eloquent plea to her angry father Wotan that if he must leave her and forever cut himself and the gods off from her, he should at least insure that if she is to be wakened and won by a man, this man be a true hero, i.e., an artist-hero worthy of the authentic muse. Elsa’s plea with Lohengrin for clemency is somewhat different but is, I hope to show, conceptually identical to Bruennhilde’s plea. Both are, of course, to be punished for breaching the allegedly divine being’s trust:
(15A) “Elsa: [to Lohengrin] You mustn’t turn from my bitter renunciation; I lie here to receive your punishment. (...) If she atones by misery for her great guilt, do not deprive the wretch of your presence! Do not reject me, however great my crime! Do not, ah! Do not leave me, wretched that I am! Lohengrin: There is only one punishment for your crime! (...) We shall be separated, torn asunder: this is your punishment and atonement!” (Act III, Scene 3; GS II, 111)
(15B) “Wotan: Now I must shun you and nevermore share any whispered council with you [one thinks here not only of Wotan’s confession, but also of Elsa’s insistence that Lohengrin share his secret with her]: divided, we may not act in close concert; wherever there’s life and breath, the god may no longer meet you.”
The remainder of this essay will trace the surprising implications of the similarity in Elsa’s and Bruennhilde’s situation.
(16) WAGNER’S MUSIC-DRAMA AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR RELIGIOUS FAITH, IN THE MODERN, SECULAR, SCIENTIFIC WORLD
The people are plunged into consternation by Lohengrin’s withdrawal from their world. If religion’s blessing must leave them, where will they find solace?:
(16A) “The People: [To Lohengrin] Woe! That you must leave us, you noble man, whom God sent! If heaven’s blessing is to leave us, where then shall we find solace? (...) What sore Noth you inflict upon us!” (Act III, Scene 3; GS II, 111)
The Folk will find solace, according to Wagner, in unconsciously inspired art, Wagner’s music-drama, which is the sole place in which God, whom our own skepticism has banished, can find refuge in the modern, secular, scientific world. And of course when we speak of God now, we are really speaking of the unconscious artistic inspiration through which the Folk first involuntarily deceived themselves by inventing their gods and then proclaiming their gods to be real, existing beings, the true foundation of reality. As Feuerbach put it:
[ler183] “... unless religion enters in, an artist merely expects his images to be faithful and beautiful; he does not claim that a semblance of reality is reality itself. Religion, on the other hand, deceives people, or rather people deceive themselves in religion; for it does claim that the semblance of reality is reality, that an image is a living being. But this being lives only in the imagination ... .”
According to Wagner, when religious faith, belief in its truth, is in decline, when God (i.e., our belief in God) must leave us, the religious longing for transcendent meaning and value lives on, reborn, deep in the inmost heart of the individual artist, whose aesthetic or musical sense magically takes possession of our hoard of knowledge – our hoard of experience – of the outer world, in order to redeem that world from cold science’s claim to it. Similarly, Siegfried takes possession of Alberich’s ring, Tarnhelm, and hoard, after killing Fafner, who represents – as we shall see shortly – Wotan’s fear of the truth. In this way Siegfried is unwittingly spurred to action, to take the ring from Fafner, by Wotan’s fear that if Alberich regains the ring he will use its power to destroy the gods.
This I believe is the reason why Lohengrin and Wotan withdraw from involvement in the world, leaving Godfrey and Siegfried, respectively, their heirs. In both cases also, the allegedly divine being separates himself from the heroine ostensibly to punish her for her disobedience, just as God the Father punished Adam and Eve, but particularly Eve, for stealing God’s prerogative, knowledge, by exiling them from paradise. It is well to recall here that the very essence of Hans Sachs’ confession to Eva (Eve) during his Act Two cobbling song in "Mastersingers" is his exhortation to her to compensate man for the exile from paradise her breach of God’s trust brought down on us, by inspiring the artist-hero Walther, through his morning dream, to produce the mastersong, or music-drama, that “Wahn” which will redeem the Folk from consciousness of their mortality. As Sachs suggests, the shoes he cobbles are a metaphor for art as a substitute for religious faith, since a well-fitting shoe (i.e., an authentically inspired work of art) makes us unconscious of the gravel beneath our feet, unconscious of our mortality, so that we seem to have regained the paradise first lost to us through Eve’s transgression.
As Wotan confessed to Bruennhilde, the downfall of the gods at the hands of Alberich’s son Hagen, i.e., at the hands of modern science, is inevitable. Therefore it was inevitable that both Elsa and Bruennhilde would breach the divine being’s trust. But this was the only means to free Wagner’s new religion, his music-drama, from the constraints of religious faith which made it vulnerable to science. The breach of faith in religion, the second Fall, was the necessary precondition and source of inspiration for Wagner’s creation of our second possibility of redemption from reality, the music-drama.
In Wagner’s thought-world Eve therefore becomes the archetype for the muse of his art, man’s secular substitute for lost religious faith. The true source of Wagner’s artistic inspiration might well be his subliminal acknowledgment that man’s religio-artistic impulse expresses a futile longing to restore lost innocence:
(16B) “The state of innocence could not come to men’s consciousness until they had lost it. ... the yearning ... and struggle for its reattainment, is the soul of the whole movement of civilization ... . It is the impulse to depart from a generality that seems hostile to us [i.e., the real world], to arrive at egoistic satisfaction in ourselves... .” (1-2/49 Jesus of Nazareth: SS XI, 305; PW VIII, 320)
I believe this explains why Lohengrin’s and Wotan’s punishment of the heroine’s transgression in breaching the allegedly divine trust and faith ultimately becomes, at least in Bruennhilde’s case (and implicitly in Elsa’s), her blessing. This is because thanks to Bruennhilde’s severance from the gods (religion) she can now become the muse for Siegfried’s heroic deeds of art, which are unfettered by the guilt of association with dying religious faith and belief. In other words, our exile from paradise and sense of having fallen, our “Noth”, our feeling of a gap or breach in the world, is the ground of inspiration for Wagner’s art. In effect, Alberich’s inability to find love in the real world is Wagner’s source of inspiration for his artificial substitute for lost love and innocence, his surrogate for Mother Nature, "The Ring of the Nibelung." Art is for Wagner our veil of Maya, or Wahn, the veil of self-deception which protects us from the unbearable, harsh light of consciousness of our bitter existence.
General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung
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