Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 4

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

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Critique: 'Finding an Ending' Part 4

Post by alberich00 » Thu Jul 21, 2016 11:26 am

We suggest that after achieving self-mastery by taming the impulses that had initially driven him, he formed the dream of creating an order that would end the sway of the primitive as well as the stupor of the primordial, transforming the world into a far nobler and more admirable place, in which life could be lived more meaningfully and worthily.”

PH: It has been an essential premise of my life’s work in interpreting the "Ring," for many years, that both Alberich and Wotan, in their related though differing quests for power (Alberich desiring objective power, Wotan desiring ideal, subjective power, which depends on illusions), cannot accept the world they found as it is. This is the foundation of what I call man’s existential dilemma, and is the root of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, in which Alberich is simply offering a description of human nature. The difference between them, though, is that Alberich wishes to alter the status quo by obtaining more and more objective power through knowledge of the world in which we live, whereas Wotan, the exemplar of mankind’s religious impulse, seeks the kinds of satisfaction of desire and freedom from fear and pain which can’t be attained in the real world, but only in imagination, imagination, however, taken to be more real than the objective world we live in. In my interpretation it is the very nature of man, and the prime cause of man’s ability to attain power over himself and his environment unknown to other, non-linguistic, animals, that man can’t accept the world as he finds it, but must either improve it to satisfy his needs, or escape it in imagination because man can’t objectively satisfy his needs or wishes in the real world at all, as, for instance, the desire for immortality.

P. 72: K&S: “Wagner does not tell us anything about the world as the young Wotan found it; the First Norn takes us as far back into the past as we are allowed to go. Yet it is important for the claims we make about Wotan’s aspirations that there should be some way of extending the story into that earlier world. We shall outline two versions.”

PH: In my interpretation Alberich is the young Wotan, since Alberich’s forging of the Ring of human consciousness (actually, Wagner’s metaphor for the natural evolutionary process which culminated in that sole animal species which is conscious of itself, reflectively, symbolically) is the precondition for the birth of the human species, and for its involuntary creation of the concept of godhead, Wotan.

PH: K&S’s first speculative reconstruction of what they describe as the Ring’s prehistory is that all the primordial beings enjoyed innocent play until competition, winning and loss, disclosed who would be dominant and who would be deprived of life’s goods. For me, their description is superfluous because it doesn’t tell us anything about Alberich and the Rhinedaughters that isn’t self-evident from their interaction in Scene One of "Rhinegold." However, my interpretation indicates there is much more to Scene One and to our potential understanding of the Rhinedaughters and Alberich than K&S present here in this theoretical reconstruction.

P. 73: K&S: “Equally unreflective, and perhaps equally instinctive, are their [the Rhinedaughters’] responses to Alberich: not cruel, not teasing, but simply the immediate responses of beauty to ugliness and deformity. They are the mindless voices of this gorgeous primordial world, voices that cannot be in any harmony with those of its inhabitants who fail to exemplify its loveliness.”

PH: Wagner himself wrote that Alberich’s longing for the Rhinedaughters is the natural longing of ugliness for beauty, and that their negative response to Alberich is also natural. Wagner also spoke of the indifference of nature to the individual. Nature, he noted, accounts only for the species. However, in my interpretation the Rhinedaughters’ interaction with Alberich is viewed in light of Wagner’s own speculation on the origins of human consciousness and civilization in his prose works, in which man is portrayed as no longer being able to satisfy his need through the older animal instinct, and was forced to become conscious of himself in order to satisfy needs which nature no longer satisfied. The Rhinedaughters’ rejection of Alberich’s bid for sexual companionship and love I take to be Wagner’s metaphor for this natural evolutionary transition from preconscious animality to reflectively conscious human life, in which, for the first time, there is a breach between subject and object.

P. 74: K&S: “The stormy opening of "Walkuere" can conjure a partial and unstable version of Wotan’s attempt at order, as we hear a transformation of the motif associated with his spear and the threatening horn calls that will be associated with Hunding’s bellicosity. In response to its blithe cruelties, its Hobbesian tensions, and its swelling malevolence, a reflective and high-minded spirit might aspire to bring this rude world under the rule of law, to settle disputes by principles and contracts rather than by force and thus to foster the conditions under which the inhabitants of this world might turn out very differently and more admirably.”

PH: The problem with this suggestion about the motives underlying Wotan’s institution of divine laws to restrain man’s egoistic tendencies for the sake of social welfare is that, by the time we witness Siegmund running to escape the vengeance of Hunding’s blood relatives inadvertently into Hunding’s own hut (where Siegmund will find his long-lost twin sister Sieglnde bound in a loveless marriage to Hunding), Wotan’s law is already in place and supporting Hunding’s style of life, in which social quiet and tradition is more important than individual rights or self-expression. It is precisely for this reason that Wotan’s wife, the guarantor of the very essence of Wotan’s laws, those governing hearth and home, fights for Hunding against Wotan’s proxies the Waelsungs, and specifically against Wotan’s Waelsung son Siegmund, whom Wotan has already brought up to defy the gods’ laws. Wagner’s descriptions of Creon as the exemplar of State Law, in his discussions of Antigone, who lived instead for love, illustrate my point.

P. 75: PH: K&S here assert that Wotan originally broke a branch off of the World-Ash to make his spear of divine authority and law because Wotan wished to solve what they call “the problem of order”:

K&S: “This, we suggest, was the issue with which the post-adolescent Wotan began - and which eventually came to be transfigured in his mind into the seemingly very different (but, we believe, deeply connected) problem of ‘finding an ending,’ as he began to despair of ever discovering a satisfactory solution to his initial great problem and aspiration. (…) He has sought the power to achieve and safeguard it [order] out of an appreciation of the shallow mindlessness of innocent play (however graceful) and the savagery of disorder.”

PH: It was not Wotan but Alberich who questioned the value of the Rhinedaughters’ playful interaction with their Rhinegold, asking them what use it could possibly be if it exists only for play. Therefore K&S have missed Alberich’s introduction of the concept of utility, practical use, into the "Ring," and the distinction Wagner sets up between this objective use of things, and the aesthetic/spiritual way of seeing the world, the subjective way that Wotan shares, in a sense, with the Rhinedaughters. It is Wotan who wishes to restore lost innocence to the world, and to do this he must in fact subvert his laws, which are created only by and for fallen man. Wotan has already restrained the savagery of disorder by taming mankind’s ego, represented by the giants Fafner and Fasolt, whom Wotan, as he told Fricka, tamed by making a contract with them, which is inscribed on his spear. But taming the disorder of society as a whole, or even between nations, often involves injustices to specific individuals and groups of people, as for instance occurred with Metternich’s machinations to bring peace to Europe after the Napoleonic wars, leaving entire peoples, as in the Balkans, suffering under terrible oppression from the Turks.


P. 77: PH: However, K&S note that:

K&S: “… Wotan’s rule of law is radically incomplete. Alberich does not willingly submit to it and so has to be physically captured and bound, and his ill-gotten gains seized. More significantly, Wotan’s seizure of them has nothing high-minded or even right-minded about it. (…) Wotan does not hesitate to go outside his own law - or at least counter to its spirit - when it suits him to do so. He is even tempted to keep the Ring for himself; and it takes Erda’s intervention to turn him away from that disastrous course.”

PH: My interpretation carries the implications of this problem further, because I reckon Wotan’s contract with the giants as not just one among many contracts, some of them engaged in previously, but rather, the very archetype of the social contract itself, the source of all order in every society, in which tradition, usage, law, taboo, etc., restrain the free expression of the individual human ego for the sake of a wider social good. And from its inception, according to the libretto of the "Ring," Wotan was preparing with Loge’s help to in some way void this original contract, by substituting some other item of exchange for the goddess Freia, goddess of both divine love and of sorrowless youth eternal, which are the foundation of what religious man looks for from his gods. Allegedly divinely instituted law has to be, at one and the same time, considered both immutable and also subject to amendment, precisely because it wasn’t invented by god in the first place, but involuntarily and unconsciously invented by men. Feuerbach noted, interestingly, that natural law [say, Erda’s knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, woven by the Norns into their rope of fate] doesn’t change, while the mark of a god’s law is that the god who made it, an allegedly free will, can also break it, in spite of the assumption that divine laws are immutable. But an example would be how the god who allegedly created the laws of nature can break these laws through miraculous interventions. K&S lose a great deal here by only treating Wotan as a political authority and not as godhead, the object of religious belief.

P. 77-78: K&S suggest that the presence of Alberich’s Ring in the world indicates that: “The rule of law cannot subdue some elements of the natural disorder. The most obvious symbol of this is the Ring itself … . (…) Wotan insists that he must have the Ring to ensure that its power will not defeat that of his spear.”

PH: But consider again the implications of the fact that Alberich’s Ring Motif #19 transforms into the first segment of the Valhalla Motif #20a, and also of the fact that Wotan can’t secure his divine refuge Valhalla and retain its very essence, Freia, without securing the Ring from Alberich, which Alberich could only win by renouncing love (the essence of the highest ideals which Wotan will ever contemplate) for the sake of power. Both the Ring and Valhalla reflect the same power, and that, in my interpretation, is the power of the human mind. K&S seem unable to accommodate this in their scheme.

P. 78: PH: K&S now reference the relative chronology of Wotan’s and Alberich’s original sins again:

K&S: The Ring … cannot be the only threat to his [Wotan’s] attempts to impose order. Whatever reasons Fricka may have had for welcoming the building of Valhalla, Wotan had his: it is evident that Valhalla is to be a stronghold, the need for which clearly antedates the new problem posed by Alberich’s possession of the Ring. There was a history between the carving of the spear and the opening of "Rheingold" - a sequence of events in which Wotan’s efforts to solve his problem (the problem of order) presumably met with recurrent obstacles, prompting him to resort to measures with short-term advantages that in the long run only made for further and larger troubles for his project.”

PH: Here again, I don’t think it helps to assume that any of Wotan’s activities predated Alberich’s possession of the Ring. The Ring Motif gave birth to the initial segment of the Valhalla Motif. Wotan is Light-Alberich. Wotan must depend on Alberich to secure the product (Valhalla) of Wotan’s archetypal contract, that with the giants, or otherwise the gods lose their status as gods, i.e., their special domain and refuge, and Freia, the very essence of what man looks to obtain from the gods. What Wagner is depicting in "Rhinegold" is a metaphor for a number of related events in the evolution of species which produced man, all of which can be said to have depended on each other. That he has to display these events in a chronological sequence which doesn’t necessarily replicate with precision the actual process which led up to the evolution of the human species is a necessary consequence of Wagner dramatizing his allegory and presenting it with realistic personalities. When Wotan defines Valhalla for Fricka, and previously when he conceives his great idea, he effectively describes Valhalla as the refuge from the care and fear with which Erda’s prophecy of the inevitable twilight of the gods, which Alberich’s son Hagen is to bring about, has belabored Wotan. If I am not mistaken K&S are getting into more and more trouble, having a greater and greater problem presenting their case, because they are striving to represent Wagner’s Ring as a somewhat realistic account of how we live now and what motivates normal humans, when in fact it can only be construed in detail as an allegory of much greater scope than that allowed it by these authors. Here, below, is another case in point:

P. 78-79: K&S: “The contract with the giants is a mess - in part because Wotan did not pay much attention to its terms, since he did not seriously intend to fulfill them. But it is important to see that it is not a gratuitous mess. Wotan has entered into it (at Loge’s suggestion) as a response to earlier difficulties. His fantasy, as Scene 2 of "Rheingold" opens (and Wotan sings with greater confidence than he will ever again achieve), is that this time he has it: this time the pieces are all in place, and the final imposition of order on the world will now become possible.”

PH: True, Wotan in this doesn’t act anything like we assume a god would act, since a true god could have no self-doubt and would not engage other beings in a contract which he had no intention of respecting. He also wouldn’t even have to worry about protecting heaven (Valhalla) from any sort of a mundane or earthly threat. And yet Wotan is described in the "Ring" as a god, and even the ruler of all the gods. The solution to this problem is not to be found in an assumption that in Wotan we are dealing with a flawed idealist and founder of a state. The solution is to be found in Feuerbach’s analysis, and Wagner’s original assessment of it, of the unconscious subterfuge and self-delusion through which human beings first involuntarily, collectively, invented the gods, and conceived of their gods as instituting the foundations of human society. As Wagner himself put it, referencing Schopenhauer, but actually alluding also to Feuerbach, mankind in creating religious belief had to fool his own ego (represented in the Ring by the giants) into accepting an illusion of future satisfaction in exchange for giving up actual satisfaction (thereby creating a society based upon repression of one’s own ego for the sake of social stability), but an illusion which was not so all-encompassing that it did not allow for just enough satisfaction of the individual’s need in order to insure the individual would sacrifice the remainder for the greater good. That this seemingly complex phase in the evolution of the human species occurred below the level of consciousness Wagner depicts in the fact that the gods slept while the giants (metaphor for the gods’, i.e., humanity’s, animal instincts of sexual desire and self-preservation, or fear) built Valhalla, which can be taken as a symbol for a civilized order founded upon religious belief, as well as a representation of heaven, upon which earthly life is expected to be modeled, though imperfectly. That Alberich’s Ring - which in my interpretation represents the power of the human mind - musically gave birth to Valhalla shows us that the giants, man’s animal instincts, granted a higher power through the human mind, were the ultimate motive behind the creation of this civilization predicated on belief in gods. And, as Feuerbach said, the idea of godhead was an inevitable product of the nature of the human mind itself, since mankind unconsciously reified man’s symbolic consciousness, his newfound capacity for abstract thought and generalization, into the concept of an infinite mind with infinite powers. That is why the Rhinedaughters’ promise to Alberich that the Ring will grant him limitless power culminates in the musical evolution of Alberich’s Ring Motif #19 into the first segment of the Valhalla Motif #20a.

P. 80-81: PH: K&S, referring to Wotan, state that:

K&S: “The idea of somehow managing to wipe the entire slate clean enough to restore the world to the condition of some innocent primordial Ur-Welt is far from his mind, at least as long as he remains on stage. Despite his respect for Erda’s wisdom, he would seem to be constitutionally incapable, even at his wits’ end, of being attracted to the prospect of endless mindless play. Even at Twilight time, if that is the only alternative, or best available outcome, he prefers oblivion.”

PH: K&S seem to be confused here on two counts: First, the fact that Wagner embodied Wotan’s great idea in "Rhinegold" Scene Four in motif #57, which in Valkyrie Act One Scene Three, and from then on, is associated with the sword belonging to the Waelsung heroes Siegmund and Siegfried, Nothung, and therefore with Wotan’s initial hope that a free hero will redeem the gods from Alberich’s curse on his Ring, and that the primary component of that motif is the arpeggiated figure with which the Ring begins, the Primal Nature Motif #1, indicates that Wotan’s primary purpose is to restore an innocence which has been lost, lost even by him (since Alberich’s Ring of earthly power and the gods’ presumably transcendent heaven Valhalla have the same musical foundation), lost even in the foundation of the civilization under god. As Wagner said, man didn’t value the restoration of innocence until he had lost it, and man’s primary purpose since the fall is to restore lost innocence. But, since Wotan’s power and ability to contemplate life’s meaning and destiny are predicated in the first place upon man’s acquisition of consciousness (Alberich’s forging of his Ring), all the expedients Wotan seeks in order to restore lost innocence, until the very end, will be artificial means. Thus Bruennhilde’s temporary ability to redeem Siegfried from Alberich’s curse on his Ring by keeping it safe for him is a sort of substitute for actually restoring the Ring to the Rhinedaughters. Since I interpret Siegfried’s and Bruennhilde’s loving relationship as Wagner’s metaphor for his own art, it is no wonder that Wagner spoke of art in general, and the art of music in particular, as restoring lost innocence, the life of feeling.

PH: Also, in my interpretation the Rhinedaughters’ seemingly innocent play in the presence of the Rhinegold, which they celebrate joyfully in music, song, and dance, corresponds with Wagner’s notion that truly authentic, inspired art restores lost innocence, for he described art as a serious form of play. In my interpretation, when Wotan must acknowledge the inevitability of the end of the gods (i.e., the ultimate decline in religious faith due to the rise of man’s scientific, secular mindset), Wotan’s only hope to do what K&S believe he will see the need to do, find an ending of the gods which will nonetheless salvage meaning, is to look to inspired secular art (in an artist-hero freed from the gods’ laws, i.e., an art which isn’t bound by religious dogma) to save the very essence of man’s religious longing for transcendent meaning, which according to Feuerbach and Wagner is musical feeling. Thus Wotan will make the artist-hero Siegfried (the music-dramatist) and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde (music itself) his heirs. Second, then, Wotan does in fact wish, at least figuratively, to restore innocence and play, in the sense of Wagner’s notion of art restoring innocence and being a serious form of play, a sort of surrogate for the innocence of preconscious life, which is what the Rhinedaughters represent. And at twilight time, contrary to what K&S say, Wotan’s musings over his hope that Bruennhilde will restore the Ring to the Rhinedaughters, conveyed by Waltraute (Bruennhilde’s sister) to Bruennhilde, actually comes to fulfillment when Bruennhilde restores Alberich’s Ring to them from her ashes.

P. 81: PH: In spite of their evident confusion, K&S are still seeking to discover an ending Wotan could conceive which would nonetheless be redemptive of meaning:

K&S: “So, in the end, it seems, Wotan fails. He fails to solve the problem (of order) he has set for himself; and, as we have already suggested, throughout much of the drama he is conscious - at first dimly, later more clearly - that failure is inevitable. (…) The ending that is to be desired, that would have some sort of positive rather than merely negative significance, thus presents an even more formidable challenge; for it would have to make sense in a way that makes no appeal whatsoever to any sort of enduring reality of divine beings and purposes.”

PH: My interpretation has already provided the solution to this question, in Feuerbach’s and Wagner’s notion that religious feeling can live on in inspired secular art, especially the art of music, when religion as thought, as belief, must decline and ultimately die out.

PH: Now K&S ask themselves what is truly divine and eternal about the gods in the "Ring," when they are subject to death:

K&S: “Throughout the "Ring," characters sing of the ‘… [eternal or immortal gods].’ And yet the Third Norn tells us, in the Prelude to Goetterdaemmerung, that ‘the end of the eternal gods eternally is at hand … .’ Their imputed eternal nature is no such thing - or at least, is not what it is generally taken to be.”

PH: I think Roger Scruton got this right when he described this divinity or eternity as being a metaphor for what is archetypal and mythical, for myth is timeless. Also, if there is an eternal recurrence of phases in the evolution of the cosmos, a thing can be both eternal and end, without contradiction. Wagner actually presents us with this possibility at the conclusion of the "Ring."

P. 82: PH: K&S solve this problem by referencing Wagner’s own explanation of it in his famous 1854 letter to August Roeckel, in which he tried to explain at length the philosophy underlying his "Ring":

K&S: “In one of his most philosophical letters, Wagner provides clues to his usage of this key term. Writing to Roeckel in 1854, he explains: ‘ “Ewig” - in the true sense of the word - is that which negates finitude (or rather: the concept of finitude): the concept of finitude is unsuited to ‘reality,’ for reality, i.e., something that is constantly changing, new and multifarious - is precisely the negation of all that is merely imagined and conceived as finite.’ The interpolated interpretation of reality, in terms of change, hearkens back to an earlier passage in the same letter, in which Wagner had offered the following characterization of the real: ‘to be real, to live - what this means is to be created, to grow, to bloom, to wither and to die; without the necessity of death, there is no possibility of life.’ Wotan expresses a similar view early in "Rheingold," when he reprimands Fricka for attempting to hold him to a constant course: ‘All who live love renewal and change: that pleasure I cannot forgo!’ (Ironically, but also perhaps significantly, this phrase is linked by the accompanying orchestra with Valhalla, which in Wotan’s mind at this point is to be the culmination of his quest for order.)”

PH: Here is the full quotation of this passage, which puts a different spin on it than what K&S offer above:

“Wotan: (#23) If your aim, as my wife, was to hold me fast in the fortress [Valhalla], you must grant that I, as a god, while confined to the stronghold, (#20b?) might win for myself the world outside. (#20c?) All who live love renewal and change: (#20d?) that pleasure I cannot forgo!”

PH: K&S seem to have missed the key distinction here, because Wotan clearly distinguishes the stable, ordered life he would have as a divine denizen of Valhalla, god the father, with the life of motion and change he must undertake to win the world outside, and thus increase his worldly power. This is precisely the split between Wotan as god the father, denizen of Valhalla, and Wotan the world-wanderer, who gradually accumulates a hoard of knowledge through historical experience. In fact, Valhalla Motif #20b may possibly be an embryo for one of the two Wanderer Motifs, #113. Wotan theoretically embraces this alternative lifestyle of winning the world outside, and embracing, in order to do that, renewal and change, until Erda (Mother Nature herself, who speaks self-knowledge when she tells him that in the real world, of past, present, and future, all things that are - including the gods and their hopes and ideals, presumably - end, and that a day of darkness is dawning for the gods) warns him of the price he’ll pay if he strives for such objective power. Wotan is, in effect, here speaking of himself not as mere godhead in its conventional meaning, but rather, in its Feuerbachian sense. For Feuerbach said that when Christians speak of God they are unconsciously making a metaphor for what is actually collective, historical man, who, in the course of world history amasses a hoard of ever increasing knowledge of himself and the world, and in this sense becomes a figure for that god of the imagination who knows all things, and can do all things. It is not that mankind has potentially infinite power, but that mankind’s collective power increases over time, without a defined limit. Thus, Wotan plays the role not only of godhead in heaven, whose divine law rules the lives of men, but also of the Wanderer, who travels the earth (Erda) in quest of experience and knowledge, and who even delves into the very essence of the world, Erda herself, to obtain this knowledge (presumably essential knowledge, of the laws of nature). Knowledge grants man objective power. In this sense both Alberich in his amassing his hoard of treasure (treasure obtained, as Mime tells Wotan, in "Erde’s Navel-Nest," which is another name for Nibelheim), and Wotan in his amassing a hoard of knowledge, or runes, are equivalent.

PH: But unlike Alberich Wotan seeks not only that objective knowledge which could win him earthly power, he also seeks a different kind of knowledge in which he can be redeemed from the horrors engendered by the first kind. He seeks aesthetic intuition, a subjective, feeling way of knowing. This is supplied by man’s poetic/artistic gift, and particularly the art of music. And this ties in with Wagner’s and Wotan’s description of the real nature of the world in which, as Erda said, all things end, for Wagner noted that music alone, of all the arts, can capture reality in this way. Therefore, when Wotan describes himself as wishing to go beyond the bounds of Valhalla, i.e., beyond the bounds of religious faith itself, he becomes a collective mortal seeking either objective knowledge (as Alberich and eventually his son Hagen do, at least figuratively), or aesthetic intuition of the world (as embodied by the artist-hero Siegfried and his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration Bruennhilde), in which the horrors of the real world are redeemed and made safe by art’s magic, without any need for religious faith and the gods.

PH: Let me add that the primary musical motif which accompanies Fricka’s description of the domestic bliss of Valhalla, which he says will not entirely content him or fulfill him, in spite of Fricka’s hopes to the contrary, is #23, which - it is no accident - will also capture Siegfried’s aesthetic arrest once he has, in "Siegfried" Act Three Scene Three, surveyed the landscape on top of the mountain upon which Bruennhilde lays asleep, wearing her armor, and with her horse Grane. The point of this musical link is to indicate that the inspired secular art which the loving union of the music-dramatist Siegfried with his muse of unconscious artistic inspiration, and music, Bruennhilde, will inspire him to create, is a new Valhalla, a new religion which replaces the old religion. But, just as Wotan (really, mankind) inevitably must extend himself beyond the bounds of religious faith (Valhalla) to conquer the real world, objectively, so Siegfried the artist-hero, having obtained unconscious artistic inspiration from his muse Bruennhilde, must leave her to present his redemptive artworks to the world of men. And this in a sense is exercising the artist’s will-to-power. This will be illustrated in Siegfried’s journeying forth from Bruennhilde’s rock, on adventures she has inspired him to undertake in the wider world (Wagner’s metaphor for inspired works of redemptive art).

PH: As Feuerbach and Wagner put it, the advantage of such art over religion is that while religion is, like art, an expression of mankind’s poetic or mythic faculty, religion, unlike art, presents its gods as objectively real beings, who are presumed to be even more real than anything in the world of time and space (because the gods are regarded, in many religions, as the creators of the world), the secular artist presents his creations as his own invention, his characters as fictions, and in music, which has no conscious conceptual component, as mere feeling which has no stake in questions of truth or illusion. Thus Siegfried’s art will be temporarily free of Alberich’s curse on his Ring, the curse of consciousness. Of course in the "Ring," since Wagner is making Feuerbach’s assumptions about the gods, they are subject to Erda’s, Mother Nature’s, laws.

K&S: “One aspect of Wotan’s character that satisfies Wagner’s description is this very quality, writ large in his aspiration to change and renewal on a grand scale. He would transform the entire world, ’negating finitude’ by transforming and thereby transcending the limitations of the world as he found it, giving it a meaning that does not reduce to mere life and death on primordial nature’s or primitive humanity’s terms. Moreover, he eventually embraces the idea that not only his preferred kind of order, but also he himself and the rest of the gods along with him, must perish. And this requires a different mode (if one can be conceived) of opposing or negating finitude - for the ending he seeks is one that still allows for the possibility of deathless significance. In any event Wotan himself is eminently deserving of the epithet ‘ewig’ even though his powers are limited and he must perish, because his efforts do involve overcoming finitude, in a manner that transcends his own existence, and even have a kind of cosmic significance.”

PH: I believe my analysis of this problem in my commentary on the Feuerbachian understanding of Wotan above answers the question about Wotan’s finitude vs. eternity. It will help if I add that Wagner regarded inspired art as ageless and eternal in a manner which religions, which are subject to change, and science, which is subject to change, are not. Thus Bruennhilde, the muse of art, and Siegfried’s unconscious source of inspiration, tells Wotan in "Valkyrie" Act Three Scene Three, that she is the ageless part of himself, and Wotan himself describes his heir Siegfried to Erda in Siegfried Act Three Scene One in the following way: “(#134) … to the one who’s eternally young the god now yields in gladness.” #134, by the way, sometimes called the World-Inheritance Motif, is actually the motif most associated in the "Ring" with Bruennhilde’s and Siegfried’s loving union, and therefore, in my interpretation, with Siegfried’s unconscious artistic inspiration by his loving muse Bruennhilde. It is the only motif in the Ring which Wagner himself described as a motif of redemption, and is therefore a motif representing redemption by love, if it is understood that for Wagner the love shared by the hero and heroine is his metaphor for his own unconsciously inspired art of the music-drama. #93, the motif first heard in "Valkyrie" Act Three Scene One, when Sieglinde praises Bruennhilde’s intervention in the fate of the Waelsungs which saved the as-yet-unborn greatest of heroes Siegfried (#92), and which Wagner described as the Glorification of Bruennhilde, or a hymn to heroes, is the primary motif heard in the finale of the "Ring" which is often, I think falsely, identified with redemption by love.

P. 84: K&S: “Alberich’s judgments, like Fricka’s, play no constructive role in advancing Wotan’s problem of order. This is not because Alberich fails to grasp the importance of what Wotan is about, but because this alternative is so radically different. What Alberich seeks is not some different meaning-enhancing reordering of the world that would be superior to Wotan’s; for in his resentful and vindictive bitterness, nothing matters except vengeful domination. Yet he is astute enough to see that thwarting Wotan is crucial to his own pathological aims, and consequently he can be expected to pounce on those features of Wotan’s strategies that prove self-defeating.”

PH: Alberich’s judgments do initially have a constructive role in advancing Wotan’s problem of order, because, as I have stated, Alberich’s forging of his Ring #19 (of human consciousness) gives birth to Valhalla #20a (man’s first mode of thought, religious belief in gods), in the Feuerbachian sense that it is the very nature of the human mind, before it has acquired sufficient knowledge to know better, to reify its own seemingly infinite nature into the concept of godhead.
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