Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 11

General Discussion about Wagner and The Ring of the Nibelung

Moderators: alberich00, Justin Jeffrey

Post Reply
alberich00
Site Admin
Posts: 486
Joined: Tue Apr 19, 2011 11:03 am

Shapiro Consolations Critique Part 11

Post by alberich00 » Wed Oct 07, 2020 11:52 am

[P. 63] "Nineteenth-century thinkers recognized that the human race could realize its destiny not in the span of an individual life but only through the accumulated wisdom of successive generations of man. (1) (...)
Thus the philosopher interested in understanding and promoting the full inherent potential of mankind had to focus his attention not on individual achievements, but on the broad panorama of history. The plenitude of man’s capabilities was only apparent in the life of the species. (...) 'God as the totality of all realities and perfections,' Feuerbach taught, 'is nothing other than the totality of the qualities of the species compendiously put together in him for the benefit of the limited individual, but actually dispersed among men and realising themselves in the course of world history.' (3)"

[P. 64] "The Young Hegelians turned the concept of the species life into the principal article of faith of their new humanism. The central purpose of Feuerbach’s 'Essence of Christianity' was to establish that all the virtues traditionally attributed to God were merely projections of the attributes of the species. (...) Species consciousness thus pointed the way to a new form of spiritual redemption. (6) Whatever the frailties, errors, and misdeeds of the individual, these could be overcome, superseded, and perfected in the life of the species. '[W]hat one man cannot accomplish and does not know,' Feuerbach wrote, 'can be accomplished and known by all men collectively.' (8) (...) Individuals come and go, but the immortal soul of mankind lives on through successive generations. This was a concept that was worthy of worship."


[PH: I've found it necessary to repeat certain passages from www.wagnerheim.com in part or in their entirety several times in this manuscript both because of the supreme importance of certain arguments which Shapiro proposed to which I feel I have a prior claim, and because these repeated passages can be seen in a different light within different contexts. However, I've tried to keep this redundancy to the minimum necessary to make my point. This is particularly true of Shapiro's repeated emphasis on the Hegelian-Feuerbachian thesis that man's history is an account of his accumulation of knowledge and therefore of increased consciousness, since this has been (even before I'd ever read a word of Hegel or Feuerbach) a touchstone of my original contribution to Wagner scholarship since I wrote papers on this subject for college and university in 1973 and 1975, and particularly in my lengthy essay "The Doctrine of the Ring" which I copyrighted in 1983 at the Library of Congress, and distributed to over a dozen scholars who presented lectures at the Wagner in Retrospect: A Centennial Reappraisal symposium at the Univ. of Illinois, Chicago Circle, in November of 1983.]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 493-495:]

This identification of the hoard of knowledge Wotan gains by wandering the earth, with the knowledge he obtained from Erda by going down to her to learn the full truth about why he must live in fear, and to learn from her also how to end his fear, and the identification of both of these endeavors with both Alberich’s accumulation of his hoard of treasure in the bowels of the earth, and man’s collective, historical accumulation of knowledge of the world through experience, is a key to the understanding of this interpretation, so we will examine the evidence for it in depth. This will inevitably be, to some extent, redundant, since I have already examined this question in less detail in earlier chapters, but as we meet Wotan as the world wanderer for the first time in this scene it is advisable to reestablish his status as Wagner’s Feuerbachian metaphor for collective, historical man as a hoarder of knowledge.

I will begin by pointing out what would otherwise perhaps be inexplicable, that not only does Bruennhilde, in T.P.1, describe the knowledge the gods (she means Wotan) imparted to her (presumably in his confession) as “a bountiful hoard (‘Hort’) of hallowed runes,” but she describes Siegfried [PH: in S.3.3] - who, by virtue of winning Bruennhilde, the repository of Wotan’s confession of his unspoken secret, has inherited Wotan’s hoard of runes - as the “Hoard of the world,” and as the “foolish Hoard of loftiest deeds.” One can see from these passages that it is absolutely wrong that some English translations render “Hort” in these contexts as “treasure,” since this ignores the link between Wotan’s hoard of knowledge and Alberich’s hoard of treasure, i.e., the identification of his Hoard as a metaphor for knowledge and the power it brings. In other words, though Fafner (Wotan’s, or religious man’s, fear of the truth) sits on Alberich’s Hoard as its guardian and protector in order to keep mankind from accessing it, i.e., to thwart intellectual inquiry, nonetheless, over time, Wotan (mankind) effectively continues to accumulate that hoard as knowledge of the Earth, through man’s wanderings (i.e., through man’s historical experience).

Feuerbach defined God as historical man’s collective self, and described what otherwise would be construed as the divine knowledge which is omniscient, as a metaphor for historical man’s gradual acquisition of deeper and more comprehensive experience of himself and his world, which over time increases our knowledge. The sum of Feuerbach’s argument in the following series of extracts is that over time, man teaches himself that what he has called God is actually only nature, and man himself understood as a part of nature. In other words, Dark-Alberich’s and Light-Alberich’s (Wotan’s) accumulation of their Hoard of knowledge will inevitably overthrow the gods of Valhalla:

“… God as the total of all realities or perfections is nothing other than the total of the attributes of the species – dispersed among men and realizing themselves in the course of world history – compendiously combined for the benefit of the limited individual. The domain of the natural sciences is, because of its quantitative size, completely beyond the capacity of the individual man to view and measure. (…) But what the individual man does not know and cannot do all of mankind together knows and can do. Thus, the divine knowledge that knows simultaneously every particular has its reality in the knowledge of the species.” [177F-PPF: p. 17]

“In isolation human power is limited, in combination it is infinite. The knowledge of a single man is limited, but reason, science, is unlimited, for it is a common act of mankind, and it is so, not only because innumerable men co-operate in the construction of science, but also in the more profound sense, that the scientific genius of a particular age comprehends in itself the thinking powers of the preceding age … [thus we understand why Alberich gains ever greater power as he increases his hoard of treasure by mining the bowels of the earth (i.e., its inner essence, its laws), and why his Ring does not grant him absolute power, but only theoretically unlimited power, because the power consciousness grants us increases only as we increase our knowledge].” [77F-EOC: p. 83]

“All divine attributes … which make God God, are attributes of the species … . My knowledge, my will, is limited; but my limit is not the limit of another man, to say nothing of mankind; what is difficult to me is easy to another; what is impossible, inconceivable, to one age, is to the coming age conceivable and possible. My life is bound to a limited time; not so the life of humanity. The history of mankind consists of nothing else than a continuous and progressive conquest of limits, which at a given time pass for the limits of humanity, and therefore for absolute insurmountable limits. But the future always unveils the fact that the alleged limits of the species were only limits of individuals. The most striking proofs of this are presented by the history of philosophy and of physical science.” [105F-EOC: p. 152-153]

Wagner’s thinking, as illustrated by the following passages (each cited previously either in part or entire), emulates Feuerbach’s ruminations on mankind’s historical acquisition of a hoard of collective knowledge in considerable detail. In the following extract, for instance, Wagner, with some confusion, describes how Mother Nature effectively becomes conscious of herself in man, through his scientific inquiry and accumulation of knowledge over time, knowledge which eventually overthrows man’s religious error in positing transcendent beings, gods who by definition are autonomous from nature. Wagner’s confusion here arises from the fact that he is not only describing the objective knowledge of the kind which Alberich and Wotan gather, but also the aesthetic intuition, the sympathetic way of knowing Erda through feeling (love), which Light-Alberich (Wotan) alone acquires from Erda (through their daughter Bruennhilde) in order to redeem himself from the first kind of knowledge. This passage is so important that I reproduce it here entire, at the risk of confusing the reader:

“Error is the mother of Knowledge, and the history of the birth of Knowledge out of Error is the history of the human race, from the myths of primal ages down to the present day. Man erred, from the time when he set the cause of Nature’s workings outside the bounds of Nature’s self [i.e., man erred from the time he posited a creator-god who is autonomous from Nature], and for the physical phenomena subsumed a super-physical, anthropomorphic, and arbitrary cause; when he took the endless harmony of her unconscious, instinctive energy [i.e., nature as known to us instinctively, through feeling, or love] for the arbitrary demeanour of disconnected finite forces [as science, i.e., Alberich does in striving to grasp nature objectively through concepts]. Knowledge consists in the laying of this error, in fathoming the Necessity of phenomena whose underlying basis had appeared to us Caprice. [Wagner is guilty of a contradiction here, because he is using the word “knowledge” in two distinct ways: (1) Aesthetic intuition of the world through feeling, or music, in which we feel ourselves one with the world, and (2) scientific understanding of the laws of nature, natural necessity in its objective sense, which makes of nature an object of knowledge, distinct from us, the subject, as per below:]

Through this knowledge does Nature [Erda] grow conscious of herself; and verily by Man himself [Alberich, and Wotan], who only through discriminating between himself and Nature has attained that point where he can apprehend her, by making her his ‘object.’ [This is represented by the objective knowledge Alberich and Wotan obtain from Erda.] But this distinction is merged once more when Man recognises the essence of Nature as his very own [Wotan knows Erda, Nature, sympathetically, feelingly, and musically, through their daughter Bruennhilde], and perceives the same Necessity in all the elements and lives around him, and therefore in his own existence no less than in Nature’s being; thus not only recognising the mutual bond of union between all natural phenomena, but also his own community with Nature.” [414W-{9-12/49} The Artwork of the Future: PW Vol. I, p. 70]

Wagner has spelled out in his somewhat muddled discussion above the distinction between the two kinds of knowledge Wotan obtains during his world-wanderings. On the one hand, Wotan obtains from Erda the objective knowledge of the world, the truth, which Alberich would force the gods to acknowledge, and which taught Wotan fear, and on the other hand Wotan seeks subjective, intuitive knowledge from Erda, of how he might consign this objective knowledge to the oblivion of unconsciousness, in order to forget the fear objective knowledge taught him. This aesthetic intuition Wotan obtains from their daughter Bruennhilde, in whom Wotan knows Erda sympathetically, rather than as a threat. This is the kind of redemptive knowledge Wotan speaks of in our passage from the Ring above, when he tells Mime he has obtained knowledge of how to save men from the “Noth” that gnaws at their hearts. It is precisely this knowledge of man’s means to redemption which least interests Mime.

In the next extract, Wagner clarifies that the natural, evolutionary path of science is from religion to nature, replacing spiritual explanations of the world with natural ones (keeping in mind that while Alberich affirms Erda’s objective knowledge of all that was, is, and will be, Wotan sins against Erda’s objective reality by co-opting Alberich’s Ring in order to preserve belief in the gods from the threat represented by objective truth):

“Whilst Man involuntarily moulds his Life according to the notions he has gathered from his arbitrary views of Nature, and embalms their intuitive expression in Religion: these notions become for him in Science the subject of conscious, intentional review and scrutiny. The path of Science lies from error to knowledge, from fancy {‘Vorstellung’) to reality, from Religion to Nature.” [417W-{9-12/49} The Artwork of the Future: PW Vol. I, p. 72]

Here, Wagner confirms that this rational path of science from un-knowledge to knowledge is the natural path of human evolution from unconsciousness to consciousness, i.e., from feeling to thought, or, if you will, from the Rhinedaughters’ love to Alberich’s power:

“… the march of human evolution is the rational and natural progress from the unconscious to the conscious, from un-knowledge to knowledge … .” [426W-{9-12/49} The Artwork of the Future: PW Vol. I, p. 80]

[P. 64] "Building on these insights, the Young Hegelians rejected the Christian tenet of immortality of the soul after death and in its place enshrined human futurity as the determinant of meaning in a secular world."

[P. 65] "The fear of death had generated the need for the Christian myth of immortality of the soul. But this 'old fable' was false. Man had to confront instead the cold truth that death was not simply an 'appearance' but 'an actual and real death.' (14) In the verses quoted here [13], Feuerbach taught that the spiritual palliative for this blunt realism was not the immortality of the individual soul, but the beautiful prospect of continued human species life, an ever-renewing human futurity incarnated in the 'precious children' who will become the 'future masters of the present masters.' "


[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Page 164:]

“The ancient atheists, and even a great many theists both ancient and modern, have called fear the ground of religion … .” [196F-LER: p. 25]

But this fear which gives birth to the gods - who in the early human societies were the only known force which could intervene in man’s behalf, to help him escape danger and secure his happiness, both in heaven and on earth - ultimately expands beyond the fear of death, through the process of abstraction and the unlimited scope of the imagination, to embrace what Feuerbach describes as abstract fear in general, existential fear, fear of death as a philosophical problem:

“ … the religious imagination is not the free imagination of the artist, but has a practical egoistic purpose … . (…) This feeling of anxiety, of uncertainty, this fear of harm that always accompanies man, is the root of the religious imagination … .” [269F-LER: p. 196]

“When we explain religion by fear, we must … take into account not only the lowest form of fear, fear of one natural phenomenon or another, the fear that begins and ends with a storm at sea, a tempest, or an earthquake, in other words the fear that is circumscribed in time and space, but also the fear that is limited to no particular object, the perpetual, ever present fear which embraces every conceivable misfortune, in a word, the infinite fear of the human soul.” [319F-LER: p. 287]

Wagner, echoing Feuerbach’s remark below, tells us that the gods’ hold over man’s imagination is rooted in the gods’ power to save, especially the gods’ power to grant mortal man the divine gift of immortality:

“A God is essentially a being who fulfills man’s desires. And the most heartfelt desire, at least of those men whose desires are not curtailed by natural necessity, is the desire not to die, to live forever; this is indeed man’s highest and ultimate desire … .” [305F-LER: p. 269]

“He … says how much to be preferred are the ideas of the ancient world to those of the church today, whose power is rooted in the fear of death, or, rather, the life after death.” [944W-{10/10/78} CD Vol. II, p. 168]

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Page 248:]

In fact, Wagner himself said that the whole purpose of his Ring was to show how the existential fear which Feuerbach described came into being, and came to rule the affairs of men, after man lost his love and innocence (i.e., after man’s evolutionary acquisition of conscious mind freed him from his dependence on animal instinct to satisfy his needs):

“ … fear of the end is the source of all lovelessness, and this fear is generated only when love itself is beginning to wane. How did it come about that a feeling which imparts the highest bliss to all living things was so far lost sight of by the human race that everything that the latter did, ordered and established was finally conceived only out of a fear of the end? My poem [the Ring] shows the reason why.” [613W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 306-307]

Wotan’s waking dream, the gods’ heavenly abode Valhalla, with its soul, the goddess of divine love and immortality, Freia, was, in effect, established as man’s illusory refuge from this existential care and fear, a point Wotan will make in the finale of The Rhinegold when he describes Valhalla, with Freia now safely restored to the gods, as a fortress safe from dread and dismay.

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Page 282:]

Wotan’s initial hope in Siegmund, and the subsequent thwarting of that hope, gives us the plot of The Valkyrie, the next in our series of Ring music-dramas. Wotan’s hope in Siegfried gives us the plot of the following music-drama Siegfried, and Siegfried’s failure as a redeemer is the basis of the plot of Twilight of the Gods, the last music-drama in this tetralogy. #57ab, the Sword Motif, or Motif of Wotan’s Grand Idea, is the motival embodiment of Wotan’s ongoing hope for redemption, and as such is certainly heard in the Ring more often than any other motif. The sword Nothung, which is wielded by Wotan’s Waelsung heroes Siegmund and Siegfried, and whose motif #57b stems from the pre-fallen Primal Nature Arpeggio #1, is the incarnation of what Feuerbach called nature’s necessity. Nature’s necessity, as experienced by man, is not only constituted of nature’s laws, but also of man’s participation in nature’s evolutionary and unconscious creativity, and the acknowledgment of the transient nature of the world in art. Wagner gleaned all this from his study of Feuerbach who, as one can see in his following remark, not only provided Wagner with the theoretical basis for the concept of natural necessity, but also gave Wagner an intimation of the similar concept of the world as “Will” which Schopenhauer had developed long before, but with which Wagner did not become familiar until, most scholars believe, 1854:

“The free act of humanity must exist simultaneously as necessity in nature. The spiritual surrender of the self must also be a natural, physical surrender, … must be willed and established, not by your own intentional, self-conscious will, but by the universal will in your will. Natural death is thus the ultimate sacrifice of reconciliation, the ultimate verification of love.” [17F-TDI: p. 125]

It is, of course, entirely possible that Feuerbach was himself familiar with the still obscure Schopenhauer in 1830 when he wrote this.

[PH: See Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 382-383]

[P. 65] "Wagner shared this vision of human spiritual redemption through the species life. In his mid-century writings, he measured the success of man not in the efforts of any one individual but in the united strength of the human species as it developed the full flowering of its potential through the course of time. 'The human only finds understanding, redemption and satisfaction in a higher element,' he declared in 'The Artwork of the Future,' 'and this higher element is the human species [menschliche Gattung], the community of humans, for there is only one thing higher than the human, and that is humankind' (AF 27, emphases added). In 'Man and Established Society,' he reaffirmed Kant’s first principle of progress, namely that '[w]e see that man is of himself unable to attain his destiny, that in himself he has no strength to unfold the innate germ that marks him from the beasts. That force which we miss in man, however, we find in endless fulness in the aggregate of men.' (15) In a letter to Liszt in April 1853, Wagner adapted from Feuerbach his own secular vision of a “hereafter” vouchsafed by the promise of successive generations of man: 'Now we suffer, now we must lose heart and go mad without any faith in the hereafter: I too believe in a hereafter: – I have just shown you this hereafter [i.e. ‘the future of the human race’ ‘where no one need yearn for the other world’]: though it lies beyond my life, it does not lie beyond the limits of all that I can feel, think, grasp and comprehend, for I believe in humanity and – have need of naught else! (16)”

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 644-645:]

Wotan no longer concerns himself with Alberich’s as yet unborn son’s (Hagen’s, i.e., science’s) threat to bring about the twilight of the gods’ rule over men’s hearts, because the art which Siegfried and Bruennhilde have in store will render the threat of objective knowledge of nature harmless by conquering it aesthetically. And, according to Wagner, where religion can’t survive its conflict with science, art can live on eternally freed from that threat because it stakes no claim to truth, and therefore can never be guilty of falsehood: as feeling it is entirely freed from the conflict between truth and falsehood which sustains the war between science and religion, Nibelheim and Valhalla. In this sense, by retreating to preconscious, pre-Fallen feeling, Wagner said, art can live on eternally where religion (illusion) and science (truth) cancel each other out. Thus we see why Wotan yields to the eternally young Siegfried, the artist-hero, and to Bruennhilde, who called herself the ageless part of Wotan. Immortal art, i.e., art made figuratively immortal by virtue of its profundity and universality, which endears it to the hearts of men so long as there are men capable of contemplating their most enduring contradictions in it, is thus Wagner’s substitute for religion’s bogus promise of immortal life to mortal man.

As we see in the following extracts, Wagner openly attributes this insight to Feuerbach, whose observation in our first extract below, that man’s only true immortality is a tribute to the everlasting youth of the collective human spirit, seems to have had a seminal influence on Wagner:

“That which is true in the universal belief in immortality … consists only in the fact that it is a sensible representation of the nature of consciousness, that in this belief, the foundation, element, and condition of all history – that is, the unity of past, present and future as one essential reality – is fixed and raised to the level of an object … . Thus, your belief in immortality is a true belief only when it is a belief in the infinity of Spirit and in the everlasting youth of humanity, in the inexhaustible love and creative power of Spirit, in its eternally unfolding itself into new individuals out of the womb of its plenitude … .“ [21F-TDI: p. 137]

“[re Ludwig Feuerbach’s book Thoughts on Death and Immortality, Wagner states that:] I found it elevating and consoling to be assured that the sole authentic immortality adheres only to sublime deeds and inspired works of art. (…) The fact that he proclaimed what we call “spirit” to lie in our aesthetic perceptions of the tangible world … was what afforded me such useful support in my conception of a work of art which would be all-embracing while remaining comprehensible to the simplest, purely human power of discernment, that is, of the drama made perfect at the moment of its realization of every artistic intention in ‘the art-work of the future’ … .” [387W-{?/49} ML: p. 430-431]

“… the wisest-constituted States fall through, ay, the sublimest Religions outlive themselves and yield to superstition or unbelief, whilst Art eternally shoots up, renewed and young, from out the ruins of existence.” [729W-{9-12/67} German Art and German Policy: PW Vol. IV, p. 79-80]

“What has Science not pinned its faith to, and not so very long ago, that to-day lies on the dust-heap? The contrary with works of Art; alter, transform your views and sciences as ye will – there still stands Shakespeare, there Goethe’s Faust, there the Beethoven Symphony, with undiminished power!” [900W-{78-82?} Notes of uncertain date, presumably from 1878-1882: PW Vol. VIII, p. 392]

“R. says in the evening. ‘Art makes religions eternal.’ ” [826W-{6/20/72}CD Vol. I, p. 502]

And, finally, Wagner sums this argument with the following appeal to sacrifice the gods for the sake of love, his figure for authentically inspired secular art, through which humanity can emancipate itself from religion:

“… we recognize the glorious necessity of love [Wagner’s metaphor for his unconsciously inspired secular art, the music-drama], we call upon it and welcome each other with a force of love which would not be possible were it not for this painful recognition; and so, in this way, we acquire a strength of which natural man had no inkling, and this strength – increased to embrace the whole of humanity – will one day lay the foundations for a state on earth where no one need yearn for the other world (a world which will then have become wholly unnecessary) [i.e., a transcendent realm of the spirit, such as Valhalla], for they will be happy – to live and to love. For where is the man who yearns to escape from life when he is in love? – Well then! Now we suffer, now we must lose heart and go mad without any faith in the hereafter [reminding us of Loge’s (archetypal artist-hero) critique of the gods, that they had staked everything on Freia’s golden apples of sorrow-less youth eternal]: I too believe in a here-after: -- I have just shown you this hereafter: though it lies beyond my life, it does not lie beyond the limits of all that I can feel, think, grasp and comprehend [i.e., it does not transcend Erda’s real world, all that was, is, or will be], for I believe in humanity and – have need of naught else!” [598W-{4/13/53} Letter to Franz Liszt: SLRW, p. 284]

[P. 65-66] "The way forward according to Carlyle was to take the 'preliminary moral Act, Annihilation of Self (Selbsttoedtung)' (SR 142). This call to 'self-annihilation,' however, was for Carlyle not an embrace of spiritual or ascetic renunciation but the rejection of egoism in favor of universalism. (17) (...) In 'The Artwork of the Future' Wagner rejected '[t]hat egoism which has been the cause of such immeasurable sorrow in the world' (AF 28) and in its place sought 'redemption through communism' which embraced 'purely human universalism' (AF 63). (...) ... The only answer to life, Wagner told Roeckel in 1854, was 'a frank admission of the truth, even if there be no other personal gain to be had from this than the pride of knowing the truth, and, ultimately, the will and the endeavor to pass on that knowledge to the rest of mankind and thus set them on the path that will lead to their redemption.' (18) Faced with the sorrows and disappointments of his individual life, man could find a secular form of consolation and meaning in the prospect that future generations would be able to reap the benefits of his struggles."

[PH: Quotation from www.wagnerheim.com, Pages 388-389:]

“… I had already sketched, finally completed, the poem of my ‘Ring des Nibelungen.’ With this conception I had unconsciously admitted to myself the truth about things human. Here everything is tragic through and through, and the Will, that fain would shape a world according to its wish, at last can reach no greater satisfaction than the breaking of itself in dignified annulment. [Wotan, in other words, gives up as futile his quest to redeem himself, i.e., redeem man, from his true, egoistic nature.] It was the time when I returned entirely and exclusively to my artistic plans, and thus, acknowledging Life’s earnestness with all my heart, withdrew to where alone can ‘gladsomeness’ abide.” [i.e., withdrew to the subjective consolation of pure feeling, the refuge of the unconscious mind, in music, which knows nothing of man’s conceptual, existential dilemma, the irresolvability of the conflict between truth and the illusion that man has transcendent value] [694W-{64-2/65} On State and Religion: PW Vol. IV, p. 8-9]

“I had reached the age of 36 [in 1849, when Wagner was emancipating himself from traditional romantic opera and embarking on the creation of the Ring and his other revolutionary music-dramas] before I divined the true reason for my creative impulse: until then I had regarded art as the end and life as a means to that end. But I made this discovery too late [i.e., Wagner had become too conscious of the truth], with the result that my new instinct for life was bound to end in tragedy. By taking a broader view of today’s world, we can further see that love has now become wholly impossible … [i.e., thanks to man’s advancement in knowledge and the maturation of his consciousness of self, it is no longer possible to posit an actual restoration of innocence, especially in a transcendent sense]. If it is a question, therefore, of seeking to save ourselves by means of some makeshift solution, I can find none better than a totally honest approach to the above-described state of affairs, and a frank admission of the truth [as Wotan does in confessing the bitter truth to Bruennhilde], even if there be no other personal gain to be had from this than the pride of knowing the truth, and, ultimately, the will and the endeavour to pass on that knowledge to the rest of mankind and thus set them on the path that will lead to their redemption.” [i.e., to offer man the only possible substitute for religion’s promise of supernatural redemption, the Wagnerian music-drama] [611W-{1/25-26/54} Letter to August Roeckel: SLRW, p. 304-305]

And in the following striking extract Wagner actually provides us his blue-print for the Ring’s plot, which is essentially that the God (religious belief) is sacrificed to science (the gods of Valhalla sacrificed to Alberich’s curse on the Ring), in order to free Jesus (the artist-hero, Siegfried) to express religious feeling (love, the love Siegfried and Bruennhilde share), when religious belief can no longer be sustained in the face of man’s increase in knowledge:

“Is it so utterly impossible to Theology, to take the great step that would grant to Science its irrefutable truths through surrender of Jehova, and to the Christian world its pure God revealed in Jesus the only?” [928W-{3-7/78} Public and Popularity: PW Vol. VI, p. 79] [See also 1023W]
Post Reply