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The Rhinegold: Page 151
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But religious man, Wotan, is also historical man, and therefore Wotan is not only an exponent of the consoling and comforting realm of religious faith and its peace and quiet, but also of cultural evolution, which, as he tells Fricka, must seek to conquer the outside world, acquiring earthly power outside the safe walls of religious faith, received wisdom, tradition, and the allegedly unchanging and immutable divine. Wotan is telling Fricka, the embodiment of religious faith, that she can’t stop or control that part of his nature which is given over to change, renewal, and transformation. However, Wotan hopes that even while confined to their new fortress, he can nonetheless win for himself the outside world. In the event, man’s historical experience of the outside world, the earth (Erda), will contradict those beliefs which constitute man’s fidelity to religious faith and its ideals. #20b, the second segment of the Valhalla Motif, is now heard here in conjunction with Wotan’s remark that all who live love renewal and change, and indeed, Dunning traces the second of Wotan’s two Wanderer Motifs, #113, to #20b. It logically follows from this motival genealogy that Wotan as the Wanderer will wander the earth (Erda) seeking knowledge from experience of the world (i.e., from Erda), which in fact he does later, not only by plunging into the bowels of the earth to seek knowledge from her, but also by wandering the earth (“Erde,” i.e., Erda) seeking knowledge in his newfound role as the Wanderer.

We find a basis for Wotan’s meditation on the significance of renewal and change and evolution in human life in Feuerbach’s comment that religious faith, which suppresses individual judgment and action in favor of quiet and security, is life’s enemy because it seeks peace and order where life itself is restless:

“To suppress the ‘individual will,’ and hence also voluntary movement, is to suppress life. Like the Jesuit, like the monarchist, the speculative philosopher is the mortal enemy of life, for what he loves above all else is ‘peace and order,’ lest he be disturbed in his ideas; but life is essentially restless, disorderly, anarchic … .” [349F-LER: p. 351]

If we regard Wotan not merely as Godhead, but as Feuerbach’s collective, historical man who through experience of the world gradually accumulates a hoard of knowledge which eventually will contradict man’s initially primitive and ignorant view of the world as embodied in religious mythology, Wotan’s retort to Fricka expresses the fact that Wotan’s divine power is based upon Alberich’s historical quest for worldly power, just as #19 (the Ring) transforms into #20a (Valhalla). Thus Wotan’s insistence on staking a claim to the outer world, the natural world of which the heaven Valhalla is the antithesis, is a threat to faith which ultimately will have disastrous consequences for the gods’ rule in Valhalla.

[R.2: C]

Fricka herself accuses Wotan of a cynical, Alberich-like eagerness to gamble away love and woman’s worth for the sake of power, and indeed, we hear #18 repeated here complete in one of the very few instances in the Ring, as she makes this accusation. #18 of course was the motif the Rhinedaughter Woglinde introduced as she told Alberich he’d have to relinquish love in order to fashion the Ring of world-power from the Rhinegold:

 

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