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The Rhinegold: Page 158
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the lonely self-preservation instinct. This instinct is lonely because it will sacrifice love (heartfelt relations with others) to preserve one’s self. Fasolt therefore represents a social impulse, the basis of love, and Fafner the isolating impulse of self-preservation which sacrifices the social impulse. The self-preservation instinct, looking to the outside world for satisfaction, is also the basis of man’s lust for self-aggrandizement and worldly power, impulses which are inimical to love.

When evolution has given birth to man’s reflective consciousness, represented by Alberich’s Ring, man’s newfound capacity for symbolic abstraction, abbreviation, and generalization expands the imaginative reach of the fundamental animal impulses of fear and desire (the sway of the Giants) to infinity. Man’s fear of death, in this case, seeks assuagement in the religious belief that a god can grant man the divine gift of immortality. Similarly, the otherwise egoistic impulse of sexual desire, which ultimately is the foundation of the family and the social sentiments such as love and compassion, is sublimated into the belief in a love which is transcendent and infinite, and the belief in a sorrowless bliss which is endless. Thus, the Giants, impulses which seek satisfaction, when multiplied to infinity by the Ring’s power (the unlimited power of our imagination), produce Freia, the goddess of divine love and immortality, who represents Valhalla’s ideal, the sole purpose for which the mind posits a heaven in which man can find redemption from the ills of life on earth. But this ideal derives from, and is dependent on, the real. It is precisely this claim of the real upon the ideal, the mundane upon the sublime, which the archetypal artist-hero Loge promises to help Wotan and the gods deny, by employing his artistic cunning to redeem Freia (man’s ideal) from the Giants’ rightful claim to her (i.e., from her foundation in the real).

[R.2: G]

Wotan therefore tries to weasel his way out of granting the Giants the agreed-upon payment of Freia, trying to buy time until Loge saves the day. But Fasolt will have none of it. He brusquely responds that the gods are only worshipped as gods because they keep faith with the social contract which mankind regards as having a divine foundation:

Wotan: Name your due, good people; what are you minded to ask?

 

Fasolt: (#21:) We already asked for what seems to us fitting (:#21); is your memory of it so faint? (#24:) Freia the fair, Holda the free – it’s already agreed: we carry her home.

 

[Wotan says they must be crazy.]

 

Wotan: Freia isn’t for sale. (…)

 

Fasolt: (momentarily speechless, in utter consternation: #21 vari) You’re plotting betrayal? Betrayal of our agreement? (#21: [plus some pulsations]) The runes of well-considered contract, safeguarded by your spear, are they no more than sport to you (:#21 plus pulsations)?

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