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The Rhine Gold

New – 15 April 2007

This brief treatise on Richard Wagner’s The Rhine Gold is based upon numerous observations and interpretations of this tale of gods, dwarfs, heroes, and magical objects. On the one hand, the operas of the Ring Cycle (The Ring of the Nibelungs) have an authoritative explanation by George Bernard Shaw in terms of capitalism and the elite ruling class. On the other hand, the myths and legends upon which the operas are based may provide us with a better understanding of the realities of our world, including the current status of the Sumerian Anunnaki and the gods and goddesses (extraterrestrials) who might still be here on the planet Earth.

These ideas are explained in greater detail in Night Falls on the Gods. It is very important to realize that:

Wagner’s “picture of Nibelung-home under the reign of Alberic is a poetic vision of unregulated industrial capitalism as it was made known in Germany in the middle of the nineteenth century by Engel’s The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844.” [1]

However, George Bernard Shaw adds that:

“The Ring, with all its gods and giants and dwarfs, its water-maidens and Valkyries, its wishing-cap, magic-ring, enchanted sword, and miraculous treasure, is a drama of today, and not of a remote and fabulous antiquity.” [1]

There is also good and sufficient reason to consider that there is relevance today of what was indeed “a remote and fabulous antiquity.”

First Scene

[The opera's narrative is in blue.]

The Rhine Gold begins with three Rhine Maidens (half fairy fishes, half water-maidens), lolling about near a lump of Rhine gold which they find aesthetically pleasing. Along comes a dwarf named Alberic, a brute of narrow intelligence, unenlightened selfishness, restricted imagination, and yet fully capable of grabbing too vigorously at anything provided it is for his own personal gain. [Obviously, we’re talking here about your standard capitalist pig and/or arrogant deity!] With perfect simplicity Alberic offers himself as a sweetheart to any or all of the Rhine Maidens. [Okay, so the dwarf has some imagination.] Of course, being ugly, ungracious, and lacking totally in amiability, he is – big surprise -- rejected. As might also be expected, he doesn’t take the rejection all that well.

On the one hand, Alberic has encountered the choice between power and chosen love. This would appear to be a good thing. The problem arises from the fact that love has not chosen him. This is the bad news. Furthermore, gold will not yield itself to anyone who has not foresworn love. As Howard David Johnson phrases it,

"Whosoever will renounce love and make a ring from the gold will rule the world."

These statements are a bit curious. They suggests the possibility that in anyone’s quest for the gold -- including the ring of power and quite possibly the white powder of gold -- there is the need for the seeker or trekkie to be totally sovereign and unhindered by the ties that bind, i.e., romantic love. Let’s face it: How many sages and wise men have been known for their love life? A few heroes, perhaps, but even they tend to have a short attention span when it comes to maidens in various and sundry forms of distress.

Unfortunately for our dwarf (but presumably not for the dramatic effect of the opera), the Rhine Maidens have left Alberic no choice. By mocking and denying him, they have shown him that life will give him nothing more than what he can wrest from it by the Plutonic power of gold. Such is in fact the distinction between power and love, between the act of taking and the act of giving.

However, in the pursuit of power...

“...hordes of his fellow-creatures will thus be condemned to slave miserably, over-ground and under-ground, lashed to their work by the invisible whip of starvation. The wealth they create with their labor will become an additional force to impoverish them. As fast as they create it, it will slip from their hands into the clutches of their master, making him mightier than ever." [1]

This applies to any and all ruling classes. But it gets worse.

“This process continues in every civilized country today, where millions of people toil in want and disease to heap up more wealth for the Alberics, the powers and authorities of their societies. In return, these workers lay up nothing for themselves, except perhaps horrible and agonizing diseases and the certainty of premature death."

“If there were no higher power in the world to work against Alberic, the end of it would be utter destruction."

“But there is such a force, which we might call the Godhead. This force might be thought of as those “rare persons who may by comparison be called gods, creatures capable of thought, whose aims extend far beyond the satisfaction of their bodily appetites and personal affections, since they perceive that it is only by the establishment of a social order founded on common bonds of moral faith that the world can rise from mere savagery.”

Unfortunately, “Godhead, face to face with Stupidity, must compromise.” [1]

The latter statement might well need to be carved in stone throughout the land.

Clearly, the advent of laws and constitutions -- framed to represent the highest thoughts of the framers at the moment of their promulgation -- nevertheless begin immediately to be grown, widened, and ultimately degraded by the evolution of life and its associated society. Quickly, the sanctity of the law becomes more important than the principles the law is designed to protect. The “peace and serenity” of a legally fictitious government (the claim of justification for victimless crimes) becomes more important than the very reason the government exists.

The primary and only purpose of government should be to allow all humans to be free -- but the advent of most any government inevitably results in the rise of the Alberics who limit the freedoms of others by the use of self-serving laws.

“Godhead’s resort to law finally costs it half its integrity.” And eventually, the Godhead begins “secretly to long for the advent of some power higher than itself which will destroy its artificial empire of law, and establish a true republic of free thought.”

“The god turned lawgiver, in short, must be crowned Pontiff and King. Since he cannot be known to the common folk as their superior in wisdom, he must be known to them as their superior in riches, as the dweller in castles, the wearer of gold and purple, the eater of mighty feasts, the commander of armies, and the wielder of powers of life and death, of salvation and damnation after death.”

“The moment the Plutonic power [of Alberics seeking gold] is let loose, and the loveless Alberic comes into the field with his corrupting millions, the gods are face to face with [their own] destruction; since Alberic, able with invisible hunger-whips to force the labor of the dwarfs and to buy the services of the giants, can outshine all the temporal shows and splendors of the golden age, and make himself master of the world, unless the gods, with their bigger brains, can capture his gold.” [1]

Second Scene

Enter Wotan, the god of gods, and his consort, Fricka. Wotan has lost one eye, having voluntarily plucked it out as the price for his alliance with Fricka -- the latter whom has brought as her dowry all the powers of Law. Wotan has also built Godhome, a mighty castle for him and his bride. At this point in the opera, however, Wotan has not yet seen the castle except in his dreams -- two giants having built it for him while he slept. [This suggests that Wotan and the other god like creatures take LONG naps!!! much as the SumerianAnunnaki would likely have done, what with their enormously long lives.]

As a god, Wotan must be great, secure and mighty – basically a dude to be held in awe. But he must also be passionless, affectionless, and wholly impartial; for Godhead, if it is to live within the Law, must have no weaknesses, and for that matter no respect for persons.

The price which Wotan and the giants have contracted for the building of Godhome is that Wotan will hand over to the giants, Frick’s sister, the goddess, Freia, with her golden love-apples. Not surprisingly, at the moment of consummation, both Wotan and Fricka are loath to go through with the bargain. To this end, Wotan has trusted Loki [the god of Intellect, Argument, Imagination, Illusion and Reason] to trick the giants out of their reward by concocting the Great Lie. Loki had agreed to do so, but was somehow unavailable at the critical moment. Fricka points out the obvious: Why should Wotan expect the Lie to save him, which such failure is to be expected of the Lie?

As the giants arrive for their pay, the incredible happens and the gods begin to shuffle. The common man, the manual worker has met such tragic events, when they have left with implicit trust all affairs of business and state to his betters. He has assumed that these superiors are worthy of that trust, even to the extent of accepting as their rightful function the saving of their betters from all roughening and coarsening drudgeries. Very quickly and inevitably the commoner discovers that his superiors are corrupt, greedy, unjust and treacherous. Such a revelation can provide a glimpse of prophetic light and give even the giant a momentary eloquence. In that moment he may rise above his stupid gianthood, and earnestly warn the god that all his power and eminence of priesthood, godhood, and kingship must stand or fall based on his ability to act as the incorruptible lawgiver. But Wotan, whose character as lawgiver is altogether false to his real passionate nature, decidedly does not take to the rebuke; and the giant’s ray of insight is quickly lost in the murk of Wotan’s virtuous indignation. [The rule of life here is that when one's argument is weak; raise the volume of the discourse.]

Loki then arrives on the scene, but alas without a solution. Loki had in fact promised to find a way out if any such way existed, but not to make a way if there was no way. Loki has wandered over the whole earth in search of some treasure great enough to buy Freia back from the giants, but in all the world found nothing for which Man will give up Woman. This matter reminds Loki that he was to tell Wotan that Alberic has stolen the Rhinemaidens’ gold -- mentioning it almost as a curious exception to the universal law of the preciousness of love and the fact that such love cannot be purchased.

Loki’s tale quickly motivates the giants to stoop lower than the dwarf. Alberic forswore love only when it was denied to him and made the instrument for cruelly murdering his self-respect. But the giants, with love within their reach, with Freia and her gold apples in their hands, offer to give her up for the treasure of Alberic. Curiously, it is the treasure they desire and not the power. The giants then leave with Freia as their hostage to await Wotan to consider their ultimatum.

“[With] Freia gone, the gods begin to wither and age: her golden apples, which they so lightly bargained away, they now find to be a matter of life and death to them; for not even the gods can live on Law and Godhead alone, be their castles ever so splendid. Loki alone is unaffected: the Lie, with all its cunning wonders, its glistenings and shiftings and mirages, is a mere appearance: it has no body and needs no food.” [1] [emphasis added]

These Golden apples are typical of many myths in which this unique fruit is of enormous importance. It is a logical speculation that Freia’s golden apples are equivalent in some manner to the white powder of gold, the ORME, the precious elements which are essential to the Anunnaki gods and goddesses. In many respects the quest for the gold (aka the golden apples) is based on the life-breath of the extraterrestrials. More than most symbols within The Ring Cycle, this is one that most closely identifies the importance of gold to the alleged deities.

Freia "controlled the golden apples at the top of the world which were the secret of the immortality of the gods." [2]

And of course, Freia is the Greek Aphrodite or Sumerian Inanna.

Meanwhile, back at the opera, Loki’s advice to Wotan is that he must simply rob Alberic. Wotan quickly realizes that there is nothing to prevent him from doing so, except perhaps some pesky moral scruple. Let’s face it: Alberic is a poor, dim, dwarfed, credulous creature who a god can out see and who a lie can outwit. The fact that a god or ruling elite might use superior intellect or information to outwit lower echelon creatures is no big surprise. It goes with the territory called reality.

Third Scene

Back at the Alberic ranch, the dwarf has set his brother Mime (Mimmy) to make him a helmet. Mimmy suspects in a somewhat dim fashion that there might be some magic in the helmet, and without truly understanding why decides to try and keep it. Alberic nevertheless wrests it from Mimmy and shows his even more dim-witted brother that the helmet is the veil of the invisible whip. Even more importantly he who wears it can appear in what shape he will, including the ability to disappear from view altogether.

Shaw [1] suggests the helmet is symbolized by the tall hat of the gentleman capitalist.

“It makes a man invisible as a shareholder, and changes him into various shapes, such as a pious Christian, a subscriber to hospitals, a benefactor of the poor, a model husband and father, a shrewd, practical, independent Englishman, and what not, when he is really a pitiful parasite on the commonwealth, consuming a great deal, and producing nothing, feeling nothing, knowing nothing, believing nothing, and doing nothing except what all the rest do, and that only because he is afraid not to do it, or at least pretend to do it.”

The helmet or head covering symbol is rife in ancient rulers from Egyptian pharaohs (with some of the stranger headgear styles) to European royalty (with their assortment of jeweled crowns) to rulers of the far east (with some truly original designs). A simplistic view is that the reason for the headgear of rulers is to increase their stature -- so they can lord over others. But there is ample evidence to assume that many of the intriguingly designed head coverings of the ancients had specific purposes other than purely cosmetic ones. Accordingly, it should not be dismissed as mere fantasy the idea that the magic helmet of Alberic had astounding and magical properties. Consider, for example, the headgear of a modern astronaut.

When Wotan and Loki arrive to steal from Alberic, Loki begins by claiming Alberic as an old acquaintance. The dwarf hesitates, his reaction stemming from the fact that Greed instinctively mistrusts Intellect. Furthermore, Alberic turns the tables and boasts of his own great power, sufficient that the gods, with their moralities and legalities and intellectual subtlety, can be expected to go under and be starved out of existence. Wotan is so revolted by Alberic’s arrogance that the last moral scruple of becoming a thief is dismissed and Wotan decides to rob the dwarf without remorse. He rationalizes that it is positively his highest duty to take this power out of such evil hands and use it himself in the interests of Godhead. On this loftiest of moral grounds, Wotan lets Loki do his worse.

The ability of thieves to rationalize their actions and continue merrily along is one of the greater intellectual achievements of humankind. It is nowhere so blatant as at the highest echelons of power and influence. Caesar could, for example, condone murder as just another technique of administering the state (and incidently keeping himself in power). Republicans, caught with their hands in the cookie jar, quite justifiably point to the times when the Democrats were similarly found out. Astoundingly, when it comes to crimes of every imaginable variety, the higher the rank the greater the departure from ethics, morals, and the Law. The relevant question is whether or not they have a choice if they are to maintain their power... and thus be able to do good work.

Incidentally, it is slowly becoming obvious that Loki often plays the part of legal counsel for the mighty. His expertise with the Big Lie was the first clue. But Loki's facility with doing whatever it takes to accomplish the client's wishes makes the connection even more obvious. The only unknown is how much Loki charges per hour.

Taking his cue from Wotan, Loki then appears to accept everything Alberic says. At the same time, however, he cunningly inserts the idea into Alberic's mind of the millions of his hated slaves who may while their master sleeps, want to steal the magic ring, the symbol of his power, the same which Alberic had forged from the gold of the Rhine. Alberic does not immediately buy into Loki’s ruse, and instead shows off his magic helmet whereby he can transform himself into a monstrous serpent or dragon (the latter being the penultimate symbol of the guardian of the dwarf’s gold). Loki plays along, but then suggests that a better idea would be to transform into a tiny creature in order to hide and spy from the smallest cranny. When Alberic does this, Wotan’s foot is instantly upon him, and Loki relieves Alberic of his magic helmet. Alberic is then taken as a prisoner to the castle.

There is in investment circles something called The Greater Fool theory. The gist is that it's okay to be a fool and buy a particular stock at a particular price -- when it is patently not worth the price -- but such an act is okay if there is a greater fool to buy the same stock at a higher price. In the world of thieves, politicians, and religious zealots, there is The Greater Thief theory. It doesn't help one's bottom line to steal a fortune, if one is quickly relieved of it by a more accomplished thief. Se la vie.

Fourth Scene

From his imprisonment, Alberic is required to summon his slaves from the depths to deliver his treasure to Wotan. When Alberic then petitions for his freedom, the god decides he must have the magic ring as well. The dwarf, like the giant before him, feels the very foundations of his world shake beneath him at the discovery of his own base naïve assumptions concerning a higher power. The very fact that evil [Alberic] could, in its loveless desperation, create malign powers which the Godhead could not create, seemed to be but natural justice to Alberic. But that this same Godhead could steal those malign powers from evil, and wield them itself, seems to Alberic's mind a monstrous perversion.

Wotan claims as justification that Alberic had stolen the gold from the Rhinemaidens, but Alberic knows perfectly well that the judge is taking the goods to put them in his own pocket. Alberic quickly has the ring torn from his finger. [Shades of Frodo and the One Ring to Rule Them All!] Alberic is once more as poor as he was when he first came upon the Rhine. Such is the way of the world.

“When the forces of lovelessness and greed had built up our own sordid capitalist systems, driven by invisible proprietorship, robbing the poor, defacing the earth, and forcing themselves as a universal curse even on the generous and humane, then religion and law and intellect, which would never themselves have discovered such systems, their natural bent being towards welfare, economy, and life instead of corruption, waste, and death, nevertheless did not scruple to seize by fraud and force these powers of evil on pretence of using them for good.” [1]

When the giants arrive with their hostage, they have become less tempted by the gold and are now sorely loath to let Freia go. That is as long as there is insufficient gold to utterly hide the gleaming Freia from them. Not until the heap has grown so that they can see nothing but the gold and money that has come between them and every human feeling will they part with her.

Unfortunately for Wotan, there is not quite gold enough to accomplish this, despite the manner in which Loki cunningly spreads the gold around. With all of the gold in place, the glint of Freia’s hair is still visible to the Giant Fafnir... until the magic helmet goes atop the heap to shut out this last glimpse of Freia. But even then, Fafnir’s brother, Fasolt, can catch a beam from Freia's eye through a chink, and is thus rendered incapable of forswearing her. As luck (or opera) would have it, there is nothing to stop the glimmer through that chink but the ring.

Naturally, Wotan is as greedily bent on keeping the ring as Alberic himself was. The other gods try to persuade him that Freia is well worth it, “since for the highest god, love is not the highest good, but only the universal delight that bribes all living things to travail with renewed life. Life itself, with its accomplished marvels and its infinite potentialities, is the only force that Godhead can worship.” [1]

It is only when Erda, the First Mother of Life, rises from her sleeping place in the heart of the earth, and warns him to yield the ring, that Wotan obeys and the ring is added to the heap of gold. In this act, all sense of Freia is cut off from the giants. The deal is done.

It is now time for the giants to divide the spoils among themselves, and in typical fashion of poor stupid laborers, they resolve it by Fafnir battering his brother to death. Fafnir then leaves with his booty, piles it in a cave, transforms himself into a dragon by the use of the helmet, and devotes his life to guarding the gold -- as much a slave to it now as a jailor is to his prisoner. Such is the way of those who sacrifice all their love and affection in order to obtain riches, only to be unable to make use of them and thus become miserable slaves.

Meanwhile, back at the Godhead, the gods are rejoicing at the return of Freia. In the midst of a glorious celebration, Wotan has a great thought.

“With all his aspirations to establish a reign of noble thought, of righteousness, order, and justice, he has found that day that there is no race yet in the world that quite spontaneously, naturally, and unconsciously realizes his ideal.” “[Even] he, the greatest of gods, has been unable to control his fate...” “His consort has cost him half his vision; his castle has cost him his affections; and the attempt to retain both has cost him his honor. On every side he is shackled and bound, dependent on the laws of Fricka and on the lies of Loki, forced to traffic with dwarfs for handicrafts and with giants for strength, and to pay them both in false coin. After all, a god is a pitiful thing.” [1]

In an evolutionary moment, as life goes to ever higher organization, Wotan realizes that the next step above godhood is the Hero, which he visualizes as a creature in whom a god’s thought and will shall take him straight to truth despite any of the laws of Fricka or the lies of Loki. And in so doing, the Hero will exhibit a strength that overcomes giants and a cunning that outwits dwarfs. Wotan decides that Erda should breed him a race of heroes to deliver the world and himself from his limited powers and disgraceful bargains. This is his vision even as he turns to the rainbow bridge and calls his wife to come and dwell with him in Valhalla, the new and improved home of the gods.

Erda as the mother goddess can be likened to Nimhursag who, according to Sumerian literature, created the Adama, the "mixed worker", the first Homo sapiens sapiens. And why was this genetic mixing necessary? In order for Wotan to be able to deal with giants and dwarfs, without getting his godhead hands dirty. This is effectively the same tale of the Sumerian Enlil being unwilling to deal with the Anunnaki who slaved in the gold mines, and which prompted Enki to work with his half sister to find another way. Humans were then created, as per the opera, to be the heroes.

A curious factor here is that Wotan while in the process of stealing from Alberic and/or the giants seems to be taking the Enlil road -- even to the point of risking revolution from the underlings. But when it was time for a more permanent solution to the problem of unruly giants and dwarfs, it was Wotan taking the Enki road, of creating an heir apparent. Wotan may thus be playing dual roles.

Meanwhile, the “rainbow bridge” might be the veil hiding Valhalla in another dimension, or the means of arriving at the Gray Havens of the Moon. Meanwhile...

Loki is unmoved by such ideals of Wotan's, as well as the golden apples. The latter, of course, being due to the fact he is not dependent upon the golden apples for life. He even finds the entire proceedings less than impressive. “I am ashamed,’ he says, “to have dealings with these futile creatures”. But with the power behind the joint reign of the Divine and the Legal, he nevertheless follows them to the rainbow bridge.

The Rhine Maidens, on the other hand, beg to differ, and Loki replies with bitter irony: “you used to bask in the glitter of your gold: henceforth you shall bask in the splendor of the gods.”

“They reply that the truth is in the depths and the darkness, and in that which blazes on high there is nothing but falsehood.”

Clearly the Rhine Maidens have glimpsed the wisdom of descending into Hades, from where all good things come. At the same time they recognize the inevitable falseness of the exalted where arrogance so easily proliferates. Power does tend to corrupt; even if truly absolute power (omnipotence) is hopefully uncorrupted. [We have to date no examples of truly absolute power. Czars and the like have never had absolute power, even when their mundane power was extraordinary.]

And with the Rhine Maidens' revelation the gods pass into their glorious stronghold and the first opera ends.

George Bernard Shaw’s commentary on The Rhine Gold.

“It is the least popular of the sections of The Ring. The reason is that its dramatic moments lie quite outside the consciousness of people whose joys and sorrows are all domestic and personal, and whose religions and political ideas are purely conventional and superstitious.” “Only those of wider consciousness can follow it breathlessly, seeing in it the whole tragedy of human history and the whole horror of the dilemmas from which the world is shrinking today.”

“In The Rhine Gold, it is pretended that there are as yet no men on the earth. [Same as in early Tolkien!] There are dwarfs, giants, and gods. The danger is that you will jump to the conclusion that the gods, at least, are a higher order than the human order. On the contrary, the world is waiting for Man to redeem it from the lame and cramped government of the gods. Once grasp that; and the allegory becomes simple enough. Really, of course, the dwarfs, giants, and gods are dramatizations of the three main orders of men, to wit: the instinctive, predatory, lustful, greedy people; the patient, toiling, stupid, respectful, money-worshiping people; and the intellectual, moral, talented people who devise and administer States and Churches. History shows us only one order higher than the highest of these: namely, the order of Heroes.” Any man “will begin to realize how much of our barbarous Theology and Law the man of the future will do without.” [emphasis added]

“Further on in The Ring, we shall see the Hero arrive and make an end of dwarfs, giants, and gods. [Just as men with the help of hobbits did some house cleaning in the Lord of the Rings.] Meanwhile, let us not forget that godhood means to Wagner infirmity and compromise, and manhood strength and integrity.” “...the god, since his desire is toward a higher and fuller life, must long in his inmost soul for the advent of that greater power whose first work, though this he does not see as yet, must be his own undoing.”

“When Wotan wrests the ring from Alberic, the dwarf delivers a lurid and blood-curdling stage curse, calling down on its every future possessor care, fear, and death. The musical phrase accompanying this outburst was a veritable harmonic and melodic bogey to mid-century ears, though time has now robbed it of its terrors. It sounds again when Fafnir slays Fasolt, and on every subsequent occasion when the ring brings death to its holder.” [1]

And now on to the next segment, The Valkyrie.



[1] George Bernard Shaw, The Perfect Wagnerite: A Commentary on the Niblung’s Ring, Dover Publications, New York, 1967 (an unabridged and unaltered republication of the fourth edition (1923), as published by Constable & Co., London).

[2] http://www.howarddavidjohnson.com/nordicmyths.htm


Back to:

Night Falls on the Gods



Annals of Earth

Chronicles of Earth

Forward to:

The Valkyrie


Die Götterdämerung

Immanuel Velikovsky

600 B. C. E.

History 009



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