This is a transcription of the audio lecture Ring of the Nibelungen Explained 01 The Meanings of Das Rheingold originally given live on Gnostic Radio, which you can download for free.
The Ring of the Nibelungen is a very famous opera, composed by Richard Wagner in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. This opera actually consists of four operas in one, so it is a tetralogy or a story with four major parts.
This first opera, which we just heard a synopsis of, is called Das Rheingold. And of course the story, as you heard, is about the Rhinegold. The Rhine is a river in Germany. When Wagner was compiling the European mythology in order to construct his mythical vision, he placed the gold in the Rhine itself, in this famous river, to emphasize the Germanic roots of the myth.
This story of the Rhinegold is a prologue or a preface; it is the introduction to the main story. Das Rheingold is the archaic past upon which the remaining three operas are founded. So it is important for the audience of Das Rheingold to understand the point of the opera and to understand the conflicts that are expressed in it. It is these conflicts, related to Alberich and the Rhinegold and the Gods, that play out over the course of the remaining three operas.
Of course, The Ring of the Nibelungen is a very famous opera, famous mostly because of its psychological impact. When Wagner wrote and prepared this opera he revolutionized drama, music, theater. All these aspects of creative endeavor changed because of this opera, and people of the age in which he wrote it were strongly polarized, either for and against; Wagner was on everyone's lips. In fact, it is related that Karl Marx complained about this. Marx said, “It is so tiresome that wherever you go, people always ask you what you think of Wagner.” It is hard for us in this time to really understand the impact that the operas had, because so much of what is common now in our music and in our entertainment, in theater, in movies, is actually based upon the revolution incited by Wagner. But that is not the intention of these lectures. What we propose to investigate is the actual meaning of these stories, the actual content. What inspired them? What are they actually communicating?
I can tell you at the very beginning that as much as we try in this course to investigate and express the mystical significance of this story and its elements, we will only be able to penetrate into a very superficial level. Partly, I can tell you with complete sincerity, that it is due to my own shortcomings and the limitations of any of us who try to enter into the study of this type of material. This series of operas illuminates the path to become a complete Human Being, and that path is organized in levels, and each of us will comprehend this work in accordance to our level. This means that as you go deeper in your own psychological work, you can go deeper into the meanings of this opera. Samael Aun Weor was amazed by this opera and he stated that it is a great mystery how Wagner was able to write this colossal work and illuminate very profound aspects of Kabbalah, of Alchemy, of all the esoteric path, and yet he left no trace as to how he knew it. And the more you understand about Kabbalah and Alchemy, the more you will understand about this opera, because it is a work of Alchemy, it is a work of Kabbalah.
To understand that, the very outset, it is good for us to realize that the European mythologies, which we call Nordic or Germanic, are very ancient. We have this idea in Western culture that Greek mythology is the oldest, but it is not. The Nordic mythology has ancient roots as well. And of course, the Nordic and the Greek come from the same essential source: Gnosis itself. This is the purpose of our studies, and this is why we always emphasize the universal nature of mythology, and we try to illuminate each mythological story by relating it to other myths, so that we can grasp the universality of the wisdom that each of us needs.
In the heart of Nordic or Germanic mythology is a great tree. This is called the World Tree, Yggdrasil. The name Yggdrasil actually means ”terrifying steed,” and it is said to be the horse of Odin, the father of the Gods. If it is a tree and it is a horse, it is then a vehicle of life, it is the Tree of Life. In Nordic Mythology we know that Yggdrasil supports existence itself, it supports the nine worlds, as you find in the Eddas, that ancient Bible of the Germans and the Nordic races.
Yggdrasil is roughly divided into three major sections, so if we were to draw a tree with its roots and then the branches at the top, but around the center of the tree we were to draw a circle, a ring floating at the center, the bottommost part where the roots are would obviously be the inferior worlds, the submerged worlds, which have different aspects, and that is why in the Nordic mythology we understand that these inferior worlds are divided into three. In Gnosis we know that these are the inferior aspect, the physical aspect and the superior aspect. So in the center of our Earth we have the physical part, but we also have an inferior dimension there, and a superior dimension there. The inferior dimension is obviously Hell, it is Dante's Inferno, which he explained very well. But there is also a superior part in the center of the Earth, related to Heaven, and it is related to the Heaven of this Earth, and there are temples there and angels, divinities which guide the evolution of this planet. So these three aspects, or three worlds, are related to the bottommost part of the tree, and these are the first three of the nine Nordic worlds.
In the center part, that plane which hangs in the middle of the tree, we have three more worlds, and again we have these aspects: inferior, physical and superior. In this middle realm we have what is commonly called Midgard, and this is the world of the humans. Midgard actually does not appear in this first opera. The opera Das Rheingold begins in the first scene in the submerged worlds, in the lower part of the tree.
The upper section obviously would be Heaven, which has three aspects.
So you see here nine worlds suspended on the Tree of Life.
This is obviously the same Tree of Life which appears in the book of Genesis, and as you know, Genesis has at its root this little phrase ”gen” which is related to generate, which is creation, the beginning. Das Rheingold begins in the waters.
In the very first moments of the opera, with beautiful music playing, the audience is imagining the beginnings of creation in nature, and that creation of course happens in the waters, the womb of the Divine Mother. And as the opera opens and the music is playing, we descend. This is Wagner's instruction, and the audience is imagining descending into the bottom of the river Rhine, which are these lower waters. So here we see in the very opening moments of Das Rheingold two bodies of water; superior and inferior or upper and lower. If you have studied Gnosis for some time you will immediately see that this relates to, obviously, the river Nile, when the waters are separated. Or the waters of creation in the book of Genesis, when the Spirit of God divides the waters. And these waters relate to Daath, the Tree of Knowledge. So here we see two essential trees for us to understand and keep in mind, because they play significantly in this opera: the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.
The Tree of Life is Kabbalah; this is a map of the psyche itself, and truly, the entire series of operas of The Ring of the Nibelungen is an explanation of our psychological situation. It is actually a history, but it is a history that is happening now, and it is a history that will repeat in the future. It is a story that is eternal and universal, which is precisely why it is considered Gnostic. Gnosis is a universal wisdom and relates to all people from all times, but according to their level.
We as a humanity have our psychological level which you can witness just by looking at the products of this culture, by looking at the way we all relate to one another, looking at the structures of our society, you can see the level of our culture, of our world. But the wisdom itself is eternal, the beauty of that symbol, eternal wisdom, is immediately also in the beginning of this opera, by the three Rhine-maidens.
Rhine-maidens of course are nymphs or mermaids, feminine elemental forces which live in the waters of the Rhine. In Nordic mythology, these are the Norns. They are three maidens who are responsible for the Fate of everyone. Even the Gods have no power over them. These three are simply past, present and future. So the three Rhine-maidens, these three elemental intelligences, are here in the waters guarding the Rhinegold. Being feminine, they represent the power of the Divine Mother. The Divine Mother has a womb, a chaos, a great ocean, which is called Prakriti in Hinduism, and within that womb creation is gestated and gives birth, and the gold is the source of that. But the student who is trying to understand the meaning of these operas should pay close attention to the fact that the opera begins in the water, and it begins with the responsibility of these three Rhine-maidens, for they are to guard the gold.
Now as you see in the first scene, Alberich comes, and he is a troll or a gnome or a creature of the underworld who is driven by passion, and he wants the gold. The Rhine-maidens of course tease him, and this is a symbol of our own ego which wants to take power, which because of its lust, its passion, its desire, wants to take from the Divine Mother, wants to steal this divine gold. And of course, these divine women do not think that is possible. They believe that no one is capable of stealing the gold.
It is good for us to pause for a moment and consider carefully the nature of these three Rhine-maidens. In Greek mythology you have heard about the Fates, three women who have a similar appearance as the three in the Nordic mythology, these three Rhine-maidens. In Greek Mythology one is a spinster, who is spinning twine, rope. The second one is measuring the length of that twine, and the third one cuts it at just the right length. Here you see past, present and future in the Greek myth, and this twine represents the life of the person, the life of an individual. So these three women, these three symbols, measure each person's existence, and what is that measurement done by? With Karma.
Now you see in Das Rheingold that these three Rhine-maidens are operating under the command of their Father, but he is not named, because as you know from Kabbalah, He has no name. And what is interesting is that not even the Gods can influence the Rhine-maidens. They have power over the Gods, and this demonstrates something very subtle for the Western mind. We have this unfortunate characteristic in our personality, in our upbringing: we think that God is beyond the law. This is one of the most beautiful things about this opera, as it demonstrates very explicitly that God is not beyond the law, even God has to respect the law. Karma is eternal, Karma is the basis for existence and even the Gods are subject to Karma. The moment when you step outside the boundary that Karma manages is the moment you step out of the universe, out of manifestation altogether, otherwise Karma is always there. This is a very deep symbol in Das Rheingold, represented by these three Rhine-maidens.
So we know that Alberich comes and wants the gold. First of all, he sees the Rhine-maidens and he wants them, but the Rhine-maidens tease him and make fun of him. What is subtle here and good to look at is that Alberich tries to seduce each of the Rhine-maidens, and he fails each time. So this is a symbol of how our own egotistical mind believes that it can outwit Karma, and it can outwit the progression of our own development: past, present and future. We think we are more intelligent or more clever than the law itself, and we are driven by lust. Lust in its base is a craving for sensation, for a feeling of self. And as you know, as we have discussed in these lectures many times, the idea of self, the sensation of self is false. In the ultimate sense, there is no self-nature. Self-nature is relative to our level, this is also beautifully represented throughout this opera, which we will discover as we proceed through the story. But Alberich of course, driven by desire, thinks he can outsmart these Fates, the Rhine-maidens, and of course he fails. But in his failure, rather than recognizing his own idiocy he becomes enraged against the Rhine-maidens, and when he hears that the gold can confer power, he wants it.
Now, in the stage directions for this opera, Wagner was very specific about how this scene should be represented on stage, and there is a reason. He said that, of course the Rhine-maidens are floating in the waters of the Rhine, but the stage should be organized in such a way that the bottom is the bottom of the river, and there is a great prominent rock which shoots up from the base of the river, and it is like a tower, and at the very top of this tower is the gold. Now what else could this symbolize but a phallus? What else is submerged in the waters of the Divine Mother in order to begin creation but the phallus of the Divine Father? This is the beautiful and subtle symbol present in Wagner's stage direction, that, submerged in the waters of existence, penetrating the womb of the Divine Mother, is the phallic force of the Father who commands the Rhine-maidens to protect the gold and to keep it safe. Naturally, that gold is spiritual: that gold is the source of power for all creatures, and that is why the Divine Father has commanded it to be protected and held safe here in the waters of creation, the waters of Genesis.
Also in the stage direction, in this moment where the conflict is unfolding between the Rhine-maidens and Alberich, Wagner says a ray of light penetrates into the depths and the gold is illuminated, and the Rhine-maidens are so overwhelmed with the beauty of this moment that they forget Alberich. The Sun is the Christ, the Sun is the Solar Logos, the universal Cosmic Christ who is present in all religions. He is the God of Light, and as this light illuminates the gold, the Rhine-maidens begin to sing in ecstasy, an ecstasy of the soul, because of the beauty of the light illuminating the gold in the water. Alberich sees it too, and becomes inflamed with desire to have it, to steal the gold. And of course, he does. But he has to do this in a very particular way; he rushes up the rock and at the point of stealing the gold he renounces love: in other words, he renounces the consciousness, he renounces his own inner divinity, because God is love. Christ is love, and when we renounce that within ourselves, as a psyche, as a soul, we become like Alberich, a toad, an abysmal creature consumed with desire, lost in the underworld, in the darkness, consumed with the greed and lust for power and sensation.
Alberich steals the gold and makes a proclamation that he renounces love and will have the gold in order to have his satisfaction, and from this gold he plans to forge a ring, upon which the entire opera is based.
Another aspect of the Nordic mythology which is important to understand is that God is not seen as a bearded old man on a throne by himself. Like most world religions or world traditions, God is a multiplicity, God is diversity, and in that diversity is the unity. Of course, in Gnosis we study the Army of the Word, the Army of the Voice, and this is a way of understanding that both the monotheistic view of religion as God being one, and the polytheistic view of God being many, are actually one and the same. A way to understand that would be by looking at a tree: what we call a tree actually in itself does not exist. A tree is a compound of many parts: leaves, branches, and all the different chemicals and elements that make up the tree. God is the same. God as an entity, as a singular force, is made up of many parts, and this is why the Bible describes the body of Christ is the church, because the body itself is made up of many parts like our own physical body, and so is Christ. Christ is an energy, Christ is a force, and God is that.
In Gnosis, we describe the Trinity, this first triangle on the top of the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life, and this Trinity is a three-in-one, it is a tri-unity. It is actually one force or one energy, which is Christ itself, but that force expresses in different ways depending on the need, depending on the circumstance, in the same way that your body will work in different ways, but it is the same body. You use your hand when you need your hand, you use your foot when you need your foot, but it is still you, it is still that physical body doing it. God is the same.
Wotan or Odin is the first sphere on the Tree of Life, what in Hebrew is called Kether, and in Christianity we call him the Father. And he of course is related to Jupiter or Zeus, the Father of all the Gods. Wotan has a very rich mythological and symbolic background, and in the story of The Ring of the Nibelungen he is one of our central characters, and he is of course God, but he is God in his level, he is God as Kether, as the Crown, as the Father who is responsible for guiding the development of all of those who are in his domain. His domain is the Tree of Life itself, all of the spheres which rest below Kether, and he manages them with the assistance, with the help of his many parts, which are the other Gods. This is why sometimes when we read mythologies we become confused that one God is married to multiple wives or one Goddess has multiple husbands; this is symbolic of the integrated nature of God and can be understood best through meditation.
Scene Two opens with Wotan and his wife Fricka. Fricka is his feminine aspect. Wotan is dreaming, he is asleep. As you know when you study Hinduism, we also hear about the Gods who sleep and dream. But when Fricka awakens him, she says, ”You should come and see the fortress that has been built for you by the Giants.” This fortress is called Valhall, or we call it Valhalla, and that name means simply the House of the Warrior, or the warriors. Wotan hired the Giants to build it for him as a place for him to consolidate his efforts to maintain safety and security for everyone who is in his domain. Valhalla then, this Hall of the Warrior, is the Tree of Life itself, the aspects below Wotan, Kether. It is called the celestial Jerusalem in the Bible; it is the soul. It is the structure which God needs in order for his cause to be advanced, and his cause is self-knowledge, to know himself, in order for the God himself to advance in his own objective reasoning.
Wotan has one eye; he wears a patch because one of his eyes is gone. In this opera, Wagner explains this through a dialogue between Fricka and Wotan. Fricka is concerned that Wotan wanders too much (he is known as the Wanderer) and as she is the Goddess of fidelity and marriage, she wants to be nestled in a safe home. Wotan always wants to be out, the hunter, the wanderer. So she was supporting the idea of building Valhalla as an idea, a way, of keeping her husband home. So you see a beautiful conflict between Wotan and Fricka which relates well to man and woman, and what resolves this between them is the arrival of Freia.
Freia is Fricka's sister, and Freia is the Goddess of Love, so this conflict, or this push-pull, plus and minus between the Divine Father and the Divine Mother is equilibrated with the force of love. So right here you see a beautiful symbol of the three forces which are required for any form of creation. Wotan is the positive, projective, masculine energy; Fricka is the receptive, passive, feminine energy; and Freia is the force that causes them to bind, to unify and to create.
Freia is the Goddess of Love, of harmony, of balance. Freia's job in the mythology is that she is the one who provides strength to the Gods, she provides them with their vitality. And how does she do that? With golden apples. Now there is something very interesting here: if we remember in the first scene, we have the three Rhine-maidens protecting the gold in the waters. Part of the job of those Rhine-maidens - which is not in the opera, but it is in the mythology - is that they feed the Tree of Life itself, they feed Yggdrasil. So in the very bottom of the Tree of Life we have the inferior worlds down below, the lower worlds, and at the root we have of course the three aspects of those inferior worlds, and in the middle part we have three aspects, and in the upper part we have three aspects. But in each one there is a well of water. A spring in other words, and this is the water that sustains the tree. Without the water from the Rhine-maidens, the water that has the gold in it, the tree will fall apart, it will die. And that tree is the universe, that tree is our own soul, it is our own psyche. Freia represents another level of that, another aspect of that, and she is the Goddess related to waters who takes the apples of gold to feed the Gods and to sustain their power.
Of course this has a direct relationship with the Greek mythology; you find the Goddess there who has the same exact responsibility. And you also find it in the Hindu mythology related to Amrita, that divine elixir which keeps the Gods sustained and alive, this is the Greek Ambrosia. So all world traditions have a Goddess who delivers a magical or a vital substance which keeps the Gods alive.
What does Wotan do? To have his castle, he had to hire the Giants to build it, and he has to pay them. Now, this deal, this contract, is actually the brain child of another God, and he is perhaps the most paradoxical, the most mischievous, the most diabolic and perhaps the most honorable one, and this is Loge, also known as Loki, Mephistopheles and Lucifer. He is the trickster, he is the deceiver, but he is the God of Fire. So be aware of these symbols; the waters which feed the tree, the gold in the waters, and the God of Fire. Loge is a universal symbol, present in all religions. In the Greek myths, he is called Prometheus, the one who gives fire to man. In the Bible he is called Lucifer, the bearer of light, the bearer of fire. But unfortunately, he has some problems.
Loge is the adviser of Wotan, and Loge is everywhere and involved in everything, and you will see that as we go through the story, that Loge is always right in the middle of every problem, and he seems to be the cause of the problem in many cases.
The construction of Valhalla is performed by Giants. We understand that the term “giant” refers to someone of a big stature who has a lot of power, a lot of force, a lot of strength, and when you reflect again on the Greek mythology, you probably remember that it was the cyclops who built the domain of the Gods in the Greek myths. So likewise in the Nordic myths we have the Giants who build the domain of the Gods, but who are these Giants? These Giants in the opera are presented as two brothers or two companions, Fasolt and Fafner. They arrive to receive their payment. Of course, as they are coming, Fricka reminds Wotan that he promised to pay them with Freia, to give them the Goddess of Love as payment. To understand this, we have to grasp what this symbolizes.
Remember that this opera concerns past, present and future, related to the Rhine-maidens. The construction of the castle, of the fort, the domain of God, is the construction of the temple of Solomon within us, it is the construction of the soul. But that process is a matter of great efforts which proceed according to cosmic evolution. What is symbolized here in these two Giants is very deep. Like many things in this opera, there are levels to this. But in the immediate level we can summarize that these two Giants represent two previous races: the Lemurians and the Atlanteans. They were Giants in the sense that they had a more elevated spiritual understanding than we do, they were not as degenerated as we are; and the opera explains this.
Through the course of the development of the cosmic realms, the development of this humanity has unfolded through a series of Root Races, and in this way the structure of the soul has developed further and further, which in turn advances the self-knowledge of God. The two giants represent how through evolution the structure of the Tree of Life, the Soul, has been constructed.
Another beautiful aspect of this is the missing eye of Wotan. It is not in the opera, but in the original mythology you find that when Wotan realized he needed more knowledge, he needed more understanding; thus, he plucked out his eye and he put it in the well of the Rhine-maidens as payment, as an offering, as a sacrifice. In other words: he put his own way of seeing, his own way of vision, his own way of perception into the waters. He made that sacrifice so he could know himself, and what else is a way of seeing but a part of consciousness, the Essence, the embryo of soul that we have now? The missing eye symbolizes the human consciousness deposited into the womb of nature. Wotan plucked out this part of himself, with pain, and put it deep into the waters, and it is that part, the Essence, which grows and elaborates through the process of Alchemy in order to eventually return to Wotan, a symbol of our own Father. This is the nature of the path.
In the opera, Wotan says that he did this in order to gain his wife, and it is the same thing. He sacrifices his eye in order to gain more complete development of himself, to acquire his feminine aspect who is the waters, the Divine Mother.
Yet another aspect there, if you look at the Tarot, the first arcanum is the Magician, which is Kether, the first sphere on the Tree of Life, and at the top of that card there are a pair of eyes. When Master Samael Aun Weor explains the symbolism of this card, he says that these eyes represent the symbol of infinity. So if Kether, Wotan, is to sacrifice an eye, this is how he himself enters into manifestation between the Mahapralaya and the Mahamanvantara, the Great Day and the Great Night. In other words, he leaves the Absolute, that bliss of perfect existence, in order to enter into manifestation which is imperfect, and this is painful. For the Gods, this is pain, to enter into manifestation, for the ones that can reside in the great Pralaya, in that night of bliss. So as I said there are many symbols related to each element of this story.
Nonetheless, Freia arrives, and of course she is very concerned because she is about to be given to the Giants. Fricka and Wotan then have a little bit of a conflict over Freia. Fricka, the wife of Wotan, wants Freia to be saved, to be kept with the Gods in order for them to keep their power, because if Freia is delivered to the Giants, the Gods will lose their vitality. In this conversation Fricka accuses Wotan and says, ”I wanted you to build this castle so that you would stay home with me, but instead I can see that you are going to use this as a base for you to conduct your conquests and to be out, and that is why you want to give away my sister.” Wotan says nothing can keep him at home, because he needs constant change in order to live.
This is a great psychological lesson for a Gnostic student. God is not static, stagnant, or still. God is in constant movement, constant motion, and this is the symbol. And as a Gnostic student, as a student of the spiritual path, we have to grasp that in our own work. We should be seeking constant change as a psyche, as a mind, because that is what our own God needs, he needs for us to change so that his own development can advance so that we can return to him.
Freia enters into the scene pursued by the Giants, and the Giants want their wages. The Giants tell Wotan, “You made a deal with us and you have to keep it.” The deal was the brain child of Loge, the trickster, and Wotan never had the intention of fulfilling the deal, of giving them Freia, because he expected, based on Loge's words, that there would be some imperfection in the castle, there would be some issue which would allow him to keep his sister-in-law, the Goddess.
At this point two new characters enter in order to prevent the Goddess of Love being taken away. And these two characters are Donner and Froh. Donner wields an axe, a hammer. It is a two-headed instrument, and this is a symbol of willpower, it is the shape of a cross. These two Gods intervene and try to block the Giants. These two Gods symbolically represent the other two aspects of the Solar Logos. Wotan is the Father (Kether), Froh is the Son (Chokmah), and Donner is the Holy Spirit (Binah).
In this conflict that arises between the Giants and the Gods, Wotan is stalling and waiting for Loge to save him with an answer to this quandary, “How do I get out of this deal that I made?” And Loge arrives as Fire. So the answer to that conflict is in that fire, it is Lucifer, but the answer is not what you might think. Now of course we understand that Loge was coming back from his mission to check the castle and finds that it is perfect, and now he needs to find something to replace Freia, to pay the Giants with.
The Giants are symbolic of the previous Root Races through which our own psyche gradually evolved, to become a little more sophisticated, to become this castle which the Gods can then inhabit and use. So this story in this moment represents a period within our own evolutionary history, a time related to the Lemurians and Atlanteans, and this same period of time is represented in the book of Genesis with Cain and Abel: these two Giants are Cain and Abel.
Loge tells the story of Alberich, that Alberich renounced love, stole the Gold and has forged a Ring. So Loge tells Wotan, “If we get that, the Gold and the Ring, we can pay the Giants.” The Giants hear this idea and they want it, but they decide to take Freia as a hostage, and when they do that the Gods become weak.
It is good to reflect here that at all levels of the Tree of Life there is a certain amount of give and take, push and pull, conflict. We have this sort of kindergarten concept that when we enter into the Heavens everything is blissful and beautiful and perfect for eternity, but that is not the case. And that is why in the Nordic mythologies, in the Greek mythologies, in the Hindu mythologies, in the Buddhist mythologies, we always hear stories of the wars among the Gods, of deals made and broken, of problems. Why? Karma. Even the Gods are subject to it. So as we advance into the next scene we will find out a little bit more about how that is.
This short act or scene concerns us very directly. Alberich is representative of part of our own psyche.
In the book of Genesis in the Bible, in the story of Adam and Eve, when the serpent shows to Adam and Eve the Tree of Knowledge, and asks Eve about it, Eve says, “God said we should not eat of this tree”, and the serpent says, ”God said that because he knows that if you eat of it you will become as Gods, knowing good and bad.” The serpent does not say, ”Eat it!”, the serpent does not tell Eve to eat the fruit, neither does he offer it. He just asks what it is. Why is it like that? Eve is tempted by her own desire. This is a very, very important part of the book of Genesis that has been misinterpreted for centuries, and everyone blames Eve and the serpent, but it should be grasped that the serpent is playing a role there which is very important. That is why Master Jesus says, ”Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” because the serpent has a kind of wisdom that we need, a subtlety of understanding. Well in this story, Loge is that same serpent who is a little tricky, he works with that kind of subtlety of thought, a subtlety of intelligence that we are very easily fooled by.
Alberich represents our own desire. It is this part of our mind which in the course of development becomes entranced or enslaved with passion, with lust, with craving for sensation. And that craving symbolized in the opera is represented in Alberich stealing the gold. The gold is the same as the golden apples of Freia: it is a magical force, a magical energy which rests inside the waters, and those waters are sexual. When Alberich steals the gold, he steals the energy of God. He steals the vitality, the force which can sustain the Gods. But this is happening on different levels, you see this right? Alberich steals the gold from the base of the waters, but the Giants acquire the gold through their labors, so what is happening with God? What is happening with Wotan and all his parts? He is losing power, there is danger, there is a problem. So you see here, God is not above the law, God is not existing there eternally without issues, without problems, without challenges.
When Wotan and Loge come to the inferior worlds find Alberich, Alberich has of course made the ring and he has also commanded his own people to serve him, he has become a tyrannical ruler of the Nibelung, which is a race of creatures deep down in the earth. And he has commanded his brother Mime to fashion a magical helmet which confers powers on Alberich. Now of course, how is this made? How is this all happening? Because of the gold that he stole. The symbol here is that our own egotistical psyche infected with desire and power takes the otherwise pure gold and fashions it into its own creations. It fashions that energy, that force into something that has a lot of strength, a lot of power, but perverse.
Where do we see an example of this now? In a very superficial way, we can see how in these times humanity is taking all the beautiful capacities that we have as a mind, as a heart, in order to create machines of destruction, to kill each other. Or in order to create economic or political systems to enslave other people. Or to create gossip and slander and psychological and social traps in order to hurt other people. These are ways in which we take the energies that we receive from God, and we corrupt them and use them in the wrong way.
But specific to this myth and other myths like it, the gold is fashioned by Alberich and his brother into the Tarnhelm and the Ring of Power. How? Through fornication. The waters contain the gold: the sexual waters, the waters of Genesis, hide the precious metal. But when those sexual forces are infected, made impure with lust or desire, those waters are turned black, they are putrid. But yet, because they have that creative power of God, they can create, but they create the ego, they create more desire, more lust, more anger, more suffering. And yet the creations of the ego seem to be fantastic, powerful, magical.
For example, our own sense of self is a creation of the ego, because it has no true basis for existence. This is why Buddhism says there is no self: the self-nature that we walk around with every day truly does not exist, but we think it does. And because we continue trying to feed it, and elaborate that self-image, putting on different clothes, putting on different beliefs or different theories, or adjusting ourselves this way and that way to fit into the flow of life, we keep trying to believe that this sense of self is real, but it is not. It is a deception, it is an illusion, and that is the Tarnhelm. The Tarnhelm is a magical helmet which gives its wearer powers to be invisible, powers to change shape, to become different things. This is the power that the ego has when it has trapped the consciousness (the gold) inside. The source of that energy is God, it is the gold which is that sexual force. But when the ego traps it, when Alberich takes it, he utilizes that force for his own pride, for his own lust, for his own cravings, his own envy, his jealousy, his anger, his resentment. And he forms from that this ability to change his shape, to look like different things. We do that because we are very insincere, we try to make ourselves look like the way we think others want us to appear, rather than being who we are.
Let us say we want to get a job in a particular place, then we get this idea, a concept that we have to look a certain way in order to fit into that job, so we change our appearance. Or if we want to be friends with someone, some particular person, then we alter our appearance in order to be the way we think they want us to be. We do this with our spouse, we do this with our parents, with our friends, but the most destructive, damaging and persistent way we do it is with ourselves. We project an image to our own selves which is false. We like to tell ourselves that we are a certain way, we have certain virtues or certain attributes that we think we have, and we tell ourselves that we have that and we persistently encourage this deceptive illusion. So we lie to ourselves, not only lying to others but to ourselves.
Alberich is very satisfied with the Tarnhelm and the Ring. The Ring, it is said, gives him power over the Earth, power to command all things, and in truth it does. But again, the power comes from the gold. In other words we can say, God gives us strength, but our ego steals it, and our ego creates suffering, which is what Alberich does. He takes the powers of the Ring and begins to put himself up as a tyrannical ruler, as a big shot, as if he is somebody important. In reality, he is just a toad.
Now of course, Wotan sees the threat that the ego represents, that the ego now has the power of the Gods, and Wotan is about to strike him down in order to finish with that threat, but who steps in but Loge? This is a very interesting moment, because in this moment God could have simply killed him and that would be the end of the story. Why does Loge interfere? It is very curious. How is it that Loge knows more than Wotan? How is it that Loge is able to very cleverly manipulate Alberich, where God is not? Well, Wotan, or our own inner Father, cannot mix with the ego, they are like oil and water. But Loge is the mixture of the two, Loge is the bearer of fire who is trapped inside the gold. This is never stated explicitly in the opera, but watch through the course of the story how everything that happens with the gold is related to Loge, and he is very much concerned. Even though he does not need it, he does not want it, he is very concerned with what happens.
He interferes here and taunts Alberich and says, ”Oh well, you must really be a big shot now, show us your power, show us what you can do.” So of course Alberich makes himself into a great dragon. We do the same thing. When we become inebriated with our own self-satisfaction, our own inner Loge taunts us. The moment we acquire a little bit of power, a little bit of money, a little bit of force, we use that to lord it over those around us. Or worse, we build up our own self-image into something false. We make ourselves appear like a dragon. The dragon is an ancient symbol for a Master, for someone who has mastered the elements, because a dragon flies, swims, breathes fire and tramples the earth, so he commands all the elements of nature. He is a commander, he is a great force. The real Dragon of Wisdom is a Christ. But there are lots of black dragons – egotistical, black magicians – who love to portray themselves as Christ, but who are really just toads in disguise.
Alberich makes himself appear as a great dragon, because he is very full of himself, full of pride. This relates specifically to what you will see happening with Alberich later on, but as a little preview we can say this: Those who learn how to take the gold from the waters through the science of Alchemy begin to walk a very treacherous road, because each little particle of energy that is taken through the process of transmutation, through Alchemy, is energy that needs to be used, but it is our own individual will that decides how to use it. This is not a mechanical process, it is not an automatic process. It happens according to our will. And if our will is corrupted by desire, our works will be corrupted as well.
Alberich uses his self-will, his selfish will, to build the Tarnhelm and the Ring in order to sustain his pride and to fulfill his resentment. And we do that to, through the desires of our ego, but specifically there are people who do that and also awaken the consciousness. In other words, the eye of Odin which was sunk into the waters opens, that eye becomes awake, but in the depths of hell. And then the Tarnhelm and the Ring make themselves into this dragon which is very pleased with itself and has powers over nature, and what is that but a sorcerer? A black magician. And this is what Alberich becomes in this moment: and why does he do it? Because of Loge. Not because Loge tells him to, Loge only tempts him. Remember the serpent who tempted Eve? Loge says, ”Oh, you are a big shot now, show me what you can do!” Our own mind does that: that is Loge inside of us who says, ”Oh now you have got some power, flex it. Show me, show others, demonstrate yourself.” And this is all of course deceptive.
What Alberich, the false dragon, the black magician, does not realize, is that he is being tricked by his own desires. Loge manipulates that desire. This happens to us too.
Right now, in our own station of life, in some form or another, we are doing this, we believe we are such and such person with such and such virtues, and we believe we are self-sufficient, we have a self-will, but that is egotistical. We do not realize the source of our real power which is God within, and that is because our own selfish mind has us hypnotized. That mind is being tempted by our own Loge, our own Mephistopheles. And we do not realize that Loge tempts us repeatedly and traps us, and this is all Karma.
Loge then says, ”Well, if you can make yourself into a dragon, do you have the power to make yourself into something very small?” And so, Alberich becomes a toad. And what is this? What is a toad, but false humility? To be small, to act humble, to act like you are a little thing, innocent, a little creature of nature. And of course, with this, Loge traps him. So in this scene we see a very direct symbol of some of the problems that we face as a psyche, and in the next scene it gets a little more complicated.
At the beginning of this scene, Wotan and Loge have arrived back into the higher realms bringing Alberich, and Wotan demands the gold from him. And of course, since Alberich, the ego, has no choice, he calls his underlings to bring all the gold and give it to the Gods. Wotan also claims the Tarnhelm and the Ring, and Alberich of course has to agree, but out of his fury he curses the Ring. To fully explain this symbol you have to study and meditate on what happened with the evolution of this race, this humanity. It is partly symbolized in this opera. When the cathedral of the soul, the temple of Solomon, Valhalla, is being constructed in the superior realms, this symbolizes how energy descends through matter and creates each level or each layer that God needs in order to fully know himself; these are related to our inner bodies, to the soul: the mind, the heart, the vital body and the physical body, these different levels. And the construction of these levels of our development happened through the progression of past ages, of races in our history: the Polar, Hyperborean, Lemurian and Atlantean ages.
As we know from the book of Genesis, when Eve, tempted by desire, her own lust, her own mind, eats the fruit, it is the same as Alberich stealing the gold, and what is represented here by both Alberich and Eve are different views of the same psychological core related to the primeval levels of our own mind, from these past times, these past ages. And through the process of that temptation and those struggles, our own inner psychology, our own mind or these levels of the soul developed through steps. The problem is, there was a mistake, there were some errors made by the Gods themselves.
In the development or the guidance of this race, of this humanity, there was a small miscalculation, and the end result was that when Wotan comes to take the gold there is a curse. In other words, when the Gods came to remove a certain section, a certain piece of the physiology of humanity in past times, a shadow remained, which is now called the “ego.” A little miscalculation was there, a curse. Of course, the curse that Alberich places is that whoever uses the ring, whoever has this power is doomed.
You might ask, ”Why is all of this necessary? Why does all this happen? If God is God, why are there curses, why is there suffering, why are these problems there?” It is due to the nature of understanding, it is the nature of comprehension. The problems come because of karma, which build upon previous karmas. The self-knowledge of God is the comprehension of perfect action, intuitive action, and there are subtleties in the mind, even in the levels of Gods, that can produce little aberrations, little imperfections, and that is why manifestation is there. If those imperfections were not there, nothing would be manifest. So manifestation occurs in order for each level, each creature in each level, to comprehend the errors of that level and to change them, to gradually improve. Unfortunately we are caught in the wheels of this big machine, and this curse is both self-generated and a product of karma, a product of our particular cosmic scenario.
So you have to comprehend the curse of Alberich as a curse on this humanity, but due to complicated reasons. It was caused by our own desire, our own lust, our own craving for power, but also by a little miscalculation by the Gods.
For example, how is it that Alberich was able to create these things? It is necessary. In the same way that we as a humanity need to develop reasoning, to develop the heart, in order for us to develop these capacities we need the powers of God, in other words perception, memory, reasoning, and with those powers of consciousness we are able to elaborate and grow spiritually, but unfortunately the shadow of the ego corrupts the process and introduces a problem.
Even though the ring is cursed, Wotan does not want to give it to the giants. When he wants to keep the Ring, the Goddess Erda arises from the earth. She is a very mysterious figure in this opera, if you watch the opera you will see that. She just sort of appears, gives her warnings and goes away, and the result is that Wotan is left really wanting to know more from her, and for me this is a really beautiful symbol, a beautiful story, of how even our own Being is searching for knowledge, has longing. These very elevated aspects of our own soul also need, and are searching. The Earth Mother is representative of the primordial chaos, the Prakriti, that womb, which is reflected in the waters of the Rhine. She is always informed by her three daughters, of course the Rhine-maidens. They are past, present and future, so the Earth Goddess always knows what has happened, what is happening and what will happen. And sometimes, she intervenes, and in this case she does. She does this for the benefit of Wotan. Now what is really interesting also about this symbol is that here we have a representation of Kether, the first manifestation, and yet he does not know her. Kether, the Father, does not know this Goddess, and this is representative of how he needs knowledge, he needs to know more, and that is really what the whole operatic scene is throughout, is the necessity for our own inner God to develop, to gain knowledge.
Now, the opera moves into a new level here; when the Gods take from Alberich the gold and the Ring, they retrieve also the Goddess of Love who is the source of their own power: love. And in acquiring her, they deliver to the Giants the gold and the Ring, and the Giants represent these past physical races, these humanities, the Lemurians and Atlanteans, but they also symbolize parts of our mind, related to Cain and Abel. In the Bible you will remember that Cain and Abel were the children of Adam and Eve, and Cain and Abel both were devoted to making sacrifices to God, in the same way that the Giants are: the Giants are making exchanges with the Gods, with Wotan, and in any exchange there is always mutual benefit.
When we perform a ritual or we perform a meditation practice, we are performing an exchange with our own God. Meditation is a way that we provide elements for the growth of our consciousness which helps our own inner Being, our own God, to develop in his own understanding. It also helps us: there is an exchange. The same happens with prayer, the same happens with transmutation, there is always an exchange of energy. This is what is happening with the Giants, they are making an exchange, they are building, by passing through evolution. These past ages, these past races were going through the process of elaborating psychological structures, and these are particularly related to our mind and heart.
When Cain and Abel in the Bible make sacrifices, there is a difference between them. Cain is a hunter, Cain is making a sort of inferior sacrifice, and Abel's sacrifice is greater, he is a shepherd, he gathers sheep. Cain gathers fruit, herbs, and nuts, and things like that. So God prefers Abel's sacrifice, and out of jealousy Cain kills him.
We see in the opera that these two brothers are jealous of each other. Here in the opera, Fasolt is in love with Freia. So these two brothers begin to fight over the gold, and the basis of the argument is that the one brother, Fasolt, feels like he gave more of a sacrifice because he had to give up Freia, the Goddess, because he wanted her. So the other brother says, ”Well, then I deserve more of the treasure, because I had to give up and deal with you and your stuff this whole time, so I'm going to take more for myself.” And the first brother feels like he deserves more of the treasure because he had to give up the Goddess, so of course they fight. And what happens? Cain kills Abel; Fafner kills his brother, and Fasolt dies. In this moment, what we are seeing is of course some historical conflicts related to these races, and we are also seeing how our own mind, Fafner, kills the soul because of desire; so there are levels.
In the first part, we see Alberich who is a more primordial aspect of our psyche who steals the gold. The Gods take it back, but then the Giants, symbols of our mind and soul, who were constructing the soul, advancing its development, still have jealousy: that means that they still have animal nature. They are Giants, they have big stature, they have strength. Our own mind and heart have strength, but not the intelligence of the Gods, they still have jealousy and pride. And so they fight, and Fafner kills Fasolt. Fafner then would represent the mind, Fasolt represents the embryo of the soul, Abel.
Now the Gods after all of this are left disheartened, and this is symbolized by the sky being oppressive and overcast. So Donner steps up. Donner carries a hammer or an axe, and this is a symbol of willpower, so Donner would be related to the Holy Spirit, to Binah in the Tree of Life, and he is the God of lightning and storms, like Indra from the Hindus. So he conjures a big storm which comes and clears the atmosphere, and as a result of that his brother Froh follows suit and calls forth rain. Froh is the symbol of the Cosmic Christ, he is the God of Light. And the result of the activity of these Gods is a rainbow.
In the Bible, the rainbow is a symbol of God's promise after the flood of Noah. The flood of Noah is closely related to this story as well. The flood came in order to destroy all the impure human beings, who were the Atlanteans, the Giants. So there was a flood, in other words, the great destruction came and then the rainbow comes, the same as in the Bible. You have it here in this opera, you have it in the Nordic mythology.
Of course, the rainbow is the light that is expressing from this trinity of Wotan, Froh and Donner, and that ray, the Cosmic Christ, is a light, and what else is that light in the opera but the bridge for the Gods to cross over into their celestial abode, into the soul?
The rainbow is the path to liberation, and the path is a path of light.
How are you going to walk on light? How are you going to walk on a path made of light, especially if your own darkness does not comprehend it? You have to become one with that light.
So we see at the end of this opera a beautiful symbol of what is to come. The Gods begin to enter into Valhalla. The name Valhalla means the Hall of the Warrior, and in the mythology we know that this hall is represented as the place where all the dead heroes go, meaning that a great hero, only a great hero, not just anyone, but a great warrior, when that warrior dies they cross the rainbow bridge and enter into the domain of the Gods, and what else is that but a symbol of mystical death? Our own ego, Alberich, and related to the Giants as well, has to die. But that death only comes in battle, in the war to redeem the soul, and that is what all the rest of the three operas are about, which we will enter into in the next lectures.
Question: When Wotan fell asleep, is that related with Adam falling asleep? In Genesis...
Answer: I think that Wotan falling asleep there, my impression is that it has levels of meaning. What comes to my mind is Vishnu, Brahma, where that God in the Hindu myth falls asleep and dreams, and the dream is life, is manifestation itself. But it may well be related to Adam falling asleep too, because in a sense, Wotan or Odin is the celestial Adam. So it could be. Any other questions?
Comment: It is stated that Brahma sleeps and Brahma needs to awaken.
Answer: The Hindu myth states that Brahma sleeps, but Brahma needs to awaken, and that of course is the path. The whole process of the warrior on the path is the process of the full development of the human being, and that full development is the awakening of God, which the Hindus call Self-realization.
Question: You say that Loge is part of God just like the other Gods, but he kind of knows what is going to happen, he is just making it all come together. Is that his role, of sending certain events happening?
Answer: Loge is different from the other Gods. He seems to operate according to different rules, and has a very different psychology. And there is a reason for that: he is fire. He is the elemental intelligence or the fundamental wisdom of Christ, which is fire, which is light, which is of course the bridge itself. So he is a kind of symbol that is beyond self-hood, beyond the kind of individuality that a God has, like Wotan, or like Fricka or Freia. In other words, he is the light, he is the fire, but he is trapped because of these complications, so this is why the Bible says, ”Oh, Son of the Morning, how you have fallen,” because that light has become trapped in the karma, in the problems which have unfolded of course through this process. And in that sense he has a very dualistic and very unpredictable nature.
What is curious about Loge and the other representations of him like Mephistopheles, he always seems to try to conquer his opponent, but in reality he wants to lose. And you see that very well in the story of Job in the Bible, which is the best story in the Bible related to Lucifer where you see how Lucifer is actually doing God's will by going to Job and basically destroying his life, to test him, and that is Loge's job. Loge serves Wotan, but the way he does it seems very contradictory to our own self-idea. Our own idea, the way we have this self-nature, is we want things to be perfect and beautiful, like that. But Loge knows better, because he sees the roots of things, he sees the causes, he knows the karma.
Question: (???)...like a black magician only sees one side of that, and I think that he is trying to help him by different ways.
Answer: Yeah, he appears like a black magician, it is true, and we think of him that way. But a black magician only sees one side, because he only sees through his desire. Loge is trapped in our desires, but because his root intelligence is from the Christ, he can see beyond them. So he is a very subtle force for our intellect to capture, and when you will really comprehend him is when you have experiences with him in yourself, through your own practice, through your own efforts. When you interact with your own inner Lucifer, your own inner Loge, then you will get it. You will realize he is both your worst enemy and your best friend, just like in the great opera Mephistopheles. You see that, beautiful. Or in the story by Goethe, that Loge or Lucifer is the great tempter. Without temptation there is no way to conquer, without fire there can be no light. So he is that God of Fire that provides the capacity to awaken the Light. A very challenging thing to grasp. You have a question?
Question: What is the meaning of Freia being covered with the gold?
Answer: Well, of course Freia is the Goddess of Love, and when the Giants demand their payment, this is symbolic of that level of our own psyche which is demanding gifts and powers, benefits from God, which in a sense was deserved. But the problem is that the Giants became identified with the gold, and that identification with spiritual powers is exactly what brought the Atlanteans to their ruin, because they developed this lust for more spiritual power, in other words through black magic. There was a portion, a small aspect of that civilization, that still retained the vision of the Goddess, which is Freia. But they too, in turn, were tempted by the mind, so the mind demanded more and more and more, and eventually brought about their own destruction. So that identification with powers, with spiritual benefits, can actually create your own doom. This is part of why in Gnosis we emphasize the importance of developing serenity, to learn how to accept things as they are, to not cultivate desire in any form, whether it is physical, whether it is spiritual, whether it is emotional. Because desire does not work merely through physical desire, desire works through the heart, desire works through the mind, and it can veil itself as spiritual ambition, the ambition to advance on the path. Gnostic students or Gnostic followers can become very entranced with that, this idea, “If I get a spouse and if I learn this teaching, then I can really advance spiritually.” The longing is naturally there in the soul, because God is the one pushing that, but that longing can easily be corrupted by our own desire, and then we would become like those Giants, jealous and fighting.
So any other questions?
Question: Do some of the lyrics that are not real words like ”Heda” and ”Hedo” have any meaning?
Answer: It is clear that those phrases have the primordial vowels in them, so perhaps they are sacred mantras. We will have to experiment to find out.
Question: In another lecture it was mentioned that the fortress represents the mind blocking our understanding of the superior worlds, can you elaborate upon this?
Answer: Of course. When we are talking about the mind here, this term has, like most terms, many levels. The term mind is not limited to our brain. In some cases you can say that mind and consciousness are interchangeable. And certainly if you study Buddhism, that is how they use the word. They use the word mind instead of consciousness. So sometimes in the course of these lectures, that is the sense that we are using. In other cases we are describing, let us say specifically Netzach on the Tree of Life, which is related to our mental body or that structure in our psyche which is able to process thought, but that is not mind by itself. Really, the term mind is related to Manas, which is Tiphereth. And mind also relates to Geburah, because in Sanskrit Buddhi means intellect. So what I am pointing out to you here is that these three spheres, Geburah, Tiphereth and Netzach, are all directly related to mind. So in that sense we can say: mind is this structure on the tree which acts as an intermediary between God and us. Mind is very deep and very high at the same time, there are levels. That is part of the reason we study the Tree of Life, because Atman in his way, in his level, has mind. So does God, so does the Christ. It is mind of a certain level. In what you are referring to the castle becoming an obstacle, this is how our own reasoning, our own mind, our own soul can become an obstacle for us when we do not control it.
Question: (???) ...he meant intellect.
Answer: Okay, intellect. Well intellect is different. Mind would be a little more abstract. Mind is more like a mirror, mind reflects, but it is not the image and in itself it is empty. The mirror itself is nothing, it is just a surface, and our own soul is similar. The soul that we have now and the soul that we need to develop is simply a mirror of a certain level. The way we are now we have an Essence, we have a spark of consciousness, and its power of reflection is very small. This is why when you close your eyes you see darkness, this is why when you dream, you are in chaos. You are not awake, you are asleep, because that mind is very small, has a narrow band of light that it can reflect. When you create the soul, you create a bigger surface. When you awaken consciousness, the mirror becomes polished. When the soul elevates and the level of Being raises, the mirror is getting bigger, clearer, more perfected. The perfection of that mirror is the return into the Absolute in which that mirror is perfect without any dust, and the dust would be the ego. Intellect is the capacity to discriminate between yes and no. We need that tool in order to comprehend the reflection of the imagery. Do you grasp that? Without intellect, without reasoning, how could you comprehend fully? You could comprehend to a level, like an animal. An animal can comprehend sensation or images up to a point, emotionally, instinctively. But not with reasoning, not through comparing, not through analyzing information, and the intellect provides that. That capacity to compare images can become an obstacle when that capacity is not under the guidance of Wotan, or God, our own Being. And really, that capacity, that guidance comes through Buddhi, Geburah, which is called intellect, that is the meaning of that term, but it does not mean intellect in the way we think of it, it is a superior, very abstract form of mind.
Comment: Pistis Sophia.
Answer: Right, another term for that is Sophia, from Pistis Sophia, and that is a capacity that we have, related to the pineal gland. This is a good moment to point out that the power of the Tarnhelm is a power of the pineal gland, but it is how the forces of God are harnessed by will, and you will discover more about that in the next opera.