Posted May 1, 2011
Each of the operas in Wagner’s Ring Cycle, and his opera Parsival, represent a different 2160 year period in human evolution. These 2,160 year periods are determined astronomically by the precession of the equinox.
Every year the sun crosses the equator in a north bound direction on the first day of spring. This is known as the spring equinox, when day and night are of equal length. The next year, on the first day of spring, the sun does not cross at the same place. It crosses a little more in a counter clockwise direction. It will take 25,920 years before it returns to the original starting point. This is known as a great or Platonic year. If we divide a great year by 12 we get 2,160 years, which is a great or Platonic month. This is the time it takes the precession of the equinox to travel through each of the 12 signs of the zodiac. This information was known, in various forms, to the ancient Hindus, Mayas, Greeks, and is accepted as an unquestioned scientific fact today.
Rudolf Steiner, and many other esotericists, claim that the stars that make up the zodiac are not balls of burning gases, as science claims. Rather stars are angelic spiritual beings who assist in the guidance of humanity in its quest for higher consciousness. Different types of consciousness are developed as the precession of the equinox travels through each great month. The present stage of earth evolution consists of seven of these 2,160 year cycles.
The beginning of the first of these 2,160 year cycles is when Das Rhinegold takes place. It was the time when the earth had solidified, previously it was of a fluid nature. This is also called the flood. According to Steiner, at that time people thought of themselves as spiritual beings belonging to a spiritual world. Existing on the earth was more like a dream state for them than reality. It was a major transition for human consciousness.
This opera also portrays the origin of evil. Alberich, an ugly dwarf, is rejected in his attempts to play with the Rhinemaidens. According to Steiner the Rhinemaidens are pre-human beings who exist in the fluid sphere. Alberich soon learns he cannot find love with them, but he is told that if he steals the gold, curses love, and forges a ring out of it, he can control the world. So that is what he does. Now he thinks he can buy happiness. However, Wotan, the head god, steals the gold from Alberich. Out of revenge, Alberich places a curse of death upon the ring. Wotan wisely gives up the gold and the rest of the Ring Cycle is a complex story about the battle for the gold and the power to rule the world.
Das Rhinegold is also about the second 2,160 year cycle of the evolution of consciousness. It was the time when dualities came into being. Light and darkness, good and evil, male and female. Wagner incorporates this aspect by contrasting Alberich with Loge. Loge represents Lucifer, the light bearer gone astray, also known as the devil, while Alberich represents Ahriman, or Satan, the prince of darkness. According to Wagner they used to work together but now they are enemies. Not coincidentally this second epoch took place when the precession of the equinoxes was in the constellation Gemini, the sign of the twins.
This is particularly interesting because in the early 1900s Rudolf Steiner was the one who first to come up with the concept of the Devil and Satan being distinct, opposite spirits. Steiner first talked about this in the early 1900s but Wagner clearly showed it in his story during the middle of the previous century.
The second opera of The Ring is The Valkyrie. It represents the third 2,160 year cycle of earthly evolution This was when clairvoyance ended, or at least waned enough that people’s sense of oneness with the spiritual world no longer existed. It is when the great Egyptian civilization took place. Clairvoyance was replaced by a consciousness of the earth as a physical, not spiritual, environment. The physical senses now enabled humans to function on earth without clairvoyance. Consciousness had evolved from the old clairvoyance to the new feelings, which were the result of impressions created through the physical senses. People were isolated in their bodies and looked out upon what was perceived as other isolated objects. The unity of the spiritual world had died.
In this opera Wagner shows human consciousness being limited to feelings by the conversations the protagonists have. By itself the dialogs prove nothing, but when compared to future discourses in the next opera the level of consciousness in The Valkyrie becomes insightful.
Siegfried, the third Ring Cycle opera, is about the fourth 2,160 year cycle when intellectual thinking first took place. It corresponds to the time of the Greek philosophers.
In the opera Siegfried hates his evil step father, Mime and wants to know who his real parents are. He is asking questions and using reason in a way that could not be done in earlier epochs. He tells Mime he has observed animals and all their children have two parents. Mime tells him he is his mother and father both. Siegfried says he has seen his reflected face in a stream and all children look like their parents. Since he doesn’t look anything like Mime, Mime cannot be his father. This is logic with a premise, second premise, and a conclusion. This form of logic was first used by Aristotle in the fourth 2,160 year cycle.
If we compare Siegfried’s observations from his experience seeing his reflection in the stream with that of his mother’s in the previous opera, when she saw her reflection in a stream, the contrast becomes apparent. Her reflection in the third 2,160 year epoch stimulated feelings and memories, whereas Siegfried’s in the fourth epoch stimulated intellectual activity and reasoning.
The last of the official Ring operas is Gotterdammerung, or Twilight of the Gods. It takes place in the fifth 2,160 year cycle. It is the cycle which began at the Renaissance and is the cycle we are living in today. Steiner calls it the age of the Consciousness Soul, the time we have to raise our consciousness up to the spiritual world so as to reverse what the Bible calls the ‘fall’.
Siegfried finds himself in the spiritual world with his bride who is really his higher self, Brunnhilde. But the problem is that he has not used his ability to reason to understand the spiritual world. He thinks he is still in the physical world and that Brunnhilde is his girlfriend. Alberich knows better and takes advantage of Siegfried’s ignorance to manipulate him into turning Brunnhilde over to his control, so that he can get the ring and rule the world. Fortunately, Brunnhilde saves the day, but evolution returns to the level of the Rhinemaidens, where it all started. The situation will not be resolved until a future epoch when Parsival, in the opera Parsival, becomes King of the Grail. But that’s another story.
This article may be reproduced in full or in part, as long as credit is given to the author as follows:
George Hastings is the author of Richard Wagner, Rudolf Steiner, and Allegories of the Ring: From the Mundane to the Esoteric. Bennett & Hastings Publishing, Seattle, 2011, http://www.AllegoriesoftheRing.com.