ultima 8-13

At age 11 I fell in love with Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. It was the first Wagner opera I came to know. Lohengrin depicts an incorruptible knight in shining armor (a kind of whistle blower) who comes to the rescue of a maiden in distress (Elsa) who was falsely accused of murdering her younger brother. I believe I identified with both Elsa, a victim of character assassination and allegations of wrongdoing, and her rescuer, Lohengrin — that is, I identified with both the hero and the scapegoat.

In Act I of the opera, Elsa sinks to her knees and prays to God, to send her champion to her. A boat drawn by a swan appears on the river and in it stands a knight in shining armour. He disembarks, dismisses the swan, respectfully greets the king, and asks Elsa if she will have him as her champion, and marry him. Elsa kneels in front of him and places her honor in his keeping. He asks but one thing in return for his service: she is never to ask him his name or where he has come from. Elsa agrees to this.

E. James Lieberman, M.D., in his book Acts of Will, a biography of the psychoanalyst Otto Rank, pointed out that Rank showed how the Lohengrin myth is actually a variation of the Moses story. Rank had written his Ph.D. thesis on the myth of Lohengrin. Rank himself went on to become a victim of severe character assassination in the circle of psychoanalysts who surrounded Freud. Rank had been perceived as Freud’s favorite which triggered jealousy among Freud’s followers.

I wonder how all these ideas tie together.

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