"No treatment of Wagner would be complete without some basic background to the intellectual and theological, as well as mythological, culture that he swam in. It suffices to say that Ludwig Feuerbach, Georg W.F. Hegel, and socialistic nationalism were the main influences on the young Wagner when he began composing Das Rheingold. Thus we have, in the early sketches made real by Wagner’s composition, the attempt to artistically combine Feuerbach’s assertion that the gods are representations of human imagination and desire, Hegel’s story of consciousness realizing itself in free acts of sacrificial love, and the hopeful aspirations of a unified and egalitarian Germany throwing off the shackles of the vestiges of the Holy Roman Empire while retaining its ancient roots and growing them forward into the new dawn. Wagner may have eventually abandoned his earlier Feuerbachianism and socialism for a more orthodox Lutheranism and conservatism, but this inheritance remains and plays itself out through to the end of the opera with Götterdämmerung."