Why does HAL have one eye?

[An explanation for why HAL has one eye can be found, obliquely, in M.
Owen Lee's WAGNER'S RING: TURNING THE SKY ROUND, one of the best 
introductory text's to Wagner's four-night opera. Lee's view of why the 
sky god Wotan has one eye illuminates Kubrick's use of the image in 
2001. These excerpts are from pp. 39-40 and 55-8.]

            *           *             *             *        

So far in these considerations, we've spoken of external nature (or the 
inner psyche) as innocent and unaware of itself. But gleaming through 
the waters in the opening scene of RHEINGOLD is a mysterious light, a 
kind of golden eye. Perhaps it is even the eye of father Rhine, for that 
is how his daughters, the Rhine maidens, describe it. It is the Rhine's 
gold, a wonderful symbol of the light of consciousness buried deep 
within unconscious waters [example 11]. At the end of DAS RHEINGOLD we 
hear another theme of conscious power latent within the unconscious. 
This is the theme of the sword that the father god, Wotan, will someday 
bestow on his chosen hero. It leaps through the rainbow music of the 
final scene, a shining idea just emerging from the unconscious of the 
father god. And as we expect, it is a variant of our other theme of 
emerging light. Both motifs are formed from simple major chords -- the 
water father's gold [example 11] and the sky father's sword [example 

This suggestion of consciousness buried deep within what appears to be 
unconscious nature brings us to a second great consideration of myth, 
religion, and philosophy. At one stupendous evolutionary moment in pre-
history, one of nature's creatures separated himself from the 
unconscious flowing and burgeoning of nature and became conscious of 
himself. Prometheus stole fire. Adam ate the apple. Man sundered his 
bond with nature and set himself on a course of conscious individuation. 
In his mythologies, man has forever after felt guilt about that 
sundering. For when he became conscious of himself, man was able to 
choose between good and evil, and he realized that he was flawed, 
striving for good but prone to evil. He had taken a momentous step 
forward, but something in him, and in his myths, still longed for that 
half-remembered union with unconscious nature, that innocence lost long 

So it is that, very soon after Wagner's Rhine has evolved before our 
wondering gaze, Alberich enters to wrest consciousness from the waves. 
He steals away the golden eye, and he uses it for evil. The Rhine 
maidens' joyous cry [example 7] is made the theme of the world's 
enslavement [example 13], which in subsequent parts of THE RING becomes 
a terrifying musical depiction of the effect of this original sin 
[example 14]. . . .

Let's say: in the beginning was Wotan. A sky god. He didn't create the 
world, but he was determined to find what held the world together, and 
he was ambitious about gaining control over it. . . . Wotan traces the 
world's secret to a great ash tree, fed at the roots by a clear spring -
- the archetypal "tree of knowledge" and "spring of knowledge" familiar 
from many mythologies. Wotan asks the three Norns who spin the world's 
fate from the whispers of the spring if he can drink there, and is told 
he will have to sacrifice one of his eyes to do so. (In mythologies, 
there is always a price to be paid for wisdom. In some versions of 
Wotan's story, he hangs suspended in torment on the tree for nine days 
and nights.) Wotan says he will give an eye to know the secret of the 
world. In other mythologies, Oedipus and Teiresias and Samson are all 
given insight when they lose their outer sight. But they lose both eyes. 
Wotan loses only one. His case is different. Henceforth, he will see, 
with his remaining eye, what he has asked to see -- the world without. 
And he will understand it. But he will not see the world within. He will 
need help to understand himself. So, with his outer-directed wisdom, 
interpreted for him each night by the Norns in dreams, Wotan comes to 
understand the natural forces that sustain the world: earth, air, fire, 
and water, forces he must bend to his will. He reaches up and breaks off 
a bough from the great ash tree, and makes it into a spear. On the 
weapon, which henceforth never leaves his hand, he notches in runic 
script the treaties he makes with the four elements.

With his treaties, he establishes dominion first over his own sky people 
-- Fricka, whom he weds, and her brothers Donner and Froh, and her 
sister Freia. He is more far-seeing than they, who know only their own 

He then establishes his rule over fire. Loge, the fire god, is hard to 
tame, for of his nature he possesses, not Wotan's knowledge of the 
workings of the world, but quick intelligence of how to put the world to 
practical purposes. But Wotan soon subdues Loge with his spear.

By the end of our projected opera . . . Wotan has not yet bent to his 
will the lower elements of water (the Rhine and his daughters) or earth 
(Erda), or those lesser beings of earth, giants and humans and dwarfs. 
These seem not to present much of a problem though, as we know, they 
soon shall. Meanwhile, the world Wotan has subdued has reacted against 
his ambition. The wound he made in the World Ash Tree has begun to 
fester, and the tree to wither, and the spring to dry up.

Who is this Wotan whose story we come so slowly to know? Is he supposed 
to represent in some way traditional notions of God? It is clear he is 
not a creator, and he is by no means omnipotent, much as he would like 
to be. He is not the source of life but a powerful manifestation of it. 
Wotan represents not so much some notion of God as what there is in man 
that has godlike potential. Early in the writing of the text, Wagner 
wrote to Rockel, "Take a good look at Wotan. He resembles us in every 
way. He is the sum total of our present consciousness." Wagner's 
ambitious god represents man, taking that first evolutionary step 
towards consciousness, reaching for it, grasping it, using it for his 
own ends -- but not understanding himself, and so having to come to 
terms with intelligence (Loge) and conscience (Fricka) and allknowing 
intuition (Erda). They are all important to him. But none of them can 
give him that most important thing that the lost eye would have seen --
his inner self, his Will. . . .

[H]e has sired a race of mortals loyal to him. His earthly son is a 
special hero, begotten for the sole purpose of doing -- his will. He has 
carefully seen to it that his son is completely free of all the old 
treaties that he is bound by. A free agent, an outlaw, this son will 
steal the Ring back for his father, and this time the father will incur 
no guilt. Wotan has prepared his son with a tough period of training in 
the forest, and provided a sword that knows no runes, and a sister to be 
his wife: disregard for all the old laws is an essential condition for 
this new hero's being free. . . .

But poor Siegmund! Is he really free? Blood always tells in mythic 
stories. However much we love the son when, like his father, he draws 
his weapon from a great ash tree, we soon see that he is, also like his 
father, self-destructive and doomed. Siegmund can't understand why he is 
always at the center of trouble. It is the father's predetermined moral 
treaties, notched in runes on his spear, that demand that the outlaw son 
die; one cannot be an outlaw and escape the watchful eyes of Fricka, 
eager to protect the runes which secure her power too. Siegmund falls . 
. . [and] Wotan's plan for the future lies in pieces. "I am caught in my 
own trap," he says when he realizes this has to happen. "I am the least 
free of all that lives!"

Could Wotan not have seen that this would have to be? No. Wotan cannot 
see to his own self. . . .

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