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Year: 2006

Comments On Faust Part XVI

Comments On Faust Part XVI

Continuing with my comparison of the images of transformation in Faust and Zarathustra, I would now like to see if I can discover whether Faust exhibits the characteristics of Zarathustra’s lion. Zarathustra says: But in the loneliest desert the second metamorphosis occurs: the spirit here becomes a lion; it wants to capture freedom and be lord in its own desert. This transformation comes because of solitude. Zarathustra had traveled to the mountains where he lived alone for ten years. The…

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Comments On Faust Part XV

Comments On Faust Part XV

I will begin this article examining a few metaphors from Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, particularly the images of the Three Metamorphoses, and compare my interpretation of them with several statements in Faust. The primary point in doing this is to compare Faust’s transformation with Zarathustra’s three-fold process of becoming. Let’s look at a statement by Zarathustra: I name you three metamorphoses of the spirit: how the spirit shall become a camel, and the camel a lion, and the lion at last a…

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Comments On Faust Part XIV

Comments On Faust Part XIV

Photo by George Gastin In a previous article, I commented on the passage in Prologue in Heaven, where Mephisto likens men to grasshoppers. I said, “Crickets and grasshoppers try to leap as high as they possibly can. In the end, though, they fall back into the grass and sing the same old song.” Indeed, this is where many of us are on the path of becoming. It is where Faust begins his journey in the beginning of the story. Even…

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Comments On Faust Part XIII

Comments On Faust Part XIII

In the witch’s kitchen, Faust occupies himself by gazing into a mirror: What am I seeing in this magic mirror? A form whose beauty is divine! O lend me, Love, your fleetest wings and lead me to Elysium! Here, in the house of the witch and her grotesque apes, in the midst of supreme ugliness, Faust has a vision of the most beautiful woman he has ever encountered. Now, he longs for the potion which Mephisto has promised will make…

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Comments On Faust Part XII

Comments On Faust Part XII

Sisyphus, ©1992 Gerald L. Bybee In this installment of my Faust series, I would like to return, momentarily, to the Prologue in Heaven in order to cover an important point, which I apparently missed the first time. In the discussion between the Lord and Mephistopheles, the latter says something that is becoming clearer to me as I read through Faust. Referring to mankind, Mephistopheles says, Their lives would be a little easier if You’d not let them glimpse the light…

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Comments On Faust Part XI

Comments On Faust Part XI

After his pact with Mephistopheles is complete, Faust is plunged into a dark world populated by some very strange characters. It’s a lot like the real world, I suppose. Their first stop is Auerbach’s Tavern, where they encounter a lively drinking-party. This is an interesting scene, but, in this article, I wish to deal with their visit to the witch’s kitchen. Here is the description of the scene given to us by Goethe: A low hearth with a cauldron on…

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Comments On Faust Part X

Comments On Faust Part X

Who is Mephistopheles? After Faust has exorcised the spirit from the dog, a figure steps from behind the stove, clad as a traveling scholar. It is interesting to note here that Mephistopheles appears in the guise of a scholar, especially since we have learned that Wagner represents that which Faust has rebelled against, namely, discursive reasoning and learning. Why does Mephisto adopt such an appearance? I think he is portrayed this way because he carries Faust’s shadow, i.e., the negative…

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Comments On Faust Part IX

Comments On Faust Part IX

Toward the end of Scene II: Faust and Wagner are strolling outside the gate of the city when Faust catches sight of a curious-looking black dog. It is running around in circles, coming nearer and nearer to them. Perhaps intuitively, Faust senses some malevolent purpose in the dog’s presence: He’s drawing a magic coil–it seems to me– For future bondage round our feet. He seems to be quite alarmed when it draws even closer: The ring grows smaller . ….

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Comments On Faust Part VIII

Comments On Faust Part VIII

 Faust’s despair has brought him to the brink of suicide. Just prior to this, he gazes around the musty walls of his Gothic study at the various accouterments and objects which surround him: old dusty books and scrolls, a skull, medical instruments, measuring tools, a dim lamp, etc. These all represent his fruitless quest for knowledge. Nature will not allow herself to be revealed through the use of these paltry items. Faust says,   I stood at the door, you…

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Comments On Faust Part VII

Comments On Faust Part VII

Continuing with Night, Faust has just finished conversing with Wagner, a pedant who represents the kind of learning which the former has thoroughly rejected. Faust refers to him in one place as “Earth’s most miserable son.” I believe, however, that he may be referring to his own misery as well. In the story of Faust, a groundwork is being laid, unbeknownst to Goethe, for what we today call existentialism. This is a broad subject, which would require more than a…

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Comments On Faust Part VI

Comments On Faust Part VI

This article continues with Faust musing on the sign of the Macrocosm, and then considering the sign of the Earth-Spirit. Toward the end of his soliloquy on the Macrocosm, he seems to be having a transcendent, holistic experience, a kind of mystical union with Nature:   How toward the Whole all things are blending,  Each in the other, living, growing!  How heavenly forces, soaring, descending,  Are in and out of golden buckets flowing,  While fragrant blessings, lightly winging  From heaven…

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Comments On Faust Part V

Comments On Faust Part V

This article continues with the discussion of Faust’s search for a new kind of perception, and the role of Nature in the story. Faust experiences a camaraderie with the moon that opens up new vistas of understanding:   Ah, could I on mountain height,  Roam in thy softly tender light,  O’er the fields at twilight trail,  Drifting with spirits of hill and dale;  Then freed from knowledge and its pain,  Bathed in thy dew, my health regain. There is an…

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Comments On Faust Part IV

Comments On Faust Part IV

In a previous article, I described Goethe as a Renaissance man. I said he was both a proponent of individualism and a student of esotericism. I compared him to Pico della Mirandola and Leonardo da Vinci. One thing I failed to mention is that Goethe was also a skilled scientist, as was da Vinci and other Renaissance intellectuals. The interesting thing about it, however, is that Goethe’s scientific methodology was quite different than what we call the “scientific method” today….

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Comments On Faust Part III

Comments On Faust Part III

Continuing with the Prologue in Heaven, the archangel, Michael, utters these words: And rival tempests roar and shatter, From sea to land, from land to sea Here, I think we have yet another picture of man the microcosm. Goethe is presenting a view of the nature of man that would later become popular in the guise of Freud’s psychoanalysis, and Jung’s analytical psychology. Goethe is describing man as a being whose life-experience is characterized by “rival tempests.” The human experience…

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Comments On Faust Part II

Comments On Faust Part II

  And swift beyond where knowledge ranges,  Earth’s splendour whirls in circling flight; In contrast to the geocentric symbolism of Raphael’s speech, Goethe alludes to the heliocentric view by having Gabriel speak of the earth “in circling flight.” As I mentioned in Part I, I don’t think the mention of cosmology is meant be taken literally. As I’ve been reading about Goethe’s intellectual life, I am discovering that he was very much in tune, not only with Romanticism, but also…

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