Comments On Faust Part XX

This article will discuss Faust’s belief or disbelief in God. In the scene called Marthe’s Garden, Margarete begins to question Faust about his views on religion:

Margarete:Tell me, dear, in what do you believe? Although you are a good and loveworthy man, religion means little to you, that I know.

Faust:Let that be, my child! You feel my love, is it not true? For those I love, I’d lay my life down too; I would rob no one of his faith and trust.

Margarete:That’s not enough! One must believe, one must!

Faust:Must one?

Even though Faust has rejected the herd mentality, which includes the requirement that one believe in the tenets of Christianity, he still falls in love with Margarete, who believes in them adamantly. She wants to control Faust’s thinking because she thinks he will be condemned to an eternal punishment if he refuses. She wants what she thinks is best for him. She doesn’t understand the process of self-realization spinning within him. Faust knows full well what it would mean for him to return to the static and narrow views of the Church; he knows that the process would cease. Perhaps he even wishes he had never become involved with Margarete, but, intuitively, he knows that their relationship is part of the process. So, he must learn to balance his love for her with his desire for individuation. Not an easy thing to do!

Faust is not an atheist. Even though he has rejected the Christian concept of God, he has his own view, which he has formulated from his own life experiences. Later in the scene, Faust attempts to explain why he does not fit into Margarete’s mold of what a religious person should be:

Who would dare to say, “I do not believe in Him?”
Experiencing Him everywhere. . .

This entire passage sets out Faust’s religious viewpoint, which seems to be a sort of pantheism. Primarily, I think he is saying that God is everywhere and in everything. Happiness, heart, love, God, Faust says he cannot name it.

Feeling is all!

The feelings we experience when we gaze at a true work of art, or when we look at the stars at night, or when we look into our lover’s eyes. Call it what you will, says Faust, this is his idea of God.

The name is only sound and smoke
Which fogs the glow of Heaven.

Margarete tells him he has no sound Christianity. Then she begins to rail on him for his association with Mephisto. This is quite interesting. We know Mephisto represents Faust’s dark side or his shadow, using the Jungian term. Margarete doesn’t like him at all. She refuses to accept the fact that all human beings have a dark side. She denies her own shadow. She projects her own shadow onto Mephisto. She wants Faust to stay away from him. He, however, recognizes the necessity of Mephisto:

Such queer fish must also be.

Faust has reconciled himself to his dark side, which is a giant step in the process of self-realization. Margarete still has far to go on her journey.

Why did Faust fall in love with Margarete in the first place, seeing they have dissimilar aspirations? The Jungian idea of projecting the anima onto a beautiful woman is intriguing. Faust is searching for his own soul in her. Or is it the anima which does the projecting?

In everything there is tragedy. All good things must run alongside the bad. Faust has found his true love, but he must endure her immaturity and lack of understanding in the matters of Becoming.

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Comments On Faust Part XIX

Recently, I’ve been thinking about what I have in common with Faust. No, I am not a distinguished doctor of learning, nor do I come from a family where the emphasis is on scholarship, but I have sought answers to the puzzling questions of the universe and my own existence. The result was I found myself scratching my head in utter dismay. During the 1980’s, I read book after book in an attempt to discover what my purpose was in the scheme of things. I never realized back then that I would end up in a university studying philosophy. Of course, I came to academia to discover what I had not found in the books I read. Well, I am no closer to solving the mysteries of our world than I was back then. But this, of course, is how it is meant to be. Wrestling with ignorance and calamity is actually helpful to someone who is interested in Becoming.

I have gained self-knowledge, as Faust does in the story. He becomes disgusted with learning. He begins to evolve as a human being through experiences, provided to him by Mephisto. In my own case, I suppose I led a somewhat cloistered life, apart from going to work. At one point in my life in the 80’s, I would come home every night and read. I read all sorts of books. Eventually, I began to read Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky and found companions. They showed me how crucial introspection is to a human being. Prior to that, I was looking outside myself for answers. Primarily, I was looking to Christianity, which my mother taught me to believe in at a young age. It didn’t happen overnight, but during my second year at the university, I realized that the Church could not answer the questions I was posing.

When I read Nietzsche in college I came to see how important it is to create and mold one’s own life. That is what Faust chose to do when he made the pact with Mephisto. No, I have not cut a deal with the Devil; I have done something better–I have dealt with myself. Mephisto is a symbol for all that Faust considered dark within himself. I faced my own dark side when I broke away from the religion of my parents. I decided that how I lived my life was up to me; no one else could walk in my shoes, so why should I allow anyone else to choose my thoughts and beliefs for me? In this way, I felt reborn.

I think Faust also experiences a similar feeling of renewal when he begins to experience a world which he has never known before. All his life, he has been the lonely scholar, shut up in his study, poring over the tomes. In fact, thirty years are removed from his life after the pact with Mephisto through the witch’s potion. He becomes a young, vibrant man again. Even though he must experience both sorrow and happiness, through this process he is growing, he is Becoming a self-realized man.

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Comments On Faust Part XVIII

This article continues the comparison of Faust with Zarathustra’s metaphor of the child.

The child is a new beginning, a creative fire.

When long-held beliefs have been called into question by the camel, and then destroyed by the lion, one enters a new epoch. After a time, the values one has created for oneself become obsolete. These must not be allowed to become sacred cows, for, eventually, they must be destroyed and replaced by new values. The spirit of the camel will question whether these beliefs are still viable. If not, the spirit of the lion will destroy them. Then comes a new beginning, the spirit of the child, who will bring about the creation of new values. This cyclical process never ends, unless one becomes stagnant, i.e., if one ceases to create by returning to a notion of static Being.

After Faust’s pact with Mephisto, he enters this new state of being. His values are now completely his own. He is not depending on society at large for moral guidance. What he deems good and acceptable will be tried in the crucible of life. There, his decisions will be put to the test. The crucial point, however, is that he is choosing what is best for himself. No matter what the outcome, the ability to choose his own lifestyle, his own beliefs, and his own thoughts, is what propels him along the path of self-realization. It is a path every individual must travel alone.

The child has no knowledge of anything eternal or transcendent. There is only spontaneity and creative play, that is, until we adults pound our values into their heads. After enculturation is complete, they are fortunate if they ever break free from the Thou Shalts of the herd.

Faust is one of the fortunate ones. His disgust for the common ways of thinking and learning has opened up new vistas for him. Even though he has made a deal with a being that is considered evil in the eyes of the masses, he risks all for freedom and creativity. He doesn’t accept the belief that the devil, an eternal being, is battling an eternal deity for eternal souls. He pits his beliefs against the beliefs of the herd in the hope that he will find truth, and be transformed by it. Faust risks being lost for eternity if he is wrong, but he is compelled by a longing for individuation.

The child is a self-propelling wheel. At this stage of transformation, the child possesses the will to power, or the power to roll its own wheel. Creation is the wheel which is propelled along by the will. As long as it is understood that all is Becoming, the wheel continues to roll along.

In a life that is Becoming, all is not always pleasant and rosy. The responsibility to create one’s own values is sometimes accompanied by the pain which follows failure. The ability to choose does not mean that all decisions are correct. This, however, is the way the wheel turns.

Becoming is in the turning itself, not in correct or incorrect decisions. Faust must face the pain that is caused by his relationship with Margarete. Through experiencing both the pleasure and the agony of his love for her, he will learn more about the human heart than all the books in the world could teach him.

Think of how the earth continually creates and re-creates. Every spring, new life bursts forth. There is a period of growth, decay, and then death. Creators always pass through such periods. The child represents growth, i.e., the growth of new realities. The camel eventually doubts these realities (decay), and the lion destroys them (death). Then, once more, the child creates new ones, and the process begins all over again. Thus is the life of Becoming for Faust and for all of us who struggle for truth and freedom.

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Comments On Faust Part XVII

So far, we have seen several parallels of transformation between Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and Goethe’s Faust. The latter has passed through the stages of camel and lion, and is now ready to proceed on to the next level, that of the child.

As was mentioned earlier, the lion is victorious in its battle with the Great Dragon; the dragon has been slain, thus “Thou Shalt” holds no power. The lion has declared its freedom from being told what to think and what to believe. It has created freedom for itself.

Faust has professed his freedom by saying “No” to the mainstream modes of thought. His pact with Mephisto is his declaration that he will no longer serve the Great Dragon.

One thing remains: the lion is not capable of creating new values for itself. It is merely a warrior. Its talent lies in destruction. For creation, another metamorphosis must take place: the lion must become a child. Zarathustra says,

But tell me, my brothers, what can the child do that the lion cannot? The child is innocence and forgetfulness, a new beginning, a sport, a self-propelling wheel, a first motion, a sacred Yes.

In his quest for knowledge of the universe, Faust has stepped into a universe of freedom and constant experience, much like the universe of a child:

If ever I stretch upon an idler’s bed,
Then let my doom descend!

The pact states that Mephisto will provide incessant experience for Faust until the day he feels satisfied. On that day, Mephisto will collect what belongs to him.

How is this like the child metaphor in Zarathustra? The child is innocence. It has no sense of what life was like when the dragon was still alive. There is no guilt because there is no awareness of Thou Shalt. It knows only Becoming–awaking each day to discover a new idea, a new game to play, a new world to explore. Now Faust is this child. He awakes each day to a new adventure and a new way of thinking about his world. His objective is self-realization, toward which he is daily Becoming. All is flux, all is process.

The child is forgetfulness. It has forgotten the heavy burdens of duty and the longing for freedom. Now, it constantly abides in freedom. It has forgotten the golden scales of the dragon. It has forgotten the ancient ways of the past, the so-called eternal values and standards. It lives only for the moment. Again, this is Faust after the pact. He allows the shackles of “Thou Shalt” to drop from his hands and feet. The idealism he once believed in is gone like last year’s leaves. Now, he relishes the freedom of the moment, the freedom to think and do things, which, before the pact, he would have thought outrageous and obscene.

By his affirmation of freedom, Faust has loudly voiced the sacred Yes of the child. Before, the spirit had no will of its own. It was controlled by the beliefs of others, by the beliefs of the herd. But the sacred No was spoken by the lion. Faust now has no sense of duty; he is not impelled to act in any other way than the behavior he chooses. The sacred Yes was needed in order for creativity to be unleashed, for new values to be invented.

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