Comments On Faust Part XVII

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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