Goethe And His “Faust”
By Lois Schroff
Goethe (1749-1832), the exemplary German poet/playwright/scientist of the 18th Century worked for the greater part of his life to resolve his epic poem, Faust. The first part of the publication appeared when he was 24 years old and the ending segment only a year before his death at age 83.
Dr. Faustus was the bored professor who longed for excitement and love in his life—so much so that he sold his soul to the devil (Lucifer/Mephistophiles) who created the appropriate situations. Goethe had to resolve the issue of how one extricates the powerful force of evil—once the pact has been made. In the final scene, depicted on Easter Sunday, Faust sees a choir of angels singing Christ is Risen and, at the same time, Mephistopheles being turned away by the sword of the Archangel Michael. Faust realizes his error, turns to Christ, and regains control of his soul. Goethe was a man with a foot in both the world of art and that of science, and he was a keen observer of nature–Metamorphosis of Plants,Theory of Colors. A very vocal critic of Newton’s color theory, he felt that Newton did not observe the truth to be found in nature, but merely jumped to theory, and that Newton’s followers would lose sight of the reality of the spiritual world that is the creator of the organic world. Indeed, this is what has happened.
Historically, in the Western world, the 15th century began the Renaissance and the end of the Middle (Dark) Ages. This was a turning point in human evolution marked by discoveries of scientists still revered today (Galileo, Newton, Darwin). The age of materialistic/mechanistic physics was born, opposing folk tales, fairy tales and superstition. Prior “Classical Antiquity” incorporated the mythology and philosophy of Greece, Egypt and other countries where initiation rites were performed in temples of Gods and Goddesses. The appearance and sacrifice of Christ Jesus in that era was realized by the mystics as a public enactment and confirmation of the well-known secretly-performed rites of initiation wherein the aspirant was placed in a three-day “sleep” and then awakened with the realization that he/she had a personal experience of the truths concealed within the previously unknown invisible world. These three very different cultures that include our own were and are obviously created by the human mind–as the thinking process changes through the epochs.
Now that we are more than 500 years into the scientific era, the subject of the super-sensible or evil is rarely considered. As a Western population, we very rarely create heart-felt imaginations. We instead use brain-centered technology to examine dead organic matter and glimpse into the starry world, expecting to uncover secrets of our existence or the fantasy of escaping our destiny.
I found it interesting that Shakespeare (art) and Galileo (science) were born in the same year (1564) and that Martin Luther (religious revisionist) was born in 1483, paving the way to a new consciousness. In religion today, other than through the practice of exorcism by select churches, most no longer appear to believe in the existence of an immoral spiritual influence (while at the same time preaching that Christ came from an unseen world ruled by a God). However this is not the case for some serious and well-respected writers of our era such as C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, That Hideous Strength, or psychiatrist M. Scott Peck , People of the Lie, Glimpses of the Devil, or Dorothy L. Sayers, The Man Born to be King, Letters to a Diminished Church. When considering the present (or past) world condition, it is easy to despair, but recognizing our part and acting on it, will help save humanity.
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