"That peril is the chiefest way to happiness
And resolution honour's fairest aim
What glory is there in a common good
That hangs for every peasant to achieve?
That like I best that flies beyond my reach."
What spirit is it that impels the unique, questing minority, the few who consciously alienate themselves from the swarming mass of humanity with its dogmas and conformity, to risk all in the pursuit of forbidden knowledge?
These are the inventors, the adventurers, the eccentric geniuses, the adversaries of orthodoxy and dogma, the heretics of every Age, responsible for epochal achievements and discoveries; driven by their inner daemon to go beyond the norm.
Not persecution nor vilification, or the threat of godly damnation, the fiery stake or physical torture have been able to dissuade such as these from their self-anointed tasks.
These souls (Greek=psyche) we may truly call Faustian, for the great Marlowe embodied this restless, unquenchable desire in his legend of Faustus, the scholar/magician.
Dr Johannes Faustus lived during the earlier part of the 16th Century, his birth place Weimer, Germany.
A Doctor of Divinity, he rejected theology in favour of medicine, mathematics, astrology and the Black Arts.
Prof. R.S. Knox, in his introduction to the 1924 edition of Marlowe's play (written in 1588) writes of Faust's "refusal to abide within the bounds prescribed for mortals", impatient with mortal knowledge and resolved to seek further by Satan's aid.
Thus did he enter into a pact with Satan in the pursuit of his insatiable lust for knowledge.
Faust strove to gain deity; as Marlowe states it: "A sound magician is a mighty god."
"A passionate struggle to reach beyond the grasp of ordinary mortals... the goal which Faustus strives to attain is a godhead."
The legend, as Marlowe portrays it, has a "significance akin to that of such world-old myths as Eve's eating the apple and Prometheus' defiance of the gods. The Faustus legend becomes for us a symbol of humanity's splendid struggle to reach for the stars, the tragedy of infinite aspiration."
"Infinite aspiration" indeed defines precisely that which is Faustian.
The theme was to be taken up by Goethe and Spengler, and Nietzsche's philosophy of reaching towards the Over Man is nothing if not Faustian.
There is an incipient Faustianism in the legend of Adam and Ever partaking the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge.
Faustian also is the ancient folk legend of Odin, god of the Norse, who was honoured for having hung from the World Tree for nine nights of suffering, in self-sacrifice, to gain the wisdom of the runes. How different this is from the legend of Yeshua dying a pitiful death in sacrifice to a tyrant-god.
"I know that I hung on this windy tree all of the nights nine,
wounded by the spear and given to Odhinn;
myself to myself, on that tree which no man knows
from what roots it rises.
They dealt me no bread nor drinking horn,
I looked down, I took up the runes
I took them screaming, I fell back from there."
Such is the Faustian mythos. What of the future? Either the presently-dominant dogmas, moralities, religions and ideologies will succeed in dragging humanity back to the primal slime of undifferentiated existence with their egalitarianism and collectivism, or the Faustian heretics of today in such realms as the arts, sciences and philosophy, will triumph over all and herald a new, Faustian Civilization.
Under the Faustian dispensation no religion, dogma, morality, nothing, will enchain the mind. The Faustian soul will soar unfettered. The space exploration programmes of today will seem as the first childlike steps towards infinity.
What we see now as the beginning of the science of genetic engineering, hindered as it is by religious and liberal-humanist moralizing, will accelerate the eugenic measures which will place mankind on the path to godhood, that man may play amongst the stars; his destiny found... in the next stage of evolution...
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